Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Offagna, population .... ?

I must look into that. There's a podcast I listen to called Catholic in a Small Town (somewhere in Georgia, it would seem), and they occasionally mention that the population is 8000. I'd be gratified to verify that I was a Catholic in a smaller village.

Anyway, t'other day I was helping Carlo gather potatoes from what Monica always calls "our orchard", in spite of the fact that it's not technically theirs and it's by no means exclusively an orchard. I just thought I would mention this so that by degrees you might get an erroneous impression of me as a man of the soil and be impressed - wish me luck. Some more of the bounty of the "orchard" is as follows; courgettes (together with their edible flowers, which I have edden a few times now), marrows, melons, apples, peaches, lettuce, tomatoes, onions. It's all very exciting to me; I hope I can learn something about growing vegetables by and by. There are also peppers and chillis at the house.

In other news, I found out that I had to have a dispensation from the bishop to get our marriage paperwork sorted (I think because Fr. Harry didn't request the banns in England). Anyway, it's all fine, but I wanted to mention it, because I think it makes me sound a bit dangerous. Our bisop's name is Edoardo. I'm more used to bishops with names like Chris, Keiran and Kevin, but you have to make the best of these things.

Went to Ancona today to try and buy some things. Partial success. I now have two pairs of flip-flops (ciabatte - ciabatta means slipper, which is something to chew over next time you have the bread), one for the world at large, one for the domestic front. No carpets here - my feet were getting pretty dirty on a daily basis. Monica says her mamma will be pleased that my feet will thus reamin mre stately. At one point the inestimable M was shopping for feminine things, so we went our separate ways. I thought this might be helpful for my Italian. I suppose it might have been a bit. If you go into a shop in Italy, they're more than likely to say hello and try and help you before you have any browsing time, so you have to be prepared to speak a little bit if you go shopping.

Nothing else springs to mind, so that'll do for now.

Monday, 28 July 2008

2, 4, 6, 8, How do verbs conjugate?

It ocurred to me when I was going through verb tables in Italian, that though the only verb conjugations I've ever come across (German, Greek, Italian) are in essentially 6 parts (more if you include polite forms), you could potentially have two forms for "we".

In English our "we" is ambiguous. It may or may not include the second person i.e. the person addressed by the speaker. As in so many cases, it's all about context. This got me to thinking - are there languages that have more than one form of the verb, and don't have this ambiguity? You'll be pleased to know that wikipedia says there are:
In linguistics, clusivity is a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called inclusive "we" and exclusive "we". Inclusive "we" specifically includes the addressees (that is, one of the words for "we" means "you and I"), while exclusive "we" specifically excludes them (that is, another word for "we" means "he/she and I"), regardless of who else may be involved.
The inclusive-exclusive distinction is nearly universal among the Austronesian languages and the languages of northern Australia, but rare in the Papuan languages in between. (Tok Pisin, an English-Melanesian pidgin, generally has the inclusive-exclusive distinction, but this varies with the speaker's language background.) It is widespread in India (among the Dravidian and Munda languages, as well as in the Indo-European languages of Marathi, Rajasthani, and Gujarati), and the languages of eastern Siberia, such as Evenki. In America it is found in about half the languages, with no clear geographic or genealogical pattern. It is also found in a few languages of the Caucasus and Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Fulani and Nama.

No European language makes this distinction grammatically, but some constructions may be semantically inclusive or exclusive[.]

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Free download madness

If you sign up to, which is rather good in itself, they'll give you a podcast link to free mp3s of bands they think you might like. This is how I stumbled across 'Tree Friend Tree Foe' by Bolt Action Five; genius!
Well I'll bet
That you don't know that gameshow where the player wears
A hel-met
And walks around this maze that isn't really there[.]

Friday, 25 July 2008

A bit of catching up.


Somewhat predictably, the change of scenery hasn't actually inspired me to blog more, or rather, it probably would, except that getting married involves lots of little piecemeal jobs, so it's easy to get distracted from the serious business of posting my every thought for the benefit of mankind.

