Wednesday 22 February 2023

Thinking about Carnival

Carnival is just over, Lent is looming. Forty days of diet, maybe fasting for someone or giving up something you like. For me it would be dark chocolate and marshmallows. But I don’t know if I will be able to achieve it. Maybe it could be a good opportunity to lose weight. Carnival is the only Italian thing I really miss: the gorgeous costumes, the parades of children throwing coriandoli (confetti) to passers-by, dressing my children up every year with a different costume, and parties with traditional Carnival treats, frappe and castagnole. I can make good castagnole but only my mother-in-law makes the perfect frappe. The fabulous pictures of the costumes in Venice on social media made me nostalgic. Carnival is also a messenger of spring with its bright colours, jokes and fun. The weather gets warmer and you can feel spring approaching in Italy. Halloween is similar to Carnival, that’s why I like it so much, but not exactly the same.
A picture, ‘Il Re Gallo’ (The King Rooster) by Stefani Pinci that I saw in Rome last Christmas in a private gallery (Galleria Arte Sempione) where her work and other artists’ artwork are on display, reminded me of Mediterranean colours, warmth and Carnival time. The style and
technique she uses is called ‘tassello di mosaico pittorico’, that is, pictorial mosaic pieces which are made in oil painting. It is an award-winning picture that she exhibited at the Expo in Dubai in 2020. Eventually I bought it and now it has a place of honour in my living room. I couldn’t help writing a poem about this great painting referring to some lines by Emily Dickinson and to some of the titles of Stefania Pinci’s pictures that I found poetic. So I wrote a first draft in Italian and English and then split the poem in two, one in English and the other in Italian, one is more or less the translation of the other. Here are the poems and the picture:

 The King Rooster

Inspired by the artwork of Stefania Pinci and some poems by Emily Dickinson

There is another awakening 

in a world of wonders,

on Sunday celebrations,

when waves of emotion

and the singing of colour

in another sunshine – 

where frost and darkness have been – 


The memories of the mind, 

the surprise of the summer fragrance,

the golden sunset, 

where colours are friends

and nature is alive.

The cicadas go crazy, 

the King Rooster wins through

with colours of light

his head in flames

on a broken-up background

with fragments of sky

in the pearl moonlight and stagnant waters.

The monochrome of the uncertain landscape

when the figure misses the appointment

in a patchwork of still life against a black frame.

Il Re Gallo

Versi ispirati dall’opera di Stefania Pinci e da alcune poesie di Emily Dickinson

C’è un altro risveglio

in un mondo di meraviglie

la domenica della festa

quando onde di emozioni

e la sinfonia dei colori

in un’altra scena di sole – 

dove un tempo erano il gelo e l’oscurità – 


I ricordi della mente

lo stupore del profumo dell’estate 

l’oro del tramonto

dove i colori sono amici

e la natura è viva.

Le cicale sulle colline impazziscono,

il Re Gallo trionfa con colori di luce

la testa in fiamme

su uno sfondo spezzato

di frammenti di cielo

in un chiaro di luna di perla

tra acque stagnanti.

Nell’incertezza del paesaggio monocromo

l’immagine manca l’appuntamento

in un patchwork di natura morta contro uno sfondo nero.

Stefania Pinci’s website is in Italian ( ), but you can just browse her beautiful paintings even if you do not understand the captions. She exhibits regularly at Galleria Arte Sempione as well as around the world, such as in Boston, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Her subjects are animals, landscapes, still lives, views of Rome and female figures. Her paintings have a poetical, dreamlike quality and convey a sense of peace and warmth, an aspect I particularly like.

During half term we met our sons, daughter in law and granddaughter Violetta in Nottingham. It was cold and grey but we had a good time in a cosy Airbnb. Violetta had great fun in a playground with four slides, she had a go on all of them. She chased a black cat too that she called ‘catto’ combining Italian ‘gatto’ and cat. She can also count until seven mixing Italian and English numbers. We had fun reading Peppa Pig stories from booklets I found at a charity shop. We visited Wollaton Hall which has displays of stuffed animals and an original skeleton of a T-Rex, precious minerals and there were also deer in the park. Violetta enjoyed everything, especially the animals, both stuffed and real. At the bookshop I managed to find something to buy, two booklets for a few pounds, one about old rhymes such as Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker, the other one is titled ‘Cowslip, or Cautionary Stories in Verse’ (1811). They are distressing stories about unruly children and how they are ‘rightly’ punished and beaten. A different attitude from today.

