Monday, July 25, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

In honour of our move to the New World a look into the golden age of steamship travel.

Looks a little less crowded than some of the economy cabins of a few airlines that will remain nameless. 

25 luglio - San Giacomo il Maggiore

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Another Bridge Crossed

As they often do the New Yorker managed to make a pertinent comment on what is happening in the city it celebrates. Tomorrow is the first day that same-sex couples will be allowed to marrry in New York State and the cover of this week's magazine celebrates with a touch of their trademark wry humour.
Wedding Season by Barry Blitt*
Its a big step - I know we took it four years ago this past week - and I wish everyone taking it today all happiness and good things.

*Cartoonist Barry Blitt took a bit of flack from his Royal Wedding cover a few months ago - but I thought it was a hoot at the time.  A left click here will reveal a retrospective of some of his controversial but always humorous takes on things current and topical.

23 lulgio - Santa Brigida di Svenzia

Thursday, July 21, 2011

If You Can't Stand the Heat ....

I will not go into the global warming argument here but what the hell is going on? It reached 36c (96.8f) today here in Ottawa. And that was before they took the humidity index into account - anyone remember when we didn't have a humidex?

So is this some sort of punishment for me leaving Roma? Or maybe because New York approved same-sex marriage? Whatever it is going out today - the kids needed food and I needed money to get the kids food - was not a pleasant experience but thanks to my friend Cathy who chauffeured me around  it was bearable.  And also thanks to her for this laugh first thing this morning.

21 luglio - San Lorenzo da Brindisi

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

A left click on the image will give you an idea of how I feel about now!

18 luglio - San Arnolfo di Metz

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Alla Prossima

I was having one final chat before my departure with my friend Marco the Napoletano yesterday.  I was saying how difficult leaving Italy is for me and how this has been, in many ways, the four best years of my life.

MTN: Maybe you enjoyed your time here because you knew to have a deadline so you didn't waste time.
Me:  No caro I enjoyed it here because I never thought about the deadline....  it was going to go on forever and I would see everything and do everything...
I tend to forget the things I don't want to know about ....

I knew when I came here four years ago that as well as an arrival there would be a departure but I have never been one to think that far into the future.   It was a given that I choose to ignore and even last week I was trying not to think about it. It is now 1020 on the morning of the 17th my flight leaves at 1410 and the car will be here at 1100.  My bags are packed, the dogs are ready, though Nicky won't leave his kennel - he knows that something is going on - so I guess I must face the fact that this stage is over and the next is beginning.

I will miss so much that I have grown accustomed to here - the food, the arts, the music, the lifestyle but most of all the people.  In the past four years I have been blessed in forming friendships with wonderful people here in Italy and also because of living here people in Greece, England, France, Switzerland and Canada.  People who have given me so much in the way of care and love.  It is them that have made the past four years what they have been.

To all my dear friends, and I won't start naming them because when you do you always forget someone, I thank you for that - baci e abbracchi  alla prossima!  Until next time!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kitschy Koo????

You'd think that four years of strolling around the streets and parks of Roma had taught me never to be surprised at what is just around the next corner or over the tree tops.  However while walking off last Friday's lunch in Villa Torlonia I was a bit taken aback to see a startling familiar scene looming much, much larger than life through the pines.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo, taken on V-J Day August 14 1945, is perhaps, after Rodin's, the most famous kiss in the world.   It was one of those moments of photo-journalism serendipity that captured the mood and spirit of a time and an event.  It was published in Life Magazine a week later and became an indelible image of the euphoria of the Post-War era.
In New York's Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers. - was the caption given Eisenstaedt's photo when it appeared in Life Magazine.

But there was a second photo taken of that celebratory kiss between a jubilant seabee and a services nurse.  Though it is not as well know Victor Jorgensen, a US Navy photo-journalist captured the same moment and it appeared in the New York Times the following day.
A different angle - a different view - Victor Jorgensen's photo of the same moment doesn't quite have the same cache as the more famous version.  Because Jorgensen worked for the US Government his photo is in the public domain.
When artist John Seward Johnson created his "Unconditional Surrender" he was accused of possible copyright infringement but was able to site the Jorgensen photo as his inspiration - unlike the Eisenstaedt it is in the public domain.  However that was only one of the possible sins Johnson has been charged with in connection with his mammoth sculpture.  When it was shown at the bayfront in Sarasota he was accused of creating nothing more than a copy of a famous image that "doesn't even qualify as kitsch."  While in San Diego art critics said that kitsch it was and resembled nothing more than a cheap theme park souvenir.

Well I'm no art critic but I know what I like - and it definitely is kitschy but this is one time when I rather enjoy kitschy.

Johnson, whose rather eventful life can be read here, first created "Unconditional Surrender" as a 25 ft high bronze piece.  He then recreated it in Styrofoam  for its first showing in Sarasota. Since then copies have appeared as well in aluminum including the version currently looming over the terrace promenade at Villa Torlonia.

The Johnson is just one of many pieces that are being displayed throughout the various parks and green spaces of Roma this summer.  The good people at the Roma Biennale di Scultura have installed some fun, some interesting and some just frankly silly works of modern sculpture that brighten the landscape and add variety to the scene.

