31 July 2016

Can't shake off this strep throat or whatever it was (is?). While my throat is ok again, the rest of me seems to have been hit by a truck, repeatedly, and according to our newfangled infrared auricular thermometer, I am running a fever. R, my personal science teacher/health coach has established a detailed routine and is using his very own ear for control measurements.
So, well yes, this puts a damper on things. Yet again.

In my dreams last night, Vince called and asked me to come over and watch a video with him. I also got some weed and this movie is fab, he said. Or you can just drink tea, whatever.
Vince died in a car crash in 1997.
I mean, dreams. Come on.

When I told R - and I was laughing at the time - he got all worried for a bit. Could you maybe just resign from work?, he asked. No way, I replied, not because of a strep throat.

But I hate the thought of having to get yet another sick cert tomorrow.

Here are some more pictures I took on my fabulous holiday in the Italian Alps (only a few weeks ago, hard to believe) when we visited the Oetzi archeology park near where the mummified body of the famous iceman was found.

I week later, under my grandmother's apple trees, one of my cousins, a retired chief inspector with the police (I have all sorts of relatives incl. priests of at least two denominations), told me the story of Oetzi's curse, namely that to date at least seven people involved in the recovery of the mummy have died as a cause of accident or violence.
Remember the pyramids, he whispered seriously.
Oh give over, I laughed. Balderdash.

29 July 2016

Let the light in

I love Sicily and some time ago I found a blog by a Welsh woman living there. She blogs about her life as a teacher in one of the gorgeous ancient towns, about the food - equally gorgeous - , her travels and so on. Every once in a while she also posts stark reminders about the migrant crisis that Italy and Sicily in particular is trying so bravely and helplessly to cope with.

Her last post has brought me to my knees and with her permission (thank you!), I am posting it here:


"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."
- Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, 1914
It seems much like that now, given the events of the past ten days, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the lamps are going out all over the world, as the extreme right closes ranks and even reasonable people blame the easiest, most identifiable scapegoat, the migrant or immigrant, for their woes.
Meanwhile on the "forgotten" migrant route in the Mediterranean people continue to die. I have not seen one report on this in the past week in the British media so here are the facts:
On 20th July Médecins Sans Frontières doctors on board the SOS Mediterranee ship Aquarius went to the aid of a migrant boat in trouble off the coast of Libya. What they found was horrific: bodies were lying at the bottom of the boat in a pool of fuel and it was obvious that these people had died an awful death, crushed or suffocated, as they had been, in the crowded and inadequate dinghy. Survivors, who had been on board with the bodies for many hours, were stretching their hands out in desperation towards the rescuers and are unsurprisingly said to be still traumatised.  Of the 22 bodies found, 20 were those of women and this tragic event is being called the strage di donne [massacre of women] in the Italian press.  In all, 209 people were saved.
On the same day, over 1,000 more migrants were saved in the Mediterranean in eight operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard and 1,146 migrants who had been rescued previously were brought to Palermo. Of these, 23 were pregnant women and 63 were unaccompanied minors. The next day a Spanish naval vessel brought 841 migrants and one body to Catania and a MSF ship brought 628 rescued migrants to Pozzallo. Among these were a 73-year-old man and a baby aged seven months. Does anyone really believe that a man of this age, the mother of this baby and others like them would undertake such a hazardous journey if they were not fleeing for their lives?

Rescues and arrivals continued over the weekend, when 375 migrants, including six children and a newborn baby, were brought to Messina.  Two suspected people-traffickers were arrested in Vibo Valentia [Calabria] and are thought to have been involved in bringing a migrant boat containing 16 bodies in the engine room into Italian waters. The bodies of 41 migrants were discovered on a Libyan beach, also over the weekend. These poor souls had drowned five or six days ago trying to reach Italy

UNHCR has tweeted  that 3,000 lives have been lost in the Mediterranean since January.
Now it seems to me that we either accept migration as a fact of our era, stop drawing pretty useless and difficult to prove distinctions between "economic" migrants and those seeking asylum and see that safe corridors are created for them or we accept an ever darkening world.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. "
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Let's keep those lamps lit, ladies and gentlemen.

27 July 2016

summer gathering stage 2

Rearrangements, more departures and more expected arrivals, as always it helps to have plenty of towels and sheets. And putting the kettle on, filling the fridge. A greenhouse with ripe tomatoes and who brought that big tin of chocolates?

Tomorrow I have to see my lovely immunologist to discuss plan B or plan C or whatever comes next.

Italy was gorgeous as ever. As my friend P says, it's the cooking that makes a place. To which I add, it's the music, and sharp suits.

24 July 2016

Ten days ago, I persuaded myself that I was in excellent health and on we cycled through the apple orchards and vineyards to the weekly market in Merano.
A large affair selling everything from the kitchen sink to exquisitely sweet cherries, apricots, Tyrolean speck and fresh borlotti beans.

I knew I was in deep denial after about 15 minutes and decided to sit down below the statue of Andreas Hofer for the next hour or so, while the others bought ridiculously cheap trekking boots, more apricots, jars of nuts packed in honey and fresh Schüttelbrot.

Via dei portici, Merano

I am trying to remember what we did next. Lunch was involved and more cycling.

bridge over Passirio

church Lagundo Paese

 I recall that I sang at the top of my voice.

Una festa sui prati
Una bella compagnia
Panini, vino un sacco di risate
E luminosi sguardi di ragazze innamorate
Ma che bella giornata
Siamo tutti buoni amici
Ma chi lo sa perché domani questo può finire
Vorrei sapere perché domani ci dobbiamo odiare.

