The dogs of my life – Part 2

I am very aware that reading about other people’s dogs is not half as interesting as having one, or reading about your own.

But as part of my books consists of talking about my life, my life wouldn’t be complete without the dogs I’ve had. However, there has always sometimes been conflict around them.

The first dog in Italy, so after I was say 13-14 was a lovely white Spinone someone had given me. My mum did try to keep him for a while, but of course, as with most kids, I was in and out of the house so very, very much, that in the end it was her taking care of him, and she simply didn’t want to have a dog. So she sent him back.

Then around maybe 16, some unknown person gave me a German Shepherd puppy I called Tequila and put a red bandanna on him I had on me as I wore them myself (it was after the fashion-devastation of the Philippines, when I would wear lots of Americana and my favourite item was a pair of black cowboy boots… in humid and very hot Philippines). I hung around the park with pals for a bit and with the puppy, then took him home with me on the train, then my mum turned me away at the door. I got back on the train and took him back to Milan to the person who’d given him to me.

When I moved to the Philippines, with my dad, we were staying in a massive villa of some colleague of his who owned a white fluffy dog, a pretty white Pomeranian who, despite our best efforts got infested with fleas and ticks. I felt very bad about it and was glad I didn’t have to face the owners on the way back.

There was no dog, for a long time after that. After all, I was in and out of the house, the region, the country even for so long and so many times that it made perfect sense that my mother wouldn’t allow me to have dogs.

In my late teens I would sometimes across the dog of a friend, one whom I’d come to share a house in Tuscany with: her mother, out of spite because this friend had wanted a puppy and then was never there to look after it, kept this ball of white fluff chained on the front lawn, and never took him anywhere nor did she pet him, as she was a cat person, she said. This turned out to be a very evil woman, but at the time, she posed as a lovely person, though her cruelty to this poor dog should have given her away. Secretly, I thought my best friend was also cruel for allowing her mother to treat her dog so.

Time passed, I went to London to study, came back pregnant, went to Spain, returned from Spain, and finally moved to Tuscany, this time without my partner/first husband, but with two boys and the above friend, my best friend.

We lived in an incredible area, very wild, with wide open grounds almost wholly ours to frolic in, and so, for this reason, as well as for discouraging the father of the kids from coming upon us unannounced again, I wanted a dog.

Like my mother, my friend threatened me that if I did get a dog, I would be the only one to look after it. I promised. I went to the dog pound, and they convinced me to get a puppy who was a Husky mix. She at the time told me this as a good thing: knowing more about dogs now, recommending anything containing any Husky to someone who is a single mother of two very tiny children was really NOT a good idea. I guess they didn’t know that much about dogs either.

We called her Lula, and she was ever so pretty. But she was unruly from day one. They had said she was an 8 month old puppy, and I later learned that at 8 months a puppy has already got a pretty ingrained character: if it is an unruly, wildish dog, she is not likely to change, no matter what efforts you put in it.

She was nothing like Churro. Churro was constantly next to me, she found any excuse to run. She pulled like a demon and hated being held back.

Things between my friend and I quickly soured, not because of Lula but Lula was a factor, and I moved from that incredible place in the Tuscan wilderness to Florence, where I had found a job. I shared the flat’s rent with a friend (more on that in my book) and I had an aupair helping me pick up the boys from school and walk the dog. However, for various reasons all of this fell apart, and I was left coming home after picking up my boys to a kitchen filled with dog poo and pee. It was not a happy experience, certainly not for the boys either. Eventually, because I could no longer afford that crazy expensive flat, I found a new house with enormous difficulty (nobody in Italy is keen to rent to a single mother of two small children… and a dog) half an hour outside of Florence.

At home in Carmignano, Tuscany, with our half-husk.jpg
Beautiful unruly Lula and the boys

The place seemed perfect: forget the condition of the flat, just outside there was a little fenced-in garden, and outside that a big park you could walk and play in, and all around our little town there were glorious hills and nature. It was a perfect place for a dog, and we happily took her for walks, although that soon became an issue: Lula was completely restless, wild, pulling on the lead hurting me and the boys. Wish we had known about Haltis at the time.

