Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My summer with Natalia

It started by chance, while looking for alternative and solutions for the shelves crisis.
I found the podcast of an Italian radio program, "Ad Alta Voce" ( Out aloud); it broadcasts 5 days a week and it's all in the title: novels are read out aloud. When I subscribed to the podcast, they were halfway through Carlo Cassola's "La ragazza di Bube" (Bube's girl), read by Alessandro Benvenuti.

"La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novels you read at school. No, let me rephrase that: "La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novel you're made to read and write a paper about it.
And that's what I did: I read it and dutifully wrote a paper highlighting the main topics, the style of the writer, the historical background, etc. etc. I also dutifully avoided voicing my own opinion, because that wasn't requested, so my teacher could only suspect (if she ever cared) that I found this novel a terrible bore and the 2 main characters, Mara and Bube, quite insufferable.

So, no big surprise that, when I subscribed to the podcast, I assumed I was going to drop out of it very soon. Oddly though I didn't. I believe it's all because of Benvenuti: he's an amazing actor and his voice brought the story alive. I quickly caught up with the previous episode and every day I'd scroll the episode list to see if any update on the podcast was coming up.

Oh no, time didn't change me that much: the novel is still a terrible bore and I still find Mara and Bube insufferable.
But the podcast stuck with me. I retrieved old episodes, I kept up with new novels being broadcasted.
And then on the evening of my birthday I had some catch up to do, having been away for a small concert marathon, between Ferrara and Milano.

The kitchen window was open, kids were screaming in the street, I had just started chopping aubergines for dinner when Sandra Toffolatti started reading of "Voices of the evening" by Natalia Ginzburg.

None of my teachers at school deemed Natalia Ginzburg worth more than reading some bits and pieces contained in the Italian literature manual. I didn't have to memorize date and place of birth and death and I wasn't even asked to write a report about her. I knew about her life and her writing of course, but she just skirted on the edges of my reading, never too close to take a honest look at. And I wonder why: from the first few sentences I was hooked to the novel.

It's so well written, minimalist, many things left unwritten, many other described to the smallest details. The name, the prose, everything reminded me of my grandparents village. I enjoyed it so so much, I was sad when it finished. But the bittersweetness lasted the time of the weekend, as on Monday "The Little Virtues" started. Too much of a coincidence, right? A small research and it turns out Natalia Ginzburg was born one century ago and there was going to be a special series of "Ad Alta Voce" in her honor. 
After "Valentino", it's now the turn of "Family sayings".
It's become a sort of habit for me. I listen to it in the late afternoon, early evening: I might be lazying on the armchair, knitting, sitting on the small balcony of my bedroom, or doing some chores around the flat. I just know, I just feel it's time to listen to my daily dose of Ginzburg's prose and I happily tune in.
At that point, whatever I was doing falls into the background, most of the time I end up sitting on the floor, hugging my knees and staring at a vague spot on the floor, next to the mobile.
When the music of the piano signals the end of the episode, I regret it's over already, wishing it could have lasted 10 more minutes. Why do they have to make episode so short anyway?
But then I also wish episode could be 10 minutes shorter too, so that the reading would span for a longer number of days.
But "Family sayings" will wrap up next week and I haven't checked if some other works of Natalia will be read. Yet I know the moment they stop and Natalia will be gone, so will be my summer and I'm not ready to let go any of them.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

One in, one out

When I moved back to Torino, one of the things I was most looking forward was the notion of my own library being finally reunited. No more books scattered around, no more digging through the shelves for a volume that is in the other city. No. Just one single and hopefully organized collection.

My dreams of shelves glory crashed almost immediately, due to a sudden and sad realization: space is not something one can ignore.
What happened is that I brought all my books back from Milano to Torino and added them to the one I already had in the flat.
Then I went down to the basement and got out the boxes of book I put there. Ok, shelves are starting to look a bit packed.
Then I went to my parents flat and brought back from there the ones I left there at different stages of my like. My mum also managed to sneak in some extra books for good measure. Ok, shelves do look way too packed, can I stack layers of book one on top of the other?
Then I discovered also my sister had books of mine in her flat and she was very keen to give them back to me, as she's running out of space too.
At that point there was only one thing to do: I went to Ikea and bought extra shelves to add on top of my book case.

Now got one shelf and half of free space, but I can't feel relaxed. It's obvious to me that, by my reading and shopping standard, it's a very tiny space. It can't last forever, but I need it to last as long as possible.
I decided to patch things up: I am trying to listen to audiobooks, reading more e-books (audiobooks are a bit more successful than e-books at the moment), going to the library.
I'm also trying to do something I've never been very good at: selling books.

