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more rovescio than diritto

28 May

To put that into context for you, they’re Italian knitting terms: diritto means knit, rovescio means purl (and knitting is lavorare a maglia as opposed to crochet, which is done with an uncinetto and is also called uncinetto). Rovescio also has that other connotation or overtone of “reverse”. Although I’ve been knitting my most recent beanie in the round and therefore there’s only been a bit of rovescio at the start to do the ribbing, I’ve certainly been reversing a fair amount of it while helping out with the Italian emails. My pile of kinked yarn is growing as I steadily tink back to the point where I goofed with the shaping. You wouldn’t think it would take so long – and if I’d simply yanked the needles out and pulled, it probably wouldn’t – but this yarn (I’m once again using Moda Vera Bouvardia, which has some unexpected but attractive colourways and always knits up to a soft, warm finish) is slightly sticky and I’ve found in the past that it’s better served by being taken apart stitch by stitch, however painful. That’s what I’ve been doing, round by careful round and doing my best not to poke anyone in the eye as I wave my spare set member about (that would be a DPN, by the way, for anyone who prefers that terminology).

Reversing a reverse

Reversing a reverse

Also, we’ve been doing a lot of Italian here lately (spot the Italian dictionary in the photo). All three of us spent a whole day curled up in bed – because Dr B had bunged up his knee and couldn’t walk; but there was work to be done! – writing a fairly simple email to the Italian academic liaison officer who’s YoungB’s contact person at Bologna. There is nothing simple about an email that needs to clarify many of the subtle points arising from the very different academic systems. However, with all of us on the job, me on coffee brigade, YoungB occasionally calling it quits to go stretch his legs and Dr B keeping us focused on the job and acting as our (Italian) thesaurus, we did it. Trouble is, as YoungB says, we’ve set the bar too high. His [written in the email] Italian sounds so good that they probably think he’s practically dreaming in it. Uuh, not quite. However, by the end of the day – you might call it a crash course in bureaucratese immersion – he was certainly much better able to come up with his own alternative modes of expression.

After a few heart-stopping moments early in the day, when it seemed as if nothing we’d said previously was going to carry any weight short of taking our case to a Very Big Wig (and that’s something you want to avoid at all costs, Italian bureaucracy being what it is), we managed to convince the folk in Italy that, well, all things considered, this kid is practically a genius! No, he’s not. He’s bright enough but intellectually lazy – one of his Year 12 teachers advised him that he wouldn’t be able to get by on good looks and charm for much longer, at which we laughed uproariously (hardly the ideal parental response) – but even so, the biggest hurdle wasn’t whether or not he was up to the subject choices, disparate though they appeared at first glance, more that the Italian system doesn’t seem to have much space for combined degree patterns though there’s enormous flexibility within degrees. In the end that might amount to the same thing.

Be that as it may, YoungB is enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science combined degree. It’s not that uncommon here though there are other degree programs with higher enrolment numbers (anything with Law and Economics, for example, and the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music is likewise popular; in that case largely, I suspect, because it allows music students to have better employment options at the end of it all). Because YoungB likes humanities subjects and science subjects and he had – indeed, still has – no idea of what he wants to do when he finishes his undergraduate studies, the double degree sounded like the best of both worlds and a good basis for whatever he might decide to take to higher study. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it hasn’t been, but he’s passing his exams and enjoying himself. That’s reward enough for his efforts, we think.

While it might be the case that there are Italian universities where such weirdness exists happily, Bologna doesn’t seem to have that crossover readily available, hence the root cause of much of our recent anxiety. Once we’d curled up and nutted out a detailed but not overdone explanation of what YoungB’s subjects hitherto had involved and further explained why he’d chosen first-year subjects at 75% load – his poor Italian skills being a big part of all that, as he pointed out at different parts of the email – the very prompt response was, “OK, you’re good to go with what you’ve chosen,” or words to that effect. There was a further comment in the email that it’s unusual to be doing such unrelated areas of study concurrently, hence our feeling that combined degrees in such diverse disciplines are either rare or non-existent in the Italian tertiary sector. Never mind. We got the green light so whichever way you look at it, that was a very good use of our day.

I’m not quite back to going forward with my knitting, but there’s probably only another round to tink before I’ll once again be roaring full steam ahead with diminishing the number of stitches. My friend whose head this beanie is intended to cover is already in dire need of it – he lives in Tasmania, where the mornings are cold – so, along with the urgency of needing to explain newfangled Aussie degrees and degree patterns to an Italian at Europe’s oldest university, there’s the urgency of a bald head that needs a warm hat. It’s now going to be diritto all the way and no rovescio at all if I can help it. Would you reckon that’s going to work or will there be another slew of unpredictable reverses to push it all onto the back burner? Only time will tell.

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