Saturday, 25 July 2015

For the Linguaphiles - Cape'in / Capelin / Capeƚin

At the family reunion in Italy we were being told that our name was pronounced Capelin (three syllables with equal emphasis all three syllables) and/or Cape'in. The locals insisted in pronouncing it in two ways one of which dropped the L which was very confusing. Well now I understand.
Cape'in is the Venetian pronunciation.
I've been searching for some Venetian vocab to use in my
book and yesterday came across a site devoted to the Venetian Language -
alphabet, pronunciation, dictionary etc all in English.

I had found a word that I wanted to use but it had this strange symbol in it ("ƚ" ) - so I was searching to find out how it would be pronounced and ..........

There are two versions of L in Venetian. One is the standard L of English and the other ("ƚ" ) with a line through it, has a sound which is described as between L and E (see below). So the Venetian spelling of our name would have been Capeƚin, the "ƚ" pronounced like a very breathy (aspirated) "hey" or perhaps an aspirated "ee" - Cape'in. Here's an exerpt from the Venetian alphabet and pronunciation website:
l same as English, "l" as in "lean", "lamb"
ƚ typical Venet, semi-vowel, pronounced between a full L and an E (without the tongue touching the palate)

Also in Venetian the "a" is pronounced as the "u" in "gut" so phonetically possibly Cup/hey/in or Cup/el/in rather than Cap/hey/in or Cap/el/in

Friday, 17 July 2015

Three Amici - fourth and final instalment

Part IV
        At Agrigento under a hot sun beating down on the Greek ruins of “The Valley of the Temples” I came across a flock of goats. A breed indigenous to Sicily or brought here so long ago by the Greeks or Phoenicians that no one knows their origin. Like all migrating tribes who stay long enough (and two thousand years might be enough) they have laid claim to be local. The word for goat in Italian is capra and this breed went by the name Capra Falcone. Nicky had told me a story of her Italian grand mother and her teasing ways. She showed her love by giving her grandchildren unflattering nicknames.
        Nicky had earned the soprannome of “little goat”. Not capre but cradule or a similar word in her Campanian dialect. Nicky knew the word but struggled to spell it. If you’ve read the Leopard you might remember that the family of nobles is referred to as “Falconeri”. My creative mind (and my lack of linguistic knowledge) had assumed this to be connected to the goat theme I was developing. So like any untruth told often enough it became a truth for me and was the link that helped make sense of the three of us. Nicky is stubborn, Don Fabrizio, the Prince, had a certain cunning in him and we, all three, had been sometime survivors in situations of adversity – all traits we shared with goats. In truth it is more likely that Falconeri is the bird than the goat. The bird of prey. The falcon. Still for all intents and purposes it had the effect of keeping something alive. A link. A way of feeling that the grand odyssey hadn’t simply vanished. I hadn’t completely fucked up. There were still goats. Perhaps I was the real kid (pun intended) in this story.
It turns out that the goat “Falcone” is named after an Englishman with the surname Falconer, who was instrumental in reintroducing them to Sicily – but why spoil a good story?
Part V
