Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Last week Dr P went off to play bridge. Usually he gets a lift from friends, but that morning the friend whose turn it was to drive rang to say she could not drive him home. I had other engagements that day so was not available for chauffering duties. She and I urged him to get a taxi home, but he decided to drive himself. He set off. I felt rather anxious.
Just after 10 am he rang to say he had had an accident. He had been turning into an area of the carpark which led to a small parking area near an entrance with a ramp, which enables people to avoid having to climb the stairs into the club. Despite this bridge club being full of elderly people, there is no lift. Dr P's foot hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal and the car hit the concrete wall.
Fortunately he was not hurt, just rather shaken, and went on to play his bridge. His kind partner drove him home. He has now decided not to drive any more, and once the car has been repaired he will give it to his grandson. For some time now he has not wanted to drive, and when we go anywhere together, or if he has a medical appointment I drive him, and accompany him to the appointment, and participate when necessary.
Along with everyone else, I am very relieved at this decision. Using taxis will cost him much less than registering and insuring a car, and it is much safer. He was not driving well, but was not amenable to persuasion to abandon driving. Understandably he was reluctant to abandon his independence, and to acknowledge yet another limitation of old age – he is almost 86 – but it seems that old people can get quite mean, and that he begrudged paying the cost of a taxi. Often he just won’t listen to reason, and he is used to having a servant class available to him, and I am the latest – probably the last – in a long line. He can be extremely stubborn, impervious to argument, and ready to shout people down. I do not want to be totally at his beck and call, and want to be able to lead my own life.
And yes, old age can be a real bugger. Dr P's old age shows itself in lack of mobility, severe forgetfulness, which necessitates constant repetition of everyday facts and arrangements, worsening deafness with consequent difficulty in conversing with family and friends, various health issues, the needing of frequent naps, the rigidifying of attitudes, and a far greater dependence on others. It is harder to maintain cheerfulness, and impossible to live life as before. I do sympathise and feel sorry for him, and do all I can to help, but it can be very frustrating and difficult. Although in many ways he is very generous, he is often very selfish.
A couple of years ago I read David Lodge's book Deaf Sentence. Lodge is quite deaf himself, and in this novel deafness is central to the plot. He writes 'Deafness is comic, as blindness is tragic.' Deafness, he says, might arouse pity, but not terror. He quotes Milton's Samson 'O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, /irrevocably dark, without all hope of day' and offers'O deaf, deaf deaf' to illustrate the fact that deafness does not have the same pathos. While the blind have pathos, and there are visible signs which reveal their blindness, he says that 'we deafies have no such compassion-inducing warning signs' and indeed provoke irritation rather than compassion, because people must shout and repeat themselves constantly when trying to communicate with the deaf.
It is indeed quite unfair, but very true. My voice is soft, it makes me hoarse if I have to shout, and it is amazing how quickly my mood changes from kindness and helpfulness to irritation. I remonstrate with myself constantly 'Control your temper! He can't help it!' But he could at least use his hearing aid! Then I get depressed, thinking that these should be my good years, and, if I should outlive Dr P, I will probably have become so decrepit myself that I won't be able to have any fun or do anything, and there will be no one to care for me. That is no way to live, so such thoughts must be banished. And the decision to stop driving is a good one.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Monday, 9 November 2009
Just for general information, here is the recipe,
and the lined tin.
The six egg whites, stiffly beaten, and then folded into the mixture. Again, the spurtle works well.
But hands are required to get it well mixed.
Here is the cooled cake. You can see the little dents in the shape, signifying domestic authenticity, and not some automated factory process.
It is now wrapped up and hidden. Dr P seems not to realise that it is a Christmas cake, and thus not to be hacked into bits for his immediate delectation. In some respects I am happy to take on the role and responsibility of a domestic dictator.
Today I did some general food shopping and visited the health food shop there, which had all the fruit in the (formerly) standard quantities. Too late for me and my cakes this year, but I will know where to shop next year.
Friday, 6 November 2009
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Today’s lesson deals with the continued use of archaic, outmoded and grovelling forms of address and tiles. It is time to consider their appropriateness and to rethink their use.
Here are some titles which really aggravate me. There are probably many others.
His Imperial Majesty
The Most Reverend
The Right Honourable
Be it noted that there is a certain gender bias in some of these titles. They seem designed to create an aura of grandeur, of authority, inequality, and separateness from others, and may imply both overtly and indirectly that the holders of such titles are more worthy of respect and good fortune than us lesser mortals. However, such titles can also suggest, to put it crudely and unkindly, that the holders are up themselves. My argument is that such titles originated in authoritarian, hierarchical, unequal and stratified societies, and were intended to indicate authority, distinction, royalty, nobility, religious office-holders, and general importance. And to keep people in their places.
