Saturday, 23 October 2021

Shows, Concerts and Exhibitions

 

Attending events again after the restrictions of the lockdown with all the variations and shades was so enthralling, almost mesmerising. Taking the train to London, walking in busy streets, dressing up for the event and having new experiences and stimuli was refreshing. I managed to attend Cinderella by Andrew Lloyd Weber at the Gillian Lynne Theatre after two failed attempts due to cancellations because of Covid-19 rules. For the first time in my life, I attended the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and a spectacular performance of My Fair Lady at The Grange Festival in their fabulous venue in Hampshire. I also attended Yay! The Search for Happiness with Robert Garnham whose collection I reviewed here for Write Out Loud https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=116602  It was part of Guildford Fringe Festival; a cracking show Robert took around the UK during the summer and beyond. At Guilford I also attended the concert of Guildford Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Holy Trinity Church featuring Britten, Puccini, Strauss and Tchaikovsky. The age range of the players went from 13 to 26 years old; their performance was impressive. We
also booked for a concert that celebrated Gershwin at the Royal Festival Hall at Southbank with the London Concert Orchestra on 12
th September but unfortunately, we missed it as on that day the M4 was shut for roadworks. We were completely unaware of this disruption or we would have taken a train and were trapped in the traffic for more than two hours without being able to reach London. My husband is so passionate about Gershwin that he even did some research before the concert and printed handouts. The show included some of the most famous pieces by Gershwin such as The Man I Love, Somebody Loves Me, Lady Be Good, Rhapsody in Blue, Summertime, and many other famous songs. Tap dancing and ballroom dancing were included in the program too. It was disappointing but there was no way to change it.


The Proms were a revealing experience not just because the Royal Albert Hall is a beautiful venue and the concerts were fabulous, but also because of the way the orchestra and the conductors engage the audience with introductions and comments on the pieces of music they are going to play. They make the audience feel part of the show and you enjoy it much more than a traditional concert. We attended Dvorak’s New World Symphony which is intermingled with American songs and spirituals. In the program of the day there were also Charles Ives’s Three Places in New England and Augusta Reed Thomas’s contemporary piece of music that took inspiration from the effects of the proteins that a vaccine activates in the body. We also attended the concert that featured Stravinsky’s The Firebird but played from memory along with Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. At Cadogan Hall we had the opportunity to listen to The Sound of Argentina, a colourful concert with music by Astor Piazzolla with fabulous tango music and songs that he first played in bordellos and then in cafes and nightclubs in Buenos Aires. After such a long silence due to the pandemic, music was a reinvigorating means to communicate our renovated contact with people and the world around us. They were life-enhancing moments that though temporary are nevertheless meaningful.



Another fabulous music event I attended during the summer was at The Grange Festival (https://thegrangefestival.co.uk/). It was not easy to reach the venue as the Satnav was guiding me to an HGV parking place, but I spotted the entrance gate of the festival at the last minute and got into it. The edifice was in the middle of a large estate and it took us about ten minutes to reach it following a winding path. The parking place was in a meadow and finally we walked to the place in our uncomfortable high heels. But it was worth it. My Fair Lady was beautifully sung and played, fabulously entertaining. Everybody knows the story with all the issues related to language and correct pronunciation that shape identity and assigns people a place in society. Eventually Eliza can choose her destiny but only after going through a series of tortures of sorts such as speaking with pebbles in her mouth, staying awake the whole night repeating sentences and even starvation. As soon as she manages to pronounce words correctly according to the rules of standard English, she goes up in the social ladder, which emphasises the importance of language but also its ephemeral implications. From today’s perspective, some songs sound sexist, but the music is so involving and the singers were so good that I forgot all those issues. We had an hour and a half interval between the first and second part of the program, so we had plenty of time to visit the venue and the park and to have our dinner. People were having their picnic sitting on benches, around tables or on grass. Men were dressed in impeccable suits and bow ties and women in evening outfits. The weather was gorgeous and the whole experience was remarkable and extremely enjoyable.


