Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Reality, 250 mt away

I'm looking for a new flat to move into. Good part of my family either laughs or wonders at the notion that, after spending almost an year refurbishing my current flat, I am looking forward starting the cycle from scratch.

I have a full list of requirements, first and foremost location. I don't want to move too far away from my neighbourhood. I like it a lot. It's close to green areas, city centre is barely 10 minutes away. Houses were build in a time where building regulations were not planned with Hobbits in mind, so none of my friends can reach the ceiling if they stretch their arms.
Above all, I love the feeling of belonging in this small "village".
Yeah, we got the Chinese hairdresser, the Egyptian kebab, the Romanian grocery store, but it still feels like a village.
There are two places in 300 meter span you can play boules, people will chat with you in the shops, in the supermarket, at the bus stop. I don't know that many people, yet I feel I know them all. I "know" the people I'll meet in my daily routine, the women at the supermarket cashier, the owner of the kids bookshop downstairs, the girl of the tattoo parlour across the street. I think it's a good life the one I'm building in this small area of my hometown: a life that moves on, alongside the lives on many other fellow humans. People get married, people split up, somebody has a baby, somebody else passes away. Life being life, essentially.

I'm on holiday right now. Trying, as much as possible, to unplug from reality, this morning I felt I was in a good spot, slowly buy surely reaching my goal. First time I checked the mobile in the whole day I'm way into the afternoon, that moment it's too late for coffee and too early for spritz.
There's a message from mum. Unconnected news from home, weather report and then a news.
"There was a femicide in the street you live."
And reality crashed back in.
I don't know anything about this woman. I know that she was beaten to death by her husband and that her husband enjoyed playing chess. I know her name and age, but I don't know what she looked like
Did I ever bumped into her on the queue at the pharmacy, at the supermarket or the post office? Did I cross her path on my way back from my morning run or my walk routine to my parents' place?

I know that she lived barely 250 mt away from me, but I don't know whether she felt safe as I do in my small village within a big city.

I know that she will become a number in our general statistics on women killings, I can foresee the comments and opinion about her and her murderer, but I don't know how the life of her family will be from now on.
I know it's such a common occurrence nowadays that the news will be reported blandly and people will move on.
Sometimes I wish I could forget what I know, because it'd be so much easier. It's hard to avoid uttter dismay and despair towards the current situation in Italy and towards mankind, it'd be simpler to give into resignation. But 250 mt away from me lived a woman that I didn't know: I just know she deserved much more than what she got in the end, and I know nobody should never ever forget it.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

One in, one out - Part II

Sometimes (most of the times, actually) movies shouldn't have a sequel: you start well, with a fairly decent movie, with normally a baddie that is more interesting than the main character and then you find yourself, 20-30 years down the line starring in a movie with some silly title like "It's too hard to die, so I'll settle for some Vodafone ads, thank you".

Without having to wait 20 years, I can report about the state of my minimalist approach to the book shelves.
The project is still ongoing, even though I wonder why, given I'm the best and worse sabotateur of my own plans.

Just like any sequel movies, the beginning of chapter 2 starts in a presumably unconsequential way: grey sky, rain drizzling down gently, our heroine is in Vienna. Life goes on as usual, and I've used a business trip as a valid excuse to try out Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel and visit a beautiful exhibition at Albertina on Pointillism.
The exhibition is so beautiful, that after thinking over it for a day, I’ve decided to head back to Albertina and buy the catalogue of the exhibition. Damn. It’s heavy.

Culture weighs tons. But the book is so nice, that I decide that yes, sod it, I want it, I’ll buy it.
Any sense of guilt of adding up to my collection is soothed by the notion that, before leaving home, I had already prepared a bag with 7 books to be sold. Seven books to be sold minus 1 book I was about to buy equals 6 books allowance.