Some titles, of course, describe occupations, professions and qualifications, such as Professor, Doctor, Judge, Commissioner, President, Prime Minister, Minister, Speaker, Leader of the Opposition. These do not present any problems. They describe the occupation, office or function, and separate it from the personality.
Titles such as Duce and Fuhrer are indelibly linked to evil and abhorrent people who brought great misery to the world. It is interesting that the Italians no longer use the word Duce (which means Leader). These days, it seems, the word used is capo.
Some people, possibly traditionalists, old fogies or monarchists (the David Flints of the world) are not only happy to retain such titles, but would see them as appropriate and expressing respect. My rejoinder is that there are less grovelling and more accurate ways of expressing respect for a person, or an office or an occupation.
After the French Revolution the general form of address, until the restoration of the monarchy, was Citizen. I quite like this, though the practice seems to have got a bad reputation from the Terror and the Scarlet Pimpernel novels of Baroness Orczy, which sent out a strong message that equality was bad, while aristocrats were inevitably noble, courageous and honest, and could outwit an evil democrat any day of the week.
The Americans seem able to cope with addressing their President as Mr President. This seems an excellent way of giving respect to the office, which does not require or imply any obsequiousness or grovelling. Respect is important, but ought to result from legitimate and democratic authority, responsibility, functions and general courtesy, rather than from the continued adoption of outmoded and ridiculous titles.
Here endeth the rant.
Your humble, devoted and obedient servant,
Her Opiniatedness Persiflage
Monday, 2 November 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Here is food for the body. We passed this shop in the very narrow main street of Bergamo's Citta Alta. It all looked delicious, and was very crowded, so that it would have taken ages to actually buy anything. Bergamo features lots of cakes, but we did not try any of them. They had a cake made of polenta, but I am afraid the very thought made me shudder. The meringues looked good though. As we walked past the shop some time later we espied a fly in the window, which put us off a bit.
This is a wool shop in Brescia. We did actually go inside, and perved and yearned over the gorgeous yarns - the cashmere, the alpaca, the silk blends. I might have bought some if only I had had a pattern in mind, and knew how much to buy. On the other hand my suitcase was already quite heavy enough.
This is a shop from the fearsomely expensive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, just near the Duomo. I don't really go for silver, but these were elegant and sumptuous. The shop also sold a range of the lovely silver and enamelled animals which are sold in Florence. I think the prices in Milan easily exceed those in Florence. I had already bought two small ones in Florence, a boar, and an owl. It took my granddaughter about five minutes last week to spot that there were a couple of new ones. She'd like to nick off with them. She has to wait, though.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
I like this photo for the reflection of the sky.
This is the mercato of San Lorenzo, and we were on our way to visit the church of San Lorenzo, the Medicean chapels and the Laurentian Library. The chapels and the Library were closed on my previous visits. As we walked through, the man with his arms akimbo posed, so we cheered and waved. He will never know he is on my blog.
Pietra dura work is one of my minor passions, and I have two small pictures and a pendant. Very modest works, they are, but I love them. This photo is of a shop window selling pietra dura. On the Oltrarno, where our hotel is, there are several shops and workshops, where I always linger. There is also a museum, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, and lots of it on display in the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi. It is incredibly detailed work, making pictures of scenery, birds, flowers, using semi-precious stones.
This is the facade of the church of Santo Spirito, designed by Brunelleschi, but not completed by him. Like San Lorenzo, the interior is serene and beautiful. A Baroque baldacchino was put in place many years later. Some think it spoils the church, but I say the church is pretty hard to spoil, and I rather like it.
A view of Florence from the Pitti Palace. I managed to get approval from the attendant to take a photo from the little balcony. In this part of the Pitti Palace visitors kept having to lean forward so as to read the name of the painter and the title of the work. This leaning kept setting off the alarms, but fortunately the attendants were quite sympathetic and understanding. We explained that we were getting on a bit and our eyesight was not what it was. They nodded understandingly.
Back in Rome, which is where I meant to resume. These two photos are of the church of St Ivo della Sapienzia, a Borromini church, notable for its spiral belfry, and (according to the guide book) for its astonishing complexity, and an ingenious combination of concave and convex surfaces. Borromini and Bernini worked together, but then fell out, and were rivals. But the two of them made Rome what it is today. Borromini was a complicated and difficult man, and in his later years suffered from feverish melancholia. This eventually led him to fall on his sword, but he did not die immediately and suffered horribly.
Friday, 9 October 2009
This is the remarkable oval staircase of the Palazzo Barberini, built for Pope Urban VIII and family. He is the one who authorised using the bronze from the roof of the Pantheon for Bernini's baldacchino in St Peter's. This is the sort of thing that bean counters do to save money. This gave rise to the saying (and I can't remember the Latin) that what the barbarians could not do, the Barberini did. It is a remarkable building, with a flight of 80 stairs