Monday 24 May 2021

Eurovision Song Contest 2021: Italy wins!


I cannot help writing about the Eurovision song contest every time it happens and this year I am so excited that the Italian song ‘Zitti e Buoni’ (quiet and well behaved) has won😀. Here are the links to the video clips:

Zitti e buoni, Eurovision video:

Zitti e buoni, official video:

It was not my favourite song but MÃ¥neskin are so popular and are great performers. Their song is powerful, appealing and has a challenging message, and some swearing too. It is Italy’s third victory after Gigliola Cinguetti in 1964 with ‘Non ho l’età’ (I’m not old enough) and Toto Cotugno in 1990 with ‘Insieme’ (together). The competition with Barbara Previ’s ‘Voilà’ (France) and Gjon’s Tears’s ‘Tout l’Univers’ (Switzerland) was tough at the end but the public had different views from the jury and awarded the prize to Italy, giving the MÃ¥neskin more than 300 point. The band suddenly jumped in the lead. The camera framed Damiano David, the leading voice of the MÃ¥neskin, and the Swiss singer Gjon’s Tears just before the final results; to me they reflected two clearly different worlds, the world of rock and roll’s transgression and youth rebellion and the soothing more conventional reality of the every day. 

The MÃ¥neskin (which means ‘moonshine’ in Danish) emerged from the Italian talent show X Factor 2017. The members of the band met in high school in Rome, Monteverde area, and started as a band busking in the centre of Rome. Their debut single was ‘Chosen’and in 2018 they became hugely popular with ‘Morirò da re’ (I will die as a king) and ‘Torna a casa Marlene’ (come back home Marlene), which is my favourite song. Their first album was Il ballo della vita (the dance of life) and they also released a film, This is MÃ¥neskin. 

Here are some links to their work and music:

This is MÃ¥neskin, film trailer

The movie

Le parole lontane (far away words)

Morirò da re (I will die as a king)

Marlena torna a casa (Marlena come back home) 

Vent’anni (twenty years old)


La paura del buio (fear of the dark)

The lyrics of ‘Zitti e Buoni’ with the English translation is here:

The text was slightly changed for the Eurovision as the original version has some swear words, like ‘non sa di che c*** parla’ (they don’t know what the f*** they are talking about) and ‘vi conviene toccarvi i coglioni’ (you’d better touch your nuts), a superstition gesture. This last bit was sung in the original version after they were announced winners. The refrain ‘sono fuori di testa ma diverso da loro’ (I am out of mind but different from them) points out a transgressive view but also the awareness of having a special gift of sorts that makes the protagonist stand out against the masses. They have an androgynous ephebic look characterised by black eyeliner and dark nail polish which suggest freedom of sexual choices, attitude and style. Their outfits are Italian high couture with special attention to details such as accessories. Their world is a world open to possibilities, which is very different from the conventional and secluded prospectives of many of the songs presented at the Eurovision contest 2021. In their songs there is a subtle criticism of stale ordinariness and easy hypocrisies in search for authenticity and free choices. The public gave the prize to unconventionality as it has often happened in the past few years at Eurovision. At the end, Damian said that ‘rock and roll never dies’ but there is much more in their song.

Seeing so many people packed in the Rotterdam’s Sahoy Arena without face masks was surprising and revealing, a sign of normality we all needed. As every year, the extravaganza of the Eurovision contest included some weird outfits like the all yellow Lithuanian style and the Ukrainian singer’s acid green bird-like jacket or the Norwegian angel costume. No one could beat one of the German costumes dressed as fingers doing the peace sign which unfortunately during the movements of the dance looked like a middle finger. Alas, most of the women’s dresses were different looks from the same collection in glittering silver as the top colour chosen.

