Saturday, 24 April 2021

Keeping in touch: my Easter holidays

 Easter holidays passed so quickly I couldn’t believe we were back to the usual routine. Now the sunny weather is calling us outside for improbable trips and sightseeing in forbidden venues. I dared to travel north during the break to see my sons and daughter in law and my granddaughter Violetta, but only for one day each and only six of us at a time maximum. The weather wasn’t as bad as the forecast predicted, a bit windy but sunny, so we met outside. I made tramezzini the day before (sandwiches with mayonnaise in the Italian way) and pastiera, a traditional tart with ricotta, cinnamon and wheat cooked in milk that my Neapolitan grandmother used to make every Easter. I also tried dark chocolate hot cross buns and a Colombina (little dove) as extra treats (recipes here below).

Though we didn’t spend so much time together we made the most of it. It was intense and emotional. I brought little toys for my granddaughter Violetta and was so impressed by the way she cleverly interacts with people at her age. But I am the grandmother and rightly think so. I must say my son and my daughter in law are so attentive to her needs and fond of her that there is nothing else that my husband and I can do except visit them and enjoy the moment. My daughter Irene made lovely drawings of Violetta from her best photos and we
sent them as presents to friends and to her great-grandparents in Italy. We also spent a whole day with my autistic daughter Valentina in her garden and celebrated Easter decorating the trees, egg hunting and doing craft activities. She especially liked hitting the unicorn shaped piñata and doing some face painting. She chose to have a butterfly on her face and painted flowers on her sister’s forehead and on her father’s bald head. She enjoyed the pudding, a chocolate and cream marquise I made just for her.

Before Easter I followed the 71st Sanremo Festival on the Italian TV. There was no audience due to the Covid-19 restrictions but it was great entertainment. It was presented by Amadeus with the support of the fabulous Fiorello and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the popular footballer who plays as a striker for Serie A club Milan. His perfect figure, almost statuesque, and presence on stage were enough attract an audience. The winner of the song contest was the group Måneskin with Zitti e buoni (Be quiet and behave) 

Ibrahimovic, Amadeus and Fiorello 

Honestly, I wasn’t so happy about the final results as my favourite songs were the following:

Ermal Meta: Un milione di cose da dirti (a million things to tell you) 

Colapesce Dimartino: Musica leggerissima (Super-easy-listening music) 

Noemi: Glicine (wisteria) 

Malika Ayane: Ti piaci così (you like yourself like this)  

I hoped one of them would win in the end. It is not that I don’t like Måneskin, but I don’t think Zitti e Buoni is their best song. What I really enjoyed in the Sanremo Festival were the fabulous outfits created by the most renowned Italian fashion designers, such as Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino. They were not just beautiful, they were works of art and perfect in all aspects. Not only the clothes were gorgeous, but also the accessories, the shoes the hairstyle and the make-up. No match with anything I have seen so far on TV shows, not even comparable to the Oscars. Here are some examples:

What has recently moved me profoundly is the death of Prince Phillip. Maybe it was expected as he was almost 100, but it was a bereavement for the whole country. I felt moved by his understated kind of life and the sincere love between him and the queen. He was an apparently ordinary person who nevertheless faced difficulties in his childhood. He wasn’t poor but his mother had a breakdown and his father was absent. He was brought up by relatives and then sent to boarding schools. These situation did not affect his good humour and his genuine personality. He always supported the queen and was discretely present throughout her life. And he was a handsome man. At the funeral the queen looked tired, older in some way and lonely. I felt deeply sorry for her.

My job at ISL London ended the last day of March. I had a good time in such a welcoming and diverse environment and the Italian students I taught in the past seven months were fabulous. They produced a poetry anthology and an anthology where they collected the fairy tales they wrote in the prose unit. They also recorded the monologues they created in the drama unit and uploaded them on the school website. Just before I left, the Japanese students celebrated the sakura spring festival with paper cherry blossoms and origami scattered all around the school. It was lovely. 

However, I did not have much time to rest after the end of my job at ISL as I had to complete some work for IBO (International Baccalaureate), mark papers online and make the final corrections to my PhD thesis before sending the final version to the internal examiner. I did everything on time and eventually received the good news that my thesis had been accepted and that I would be awarded the PhD on 30th April 2021. Due to Covid restrictions, the ceremony will be postponed to July 2022, but once I receive the certificate I can start applying for postgraduate jobs. I would like to carry on with my research on intertextuality in Margaret Atwood’s work possibly with some funding. I almost can’t believe that I am having a doctorate at 58 with the prospect of an engaging future of researching and writing ahead.

Eventually I managed to relax a bit, watching videos and interviews featuring Margaret Atwood’s recent talks:

And The Motherhood Project of the Battersea Arts Centre:

I read a review on the show in The Guardian which was not so positive and I was intrigued by the topic so I decided to buy a ticket. Though not all the monologues are top quality, I think that they are all professionally performed and very engaging, even at a distance. The focus of the different pieces is so varied that it covers all the sides of motherhood, from the frustrated and tired housewife to abortion, discrimination of the ‘unmotherly’, mothering pets, transgender motherhood, abuse and disability. 

Last but not least, the final verdict for the murder of George Floyd seems to seal a turning point in the long history of abuse, killing and discrimination against African Americans. Or so we hope. Here is an interesting comment from The Times: 

And here are the recipes:

Dark chocolate hot cross buns

You need: 200 g of strong flour, one egg, 50 g of sugar, two tbsp of honey, 30 g of cocoa powder, 80 g of dark chocolate (ground), 7 g of dry yeast, 150 ml of warm milk, 50 g of lard, ¼ of a tsp of ground cloves and ¼ of a tsp of ground nutmeg, 50 g of raisins soaked in liquor and water.

Warm the lard with sugar, honey, nutmeg and cloves and a pinch of salt. Mix the flour with the yeast and the egg and pour in the milk. Add the cocoa powder and the chocolate. Finally add the lard mixture and the raisins and knead the dough. Let it rest for 2-3 hours in a warm place covered with a wet tea towel. Divide the dough in balls and place them on a greased oven tray. For the cross add water to two tbsp of flour plus two tbsp of icing sugar and form the cross on the top of the buns using the mixture and a piping bag. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 C. Glaze with melted honey.


You need: 300 g of strong flour, one egg and one yolk (use the white for the icing), 7 g of dry yeast, 100 ml of warm milk, 50 g of mixed peel, 100 g of sugar, 50 g of melted lard.

Mix all the ingredients and knead the dough. Let it rest for 2-3 hours in a warm place covered with a wet tea towel. Shape a dove on a grease oven tray and prepare the icing mixing the white of an egg, 4 tbsp of icing sugar and some drops of lemon juice. Spread the icing on the colombina and decorate with coloured sprinkles. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 C.

Chocolate and cream marquise

You need: four egg yolks, 50 g of sugar, 50 g of dark chocolate, 2 tbsp of honey, one tbsp of liquor, 250 ml of double cream plus 2 tsp of sugar, 80 g of melted butter, 50 g of cocoa powder, a pinch of salt the grated zest of an orange and two tbsp of orange juice.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar. Melt the chocolate with the butter and honey and let it cool. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs. Whisk the cream with two tsp of sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients to the chocolate mixture and fold in the cream. Line a loaf tin with cling film and pour in the chocolate marquise. Chill for six hours or overnight and serve with cream or custard.

So, let’s enjoy the sunny weather, till it lasts. 🌼

No comments:

Post a Comment