Wednesday, May 30

Stand Up and Be Counted!

Ok, ok. Rather surreal experience today. Got a comment from a friend of mine from college who used to study with us in first year (that's a whole five years ago). Apparently, he reads my blog. So does Rev. John Glass. I know I have asked the question before, but I get the impression that there are more people nosing about than it meets the eyes. So, I am asking again: please stand up and be counted if you read my blog!?!?!?!?!?! (The last time we counted, only five of you, including myself, read my blog!) (",)

Changing the World over a Cup of Coffee

Predictable. Tired of reading my blog for the past 8 months, you will all be expecting an article on fairtrade. Wrong. Or, at least, partially wrong. Last night I came home early, trying to rest my voice and recover from this terrible laryngitis. As you do, I thought I'd treat myself to a cup of caramel macchiato from Starbucks (small,skinny, no cream, of course!). I have had issues with Starbucks last year, before their fair trade choice, Estima; I did not pay enough attention to understand their "fairer option".. Starbucks is an American multinational with a gigantic turn over each year - let's say that life as Mrs Starbucks must be pretty pampered! As such, we are talking money, not ethics. Ethical consumerism is often, in my opinion, a contradiction in words. Nonetheless, public pressure on coffee shops is the evident proof of how the individual can, collectively, impact society in a positive way. Mr Starbucks charged me £3 for a small cup of coffee - that's roughly five coffee grounds, half a cup of skimmed milk, a splash of caramel and some hot water..obviously that three quid needs to pay for the girl at the till, the lad who wrote on the plastic cup, the lady who actually made me the drink and the young chap who is sweeping the floor around me..that's not to count the landlord who owns the place, the suppliers, the energy suppliers, the coffee growers, the shipping company and, of course, some profit for Mr Starbucks - after all, it's his business we are talking about! But this discussion will be for another time. Perhaps, just give a little thought to the coffee growers who has never even tried a cup of coffee and gets paid £3 a week (best possible scenario). But that's for another time.. What I wanted to draw you attention upon is that as I was about to pay for my coffee, I noticed a couple of charity boxes for the Lymphoma association. Isn't it bizarre how much more sensitive we become to issues when they touch our lives personally? I felt like a hypocrite. Nevertheless, if it wasn't for cancer research associations such as this, funded exclusively by people's generosity, my mom may not be here today. So when you buy a fairtrade cup of coffee, or a charity wrist band, or give spare change to are virtually changing the world. Just think.

Tuesday, May 29

The Sound of a Good Week-End

Yes, more than 'the sound of a good week-end', it is the lack of sound, in my voice, this morning that makes me reminisce on an hilarious week-end in London, baby, London! For my frequent readers, you may remember the tales of our funny Arabian night in the beginning of May with some newly met friends from London whom we ended up exchanging a visit with this bank holiday week-end. The whole thing was quite surreal - confusing the night for the day, the scorching rain like we were in the middle of December, making friends with singers, waiters and random strangers, running in the rain at 3am, having breakfast at 5pm..totally awesome! Good times, good friends. So, without further ado, here is a photo diary of the week-end (saves me time, really)... Hope you all had a nice bank holiday too!

A typical British summer day in London..The Sweetness: Tiziana & Linda, best friends from school! Dancing in the Tube you do...
Wanted?Cueing outside "Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues" in Soho for nearly two hours..freeeeeeezin'!
Worth the wait!

Meeting Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray, aka Wayne and Tim. It was a rather surreal experience - for starters, we were in an underground, prohibitionist mid-20's America style Jazz club in Soho. Got chatting to this two random guys who ended up being quite a pair, not to mention that both me and Linda (who hardly know each other at all) thought that Tim (in the middle) looked like Dorian Gray..indeed a fictional character out of a book..the weirdness!!!
Singing the Italian national anthem at the top of your loungs? Priceless. The Sound of a Good Night indeed!

Friday, May 25

Treasure Hunt on the Traces of a Beautiful History - Gli Amici Ritrovati

Neapolitan gulf:The view from my parents'!
Sitting at my desk in my Manchester office, looking outside of the window at a concrete city hovered by a berely illuminated sky..I am feeling invigorated, energetic, nostalgic. I had the break of a life-time on the traces of a past I thought was lost; however, it was never lost, it was simply concealed under a pile of papers which are effortlessly blown away by the gentle summer breeze..It is wonderful to speak not only the same language, but to share a common story. I love you all very much; I have missed you!!!

