giovedì 18 settembre 2008

Autumn and TV

It's Sunday afternoon. It's been raining on and off all weekend and yesterday night, for the first time since I arrived here, I felt cold going out in the evening without a jumper. I'm not a fan of the rain, but it is a relief to be able to get my British clothes out of the wardrobe and to not be faced with the flip-flops versus nice but uncomfortable shoes dilemma every time I leave the house. (A five year old pointed to my feet the other day and said, “We only wear these shoes at the swimming pool.” I told her that actually we wear them whenever we want to because they're comfortable. Hopefully an important lesson in cultural differences was learned by both of us.) Not wearing flip-flops will mean that I can get back to walking at normal speed and it will be nice to stop taking buses and trams everywhere because it's too hot to move.On a couple of evenings this week, I've stayed in to experience the delights of Italian TV. For at least three nights in a row at prime time on Rai Uno (the closest channel there is to BBC1), the Miss Italia contest has been broadcast to the nation. Hundreds of girls in eighties – style lycra swimsuits with sequins on them sit on benches with perma-smiles on their faces and are brought out in groups of three to talk to the presenter while the public votes for their favourite. In each group, one is always attractive but a bit too interesting looking, one is pretty but not quite as pretty as the third, who is obviously going to win. Slightly overweight men from the audience ask the girls questions and media scandals such as the size 12 Miss Emilia-Romagna being told to lose weight are counteracted by deep thoughts from the girls such as “it doesn't matter what size you are. Beauty comes from within.” Every so often, the TV camera does a toe-to-head shot of the girl being interviewed, resting for a moment on a trembling foot in a gold stiletto sandal and on other essential aspects of the girl's body before coming to rest on her pristine but ever so slightly nervous smile at the end. While all of this gets tedious about halfway through the second contestant's interview, I've come to the conclusion that it's still one step above Big Brother on the ladder of quality television, if only because the contestants don't revel in being foul-mouthed and at least attempt to come across as nice people.After two nights of Miss Italia, you can imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV on Saturday morning to be confronted not with girls in bikinis but with men in ecclesiastical robes. It appears that when the Italian public is not judging its daughters on the brightness of their smile and the political correctness of their opinions, they like important Masses to be brought directly to their living rooms. The contrast in the programmes couldn't have been greater. Listening to the Pope's French being dubbed into the calmest-sounding Italian I have ever heard and to the singing of the thousands of people who had gathered in Paris to hear him was incredibly soothing and I listened to pretty much the whole broadcast. If I can get over my fear of crossing myself the wrong way round and standing at the wrong moment, I might even go to Mass some Sunday.

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