Wandering with Dear Miss Fletcher, in 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  :-)

Playing in Piazza De Ferrari, in Genova

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.

La Vita è Bella - or Meeting Mau.

Back in August, I discovered Maurizio's blog via some beautiful photographs he took of people I simply adore here in Genova.  He had titled that post Il Sogno di Francesca e Norma

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.

Some Sublime ...

Genova is one of those places where something sublime seems to happen most days.

Monday I finally slowed down and organised myself here at Paola's place.  I was expecting/planning a quiet night but suddenly it became one of those extraordinary evenings that involved me following instructions, boarding a bus and arriving at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, home of the Genoa football team.  

Extraordinary  because I started following the Genoa back in those days when I lived in New Zealand.  I was a rugby kind of woman in some ways but sport is religion back home and so I was open to being curious about most sports.

In Istanbul, Genoa kept me safe when my students (always) asked which team I supported ... Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, or Trabzonspor?  I would calmly reply, Genoa.  Shocking them into acceptance.

In Belgium, I attempted to switch my support to Antwerp but found I couldn't.  Genoa had occupied that part of my heart and there was no point in trying to change.

And so I follow their news here and it works well enough.  The games appear as live text.  I was fine with this (because I had to be) but last night ... LAST NIGHT I WAS AT THE GAME. 

Ohmygoodness.  You know when something is so amazing that you can't believe it is real? 

It was like that.

When I first started following the team, I lived more than 16,000kms away.  Last night, there was the team, directly below me.   And they were good. 

I think this is the best team since I began following although, I should note that one has to reserve large amounts of pessimism and display almost no hope, for fear of jinxing a good run but the team this year ... it's good.  Really good.

So, yesterday's sublime was finally attending a game at the superb Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

A huge grazie mille to those who made it happen. 

Days Full of Music and Laughter ... Genova

Saturday night and I was invited to Alessandra's place, with Barbara, Federico and Davide too, for aperitivo before heading out to Teatro Govi and a superb show by the Paul McCartney tribute band(not the best sample but it gives you a sense of their talent perhaps).

Genova is gifting me some beautiful music this visit.  2 nights in a row and there has been music that has had me trying not to  rock out of my seat and dance.

But it's more about the fact that I know some really good people here ... and I'm meeting more all the time. 

Barbara has been teaching me Italian in the quiet times and has actually given me hope that I might speak it one day.  She was surprised to realise I had the sounds required. (I was probably more surprised.  I'm so used to apologising for all of my languages that to be praised felt like some kind of magic).  I will go on with the work.  I think it's more than time I learned to speak here.

Today was all about a most divine Sunday lunch and yes, that was me, the New Zealander there in the midst of her beautiful warmhearted family.  Afterwards there was a family photography session and so much laughter that I'm still smiling.

It's been like that ...

Club La Claque, Genova

I love Genova. It's a city of secrets that can be difficult to find but they are so stunningly intense when discovered.

Friday night, Barbara invited me out to Club La Claque and for just 15 euro we were able to listen to Stefano Marelli sing with the truly talented trumpet player, Raffaele, accompanying him.  I would love to hear more of their music. 

Then came Marina Rei and her magnificent band and they played until midnight.  I can't even begin to describe her performance.  She drums as she sings, plays keyboards too, and her voice is divine.  Finding a youtube performance that begins to capture her is difficult.

Walking back through the city after midnight, some Palestinian/Syrian guys were giving the most delicious impromptu musical performance I've seen.  Somehow they radiated joy and pulled all those passing by into their circle of music. I ended up talking to their friend from Lebanon for a while.

So ... Friday was just another beautiful night here in Genova.


I'm back in Genova and so truly madly deeply glad to be here. 

It seemed like I had plugged into some kind of joy-refill machine as soon as I stepped off the plane in Milan.  And that feeling grew as the train took me across the plains and in through the hills to Genova.

I am here.  And that ... that is a very good thing.

Photographs and stories to follow in the days ahead.

A True Story, Naomi Shihab Nye

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

By Naomi Shihab Nye, a wandering poet.