The musical Cinderella was the other event I couldn’t miss. The rags-to-riches tale is so famous and re-invented in different versions throughout time that I was curious to see what they could make of it today. Apparently, the story dates back to ancient Greece and was published for the first time by Charles Perrault in 1697. In centuries the tale has had different interpretations and is present all over the world. The day I attended the show, Georgina Onuorah played ‘bad’ Cinderella. She is characterised as an outcast but people around her seem to admire her defiant and alternative attitude, especially Prince Sebastian, who is second in line to the throne to Prince Charming (who apparently disappeared but turns up at the end). Misunderstandings, funny scenes, witty remarks and above all
marvellous songs and spectacular dancing make the show a real hit. Needless to say, Cinderella is not a submissive character and the world of fairy tales is reversed but also affirmed in the final happy endings though they are open to an adventurous future. Ethnic and gender diversity are present and recent events and movements are alluded to, such as Black Lives Matter (Cinderella says ‘I can’t breathe’ at a certain point) and MeToo in the picture of Leda and the Swan above the fireplace. Everything fits in in this new and updated version of the timeless story.


At The Lightbox in Woking I attended an exceptional event organised by the Exhibition Circle; it was a dinner with a special guest, Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A. It was an elegant happening with good food and good drinks. What I was looking forward to was Hunt’s speech which focused on the importance of supporting art and on the V&A collection. He especially mentioned the Raphael cartoons which I had visited in one of my recent trips to London and which can be viewed online too. They are remarkable pieces where the figures are dynamic and in constant movement. The stories from the Gospel are told in a sort of cinematic way, emphasising the central characters. They are so lively that they seem to speak to us. 



I also visited the exhibition of Turner at Tate Britain and revisited the Turner collection and Henry Moore’s works as well. Turner always surprises me especially his sketchy later works which are so inventive, original and artistically innovative that I believe he is one of the best painters ever. I am planning to study more of his work, the pictorial techniques he used and his career. The connection with Rothko (who is another painter I am discovering) they make at the Tate is also interesting and is inspiring me in new ways of painting. Visiting exhibitions and learning from the masters is crucial to develop ideas and painting techniques. It is similar to the importance of reading and attending poetry readings for a poet. Unexpected words and images from other poets inspire further explorations and there is always something to learn.



Friday, 8 October 2021

Negotiating with my body: a fabulous yoga retreat


During the summer, I had a few health issues. My blood pressure increased so I had to contact the GP several times to adjust my medication. The tablets I used to take weren’t enough and gave me side effects such as ankle swelling, dizziness, heartburns and bruises on arms and legs.  The other strange thing was that the blood pressure went up and down, sometimes too low other times too high. So, I decided to spread the four tablets during the day and split one of them in two. Now my situation has normalised though I realised I must slow down a bit or organise my life according to my body’s needs. I have short breaks during the day alternating rest to physical activities, such as cycling, swimming and yoga routines. I also regularly attend yoga classes once a week, go swimming and go to the gym. I have just taken part in a yoga retreat in the Isle of Wight with my yoga group, a fabulous experience I will talk about below in detail.


Now I am aware that I cannot walk more than one hour, or my knee joints start to ache. After some exercise and a balanced meal, which usually includes vegetables, brown bread, egg or cheese as well as fruit, I feel better. Having the loo on hand is also useful as the high blood pressure tablets are diuretic. If I follow this routine I can concentrate better on my work and enjoy the day. I gained weight during the lockdown but I have managed to lose two kilos recently, though it is hard to keep it off as I bake a lot and like tasting my homemade cakes and cookies. In my dreams I am slimmer but when I look in the mirror in the morning I go back to reality and I’m aware that there is no going back. But ageing is not so bad. Though my body is not as efficient as it was before, I have more experience and I understand things that I didn’t use to notice in the past. I wear loose outfits that look nice and alternate neutral colours to brighter ones. As Donatella Versace (aged 66) remarks, growing old is growing up. I have recently read in The Times that the average woman in the UK is 5ft 3in and wears size 14-16. So, there is nothing to worry about, I’m in the average and I can wear everything I like.


The yoga retreat was a real ‘treat’. Somebody named it ‘yoga party’, and it was. We had two yoga sessions a day, but we mainly enjoyed spending time together exploring the Isle of Wight, socialising, cooking, chatting, eating and drinking. We had a game night and a disco night with 1980s music plus cocktails, Möet & Chandon was my favourite but I also tasted piña colada and Campari Spritz. Then I decided to stop drinking or I would have collapsed. We had two BBQ nights organised by super Maggie, our official cook and step-grandmother who also brought delicious homemade lemon drizzle, banana cake and carrot cake. It was amazing. Our yoga instructor, Shena Grigor, was professional and funny. She proposed a range of different postures from challenging binding positions, headstands and acroyoga to soft routines and meditation poses. It was engaging and great fun at the same time. She asked me to read a poem at the end of the sessions when we usually have five minutes of relaxation. I had some poetry magazines with me as I like to read new poetry and chose a few poems. Here is an example from Acumen 101:


IF


If the universe had not be born of love,

an unimaginable explosion of energy and light – 

                                        we would not exist.


