Rome Around The World

It’s a funny thing. In just twelve hours, my Father, my brother and I are set to embark on the greatest holiday we have known since Hawaii- a trip to Europe. For me, this will be the second time to Europe, and the first on the Continent. The last time we went to Europe was eight or nine years ago, and that was to visit my aunt in Shrewsbury. Or Shawlsbury or Shulsbury. Whatever. These English names are confusing. But the main thing is, I am quite excited for this. After a year of waiting, we are finally going. Where else? Italy.

And of course, there is no greater city to visit than Rome. The ancient superpower, the pinnacle of the Roman Empire- Rome is still an extremely thriving society. Their ancient structures and architecture of old is combined with the best cuisine on the planet- and an incredulously expensive shopping experience- to give foreigners a truly unique experience. Hmm. I wonder if young Reese has ever been to Italy. She probably has, though. I’ve seen her holiday photographs of her in the great cities of London and New York, looking so charming in winter jackets or browsing shops in Times Square when she was of such a lovely tender age. I figure Rome would be an ideal city for a girl like her. Not only Rome, where luxury items are the norm, but let us not leave out the ancient centre of the Renaissance, which is Florence.

Ah. Florence. The leather capital of the world. There they have these enormous shopping malls, truly gargantuan in their size and scale- or so I’ve heard. Their branded goods are the real thing- real leather and the like. According to my Father, the last time my parents went to Florence, they left the hotel in the morning and returned in the evening with about three thousand dollars worth of goods in my Mother’s hands. Hmm. If only we all had that kind of purchasing capability. When I was instructed to perform research pertaining to this little adventure of ours, I immediately looked up shopping locations. The amount of retailers shocked me. Not only did the amount scare me, but the names I read did too. I only recognised a few, but I knew that they were incredibly upmarket and therefore, expensive. These included Salvatore Ferragamo, Ducati, Parker, Mont Blanc, Bvlgari and many others. I have seen these brands on occasion in our own Lion City. Only a prominent leather lover like my Mother would seek these out.

As for me, I only have two things on my mind. The first is a Roman Chess Set. By this I mean two things. I’ve seen these Chess sets with ancient Roman figures as the Chessmen- or it can simply be another European design- but made in Rome. That alone carries enough weight to earn my attention. The Italians are not that superb in Chess, though. The only real strong Italian Chess player I know is Ameritalian Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, who is currently ranked sixth in the world with an ELO of 2786. World Number One Magnus Carlsen stands at 2864. The Russians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis are the world’s strongest players.

But I digress, as Risa would probably say herself. The other thing I am planning to keep an eye out for are watches. And not just any kind of watches. I am talking about those with silver faces and internal components which twinkle in the Sun and shine in the day. Think Rolex. Think Omega. Think Cartier. Hmm. Italy has all these, and I am curious to have a look. Don’t get me wrong, my thirteen-dollar pocket watch probably looks classier than any platinum luxury wristwatch. And for something which price is just slightly less expensive than a pot of TWG tea, it is worth it. Yet I would like a timepiece to decorate my wrist which isn’t made of yellow plastic stained with blue cotton.

Seriously. It looks mouldy.

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Sorting Out The Study

Aside

I’ve got no definite idea of what’s been going on so far. I’ve been leaving my blog dormant since April! Just like a volcano. It’s not an extinct volcano, however, because those do not erupt anymore. Dormant ones still do. 

 

So here we are.

 

The last week and a bit has been one of the lowliest of the entire year. Why? Why? Simply put, I had to sit through a collective sixteen hours of examinations. 

That was enjoyable, in the sense that I do appreciate an occasional academic challenge. The one thing I do not enjoy, however, is preparing for them.It’s a frequent occurrence- me arriving home with a pile of papers in my book bag and not actually bothering to file them properly. Hence, after a buildup of a few weeks, this generally creates the setup for academic failure, as the key to any student’s successful revision is a neatly organised folder. Hmm. With me, that tradition died last year. In those times, I supplemented my somewhat adequately organised folders with my remarkable memory power. Some say I was gifted heavily with the ability to remember all sorts of things, both useful and odd…I can say that they were right. Some, like my father, do not approve of it entirely, as I spend most of my time logging apparently useless information like say, the first sheep cloned. (Dolly. Swedish. 1997.) See? Perfect example. Others, like my brother, frequently use it to their advantage, like verifying the spelling of words he should have learnt in 2002. This was proven to such an extent that my companions have been able to fire questions at me in an impromptu game of Trivial Pursuit. On a more embarrassing and humourous note, it has also highlighted my brother’s questionable ability to spell. I wonder how long it would take him to spell “sesquipedalian.”

“Sesquipedalian.” Latin definition means “a foot and a half long.” Dammit. There it is again.

