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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Museo Atelier Giuditta Brozzetti, Perugia

This was a great find. Again, we were the only foreign tourists there.

St. Francis of Assisi lived in this very place. When the order of Franciscan monks grew up around St. Francis, the young monks built this church in the shape of a Greek orthodox cross. Later, the church was sold to the Benedictine nuns, who enlarged the church by adding a nave, turning the church into the shape of a Latin cross. The Greek orthodox cross has its vertical axis and the horizontal axis of equal lengths. The vertical axis of a Latin cross is longer than its horizontal axis.

We were here to visit a textile workshop.

The region of Umbria is stunning, but less well-known than Tuscany. If visitors take time to mosey about, you can find gems like the Giuditta Brozzetti Textile workshop which still makes fabric using techniques from the 16th century.

Martha, the great grand daughter of Giuditta Brozzetti, runs the workshop. She gave us an in-depth tour to explain warp, weft, silk weft, gold thread weft, linen weft. She explained the binary codes that determine the patterns woven into the fabric. She even gave us demonstrations on the 400 year old looms. Apparently, in one of the oldest looms, the pattern has not changed in 400 years. That, my dear, is tradition. To change the pattern, a few thousand threads need to be threaded into the loom, ONE BY ONE. If you change the pattern, you might not know how to get back to the original pattern!

My family was entranced by the tour. The Daughter and I were fascinated by the rich fabrics. The Husband and The Son were captivated by the machines and the pattern codes. It was an entertaining morning, indeed!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

La Rocca, Spoleto

Here comes the story of Lucrezia Borgia.

Lucrezia Borgia lived in this castle at Spoleto, and ruled here in her own right. She was an immensely intelligent woman who has gone down in history as an infamous femme fatale... and errr... in her case, the word "fatal" is no understatement.

She was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo di Borgia) and his longtime mistress Vanozza dei Cattanei. In those days, a daughter's hand in marriage was used to contract political alliances. Unfortunately for Lucrezia's first 2 husbands, the political winds of that time changed frequently.

Giovanni Sforza was her first husband. He was the illegitimate son of the powerful Sforza family who held sway in Pesaro and Gradara. When the political winds changed in Rome, Pope Alexander VI sought to annul the marriage between his daughter, Lucrezia and Giovanni. He paid a handsome sum to the Sforza family who in turn pressurised Giovanni to declare himself impotent and explain that he had never consummated his relationship with Lucrezia. It was that or be assassinated.

Then, Lucrezia Borgia married Alfonso d'Aragon who lived a short life because when the political winds changed, his brother-in-law Cesare Borgia, hired assassins to stab him to death in a back alley.

Lucrezia Borgia next married her 3rd husband, Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. This marriage produced 10 children but along the way, Lucrezia had many affairs. In 1499, she was made the Governor of Spoleto in her own right. When her father became Pope, he entrusted the administration of all of the Vatican's correspondence to Lucrezia.

What an amazing woman, with an amazing life!

The Son pretending to be a Lord, surveying his domains.

Kick ass huge well.

Original frescoes from the 15th century.

Imagine Lucrezia Borgia walking along that corridor.

Pooh Bear Tours

Pooh Bear said, "When you do nothing, it leads to the very best of something."

So, on holiday, my family likes to do nothing. If you ask my kids what they want to see at a town, they say, "Nothing. Let's stay in the apartment, eat and sleep." 

I understand. During the rest of the year, my children and husband spend their days doing something all the time. It is rare to see my kids and husband dawdle and mosey about, relaxed. So, when The Husband and I watched the latest Pooh Bear movie on the plane, Pooh Bear's words stuck, and we decided to make it our holiday mantra.

When you do nothing, it leads to the very best of something.

In Spoleto, that mantra paid off handsomely. We planned nothing and arrived in Spoleto open to any possibility. It was thus that we ended up going on a hike. It appeared to be a popular walking/jogging and mountain biking trail. On the way up and down, we met locals on their morning walks or jogs. At the top, there was a magnificent view of the Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of the Tower). This is a humongous walkway spanning the tops of 2 mountains. On one mountain, sat a fort belonging to Lucrezia Borgia (yes... we saw this name in the previous post and I will share the salacious details of her life in the next post). On the other, sat a tower (you know, like Saruman's tower).

It was a lovely hike in a place that tourists never go. So you see, when you do nothing, you do get the very best of something.

It really is not as nonsensical as it sounds. When you aren't always busy doing something, you open yourself to flashes of inspiration that come from random thought. These flashes of inspiration may be the game changer that increases your performance a hundredfold. When you aren't always doing something, you also are more aware of opportunities that present themselves and yet again, these opportunities could be the game changer that would increase your performance a hundredfold.

Villa d'Este, Tivoli

We bypassed Rome, except for Tivoli. The Villa d'Este of Tivoli is the stuff of legend, with its famed terraces and crystal water fountains dating from the 1500s.

The town of Tivoli dates from even before the Roman period. The ancient Etruscans lived here from 700BC to 400BC (BC dates go in reverse). In those days, a sibyl was lodged in Tivoli. A sibyl is a female oracle who spoke with the voice of the river nymph of the Aniene river. The town is perched on the side of the hill at the start of the Aniene river falls. The Roman elite chose Tivoli as their summer retreat and built here magnificent villas of which Villa d'Este survives in part.

It is the gardens of Villa d'Este that people come to see.

