Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New glasses!

OK, the Enoteca Granaro del Monte has just officially become my favourite place to work in town (where they are currently playing a soft lounge-jazz version of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, which makes me extraordinarily happy). They give you coffee, wine, beer and/or lunch, and you get all the hotel wifi you can consume.

And they bring you lentils from this rather magical place!

Four years ago, while I was walking home in a gale from the grocery store, a gust of wind grabbed the stick of my umbrella and smacked it into my glasses right on the bridge of my nose. The result was one of the arms breaking off. After that, contrary to my lifelong habit, I just gave up wearing glasses and walked around mostly blind, reasoning that the world looks better in soft focus. You see less of The Bad that way.

I continued to aggressively not wear my glasses except for my drawing classes, when I would perch them precariously on my nose, and then complain about them. I argued that I had bought them nearly ten years before and that I had become so ancient in the interim that I needed a new prescription anyway, so there was no point in getting them fixed. This drove Andrea nuts, and I Heard About it regularly.

Well, she will be happy to hear now that I had not been in Norcia more than a week before I had ordered a wonderful, and very sturdy, pair of new glasses.

There's just so much more worth looking at here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travel tips

Sitting in the Enoteca Granaro del Monte and using the Bianconi hotel wifi, which is top-notch, like everything else they do.

But a word to the wise: when you ask for a glass of wine here, make sure you've had a little of what Eastern Canadians call "soakage" beforehand. A slice of pizza or something. Because apparently the Italian word "bichieri" means in Norcia the same thing as "vat" in English. And make sure you've got a full half hour at least to get through it before you have to run...reel... stagger off to Vespers.

Oh, and try not to get olive oil on the trackpad. Like I just did.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Keeping the fire alive

I'm chuffed. Norcia is a tiny little town, but it's close enough to Rome and has an important enough patron, that it attracts all manner of interesting people and events. Yesterday, the monks officially inaugurated their beautiful new refectory, and Cardinal Pell had come to say Mass and give a little address. I am slightly acquainted with his eminence through work, and was pleased to be able to greet him and thank him for his courageous work at the Synod.

He noticed that I was still wearing my British Legion poppy, though it is the last week of November. I replied that I usually wear it throughout November, to remind myself to pray for my military relatives. "Both my grandfathers and my great grandfather served in both great wars, so I try to keep remembering to pray for them through the month of the Holy Souls."

The cardinal seemed very pleased with this, and said, "Good to know there's someone keeping the fire alive." He promised to pray for my grandfathers and great grandfather, Norman Hucknell White, Herbert Edward Burkett and William Doloughan.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.


Friday, November 21, 2014

No idea what any of it means...

Strange religious guilt dreams.

I dreamt that I had been told by a priest to bring Holy Communion to a sick person. He had given me two Hosts, and just shoved me out the door. I had no pyx and nothing to carry It in, so I went back into the sacristy by another door. The priest was busy with some other work and didn’t see me rummaging around in drawers and cupboards with one hand, the Hosts held between two fingers in the other, looking for something to use as a pyx.

Then two other parishioners came in and I became frightened that they would catch me carrying the Eucharist around, so I took a paper envelope out of my bag and popped them in, wrapped in an American dollar bill, and then hid the envelope, in the bottom of a drawer. The other parishioners came over and made some polite chitchat, and I was distracted wondering how I was going to smuggle the Hosts back into the tabernacle, since I couldn’t just open it and reach in.

I fretted over the possible options, thinking at this point that I should just wait until the sacristy was empty again and sneak back in and consume the Hosts, but then I remembered that you were only allowed to receive once a day, and I didn’t think I could get back the next day. I figured I should also conduct some kind of Holy Hour before consuming them, and I couldn’t figure out how I could do that without anyone seeing.

I woke up quite anxious about it and it took me a few moments to let go and realise that I hadn’t actually hidden Hosts in a paper envelope, and didn’t have to solve this terrible problem. The cat was sitting next to the pillow staring down at my head, willing me to wake up and feed her.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Life in a tourist town...

oh, how well I remember it...

Maybe we should get someone to stand in front of the basilica of St. Benedict and Scholastica here with a big sign saying, "Hic domus Dei est et porta cœli, so shut the hell up!"

Srsly people! Who told you it's OK to stomp into a church and talk in your normal outside-voice?

American tourists. Oh, che gioia...


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Norcia's Bonfire Night

Hey, English people! Miss the happy homely Bonfire Night of your childhood? Do you feel maybe a little guilty enjoying Guy Fawkes as a Catholic?

Well, boy, do I have the solution for you!


Come visit Norcia for our Bonfire Night, December 9, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at the Chiesa di San Lorenzo.

Plus, ours has mulled wine and grilled wild boar!

"Festival of 'Faoni' and 'also known as' Festival of the Bells' (on which occasion the bells are operated throughout the country at the stroke of midnight)"

"Groups of volunteers loyal to the tradition each year, prepare the evening of 9 December, when the whole city 'and the neighboring villages glow in the majestic glow of pyres of burning juniper, big and beautiful bonfire 'animated by the ever-present folk songs of organs by happiness and carefree people around some heady glass of mulled wine', sweets and good food cooked on the grill.

"... The evening of December 9 is always a feast for all, a big party waiting for the midnight hour when all the bells of the city' move to announce the passage of the Holy House of Our Lady of Loreto.

