Sunday, 17 July 2022

Planning the summer holidays


I know we are having a heat wave emergency and temperatures may rise up to 40 degrees in some parts of England, but I am feeling so good with a bit of hot weather after so many grey days, and it will not last long I suspect. I can finally wear my flowery light long dresses and loose t-shirts. I decorated some of them with crochet flowers and asked my daughter to paint roses, daisies and tulips on others. They look very pretty and fresh. My mum says that in Italy it is unbearably hot. Temperatures are reaching 40-45 degrees with high levels of humidity especially in cities like Rome. My mum told me that she struggles to carry on, she is often dizzy and has headaches.

This kind of weather started at the end of May with only a week of cooler weather when they had some thunderstorms during the night. She stays inside most of the day with windows shut surviving with some air conditioning and fans. I will go to visit her at the end of July but I don’t think it will be better. Some parks in Rome, such as Pineta Sacchetti, had destructive fires that the fire brigades struggled to extinguish. I am planning to see a few exhibitions in Rome and visiting some friends but I am not sure the weather condition will allow me to go out too much. I think it will be a challenging period for me and I need to think how to organise my life when I am in Rome. The other problem are mosquitos which I’m not used to anymore. In Italy they are everywhere, day and night. We use some products to prevent bites but it is impossible to avoid them completely. They buzz around you even at night. Honestly, I am not really looking forward to spending my holidays in Italy, though I’m happy to see my mum.

Besides visiting my mum, I will see my sons in the north of England, my daughter Valentina in Redhill and some elderly friends of mine who live in Woking and in Guildford. I will spend a day or two in London visiting exhibitions, attending the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and maybe going to see gardens in Surrey. Flowers are inspiring me both in my crochet work and in painting. I collected a great number of pictures of flowers I took myself and downloaded from social media. Observing the flowers in gardens is a bit different though. You can see the texture, keep memories of what you observed and rework it at home. I rarely paint en plein air, that is, outside. For me what you produce is a memory of what you experience, which always changes in some way even if you have the subject or the picture in front of you. 

At the moment I am completing a new post-box crochet installation with a sunflower and am working on sunflowers in my paintings too. Sunflowers represent the essence of summer with their burnt sienna centre and bright yellow petals. I am mainly using watercolours wet on wet but also mixed media, pens, oil pastels and ink. I love making small pieces on khadi handmade paper I can stick on small and big cards to give to friends and family.

At the Park School where I work as a teaching assistant my students are making original projects for clock designs. In science they are watching videos on the universe and studying the conditions needed for biological life and the possibility of other lives somewhere, that we call aliens, a word that implies utter otherness and maybe hostility rather than possible proximity.

The last week was great fun; we had two trips, at The Big Apple and at Pirate Golf in Woking. The students had outdoors games, art sessions, drama and craft activities and they even fired a rocket made with a plastic bottle filled with water and air. We also attended a show, Losing it!, on sexual education performed by Peer Production ( ), a group of students who train to access drama school. The story covered the high school years from year seven to sixth form describing all possible scenarios from first dates to questioning your sexuality, straight, homosexual, queer, then sexism, rape and consensual sex in marriage. It was very entertaining and well performed though it had dramatic moments that some of my students found hard to cope with.

I am also working on my new collection, Workwear, which will be published soon by The High Window. My daughter will compose the cover and I am putting together all the sections, blurbs, acknowledgements and dedications. The launching will probably be in the autumn, in September or October, on zoom and the book will be publicised on The High Window website and on my website too. In this new collection there are poems about my mother and my grandmothers, on food and family ties as in my previous book, Negotiating Caponata. However, Workwear has a wider perspective and has more poems. Besides a section on the pandemic, some of the poems respond to other poets’ work, such as Sylvia Plath’s, and to social and political issues, such as Trump’s wall, immigration, otherness, abuse and ageing. There is a sequence on my autistic daughter Valentina that retraces her story and the story of our family from her adoption to the diagnosis of autism in 2008 and her move to a residential school. Every time I read the sequence I feel as if it is happening again and when I visit her at weekends and see how lively and how happy she is, I feel we did the right thing. The collection is dedicated to my granddaughter Violetta who is a joy and a blessing.