I spent the rest of half term week catching up with house cleaning, ironing, visiting friends, writing reviews, completing some paintings and I also washed my car on a sunny day. I worked on paintings about textiles, mainly for some submissions and a commission and made some cards. I am connecting textile patterns from all over the world exploring colours, shapes and techniques. I am extremely honoured to be the Resident Artist for The High Window in 2023. This gives me the opportunity to show my artwork and publish my poems.  I will focus on clothes, textiles and fashion. Here is the link to the first entry in the spring issue: 

I also completed my new postbox crochet installation for Valentine’s Day. It has the shape of a tree with a heart inside. The title is ‘Nature must be at the heart’. I was chuffed that my picture with the installation was published in the local newspaper, Chobham News & Mail on the 9th of February. I strongly believe in the potentials of crochet art.
For Valentine’s Day I prepared little presents for family and friends, homemade soap hearts made by my friend Vittoria (Vittoria Artisan Soap: and cards made by the students at my school. I will bring some of them to Italy too for my mum and her friends, as for me Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers but also for all the people you love. 

On the motorway to Nottingham, we stopped for the usual toilet break and cappuccino. I was shocked by the prices, £ 3.65 for a cappuccino and a few days before I had paid £ 3 for a tea in a pub in Twickenham. Unbelievable! In Italy the average price for a cappuccino (which is much much better than any Costa or Caffe Nero hot drink) is € 1.50 and an espresso is € 1.00. another shocking discovery is how much care homes charge in the UK. A friend of mine has just found a good care home for her elderly mother in Rome. She pays € 1,800 per month. In the UK it is £ 1,800 per week. I wonder what they do with so much money. Do they pay high wages to carer workers or have high renting fees? I doubt it. 

I was a bit disappointed that as a TA I was not allowed to strike. Apparently, most of the TAs that the NEU contacted about the teachers’ strike didn’t reply so they did not reach the threshold (50%) that allowed them to join the strike action. As I needed some clarifications about my rights and role, I decided to join NEU. Nobody was on strike at my school anyway.

I had a few successes in my writing too. besides publishing reviews, one of my academic articles, 'An Intertextual Dialogue between Witnessing and Storytelling' on The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, was published in Margaret Atwood Studies, the journal of Margaret Atwood Society (MAS), volume 16 January 2023. Here is the link:  

Unfortunately, you cannot access it if you are not a member of MAS. However, you can download the article from my website here:

Some of my poems have been published or will be published soon:

‘Collage Machine’, (Spilling Cocoa).

‘Holiday in the Alps, 1970’, in D&W newsletter (06/02/2023).

‘After the dream’, ‘Broken thread’ and ‘Snow haiku’ have been accepted for the next issue of Bezine, Beatitudes section.

‘Tomorrow’, ‘Flowering Menopause’ and some haiku on insects and flowers have been accepted for the next issue of Orbis (203).

‘The light changing’ and ‘Speaking food’ will be out with the summer issue of The High Window.

My sequence ‘Valentina’ from Workwear will be included in Cry Freedom, a Poetry Performance anthology.

My proposal for a paper on Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, ‘Elaine Risley’s visual art: a reversed ekphrasis that challenges patriarchal narratives’, has been accepted for the Accute conference at York University in Toronto. I am so thrilled that I will finally have the opportunity to go back to Canada in May! I will attend the conference, present my work, maybe have time to visit Toronto and I will also spend two nights in Calgary to meet my Canadian friends, Josephine, Crystal and Pam. I am sure I will have a wonderful time and I will enjoy every bit of it.

