Saturday, 26 February 2022

Covid, Sanremo, Italian presidency and a cake for the Queen’s jubilee

 I had Covid at the beginning of February with mild symptoms that lasted for about ten days. I had three doses which helped eventually but I still felt poorly.  The overall sensation was so weird, like stepping into a parallel dimension. I had to self-isolate for at least 5 days and carry on isolating if the tests were positive for ten days. I only had a mild cold and some coughing but also headache, upset stomach and dizziness, the GP and 119 said that my symptoms were due to the fact that my body was fighting the virus.  My temperature was normal. The worst thing was that my head was confused for a few days and I found it hard to concentrate. I also felt a general sense of weakness and I had to rest a lot. Even reading was difficult, both books and online articles. Lack of appetite was the other issue, so I lost the two kilos I had gained during the Christmas holidays. As the days passed and I still tested positive, though I started to feel better, lack of motivation emerged, sort of a mild sense of depression. Nothing appealed me, I couldn’t focus properly and though I had some work to do (commissioned reviews, an academic article to complete and some work for IBO), all my body and mind were concentrated on fighting Covid and how to get out of it as soon as possible. After a week the T line became very faint, barely visible, and appeared only after 10-15 minutes. 

The C line was very strong. I thought I was clear but when I phoned 111 they told me I still had Covid and had to self-isolate until day 10 and take tests every day. I was also worried about infecting my husband and my daughter who live with me. My daughter caught it five days after me and my husband followed her after a few days. Their symptoms were mild as they had three doses too but they had to isolate for ten days as well.

I thought about my half term week. I had planned to visit my sons in the north. Could we still do it? And I could not see my daughter Valentina either, only Skype with her. Would it be possible to celebrate her birthday on the 16th of February at her home? I was upset with myself. I felt my body was letting me down though I had followed all the rules. The only things I could do without much effort were crocheting and some paintings but only easy things such as quick sketches with a limited palette or only pen drawings. I completed a blanket for my granddaughter and some granny squares. Everything seemed tasteless not just food and drinks. Lack of enthusiasm and motivation were certainly what affected me most. It was unsettling and bewildering as I am usually a person full of ideas and eager to experiment. Luckily, I didn’t need to go out shopping as the fridge was full and I had all I needed at home. I could still browse social media, phone friends and play wordle, which is quite addictive. When you start to look for the right word you can’t leave it; it is a competition with your own self. Days seemed endless and aimless and suddenly ended without a purpose or anything interesting to record. It was a limited perspective, a forced rest that was OK for a few days but then was irritating. I tried to get busy with cooking and some cleaning, but it all seemed a big effort I couldn’t achieve. It was hopeless until it ended. It reminded me when I was a child and was in bed for days with measles or chicken pox. I remember I was an active child so as soon as I felt better, I was out of bed playing with my sister and with my toys. But I am much older now and need to be patient with my body. 

In the real world stories continued to unravel. The Italian parliament elected the 13th president or better re-elected Sergio Mattarella after seven failed attempts to choose a different candidate. It was the best choice eventually that reinforced the stability of the government and confirmed the popularity of Mattarella, a key figure in the Italian recovery plan. His election was cheered by the whole parliament except for the party of the extreme right, Fratelli d’Italia led by Giorgia Meloni. In his speech after being re-elected, Mattarella emphasised unity, the respect of the institutions and of the constitution, dignity, solidarity and social commitment. His sense of responsibility is an example for all and his words do not seem empty but honest and genuine. When he spoke, he was slightly emotional, clearly aware of the trust and respect that the members of parliament and the Italian people feel for him. He mentioned Mario Draghi and pope Francis too in his speech; together with Mattarella, they are a triumvirate of sorts that seems to grant Italy a hopeful future both in its economical and ethical choices.

Mattarella’s sense of responsibility and his faithfulness to institutions reminds me of the queen. They are both elderly people but have never wavered and seem to hold on and fulfil all their duties. The queen, almost 96 now, is going to celebrate 70 years of reign, a great achievement and a beacon of light in this troubled time. She always inspires in me a sense of gratitude for her long-lasting commitment to the nation, her tireless work that is an example of sincere dedication. The story of her life, her style, her outfits, hats and brooches do not seem to fade. She conveys stability and fairness as ever and I feel moved by her small slightly bent figure that went through so many things, positive and negative in her own family, not to mention her latest bereavement, always showing a positive spirit. For me she is an example of dignity and commitment as Mattarella is.

I followed the 72nd festival of the Italian song in Sanremo. The theatre was full this time with the audience wearing FFP2 black masks. Amadeus hosted the event creating a simple familiar atmosphere in the best Italian style. Some songs were weird, a bit of nonsense but apparently successful. I liked a few of them such as ‘Sei Tu’ by Fabrizio Moro, ‘Ogni Volta è cosí’ by Emma and ‘Duecentomila Ore’ by Ana Mena. I agreed that the winner song was the best song: ‘Brividi’ (shivers) by Mahmood & Blanco. Here are a few links to videos:

This is the second time that Mahmood has won at Sanremo and he definitely deserves it.

