Friday, April 27

Thelma & Louise, Cambridge and Hairy Green Men

Dodgy title, alright! It was chosen to make you smile. I am painfully aware of having been a little low recently and 'boring' - as one of my mates said to me last night (thanks, pal). This post, however, would like to celebrate life and all those small sparkles of joy, the little epiphanies which make life interesting. Saturday morning me and Ruth (aka Bolton Fan) ventured on a short "Thelma & Louise" - style adventure to Cambridge. Despite having to get up at 7 am (a ridiculous time for a week-end day), we had a lovely road-trip down south, the sun was shining and our fave music playing in the background (blasting more like it, when any song we really liked came on!) We truly had a great time laughing, eating, drinking, walking and chatting until we dropped (no surprise there really). Ruth is an incredible person and a great friend: people like this and days like this are never to be given for granted. Unfortunately, we didn't pick up any hunky-Brad Pitt-type hitch-hiker on the way. Instead, we had a lovely dinner at a pub by the river called 'The Green Man'. Following a conversation we had been having during the day about the features which make a man attractive to us, Ruth confessed her 'fetish' for corpulent hairy men ("de gustibus non disputandi est", the ancient Romans used to say meaning 'to each their own' - very loosely translated). Coincidentally, I noticed that Hairibo's gummy bears have big hairy bellies (see the effects of e-numbers' overdose on my silly head!) - photographic evidence to follow! - Cut long story short, we had a laugh..all topped off by chocolate and wine in front of the telly. Thanks, Ruthy!

The Green Man Pub

Hairy Belly Gummy Bear

Monday, April 23

You Can Never Hold Back Spring

"You Can Never Hold Back Spring" is a simply wonderful song by Tom Waits. I was listening to it yesterday morning in the car, on the way back from Cambridge, shortly after my friend informed me of Lindsey's sudden departure. I was devastated even though I never met her in person..I felt my friends bereavement and pain, which painfully added upon my own grief and suffering for all the heart ache I have gone through over the past few months. Paradoxically, all around me looked so beautiful. The sun was high in the sky; the flowers in bloom and even the birds in the air were singing. A huge contrast with my contrite and overcast heart. Like as if the angels were rejoicing whilst I was in outer despair because I could not see beyond my own pain. C.S. Lewis wrote that "Pain is God's megaphone to a deaf world"... Through my pain, Tom Waits reminded me of what I think God would want to wisper in my ear: despite the harshness and devastation of the icy cold winter, spring can never be held back, neither can the re-birth of joy and wholeness a broken soul so desperately longs for. Spring will be back, eventually.

'You can never hold back spring', Tom Waits (introduction to Roberto Benigni's "The Tiger and the Snow", 2005)

Wednesday, April 18

Il Richiamo della Patria

~The Home Land Appeal~

Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Il Quarto Stato

When I first moved to England, a whole five years ago, I had never lived in a foreign country before. Despite my academic knowledge of the English language, I had had little opportunities, if none at all, to actually speak English with the natives. Upon my arrival, I bumped into Merle, a delightful young Northern Irish lass, who warmly welcomed me and beckoned me as a dear friend. She talked and talked and talked. As we finished our conversation, I rushed down the phone to my mother complaining I could not possibly live in England due to my lack of understanding of the English language (little did I know about regional accents and dialects)..Shortly after that first encounter, not only I resolved in not leaving, but I also became really close to that girl to the point of gaining my memorable nickname "the Wee Italian Chick" together with a dodgy Irish twang! I have loved living in England (to much of most people's surprise). Despite the lack of regular sunshine, yummy food and exotic scenarios, I have embraced the dales, the streams, the daffodils in spring and the squirrels. The pizzeria has been substituted by the pub and I now don't swing across motorway lanes in as much as I used to. One does not often hear me say this, but I am suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of non-belonging, a spell of homesickness.
Last night I looked around the traditional English pub I was sat at (motive of curiosity and wonder upon my arrival, now transformed into a 'ghost house', the emblem of somewhere I don't belong to any longer, or where,perhaps, I never really belonged). Maybe it is all the Italian dinner parties I have been attending recently, the warm summer nights, my family situation, the self perceived failure at a number of levels in my life.. I don't know. Don't get me wrong: I breeze through an unusual sense of contentment and peacefulness at the moment; yet, I miss Home. I miss my family; I miss my 'historic' friends; I miss that part of me, my Italian-ness, which I have sought so hard to deny and leave behind for the past five years.. Am I going through a 'fifth-year-crisis"?!

