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).

https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/home/dashboard

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 Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: follow the tortoise …

a tortoise walk

April 28.  Casual walking out of a house, down the street, into a park or out to the countryside, has long-been the most practised and least studied form of recreation.

For most people in most times, it was the basic form of relaxation.  Until the twentieth century, domestic over-crowding meant that it was often the only means of escaping the press of people and finding some privacy.  Because it was essentially unstructured and unrecorded, it has rarely received the attention of historians.  Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust, to which I referred on April 24, is, like a handful of other such books, essentially an account of literary walkers, from Rousseau and Wordsworth onwards.  The one exception is the now elderly account by Maurice Marples, Shank’s Pony (1959).

In Britain, however, one of its most common forms, walking the dog, has long been counted.   During the nineteenth century an increasingly firm distinction was drawn between walking with a dog, and dog-walking.  Next to the immobile pedestrian, the greatest fear of polite town dwellers was the uncontrolled dog.  It was at best a source of noise, pollution, and unwanted physical contact for other pedestrians, and at worst a threat to life through the widely-feared disease of hydrophobia, or rabies. Taxing dogs, which began in 1796, was a means of policing their mainly urban owners.  Rural working dogs were exempt.  Following reforms to the cost and efficiency of taxation in 1867, reliable records were kept.  By 1877, there were nearly 1.4 million licensed dogs in Britain, mostly in towns and cities. At least as many owners again were believed to be avoiding the tax.  By the second half of the twentieth century the figure had reached four million, doubling again before the licence fee was finally abolished in 1987.

In most countries in the coronavirus lockdown, some kind of exemption has been allowed for exercising a pet.  Last week a story went viral of an Italian woman who had been fined for exceeding the time limit for this activity.  Her excuse was that the pet was not a dog, but a tortoise, and there was a photograph to prove it.

Initially I had much sympathy for the woman.  In my adult life the only pet that I have owned myself, as distinct from the family cat, was a tortoise, named Herodotus, or Hod for short, after the first historian.  It always seemed an appropriate companion for an historian, or indeed anyone engaged in the slow business of writing a full-length book. At this time of the year Hod would be trundling about the garden, eating buttercups and clover as he recovered his strength after the winter’s hibernation.

But then again, a tortoise really does, in Kipling’s terms, walk by itself.  Cats are in fact always aware of human company and generally seek to be close to it.  But a tortoise is entirely indifferent.  That is what makes it so relaxing a pet.  No complex emotional interactions.  Our cat would walk surprisingly long distances with us when we were out on an expedition.  Not Hod.  It is not so much about mobility.  On a hot day, especially if there is a tortoise maid in the offing, a tortoise can manage a turn of speed.  Rather it is a matter of independence.  There is just no way in the world you can get such an animal to follow you down the street.

I am afraid the Italian police had the right of it.