Friday, 26 June 2020

Coronavirus diary: New Pamphlet, PhD, my writing and poetry

My pamphlet Negotiating Caponata, is out. It may seem a little thing but I feel very proud. I shipped it to my family and friends in Italy, UK, Australia and Canada. I hope they like it. There will be a Zoom Launch on 16th July as well. Here are the links to Dempsey&Windle’s website and to my website:



My website has just been reshaped by webmasters Andrew and Becci (https://www.a2a.co.uk/ ). They did a great job; it looks amazing.

I am carrying on with my PhD thesis on Margaret Atwood; it was my main target during the free time I had in the lockdown. It was hard work and still is as I am trying to finalise it by autumn. Editing is the longest part and the most difficult. The final work needs to be almost perfect and at a level of a PhD, which means it needs to ‘create new knowledge’ at the ‘foremost of the academic discipline’. Quite tough. I don’t know what the examiners will decide once I submit my thesis, I just hope the process will end at some point and I will get the award. The whole thing is giving me a bit of anxiety and my blood pressure rose, but I am carrying on and hope I will succeed eventually. I have already published extracts of my work on Atwood in academic articles and more informal pieces and have had abstracts accepted in conferences, which are suspended at the moment but will take place in 2021. So, my research on Atwood’s work will carry on as well as my links to Canadian culture, Canadian friends and Canadian territory. Studying Atwood, I discovered a new dimension that is enriching my life and broadening my views. I do not intend to stop as it is becoming more and more exciting.

During the lockdown, I wrote and published articles and reviews as well. Some are linked to my work on Margaret Atwood, others are poetry reviews and also a review on Raphael’s virtual exhibition at Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome. Here are the links:

Rachel Burns, A Girl in a Blue Dress

David Hockney: Ways of Working

Dónall Dempsey, Crawling Out and Falling Up

Kitty Coles, Visiting Hours

Two Painters at a Crossroad: Geoffrey Pimlott and Colin Merrin

Roy Marshall, After Montale

Notes on the Testaments

David Cooke, Staring at a Hoopoe

Floods, global warming and overpopulation

Coping with Covid-19 in the UK, Italy and Japan: a comparison

Raphael 1520–1483, a walk in the exhibition

Daphne Milne, The Blue Boob Club (South Magazine 61)

Conyer Clayton, We shed our skin like dynamite

‘Being a woman painter: reflections on Elaine Risley’s career in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eyehttps://thebluenib.com/being-a-woman-painter-reflections-on-elaine-risleys-career-in-margaret-atwoods-cats-eye/

Richard Kell, The whispering sky

Robbie Frazer, 192 Miles with Carla


In order to relax a bit from my academic work I made sketches and paintings. I produced some sketchbook journals that record what I was doing during the confinement, that is, cakes, pizzas, pictures of empty spaces, like city squares and supermarket shelves, and painted my obsession with the virus in different forms. The process encouraged my creativity and soothed my troubled mood making me feel better. They are not great pieces, but I can develop one or two of them in the future.

Woking Stanza, Woking Writers Circle and Write Out Loud organised Zoom sessions which were not only helpful for my writing but also kept us in touch and we could have a good chat though at a distance. I also completed my diabetes awareness sessions online and had a few Zoom meetings with my UCA student and her tutor. For me, it wasn’t easy not to meet people in person, days seemed void but I decided to set my goals day by day and managed to keep up pretty well at the end. Podcasts and videos from newspaper, museums and youtube helped me too. Here are a few links I enjoyed:



Atwood and other writers:

Tate:



V&A:



Crocheting:

I kept clapping hands for the NHS, though I felt sadder and sadder each time thinking about all the people who have died, and still die, from the pandemic. I find the political controversies pointless and detrimental in some way, both in Italy and in the UK. I don’t think there is any perfect solution to this situation and things cannot be solved in the short term. What affects me most is the social distancing and restrictions about meeting family, but it will be eased off at a certain point hopefully. I am planning to spend the summer at home, complete my thesis, write more articles, do some art work and crochet, and waiting for a future where people will gather again.


