Sunday, 31 July 2005

Limited Edition

The chaplain of my college is retiring, and yesterday the college put on a bit of a spread in the Master's Garden. Very nice affair, buckets of champaigne, several of which I looked after, and lots of old students and friends back to say chin up old boy. Stephen Hawking was there - he's an old member -, adding a bit of intellectual weight to the whole thing. I wanted to ask him about this new planet they've discovered, but I was afraid he would explain what it meant for humanity, and that I wouldn't have a clue what he was talking about.
It is mad though, a new planet. Think of all those school charts around the world that now need to be changed. And what are they going to call it?

Apparently I have descended somewhat in the estimation of my friend Nicholas now that he has discovered I have a blog. V sad. Ironically he's the computer geek, not me, though we have had the odd conversation about LaTeX, ahem. I'm afraid I've converted to Mellel...I just couldn't do it!

I have been putting some thought into the design of my study, when I become fabulously wealthy and build my own pile somewhere fashionable and handy for the British Library, or some other such convenience. If anyone has seen the Bernard Rapp film Tiré à part, with Terence Stamp, then you will have seen the study the writer, Nicholas Fabry, works in. Beautful octagonal wooden study, shelves from floor to ceiling, and a nice desk in the middle. Something out of a Borges story. Some day. Some day.

The PD James novel was satisfactory, but not her best. All sorts of wild supernatural and religious storylines floating around. Not entirely convincing.

Friday, 29 July 2005


Apparently I'm never going to get a job, now that I'm a blogger, at least according to Ivan Tribble. Very worrying.

On a more positive note, I got a good day's work done today. Am very pleased. I might even be able to look my supervisor in the eye. Chaucer's Legend of Good Women is quite something, and I think underestimated. The prologue is terribly clever. Really clever.

I just got Don Akenson's Surpassing Wonder and am just dying to get stuck in. Has come highly recommended by a friend (thanks Peter!). That's after I finish the PD James novel I'm reading... Just picked up Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, and Michael Frayn's Sweet Dreams, and also looking forward to them.

Wednesday, 27 July 2005


Darragh just said my opinion is null and void. He's right. I'd like to say that I haven't a clue what I'm talking about, my parents didn't buy me comics when I was growing up because they thought it was a waste of money. So now I've got this complex about comics. I did watch 'Anything Goes' on Saturday morning where they would show the cartoon 'Batman', and the TV series. I enjoyed those. Especially where those signs 'Clank' and 'Crunch' etc would pop up on screen - Yeah, I missed those from the film...I think it would have added some authenticity.

So now I go around thinking people who read comics are sad. It's yet another complex aspect to my mixed up mind. Will I ever achieve enlightenment? Can't I just live and let live? Whyyy?

I just used the last of my book grant towards Minnis' The Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Shorter Poems. It's such a good introduction. A model of its kind I think. But why is it so friggin expensive? Haven't they heard of paperbacks? I know it's big. But still. I did manage to wrangle a discount out of Blackwell's. I know they're going bust and everything, but I'm still a poor student. I want to buy Suzanne Reynolds' book on medieval glosses on Horace and reading practices's out in paperback (apparently). And Oxfam have a new bookshop on Turl St. It smells of paint. It's just wrong in a bookshop. But it's new.

New Obsession: Squash. It's such fun. I mainly play with Gregor and Eric, who are both beginners, so we just fumble around on court. I played with Craig who kicked my lily arse around the court in a most undignified manner. I went through six games without scoring a point. I think that must count for something!

I've just found a super blog: Whose Culture Is This? Funny, rude, and I don't understand a word. But she is that can't be all bad.

Can't you tell I'm procrastinating on working on the Legend of Good Women?

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Batman and My 3 O'Clock

Dinner dinner dinner. I'm going to eat now but I thought I'd post quickly just to let you know that I'm not dead or anything. As the title might suggest I've been to see Batman Begins. Now after being stung so badly with that crap I posted on earlier, I wasn't must have been something sadistic that had me going... Well, Batman Begins is actually very very good. I really enjoyed it. Liam Neeson plays this sort of wise evil guy who teaches Bruce Wayne all he knows. I suppose the geeks will talk endlessly about how it differs from the comics, but nevermind. People who read comics as adults are extremely sad, it has to be said. I don't get it at all. But the film is good. And Cillian Murphy as the psychiatrist/scarecrow. I'm not sure about that to be honest. I think that Christopher Ecclestone would have been a bit scarier; I think Murphy was too young for it to be honest. Murphy is a good actor though. This won't hurt him.

Someone I know, I have discovered, has put herself on that Oxbridge escort service. There's been stuff about it on the paper etc, and some high-class Sun article (or some other such quality newspaper) trying to prove it was all about sex. You get these desperate people looking for Oxbridge people to bring to dinner and various functions, and some people get up to....£300 for it. That a whole lot of rubles in my country. And you don't have to sleep with them. Really. The whole thing just about dating an Oxbridge person. Jeez, I'd throw the sex in for free if I were getting 300 quid for dinner at the Iveagh! But the fees are rather high here and, after all, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I just can't help thinking of Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite: 'Hi, you my 3 o'clock?'

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

War of the Worlds

Ok, I know I know. I should not have expected much, and I suppose I didn't really. But boy, I didn't get much. It was a truly awful awful film. All those interesting storylines gone untapped and unexplored. An undeveloped mass of crass cliches. DO NOT GO TO SEE IT. Stay at home and read HG Wells.

I did just see the last double episode of CSI, directed by...Quentin Tarantino. It was wonderful. Nick, one of the team, is kidnapped and buried alive, and the rest of them race to save him. Some very Tarantino scenes in it. Great stuff. BTW: don't bother watching the NY or Miami spin-offs, they are very bad parodies.

Also got to catch up on the last few episodes of the West Wing. Santos is getting very close to becoming the nominee but who will be the VP nominee? Leo. Hmm. Not sure about that, what with his heart problem, and history of substance abuse. But I'd prefer him than Bingo Bob. I think the writing is still excellent, and hasn't lost any of its freshness. It has changed over six years, but I am still a big fan. Especially now that there is so little to watch on TV.

Back in Oxford. Back to work....gawd. Work.

Sunday, 17 July 2005


Some of my faith in tourism has been restored. On my way back an English couple sitting opposite were reading Michael Baxendall's Painting and Experience in Fourteenth-Century Italy and George Holmes' Florence, Rome, and the Origins of the Renaissance. They, of course, were not those who made me despair in Florence, but still, it was heartening to see people asking why the art they are seeing is the way that it is, and prepared to read the research of some great experts to learn this.

Today I read Oriana Fallaci's article in Corriere della Sera, called 'Il nemico che trattiamo da amico'. She makes some very inflammatory remarks. Her voice is full of fear, full of searching. It doesn't make easy reading.

I'm sitting in Stansted. Words can hardly describe my feelings of utter disgust for this airport. ' is not fit for humans now'.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Italian Television

Italian television is perhaps the clearest indication that there is something seriously wrong in this society. When you watch it you realize that this cannot be the product of a healthy and vibrant country. It has to be some of the worst shit I have ever seen.
The problem is not so much awful television, which every country has to put up with in one form or another, the problem is that these are the national channels, the stuff that everyone watches, and they watch it in their millions!
Everything is a variation on the theme of variety shows, where the old favourites are wheeled out to sing, dance, and reminisce for hours and hours (literally) on end. These will be interspersed with interludes where semi-naked girls will do a little boogie boogie, which the presenter will dutifully praise (without a hint of irony). I remember when I saw a political satire, a sort of a cross between 'Have I got News for You' and 'Spitting Image' without the dolls and without the teeth, and I thought finally, something a little bit more serious. What happens next? There is an ad break, but instead of cutting from the studio, the presenters reappear IN THE STUDIO with the products that are paying for the programme (in this case I think it was Lavazza). Next, more naked girls come out to do a little boogie boogie, and we go back to political satire. I swear I'm not making this up.
Of course if you are looking for news, you can forget it. The whole thing is sewn up by Berlusconi and his people. And that's is not a cliché or an urban myth, it really is like that here. A channel called 'La7" is the best, owned by a consortium of concerned citizens, they have good political discussion, news, and they show good films etc.
All of this is so ironic considering Italy's history, its very strong intellectual left-wing traditions, far more serious that we have in the UK (Ireland doesn't even count, we don't know what the right and the left is: you are just Republican or something else).

The only thing that I can watch without feeling physically sick is MTV Italia! That and Magnum PI translated keep me going here.

Thursday, 14 July 2005

My new favourite bookshop

I'd like to tell you about a really cool bookshop I have just discovered in Bologna. It's called Libreria delle Moline, in via delle Moline 3/A (051-232053). There have some great stuff there, and have a very high quality stock of second-hand books, which is not nearly as common here as it is in Ireland or the UK. Anyway, the owner, Gregorio, told me that he might be able to find Opere minori in the Ricciardi-Mondadori series, and also in the same series Poeti del Duecento. Cool. If this works out I'll post again on it. Three years of looking for this stuff, I'll definitely post on it!

Went for lunch yesterday with Gino, Giulia, and Estella. We went to their usual huant, Caffè dell'Accademia, all the memories! I'm not sure the owner remembers me, but that's ok! I highly recommend it, though. Apparently lots of famous people go there, but being famous myself I don't notice these things! We spent the day together and met up again with Gino for dinner. It was lovely really to see them all again.