We've got wedding rings! That's exciting. Monica's been able to daydream about her wedding dress and what shoes she'll be wearing for approximately forever, whereas I only have a hire suit. We got two sacramentals ready to go, ready to signify our love and faithfulness in Christ - s'great. Apart from the material, there's nothing fancy about them, which suits me fine.

Yesterday I went to confession. Now, confession was pretty strange the first few times I celebrated it (though I think I looked forward to it from the beginning, because I could see the practical need for it, and the blessing of it from before my conversion) and then one gets more used to it, but confessing in a foreign language is pretty wei-ord. But it was good; I kind of cheated and wrote it all out on paper first, but I think that's understandable in the circumstances. The priest was Don Luca, a bit odd because he's a friend of Lorenzo, Vane's husband (Vane is Monica's sister - maybe I'll do a diagram so I don't have to keep saying this stuff) but he seemed to me to be a good confessor.

I'm really pleased to be so close to a church which is basically open the whole day, and I can easily go to daily mass while I'm not working. I might be able to manage it even if I were, as it's at 18:00. That's a big improvement on Sacred Heart, where you had to be retired or unemployed to get to a daily mass. At the moment there's morning prayer every working day, so Monica and I have been going and praying together. Don Luca is very singy, so we're getting to sing the liturgy too, which is great. However, the music group, such as it it, is on holiday, so I can't really get too involved in the music right now.

I was only able to go to confession yesterday because we're in the triduum. "What triduum?" I hear you say (that is, I hear a lone voice potentially say). I'm glad you asked; there's a crucifix in S. Lucia that's been venerated in the village since the 1500s I think. It's been associated with various miracles, I understand (I have no details), and in Offagna it gets not only it's own liturgical day, it gets a whole triduum in preparation. With it's own readings too I think, we had the Passover from Exodus and the Last Supper from one of the gospels yesterday.

The medieval festival is good. It's hard to find a lot to take pictures of, but there are people continually wondering round in medieval garb, trumpeting and drumming and generally making a medival nuisance of themselves. Monica likes the flag waving people a lot, and there's a trio of jugglers who are very good too. They spend most of the time doing jokes though, which is what performance is all about. We saw a fakir yesterday, who burnt himself and trod on broken glass, allegedly. I have a vague idea how all of it that I saw was done. Usually I haven't a clue how magicians do what they do. They had a bit of falconry too, which I enjoyed and which made Monica shrink into her seat. We saw this great performance the other day with period instruments. Unfortunately the loud drumming people were doing a less subtle performance nearby, so much of the nuance was lost. Especially impressive was the percussion - you have to be very skilful to make a tambourine sound good, but they managed it. There's a market in the town as well, and there's a stall were you can buy medieval instruments, and I wanted to buy all of them and give them a good home, but no can do.

The jousting was a bit disappointing - it's basically for the kiddies and is horrendously staged - it's worse than wrestling. Also disappointing is that there's a not inconsiderable number of "fortune-tellers" and tarot people that come for the festival, and they're all set up in the back streets by Monica's house. It's sad.

So I hope that was informative for you. Ta-ta for now.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Medieval Festival Videos


Thursday, 17 July 2008


If you are British, and you want to get married in this area of Italy, they make you you shell out to come to this building in Firenze in person and pay a further 78 euro. They then present you with an A4 sheet of paper that says you can get married - it isn't even particularly good quality paper. We had to travel for 6 hours. I think I would be within my rights to expect it on illuminated manuscript, from parchment hand-fashioned by virgins, exclusively by the light of the moon.

But basically it's a sheet of A4.

So, if you're in Firenze anyway, you'd sure as hell better do the tourist bit, and we did. Check out all it's majesty:
This is the duomo don't you know, and very grand it is too. I don't think travel writing's my thing somehow.