(A picnic
in wonderful company,
bread wine, lots of laughter
The smiling faces of people falling in love
What a beautiful day
We are all good friends
But who knows, tomorrow this may all end
Tomorrow we may all hate each other)
Adriano Celentano

A couple of days later, another apple orchard, after driving north for six hours, slowly uphill and crossing the steep Passo del Rombo where we stuck our sandal clad feet into the snow at 2,500 m and ran from the icy winds back into the car, laughing.

Passo del Rombo

Now we are four generations sitting under my grandmother's apple trees, my father the central presence like a rock, observing and directing, we, his underlings, pass around coffee, cakes, toddlers, gossip. Earlier I had discovered a black leather box, forgotten in one of my father's massive sideboards and now we sift through  photographs of my paternal grandparents some of them over 100 years old. My father cannot understand our delight and decides that I take the lot with me as my share of the his estate. He loves to talk about his estate and how he will distribute it, forgetting that he already did this years ago (for tax reasons) but my brother is convinced there may be hidden treasures apart from my grandmother's china and cutlery, the large hall clock and his shiny car. 

On our drive home, the last leg of our tour, later that night, my body starts sending me urgent shrill messages of feeling unwell but I blame the car's air conditioning. The next morning, I am determined to ignore them but they sit there like a growing pile of dirty laundry. Stubbornly, I go to work and pretend for a while longer to be in control before finally crawling home after picking up yet another sick cert and a prescription for antibiotics (pharyngitis so I am told). And still, I push ahead like one of these battery powered toy clowns: laundry, kitchen floor, emergency translations, excel sheets for the boss, while my throat is on fire and my body breaks out in sweats and shivers.
Three days I play this game. Until finally I stretch out on the sitting room sofa, the doors wide open to the garden, green jungle dripping after a night of heavy rain, listening to the comforting noises from the fridge in the kitchen telling me that it is time to let go of any striving.

21 July 2016

Val Senales, Alto Adige, Italy

We humans need to be close to, and opposed to, and sometimes subservient to, and always respectful of the physical realities of the planet we live on. We need to receive its pure silences and attend to its winds, to wade through its rivers and sweat under its sun, to plough through its sands and sleep on its bumps. Not all the time but often enough for us to remember that we are animals. Clever animals, yet ultimately dependent, like any animal, on the forces of Nature. Whole areas of one's humanity could become atrophied if one remained always within a world where motor-roads are more important than trees and speed is more important than silence.

Dervla Murphy

15 July 2016


n. a state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence, which force you to revise your image of what can happen in this world—mending the fences of your expectations, weeding out all unwelcome and invasive truths, cultivating the perennial good that’s buried under the surface, and propping yourself up like an old scarecrow, who’s bursting at the seams but powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.

from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

13 July 2016

We are all having a wonderful time, on the whole, in general, all things considered, by and large, for the most part etc.
The weather is all over the place. Thunderstorms are very dramatic on the southern slopes of the Italian alps, complete with hailstones, high winds and whoah, the lightning bolts across the valley! We sit on the top floor balcony watching the clouds racing across the peaks, weaving through the valley like white snakes.

Health wise I am constantly lowering my expectations. Right now,  I am dragging them on the floor behind me. Two days ago, I crawled and staggered across this gorgeous but hot hot hot town into the soothing arms and efficient hands of a wonderful osteopath who straightened and massaged my sore back into a brief semblance of sweet flexibility. But even she was somewhat baffled by the purple bruises along my spinal column. I try to cycle and walk a bit every day, along the stylish promenades where emperors and princesses used to take the waters and twirl their parasols, but mostly I seek out the soothing comfort of a deck chair or the stylish grey sofa in front of the large window with a view, while the gang is out and about, tasting wine, climbing peaks, swimming, listening to live music, visiting exotic botanic gardens and fabulous castles, bringing back ripe peaches, apricots (of course), fat black cherries, spicy sausages, the local flat bread baked with coriander and fennel seed, endless varieties of alpine cheeses and Italian dolce. I am spoiled for choice.

12 July 2016

When it comes to apricots, I am turning into an expert. I could go on one of these weird shows and tell with my eyes closed whether I am biting into a Bergeron, Lambertin, Orange de Provence, Hunza, Turkish honey or, currently, a Marille.
Marillen are the queens of apricots, fat, egg sized, deep orange with a blushing red cheek, they taste like nothing else, a touch of peach maybe, and, oh, the sensation when you bite into it, that slight pop when your teeth hit the skin.

Other than that, it's all our usual chaos, forgotten boots and blistered feet, sore backs and too much laughter, tears to follow, rainstorms, heat, thunder in the sky and the hot water boiler on the blink. A family of Cochin chickens, two mamas and four babies, walking and chirping around the garden, a dog patiently waiting for someone to play with, vineyards, apple orchards, glaciers and snow above us.

In no particular order.

03 July 2016

the prize question

I copied and pasted this from an existing constitution. Which one?

common values
  • human dignity
  • freedom
  • democracy
  • equality
  • the rule of law
  • respect for human rights
  • minority rights
  • pluralism
  • non-discrimination
  • tolerance
  • justice
  • solidarity
  • equality of the sexes
  • promotion of peace, its values and the well-being of its people
  • maintenance of freedom, security and justice without internal borders, and an internal market where competition is free and undistorted
  • sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy
  • social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child
  • economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity
  • respect for linguistic and cultural diversity
  • to contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth
  • solidarity and mutual respect among people
  • free and fair trade
  • eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child
  • strict observance and development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter

02 July 2016

Again, I am my very own disappointment. There is nothing positive I can report about the way I shuffled through the day, picking up angry bits of distraction here and there, furiously jealous of everybody else being so fucking laid-back and healthy.
Don't tell me that.
I should.
You get used to it. That's the worst thing about it.