I sold them yesterday: 7 books equals 16 euro.
I felt pleased with myself. "See Virgi? It's not so hard, is it?"
I felt relaxed: 7 books out, equals 16 euro and a +6 books in tolerance. I reasoned that with some well aimed lending from my sister's bookcase, 6 could be the right number to get until Christmas.

I was thinking all of this, walking in the city center, enjoying the sunshine when catastrophe hit. The main shopping street of Torino was full of book stands. I somehow forgot that Portici di Carta was planned for this weekend.

It’s an event where bookshops put stands under the colonnade of one of the main street of the city center. New books, used books, antique books. Basically a strip of temptations leading me to perdition and to the metro station.

“I can do it, I can do it. These are old new books, I can buy them in bookshops as well, no point in getting them here”. The first 200 meters were easy, but then the used books sections started and…

And I happened to see a 1937 edition of short stories by Stefan Zweig, hailed by the editor as the most interesting voice coming from the German speaking areas of Europe. It’s a bit surreal, thinking that in a couple of years things would take a turn for the worse in Austria and probably by then Zweig’s volume had already disappeared from Italian shelves, given the ’38 racial laws that were put in place by Italy.

It was just 5 euro, how could I leave it there? I didn’t obviously.
7 books minus 2 books equals 5 books and 11 euro. That’s ok, I reassured myself, just keep walking.
The end. 
nd credits roll. People leave the cinema commenting on the poorness of the sequel.
In doing so, however, they miss the bonus scene in the middle of the credits.

I knew it was going to happen. I knew that my will is as strong as a melting ice-cream, but did that stop me? No! 
7 books in the end equals to 1 book allowance and a -2 euro final balance. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The concerts planner

This year has been quite a shitty one.
If you trust old sayings, it's because 2016 was born with the misfortune of being a leap year.
Part of me thinks that I can’t discriminate an year over its divisibility by 4.
However I've already lived through a pretty good number of leap years to know that 2016 is the typical overachiever, overdoing it just to show off.

Even so, there's been some good things too.
This year I printed 2 blank calendar templates, one for the office and one for home and I started noting down gigs.
I started to write down the name of the artist on the day I was going to the concert: at the beginning of the year I already had a couple of gigs lined up, gigs that I still have to see (Francesco and I were quite keen at getting our hands on tickets for Wilco).

The gig-plan is the only agenda I’ve been keeping up to date in the past 9 months. I’ve missed appointments because I wrote them down at the wrong time, on the wrong day, at the wrong address.
Or a random combination of the 3 wrongs above. And guess what? When it comes to meeting, 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but more likely some awkward conversatio on the phone, apologising for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the gig agenda is still keeping up. So far it suffered only one set back, in July. On the 13th I was supposed to go to Carroponte to watch Counting Crows playing. Adri & Fra had taken a day off well in advance, "parked" the kids at the grandparents, we were all set. Then a monsoon decided to fall over the area that hosts the Carroponte and the concert was cancelled only one hour to go. I think that in a couple of years the 3 of us will be able to talk about it without swearing. I think...

It's not just the concerts I enjoy. Sure the music is the main thing, but there are other parts of going to concerts. The first one is "going": in the last two years I've been to only one concert in Torino, all the other gigs have been somewhere else, scattered around Italy and Europe. Travelling is always mind-opening, even if only for a couple of days.
And then there's the people. Sure, at concerts I meet way too often people that spend their time on Facebook, taking pictures and videos (while I am singing murdering the song just one row behind them, I can't imagine the sound of those videos), leaving in the middle of a song to fetch a beer (yeah, when it comes to concert, I'm an orthodox and a snob). But then I've also met cool people. People that I might or not meet again, but that I formed a bond with thanks to the songs, or the mosquitos trying to eat us alive in Milan. People that weren't even at the concert but I happened upon in my wandering the day after and spent some good time talking about music.

Now October is starting and while the year starts accelerating towards the Christmas break, I'm getting ready for the next big round of concerts. Five, or maybe six of them, depending on whether the magic of the fairy ticket works out as I hope.