If the Milky Way and the dust of dying stars

did not scatter in space, reincarnated in love – 

                                        we would not exist.


If the sun and moon did not send their rays to earth,

awakening us to worlds beyond our imagination – 

                                        we would not exist.


If our atmosphere did not protect us from radiation

and space debris, gifting us with the gods of weather – 

                                        we would not exist.


If our planet did not resolve round its axis,

inner and outer cores locked in embrace like lovers – 

                                         we would not exist.


If day and night did not daily renew their vows,

blessing us with warm days and wild nights – 

                                            we would not exist.


If water did not enthral us with the miracle

of creation, the birth of life and evolution – 

                                             we would not exist.


If plants did not produce oxygen for no reason

except the inalienable joy of breathing in carbon – 

                                              we would not exist.


If every species did not have a purpose for being

here, their survival worthy of celebration – 

                                              we would not exist.


If greed and ignorance, pride and power

stand in the path of enlightenment and compassion – 

                                               we will cease to exist.


Shanta Acharya




The weather was gorgeous, sort of Mediterranean climate, blue sky, warm sun and starry nights. I visited the Needles, chalk rocks not far from the coast with an old and new Battery which were used during the first and second world wars, and the site was still in use until the 1950s. I also visited Newport and bought presents for my family. It was a special time I mainly spent with my yoga friends and I hope to repeat the experience next year.



Some national and international events haunted me in the past weeks. Sarah Everard’s murder and the report that has followed were shocking. The way Wayne Couzens planned and executed her abduction, rape and murder and how he disposed of her body are appalling. The police reconstructed his movements in detail using CCTV cameras and tracking his mobile phone number. It must have been a long and painful investigation that eventually made the events of the crime clear. I wonder if this kind of investigations could be done for all the cases of rape and murder as it often happens, for example, to Indigenous women in America and in Canada and to Mexican girls. Besides, there seems to be no end to the killings as 79 women have been killed since Sarah Everard’s murder (see The Sunday Times’ article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-79-women-killed-since-sarah-everards-murder-6ns2bft6v ). 

 

The other dramatic event was the withdrawal of the US and European troops from Afghanistan after they occupied the country for nearly twenty years. The evacuation was sudden and chaotic leaving thousands of desperate citizens at the mercy of the Taliban who quickly regained control. The Afghan Army trained by the Americans melted away in a few days, which was maybe unexpected but predictable. I wonder why they didn’t organise the evacuation of people before the withdrawal of the troops. Now the Taliban are in power and women will pay the highest price. Apparently, most of the population don’t accept concepts such as democracy and the western way of life and consequently support the Taliban. On the other hand, they probably expect humanitarian aid from western rich countries who need to find a way to deal with the Taliban at the end of the day.




The extreme weather worried me too. We had a colder summer in the UK compared to the past few years with less sunny days and lower temperatures especially in August, when at a certain point it seemed that summer was over. Drizzle alternated to downpours and the language to describe the weather was slightly threatening, such as heatbomb, thundersnow, the Beast from the East, queltring (humid weather) or clunch (muggy weather). The Met Office issued an amber extreme heat warning in July but then there were floods in Germany and northern Italy in August. What can we wear during a heat wave and then how to change dramatically when the weather turns back to thundery showers and ‘gentle breeze’? – which is a kind way to name easterly winds. Sunny intervals and light clouds were the best we could hope for most of the summer. Then September arrived with surprisingly warm, windless days, a relief before autumn officially entered in the calendar with chilly starts and wet days. People who had holidays in the UK not only experienced this extreme weather conditions but also realised there was an increase in prices. We did too when we visited our sons in the north and booked the hotel rooms, the prices had almost doubled compared to one or two years ago. Nevertheless, my flowers bloomed, I had plenty of courgettes, herbs and even two sweet corns, and enjoyed time with my family throughout the summer.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

The Olympic Games

 Watching the Olympic and Paralympics Games kept us busy for some weeks. My husband recorded several events at night and we watched them during the day. I mainly followed them online reading articles and watching videos. The opening ceremony had interesting dances including tap dance and enthralling traditional Japanese music. The Olympic
cauldron was amazing, a charming half opened cherry blossom in abstract shapes; it was elegant and simple. Sport is competitive in a positive way and is unifying at the same time. It brings people together; it is powerful and challenging and makes us feel better. However, it might be hard to be a champion and keep the title when you are very young; it is a big responsibility that might crush you. I was impressed by the gymnast Simone Biles’s decision to give up her performance because she felt overwhelmed by anxiety and could not cope with what she was doing. She feared she was harming herself and stopped before it was too late. She was brave and clever to be aware of her limits and at the end she even obtained a medal. I particularly admired Sky Brown too who is only thirteen years old and won a medal.
 