Saturday, 13 June 2020

Coronavirus diary: keeping busy

I did my best not to get bored. A part from working on my PhD thesis and my writings. I met my fellow writers online. It was exciting to have a chat on our pieces, exchange feedbacks and have the opportunity to keep in touch despite isolation. We met every four weeks and updated the Woking Writers Circle’s website with pictures and comments. We kept in touch on Twitter and Facebook as well trying not to lose track of what we were doing, suggesting each other new ideas on our experience of Covid-19, transformations, football, how we were at 20 and how our gardens go. I joined webinar events with Canada-UK foundation, online art classes, meetings, performances and lectures. It was a bit hectic at times. The Tate and V&A sent emails with engrossing links to articles and videos. It was a good chance to keep going and find new prompts for my creative life.


During the lockdown I also did a lot of crochet, knitting and sewing, starting new projects that made me feel creative and alive. I don’t know why but I mainly concentrated on purses and bags using both crochet patterns and some nice pieces of fabrics my daughter gave me some time ago. It was more the process than the final product that intrigued me, the opportunity to create something new, realise my product. I used buttons to close the bags as I ran out of zips at a certain point but then I placed an order for fifty zips on Amazon. Each time I finished a purse or a bag I sent the photo to my mum through Tania’s Facebook account (she is the carer’s who lives with my mum). Both Tania and my mum sent me back pictures of their work, crochet and knitting beautiful things, they did during the lockdown. I also made bags inspired by Japanese boro bags and a t-shirt for my autistic daughter Valentina with Leela, her favourite cartoon character, embroidered on the front. I put some things on Facebook marketplace (I am under Carla Scarano) and managed to sell some items, mainly Japanese things: haori, kimono and Japanese pottery. It was fun.


I am working on a poetry pamphlet, Negotiating Caponata. I was overwhelmed when I received the good news that it was accepted for publication by Dempsey and Windle
(https://www.dempseyandwindle.com/). The poems are about food and family relationships; some of them have been published in magazines such as South, The Blue Nib, London Grip and The High Window. My fellow writers of Woking Stanza and Woking Writers Circle gave me some good tips on titles and on how to improve some images. My daughter helped me too from Japan; she has a literary side she is not developing at the moment, as she is concentrating on fashion, but it is there. My poetry tutor Dawn Wood was very important in the process of redrafting. She has published her work with Templar Poetry and is a painter and a sculptor too (http://www.dawnwoodartist.co.uk/  https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poet/dawn-wood/) I trust her advice and feel very comfortable with her. I am in the process of proofreading my pamphlet with the help of Janice Dempsey who said it will be ready in July 2020. I am so excited and happy about it and am looking forward to having a copy in my hands and sending it to my family and friends. There will be a link on my website for Dempsey and Windle’s website once it is published.

I took part in a football challenge with the help of my husband on Facebook started by Greg Freeman. Here are the results of my research and some good pics:

Francesco Totti (born 27 September 1976), mainly played for Roma and the Italy national team as an attacking midfielder or second striker. He scored 307 goals with Roma and is considered one of the best players of his neration and Roma’s best ever player. His play is versatile and creative, he is a great leader and has sense of humour. He published several books of jokes playing on his supposed naivety and inexperience, here are some examples:

He is married with Ilary Blasi and has three children. Here is a video of his achievements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6VDGQ4xKX0
Forza Roma, Forza Lupi!

Gianfranco Zola (born 5 July 1966) is an Italian footballer who played as a forward. He played for Napoli and Parma, and then moved to Chelsea where he was assistant manager and then in 2008 manager of West Ham.  He was particularly good with his right foot. Zola was awarded The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2004 for his merits and was appointed best football player in 1997. In 2003 he was voted Chelsea's greatest player ever. He was born at Oliena in the beautiful island of Sardinia in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea but said he felt at home in London. Zola loved Covent Garden area, London Bridge and London’s parks.
Zola is also a good pianist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opK2VIukC4w

Roberto Baggio (born 18 February 1967) mainly played as a second striker, or as an attacking midfielder. He was creative and gifted. He was named in the list of the world's greatest living players. He scored hundreds of goals in his career. He played for different Italian clubs: Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, A.C. Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan and Brescia. Baggio is known as Divin Codino ("The Divine Ponytail") for his hairstyle maybe linked to his Buddhist beliefs. He had some accidents in the first part of his career which did not compromise his talent. He is considered one of the best Italian footballers after WW II.

My husband completed an amazing puzzle of 18000 pieces called ‘Evening Walk in Paris’, 276x192 cm. We had to clear part of the living room to fit the whole thing on the floor and take a photo. It was awesome!