Almost as big as the Johnson this resin piece by Maurizio Orrico - Il viaggiatore (the Traveler/the Passenger) seems to be observing the embracing couple. And it may just be me but even with a featureless face I get the feeling he's being either a bit disapproving - or maybe just envious.

15 luglio - Sant'Amerigo
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy ma Martedi

I asked a friend about his blog the other day and he said: You know I really don't bother anymore I can just say what I want on Facebook. I am finding that my blogging lately has become erratic but Facebook - well I complain about it but ... see number 10!

Many thanks to Stephen for putting this one.. on Facebook!

12 luglio - San Giovanni Gualberto

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Isa's Bell*

I don't often write about my family - not because they were/are, god knows, less than colourful but just I'm not sure that the rest of the world would find the antics of my nearest and dearest all that entertaining. Like most families they were/are a healthy or unhealthy mix of the good, the bad, the criminal, the insane, the interesting and the just plain boring.

However, and if ever a paragraph begged a "however" that would be the preceding one, our recent packing up of things brought to light the facts behind a little family treasure of my mother's.  My mother immigrated to Canada from Belfast in 1919 at the age of 17, under circumstances that I have spoken of to friends but never had the nerve to put in writing - though that may change one day.  She made several trips back the first being to announce to her family that she was getting married.  That would have been around 1924 if my calculations are right.  As she was leaving Ireland to return to Canada and wedding bells someone gave her a bell as a souvenir:  a small brass dinner bell with an enamel shield on it bearing a shamrock and Ireland.  Or at least she always thought it was a dinner bell.  I remember that bell being in our china cabinet as a child and being allowed to use it if I was in bed sick and needed anything.  Fortunately I was the sort that always preferred to be left alone on my death bed so its seldom peeled though I did use it to great dramatic effect when I staged Act 3 of Tosca on my cut-out theatre.  That is until my mother heard it and returned it to the china cabinet with the warning that it wasn't a plaything.

Now a bit of background is required to fully appreciate the irony of our recent discovery on a bit of the history of that little brass bell.  My mother was born in 1902 in Ireland before the bloody and fractious battles that eventually led to the creation of the Irish Free State and eventual separation into the sovereign country of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Ulster).  It was a country divide by history, politics, loyalties, wealth, and, most violently, religion.  My mother's family were Ulster Irish, Protestant, merchant-class, pro-British and fiercely Orange.  I won't go into the whole Orange Lodge thing here but let us just say that tolerance was not the watchword of that organization or society in general on either side of the fence.  My mother was brought up to both fear and mistrust people who "kicked with the left foot".   Much of that fear and mistrust was to soften as she grew older but there were always flashes of the old prejudices until the day she died.  Again a reminder that it was a different time and a different place - though sadly recent events have indicated that old enmities are still strong.

But enough of the history lesson; lets get back to her "dinner" bell.  The small enamel shield had fallen off - the 90 year old glue had finally given up - and Laurent decided that he would reattach it before we packed it up.  I guess I had never really looked at it closely - it was always just there but he took a close look at the inscriptions on it and was a bit puzzled.  Why was the writing in Latin?  What were those figures meant to represent?   The full inscription reads: Leo X Aqvila X Pelicanvs X Agnvs. My first thought was to connect "Leo X Aqvila" - Pope Leo X and the town of Aquila.  But what would a 15th century Medici Pope and a town in the Abruzzio have to do with each other or Ireland for that matter?

Nothing it would seem.  A search on the internet quickly revealed one of life's little ironies.  What we had on hand was nothing more than a late Victorian Sanctuary Bell.  A small brass bell that had been rung during the Sanctus and at the Elevation of the Host by some be-brogued youngster in a white cotta when his local priest celebrated mass.

Leo - the Lion:  The king of the beasts therefore the kingly nature of Christ; that and the old belief that a lion cub died at birth and after three days the male lion brought it
back to life by licking and breathing on it.  That is probably self-explanatory.

Aquila - the Eagle:  The symbolism there could be referring to the eagle of
St John the Evangelist or equally to the majestic bird ascending to the heavens
on strong wings.

Agnus - the Lamb:  the most common, and best known symbol, of the Eucharist
is the lamb of God.  Based on the tradition of offering a lamb
as sacrifice ergo Christ the sacrificial lamb. 

Pelicanus - the Pelican:  It was an ancient belief that the pelican fed it young by
tearing flesh from its own breast and feeding them with its blood.
A symbol then of the blood of Christ?
What my mother proudly showed in our Protestant household as a souvenir of Ireland and was used to call us - jokingly I might add as our family dinners were never that elaborate - on special occasions to dinner or to a sick room was a piece of religious hardware from a Roman Catholic church somewhere in pre-partition Ireland.

*I'm afraid this is a bad case of word play which only a few members of my family would get but I couldn't help myself. My mother's name was Isabella but her little brother Jimmy called her "Isa" and that stuck with the family as nicknames often do.  And an added layer of gentle irony there is one for sale on e- Bay and the seller???  Isabella's Discount Store.  The Gods laugh!