Tuesday, April 17

Learning to Say Goodbye

She was thirteen when they first met. He was a mere four years older. Two very different people. She was beautiful, firey, passionate, outspoken; he was quiet and placid, sensitive, honourable, remarkably intelligent. But, somehow, they saw something in each other. They completed one another and love tied them together. By the time she was fourteen, they got together..and were an inseparable item for nearly thirty years. The couple got married when she was 18 and their first born boy shortly arrived. They were happy. As he was a high court lawyer, an academic professor and prestigious writer and she had long abandoned to think of an academic career for herself (especially since she was the mother of a young child). Nevertheless, he believed in her and encouraged to live her dreams, to dream out loud. She did and her legal expertise became in high demand very soon. Love kept on growing alongside their joint careers and lives. They depended on one another and were willing to sacrifice themselves for their spouse. I have always believed that with real love comes a willingness to invest, sacrifice, give up one's life for the other. Theirs was real love indeed. Whilst she was pregnant, he was diagnosed with an incurable illness..from there after, every day of life was an incomprehensible blessing and priceless gift from God. Twenty one years later, that life was taken away together with an unfailing faith and remarkable person. This is the story of Renato Branno, my uncle, who God called home last night after over twenty years of suffering. We never spent a great deal of time together, but he is one of my heroes in life. He taught me to dream, to dream out loud. He was very cunning, reflective, attentive yet, somehow, he always managed to see the best in people - even in me. In the face of everyone else putting me down for taking uncostumary decisions, he stood by me and cheered my passion for God and life and Justice. Last time we saw each other, he had tears in his eyes and thanked me for making him see life and the world through my eyes, through the places I go, the people I meet, the things I do and the way I fight. I was so honoured and privileged to ever even know someone as extraordinary as him, my uncle. He had a wicked taste in music (he was an outstanding guitarist and pianist himself), quick-witted, sophisticated yet down to earth, knowledgeable (he could talk with property and confidence about from ancient philosophy to Peter Kay and back to current affairs..a genius!). I shall miss him loads; nevertheless, I paradoxically have one more reason to live: to honour his memory and continue his vision. I am not good at saying goodbye, but I am trying to learn.
In loving memory of Renato Branno, 1959 - 2007

Friday, April 13

I've Gotta See Ya!

On cold winter night, just before Christmas last year, the Wee Italian Chick la Cayetana Altovoltaje and the Baron Hashbrown had a conversation about the musical acts we would like or would have liked to see (some of them aren't an option no more) before we die. My personal list has been changed and updated along the way and, despite the standard items, it will keep on being modified. A couple of days ago, la Cayetana published her list on the web and meme-tagged a number of cyber friends. Thank goodness, I was spared; to then be meme-tagged by the Baron a mere two days later! Pants! So I am now having to rethink my list of "must-sees" and display it to the wide world web!

Here we go (in no particular order):

  • U2 - seasons may change, but I can't stop loving them and feeling ashamed that I haven't seen them live yet in my 23 years of life!
  • Pink Floyd: gotta be the greatest act in town!
  • The Dresden Dolls - quarkie, creative, spectacular, innovative, cultured, anticonformist, artistic..

  • Tom Waits - totally unique style, voice, magnificent lyrics, wonderful sounds

  • The White Stripes - I love them two and after seeing their Blackpool live performance I knew my life and musical taste were never gonna be the same again!

  • The Clash - I could dance and sing hysterically to Combat Rock and London Calling for days!!