Some songs didn’t deserve the low points they received both from the juries of the different countries and from the public. I liked ‘Ember’ (UK, ), the beat was engaging and James Newman is a good singer. Bulgaria’s and Spain’s songs were interesting too (respectively Victoria, ‘Growing Up Is Getting Old’ and ‘Voy A Quedarme’ with Blas Cantó, and The Netherland’s ‘Birth Of A New Age’ sung by Jeangu Macrooy which was one of my favourite songs. The soul rhythm put together with percussion, the dance and the message, which refers to Black Lives Matter, were so engaging and true that for me it had no match. I loved the refrain: ‘Yu no man broko mi’(mi na afu sensi, in Sranan Tongo, the language of Suriname); it is strong and full of hope. Literally ‘Mi na afu sensi’ means ‘I’m half a cent, but you cannot break me’, that is, I am useless but I cannot be broken and don’t undervalue me. The song talks about the transition from slavery to freedom and the courage to stand up for yourself when everybody is trying to bring you down. 

Here is the link to the official video: 

and to the performance at Eurovision:

But at the Eurovision song contest anything can happen and this is one of the reasons why it is great fun.

Friday 21 May 2021


 I wonder if it is really happening, I mean the reopening, the easing off and lifting of Covid-19 rules. I can’t believe we are nearly there, though slowly, in tiny steps, back to normality. I am aware that I need to learn again how to approach people, not to side-step when they cross my way. This scares me a bit as if I have become anti-social. But there are still some unexpected hurdles such as the Indian variant or other variants that might pop up and slow even more the normalisation, or even bring us back to partial isolation.

In a hopeful mood, I have recently booked a room in a Travelodge to visit my sons in the north and purchased cinema tickets online. I am also planning to visit exhibitions in London as museums are reopening; they are exciting prospectives that I hope are really going to happen. But in the past months I learned that you cannot trust the government promises just because they cannot predict exactly what the variants will be and how the contagion will increase or decrease in the coming weeks. Vaccinations seem to be the right solution (I had my two doses), but it is not definitive. Unexpected changes to the rules might be implemented at the last minute, bewildering turn arounds that are frustrating and leave you empty. A terrible sensation.

In the meantime, to have some distraction of sorts, I am preparing veg trugs for my small

garden pots, though the plants are all still inside as it has been chilly at night in May. I hope to visit Longacres Garden centre near Bagshot soon to buy all the things I need, such as compost and new plants and get ready for my summer harvest. I will concentrate on tomatoes, herbs, courgettes and lettuce this year as last summer they produced abundantly. We had gorgeous salads which tasted so good. Two of my trugs were devoted to flowers last year, so colourful and bright I felt delighted every time I looked at them. I also had several big pots with daisies, roses and cyclamens. Longacres has so many choices and varieties of plants as well as aisles with clothes, books and toys for children, art and craft things, garden furniture, kitchen tools and a deli shop with food from all over the world. I found some clever funny toys for my granddaughter Violetta, who is starting to grab and chew things. We see her on video calls at the weekends and realise how much she is changing and developing from one week to the other. She is so sociable and her face is so expressive, she seems to speak through her eyes. We are longing to see her in June and have a bit of family time all together.

For my artwork, I am painting flowers now, mainly tulips. I sold one of my winter drawings on the Woking Art Society online gallery and am preparing for summer by experimenting with different media. I am also carrying on with my embroidery inspired by Atwood’s words but also by Sylvia Plath’s and Primo Levi’s quotes. Here is the link to an article on Margaret Atwood’s work I wrote which was published in the Canada-UK foundation’s Friday Files with the picture of one of my embroideries: 

Writing absorbs me more than ever, mainly reviews of interesting collections I picked up from poetry readings. I usually review books I like or that are commissioned by online magazines. I enjoy this work so much as I learn more and more about poetry and how to put my ideas together. I am also working on an academic article on The Testaments, the last published novel by Margaret Atwood. I would like to submit it to a journal and I will read a shorter version of it at the Accute conference I am going to follow online at the end of May. My PhD is done, the thesis is completed (you can download it from my website here: ), I only hope I will have the opportunity to carry on with my research in the future.

