Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.. Robert Frank.
I love when I get to work as a photographer. There is so much joy to be found in the place where photographs happen.
And these guys, they were so kind, in allowing me to quietly follow them around, trying to capture something of their souls via my camera.
One has left a version of oneself at the place of departure and it waits for us at the point of return - but she is not me when I get there.
Kirsty Gunn. My Katherine Mansfield Project.
I went out wandering with Mari Lena, a new friend, an Italian staying here too. And we found these beautiful flowers growing on the side of the road. It's so lush here in Rarotonga.
The notion of home is coming at me from all over, in my reading ... in my everyday life too, as I head home after 6 years away, after 8 years away before that.
I'm about to buy an e-book. This extract came from it ...
It's an idea that has always preoccupied me - that notion of creative process as a making, a willed brick-by-brick, word-by-word building of a place on the page that might let a story inhabit it - to create a home of words, where I, the writer, may also live.
Kirsty Gunn, from My Katherine Mansfield Project.
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.
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.
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
In this new life ... this English life, everyday seems to offer up the possibility of achieving some new milestone.
Today it was walking into the village to find the small bus that runs through the Surrey countryside, village to village. It was about finding it and getting to my Sainsburys Superstore of choice, and back. You're only halfway when you reach the top of that mountain and, as usual, I have no idea of my location here in this new world.
It ended up being such a lovely story though. I was jog/trotting towards the stop, unusually late, when I saw the bus driving towards me. I body-languaged, sadness and despair ... I may have waved and, much to my surprise, it stopped.
I was so grateful!! There was a lovely gentleman driving and I felt like I had stepped into a most marvelous English story as I boarded. He was dropping off two friendly older woman, who welcomed me to the village as they left the bus at the next stop.
And I traveled with that lovely man, as he picked up other customers, talking ... of course. Everyone chats on these buses (and so I've found a happy place). And honestly, the English just keep impressing me with how lovely they are.
I shopped, and felt so successful as I sourced the ingredients for my Slow Cooker Coq au Vin. I had bought the slow cooker, and a toastie pie maker/ meat griller too, as I settled into my new place. But then I found a most marvelous little oven, with hotplates on top, for 50 pounds and so I have all I need to cook. All and more:-)
I have a toaster. I don't have a Nepresso machine yet but I will have one day.
Soon I shall be back in that place where breakfast is my holy moment of the day.
I cooked Persian Chicken a few days ago. I was so rapt to create something familiar and known. I cooked rice too. The little oven/stove top (the size of a microwave) does all that I need but still, I found the slow cooker in the January sales over here ... I will use it too. Tomorrow.
I am settling in. Losing weight. Walking a lot.
I found a desk. It's so central to my life. I don't know if I realised how central until I tried to work. But that's a story for another day. The new desk, a huge pine table really, should be here at the weekend, all going well. I love the secondhand possibilities out here.
The photograph ... there were some dead roses and I asked if I might borrow them before they were thrown out. I quite like the result, then couldn't resist adding a border because ... you know. And the text too.
It's stormy here tonight. There are trees and woods around me. I walk to the village on a road that passes through the woods. There will be photographs. And I will get better at telling the stories from here. There have been so many.
There was a Sunday dash to London ... mostly because I'm never sure of how long it takes to walk to the train station or the village and so dash I do. I think I have it now. And seeing Lenn again. I did enjoy staying at his house these last few weeks. He's family now. I haven't told him.
For the first time in a long time I have almost all of my UK stuff in one location. I've been all over the place since leaving Belgium at the end of August. Portsmouth, Farnham, London ... Kim and Andy have been magnificent friends. I don't imagine I can ever capture all that they have done for me. It's been grand. And Lenn. And others too.
I was reunited with my digital radio at the weekend. I do love it. I wander between Planet Rock, and Magic - where lots of nostalgia is played.
I sleep in a beautifully comfortable king-sized bed. There's a pile of books on the empty side. I'm reading a biography about Martha Gellhorn, that magnificent journalist, who said Robert Capa was her true brother. And D. H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', at the same time. It works. And really enjoying the second after so many years of reading of him in relation to Katherine Mansfield, who was a friend of his.
And we're into the second book of the Inkheart series, MIss 11 and I, reading it via skype. We both love it, so much while we miss living together. But anyway ...
So that's me. More to follow as my camera comes out to play in this new world I'm discovering slowly.