       My last night in Marsala. For the second time I found my way to the family trattoria (Il Gallo e L’Innamorata – The Rooster and the Lover) which my host Titziana had recommended. I was seated at my favourite table – centre stage. This was to help the other guests understand that here was a man with no friends. I ordered the tuna. It came. If there is a food heaven I was in it. Cooked simply in olive oil, lightly seared on both sides and topped with grilled zucchini and a puree of Sicilian mint. Not just any mint I was informed by the waiter when I enquired (I had thought it might be pureed fava beans which I had been served in the north which were quite a revelation as well). My knife revealed deep red flesh which peeled away without resistance and melted in my mouth, a rich delicate flavor. Bellimisso. My sad solo dinner had been transformed.  I slept well.
Part VI
       ‘I’ve been sick as a dog. High fever. Haven’t been able to get out of bed since I got back’ said the email. I’ve come into a bit of money,’ it continued; ‘a debt repaid and some back-pay from MOON (the restaurant where Nicky works). I’m feeling flush with funds. If I recover I’m thinking of joining you in Palermo. What do you think?’
     ‘Blood of Madonna’ (there’s a bit of 19th Century cussing in The Leopard). What was she thinking? ‘It won’t happen’ I told myself. ‘Just a thought flying through her fevered head’ I thought. But in the back of my mind I held on to it. How good would that be if we managed to finish the adventure together? The odd couple reconciled.
       I put Nicky out of my head and set my coordinates for Palermo. For the first time I decided to take the motorway. I needed to be in Palermo to meet my host at 2pm. I figured I couldn’t afford to dawdle. I made one stop. At Segesta there’s a Doric temple sitting alone in a field. It’s almost intact, though it was never completed. High above on a ridge sit further ruins and a fantastic Greek Theatre which perches on the edge of a precipice overlooking the dramatic landscape below. The climb was long and hot. The signage and explanations overwhelming. Why are tourists fascinated by piles of rubble and long winded explanations by experts making their best guess at what might have been? The best structures are worth retaining of course but a lot of it could be recycled and put to good use (I think the sun was beginning to affect me). After all it took a lot of effort to quarry it in the first place and now it just sits and bakes in the sun and gets stared at by uncomprehending Germans. Philistine you’re thinking? I’m not the first to think of this. Much of these old cities were built from former city walls and the like.
      Dropping off the car in Palermo was more complicated than I’d hoped. My Tom Tom took me on a joy ride around the city and finally delivered me to the correct address. ‘You have reached your destination’ it told me. ‘Thanks’ I said as I double parked the Peugeot close by the “Budget Car Rental” sign. To cut a long story short I had arrived just as they were shutting up for the afternoon. I ducked under the half closed roller door and announced my arrival.
       ‘Come back at 3:30’ I was told. ‘We are shut. We have nowhere to put your car.’ A loud groan was all I could muster. ‘Sono Australiano’ I said as if this explained why they should vary their opening and closing hours.
‘Can I park somewhere close by?’
‘Not possible’ he said.
      Blood of Madonna. What was I supposed to do? Drive around Palermo aimlessly for two hours and risk my life and my sanity? I seem to have the knack of arriving at places at this time of day. ‘Where are all the people?’ my friend Loani asked when viewing my Facebook photos. ‘All asleep or having a long lunch’ I said. Something I, too, would have preferred to be doing.
‘You can leave it there if you like,’ he said ‘and hope that the police don’t come.’
‘I could keep my eye on it for you,’ he offered.
‘Grazie grazie si si si grazie.’ I spluttered, jumped a cab and got to my accommodation with a few minutes to spare. Angela explained everything. I logged onto the internet and there was a message:
‘I’m feeling better. Expect to see me tomorrow night around six.’

