I am working on my second book. I have now written 12223 words, it’s not too bad!
This is how it begins:
A lot of people like me. Are charmed by me, sometimes. Old ladies see me smile and look again, and they love me, they say, though they don’t know me.
It fills my heart and makes me happy, though I never really know why they do. The old lady who is my landlady, I like to think, does that because maybe when she was little, she met my grandmother, my father’s mother. She was from here you see, well, further down south, right in the centre of the lowest part of this, the Heel of Italy, surrounded by a deep blue sea.
My grandmother’s name was Chiara, which means light, and I didn’t know her very well. I knew about her, through my dad, so yes, very, very little. My whole family, well, my mother and father, were never very talkative about the rest of their (not ours, not mine) family.
Nonna Chiara lived in a beautiful apartment in Rome, at the side of the Gianicolo. Marcello Mastroianni, a very famous and beautiful Italian actor from the sixties, lived on the floor above and then sold his house to some other famous Roman actor. The building looked fairly plain from the outside, but it was lush with plants and surrounded by paths you could walk on, so that you felt removed from the big road that bent lazily in front of it. You walked down a few steps, decorated with pretty tiles, then small cobblestone paths to enter the garden that surrounded the building, then the paths led you to a gate on the side, and out of that gate you came out onto the long steps that wound their way down into the heart of Trastevere. It was like entering a separate world, I still remember feeling protected, safe, part of the city, and I could smell the heat coming up from the cobblestones.
The flat itself felt tight, and dark. You’d come in from the door into a parlour, on the left you’d immediately see a grand piano, and a window/door to the balcony, letting a lot of light into that particular space. Perhaps a couple of armchairs on the right. Through a big indoor glass sliding door you’d go to the dining room, darkened to keep out the massive heat of a Roman summer, I think now, but at the time, I didn’t know why it was so dark, it was intimidating, as though bad things were meant to happen. The table was massive oak or something, and the room had glass cabinets on each side. There was a narrow corridor, and the next room to the right was a big study, my grandfather’s study: all in wood, solid, with a distinctive smell of pipe, a sweet smell. This had a large, long window on its back wall, also with blinds lowered, but not quite as much so not quite as dark. It was an important-looking study, beautiful and of solid wood, but somehow bright, good, happy. I also remember my grandfather a little, he smiled most of the time.
His name was Nonno Nino. He was very nice. I found out many, many years ago, that Nonno Nino was one of three brothers who had inherited various hotels and restaurants in Ischia, a beautiful island next to Capri. One of the brothers had squandered it all with a bad game habit. My grandfather had helped him out, but they had lost their properties. Then, he became a public prosecutor, and he was friends with Italy’s most beloved president, Sandro Pertini. Apparently, others who had his job took bribes to hep the rich and famous, but he didn’t. My grandmother would tell him she was glad he was so honest but whereas his colleague’s wives had all the money in the world, they remained (relatively, I’m guessing) poor. I do know my father considered himself and his family financially (though not spiritually) poor. But I can think of worst reasons to be poor. I was happy to find out about the compulsive honesty of my grandfather, who died too soon for me to know him any better in person.
My aunt, my father’s sister, who lived there, was not as nice. She felt bitter, and sharp, and I felt that she disliked us, the nephews and nieces visiting from distant continents. The woman had had an accident during her time working in some factory, and had lost three of her fingers. She felt, and smelt, older than my grandmother, Chiara. Her hair up in a bun, her clothes demure, old fashioned, but good quality. How do I remember this? I guess it’s hindsight.
There will of course have been bedrooms, but I have no memory of them whatsoever.
The kitchen was narrow and dark, and I don’t ever remember my grandmother cooking in it. A woman after my own heart.
Hey I’m quoting myself here, these are my words. Ta.