Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Wednesday. Christmas clothing. Foreign food specialities. Magical words. A bit of honesty.

Another Wednesday has come around. That’s another week half over. The rest of the week always speeds by after that. The rain managed to keep off while I cycled to the market to play the game of “how much stuff can you fit in the panniers of your bicycle?” but it’s another rather dull and gloomy day. (Panniers is a funny word, by the way. It clearly derives from the French for basket - panier - but spell-check wants it spelt with 2 ns. So it goes!) The ladies on the biscuit stall were trying to brighten it up by wearing Christmas jumpers and foam reindeer antlers. 

We did a similar sort of thing with our final online Italian class of this session on Monday. Spontaneously everyone had marked the event by wearing something Christmassy, be it Christmas ear rings or Santa hats. When we have face to face classes we usually organise a mini party, with someone sneaking in a bottle or two of Prosecco. It’s not quite the same on zoom though. Then there seemed to be a lot of discussion of whether people had bought panettone and where to buy the best one - Waitrose, apparently! 

I can’t say I am panettone’s biggest fan. It’s not that I dislike it; it just seems a little overrated. Give me a good rich English Christmas cake any day. It’s one of those things though. People visit a country and feel obliged to be very enthusiastic certain items of food. English people do anyway. Do Italians and Spaniards and so on wax lyrical about mince pies and hot cross buns and Cornish pasties? Chorizo, churros  and turrón spring to mind. Cannelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese - or with whipped cream for the decadent - I have a friend who raves about them. And arancini! One of the members of our Italian class makes his own, declared by our teacher to be very authentic. Oh, and limoncello! Just about everyone raves about it but I always fear it’s going to take the enamel off my teeth, it sets them on edge so much. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those people who seeks out  English food when I am in a foreign country. No, indeed. I love to sample local food and really enjoy it - with the notable exception of the “stockfish”, salt cod, we tried in Nice! - and I do replicate certain dishes in my own kitchen.  I make a good Spanish tortilla! But I am not going out of my way to buy specific Spanish or Italian Christmas specials such as turrón or panettone, just because they’re only around at Christmas. Now, some nice red wine, from a variety of countries, with some nice French (or indeed, Lancashire) Brie, that’s a different matter. And you can offer me a glass of Prosecco any time you like!

I had never heard of Arhoolie Records but apparently it’s a big recording company in the USA and is 60 years old now. Who knew? The name comes, I read, from the ”holler” that slaves on the plantation used to call,out across the cotton plantations. The founder Chris Strachwitz discovered he could make more recording and selling records by blues musicians than he could as a high school teacher, which he confessed he was not terribly good at. I was attracted to a short article about him because in the headline he was described as a “song catcher”. “I don’t see myself as a producer, more a song catcher, he says. A little bit hippy-ish maybe but it still sounds quite magical! We need more song catchers!

I’ve been coming across stories of people sending things back to museums and the like. Recently there was an American woman who returned to Italy’s national museum in Rome a piece of ancient marble she stole in 2017. Unfortunately she had written a message to her boyfriend on it but at least she felt guilty enough to send it back. And today I read about someone anonymously sending back the key to St Leonard’s Tower, a Norman tower in Kent, which they “borrowed” in 1973. And now English Heritage wants to “reward the honesty of whoever returned the key with a gift of membership”.

A spokeswoman said: “It was sent to the customer services team. Everyone was incredibly surprised about receiving this key and excited about it being returned after so long.”

English Heritage is asking the sender of the note to get in touch with its Customer Services team on 0370 333 1181 or email, saying that unlike library books, there is no fine for a late return.

Perhaps the borrower just liked the look of the ancient key. Maybe he/she is just decluttering. But I like this idea of returning old stuff. A bit of honesty in our odd world!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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