There's lots more photos on facebook. I might put some more here, but then I'd have to think of words to put between them, so it might be a bit of a wait.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Library lunacy

There was an interesting reason for the library's fire alarm getting set off today. Apparently some Aboriginal Australian human remains were being returned to Australia and as part of this return involved an aborigine man (dressed and painted in a ceremonial way) holding a ceremony. The ceremony involved burning something (smelt like cheap charcoal) within the museum-occupied part of the library (while museum is being renovated). Unsurprisingly the smoke detectors were set off and the building had to be evacuated. Those involved in the ceremony made an unsurprisingly exit before the Fire Brigade arrived.

Now to be fair, the library staff only had 10min warning before anyone knew about the ceremony at all, let alone that it involving burning, and had turned off the alarms in that section to prevent such an occurrence. But the general consensus of opinion was that it was a pretty stupid idea to hold the ceremony in the library, I'm expecting to hear about it in the local news.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Fauna (I think)

They have different aminals here; I suppose that's probably obvious. I like the little lizards that you see on the pavements; they're quite good. They have cicadas here, which make a bit of a racket "when it's hot" i.e. almost the whole day at the moment. There's an intimidating looking flying thing that goes among the flowers with the butterflies. It's sort of a cross between a moth, a hummingbird, a slug and an elephant. That is to say, it looks mostly like a moth, but it flies more like a hummingbird, the front part of it's body is grey and has antennae like slug, and it has a long proboscis. This puts me in mind of the thing that disturbed me on a previous occasion while I was relieving myself, which Monica said had a name in dialect meaning something like the-taker-out-of-eyes. Scary stuff. The insects seem to be larger here to; I saw a really massive woodlouse, and there were two centipede-like creatures in my room this morning that were closer in size to a house-spider. On of them nearly fell off the wall onto my head. Fun and games.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sono arrivato in Italia

Hi there,

We left in England in the small hours on Friday, like a couple of refugees, with two suitcases packed pretty much up to the weight limit, after having abandoned a few more worldly posessions. My suitcase is on loan from Mum and Dad - it was stored up in their loft. It's a bit cheap, as I found out when the wheels bust. We took an ironically-named (especially if you have to change at Reading) sleeper service from St. David's. It's basically a train where the lights are very slightly dimmed and the seats seem to be designed to do something, but it's anybody's guess what that is. Apart from being a bit of a pain, the train journey went very well.

It was fine at the airport too really, but airports are fiddly, and when you're dragging arround as many posessions as possible, you don't want fiddly. Monica flew really well, so I could have a quick final gaze out at England with impunity, and at the Alps when we were over them. I like looking at the Alps from planes when I have the opportunity. Monica's Dad (Carlo) picked us up from the airport (Bologna Forli) which was very good, but it was oppressively hot, so it seemed to take forever to get to Offagna. We were both very tired, or rather, I was very tired and Monica was shattered.

So here we are. We haven't been up to a great deal so far, but we've been planning what to do this coming week, and I've been speaking Italian a fair amount - it's easier than the last time I think. I'm using Memorylifter (great program) to help me with my 'Mastering Italian Vocabulary' book and we went to mass yesterday. We have to go to the British Consulate in Firenze to get wedding paperwork, among other things. Yesterday we caught some of the final of Offagna's inter-district(?) football match between San Bernardino and Sacramento. Monica said she wanted Sacramento to win because S. Bernardino are quite smug ("and the whole village says so"). Her story would appear to check out sartorially at least - they were playing in pale pink strips with golden numbers; they looked pretty poncy.

It's much noisier here than I'm used to, but I was expecting it because I've visited. Monica's house is next to the main road through the village and the youth (perhaps they are disenfranchised - I haven't made a thorough study) drive through it on absurdly loud bikes, or bike equivalents. Shutters are a very good idea.

It probably goes without saying, but I've been enjoying eating here.

I think that's probably enough to be getting on with. I'll type something again in a bit, I shouldn't wonder. I would think that being on foreign parts should provide me with plenty of subject matter.