02 Feb

Random Thoughts on Saint Anthony, Rain, Christmas, the Chinese New Year, Computer Viruses and Learning a Language

Let’s start with some photos.

These were all taken on 17th January at the festival of Sant’Antonio Abate (Saint Anthony the Abbot). Many of the towns in Abruzzo organise a festival for this saint and the relatively small locally organised festival in Loreto Aprutino was something I was looking forward to since way before Christmas.

It’s always been the festival that got away. If we were in Abruzzo at Christmas and New Year we’d usually head back to Ireland around the Epiphany. If we hadn’t visited for Christmas we’d put off visiting until March when the weather might be more settled. This year we finally had our chance to see it.

Starting with mass, we then had a procession with a statue of the saint leading the way, fireworks, a marching band, a play about the life of Saint Anthony with a modern twist, traditional music, local dishes, wine and more music and song – perfect ingredients for a great gathering.

During the night I learned that Sant’Antonio Abate is associated with farmers, butchers, domestic animals, glowing embers and curing skin diseases. No wonder he’s popular in a region that has such a strong farming tradition.

Back to today.

Two people have just walked up the hill to the local church huddled under an umbrella – yes it’s raining.

The rain isn’t that heavy, but with Loreto covered in a blanket of mist and fog I’ve been forced to change my plans and stay indoors.

I have a selection of umbrellas and rain gear but rain and heavy mist are no friends of digital cameras so here I am typing away in my little office.

It’s about time I typed something. Until I congratulated Francesco Paciocco on his film Birthplace (Birthplace by Francesco Paciocco – A Short Documentary on Vacri, Chieti) I hadn’t posted anything on this blog since 20th December!

It’s been a while I know but Christmas, New Year, The Epiphany (I probably pushing my luck now) where great distractions and I just took a break. My plan was to get back to the blog with a miscellany of photos after the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate on 17 January. Well that didn’t happen either. So in the end I waited until the onset of the Chinese New Year. The Wood Horse has taken over from the Water Snake and many predict a year of turmoil and turbulence especially for those born during horse years.

Apparently I’m a tiger so perhaps I’m OK – we’ll see.

Anyway significant change came for me last year.

With stories of many people giving up their Italian dream we’ve embraced it with renewed gusto. For the past five years we’ve been based in Ireland trying to get to Abruzzo as often as possible. Not having the luxury of a direct flight to Pescara long weekend visits were never enough to make the journey worthwhile. Week long trips and ten day trips were great but three week or on some occasions five week trips were magical.

Since August my trips have been pointed in the other direction. Having planned to get to Ireland at least once before Christmas I didn’t get back until Christmas Eve. But at least I stayed for three weeks and enjoyed the company of family and friends, too much food and perhaps one glass of wine too many.

What follows is intended to help anybody who has a Windows based computer.

In Ireland I discovered that three friends of mine had computers riddled with viruses. They couldn’t understand why their browser was being hijacked by some program they didn’t install and certainly didn’t want. They were using up to date virus protection software and still these nasties were entrenched on their computers.

How could it happen?

The answer is simple = My friends installed them!

They downloaded and installed “dodgy” software to help them do something and bundled into the package were additional, unrequested apps, utilities, browser toolbars that they didn’t want.

However when asked on the installer did they want them they said yes by simply clicking Next.

Please, please, please read what the installation says and offers as you install software from non-reliable sources.

The good news is I was able to clean up the mess for them. Yep I know my way around computers.

It took a while though, and hijacked my Christmas a little, but that’s what you do for friends who need help.

Here’s a tip.

Here is a Guardian article about PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) – read it as it that may help you understand the problem. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2013/oct/31/windows-pups-potentially-unwanted-programs-pc-uninstall

I’ve found that the free version of Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org/) and also Adwcleaner (http://general-changelog-team.fr/fr/downloads/viewdownload/20-outils-de-xplode/2-adwcleaner) run once a month can get rid of most PUPs (potentially unwanted programs).

Read the tutorials and if you are not sure what you are doing ask a friend who is tech savvy to help. Sure what else would they be doing? :-)

End of public service announcement.

When I’m not doing IT related work, photography or writing I teach English in and around the greater Pescara area. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to teach. I’m finally putting my CELTA to good use with groups and individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Teaching in different places is a challenge but it’s great fun meeting new people, expanding my social circle and seeing the students get better. It’s helping me with my Italian too – that’s good as my Italian could do with a bit of help.

On the subject of Italian (or any second language) if you are interested in learning and improving but you can’t find a regular time slot to commit to a teacher you may want to look at Duolingo http://www.duolingo.com/ and iTalki http://www.italki.com/ . Duolingo is a nice intuitive app that helps you improve on your own and iTalki is a community of teachers and learners that you can tap into if you have internet access.

Looking forward to the rest of 2014 I realised that I’m finally going to be spending more time in Abruzzo than in Ireland. What does that mean? Well I guess the time has come to apply for residency at my local community. I’ve no idea if this will be an easy or difficult process. Will bureaucracy tie me in knots or will it just happen perfectly smoothly. Who knows? We’ll see how it works out over the coming weeks, or months or…

a little bit about 

Noel is an IT Consultant, software development Project Manager, photographer, writer, and English teacher. These days he swaps his time between Abruzzo, Italy and Dublin, Ireland.

You can see more of Noel's photographs on
Noel McCarthy Photography

Many of these images are available to buy on 500px Art at