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.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Order, plans and other failures

In two weekends time, my brother in law, a wonderful man that we affectionally call "he who closes the coffee machine so tight that not even the Hulk will ever be able to open it again", is going to come and help me moving all my stuff back to Torino. Reason why next weekend I'm staying in Milano to pack the above mentioned stuff. If I just have a brief look around my flat, I can only shudder, close my eyes and hope for the best.

Up to few days ago, I felt rather confident: I'm going to use one day to pack everything and spend the rest of the weekend resting or meeting with the few friends I got in Milan. But then, yesterday night I had the insane idea of starting packing a box and now I'm not so sure 2 days will be enough.

First of all, if thieves were to visit my apartment tomorrow while I'm at work, I wouldn't probably notice the difference. I got things scattered all over the place: documents, photos, books, DVDs, mismatched pair of shoes (I can understand mixing socks, but shoes? Seriously???), an amount of cables that could be probably wrapped twice around the Equator line. And also: plug adapter, inflatable dress hanger (I knew I had bought them! Wonder how they ended behind the summer shoes though), an amount of pens to put any stationery shop to shame, newspaper clippings, screwdrivers and paper clips... Where do all these things come from?! Was it me amassing them over time?!

At this point I should have just taken a big bag and started throwing stuff away. I didn't so now, I have no place to sit on the sofa, and just some tiny little space on the desk to place the MacBook. All this chaos is slightly driving me mad(der than usual), but somehow I find denial much more relaxing. But this evening is completely different: I'm focused! I'm determined! Nothing will stop me and nothing will distract me! Oh look what I found!

The baby Groot amigurumi! I thought I lost it! Oh, you see, it's not complete, it still misses the smile, the arms, well the branches, and I need to find a small vase to put it in. Well arms are a small little thing, it shouldn't take me too long and I'm pretty sure there is some small box or vase around this mess I can use. I think I can first finish the amigurumi and then take care of less urgent task, like putting my house and life back in order.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Sanremo week

The question is now how to describe to non-Italians what the Festival of Sanremo is. The big issue here is why: why is the festival still a thing and why should I bother trying to make any sense out of it?
Well, let's define it first and move to the finer details later on.

You don't really have to call it with its complete name "Festival delle musica italiana di Sanremo", Sanremo will do: everybody knows what you're referring to with that name. It's a week long competition that has been running for 66 years: journalists, photographers, pseudo-celebrities and singers flock to the town and it feels the whole nation has fall into a sick z-version of Groundhog Day. Everyday is the same: non-stop talking of the festival, tv, newspaper and so on talking about the songs, singers, etc.
Most of the song are hopelessly bad, it's a mashup of the worse of average dumb television.
It's more a marathon than a music show: it runs way over midnight and it's followed by an  after festival show that runs until... I don't know, I never watched it, but I know it exists.
It feels impossible to escape it. But at the same time is extremely easy, cause switching the TV off is more than enough to cut more than half the pain away.

So far I watched only 5 minutes of the festival, when Elio e le storie tese were playing. Francesca texted me when they finally made it to the stage and when the song was over I turned the TV off and went to sleep, as it was quite late already.
I am a snob when it comes to music and guess what? I'm perfectly fine with it.

The week of Sanremo means that I watch even less TV than usual and spend more time doing other things. This year I've been writing a lot of mails, listened to music and discovered poetry.
The big final is on Saturday, but I'll be in Torino where I don't even have a TV set to keep off.
In the past I would make an effort to read some news about it, because it was impossible to avoid the office chit-chat about it. But since I don't speak to anybody at work, it felt right to not bother at all and spend my time otherwise.

I could have started packing my stuff, since end of month is going to be here soon and then I'll have to move all my stuff to Torino. But I thought spending 32 minutes listening to Dave Matthews Band with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones would be much much better:

And at that point it was too late to pack, but look! I still got some spare 23 minutes for one more song:

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Inside out

Well, what should I do with you, neglected blog of mine?
Pretty you up a little? Add some nice widget to your layout perhaps? Would that make you happy?

