Sunday, 26 January 2014

A bunch of firsts

So I’m back in Palermo after an enjoyable Christmas holiday in England. I’ve been here 10 days but in Italy since January 8th, as I stopped off in Venice, Padua and Turin on my way back here to see friends and relatives. Which was nice. But it’s good to be in Palermo again, and my time back here this month has reminded me how much I’ll miss it when I leave.

The 10 days since I've been back have been full of new experiences. Albeit not all as thrilling as some earlier on in my semester in Sicily but the type of thing that I imagine makes most of them virtually unique to Sicily. My first:

Swim in the sea in January
I’m used to distractions from revision (I’ve got plenty – I always manage to find a reason to give myself a break from revising). But a new one was the irresistible temptation to go to the beach last weekend when it was 23 degrees and Erasmus pals asked if I fancied it. So we went for a swim (the water seemed no colder than a beach in Devon in August) and spent the day there playing beach volleyball with locals and sunbathing. In January.

I’m pleased to say that my ageing Citroën Saxo passed its MOT without any problems this week. Given that doing an MOT costs the same wherever here, I stopped off at the first mechanic I saw on the way back from the centre rather than one of the mechanics I knew who live a bit further away. After he’d finished, the mechanic gave me his business card which on one side listed the services he provides (oil change, MOT, air conditioning etc.). On the back, however, was a photo of him holding a microphone and words that meant ‘Birthdays, Weddings, Private Parties’… It turns out that he’s a singer as well. It wasn’t so much the unusual combination of careers that I found amusing but the fact that he advertises both his work as a mechanic and as a musician on the same business card and uses the same phone number for both. When he answers the phone, does he say ‘Luigi Marchese, Singer…’? What if the caller says 'Singer?! I was calling to get some new tyres...'

Parking ticket

Last weekend some friends and I went back to Frida, widely considered the best Pizzeria in Palermo and so popular that you can face hours waiting for a table if you haven't booked. When we got back to my car, it was surrounded by the Polizia, Guardia di Finanza and a tow truck which was picking it up. Luckily we got there in time to stop the car being towed, and I got away with a 38 Euro fine and nothing more. I’m told that I would have been looking at paying an extra 100 Euros to get the car back had it been towed. No complaints - I was committing a parking violation. Given that it was a Saturday night, I wasn't blocking anything and I've never seen a tow truck here before (and that most cars here seem to park on the pavement, double or triple park, park in bus stops or in front of garages) I felt a tad unlucky though. But I suppose I was lucky to get there minutes before it had been towed.

Trip to the Dry Cleaners
I’d never been to a Dry Cleaners before. The only time I’d seen inside one was in sitcoms: be it Larry David’s run-ins with them in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Jack Dee’s in Lead Balloon. Apart from the fact that this Dry Cleaner wasn’t Omid Djalili (as in Lead Balloon),
the main difference was just that the Dry Cleaners here was tiny. No items of clothing on rails overhead or anything. It looked a bit like my grandma’s kitchen in fact: with not much in other than a counter, an ironing board and an old lady knitting. Anyway, they didn’t charge much, but I also didn’t get my jacket back when they said I would due to them running out of power... Fair enough. I’ll see if it’s ready tomorrow.

Concert in Sicily

It’s fair to say that very few famous musicians play in Palermo or include Sicily in their tours. A real shame, and just one example of how we Islanders can feel cut off from the mainland at times. But anyway, Giuliana called me up last Sunday saying they had a spare ticket to a Beatles tribute band gig, and I went. It was all quite a funny experience – seeing four Italians dressed up as the 'Fab Four', singing in English and speaking in Italian between songs. The music was generally quite good, though I was puzzled by some of the song choices. They tried to close with Yellow Submarine (!) before thankfully rectifying this by doing an encore. And they didn't play anything from Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Be or Abbey Road, choosing to stick almost entirely to earlier albums. Then again, it’s not exactly easy to put together a Beatles set-list. Where do you start?

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