Saturday, March 25, 2017

QUIZ: SICILIAN PROVERBS - 22

A little light relief is needed and it's ages since we had a proverbs quiz, so why not have a go at matching these seasonal proverbs in dialect to their meanings?

1.  Marzu, mi rifaccio.

2.  Marzu tingi, aprile dipingi.



3.  Marzu pazzareddu, talìa u suli, e pigghia l'umbrellu.

4.  La luna di marzu règula sei misi.

5.  Marzu conza e guasta, né cuvernu cc'è che basti.



a.  There's no way to stop the breakages and  [subsequent] repairs needed in March.

b.  The March moon influences the moons for six months [ie., the weather of the March new moon period will influence that of the beginning of the next six months].

c.  In March I remake myself.

d.  Tint in March, paint in April [with spring colours].

e.  March is mad - if you see the sun, grab your umbrella.



 Highlight the space below to see the answers:
1c, 2d, 3e, 4b, 5a.

Friday, March 24, 2017

SPRING TIDES, 2017

A mere 36 hours have passed since the events that shocked the world happened in my country and already, as if their situation were not bad enough, migrants are being blamed in some quarters. I ask, as I have asked many times, what woman, knowing that she could go into labour at any moment, would step onto a totally inadequate, crowded boat and attempt a dangerous sea crossing if she had any choice? What kind of parents would take or put their children onto such a boat, knowing the risks? Who would gamble in such a way with their own life if there were any hope in their own country? Surely you do not have to be a psychology professor to work out the answer.

As I write tonight, up to 240 migrants are feared dead in yet another tragedy that has taken place on the "central Mediterranean route", that is, the one with Italy as its destination, which is again being favoured by people traffickers following the closure of the Balkan route. The tragedy happened when two migrant boats got into trouble off the Libyan coast on Wednesday and so far five bodies have been recovered. All five, presumably men, were aged 16 - 25 and had died from drowning. This news comes on the day when a Libyan court blocked a Memorandum of Understanding on migration between Italy and Libya.  At the same time, the court in question blocked further negotiations on the matter between the two countries. The reasons are too complicated to go into on this blog but you can find more details here.

With the spring comes better weather and with better weather come more migrant boats: at the weekend Italian operatives saved 3,315 people in 25 operations in 24 hours.  Subsequently 1,477 of these migrants were brought to Augusta. Three bodies were also recovered. In addition, the SOS Mediterranean ship Aquarius, working in conjunction with MSF, saved 946 migrants off the Libyan coast in nine operations coordinated by the Rome Coast Guard on Saturday - Sunday night. The migrants had been travelling in seven dinghies and two wooden boats.  These migrants were brought to Catania and on the way, a baby called Mercy was born after an eight-hour, difficult labour. The midwife who attended Mercy's mother on board the Aquarius said she must have been desperate to have undertaken the journey in her condition. Mercy, as you can see, is healthy and is said to be doing well. Who could look look at her and feel no compassion? 

However, for every "Mercy" born, hundreds die at sea - so many, over the years, that no one knows exactly what the figure is and worse, the world does not seem to care. I am as upset by the London attack as anyone not directly involved but please, politicians and right-wing media, don't blame migrants.

In 2015 4,600 people died on the central Mediterranean migrant route and more than 10,000 are estimated to have died attempting this journey since 2014.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

DOMENICA MUSICALE

I knew of this Eros song, but not that he had sung it with Pavarotti. When I heard it on the radio last week, I was moved to tears:

Eros Ramazzotti e Luciano Pavarotti - Se bastase una canzone

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A CIVILISED STOP

A civilised stop as Bertie and I were on our walk the other day. I didn't ask for such a big slice, honestly, but it would have been churlish to refuse it once it was served, wouldn't it? And when you start to see borage in Sicily, you know that spring and the ice cream season are on their way!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

DOMENICA MUSICALE

Nice to see this collaboration between Tiziano Ferro and Catania's Carmen Consoli. No. 12 in the Italian singles chart this week:

Tiziano Ferro e Carmen Consoli - Il conforto

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

MIMOSA AND MOTIVATION

Mimosa blossom is very much the order of the day for the festa della donna [International Women's Day] so it was nice to be presented with a sprig of it with my Sicilian orange juice in the bar this morning and lovely to receive the gift on the left from a friend:


I thought it would be appropriate, on this day, to tell you about ten Italian women who have inspired me - well, more than ten, really, as there are whole convents of nuns involved - but it started at ten!

Teresa Mattei
Firstly, if you are wondering why the mimosa is the symbol of International Women's Day in Italy, it was the idea of one Teresa Mattei , activist, partisan and one of the "mothers of the Italian Constitution".  

The other great ladies on my list come in no particular order and I make no apologies for the fact that several of them are writers. I'm just made that way.

Oriana Fallaci has fascinated me since my student days and I learnt only recently that the woman once known as "Italy's most aggessive journalist" could be just like the rest of us when she fell in love!

Elsa Morante was another writer whose work I started reading as a student and in my opinion her greatest novel remains La Storia or History. Of the other literary Elsa, namely signora Ferrante, I have read only one volume, so I am reserving judgement for now.  If I get hooked you'll be the first to know!

The works of Natalia Ginzburg were a comfort to me in my student days and they are a comfort to me now.

Rita Levi Montalcini, who left us almost five years ago, was a scientist and Nobel laureate who, even at the age of 100, had a special empathy with the young, whom her achievements and words continue to excite. The world is poorer without her.

Rita Levi Montalcini depicted in flower petals at the Noto Infiorata, 2011
Franca Viola

No woman living in Sicily can forget Franca Viola, whose determination not to submit to bullying changed Italian law.  She lives happily today in Alcamo.

Maria Grammatico, Ericean pastry cook who told her story to Mary Taylor Simeti in Bitter Almonds, was brought up in a convent, where she learnt to make pastries. I have yet to achieve my ambition of visiting her pastry shop in Erice.

There are still convents in Sicily where the nuns make and sell pastries to raise funds for maintenance or good causes and I'll never forget the day I bought these, through a grille, from a convent in Agrigento. You have my admiration, dear sisters:



The story of Daniela Spada is one I read recently and who could not be inspired by this lady's courage and the determination with which she fought her way back from devastating illness? I learnt so much from this book.

Artemesia Gentileschi is a woman I've admired since the first film about her came out in the 1990s. More talented than her father and brothers, if ever a woman literally suffered for her art, it was she. Artemesia continued painting, against all the odds, and was the first woman to become a member of the Florentine Accademia di Arte del Disegno.

Finally, the word pazienza is not in my vocabulary and I've often said it should be banned in Italy as it is too often used to excuse inefficiency by the very victims of that inefficiency. However, when pazienza is employed to create great or small works of art, I wish I had it so, as we are coming up to Easter, I would like to express once again my admiration for The Palm Lady.

I hope you've all had a wonderful festa della donna!



Monday, March 06, 2017

A POET, A POPE AND A PLATE



It was with great pleasure that I participated, on Saturday, in the launch of Modican poet Antonio Lonardo's 40th anniversary collection, Alla ricerca dell'Oreb, which I had translated.

Before the big event, of course, two visits were necessary - one to Giovanna Linguanti of Beauty Giò, and the other to Giorgio at Saloni di Successo:


At last, I am ready!


Alla ricerca dell'Oreb [In search of Horeb] is a collection of poems dedicated to migrants, describing their hopes, losses and heartbreak - a cause which is, as many of you will know, close to my heart. The second part of the book is dedicated to the migrants' champion, Pope Francis and I can assure you it makes for moving reading for people of all religions or none.  There are also poems dedicated to Gabriel García Márquez [born 90 years ago today] and to Mandela.

Besides reading my English versions of the poems at the launch, I spoke about the particular difficulties a translator of poetry faces and the changes necessary, especially in word order, when translating from Italian into English.  I ended by saying that, whilst very few translations ever match the beauty of the original - the linguist George Steiner said it was possible but rare - I hoped that mine had done justice to Antonio Lonardo's message.

Here are some more photos from the event:



Me with Antonio Lonardo
At the end of the evening I was delighted to receive this commemorative plate, specially commissioned by Antonio. I shall treasure it:


Thank you, Antonio and many congratulations again!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

DOMENICA MUSICALE

Asked to talk about the process of translation last night at the launch of Antonio Lonardo's poetry collection, Alla ricerca dell'Oreb, which I have translated, I quoted some lines from this Aznavour song. Although, in this case the "song" had already been written, I felt the search for the right words in another language was similar.  Here are the French and Italian versions of the Aznavour song: 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY 2017

It's St David's Day and naturally, there have to be Welshcakes:


A girl also has to have St David's Day nails:


And there has to be this:

Only Men Aloud - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau



To the Welsh everywhere, to those who wish they were Welsh and to all with a song in their heart, 
Happy St David's Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A FAREWELL TO MEAT

Carnevale has been in full swing in many Italian cities but in Modica there is no particular carnival tradition. This is, in some ways, a good thing as it does mean you can walk around without getting sprayed with coloured sludge but it also used to mean that children had few places to go where they could show off their carnival costumes.

This is changing, however and I think we should congratulate La Fortezza shopping centre for organising several events for children over the carnival season and for cheering us all up with their lighting:



The word carnevale is either a corruption of Italian carne levare, the withdrawal of meat or a joining together of Latin carne and vale, a farewell to meat. [As a linguist I favour the second theory.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

BREXIT - THE PLIGHT OF EXPATS



"Come home, then", was a comment I received on twitter a few nights ago in response to a point I had made about the situation of expats in the era of Brexit and it has to be said that, although curt, this comment was nothing like as rude as others that we "remainers" have been subject to in recent months. When, I keep asking myself, did my tolerant and open country become intolerant and closed?  It is a heartbreaking change to watch.

"Come home":  I'm afraid that for many expats, including me, the situation is not as simple as that. It is a myth that we are all slugging gin on sun loungers in sunny British enclaves and it is equally a myth that we are all rich. It would not be financially possible for most of us to come home and I am not the only one who would have nowhere to go in my native country.