The launch of my latest collection Workwear was super. I really enjoyed the evening and appreciated the support of my friends and fellow poets. The comperes, Greg Freeman and Rodney Wood, were matchless and the readings were excellent. I will read the poems from my collection again at The Lightbox on Thursday 23rd of February in the evening during WOL open mic, where I am also co-compere; it starts at 8. Furthermore, the Woking Writers Circle is organising a poetry evening at the Lionsheart bookshop in the centre of Woking ( ) to promote our writings and attract new members on Wednesday the 15th of March from 6.30 to 9 pm. We will read our poems and share our writing experience and creative process.

At Nottingham we also watched Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio on Netflix. The characters depicted as marionettes were enchanting and the story, though different from the original by Collodi, was captivating. It was centred on the relationship between the rebelling Pinocchio and his father Geppetto. They look for each other in a quest that is a personal search for identity and for love. The ending is moving with a striking conclusion: ‘What happen, happens. And then we are gone’. 

In February we also celebrated my husband’s and my daughter Valentina’s birthday one day after the other. I made lasagne and two cakes my daughter Irene decorated. Valentina loved the presents, a purple outfit (leggings, vest and jumper), the colour of Leela’s hair, her favourite cartoon character. She also helped us decorate her room with hearts and balloons. The staff that cares for her was very supportive, they prepared the table and organised a party for her in the evening. 

February is also the month when Sanremo Music Festival happens. The Italian President Sergio Mattarella was present too on the first night. I didn’t have a favourite song this time, but my favourite part was the outfits. I especially liked Chiara Ferragni’s dresses. She was co-host with Amadeus and gave a remarkable speech about how women should believe in themselves and never feel diminished. Her dresses by Dior, Armani and Schiaparelli reflected this thought with written messages such as ‘sentiti libera’ (feel free) and a necklace with the shape of a uterus. Other important speeches were delivered during the festival by Paola Egonu, an Italian volleyball champion, Pegah Moshir Pour, an Iranian activist, together with Drusilla Foer. Marco Mengoni won the song contest with ‘Due Vite’, here is the link to the video clip:

and here is the English translation:

The show was surprisingly politically oriented with episodes such as Fedez ripping the photo of Galeazzo Bignami, the undersecretary at the infrastructure ministry, who was wearing a Nazi armband. The festival had sexual undertones too. The rapper Rosa Chemical kissed Fedez on the mouth and simulated a sexual act. The PM Giorgia Meloni was infuriated.

In regards to women in politics, we had a number of resignations. Angela Merkel in 2021 and more recently Jacinta Arden, the New Zealand PM, Liz Truss and finally Nicola Sturgeon. Apart from Merkel, who served as Chancellor of Germany for a long period and was over 60 when she stepped down, all the other are younger than 50 or just over 50. I wonder why men like Joe Biden for example last longer as politicians than women.

I was flabbergasted by the work of Cy Twombly. His magnificent heart and apparently messy artwork are mesmerising and thought-provoking. I think I will copy him. Here is a link to an interesting article:

I made pancakes of course. Fluffy pancakes with self-raising flour, eggs, mashed potatoes and mozzarella, and traditional pancakes with flour, salt, eggs and milk, lemon and sugar on top, with the option of Nutella or honey.

Daffodils are blooming everywhere. I love their resilience in whatever weather and their colours that range from pale yellow to orange. Better days are coming, despite wars, killings and calamities there is still hope. 

Friday 27 January 2023

Enjoying Christmas time with my mum

Going back to Italy is always a treat. I re-connect with friends and spend leisure time with my mum. She is 92 and sometimes I worry about her. However, when I see her and phone her, she seems fine and I am glad that she is still independent. She has a full-time carer, Ina from Moldova, but my mum can get dressed on her own and she also cooks, does some cleaning as well as doing knitting an
d crochet. When I stay with her during holidays, Ina has her days off. I feel lucky that my mum is so well though sometimes she might be grumpy and forgetful.

At Christmas the weather was mild though wintry. Some days I didn’t need a coat so when I went around Rome on public transport, underground and buses, it was not too bad. However, there are no timetables available, so you never know how long you are going to have to wait. Eventually you have to take it easy, slow down, give up fixed plans as there is no way to change the situation. It is relaxing in a way.