(Am I really talking to my blog?!?)

The problem is that I should be prepared: by now I should know that January and February are always tough months for me. There is something about the start of the new year, the gloomy winter, the lack of real changes in my life that, combined with my inclination towards depression, should make a philharmonic orchestra of alarm bells go off in my brain.
I should know that, between the end of January and beginning of February, I'm finding everything is just harder: waking up, getting up, going to work, working, coming back from work. It's like having to carry an extra weight with me the whole time, and I already have my never-budging overweight to carry around!
Sadness takes old of every single aspect of my life and it's very tiring. I should remember how bad this feels, year after year, yet January comes and I'm taken completely by surprise, as if the pain in the past didn't leave any warning or reminder.

One thing has changed this year though. I can't shield the external world from it. I got to the point of being so tired that I don't have the energy to pretend to be ok. If my face is not enough proof of it, my words will be.

The only thing that is probably saving me right now is that for good part of my working week, I barely talk with people. But people should really learn to not say anything more than "hello". After hello, I normally go for banal sentences, safe and neutral territory.

But lots of people around me are completely devoid of this basic notion and they have to go and ask me "How are you? What's that face?"
At that point my brain freezes for a split second.
In an "Inside Out"-like scenario, I can picture Sensible trying to input an answer that can be polite and believable at the same time. But just little bit behind her, here comes Brass pushing over Honesty with a bit too much of strength so that I unload on the poor person who asked the question a whole speech on the unfairness of life and universe.
Sensible shakes her head, while Brass looks, well, brassy.
In the meantime, Wonder wonders when Sarcasm got so sarcastic.
Everything is so messed up that even Wisdom goes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Active laziness

I bought a magnet in Berlin with a green Ampelmann. I put it on the fridge once back home and didn't think about it very much afterwards.
Weeks became months, I put some more magnets on the fridge: the places I lived in the past years had, most of the times, fitted refrigerators, so now I'm making up for lost time and cluttering the fridge.

scapa travaj

Then my sister posted a Oscar Wilde's quote, stating that "hard work is simply the refuge of people who have nothing to do."

The moment I read it, fate wanted me to be standing in the kitchen, in front of the fridge.

The second magnet in the picture is a Piedmont dialect saying "scapa travai che mi i rivo" which translates roughly as "runaway, work, as I'm arriving" and it's used when talking about lazy people. The little green man looks like he's the one running away: maybe from work, who knows.

I have a pretty heavy lazy streak in me, and it wasn't until few years ago I've come to fully appreciate, respect and love it. I've grown up with the notion that you need to work, earn your living honestly, etc.
All nice and very good concepts and I always try my best to live up to them. But on the other hand, laziness is my shelter against the bad side of all this living responsibly. Responsible for whom or what anyway?

Having to come to terms with the unfairness of the system and its double standards,  the inability to break free from all of this... let's just say that adds frustration and dullness to life.
Nothing worse than being bored and let's face it, a 9 to 6 office job is very likely to become boring.
But being the responsible person (at work at least) described above, I go on working, while waiting for the time I can be lazy again.

When I'm lazy, I'm surely not that productive according to our modern world standard, but I'm not bored. It's thanks to my being so good at being lazy that I can indulge in doing the things I love, like reading, listening to music, knitting, or laying on the sofa and staring at the ceiling while I repeat myself "right, time to get up and do something". Nothing sweeter then hear my brain replying to itself: "Sure, I will get up, just give me five more minutes."

Monday, 18 January 2016

weaving through the weekend

Second weekend in a row in Milan equals being close to mental breakdown.
Luckily for me, I am very proactive, so I had my mental breakdown during the week.
This left me with lots of free time to spare on Saturday and Sunday to go on a weaving class.

I've been thinking about learning how to weave for some times now, but never managed to enroll in any class. For a split moment in time I thought of resorting to YouTube clips, but getting a loom just to follow videos on YouTube didn't seem the smartest idea I ever had.