Working from home, I have more time for tidying up. During the pandemic and after my daughter Irene’s return from Japan before Christmas, I filled the spare room with boxes of her discarded things she sorted out after her arrival. Besides, I already had some clothes my mother had left behind after spending some time with me after my father’s death. Then I put on weight so I had to discard a great amount of clothes as well. At the end of the process I had about twenty boxes to deliver to charity shops. It was a liberation not only because it made space in drawers and in the wardrobe but also because it was a way to acknowledge and accept that my body has changed and old clothes don’t fit, leave size 10-12 and embrace 14-16, a transformation that I am enjoying. 

I have attended inspiring poetry workshops recently with Tears in the Fence and Second Light. The material and exercises were fantastic and I loved the opportunity to have a conversation with fellow poets and receive feedbacks. I especially enjoyed David Caddy’s workshop on etymology, that is, how the origin of words and sounds work in unison in a poem. Great examples were from poems by Seamus Heaney and G.M. Hopkins. The Second Light workshops were spread in three days and I booked all of them as I didn’t need to commute to London but could easily follow them from home. The theme was recovery, with the starting point from Emily Dickinson: “I lost a world the other day / Has anyone found?” It was all so engrossing; I could learn so much and draft a good number of poems.

Along with the theme of spring and summer time, I am crocheting colourful flowers and butterflies for new wreaths that I am giving as presents to my mum and to friends. Last but not least, I am browsing online for recipes of new dishes that I adapt to my family’s taste, just to have a change. Here are a few examples:

Spaghetti with meatballs and tomato sauce (Lady and the tramp style)

You need: a bottle of passata, 250 g of minced beef meat, one clove of garlic, salt and pepper, some Italian pepperoncino, parsley, one tbsp of grated parmigiano, two eggs, four tbsp of breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil and 300 g of spaghetti.

Prepare the meatballs mixing the minced meat with the eggs, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, parsley finely cut, salt and pepper. Make small meatballs and cook them in the passata adding olive oil, salt, pepper, some peperoncino and a clove of garlic. Let it simmer for about two hours. Cook the spaghetti and season them with the meatball tomato sauce and serve with grated parmigiano.

Potato bake with crème fraîche

For the pastry you need: 250 g of self-raising flour, two eggs, 50 g of melted butter.

For the filling you need: 300 g of crème fraîche, 2-3 big potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, rosemary and oregano, some grated mozzarella.

Prepare the pastry mixing all the ingredients and chill it for half an hour. Roll it out and line a greased oven tray. Wash and cut the potatoes in thin slices, then season them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, oregano and rosemary. Spread the crème fraîche on the bottom and set the potatoes with slices on top. Sprinkle with some grated mozzarella and bake for 45 minutes at 180 C.

Pistachio cake

For the cake you need: 150 g of ground pistachio kernels, 250 g of plain flour, 200 g of sugar, two eggs, half a glass of milk, one and a half tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, grated zest of one lemon, three tbsp of olive oil, two eggs.

For the filling you need: 250 g of ricotta, 80 g of dark chocolate, 80 g of sugar.

Prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients and chill it for one hour. Prepare the cake beating the eggs with the sugar. Add the olive oil, the flour and the ground pistachio kernels. Finally mix the milk with the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda and add it to the mixture too.  Bake the cake in a greased tin at 180 C for 45 minutes. When it is cool cut the cake in half and wet it with some milk and water, or liquor if you wish. Spread the ricotta mixture on one half and cover it with the other half. Finally dust the top with icing sugar.

Pancake cakes

This is a Peter Parker recipe I made simpler, that is, with less layers, and changed using different kinds of fillings instead of just one (which was with macha powder in the original). 

For the pancakes you need: four eggs, 100 ml of milk, 80 g of sugar, 120 g of plain flour, 50 g of melted butter, some vegetable oil to fry.

Prepare the pancakes beating the eggs with the sugar then add the other ingredients. Cook about 15-20 pancakes and let them cool.

