Sunday 16 October 2022

Back to the UK

 Coming back home, I had two weeks to catch up with house chores, visit some exhibitions and relax before starting the school year again. I applied to part-time jobs to support students at universities as I find a full-time job too tiring and it does not allow me enough time for my writing, painting and academic work. I had a zoom interview with UCL while I was in Italy (an ideal job, two days from home and one day on campus) but eventually I wasn’t selected. So I am back to The Park School, which is a nice place to work anyway. This year I am not following a class but I work one-to-one with a year 7 student. Going back to work was good, I met all my colleagues and we caught up on holidays and family. We had two inset days which were interesting and it was a relaxing way to start the year. As the students were not present, we were dressed in our favourite t-shirts, coloured jumpsuits, new shoes and flowery dresses. The school had been refurbished during the summer with new carpets and new furniture. The staff room had been repainted and has new sofas with bright cushions. We also have new photocopiers, and everything looks tidier and fresh.

At the end of August I travelled north to see my sons and their families. The weather was bright and warm, I had a lovely time with Violetta in the garden. We played with pinwheels and collected pebbles. She loved my rings especially the glass ones and liked the photo of my PhD graduation. She points at it every time we have a video call and calls me ‘nonna’ (grandma). I visited Whitley Bay with my other son Francesco and his girlfriend Molly. It was such a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time chatting while walking in the sun. I am planning on meeting them again in October half term in Newcastle and visit the city together.

At the beginning of September I attended a fabulous poetry event, Tears in the Fence Festival, ‘Bewilderment / Be-wildered / Be wild’, at the Stourpaine Village Hall in Dorset. I met fellow poets I am in contact with and bought their new books that I am reading voraciously. The readings, interviews and performances were engrossing. Here is the link to my review of the event: 

At the end of August I also had my friend Valerie’s birthday party. She is a poet and writer who lives in Guildford and is now 96, so we organised a gathering of friends and family at her house. There was a lot of good food and good wine too. I made the birthday cake, a sponge filled with cream and berries. My daughter Irene decorated the top with white sugar roses and silver sugar balls. Valerie was overjoyed and talked with all the guests. I visit her from time to time and we chat about our families and our writings. She is currently working on a novel set in Roman Britain though she feels tired most of the day and can work only in the morning.

In Trafalgar Square the National Gallery organised the Summer on the Square free sessions again. You could sit, use an easel or a board and sketch a drawing taking inspiration from a picture, use a mirror to make a self-portrait or just draw what was around you. Chunky pencils and oil pastels were available as well as graphite sticks, charcoal and all kinds of pencils. I made a self-portrait and spent most of the time watching children around me drawing their incredible original pieces from famous pictures of the National Gallery collection. Their interpretations were so spontaneous, colourful and absolutely unique. In London I also visited some exhibitions and reviewed them: ‘Africa Fashion’ at the V&A and ‘Lubaina Himid’ at Tate Modern. Here are the links to my reviews: 

I also had the chance to visit the Senate House which is near the British Museum. I was invited to an open reception with delicious, amazing food and a guided tour around the magnificent edifice. I didn’t know that the Senate House is a popular destination for films and TV snapshots such as Crown, Bodyguard, Miss Marple and Nineteen-Eighty-Four. I loved the stained-glass window with the coat of arms and the map of the universities of London in the Senate room. In a corridor there were also some drawings by David Hockney. There is a ghost story linked to one of the lifts of the house. One of the principal officers died tragically in a lift when some material fell on him. He shouldn’t have been on site as some works were being carried out. Of course, the lift in not in use now.