Part VII
       Nicky wears thongs. She had a fit when I first called them that. “Flip-flops. Not underwear’ she said by way of clarification. Tomasi’s Don Fabrizio would never be seen in thongs (not that the rubber version had been invented in 1860). Peasants wear thongs. Australians wear thongs, it’s part of our national dress. In Queensland you can wear them all year round. Some people don’t own shoes!
‘Bring some shoes’ I texted her. There’s a lot of walking to do in Palermo.’
NIcky arrived in thongs. Pink thongs, worn into the shape of her feet with lines of beading tracing the straps towards her big toes. In Italy flip-flops can be a fashion accessory but never “pluggers”. Nicky’s were “pluggers”.
        There’s a difference between being in someone’s company and sharing a sense of purpose with someone. In Palermo we didn’t have a car. She didn’t need to navigate. I didn’t need to drive. This deprived us of the opportunity to relax into each other’s company over the solving of our navigation problems. We walked together, decided what to see together, but something had shifted. She was a little removed. I was less inclined to speak of things that might smack of intimacy or affection. I wasn’t sure. Maybe it was just sensing that something might have changed, had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I shared my second (more mawkish) set of lyrics with her – all about mirrors not telling the real truth and the urge to smash them to become independent. She sang me a song she was writing which was inspired by our shared odyssey. It was very good.
       We wandered. We ate. I was the navigator this time - she confessing to getting lost in the aisles of supermarkets and on roundabouts. She spluttered and coughed. I apologized for being three times her age in a city full of young people partying till dawn. We found all the good places. She exchanged phone numbers with boys she met as we went. We were back to being a twenty-one year old and a sixty-five year old. ‘Who cares,’ she said. ‘Friendship can be between any two people.’ And I was right there with her on that.   ‘Who cares?’ I thought. Who was judging? Certainly not the locals.  
         She was only in Palermo for one day. She said it was worth it. It was great to have someone to share this mad city with. And conversation over meals – what a treat. On the last night we dined with a Dutch/English family (husband, wife, son and his Sicilian girlfriend) who we’d only met that morning. They took us to a restaurant neither Nicky nor I would have dared to enter. The seafood was sumptuous (and our host paid).
        Then we walked the old city till 1.00am. The streets were a heaving mass of people of all ages. La Kalsa, the old Arab quarter which has remnant buildings and squares which have never been touched since they were bombed in WWII was alive with bars and street food and music.
In the morning we drank coffee and ate almond croissants. We packed. Nicky sang me a farewell song from the top of the steps to her loft bedroom. I know it all sounds very sweet and it was. We knew it was coming to an end but neither spoke about it. Angela, our host, arrived with the cleaner in tow to farewell us and we left. Me to catch the bus to the airport, Nicky to walk the old city one last time to the station to catch the 2.00pm bus back to Syracuse.
        We shared the Italian double kiss and off she went. This time she looked back. The last I saw of her was those thongs flipping their way across the square dragging her bag in their wake.
       I’m writing this as I sit in front of the Opera House in Vienna where I have a 10 hour layover on my way home. There is a simulcast of a ballet being broadcast to a giant screen for the locals in the square. Classical music ebbs and flows around me. Vienna is beautiful but way too clean and neat after Palermo.
I begin to write a farewell line. I write: ‘Thanks Nicky. Grow old slowly. Enjoy the ride.’ And suddenly I choke up. Tears well.
       I am taken by surprise. I wonder if I should delete this ending to the story. I feel pretty exposed. I also wonder if this is too “sentimental”. I am trying to avoid that sin but I think that if the emotion is real how can it be sentimental. I‘m not looking for sympathy. I’m more interested in understanding what I am learning from this experience. I am simply writing an account of the journey, of our relationship. My interest is in ‘How am  I changed by this two weeks?’  
        ‘Time to go home.’ I say to myself.  You can never be twenty five again or even forty five. You have a wife and family.’ Accept the passing of whatever you might be afraid of losing.
        On the plane home I try to understand what it was that triggered such a strong response. I think of my mother lying on her death bed. The sense of loss and regret that I felt at the time. Loss at the imminent end of her life and regret at never having had the intimate connection with her that I had with my father. At never having succeeded in crossing that boundary. It feels a little the same. Loss and regret.
        I think of Tomasi’s story. It seems eternal. His writing is one of someone who is embedded in Sicilian life, not an observer. In his novel, the setting is mostly in the 1860s when life and relationships and power are changing rapidly. He sees his nephew fall in love with Angelica, an exquisite beauty from an uneducated family; her rough father destined to become a wealthy and influential member of the “new” community. Don Fabrizio, the Prince, also muses on loss and regret. Loss of his power and influence, loss of the old values, the old ways and, in some of the most honest and beautiful passages on the loss of his youth; a regret that his nephew Tancredi “had tasted that flavor of peaches and cream which would always be unknown to him” At the end of the novel, some twenty years later, we are witness to the final days of Don Fabrizio’s life as it ebbs away. Tomasi writes about death as a poet. A penultimate chapter devoted to the final days and hours of Fabrizio’s life: “life flowing from him in great pressing waves”.
        Nicky says that Sicilians are obsessed with death (and loss); always in fear for their mortality, full of hypochondria and the impossible dream of eternal life. Having a relationship with death from the moment of birth. Maybe I share that with them My Italian genes playing out. No! I am confident the dream is universal. I’m kidding myself.
       I think about how different it is when you’re emotionally connected to an experience rather than merely an observer – family, love, death, pain. Sicily has been much more than a series of beautiful towns and tantalizing meals. With Nicky’s assistance I have crossed the cultural line. In my own strange way I, too, am now emotionally connected to Sicily. I have become more than a tourist.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Three Amici Part III

