C'era una volta ... or, once upon a time.

Jessie whipped up one of her magnificent Hairy Bikers chicken pies tonight.  It was divine.  Served with mashed potato and with carrots doused in butter, honey, salt and pepper.  Simon took the photo below.

Simon, Paola and Giulia came to dinner tonight. Much talking and quite some laughter were served up with pie and pavlova.

And yes, red wine was involved.

We were talking of all kinds of things, catching up and remembering way back when we first met ... pre-2008.  Veronica, a mutal friend was heading home from an overseas posting and her farewell party was at my place.  'Could Simon come too?' she asked, confessing she hadn't actually met him in real life but telling me he seemed nice over the time they had known each other as blogging friends.

No worries, said the kiwi I am- we're very hospitable.  Paola came too, not sure of what to expect from her husband's unmet online friends ...

Paola and I began with a friendship way back on that evening.  Simon too.  And I've photographed their family over the years that have unfolded since.  Their babies are all at school now. 

Then Paola invited me home to Italy with her one day.  We flew.  I wrote on 17 October, 2008:  Paola and I woke at 4.45am for a 5.45am taxi.  A fast flight to Milan, a bright bright yellow Fiat from Hertz, and here we are, wandering.

I successfully navigated my first big session alone - finding and buying a corkscrew, some internet time, blogging, and walking back to the apartment without getting lost

And although I fell for Genova on that very first visit, I had no sense of just how big a part of my life the  ancient Italian city would become. 

On that visit I made a million notes about every place I loved there. I interviewed the owners of all kinds of businesses and took photographs and simply fell for a city, like I had never fallen for a city  before.  The sea, the mountains, the history, the culture  ... its way of being. 

Genova is very particular.

By October 27, still 2008 and that first visit, I was writing the names of the places I loved there.  The colonial spirit still alive and well in me, although quieter and far more polite than my ancestors.  I was simply noting names, not planning a conquest.

I recorded that cascade of those days there in my journal, took photographs and began, way back then, to weave that city into my life.  And tonight, looking back, I realised it all happened because of a farewell party for that lovely American friend called Veronica. 

C'era una volta, a New Zealander hosted a party for an American friend and met a British guy and his Italian wife ...