Saturday, August 16, 2008

Could be the last for some time

It is looking increasingly like I shall not be able to post for a week or so. The availability of this computer is running out with a high influx of visitors. I'll try though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

[ave maria] and italian national bell ringing day

The above sketch is a not very good attempt at conveying the scene on this clifftop. In reality, it is far steeper than shown, more crowded, with narrower streets and not as regular. By the way, if Piazza is “square”, then why is it a triangle?

The road is either cobblestone or pitch and where it is the latter, it’s been rubbed smooth and shiny by tyre tracks and oil, so you can imagine the behaviour of the cars. The 25cm x 35cm stones, making up the pathways and squares, have also been worn smooth and one imagines one fall of rain for an ice rink effect, particularly fun as the square has a gradient of about 1 in 10.

Picturesque? Painfully so and the irregular angles are like something out of an art student’s perspective class or else something from Escher.

Last evening, to drown the sorrows, I went down to M. Bassa and sat, for a while, in Santa Maria di Betlem. You want outrageous baroque? There it is inside. If you’re suffering from church fatigue in your travels, this would cure it. I hope no one from Modica is reading this because … shhhhh … don’t tell anyone but SMdiB is better inside than St George’s or any of the others I’ve seen.

Just now, as I write, sitting on the bed, with the pillow up against the bedhead behind and the Mac on one knee, the bloody bell across the narrow street has started its maniacal ringing. Wouldn’t mind if it was playing a tune but someone in there is just bashing the hell out of it, which is probably the general idea.

Actually, it is quite disconcerting popping out for one’s elevenses and coming face to face with a priest in the middle of the slick, pitch, downhill car racetrack. “Guorno,” one says, wondering if an “Ave Maria” should have been tacked on to the end of that.

Speaking of Ave Maria, last evening in Santa Maria on Corso Umberto, with a little bar in the adjoining piazza for those souls who can’t face the whole Mass, there were two offputting things.

Firstly, there was a sign with two bouncers nearby and it read, in Italian [yes, I can read Italian now] that visiting the church is suspended due to a service being in progress, which it was. To their credit, the double doors were still wide open, unlike the church in Modica Sorda. Quick check of the French and yes, “suspended” was certainly the translation.

Fair enough, methought. Wedged between these was the quite nasty English version: ‘Visiting the church is forbidenn during the service.’

Lovely, simply lovely for all the English speakers, of which most would have been American. Simply charming, along with those bouncers. I went down the side road looking for the little door to the curia or wherever the clergy hang out and I was going to have a word about that translation.

That’s my mission in life, you realize – to see cra--y translations and write better ones for them. 

I was also, as an afterthought, going to mention to the priest that there was a heck of a lot of calling on the name of Maria during the service and not a lot of Father, Son and the Santa Espirita [that’s how it sounded to me but I’m sure scholars will correct that]. Then it seemed better not to, as the girl with the guitar was really getting into the Ave Marias and I felt a bit naked without my rosary beads. It does seem a very cross-generational community thing, all in all.

Don’t see what the difficulty with Catholicism is, really. All right, a bit lighter on the Mary presence, if you wouldn’t mind and the rosary beads and bits of the true cross take a bit of getting used to but it could be cathartic sitting in a little box recounting your sins to a padre, as in The Seventh Seal.

Everything else seems above board in there – lots of crosses and an altar, a pleasing nave to sit in and a lot of people reciting the catechism. In Latin or Italian – take your pick. And as a heretic to Protestantism [I believe in Purgatory – please, please let there be one, otherwise I’m damned], there seems to be some middle ground. Plus, if we left it to the Protestant clergy to uphold the Word round the world, there’d be precious little Word still being spread. My denomination, the C of E, hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory these past decades.

So to today and I’m afraid it’s time for elevenses, so off for some more adventures on this Italian National Blaring Car Horns and Lots of Interminable Shouting Outside Your Cave Day. As the barman and I agreed yesterday, when everyone crams into cars and goes down to the beach for their festa, we stay up here in town. When they come back in the cooler months, we go down there.

