Saturday, 26 September 2020

Keeping up with hard times: creative writing, artwork, crochet and more

During the early summer, seeing the coronavirus death rate rising was terrifying, then it slowed down. in Italy, fifty per cent of the cases were still concentrated in the north while the centre and the south seemed miraculously to be almost immune. The most frustrating thing was that despite all the restrictions and the isolation, people still became infected and died in the hundreds. When the restrictions started to ease off, confusion arose. In Italy in phase two you could meet ‘congiunti e affetti stabili’ (next of kin and long term loved ones). The ambiguity of the phrase created puzzlement; what did they mean with ‘long term loved ones’? Apparently a lover was not

considered such. Then people met in parks and town centres, movidas started again; they wanted their life back especially in southern countries like Italy and Spain where staying inside with hot weather is sweltering. It is clear now that health has become a global issue and is connected with the economy. We are isolated in this pandemic but we cannot save ourselves without others’ support and help. So, we are connected both in the risk of transmitting the infection and in helping each other. According to statistics, more men than women are dying, probably due to hormones, and some ethnic groups are more vulnerable than others, though this is debatable. Some ethnic groups are socially deprived and live in crowded accommodations or have jobs that are at risk, which might be the causes of the higher death rate. Elderly people seem to be more vulnerable, but some of them recovered and then young and middle aged healthy people became seriously affected by the virus. I wonder if it is possible to have straight answers. We don’t know, maybe we will never know or we will know in ten or twenty years. By now, I feel sceptical about definite conclusions.

I was bewildered that face masks became mandatory in the UK so late compared to other countries. In Italy my mum has been wearing a mask when she is outside since the lockdown started to ease off in May and she has to use a surgical mask not homemade ones or generic face coverings. I don’t think face masks are a solution but they help to contain the virus.

When some shops started to open, I managed to spend £ 50 at Poundland, I still wonder how I managed it. I craved everything I could not buy for weeks: sweets, toys for Violetta (my future granddaughter), balls of wool to make a blanket, tortellini on offer, kitchen tools, flip flops for my daughter Valentina, 
everything attracted my deprived shopping ego. When the heatwave hit, I bought loose long dresses at Morrisons and Sainsbury’s and at Longacres Garden centres, which have clothes departments. Because of the ups and downs of the English weather, sometimes I needed a light cardigan and a cotton scarf to match. I felt very comfortable in my new look and never bothered if some of the clothes I used to wear the previous summer didn’t fit. At a certain point some charity shops re-opened. I found some lucky

picks, such as a comfortable pair of white sandals and new shoes decorated with shells that match perfectly with a dress I have with similar decorations on the neckline. Then earrings and clothes, of course, for my ‘future self’ when I lose weight, especially on the waist line. These hopeful thoughts inspire a re-shaping that probably will never happen but it is a way to entertain myself.

My garden flourished during the summer. Tiny plants of herbs became bushes. I regularly harvested cherry tomatoes, lettuce and courgette. Running beans were rather resistant to develop edible products; they grew taller and taller and showed beautiful red flowers but then the harvest was scarce. Geraniums, daisies, begonias and pansy flowers thrived throughout the summer encouraging me to spend more time outside and inspired my artwork too. I collected photos of flowers and made sketches. Flowers are a versatile subject you can render in different ways from the most detailed and figurative ones to total abstract. 

Because of my passion for art, I bought some pictures by artists that exhibited in Woking. The cover picture of my collection, Negotiating Caponata, is from a painting by Janice Dempsey ( ), ‘Cappuccino in Positano’, a gouache that now hangs proudly in my living room. 

I also bought an abstract painting by Geoffrey Pimlott, ‘Cadmium yellow below

black’(, a piece I really like, from his last exhibition at The Lightbox that unfortunately lasted only a few days due to the lockdown. I reviewed the exhibition here: I love the way Geoffrey uses the ochre and black together with pink and yellow. The juxtaposition of colours gives me joy and makes me think of the positive side of life. 

Hannah Bruce is very active in Woking Art Society (; she regularly exhibits in the area and her work expresses the right balance between figurative and abstract. I chose ‘Cat peeking’ among her beautiful pictures for its warm colours and the skilful use of watercolours and inks. 

Finally, I bought Liz Seward’s ‘Virginia Water – Autumn’ ( in watercolour at the Peacock exhibition. I attended one of her workshops with WAS before the lockdown and admired her way of teaching and her paintings. She uses watercolours with expertise, exploring the transparencies of the medium. I love this piece because of its freshness and delicate tones.

Crocheting is one of my passions. I experimented new patterns such as the mosaic pattern and new granny squares with the help of tutorials of Ophelia Talk crochet I found on Twitter. I made potholders and face masks and am planning to make a blanket for Violetta too. I quite like wearing face masks and matching them with my outfits. That’s why I created some handmade ones with fabrics and crochet. If they are too thick I feel short of breath because of my asthma condition, but the crocheted ones are perfect. 

The V&A sent me links of sewing patterns such as Mary Quant ‘Georgie dress’ and the Japanese style ‘boro’ bag, which I made. Here are the links:,TK0R,AGDPP,3KP8V,1,TK0R,AGDPP,3KP8V,1

The ‘boroboro’ bag, which means ‘something tattered or repaired’, is a re-working of pre-existing materials sewn together and then embroidered with simple stitches. I made two and added my Italian touch crafting a more complex kind of embroidery and interweaving figurative patterns with abstract ones. The V&A also sent me videos about its collections, fashion, handmade crafts, such as crochet, jewellery making, illustration and the fantastic kimono exhibition, which had to close because of the Covid-19. Here are the links:  

Part 1 

Part 2  

Part 3  

Part 4  

Part 5  

Eventually, I could attend the exhibition at the end of August and reviewed it here: 

I attended some online events with Canada-UK Foundation too about Canadian ethos, the effects of the pandemic on economy, business and education and how to recover from this situation. I took part in Canada Day in a virtual pancake breakfast and also wrote a prose poem on it:  

Canada day  

It had been a long day at the computer and then preparing dinner, peeling potatoes, washing salad and tomatoes, chopping carrots, frying meatballs then laying the table. What day was it? Monday or Wednesday? The last day of the month or the beginning of a new phase? I lost track in isolation. I began to think that maybe, just maybe there might be something for me, just for me on the doormat. How else to explain this sensation of novelty? I unlocked the door and there it was, a parcel tightly wrapped in grey plastic. I tore it open and a box with a red maple leaf printed on the top appeared. Inside a bottle of pure Canadian maple syrup and a packet of flour mix for buttermilk pancakes. ‘Dear Carla’, it began, ‘Happy Canada Day!’  

From time to time I enjoyed music with the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Opera House online events, and ‘The Story of Anansi’ with the Unicorn theatre, an entertaining show for children, but very involving. I had great fun, here are the links:

Shena Grigor, one of my yoga teachers, organised yoga sessions at Woking park on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It was so exciting to meet people again and exercise outside in the sun or under trees if it was too hot. When the leisure centre opened again, I could also attend yoga with Sandra Cooper though spaces are restricted and the course fills quickly.   

Unfortunately, with autumn coming it is getting colder and we have to stay inside hoping that the freedom we have gained after summer is not taken back again due to a second wave of the virus. I try to be realistic, keep things small in everyday life and not plan ahead more than one or two months. Though the Government’s rules may be confusing sometimes (which I believe is not a characteristic of the British situation but is global), I believe it is important to follow them. The basic rules such as ‘wash hands, cover face and make space’ are fundamental. Then stay hopeful, keep in touch with friends and family and look after each other if possible. A good recipe for survival.

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