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Italy

Remembrance Day

arms_land_artillery_royal_1

My father, Bombardier Byron C Estey, Service Number G4094 Units: 1st Anti Tank Regiment: 90th Anti-Tank Battery was on the crew of an anti-tank gun, similar to the one shown above. His job was to plot  the trajectory of the shells, so perhaps he would have stood in the same position as the fellow closest to the camera. The photo is taken during the Italian campaign in 1943, so my father was in the area.

Dad talked about the war, but rarely about the bad parts. He was full of amusing antidotes and descriptions and the tales of how people would act. He met my mother in England and it was love at first sight. He rarely neglected to add that he met her “…while searching for the ruins.” Those ruins were Hadrian’s Wall and my mother was also visiting them – with her boyfriend. So it goes.

My father was stationed in England for nearly three years. Canadian soldiers were positioned around London in case of a German invasion. Though such orders were never directly given, it was understood that the Canadians would ‘take no prisoners’ in the event of an invasion. My father had no problem with that.

He landed for the Invasion of Sicily and fought up through Italy. He was in what is classed as one of the bloodiest battles Canadian forces encountered, The Battle Of Ortona, called “The Italian Stalingrad”.  He spoke little about these eight days, which included Christmas amongst the blood.

Dad was never wounded (though he once stood up in his slit trench to see what the “funny noises” were and had his battle tunic shredded with shrapnel). He also contracted malaria, and the day the hospital tent was sweltering and he dragged his mattress beneath a tree, two doctors stood over him. They thought him unconscious and debated his condition. There was a new medicine for malaria and they discussed whether Dad was too near death to waste it on him. Since I am writing these words you may conclude they decided in favour.

I regret not talking more about the war with him, though he did not welcome such intrusion. I did once ask how close he actually got to German soldiers. He said: “Close enough to kill them.”

[image]  http://www.junobeach.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/arms_land_artillery_royal_1.jpg

Italian Onion Meal From The Liver (Not The Heart) of The Fourteenth Century ~Fegato alla Veneziana

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(photo) https://www.zainoo.com/media/medium/4603.JPEG

As I wend my way through my second Onion novel, China Lily, which is taking too, too, long to put into the computer, I approach page 300. The end is in sight.

My intent was to write a trilogy that followed a Fourth Century Italian farm family, as it developed into an International business empire. There was to be 1,000 years between the first and second book, and the third book was to be set in the present day.

I confess, my interest might not be sustained for the third novel.

However, as I soon describe this recipe – and its creation – in detail, I thought it might make someone a nice supper.

Fittingly, this recipe is from Harry’s Bar, in Venice.

DE

When we visited Venice, we asked the locals where to find the definitive calf’s liver and onions. Everyone said Harry’s Bar, and, after trying it there—and lots of other places—we had to agree. This is Harry’s recipe.

Find this recipe in our cookbook, SAVEUR: Italian Comfort Food

serves 6

Ingredients

2 lb. calf’s liver, trimmed and thin membrane peeled off
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 small yellow onions, peeled, halved, and very thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. butter
12 bunch parsley, trimmed and chopped

Instructions

Cut liver lengthwise into 4 long pieces, then, using a very sharp knife and pressing the palm of your hand firmly against the meat, slice each piece crosswise into pieces as thin as possible.
Heat 4 tbsp. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining 2 tbsp. oil. When oil is sizzling hot, add liver and cook, in batches to avoid overcrowding the skillet, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until brown and crispy on the edges, 3-5 minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then add reserved onions and accumulated juices. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring and turning liver and onions constantly while shaking skillet over heat. Transfer to a heated serving platter.
Add butter to skillet and scrape up any brown bits stuck to bottom of skillet as butter melts. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley. Spoon butter and parsley over liver and onions. Serve with Grilled Polenta, if you like.
https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Calfs-Liver-and-Onions

My Father Was A Veteran Who Marched On Remembrance Day

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My father, Byron Caleb Estey, served in the Canadian Army for the entirety of the Second World War. He was 31 when he signed up, and was a decade or more older than most of the soldiers he served with. At the end of the war, he was offered an instant promotion from Corporal to Sergeant Major. He declined. He had had enough.

He was with the 90th Anti-Tank Battery. He was the member of the crew who calculated the coordinates to aim the gun and destroy targets. He did this up through Sicily and Italy, except for those times when he grabbed his rifle to shoot at soldiers shooting at him.

I imagine I could write pages repeating the anecdotes he told – and maybe some day I will. He didn’t talk all that much about the war, and when he did, I’d guess 80% of his stories were humorous. The other 20% were not.

I regret not discussing his war experiences more with him, but he did not encourage it. I once asked how close he got to the German soldiers. He said, close enough to kill them.

He hated Germans and Japanese all of his life. I understand that this is not the way of most soldiers. They mellow. They come to understand that soldiers on the other side were doing a job, just as they were. My father was not one of these. Those 20% of his stories explained his attitude to me.

He fought in – arguably – the most horrific and bloodiest battle in the war, the Battle of Ortona over Christmas week of 1943. He marched over piles of bodies, and crawled over piles of bodies. Such were the details he would tell. He didn’t speak of his feelings, or use words like “horror”.

On Remembrance Day he would march in the community parade. He rarely lingered for a meal or beer or camaraderie at The Legion. He did not seem affected by the memorial event, and did not talk any more or less about his experiences just because it was 11 November.