Eventually the time came that everything was way too much for me. I began looking for a flat near my sister’s house in Northern Italy but on top of all the other difficulties, the final no came as soon as the heard I had a dog. This was even though we were looking for an unfurnished house.

The rental market in Italy was tough: it is not usual to rent. Somehow, people always seem to have some money stashed somewhere, either from their parents or what have you, and with that they would put a deposit down and buy a house. Everyone owned a house, back then. If you rented, you were looked down on, especially in northern Italy.

Back in Tuscany, as all this happened, I had gotten to know a Norwegian lady that lived across playground area and up another bit of hill. She had an enormous house, and a huge green area in which she also cultivated fruit and vegetables. She also had 8 or 9 children. She lived on the charity of the Church. I, ever the outsider, had no such privilege. She had met Lula a couple of times, and I had told her about how the months were passing and I was increasingly desperate to find a home, also because the current owner of the house I lived in had grown tired of my delays in paying the rent and thus wanted me out. Bless her forever and always, when she heard my major hurdle was Lula, she offered to take her. Waves of relief washed over me, and I cannot hide I was also relieved because Lula was a dog who was very difficult to love, when you had your safety and your children’s to worry about. All this lady’s children were older, and they had plenty of grounds in which to attempt to contain her, so I just let the relief wash over me and soon after that, a new place was found and I moved away from Tuscany.


The dogs in my life – Part 1

For many, too many people in my life, the importance dogs had in mine is of no interest. My lust for life (and boys) is far more interesting.

However, dogs and other animals have played as significant a role in my life as any man… or woman.

They are the closest part of me, interacting with them is where I am most truthful, to myself as well as, obviously, to them. Interactions weren’t always great! But then again, neither were they with people, so.

In these next couple/few posts I will speak about the animals in my life. This is all conducive to being placed inside my second book (new working title: windruffle), because as it is a book of my life, it definitely cannot be without my dogs and other animals.

The earliest animal interaction I remember was with a horse, or even various horses. The most dramatic one, the memory that would remain forever, was of course the time  while we lived in New Zealand and the horse I was riding on, alone, with my dad holding a rope that was tied to him, decided to gallop at full speed down a hill, on a track on the edge of the hill, on the edge of a cliff, to chase after the other horses that were thrilled to go back home. I mentioned this experience in another post, but I don’t think I brought home just how I felt. And I was tiny, but I do remember it well.


The horse ran, I was terrified by the sheer speed and the bumping up and down, and the sense of complete inability to hold on, of complete tumbling wildly without anything to hold on. I thought rope but my tiny hands were completely inadequate to hold on to that rope. Eventually I just flew off, and I still remember the wind whooshing as I flew, in an arc, it seemed to me, first up, then down and then hitting the ground, hard, the earth was hard and not as soft as I remembered it being when I played within it. I was aware of the cliff, my eyes must have been open because I saw it going down a long way, and I saw the track I had fallen off a way up, and I have a memory of large spaces and mountains around me.

I also remember then everything turning, spinning, and I felt that was it. I remember feeling his is it, and not feeling a bit sad about it, it just was. Then all of a sudden my dad was there, and he picked me up, he dusted me off, and I was back on the horse, this time with him on it too, and we made our way down.

I never felt any resentment, any fear for the horse. It certainly wasn’t his fault I had fallen off, and to be honest, I don’t even remember being particularly traumatised, or scared about the experience. It just happened.

The next animals after that that I remember were mostly cats.


We had them in New Zealand, we didn’t have them in Venezuela, where we had a couple of parakeets, though. (I’ve ran out of photos, they’re all still in albums at my sister’s house). And when my dad would take to Cumanà, to a beach villa there, I would spend many, hours playing with lizards.

Near Cumanà, there was another important animal encounter. We went at this wonderful beach, with lazy palm trees, a big ocean ahead of us and Technicolor underwater life and scenery. There were waves and on these waves a strange fish would constantly swim in and risk ending up dead on the beach. So I, somewhere between 7 and 10 years old, kept picking it up and throwing it back in. My dad passed by and looked at it and said it looked like a baby shark. So I grabbed it and decided to swim out to sea. I swam and swam and swam and then got confused because I couldn’t remember whether sharks needed to come up for air, like dolphins, or not, so I would make its head bob in and out of the water. When I thought I was far enough to release it I turned around to check and the beach I’d come from had become a thin line in the horizon.