In October I took part in the Chobham Art and Music Festival attending a concert at St. Lawrence parish church, ‘Paris 1778’, featuring three famous musicians associated with Paris, that is, Mozart, Haydn and Saint George. I enjoyed the whole night and was enthralled by the music floating in the soft light of the church. I had never heard Saint George’s music before. He was the son of a French aristocrat and a slave girl. He was educated in France and composed a large number of music pieces, concertos, operas, symphonies, arias and sonatas. He was a director as well, a celebrity of his day. I took part in the Art and Craft fair too on the 8th of October at Chobham Village Hall with my art, textile and crochet works. Some of my pieces were purchased and I also had commissions for more works. A few days later one of my pictures was selected for the exhibition of the Woking Art Society at The Lightbox in Woking, which will be on from the 11th to the 23rd of October. I wasn’t selected last year and I am so glad that this year I made it.

At The Lightbox there was also the final exhibition of The Vision Project

( ). Last June I wrote about it here:

This time they wrapped up all the activities: music, dancing, paintings and poetry. The beautiful poem by Greg Freeman inspired by his wife Gillian’s painting of a cornfield particularly moved me. Here are the poem and the picture:


We’ll be leaving this garden before too long, 

saying farewell to the lazy foxes

that sun themselves by the summer house,

deer that venture in from the woods beyond, 

occasional badger, evening jungle of birdsong. 

Yellow iris flag up the canal close by. 

This place has always been nature’s, not ours.

Bamboo, brambles, ground elder lead us

a merry dance. But nothing wrong. 

The mower with only three wheels

still chugs along, except when it cuts out. 

Fresh evidence of our resident mole,

owl and woodpecker in the woods. 

The cat lives mostly outdoors, calls in

for meals, or to show us her foraging,

mostly mice or shrews. The old shed

nearly killed me when I swung a hammer,

knocked it down. Or maybe saved me,

gave a second chance. This place has been

a refuge for so long. Always thought 

we’d remain. Now somewhere else is calling. 

Time for others to enjoy. Time to begin again. 

 Greg Freeman

Here is also the link to the film and the documentary:  

The Vision project will carry on with a Vision Project 2 with more art, dancing, writing, film, music and songs for everyone.

Reading Greg’s poem also reminded me of his departure. He is moving to Northumberland with Gillian to be near their son who lives in Newcastle. We will probably visit them as I often travel north to see my sons. We will all miss him in Woking as he hosted the Write Out Loud open mic on zoom and at The Lightbox and is the editor of WOL website too. In our September meeting of the Woking Writers Circle we celebrated his birthday and also his last attendance as he will be already in Northumberland for our next gathering. Rodney and Greg proposed for me to take over Greg’s role as co-compare for the WOL open mic. I am glad to do it and hope to be up to the role that they performed so well, entertaining and involving the audience with their witty poems and cracking jokes. Rodney also proposed me to take over his role as Woking Stanza prep, that is, the person who organises the Stanza, a poetry society group that meets regularly to discuss poetry. I will do it probably starting from next January on zoom.

At the end of September I had a fantastic Maddogyoga retreat at a youth hostel in Totland in the Isle of Wight with my yoga group. I am writing a piece about it including all the exercising, activities and good food we had in the 4-day trip. It was an exciting and rejuvenating experience that made me feel fit and happy. I felt accepted and valued in the community and the connections we created during the retreat. We had walks together, helped each other in clearing up and setting dinner and had long relaxing chats about our worries and joys. We had great fun too, delicious dinners exceptional cakes and even a game night and a fancy-dress party. Shena Grigor, our yoga instructor, was entertaining and professional as ever. I read poems at the beginning and end of each yoga session which I collected from online magazines and printed them in a booklet. It was an enthralling experience I wish to repeat.

Two anthologies launch happened in September and October, Poems for Ukraine: An Anthology by Poetry Performance, edited by Annie Havell, and Finding our Voices: Write Out Loud Woking: The First Six Years 2016-2022, edited by Rodney Wood and Greg Freeman. I attended the launch of the Ukraine anthology at the Willoughby Arms and read two poems, ‘I have something to say about crochet’ and ‘Monitoring my body’, though they are not included in this anthology. Here is the link to a review and how to order a copy of this significant collection that speaks honestly about the devastating conflict:

And here is my favourite poem from the collection:


The trouble with war – 

It distracts me from vital things 

like my phone charger and blusher.

