So much for the 'recovering' part of my plan. I had to wander off to the doctor's yesterday and, in good news, my iron has roared up the scale to dizzy heights I've probably not experienced in years. That explains the feeling I had ... of being able to walk a million miles in Rome, in Genova.
The rotten news, as far as I'm concerned, is that I started a demanding course of antibiotics yesterday. I have an infection and it's the only way to clear it. And so it is, 12 days of porca miseria.
But there's always good news. Tanya, an old friend from school - my traveling companion during these last few weeks, has returned to Antwerp with me and her 10 year old daughter. Tanya has been both a successful florist, back in New Zealand, and a cook (she won't let me describe her as a chef. There are rules apparently but her food is divine.)
The good news ... well, Tanya's been cooking dinners since we returned. Maybe I made a Shepherd's Pie first evening back but since then, sublime has slipped into our dinner-time. Last night I made time to race away from the table, find my camera, and photograph her beautiful dessert.
Made for the kids, loved by the adults too ...
Let's see how long we can keep them here for.
I had a meeting this morning, one where I was offered the opportunity to exhibit my photographs in Brussels.
I'm excited. By emptying my life of 'Everything', I have left space for Some Thing. And while my Home & Away exhibition was an impulse that took me on an unexpected journey, this exhibition is going to be all about staying conscious ... in a way I didn't quite manage back in October.
I'm always learning. Always willing to learn.
It will open early in the new year and it feels like a good way to begin 2015. More news to follow as we decide on dates, times and all that important stuff.
The image below ... found on the streets of Genova.
I feel that a real living form is the result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown—where it has experienced something—felt something—it has not understood—and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown—known.
By unknown—I mean the thing that means so much to the person that wants to put it down—clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand—sometimes he partially knows why—sometimes he doesn’t—sometimes it is all working in the dark—but a working that must be done—
Making the unknown—known—in terms of one’s medium is all-absorbing—if you stop to think of the form—as form you are lost—The artist’s form must be inevitable—You mustn’t even think you won’t succeed—Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant—there is no such thing.
Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you—catching crystallizing your simpler clearer version of life—only to see it turn stale compared to what you vaguely feel ahead—that you must always keep working to grasp—the form must take care of its self if you can keep your vision clear.
Georgia O’Keeffe (painter) writing to Sherwood Anderson (writer).
Source: Brain Pickings.
There was something about this small article, by Maria Popova, that made me want to note these words and keep them to read again and again. I loved the first paragraph most particularly.
I enjoy reading what artists write to each other, seeming to want to think on an important thing that so many wouldn't find important or interesting. Sometimes these things seem like the real stuff of life, as opposed to the forms we fill out and the lives that we Must live in that 'real' world people talk of.
Soon I will be heading off on another adventure, in a small village somewhere between Naples and Rome. There is a house and some dogs that I've been invited to visit, while breathing some good country air, with a view that I suspect I might want to photograph every day.
There is a book that wants to be written, or two. There are the photography workshops to announce, the ones I've planned for 2015. There is a bar where I'm hoping the espresso is perfect and where my beloved crema brioches are possible. Where there's a delightful red wine waiting for me.
Another adventure in Italy, in that land where everything is possible and sometimes, just sometimes, you find giantic lightbulbs out in the carrugi.
The author of Dear Miss Fletcher published one of my photographs, the one where I captured her at work in her beautiful city.
I saw her there in the distance and broke my promise not to photograph her. But really, I would have deleted if she hadn't approved. In this instance she felt it was the perfect photograph of her and here you have her.
I still remember her walking me through streets I had walked so often but without an intimate knowledge of the secrets they held. And so often she would turn to me and tell me, 'I have something to show you ...'
And so often, she did.
I haven't talked with Tanya since we were teenagers. We reconnected via Facebook and soon worked out that catching up was something we'd like to do ... next time she was in Europe.
Tanya and Ruby flew arrived on Tuesday, postponed by a day due to the very 'special' union strike actions taking place here ... that would be the one that shut down the international airport on Monday.
We picked up where we'd left off really and it's been a marvelous few days of stories and laughter. Some wine too. There will be photographs but for the most part, talking has taken precedence.
Old friends from far-away are good friends.
Meanwhile I'm told Christmas is approaching. I don't see it ... there are no Dawsons cherries on display, no strawberries. The weather is grey and cold. The kids are still in school. No daylight saving.
I'm currently caught in the Christmas grinch mode, not feeling Christmassy at all but perhaps it will pass. Anyway, for now there's a few more days to enjoy with Tanya and Ruby and that is something to smile about.
I had decided to head back to Belgium, cautiously wearing my broken boots however ... on the way to the supermarket this morning I accidentally looked in the window of the Bata shoe shop. It's on Via XX Settembre, at 270-272R. I wandered in, just to browse.