The rest of the story is here

Poetry helps us imagine one another's lives. It gives us intimate insights into someone else's experience. To be able to have that kind of insight in thirty seconds or three minutes is a very precious kind of transmission. It's not cluttered with a lot of extraneous, explanatory matter or the kind of chatter that comes so easily on the news these days. We're surrounded by talk and language and reporting and stories of a certain kind, the “breaking news” kind, but I think we hunger for another kind of story, the story that helps us just feel connected with one another, be with one another. A slower kind of empathy. I think we hunger for that now more than ever. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/incomparable-naomi-shihab-nye-kindness#sthash.Lt9kRzgM.dpuf
oetry helps us imagine one another's lives. It gives us intimate insights into someone else's experience. To be able to have that kind of insight in thirty seconds or three minutes is a very precious kind of transmission. It's not cluttered with a lot of extraneous, explanatory matter or the kind of chatter that comes so easily on the news these days. We're surrounded by talk and language and reporting and stories of a certain kind, the “breaking news” kind, but I think we hunger for another kind of story, the story that helps us just feel connected with one another, be with one another. A slower kind of empathy. I think we hunger for that now more than ever. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/incomparable-naomi-shihab-nye-kindness#sthash.Lt9kRzgM.dpuf
oetry helps us imagine one another's lives. It gives us intimate insights into someone else's experience. To be able to have that kind of insight in thirty seconds or three minutes is a very precious kind of transmission. It's not cluttered with a lot of extraneous, explanatory matter or the kind of chatter that comes so easily on the news these days. We're surrounded by talk and language and reporting and stories of a certain kind, the “breaking news” kind, but I think we hunger for another kind of story, the story that helps us just feel connected with one another, be with one another. A slower kind of empathy. I think we hunger for that now more than ever. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/incomparable-naomi-shihab-nye-kindness#sthash.Lt9kRzgM.dpuf

Gate-Climbing ...

It began harmlessly enough ... gate-climbing as soon as I worked out the 'how' of it. 

Another memory from long ago, quiet excitement ... a gap in the hedge that surrounded my childhood home.  They closed that up pretty quickly once they realised how I was slipping away.

Me and my trike, then my bike, traveled far and wide ... or as far as my lazy legs would carry me.  Then came the car and that seemed like the best freedom so far, until I flew over to Istanbul.  And zipped off to Rome.  Then ended up in Belgium, discovered France, Holland and every place else in Europe was easily reachable.

'Gate-climbing' on steroids.

Then Genova, Italy.  That place I keep on returning to ... since 2008.  That exquisitely ancient city surrounded by beautiful hills and the sea. 

These days I can wander where ever I want but I keep returning.

I'm flying this week. 

14 days in that city I love ...

Listening to The Sweet Remains these days, specially Ghost in the Orange Blossom Air.

About the long silence ...

I've been writing blog posts here ... then deleting blog posts, since finding out I have this iron deficiency.

I am consumed, these days, by the anemia.  So frustrated.  To the point where something about it slips into every post I try to write and I get so far through, see I've been whining, and delete.

Perhaps I just need to write, getting over the block and accepting it all as a timely life lesson.  Perhaps I shouldn't try to do everything all of the time.  Perhaps I should have taken vitamins, rested more, eaten more sensibly. 

I wish I had. 

I was raised in a particular way.  We like to ignore these impediments.  I broke my navicular bone, they missed the break on the x-ray, told me to walk on it ... and I did, till they found it.

A hospital once sent me home with a burning hot, bright red swollen knee.  No accident to report in New Zealand, no treatment.  See your GP. 

He was enraged on my behalf.  I had cellulitis.  There was me, so embarassed by being sent home from the hospital, that I walked on it till he could see me.  Six courses of antibiotics later ...

But anemia.  You actually can't push through it.  Or I can't.  Every time I over-do it, I pay.  It's like I can't cheat here.  It's 4 months until the doctor retests my iron levels.   Gert suggested this was because my level of iron deficiency was such that it would take that long.  He thinks I should be patient.

I think I have to be.

To add to the misery of this, coffee and red wine interfere with iron uptake.  I laughed as I wrote that.  Can you believe it???

And I know it's minor but minor usually means I can find a way round it.  I can't.  I'm slowinggggggg right down, trying to accommodate this difficult guest.

However today a lovely client-to-be filled me with inspiration.  I've been working here at the computer, plotting and planning, all day.  Taking facebook breaks when breaks were required.  Cleaning a little ... knowing fish and chips are booked in as that unhealthy but simple dinner tonight.

A good day after a series of epic days lately.  The Belgian Bloke crashed into bed with 3 intense days of fever, he spent something like 53 out of 64 hours sleeping, and was only just on his feet when he returned to work after a week. 

In fact so much goes on behind-the-scenes here that sometimes I'm tempted to share it all but it's always too whiny.  And so ... let's see if I've turned a corner.  The stairs to my office are noticeably easier ... small steps, Diane.  Small steps.

I've been searching out photographs from years past, for a 5-day challenge on Facebook, and found this one.  A  favourite of mine.


Scenes from My Photography Exhibition

It's taken me a week to even make an attempt to write about the weekend that was because it was overwhelming ... sublime, full of friends and laughter.  It was full.

The photography exhibition went right to the wire, in terms of preparedness.  I may have overcommitted myself a little but that's my style.  I should know this thing about me by now.  We had 6 house-guests over the 3 days but that was pure magic as well.  I know so many good people.

