Thursday, March 31, 2011
Bicycles, bogs, frogs and battle axes
Lucy and I periodically debate whether we should get a Vespa or some other type of motorino next year. It would be nice to be able to go up to Montecarlo without walking twenty minutes up a steep grade. Today, however, is a good day to have only a bicycle, because otherwise I would have missed out on a couple of interesting encounters.
The first occurs as I ride along via Mattonaia and hear splashing noises in the boggy ditch. I slow down enough to realize that frogs, frightened by the sound of my bike, are jumping into the water. Then I stop completely and get off my bike for a closer look. I am passed by a boy of about sixteen on a motorino, but he swings back around and turns off his motor. "What are you looking for," he wants to know. "Frogs," I say. "What?" he says. I don't know if it is my bad accent or the fact that a grown man is looking for frogs that makes me hard to understand, but after I repeat the word a couple more times, he gets the picture.
"Are you French, German?" he asks. "No, americano," I explain. "Mi piaciono rane." I like frogs. This leads to a mini conversation, the only one I have had with a neighbor besides various nearby Seghieris. His name is Andrea, and he will be playing in a soccer match next week at Pescia against a squad of Americans. He likes the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team and has a classmate who is a Seghieri. Do I play soccer? No, basketball and baseball.
After a few more minutes, we both move on. I would like to meet more neighbors, but this year we have focused on language learning. Next year we hope to take private lessons in San Salvatore so we can spend more time in this little community. Now as I ride through the town, I pass a group of men of various ages who are throwing what looks like fancy hatchets at a wooden target. They are in the side yard of the local library down below the street level, and the yard is surrounded by an iron fence. I stop to watch for a moment and ask if they mind if I take some pictures. Certainly, go right ahead, they say.
It turns out they are throwing medieval battle axes, which, when thrown correctly, spin around and stick in the wooden target. Some of the throwers are quite good, while others appear to be beginners. Now some of them are throwing metal spears at the target, and there are also some fancy-handled knives stuck in the grass. I snap a dozen photos, and one of the men comes over to me and gives me a brochure that explains who they are.
It seems I am watching a practice session of the Historical Group of Montecarlo, which each year hold a festival in medieval costume to demonstrate the food, colors, arms and customs of the area during the period from about 1440 to 1510. The festival is held on the closest Sunday to June 20, and I am disappointed that I won’t be here to see it, but at least I have had a chance to watch this costume-less practice session.
Sentinels in Medieval garb from a photo I find on the site of the Gruppo Storico Montecarlese.
A battle with bastoni