As soon as I arrived in Rome, my mum and I were busy phoning relatives and friends for Christmas wishes and to arrange meetings. The days were packed with happy gatherings with relatives and relaxed conversations with friends and neighbours. I had prepared little presents for them in advance with my crochet things and English chocolate and sweets I usually buy at Gatwick airport where there is a Harrods’ shop.

My mum has her routines which are limited now to a few outings in the area where she lives, some shopping nearby and visiting neighbours, who are about her age or older. We managed to visit a museum, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea at Viale delle Belle Arti ( ) where we met a friend of mine too. When we arrived my mum was so tired that she waited for me sitting on a sofa in the hall at the entrance of the museum while I visited the different exhibitions on display. Afterwards, she told me that she had a long chat with the lady at the bar, a young woman who was happy to listen to her old stories about the time of the war and her large family. 

The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea is an important museum that I visited for the first time in my middle school years during a school trip. The art teacher introduced us to Giuseppe Capogrossi’s patterns and Alberto Burri’s innovating work, which I have never forgotten. There are several important artworks on display, such as pieces by Giulio Turcato, Lucio Fontana, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Van Gogh, Medardo Rosso, Giorgio Morandi, Umberto Boccioni and many others. It is a huge display that gives the viewer a clear and comprehensive idea of Italian modern art as well as contemporary Italian and international art. The Gallery also featured some impressive and thought-provoking exhibitions such as ‘Hot Spot: Caring for a Burning World’ about global warming, ‘Quanto Bentivoglio’, about Mirella Bentivoglio a poet and performance artist who produced astonishing pieces, ‘You are mine’ by Daniela Comani on the issue of feminicide, and a room dedicated to one of my favourite Italian painters, Renato Guttuso. 

I also visited the exhibition ‘Pasolini Pittore’ (Pasolini painter) at Galleria D’Arte Moderna in via Francesco Crispi, here is the link to my review on London Grip:

Not far from my mum’s place, in Piazza Sempione, I discovered a beautiful private art gallery, Atelier ( ), in which one of my mum’s neighbours was exhibiting her ceramics. The artworks on display were very interesting, colourful, diverse and personal. The ‘mosaici pittorici’ by Stefania Pinci, that is, paintings that look like mosaics, are riveting and so radiant; they are a true expression of Mediterranean art. It was an inspiring visit that helped me develop new ideas for my future work. 

I received good presents for Christmas, mainly books by Joy Hario and Patti Smith and two pretty scarves I added to my collection. And here are two new poems about Italian Christmas food and an attempt to new year’s resolutions:

Italian Christmas dinner

When we gather around the table dressed in red and gold

we give up to the beauty of the half-moon ravioli 

kissed by tomato sauce and parmigiano

relaxing on the plate like our tensions and grudges.

The menu repeats year after year 

and makes us think that everything is going well

despite occasional misunderstandings

and past harsh rows.

The tender rabbit meat is soaked in velvet sauce,

string beans and fresh salad from the vegetable garden,

grissini and thin sliced homemade bread on graceful display.

We end with panettone and golden pandoro

as precious as gifts,

prosecco in high chalices, bubbles of hard-earned harmony.

When we toast my heart is soaring.

New year’s resolutions

No schedules to stick to

No therapies to start

No diets or new look

No clearing out

No saying ‘I don’t care’ or

‘you are not supposed to be’

I will procrastinate my duties

Take it easy

Live loosely

Indulge time with others

Be open to tomorrow

Give up to life

When we came back to England, we went straight north to see my sons and their families and celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. It was a marvellous time. My granddaughter Violetta is learning more and more words both in English and in Italian. She is so cute when she speaks mixing the two languages. She also made a drawing of sorts with felt pens which looks wondrous.