Teresa arrived first, over from London and we had much to talk about.  There I was cooking bacon and egg savouries for the exhibition opening, writing up descriptions for the photographs that Gert and Sander had helped me hang in the morning, drinking a little red wine from New Zealand, while Teresa and Miss 10 tied ribbons around little packets of postcards by Di.

Ren and Egil flew in from Norway.  Shannon and Erik drove over from Holland.  Kim also came in from England and before I knew it, it was all on.  Cars, directions, trams, even bicycles.  People arrived at the reception.

Hilde, from the Choice New Zealand shop here in Antwerp, was hosting the exhibition, and she made sure that the New Zealand wine flowed, as did tasty little NZ inspired snacks.   Friends and family just kept on arriving and my heart sang.

But perhaps you get a sense of the atmosphere, the good people, the beautiful evening via this selection of photographs taken by Kim and Teresa.  I'm so grateful.  I'd love to have documented it but I was too far into it all, as warned when I mentioned I might take my camera. 

So very into it.  Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me.

A Communicative Moment ...

In the modern world, parched of ritual and starved of mystery, we don't register these communicative moments as often as we might. The idea of a conversation with a landscape is foreign to minds schooled in the separation of humans and nature. Well-seen photographs, wrought in the attuned moment, can help us renew the connection. They invite us to the necessary work of addressing the land.

An edited extract reproduced with permission from Spirit of the South by Andris Apse.

The article is so very worth reading.  I miss the wilderness here in Belgium.  It is one of those lands that have been peopled forever - New Zealand's precise opposite perhaps.

I'm off to Genova soon.  It can't come too soon.  I miss the Ligurian sea, the hills that almost surround the city, the caruggi and the people too. 

And the espresso.  How could I forget the espresso.

But a photograph I found when I was back home in New Zealand.  I was photographing the hot pools in Rotorua and captured a Taniwha.

What else could it be ... Taniwha are supernatural creatures whose forms and characteristics vary according to different tribal traditions. Though supernatural, in the Māori world view they were seen as part of the natural environment. Taniwha have been described as fabulous monsters that live in deep water. Others refer to them as dragons – many taniwha looked like reptiles, had wings and ate people. They could also take the shape of animals such as sharks, whales, octopuses, or even logs. Some taniwha could change their shape, moving between different forms.

'A Review of the Opening of the Di Mackey Photo Exhibition'

My photography exhibition was reviewed by a lovely Belgian.  Dank u wel, Marie France Asselbergh.

The exhibition opened @Choice New Zealand, Vlaamsekaai 10, Antwerp on Fri, 31st of October, 2014 and will hang there for the month of November.  All are welcome.


While I love art and paintings especially, I am hardly knowledgeable about them. Photography? I’d be hard pushed to name one renown artist… Black Man Ray? I hope I’m not mixing that up with Ray Ban, which I’m fairly confident is sunglasses.

I cannot claim to know Di Mackey either. We met once, had a lovely talk and keep acquainted on Facebook since. But then I only follow people who keep my interest piqued; what would be the point otherwise?

So when I received an invitation for the exhibition I was raring to go (nothing to do with why I showed up three hours early though), very intrigued and hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman through her work. And did I? Read on. Online I’d put a smiley here!

Arriving at the cozy and congenial café cum gallery, I worked my way through the busy throng and briefly greeted an elated Di before turning my attention to her work. Elated, by the way, with the general show-up and not just me, hehe.

At this point, I must confess I was dreading as well as looking forward to seeing pictures of New Zealand, Di’s home turf and the place on earth that so got under my skin. I was spared in the sense that there were only two, at first sight rather generic landscapes. But judging by the next two paragraphs, they had rather more to tell.

One of a Coromandel beach, a place I visited but only inland. It is a more generic but truthful view of the rural seaside there: sheer desolation that I doubt can be fathomed by the average Belgian often only familiar with overcrowded European beaches marred by skyscrapers. Here, the inevitable fishing boat is a realistic reference to the innumerable ones bobbing along the endless NZ coast line, symbol of fine weather, leisure and companionship. This carries through in the pair on the sands, a dad sharing some quality time with his son, carrying on the tradition too.

The second one, a view of a gate and barn on South Island. I am immediately drawn to the lush, moist greenery I so associate with NZ. The focus is on the wooden, lichen covered gate up front, rather than the barn further away, thus swallowed up in the surrounding landscape. It reminds me of the sheep farms, the corrugated iron roofs so endemic to the landscape. The kind of picture I would gladly gaze upon during a whole month, if it was on my calendar.