Therefore, when we raise concerns about the future of our pensions or access to healthcare in the countries where we now live, they are real concerns, for a freezing of our pensions would spell poverty in old age for thousands of us and the threat of cutting off our right to healthcare, at the time in our lives when we are likely to need it most, fills us with fear.

Now, before I am shot down by those who think that, having decided to no longer live in the "green and pleasant land",  I deserve everything that is, or more likely is not, coming to me, and before I am told that, for the same reason, I have no right to any British pension at all , I would like to point out the following: I believe I served Britain tolerably well in my role as a teacher and then as a lecturer. The schools I taught in were far from "élitist" and I worked hard for my pension. With regard to healthcare, the agreement in place at the time I moved to Italy was one of entitlement because there is a reciprocal agreement in place for Italians living and working in Britain. I have never sponged off either system in my life. When you move to another country, you do so under a certain set of circumstances and you do not expect retrospective legislation to pull the rug out from under your British feet.

Incidentally, if the value of people's pensions had been cut by up to 25% in the UK , there would be uproar, yet this is exactly what has already happened to expats since the Brexit referendum and we are all afraid to say so publicly because we will be branded "selfish, élitist remoaners." Well, it is about time someone said it and I do so here.

Another fear we have is that, even if a "right to stay" agreement is reached, it may be dependent upon some sort of property qualification. No, I am not restoring a castle or tending my vineyard - like many other expats, I pay my way but I do not own property in either country.  We do not figure in  the British Prime Minister's narrow vision of the "jams" [families who are "just about managing"] but that is often the reality for expats.  [Oh, and I'm not out here with family, either - I am truly dispossessed!]

Why, some of you may wonder, would anyone want to leave Britain in the first place?  My answer is because I am a modern languages graduate and I fell in love with Italy at an early age. Loving another country does not mean that you love your own any the less; in fact you can come to love it more, because you see it with new eyes from abroad. Moreover, having had the chance to teach in Italy, I believe I have contributed in my small way to the spreading of British culture here.

When the British State educated me and trained me as a teacher, it did not do so in order that I might live exclusively in one country or the other;  it did so in order that I would have a choice.  That's what education does. I was given the ability to make a choice and I made it, believing, like others, that I was protected in it by treaty. That our native land now wants to rip that treaty up is hardly our fault and we are appalled by our formerly gentle nation's abandonment of its own citizens in the EU.  This is not the Britain that I recognise and it is not the free and fair Britain that I have told so many Italian students about.

I am hurt, as I am sure other expats are hurt, by the name-calling we have had to endure: I am not a "remoaner"; I am merely someone who wishes to embrace more than one culture and my languages have enabled me to do that fully.  Where was I on the day that such a wish became a crime in Britain?

The general view in Britain seems to be that three million expats are just a few snail-eaters who do not matter and I have no information on how many of us still have voting rights there. But elections and referendums, as we have seen, can turn on very few votes.  Perhaps one day soon the British government will wake up to the fact that we matter. I hope it does not do so too late.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

DOMENICA MUSICALE

A beautiful song and the runner-up at Sanremo:

Fiorella Mannoia - Che sia benedetta

Friday, February 17, 2017

A TIMELY COLLECTION



Some years ago, I translated a collection of poetry called Il Profumo del Pensiero - The Essence of Thought for the Modican poet Antonio Lonardo

This year, Antonio celebrates 40 years of publishing poetry and I was delighted, in the summer, when he asked me to translate his new collection, Alla Ricerca dell'Oreb - In Search of Horeb.  Most of the poems in this new collection are on the theme of migration and the plight of migrants, a cause which, as many of you will know, is close to my heart. 

There is no good time to be forced to leave your country but the era we are living in is one of the most dangerous and precarious the world has witnessed so a collection of poems on this theme is, in my opinion, timely.

As you see from the poster above, the book launch takes place in Modica on 4th March 2017 and I shall be proud to be part of it.  

Thank you, Antonio, for giving me the opportunity to work on these poems.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ANYONE FOR "FUD"?

Finding myself in Catania yesterday, I decided to try out a restaurant called Fud which had been recommended to me by a student. 

Fud, you see, is how the word "food" sounds to Italians [the u is pronounced like oo in English] and the whole menu is deliberately written in this way, as are all the notices in the establishment.  I must say, I was a bit peturbed at the notice telling me to "use my ends", but then I realised that this clipped, aristocratic pronunciation, prevalent in the UK among the upper classes until about the 1960s - "hends" for "hands" - is exactly what is still, incredibly, being taught in some schools here. Drop the h, as Italians tend to do, and you have "ends"!



I ordered Fud cips, which the cooks there do not stint on, and a beefburger which looked and smelt so good that I forgot to take an elegant photo before I bit into it decisively. It was both enormous and excellent.  


I loved the phonetic spelling of "cheesecake" but not as much as I loved eating it!






You can see more of the menu here.

The service at Fud is friendly and attentive. Oh, and "real" English is spoken!

If you are ever in Catania, go and have some good food and a lot of fun at Fud!

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