Sunday, 23 December 2012

O Emmanuel - Sunday before Christmas

After an early night I was out of bed to watch the dawn, promising a bright and clear sunny day. And so it turned out. With Salvatore the caretaker there were ten of us altogether for a combination of Advent Eucharist with lessons and carols. Clare accompanied on the electric piano/organ, frustrated by not having the right strength glasses to make sight reading the music easy, so she practised last night and after breakfast to be sure and made a good job of it.

We walked up to Castelmola after lunch, and sat outside the restaurant in the main square for a drink. It's quite chilly up there at 1,700ft when a breeze blows. Not the sort of place you want to sit for long. The proprietor has fitted white goatskin rugs to the seats of all his metal armchairs for the comfort of diners. It's certainly an encouragement to linger longer in the great outdoors. Rather than wait an hour for the bus, and get home in the dark, we made our way back down the via Saraceni warmed by the rays of the setting sun. It only took twenty minutes. We stopped to pick Marigold flowers to make fresh calendula tea with. The abundant orangey yellow flowers bring a dash of colour to cactus covered mountain slopes and olive groves.

We came back along the Corso as the sun was setting. There was a lively atmosphere with many more people of all ages out and about smartly dressed in their holiday outfits - not attending weddings or going to a church service at this hour. In fact, sounds of a rehearsal were emanating from the Cathedral as we passed. There's a spectacolo danza passione, whatever that is, going on later tonight.

In the Piazza Sant'Agostino, the Bobbo Natale disco for small kids was going on next to the Christmas tree. Bobbo Natale was being helped by a couple of young lasses and a deejay in Santa outfits, and all were dancing energetically, having lots of fun. While we watched the man who offers to draw a quick portrait of people while they sit there in the open air started chatting to us. Over his two eazels hung a couple of golden Greek icons of the Theotokos apparently for sale. I wasn't sure if he was the painter or someone in Thessaloniki - they were in the style of that region from my recollection of a visit there fifteen or more years ago, but he observed me noticing them. He asked where we were from and when we said Wales, he smiled appreciatively. He said he was Argentinian, with Welsh speaking Patagonian friends back home. It's a small world.

We both felt too tired to go to Vespers when we got home, so cooked the first thickest pair of swordfish slices for supper, frying them gently in olive oil with lemon juice and garlic, with a certain apprehension. Thanks to a good ceramic frying pan they were perfectly done. Served with steamed spuds carrots and chard, an enjoyable simple Sunday supper.

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