In May there was the Eurovision Song Contest Come Together. I never miss this program and was disappointed when they cancelled it. However, I liked the way it was organised this time, re-proposing past shows and videos of hit songs, such as Volare, Save your kisses for me and Waterloo. The video clips of 2020 entries were a bit short but they gave you the idea of the songs. It was a lovely show with Mr Graham Norton at his best. The most moving and beautiful moment was when the different singers performed Love Shine A Light separately, here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_xmJcg1iBU&fbclid=IwAR247zHVwaf97peMwjFj36_qQxzbSiSq-YiwkrOAHlcPKY71O73oESAHbz0
I enjoyed it immensely and didn’t miss the competition, which doesn’t seem suitable at the moment, but appreciated the cooperation between the different countries and singers.

For Easter I made cards I sent to friends in the UK and in Italy and to distribute to neighbours. In my drawings, the flower pattern I used with a flower stamp my daughter gave me ended up strange. I decorated it with felt pens and coloured pencils and then I smeared it with inks and enamels thinking about the virus spreading and ruining people’s lives and families, killing by chance. I struggled to make a finished drawing as sketching provisional pieces seemed the norm in this uncertain period. I doodled as I needed to free my style in order to express my worries and anxieties in a world that is forced to become silent and still but bubbles beneath the surface. I made some loose sketches at the end and a comic strip inspired by the pandemic.

Can I go back to painting leaves, flowers and landscapes? Can I forget about the virus? It seems impossible at the moment, the obsession and worries are too present in my everyday life. At a certain point I decided to give up all my previous projects: cherry blossoms, kimono patterns, bunches of tulips, my daughter’s last fashion collection that I had sketched on my sketchbook journal in Japan. I put aside the many photos I had taken around the area where I live when spring blossoms bloomed in April’s gorgeous weather and the views of deserted streets and squares. I surrendered to my obsession eventually. I painted the scarlet, grey and blue mischievous virus again and again with bewildered pleasure.

The same happened with my poetry. Here is some haiku I wrote on my experience of distancing and isolation:

Isolation

Queueing at Sainsbury’s
quick chat at a distance
surrounded by blue.

Cycling against the wind
half an hour of freedom
roars in my ears.

Long days of stillness,
no hurry to reach
the end of the rainbow.

Time to chill out,
rest, unravel
circumventing passers-by.

Spring bursting
like a muffled bomb
inside my ribs.

The rainbow one was published in Covidioms, a collaborative poem sequence, documenting life under lockdown. The link to the booklet is on Poetry NI website is here: http://www.poetryni.com/covidioms.html?fbclid=IwAR0tr1-68jW1_7LFEIYFyoFsdQaiCEcpQPQIIKAPStfjoT1lNNizmjGo6hk

All poems in the anthology are great, some funny, some moving, all hopeful. My poem is number 88.

Some people say that this period is like in wartime except for the bullets and bombs. It is a suspended time where we are supposed to carry on in view of what would happen somewhere at some point in the future, but we are not sure when and where. Time for withdrawal and meditation which fitted with Lent time but carried on after Easter as well. A delayed time where we do not need to hurry, what we cannot do today we can do tomorrow. No weddings, no funerals, no beginning, no end. Brexit, Islamic terrorism and refugees’ emergency seem far far away.

On the whole it was a period characterised by stillness, sadness for the deaths but also an opportunity to thrive in creativity, find different ways of communicating, feeling alive in this unexpected crisis. Would everything go back to what it was before? To what we now call ‘normality’? Probably not. But who knows what will happen in the long term, in five-ten years. Maybe nothing, maybe more.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Coronavirus diary: recipes

I baked, cooked and experimented recipes extensively during the lockdown. It was a way to keep me busy and cheer me up making and eating good food. I mainly made new cakes, pastiera for Easter, bread, pizza but also jams. I prepared more elaborated meals with lasagne, gnocchi, pasta amatriciana and puttanesca. I have good neighbours with whom I exchanged recipes and cakes, leaving our things on the front door. I had a go at the Royal Easter biscuits as well, a fantastic recipe, but could not make them as beautiful as in the official pictures, here is the link: https://www.royal.uk/royal-easter-biscuits-recipe


Bread with olives

You need: 500 g of strong flour or bread flour; 200 ml of lukewarm water, one tsp of salt, 7 g of dried yeast, 20 pitted black olives and 20 pitted green olives, two tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil.


