Certaldo (centro storico)

No student worth her salt would do her honours year thesis on Chaucer without at least a cursory glance at Boccaccio’s Decameron. This was what drew me to the small town of Certaldo…

Your first sight of town from the train station will probably come across as slightly disappointing, as it looks like any other built-up post-war Italian town. The centro storico (historic centre) is located up on a hill, which makes perfect sense since this is a fortified medieval city we are talking about.

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Pay a small fee for the ascensore, and you’ll find yourself in a rather quaint medieval town.

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Wow, Christmas feels like ages ago even though it is only May.

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I like that I pretty much had this place to myself, and could admire and examine the wall murals in a fairly up-close and personal fashion.

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Apparently the family crests of then rich and powerful families.

The house of Boccaccio was disappointingly closed (just my luck…), but I did manage to pay my respects to the man himself in his church; he lies in the middle of the aisle.

That’s all for now…I think greater respect can be paid not by visiting his resting place, but by reading and enjoying his work.

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Monteriggioni (to Castellina Scalo train station)

Examination marking takes a mental and physical toll on a teacher…Teachers are used to standing and walking, but the past week found me sitting at my table grading away with power naps in between, and only later did i realize that i haven’t moved from my seat for three hours or more, and it actually hurt to get up. I feel my fitness level going down so quickly it’s scary. Miss the walking I did on vacation!

Here’s Monteriggioni, apparently popularized by Assassins Creed.

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It’s the towers that people come to see, but you’ll be walking on metallic gangplanks rather than the ramparts themselves.

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A view over the (tiny) village..

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I actually wonder what jobs exist here apart from the tourism industry.

The village, as you can see, doesn’t take long to explore, but you can take a leisurely walk to the nearest train station (Castellina Scalo) that is about a mile away.

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Yes, supposedly part of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrim route.
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exited Monteriggioni and went downhill to a flat path popular with joggers and friendly retired old men.

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Castellina Scalo lay ahead…didn’t take any photos of that though!

exam scripts marking, overtime

i hit my marking quota every day from monday to friday so i decided to cut myself some slack and halve the weekend quota. bad move as it is 6pm saturday and i made nary a dent in the pile.

i don’t like the marking, but i appreciate this time away from the students. some peace and quiet, just me against a pile of paper, working at it till 9 or 10 every night.

i would complain abt the overtime hours, but at the same time i recognise that a script does not take that long to mark. 20-30 mins per script would essentially take up all your working hours when there are no classes to teach and no lessons to prep. (non-exam marking takes up nearly all available free time though, which sucks big time and is the primary reason why english and humanities teachers are the earliest to quit)

it only goes into the late hours because the brain is unable to cope with having to decipher the increasingly poor handwriting, the odd argumentation that defies classification by logical fallacies and then thinking of appropriate comments which do not turn into an essay on its own, which will take longer than the alloted half an hour. oh, did i mention the bad grammar and misspelling?

this means that the brain turns into a coconut pretty much within 3 scripts or so, requiring downtime. the alternative is to continue marking while lacking the ability to discern an average piece from the next (which fall into quite a broad band). my mentors used to tell me to pause if I’ve given the same score 3-4 scripts in a row, because it may be that my brain is unresponsive at the moment and everything seems the same.

and thus, long hours and late nights it is. it also doesn’t help when people think I’ve got short hours and long holidays (what a lie). when there’s little appreciation from the public, from parents, from students, even from the human resource department of the education ministry, one wonders why the heck teachers even exist. too thankless a job for too hard the work.

what other job can offer the idealist in me a sense of purpose and the intellectual satisfaction?

