Happy feast of All Saints to those of you in the western Christian tradition!
This morning I was awake early, so the sound of the church bells calling the faithful to the early Mass at 8:00 didn't bother me at all. In fact, I was already heading across the square for my first cappuccino when they started. Turns out I was wrong earlier about it being a recording, since I could see the largest of the bells swinging as it tolled.
This was the first of three Masses this morning, the last of which began at 11:00. By that time, the media crew from Rai (an Italian network) had already set their lights and the stationary cameras, and a few cameramen (no women) were working the crowd. A two horse carriage had entered the square at around 9:00, but apparently they were early, as the liveried drivers parked it directly in front of my window on a lane beside the church leading to the square. (The evidence of their stay is still present.)
There were a number of displays set up in the middle of the square. One local craftswoman had samples of what I assume was hand-painted china, all bright flowers and sunbursts. The local youth basketball association had set up a portable backboard, and for quite some time, two of them were taking turns doing backwards free throws. There was a bevy of little kids fetching balls and passing them to the shooters, so it was a continuous display. Another table had an assortment of antique woodworking tools, grindstones, and even an old anvil. The final display was manned (and I use the term advisedly) by a local alpine club, complete with matching blue plaid shirts and feathered Tyrolean hats. Beards and suspenders were optional.
The blonde in the photo of this group is the network's anchor personality who is covering this weekend's events in Santhià. I have no idea who she is other than that, or how well known she is, but even before the cameras had started rolling I'd picked her out of the crowd as the anchor. The whole time she was on the square, she carried herself as though she were on camera. In fact, that may very well be true, given how many people had cellphones, iThings, and actual cameras out and in play. (Your correspondent not excepted.)
Eventually the crowd was marshalled to stand in front of the church, on either side of the vehicular right of way. Two senior police officers took their place in the sun beside the town banner, and the horse-drawn carriage made its entrance into the square. I'd been expecting the mayor, or perhaps the local bishop, to be the honoured passenger. It was with equal parts amusement and dismay that I saw it was the reporter. She had walked around the corner of the church to where the carriage and attendants were waiting, hopped in, and was given a 30 second ride so she could be helped from the carriage for the TV cameras. Applause from the crowd greeted her "arrival" and she was welcomed by an elegantly dressed older gentleman, whom I assume is the mayor.
(If you've not read Neil Postman's brilliant book on media, Amusing Ourselves to Death, I highly recommend it. One of my high school English teachers had called it one of the most important books of the quarter century. I won't disagree with Mr. Kahnert, even though he made the statement nearly 30 years ago.
I retreated to the hostel soon afterwards. I'd been upright much of the morning, and needed to get my foot out from underneath me. To my surprise, I fell asleep reading in bed, thus combining two of my favourite things.
By the time I re-emerged at 2:00, the square was empty except for the media trucks and the wiring they'd put down Friday evening. I was impressed at how clean the square was - no more mess on the ground than there had been six hours earlier (with one notable, steaming exception near the hostel), and there were no overflowing garbage bins anywhere in sight. Then I realised that there had been no food or drink and no vendors selling trinkets, and therefore no mess.
I headed off to the supermarket to buy some food for the rest of the weekend. I'd be very surprised to find anything except cafés open on a Sunday here, so I bought some cheese, yoghurt, more cheese, a third kind of cheese, 2 kg of Valencia oranges, two tins of reheatable soup, and some tea. Since the small package of Lindt chocolate was 18% off, I tossed that in the cart as well. I had bought bread earlier from the local paneteria - I got there in time to see the delivery van pull up in front of the "bakery." It'll be a day old tomorrow, but these buns have a nice thick crust, so I know they'll still be good.
For the first time since arriving in Santhià on Monday, I saw a beggar at the door of the church before Vespers. (Maybe it's only worthwhile coming out on the weekend.) Certainly there was a good crowd at Vespers, and the organist did another competent job. I'm delighted to be where I am and doing what I'm doing (sort of - this infected foot is something I'd be willing to forego), but it's most especially on Saturday evenings that I get a little homesick for the people and our prayers together at St George. (I'm sure last night's Harvest Fest went well, and hope that the teens and advisors had a great time at the sleepover afterwards. I was thinking of you guys! Just don't let Angela handle anything sharp or flammable, and you'll be fine.)
Since I've already soaked and re-dressed my wounded foot, I won't be wandering too far this evening. It's 8:30 as I type this and the sound of bells is filling the air - perhaps an evening Mass is about to begin. I'll be using the Daily Services booklet compiled by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick to do a reader's version of Vespers.
"Pregate per me, per favore!"