View from Agrigento apartment
I did say I fancied her. That may have contributed to her panic.Of course when I say fancied I mean I complimented her on her beauty and confessed that the younger man in me found her very attractive. Well, the older man too to be honest.

When I look at photos from the trip; of me and of her I can understand her panic.Richard Gere I am not. I can't seem to find that "best" camera angle to capture my inner beauty. Perhaps the lens is telling the truth? I did sulk for about five minutes then headed out to buy a navigation device as a replacement for her. For about 100 euro I got a "Tom Tom" to replace Nicky and her iPhone. How fickle one can be.

Over the next five days I had a ball. First the fishing village of Sciacca with the beautiful piazza set high above the fishing fleet and the Mediterranean. It's a magic word Mediterranean. I never tire of the idea that I am sitting beside a body of water with such history and such  a sense of romance.

In Marsala I found my second home where I could lick my wounds and steady myself. I decided to make it my base for a few days. I had a simple but lovely apartment in an old palace refurbished by the owners. Two big rooms and the most bizarre bathroom and shower I've ever experienced. The hot and cold tap for the shower was in a different room. You get the picture.

The days were great: sunny, friendly, surprising, delightful, great food and art. I fell in love with ugly Marsala and she loved me back. From here I visited Erice, a thirty minute drive away and shrouded in moody clouds..The evening meals were painful.There's nothing quite so forlorn than sitting at a table set for four by yourself in a restaurant full of people celebrating friendship and family in a language you can't understand. It seemed there was always one table vacant and it was always in the very centre of the trattoria. I felt like a fish in a bowl observing the life of others, opening and closing my mouth not in conversation but only to accommodate my fork making its return journey from my plate.

Nicky and I exchanged emails. I apologised for my role in her panic; she (patronizingly) said she was happy I was having such a good time "Hadn't she told me that I would." She confessed that she had fled to Piazza Almerina and the donkeys in the mountains rather than face her friends in Ortigia and their inevitable comments: "I told you so." " It was a stupid idea." She never told them the truth. I did find some satisfaction when she told me she'd had to sleep on a camp-bed in the disability toilet for two nights.

She writes songs. I could hear some Nora Jones in her voice. She didn't know the Ravi Shankar connection (I'm presuming you do). Like I said she writes songs so I sent her some lyrics.


I met this man under the moon in Ortigia
He said let's split we can travel in my car and
If asked why we did it we'll call it our seizure.

His brain was in tune, No sign of dementia
My guitar is my best friend I told him day one and
It seemed to make sense, so began our adventure.

I am a gypsy
I was from the start
I need my own spaces
A song in my heart.

The days went so smoothly, the sights they were stunning
Modica and Noto,  Scicli, Armerina.
Moltalbano was nearby, he saw me tan sunning.

My feet they were hurting, my itches were stinging
We talked about Tolstoy, my love of Keith Richard
Age makes no difference it's all in the singing.

I am a gypsy
I was from the start
I need my own spaces
A song in my heart.

And then came the day that had too many churches
Escape urged within me I could not resist it
I needed to breathe and to fly with the breezes

Was it something I said he asked me in horror
It's just my free spirit I said in reply
It was great on the road but I run without sorrow.

I am a gypsy
I was from the start
I need my own spaces

A song in my heart.

She didn't like it much. She writes lyrics much better than I do. She has poetry in her.
And what of Lampadusa my other travelling companion? He succeeded in providing the thin gossamer thread that continued to connect we three - the tourist, the escapee and the noble Sicilian.


Favignana Tuna Cannery Museum







Saturday, 27 June 2015

Three Amici - Part II

And then there were two. I think I said that this fortnight would be a bit trippy in the weird sense of the trip word. After  two weeks with my brother here I was in the company of a stranger more than half my age.And a beautiful young woman to boot. What could go wrong?

The first four days flew by. We were like brother and sister (only born 44 years apart (poor mum). The scenery rolled by as did the hours. On day one visited Noto and another beautiful place I can't even remember the name of (Avolo possibly) and finally entered Modica like two triumphant tourist warriors riding our good steed - an almost new Peugeot 208 into the wilds. Modica was magnificent. The town sweeps up on both sides of a deep ravine with the main street dissecting it along what would have been the riverbed. We decided to stay two nights. Why rush away from heaven?

And then the mountains beckoned. Piazza Almeira via Cas..........nore (my memory is perfect). to a small B&B run by a hyperactive but enthusiastic host, Salvatore and his beautiful extended family. Nicky fell in love with Georgia, the three year old daughter who led her a merry dance ending at the donkey enclosure. (Salvatore runs programs for school kids with his thickly coated rust-coloured quartet: Marisa, Fulvia, Luna and  Fiamma.

Nicky became entranced by the family and the notion of returning some day to work there.

Forming storming norming and transforming. You might be familiar with that sequence. Everyone who does leadership training gets introduced to these phases of team development. It has application at the personal level as well. Three days in and we were still getting on. Each morning I would ask: "Are you okay? Are you up for another day in my company? Shall we continue the adventure?" and each day we chose to go a little further along the road. Our understanding was that either of us could call the experiment off at any time at our discretion. I was committed to arriving in Palermo at the end of twelve days. I had no option but to continue. I had a plane to catch.

