Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Time and seasons and such.

This week has begun strangely. Yesterday I was up at the crack of dawn. Today I more or less overslept.

Since my daughter decided to return to university on a part-time basis in September we have had to make complicated arrangements for childcare. On Sunday her car stays overnight parked outside my house. I then get up at silly o’clock on Monday morning to drive to her house before the buses have started running so that she can set off for Ormskirk at around 6.30. (Eventually I get the kids up, make sure they h
ave some breakfast and get them all to school on the bus.)

It’s quite interesting (if tiring) being up at that time of day. In Spain you are regularly woken in the small hours by dustbin men emptying the huge rubbish containers on the street corners. This does not happen as a rule in the UK. Instead, when you drive in the early hours you have to weave around all the milk floats as deliveries are being made. You get to see all the dedicated joggers who are up and about running in the dark: quite disturbing! And then there are the loonies who think that as they are driving in the early hours when there is relatively little traffic (apart from milk floats), they don’t need to bother with such things as signalling. Now, I would have thought signalling was more necessary at a time when drivers might still be half asleep but, well, that’s just my opinion.

Today, either I slept through my alarm or switched it off without remembering it. Or maybe I never set it at all. Whatever the truth of the matter, I was woken by the sound of the phone ringing, assumed it was an early morning panic call from my daughter – which of the grandchildren was not well this time??? – and leapt out of bed to answer it only to discover that it was in fact 10.15 and that this was a friend calling. Goodness knows what time I might have woken without the phone call!!

So it was a hasty morning routine today and just over an hour later I was on my way to Manchester. I was due to begin my Italian conversation class, of which more later, but first I wanted to return some library b
ooks to the college which had cancelled the Portuguese class because of low numbers. Half way into Manchester I remembered the library books, still on the bedside table. Botheration!!! Still it was a lovely day for a stroll around Manchester before hunting out the new venue for Italian class.

The aforementioned Italian class was making a late start because of the economic crisis, I believe. Several weeks ago I went along to what I understood to be the first of this year’s classes, only to be told that the Italians had left the building and that I should have received an e-mail letting me know this. It transpired that the Italian government had suddenly decided to close their consulate in Manchester. The organisation which provides Italian classes, not only for interested English people but also free classes for the children of Italian families based in Manchester, had been given a week’s notice to find somewhere new. They considered staying where they were but the rent was too high and they needed to find somewhere cheaper. So, reading between the lines, it would seem that closing the consulate may be part of Mr Berlusconi’s economy drive.

Anyway, classes started again today and we had fun discovering what they did in Italy to celebrate All Saints’ Day before the invasion of their country by the American tradition of Hallowe’en.

“Trick or Treat” seems to have taken over just about everywhere; I’ve seen it in Spain as well, another country where Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day) was what they used to celebrate. It’s a great excuse for children to collect lots of sweets and for adults to throw parties, mostly over the weekend.

On Sunday morning our local village centre was strewn with bits of purple net. Some witch or vampire had clearly shredded her costume on her way home. Children seem to have gone Trick-or-Treating on Saturday, Sunday AND Monday evenings and a friend of mine described having traumatised his small children by making a pumpkin lantern and then switching off the main lights so that they could better see the scary face. Result: two screaming toddlers, too scared to go to bed!!!

I was amused to discover that in Italy, as in Spain they have the tradition of “fare il ponte” (“hacer el puente” in Spanish) according to which if there is a public holiday on a Thursday, for example, you take Friday off as well, making a “bridge” to the weekend and thus extending your free time. This is not skiving. There is no need to phone in sick. It is standard practice.

In Italy both the 1st and 2nd of November are public holidays to commemorate the dear departed and this year, obviously, they fall today and tomorrow. So most places took Mondayoff as well and have had a very long weekend indeed. So why not, I wondered aloud in the class, just take the whole week off? Well, in many places that is exactly what has happened, especially in schools. There you go: half term!!

So, we’ve got Hallowe’en out of the way and now, without even bothering with Bonfire Night, we can move straight on to Christmas. ALL the shops and supermarkets have Christmas displays up, witches and pumpkins having disappeared by magic overnight. When we went to the local Ikea store on Saturday I noted that Ashton town centre has stolen a march on other places as regards seasonal street decoration. They have Divali lights up everywhere, thus ticking the multicultural box. However, both Oldham and city centre Manchester are advertising the switching on if the Christmas lights on Thursday 10th November: that’s Thursday of next week!!!!

It’s time I thought about baking a Christmas cake, laying in stocks of mince pies and buying a Christmas tree!!!

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