Friday 27 January 2023

Enjoying Christmas time with my mum

Going back to Italy is always a treat. I re-connect with friends and spend leisure time with my mum. She is 92 and sometimes I worry about her. However, when I see her and phone her, she seems fine and I am glad that she is still independent. She has a full-time carer, Ina from Moldova, but my mum can get dressed on her own and she also cooks, does some cleaning as well as doing knitting an
d crochet. When I stay with her during holidays, Ina has her days off. I feel lucky that my mum is so well though sometimes she might be grumpy and forgetful.

At Christmas the weather was mild though wintry. Some days I didn’t need a coat so when I went around Rome on public transport, underground and buses, it was not too bad. However, there are no timetables available, so you never know how long you are going to have to wait. Eventually you have to take it easy, slow down, give up fixed plans as there is no way to change the situation. It is relaxing in a way.

As soon as I arrived in Rome, my mum and I were busy phoning relatives and friends for Christmas wishes and to arrange meetings. The days were packed with happy gatherings with relatives and relaxed conversations with friends and neighbours. I had prepared little presents for them in advance with my crochet things and English chocolate and sweets I usually buy at Gatwick airport where there is a Harrods’ shop.

My mum has her routines which are limited now to a few outings in the area where she lives, some shopping nearby and visiting neighbours, who are about her age or older. We managed to visit a museum, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea at Viale delle Belle Arti ( ) where we met a friend of mine too. When we arrived my mum was so tired that she waited for me sitting on a sofa in the hall at the entrance of the museum while I visited the different exhibitions on display. Afterwards, she told me that she had a long chat with the lady at the bar, a young woman who was happy to listen to her old stories about the time of the war and her large family. 

The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea is an important museum that I visited for the first time in my middle school years during a school trip. The art teacher introduced us to Giuseppe Capogrossi’s patterns and Alberto Burri’s innovating work, which I have never forgotten. There are several important artworks on display, such as pieces by Giulio Turcato, Lucio Fontana, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Van Gogh, Medardo Rosso, Giorgio Morandi, Umberto Boccioni and many others. It is a huge display that gives the viewer a clear and comprehensive idea of Italian modern art as well as contemporary Italian and international art. The Gallery also featured some impressive and thought-provoking exhibitions such as ‘Hot Spot: Caring for a Burning World’ about global warming, ‘Quanto Bentivoglio’, about Mirella Bentivoglio a poet and performance artist who produced astonishing pieces, ‘You are mine’ by Daniela Comani on the issue of feminicide, and a room dedicated to one of my favourite Italian painters, Renato Guttuso. 

I also visited the exhibition ‘Pasolini Pittore’ (Pasolini painter) at Galleria D’Arte Moderna in via Francesco Crispi, here is the link to my review on London Grip:

Not far from my mum’s place, in Piazza Sempione, I discovered a beautiful private art gallery, Atelier ( ), in which one of my mum’s neighbours was exhibiting her ceramics. The artworks on display were very interesting, colourful, diverse and personal. The ‘mosaici pittorici’ by Stefania Pinci, that is, paintings that look like mosaics, are riveting and so radiant; they are a true expression of Mediterranean art. It was an inspiring visit that helped me develop new ideas for my future work. 

I received good presents for Christmas, mainly books by Joy Hario and Patti Smith and two pretty scarves I added to my collection. And here are two new poems about Italian Christmas food and an attempt to new year’s resolutions:

Italian Christmas dinner

When we gather around the table dressed in red and gold

we give up to the beauty of the half-moon ravioli 

kissed by tomato sauce and parmigiano

relaxing on the plate like our tensions and grudges.

The menu repeats year after year 

and makes us think that everything is going well

despite occasional misunderstandings

and past harsh rows.

The tender rabbit meat is soaked in velvet sauce,

string beans and fresh salad from the vegetable garden,

grissini and thin sliced homemade bread on graceful display.

We end with panettone and golden pandoro

as precious as gifts,

prosecco in high chalices, bubbles of hard-earned harmony.

When we toast my heart is soaring.

New year’s resolutions

No schedules to stick to

No therapies to start

No diets or new look

No clearing out

No saying ‘I don’t care’ or

‘you are not supposed to be’

I will procrastinate my duties

Take it easy

Live loosely

Indulge time with others

Be open to tomorrow

Give up to life

When we came back to England, we went straight north to see my sons and their families and celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. It was a marvellous time. My granddaughter Violetta is learning more and more words both in English and in Italian. She is so cute when she speaks mixing the two languages. She also made a drawing of sorts with felt pens which looks wondrous.

I had some deadlines too. I prepared the Stanza meeting on zoom, completed some commissioned reviews and commissioned paintings and sent my first entry as Resident Artist for The High Window’s Spring issue 2023. My work will be focused on textiles, that is, textile patterns, crochet installations, patchwork and embroidery. I am also working on textile patterns in a broader perspective connecting forms from all over the world and developing ideas. I am preparing a new crochet installation inspired by winter, my love for nature and the approaching St Valentine celebration. To add more fun to my everyday busy life, I am also selecting poems for a poetry competition and will have the zoom launch of my latest collection Workwear on the 10th of February at 7.30 pm. I invited all my friends from the Stanza, the yoga group, Woking Writers Circle and FB friends too. There will be people from Italy, the UK, US, Canada and Australia with twenty readers and my friends and fellow poets Greg Freeman and Rodney Wood will introduce me. Maybe my granddaughter Violetta, to whom the collection is dedicated, will make a brief apparition at the beginning of the meeting though it is bedtime for her. I will also read my poems from Workwear at The Lightbox in Woking for the Write Out Loud open mic on the 23rd of February at 8 pm. More information about my publications is on my website: 

I was flabbergasted by the T.S Eliot shortlist and the readings at the Southbank centre that I followed online. The winner, Anthony Joseph, is a great poet but my favourite was Yomi Ṣode. His poetry is a punch to the stomach, so true and well-crafted that I felt mesmerised by his voice. Here are some links to his work:

The death of Charles Simic was sad. I remember I read one of his collections of prose poems years ago while I was attending the Master in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. His clever pieces are impressive and surprising but never shocking. Here are some links to his work:

Apparently, things are getting better both in Italy and in the UK. The economic crisis is easing a bit, there are hopes of recovery and decrease of inflation. Energy prices seem to have dropped as well compared to predictions and even house prices are falling. Italy is buying gas from Algeria at reasonable prices which is helpful for the economy. Reading the papers, it seems that both Sunak and Starmer are doing their best but are not impressing voters.

Things are carrying on with grey cold day after grey cold day this winter, in an apparent stagnation which was a bit shaken by Prince Harry’s Spare that haunted the media for a few days. In Italy instead the new PM Giorgia Meloni looks busy. The left blames her for giving money to the rich taking from the poor. Furthermore, some dangerous criminals have been arrested by the police, the prolific rapist David Carrick, who unbelievably was a policeman, and the dangerous and tragically notorious Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro. Messina Denaro was caught in his territory, Castelvetrano, in Sicily. The carabinieri found his name on the database of cancer patients as he was receiving treatment for colon cancer. The police had been looking for him for thirty years. He is accused of several killings and criminal acts against ordinary as well as prominent people. In his house they found a poster of Joker and Marlon Brando’s picture in the role of the Godfather, and books about Hitler and Putin.

He will spend the rest of his life in a high security prison. It has been now 12 months since Russia invaded the Ukraine. Italy will send more weapons. Germany eventually decided to send the Leopard tanks and the US will send tanks too. The war is not over and it will probably last for a while longer, but we all hope that these powerful armaments will give some advantage to Kiev.

Finally, here are links to images and articles about the fabulous Couture week 2023:

Armani Privé

And here is the final treat, a cake with dark chocolate and orange zest filled with cream. It was so successful that I think I will repeat it for the upcoming birthdays in February.

For the cake you need: 250 of self-raising flour, two eggs, 150 g of golden caster sugar, 100 g of melted butter, the grated zest and juice of an orange, 100 g of dark chocolate, half a tsp of cinnamon, one tsp of baking powder, half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda and some liquor.

For the filling you need: 50 g of icing sugar, 300 ml of whipping cream, some dark chocolate to shave and some grated zest of orange.

Prepare the cake beating the eggs and the sugar. Microwave the butter with the chocolate until melted and add it to the mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and when the mixture is soft and moist pour it in a greased spring cake tin and bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes or until ready.

When the cake is cool prepare the filling by whipping the cream with the icing sugar. Cut the cake in half and wet both sides with milk and water. Spread half of the cream on the bottom half then shave some dark chocolate on it as well as some grated orange zest. Put the other half on top of it and decorate with the rest of the cream, maybe using a piping bag. Finally shave more dark chocolate and some orange zest on top and enjoy!

Sunday 8 January 2023

My busy wonderful holiday

 The new year opened with good and bad news. I had a good time in Italy visiting my mother, relatives and friends during the Christmas holidays and I was overjoyed to see my daughter Valentina and my granddaughter Violetta when I came back. The affection that surrounded me during gatherings and meetings, the ‘good tidings’ and renewed friendships I experienced both in England and in Italy were special. 

Before flying to Rome, I had a busy week at school exchanging cards and presents with students and colleagues, Christmas lunch, house Panto, carol service, secret Santa, the talent show and the social at the Sovereigns in Woking. We had a lot of fun dressing up with Christmas jumpers, fancy earrings and light up necklaces and funny hats. The best part was the talent show with dances, songs, choirs and jokes. A lot of prizes were distributed bringing confidence and joy to students and staff. 

Before leaving, I also managed to visit some elderly friends that live in Woking and in Guildford. They carry on well considering they are in their 80s and 90s. We updated each other about our health and exchanged cards and little presents. The weather was pretty challenging before Christmas. Frost covered my car every morning for a fortnight. I wore two layers plus a heavy coat, woollen hat, scarf and gloves. However, I managed to complete my Christmas shopping, attend all the social events, send cards, and spend a day in London too. I visited the exhibition on Lucian Freud at The Lightbox in Woking and attended the Panto at the London Palladium. ‘Lucian Freud and the World as a Sphere’ at the Lightbox is a juxtaposition or comparison of sorts of some important contemporary artists and the work of Lucian Freud to mark the centenary of his birth. The curator, Somaya Critchlow, also presents her grandfather’s artwork, who was professor of architecture, writer and geometer, Dr Keith Critchlow. Here is the link to my review: 

In London I visited ‘Hallyu! The Korean Wave’ at the V&A, ‘Lucian Freud: New Perspectives’ at the National Gallery and an intriguing one-room exhibition at The School of Historical Dress: ‘Our Collection by Colour No. 1 White’.

I also had a glimpse at ‘The Fabulous World of Dior’ at Harrods but could not visit the whole exhibition as the queue was too long and I had to attend the Panto that same day. Here are the links to the reviews I wrote for some of the exhibitions:

Lucian Freud: New Perspectives


I especially enjoyed Lucian Freud’s work, so important, skilled, absolutely overwhelming. The more than sixty works on display gave a comprehensive and insightful view of his development and career. I especially liked the nudes and some of the portraits and self-portraits. They reveal so many layers of meaning and texture that the compositions can be compared to the works of the old masters that Freud studied at the National Gallery. 

