A Little Bit of La Dolce Vita, in Genova, Italy

I am learning that there's not much sweeter than spending time with good people in the quiet of the late evening ... talking while drinking a lovely red wine and sharing delicious food.

I'm learning the delights of Genova, that city small enough to bump into old friends, and new, most days I go out.

I already knew that I loved when someone chats to me on a bus.  There we were, two strangers ... her with her electronic Italian to English dictionary.  Me with my book.  We chatted, in English but with her introducing me to some new words.  We parted in the city but I think we will meet up again.  She extended a very kind invitation.

And so, of course, I attempted to describe my yesterday over on Facebook:  'I love Genova :-) I was heading for my favourite cafe when a woman called out to me. I couldn't remember who she was but she knew me ... It turned out that we'd never met, we have mutual friends on Facebook and she recognised me. But there was more than that, she was with another woman I had quietly wanted to meet for years ... and they invited me to join them, there at the cafe, with their lovely friend from the States. It was really really lovely and ... it turns out we're all friends with Silvia :-)

Temple replied in my comments section, with her take on our meeting: I was the woman who called out: saw a lanky blue-eyed blonde whose face I recognized from here sloping across a famous piazza and just said, You're Di Mackey aren't you? She was a bit startled to say the least, but it was indeed her and the rest is as recounted. Plus we 3 Yanks gave her a lesson in US political science she isn't likely to forget for a long time. Namaste, Di, great meeting you!

It was a truly good day because I met them, and because before meeting them, that woman traveling on the same bus into the city, had started chatting with me. 

And then I got to spend a couple of hours with Mau, cameras in hand I went city-wandering with that globe-trotting friend, last seen in 2014.  A big blister on the sole of my foot limited us some ... but the gelato, it helped in the 36 celsius heat.

Silvia invited me out to dinner last night.  She wanted to introduce me to the restaurant called Maniman.  It was divine and, as is always the case when I spend time with SIlvia, there was much laughter but balanced with more than a few serious moments.  She's a wise woman.

And then we ended up down in the city, living the paragraph that opens this post.  We started with an espresso but with a delicious red wine and good food soon followed.  Il Genovese remains my favourite restaurant here in the city.  It's a place you must eat when you come here. 

And then, as if all that wasn't enough ... I got a ride home on the back of motorbike because it was 2am by the time we had done with stories I'm still laughing over when I recall them.  I can't recount them here. but I laugh every time that I think of them. 

And I feel extremely fortunate to have had all of that in one day, and so very sad about the earthquake that happened, here in Italy yesterday.  We were far from it and I knew nothing until my sister emailed me, wondering if I was okay.

It's heartbreaking to realise how many have been lost in those small villages.  I think we just need to enjoy every single day, and as many moments as is possible because we just never know.  We never do.

Buongiorno from Genova, Italy, where I find photographs like this one, out there in the caruggi.



Miss 12 ... a belated Happy Birthday.

I've had the good fortune to share my life with Miss 12, and her mum, for so many years ... more time than most grannies get to spend with their granddaughter usually. 

So I'm grateful.

I had the fun of reading some of the same books I'd read to her mum when she was small.  We've devoured The Magic Faraway Tree but even better, we read the entire collection of Harry Potter together.  So many months of lying there, on my big old bed, reading our way through book after book over years, neither of us imagining a life where we wouldn't be hanging out together.

But life moves on and the end of my marriage really meant that I had to leave Belgium.  I reached England, and fell a little in love with it.  It was so easy, and the people were so kind.

My daughter followed, bringing her daughter, Miss 12.  And Miss 12 moved into my annexe with me, and we got to spend another 2 months together while my beautiful clever daughter worked in London, hunting for a job in the UK.

There was Miss 12 and I, having the occasional blast in the secondhand shops over in Cobham, and spending time with Cathy & Alex, and that delicious circle of Wednesday-evening-wine-drinking women.  And Marcelle and Leah, at their cafe in the little village of Oxshott.  And Kim.  And Lynne.  And Steve on the Chatterbus too.

It was a little extra time together that I hadn't expected.

Then she left again but it was good because my daughter has a really good job, up north ... and Miss 12, she's loving her new life.  The people are friendly, she loves her school uniform, and the school lunches are great.  The community has welcomed them in and they're really enjoying it.

Miss 12 has transitioned to English more easily than she had imagined possible.  She has lovely friends already, and they arrived in time for friendships to grow so she had friends for her 12th birthday party.

So it's all good.  I miss both of them but I'm really happy that they're so happy.  It was time.   It was more than time.