  • Arcade Fire -what an amazing symphony of sounds! Any one who can get rock out of a pipe organ gotta be seen!

  • Ben Harper - what can I say: he is the dude!

  • Bruce Springsteen - what can I say: is he the boss or is he the boss!?!

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - that Karen O has got some lungs and energy to light up as city!

So here is my list. As the Baron correctly stated, "I reserve the right to modify this list with things I hadn't thought of!" Please count yourselves meme tagged if you wish.. think I may have overdone the web tag thing a little too much, so I won't force it on anyone this once!

Have a sunny week-end (outside and inside)!

Wednesday, April 11

Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Girls!

Thanks to my lovely ex-housemate, Bea, (who, amongst many things is about to return back to the UK..yeah!), I am growing increasingly fascinated by the musical genius of The Dresden Dolls ,creators of the self-labelled Brechtian Punk Cabaret. They are an extraordinary duo (see my previous post on them). The opening tune on their latest album, "Yes, Virginia" (already a couple of years old) is called Sex Changes. Quite ironically, despite the title, the song proves that it doesn't: boys will be boys and girls will be girls and that's the way the cookie crumbles! The spring season is upon us and, like every year, this seems to have rebirthed good moods, singing birds and, inevitably, love romance. The girlies' legs are getting out and the boys hard labour at the gym can finally be displayed (even my yoga instructor's shorts seem to have become shorter beyond what I thought humanly possible!) and so far so good.. Loads of water games,
The Dresden Dolls
chasing around, little flirting... like as if winter boring grown ups were suddenly transformed into giddy teen-agers once again. I am as guilty as anybody else of loving the sunshine and enjoying messing about. Deliberate flirting, on the contrary, has never been a talent of mine. I would feel rather 'dishonest' to use attraction techniques which, as a woman, we are aware of innately possess from birth to attract the opposite sex. Attraction laws are a funny old game! Picking up strangers, not really my thing yet, despite my attention to loyalty, decency and never ending attempts 'not to give the wrong impression' I always seem to attract the 'wrong kinda guys'. In the specific: old men, creepy stalkers and unavailable guys...not to mention some gay friends of mine who recently commented that if ever they were to become heterosexual, they would definitively go for me - not sure on how to take the remark... Spring is here, every one seems to be in love and I am living with this identity dilemma between feeling content about who I am and trying to figure out what in the world is wrong with me?!


What Was Going on Last Night?

7-1 Man Utd vs Roma ... history was made.

Thursday, April 5

"Isn't It a Pity"

I absolutely adore Nina Simone and her eleven and a half minute long interpretation of George Harrison's 'Isn't it a pity' on the live from the UK album is simply phenomenal. It is a beautiful song and a tale of raw human emotions. Through it one is encouraged and inspired to show a little more care in the way we live and we behave towards others. I have been struck recently by an exchange of comments I had with Steve, otherwise known as the eminent Baron Hashbrown, on changing the world and Christianity. The Baron is a really noble person not only by social status, but more so for his ideals and principles. His comments are always filled with kindness, compassion and grace. Steve declares himself as atheist. In the context of one of his usually compassion filled comments, prefaced by a declaration of non-religiosity, I responded by complementing his Christ like attitude and wording. That comment opened up a little debate whereby it was been pointed out to me that being a Christian does not mean being a better person than the rest. I partially agreed with this alleged accusation; nonetheless, I cannot help but expect and often witness the tangible proof of how faith enhances one's life. Coincidentally, Nina Simone also wrote another wonderful song on Martin Luther King. "The King of Love is Dead" narrates the story of the deeds and compassion portrayed by Dr King who through his Christian faith and a remarkable determination, shaped the course of contemporary history. The examples of Christians doing something good are copious and, surprisingly, not merely stuck in a time long gone. A couple of nights ago I was having a chat with a friend of mine who had visited a missionary friend in Thailand last summer. He was quite awestruck in describing how it is mainly Christians he saw working amongst the poorest and neediest. From personal experience, in all of my travels locally and internationally, I too have witnessed the compassion and affection that springs out of Christian communities across the globe. Above and beyond petty conflictual church policies, denominational division and past errors, the truths preached by Jesus are the ones that not only transform the lives and souls of the individuals, but which also enrich, promote, sensitise and challenge the behavioural attitudes of a community of believers. I believe all the mistakes and damages the Christian community has provoked over the centuries have got nothing to do with its movement funder. The Son of God become flesh not just so that we could have some more holidays in the Gregorian calendar (thank God for Easter and Christmas!) but also to challenge the world and change it forever. In this season, I can't help but think about God. The cruxifiction, the resurrection, the daffodils in bloom, the Easter eggs. The last one in particular makes me see God in His people - not much in the gesture of buying an egg for someone but for the growing involvement of many churches to get strongly behind fair-trade, abolitionism, social justice, debt cancellation. It gives me a lot to be thoughtful of, caring about and proud of.