I let it go and swam back. My dad was mad with worry and very shouty, saying what if its mother had come to find you!! But it didn’t, all had gone well. I felt like I had saved that pup.

We moved to Peru when I was ten. Our house in Arequipa was big and the garden went all around it, it had a lawn part on top right, then there was the driveway and then a slope down into a field, and in the back there was a vegetable garden which tumbled down, terraced. The vegetable garden was great for my earthworm  races, the field and hill perfect for two llamas, a white one and a brown one, but the white one was poorly when it arrived and died soon after (Biba), wheres the brown one thrived (Bibo). When Churro arrived soon after, he would hassle the llama, and Bibo would spit at him, rendering him quite green. Also, where Bibo pooped the grass shot high and lush and bright green, where Churro pooped the grass was burnt and dead. It was funny. I went for long walks with Churro,  down to the International Club at the bottom of our road, into town, around the block, or far into the fields around Arequipa. Nobody ever asked me where I’d been or where I was going or how long I’d be gone for, because it wasn’t Gladys our maid’s job to do so, and everybody else was usually out of the house. So we roamed free. Now that I’m adult of think of many things:

  • I was between 10 and 12 in a huge city, that might have been a little risky to let a kid go round by herself? But it never felt risky at all, I felt perfectly safe.

  • Now that I have dogs, and I don’t remember Churro being on a leash, I wonder: did I walk around all these places with Churro off the leash? Was he THAT good?

If we went into the fields, we always brought back heaps of alfalfa, Bibo’s favourite chomp.

My Playground, in Arequipa, seen from the Puente Mariano Melgar Valdivieso, courtesy of Google Maps: in the background, the Misti and the Chachani volcanoes.

In the International club, I often visited and was bitten by some semi-wild ponies that roamed freely in its terrain. Once again, I never developed any fear for them, I knew that I was bothering them and they were telling me to go away, that’s all.

I felt safe with Churro, I realise, though at the time not being safe wasn’t even a small thought in my mind. He wasn’t allowed in the house, so I went and stayed out with him as long as I could.

When we left for Italy, it was a surprise, sure. I had registered my mum was in Italy with my sister, because she sent boxes containing Nutella and pretty Italian dresses. I never really missed her though. Peru was so rich, my life there was perfect. I didn’t like the school so much, as there were other kids there, people, and these weren’t always easy to get on with. But back at home, alone save for Gladys if I needed her, or outside the house with my animals, I was just dandy. But it was when I understood that Churro wasn’t coming with us, that I started bawling. My father said he’d given him, along with Bibo, to a teacher of mine (which is presumably why I believed him), who, of course, had a large house with lots of countryside where they’d be happy and, of course, her husband was a butcher so he’d bring home huge bones for Churro to chomp on. 

But to this day, if I dwell on it long enough, I still feel crying. I could bear to be in this new place, with a mother I knew barely how to talk to, a brother and sister whom I barely knew, and without my father, who I was used to seeing coming and going. But not have Churro? I still remember all our walks, all our exploring, as if they were yesterday and I missed him and our Arequipa and cried for him and for Arequipa endlessly.

Those were my animals before Italy. The others were the ones I met on my walks: cows, birds, any little critter I could find was my friend, whether they liked me back or not.

Because of my animals, and my unquestioning connection to nature (which may be why Venezuela created less of a bond within me than Peru, despite having lived there longer) I feel, I KNOW, that my childhood was a happy one. A free one.

As an adult and a parent I would now look back in horror at the way us kids were neglected and left alone. But I can tell you: give your lonely child some nature, and an animal to relate to (nothing really beats a dog) and that may well be all they need.


My new baby sleeps next to me, her long paws on my shoulder, under my chin. Her pointy ears just visible in the half light, her pretty colours starting to show.

Her breathing combines and mingles with my husband’s.

We got her too soon, she was only 2 months old.