I was flabbergasted by the splendid catwalk of Valentino at Trinità de’ Monti in the centre of Rome and Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda display in Sicily. The outfits are so elegant, precious, varied and the settings are ravishing. Here are the links to know more:

The problem of abortion in the US still shocks me. It is a terrible backlash which means that acquired rights are never guaranteed; we need to fight for them again and again. America is divided on abortion laws. Apparently half of the states will restrict the regulations to the limit of 14 weeks with no exception for rape or incest, or ban it completely though the majority of American people are in favour of abortion with some restrictions. Women will be forced to travel to the states that allow abortion or to other countries such as the UK. It seems absurd that in the US people can easily buy firearms and kill people in the street and in schools but the life of unborn children is strictly protected. Here is a link to an interesting and thorough essay on the history of abortion in the US by Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker: 

Both in Italy and in the UK, we are having an unstable political interval. In Italy the Five Stars refused to vote for a package in the Senate, provoking a crisis in the government coalition. Mario Draghi, the PM, resigned but his resignation was not accepted by the president Mattarella. So they need to see next week if they can form a new government with enough votes and if Draghi accepts it, otherwise they will go to the ballot and have a general election in the Autumn. The next general elections should be in about a year and I suspect that the right-wing coalition will win. In the UK we finally had the resignation of Boris Johnson and then the race for the succession as leader of the Tories and as PM. It will take until the beginning of September for the changing of the roles while Boris will linger, maybe suggesting the winning candidate. Taxes, inflation, the rise of prices and lack of affordable houses seem to be the main issues. Three names are the most probable: Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss. This situation adds more uncertainty to the times we are experiencing and have experienced in the past few years: Brexit, Covid, stagnation, inflation, rise of fuel and food prices, strikes, flight disruptions, a possible new Covid wave in autumn and monkeypox. Will we have a break at some point? I hope so.

I didn’t follow Wimbledon but I am enjoying the Women’s Football European Championship. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the matches at the stadiums but when I do watch them on the TV with my crochet and a Moretti in the evening to relax. Italy seems to be out as it is at the bottom of the group, so I am supporting England. The lioness squad is doing very well. They are swift, professional, brave and pretty. They deserve to win the trophy though there is still a long way to go and some of the other teams are very strong too, such as France and Germany. Here is a link to the updates: 


Some of my poems have been recently published in the summer issue of BeZine, here is the link:

And more poems have been accepted by Pulsar Poetry, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Obsessed With Piperwork.

I made fruit and nut loaves using Mary Berry’s basic recipe, here is the link:

They were delicious and can be made adding whatever you fancy, fresh and/or dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, cream, yogurt, cinnamon, etc. 

And here are some recipes with sour cream I particularly enjoyed during this summertime:

Lemon sour cream cake

For the cake you need: 250 g of self-raising flour, 150 g of sugar, 200 g of sour cream, two eggs, a pinch of salt, one tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of soft butter, the grated zest of a lemon, the juice of half a lemon. 

For the glaze you need: the juice of half a lemon, 100 g of sour cream, 50 g of sugar, 50 g of melted butter.

Mix the butter and the sugar, add the egg yolks and then the rest of the ingredients except for the whites of the eggs. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and add to the mixture. Bake the cake in a greased donut tin cake for 30-45 minutes at 180 C. Prepare the glaze warming all the ingredients in a pan and chill it for half an hour. Cut the cake in slices and place them in a rectangular glass dish. Finally pour the sour cream mixture on the slices and chill for half an hour before serving.

Chocolate sour cream cake

For the cake you need: 250 g of self-raising flour, 100 g of cornflour, 100 g of cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, one tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 200 g of sugar, four eggs, 200 g of sour cream, three tbsp of olive oil, half a glass of milk.

For the chocolate icing you need: 200 g of dark chocolate, 200 g of sour cream, two tbsp of golden syrup.

For the filling you need 250 g of whipping cream, one tbsp of sugar, two tbsp of the chocolate icing (see above).

Whisk the eggs with the sugar for 5-10 minutes. Add the olive oil, the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda mixed in the milk. Fold in the rest of the ingredients. Bake the cake in a greased tin cake for 30-45 minutes at 180 C. Let it cool and prepare the icing warming all the ingredients in a pan. Prepare the filling whipping the cream with the sugar and finally add two tbsp of the chocolate icing. Cut the cake in half and wet each half with milk mixed with water. Spread the cream filling on the base and cover it with the other half of the cake. Finally spread the icing evenly on the top of the cake. Chill for one hour before serving.

Ice cream with strawberries, sour cream and buttermilk

You need: 500 g of strawberries, 150 g of sugar, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of salt, 300 g of buttermilk, 150 g of sour cream.

Cut the edge of the strawberries and chop them. Blend the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor to a purée. In a bowl mix the strawberries with the buttermilk, the sour cream and the salt. Pour the mixture in a container and freeze overnight or for about 24 hours. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and break the ice from time to time.