About the Italian team, we had some great moments. My family and I followed the Italian program on RAI 2 in the evening called ‘Il Circolo degli Anelli’ (the circle of rings) hosted by Alessandra De Stefano with famous athletes as guests such as Sara Simeoni, high jump champion in the 1980s, and Jury Chechi, gymnast and Italian champion in the 1990s. They not only gave a summary of the Olympic events of the day highlighting the Italian performances, but they also video called the families of the athletes all over Italy from Sicily, Puglia, Lombardy, Veneto and Sardinia. It was moving and exciting. The families were overjoyed and the athletes were so happy and emotional that you could see how sincere and committed they were. It was also great fun to see how the ‘old’ champions entertained the audience with hilarious jokes and gags.



The top Italian performances were the 4x100 won by Lorenzo Patta, Marcell Jacobs, Fausto Desalu and Filippo Tortu and Jacobs’s gold medal in 100 metres. He was considered one of the best runners of the Olympics. He was born in Texas but moved to Desenzano del Garda when he was a few months old. His parents were very young when they met in Vicenza where his father served at Caserma Ederle as a serviceman in the US army. Jacobs started as a footballer when he was a child, but his mother said he was apparently too concentrated on the running rather than on the ball. So, he started to train in sprinting and long jump when he was ten years old and had great results. Other outstanding Italian performances were the two medals in karate, Antonella Palmisano’s and Massimo Stano’s golds in 20 km racewalk and Gianmarco Tamberi’s performance in high jump. I was flabbergasted by the bronze medal won by Irma Testa in boxing. Her coach, Lucio Zurlo aged eighty-three, started to train her when she was fourteen. He was interviewed in the worn-out gym in Torre Annunziata near Naples which is so important for young people who can have an escape from their tough daily circumstances. 


The Paralympics ceremony was fun; it celebrated love for life as well as resilience. What impressed me was how much effort, strength and hardiness the Paralympics athletes put in their training and performances. The way they hold a racket in their mouth, jump and run with prosthetics, fence on a wheelchair or swim with one arm or without legs is extraordinary. The performances might be slower compared to the Olympics and they need extra-attention, but the demonstration is unique, challenging and highly competitive. The UK did very well both at the Olympics (fourth after Japan in the medal count) and Paralympics (second after China). Italy was only at the tenth and ninth placements. 



And to crown this fantastic sport year Italian Women's and Men's volleyball teams won the European championships and Filippo Ganna won the 2021 European Road Cycling Championships. 😀😀😍🇮🇹❣️



The other highlight of our summer was visiting and meeting family and friends. We visited Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland with my son Francesco and his girlfriend Molly. The astonishing injured shape of the castle against the bare ochre and sludge green northern landscape is breath-taking. The leaden North Sea sparkled like silver under the grey sky scattered with ash clouds and occasionally broken by the blue. I took a lot of photos and am planning to paint sketches in watercolours inspired by this scenery. The sun finally broke the thick layer of clouds, so we had lunch outside at the local pub which had special fish dishes. 



We also met Valentina, our autistic daughter, who has recently won an award for the best aspiring person in her group and for all the improvements she has achieved in the past year. For the occasion, she wore a dress she chose. She looked beautiful and aware of what was happening and she was completely in control of what she was doing. When we saw her, she showed us the prize, a glass star, and the certificate. We celebrated with chocolates and taking photos all together. She looked relaxed and very happy.


It was thrilling to see my granddaughter Violetta again. She crawls now and is a great fun when she messes about with food. My son and daughter in law came to visit us in the south too and we invited some friends of us who have a little girl, Amelia. I got prepared for the day, not just cooking food but also spreading a soft throw on the floor and scattering cushions and toys all around the living room. I also crocheted two girly dresses for them and took photos. They looked so cute but a bit uncomfortable in the dresses. At first Amelia and Violetta didn’t seem to be aware of one another but at a certain point they exchanged toys. My daughter prepared supplí (fried rice balls with tomato sauce typical of Rome) and my daughter in law made her special brownies. My neighbour Linda contributed with an unbeatable lemon drizzle cake awarded the best ever by all of us.