But the doctor said “Keep her under a glass bell”, an Italian saying for: keep her safe, sheltered. So we did. I slept with her as she would have slept with her mummy, and she is happy, healthy and well adjusted.

A lot bigger now, at only 3 1/2 months, she is my baby. And I never want to be without her.

Perfect Valentine’s Days – Part 2

So, in yesterday’s post I told you about how I began my young adolescence in Italy, having lived the rest of my precedent life in very different continents and cultures.

Yet I was soon picking up on stuff: boys liked me. I was cute, and I was, for want of a better word, I guess, constantly horny. Horny in the sense that I absolutely loved boys’ attention, but even at such a young age, I already knew that it was ME, preying on THEM. I will leave further telling and speculation about this particular aspect of my puberty years for my book. I know many people would be shocked to hear a twelve/thirteen year-old can be sexually predatory. I certainly don’t want my daughter of the same age to know about it now nor would I want her to be! It only leads to trouble. But occasionally, being so full of life and laughter and so easy to get along with can have its advantages, and bring lovely surprises.

So, back when I lived in the «Farmhouses of the Adda», there was the other lot of house, on the other side of us, called «The Farms of the Adda».

There lived there a few boys, and they were friends with a boy who lived further down along the road who owned the massive gigantic villa on top of a hill. For us, mostly girls with only way-too-young boys available inside our own private residence, this was a fantastic new input. The boys were all from “good families”, respectable and all that, so my friends could relax in their parents’ approval of their frequenting them.

It was me that began this friendship with them, and it was through Michele.

Michele was a drop-dead gorgeous boy, who was 15 when I was 13, who would come over to our lot to play tennis with some of our people there. He played with my brother, with our friend Alessandro, also a very good tennis player, with older people, because he was that good. They called him «Il Negro» not as a derisive or insulting term (at the time the Lega Lombarda, who would bring out the worst in Italian people’s latent racism, wasn’t popular yet), but as a compliment: he tanned the moment he felt the sun, and he tanned deeply and darkly. He had beautiful doe eyes and long eyelashes, a perfect nose and lush lips, and he was as fit as they come. Boy was Michele beautiful.

I noticed him and he seemed nice and, as would happen many times in the future, I had no problems befriending this beautiful boy all the girls were too abashed to speak to. Somehow I was never sexually attracted to the truly beautiful, so it was always easy to make friends with them. As we became friends, we extended our friendship over the other guys at the “Fattorie”. My girl friends were very happy to make friends with this lot, as these weren’t the scruff rough provincial town boy types I insisted on meeting up with and introducing to them, these were polished Milanese boys in their home away from the city (as my girl friends were). Michele was never excessively polished, despite his rich family, which is why we became such friends, so quickly.

Many months passed, maybe a year or two. Girls met and regularly fell head over heels in love with the beautiful Michele, who was always kind but never seemed to want to take things further with anybody. And no, he was not gay, though he was the sort of boy gay people would want in a magazine.

One day, it was Valentine’s day, and I was waiting for my boyfriend at the time* to come and pick me up. I was sat outside the gate, as I often did, well in advance: I liked being out of the house as often and as early as I could, and I wrote in my diary, as always.

Google Maps’ shot of The Farmhouses of the Adda, where I lived for many years, in Nov 2017

Michele arrived, seemingly casually, and when I asked whom he had come to see, he just shrugged and said «I don’t know». It was a strange response, and he was acting strange, nervous, not relaxed and laid back as he was known to be, at all times. We chatted for a while, and we laughed. I loved laughing with Michele, because his laughter was as rich and lush and beautiful as he was. I never fancied him, because he was too young for me: I was 15 by then, and he was only 17. But being an aesthete, I appreciated his objective beauty.

He said «let’s play a game, shall we?» and I said «OK, what?».

«Let’s play Dear Diary». This immediately appealed to me, because I used to sit in all sorts of places, usually on my moped, and write in my diary, all the time.

«Ha! OK then.» I knew the boys over there were mystified by what I got up to with my many and varied groups of friends. I thought maybe he just wanted to gossip a little.

«You start!», Michele said with his perfect white teeth smile.