Nowadays, my mental capacity is my main source of study. I depend heavily on it to remember information in class, and being able to call on that information like a scholar in that library that he knows so well. I can read one passage and if there was ever missing information from absent classes, I would either fill it in with logical sense or with information learned previously. That’s why things like Science and History are comparatively easy. I study the least for those subjects and they are my two strongest. That’s right, those two. I have to study for my Literature papers, even, which may sound a bit odd, as according to a friend of mine so cleverly put two years ago, “all you can do to study for English is to read.” What she said was true, as Literature in my sense deals with reading texts. A lot of texts. Passages from novels such as The Great Gatsby or Death Of A Salesman. And then there are the poems. Aha. The poems. Our teacher, Mr. Holloway, once gave us an absurdly long list of fourteen poems to study last year during the winter break. By the school’s resumption, we were ready to lynch him.

But I suppose it was all for the better. Now that we have an incredible exam on the way in April, those poems are going to be of use, and I think I of all people should understand the value of poetry, which my father would say is definitely more important than knowing how many American Presidents have been killed by assassination.

…The answer is four.

Training For The Inevitable

My mother informed me that she was due to return from Shanghai this evening. Good. I had been meaning to ask her a few things. For example, about whether or not I could join the Singapore Chess Academy. As with all things, every entrance into a guild of any sort requires a suitable test of my abilities. My test is my mother.

I had been meaning to ask my mother for another Chess set. I mentioned a few posts ago about this, no? Anyhow,  the Academy has a classical Staunton-pattern set on sale. My financial resources are at a low right now, but I will be able to purchase the set myself come this Saturday. As with all thrifty people, I hatched a plan to save myself thirty dollars. I would therefore play my mother in a game of Chess. The loser would buy it.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon playing games with Dodge as a method of training. I mastered the Scholar’s Mate. I now know how to Fianchetto my Bishops and on a rare occasion, fork pieces. In comparison, my mother has not played a Chess game in years. I think my chances are pretty high- but there is no question that I am about to play the most important Chess game of my life. Of my life, you hear?

Mother returns to our island nation in thirteen hours and thirty-eight minutes. Dodge will return home with me for a final spot of training before that. Then we shall see who is better.

Oh Deer, Be Careful What You Fish For

Of all the four “dominant” meats out there, those being beef, pork, fish and chicken, my favourite is fish. Whenever I patronise local Western food stalls, I almost always choose some form of fish. Grilled fish with chips, fried rice with fish, fish and chips, and so on. I always seem to have some form of fish in every meal. Salted fish fried rice, for instance, or tuna salad. I adore fish. But you probably knew this already.

However, I fear that my enjoyment for this delectable delicacy is about to come to an end. I just watched a documentary in school today highlighting the tremendous issue of overfishing by the fleets of the world. Various species of ocean life, such as tuna, cod, halibut, salmon, swordfish and marlin are getting overfished. This is bad, because not only are we not guaranteed a good meal, ’cause now the oceans are turning into watery deserts, devoid of life.

Now, I happen to know that fish is overwhelmingly popular in many places of the world, including and especially Asia, Europe, North America and England. England in itself is a fishy country. My English teacher explains that you could go for a stroll down to the village pub and order fish and chips. They have multiple species to choose from, those mainly being cod, haddock, salmon and halibut. Then you choose your chips and your dressing. Hmm. It all seems tasty and all that, but I wonder how much longer people will be able to enjoy a custom like this. I think it’s time the world got to know a much lesser-known and enjoyed meat in the world, something that there hopefully is an abundance of and might be able to replace the demands for fish.

This meat, of course, is venison.

Now Where Have I Heard This Before?…

Facebook is a wonderful invention. It’s a silent communion of friends, where you can play games, read the latest news, look at photographs, ask questions, and in general live a life online.

But there are other things.

This afternoon I attended a school activity in order to see a girl whom I had not seen in over a year. The meeting was awkward, as I expected, and lasted less than thirty seconds. I went off to take a walk around, and then a pair of her friends came and told me that I would not be able to speak with her. Apparently, they said, it was forbidden by her father. Not just me, though, but boys in general. Ouch. That’s rough. I decided to wait it out, but a third individual delivered a harsher warning- “you probably shouldn’t stay here.”  I tried to find my friend to say goodbye, but seeing the stares from her three companions, I gazed down at the ground and left in a show of defeat.

I spent the journey home trying to find the most comfortable smile possible to express my contentment. I had seen my companion for the first time in over a year. That was joyous, indeed, but when I got home, yet another one of her friends cybernetically spat at me to leave her alone, going so far as to accuse me of being a stalker. Oh, am I, now? Is it a crime for a very lonely boy to miss a very special girl? I am certain the answer is no. It was not, however, the first time I had received messages of this nature.