No-bake strawberry tart with sour cream and lemon curd

You need: 400 of shortbread, 200 g of melted white chocolate, 300 g of lemon curd, 200 g of sour cream, 300 g of chopped strawberries, four leaves of gelatine.

Crush the biscuits into crumbs and stir in the melted chocolate. Press the mixture into a round tin cake lined with parchment paper and chill for half an hour. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes then squeeze them and add some warm water, then stir until the gelatine melts. Mix the lemon curd with the cream and add the gelatine. Spread the cream mixture on the base of the cake and finally scatter the strawberries on top. Chill for 3-4 hours before serving.

Have a lovely summer 🌻🌞

I will be back with my blog in September.

Sunday, 3 July 2022

My Graduation Ceremony

 Last Thursday I finally had my PhD graduation ceremony, which was postponed because of Covid. The weather was unstable; it drizzled and then rained but finally sunny spells prevailed. My day started early as I had to be at the London Campus in Reading about two hours before the ceremony started. Everything was perfectly organised and the instructions were very clear and sent in advance. Smart clothing was required, no jeans or trainers, so I decided for navy blue trousers and a blouse with a colourful purple scarf and glass beads necklace with matching earrings. For shoes I opted for comfortable black and grey sandals with a medium heel but I forgot to apply nail polish to my toes. I felt a bit tense but also very proud of wearing the purple gown and black beret of the degree of Doctor in Philosophy. We were supposed to be five PhD students but three chose to graduate in absence.

The ceremony was simple and solemn at the same time. The vice-Chancellor introduced the celebration, we lined up and stepped to the stage when our names were called, doffed our cap to the vice-chancellor and went to take our places on stage. The other PhD student and I sat on stage while the BA students went back to their places behind the audience. We all graduated in English literature, mostly girls or women, a few were Asian or Black and there was also a Scottish guy wearing a kilt. Dresses were covered by the gown, so the most noticeable part of the outfit was the shoes, all high heels or chunky heel sandals that looked quite unstable. No wonder that some of the girls wobbled up and down the stairs to the stage. We all looked excited and happy to see our achievements celebrated. Being at the University of Reading again reminded me of all the work I carried out for my PhD and how much I learned during the course. My supervisors, Madeleine Davies and Peter Stoneley, were super as well as the examiners, Mary Morrissey and Fiona Tolan. Mary was present at the ceremony and congratulated with me at the end. I must confess I feel it is an important goal, something I did at the right time in my life when family commitments were less pressing, and I therefore had more time to pursue my passions. I know that my PhD studies improved my research skills, my understanding of literary criticism and literature and my writing as well. The whole process was so engrossing that now that it is over, I am doing my best to carry on with my studies and my writing.

My plan for the next few months is to write some more reviews and articles on topics and authors I like. I will visit my sons in the north and have a day in London to see some exhibitions and maybe attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I am planning more crochet works, perhaps a new post-box installation with sunflowers inspired my Maria Primachenko’s flowers and some crocheted mandala, charms and hairpins I am making for friends and family I am going to visit during the summer. I would also like to visit Wisley Gardens to take inspiration from the display of flowers and plants for my paintings.

Last week I also attended two open mics, one at The Lightbox in Woking and another one at the Adelaide pub in Twickenham. Most of the fellow poets of the area were present and some of my friends from the Woking Writers Circle too. We had a good time together, chatting, catching up on our health and family life, and above all listening and cheering each other’s poetry. At the Adelaide they read poems from the Poetry Performance’s new anthology, Poems for Ukraine, which will be launched in September. The poems are poignant and moving and the edition looks superb.

Last Wednesday I met some of my fellow poets at The Keep in Guildford for the Guildford Fringe. The event was Robert Garnham’s performance Yay! The search for Happiness, a brilliant gig. I reviewed his book about a year ago, here is the link:

And I am looking forward to reading his new collection, Woodview (Beatnpress). His poems have an interesting sad undertone but are great fun too and convey great vitality. I joined the Shackalakaboomboom chanting and especially enjoyed ‘Seaside Serenade’, so typically and tenderly English with the lukewarm tea and chocolate digestives. The search for happiness seems simple and unattainable at the same time; maybe it is a compromise with our inner self and Yay! here we are to face life and enjoy it after all. 