Then I thought of investing 3€ in a kids loom at Tiger, but it proved to be the most stressful thing I ever had to do last year, after queueing at the tax office in Milan.

End of last year, I just decided to find a course and go for it.
It's been a funny weekend: it was a very small workshop, just 2 students. So we had a lot of undivided time and attention from the teacher; in spite of my inability of following rules and patterns as straight as I should, I didn't mess my work up so badly and I managed to bring home some results too!

Now I get a sampler that can also work as a scarf, once I get the time to wash it.
Oh, yeah, I also got a loom sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be used; at the end of the day, I don't have that many works in progress already, and I can't have more than one work in progress on the loom after all.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


The last time I spent a whole weekend in Milan was so long ago I had to go and check my calendar to see when I had no train tickets booked on Friday and Monday.
Turns out that aside day I was flying in and out of Italy I spent one Sunday in September.

It was a bit weird, because I'm not used to spend time in Milan any longer.
Right now I'm paying an outrageously high rent for a dorm that I use Monday to Friday and that I have stopped considering home long time ago. So waking up in it on Saturday morning felt a bit surreal. Damn: what am I going to do now? Ah, right! Breakfast! Even the most obvious thing looked difficult on Saturday morning. Things improved a little bit later on. I met with Eliana in the city center and we spent some time at the exhibition dedicated to Alfons Mucha. We chat a little bit more after the exhibition and then I returned home to face my flat.

Before going out, I had started putting order but, as it seems to happen every time I try to sort things out, I ended up with more chaos and mess surrounding me than when I started. Same thing happened this weekend. I look around the living room and it simply redefines the concept of "mess".

I guess I need to generate some mess at this point: in about 2 months and a half I'm going to leave the flat and return to live full time in Torino.
Isn't it a bit premature, starting packing so early? Yes and no, but mainly no.
First of all, it helps my mood: I really want to leave Milano and this flat, return to Torino, and the sooner the better, so starting to remove stuff from the house can only help me feel better.
Also, having been in the same flat for almost 4 years means I accumulated a lot of staff: books, records, DVDs, yarn, fabrics, photos, concert stub.
As I normally file my things with the method "quickly shove it into a drawer and close the drawer even faster than I opened it" things just piled up without logic behind. But now I need to put them into boxes, and I need to reorder them. Which is what I started doing on Saturday afternoon and kept doing for most part of today: at the moment I managed to pack the fan (it was still out, since last summer!!!),  bring one bag of clothes to charity, find some photos I thought to be lost during the last move and recover 5,02€ in coins.

Oh, I also managed to pack one box. Yep, a whole weekend and I packed one box.
To my defense I have to say I couldn't find the packing tape: it took me 2 hours on Saturday evening to locate it, it's unbelievable how things can easily disappear from view in a 1-bedroom flat. Still, I managed to pack one single box in a whole weekend.
I'm going to be in Milan next weekend too, but will be busy with a course, so no packing in sight.
With this speed, I fear I should have started packing 2 years ago; it might have even helped me with my bad mood.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

sponsored rant

Italian folklore says that on Epiphany, the Befana visits each households bringing small presents for good children and coal for misbehaved ones. She’s traditionally described as an old and ugly poor lady, poorly dressed and wearing broken shoes; because of it and of the fact she makes her deliveries flying with a broom, she kind of resembles a witch but she’s not exactly one.

There are a lot of small jokes on the day: girls and women, we jokingly wish the best to one another for our special day.
This morning, after waking up and taking my lazy time to get ready for the day I eventually went and checked my Twitter feed and spotted this sponsored tweet:

It’s retirement house, offering a lifetime 10% discount for booking done by end of January.
Maybe all these jokes about the Befana are getting too close to home for me.

