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In Greece, it isn’t only young people who dance. One of the great things about a celebration in Greece is that every generation gets involved, and, indeed, people seem to get better as they get older, achieving great expression while barely moving a muscle. The same is true of Flamenco.
It is certainly not true of Javanese dancing. You need a 16-inch waist and arms like pipecleaners, and its practitioners at the palaces are relatively young.
With age, women turn to singing.
So the western woman in the ensemble in Solo (on a scholarship, I think) was out of place, not because of her race, but because of her thick middle. She knew all the steps, but had no chance of achieving a tenth of the grace of the other dancers.
I don’t know how we got on to the subject but at Lorenso’s in Bunaken, Fabiano and Ludovica told me about a brilliantly nasty sonnet by Cecco Angiolieri (c. 1260-1312), which has been, more recently, set to music by Fabrizio De André.
Here is a translation by Leonard Cottrell.
If I were fire, I’d burn up the world;
if I were storm, I’d raise a giant swell
and drown it all; if I were God I’d hurl
this rat’s-ass circus all the way to hell.
If I were pope, how happy I would be!
I’d cheat the Christians blind and suck their blood.
To serve as emperor I might agree,
so I could chop off everybody's head.
If I were death, I’d go to see my dad—
of course with mother I would do the same.
If I were life, I’d run from them like mad.
If I were Cecco, as I was and am,
I’d take the lovely and the lively dames
and leave for you the ugly and the sad.
And here is the original.
S’i’ fosse foco, arderei ’l mondo;
S’i’ fosse vento, lo tempesteri;
S’i’ fosse acqua, io l’annegherei;
S’i’ fosse Dio, mandareil in profondo.
S’i’ fosse papa, sare’ allor iocondo,
Che tutt’i cristiani imbrigherei;
S’i’ fosse emperator, sa’ che farei?
A tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo.
S’i’ fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
S’i’ fosse vita, fuggirei da lui;
Similemente faria da mi’ madre.
S’i’ fosse Cecco com’i’ sono e fui,
Torre le donne piu belle e leggiadre,
E zoppe e laide lascerei altrui.
One of the things I have been doing since returning to the UK is reading up on natural history and Darwiniana. Thus: two trips to the Darwin exhibition at the Natural History Museum, trips to the Cambridge Museum of Zoology and the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, and reading:
- The Single Helix, Steve Jones
Physiology Demystified, Dale Layman
Anatomy Demystified, Dale Layman
On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
Almost Like a Whale, Steve Jones
How to Read Darwin, Mark Ridley.
Life in the Undergrowth, David Attenborough.
- The Shape of Water, Andrea Camilleri
The Terracotta Dog, Andrea Camilleri
Un italiano in America, Beppe Severgnini
The Black Swan
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber
What’s Bred in the Bone, Robertson Davies
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror, John Mortimer
Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano
Gods, Mongrels and Demons, Angus Calder
The Fall of Carthage, Adrian Goldsworthy
Hadrian’s Wall, David Breeze and Brian Dobson
Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess
The State Counsellor, Boris Akunin
Throwim Way Leg, Tim Flannery
World War One: A Short History, Norman Stone
A Month in the Country, JL Carr
Dissolution, CJ Sansom
Farewell Britannia, Simon Young
The Roman Empire, Colin Wells