Here are three options for the fillings:

  1. 1. 250g of ricotta, 100g of ground dark chocolate, three tbsp of sugar. Mix all the ingredients and chill it for an hour. Some cocoa powder to dust the top.
  2. 2. 300 g of whipping cream, 250 g of mixed berries, two tbsp of sugar. Whip the cream with the sugar and blend most of the berries (keep some of them to decorate the top). Add the berry juice to the cream and mix.
  3. 3. 250 g of mascarpone, two eggs, two tbsp of sugar; 80 g of ground white chocolate to decorate the top. Whisk the yolk of the eggs with the sugar, add the mascarpone and the egg whites whipped until stiff. 

When you have all the ingredients ready prepare the cakes alternating one layer of pancake and one layer of filling. I made about 6-7 layers for each cake. Finally decorate the top.

More recipes on next blog post. And now let’s get ready for the Eurovision Song Contest grand final!

Saturday 8 May 2021

My body changing: a creative reshaping

 In the past two years, or just before the lockdown, my body changed. At first I thought that it was temporary and that I just needed to lose two-three kilos to go back to my usual shape. But then my thoughts proved to be wrong. Apart from the almost impossible achievement of losing weight (even a few kilos), my face became puffier, my waistline disappeared and my back hunched. This is also due to the fact that I suffer from serious osteoporosis which also causes backpain. Besides, my diabetes conditions have worsened as bit, though I am not taking any medication at the moment as I am trying to keep it under control with a diet monitored by the excellent nurse Emma. The weirdest change in my body happened to my hair. It is not white yet, just salt and pepper, but it became thinner and crispy. My hair used to be wavy and I straightened it easily, now there is no way to style it, though this suits my plump face. Needless to say, I had to buy new clothes simply because most of the old ones were too tight or didn’t fit my new shape. I must say I enjoyed it. It was good to renew my wardrobe with nice affordable clothes and I realised that I could still look fashionable. In winter I wore woollen trousers with an elastic waist band  or thick loose leggings. My tops were large blouses and cardigans or woollen dresses. Now I pay much more attention to accessories, such as earrings, bags and scarves. I always put lipstick on despite the face mask, and like to change, even at home. It is a way to cheer myself up, challenge the Covid isolation and restrictions and put up with ageing.

I have slowed down and dilute house chores and activities when I feel too tired. I say to myself that there is no hurry. On the other hand, I have much more time for reading and writing and I attend a lot of online events. Therefore, there are some positive sides. I only need to tune up my body and reorganise my routine accordingly. This new condition reshaped my creative side as well giving me new ideas especially in my creative writing work. The more I read (not just books but also online newspapers and magazines, such as The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New Yorker and The Times, as well as blogs and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts), the more I feel inspired and willing to explore previously unknown arguments and authors. 

I am reading poetry extensively, not only the poetry collections I review, but also new poetry from magazines and journals such as Acumen, Ambit, Tears in the Fence and Poetry London. I am also a member of The Poetry Society so I receive regularly The Poetry Review and attend the launch online. As a consequence of all this reading, I write more poems and at a certain point I realised I am ready to put together a new collection by the end of the summer with new pieces about the pandemic and my favourite pieces about family and relationships, and food of course. This time some poems have a slightly more political slant as my interests shifted due to the recent events and protests such as the death of Sarah Everard and George Floyd and the change in the American presidency. I hope people will like them.

During winter time I mainly painted bare trees using black ink, felt pens, watercolour pencils and oil pastels. I also used other washable media such as inkblock and artbars. I played a lot with biros and make-up things such as nail polish, eye shadow and lipstick. In spring and summer I hope to experiment with flowers, eggs and blossoming trees. Being part of Woking Art Society ( ) gives me goals in my painting as members have the opportunity to exhibit their work online or in exhibitions when restrictions will ease. I also created more embroideries inspired by Margaret Atwood’s quotes and by the glass sculptures of Chihuly. The more I create, the more I find new projects to start which can be an article, reviewing a poetry collection I like, baking a cake, experimenting a new pasta recipe, or embroidering a poem for my granddaughter Violetta.

