Saturday, 14 March 2020

Coping with the modern world.

Unlike many other European countries, we have decided to keep our schools open for the time being. So many factors come into play:-
childcare and the knock-on effect of health and care workers not being able to get to work because their offspring are not in school;
children who currently receive free dinners and are known to go hungry during long school holidays;
public exams, of which we have rather a lot - youngsters apparently cannot revise at home as we did when we were young!

On the television news last night they showed footage of people in Italy cheering each other up by standing on their balconies and singing the national anthem. Did they all know all the words? I expect they sang other songs as well. Would a similar thing happen here?

Here’s a little story from Sicily:

“Legend has it that in 1625, as a plague swept Palermo and killed dozens of people each day, Saint Rosalia appeared before a man. Rosalia, a young Sicilian hermit who died 500 years earlier, told him that if the people of Palermo walked in procession while carrying her relics, to be found in a grotto on Monte Pellegrino, then the “evil fever” would disappear.
After months of debate over the authenticity of that apparition, Saint Rosalia’s remains – among them a piece of her jaw and three fingers – were paraded through the city at an event attended by thousands of devotees. When the plague began to ebb, she was proclaimed the holy protector of the city.”

Okay, that was 400 years ago. I suspect that if someone claimed to meet Saint Rosalia in the street today people might think he/she had been indulging in some mind of illicit substances. Mind you, with Sicilians you never know! However, prayers to Saint Rosalia are seemingly travelling around in chain messages on WhatsApp. Palermitanos are asking for another miracle, please! Ancient superstition meets the modern media world. I suppose it does no harm to hedge your bets.

So far there are relatively few identified cases of coronavirus in Sicily but the island is rather poor and resources for dealing with a big outbreak are limited. Let’s hope Saint Rosalia is listening. We have a vested interest in this as we have plans to visit Sicily at the end of May.

At my most pessimistic, I wonder if all our summer plans will be put on hold until this crisis has worked itself out.

I feel quite sorry for anyone who has planned a big fancy wedding, not even in Italy or some other, more exotic place, because there must be worries about gathering so many people together in a potentially hug-and-kiss-filled atmosphere!

Meanwhile the silliness of the modern world continues in other aspects. I read this article about how the wealthy can spend silly amounts of money on handbags which have stitched into their fabric bits of letters or documents or autographs written by famous folk from the past. It lumps together Brigitte Bardot, Queen Victoria and Napoleon Bonaparte, among many others, a curious selection, whose writing are bought at auction by the handbag manufacturers. Naturally antiquarians are up in arms about ancient documents being chopped up, thus losing their integral value. Not to mention actually being lost to researchers, although the handbag manufacturers promise to photocopy material for research purposes.

I like this justification by the handbag mogul:

“He argued that “most autographs are locked away in the safes and private collections of a few wealthy people, which means they are not accessible to the general public”, while the handbags bring “original handwritings to a broader audience”. He added that customers have given feedback that their bag “has motivated them to buy literature on the related historical person/time or to visit libraries and museums for more detailed information”.

 I wonder how many of the general public get to see these handbags. I have my doubts.

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