I don’t know about this strange country 

that sits vulnerably next to Russia.

The trouble with war – 

are the Ukraine flag colours

that clash with my two piece

and my new designer shoes,

I’m not properly attired for peace

The trouble with war – 

inconvenienced by casualties,

and devastation and outrage

in the broadsheets and The Sun.

Please kindly leave the page

The trouble with war – 

families have to flee for safety

from bombs falling out the sky.

Filing my nails, I catch myself saying 

there but for the grace of God go I!

Heather Moulson

Finding our Voices celebrates Write Out Loud’s open mics and zoom meetings in which the poets of Woking and Guildford areas, and further afield on zoom, have met to read their poetry, shared their ideas and their books and connected to one another, which is what we really need. We had the zoom launch of the anthology last Wednesday and there will be the launch at The Lightbox in Woking on Thursday 27th of October at 8 pm. I meet regularly with most of the poets featured in the anthology, either online, on Facebook or in person. The poems are rich and diverse and express the inclusive, multi-faceted and entertaining spirit that Greg and Rodney promoted in the past six years. As they remark in the introduction, ‘We’ve called this anthology Finding our Voices, to try and encapsulate the founding principles we believe in about open mic poetry – that it should be open to all, that it can help people express themselves, develop self-confidence, exorcise demons, share stories.’ The cover picture is from a painting by Geoffrey Pimlott, a friend, fellow poet and renowned painter. Here are some links to his work: 

The anthology can be purchased on Amazon here:

And here is my poem featured in Finding our Voices:


To my husband

You stir the carnaroli rice in the pot with a wooden spoon.

The rice is overcooked, it thickens

in the receding boiling water.

You remove it from the hob and keep stirring

until the grains look fat enough,

ripe and glued one to the other.

You scoop small portions in bowls for me and our daughter,

then eat it straight from the pot

adding in plenty of olive oil and parmigiano,

mixing, savouring,

heaven in your eyes.

Carla Scarano D’Antonio

My collection Workwear is ready. I have copies of the book at home and I have already sent some of them to friends and family. The launch will be probably at the end of November but I have asked my webmaster to prepare a webpage for my website before the launch. The book is already on sale at The Lionsheart bookshop in the centre of Woking, 67 Commercial Way, GU21 6HN ( ). It will be on The High Window Press website too ( ). Some of my fellow poets are also writing reviews of my new collection which I will post on social media and add the links on my website.

The apple harvest season has been abundant. Free apples have come from friends and neighbours, so I am cooking and baking apple recipes every other day. Here is a special apple cake one that one of my husband’s aunts, zia Angela, gave me. She has a wood-burning oven and maybe this is the reason why her pizza, biscuits and cakes come out so perfect. But she is also a good cook.

The perfect apple cake

You need: 350 g of self-raising flour, three eggs, 200 g of sugar, 1 and ½ tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, ½ glass of milk, 4 tbsp of olive oil, grated zest of a lemon, four apples, the juice of a lemon.

Cut the apples, two of them in cubes and two in slices. Add the juice of a lemon and two tbsp of sugar. In a large bowl beat the eggs with the sugar add the rest of the ingredients and the apples cut in cubes. Pour the mixture in a greased cake tin and decorate the top with the apples cut in slices. Bake at 180 C for 45 minutes.

I have also realised that my name appeared in three articles on the Woking News & Mail (13th October 2022) regarding my pumpkin post-box crochet installation, my stall at Chobham Festival Art and Craft fair and my taking over as co-compare for WOL open mic. Incredible! I hardly believe it is happening. 😄

Saturday 1 October 2022

August in Rome with my mum

 So many things happened since I came back from Italy, not only the sad passing of the Queen, I wrote about in this blog, a piece which has been published in Woking Writers Circle’s website too ( ), but also the new PM, Liz Truss, and the disappointing results of the Italian general election (see a perceptive analysis here: ). Destructive flooding has affected Pakistan and Italy too. I will post my opinions soon but here are some thoughts about my time with my mum during the summer.

