Sunday, 18 November 2012

"sta il cacciator fischiando / su l'uscio a rimirar" ("San Martino", poem by Giosuè Carducci).

The Feast of San Martino celebrates the transition from summer/autumn to the depths of winter;  seen by Carducci as a threshold.   The weather is expected to be unseasonably mild;  the Italian version of an Indian summer.

This year, however, whilst very warm, it rained, and it rained.  In Tuscany and Umbria they were flooded, as RAI news endlessly reminded us.  Even the "Tevere"in Rome nearly broke its banks.  Here in our little part of Le Marche our little "temporary replacement" bridge (see blog of 1st May 2012) was swept away by the flood waters of the Cesano river.

Now there are two bridges, the old and the new, both impassable.  Locals come from the north and from the south banks of the divide to stare at the destruction.

On the south side there is a little restaurant, a kind of roadside cafe, frequented by lorry drivers and canny locals. The food here is excellent and cheap, as is the house wine (even cheaper this time of year because the new "novello" wines have just been pressed). Today the restaurant is almost empty. The patron bemoans his loss of custom with a shrug and a smile, as he heaps another helping of fresh "pesce blu" onto our plates. These "little pilchards"(?) are baked whole in a seasoned crumb  and are eaten with your fingers. They may be finger-licking good, but this is more feast-food than fast-food.

Whilst one thoroughfare has been destroyed another has been created.  The pathway up to our front door has been concreted.  The actual work took less than two hours.  The build up took many hours of argument among the workers - how wide should it be, how high, how steep the angle of incline?  We had very little say and, as usual, Paolo did it his way.  Once paved, I'm sure it will be perfect, or, at least, Paolo will convince us it is so.

For those interested, here's my own liberal translation of Carducci's "San Martino"

Clouds shroud the hills
A mist rises
And under a nor’ westerly
A rage-blanched sea cries out.

Meanwhile, unseen, beguiling fumes
Of fermenting wines in oaken vats,
Smother the alleyways of the borgo,
Seducing the senses.

A spit, over a burning log
Turns the roast, the fat spatters,
In a doorway stands the hunter
Whistling, watching, waiting.

Starlings swirl in charcoal scribbles
Across the clouds’ pastel blush
Wayward scrawls, like wayward thoughts
Atone at evensong.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

"Sometime before noon, clouds scudded in from the west and rain fell in big scented drops; but the sun re-emerged with a scorching heat, and now the sky is so clear you can see Heaven and spy on what the saints are doing." ( "Bring Up The Bodies" Hilary Mantel )

I know I am not alone in thinking that the juxtaposition of Festivals that are celebrated in Italy at this time of year is rather curious.

On the 31st of October we have Halloween: originally pagan, and which (despite the garish, plastic pumpkins which adorn the supermarket shelves in a land where the real things grow aplenty), remains eerily ghoulish.  The 1st November sees in All Saints Day, dating back to the martyrs of The Holy Roman Empire.  Then on the 2nd of November, The Feast of All Souls when souls in purgatory are said to reappear and, being hungry, eat the meals carefully prepared and laid out for them on their tombstones or haunt the houses which the living vacate on this day to visit the cemeteries.

Near us, the town of Corinaldo is most famed for its Halloween Festa, which begins on 26th October.  Pilgrims come from all over Europe, many in their camper vans, to enjoy the spectacles and partake in the festivities.  But this year we had rain.  The bad weather had been predicted by all the meteorological internet sites and the faithful stayed at home.  Corinaldo tried to put on a brave face - the streets were decorated, local artisans set up stalls in the thoroughfares and most of the planned events went ahead, including the "Miss Strega" (Miss Witch) beauty (?) contest.  Without the usual throngs the commune of Corinaldo ended up out of pocket and deemed the whole affair "un flop" (trans. a flop).

After which the sun came out.  Which was just as well because it enabled the builders to finish the roof on our annexe.  As with the completion of the roof on the main house we shall have our own little celebration and invite the builders and their partners to a dinner;  perhaps a pizza this time, given that it is a relatively small roof.

Another milestone in the construction of the house came with the purchase of a postbox which we proudly put up at the roadside.  A symbolic sense of ownership?  Not really, we were expecting bills for water and electricity and, lo and behold, 2 days after placing the postbox the bills arrived.  Now that's what I call a prompt and efficient postal service;  don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

The Postbox

Il Gelso - The Mulberry Tree