Wednesday, April 4

The Last Kiss

On Sunday morning I managed to go for a jog in a park nearby my parents' house. 'La Villa Floridiana' is a park that is very dear to me. It is a beautiful woodland of mythological beauty, full of neoclassical statues and overlooking the stunning Neapolitan gulf. When I was growing up we used to dream we lived in the refined Baroqueske villa (now housing a prestigious museum of ceramics), played football, lied on the warm grass on the spring days, gazed at the breathtaking panorama as muses, poets and artists inspired our young minds. It was always my gateway (often my 'runaway') place. It was often our gateway from school too! Whenever we used to bunk off school, 'fare filone' as we say, it is mostly the Floridiana we would be hiding in.. As I was running around on Sunday morning I was constantly distracted by a flood of memories. My first 'proper' boyfriend, Stefano, a real teen-age gentleman, who kissed my fingers better when I cut myself picking hollies for the Christmas play when we were 11. My first kiss; my first date. Holding hands walking around the park, sitting on the bench under the shadow of the big oak tree as he, looking into my eyes, pays me complements carry in my heart to this day..As I was trying to run, I was drown to think of a time when things were good, life was easy, the sun was shining most days. My childhood and early teens have been very happy and I never knew how to be thankful enough for it back then. I was talking to a friend yesterday, ironically walking around a park,and we jokingly reminisced about how sure we used to be of things when we were teenagers. Like stubbornly believing we were the ones who had the answers, who knew what love, I mean "real Love", is. Then we grow up, take responsibility, become less cocky and less confident. We laugh about teenage strops and moods, yet secretly wish we could go back in time, knew then what we know now and still have that waist line! I first watched "L'Ultimo Bacio", The Last Kiss, by Gabriele Muccino (The Persuit of Happyness) when I was 15. Somehow it became an instant iconic movie for my generation and its soundtrack was immediately adopted as the soundtrack of our lives. It is bizarre, however, how it was only years later that those concepts, images and words became truly relevant to our lives. In the movie Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) is a twenty-nine-year-old man who works in an advertisement business and has been living with his girlfriend Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) for three years. When she gets pregnant and he meets the stunning eighteen-year-old Francesca (Martina Stella), his relationship with Giulia moves into a crisis, since he is not ready to reach adulthood. Francesca has a crush on Carlo and dreams of him. His three best friends also have problems with their partners: Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) has just had a son and has problems with taking the responsibilities of fatherhood, while his wife Livia (Sabrina Impacciatore) becomes very connected to the baby, neglecting their marriage; Alberto (Marco Cocci) has no ties with any woman, limiting to use them sexually; and Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) has a obsession for his former lover. Meanwhile, Giulia's mother, Anna, (Stefania Sandrelli) has a middle-age crisis, jeopardizing her in the shadow of times long gone. Eventually their turmoils are quietened down by an unexpected sense of contentment. Growing up is part of life and accepting the passing of time can reserve for us wonderful surprises related to our new age besides arthritis, wobbly knees and wrinkles! So, here is to GROWING OLD!
L'ultimo Bacio, Carmen Consoli