In Rome it was hot, sometimes unbearably hot, unbelievably hot, boiling. I thought I was living in an oven when we were outside. Inside we had to shut the windows just after 11 am and could not open them again before 7.30 pm. The air was stuffing, only fans and air conditioning could ease the situation a bit. Sweating tickled all over my body and my clothes were constantly damp. My mind refused to keep awake from time to time especially in the warmest moments of the day. Besides we had to wear face masks on public transports which didn’t help. However, I must say I had a good time with my mum. It wasn’t my ideal holiday but I spent a lot of time with her and had a good rest. It was a forced rest but a luxurious time too. I had plenty of leisure time to read, write and chat with her and her friends. We visited her neighbours and met her friends at the giardinetto, a patch of grass in the shade, sitting on plastic chairs and sipping cold tea in the late evenings. Her friends speak a lot about their families, their past and how much life has changed since they were young. Covid and various illnesses were among the top arguments and sometimes they cracked a joke.

My mum is fine on the whole but I found her slimmer as she was eating less because of the heat. Her carer, Ina, is nice and helpful with her. She does all the cleaning and helped us with the shopping at the supermarket. My mum is a good cook; she makes simple and tasty Italian food but she is becoming a bit lazy lately, so I helped her. We made pomodori col riso (tomatoes stuffed with rice), pasta e fagioli, caprese and frittata with zucchini. She made her special tomato sauce and minestrone. Apart from a bit of cooking I did not have house chores, ironing or washing up to do, so I had a real rest. I helped my mum with some bills at the post office and fixed a problem with a card she had lost. We went shopping together visiting all the nice shops in her area. I bought two new necklaces, a crochet handbag that copies Fendi patterns, beads, key rings and coloured paper at a shop kept by Chinese people where everything is cheaper, and a lot of wool and cotton yarns for my crochet projects.

I made some crochet mandalas (or potholders as my mum calls them) and crochet charms while I was watching TV in the evening. She gave me some good advice about matching colours and what kind of pattern to choose. We watched Il commisario Ricciardi, Miss Marple and In Onda, a programme on Italian politics on La7. I watched the final of the Women’s Euro 2022, of course, enjoyed all of it and cheered when the Lionesses finally won. Their performance was inspirational, a great boost for women’s football and for women’s sports in general. Millions of people followed the match from all over the world celebrating their astonishing victory. I especially liked Alessia Russo’s backheel goal and Beth Mead’s incredible numbers of goals. A great achievement! 

Most of the crochet work I made in Italy was for charity. I gave it to a friend of my mum who organises charity markets for the parish church and also made some more to give to friends. The pieces are very colourful and I must say they were very much appreciated. Before leaving for Italy I put on a sunflower installation on the post box near Tesco in Chobham and am planning a new installation for Halloween. In Italy I also had time to read some books and wrote some art and poetry reviews. Luckily, I solved the internet problem I had had in Italy in the past as my internet data with Vodafone expired very quickly. Now I have a new contract with O2 that gives me much more data so I could browse online

newspapers, connect to social media and check and send emails every day. I painted too, only flowers in watercolours, obsessed with Wisley Gardens I had visited before leaving. I gave a few to friends but kept some of them for the coming exhibitions and fairs. I have an Art Fair at Chobham Village Hall on Saturday the 8th of October which is part of Chobham Festival and on the 26th and 27th of November at The Lightbox. Here are the links:

I will be there with my paintings, crochet, textiles, jewellery, cards and books. Besides my self-published pamphlet, A Winding Road (2011), and my first collection, Negotiating Caponata (2020), I have a new book: Workwear, published by The High Window. It is not officially out yet until the middle of November but I already have some copies. My daughter made the painting for the front cover which I think is brilliant and reflects perfectly the spirit of the poems of the collection. The book launch will be on zoom at a certain point, probably at the end of November. The book will be publicised on The High Window website and on my website as well and there will be a PayPal button to purchase a copy. 

In Rome I managed to visit Casina delle Civette in Villa Torlonia and Casa Balla in via Oslavia, near piazza Mazzini. Villa Torlonia is one of my favourite places in Rome. I go back there again and again also because it is not far from my mum’s place. It is a large park in via Nomentana that belonged to aristocratic families. The different buildings scattered in the park were expanded and refurbished by Giuseppe Valadier and after his death by Giovanni Caretti in the 19th century. It was the residence of Mussolini and his family and when the war ended was occupied by the Allied High Command until 1947. In the 1970s it was bought by the Municipality of Rome and restoration works started. Little by little all the buildings were refurbished and opened to the public. My favourite building is Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls) which was originally a Swiss Hut that the Prince Giovanni Torlonia jr. wanted restored. The name comes from the stained glass windows by Duilio Cambellotti (1914 and 1918) featuring owls. 

The three main designers whose stained glass works adorn the cottage are Paolo Paschetto, Umberto

Botazzi and Duilio Cambellotti. They have different styles but also some shared traits that reflect the kind of media they have in common, that is, stained glass panels or windows. Botazzi’s work has stronger contrasts of dark and light as in ‘I Cigni’ (Swans, 1914) which features a black and a white swan and in the complex piece ‘I Pavoni’ (Peacocks, 1912). ‘La Fata’ (The Fair, 1917) by DuilioCambellotti is my favourite piece both in the use of delicate colours and in the unusual pose of the figure, sitting with a leg upright and looking aside in a mysterious attitude. Paolo Paschetto realised enchanting compositions of flowers, vegetation and geometric shapes. His colours are particularly vivid and the compositions convey a sense of harmony. Here is a useful link to know more on Casina delle Civette: 

Here are also two links to reviews I wrote on exhibitions in Villa Torlonia:

And here is a poem I wrote on the park and its fabulous buildings:

Villa Torlonia revisited

I was not there when the Villa passed from the Pamphilj to the Colonna family 

and then sold to the wealthy Torlonia in 1797.

I was not there when the park was remodelled and the edifices refurbished 

and expanded by Giuseppe Valadier.

I was not there when Giovanni Torlonia converted the Swiss Hut 

into the splendid Casina delle Civette.

I was not there when the Villa was rented to Mussolini 

and when it was the centre of the Allied High Command.

But I was there when it opened to the public in 1978,

the park glorious in the dusk 

its palm trees speaking of ancient times 

when garden parties sang of the flânerie of the privileged 

their leisure and intellectual idleness.

I was there to witness the deterioration of the buildings within fences, 

no access allowed to the interiors, 

like dark caves abandoned to the dancing brambles.

Casino Nobile, Casino dei Principi, 

the faux ruins, the Lemon House and Moorish Conservatory 

reminders of past glories.

But I am here now after the pandemic,

there is lemon and sugar in the air 

renewal glows 

disseminating its prism of light.

Casa Balla was a revelation. It is a large apartment in a block of flats in the Victoria district in Rome. Giacomo Balla, the famous futurist painter, and his family lived there from 1929 until his death in 1958, and his daughters kept the house museum intact until their death in the 1990s. The family transformed their home in a work of art painting and decorating the walls, doors, furniture and fittings. Here is the link to Casa Balla website: 

and to my review on the London Grip: 

To end on a sweet tooth, here are some new recipes I experimented with my mum in Rome:

Biscotti vegani (Vegan biscuits)

You need: 200 g ground hazel nuts, 200 g ground almonds (or mixed nuts), 300 g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp of baking powder, some drops of vanilla essence, ½ tsp of cinnamon, 4 tbsp of sunflower oil, a glass of water, 200 g of demerara sugar. 

