Anghiari flowers

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We returned from a walk in the hills yesterday with bunches of little flowers picked from bedside the path. Every day more flowers are coming out, and, a few days ago, as I walked along the ridge from Anghiari to Il Carmine, I noticed that bright white patches had appeared amongst the brown of oaks and chestnuts in the distant hills. Blossom, I realized! But perhaps even more noticeable is the appearance of flowers throughout the town.

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Tranquillo

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Whilst here, in Anghiari, I have been reading a lovely book called A Philosophy of Walking (by Frédéric Gros). Here are a couple of passages on the experience of time when walking:

Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk, you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional. If you want to go faster, then don’t walk, do something else: drive, slide or fly. Don’t walk. And when you are walking, there is only one sort of performance that counts: the brilliance of the sky, the splendour of the landscape. Walking is not a sport. (2014: 2)

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Chiesa della Propositura

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This is a piece I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Each blog that I have done on arriving in Anghiari over the last couple of years has a reference to bells ringing. I find them such a welcoming sound. And they always seem to be ringing just as I arrive! If you happen to be in the main piazza when they are ringing, they seem to come from a particular direction, you feel certain about it, but, in fact, they are coming from the opposite direction, up the hill behind the piazza, from Chiesa della Propositura, an 18th church, with a lovely Della Robbia behind the alter.

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Easter in Turin

I have returned home to Anghiari from a trip to Turin over Easter (la pasqua). I have never been there before, but Mirella, who is working with me on Anghiari interviews, lives there, and invited me to visit.20180331_112138-1_resized

Turin is an elegant city of Baroque architecture, porticos, arcades, ‘terrazzo’ pavements and floors, bookshops, stylish cafés with waiters who treat their work as a profession, bustling markets with stall after stall of fresh local vegetables and cheeses. And yes, restaurants with great local food and wine (chilometro zero)! I am a tourist here, and there is a lot to see. But, what I find most interesting is the encounters I have, in the street, at the bakery, at the markets, on the tram, in bars, restaurants, at concerts …. Every time I venture out. Continue reading Easter in Turin

Weather, meetings, walking

20180318_022512-1It has turned bitterly cold, with light snow yesterday here in Anghiari, and snow on the mountains across the Tiber valley (Anghiari is located in the foothills of the Apennines, on a ridge between the Sovara and Tiber valleys). While I have been here before when it has snowed, there is something distinctive about the light in the landscape this time. It’s the spring light, I realize, that is giving a particular brightness to what would normally be a wintery view. If you look again at this photo which was at the beginning of my last blog and imagine snow on the mountains, you might get some idea of this view.

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Working with a Transcript

Colleagues of mine recently asked me to ‘teach’ them how to write first-person narratives using interview transcripts. What method did I use? What were the steps I followed? How long should they be? Did I edit out stutters and conversational fillers? Did I correct grammar?

They knew I had written first-person narratives before and knew that I advocated it as a honest and accessible form of sociological writing.  That is true, so I was happy to comply. However, what happened next surprised me. I found it incredibly difficult to describe how I edited a transcript or why I made the editorial decisions I did. Instead of a series of techniques to be learnt,  I found myself coming back to the form of relation I was in when undertaking the editing. What follows is one of  many attempts to describe how and why I work with interview transcripts. Continue reading Working with a Transcript

Welcome back to Anghiari

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Yesterday I arrived in Anghiari, and I found, once again, that there is something about this experience of arrival that makes me want to record it. I’m aware that I will say what I have said on other occasions, but each time is new, each time I reexperience the joys of everyday life in this place. In fact, one of the things that I rediscover is that things don’t change here in the way that they do in Sydney, where I usually live. Here there is a sense of continuity in everyday rituals, over years, generations; the buildings remain over centuries; the same people are in the same shops. But, of course, there is also change, and the most obvious, for me on arrival this time, has been the change in season.

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Hold Nothing in Reserve

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They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

A few years ago I read the Gospel of Mark with some friends. We moved slowly and carefully through the text, often spending a whole evening on just a few lines. One passage that struck me was the ‘feeding of the 5000’. In that story Mark describes the miracle of the fishes and loaves in which Jesus turns a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into food for 5,000. At the end of the story Mark says, ‘They ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up the twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over’.

Those twelve basketfuls of leftover bread troubled me. I recall badgering my fellow readers about it. Why the excess? God knows the hairs numbered on your head, why not stop with food sufficient to feed the 5,000? Why create more than was needed? What would happen to those extra pieces of bread? Would they be eaten the next day or would they go to waste? What could this excess mean? Was it a symbol of luxury, a Gallilean potlatch?

My naive questions, generously accommodated by my friends, bellied a genuine concern about wasteful excess. But what I didn’t realise then was that the feeding of the multitudes isn’t a story about consumption. It is a story about what is given. It is a story about the abundance of a love sufficient to cover us all, a love that isn’t limited by number, a love available to any who might come.

‘Here, my brother, my sister, come and sit with us. We have food enough for you’. Continue reading Hold Nothing in Reserve

Thank you

I didn’t know what I was going to say to you today. Only on the train, on the way in here, did it become clear. I realised that I’d been given the very thing that had to be said.

Absent-mindedly driving to work yesterday, I stopped at traffic lights. Waiting to cross the road were a mother with a toddler in a stroller. The child was turning around to engage the mother and something about the intensity of their moment shook me from my half-life. I saw them: I saw how alive they were. For them, everything in the world was unfolding from this moment together, whereas for me it was only the empty time between leaving home and arriving at work. At the corner of Darley and King Streets, Newtown, at 11.10am on Thursday 2/11/17, two worlds touched, one a half-world of befores and laters and the other a vital moment of here and now.

What came to mind, unsought, was Pieter Bruegels’s painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, and Auden’s poem about it, Musée des Beaux-Arts. These two have been constant reference points in my adult life. When I got my first academic job, at Macquarie University in 1984, the first and almost only decoration in my office was a print of the painting, with Auden’s poem glued to its back. Somewhat pompously, perhaps, it was to remind me of the role of sociologists: to witness the suffering that would otherwise go unnoticed. In 1989, the picture came with me to my office at UNSW, and it stayed for decades, until the foxing became too embarrassing.

(Wikipedia) Continue reading Thank you