Retired ladies are supposed to have loads of time for everything. So why have I found it hard to snatch a moment to post a blog recently? Between grandchildcare, doing the ladies-who-lunch thing with various different groups, running errands for my daughter who assumes that as a retired lady I have loads of time available and knitting small garments for babies recently arrived or about to arrive – to my daughter’s friend and to my friends daughter in law respectively – there just doesn’t seem to have been a moment.
And then, the weather has continued cold and wintry. I know I should expect such stuff in December but even so ... And yesterday I came across my Phil getting all nostalgic looking at a website which lists property available to rent in Vigo. On the list was the flat we used to rent in Vista Alegre with its beautiful view over the bay of Vigo. Very tempting! Maybe he just wanted to cheer himself up as he is suffering from his second cold in as many weeks.
Which brings me to an item featured on the BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent”. This time it wasn’t from some war-torn part of the world but from Italy, not quite war-torn but suffering from economic stress and strain. My Italian teacher told us a friend of hers, also Italian, plans to take food parcels when she goes to visit her family for Christmas as four of the supermarkets in their small town have been forced to close recently.
Anyway, Dany Mitzman commented on the fact that she was cycling around Bologna in a lightweight jacket while all the Italians have got their fur coats on and about a million thick scarves and glove and mufflers. But then the Italians apparently have to protect themselves from something called “cervicale”.
She went on to explain, “ "Soffro di cervicale (I suffer from cervicale)," they tell me, making it sound particularly serious.
Most people over the age of 30 seem to have the condition, but I am still at a loss as to what exactly it is and how to translate it.
I have looked it up in the dictionary and found "cervical" - an adjective referring to the cervical vertebrae, those little bones in the back of your neck - but as an ailment, there is simply no English translation. We do not have it!”
That sounds about right, not just a stiff neck from being in a draft but a full-blown malady with a fancy name.
She went on to marvel at the way Italians have an amazing anatomical knowledge, knowing the whereabouts of parts of the body the rest of us have never heard of. I found myself nodding in agreement because in my experience the Spanish and the French are just the same. Loli, my yoga teacher in Vigo, used to refer to bits of the anatomy that I had only the vaguest idea about but everyone else in the class appeared to know exactly what she meant. This included, interestingly enough, “los cervicales” – as the BBC’s Italian correspondent discovered, some part of the neck where it joins onto the spine.
According to my Italian teacher this is not taught at school; you just kind of absorb it from your mother. (My mother never taught me stuff like that!) But even Adalgisa, my Italian teacher, expresses surprise now when she goes back to Italy and everyone knows a whole range of medicines and tablets you should take for every ailment under the sun.
On the other hand, maybe this reference to obscure bits of the anatomy is just another ploy to confuse the foreigners, or maybe just the English. It’s another version of the fish menus (and fish counters in supermarkets, for that matter) with species of marine life we didn’t know existed let alone have any idea of what they might taste like (or how to cook them). It’s a kind of Europe-wide conspiracy: “These English, some of them think they can speak our language but we’ll show them by talking about internal organs they’ve never heard of and serving them food which is completely strange to them.”
Or maybe the ailment thing is just part of the Europeans’ hypochondria. (We can call them just
"Europeans" now that David Cameron has effectively isolated the UK from the mainland!) I remember a French friend of mine many years ago warning me of the dangers of drinking too much tea and coffee. Apparently she did this one day and her stomach turned inside out. I didn’t know stomachs could do that!!!
Meanwhile, back here in the (non-European) UK Christmas advances on us at a furious rate of knots and I still have no idea what buy my six year old grandson. What do you buy for a child who seems to have room full of stuff he doesn’t play with and then declares he is bored?
But am I downhearted? Not at all.
I have completed the home-made Christmas wreath and bought a very small Christmas tree (“Don’t you want a bigger one, Grandma?”) which has now been decorated.
I was tempted to leave it at stage one of decorating when it just had the lights on. However, the oldest grandchild insisted that it needed more.
So there it is. Christmas has officially started in my house.