«Ok. Well, Dear Diary, I am still recovering from a day spent with the girls obsessing over Michele and wondering who should find the courage to tell him they love him, and as I sit here waiting for ____*, my friend Michele, instead of going to make one of their days by talking to them, is standing here next to me playing strange games».

We laughed.

«I’m sorry, I just… they’re not my type.» He looked down tot he ground, he was abashed, he laughed a little, but this time it was a very quiet laugh. He looked… almost embarrassed.

«Well.. your turn!» said I.

«Ok.. Dear Diary, I am in love with a girl and have been for over a year. She is always lovely to me but I don’t think she sees me that way at all. She went out with a friend of mine for a long time, and I was their friend and it hurt. A lot. But I love her and I was terrified of losing our friendship. But the thing is, Dear Diary, I can’t keep it to myself anymore. I have to tell her. I need to tell her

My smile froze a little in confusion. Who was he talking about?

He looked up at me like a coy puppy and then he looked down again. Then he continued:

«So, Dear Diary, all I want is a kiss, because I’ve never had a kiss with her. And she’s my friend and I am afraid to ask but… And I know she has a boyfriend, but I’m worried this is becoming serious for her. And if I don’t tell her now, I may never get a chance again.»

I asked, in a neutral “diary-like” tone:

«What is her name?»

«Her name is Valentina»

I felt a bout of relief. I wasn’t the only Valentina in our group of friends, there was one who was older than me, the same age as Michele, and a dear friend of mine. ‘He HAS to be referring to her’, I thought with relief. So I laughed!

«Ah, dear Michele, well then, just tell her, just kiss her, if not, you’ll never know!»

So he did. He kissed me and he was so lovely but I felt so confused, it was a wonderful, lovely kiss that took my surprise because I’d have expected it would feel like a brother’s kiss, but no, it was just as beautiful as those lips would promise……

I felt flattered, flustered. Very confused. I said:

«Ah but so it wasn’t Valentina F.»

«No, it wasn’t Valentina F. It was you, dummy.» he replied, still holding me close.


I moved away from him, still wondering what to say, still confused. Then _____* arrived, and I kissed Michele on the cheek and said «Thank you» and «I’ll see you later» and gave him a big hug, and he waved his hand at me a little shyly as I got into _____’s car (because of course, _____ was much older than Michele and owned a car) and we left.

Michele and I remained friends, a little confusedly, but very shortly after that I left for the Philippines with my father. I corresponded a little with Michele but my head was filled with a whole new world, and so he eventually faded out into the background… until I one year later I went back to Italy.

But that, is another story.

Perfect Valentine’s Days – Part 1

What happens to your life when you’ve grown up seeing perfection?

I had memories of Lake Titicaca in Peru,

Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world.

of the stunning scenery of its eclectic geography. I had memories of walking along the city of Arequipa with my dog, alone, but always unafraid, and never had any cause to regret that daring. I lived  as good as alone, yes, in a big six-level-villa surrounded by a garden, but my maid Gladys prepared my meals and I would sit and watch a couple of telenovelas with her, and I had my animals: my llama, Bibo, my dog Churro, and various kittens that would come and go. I already said I played with earthworms, in Peru I had progressed to earthworm races.

I loved my freedom and I loved my own presence in this world. The occasional encounters with parents or siblings I remember little about, this was when my parents were beginning to split up for good and so I saw them even less than before, and that suited me just fine. There were once or twice long trips in the car with my dad, and we all just focused on the extravagant magnificence of the Peruvian landscape and fauna. Back at home, I was happy with the chats with Gerardo, our driver, looking out from where we sat in our garden out over the city of Arequipa.

But this is all part of the tale of my years in Peru, in its own chapter in the book I am writing.

From this I was swept up and taken, along with my brother, to the north of Italy, where we would now live in a small house with my mother and my sister. This is where the chaos in my life began.

I was 12 when I arrived in Italy, and what a hugely different place that was. It was massively crowded, both in the house and outside. There were people everywhere, and there was no escaping talking to all of them, it seemed.