Mix all the ingredient and knead the dough. Let it rest in a warm place for 2-3 hours covered with a wet tea towel. Knead it again and form small breads, then place them in a greased oven tray and bake at 200°C for half an hour.

Pane azzimo (unleavened bread)

You need: 200 g of plain flour (or self-raising flour if you wish to have a softer result), 150 g of wholemeal flour or other alternative flours (such as rice flour, buckwheat flour, hazelnut flour, or spelt flour), 200 ml of lukewarm water, two tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, salt, one egg to brush the top.


Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough. Let it rest for one hour then prepare sort of round pancakes. Set them on a greased oven tray and make some holes on the top with a fork. Brush the top with a beaten egg and bake at 180°C for half an hour. For a sweet version add 100 of Demerara sugar instead of salt.

Panzanella

This is a simple and tasty recipe from Tuscany. It was also called ‘pan lavato’ (washed bread) as the main ingredient is stale bread soaked in water.  Originally it was the peasants’ lunch or poor people’s food made with bread and the vegetables they had in their garden, such as tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and basil. They also added salt, oil and vinegar.

To make panzanella you need to soak some bread in water, better if stale bread, and crumble it. Add the vegetables cut in small pieces, extra virgin olive oil, some drops of vinegar and salt. Mix and chill it for one hour before serving.

Flower biscuits with marmalade juice

I had some left over of marmalade juice from the marmalade I made in winter, so I decided to use it. But you can use whatever syrup you have and like.


You need: 300 g of rice flour, two eggs, 70 g of caster sugar, 150 ml of marmalade juice, 70 g of melted butter, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda.

Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough. Let it rest for half an hour then roll it out. Cut the biscuits with a biscuit cutter (I used a sakura shaped cutter, that is, cherry blossom, I bought in Japan). Bake the biscuits on a greased tray at 180°C for half an hour.

Cake with marmalade juice

You need: 150 g of rice flour, 150 g of sponge flour, three eggs, 100 g of golden granulated sugar, 3 tbsp. of canola oil or sunflower oil, 150 ml of marmalade juice (or another syrup), two tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda.


Beat the yolk of the eggs with the sugar, add oil and flours together with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Whip the whites stiff and add them to the mixture. Pour the mixture in a greased cake tin and bake at 180°C for half an hour or forty-five minutes. Decorate it with melted dark chocolate and sprinkles.

Rhubarb and ginger jam

I found rhubarb at the greengrocer’s and couldn’t resist trying to make jam. I added ginger as I think the two flavours match well.


You need: 400 g of rhubarb cut in 2 cm pieces, 50 g of glacé ginger, 500 g of sugar, half a tsp of grated ginger, zest and juice of one lemon.

Grind the lemon zest with the sugar in a blender. Add all the other ingredients and set the mixture over a medium heat in a pan. Bring to boil and cook it until the rhubarb is soft. Store in clean jars.

Enjoy!


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Coronavirus diary: staying at home


Just before the lockdown, my work at UCA Farnham stopped. My husband, I and my third son were all at home for four weeks they said, but I felt that it was an indefinite period that might go on through the summer. My husband was very busy teaching his lessons and meeting his colleagues online. My son, after a first period of cancellations of all activities, courses and meetings, had some online interviews. I concentrated on supermarket shopping at first. I did not have the intention of doing bulk storage or obsessing over panic-buying as I could find almost everything I needed, but I was bewildered when I saw the shelves almost empty at Sainsbury’s. No vegetables and fruit, no
toilet paper, no eggs and flour, no yeast, no passata and cans. I had some supplies at home for about a month but I felt uncomfortable all the same. Boz, the local greengrocer, had plenty of fruit, vegetables and eggs. I found flour and passata at the Italian Deli in Horsell and I luckily had yeast for our Sunday pizza and toilet paper for four weeks at least. I felt reassured. Food hopping food became my priority and only distraction as all the other shops were closed. I noticed that the clothes and home aisles at Sainsbury’s were deserted, everybody was shopping only for food. I visited the local Tesco as well from time to time for supplies of biscuits and sweets, and Morrison’s for plants as the plant nurseries were closed. I spent a lot of time cooking and baking both to have something to do and because being at home we ate more and more often. The most important moment of the day seemed to be the evening meal when the three of us met after our daily activities and partial isolation from each other.