Seduta alla scrivania del mio officio di Manchester, guardo fuori dalla finestra ad una citta' di cemento, coperta da un cielo appena illuminato..mi sento invigorita, energica, nostalgica. Ho trascorso giorni stupendi sulle tracce di un passato che credevo perso; ma non era mai stato smarrito, era piuttosto nascosto sotto ad un mucchio di fogli che sono facilmente rimossi dalla dolce brezza'e' meraviglioso parlare non solo la stessa lingua, ma coindividere una storia comune. Vi amo tutti tantissimo; mi siete mancati!!!

The Family
My mom has just had the results from her post-theraphy tests which, insofar, all came out negative. She is still quite weak, but we cannot stop but praise God for what appears to be an increadible answer to prayer. In this instance, I would wholeheartedly like to thank you all for your support and encouragement. May God reward you double-fold for all of your kindness.
Mia madre ha appena ricevuto i risultati dalle sue prime analisi post-terapia e, fino ad ora, sono risultate tutte negative. Si sente ancora abbastanza debole, ma non possiamo fare altro che ringraziare Dio per questa che sembra essere una risposta a tante preghiere. A questo proposito, colgo l'occasione per ringraziarvi del vostro supporto ed incoraggiamento. Possa Iddio ricompensarvi del doppio di tutta la vostra compassione.

The Friends

Laura (aka 'Corpo, "the body") and I in San Martino and Parco Virgiliano. Good friends, good times!

Me and Ida (aka Super Zeta) - The sweetness!

"But sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live when you were young"- The memorable Via Scarlatti.

Me and Vale (aka Valina/Gazzella, "The Gazelle"), hadn't seen each other in five long years but it's like as if time had never passed. I am so proud of her! (BTW, I swear I am not sticking my middle finger at anyone! Accidents happen!) (",)

Pop, happily singing away in the car..

My Transport! I love to feel the wind on my face!

Sunbathing in the garden..

Happy, our fam dog!

Tuesday, May 22

Ho Voglia di Te - The Update You Have All Been Waiting For

A brief phone call, the sound of what used to be a familiar voice and it's like as if time had never passed. Ten years, whatever stage in life you may be at, it's a long time. When we were last together, his little sister was only three. She is now a teen-ager. When we last were together, we used to think the Spice Girls were the next big thing. At the age of thirteen, everything seems like a major struggle, a drama. You think that your greatest achievement will be to get out of high school, yet you dream big: senselessly and fearlessly. You think that you know what real love is. I think you do; I think that when you are thirteen you know a lot more about emotions than most people would give you credit for - it's just that that wonderful little butterfly is bottled up in a glass jar by hormonal tempests, inexperience, youthfulness. Ah, to be free like a thirteen year old again, but with the experience of a 24 year old! I think this is just what happened to me yesterday. A brief phone call, the sound of an all too familiar voice made me feel emotions I did not think I could feel ever again. We talked for quite a while and I felt happier than I have been in quite sometime. In my previous relationship, I was always trying too hard to impress this un-impressible man, thus forgetting myself, the real me, the things I love, the person I want to be; I was on the phone to this wonderful person from my past and I suddenly felt like a re-invigorated, spring butterfly who is no longer afraid to show her true colours, her true self. It was a wonderful symphony. It was easy and beautiful to be me. I even wrote a small poem about the revitalizing emotions of the past few days. I felt like poetry, beauty, sunshine, laughter, wonder. At the sole thought of this wonderful young man. To the point: I only managed to get through to him the day before I left - he was all and beyond I thought he would have become, well on his way to making his childhood dreams come true. Unfortunately, we couldn't meet, but we parted with a lot of joy and the prospect of seeing each other again next time I am home in a few weeks time..."Ho voglia di Te", is the title of an iconic teen-age novel and homonymous Italian movie by Federico Moccia. It literally means "I feel like you", "I have a desire of you" sort of. Self explanatory?!

Tiziano Ferro, "Ti Scattero' una Foto"(Nessuno e' Solo) from the movie "Ho Voglia di Te"

Friday, May 18

...Rummaging Through the Dust Bins of Memory Lane...