The final poem, ‘Be Yourself’, is a celebration of life in its subtle ordinariness expressing a sense of belonging and also the awareness of being part of a community. Here is the link to the trailer of the show: 

and to the poem:

Robert will be at the Edinburgh Free Fringe from the 14th August to the 21st at 8.15, here is the link to book the tickets: 

It was a busy wonderful week full of excitement, rewarding moments and great fun. I am looking forward to my holidays to catch up on my writing, painting and crochet. I long to meet my family and friends and recharge my energies after a year of hard work but also interesting opportunities and new discoveries. 

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Reviews, poetry workshops and artworks

 In the past few weeks, I was very busy with my research on Margaret Atwood’s work and some academic articles I needed to complete for two conferences, the Accute annual conference in Canada and the conference at Marburg Centre for Canadian Studies in Germany. I participated online and presented my papers. For the Accute conference I wrote a paper on Margaret Atwood’s latest poetry collections, that is, Morning in the Burned House (1995), The Door (2007) and Dearly (2020). After the conference, I decided to submit my article to the British Journal of Canadian Studies; it was accepted and now I am making some minor changes after the peer review. The paper I wrote for the Marburg conference, ‘The Heroine’s Journey: Trespassing and Transgressing B/orders in Margaret Atwood’s Work’, was about the heroines’ journeys in some of Margaret Atwood’s novels such as Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments in connection with the concept of personal, societal and national b/orders. I will probably submit it to a Canadian journal as well in the future. In the meantime, my article on The Testaments, ‘The Testaments: an intertextual dialogue between witnessing and storytelling’, was accepted by Margaret Atwood Studies Journal and I have just revised it after their feedback and submitted it again. The whole process of research, writing and revising was so engaging that I was completely absorbed in it for a few months. It was fascinating to go back to my studies and read more about Margaret Atwood. 

Her work is so stimulating that it inspired my creative writing too. I wrote a few poems prompted by her poetry during workshops that I attended with Tears in the Fence and Second Light Spring festival. The new poems are about relationships, my Italian heritage and connections with the environment. I also had a tutoring session with Hannah Lowe after the launching of her new pamphlets Rock, Bird, Butterfly and Old Friends (Hercules Editions) which gave me new perspectives from which to look at my work. Talking with my friend and tutor Dawn Wood, I realised that what is important in my creative process is not only reading and writing, which can be called the intellectual side, but it is above all important to experience life, that is, meeting people, visiting places, working, practicing hobbies and sports, being part of groups, etc. These activities trigger new ideas and root my work in everyday life, a realism that relates my creative work to people. Some ideas about my poetry are in the interview that the wonderful Heather Moulson posted on her website, here is the link 😍:

Heather perfectly summarised my thoughts giving me voice and space. This connection with Heather also gave me the opportunity to read my poems at Poetry Performance last Friday. It was a tremendous experience though I felt a bit tense during the event. Clive Rowland asked me some questions about my creative process and my favourite poets before I started my reading, which was a great opportunity to speak about my creative writing practice and about what inspires me. I chose to read some poems from my publications, A Winding Road and Negotiating Caponata, as well as some new poems. Here are a few examples:


After Alice Maher, portrait

I erected a palisade around my face

to contain my thoughts, 

it is made of young twigs

with pointed sprouts at the tips,

they are tied by a string to form a fence

a stiff collar that keeps my head upright,

holds my mouth closed but lets me breathe.

I erected a palisade around my face,

the cut ends dig into my skin

keeping me safe.

My mother

Last night I dreamed of my mother,

her soft light touch on my face.

She said, I had some free time and came here.

I was melting in her tenderness

under the touch of her smooth old fingers,

her cheerful voice moved,

almost in tears.

Why did you come here?

What happened?

But she didn’t reply,

only her love surrounded me

as if it was the last time.

And I drank it

with dry lips.

Words are good

‘Words dry and riderless’

Sylvia Plath, Words

The echo of the inexpressible

appears among lines

carving what I don’t know yet

configuration of signs.

Are words good enough?

We feel to use them literally.

What’s my pleasure in using words?

I encounter them on a journey

of recovery, 

reimagining the past

in a memoir of self-discovery

turning at last 

to the bottom of the pool.