I struggled to understand why my Peruvian jumpers were funny, and I struggled to understand almost everything that was supposedly funny, even when not about me. My father had picked out in advance some girls for me to become friends with, and though they were indeed nice and gentle, I didn’t understand them. Oh, I knew enough Italian to understand the words they spoke, but they made little sense to me. I tried, but I soon found myself preferring the company of boys, who were more boisterous, more interesting, more adventurous. Boys took their bikes and went exploring places, and that was far more my style. So I began tagging along with them.

I had always been precocious in my appreciation of boys, so by all means part of me wanted to be with them because I found them overall more interesting: they were cute, one of them in particular, and they did things that were more fun: girls, particularly these «good» girls my dad had picked out, never stood a chance, really.

I will write more about these boys and those first years in Italy in my book, but because yesterday was Valentine’s Day I wanted to tell you about a couple of perfect Valentine’s. 

You see, I come back to the perfection I mentioned above.

Valentine’s Day has now become absurd, according to me. It is everybody’s day. I’m not kidding when I tell you my father sent us girls (women and children) a «Happy Valentine’s kitten in a champagne glass» email. I had to respond with laughter and say hahah but why, it’s not like it’s women’s day!

Crazy stuff happens now with Valentine’s: people moaning about how it should be abolished because they are bitter or depressed as they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, America trying to establish a «Galentine’s day» to celebrate best friends (just so more people buy on the day before too), friends say Happy Valentine’s to friends (why!) and so on and so forth.

But to me, as I was growing up, both in Peru and in Italy, Valentine’s Day was the day when hidden love was revealed, confessed, brought out into the open. Sometimes anonymously because they were too shy, or not quite ready, sometimes with open declarations. It should mean a lot to gay people coming out these days, since heterosexual kids these days just whatsapp their love to each other before it’s even formed!

The story behind this day was that it was named after a priest who would marry the couples who were secret lovers: this way, they could finally come out into the open. It’s a lovely story and why can’t we keep it?

Well, I have had a couple of perfect Valentine’s. But the two most perfect ones have got to be the one with Massimo and the one with Michele. How do I tell these stories without their long backgrounds?

I will try, but they’re both worth reading up about in whole in my book, I promise you.

Massimo was a boy, a couple of years older than me, from the group of houses next to ours. He was a cyclist, a serious one, sure to become professional one day, it was clear to everyone, especially his dad who trained him. He was a cute boy with large brown eyes and brown hair and light skin. We’d gotten together around the age of 13, but because his friends, who were jealous of the time he spent with me, had found out about my running around with the kids from my school and their older siblings, they began calling me names and insulting me in front of and to Massimo. Massimo always told me to just ignore them. But it wasn’t enough for me to ignore them, they were hurting my feelings deeply and I wanted him to do more about it. So I broke up with him. He accepted it, though he was sad, but he began cycling past my house where I would sit with my friends to watch the world (and cute boys) go by. Then he began doing funny things, such as cycling past and then immediately cycling past again, making faces and singing songs, until eventually he convinced me to get down from the rock my friends and I sat on and come outside the gate and talk to him.

By then I had started to go out with a bigger and older group of friends, a result of following a couple of older brothers of the boys from my school. These all had motorbikes, mostly Vespas. Massimo had seen me with them, they were cool, and older, and they smoked, and they had motorbikes: he knew he couldn’t compete, so he began to tell me he was thinking of buying a motorbike. He must have seen my eyes open wide. He would tell me all about it and eventually one day instead of cycling past, he drove past with his motorbike, and he’d gotten good with it, and he did wheelies with it, and he convinced me to go for a ride, and we did, and it was such fun. We were still split up, but we had become fast friends.

More than once, he’d fall off his bike. He would come and laugh with my friends and me about his scabs, the big scabs from his falls, we would have fun picking them off.

Then Valentine’s day arrived. There was a party at his group of houses, organised by his friends. He invited me and I was very worried because his friends continued to be very frosty towards me, adding to their scorn for the boys I hung around with their supposed anger at having broken Massimo’s heart. He told me not to worry, he’d walk in with me, and never leave me alone.

So we went, and there was music as there was in the eighties, you know, fast pop music for dancing, and then slow ballads for slow dancing.

