Thursday, May 25, 2017

All I want for Christmas is a 3.5x-90x Trinocular Stereo Microscope with USB Digital Camera and 54 LED Ring Light

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I recently got a book contract. It's not a huge deal; my name won't be on it and it's not the whole book - just three chapters and some editing - but it's a good start in the book world. And when I've actually managed to produce something, I'm going to be paid a nice little chunk of money. Again, not a huge fortune, but it will keep us in kitty-kibble and tea n' biscuits for a while. And if I do it right, promote myself right, I might be able to grow this little shoot into more work as a ghost writer. I like researching and can put decent English sentences together, and am starting to be very wary of the urge to be "known". When I'm done and the book is sailing along the publishing process I might look into the many websites about "how to start a business as a ghost writer," and see what they say. I'm sure there's a Wikihow about it.

Meanwhile, life here in the Perugia lowlands continues to be a consolation. The weather has warmed up considerably, but we get lots of nice breezes and fairly regular thunderstorms to keep things cool, and not boring. The kitties are becoming real outdoor cats, only showing up for meals and nap time.

Pippin's new favourite nap spot. It's my collecting basket, but I put a padded placemat in it to keep the fur out and to be nice and cozy. 

I've been to the village festa and it was charming; a Mass that was not too bad and a very lovely procession through town with a glorious gilded 18th century baldacchino, many antique banners and lots of local hymns and songs to Our Lady and St. Martin, the town's patron. So far I have managed to go to Mass in the village parishes three times and not even once started yelling or stormed out, or even made faces at the gladhand o' peace. I met the curate and he speaks adequate English to get my confession heard. Friendly chap. I think if he gets to know me better, he'll be rather shocked at how old fashioned I am (they always are), so we'll have to see how friendly he remains. I've even found my antique lace mantilla and recovered it from its box, though I don't want to shock anyone just yet. Let em get used to seeing the straniera every week first.

I've started about 30 litres of nettle and ginger beer, and the cherry trees in the garden are heavy and bright with fruit, so the two large bottles of vodka are just waiting for two extra large hinge-topped jars and we'll have boozy cherries and warm cherry cocktails at Christmas again!

Meanwhile, I've started sketching a little. The landlady, Annamaria, gave me a beautiful slab of white marble in an arch shape, about 3/4 of an inch thick, and very smooth.

The arch is not even. I thought of taking it to the local funerary stonemasons who specialise in this sort of thing, but then thought it seemed rather charming lopsided. I'm thinking instead of trying to hide it, I'll incorporate it into the painting somehow. Maybe have the extended corner at the bottom right as a little side chapel containing some monks or acolytes peeking through the curtain at the great folk. Maybe with a cat. 

It was supposed to be the top of a bit of the kitchen counter, but its been sitting outside getting green and aged. I asked if I could have it to paint on, and a few days later, Bruno came struggling in with it and put it in my workroom. So I have to start planning seriously what to put on it.

If I do a decent job of it, I might be able to sell it for at least a few thousand, (though how I could safely ship such a large and heavy thing might be a bit tricky, I can only just lift it!) and it would keep us going for a good long while. It's such a lovely thing it deserves to have a Sacred Conversation, in the late Gothic, early Renaissance style that is so prominent around here. Last weekend I had a wonderful chance to visit Spello, a nearby medieval town with loads of churches, and their most famous son is the great painter Pinturicchio (Benetto di Biagio). We saw the absolutely mindbogglingly beautiful frescoes of the Baglioni Chapel (not allowed to take pics), in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore that was damaged in the quakes and remains partly closed. I fell instantly madly in love with Signore Biagio, and bought the only English language Pinturicchio book they had and several post cards.

One of the things I love about these late Gothic painters is the incredible attention to detail. I once saw an exhibition of Filippino Lippi (the much nicer son of the profligate and unpleasant Fra Filippo Lippi) student of Botticelli, and I was amazed to see that in the background of these paintings of saints and miracles, he had gone to scrupulous care to depict the flowers and insects and birds with absolute and minute botanical perfection. You could recognise every species. This is something I will be doing my best to emulate.

Today I saw that a friend of mine in the US is taking a college course in botany, just for the fun of it, and she posted some of the screen shots of the USB-compatible dissecting microscope she's using in class, and it awakened again my longing for one. Lots of work to get through in the next few months, and of course loads of financial priorities, but if things keep looking up, I might think about it again.

Here's a few pics of beautiful Spello. It's right next door to Assisi on the same train line from Rome, but having no first-rank saints to attract the zillions of tourists, is a much nicer place to visit.

Beautiful wooden loggia in the Spello municipal building. Very typically Umbrian

Trying to coax out a beautiful blue-eyed white kitty to come be petted. 

Philip, always keeping an eye on me. In San Lorenzo church. We went on a Sunday and arrived just as the Mass was ending, and it was packed to standing room, with everyone dressed to the nines. I would say that Umbria is a place of the Faith. 

What everyone comes to Spello for is the flowers. Some time ago, the town fathers knew they had to increase tourist interest, nearly all of whom would just zoom past on to Assisi and the big museums in Perugia. They hit upon the idea of flowers. They provided pots and hooks and gardening advice, and now the whole town blooms. There are contests for the locals to produce the most beautiful displays. 

Right at the very top of this very Franciscan town is the 12th century church of San Severino, well out of the tourist zone and  very peaceful. It is the church of the Capuchin Provincial house. Just down the lane is a Poor Clare monastery (which we came to too late in the day to visit.) 

The view from the table where we had lunch. 

Agnese Bocci, a third order Franciscan whose house is more or less right next door. Under this portrait there was a marble plaque that said she died in the odore suavitatis on the 8th of October, 1793. A mystic, she is one of Umbria's many stay-at-home saints.

Where we stopped for a glass of wine, at the very topmost summit of town, looking down into the valley behind it, away from the train tracks. Dead ahead is the Sibiline mountains, and Norcia is about 100 km away. 


The eucharistic chapel of San Lorenzo church. 

You can see the little plaques they give you for "best balcony", five years in a row!

Back in the village in the late afternoon, all hung with the flags of the four "rione," the neighbourhoods, who have a week long sports tournament. Volleyball and calcio, and music and beer and sausages all week. The festa is the Madonna della Scala, in honour of Our Lady's icon that was found in the remains of the medieval church when they were building a new one. 

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