Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Terrific climbs

Monday, April 18th., S. Domenico Palace Hotel, Taormina, Sicily.

No restaurant on the train between Naples and Sicily. The car-conductor made black coffee in a little kettle at the end of the corridor. I had two cups with great joy at 8 a.m.

Messina train ferry
We got to S. Giovanni fairly on time (9.35), but fiddled about some time in getting 3 carriages abreast on steamer-ferry. It was raining. I walked about on the steamer itself, unovercoated in the spitting rain. The crossing took exactly half an hour. We were 20 minutes late in leaving S. Giovanni. But the restaurant had been hooked on, and a hungry lot of us rushed into it and began eating before the train left. I had already eaten two apples and an orange and I said to myself I wouldn't eat much else. But could I resist the eggs and bacon? I could not. I ate all there was. This was after 10.30. 

It didn't seem long before we were at Taormina, where nearly everybody got out. The San Domenico bus was soon full. The climb up to the hotel is terrific. I should say 5 or 600 feet, and when you are in the hotel dining-room you look down on the sea almost perpendicularly. The hotel seems really to have been a monastery.

Kahn telegraphed saying 'they' would arrive tomorrow afternoon. He is attentive.

Higher above the hotel than the hotel is above the sea I saw, peeping over the edge of a precipice, some roofs of a village. I said to myself: "I shall not reach it, but I will walk towards it." The mule-path was bad. It might easily have been made quite good; but such it was and such it had been for centuries. I wondered why the villagers up aloft didn't do something about it for their own sakes - etc. in our superior British way. Then it occurred to me that the path was not maintained simply because it was not used sufficiently to warrant maintenance. Exhausted, I was about to slither down again to Taormina when a woman emerged from a garden and told me, what I already knew, that the path was "cattiva". But she also told me that I should arrive at the village in 10 minutes. Then she gave me a fruit new to my experience; it was like a very large, thin, flat fig, and sweeter than a fig. lastly, with much amiability, she took two lire from me for the fruit, which might have been worth half a lire. 


In 10 minutes I was in the village. Squalor of the acutest. One great slum. The children, festering in the dirt, utterly different from the children of Taormina, 800 feet below. I reached the public square, which overlooked the precipice. In the corner of the square a war memorial:


There it was, the cat-lived legend of the gloriousness of war rising from the dead! Did the sons of the village, while losing their lives thank that they were losing them gloriously?

"Gee!" I heard a young girl's voice. "Now poppa and momma, you go and stand right against that monument, and I'll take you both. But I must get that house in as well." Middle-west I think. Germans were drinking beer in a little alfresco restaurant. The place was named Castelmola. I shall remember it.

Perched precariously on a mountaintop above the community ofTaormina on the eastern shores of Sicily is the beautiful medieval village of Castelmola. Ignored by many visitors to Sicily, this quaint mountain top community offers unparalleled views of Mount Etna, Taormina, the Bay of Giardini Naxos, and the Strait of Messina. Built to protect and defend Taormina from invaders, today this quiet village makes for an interesting respite from the hustle and bustle of Taormina below.

Additionally for April 18th., see 'More potboiling'

Today I sat on a Coroner's Jury at Fulham and heard four cases, including one suicide through religious mania. I was struck by several things:
     The decency of people in general;
     The common sense and highly-trained skill of the coroner;
     The dramatic quality of sober fact. In two instances, the deceased persons had died from causes absolutely unconnected with the superficial symptoms. Thus a woman who had brought on a miscarriage and died had died from heart disease;
     The sinister influence of the ugliness amid which the lower classes carry on their lives;
     The enormous (as it were) underground activity of the various charitable and philanthropic agencies which spread themselves like a network over London. It would seem that nothing could happen, among a certain class of society, without the cognizance of some philanthropic agency;
     The dullness and the conscientiousness of a jury;
     The absolute thoroughness with which suspicious deaths are inquired into.

No comments:

Post a Comment