And here she is.  I got the photographs the other day.  Miss 12, in her school uniform, first day back in the new northern hemisphere school year.

We have this thing that we do, when we say goodbye after chatting ... it's about who loves who the most.  The last one to say it, wins.  Needless to say, our goodbyes are all about that particular competition.

But I think I can win here.  I love you the most, little Miss 12.  And I can block your reply ... cue evil laughterxx

Aperitivo and The Opera Of It All... in Genova.

I have these incredibly talented friends ... Peter Furlong, the fabulous tenor and his wife, Julie Wyma, a truly talented soprano.

Back in July 2013,  I was in Genova, enjoying aperitivo with an old friend called Simon.  He began posting, what I considered, dreadful photographs of me over on Facebook.  


His comments section came to life.  Our mutual friend, Veronica, warning him to be cautious about annoying me:-)

It turned out Julie and Peter were reading us in Berlin and voila, by the time Simon and I had moved to our second bar, the opera of it all was there on the internet.  What an opera:-)

I love them.  They make me laugh.  They did another short opera for Miss 12, an avid Dr Who fan, over here.

Tenderness ...

I was walking behind this couple a while and they seemed so tender with one another.  I couldn't resist.  I hope they don't mind.  I found them beautiful.

Ho sceso, dandoti il braccio ...

These stairs reminded me of the poem, by Ligurian poet, Eugenio Montale.  I love his poetry, like I love the work of Pablo Neruda, Hone Tuwhare, and Taha Muhammad Ali too.

I even hunted down a book of his poetry, with translations to English.  I've been told it's almost impossible to experience the full depth of meaning in translation but I love what understand of him.

Here's the poem I thought of today, when I looked back up at the stairs I had come down ... Ho sceso, dandoti il braccio… in translation :-)

I descended, with you on my arm…

I descended, with you on my arm, at least a million stairs

and now that you are not here every step is emptiness.

In any case our long journey was too brief.

Mine continues even now, no longer in need

of coincidences, reservations,

ploys, and the scorn of those who believe

that reality is what we perceive.

I descended millions of stairs with you on my arm

not only because four eyes perhaps see more.

With you I descended those stairs because I knew

the only real pupils, although terribly dimmed,

belonged to you.

(from “Satura”, 1971)

Translation by ©Matilda Colarossi

The Glorious Impermanence Of It All ...

May your journey through your own grief awaken you to levels of knowing, empathy, and peace that frees your own soul, opens you to love big, and allows you to embrace the beauty, the sweetness, and the unbearable, but glorious, impermanence of it all.

Seane Corn, extract from her article, Grief Transforms Us.

I didn't have too much to do with grief until my mother died, back in 1999.  And even then, it was as Seane wrote, describing a conversation she had with her father as he was dying: 'He held me once, not too long before that was physically impossible, and told me I would never again feel so ripped open. “Remember this feeling,” he told me, as I studied the new tumor on his shoulder that I could swear wasn’t there just hours before, “your grief will either consume you or set you free. It won’t feel this way right now because you’re in it,” he said, “but you will come through, you will heal, you will grow and you will be grateful.” I told him to go fuck himself and we laughed hard, until we cried, at the horror of it all and the beauty that we knew we would both one day come to understand. Me, as I struggled to let him go. Him, as he accepted he had no choice but to.

And I know it is true.  When I am 'in it', in whatever the 'loss' is ... I can do anything I have to do.  I can give my first ever public speech at my mother's funeral, and I can move countries, and take jobs I never imagined taking. 

Being in that state, as your known world falls apart ... it protects you for a while.

This morning, after reading Seane's post, I was compelled to share it on facebook.  It felt a little like cutting open a vein but it was important too ... because I am learning so much about grieving out here in the world, about myself and others grieving for things lost.

On facebook, I wrote: My first ever public speech was at my mother's funeral. It was incredibly difficult but an honour too. I was glad to be able to farewell her in that way.  However I don't think losing the people we love, to death, is the only thing that we grieve. The longer I spend out in the world, meeting others who have lost relationships, families, homes and future plans, to divorce and relationship break-ups, the more I see that there is a huge need to mourn that loss too.

This loss is the loss of losing the love of, or for, another.  It's the loss 'normality' ... of inhabiting a conventional, socially acceptable space in the world, of 'owning' a known place in a community.

Try not to turn your back on those who have lost marriages and relationships.  It's another kind of loss, and there is a degree of shame and/or humiliation that, perhaps, makes no sense... whether you stopped loving, or someone stopped loving you.

Be gentle.