I still remember that day as if it were yesterday: Massimo and his black jumper, thin enough that as I hugged him and he hugged me as we prepared to dance to a song he said he’d prepared just for me, I could feel the scabs from his latest accident all over his back and strong arms. I felt enveloped and protected and loved, and I was also hugely aware of the piercing stares from all his friends at the party: Massimo had many friends, some even came from the church, as you’ll read in the book. The song «Hard to Say I’m Sorry» by Chicago came on, and he hugged me tighter, and spoke in my ear gently that he should never had left me undefended, he should have stood up for me, he should have told them all to go to hell, and he should never have allowed an ill word about me to be spoken by them. He promised me that if I ever gave him another chance, he would be proud to hold me in front of everyone, and slam down anyone who dared speak badly of me. We would «come out», into the open, and even if I wanted us to remain friends, he would hold me and love me in front of everyone.

I cried into his jumper. I apologised and we laughed, it didn’t matter that I’d gotten his jumper wet. The party was over and we left together, and he didn’t let go of me one minute, and he stayed close and looked openly and defiantly at his friends, who had to look away and gossip amongst themselves. I felt like the Queen of the party, because Massimo was by all means the King.

This is hard for me to write.

To this day, I can barely hear that song without shivering and crying, and even as I write these words now, my eyes fill with tears and I am not sure how I will continue.

A few days later, Massimo came up to our group of houses as always, and we went for a short walk into town. I walked, he pushed his bike, on which he had just done his usual pirouettes to impress me. As usual, I told him off about them, pointed out his many falls, and told him how he had to be more careful. He asked me whether I’d thought about what he’d said, and whether I was going to give him another chance. I said hm well, let’s try, and see how it goes. We arranged to meet that coming Sunday, it would be the first day of our renewed relationship. He was so happy and whoopped and bounced on the motorbike and began to set off and I laughed and yelled at him over the racket he was making «That’s if you make it to Sunday considering the way you drive!».

He laughed as well and drove off.

That Thursday he crashed with his bike, and died.

This will have to end here. Part 2 tomorrow.

The introduction to my childhood – Albums

From my second book, temporarily called Lysa around the world:

Chapter 1, Childhood

Albums are important, or at least photographs. They tell stories our memories would struggle to remember. In those photographs I could see how happy my mum had been in those first years in Australia with my dad, whom I loved very much. She smiled loads, she was free and full of life and passionate.


Then, she gradually changed. Everybody was more serious in the pictures, angry, resentful. That’s after I came along. I knew it wasn’t her fault. It was just that shit happened and I came along at a bad time. But this mum, the mum they see in the pictures of when my siblings were little, I have never met. I would glimpse her on occasion, and I loved her terribly, but it was only a rare glimpse.

I missed my childhood. There is no doubt about that. Despite looking at it later with the eyes of an adult and realising it was a neglected, emotionally abrasive and damaging childhood, if I looked at it with the eyes of what was real, what felt real, I missed it.

I missed the freedom. If I looked back, I thought of instances I loved.

I thought of scattered green oases within a greater desert land, lush trees and grass and rumbling waterways. Cows grazing. This was the countryside around Arequipa, in Peru. I was always allowed, because there was nobody to say no, nobody to ask permission to, either, to go for the longest walks, getting lost in nature.

I wanted that back. I had often felt like I was waiting to have that back my whole life. One of the things I waited for was to go back to that.

I am sure many people miss their childhood, but how many live in the constant, daily craving to return to it? All this at the same time as being aware of all the good things in this life that are now present, that have passed and are yet to come.

1971 – 1976 New Zealand

My infancy began in Rome. I was born by Cesarean section there. The family (my pregnant mum, my dad and my siblings) was there because my dad got fed up and restless of a perfectly good work situation in Australia, decided to return to Italy by boat on an impulse, was penniless and jobless for months and then found a job in New Zealand. So I was born in Rome but conceived in New Zealand. He barely said hello to his third baby and departed again. We all joined him a couple of months later.