One last chuckle. Yesterday, I complimented three Sicilians who were sitting, eating a meal, on their Italian speaking, as I’m struggling with it a bit. ‘Italian?’ spake the girl. ‘Non, he speaks Ragusan and this one speaks Modica Altan.’

‘Oh,’ which is better?’ I innocently inquired.

I learnt a lot from the subsequent ‘discussion’, not least that I must learn when to keep the mouth closed – an Italian ‘discussion’ has no use-by date. They are lovely people, the Sicilians of my acquaintance and they do seep into the soul after some time.

The Mount Grace Lady Chapel at Osmotherely

The Mount Grace Lady Chapel at Osmotherely

According to wikipedia: "A Lady chapel is a traditional English term for a chapel inside a cathedral or large church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most large medieval churches had such a chapel, as Roman Catholic ones still do, and middle-sized churches often had a side-altar dedicated to Mary".

However, we like to be different in Yorkshire.

"The Mount Grace Lady Chapel in North Yorkshire is a long established place of pilgrimage. It is situated on a hillside above Mount Grace Priory and within walking distance from the picturesque village of Osmotherley in the North York Moors National Park".

"The Lady Chapel originated as an outlying chapel of the nearby Carthusian priory of Mount Grace, now belonging to the National Trust but managed and maintained by English Heritage. The Lady Chapel site is close to the route of the Cleveland Way and provides a panoramic view across the Vale of York towards the Yorkshire Dales and beyond to the Pennines

Prior to my release from prison in 2004, I had the pleasure of doing community work at The Lady Chapel, whilst on day release from Kirklevington Grange resettlement prison at Yarm in Cleveland. I was fascinated to read about the connection between Hull and the Lady Chapel during the rescusant pilgrimage, when bodies would be carried over the North Yorkshire Moors for secret burials.

"Built in the late fifteenth century the Lady Chapel stands close to a Holy Spring to to which steps ascended from the Carthusian priory of Mount Grace, down in the woods below. At one time the residence of a hermit named Hugh, Lady Chapel became, at the Dissolution, the pension home of the last prior, John Wilson.

Unroofed and deserted during the late sixteenth century, it had become a lively centre of recusant pilgrimage in the early years of James I, and evoked the attention of the Ecclesiastical Commission of the Archbishop of York in 1614. In the reign of Charles I Mary Ward, foundress of the IBVM, went there on pilgrimage, and in the reign of Charles II a full restoration was even considered when Lady Juliana Walmsley established the Franciscans in Osmotherley for the help and support of pilgrims. The Titus Oates Plot and the fall of the Stuarts put an end to that.

As a regular visitor to Osmotherley in the 1750s John Wesley records preaching at the Catholic Chapel in Osmotherley and visiting the ruined chapel on the hill-top. And pilgrims continued to visit the holy spring even after the Franciscan finally withdrew in 1832.

The ruin came back into Catholic hands in 1952, and excavation was made of the floor of the chapel with the possibility of finding burials there, one such possibility being that of Margeret Clitherow who had been secretly buried after her execution in York in 1586. Burials were indeed found in the chapel, but their identities remain unknown.

The chapel was restored by the Scrope and Eldon families. The arms of the families involved are shown in stained glass in the west window of the chapel, illustrated on the left. The chapel was blessed in 1961 by Cardinal Godfrey and reopened as a pilgrimage centre. Shortly afterwards the Franciscans returned to help and support pilgrimages until they withdrew in 1994

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pearson Park 2

Pearson Park 2

C'mon, hurry up, I want to get into the park...

Rocky chewing something in Pearson Park...

Now which one of these ducks shall I have?

Rocky eating ice cream, Lily and me by the ice cream hut in Pearson Park

[exotic views] plum wine and chicken

[Excuse pics 2-4 – they were taken with the Mac portrait cam which decided it was the day for washed-out sepia, so it seems.]