Buona sera a tutti da una calda serata a Napoli! For my numerous non-Italian speaking readers, I have just said 'hi' from the homeland. The weather has been disappointingly mild for the locals - refreshingly sunny and hot for me! (I have become so British!!!) Today I have finally found a huge plastic box in the cellar containing, well, what is left of my adolescence. A little box of rubbish for the rest of the world; a magnificent chest of treasures for me. Amongst a funny collection of random shots, used train tickets, journals, school pictures and posters, the poems and letters and pictures from a boy who knew me at the age of thirteen a great deal better than I knew myself and lavished me with love. A boy I selfishly hurt. A boy who is now a man, a gorgeous young man who's phone number I am now holding in my hands. Shivers are running down my spine, palms are sweaty, heart is warm and I have a besotted, somehow nostalgic look in my smile, in my eyes. Should I ring him? Even after I broke his heart? Even when we haven't seen each other in nearly ten years? Gosh, I feel thirteen again!

Wednesday, May 16

Gimme A Break!

*(From the left: Esther, Shell and the Wee Italian Chick having a picnic in the park on a warm spring Sunday afternoon)
Dear Fellow Bloggers,
Public service announcement: there may be a slight lack of posting over the next seven days since, as from today, I am on annual leave! Yuppy! Happy holiday to me! I shall try to blog again from sunny Italy - that is if, of course, I am not too busy sun-bathing and eating nice food! Blog you soon. Lots of love, Ivonne xx

Monday, May 14

An Ache of the Heart

Dear fellow bloggers,
Considering that a number of you have never even met me in person, I feel like I owe you all some explanations.
First of all apologies for Friday's depressing post. I am not a compulsive winger. I am generally an incredibly bubbly and happy person. I wake up every morning (most days) with a big grin of joy on my face; I don't really walk: I tend to bounce a lot. I laugh rumourously (my wee sis is so embarrassed of my 'heartily' laugh). I am honest; I am outspoken. One of my ex-boyfriends always used to say that for all my love for talking, when it comes to emotions, feelings, I needn't really have to say a word because my face and my eyes in particular are like a mirror to my soul; guess that you could say that 'what you see is what you get' with me. Throughout life's heart aches, hard times and disappointments, I have been renown for lifting my head up and carrying on. However, the last six months have thrown a lot at me, more than I sometimes think my heart can bear. I am bubbly, in-your-face, self-confident (cocky?!?!), but it doesn't mean that I don't hurt!!!!
Since my upheaval first started, I feel like I have made steady progress; I feel like I have re-discovered a passion for Life in all its fullness, rolled up my sleeves again and continued to strive. Nonetheless, behind that self-motivation, aspirations, optimism, Faith and dreams, there is a very fragile heart. Despite all the gains, I walk about the streets feeling constantly bereaved, lost. My mom is doing a great deal better; we are now waiting for the results from her final tests to see how well she has responded to treatment. Despite not getting into med school first time around, I have been offered to do an Mph in pharmaceutical research which will be contributing greatly towards my future medical studies; with the loss of my uncle, I have seen God's comfort being generously poured over my auntie and family. In feeling rejected by the person I thought I loved the most in this world, I have been hurting a lot but I am also experiencing a surreal dispensation of divine grace : I have chosen not to beg, not to be miserable, not to be nasty, but to do right by and keep on loving that person unconditionally (even when that means to get nothing in return or to occasionally and involuntarily be trampled over emotionally) I have good friends; a job; a home; family, clothes to wear and food to eat; I have Faith. . But I guess we have all been there - such is life and I will soon be back to full strength, blogging about music gigs, humanitarian enterprise, happiness, movie reviews, holidays. My only concern was that I did not want to 'bottle it all up', pretending that everything is alright whilst feeling subconsciously and emotively shattered, exhausted. That's why I blog. Writing is a cathartic expression of my soul. Often the expressing itself, represents the cure. Other times your thoughts inspire me to be a better person, to love others more and also to love myself a bit better. SO, apologies for the whining and please, do keep on reading and commenting, even when I write a lot of bull! Your honesty may help to keep me sane!!!!!

Saturday, May 12

Stuck in a Moment...