I was a couple of months old when my sister, my brother, my mum and I joined my dad in New Zealand. We lived in a lovely house by a big river, surrounded by trees and greenery. When I was old enough, 3 or 4, I used to tricycle to school. Sometimes I tried to keep up with my older sister, her friend and my brother who tagged along with them. I could never keep up with them for long. I used to climb trees, sometimes chasing our cats,


and bounce on the trampoline for ages and ages. I explored, alone, and loved every bit of it. And when I say every bit I mean I sometimes spent hours just interacting with the insects, the dirt, the blades of grass, the earthworms.

Sometimes we would have tremendous fun when my dad was there, organising film sessions where he was the man dressed in black, and he chased us around the woods around the house, in and out of empty gardens, and us kids completely loved it, and he would film it all.

I had a friend called Tyler, a little Maori kid, he was my best friend and the only one I remember, except for Bee,


who was my neighbour, a round headed blonde little girl, we used to climb under fences to see each other. Taylor was the best because he would climb trees with me, and he was better than me at climbing down, so while I got stuck on the tree a lot of the time, he would clamber down and tell my dad to come get me.

One of these times he hadn’t come in time and I fell and broke my arm.


On one occasion on a trip out, we were horse-back riding.

I was very little, maybe three? Everyone was on a horse, my dad was walking holding the rope for my horse. I loooooved being on that horse, so high up. We walked a long way, then we walked up a hill. On turning back however, my sister and brother’s horses went full gallop down the hill. My horse followed! I was scared of the galloping, but held on as much as I could, exhilarated, thrilled. At one point I was vaguely aware of my dad being dragged behind me, trying not to let go of the rope, bumping on his bottom as my horse got free, then veered off back to the road, and I fell, and rolled down the steep edge of the hill, and everything spun, and I wondered whether this was when I’d die. I didn’t, I remember my dad near me, I must have been fine.

This didn’t put me off horses, I still thought them amazing beautiful creatures. I was already jealous of my sister for having her own horse. I felt sure I would have one too, someday.

Safe with my mum and my sister this time

As a writer I’ve established I need to a) get rid of everything that was my life and b) regain a semblance of writing craft, one that I had loads of, once upon a time.

Hence this book.

Everything in it is as true as can be, considering my often failing memory. And yet, at the same time, because the truth is never black or white, there are always nuances, versions, perceptions. I don’t want to sound maudlin, I want my life to be pleasant to read, I want my book to show the adventure and the laughter and the beauty of freedom, rather than the sadness, the isolation, the awkwardness and the loneliness.

This is also why I am posting bits here. They’re for me, mainly, so I can come back and look at them with the eyes of an outsider.

Of course, any feedback is always welcome.

Take a walk on the wild side

Sometimes, the craziest thing you can do is actually do what you wish, the smallest things.

That is how I got fed up of waiting of having enough willpower, money and encouragement to find a new hairdresser who would deal with my hair.

So I cut it. Chopped it, more like. But it’s ok. honest!

I am nearly 50, I can afford to hear once again the same old litany of “oh no!” and “oh my god you’re always doing this” and “nooooo” or what have you.

It’s done, I feel lighter, of course, because you may not know this, but my hair was very long ad very thick. Ok, here is a picture of the other day:



Don’t get distracted by the gorgeous puppy. (Her name is Nikita by the way, and yes she is adorable)

Look at my blooming hair!

I am a wild woman, I am, I always was, I always tried to adjust, fit in, look better, dress better, be a little more elegant.

It doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.

And yes I love my hair long, but it’s loads of hair and it’s heavy and it gets dry and I get regularly fed up with it.

So I cut it!


My husband doesn’t know yet. I curled it up in a bun on the top of my head like it was this morning, so he doesn’t know yet.

If you know about me you know I have done a lot of wild things in my life. If you don’t, trust me, I did. You’ll be able to read most of them in my second book! A That is of course if I have the courage to publish it under my own name. Otherwise you’ll have to settle for my first novel: it is still me, in a  way.

And yet, the wildest thing to do, for me, is always actually act according to my own heart, and bear the consequent disappointment and confusion in others.

I am preparing for that stepping stone: after 50, I will no longer be anything but who I am, even if who I am changes rapidly, enough of trying to please. I am walking on the wild side, of me.