I had some deadlines too. I prepared the Stanza meeting on zoom, completed some commissioned reviews and commissioned paintings and sent my first entry as Resident Artist for The High Window’s Spring issue 2023. My work will be focused on textiles, that is, textile patterns, crochet installations, patchwork and embroidery. I am also working on textile patterns in a broader perspective connecting forms from all over the world and developing ideas. I am preparing a new crochet installation inspired by winter, my love for nature and the approaching St Valentine celebration. To add more fun to my everyday busy life, I am also selecting poems for a poetry competition and will have the zoom launch of my latest collection Workwear on the 10th of February at 7.30 pm. I invited all my friends from the Stanza, the yoga group, Woking Writers Circle and FB friends too. There will be people from Italy, the UK, US, Canada and Australia with twenty readers and my friends and fellow poets Greg Freeman and Rodney Wood will introduce me. Maybe my granddaughter Violetta, to whom the collection is dedicated, will make a brief apparition at the beginning of the meeting though it is bedtime for her. I will also read my poems from Workwear at The Lightbox in Woking for the Write Out Loud open mic on the 23rd of February at 8 pm. More information about my publications is on my website: 

I was flabbergasted by the T.S Eliot shortlist and the readings at the Southbank centre that I followed online. The winner, Anthony Joseph, is a great poet but my favourite was Yomi Ṣode. His poetry is a punch to the stomach, so true and well-crafted that I felt mesmerised by his voice. Here are some links to his work:

The death of Charles Simic was sad. I remember I read one of his collections of prose poems years ago while I was attending the Master in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. His clever pieces are impressive and surprising but never shocking. Here are some links to his work:

Apparently, things are getting better both in Italy and in the UK. The economic crisis is easing a bit, there are hopes of recovery and decrease of inflation. Energy prices seem to have dropped as well compared to predictions and even house prices are falling. Italy is buying gas from Algeria at reasonable prices which is helpful for the economy. Reading the papers, it seems that both Sunak and Starmer are doing their best but are not impressing voters.

Things are carrying on with grey cold day after grey cold day this winter, in an apparent stagnation which was a bit shaken by Prince Harry’s Spare that haunted the media for a few days. In Italy instead the new PM Giorgia Meloni looks busy. The left blames her for giving money to the rich taking from the poor. Furthermore, some dangerous criminals have been arrested by the police, the prolific rapist David Carrick, who unbelievably was a policeman, and the dangerous and tragically notorious Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro. Messina Denaro was caught in his territory, Castelvetrano, in Sicily. The carabinieri found his name on the database of cancer patients as he was receiving treatment for colon cancer. The police had been looking for him for thirty years. He is accused of several killings and criminal acts against ordinary as well as prominent people. In his house they found a poster of Joker and Marlon Brando’s picture in the role of the Godfather, and books about Hitler and Putin.

He will spend the rest of his life in a high security prison. It has been now 12 months since Russia invaded the Ukraine. Italy will send more weapons. Germany eventually decided to send the Leopard tanks and the US will send tanks too. The war is not over and it will probably last for a while longer, but we all hope that these powerful armaments will give some advantage to Kiev.

Finally, here are links to images and articles about the fabulous Couture week 2023:

Armani Privé

And here is the final treat, a cake with dark chocolate and orange zest filled with cream. It was so successful that I think I will repeat it for the upcoming birthdays in February.

For the cake you need: 250 of self-raising flour, two eggs, 150 g of golden caster sugar, 100 g of melted butter, the grated zest and juice of an orange, 100 g of dark chocolate, half a tsp of cinnamon, one tsp of baking powder, half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda and some liquor.

For the filling you need: 50 g of icing sugar, 300 ml of whipping cream, some dark chocolate to shave and some grated zest of orange.

Prepare the cake beating the eggs and the sugar. Microwave the butter with the chocolate until melted and add it to the mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and when the mixture is soft and moist pour it in a greased spring cake tin and bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes or until ready.

When the cake is cool prepare the filling by whipping the cream with the icing sugar. Cut the cake in half and wet both sides with milk and water. Spread half of the cream on the bottom half then shave some dark chocolate on it as well as some grated orange zest. Put the other half on top of it and decorate with the rest of the cream, maybe using a piping bag. Finally shave more dark chocolate and some orange zest on top and enjoy!