06 lulgio - San Claudio e Sant'Edda

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Grazie Felice, Sono Felice Ma Non Felice!

I had a post almost finished for yesterday but then something wonderful happened in the morning that I felt I wanted to share.

The title of this post is a little play on names and words - Felice is, of course, a Christian name here in Italy but it also means "happy". So the title is three pronged.  My friend and colleague Felice did something yesterday morning that made me both happy (felice) but also sad (non felice).  Over the past few weeks and in the next few weeks these are emotions that I am finding, and given my slightly emotional nature will find, constantly overlapping. 

Over a year ago I put up a post about Felice and his remarkable gift as a woodcarver. It has proven an often read item.  In the last paragraph I promised that I would do something more about the artist and his work.  Somehow time crept up and I never did get around to it until now just as I am saying goodbye to Felice, his wife Anna and friends and at the Embassy.

He asked if I would be free for coffee in the morning as he would like to meet before he left on vacation and I left the country.  So yesterday morning we met and headed over to the Australian Bar (dont' ask!) for a capucc.  He was carrying something enshrouded in a pair of long winter socks and when we sat down he gave it to me and said very quietly, as is his nature,  "I made this for you, I hope you will like it?" 

Like it?  I love it!

What I unwrapped was this beautiful hand carved olive wood walking stick.  Felice had worked it from a piece of wood from a tree that had been cut down in the gardens of Villa Grandi, the residence of our Ambassador.  It is over a hundred years old and what I can't convey about it either in pictures or words is the feel and scent of this incredible wood.  Running my hands over it I could feel the age and strength of the wood and the work that went into it.  And the oils in my hands seemed to release the subtle scent of olive. And as I am writing this it sits on the table in front of me ever so slightly perfuming the summer air.

I can honestly say that as moved as I was by the feel and the scent of the wood and remarkable artistry that had gone into the piece what touched me most was the warmth of the gift and the person giving it.

Caro Felice mille grazie for the happiness that you have given me with this present.  I know that I join a small group of fortunate people who have been gifted with the work of your hands and heart.  It will remind me of the beauty of both this place and more importantly the beauty of the people I have come to know here.

 06 luglio - Santa Maria Goretti

Monday, July 04, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

Okay so you all think I have a shoe fetish - so I may as well continue on with the feet theme.

04 luglio - Sant'Elisabetta del Portogallo

Happy 4th!

For all my family and friends in the U.S. and all my American friends abroad

Have a Glorious 4th!

04 luglio - Sant'Elisabetta del Portogallo

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Ho Visto*

A few random photos of things I've seen on the streets of Roma in the dwindling days of my time here.

As I was walking home late the other evening from a farewell dinner at our friend Joe's I happened upon this rather imperious puss. I'm not sure if he is one of the many strays that I am tempted to say "infest" the streets or belongs to someone. He seems well looked well fed and groomed so chances are he may even belong to the owner of the motorino he is guarding.

I know! I know! The shoe thing again! So here I am yesterday taking Nora to the vets - both of the HFH have tonsillitis, I didn't even know that dogs have tonsils! - and as we headed down a side street there they were sitting by a wall. Perfectly set as if they were in someone's shoe closet, a seemingly good pair of men's shoes. This is the second or third time I've come across something like this on the streets of Rome - someone scared right out of their shoes?  - alien abduction? - someone with a sense of humour that wants someone like me puzzling over something like this?  I'm not honestly sure. And a day later they are still there - untouched!

I walk by the gas pumps at Piazza Galeno almost daily - sometimes twice as this is one of the paths for the walks with the HFH - and have become quite friendly with one of the attendants there.  From Bangladesh he is one of the many "guest" workers here - speaks three languages, learning a fourth, computer savey and a cricket enthusiast; much to Nicky's annoyance  he and I often stop for a chat.  Probably because my eyes are always either at ground level or lower - if its on the ground Nora thinks its food - I had honestly never noticed this incredible tree (I'm thinking its an azalea but I'll let my plant loving friend correct me on that) growing up out of the sidewalk, its trunk bent to accommodate the ESSO sign.  But late last night walking home from the Metro it was glowing white in the dark - a few spent flowers peppering the ground - and I saw something that had been there for three years for the very first time.

*I Saw

03 lulgio - San Tommaso Didimo

Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy Canada Day

In searching for a video of O Canada to celebrate the day I came across this version from the opening of the Vancouver Paralympics in 2010. I found it one of the more moving versions of our National Anthem. Unfortunately I wasn't able to convert it and trim out the commercials at the end - despite a morning spent attempting to eliminate everything after 04:41 - so I'll leave that up to you.

This remarkable performance of our National Anthem was a duet of sorts - it was sung by blind vocalist Terry Kelly from Newfoundland and - though it is not obvious from the video - signed by Mari Klassen from B.C.  Truly from Sea to Sea.

We celebrated yesterday at the Embassy with a gathering of Canadians and friends from Rome and today we'll be celebrating with our good friends Marija, Daryl and their boys Tyler Vuk and Devin Ogi.

Happy Canada Day to all our friends everywhere! Bonne fête Canada!

01 lulgio - La Giornata Nazionale del Canada
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