from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Pinocchio and the consequences of lying

10 October.

My 1946 children’s edition of Pinocchio

“Once upon a time a poor wood carver named Geppetto lived in a country across the sea. He was little and old and he was lonely.”

So begins my copy of Pinocchio, given to me on my birthday 65 years ago when I lived in Mbeya, Tanganyika. The original story of Pinocchio was published in 1883 by Carlo Collodi of Florence. Little did Carlo realise that he had created a masterpiece that would resonate with children through the ages. Who has not heard about how the astonished puppet’s nose grew longer with each lie he told?

Pinocchio has been adapted and translated into over 300 languages and Wikipedia says it is the most translated non-religious book in the world and one of the best-selling books ever published with over 800 million copies sold.

Tonight, my husband and I went to the movies to see the 2019 film of Pinocchio, written and directed by Matteo Garrone and the featured film of our Italian Film Festival.

We booked our seats at the cinema complex in the East End of Adelaide which, being a Saturday night, was busy as anything, as busy as it used to be. Not a mask in sight. I said to my husband that we must be in one of the only places in the world where everyone is quite so relaxed. Long may this last.

We have no new cases today – but 3 active cases (returning travellers).

This version of Pinocchio was not a film for young children, in fact, I think it will be most appreciated by adults … magnificently filmed in Tuscany, Italy. It is a dark version of the tale, decidedly not a cute retelling. It also depicts poverty-stricken villages in Italy of the late 19C. At the same time the scenery and filming are spectacular. Digital manipulation was not used – instead prosthetic make-up brought the fantastic characters to life. I need to see the film again to fully appreciate the cinematography.

I remember well, as a child, being disturbed when all the little recalcitrant school boys were turned into donkeys – when they first found that their ears had grown hairy and large and they could not talk.

Going to the Land of Boobies where it’s Vacation Time all day long

“And while they were still giggling at one another, they found they now had hooves for feet, and tails. They opened their mouths, but they could only bray.”

I remember the shock when the crippled donkey – aka Pinocchio – was thrown into the sea with a stone tied to his neck. In this new film this is graphically shown. It did not worry me when Pinocchio was swallowed by a huge dogfish, after all I knew about Jonah and the Whale and it was safe and warm in the stomach of the fish! You could even light a fire!

Could a flock of woodpeckers visit the White House? Daily?

The story of Pinocchio is the story of a journey into adulthood, into responsibility, the story of our human condition. In this age of ‘fake’ news and blatant lies told by leaders of our Western democracies, it is even more poignant to watch a film about the consequences of deception. If only our world leaders could suffer some sort of immediate retribution for their lack of honesty.

And, BTW, we all sometimes need a Kind Fairy with Turquoise Hair …

From David Maughan Brown in York: The runner-bean takeover.

runner-bean riot

April 23rd

Anyone wanting evidence of the effect of Covid-19 on domestic arrangements in people’s houses need look no further than our front room.  We are unlikely to be entertaining guests in it for many months, so have allowed its use to become diversified.  Apart from continuing to house my harp, it has now been transformed to serve not only as a small-scale postal and sundries sorting office but also as a greenhouse.  

Its sorting office role sees it serving as an amateur decontamination facility.  As we have it on the proverbial ‘good authority’ that the virus can remain alive and active on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, almost everything that arrives via the postal services, Amazon, the chemist’s deliveryman (to date always a man), the kind people who are shopping for us, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, gets deposited there in the interim as the room closest to the front door.  The exceptions are the seven-seeded sourdough bread, the bi-weekly milk delivery whose milk bottles are carefully sanitized before being put in the fridge, and, in particular, all chilled and frozen food items, where the balance of probability in lockdown favours food-poisoning over Covid-19 when it comes to dying of something unpleasant. 

The greenhouse is another story.  Our front room faces East, and its very large mid-nineteenth century sash windows allow it to be sun-filled all morning when the sun is shining, and in 2020 the mythical April showers continue to be fake news.  So it serves perfectly as a seedling nursery.   As it happens, it also serves perfectly as a maternity suite, as demonstrated when our youngest grandchild was born at a time when her entire family was still living with us after being flooded out of their house in the 2016 Boxing Day floods and falling victim to a rogue builder.  But that really is another story.   So good is the front room for germinating plants that discreetly positioned seedlings have on occasion in the past been allowed to carry on quietly growing there even when we have been indulging in some Spring entertaining.

This year the North Yorkshire weather has conspired with the Covid-19-induced need to find something to do during lockdown to create a bit of a problem.  The seedlings were planted a bit early, given this year’s weather pattern, and have been growing apace, while the showerless skies result in late frosts that would make it foolhardy to plant anything out on the allotment at this juncture.  So artichokes, gem squash, sweet-peas and the 30 (!) pots of tomato plants are getting a bit above themselves, while the runner beans are energetically threatening to take over.  The latter are no longer seedlings but determinedly adolescent, and busy involving themselves in all kinds of entanglements that are going to be very difficult to sort out.  They have had to be moved out of the direct sunlight and are currently lounging languidly across the hearth in front of the fireplace, imitating Jacob Rees-Mogg’s lordly horizontal recline on the front bench of the House of (misnamed in his case) Commons.  Prince Charles is on record as being convinced that talking to his plants helps them to grow.  The only remedy I can think of for the premature gigantism of the beans is to try the obverse and spend more time, at least until the danger of frost is over, practising on the harp in the hope that the frequency of the decidedly non-angelic discords might help to stunt the beans’ growth.