Last evening the edge went off the heat about 11 p.m. and I went for a climb downhill [there’s no such thing as a stroll here] and found a spot stuck out in space, from where the whole valley can be seen in all its twinkling light. To the right was the Church of St George, also lit up.

It’s exotic all right but I see Jailhouse Lawyer has been pretty active too with exotic pictures of Hull. A Sicilian I was speaking with here wants to get out of here at the first opportunity and go to Britain – it’s exotic, he thinks.

I think my cave [pictured right] is also pretty exotic.

Now to food. Welshcakes had given me a bottle of her plum wine the other evening, by the way and it’s superb with some grapes. She should run a restaurant.

I found I could buy a slice of chicken, some beans and tomatoes and put them together with some parsley and pasta, all for under 3 euros and that makes for the meal of the day today and tomorrow. [The result, for what it’s worth, is to the left]. A glass of beer for 1.5 euros does for the evening meal and the trick is to sleep through breakfast.

The Italian National Holiday is upon us this weekend [this afternoon through to Sunday evening] and there threaten to be fireworks, all kinds of festa and a mass flocking to the beachhouses. Should be good back in the old town with only the Palazzo Faillo [pic above doesn’t do it justice, of course] open for piadini and other delights.

This weekend has a special piquancy for me and I hope your weekend is lovely too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pearson park

Pearson park

Pearson park lies about 1 mile (1.5km) northwest of the city centre and was the first public park to be opened in Hull. The land for the park was provided in 1860 by Zachariah Charles Pearson (1821-91) to mark his first term as mayor of Hull. He shrewdly retained c.12 acres (5 Ha) of land surrounding the park to build villa residences. Two years later his shrewdness failed him when he bought on credit a large fleet of ships and attempted to run arms through the Federal blockade during the American Civil War (1861-65). The venture failed and all his vessels were captured. Financially ruined, Pearson resigned half way through his second term as mayor and spent the last 29 years of his life in obscurity, living in a modest terraced house in a quiet corner of the park which bore his name.

The park, which covers c.23 acres (9 Ha) of land, was designed by James Craig Niven (1828-81), curator of Hull's Botanic Gardens. Features of the park include a small serpentine lake, a broad carriage drive running around the perimeter, and a Victorian-style conservatory (rebuilt in 1930) - all set in well-maintained grounds with plenty of trees and shrubs.

The main entrance to the park, at the end of Pearson Avenue on Beverley Road, is through an elaborate cast-iron gateway created by Young & Pool in c.1863. The gateway, along with several other structures within the park, is now listed as a building of special architectural/historic interest. The other listed structures include:

* the east entrance lodge (number 1) built in 1860-1
* an ornate cast-iron canopied drinking fountain erected in 1864
* the statue of Queen Victoria created by Thomas Earle in 1861
* the statue of Prince Albert created by Thomas Earle in 1868
* the Pearson memorial - an iron-stone monolith featuring a marble relief carving created by William Day Keyworth junior in 1897
* the cupola from Hull's demolished Town Hall built in 1862-66 (erected here in 1912) and
* three surrounding villas (numbers 43, 50 and 54) built in the 1860s

Construction on the villas began as soon as the park was laid out. Most of them remain today including number 32, the top-floor flat of this house owned by the university, which was the home of poet Philip Larkin for 18 years (1956-74).

Commentary: I am glad I looked this up, because I had assumed that the gates must have led to a mansion in the grounds and that at some stage it must have been demolished. I was particularly interested in Zachariah Charles Pearson's role in the American Civil War.

Photo: wikipedia

[south ossetia] not straightforward

This is my post some time back on the matter.

If you have a long border and if on your doorstep is a tinpot demagogue shoring up his own position and gladly accepting largesse from a traditional enemy by oppressing the people loyal to your country, what do you do?

Tell me any country which does not protect its own interests. This is far more complex than is being presented.

[little gems] to ease the perspiring brow

My little car in Mill Hill during my last "troubles"

Interesting being stateless and destitute because it focuses the mind wonderfully in analysing the situation and some things are borne in on you:

1. You’re not really stateless as everyone has some passport and you’re never really destitute because there is always a little left;

2. You’re not without friends and you find out now who your friends are and whom you thought were but turned out not to be. Blog friends have fallen into both camps and one just notes for future reference and passes on. It’s essential to realize the limitations to this. You can’t depend on the very best person for more than a certain time. He or she would allow it at a pinch but you must not and when it’s time, it’s time. One little addendum is that it’s essential to stress that you go with only deep gratitude and a mental note that this kindness is to be repaid asap, not with any ill will of any kind;

3. It’s essential that when you’ve defined your little living space, you first keep it scrupulously clean and tidy, fighting the depression as far as possible and then start to extend your influence in this to the rest of the space around that. Delighted to see we have a bucket and mop at the ready in this place. Also, you start to see hidden benefits, little gems you hadn’t seen at first. For example, the people I’m with are not here and the automatic washing machine, used once in four days, is a boon. That’s not poverty.

If you lose your housepride, you’re dead or dying in my book – this is what I was brought up to believe. Once, camping in the forest, we put up a bivouac of sticks and undergrowth and then I saw the first thing she did was to put together a brush and sweep the place out – a space which had been forest floor up to that point.

Last time I was in this state I still maintained the vehicle in the above photo and used it once in three days for short hops over to Hendon or to drop into Marks and Sparks food store. It cost nothing to keep it washed and people didn’t really believe I was in the state I was but one tank of petrol was to do a month. On Sundays I walked down to a little group at 8 a.m. at a lovely church, St Michaels and All Saints, for communion. My actual address was “The Moorings” – what had been a stately house and had now fallen on hard times. Still, it looked good on paper;

4. You’re not without your things and you probably came away with your triple-head philoshave, laptop, some nice clothes and so on. So you’re really not living without – the ability to do this post now on my Mac and then try to negotiate getting it on to the net comes later, via the usb stick. Should I have to fly next week, unfortunately over half of this has to be left and stored.

5. Routines become sacrosanct. It’s 10 a.m. now and it’s coming up to Elevenses at the hotel. There is a little side bar with really the most friendly faces [and not just for commercial reasons – they’re staff, not the owners although the owners are good people too]. The main thing for me is to be able to converse in Italian, in airconditioned comfort, in beautifully ornate surroundings, to read La Sicilia at leisure and learn, learn, learn and all for very little outlay. I reason that as I’m likely to be a regular here for years, however small each outlay, it will eventually add up. When I start to accrue again, the ante is upped of course.

6. Possibilities do open up if you have some skills, are prepared to find work immediately and do some praying. The worst thing possible is to close yourself off and start chanting woe-is-me – you have to expand contacts – you’re going to need them to help your own friend sooner or later once you’re set up again.

7. Your health is an absolute essential. If you’ve trained in the gym in the recent past, then even though you’ve atrophied a lot, the body does remember and when you exercise again [impossible not to in this hilly terrain], it stands you in good stead. You have to refuse breads and pastries and stick to meat and veg, beer, water and the occasional treat of coffee and chocolate. Lots of water.

You need to get to bed early. I put it to the Sicilians yesterday that they eat at the wrong time – in the middle of the night at 1 a.m. They shook their heads and said no we don’t – we eat at around 10 p.m. when it gets cool and then get to bed as most of us work the next morning early. I’m dropping off about midnight myself and am up at 7 a.m. to do the domestic chores.

Where we do disagree though is in what constitutes a meal. Yesterday I ate with two young ladies and one young man and later I said to one of them that that was my meal for the day. She was horrified – but it was a snack of prosciutto, salad and melon. It was enough for me. A beer in the evening with some nuts is a good supper in my book. I’m not doing pick and shovel work, am I?