I stuck to exercising, half an hour-forty-five minutes cycling per day and twenty minutes’ yoga at 6 pm watching the news. Despite my efforts, I gained two kilos though my target was to lose two, so I need to lose four kilos now. I think it was too much chocolate, biscuits and cakes. So, after a few weeks I made up my mind to reduce sweets to one piece of cake in the morning and only one biscuit or small piece of chocolate with my tea break in the afternoon. I also reduced my portions and am waiting for some results in the long term. During the day, I alternated my academic work on my PhD thesis to my writing (reviews, poems and articles) and to some paintings. I wished to develop the sketches I had made in Japan but my mind was obsessed with the pandemic so I gave up and painted coronavirus instead. 


In the end, I realised I tended to follow some patterns: academic work in the morning some writing, a short tea break at 11 am, lunch, watching Bargain Hunt and the news at 12,30-1 pm, sometimes a phone call to friends and relatives. Then more work in the afternoon, if I still had some energy and concentration, then cycling, setting up the dinner and I finally watched the 6 pm news while doing my yoga practice. After dinner I was too tired to do any more work so I watched TV and did my crochet or sewing. My favourite programs on the BBC are detective stories like Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Lewis, DCI Banks and Scott and Bailey. On the Italian TV we watched the news every day at 7 pm, some history programs and Italian-style comedy films. I also like Bella da morire (drop-dead beautiful), a mini-series with Cristiana Capotondi who plays the role of a tough police inspector determined to solve stories of violence against women. On the Italian Paramount channel, they broadcasted Sherlock’s season four and five and Inspector Morse.

I spent much more time than usual on Facebook and Twitter posting pictures, thoughts, quotes and updates. It was a way to keep in touch with my friends as well, commenting on their links and putting likes. I also put some stuff on sale on Facebook Market place and managed to sell two items before the lock down: two sets of kangaroo shoes and a table football.

After two weeks the supermarket shelves were restocked though flour and yeast were still missing. Luckily I found some flour at the Italian Deli and made yeast with ‘pasta madre’ (sourdough) from a recipe my mother in law sent me. It took about two weeks to make it as it is a long process. I started with flour and lukewarm water I mixed and kneaded it, then stored in a warm place covered with a wet tea towel. I ‘refreshed’ it with more water and flour every 24 hours for five days then every 12
hours throwing away the upper part which is usually sour and crusty. When it was ‘mature’, that is, when it doubled its size and didn’t smell sour, I stored it in the fridge and used half of it to make pizza, leaving the rest in the fridge after refreshing it again with more flour and water. It worked, and I can use pasta madre for months maybe years. This is the way women made bread in the past when yeast was not sold in shops or supermarkets.

Of course we couldn’t visit my autistic daughter Valentina at Fullerton school near Doncaster. We skyped with her once a week and I sent her some parcels with sweets, clothes and our picture. Sometimes she was unsettled but other times she was cheerful and happy to see us.  We sent each other kisses and hugs through the screen. I also sent a parcel to my son and daughter in law in Leeds with Easter eggs, floor, Italian pasta, rice and two crocheted pot holders I made. The postage cost more than the content.

While I was at home, I stopped wearing earrings at first but still combed my hair. I wore my pyjamas until 9.30-10.00 pm then put on a track suit bottom and loose t-shirt. Then I decided to have a bit of improvement. I went back to earrings, three per ear, matching them with some nice tops with flowery patterns. I still kept the comfortable track suit bottom though, wore warm socks at home and combed and straightened my hair. I took off my rings after a while as my fingers had swollen from all that washing hands and kneading dough.

Going to the supermarket was the most exciting experience during the lockdown, so I put on a nice dress or jeans with a belt with a big buckle cowboy style and loose colourful shirts. I even wore make-up, bought new lipsticks and put them on at home. It was a way to cheer me up and survive in such a stillness. Some people in Italy called it a period of ‘emptiness and plenty’. The emptiness of streets and squares and the houses full of people forced to stay at home. The emblem of this emptiness in Rome is St. Peters’ square, deserted when the Pope speaks. But we need to face this emptiness looking at a better future that will be built on this vulnerability, constructing creatively, fiercely surviving despite the silent killer. It is excruciating to hear from the news how many people are still dying, especially doctors and nurses who give their lives to help others. I liked what the Pope and the Queen said during Easter time. They said what we all needed to hear in a direct essential way. I also like Tom Moore’s motto: tomorrow will be a good day. Hopefully.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Coronavirus diary: the beginning

