Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Suffering and Boozing

Take the cable car from Varallo up to the Sanctuary and you come to a Franciscan shrine to the suffering of Christ. There is a basilica surrounded by a little village of 'chapels' (around 40) each of which is home to a display of life-size painted terracotta figures depicting said suffering. And I have to say, the Catholics do good suffering. Christ in the Wilderness? There He is next to a lion which has a lamb in its jaws so that its intestines are spilling out all over the sand. Christ before Pontius Pilate? There He is, bleeding already. Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane? There He is racked by countless evil demons. Christ scourged? Christ before the crucifixion (thrice, lots of blood 'n' thorns), Christ during the crucifixion, Christ off the cross...Oh! The unrestrained joy of the Catholic church! How my heart leaps up in happiness! Fortunately there was a charming 1920s hotel with a conservatory restaurant where one could forget for a moment all the suffering and indulge in some don't-mess-with-me reds made mostly from nebbiolo (the barolo grape) which in this part of Piedmont produces wines with mouth-stripping tannins and not much subtlety, but which did the business nonetheless. After this particular pilgrimage, I must renew my membership to the Anglican Communion, despite the Welsh theologian.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Up, up and away!

Originally uploaded by Ron Combo
With the choir to a little town called Varallo in the north of Piedmont, at some 1500 ft above sea level. Above the town is a Sanctuary which is devoted to the suffering of Christ. To get there you can either walk or take a cable car. This is the cable car station, which I thought might please the architectural tastes of Squire Ashley of Slawston, amongst others. With regard to the booze and suffering, more later.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ronnie's got a new friend

Originally uploaded by Ron Combo
I was lurking around the booze section of a supermarket last week looking for something different to shoplift when I chanced across this. Marsala was 'discovered' by a scouser, one John Woodhouse, in 1773 when he landed in the Sicilian port of Marsala, and after getting stuck in to the local wine he realised he had found a new sherry, that being a wine fortified with alcohol that could withstand a sea journey and still remain vaguely drinkable. He promptly bought a couple of vineyards and started exporting the stuff to Blighty. He was a bit of a Scally lad, was our Woodhouse, and soon made a name for himself by getting lagged up and running through his vineyards naked. Florio is one of the best makers and this bottle only cost €4.60. Good kit, drink it with pastries in the afternoon for tea or after dinner as a digestivo. If you see one in Waitrose, give it a tug and wait for the overwhelming urge to strip naked and leg it through the nearest allotment.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

From the shoulder

Originally uploaded by Ron Combo
This is a Lega Nord election poster. Never a party to mince words, they are not too keen on new arrivals* in Italy. The gist of this little number is pretty obvious but effectively they're saying look what happened to the Red Indians after a bit of immigration... they now have to live on reservations! Marvellous stuff! Clearly they would get my vote, if I had one. I am very conscious that I have neglected Mr Booze recently (on these benighted pages at least) but normal service etc etc after the caning I plan to give it this weekend. Aux armes, mes amis!

*I think I'm OK because I am not differently pigmented, I only have one wife and I'm a crap hod carrier.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Vote early and vote often!

Originally uploaded by Ron Combo
It's election time here in Italy. I am not going to try to explain much because (a) you are probably not interested and (b) even after nine years (and in common with most Italians) I understand very little about Italian politics. There are 16 choices for the voter under a proportional representation system. But these are not parties but coalitions. In total there were at the last count some 140-odd parties standing for election. This poster defines the coalitions just in this area of Piedmont. As you can see they are rather keen on rainbow colours and the hammer and sickle. Party No. 5 is Lega Nord which wants secession from the south (Rome the Thief!) and only two days ago its leader called for his supporters to take to the streets with their guns if the voting form (about the size of an unfolded Ordnance Survey map) was not reprinted to give his party more prominence. There's also a Cripple Coalition (No. 10) and No. 12 is the coalition of the Talking Grasshoppers. I haven't got the faintest idea either, before you ask.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Paying the Price

Paying the Price
Originally uploaded by Ron Combo
A quite unexpected evening of gin and red wine on Sunday resulted in a hangover of Old Testament proportions on Monday morning. Taking the dog for an early-ish walk my nostrils were assailed by the lingering and unforgiving fragrance of dung from the newly dug vegetable plots. I'd just got back to the house and was reaching for the Milk Thistle and ten Nurofen when a blast of triple air horns signalled the arrival of something big.
I'd sodding forgotten that the men were due to arrive to empty our septic tank. The lorry above cost €300,000 new they proudly informed me. This job was going to cost, I knew straightaway. Down they came, the two of them, and went straight to the tank situated below the house. Whipping the two covers off there was a lot of head shaking and chin stroking. "Boss" one said, "come here can you?" My head was pounding and my stomach was reeling. Down I went. "This is not good, not good at all. Look at this, solid, and in the second chamber. Nasty. Very nasty indeed" I felt a strange whirling sensation as 'though I were about to die as I gazed uncomprehendingly at the contents of the tank and noted the concomitant stink of raw sewage. Please Lord, I thought, if you want to take me, take me now. Four hours later and €600 lighter they were gone, as were the contents of the tank. I'd paid the price alright.