So, Twitter, I know you’re a company, not a person and nobody working for you is reading this post. Still, please, let me reach out to you to explain you in a quite simplistic way what’s wrong with this situation.
First of all, a disclaimer: I normally find ads quite annoying when I bother to read them. Given I read them 1 time out of 10 when I’m normally distracted, I find them pointless as well, as they have no real impact on me.

As the old saying goes, Twitter, know thyself, or at least try to know your users. I understand that it’s really hard to tailor meaningful advertisement to people spread all over the globe, but this is getting crazier and crazier.
For example, I listen to the likes of R.E.M. and Wilco, The Frames and Mic Christopher, De Gregori and De Andrè, so Twitter, explains me why does my feed have to be plagued for the whole summer by ads of a stupid, horrible Italian pop song (that I won’t name here to avoid more visibility, but anybody in Italy knows about the song with the name of Italian and Thai capitals in the title).
And it’s not because I’m a snob. It’s just that, at least when it gets to music, I got high standards and you got shitty taste. Moreover after I told you times and times again that the tweet is offensive and irrelevant and appearing too many times, can’t you at least implement an “Avada Kedavra” option?

I live in Italy, so what’s the point of pointing me to Swedish or American companies? It’s not that I’m likely to get free delivery.
Then, if you think about Italian economical situation, you should know that I don’t and won’t need a retirement house, because I won’t retire: I won’t have the mean to retire and will probably need to continue working and working and working… provided I’ll still be employed by then.
Plus, not to be stingy… but 10% discount, seriously!?!? If they added a bicycle or a mattress to the offer I might be tempted to accept it.

This morning, however, I felt a bit of doubles creeping in. A retirement house? I first took a look at myself in the the mirror to make sure I was not in denial about my general appearance. At least from the outside, I’m not that old to be in need of that kind of care.
Dear Twitter, you might never have seen me live, so should I suspect that it’s something in my tweets that makes you think that I’m actually on the lookout for a reasonably priced retirement house? Thinking about it, don’t answer that.
Maybe just point me to some miraculous anti-wrinkle cream in the next ads, how about that?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

rediscovering Lussu

Reading Emilio Lussu’s “A Soldier on the Southern Front” is quite common in Italy. Even if you don’t, there’s a high chance you eventually read passages of it during literature classes in junior or high school.

The original title “Un anno sull’altipiano” translates as “A year on the High Plateau” and it refers to the Asiago Plateau, where World War I was fought. But somehow the new edition in English brought along a new title as well.

As for most of the books I read while growing up, I connect the book strongly to the cover. All black and white but for the title, there is a photo in the middle; 3 men, 3 soldiers in white mimetic uniforms, walking in line in a white landscape: snow on the ground, snow on the mountains, snow all around. Like many of the books I read back then, it gave me chills and feel cold.
First time I read this book, it was in a time of heavy reading of XX century Italian literature: Primo Levi, Mario Rigoni Stern, Fruttero & Lucentini and then Emilio Lussu.

Lussu’s book is the memoir of one of the years he spent fighting on the Italian front during World War I. There’s no boast of patriotic heroism, it’s a plain description of the horror and non sense of war and death in the trenches. It doesn't focus extremely on the carnage in its more visual details, but spends a lot of pages describing the utter lack of logic and moral sense behind it.

I remember the heavy sense of rage and injustice it caused in me. I was amazed and upset by the utter stupidity of war. Of that war.
Kids are not that jaded yet by the world and the people. There’s no resignation or cynicism formed yet, no idea on how to shield your conscience and guts to the blows of witnessing injustice and having no idea how or means to prevent it.
That's why, while reading “A Soldier on the Southern Front”, I got extremely angry because of many things, but above all because of General Leone. He’s one of the main characters: he’s absurd and completely crazy. Devoid of any feelings towards the human fellows that make his army, he has no problem at ordering them to run towards bloody and meaningless massacres, to battle that resoled in no gain and had no purpose in the bigger picture of the war, something that can be actually said of pretty much the whole of WWI.