As a Austen-esque Miyagi-san, I embraced a new mantra: "one in, one out". For every book I buy, one book has to be sold. For every new book I put on the shelves, an old one has to be taken off them. And possibly not be put on the bedside table or somewhere else in the flat.

So far it's going pretty well, I've got a certain number of books that, to be honest, I haven't reopened once since I finished reading them the first time. Also I've found out that I'm becoming slightly less attached to things. I'm less worried than in the past of the risk of becoming that kind of hoarder you see in TV shows, even though there are still some exceptions. For example, I still haven't decided whether the books I got for my birthday should count. And I decided that the volume of "Harry Potter and the cursed child" I somehow bought last week while waiting for the train is not really going to count. How come? Magic!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Here, there and return

Almost 3 months have passed and well, apparently there is still some soul reading the lines I wrote  on the blog.
What happened in the meantime?
Well, first and foremost I'm still alive, which should never be taken for granted, especially considering how shitty 2016 is turning out to be.
I let May pass anonymously, doing pretty much the same things I did in April. Then I went on holiday.
Now that my blood pressure is 2 floors below, seeking solace in the basement, and the fan is helping but only just about, it seems weird to remember that just few weeks ago people were complaining about the crappy weather at the beginning of June, and how rainy and cold it was.
When this was happening, I was enjoying the nice and warm weather of Ireland.

Somewhere, in the Burren

I dropped in what was probably the longest spell of good weather of the past years. It rained only one morning and I didn't care much about it because I spent it lazing on the sofa and reading. But for the rest of the time the sun was shining on me as I walked up and down in the Burren and when I put my feet in the ocean... just to retreat quickly, because it doesn't matter how lovely the weather can be: the ocean is still the ocean, i.e. very cold.

The time flew quickly but gently: many cups of tea, lots of poetry, chatting, music, cloud-tree-rock-spotting. Around the Burren you can find shapes of about everything: dogs, rabbits, scary people, thinking people, noses and hands, ships and planes. 
I noted down lots of name, titles, quotes that are still waiting to be organized and will probably remain so for another 6 months.

I stocked up on books at Charley Byrne's and stumbled by pure chance on a knitting meet up. It feels like a lifetime ago. I guess this bad feeling has to do with the fact that, after 10 days of blissful, fruitful laziness, I went back to work.

From Ireland I went to California without stopping in Torino first: 2 weeks away from home, with nice weather, lots of music shopping I didn't really taken into account, so that when it was time to head back to Italy, in between books, CDs and vinyls I looked (again) as I was moving my whole house content on the red casket on wheel, otherwise known as my suitcase.

What else? Oh yeah, I turned blue. Well my hair did turn blue, more or less the shade of this Hawaiian punch: 

Sunday, 8 May 2016



Most of what makes life is routine. Utterly boring routine. As much as we all like to think and dream, routine is our life and we get used to it incredibly well, in spite of that little voice we can sometimes hear whispering from the back of our mind: "This is just like the Matrix, when it was one single movie and you think it was cool, only to find out it spiraled out into a trilogy and you were left wondering what the hell is Monica Bellucci doing there. You know that, as much as there is more and better stuff in world cinematography than the Matrix, there is more in life than this routine, so go out and get it!"
Pity most of the time the voice is muted by the need to start the washing machine, or ironing or paying bills or, even worse, going to work.

Today was meant to be yet another routine Sunday: bit of cleaning, bit of crosswords, reading, buying flowers, sitting on the armchair thinking of sorting out the wardrobe. Usual. But then I remembered there was a street fair not far from my flat and thought it was some good chance to find flowers for the kitchen there: only 2 hours after deciding to go, I was ready, which is by itself an amazing achievement for me, something that should have made me notice I was quite resolutely stepping out of routine.

I walked through the street fair, dodging political activists trying to flood me with their leaflets (mayoral election are approaching quickly) while accepting the kebab and pizza place menus, looked at the shops and the market stalls. There's a shop, right on the corner of the square. I walked by it twice last week, but at odd times so this was my first chance to have a look inside. I was curios because it's hard to label: from the outside it looked like a gift shop mashed together with a record shop. It's an odd mix, could it truly be so?
I opened the door, stepped in and... yeah, "L'emporia di Pinin" (Pinin's Emporium, what's not to like in a shop with such a cool name?) is a gift shop mashed together with a record shop.
I started browsing and before even reaching letter B in the stacks I already found out what I wanted.
I took the record out and had a look at the rest of the shop.