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and make small balls. Bake the biscuits on a tray lined with parchment paper for 15-20 minutes at 180  C.

Pistachio bites

You need: 150 g of shelled pistachio, 70 g of ground almonds, 4 tbsp of olive oil, 160 g of self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 150 g of sugar, one tsp of baking powder, three eggs, grated zest of a lemon, parchment paper. For the glaze you need: 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice, 200 g of icing sugar, some chopped pistachios.

Beat the eggs and sugar and pour in the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until you have a smooth dough. Pour the mixture in a rectangular tray lined with parchment paper and bake for half an hour at 180 C. When it is cool prepare the glaze mixing the icing sugar and the lemon juice then scatter the pistachios on top. Finally cut it in squares once the glaze is settled.

Apricot tart

For the dough you need: 100 g of melted butter, 200 g of self-raising flour, 100 g of ground almonds, 100 g of sugar, 2 eggs, some drops of vanilla extracts, some lukewarm milk.

For the filling you need: 900 g of apricots, three tbsp of demerara sugar, 300 g of sour cream, 200 g of yogurt Greek style.

Prepare the dough mixing all the ingredients. Let it rest for half an hour then roll it out and line a greased tart tin cake or a rectangular tin cake. Prepare the filling mixing the yogurt, the sugar and the sour cream. Pour the mixture on the dough then cut the apricots in quarters and decorate the top. Bake for half an hour at 180 C.

Focaccia with zucchini flowers

For the dough you need: 400 g of plain flour, dry yeast, two tbsp of olive oil, ½ tsp of salt, some lukewarm water.

For the filling you need: some zucchini flowers, black pitted olives, pine nuts, olive oil, half an onion.

Prepare the dough mixing all the ingredients and knead it, then let it rest for two hours covered with a wet tea towel in a warm place. Soak the zucchini flowers in water. Prepare the filling cutting the onion finely and fry it slightly in olive oil. Add the zucchini flowers roughly cut and finally the olives and pine nuts. Roll out half of the dough and line a greased rectangular oven tray. Pour the zucchini flower mixture on the dough and cover it with the rest of the dough. Bake for half an hour at 180 C.

Buns with herbs

You need: 400 g of strong flour, dry yeast, 2 tbsp of olive oil, one tsp of salt, two eggs, some lukewarm water. For the filling you need: mixed fresh herbs (e.g., oregano, basil, parsley, till, rosemary), olive oil, two eggs, salt and pepper.

Prepare the dough mixing all the ingredients and knead it, then let it rest for two hours covered with a wet tea towel in a warm place. Roll it out on a piece of parchment paper and spread the herbs on the top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper, add olive oil and two beaten eggs. Roll the dough over and bake for 20-30 minutes at 200 C. Take it out of the oven and cut it in 2’’ slices. Put the buns back in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until ready.

Rich summer tiramisu

You need: savoiardi biscuits, mixed berries, amaretti biscuits, coffee plus liquor (optional), 50 g of grated dark chocolate. For the cream you need: 250 g of mascarpone, 3 eggs, 4 tbsp of sugar.

Prepare the coffee and add the liquor (optional) then let it cool. Prepare the cream beating the yolks of the eggs with the sugar. Beat the egg whites until stiff and blend it in the sugar and egg mixture then add the mascarpone cream. Chop the berries and mix them to the cream (keep some of them to decorate the top). Soak the savoiardi in the coffee and form a layer at the bottom of a rectangular plastic or glass container. Spread some of the cream on the savoiardi layer and sprinkle crushed amaretti on top too. Form another layer of savoiardi and add cream and crushed amaretti. End with a layer of cream and decorate the top with some berries and grated dark chocolate. Chill for a few hours before serving. 

Enjoy 😃