General Leone is the most fitting example of incompetence, arrogance and lack of humanity of the people that decided and conducted that war. This butcher was inspired by a real person, general Giacinto Ferrero. He won several medals, and died (I presume quite peacefully and full of Catholic grace) at home, not in the massacres he ordered on the Alps and elsewhere.

I was dismayed: how? How can somebody like this man arrived at such a place of power? How could he be responsible for so many killings and yet not being held accountable for them? But at the end, he was just one of the many, not the first, not the last. And the truth is that the one that will eventually replace his is in no aspect any better than Leone, so that the men, Lussu writes, almost regret Leone being replaced.
On Monday I thought of just reading some passages while waiting for the veggies to be roasted and thought “why not? Why limit oneself to some quote from the book when I can re-read the whole of it?

And so I went on and re-read it: I found out I haven’t changed that much in all these years. The utter idiocy of men and war still drives me mad. I still had to fight the impulse of shouting profanities at the people depicted on the pages. Ugh, annoying, stupid military and politician elite.

Yet, I found out something I didn’t remember.
‘Have you ever been wounded?'
‘No, sir, general.’
‘What, you’ve been on the frontline for the entire war and you’ve never been wounded? Never?’
‘Never, general. Unless we want to consider a few flesh wounds that i’ve treated here in the battalion, without going to the hospital’
‘No, No, I’m talking about serious wounds, grave wounds.’
‘Never, general.’
‘That’s very odd. How do you explain that?’
‘Very odd indeed. Are you perhaps timorous?’
[…] The general changed the subject.
‘Do you love war?’

Or rather something I was maybe too immature to perceive back then: Lussu’s sarcasm, irony, his ability to make the reader feel how absurd wars are.
Reading Lussu again made me smile sometimes: it was a very bitter and sad smile, it didn’t make the sadness and heavy feeling go away, but added enjoyment to reading it. Can I smile and laugh of war? Yes, I think I can and I should, as it proves a good defence against desperation and being upset.
What comes out from Lussu's words is a collection of surreal people and situations and complete idiocy: I think a lot of it would fit well in some Monty Python's sketches. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

night at the movies

Yesterday was one of those day, you know.

I woke up around 10 (as in way over 10:30), lazied around a little bit, then a little bit more, then started to listen to Shakespeare audio books (more on this later on), knit a Star Wars pot holder, lazied around even more.

Then my sister texted me, around 6 in the evening: “How about we go and re-watch Star Wars tonight at 8?

I took a brief look at myself, still clad in my Xmas pajama, the messy hair and text back: “Sure why not, which theatre?

My nephew wasn’t coming with us, so I asked about my niece. “Of course Sara coming”. I could read my sister eyes rolling in the reply.

I sprung into action and jumped into the shower then. Well, no, I didn’t exactly jump into the shower; never been the athletic type and all this festivity dinners, luncheons, aperitifs and what not are kind of weighing me down. Still, I trudged myself into the shower and before you can say “Fuck, this water is cold, damn, the weather is cold today, jeez, couldn’t my sis leave at ground level, how many floors do I still have to climb?!?” I was at my sister place and we were all off to the cinema.

So, I had watched episode VII pf “Star Wars” in Dublin and my sis went through a quite painful experience of broken film when she went to see it for the first time. Yet we both thought we needed an encore and we were both ready for a nice, quite evening enjoining above mentioned round two, when we realized we were sitting in front of a bunch of 1st class, First Order’s Idiots. An array of supposed jokes and commentaries followed good part of the movie.

Growing up, when our family got the first VHS player, we kind of drove my mum mad with the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. In the summer we’d wake up and start binge watching. One movie every morning, maybe 2 and then we started again. Day after day, week after week. At the end of summer vacation not only we could quote the movies line by line (I think we could even use their scripts as the only needed day by day lexicon) but I think my mum had developed some involuntary twitches at mention of key words such as “Death Star” or “the Force”.
So, even though we’re not fanboys reading every possible article or book about it and exploring every possible theory, we do take Star Wars quite seriously. We might not have read any novel spin-off of the Star Wars universe but we do take our obsession seriously.