Here are the awesome recipes. I cannot make them as perfect as Layla, Irene and Linda do, but it is worth having a go.



Lemon drizzle


For the cake you need: 225 g of softened butter, 225 g of caster sugar, 275 g of self-raising flour, 2 tsp of baking powder, 4 eggs, 4 tbsp of milk, the grated zest of two lemons.



For the crunchy topping you need the juice of two lemons and 175 g of granulated sugar.


Mix the butter and sugar and add the eggs. Add the other ingredients making sure you have a soft even mixture. Line a rectangular tin with parchment paper and pour in the cake mixture. Bake it for about 40 minutes at 160 C. Mix the granulated sugar and lemon juice and pour it on top of the cake when it is still warm. Before serving cut it into squares.


Brownies


You need: 180 g of unsalted butter, 180 g of the best dark chocolate (70%), 85 g of plain flour, 40 g of cocoa powder, 50 g of white chocolate chips, 50 g of milk chocolate chips, 3 eggs, 50 g of chopped walnuts (optional), 200 g of caster sugar, 75 g of soft brown sugar.



Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl sitting it in a saucepan with hot water. Stir and let it cool. Whisk the eggs with the sugar (brown and caster sugar) for 10-15 minutes. Sieve the flour and cocoa. Fold in the butter and chocolate mixture in the egg mixture and then add the flour and cocoa. Finally stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped walnuts. Pour the mixture in a rectangular tin lined with parchment paper and bake at 160 C for about 30 minutes or until there is a papery crust on top. Leave it in the tin until cold and then cut it into squares before serving.


Supplí 


For the rice mixture you need: risotto rice (superfine is best) 500g, chopped tomatoes (passata) 400g, grated parmesan 120g, 1 cube of stock in 1L of water, butter 50g, olive oil 2 tbsp, minced beef 150g, half an onion, a carrot, a piece of celery, 2 eggs, mozzarella for cooking (not the fresh kind in a water sac) 200g, some salt and sugar.


For the frying you need: sunflower oil 1-2 litres, plain flour, 2-4 eggs, breadcrumbs, kitchen paper rolls.



First you have to prepare the ragu sauce. You finely chop or blitz the onion, carrot and celery and put them in an oil covered saucepan (very large). After frying them for a while so they release their flavour in the oil add the mince beef and a small amount of salt to flavour the meat. Keep stirring every so often until over half of the pieces of beef are cooked (but not all). Add the tomato passata, salt, sugar, 2 tbsp of olive oil and some water (put some in the tomato passata bottles/tins to wash them and add to the mixture). Stir the mixture and leave to cook for around 2 hours on the lowest heat setting (no less than 90 minutes and no more than 3 hours). Stir and check every so often. While the sauce is cooking (towards the end), prepare the stock in another saucepan. When the sauce is ready keep it on the low heat and add the rice. Keep mixing almost continuously until you see it has absorbed almost all the liquid from the sauce. Then ladle by ladle add the hot (around boiling point) stock liquid to the mixture. Wait for the liquid to be absorbed and repeat. Taste the rice and you know it will be done when the rice is past al dente and very soft. Be careful not to add too much stock at the end as it should all be absorbed by the rice. When this process is done turn off the heat and add the butter, 2 beaten eggs and the parmesan. Amalgamate everything together and put on a plate or two to cool.


To put the supplí together prepare some bowls with breadcrumbs, flour, beaten eggs and a plate with chopped mozzarella (into cube like shapes). Put some rice mixture in your palm in a cup like shape. Insert some of the mozzarella in the middle and cover with some more rice making a rice ball with the mozzarella inside. Be careful not to leave any holes (as the mozzarella will leak out when frying and open the supplí), don’t make the rice walls too thick (as the mozzarella might not completely melt when fried) and don’t make the rice ball too big as it will be more difficult to fry and will require more oil. After making the shape you want cover in flour to seal any small holes, then pass in the egg and finally cover in breadcrumbs. Place on a clean plate ready to fry. Repeat the process until all the rice is gone. Then prepare the oil in a large saucepan (you can start doing this while you are making the rice balls) and when hot place as many balls as you can inside leaving space for the rice balls to move. Make you they are covered or mostly covered and move then every so often. Prepare a large bowl with some kitchen roll covering it to absorb the oil and place the fried balls inside once they have a golden caramel colour. Repeat until all the rice balls are fried and serve right away.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