I also published some art and poetry reviews in the past months on the online magazines I usually contribute to, here are the links:

Jennifer Militello, The Pact 

Leela Soma, Chintz 

Charlotte Oliver, How to Be a Dressing Gown 

Finola Scott, Count the Ways 

Clare Morris, There 

Sheila Heti, Pure Colour

Barbara Hickson, A Kind of Silence 

Crazy: The Madness of Contemporary Art 

Surrealism Beyond the Borders 

Fashioning Masculinities 

The Works of Gwerful Mechain 

William Crozier: Nature into Abstraction 

Pratibha Castle, A Triptych of birds & a few loose feathers 

Rosie Jackson, Light Makes It Easy (South Poetry 65)

Alison Binney, Other Women’s Kitchens 

Some of my poems have been published by Dreich, Season 4 n. 5, Toasted Cheese: 

and more poems have been accepted for the summer issue of BeZine magazine. 

In the past two weekends (11-2 and 18-19 June), I have been very busy with the SAOS (Surrey Artists Open Studios) at the Chobham Community Centre where I rented a room for my exhibition ( The place was on the first floor, spacious and bright. I could display most of my pictures, drawings, folios, cards as well as my crochet work and textiles. There was also space for the workshop for children in which they could create cards, puppets, masks and concertina booklets. Not many people turned up but some friends of mine came and supported me. Here is the link to the article that Greg Freeman generously wrote about my artwork and published on the Woking Writers Circle website 😃:

He came to visit my studio with his wife Gillian who is a painter too. I like her artwork that she posts on Facebook; she paints beautiful flowers and interesting landscapes. I especially like her collage work. She has talent and an original approach. 

Some friends from my yoga group visited my open studio as well and the children who attended the workshop were enthusiast about it, some of them even came twice. It was a wonderful experience that boosted my confidence in my artistic side that sometimes I neglect as I feel that there is no real reward. Having the possibility to exhibit my work and being appreciated by friends and other people who came to visit my open studio, stimulated me to produce new work such as crochet mandala, wreaths and charms, a series of cards with a poem and a painting and probably more wet-on-wet watercolour pictures that seem to be so popular.

In the art world, Paula Rego’s obituary reminded me of her amazing art I saw at the Tate exhibition about a year ago. It was a comprehensive retrospective of her artwork with more than a hundred pieces. Here is the link to the review I wrote for London Grip:

And here are the links to two obituaries:

To end my piece in the tastiest way, here are some recipes I have just experimented.

Flapjacks with white chocolate and berries

You need: 200 of butter, 200 g of golden caster sugar, 4 tbsp of golden syrup, grated zest of two lemons, 400 g of porridge oats, 200 g of white chocolate, 200 g of berries, parchment paper.

In a saucepan warm the butter, sugar, syrup and lemon zest. Stir in the oats and spread the mixture on a rectangular oven tin lined with parchment paper. Level the surface and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes. Let it cool, in the meantime melt the chocolate in the microwave. Spread the chocolate on the flapjacks and scatter berries on top. Let the chocolate settle before cutting it into squares and serving.


You need: 100 g of butter, 150 g of sugar, 2 eggs, some drops of vanilla essence, 200 g of self-raising flour, one tsp of baking powder, 150 ml of milk.

For the icing you need: 300 g of icing sugar, 50 g of cocoa powder, 100 g of boiling water, 25 g of butter, one tbsp of golden syrup and 200 g of desiccated coconut.

Beat the butter and sugar, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is well combined. Spread the mixture in a rectangular greased tin and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes or until golden. Let it cool and cut in square cubes. Prepare the icing melting the butter in the boiling water and adding the cocoa powder, the icing sugar and the golden syrup. Dip the lamington squares in the icing to coat and roll it in the coconut, then let it dry and rest before serving.

Pecan Buns

This recipe is by Nadiya Hussain, I just changed it a bit.

You need: 400 g of strong flour, two tbsp of olive oil, 7 g of dry yeast, 100 g of sugar, ½ tsp of salt, the grated zest of a lemon, one egg, 150 g of warm milk mixed with warm water.

For the filling you need: 50 g of butter, some vanilla extracts, 50 g of sugar, one tbsp of golden syrup, 100 g of pecans roughly chopped.

For the glaze you need: icing sugar, 50 g of pecans finely chopped, some warm water.

Mix all the ingredients for the buns in a large bowl and knead the dough. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and place it in a warm place for at least two hours. Prepare the filling warming the butter and adding the sugar, vanilla extracts and pecans. Roll out the dough in a rectangular shape and spread the filling on it. Roll the dough and cut it into swirls of about one inch thick. Grease an oven tray and place the buns on it. Cover them with a cling film and let them rest in a warm place for about an hour. Finally remove the cling film and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes. Prepare the glaze mixing three tbsp of icing sugar with some warm water and the pecans. Brush the glaze on top of the buns when still warm and let them cool before eating.

Enjoy! 😋