Thursday, 30 October 2014

Two songs for Italy, 2014September

September in Senigallia

Studying a map of Italy, recognising so many of the names:
Fiesole, Pavia, Urbisaglia, Canesa in Puglia...
and seeing each name I feel again
the heat of summer sun on my glad skin
or the golden sunset on the sandstone buildings
that curve with the slow river towards the sea
(that's Senigallia)
And I strain to bring together
this paper on my knee
and the bright memories.
My husband likes maps: they tell him things like
which direction he should go
Anyway, he always works out where North is...
But I remember the thin bricks in the sixteenth-century walls
and the colour of the plaster or the painted shutters
and where the sun is setting

30 October 2014

Eating in Italy...

The lentils were lovely: almost, you might say,
cooked to perfection
with onion and garlic in fresh olive oil
seasoned with bay leaves and parsley.
The leeks had been steamed;
they were young, slim and tender
resembling their cousins in Turkey
[see elsewhere for "leeks from the Turkish west coast"]
(today's were from Puglia).
For colour, there were oval tomatoes
(small and tangy)
and all placed on a bed of brown lentils
bathed in warm oil
Ah Epicurus, how we appreciate
your take on life...

Pausing in Puglia

There never seems enough time. Hello friends, David and I are now in Puglia, on Italy's heel, in a delightful spot just outside Bari. We have brought our boat, Stroemhella, here for the winter (September 2014 until April 2015) and are tied up on a spacious pontoon, in between a Beneteau from Poole (owned by Simon and Michaela) and a Jeanneau from Roma, owned by now-retired Italian admiral, Angelo. Wonderful neighbours. I'm not sure how long we shall have their company (and there are also temporary visits from French, Germans and Luxembougeois!) but I think we shall turn out to be the only live-aboards here during the post-Christmas months.
Right now every day has been packed with events! We brought the boat down in September and then spent our two weeks in England (see previous blog). After celebrating Daniel's 40th birthday in The Hague, we flew direct to Bari, to be greeted by warm air and sweet sunlight. On the whole it has been warm here, but there have also been some pretty chilly mornings and evenings. And quite a lot of rain (of a drenching nature!)
Last week we went to Canosa in Puglia (fleeing the forecast storms on the Adriatic coast) and had an exciting time become archaeologists. We visited underground burial tombs and splendid sites where Christian churches had been built upon former Roman temples, in their turn constrcuted upon pagan temples. Some of the objects that had been dug up were stunning: unforgettable urns, topped by Nike-like figures, and some beautiful Corinthian capitals with the head of a woman, perhaps the goddess Juno; I have never seen anything like this before. See pix on my Facebook page.
Not only are we revelling in such ancient delights (did I mention the beautiful mosaics in the underground section beneath the cathedral in Bari?) but I should not fail to mention the food...
Just round the corner from our marina, is a branch of the wondrous Italian firm Eataly. It is a vast emporium, boasting two floors the lenght of several ballrooms, where row upon row of fresh foodstuffs are on display (to buy, of course) including what I calculate are over fifty varieties of golden pasta... (Today I must go and buy some farfalle, the butterfly-shaped pasta, for our young visitor Sally-Anne who is coming for supper tomorrow. With her parents from the boat next door, Cecilia from Poole.)
Apart from the delights of Eataly, there is a nearby Penny Market for those days when we feel a little impecunious, and of course the ubiquitous pizzeria (we had a delicious pizza in Bari near the cathedral, made in a forno a legno, a wood-fired oven). To die for, as they say... And not expensive. The pizza crust here in Bari is very thin, like in Rome; in Naples it is much thicker, a different concept!
Next week I go to Napoli and join a fellow translator, like me English educated but longtime resident of Amsterdam, for a couple of days drooling round the museums there.
It seems to me,  life is becoming become more and more full of things to do as I grow older. Not what I had expected!
David and I have also joined the next-door Sports Centre and for this needed a certificate of good health, so we popped into a nearby medical health centre and had all sorts of exciting things performed on us, like blood pressure and heart condition checked. Apparently all was well, and we now have our papers to take part in non-competitive sports. There seems to be a very good keep-fit and stretch class twice a week and I have also paid for 24 swims between now and mid-June!
We take two months out (at least, I do) between 19 November when I train slowly north to Torino (for the Film Festival) and about mid February when I return to the boat after a month in Amsterdam followed by almost a month in Brunei with Judy and family.
Am planning a visit to Eleni in Greece towards the end of Febraury.