Since there is a waterfall, there must necessarily be a steep gradient. The gardens of Villa d'Este sit on a series of terraces downhill. The steep gradient water pressure powers the many fountains of the garden. There are no pumps and yet jets of water spurt, tinkle and chime from every corner of the garden. There is even one fountain that plays a waterpower organ. I kid you not. At 10.30am every day, doors in the fountain swing open and music fills the air, played by no human hands.

The Villa d'Este was the construction of Ippolito d'Este the Second. He was the grandson of a pope and the son of Lucrezia Borgia, whose salacious story we will learn when we make it to the town of Spoleto a few blogposts later. Ippolito d'Este' the Second's career was a trailblazing one. At 2 yrs old, he was ordained a priest. By 10 yrs old, he was already an Archbishop. For a time, it looked like he would become Pope, like his grandfather. Happily, he did not because in his disappointment at not becoming Pope, he soothed himself by building Villa d'Este for Petunia to enjoy.

This said, I was a little disappointed. The aged patina of these 16th century constructions look beautiful in photos. They photograph well. Up close, they wear their decay too proudly. Statues are covered in moss. Nymphs are overgrown with foliage and you can barely see them as they hug the columns they were carved into. The Husband thinks that there is so much history to preserve in Italy and not enough money. The Italians have to prioritise. Personally, I think that the Italians have a high tolerance of things that look old and decayed. These things are old after all and they should look old. That is as it should be. Still, I wish the Italians would put as much effort into preserving their historical sites as the British do. Buildings from the same period in UK history look so much better.

Not far from the Villa d'Este, there is the Villa Adriana, which looks even older because it dates from the 2nd century AD. That is about 1800 years ago. The Villa Adriana belonged to an Emperor, no less. The Emperor whose influence stretched all the way from Rome to England at that time, reigned from his Villa Adriana in Tivoli because he hated his palace on Palatine Hill in Rome.

One must not underestimate the Villa Adriana ruins. It is single handedly responsible for the design of many Renaissance buildings that stand proudly today across Europe. The spirit of Emperor Hadrian's Villa Adriana lives on in buildings and art still standing today. This is because famous architects and artists of the Renaissance period all came to Villa Adriana to get inspiration and to study construction methods - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Palladio, Pirro Ligorio, Brunelleschi. In the 18th century, anyone who was anybody, came here to see Villa Adriana and imagine what it must have been like in the 2nd century AD.

The Son said Villa Adriana is a pile of ruins and so, we did not go and see it. Sigh... my son.

Friday, November 23, 2018

50% A* Rate

Last year, we had a 40% A* rate and one B. This year, we have a 50% A* rate and no B. I hope we can do even better next year. In PSLE2018, we sent in 16 students to PSLE. We have 8 A* and 8 A.

26 Nov 2018: Edited to 9 A*... I left out 1 person. We now have a 56% A* rate.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Word Bouquets 2018

Here are our Word Bouquets for the Year 2018. 

This is a mainstream child.

This is a gifted child.

This is a mainstream child.

This is a mainstream child.

This is a mainstream child.

Parent Coaching Client 1.

Parent Coaching Client 2.

Parent Coaching Client 3.

Parent Coaching Client 4.

Parent Coaching Client 5.

Parent Coaching Client 6.

Parent Coaching 7.

Parent Coaching 8.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Game of Thrones Fashion

Woollen sweaters are costly. I mean, 100% woollens are costly. So, I decided to learn to knit. I set about my task with much enthusiasm and determination. By hook and by crook, I was going to make sweaters for my whole family.

I ordered the thickest wool yarn I could find. It was called the Crazy Sexy Wool. With a name like that, I truly believed anything that I made would be sexy. I chose thick black wool yarn for my 2 males. What can be more manly than a thick black sweater, right? Besides, everything goes with black. For years already, black has been the perennial sexy. 

I chose light brown yarn for The Daughter.

I made a normal sweater with long sleeves for The Son. He obligingly tried it on and mumbled something about hairy black gorilla. I ignored him because I was excited to get started on The Husband's sweater. Since I had run out of yarn, The Husband's sweater was a vest. It had no sleeves.

Once done, I texted him a loving message. You know, "Hello darling! See this beautiful charcoal black sweater that I made for you? I can't wait to have you wear it during the winter holidays!"

The Husband tried it on wordlessly. He smiled gently at me and then went off to bathe. A few hours later, he held me in his arms and said, "Hmmmmm... the sweater... I will wear it lah... but only at home ok? I will not wear it out of the house."

Of course, I wanted to know why. So, I probed and dug and interrogated and put him under torture. It turns out that I am married to a new age sensitive man who found the thick black wool sweater rather uncouth. His sweaters are all in fine wool yarn with pretty braids.

Me: Yes, but I dunno how to knit pretty braids!

Hub: I know. I know. You did a great job so I will wear it indoors at home.

Me: What is wrong with wearing it out? It will keep you very warm. I bought the THICKEST and the BEST 100% pure wool. It is also black. It matches everything you have.

Hub: We will be going to Italy. The best fashions come from there. That is the country that gave us the Renaissance and set the stage for every European refinement that we know today. I cannot wear that onto the streets of Italy.

Me: Why? It will keep you warm. It will be cold. You will be glad to have a warm sweater to protect you. You are old already and need to keep warm.

Hub: But... I will look like a medieval knight out of his armour!

At this point, The Daughter was giggling non-stop. In between chortles, she added her own 2 cents worth, "No... it looks worse than that! It looks like something you would throw upon a medieval peasant as you herd him onto a cart to transport him to prison."

Happily, 2 people think the sweaters are lovely. They were very happy when I gave the sweaters away to them! I shall let my family shiver this winter!