Eventually, I managed to visit my sons in the north. My husband and my daughter couldn’t come as my husband still tested positive and my daughter was recovering from the Covid symptoms and felt too weak to travel. I left on my own facing storm Eunice and snow. It was all right at the end and I arrived at Wakefield safe and sound. When I was there, I played all the time with my granddaughter Violetta. We had great fun crawling around together and rolling on the carpet. With her little fingers she is starting to handle shapes and put them in place, matching wooden or plastic sticks in the right holes. We also looked at a lot of books about numbers, animals and colours and she danced at the sound of her musical toys. I bought a new hat on the motorway at WH Smith to protect my head from the wind and she loved to put it on and play with it. She is a bit fussy about food sometimes; she has a sweet tooth and prefers meat to vegetables or potatoes. I also visited my other son in Newcastle. We had a delicious dinner at Pani’s, a Sardinian restaurant that serves gorgeous Mediterranean food. We had culurgiones (pasta parcels filled with pecorino and potatoes), ravioli, a Mediterranean starter with grilled vegetables, fabulous artichokes, gnocchetti sardi (Sardinian dumplings) and pane carasau (a toasted thin kind of bread). The next morning, my son and his girlfriend invited me to a special breakfast in a bakery where they usually go in the weekend. I had a fabulous Italian style cappuccino and a frangipane little cake with a pear in the middle. All the cakes and sweets looked appetizing but I couldn’t taste all of them. Next time I will try something different. Coming back, I stopped in Wakefield one night and then drove back home on the Sunday morning. On the motorway I just had to slow down and drive on the left lane because of the wind and pouring rain. I was proud of myself when I arrived back home on Sunday afternoon as I could had done the trip all by myself, feeling safe and confident.

We also managed to visit my autistic daughter Valentina for her birthday. She was thrilled. My other daughter had made a dress for her with the picture of Leela, Valentina’s favourite Futurama Character, on the front as a present.

We decorated her room together with ‘happy birthday’ banners and balloons and had tortellini for lunch finishing with a cake. It was a sponge cake filled with Chantilly cream and decorated with berries and flaked almonds. It was meant for the Platinum Jubilee cake competition but I made it too late. I also made a cheesecake version with Philadelphia for my husband’s birthday, which was in February too. Here are the recipes:

Lemon sponge cake with Chantilly cream and berries

For the sponge you need: five eggs, 100 g of sugar, 200 g of self-raising flour, two tbsp of honey, some drops of vanilla extracts, grated zest and juice of a lemon, 30 g of melted butter, one tsp of baking powder.

For the filling you need: 200 ml of whipped cream, some custard cream.

Prepare the sponge whisking the eggs and the sugar for 10 minutes using an electric mixer. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes. Let the cake cool and prepare the Chantilly cream, whipping the cream with a tbsp of sugar and then mixing it with the custard cream. Cut the cake in half and wet the two halves with milk mixed with water. Spread half of the Chantilly cream on the bottom half and add part of the berries (I used blueberries and raspberries). Cover the cake with the other half and decorated the top of the cake with the rest of the Chantilly cream, the berries and the almond flakes. Chill it in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

Philadelphia and berries cheesecake

For the base you need: 100 g of ground almonds, 80 g of melted butter, 100 g of ground digestive biscuits.

For the cream you need: 180 g of Philadelphia cheese, 200 g of extra thick double cream, two tbsp of honey, some drops of vanilla essence.

Garnish: raspberries and blueberries, some almond flakes.

Prepare the base mixing all the ingredients and place the mixture in a tart tin. Chill for half an hour. Prepare the cream whipping the double cream and folding in the Philadelphia cheese. Add the honey and vanilla drops. Spread the cheesecake cream on the biscuit base and decorate with the berries and almond flakes. Finally, warm a tbsp of honey with a tbsp of water and pour it on the cake. Chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

The death of Monica Vitti at the beginning of February reminded me what a great actress she was. She was 90 when she died and had suffered from dementia in her later years. She was such a beautiful funny actress, a clever independent woman who worked with Michelangelo Antonioni, Alberto Sordi, Ettore Scola and many other famous actors and film directors. She often appeared on television in the 1970s and 1980s. she was so much fun and at the same time conveyed a sense of ordinariness. Her characters were never sophisticated but reflected the life of common people, women who struggle with their relationships and were often abandoned by their partners or rebelled against their diminished roles. She was a protagonist of the commedia all’italiana (comedy Italian style), a bittersweet kind of entertainment that is both funny and sad without a proper happy ending. Here are some links to Monica Vitti’s work I hope you find interesting:

And now Russia has finally invaded the Ukraine; let’s hope it ends soon and Putin comes to his senses. 😟

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