Because his tales were more funny than not, I’ll close on what might have been his last funny story.

At his death, the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to conduct a small ceremony at the funeral parlour. They requested that his medals be pinned to his chest. But, the medals could not be found. This was odd, because they were important to him, and he always wore them for the Remembrance Day parade.

It is excessive to say that the whole house was searched – but not by much. Drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, clothes, were repeatedly searched. Nothing. The Last Post was played over a Veteran with no medals.

Months later, when the house was being sold and possessions were being removed, his clothes were searched before being given away. In the side pocket of a jacket he never wore were the medals, all spiff and shiny.

He would have smiled at that.

Dale Estey

 

(image)http://i.pinimg.com/236x/60/fc/c6/60fcc6ed57cfd2fb5d3373758564c568–division-guns.jpg

History And Europe And Estey

0a Isabella d’Este, Giovanni Cristoforo Romano, 1500.

There is a tradition in “my” branch of the Estey family that we descend from the d’Este of Italy. The d’Este clan were rich and powerful and influential. They married well which – yes –  brought the infamous Lucrezia Borgia into the family when she wed Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

My father had a reproduction of Alfonso’s sister, Isabella, readily at hand. Isabel was a name for at least one daughter in every generation of Esteys. Lucrezia attempted to befriend Isabella, but to no avail.

The town of Este is in Northern Italy, in the Veneto region, about a two hour car ride from Venice. It’s most recent population figure of two years ago was around 17,000. I have a special fondness for this part of Italy and have sprinkled references to it in some of my novels. Indeed, my whole historical onion trilogy is centred around a town in this area.

So, Este was certainly a destination when I travelled through Europe. And the surrounding area. Este was suitably medieval in tone, with its ruined Este castle and wonderful flower beds and bowers and stone bridge over river and walled town and as happily historic as all get out.

I looked to see how many Estes were in the phone book (a respectable number) but I didn’t phone anyone.  I would be more thorough and stay longer on another trip. I doubt there is any way to fix up that castle.

I enjoyed all of Italy that I visited (and the rest of Europe held no less enthusiasm from me). But to stick, as it were, around the old homestead, the most enjoyable places were Venice and Florence. I was most surprised to see cruise ships looming from the Venetian waterfront.

I sighed on The Bridge of Sighs – from such beauty to such terror those prisoners were lead. A stunning memory was boating on the Grand Canal at dusk and seeing rooms in a passing mansion ablaze with chandeliers.

Florence was my favourite. It is, of course, awash in museums and galleries and art art Art. To chose the one which stunned me most was  Botechelli’s Birth of Venus – and that’s saying a lot, considering. The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno lives up to all its billing. Alas, I bought no gold.

Also, a memory is walking along certain streets and assuming I was near riding stables because of the permeating smell. However, I was in the leather good quarter. There was also the ancient, wire mesh and gated elevator,the type I had only seen in movies, wheezing me aloft to my lodgings. And the lady who left her room key on my table after breakfast. And don’t get me started on the markets and the food. Don’t.

However, there is one golden memory which consists of neither history nor ancient art. This happened in Verona. I was walking along a busy street and looked into the interior of a news vendor. The building also had an array of paperback books. And there, looking back out at me, was my own novel, L’INGANNO BONNER, recently produced in an Italian translation. That was a most pleasant delight indeed.

DE

(image)http://www.isabelladeste.org/_/rsrc/1467897567813/isabella-deste/0a.PNG

 

Dream Of Death And Ghosts [from “Kafka In The Castle”]

21 March 1917

Dreamed I was standing in a balcony with him. In a town in Northern Italy. We could see across the rooftops, to a plain slipping gently toward the foothills of the mountains. The day was clear – a cool spring morning – and the touch of sun was welcome on our skin.

He pointed to a laden waggon passing beneath us. A curtain of dust rose from its wheels as it squeezed through a narrow lane. We watched it for awhile, then he turned to me, his body a silhouette against the vivid sky.

“I enjoyed my funeral. I wish we could have talked about it after – it was one of those things to share.”

“We did share it,” I pointed out. “I was there.”

“But I was not,” he said.

Then he eased himself over the balcony, and without effort, we were sitting in the back of the waggon, perched upon boxes and equipment. We rattled out of the village toward the countryside.

“I loved the outdoors,” he said. “I still remember my last walk in the fields.”

We moved slowly through the country side, the waggon rarely being jostled along the rutted road. The teamster must have been an expert, but he never turned his face to us. Intent upon his business, I suppose.

“You forget that I am dead; for which I thank you.”

“Sometimes I do,” I replied.

“It is at those times, I sometimes think I’m still alive.”

He occasionally pointed to things behind me. Once there was a rabbit. The countryside spread endlessly, without another person in sight. I mentioned this, and he nodded.

“It will be crowded at our destination. But I’ll want to meet my wife.” He then leaned toward me, across the waggon. “You helped me, you know – in our final dance.” He smiled, then sighed, then pointed beneath me.   “My destination is close, I must return.”

I looked down, and saw I was sitting on a coffin – the polished brown one of his funeral. I moved, then bent over, prepared to open it. His fingers touched the wood beneath my hand.

“No. Do not look. You would not like what you found.” His smile seemed forced, there were more teeth showing than usual. “I embrace my new world. But for you, I am well and truly dead.”

DE

(image) http://machedavvero.it/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/valletta11.jpg

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