I have a bad feeling about this whole affair. Not because I skipped lunch- hunger comes later- but if I destroy my friendship with this girl yet again, I know I am in for a bout of depression, and already the happiest day of my life has been gravely soured.

The New Game to Play

Only very recently did I watch a film in the theatres. This film was entitled Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I received it very well. It was a fast-paced action film interspersed with mystery, effortless deduction on the part of Holmes and above all, an excellent piece of filmwork. The critics, however, gave the film mixed reviews. To me, I could not care less. As long as I appreciated it. However, the last half hour of the movie did   leave the largest impact on me.

This film was unusual in a lot of ways. Firstly, I never imagined Holmes to be that sort of manic, near-psychotic recluse he was portrayed to be, filling his flat with wildplants and consuming formaldehyde (which is an extremely toxic chemical). Secondly, whoever thought that Robert Downey Jr. sounded that natural with an English accent? However, the last half hour presented the usual boss battle between the protagonist, Holmes, and his archenemy, Professor James Moriarty. Hmm. Perhaps I should say that it was rather unusual, because instead of a massive physical confrontation as I expected, the two characters calmly communed for a game of chess. That was unusual. There was a bout of fighting at the end, but that was simply because Moriarty was a sore loser.

After I watched the movie, I became strangely engrossed with chess. I asked my mother to purchase a new set because I had decapitated my black queen in a fit of rage. She brought back a set in the style of an ancient Chinese army, along with a game clock for time regulation. I was quite pleased. The first game I played with that set, that clock was my best game. I played my elder brother to a draw. He claims he did not recognise the pieces and refused to admit defeat. Still, a draw was better than nothing.

One of my closest friends, who also has the longest name out of all my friends, Diogenes Mark Tze-Ren Nowacki, is also a fervent chess player. His father, Dr. Mark Nowacki, is a former American Chess Grandmaster when he was twelve. Okay. Playing Dodge was far more enjoyable than shoving bishops and pawns towards my brother. At least Dodge does not cynically taunt me when he secures my inevitable defeat.

In the meantime, I can only dream that my Chess skills will improve. I see videos of World Chess Champions winning games in mere minutes, child prodigies defeating seasoned players, and I promise myself that one day I shall still be worse than them.

Get Real.

I once read an article that informed me that the place with the most expensive real estate in the United States is a small Coloradoan town called Aspen. Haven’t we all heard about Aspen? John Denver sang about it in one of his hits. And judging from what he has said and what I’ve read, it is a nice pretty little place, that sort of country town with the birds singing in the woods, the streams rushing and the stars twinkling above you. However, real estate is a budget killer for home hunters here in Singapore. My own place of residence, I’m sure, would cost over a million. I have no motive to brag, the efforts to earn that money were my parents’, but for what would be considered an average-sized house, it is extremely expensive. The Americans would say differently. Every single city you visit in the United States has those quiet suburbs far away from the city, where dogs bark, cookouts sizzle in backyards and where they apparently decorate their houses with dry leaves. And all these properties are just massive. They have attics, basements, backyards with trees, dormers and turrets. And that is average in the United States.

In my neighbourhood, it is a different story. For example, further down our street the huge estates begin to blossom. One of the most artistic ones there is a huge white building, apparently in some state of discombobulation. Different pieces are assembled into a single structure that looks so quirky and dazzling that I immediately decided that it was the most spunky house ever designed. You have a lush green lawn, pot plants of species that I don’t recognise, balconies everywhere, spiral staircases in the strangest places, and most intriguingly, a sculpture made of wood kindling that resembles, of all things, a bull.

Now how is that for style? But I would personally prefer the house further up the road. That is a genuine villa. There are actually four seperate houses in a single compound, I last counted. This is modelled on a Greek estate, I’m sure. Or at the very least, Rome. The brick walls appear old but in no way weak. The tiles of the driveway, the marble fountains, the waterbed running the estate in half, lined with statues of Greek women with amphoras and cornucopias, and the lamps. This is the property of a millionaire. One house is bad enough. But four?…And how about that quartet of gladiators kneeling on either side of the double gates that grant visitors entry? How much did they cost? The only thing that points to a modern existence about this house are the sports cars under a shelter. I last saw an Audi, a Mercedes, a Mini, among others. Gee whiz. That house seems like heaven. I like spunky art designs, like the house with the bull, but I also like Grecian architecture. It’s all about finding a balance. Like the Ying and Yang. However, I still prefer my own house. At least it has got a flat roof which offers me an unobstructed view of the city. Perfect for cool evenings when the weather is clear. But of course, I am unrequited, so feminine company is out of the question.

Wherever I live in the future, whichever country it is in, I just hope that I will reside with nature. Walks among the trees are lovely. Walks with a female accompaniment are even lovelier, though.