What the summer gave me

 Now that summer is over and autumn weather is looming, the garden gets dark after seven, though flowers still bloom, I am looking back and I realise that I had a good summer.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t travel to Italy but I visited my family in the north of England, had trips to London and worked on my writing and paintings. The procedures and restrictions to travel abroad were too complex; I was supposed to have certified Covid tests before leaving the UK and before coming back. I was also supposed to quarantine for five days when I was in Rome. The most difficult part was to fill an online form and print it 24 hours before leaving Italy after a certified test, which had to be booked in advance and only a few places in Rome delivered it. My mum has no internet and no printing facilities, so I had no clues how I could accomplish all these procedures. I was so sorry I couldn’t see my mum but we kept in touch by phone and WhatsApp video calls. She especially enjoyed seeing my granddaughter Violetta; she watched her for more than one hour and enjoyed every moment of it. I can’t imagine how happy she will be when she will finally meet Violetta in person. I hope we can all go to Italy at Christmas and have a big family party all together to catch up the time we lost. 


We saw Violetta quite a few times in July and August as my son and daughter in law came to visit us and we travelled north to see them too. It was fabulous, we had a great time with them and with my other son and his girlfriend who live in Newcastle. We had good Italian food in a Sardinian restaurant, Pani’s, visited parks and castles, immersed in the northern landscape and experienced the unpredictable northern summer weather. I spoiled little


Violetta with new toys and new clothes, small chewable books and cushions.


Most of my time was dedicated to reading, writing and painting, as well as crocheting and cooking. When family and friends came to visit us, I prepared my top Italian dishes: lasagne and pasta al forno, tortellini with cream, caponata, ciambellone, almond biscuits and different side dishes with the harvest of courgette and French beans from my trugveg garden. Luckily, both my daughter and my daughter in law helped me preparing lasagne, supplí (balls of rice with tomato sauce), parmigiana and brownies. My daughter’s lasagne is a special recipe with olives and her supplí are exceptional. My daughter in law made a delicious parmigiana and her brownies are the best I have ever tasted. I have the recipe but I can’t make them as good as she does.


My garden bloomed this year, luscious morning glories, marigolds, geraniums and begonias; they overflew the pots invading a good part of the back garden, a phenomenon. Maybe it was the weather that this summer alternated rain and sunny spells. It wasn’t too hot but warm enough to make them flourish. It was an ‘English summer’, a bit grey and showery but I preferred it to the hot and humid weather my mother was experiencing in Rome. She constantly complained on the phone saying she only went out in the early morning and that during the day she felt down because of the heat. 



In July I was able to book visits to museums again and caught up with a number of exhibitions in London that were closed during the lockdown. It was emotional and inspirational to go back to the British Museum and to the V&A, have a day out, see things in front of me with my eyes. I reviewed some of them, here are the links:


Nero: the man behind the myth https://londongrip.co.uk/2021/08/nero-the-man-behind-the-myth-british-museum-review-by-carla-scarano/ 


Alice: curiouser and curiouser https://londongrip.co.uk/2021/08/alice-curiouser-and-curiouser-victoria-and-albert-museum-review-by-carla-scarano/ 


Bags inside out: https://londongrip.co.uk/2021/09/bags-inside-out-victoria-and-albert-museum-review-by-carla-scarano/ 


Paula Rego: https://londongrip.co.uk/2021/08/paula-rego-tate-britain-review-by-carla-scarano/ 


I also visited the exhibition ‘Epic Iran’ and the room dedicated to the Raphael cartoons at the V&A, Turner at Tate Britain and ‘Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint’ as well as the free exhibition in rooms 90 and 91 at the British Museum dedicated to contemporary art of the Middle east and North Africa. They were all enthralling experiences I will probably go back to in future articles and blog posts. I especially enjoyed the exhibition ‘A fine Day for Seeing’ at Southwark Park Galleries where I also had a workshop with the Poetry School led by Tamar Yoseloff, here is the link to my review:


https://londongrip.co.uk/2021/08/a-fine-day-for-seeing-ten-artists-ten-poets/?wppa-occur=1&wppa-cover=0&wppa-album=205&wppa-photo=3794 


Last but not least, I took part in the doodling activity on the floor of Tate Modern contributing with a red heart and a green flower. It was great fun being immersed in art again; it boosted my creativity and inspired new artwork. I was lucky I had such a relaxing and fruitful summer, sometimes cloudy but with special sunny moments.