I'm so glad I did. The women working there were lovely and so are my new boots. They had a special deal on ... buy 3 pair and get the second most expensive pair for just 1 euro. And I loved the idea of that because I loved 3 pair of their shoes however I only bought one pair.
They were on sale, at 39euro, and I thought them so very beautiful.
Sadly, my feet are currently hating them. I floated round the city in them all day, not realising till I reached the other end of town, that some breaking-in would have to take place. I am home now, wearing my slippers, wondering how tomorrow will go because I may have already thrown out my old broken boots.
Porca miseria ...
But aren't they beautiful.
I am quite in love with the fountain in Piazza De Ferarri. I consider it the heart and soul of the city ... then again, I am only a sometimes guest here and I might have that quite wrong. But have you ever heard the sound of it early on a Sunday morning, when the city is still sleeping. It's something to hear.
Anyway, there are the rules of photography and then there are those moments when a photographer simply plays with the light and the subject.
This was one of those moments.
I believe I may have created the distortion in this image. My wide-angle lens and I have an uneasy relationship however I love everything else about this shot ... and I fear that I won't organise myself to repeat it on my last full day in Genova tomorrow.
So please ignore the fact that I ruined the shop sign. Forgive me even ...
Dear Miss Fletcher wrote of showing me this place, E poi, ancora, le ho mostrato un’affascinante, antica libreria genovese.
And it was a charming, ancient Genoese library.
This stay in the city has involved quite some rain. Just as New Zealand seems to be waiting for summer to actually arrive, Genova is waiting for the rain to stop falling.
I flew in after some serious flooding had happened here in the city but the rain hadn't quite stopped ... and so it was that I discovered the only boots that I brought with me had holes in them.
But who does that! One pair of shoes in Italy?! I can hear my cousin, Julie's, disbelief from here :-)
However having to replace those boots on my last full day here in the city ... that is going to make it all okay. And no one will see that my feet have become webbed, like a duck's.
There is nothing like owning a good pair of boots made here in Italy.
The very serious shoe-shop owner actually laughed when my lovely friend, Barbara, asked him if he might keep the plastic bags I was wearing over my socks, inside my boots (as a basic water-proofing measure) a secret ... as I was attempting to appear elegant while here in Italy.
Mmmhmmm, but then again, if all was simple in my life perhaps it would bore me.
The day ended with more laughter, as Alessandra, Barbara and I discussed 'but which wine?!' while accidentally blocking the wine aisle in COOP. Oh yes, that was us.
And so, proof from this exquisite but watery city I have spent these last two weeks wandering ... another reflection. I do love finding them here.
As Dear Miss Fletcher lead me through the caruggi of Genova, I couldn't resist trying to capture snapshots of the sights that she showed me.
This one was taken just before 6pm, on a dark winter's night and yet the warmth that spilled out of this fruit and vegetable shop warmed my heart.
I had my first hot thick winter chocolate at this beautiful ancient Genovese cafe late on Saturday afternoon. I met Dear Miss Fletcher, who has already written of this beautiful place, there and we talked over steaming hot drinks.
I hope to have some of their stories to tell you in the weeks ahead. I took this photograph as we were leaving. The place is stunning. I promise.
Originally used as a corn market, in 1186 this square stood just outside the 10th-century town walls, beyond the Town Gate of San Pietro, which stood where the archway leading through to the tiny square Piazza Cinque Lampadi now is.
In the 12th century, the Barbarossa walls included Piazza Banchi in the city and turned it into the place where the early business exchanges between tradesmen and bankers took place.
This is where the word ‘bankruptcy’ comes from, deriving from the custom of axing to pieces insolvent bankers’ business desks, banchi in Italian.
Extract from, Loggia dei Mercanti -Piazza Banchi.
I love this piazza. It was the place where I bought my flowers in those days when I still bought flowers. And it's a place that I wander through daily while exploring the city.
I think you can see something of what brings me back to Genova, again and again ...
Long ago and far-away I fell in love with a reflected world. I was a child traveling State Highway 1, heading south on the flood-free, passing Henley. Destination Invercargill and Nana's house.
There were swamp-lands next to the highway and a creek that offered the most stunningly clear reflections I've ever seen.
I used to imagine another world, an upside-down world, there in the creek as we passed by in those days when I was a kid in the back seat, dreaming my kid-dreams.
Genova has made me fall in love with reflections all over again. I love when there is just enough rain to make puddles here on the cobblestones.
Today there was just enough rain to give me a glimpse of that other world.
I discovered that wandering with Dear Miss Fletcher involves learning Genova's secrets.
And the crazy thing is that I've walked past this charity slot, from 1729, so many times. In another location, Sabina showed me where the charity holes in the wall had been removed.
