Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Language Course in Rome 2019

Rome, Italy. Sunday 03-Feb-2016 / Tuesday 26-February-2019

Mary suggested I write this blog post in Italian but I don’t think my Italian is up to that level yet.

We did a three week language course in Rome. On the first Monday they gave us a short test to determine which class to put us all in. Mary was level B2, I was level A1, the beginners’ class. Not really a surprise as I have done little formal learning. I know plenty of nouns, a few verbs but mostly first person singular, present tense or the infinitive, and almost no grammar at all

So the beginners class introduced me to some basic fundamentals like how to do nouns and adjectives both male and female, singular and plural, how to conjugate regular verbs in the present tense and some of the more basic irregular verbs. All good building blocks to start to practice some Italian. I also booked myself three one-on-one conversation lessons with the teachers.

Now I’m back I need to revisit the course workbook, repeat the stuff we’ve already covered and do some of the other sections we skipped during the classes.

Classes were 9 till 12:30, Monday to Friday. That gave us plenty of time to play the tourist. The school organised a few events so we did a walking tour, a cookery class and a gastronomic walking tour.

The walking tour was billed as street art but it was a little more formal than that: an estate where they had decorated various blocks of flats as part of an impressive art project.

Sistine chapel meets Cherry blossom


Squids and whales


Very Alphonse Mucha


More than a hint of Magritte


Young girl


We also did a couple of self guided walkabouts.

Villa Borghese


Santa Maria Domenica


Piazza del Popolo


Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you're seein' double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs


Trevi Fountain


The Pantheon panorama pt 1.


The Pantheon panorama pt 2.


We also took one of the hop-on, hop-off tourist buses. We have done a number of those in other cities and they are a very good way to get an overview of the city and to help orientate yourself.

The Roman Forum


Oh, the hours I've spent inside the Coliseum
Dodging lions and wastin' time
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see 'em
Yes, it sure has been a long, hard climb


Circus Maximus


We stayed in an Airbnb apartment less than 10 minutes walk from the school which was very convenient, chosen for that reason. We mostly ate out as the Airbnb apartment had basic cooking facilities. There are an amazing number of pizza joints, café‘s and casual dining establishments in the area. Also some very fine restaurants as well.  At Ba Ghetto we had a classic Romano-Jewish dish: carciofi alla giudia.


A wine first: Kosher chardonay from Galilee.


Rome has two Parkrun venues so we decided to play the Parkrun tourist. The most convenient was Parco Caffarella. We checked it out and the week before there had only been nine runners. We went along and was surprised to discover 60 people were there, most of them visiting Welsh supporters in Rome for the Italy v. Wales rugby match.


The finish line.


Later that day at the Italy v. Wales match. Italy lost 15-25: Match report from Sky Sports.


We decided to do the same Parkrun the following Saturday as the other Rome Parkrun was more awkward to get to. I have to say that it was a unique experience - it was the first park run I’ve done where we ran round a flock of sheep!

At the end of the three weeks we took the train down to Cisternino to check out the apartments and with the plan of signing on with the local GP. Generally renewing is easier than getting into the system for the first time and the idea was to do it before Brexit. As it turns out the annual fee just to be able to sign on was quite substantial so it will be better to pay for a private consultation as and when we need it.

After 16 degrees C in Rome it was a bit of a shock to arrive in Cisternino to -1 overnight and daytime highs in the low single digits.

We also made a surprise visit to the Salento Parkrun where Mary and I were the only participants that week so I was able to snag a first past the post! To say it is one man and his dog is the literal truth. Here is the course director, Saverio, and his dog Bea (the Beagle).


Mary coming in second place - the fastest woman and the fastest in her age range!


The results:


However it was not a wasted trip because we got to check out the apartments make sure everything was all okay and meet up with our friends for a very pleasant meal out and a chance for me to practice a little bit my basic Italian.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Bokanté at Ronnie Scott's

Soho, London. Friday 01-February-2019.

Another visit to Ronnie's for another band we knew nothing about but the write-ups sounded interesting. And another surprise support act.

The support act was Vula Viel with the lead musician, Bex Burch, playing a giant wooden xylophone, I assume a Ghanaian instrument since she trained there. She seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself with a permanent smile on her face. Even when the xylophone fell off its stand she reassembled the kit and carried on. Very hypnotic and reminded me a little of Balinese Gamelan.

Vinyl duly purchased from the front desk.



The main stage got pretty busy when the main act came on with, in effect, two groups on the stage at the same time. Fortunately not the full Metropole Orkest.

Neil Spence in the Guardian writes: World music Bokanté and Metropole Orkest: What Heat review - righteous and clever:
There is commendable ambition and skill behind this collaboration between Bokanté, the self-styled “super group” founded by Michael League of the New York jazz-funk outfit Snarky Puppy, and the renowned Dutch big band Metropole Orkest (active since 1945). [...] For this second album, League has added cinematic heft to Bokanté’s melange of Caribbean, Middle Eastern and jazz influences, helped by the arrangements of the Orkest’s Jules Buckley. Full review...



As always the acid test is do we rush to buy the CD. And we did.

Both acts had a definite world music vibe with and Bokante's lead singer, Malika Tivolien, from Guadalupe and Vula Viel's lead having trained in Ghana. An interesting and enjoyable evening.