Here are some new poems:

A blessing

To Violetta

So sweet

so dear

unbelievably new.

Your chubby cheeks

and turned up nose

thin mouth

make me melt in tenderness.

Your determination to grow

gripping at your father’s finger

resting on your mother’s breast,

sleeping your sweet dreams,

streams of milk

in a world of strange noises

and familiar voices.

May you find your way through the maze,

little by little, step by step

at your pace,

amidst friendly faces.

May you see bright days and fog,

flowers withering and blooming,

opening to better futures.

A new me

My clothes adapt as a second skin

to my body,

receptive, ready to transform.

Flexible, they ease off my shape.

I gamble with the thick waistline 

and  the varicose veins,

camouflage bulges and flabby thighs

in loose attires.

My body in flux,

sensitive to arthritis and high blood pressure

diabetes 2 and back pains.

I learned to pause, do what I can

postpone what I can’t.

The stages of aging, endless mutation,

replicating and changing

the message of my mother and my grandmothers.

They are beautiful as ever.

They say, age gracefully 

match clothes’ colours to the seasons

like elderly Japanese ladies:

auburn for autumn, snow white for winter,

sakura pink for spring and sky blue for summer.

I introduced some eccentricities,

mix and match bold earrings, three per ear,

big rings, heavy necklaces, always bright scarves.

Who will notice it? I will.

There’s nothing to lose

or to gain, just have fun,

being who I always wanted to be.

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.

Meeting my grandmothers

  1. i. Conforta, from Cortona 

Her back is hunched down,

doubled over to sow, gather,

clean and scrub.

Her hands have blackened skin and twisted fingers,

but still she smiles

with scrutinising eyes.

Her long strong arms are forged to beat the laundry

and carry logs for the fire.

Seven children born, fed, immeasurably loved,

then lost, the boys,

not the girls, they were of a different cloth,

flexible and untameable,

like you.

  1. ii. Orsola, from Meta di Sorrento

Round like a demijohn,

she used to sing sentimental songs,

Torna a Surriento, O surdato ‘nnammurato, O sole mio,

with a well-tuned voice 

that resounded of the smooth waves of the Gulf of Naples.

But in her black eyebrows

there was the sharpness

of a steel determination

disguised in her soft arms

that kneaded the pasta dough

on the Formica surface of the table,

her gold bracelet clinking.

Almost illiterate,

she knew what the future held.

I was pregnant, I was full

The exam room was busy with students,

future gynaecologists,

I was surprised.

The professor told me to undress from waist down,

lie down on the bed, open my legs

and put my feet on the props.

He looked at my privates

and commented that I was more hairy than normal.

Then they examined the different parts of the vulva,

its size and colours,

they named the labia minora, labia majora, the perineum, urethra and clitoris,

which he touched with gloved fingers to let my vagina open more easily.

He thrusted a bivalve speculum to peruse the inside.

They didn’t identify any sores, genital warts or spots,

didn’t mention any particular smell and concluded 

I was all right on the whole.

Because of the examination, I was allowed a free scan.

Even then I could tell she was floating happily inside my belly,


You can begin the journey of life anew

You can start again for good

after the lockdown, 

plan to go back shopping 

in charity shops,

hunting for lucky picks

a pair of red shoes for £ 5

embroidery threads for 50 p

a china bowl for £ 2.

You can celebrate again in Italian restaurants with family,

luscious amatriciana, rich pizza with burrata and prosciutto,

indulging in tiramisu and sorbettos.

Hug your sons again and kiss your daughters,

finally cuddle your granddaughter.

Travel to Italy again,

caress your mother’s frail bones

her soft cheeks.

And swim once more

float in a large pool,

your body weightless, striving to reach the other side.