Monday, 19 July 2021

Planning my summer holidays

 We haven’t seen much of the sun this summer; it shyly poked out sporadically from thick grey clouds and a fresh breeze often blew feeling more like easterly wind from time to time. Intermittent showers occurred on a daily basis, sometimes just spring rain other times downpours. Today is Freedom Day, but the media keep recommending not to rush back to normality, maybe keep wearing face masks in crowded spaces and keep distancing too. Face masks will still be compulsory on public transports in London and other cities. They say it’s our responsibility to keep the risk low and that the pandemic is not over and hospital

admissions might rise too. We need to be aware that we must ‘learn to live’ with this virus for a few years at least, considering the variants that keep appearing. Fortunately, there was the European Championship and the Italian victory that cheered me up. I didn’t expect Italy and England to face one another in the final. Honestly, Italy didn’t play so well against Spain. The game was slow and after the extra time both teams were exhausted. When Italy won at the penalties, I could hardly believe it. England vs Denmark was more predictable. I think England played better since the beginning and deserved the victory. It looked strange that the English and Danish flags have the same colours, one with a red cross, the other with a white cross, though slightly to the left. Comments after the match said that Sterling had minimal contact into the area and that it was not sufficient for the penalty. But this was the referee’s decision and, in the end, I think England deserved to be in the final.

Italy and England are two very different teams and the media coverage in the two counties as well as the audience’s attitude were very different too. Italians were excited and happy to be in the final, but the country was focused on other issues too. In England the final was a sort of obsession and became political ultimately. In the UK the media talked only about the English team, Southgate and all possible predictions about the final match. There was a lot of pride and commitment, but football is unpredictable especially when two teams are almost equal, as it often happens in final matches. I wonder why football is so popular especially in Europe and South America and how it is capable of pulling a country together in such an emotional and absolute way. Other popular sports such as rugby, basketball, volleyball and cricket don’t have the same power. Italians always become a nation around the Azzurri football team and display Italian flags everywhere when Italy plays, which does not happen on Liberation Day or other patriotic occasions.

My daughter Valentina
supporting Italy


Italy vs England was a tough match, ‘agony and ecstasy’, as it was often stated afterwards. Unfortunately, it ended with penalties, which is exciting but also a bit unfair, though they cannot carry on playing forever. In the end, Italy did better. Italian players looked more experienced and determined and the goalkeeper, Donnarumma, made the difference. I am not a football expert, but I wonder if Southgate had alternative players for the penalties. Saka is certainly an excellent player, but he is also very young and choosing him for the last penalty was a risk. I found the way Rashford, Sancho and Saka were targeted after the match very unfair. Everybody can miss a penalty, even Southgate did it in a similar occasion in 1996. In the end I was sorry for England and overjoyed for Italy. 😀




I am planning to visit my mum and my sister in Rome in August. I haven’t seen them in person since December 2019. I am not so happy to face the Italian summer especially in Rome where the temperatures are very high and it is so humid. I am also worried about the Covid rules that keep changing and all the expensive tests we need to do before and after departure. If Italy stays amber, I don’t need to isolate when I come back as I have the double jab, but I have to isolate for five days when I arrive in Rome. This is not a problem as my mother stays at home most of the time anyways. Visiting Italy again after such a long time will be emotional and strange. I will be immersed in a slumbering heat without internet connection except sporadically on my phone. I’m sure I will enjoy the time with my mum, doing our crochet work while watching the evening news or old films, visiting her elderly friends and gossiping about neighbours and relatives. I will meet my friends too, three girlfriends I’ve known since my twenties and maybe visit one or two exhibitions in Rome if the weather is bearable and my mum feels fit enough to go out. 


I expect to see more of my family who live in the UK during the summer. My sons who live in the north have planned to come and see us and my daughter Irene and I will visit some exhibitions and attend two or three shows in London too. It will be a quiet summer filled with intense readings, occasional paintings and some writing. In the meantime, I also became a member of the National Gallery and attended some of their online zoom sessions, Talk and Draw. They start from famous paintings such as The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello or The Bridge of Sighs by J.M.W. Turner. They suggested concentrating on

details and sketching them in loose marks at first then produce a more total approach. This technique helped me be loose, which is a characteristic I am trying to develop in my artwork. I am also attending weekly art sessions on zoom with Maria, a Portuguese lady who also helps with the Italian club at the Maybury Community Centre. The art class is composed of an interesting group of elderly ladies living in far away places in Surrey or Hampshire. All of them contribute telling their family stories, which are intriguing and moving, while they paint. At the end we take photos of our works and post them on WhatsApp. It is a good way of meeting people, keep connected and experience
communication despite these weird times. I made some embroideries too inspired by Margaret Atwood’s words for my supervisors and examiners at the University of Reading as a thank you gift for their availability and support in my three-year PhD course. They appreciated my artwork very much and sent me thank you messages. I also embroidered another piece for my friend Huan and her beautiful family. It is inspired by Chinese art and the inscription reads: ‘May you have smooth sailing’.