Something changed at the end of day four. Not storming exactly but the transition towards "norming" hit a speed bump. In Agrigento, in an apartment perched high above the "Valley of the Temples" overlooking the sea we faltered. I was loving every moment of the journey. Nicky, unbeknowns to me, was getting a little jittery. She was faced with another eight days stuck in a car with this bloke who wanted to talk about life and books and history and I think she suddenly sensed that it might just be a little too much. Maybe her impetuous nature had led her into a blind alley.

Nicky has a bit of gypsy in her. She hails from Kent in the UK, has been living and working in Syracuse for the past year. She's a singer; writes her own songs, and doesn't like to be tied down. There was the gypsy bit and there was the money. We were doing it pretty cheaply but it was still costing 40-50 euro each night between us. There was the cost of the hire car, petrol, meals etc etc. and being young and footloose she has been working largely for her meals and accommodation in a restaurant in Ortigia. She often gets paid nothing for long days. The "Work Away" system where young travellers get offered work for no pay seems okay in the short term but is flawed when people become staff rather than volunteers.

That Thursday evening we went out for a meal, laughed a lot, got excited by yet another Sicilian town with night life and vitality, wandered the laneways and went to our beds; but not before I read her some of my novel and she returned the favour with a song. Lovely innocent young girl that she is, she paid me the biggest compliment by thinking I was reading from Lampadusa's "The Leopard." If only! Nicky then sat up half the night stressing, texting her sister and friends for advice and going over and over the budget in her head and she couldn't make it work.

I added to the confusing mix by suggesting that the storming norming forming framework might be about to move us to a new level (though I didn't use those words). What would we be talking about in three days times I wondered out loud. Where would our relationship get to in eight more days of close quarter travelling? Why had a young girl of 21 been so  trusting of an almost complete stranger I asked thinking we were at a point where we could explore these "big" questions? I was concerned for her safety. Not from me but from herself - her willingness to trust. I think that contributed to planting the seed of the idea that I might just be a serial killer she had inadvertently agreed to travel with. Steve from "Wolf Creek"

Next morning she was gone. Not literally but she had left mentally some time during that night. Over a pathetic breakfast provided by our host who had the hide to suggest we give his apartment a 10 out of 10 rating (it was good but Salvatore had set the benchmark with home baked cakes for breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice, fruit picked that morning from his orchard and espresso coffee (all for the same price).she announced that she was returning to Ortigia. I was gobsmacked. How had this happened? I had become dependent on her as my navigator (she had tthe iPhone I had a paper map). In my mind we had formed a bond. How would I survive? She was quite clear. 'You'll survive. It'll be great to explore Sicily by yourself' I heard her saying. Fuck me - that wasn't part of my plan. I wanted company. Travelling alone can be great but at times it sucks. 'We had an agreement' she reminded me, and walked out the door without even looking back.

To be continued.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Donnafugata Winery

 Donnafugata Winery.

Okay so I've been reading "The Leopard" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampadusa. The country which Lampadusa describes in his novel he calls Donnafugata. The owner of the winery has a literary bent and decided to name his winery after the book because the area where many of the grapes which this family winery uses come from vineyards growing in that same area. Making sense?

He/she/they then named some of the vintages they produce after characters from the book. "Tancredi", one of the main characters, a young hot-blooded Sicilian siding with Garabaldi and the new order, is an elegant complex red (fits his character); the "Anglehi" (Angelina, the fabulously beautiful peasant girl on the rise who Tancredi falls for) is its companion wine.  You get the picture.

Simona, pictured with me, was our guide and tasting expert. She was great. Good English though very apologetic (She should apologise? What about our awful Italian?) She is also a writer - writing is her passion and food the object of her passion.
In addition she is from Palermo so was able to give me some tips on markets and street food.
Try her website and then get the translate version

Thank you Simona for a very informative hour and a half ending with tasting five superb wines.

Strangely went to dinner tonight at a chic little place (Caccio) run by Francisco and Anna and Anna works at Donnafugata in their marketing area.

Add to that the many parallels between Lampadusa's novel and this trip (more to come) and it was all very bloody good. I didn't even mention the first half of the day on Favignano island swimming in crystal clear waters and visiting the museum set in the old tuna fish cannery. Good day.