For me, the beginning of the coronavirus crisis was in Italy where part of my family lives. On the Italian TV they have been speaking about Covid-19 since February. The government said that Italian people did not need to worry as the National Health Care (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) was prepared to face it. When people started to die they said they were elderly or already sick people. But then the situation got worse and out of hand, especially in the north of Italy, in Lombardia. Here is an article I wrote for Woking Writers Circle giving my view of the situation in Italy, Japan and the UK: Coping with COVID-19 in the UK, Italy and Japan: a comparison


Travelling to Japan at the beginning of March, I could feel the change. Airports were almost deserted and there were a lot of empty seats on the plane. There was a lot of space to stretch my legs and place my things. At the check-in desk they did not let me take my crochet stuff on the plane (apparently the hook was a problem), so I bought six water-soluble colour pencils at Düsseldorf airport where we changed plane and started to record images on my sketchbook, a sort of travel journal. I drew the Gucci bags I saw at Heathrow duty free shop centre, the Japanese masks of kabuki theatre from the intriguing ANA airlines safety video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=51&v=T0Zkey8LMHU&feature=emb_logo ) and magazine covers in Düsseldorf with Covid-19 headlines. Once in Tokyo, I made sketches of photos I took downtown and kimono patterns from the books my daughter had on her shelves. I especially liked the pictures on a book by Sheila Cliffe (https://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/short-courses/stories/all-about-kimonos-with-tutor-sheila-cliffe-lcf ) where the author wears elegant old and new kimono. She adapted them to her taste with cleverness and expertise. I also made collage pieces using cuttings from Japanese brochures and magazines.






I could finally hug my daughter after a year. My eldest son was already there as we were supposed to attend the graduation of my daughter’s master in fashion at Bunka Gakuen University, but the ceremony could not take place because of the coronavirus emergency. We were there, and we celebrated the achievement all the same. Unfortunately, I had a terrible jet lag. I woke up at two or three at night hungry and sleepless. I locked myself in the toilet with a book or my crochet and waited to feel sleepy again. This didn’t happen until six or seven in the morning when the day began. I felt sleepy from the late morning throughout the rest of the day and fell asleep everywhere I sat down, in the underground, at cafés and restaurants. I couldn’t help it, my eyes closed, I leaned against my husband’s shoulder and had a nap.

The weather was warm, almost spring time and the sakura (cherry blossoms) were starting to bloom. We could not visit museums as they were closed for the pandemic, but we did a lot of shopping at Senso-ji temple and shopping centre and at Solamachi. I bought some beautiful kimono and haori (sort of jackets), Japanese ceramics and two books: The Pillow Book and selected haiku by Masaoka Shiki. My husband and son spent a whole day at Yodobashi Camera department store and Akihabara, places full of games, video games, anime and toys of all kinds and materials, from plastic to wood, paper, metal and fabric. Everything was so diverse, colourful and stimulating, I felt flabbergasted in such a profusion of creativity.
 
We took a trip to Mount Takao. Despite my jet lag, I managed to reach the top, 599 metres, and admire the beautiful view with layers of dark mountains against the blue evening sky. We took the easiest trail going up but going down my son opted for the hardest one across the forest. It wasn’t easy for me because my shoes had no slip grip but I managed to reach the end. Luckily the last bit had a cable car connection.


We had some problems with our flight back, as I explain in my article, but we eventually reached the UK safely. On the plane back home, I read The Pillow Book and the haiku. I also listened to relaxing music and watched Parasite, the film that won the best foreign film Oscar 2020. It was funny, cracking at first, but harrowing and hyperreal towards the end. I was mesmerised and shocked at the amount of cruelty that was so easily performed and the aftermath of it.

Back in the UK in the middle of March, I had jet lag again but it lasted only a few days. In Italy the lock down had started. We were supposed to fly to Rome for Easter but the flight was cancelled. All the events I had booked in the UK were cancelled as well and the conference I was supposed to attend in Canada was postponed to next year. My husband’s school was temporarily closed, so he started teaching online. I felt vulnerable, in an indefinite position of possible danger though everything looked normal outside. The weather was gorgeous; nature was inexplicably blooming as if nothing was happening. In Italy my family was all right though the death toll was getting higher and higher especially in the north of the country. And then the UK lockdown began.