Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Slaving away

Tomorrow the Italian class resumes. There are four students, and each week one of us has to present an argomento, which we can all discuss. You never know whether a discussion will ensue, but usually it does. Everyone always has a lot to say and it is a very lively class. We look forward to it immensely, and our teacher Barbara is terrific. This year we have  been meeting in cafes, over breakfast and coffees. We used to meet at the local community college, but for some very strange reason, last year the manager decided numbers had to be firm by the middle of term, and if we could not guarantee the minimum required, the class would be cancelled.  One of us was away sick, and the very early cut-off date meant there would be no opportunity to gather any additional students. So our class was cancelled.

So we four remaining students felt rather distraught and hard done by. We certainly did not want the class to stop, because we all talk our heads off, really like each other, admire and appreciate the teacher, and never ever ran out of things to say or to talk about. What is more, the obligation to write and present an argomento kept us on our toes, linguistically, so to speak. (I do like a mixed metaphor, if that is what it is.) We made an arrangement to have private classes. Initially we met in a provedore's cafe.  This generally led me into temptation, mostly of fresh pasta, but no domestic complaints occurred. After a few classes we got the distinct impression that they thought we were outstaying our welcome and not spending enough - even though we always ordered breakfast and tipped well. We moved cafes and now have a pleasant and quieter place. We still eat breakfast, drink coffee and tip well.

The term break is now over, and it is my turn to do the argomento. It is never easy for me to find a topic. All the others manage to think up beauties, but I always agonise, with a totally blank mind. Often my topic is rather academic, like my jury experience, or the choice of the site of our national capital after Federation. This tends to lead me into language more complicated than my linguistic ability or competence. But never mind. 

I have had weeks to do this argomento but as usual I left it until the last minute, wondering if I could find an alternative topic. No. Nothing popped into my head. I had to go with my original idea, which was that of red hair. Topics such as red hair lead to having to look up a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary. It is written now, printed out, and safely in my backpack. I don't really want to look at it again until the hour arrives. Sufficient unto the hour thereof. Or something. Having spent all this time and effort, I don't waste to waste any of it, and hence this post.

Two of my three children have red hair, inherited from their father. One is a real red and the other is more of a strawberry blonde. The colours inevitably darken with age. My son has brown hair, although he started off with lovely blond curls. All three have very fair skin. In this climate they are disadvantaged. Unless you have fair skin yourself you do not understand how quickly a fair skinned person can become badly sunburned. I would send them off to school camp, laden with sunburn cream and protective clothing, with very explicit letters to the teachers explaining how fair their skin was, how frequently sun screen cream needed to be applied, how they needed to wear t-shirts, and explaining that twenty minutes was the longest time they should be exposed to direct sunlight , and it was a waste of time, effort and paper. I wonder whether they even read the letters. Within a day the poor little things would be badly sunburned, blistered even, unable to enjoy the camp, and would come home totally miserable. 

At least the grandchildren have better skin. Only one of them has red hair and it is dark, and will almost certainly turn quite dark brown by the time she is an adult.

To do this argomento I used the internet, and it does seem to me that many of the alleged facts are creative fictions. Lists of famous redheads seemed to be rather fictitious. It would take too much effort to double check all the claims. I skipped lightly over the genetics of red hair, and made generalisations about the incidence worldwide and in particular countries. My family has quite a lot of Irish blood, so it was probably inevitable that we'd get redheads. My children's father was a bright orangey redhead in his youth, and his mother was also redheaded. We had two redheads out of three children. My sister C married a redhead. They have five children, four of whom have red hair. My youngest sister P married a man with dark hair but with a red beard, and one of their two daughters has red hair. We have certainly helped disseminate the gene.

One advantage of having redheads was that when I went to pick up the children after school it was  very easy to pick them out in a crowd. You could call this the silver lining on a cloud, but I prefer to think of it as yet another unexpected pleasure of life.

At school there were three redheads in my class. These days, though, I seem to trip across redheads every day. It would be fun to stop them and ask their family history, but so far I have not allowed myself to succumb to this urge. I wonder, though, is the incidence increasing? I am sure that there are many more sets of twins. The other day I encountered two sets of twins on the one escalator. Surely that must have been an improbable occurrence. The statistics need to be checked out.


Anonymous said...

Your Italian classes sound like so much fun! For all my reading competency at medieval languages, I'm woefully ignorant at any modern ones. I want to learn German at some point in the next few years.

I was so puzzled by the peculiar redheaded prejudice in England that sees all redheads referred to as "ginger" and jokes about them abound. I still don't really understand it, but suspect that the link between red hair and Irish blood might be at least partly to blame. I myself love red hair and often wish I had it.

Anonymous said...

We have the red too, although not flaming. In the sun, geek boy has deep red halos, looks very cute. My mother hated her red with a passion, even at 76 she still has ginger tones.

Jen said...

I have red hair as does my brother. We got it from my father and maternal grandmother. My brother's three girls are all redheads and my daughter is a redhead. My son is the only one who does not have red hair. He's a blond but it is turning brown, that would be under the blue that he has decided to dye it. We were easily picked out in crowds and to this day I have a "thing" about clowns because they would pick on my brother and me.

Stomper Girl said...

And somehow I got too blondies! The day I really came to terms with being a redhead was the day I realised women were paying lots of money to get their hair coloured like mine.

meggie said...

My father's family, who were largely descended from Scots, have red & blond. My father was blond, but my mother always wished my hair had been dark red like my Uncle & Aunt. One Uncle was nicknamed Ginge by his father, even though is hair was auburn. The nickname stuck, & at 92 he still goes by the name of Ginge!