And so our luck wanted that last night we sat just in front of a row of complete, utter idiots.
I think some witch put an evil spell on me when I was in a crib at the hospital after I was born: “Thou you shall watched animated motion pictures, surrounded only by the foolest of the fool of the kingdom.”

I knew they were idiots by the moment we sat down. I just didn’t know they were that level of idiots. The “jokes” they made were not funny and so I tried desperately to pay attention to the movie. "Pay attention to the movie and to the movie only. You can do it, use the Force, Virgi!”
No, I couldn’t. Two minutes into the movie and I could clearly see my sister couldn’t either as I saw her turning around to take a look at them, I think the correct expression is that she "turned around to try to turn them into a pile of ash with a very painful yet silent stare". Pity neither Italian nor English contain a verb that can describe this concept.

I think a proof of how much we’re both grown up is the fact I wasn’t that surprised when she didn’t murder them in a very painful way… even though the dark side in me kind of wished she did.

During a small break they put in the middle of the movie, I considered going to buy popcorn for the all group: I noticed they were loud when chewing popcorn, but at least they weren’t speaking. And, who knows, they might choke on the popcorn and be silent a little bit longer and let me enjoy the second part of the film, right?

Coming out of the movie, Adri still managed to hear comments that I will not report here as faint hearts might be reading this post and it could be just too much.
Yet none of us acted upon the lure of the dark side. Either we’re really turning into kickass Jedi or we’re really just too tired to care. I will choke them… tomorrow.

Friday, 1 January 2016

plans and resolutions

The plan for New Year’s Eve was simple: dinner with some friends at Angela and Marco’s place and that’s about it.

As it’s standard for us, there were a lot of declaration for this year to be different, for the dinner to be kept simple and minimal and no overdo in food and wine.
As it’s standard for us, things didn’t exactly go according to the plan. Pity, because this year the plan looked rock solid.

Marco, being Marco, started planning in advance: he set up a whatsup group chat to organize everything.
As 31st got closer, Marco also created an excel file with a split of all the food, drinks, cutlery, etc. and who was in charge of cooking what and who was bringing which wine.
It was during the sending of the excel file and the replies to the mail, that things started spiraling out of control, just a little.

Paola declared that Antonio had to bring cheese even though it wasn’t in the list, because he was bringing it back from his hometown in Puglia.
Angela expressively forbade Paola to bring dried fruits. So Paola arrived with some small bags of Brazilian nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, the more the merrier.
She also brought 2 (or were they 3?) cotechino even though she knew that we were going to eat only one of them.

I volunteered to bring the salad. "Oh and yeah", I added, "I’ll bring an extra bottle of prosecco, cause you never know."

I did my groceries on New Year’s Eve morning. I did look a bit out of place in the supermarket as I wasn’t buying any of the typical food that are part of the traditional Eve’s dinner (some other people were doing that in another supermarket about the same time): I was trying to buy the right amount of vegetables for a small salad for 7 people. I thought I did quite well: 4 big peppers, 3 fennels, 1 kg of carrots and 1 kg of cherry tomatoes.

Marco greeted me on the kitchen door; he’s wearing a green apron and he temporarily stopped opening oysters to tell me to put all the veggies straight out on the balcony: we don’t need any salad, there’s no way we’re going to eat it, there’s already too much stuff anyway.

He was right, obviously. So when I got back home later on in the early morning, I was carrying 4 big peppers, 3 fennels, 1 kg of carrots and 1 kg of cherry tomatoes back to the flat with me.
Alongside “some”rocket salad (around half a kilo), walnuts, pistachios, lychees and a whole bag of oranges and clementines.
Basically I won’t need to buy anything to eat for the next week. I also think we should really take my plan “let’s just order pizza” more seriously for the next New Year’s Eve dinner. This is a good resolution for the new year.