'They Might Save My Life' ...

The nest of fish was crisp under a coarse snow of salt and smelled so simple and good I thought they might save my life.  Just a little.  Just for that moment.

Extract, 'The Paris Wife', by Paula McLain.

Dear Ren,

I have been writing to you for weeks, then discarding all efforts as unworthy ... unable to finish them.  I even bought a notebook for the thoughts I had while moving from task to task but I change bags, depending on my destination.  The notebook ended up living on my desk, always out of reach whenever I needed it.

Nothing has worked, complicated by my ideal  ... which is to wait for that golden moment, when I'm in the flow - writing straight from the heart.  But those moments are so rare these days, they need time.  There has been no time, no space, for that state of mind.

But here I am today, at one of my 'haunts' .... I have favourite places, scattered all over this ancient Italian city.  For hot chocolate, for espresso, for crema brioche.  For ravioli, for pizza, and for my new love, calzone.  For music, for wine, for aperitivo.

I spend sparingly.  Aperitivo must count as a dinner and of good quality.  The hot chocolate must be in a space that allows the creation of, at least, one good lesson plan.  The ravioli must satisfy at every level.  The calzone ... there are just no words.  I'm still completely in love with that cheese, ham, mushroom and tomato creation.  I leave so full and so comforted.  I will enjoy that for now.  It won't last forever.  

Today I opted to go wandering without my laptop because I had to replenish my coffee supply, which means walking a distance, and my laptop is heavy.  It was raining.  I bailed and left it at home.  However I didn't pack a pen, nor 'your' notebook.  

And it has to be noted that asking for a 'pen' with my New Zealand English, takes quite some courage in countries not my own.  They tell me that my pen still sounds like 'pin', and so I have learned to distract them from the vowel sound by pretending to write ... at the same time.  

I see their bewilderment as they listen, then comprehension dawn as they see my hand move, as if writing.  

I survive.  I'm working on moving my vowels back into general European usage but it's a big job.  Actually, in a side note, I begin studying Italian on Monday.  2 hours per week.  Let's see if Massimo can work magic.  Paula and I will study together.

Meanwhile I'm recovering from my first 2017 cold.  It hit mid-week.  It hit everyone I was out with the previous Friday.  I was one of the last to go down with it.  I'm going to view this as my immune system putting up a brave fight however, I did have anemia again and so, I may be a little run-down.  

Self-care is the hardest lesson for me to learn, it seems.

My future, as ever, remains unknown to me but maybe that is the stuff of real life. I am unable to protect myself with a routine, a career, a place I belong ... or any kind of known future, actually.  It's all still an adventure. 

On the bright side, I am surrounded by really good people, and simply adore my current landlords.  I am so glad I came to this city I love so well..  And I am living in an ancient palazzo on the most beautiful street here in Genova. I feel quite blessed as I run down the marble staircase each morning.  I have a room, a kitchenette and a bathroom - did I tell you already? 

My social life is picking up again.  Last Friday I was invited out to a small bar on the edge of the city.  Canadian friend, Leah, and UK friend, Bianca, came with me, to hear Marcello play.  All I knew was Marcello's music was good ... I could promise those trusting friends of mine nothing else.

We had the most superb evening at Ostaia Da U Neo!!  There was live music, a band but a band without boundaries.  It seemed like everyone there at the bar was either a talented musician or singer ... or both.  Even the bar owner.  It was a massive jam session, we were there at the front table ...  it finished late.  I floated home, quite happy for all kinds of reasons, and the red wine had been delicious too.

 Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova

Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova

 

Saturday morning finds me sitting here at Mentelocale, in Palazzo Ducale, drinking hot chocolate, sweating a little, writing in the back of the book I bought with me to read.  It's 14 celsius, raining ... kind of balmy.  I hear memories in my head ... Mum and Nana both saying 'it's good for the garden, this weather'. 

So I borrowed a pen from the guy at the bar, to write in the book I had brought here to read, sparked by the quote at the start because yes, sometimes these small and beautiful things, like a nest of fish ... crisp under a coarse snow of salt ... smelling so simple and good ... might save my life.'

It made me want to write to you.  It made me stop the perfectionist, I can be, from tearing this up and never finishing it.   It made me sit down and copy it out to you once I returned to my computer.  I'm stunned that I've made it this far.  There are so many discarded letters to Ren, sitting here on my desktop.

I walk alone a lot here.  I love it.  It's a return to the essential me.  I have no problems with wandering alone ... there's a beautiful freedom in choosing the prettiest way home, stopping for a slice of farinata, then hot chocolate.  You would love it, I'm sure.  Possibly I'm basing that on a photograph I took of you here, looking so lost in the place ... in the moment.

I finally understand that I love being surrounded by so many people without being a part of anyone or anything.  There's a beautiful silence somehow.

  I came home to write to you ... finally

Lots love, Di  

This is one of a series of public letters to Ren – a friend, a writer, a poet, and an extraordinary woman who writes to me via her own blog.

