Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Who trod these streets before

Am reluctant to leave the Hotel Belludi37.  Have somehow found it an enchanting place - cannot say exactly why but there is a genuine welcome - the bowl of pale apples on the mezzanine -  tea in the large cool room with wooden shutters and a vast bed. Sleep well.
Swinging open the heavy wooden shutters gusts of sunshine and cold air sweep into the room. Hazy light outside over the arcade and cobbles.
Always - when seeing deserted streets early in the morning - think of someone who, as a child, said he remembered waking very early in Manhattan and saw from his bedroom window a cowboy riding at dawn through the empty streets.
The nameless hero in Bright Lights Big City/Jay Mcinerney wakes up with a similar thought (the book, so clearly, was written before 2001)
"The first light of the morning outlines the towers of the World Trade Centre at the tip of the island. You turn in the other direction and start uptown. There are cobbles on the street where the asphalt has worn though. You think of the wooden shoes of the first Dutch settlers on these same stones. Before that, Algonquin braves stalking game along silent trails."
But more pilgrimage awaits. David Cameron is making his first trip to Israel as PM today. 
The waitress's boiled eggs are slightly harder. She says she is from the Philippines. She recommends the Iglesia de S Leopoldo but I will not have time to go there, alas. She loves the churches.
St Antony definitely works miracles, she says. Her cousin prayed to St Anthony for a child and one was given after three years' marriage. Another cousin prayed to pass her nursing exams and she was successful. She misses the Philippines but all her family is here, her brothers and sisters. To go back would be very difficult, even to visit - several thousand euros each.
One last trip back to the Basilica with medallions for St Anthony. Hold them against his tomb in a kind of attempted consecration (is that what pilgrims do?)
Wonder at the same time what mental equipment pilgrims need - what stores of prayers and hymns. It would be nice to know more Collects - the perils and dangers of this night - lighten our darkness, O Lord. In fact, I can remember totally the Lord's Prayer, almost all of the general confession and probably most of the Creed. But that's about it. Otherwise - hymns, and many of those that one would not necessarily care to remember - Onward Christian Soldiers. Fight the Good Fight. Kneel and try and remember.
Dizzying patterning in the vaulted roof above the altar. It would indeed take a very long time to absorb Padua.
One last thought: how visual tradition infects everything. The crib (above) in the gift shop is very Baroque (so unlike the crib I saw by the Separation Wall in Bethlehem).
Outside in the street even the arrangements of olives on pizzas seem to reflect the rhythm of decorative patterns on the vaults. How intriguing pattern is - is a striving to master space? How extraordinary that we always seek to pattern. In some cases it is to order: in others to beautify. The subject of another blog.

(And something here that captures my attention - why? It's the silk scarf against the asktrakhan. Rather random and delightful.  I salvaged an astrakhan coat myself this winter in London, but it has scarcely been cold enough to wear it.)

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