I'd also like to recommend an internet cafe here in Bologna in via Oberdan, 17b, called HappyNet. You wouldn't believe how much trouble I had to find a place I could hook up to the internet and get my mail. So this place is like an oasis! There have computers and ethernet cables so you can bring your own laptop, and they tell me that in a couple of weeks they'll have Wi-Fi. It's got a kind of bohemian feel actually, and very relaxed, and they are very friendly.

Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Bologna (II)

I'm having so trouble connecting to the internet these last couple of days so my posts are less and less regular, for which I apologise. At the moment I'm sitting in Gino's office, whom I haven't seen in five years. He's in good form, and it is a real pleasure to see him again. My old friend Giulia, a friend from both Dublin and Bologna, is coming today and we are all going for lunch. It will be great to catch up.

I got lost looking for this office. It was quite a disconcerting experience, I must say. It is a bit labyrinthine, to say the least. I spent so much time here, and came here so often when I was studying here that I cannot believe I got lost. But then I went back to the front door, got my bearings, and started again!

Yesterday I went to Italianistica and met two of my old professors for Dante, Giuseppe Ledda and Daniela Branca. It was great to see them and to hear news of other students in my year and what they are doing. Giuseppe was involved in a bad accident on his bike and has spent the past month in bed, waiting for his spine to heal. He is still a bit shaky, but improving. He's got an article on Dante I can't wait to read, and will post the reference when I get it.

Friday, 8 July 2005


I'm listening to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. I only heard about the attacks yesterday afternoon and got to an internet connection to listen to the radio. It is just so terrible. One of our friends in London was about to get on the bus to work but decided to walk because it was so full. Five-hundred yards down the road it exploded. It's hard to know what to do with that kind of a story. Whether you cry, or pray, or disbelieve. Or remain silent.

I leave Florence today for Bologna. I suspect my posts will be more intermittent as internet access will be a little more difficult. I'm hoping to catch up with some old acquaintances and friends. I'll keep you all updated as best I can.

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Two Magic Flutes

Kenneth-Claudia canterini
Originally uploaded by Miglior Acque.
And here we are. People stopped in the street. It was like that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins plays Mozart for the prisoners: for a few minutes the local Florentines were truly free!

I cervelli ISU

I cervelli ISU
Originally uploaded by Miglior Acque.
Here we all are. Actually, I notice that Silvia is missing from this photo, but she has promised to send a photo of her crazy hair so I can blog it. I also think that Jeremy, an American visiting student is not here, though I'm having trouble making out some of the faces.
I'm also posting a photo of Claudia and moi singing a little something from The Magic Flute.

Wednesday, 6 July 2005


Just so you don't think I'm all negative I'd like to tell you about a couple of great places to eat here. Two of these places I found through the Italians here, and the other a found quite by accident myself. The first is a rosticceria in via Ricasoli, I think. It's kind of a gastronomic 'fast food' place, but with yummy pasta and salads. Great for something quick in town.
The second is again in via Ricasoli, and it's called Oliandolo (via Ricasoli, 38r-40r, tel. 055/211296). It is wonderful. A real Tuscan place packed full of Italians. Delicious. Today I had the schiacciata del giorno. The third, the one I take pride in because I found it myself, is called La pentola dell'oro, on via di Mezzo, angolo via dei Pepi (tel. 055/241808). It's the best restaurant food I've had in Italy. There are a group of people who look like your aunts and uncles in the kitchen producing wonderful pasta dishes and all sorts of other goodies. I had the fusilli all cacciatora con ricotta salata, and skipped the second to have pecorino stagionato con pera e oliva al forno. Yummy. Yummy. In my tummy.

Tonight Giuseppe has invited me to dinner in his place with others from the course. I'm looking forward to it. He is a lovely Palermitano who is dizzingly clever but very modest about it. He's got a very calming influence on me when I meet him. It must be the Sicilian sun that shines through.


Why can't anything be simple? Why does everything here have to be so...difficult? I am coming to a crude realization that the only thing you can do in Italy with any ease whatsoever is spend money. The only thing that has been streamlined here to any level of 21st-century standard is the process of handing over money for something. Anything that doesn't involve you paying for something doesn't count.