Please click through to her website: Ren Powell: Poetics & The Good Life

'Finding Home in Solitude' ... Alex

This interview, where Alex talks of 'finding home in solitude', there at the end ... that's what I'm doing these days.

It's an interesting process, after years of having this constant dialogue in my head ... 'What does this person need from me?'  

'How can I help them?'  there is this new process where I'm learning to consider what I want.

2 husbands ... and I lived 2 lives that were shaped, so completely, around their lives.

2 divorces ... and I lost everything, twice, including countries.

I am living in interesting times.  My book is begun, the professional photography has been put to bed for the moment.  

And perhaps ... this interview, with Alex, will give you a sense of the solitude.  The gift, and the difficulty, of learning to be alone.

Some Scottish Views ...

Blog1.jpg

Scottish Landscape,

 A little bit of Ice while out walking ... 

A little bit of Ice while out walking ... 

 Miss 12 has a passion for stepping on icy puddles ...

Miss 12 has a passion for stepping on icy puddles ...

 We could have skied Scotland but we opted not to and, to be honest, I was just trying to survive what I felt was ... an icy terrible freezing cold:-) 

We could have skied Scotland but we opted not to and, to be honest, I was just trying to survive what I felt was ... an icy terrible freezing cold:-) 

 We met this local and chatted a while .... I think he wanted to come home with us but there was an electric fence involved. 

We met this local and chatted a while .... I think he wanted to come home with us but there was an electric fence involved. 

 It's been so good to see Miss 12, although walking to the standing stones wasn't exactly her idea of a fun thing to do on that freezing cold day  :-)

It's been so good to see Miss 12, although walking to the standing stones wasn't exactly her idea of a fun thing to do on that freezing cold day  :-)

 The roads we're walking.  The air is clear, if cold.  The scenery, winter but still beautiful.  And quiet ... so very.

The roads we're walking.  The air is clear, if cold.  The scenery, winter but still beautiful.  And quiet ... so very.

 And so I follow.  Quite happily.

And so I follow.  Quite happily.

Happy New Year ... from Scotland

It's been one hell of a year but here I am, relatively relaxed and writing from a pub over in Scotland.  I have two weeks to spend with my favourite people.

They're living way out in the back of beyond, and so we're forced to pop in to pubs in the area for internet connections.  Not wanting to be rude, we also sample the whisky and play pool too.  

The locals are lovely. I'm adjusting to the weather ... kind of.  I can finally feel my feet today but the guys here just assured me that there's snow due on Sunday.   We've already had snow.  The 26th was quite white. We've also had two big storms ... Storm Barbara, then Storm Connor (I think).  

I'm not sure about all the granite here. But even so, the architecture is cute ... as seen below.   I love my Ligurian life and will be glad to get back to the colour and noise of Genova but it's good here too.  And so very superb to catch up with Miss 12 and her mum.  

I've been clearing backlogs of photographs, a few sets waiting for time and concentration.

I'm so happy to write that, after 2 months or more of the most disgusting, long-lasting cold/flu-thing I've ever had, I'm no longer sick.  Being here, living quietly, is partially about building up my strength again.   It's the right place for that. 

Wishing you all the very best things in 2017, and let's see where the next year takes me ... 

fb 8.jpg

A Note & 2 Photographs ...

I feel like I've been running in sand lately ... if I were to measure the level of effort requiredversus the distance achieved.  My cold has gone on and on; a milder cold becoming a second more exhausting cold.  Silvia got me checked by a doctor and my chest is clear however ... rest was required and I was unable to rest.

I've reached Saturday and I'm shattered but there is much to be done. These last few weeks have been more about putting out fires, as one thing after another came knocking on my door.  I probably just need to sit down and make plans, now that the coughing has finally calmed itself down.  I just need to sit down, actually.

In good news, I've continued to meet good people, and have smaller, but still excellent, adventures.

I'm enjoying teaching English but I miss my photography.  My students are lovely.  They're clever and interesting, and they blow my mind some days.  And my knowledge of Genova has increased hugely, as I've raced all over it lately.  

I am becoming fluent in 'bus', although still far from perfect.  And better at knowing when to include my umbrella because it might rain.  I have all I require for breakfast.  I'm less good at lunch, and dinner but getting there.  

Sitting here, I was awake just after 6am on this rainy Saturday, I'm realising it's been a year of making-do.  Photographs of my London life have been coming up on my 'year ago today' Facebook timeline.

And I can do 'making do' but will confess that I wouldn't mind a week or two in a hammock some place simple where everything works  ...  :-) 

Painting With Light ...

My photography always returns when I have some free time ... or is that, I return to my photography.  

My head needs to be a little clearer than it has been lately.  Last week was particularly chaotic as I pulled off a few minor miracles ...

Today is Sunday, and I slipped out into the morning searching for coffee and ended up with a camera full of photographs.

I found the light exquisite and ended up staying out for hours, wandering in the medieval heart of Genova.