The Korean Wave was interesting too, though some parts about films, cosmetics, cars, software, songs, etc. looked like an advertising of sorts rather than a show. The Korean popular culture mixes traditional values linked to the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and Confucianism with today’s way of living that includes consumerism, easy-going and self-indulgent lifestyle and is focused on entertainment and pleasure. The iconic song ‘Gangnam Style’ (2012) is an example of this approach; its rhythm and video are captivating and it was popular world-wide. I loved the section about fashion so colourful, with bold patterns and original designs; the clothes have references to the Korean traditional costume, the handbook, which features a long wide skirt and high waistline. There are loose links with the past both in stories, songs, pictures, K-Drama and the outfits on display. The Moon Jar was the best piece of the exhibition with its perfect shape that recalls the Confucian values of modesty, purity and honesty. It contrasts with the themes of social inequality and corruption that are present in some of the films, such as Parasite, that won the Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival in 2019. My favourite bit was the K-Pop Dance challenge in which you learned the moves of a dance following instructions and then had the chance to record your dance. Finally, your moves would become part of a collective dance. I had a go, of course, and enjoyed it tremendously.

The new year opened with news of deaths. Vivienne Westwood, Pelé and pope Benedict XVI; it was an endless mourning. And Covid is coming back from China, nine thousand deaths per day apparently, and with the sub-variant Kraken in the US. Honestly, the beginning of 2023 didn’t look good though I could see signs of hope in the King’s Christmas speech and in the appeal to the Italian people of the president Sergio Mattarella on New Year’s Eve. He pointed out how the Italian democracy is working well despite the crisis that is affecting not only Italy but most of the European countries, how Italy recovered after the pandemic and invited people to look at the future with optimism. He invoked peace, justice and freedom in a community spirit. I found his words uplifting. 

And here is a poem I wrote about the King’s speech:

King’s Speech

Christmas 2022

Love […] is a form of knowing

Shearon Olds, Komodo

In this time of great anxiety and hardship

a light shines from a cradle

in a little town a poor crib.

We all gather in hope, 

though the mighty are failing us 

and the wealthy have been sent empty away.

We look at the powerless – 

poverty contains salvation too – 

hoping that goodness and compassion happen

in the magical, stressful Christmas time;

the sharing of thoughts

solidarity with the poor for a night

shining light

bright, bright, bright.

I did some health checks in Italy and had an appointment with an endocrinologist specialised in adrenaline glands. From the tests I am not diabetic, my cholesterol and my heart are alright, my kidneys are alright though I have some stones. One of my adrenaline glands produces more cortisol than normal but it seems it is at a mild level and it is not clear which one it is as we have two. I will have more checks in Italy when I go back at Easter. I don’t think I need an operation to remove one of my adrenaline glands. Maybe they will prescribe some medication. My high blood pressure is a bit too high though I take tablets regularly. My potassium and calcium are a bit low but there is nothing to worry about. I had all the tests in a private laboratory. I paid 330 euros in total for twenty blood tests plus 24-hour urine test, ECG and kidney scan. I think I would have paid double or more in the UK. I feel confident and healthy on the whole and can manage to follow all my hobbies and passions as ever. I feel lucky.

The Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, was a mesmerising show, full of light, unbelievable costumes and just before the interval a gigantic beanstalk popped up from the ground level. The plot was loose and there were plenty of puns on today’s political situation and on celebrities. I loved the exaggerated costumes, the glittering settings and the cheering, joyful atmosphere. It was my final treat. 

And here is a special winter delicacy, white brownies:

You need: 200 g of self-raising flour, 200 g of sugar, 100 g of butter, vanilla essence, 50 g of dry cranberries, 200 g of white chocolate, 2 beaten eggs, a pinch of salt. Some parchment paper.

Warm the butter, chocolate, sugar and vanilla essence in a saucepan. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the chocolate mixture and the salt. Soak the cranberries in warm water for five minutes then squeeze them and add to the mixture too. Finally fold in the flour. Spread the brownies mixture on an oven tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 C. When cool, cut it in squares and serve with cream.😍😋