Monday, 25 November 2013

Inspiration ...and new arrivals from Philadelphia

I am tired. A gin and tonic would be wonderful but there is no gin and tonic anywhere on the horizon. (Ask the next day at the Austrian Hospice next door to my convent and they say they have beer and wine but no hard liquor). There is no bar at the convent.

Have no can opener to open a bottle of beer I bought on the street during the afternoon - so inspired by the memory of someone once lopping the neck off a champagne bottle with a machete - used the marble window ledge to knock the cap off.  (No damage done - see  below).  Immediately felt much better.

There is a strong smell of boiled vegetables at dinner. Only four tables, each sitting eight.
This is the first time I have eaten dinner at the convent - had a presentiment that it might not be entirely what I wanted. There are two new guests from Australia on the first table - and two more on the second table. These second two are looking at the wine list. A wine list! I should clearly sit by them.
They have just flown in from the US. The woman is red-eyed, very tired.
There is white wine available! A full bottle for 14 dollars - not so bad - half a bottle for 10 dollars, rather expensive.
Would they share a bottle with me? No, they are very tired.
Ask the new arrivals from Australia. No, they don't drink.
Never mind. A drink is on my mind. Go into the kitchen and ask if they will sell wine by the glass. This might be possible but would prove expensive. So I buy half a bottle of white. How many glasses? he asks. Two? Yes, of course.
I put two glasses by the bottle, back at the table. Would anyone like any wine? No, they're tired.
Try again in a bit and the woman - Trina - takes a small glass  - thankfully.
We talk about their plans. They had no idea that old Jerusalem would be so hilly and cobbled. It was a real trial carrying their suitcases down from Damascus Gate. The husband has a bad knee.
She asks for my highlights: forced to think, I say waking up early and going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Going to Bethlehem and Aida Camp was good, though it derailed my thoughts for a while.
Thin vermicelli soup, then a battered orange breadcrumbed flattened piece of food that from the outside could have been either chicken or fish but turns out to be chicken. Scalloped potatoes in what looks like diluted milk and vegetables diced - a lot of aubergine and carrot. Dessert is red jelly with a biscuit in it, topped with a (small ) dollop of artificial cream. 'I'd never thought of putting that in jello,' says Trina.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy