Here I am again after the summer break where everything seemed static but actually a lot of things happened behind the scenes both in my life and internationally. The pandemic should have been a restrain but it wasn’t in the face of serious events such as the death of George Floyd, the manifestations that followed, which rightly expressed the issue of discrimination against black people, and the Beirut explosion. From my isolation and consequent staycation, I couldn’t help feeling worried and helpless but I am also aware that I can voice my opinion in writing and in everyday life. It is a little contribution but as Madre Teresa of Calcutta says: ‘We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.’
August was dedicated to my PhD thesis on Margaret Atwood, the title is: An intertextual reading of female characters in Margaret Atwood’s work. The proof-reader gave me some deadlines and my supervisors wished to have a semi-final draft by the end of August. So, I concentrated all my energy on writing and eventually finalised 87,000 words. It was hard work and a big effort but I’m so happy to have accomplished it according to my plans.
When the restrictions of Covid-19 eased off, we managed to visit my son Lorenzo and my daughter in law Layla in Leeds and my autistic daughter Valentina in Doncaster. The great exciting news is that Layla is pregnant and I will be grandma before Christmas! She should be a girl, Violetta, and I am already preparing knitted and crocheted things for her in white, pale pink and purple. Lorenzo and Lyla are overjoyed, of course. She had some low blood pressure problems at the beginning of the pregnancy but is now fine.
My daughter Valentina is all right too. The social services have just moved her south near Redhill so we can visit her more often. She is settling in the new accommodation with new staff, which is not an easy matter for her, but we can see her every week now and she is so happy when we are there. We always bring her new clothes, the sweets she likes and the things she buys online, usually Futurama items.
I also started my new job at ISL London, an international school in Hammersmith. I teach Italian language and literature to MYP and DP students, that is, high school students, according to the International Baccalaureate program. Commuting to London is not so easy, it means leaving home at 6 am to avoid the traffic and coming back home after 6 pm. It is a major commitment and a big change from my previous routine. I work three days a week in London while my husband works full time in the same school. Luckily he is the one who drives, so I can read or have a nap during the commute. Earning money is good and rewarding and I love having contact with students again. The environment at ISL London is welcoming both for staff and students; the international atmosphere makes you at ease and is very friendly. On the whole I like this opportunity and hope to make the most of it, and, at the same time, I will try to keep on track with my creative side.
We also visited my son Francesco who moved to Newcastle to start a teaching job in a high school as a maths teacher. He is sharing an apartment with some friends and seems very happy with his new situation. Here is a poem I wrote for him before he left:
I hope your road is a good one
full of unexpected discoveries,
paths you’re exploring for the first time
where dragons and kind elves mix.
You enter a new environment
a school where you will teach maths
to disadvantaged children, KS 3 and 4,
where you will meet the unlucky ones
who will never access Oxford as you did,
who maybe are not as talented as you are
in painting, music and writing,
or excel in Physics and maths,
or understand Nietzsche’s and Kant’s thoughts.
Moving there is your choice
away from the too caring Italian family
to learn life from scratch, the ‘real’ one
after the university bubble.
Keep Newcastle in your heart and mind,
it will make you rich.
During the lockdown I gained three kilos and managed to lose two very slowly thanks to some good advice from nurse Emma who is monitoring my diabetes 2 condition. I crave biscuits and chocolate but I try to stick to my diet as much as possible. Despite this, I still baked but mainly experimented new savoury recipes as a pastime and also to give a bit of taste to the dullness of isolation. I will post the new recipes in the autumn blog.
I also took part in the Woking Art Society’s exhibition at the Peacock centre in Woking. It lasted two weeks and was a great experience. Being part of an art group motivates my artistic side. I feel I can produce more and develop further. It was also an opportunity to compare my work to other artists’ of the group that had their work on display too. I am working on kimono patterns at the moment inspired by my travels in Japan and by the exhibition at the V&A, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Art has no boundaries and you can express yourself in whatever ways and whatever style you like. This is liberating and releases frustration as well.
Online classes and zoom sessions were a great opportunity to keep in touch with fellow writers and also produce creative work. I attended art classes with Grainne Roche and poetry classes with the Poetry Business as well as open mic sessions with 1000 Monkeys, organised by Dempsey&Windle, and Write Out Loud zoom nights. It was a bit hectic at certain points when some events overlapped and I was having most of my evenings booked. I had to cut some of them in September when I started to work at ISL London.
On TV I watched the young Montalbano season two and Mrs America with Kate Blanchett on BBC 2 and the brilliant Talking Heads on iPlayer, all great fun. A lot of my time was dedicated to planting and growing my trug vegetable garden and arranging new flower pots. I had some good harvest from time to time thanks to the sunshine and a bit of spring rain. We could savour fresh salad and cherry tomatoes as well as courgette and beans.
I feel I am on a recovery plan and though things are not back to normal (but what is ‘normal’?), it is getting better. Is a new coronavirus wave coming soon? Are we going to celebrate Halloween and Christmas as usual? I hope so. More of my summer and my present days in my next posts.