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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Florentine scenes

Sunday, May 15th., Pension White, Florence.

Yesterday I was on the Ponte Vecchio when children were going to school (8.45), & I noticed more than ever how Italian little girls have the look & the form of women. Marguerite & I have been noticing them in their short skirts for weeks. They look just like women unsuitably dressed. They are quite formees.

This pension is really too 'English' for Marguerite. She has no natural outlet for her energies. At Fontainebleau she could make her beautiful dresses, or go hunting for mushrooms and concoct wonderful dishes; here she is free from the difficulties of domesticity, but has not its reliefs and rewards. I have encouraged her to seek occupation in the writing of short stories and she has thrown herself vehemently, and typically, into this new form of creation, fighting fiercely against any criticism. Her stories, written in French, are as good, she holds, as her dresses and mushrooms had been. In particular there is a story about a cat. I found three quarters of this pleasing but the last fourth is not good and should be re-written. For days the discussion about the damned cat has continued. I refuse to call good what I know to be bad, and Marguerite refuses to believe bad what she knows to be parfait! Life in this so-extraordinarily English pension is full of difficulties for a Frenchwoman.

Speaking of women, this is a curious instance of how women, when they are afraid, will argue in general, instead of in particulars, as usual. Pauline may have to have an incision behind her ear. It is called an operation. If the doctor and the specialist say it ought to be done, of course it must be done, and at once. Supposing I telegraphed to Pauline's mother, she could only reply that she left it to us on the spot, and if she replied against an operation, the operation would still have to be done. Any other course would be absurd. yet when all this is arranged and understood and agreed, Marguerite comes to me and puts this abstract question: "Have you the right to let a girl be operated on without obtaining her mother's permission?"
See also, 'A bad night' - November 14th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/a-bad-night.html> ;
and, 'Friends in Florence' - April 13th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/friends-in-florence.html>

We dined with Mr. Mock at Lapi's, in the cellar in the Via Tornabuoni. Here the cooking is done in full view of the audience. each dish prepared specially for each client. All by one man. About 35, dark, personable, extraordinarily quick and graceful. if he left his recess for a moment to go upstairs he would slide down the rail to come back again. Charcoal stove. He blew it up constantly with a fan. Sparks fly. He put on charcoal with his hand. Everything goes through that hand. He would fan with one hand and stir with another. He made an omelette in a moment: very quick his gesture in turning it over like a pancake, in the pan. Very careful & slow in making our coffee. Orders called out in a loud voice by the landlord or the boy waiter - who was not dressed as a waiter. All professional conversation very loud, and constantly going on. Things not in stock, such as ham, sent for & brought down in a paper. When a dish is ready the chef would plank it down on a ledge and whistle, or call out its name. When we arrived the landlord was finishing his dressing in the further saloon, which was darkened. Later, the boy-waiter - perhaps his son - took a pair of loose cuffs from a hat-hook and slipped them on, at once giving him an air of  grande toilette. Still later, the landlord, evidently bethinking himself, did the same, from another hook. About 10 or 12 or 15 customers, and all cooked for by one man. Arched roof all papered with coloured posters of all sorts. Graceful leave-takings from all the personnel as we left. Bill and tip eight and a half lire for three people.

The "Buca Lapi" is the oldest restaurant in Florence. It was founded in 1880 in the Palazzo Antinori cellars and still shows evidence of more than a century of history, thanks to a very careful restoration. 
The first room is frescoed and the kitchen is visible.

"Lohengrin". We saw two acts. Italian audience still the worst I have encountered.

The night effects on the lower reach of the Arno are unlike anything else I ever saw.

1,000 words of "Clayhanger" today.

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