Notes On The Weekend
This past weekend I went down to the mountains again and I was fortunate enough to arrive just as it began to snow. A very early snow. With flakes so large that outside of Michelago that I stopped my car just to soak it all in. The first snow of the season never grows old. A certain magic feeds into your day, and as guilty as I felt leaving the Sydney that weekend, where, fortunately, I did not have any wedding appointments due, those apprehensions dissolved instantly and were replaced by a sense of adventure. My car is all wheel drive, but I did not have winter tyres. The snow was falling so thick that my main concern was whether the road was going to turn into a slip and slide and what speed I ought to take.
I was invited by friends to spend some time in the back of the park again. Out where the Snowy Hydro 2.0 was well under way. I spent the first night at the B and B of a friend, a wonderful chef, Jodie Evans, who runs rooms and a restaurant on the Alpine Way called ‘Crackenback Farm’ . If you haven’t been there, I suggest you try it. My daughter believes that she makes the best Mac And Cheese she’s ever eaten. The rooms are cosy and have that charm about them that you don’t find in many more modern stays.
Part of the reason I like to go off the beaten track with Jodie and her friends is that there is no internet out there. You can find it, but you need to take a 3km drive down to the dam where if you are lucky you will get one bar of a 4g signal in which to catch up on anything that might be important. You will pass brumbies on the way. Many of them pregnant. The rains that have been beating down on us over the past two years in Australia have meant the pasture is green and these wild horses have not much else to do but eat and breed. Where once I had never laid eyes on a brumby, now they seem almost commonplace and they are not the least bit disturbed by my presence. I found one, she was a beauty, all rich and velvety chocolate in the afternoon sunlight with a blonde mane of hair that reminded me of a Japanese surfer on Bondi Beach in the late summer, although they are also a rare sighting these days.
I took photographs and I did some initial sketches, of Alpine flora too, though this time from a book I bought and not from my own photos.
The weather is cold down there. Very cold. The ground was covered in snow, but by the day’s end it was rather patchy as the sunlight cleared off most of it, the remaining snow was under the trees and in the terrain where the sunlight was sparse. Patches of snow continued to fall off the corrugated roof and the drip from the awning continued until it froze again in the evening.
The benefits of no internet were that you talked. And you played music. And, one luxury I rarely get time to do these days - read a book.
I had decided to re-read one of my favourite all time books, The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa. If you haven’t read it, well, it’s one of those books you should do before you die.
I have been lamenting the death of many things of recent. My last email lamented the death of menswear at the Met Gala. It was perhaps more of a rant, but at this time I don’t wish to retract anything. We are being challenged on many fronts at the moment and for me there is something about Old World elegance that I wish to hold onto. A system of rules, a respect for what you wear and when you wear it. I am all for change, I am all for redefining things, but I don’t wish to break things apart entirely, the same way, even if I don’t necessarily believe that Jesus walked on water, I don’t spray paint all over my local church. The principles Jesus taught are excellent, I take from them what I need and I let go of that which I don’t think serve me.
So whilst the temperature outside went below freezing and I lay on a cold leather sofa with the heat of the fire soothing my somewhat balding head, I read my old novel of choice and I came across a passage that reminded me that no matter what we are dished up in our lifetimes as fodder in terms of political events and changes in circumstance, it is no different from whatever some other generation had undergone themselves. And so, as I stumbled upon this passage of text I found below, where Don Fabrizio, aka The Prince, is forced to take stock of the new world he now occupies post the dismantling of the Bourbon King of Naples and replaced with the “new Italy” that is emerging, I was reminded of what the French say, the more it changes, the more it stays the same. Which is why I love the chance to read a novel when I have those pockets of free time with nothing doing. I hope you enjoy the passage of text below and take from it what I took, which is this, yes, it all changes, but perhaps not as much as we might like to think.
The Prince had always taken care that the first dinner at Donnafugata should bear the stamp of solemnity: children under 15 were excluded from table, French wines were served, there was punch alla Romana before the roast; and the flunkeys were in powder and the breeches. On just one detail did he compromise; he never wore evening dress, lest he embarrass guests who would, obviously, possess none. That evening, in the “Leopard” drawing room as it was called the, the Salina family were awaiting the last arrivals. From under lace-covered shades, the oil-lamps spread, circumscribed yellow light: the vast equestrian portraits of past Salinas, were as imposing and shadowy as their memories. Don Onofrio had already arrived with his wife, and so had the arch-priest, who, with his light mantle, folded back on his shoulders in sign of gala, was telling the Princess about tiffs at the College of Mary. Don Ciccio, the organist, had also arrived (Teserina had already been tied to the leg of the scullery table) and was recalling with the Prince their fantastic bags in the Dragara Ravines. All was placid and normal when Francesco Paolo, the 16-year-old son, burst into the room and announced: “Papa, Don Calegero is just coming up the stairs. In tails!”
Tancredi, intent on fascinating the wife of Don Onofrio, realised the import of the news a second before the others. But when he heard that fatal word, he could not contain himself and burst into convulsive laughter. No laugh, though, came from the Prince on whom, one might almost say, this news had more affect than the bulletin about Garibaldi‘s landing at Marsala. That had been an event, not only forseen, but also distant and invisible. Now, with his sensibility to presages and symbols, he saw revolution in that white tie and two black tails moving at this moment up the stairs of his own home. Not only was he, the Prince, no longer the major landowner in Donnafugata, but he now found himself forced to receive, when in afternoon dress himself, a guest appearing in evening clothes.
His distress was great; it still lasted as he moved mechanically towards the door to receive his guest. When he saw him, however, his agonies were somewhat eased. Though perfectly adequate as a political demonstration, it was obvious that, as tailoring, Don Calogero’s tail-coat was a disastrous failure. The stuff was excellent, the style modern, but the cut appalling. The Word from London had been most inadequately made flesh in a tailor from Girgenti to whom Don Calogero had gone with his tenacious avarice. The wings of his cravat pointed straight to heaven in mute supplication, his huge collar was shapeless, and, what is more, it is our painful but necessary duty to add that the mayor’s feet were shod in buttoned boots.