"In fact, the sense of tradition, the inhabitants of Norcia and the Catholic tradition, is right here. The fires are lit to commemorate and illuminate the path of the angels who, back in December 9, 1291, being occupied Palestine from the infidels, brought safely the home of the Virgin Mary miraculously traslocated it up to a grove of laurels, in today's Loreto. But what other rites are intertwined around this beloved tribute is not easy to say.

"There are atavistic elements: you go to the more days' short of the year and you have to ward off the darkness has the upper hand on the light, the night the day, the frost on the heat. But there 's also the arcane. The fire is not always destroys, purifies. And finally, the spiritual elements. Fire and 'the symbol of love that comes down on Mary and the Apostles at the Last Supper, the disciples turning into preachers courageous and able to make himself understood by people from different countries. Symbols and rituals, forces of nature and good will ', everything is exalted in the earth truffle tonight. We all look forward to the preparation of these faoni and their power of 9 December!"

Now THAT's the Faith I'm ready to die for!

Here's the Festa's Facebook page

Here's my FB events page for anyone who wants to come. Ladies can stay with me, and we can find accoms for gentlemen in town.


Monday, November 10, 2014

First photos

Out the front door, looking down into the garden.

S. Mar balcony garden transported. Looking rather forlorn.

Out the sitting room window.

Door to nowhere. I think there was supposed to be a balcony outside this door, but it opens onto the terracotta tiled roof. Never mind. The view is wonderful, and it will make a nice place to have tea when I've got another table.

Sitting room, piled up with boxes.

New sink as of Friday morning!

This was a few days ago. It's much tidier now.

Out the sitting room windows. Morning in the mountains seems to follow a pattern this time of year. At night the clouds sink down and settle in the valley like a huge, mountainous bowl of milk. By one o'clock they have gone back up to the sky again and the sun shines down.

Norcia, out my bedroom window, dreaming its ancient dreams.

Little Winnie's favourite activity: worshiping the oil radiator, the only source of heat until the gas gets turned on by Eni.

The fireplace works but the chimney needs cleaning. I tried lighting a fire, but the only way to keep the smoke from filling the room was to open a window. The smoke trailed happily up the chimney then, but it rather defeated the purpose.

Never mind. All shall be sorted in time. Piano-piano, as the Italians say.


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Stupid lazy idiot...

So, not off to the most auspicious start. Slobbed around the house all morning, and didn't get it together to go to the 11:45 Mass. Fortunately, there's a last-ditch NO Mass at the Co-Cathedral at 5:30, but still...

Also, went to the laundromat in the parco industriale yesterday, and it was awful. 7 freakin Euros for a wash!! ... !!! Bloody hell!. And after I'd pumped all my money into the damn machine, the door refused to close and then its little computer decided I hadn't given it any money and demanded 7 more. So I got mad at technology (why can't we have normal laundromat machines, the kind that has a slot for six quarters and then you shove the thingy in? What was wrong with those things? Why do we have to have a damn computer in a bloody washing machine anyway?!) and pulled my stuff out, gave it a couple of sharp kicks, as you do, and was in the process of storming off when the old guy who runs the laundromat came in and pretty much begged me to stay, put his key in the machine and figured out it was broken, so got the other one going for me... and also more or less looked like my dear old grandpa, so I felt like a jerk.

Which, of course, is because I am a jerk.

But at least it's good to know there's a Punish the Stupid Lazy Idiot Mass at the Co-Cathedral, in case I continue to be a stupid lazy idiot. Which actually seems pretty likely, tell the truth...


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Get the picture?

What happens when bad math meets engineering

What happens when bad theology meets liturgy.

Fortunately, no souls were lost in the first video.


Yes, I'm fine.

Everything worked out, and the new place is terrific. I got a new sink put in yesterday morning, and got the bathroom sink fixed, so that's a step forward. No fridge, but I've still got my own freezer chest, so I bought a 24L cooler for keeping the milk and yogurt in, and I got a two-burner camp stove that can run off a domestic gas bombola. (It's a normal Italian thing to run your stove off a bombola, and saves a lot of money. Don't worry, it's safe.)

Got a queen size air mattress, and am impressed at the advances in air mattress technology since the last time I bought one in the 80s. You just flick a switch and it inflates itself! Wonders.

No gas for heat or hot water yet, and the chimney smokes, but we're adjusting. Winnie is slowly calming down. She's sitting now in front of the portable oil radiator, contemplating its many glories.

Boxes piled up everywhere, and any little thing you want to do means half an hour of digging about in them. Which is motivating me to put things away. Unfortunately, there's very little "away" for things to go. Like all Italian homes, this one has no built-in cupboards, closets or shelves, so it's going to be a bit of a shambles for a while.

I took the granny cart down to the supermarket last night, and stopped in at the Basilica for Vespers, and there was Robert Moynihan, whom I've not seen in ages. He promptly invited me to dinner and one of the monks turned up and we had a jolly time. It seems this is a place that attracts lots of people, so there will probably be quite a bit of that sort of thing.

The leaves are all turning and the fog settles over the valley every morning, making it look like a huge, mountainous bowl of milk. The bells of St. Benedict ring out throughout the day, reminding me why I'm here.

More later. (with pics)