Today I made another trip to the Biblioteca Nazionale, full of (justified) trepidation. One book wasn't available downstairs so they sent me upstairs. The lady upstairs couldn't understand why I'd been sent there and sent me back downstairs. One of the books I asked for was in use by another I had to go back upstairs and sit by the desk to look at it quickly before the other reader came back. That book we have in the Taylorian so I wasn't pushed, but the other is not in any UK library. So my requests are getting cancelled and reordered and cancelled through the afternoon, and, because you're only allowed three requests, I can't make any more until tomorrow. Even though I've already seen on of the requested items. It is tremendously frustrating. Nobody is pushed. Nobody wants to care. I don't know why. Maybe they are incompetent. Maybe they aren't paid enough to care. Maybe it's just too hot to worry. I don't know.

I may have dreamt all this...

The funniest things happen in the middle of the night. Last night a group of us from the course decided to go out for a drink. In Italy this means going out at 11 pm (that's early!), and staying out until all hours. We bought pints in plastic glasses and, like a group of fine Italian chavs, sat on the steps of Santa Croce. Imagine. Gawd. Anyway, on the way home, we were walking along, not making that much of a racket, when someone opened the window above and threw a bucket of water on top of me! I swear. There was a verbal altercation between some of us who argued it was unreasonable to throw water on top of people, and a simple Italian screech out the window to keep it down would have been sufficient. There was no talking to him. My first thought was: 'This isn't water....", but it was. My second was: "This is a Boccaccio novella!".
On my way home, drenched, I'm walking on a deserted street, I look up, and there are two cats sitting on the sill of an open window, following me with their eyes. I swear that they were about to say something. They had such a look of contempt, like, 'you are such a sad bastard'. It was quite unnerving.

It was good to see Silvia, who is recovering from a kidney stone. I blame the Petrarch seminars, but apparently the doctors think it has something to do with drinking water. She got them zapped and is feeling better now. As soon as some of the others send me photos I'll load them for you to see.

Tuesday, 5 July 2005


Today I saw the Certosa at Galuzzo, which is lovely, and spent some time with Paola looking at SISMEL. It's where they produce and edit gorgeous medieval books, library catalogues, and where they produce Medioevo Latino. Quite exciting to see where it all happens, as it were.

I overcame my inhibition and went in to the gorgeous paper shop called Il Papiro, a famous cartoleria here in Florence. Their stuff is so nice. I had a chat with Janet, an American lady who works there, who helped assuage my guilt at buying such luxurious paper. "You're worth it". I'm over it now, of course. And I didn't spend that much at all. I was so close to getting cards printed. Jaysus. Instead I bought a little set of blank cards with my surname inital on it. Classy. When I win the lotto I'm going to open an account with them!

Cloudy today, and a little rain. No bad thing. Relieve the tension in the sky a bit.

Monday, 4 July 2005


Yesterday I went to Bologna to visit Emilia. We went, with her brother and his two daughters (Jessica and Ylenia) to Castel del Rio, to their medieval festival. Gawd. It was pretty awful. They had a mock witch hunt and trial. Oh how we all laughed. Still though, she looked pretty guilty to me, so my conscience is clear.

This week it's library work, though this afternoon I'm going to go to the pool for some 'me' time. I also want to do a bit of reading. My friend Paola has offered to bring me to the Certosa a Galluzzo tomorrow and I'm rather looking forward to it. The last time I was here I was researching my undergraduate thesis on the Certosa di Padula. Beautiful. Visit it if you are anywhere in the south of Italy.

This morning, on the train back from Bologna, a man sitting opposite me had a watch on each wrist. I thought that they would have different times, that he might have been from another country or something, but they both had exactly the same time. Why do you think he would go around with two watches? Does anyone have any ideas?

Just found this cool website for O/P and S/H books in Italy: Maremagnum

Friday, 1 July 2005

Last Day at School

Today is my last day at school. Emilio Pasquini will talk about his edition of the Trionfi. It should be interesting. Siliva Rizzo's paper yesterday was extremely interesting. She's scarily good. And even more so because she's quite modest and disarming. Not a baron(essa) at all.

Went for dinner last night, organized at the last minute, in Claudia's place, with another on the course, Paola. Paola is another example of the kind of calibre of student I'm talking about here. She works on Leon Battist Alberti. During her research she has discovered two previously unknown autographs, and the year of Alberti's birth, written in his own hand. Imagine! Yeah, I'll just dream on, scratching through my notes waiting for something brilliant to jump out and bite me on the arse. Food was great, of course. And Claudia cracked open a bottle of Aurum, a liquer from her area, a bottle that is no longer on the market and quite rare. We didn't help its rarity last night. And then Claudia let me borrow her bike so I could get home; so drunk as lords, Paola directed me in my general area and off I went.

Next week the library and I have to get to know eachother a little better, and maybe I might remember what it is I'm doing again. I'm sure it'll come back to me.

I suppose it's like riding a bike...though usually it feels more like the way I was cycling last night, out of control and going in every direction but the right one. I didn't eventually get home though...


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