Monday, 10 December 2012

Bobbo Natale

Thunder and rain bustled away overnight, leaving a clear bright cold morning behind. Across the straits of Messina, 20 miles away the mountains of Calabria have their first white caps of winter. Europe north to south is in the grip of ice and snow, whether much or little. On my way to the supermarket, I stopped in the Piazza St Agostino to marvel at a beautifully clear view of Mouth Etna. The snow line has dropped another few hundred metres. Some higher villages in the paese d'Etna are digging their way out this morning, I was told by church secretary Jane, who rang me before I went out.

I mentioned to her that over the weekend I'd seen a photo in a local tourism brochure showing a ski slope. She said her youngsters regarded it as fairly easy stuff. But what great views! The common complaint was that when snow came, resort management didn't respond quickly enough to take advantage of it. Come to think of it, why bother early on? A change of weather can soon put everyone in shirt sleeves and melt snow cover in a few days, unless you have a several metres depth at your disposal. These days that's an increasing rarity everywhere, due to global warming.

I noticed a couple of kids' events in the Christmas festive schedule posted all over town, featuring 'Bobbo Natale'. Who's this? I wondered before checking the giant dictionary the house is blessed with. Obvious really - Father Christmas, who else? More festive decorations are gradually appearing in shops and on the balconies of apartments in the narrow back streets, though it's not wildly excessive, and that's a holiday for the eyes to this visitor.

I followed the road down past the cemetery again this afternoon, re-tracing my steps in daylight to the point where the descending footpath became a night mare one evening last week. I noticed a small hotel and a house on the edge of a steep slope locked and barred - dangerous because of landslip, built on a not very stable foundation, definitely not limestone bedrock. I wonder how they got permission to build? 

The road beyond the cemetery winds down a few curves and leads to a large plateau the size of a couple of football fields put together. It was overgrown, there were several ruined houses and a notice saying private keep out, beware of dog, but no gates. It looks as if it should be prime building land, not idle waste land. But maybe the steep sided hill standing about 130 metres above the sea is made of unsuitable material for building on. It's a puzzle, must find out.

I joined the nuns again for adoration and Vespers tonight, and walked back the long way to pass through streets still active, warmly lit by shops open for business, even if most restaurants remain shut until the big Christmas holiday influx begins. I really noticed the chill, being out after dark.

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