Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

Some unexpected connections: my sister lives near Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire; in the High Street there is the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, the home of the children’s and short story writer for 36 years until his death in 1990. 

Tales of the Unexpected was a television series that ran between 1979 and 1988.  The title and the initial run of episodes was based on a collection of short stories by Dahl.  The prologue to his official biography is entitled Lunch with Igor Stravinsky:Biographers were dreary fact-collectors, he argued, unimaginative people, whose books were usually as enervating as the lives of their subjects. With a glint in his eye, he told me that many of the most exceptional writers he had encountered in his life had been unexceptional as human beings. Norman Mailer, Evelyn Waugh, Thomas Mann and Dr. Seuss were, I recall, each dismissed with a wave of his large hand, as tiresome, vain, dreary or insufferable. He knew I loved music and perhaps that was why he also mentioned Stravinsky. “An authentic genius as a composer,” he declared, throwing back his head with a chuckle, “but otherwise quite ordinary.” He had once had lunch with him, he added, so therefore he spoke from experience”.

Stravinsky was a cosmopolitan composer emigrating from Russia, to Switzerland, France and the US, dying in New York City in 1971.  In accordance with his wishes, he was buried in the Russian corner of the cemetery of Isola di San Michele, Venice.  Knowing nothing of this at the time, it was a surprise to find him at rest in the late-afternoon winter shadows on this island of the dead. Flowers adorned his grave but their fragrance had long since faded:

Stravinsky's Grave

There are other unexpected treasures in this vast cemetery but it does not pay to get too distracted – you would not wish to miss your last bus home:

Isola di San Michele cemetery

Elbow’s Great Expectations

A call girl with yesterday eyes
Was our witness and priest
Stockport supporters club kindly supplied us a choir
Your vow was your smile
As we move down the aisle
Of the last bus home
And this is where I go
Just when it rains

Travel theme: Short

This mildly disturbing photograph was taken at Giusti Giardino, Verona.  I was fortunate enough to snatch a few images from someone else’s photo shoot; catching the models off guard being potentially more interesting than the professionally posed versions.  I promise this owes nothing to Photoshop but there are more models in this photograph than at first seems apparent – four in costume and one small walk-on part by a short, naked, bit-part player. Continuing my recent ‘Do you see what I see theme, can you spot the uninvited guest appearance from the Addams Family member?  Click on the image to enlarge and get the full effect:

Giusti Giardino

Meanwhile, in the centre of Verona, the ever-vigilant local policeman takes a short break prior to an imminent arrest, handcuffs at the ready:

Verona policeman

Travel theme: Architecture

This is the interior of Todi Cathedral in the province of Perugia in Italy.  In the heat of an Umbrian summer the thick stone walls and large open space provided welcome cool sanctuary from outside pavements hotter than a match head (The Lovin’ Spoonful).  As may be all too obvious, the angels in the architecture have been “re-positioned” from elsewhere inside the cathedral.  The lyric from Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al have also been subject to minor adaptation:

Todi Cathedral

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

There is a bitter iced wind blowing in off the lagoon.  The temperature is hovering just above freezing but it feels much colder as the end November sun hides behind a blanket of cloud; in Piazza San Marco, Caffè Florian is doing a brisk trade but no one sits outside. At the fish market next to the Rialto Bridge everyone is wrapped in deep layers and nobody wants to lift the fresh iced fish from the counter; Venice is gripped in winter and no one is happy:

Venetian MarketVenetian MarketVenetian Market

(click on images to enlarge)

Travel theme: Motion

As someone who owns a back catalogue that includes hundreds of racing cars in motion, this week’s Travel Theme should have been simplicity itself.  However, that seemed too easy and the link with travel tenuous although my teenage obsession with fast cars certainly took me on many an interesting journey.  Consequently, I have opted for something involving two wheels and two legs in motion, this photograph taken on a particularly wet day in Bologna.  I wonder what the conversation is between the two subjects – “Give us yer brolly mate!”…..or the Italian equivalent:

Bologna in the rain

Travel theme: Costume

I had to dig deep for this week’s Travel Theme: Costume; these pictures were taken at the Bevagna Festival in 2000.  This annual event takes place every June in the searing heat of an Umbrian summer, less than ideal for the heavy medieval costumes of jute, wool and velvet.

On initial inspection most participants seem indistinguishable from their ancient ancestors except for a few obvious signs which continuity failed to notice – designer watches, spectacles and some very good dentistry:

Bevagna FestivalBevagna FestivalBevagna Festival

The pictures pre-date full conversion to digital and were taken with a Minolta Dynax SLR and then transferred to Picture CD by Kodak; when edited I was amazed by just how low resolution the images are when compared to what the modern full frame DSLR manages to capture inside the camera – almost medieval.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

Weekly Photo Challenge – as soon as I saw this week’s photo challenge I immediately thought of a long ago trip to San Gimignano and the views from the towers.  I don’t remember if this is true of all of them but at least one of them is ‘hollow’; in other words there is nothing at its centre such that the iron stairs ascend its inner walls surrounded by a void.  This not only demands a head for heights but a degree of faith in the local civil engineers.  The pictures were taken in early September 2001 from Torre Grossa which stands at 54 metres.  As cinema buffs will know, the continued existence of these towers is entirely due to the bloody-minded grit and determination of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith et al (Tea with Mussolini) ;-):

San GimignanoSan Gimignano


(click on images to enlarge)

Travel theme: Smoke and Mirrors

Travel theme: Smoke and Mirrors – I have hacked around with this image so much over the years that it bears no resemblance to the original.  More significant than the photograph is the day it was taken:

One glorious September afternoon we walked Villa Cimbrone’s gardens in the footsteps of long departed house guests, whispering of past lives and regrets; Greta Garbo,  D. H. Lawrence, Vita Sackville-West, Edward James, Diana Mosley, Henry Moore, T. S. Eliot, Winston Churchill.  From the Terrazza dell’infinito, “the most beautiful view in the world”, a clear blue sky merged as one with a bright blue sea at an indistinguishable horizon, we were at the absolute centre of the civilised world.  Stage right from the terrace, a forest fire fanned by sea breezes created an apocalyptic vision as white smoke climbed the hillside, stretching towards Ravello.   Later that afternoon in a back street café, news that the modern world had changed forever filtered through in half understood Italian.  It was September 11th 2001.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

(click on the image to enlarge)