3.37 am. I came home early tonight, even skipped youth (so out of character for me to dishonour my commitments), opted for a relaxing night in and the opportunity to catch up on some long yearned sleep. Vain efforts, of course. Chris Martin’s words from “Fix You” are tormentingly resounding in my head, yet nothing seems to be able to fix me. After three chamomile teas, a hot bath, two movies, prayer and endless tears go and explain to my old pastor back in Naples that Christians don’t have trouble sleeping! Of course, there is something profoundly calming and peaceful about living in the knowledge of God’s care and protection (Psalm 5 springs to mind ‘in peace I will lay down; and in peace shall I sleep because you, oh Lord, make me rest in safety’) Nevertheless, this truth does not change our human condition. As real people living in a real world, religious and non-religious people alike experience an often painfully tearing dualism. Don't take this harshly, but I am not looking for answers and empathetic support. Guess I am simply trying to articulate what is clouding my blessed, wonderful life. Baring my soul, feeling as naked and vulnerable as a desperate woman bent on her knees, sobbing and crying in the middle of the street at night as her mascara is running down her face and a malevolent cold breeze is blowing her fine dress, which feels like dirty rags, away. There is no pity in that wind, so she feels yet the cool breeze is a wispy awakening call of an inner sense of Hope that speaks Life even in the lowest pits. That's what tonight feels like.
I first bought the album X&Y, which includes the song 'Fix You', around about the same time I moved to Manchester. I had only just graduated and I felt on the top of the world. I was an idealistic day dreamer who believed that if you work hard and honestly and honour God in all you do, life will be good. I suppose you could say that I haven't changed an inch over the past two years. Despite an increased sense of cynicism and sarcasm, a natural defence mechanism perhaps, I so desperately want to believe that 'there must be more than this'. For all the failiures, I want to learn to stand up again more and more quickly; for all the disillusionment, I want to become even more loving; for all the tears, I will seek to smile my heart out; I will learn to continue to love even what is lost, because it is only things which break beyond repair. On the contrary, hearts and emotions can be mended; therefore I shall persue unconditonal Love; for all the sleepless nights, I will post about it - express my fears, insecurities, self-perceived sense of failure and persue Beauty, pant for Grace.

*At the top of the page, Salvador Dali "The Persistence of Memory"(1931)
On the left, an iconic image of Sofia Loren in Vittorio De Sica's "La Ciociara" (1960) based on a wonderful novel by Alberto Moravia.

Wednesday, May 9

51 days,11 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds the Big Day, 100th Post and 5000 Ways to Change the World! ...
This is my 100th post! I have written a lot - mainly gibberish, but also a lot of outpouring of my little soul and introspective analysis, helped by your inspirational comments. One of the evident outcomes of this is that I know to be nothing but convetional, so I choose not to write a commemorative article on blogging. Instead I would like to send you all an invitation.
In 51 days, 11 hours, 42 minutes and 20..ops 19 seconds now, it is the BIG DAY (aka my 24th birthday) - the 1st of July for your diaries, thanks. The day however is "big" for a number of reasons:
1. I was born on that day: a little respect, would you mind?
2. Viva the Smoking Ban! England will celebrate the first day of SMOKING FREE PUBLIC BUILDINGS!!! Yuppy!!! Thank God: no more concerts, dinners, pubs and clubs filled with deadly and stinking fumes! Alleluja!
3. It will be my first "Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty" themed birthday.
It basically consists of this: whether you were planning to or were not remotely thinking about being kind enough to buy/make me a present, then, don't. Instead, in the likes of "Pay it Forward", do something good and beautiful to make three people's world, day, life...well...better. Whether it involves buying a homeless person a cup of tea, donating money to charity, giving blood, telling someone how special they are, walk instead of driving or wherever your creativity and kindness takes you, do it! The sky is the limit! Sure enough I shall be reminding you of this initiative closer to the time meanwhile, the title of this post is how long you have to think about how to make the world a better place on my birthday! Call it a "Hippy Birthday Meme Tag!"

Tuesday, May 8

An Arabian Night

Back, I am back, I am back! After a brief pause from the blogworld I am back with the tales of one of the best nights out of the past few years.
We change; we grow; we mature and evolve, but I believe that deep within we all crave for an unaltered desire to be at peace with oneself, with the grown-ups we have become and to still laugh wholeheartedly, like little toddlers. I think that is what Sunday was all about. Despite having had a late one the night before (simply to accommodate my friend's urge to watch Spiderman 3), I woke up early to a beautiful sunny day, went for a short-lived jog, had breakfast, went to church, talked to people, had lunch, preached to a lovely group of senior citizens (a captive audience of fifteen 90 odds!). Went to the pub to watch the Chelsey-Arsenal match (even cheered Arsenal for the first time in my whole life! - congratulations, Man Utd!), leisurely walked to a coffee shop for some tea, had an Indian in Rusholme, then headed to the local Arab cafe for some mint tea. We did not have a single drop of alchol yet were as giddy as one can be - we even got told off by the was like being back in second grade! Class. Drinking mint tea throughout the night. I suddenly felt like an adult, like a proper little person yet with comparable energy, laughter and joy to that of a little child who does not worry or reminisce about yesterday and has no fear of tomorrow, who at the core of her innerself knows her blessed state. Indeed I am truly blessed.