The guy sitting next to the records put some music on (to cover the atrocities played outside) and when I reached the counter he asked me why I picked that specific record.

"Oh, I like the Autumn Defense a lot"
And so it started a conversation with him, and the other 2 shopkeepers about music, Autumn Defense and Wilco, Wilco's gigs of the past and the future.

I left with best wishes of enjoying the record and I walked home almost as fast as a London commuter. I put the record on and listened to it twice. It's a neat album and the proof that I might not escape it wholly but I can still give routine a run for its money every now and then.

Most of the time I feel a bit of an alien when I talk about music: I try to stick to the usual suspects (my sis, Ciccio, Francesco...) because I know that they will not look at me as if I've grown a second head overnight when I talk about my favorite artists.
If I chat with a colleague or a stranger (sometimes the 2 categories overlaps, at least music-wise), it's a painful experience that can be sum up as follows: Virgi tries to explain the music she likes by naming some bands, person stares blankly at Virgi, Virgi explains the genre, "Is it something like Swedish House Mafia?", Virgi sobs in one corner.
Today nothing like this happened. Routine was broken and it might look a very tiny, unimpressive change in the routine: but it felt huge to me; it relieved me from some musical loneliness, so to speak, and gave me a new refuge from routine, at a walking distance from home.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

March in few lines

The blog laid abandoned, uncared for and unvisited for more than a month.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been to London, saw Glen Hansard’s gig, changed hair colour twice and moved back to Torino definitely (well, as definitely as my movings, or pilgrimage around Europe can be).

And now I’ll have to decide what to do with the blog: as usual, winter has been harsh to my mood, and I feel as if I don’t really have much to say. Blogger’s block?

Perhaps, because at the same time, my mails are flourishing. Some days I’m just tempted to go and close the blog, some other times I convince myself that I just need a quite moment to gather my idea and start again. I guess we’ll discover it soon enough.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

chaos, redux

I had packed everything I needed to move. Midway through packing I looked around me and reassured myself that yes, it was all chaos around me, but chaos would be gone once I finished packing. Looking back, I'm not sure what I was thinking. Was I even thinking? Maybe I was simply deluding myself.

Nothing is created or destroyed, but merely transformed, right? In my case, it's better to say that "chaos is created, yet cannot be destroyed but merely boxed and moved".

So the moving happened last Sunday. I obviously had to pick the day with the heaviest amount of rain of the last 2 months, as my own personal implementation of Murphy's law.

In a Miyagi-like move, boxes out boxes in, in the early afternoon the chaos had moved to Torino.
It was somehow neatly hidden in boxes and bags and then one hour later it was scattered all around the flat.

Ah, it feels good to see things don't really change: I reckoned that as long as I made enough space for me to lay on the bed, dug a small path to reach the kitchen and the bathroom and have enough room to open and close the entrance door I was going to be fine.
And since I managed to do all of the above, I felt that order could still wait a little. After all, I suspect chaos loves company.

Monday, 22 February 2016


Thursday night finds me fully awake around 11. I manage to fall asleep at 3 in the morning. I wake up 5 hours later, feeling like a zombie.
Friday night finds me in bed by 11. I'm just too tired.
Saturday morning and my eyes are wide open by 5:30. I feel and look like a zombie.
Internal clock, seriously, WTF?

Anyway, no time to waste on eye bags and general feeling of unwell being cause Saturday is the day. I'm packing! To avoid any possible danger of procrastination, I do the only thing I know to force me to get started for real. I drop almost everything I got in the bedroom on the bed and around it.

Simple as that: if I want to sleep, well I need to pack.
And that's what I did: put some music on and set to work for the whole day. I still have a "couple of things" that needs to be packed away but I still got 5 days before panicking officially and, most important of all, I cleared the bed in time to crash on it in the evening.

It's satisfying to see chaos reducing little by little. And to see the bed resurface too (by 3 in the afternoon my intake of coffee was spiraling out of control).
The house is messy, but chaos is gone from the bedroom, or so it'd seem.
Because what I did was boxing my chaos in some boxes, so that it can be easily transported into a different place where it will be explode onto my face the moment I tear open the first box.

And I apparently forgot to mention (till now) of the chaos that is having a limbo party in the leaving room. Oh well, I still got 5 days (well, evening) to sort it all out.
Shit. While typing I realized I only got 4 evening as I'm taking the train back to Torino on Friday.