8. Lastly, it can all be killed of by the stroke of a bureaucratic, Sword of Damocles, pen of State. You have to recognize reality and certain impossibilities. I have a miniscule retirement fund o/s but first I have to write to them and they must put it to various boards and the thing takes a month but it’s killed off at this moment by the uncertainty of where I’ll be in a week or so from now. Ditto other possibilities which take a longer time than the rate at which the cash is dwindling [slowly but surely].

You can be sure that all possibilities are being explored and attended to and anyway, the thing must resolve itself in the next week, one way or the other – it has to.

The alternative is mindboggling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What does the jury think?

What does the jury think?

Norfolk Blogger who is a LibDem states the Tories are right on this issue.

Juliet Lyon of Prison Reform Trust states the Tories are wrong on this issue.

What does the jury think?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

[count your blessings] it’ll be worse tomorrow

This photo is of Serbia, not Sicily, hence the greenery. Take out the grass and foliage and throw in half a dozen churches and narrow steps running down the hill and you have the part of town I am staying in.

Let me state right up front that there are some wonderful things here:

1. the friendship of people like Welshcakes and others;
2. a most livable cave I’m staying in where the temperature is about 22 degrees when the outside temperature is about 40 and the wind gusts down one’s throat;
3. a lovely hotel nearby where one can relax.

It’s in this spirit I have to warn the reader that what follows is going to sound like unmitigated bleat. On the other hand, posts like the last two are creating the illusion of an idyll which it is anything but. At the risk of blog friendships, I’d prefer the truth to be known – why, for example, I’ve not answered comments, checked my emails or visited you.

Yesterday evening was a perfect example of cause and effect, illustrating that:

1. it only takes one small detail to go wrong and the ramifications can be extensive;
2. there is a “use by date” for every resource, including, energy, health, money and people’s tolerance of you;
3. with the best will in the world, people just can’t, even if they wished to, understand the cause and effect and real implications of one’s situation plus their own is not too hot either and the longer it continues, the more immune they naturally become to wanting to have anything to do with it, fair enough;
4. in the end, you really are on your own unless you can succeed in garnering help from Above;
5. the only face anyone wishes to see is a bright, cheerful one on the other person, whatever the actual circumstances, which becomes less possible as time takes its toll.

Last evening, I was to be met by a friend in the lower town and taken by car to the far end of the city, where I’d meet up with Welshcakes for a natter, visit fellow bloggers, take care of my site, take care of the current need of my friend in Russia [which I can help with as some form of initial recompense] and assure people all is well.

Bear with this, if you would.

Two afternoons ago, I walked, against advice, the two kilometres from this end of town, down the hillside steps to the river course lower town and then the other three kilometres up the far hill to Welshcakes. The result was the upbeat post about hillside beauty.

The distance was nothing and there was no premium on time, so people’s advice that it was crazy to try that stunt in the afternoon heat did not include the real killer – the traffic fumes in the cauldron of narrow streets of the old town in the river bed. They weren’t to know of any allergy, rhinitis and early bronchitis which meant hanging over railings and losing parts of one’s earlier lunch four or five times along the way.

Every action has an effect and even having allowed that paragraph just now, the justified accusation would be that this post is unmitigated bleat, something normal bloggers would never indulge in, British stiff upper lip being more the order of the day.

Maybe so but I sure as hell wasn’t going to repeat that stunt and made an arrangement that Friday’s trek would be done more intelligently. So there I was in the lower town in the fumes, waiting to be collected and as my lift continued not to appear, the bronchial stuff began.

After half an hour of it, it was up the hill again to get away, keeping to the shadows where it was only about 35 degrees and making it, without incident, to the hotel I know, where the positive sides of cause and effect kicked in:

1. I could buy a lovely cold beer and in Sicily they also serve yummy accompaniments;
2. One of the two ladies I know there, Paula, just happened to be coming to the end of her duty time and let me phone, thank the Lord, as mobile to mobile is apparently the only way to phone, landline somehow causing problems in Sicily;
3. I got to meet the amazingly named chef, Accurso Crapato and saw his cavalier style at first hand, which is why his urging to try his culinary skills is overwhelmingly tempting [but bear in mind the rest of this post] and the moment any good news comes through on the passport I’ll have Welshcakes in there with me and we’ll live it up.