Does all this tripping around keep me fit? Certainly. I must confess, I do get tired and need a day to recover after a long trip. And I often sleep 10 hours. Very pleasant sleeping here on the boat, usually rocking gently and very quiet.
I do not think about another way of life, since this is how it is right now, and it is good. There are, of course, not-so-delightful aspects, but I guess it exercises my ingenuity trying to solve problems, such as how to wash clothes (no facilities in the marina here). On the other hand, excellent shower facilities, roomy and plentiful hot water. Roundabouts and swings?

What else? My Italian lessons: via Daniela at the Sports Centre next door, was introduced to her boyfriend, Andrea, a law graduate, who has turned out to be a superb teacher for me, full of cultural knowledge and a good grammatical understanding; so we have great lessons, sometimes using an I-pad with pictures which I then discuss in Italian. All very entertaing and leerzaam!

Bright days: we walk fast along the seafront (part of the keep-fit programme!) sometimes enjoying a gelato (artiginale of course) that is, real icecream; and we watch the light changing on the sea, the clouds moving and rearranging thier shapes, the sunset over the water, the lights emerging on the distant ferries. Then it grows quiet. I am very happy here,

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Fortnight in autumnal England

Almost time to leave ... we have had a wonderful two weeks here. A bit of a rush, as ever, but in between the trains and undergrounds, lots of quiet moments, splendid meals with friends, and golden walks along sun-filled streets.
The itinerary for me was: plane to Luton and then train to St Albans, where stayed with Gill & Tom for a few days and hopped down to London to see nephew Richard and family: splendid Sunday lunch cooked by a very busy Anna (thank you Anna, it was delicious!) and musical performances from my great-nephew and nieces, Oscar on the piano, Freya on the clarinet and Runa on the violin, back to St Albans and more scrumptious food (and a red wine from Puglia, more of this later... ) then rather swift visit to friends Gill & Ivan in Clapham, south London, coach from Victoria to Oxford (where David joined me), and we spent a few glorious days with Matteo and Alexandra and their two daughters, Amanda and Violetta. The beech trees golden in the sunlight, the house on the towpath with ducks and geese abounding on the waters just outside. Went to exhibition in the Ashmolean (and lunch in the rooftop restaurant) and I visited my old college, St Annes, and presented them with a couple of books I've recently translated and walked back along Parks Road and into Blackwells bookshop, then inside Balliol full of flowers in the front quad, getting a feeling that some things have scarcely changed though the skyline has different dreaming spires...
By train to Winchester, where wonerful space and peace, even though torrential rains arrived on our first day there. But such a graceful house, wonderful paintings on the walls and soft carpets underfoot and, as ever at Jenny's, food that is not only delicious and a joy to behold on the festive board, but also, as Gaenor would say "so GOOD for you". Swiss friend of fifty years' standing, Vreni, arrived as prearranged, and Jenny's daughter Elizabeth and darling small grandson Barney were there too. Great merriment. Thence back to St Albans pausing in London to have coffee with niece Rachel (lovely to see her after several years) and lunch with Giancarlo whom we know from Torino days (we were there 2006 to 2010, it's already begins to feel long since...). I took a coach from St Alban's to Woodside Park near High Barnet to see old friends Debbie and Jeff from our Didsbury days, talked about words (!) and life. Debbie is a writer and helps/ed me with my own writing.
On out last day in St Albans we visited nephew and neice David & Conny, and I walked up the hill from their house to the huge abbey church of St Albans and filled my spirit with openness and quiet history. And thence to Godalming where we are spending the final few days.
Have just visited the National Trust property, Petworth House (Sussex) and rolling Capablity Brown park and gardens.
Drooled round the house, marvelling at the painting collection.
Wonderful to see Turners for real (noted the impasto) and rows of Van Dyck, Lely, Gainsborough, and the occasional gem by Rogier van der Weyden, Bosch or Hobbema...
Too much for one brief visit.
I feel I have been eating and drinking too much ... although it has all been delicious. Probably I haven't don enough walks and hilly climbs. Must remedy this.
Otherwise it has all been most exhilirating, and my head is full of colour and a minimum of raucous background! I can still hear the echo of my singing in Troia cathedral, in Italy.
Welcome autumn, such rich greens here in the south of England and leaves of brilliant burning red. The colours are strong and the hillside slopes stretch up into huge cloud-filled skies where today we saw two brilliant rainbows.
Tomorrow back to Amsterdam.