If I’m already in a bad mood, auto-correction on my phone has been known to drive me over the edge, into a world where I even irritate myself. I know that it’s nigh on impossible to proofread my own work as my eye sees what my brain thinks I’ve written. That I can accept. But to read back over a text I’ve sent and see errors not of my making – that does my head in.
In Milan, in the D’uomo recently, my camera died. The lens stuck open and wouldn’t close. I’ve had it fixed twice and given its age and mileage, it owes me no favours. So I bought a new one. No research (not that I’d have done any anyway), no clue of what I wanted, other than it had to be smaller and have a bigger zoom. I went with Canon again – a little number that apparently would do everything my G9 did except offer me a viewfinder – something I never used anyway. And, he said, it was smarter.
I’ve come to dread that word – smart – especially when applied to technology. Smartphones my arse. They do the dumbest things. A smart camera was something I could without. The bells and whistles do nothing but confuse me. I played around with the features and found one that distorts – I tried it out in Pisa.
The famous tower, probably the first and only thing that comes to mind when you hear mention of the city of Pisa, took 800 years to complete. It stood straight for the first five years, when it had only two floors, but as more were added it started to lean. It’s part of the Piazza Dei Miracoli (field of miracles), which is also home to the amazing D’uomo, the interior of which has a much bigger wow factor than what is arguably the best known tower in the world. Rumour has it that to demonstrate that the mass of an object has no effect on how quickly it falls Galileo Galilei dropped two cannonballs of differing mass from the tower. This has yet to be confirmed though.
Anyway, back to my smart camera. Too lazy to read the instructions (which were in Italian anyway), I played around with the settings and whatever I did, the display screen kept showing a straight tower. Auto-correction taken to a new level. And even what little tilt it did show was in the wrong direction. Piazza Dei Miracoli indeed. I finally gave up but, when I uploaded the photos, what I was seeing on the screen wasn’t what came out on my laptop, begging the question as to whether my laptop is really smarter than my camera. It was enough to drive me to drink… but I was driving.
Pisa was my first taste of tourist Italy. There are a number of ticket combinations you can purchase that will take you up the 294 steps on the north side and down the 296 steps on the south side as well as into the Baptistery and the Camposanto and the museums. But I wasn’t in the mood for a climb and have long since lost the urge to do things just to say I’ve done them. Thankfully, entry to the cathedral (D’uomo) is free as I object in principle to paying to go into a Catholic Church considering I’ve been a lifelong member. [Tip: You have to get your admission ticket in advance though and enter at your allotted time so if you go, do that first before you wander around.]
The black-and-white marble is something else. Stunning. Galileo also spent time here apparently (he studied at the University of Pisa so it makes sense), as rumour has it that he developed his pendulum theory by watching an incense lamp swinging from the ceiling in one of the naves. The frescoes are spectacular and the whole place has a genuine feeling of sacredness, something missing from so many churches today. But it wasn’t the marble or the frescoes that did it for me… it was the statues of two lions at the base of the pulpit. They look as if they are in agony. I was mesmerized.
I don’t remember ever seeing a marble statue being so real. I’m not sure whether it was the combination of the open mouth and the huge eyes, but it took very little, if any, imagination to feel the angst. I rather fancied that it was guilt at killing the antelope – but did that make sense? To be guilty about what, in your very nature, you are? To apologise to the world for how you were born? To have to seek permission or validation or public sanction to feel as you do? Now there’s a distorted picture.