But ... if you don't know what you're looking for you will never find it. In another place, she stopped me in a narrow alleyway and showed me the indentations left in the cobblestones ... by chariots.
I don't think there's anything more civilised than being able to go out and buy really good espresso to bring back to the party.
I love Genova.
A highlight from today was meeting the Genovese blogger responsible for the most wonderful blog - titled, Dear Miss Fletcher.
Paola, the friend who gifts me the use of her apartment here in Genova ... the woman who first introduced me to Genova, was also responsible for introducing me to the blog, Dear Miss Fletcher. And so I've been reading her posts, via google translate, because it's true, she tells marvelous stories about this city I love.
But I was so busy talking with the blogger, whose real name is Sabina, that I didn't get the details of this marvelous barber shop. The one down the narrow caruggi where they saw us outside, me with my camera ... and invited us in. I'm going back during the day, to chat a little and take some more photographs because who wouldn't but you can find a post about it already, over on Dear Miss Fletcher.
The photograph below shows you what drew us in ...
A huge thank you must go to Sabina, for her beautiful English and her glorious introduction to so many new things I still didn't know of the city. It's her city, and it's in good hands with her writing of it and photographing it too.
Grazie mille, Sabina :-)
I was racing off to the birthday party of a friend here in the city this afternoon, a little late because my beautiful boots bought only last year, were falling to pieces. Another friend had loaned me her hiking boots made of leather, as they were all she had in my size, but they were a little too small and were destroying my feet.
Traveling on my usual shoestring budget I couldn't replace them however ... it occured to me that if I slipped my sock-covered feet into plastic bags (cut to fit no less) and then put my boots on, they could leak all they wanted but my feet should stay dry.
Yes, I had taken them into a shoe repair shop but he could only attempt to glue the sole back to the leather however he couldn't promise that it would hold and anyway, the stitching was giving way in two other places and there was no fixing that.
They're only one year old. I had marked them as boots meant to last many years and yes, I only packed one pair of shoes. I imagined them sturdy.
So I risked being slightly late to the party but I couldn't go past the fountain in Piazza De Ferrari because it was looking spectacular.
I stood on the edge of it and played with the light a little.
I added his blog to my blogreader thingy and enjoyed reading his stories. His work means he travels ... extensively. There is no other way to describe the way so many different countries appear on his blog. But the thing that truly fascinated me was the way that people, from all over the world, seemed to trust him to take their photographs. This isn't an easy thing. I was curious.
One of his bases is Genova. Like me, he's pretty much head-over-heels in love with this city and I think it shows in the images he captures, accompanied by stories, whenever he's here. He's Italian but speaks other languages too.
It turned out that we were going to be in Genova, at the same time, for just a couple of days. So today was the day that we met for lunch. But lunch Mau-style.
This means that we went to that tiny local restaurant, so full of character that I'm surprised the building doesn't break apart from the strain of it all, and ate a most divine lunch ... served by people who truly enjoy seeing him. Not hesitating to mock or advise him but also showing their deep affection for him.
We ate tagliolini al pesto, ravioli al tocco, cima with insalata russa and arrosto con purea. There a glass or two of Nebbiolo as well. A dessert was brought to the table despite us deciding we wouldn't order any. Did I mention how much these people enjoyed seeing him?
We moved on, heading down to a gelateria he knows. Again he was greeted so warmly and I was given more than a few small spoons of gelato to taste due to being there with Mau. I will be returning to that place of divine gelato, again in the months ahead. I'll post on it once I have all the details. There was much talking, I didn't make notes ...
I was introduced to the couple who own a vege and fruit stall, and went back to them this evening to buy pumpkin and onions for my pumpkin soup. But really, where ever this man goes in the city, people smile. He has this idea, this belief, that life is beautiful ... and he seems gifted in making it true.
Finally he organised a photograph, one he'd taken of me over lunch, onto a usb stick and introduced me to the most superb printing shop I've never found here in Genova. It's hidden. So hidden. I know this because I've been searching for one like it since first arriving here back in 2008.
So I have this large laser print of the photograph you'll find over on Mau's blog. The one where I'm realising there's a camera pointing at me and there's no escape. I'm the most difficult photographic subject I know.
I popped back to see the printers tonight and had 3 prints made for Barbara. A small series from the family photo session I did last Sunday. The large laser prints are so veryvery affordable (less than 2 euros) that I suddenly have a way of gifting people the photographs I take of them while here. I'm rapt.
So Mau has raced off back into the world. I wandered out for an aperitivo with Barbara. This city ... I do love being here.
Oh, and the photograph below. As photographers, we confessed to a mutually intense dislike of having our photographs taken however we allowed it today.