Choice quotes from Ben Aaronovitch: Foxglove Summer

I chanced upon the Rivers of London series while browsing the stacks; the cover art attracted my attention (fascinating map!) as did, of course, memories of London. This series accompanied me through my break up, and indeed the snarky writing was one of those rare things that made me laugh during those dark days. I think these books deserve way more attention than it is currently receiving, so I’m sharing my favourite quotes here. Enjoy!
(Genre: Urban Fantasy, Police Procedural)

From Book Five: Foxglove Summer
(the latest, where the protagonist takes a break from London)

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On the Theory of Evolution:

“Above and behind me the unicorn snorted its frustration and stamped the ground. I was fairly certain it wasn’t going to attempt such a steep slope.

This is where the whole ape-descended thing reveals its worth, I thought madly, sucks to be you, quadruped. Opposable thumbs – don’t leave home without them.”

* * *
On the [mis]use of Latin phrases and the allusion to The Game of Thrones:

“Hail the conquering hero,” said Beverley and held up her bottle to clink.

“sic transit Gloria mundi,” I said, because it was the first thing that came into my head – we clinked and drank. It could have been worse.

I could have said “Valar Morghulis” instead.

* * *
My personal favourite, experienced daily as a civil servant…on Official-Speak:

“I made a mental note to wheedle the list of old codgers out of Nightingale and get it properly sorted into a database. Hugh’s “grapevine” might be a useful source of information. If I’d been about four ranks higher up the hierarchy I’d have regarded it as an opportunity to realise additional intelligence assets through enhanced stakeholder engagement. But I’m just a constable so I didn’t.”

My Favourite Place to Eat in Florence

I am in great need of comfort food, but after my holiday in Italy, I’ve steered clear of ordering pasta here for they tend to be rather disappointing. (unless cooked by me, for then I only have myself to blame)

When I think of the best meals I had in Italy, I think of the home-cooked ones I had at an Airbnb, and I think of Ristorante Self-Service Leonardo.

Located on the first floor (k, this bit confuses me as we don’t do the ground floor, 1st floor thing as they do in Europe. Here, I refer to the storey one up from the ground floor) of a building just viewable off The Duomo. The name doesn’t sound like much, and in fact the place doesn’t look like much either.

But man, the food!!!

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You can see the food counter essentially looking like Ikea, or some school cafeteria, where you take a tray, pick a salad from the fridge if you want, point at the main you want, and it’s scooped onto a plate for you. Then you shuffle along to the dessert fridge, ending with the wines (bottled for the individual), thereafter the cashier.

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Here’s the seating area – nothing posh, but who cares when the food is awesome and affordable?

I was a repeat customer, and you can see the variety of options that allowed me an entirely different meal whenever I was there – pastas, meats, wines, desserts.

Just thinking about the comfort food makes me sad that I can’t find something as simple, homely and satisfying here. Pasta tends to be run-of-the-mill, Italian trattorias are pretentious and you feel like you’re paying for the decor instead of the food. oh well.

Meet Zio (Uncle) Luciano, proprietor of the ristorante!

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He calls me ‘bambina’ – apparently baby girl? The Asian feminist in me wants to bristle at the nickname but I also appreciate a boss who knows his returning customers and ‘bosses them around’ in a nice, uncle-y fashion. Perks of being a regular – he always instructs the kitchen to serve me a piping hot version of whatever dish I pick. Yay.

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Ristorante Self-Service Leonardo
Via de Pecori 11, Firenze
Open for lunch and dinner daily (as of Dec 2014)

Bukit Brown

I’ve been trying to persuade my colleague to visit the cemetery with me, and while I’ve since won that battle, it seems the harder one is actually finding the time to head over.

Some photographs from earlier visits…

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a broken gate to mark the space
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nature taking its course, as always.
broken stones in shade, in shadow

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‘flatmates’ in life, now forever neighbours after.
or perhaps ‘forever’ spoken too soon, when an expressway threatens their rest.

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nevertheless, accompanied in the afterlife by pets, illegally perhaps

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but always in style – only pretty tiles, please, for our dearly departed.

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guarded by perpetual sentinels, one for the house, another to patrol the grounds

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some of whom are not averse to the occasional selfie, or we-fie.

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till next time, then.