My trugveg garden is doing very well. It must be the frequent rains and sunny spells as well as occasional hot days that made the miracle. Flowers exploded overflowing the pots, tomato plants became trees and pumpkin plants grew all over the back garden creeping spookily under the table. I harvested plenty of lettuce, courgettes and French beans so far without even using any food for plants. The front garden looks less exciting though my blue and pink hydrangeas are blooming.


During the summer I am dressing for a staycation with loose light maxi dresses, shorts or baggy linen trousers and over-sized t-shirts. I take care of my earrings and lipstick every day. I alternate bright colours to neutral ones, it depends on the day, on my mood and where I am going to go. I don’t mind if my waistline disappeared and my ankles are swelling. I just wear what is most suitable and comfortable for me and I believe it looks pretty all the same. I keep buying things I like and enjoy changing my look, mixing and matching, looking sparkly. For zoom meetings and events the upper part is important and I also wear visible earrings plus a necklace. At home I wear shorts but also colourful loose dresses if it is hot. I keep cycling whatever the weather, wearing waterproof jacket and trousers if it is raining. And I carry on with my yoga relentlessly.


I was sorry to know that Raffaella Carrà died two weeks ago. They broadcast her interviews, shows and most popular songs on the Italian TV for days. She was very popular both in Italy and internationally, especially in South America, from the 1970s to 1990s. Her most famous songs were Ma che musica maestro, Tuca Tuca, A far l’amore comincia tu (Do it, do it again, which was popular in the UK too), Fiesta, Chissà se va, and many other songs that became hits in Italy. I remember watching her singing and dancing on the black and white TV when I was a child. She wore tight dresses showing her belly, which was a bit outrageous at the time. She had a confident and easy approach and was a great dancer too looking both ordinary, sassy and sexy, a typical Italian mixture. Here are some links that might give an idea of her personality and work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_saHuwHtRVI


https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/nov/16/rafaella-carra-the-italian-pop-star-who-taught-europe-the-joy-of-sex


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/raffaella-carra-obituary-qmc6z3tlw 


https://www.open.online/2021/07/05/raffaella-carra-tuca-tuca-alberto-sordi-video/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DypM_LiZg8M 


And here are three ricotta recipes and a recent photo of my lovely granddaughter Violetta.











Almond and ricotta mini cakes

For the dough you need: 80 g of melted butter, 2 eggs, 80 ml of milk, 50 g of sugar, grated zest of one lemon, 175 g of self-rising flour, 100 g of ground almonds, half a tsp of baking powder.

For the filling you need: 250 g of ricotta, 50 g of sugar, half a tsp of vanilla essence; some sugar and food colouring to decorate.


Prepare the dough and make balls, then press your thumb to make a hole in the centre. Bake on baking parchment till pale. Dunk the mini cakes in a mixture of milk and food colouring or alchermes then roll them in sugar. Fill the mini cakes with the ricotta mixture and chill for an hour before serving.


Sardinian lemon and ricotta mini cakes


For the pastry you need: 200 g of semolina, 30 g of melted lard, 100 g of self-raising floor, 100 ml of warm water, one tbsp of sugar.


For the filling you need: one yolk of an egg, grated zest of an orange and a lemon, 50 g of sugar, 250 g of ricotta, some drops of vanilla essence.


Mix all the ingredients for the pastry and knead it. Let it rest for one hour covered by a tea towel. Roll it out and cut it in circles and then set them in moulds. Mix the ingredient for the filling and spoon the mixture into the centre of each mini cake. Bake for 15-20 minutes then decorate with icing sugar and/or chocolate chips and cake sprinkles.


Ricotta and lemon and lime cake


You need: two eggs, 250 g of flour, 1 and ½ tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of melted butter, 150 g of golden caster sugar, 250 g of ricotta, the grated zest and juice of a lemon, the grated zest and juice of two limes.


To decorate you need: the peel of one lemon and one lime. Cut the peel in stripes and cook it in water with two tbsp of demerara sugar.


Beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar, add all the other ingredients then whip the egg whites until stiff and add them too. Bake the cake for 45 minutes at 180 C. Pour the lime and lemon stripes on the cake and let it cool before serving.


And now let’s look forward to the Olympic Games! 

Have a lovely summer, I will be back with my blog posts in September. 👍🌞💦