Sunday, 30 October 2016

Foreign places.

Another earthquake has been reported in central Italy. The papers said it was felt in Rome and Naples. They shut down the metro system in Rome to check that all was well. But it's the little places, closer to the epicentre that have suffered most. 

'“It all came down. Now there is no more town,” said Aleandro Petrucci, the mayor of the Marche town of Arquata del Tronto. There had already been “red zones” in place, abandoned after the previous quakes. “The few people who remained have gone out to the streets and are embracing. Now we’re going around to see what happened,” he said.' 

And we complain about parking problems and a bit of damp drizzle in the Northwest of England! Living in a place that does not really do dramatic weather has its advantages. 

And, at least until they put restrictions on flying as a way of protecting the environment, we are fortunate enough to be able to escape to places where the sun still shines hotly even at the end of October. When I looked at the weather forecast before packing the suitcases, it suggested one day with a high of 24 degrees and the rest hovering around 20, not at all bad but not spectacularly hot either. 

But today again it was already very warm by 9.00am when I went out for a run. Okay, that was really 10.00 as we put the clocks back an hour last night, but even so! Goodness, I could have brought sundresses and not felt under-dressed. 

Yesterday afternoon we sat through an hour and a half, possibly slightly longer although that might be just our impression, of Portuguese speech-making at the opening ceremony for the chess tournament here. In order to maintain sponsorship funding from the local council they clearly have to do a certain amount of praising of local dignitaries, which is all fine and understandable. Quite who decided that a talk about the Spanish poet Unamuno was just what was needed, however, remains a mystery. 

The speaker was undoubtedly an enthusiast, and very twinkly, scattering nods and smiles around the audience. We kept looking at the pile of papers he had in his hands, hoping that each one would be the last he planned to refer to. But, no, it went on and on. 

I picked up odd facts: Unamuno was a "lusophile" and an internationalist. He spent some time in Portugal but I never found out how much time or if he actually visited Figueira. He, or perhaps somebody else, believed that the Portuguese are born bilingual as they can easily learn Spanish. (Does that make them bilingual?) The Spanish have a harder time learning Portuguese. But then, I know Galicians who say they find it very hard to learn "gallego", even though they would defend their language against all comers. Spanish is the "hard" language (sounds-wise) whereas Portuguese is softer and more nuanced. It's all those liquid "l" sounds, not to mention the "sh" and 'zh'. 

And there I was, thinking that Spanish was a very romantic-sounding language! 

We sneaked out when he came to a twinkly, enthusiastic close, afraid that the follow-up speaker, who had been making notes throughout, might go on at similar length. 

Later I googled Unamuno and his links to Figueira and chess but found nothing. It remains a mystery! 

We shall just put it behind us and enjoy the sunshine and, in Phil's case, the chess.

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