Back to reality – having now used up that phone favour from Paula, I can’t very well go and repeat the dose today without making a pain of myself; it’s something I can’t afford to do as these two friends are my only lifeline at this end of town. So everything is a question of dwindling resources, in the end.

As for being collected earlier, that friend had an issue, apparently and as no one could contact me to tell me, there not being a phone in this place and having no mobile phone which they’ve been urging me to get “to make it easier on all of us”, as another friend urged with a race of annoyance two days ago, not understanding that it does not cost “five euros” as she put it but 87 euros to get set up in this town, out of a total of 500 euros left and wondering why the hell I don’t have a mobile anyway, which necessitates mentioning Russia where all my business was conducted from my landline at one tenth the cost plus the email being my main communication channel and then suddenly I had to leave Russia in May, a mobile being the least of the problems at that time [the main problem being that no overseas money can come in here as it needs an account to send it to which one is not allowed in Italy as a tourist, my friend assures me and my Russian account is not accessible here] but now, as lack of mobile is a difficulty, I’ve promised to get one the moment the passport comes through which would mean I can then deploy resources [which I can’t at this moment as, if it doesn’t come through, I’m going to need every euro possible, which in turn makes me currently look like a sponging freeloader in people’s eyes, which in turn reduces their willingness to be friendly and is so far from the truth, as by nature I am not an ungenerous, mean-spirited person, which in turn depresses me more than I can say and leaves me isolated over this part of town, not knowing if I will be collected on Monday evening or not at the foot of the hill].

So the only thing is to do the up-hill-down-dale walk this evening to post this and let you know why I have not been visiting your sites or answering my post comments and generally making people less inclined to visit this site to find out anyway, as you have your own problems at that end and I shan’t be able to reply, as it is, until Monday evening at the earliest, which in turn is more depressing because blogging is what I love doing and there’s a heap of new material to post on. Plus I can only use the internet a limited amount of times out of deference to the friend, despite her saying I could use it as I wished and that is exacerbated by a second friend telling me I should not use it as she’d feel uncomfortable, herself, doing it and I assured her I would never willingly use another person’s resources except sparingly.

Someone asked on the phone two days ago why I don’t use the bus to the far end of town.

I agree, except for one thing. The buses are not running in the late afternoon when my friend is available to see me over there and having waited around in the morning, they are also not running, except on the driver’s whim [which non-Italians will wryly smile at, considering this stretching the truth, which they would not smile at if they actually lived here and that’s why a motorbike is currently being lined up but that’s another story] the reason being that we are coming up to the national holiday on the 15th, when everything shuts down but the Italians tend to shut down one week either side of that and go to the beach which is where I’d go too if I had any sense, any money and somewhere to stay but I’m not complaining about that.

As it is, the cave I’m in is excellent, cool and relaxing as I write this in the recliner chair and would that it could continue for some weeks except that there’d be no friends at all left if it did. There’s a young man living in this labyrinth who is a cheery soul – works for a bank, has lots of friends but finds this place depressing as it is so dark and lonely and he, as a typical Italian, enjoys big company and “lots of light” as he puts it.

Each to his own, I suppose. When I mentioned that this place was great on a hot day of 40 plus, his olive skin showed that that was no problem for him but what he dreads is the cold and I imagine this place would be chilly in winter.

“Doesn’t that worry you?” he asks, incredulously.

“Don’t forget I’ve come from Russia.”

“Ah,” he nods. “Everything’s relative, isn’t it?”

That’s the last depressing post I plan to write for now as it is … well … depressing and to maintain mental health and everyone else’s remaining goodwill, it will be necessary to return to the “don’t worry – be happy” style of the previous posts and assure you the next will be upbeat.

Have a lovely weekend, as I intend to have a ball.