**thanks to Titi', Lily, Dr Cipolla and Stefano!** the girone of return in London, babe!**

Thursday, May 3

Is This England, or Not?

~Cultural Learnings of an Italian in Salford~

It is rather strange when people count as history the time and events of your life time. July 1983 is the opening title of last night's movie, "This is England".. paradoxically, this is also the month and year I was born in. If you liked movies in the likes of Trainspotting and Kes, you are most definitively going to enjoy this little gem of British cinematography. Set in a bleak East Midlands town in 1983, it focuses on the life of twelve-year-old Shaun to then kaleidoscopically expand to the Thatcher's government, deprivation, greasy spoons, dislocation, nationalism, skinheads, substances abuse, extremism, racism, violence, the Falklands, England in a compelling showcase of raw realistic acting talent. A side to England not all of us may want to align ourselves with that, crudely, is not the mere shadow of a forgotten past, long removed from us. On the contrary, the parallels with today's England are striking. Unemployment, deprivation and dislocation; loss of identity and an often ignorant, violent and abusive search for national values; a shady government and a country fighting a senseless war which does not belong to us. From the eye of a mere observer, drown into an active personage of a history that is not my own. This is part of the England of my next door British-Bulldog tattooed neighbours who call me 'Miss Bolognese' and ask me to cook for them every time they see me, of the British-Pakistani convenience store round the corner from my house, of my half Maltese florist; this is the England of the paper-round kid who puts through my door a BNP leaflet stating what the party stands for and with an invitation for me and my household (an Italian and a Spaniard at the time) to join them, of the teen-agers I work with and I still struggle to understand at times, of the PMT Chinese lady at the local fish 'n' chips, of those who have curry for tea and leave it all behind for a place in the sun. So, is this England or not? I often discuss with a particular friend of mine what defines Britishness. Like Italian-ness is not defined by loud, football fanatic, poetry-reading, sunglasses-wearing, hairy tanned voracious pasta devourers, I doubt Britishness is described by white ass, tattooed, drunken hooligans, 'stif-upper-lip' fish 'n' chips with mushy peas two bed-roomed red-brick terrace house dwellers ... so, then, what defines Britishness, what makes us who we are?

Tuesday, May 1

The Lives of Others

In the context of recuperating some of my Italian-ness, recently I have been attending a number of cultural (and less cultural) events with a group of Italian cinema enthusiasts. On Sunday we finally got a goodden! (you see, the issue with independent/cultural movies is that you have little or no assurance at all on how good a film will be). The Lives of Others , Das Leben der Anderen,is a wonderful German movie about the Socialist regime in East Germany covering the five years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is gripping, philosophical, ironic and very thoughtful. If you get a chance, do watch it. It tells the story of Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler, a keenly idealistic supporter of the communist regime, is assigned to spy on playwright Georg Dreyman, who, Wiesler is told, is suspected of Western leanings. The movie portrays a strong contrast between Dreyman's idealism, talent, attractiveness and fullness of life and the dull, methodical and lacking depth life of the officer. By investing most of his time in spying and observing Dreyman and his entourage's every move, the emptiness of Wiesler is exposed and throughout a process of identification, profound personal transformation is brought about. I was drown into change together with Wiesler and reminded of the blogspere where we peep into other people's lives, through a similar process of identification, are drown to empathise, criticise, reflect, join in, comment. I am reminded of Alain, who I only met the once and mainly know about from friends of his and within the blogsphere - yet who's pain at this time of incommensurable grief, reaches even to me, a stranger, and makes it hard for me to think that anything else would be respectful enough or worth writing at the moment. I am also reminded of what it is like to be part of a Christian community where one's joy is everyone's joy; however, if one member suffers, regardless of who they are or where they are, the whole body suffers with them and are been transformed in the process. Like Wiesler, tranformed into kinder, more compassionate, more loving people, inspired by the lives of others we observe.