I must perhaps add the Taniwha picture to this list. The rich Maori mythology is not as ungraspable as the Aboriginal one, I find. This oily, elusive reflection I can relate to the Norse beliefs. Likewise, animals or wood can be inhabited by spirits there. Yet I would never mistake this for a Scandinavian image, due to the torsion, the curliness found in Maori imagery. I wonder, what it takes to actually detect such a photo opportunity and in which circumstances this occurred. An extremely imaginative and hyperaware eye, I suppose.

I see a second group, photos taken in Antwerp. The Carina at the old port’s quayside. The sequence of secondary ships gives depth to this view, the red paint a hint of warmth rather than cold in this industrial landscape.

Judging by the boy’s cap the photo of the huge mural with the two bikes fits the bill, but I do not recognize the location. It must be difficult to keep a sense of perspective and proportion when tackling such a view, but the photographer seemingly remained unfazed and achieved it effortlessly.

An instant favourite: the upside down reflection of the Antwerp Cathedral, symbol of what makes a Sinjoor’s* heart beat. For the first but not the last time, I find myself doubting that this is a photo; the image looks like a painting, Gaudi-esque in composition with hints of the palette and watery reflections of Canaletto. It is iconic, transcendent in its appeal.

I have similar associations with the Bernini Angel. Including the original framing and its colours, it instantly calls the works of Magritte to mind. To continue the theme, I’ll say this is the first of the Italian group.

Which brings me to the anchovies. I require further proof, if I am to believe this is a picture and not a painting. Perhaps I should further elaborate, that this a favourable comment in the extreme.

The portraits are very deserving too. The thought comes to mind, Di might be ill at ease herself to take pictures of unwilling subjects or people who simply do not feel comfortable enough in front of a lens.

Atypically, the girls in one of the portraits seem devoid of teenage angst and the image of wholesomeness. Who would not want his or her loved ones portrayed like this to be displayed and enjoyed at home?

Beautifully done, the owl and the loom. I like and much prefer colour photography. Black and white is often considered superior, arty and thus somehow more deserving. I like it in some high quality portraits but not per sé. A landscape is seldom served well by a monochrome approach, in my opinion. This series of images subscribe to my point of view, I find.

As a whole, Di Mackey’s work exudes warmth. In the colours, the people portrayed and more unusual even in the presence of water. More often it will add coolness or even a chill, but not here.

I also sense acuity. A photographer must have technique but an artist adds his or her own intrinsic qualities. An eye for composition, a uniqueness, drive. Boxes ticked, for this laywoman.

*Sinjoor: a ‘true Antverpian’, if you are not already familiar with the term.

The cathedral shot mentioned above.


A Quick Note

My photography exhibition opened Friday night and it was astoundingly excellent.

There were so many good people, all in one place.  I loved it. 

We have 5 houseguests so life is busy however photographs to follow.



The New Plan ...

The new plan is the one where I seek out joy and beauty.  I seem to have misplaced them.  And I'm hoping the blog will reflect my success at a life well-lived and more considered in the weeks ahead.  Let's see it.

Meanwhile, a beginning ... a late flowering of the Cosmos out in the garden here.

Suspend all the doing ...

2 // take a break from your carefully packaged & organised life; suspend all the doing, sit amongst the shambles of half-read books and empty cups, let blessed rest find you.

Leonie Wise, lifted from her beautiful blog.

Murray left yesterday and I collapsed into a small pile of crumple today.  I can do stuff ... I can but oh how I pay.  Just till the iron medication kicks in. 

I'm so impatient for it to work though.  And so I was always going to love Leonie's wise words, suspend all the doing.

Although, rather than suspend all, I'm doing slowly and carefully, then resting.  Multiple loads of laundry have been done today because ... it's 17 celsius here in Belgium.  Unusual perhaps, or simply an Indian summer.  It's good, as so many of my very best people are arriving on Friday.

Shannon and Erik are zooming over from Holland, Teresa and Kim from the UK, Jayne is coming and her Steve is flying back from Dubai, Ren and her lovely Norwegian are coming too.

Steven and Isabel, Martin and Gaby, Ellen and Anna, Marcia and her man ... I'm happy.

My photography exhibition has its official reception/opening on Friday night.  Saturday night is the night of the birthday party.  But honestly, it's mostly about my pleasure in catching up with these people I love. 

I'm scared I've forgotten to invite some people and they need to contact me because I am haphazard at the moment.  The anemia has surely caused problems with energy levels but also with concentration.  And I thought it was enough to take the medicine and move slowly but it's the 'not doing' that is making me most crazy.  It feels like someone has removed my larger station wagon motor and replaced it with the engine of a very small scooter.

Or that's the way I'm explaining this loss of forward motion. 

Slowly, slowly ... let's see how it goes.

Leonie, thank you for the music too.