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:

 

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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!

Ha.

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.

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Free of the handsome young man

I went to a lovely second hand shop yesterday, and two of my greatest passions were present.

A second hand shop that has enbiggened, and a very cute man (not so common round here, fortunately). The man however was quite young, and I finally moved into the area where I thought “you’re nought but a boy to me sweetie”.

I am glad of that.

Beginning of the book

I am working on my second book. I have now written 12223 words, it’s not too bad!

This is how it begins:


Prologue

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.

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Google Maps 2015 shot of “La Scalea del Tamburino”, with my grandmother’s apartment block on the right

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.

Next step: keep my name or use a pen name?

I have already got one, and it’s perfect for me. So perfect I am afraid that if I advertise the book with that name at least my father, who surely does not read this blog and surely is too self-involved (bless him) to even notice if I did advertise the book, nevertheless, he might spot me.

Why do I want to use a pen name?

Because I am ashamed. In the first book, the House of Blue, because of the way it came out, despite my efforts to write fiction I still had too much of my own life and feelings that had c´to come out. It is therefore filled with characters inspired from my own life, so much so that one criticism I got was that the reader was getting a little confused with the so many names.

It is true that the house is inhabited by people with those names, but I guess because they are so easily drawn from people I really know, and sometimes mix-ups of them, I may not be able to capture their description very well, and thus they are not identifiable enough for the reader to distinguish them?

It sounds odd to me, but again, this would be solved by a reader telling me how they perceive it.

The other strange (for me) feedback I got from my very first proof-reader, to whom I’ll be eternally grateful (she’s an awesome photographer, check her out at saralando.com) not just for doing it but for reading through the very first draft, which was very chaotic, was that the one letter written by one character for another which basically was me, my voice, was her favourite, it sounded more real.

Since then, I have tried to adjust the book, write more, take long parts out, but the truth is it remains something I need out there, and I love the end feeling of it, the aftertaste if you like, but it’s probably something that isn’t very good. I don’t know, it’s too close to me still.

So, the next book IS me. It’s my life. I am not fifty yet, but my life was… well, very, very full. And, by full, it’s full of everything: adventure, attempted murderers, hippies, crazy road trips, ghosts, witches, dancing, drama, tragedy, heaps of fun, drugs, famous people, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. In order to protect all the people involved, I thought the best way to do this would be through fake names, including the author’s.

So if you keep up with this blog, you may be invited to the blog for the other writer, and have some snippets there.

Here, I shall post snippets of my published book, and see how I feel about reading them after a while: it may be the best way to slowly redraft it into something I like better. When the second book is finished, I can do a big overhaul of The House of Blue, because I know it can be good.

A self-published terrestrial writer.

My life has taken an odd turn. Everything used to have so much meaning, when I was much younger. I felt everything with such forceful passion. Then I became deflated, and then I had to leave what I thought was my home, the UK. What are my stances, my passions now? I’m not sure. The same as always I think: be excellent to each another (cit. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)

After that, I contemplated what it meant to be Italian, as I was now no longer a future UK citizen, I was back to being an Italian, but do I feel Italian? Did I feel anything, ever? I’m not sure I did, ever.

Like me, there are many people out there who have lived so much elsewhere they no longer feel from anywhere. Or they feel from a mixture of places, like me. Or they feel from no place, like me.

I know this is tedious.

If anyone should read this who has read this before they will say “my god, will you ever stop writing about national identity, meaning of life and all that?”

Well, the answer I think, is no. I am nearly 50, so I now claim the right to talk about whatever I like.

My most recent epiphany was that, whereas for a lifetime I was trilingual, or bilingual when I lost my Spanish, then English native speaker when I realised my Italian had faded enormously, and then nothing, neither, I realised actually, I am native speaker of nothing. They are all foreign languages to me.

If I were to try and find a traditional publisher for my novel, who would I contact? I have written a book set in Norway (I still think that was an incredibly stupid idea, of all the places in the world I’ve been, and I’ve been to many, why did I pick a country I know NOTHING about? Mah. Then again, most of the decisions in my life have no rational basis), it’s a fantasy/fiction/dream involving characters from all over the world, but whom am I? How would a publisher advertise me?

“New Italian author….” stop right there. I don’t really identify with most Italian culture, there is very little about Italian culture in my novel, if any, and, plus, it’s… written, not translated into, English. Ah well that’s easy, then, you’d say, contact an English, no Irish!, ahm no, an American/Australian/New Zealand….. which? Which is my English from? What culture do I derive from?

It’s my own.

It’s none.

So, liberatingly, it’s whatever I choose it to be, a bit like the language I choose to use, such as “liberatingly” because nobody can say I am not speaking my native language properly.

Thus I will once again (because I can) slightly shift the focus of this blog, and say I am a published author, I am writing a new book, and I will speak about that. Yes I will be amongst the millions and millions trying to be known as authors, but the bonus for me is I don’t care to make money out of these. I do want them out there, even though it terrifies me that they are associated with my name. The book is almost certainly crap as nobody who has read it has wanted to write a review of it anywhere (there are people who have read it, if you are reading me now, please leave a review/any public comment!), but, that is the freedom of being an anomaly: there is no set standard of behaviour to adhere to.

The book is on sale here, if you’re curious, but I will be posting excerpts here of both this one and the one I am writing. The House of Blue is definitely a product of Nanowrimo, in that it was written over 30 days, started off with the idea of a cool 15-year-old speaker, then I realised I couldn’t possibly mimic that voice – I was already way too cerebral at 15 for that tone. So it got shifted and then it was daring and then I curtailed it, and then it became a stream of consciousness and then I realised it was more therapy than a novel, and then I badly wanted it to be a novel so I rearranged it, I kept changing the names… but the end result, in all its imperfection, I was left satisfied with. It conveyed the mood, the magical realism of the place, and the motifs. It got some stuff out of my system so that by the end of it, a lot of it wasn’t even relevant to my feelings at the moment. It was a half-fantasy, half-fear of how I would live my elder years.

My new book is the story of my life. Once that it also out of the way, I can go back to writing complete fiction, which I used to be good at. I just had to get my own life out of the way first. So if anybody wants to try and having a go at reading my published novel, keep in mind that a lot that’s in there is true, true feelings, true intentions, true thoughts.

This below is the original drawing my husband did for the cover in all its beauty.

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This is just an experiment, for a place where I also write, Mastodon

Like when you put salt in your coffee instead of sugar

Well, actually, not like that at all. I just did that, see, and so I thought of how that is the first time I ever did that, and what an odd feeling it is: thoroughly unpleasant, and yet, it’s not really that tragic is it?

What I was thinking about this morning was the naturalness of languages. I have some very good British friends who have recently moved here, and they reminded me how they think I am speaking a foreign language when I speak English. So do other British friends. If I had any American friends, or friends from New Zealand (where I grew up and spoke English as the first language I ever spoke, and thus it would be considered my “Mother Tongue” or my “native” language), they would certainly feel the same, as I have lost any trace of NZ accent.

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My mum and I in New Zealand

However, when I speak Italian, it is also foreign to me: it feels like a language I learnt very well: when I was at University I would pride myself in my knowledge of it, and yet, whereas foreign friends might consider it my first language, Italian friends know different: I don’t speak any dialect well, just words and expression here and there, my accent varies quite dramatically depending on whom I’m speaking to (accents vary from Milanese, to Brianzolo, to Roman, to a spattering of Tuscan in the right context) and I very often don’t know expressions, cultural in-jokes and so on. Spanish used to be the most natural of all, it might have been because I spoke it from 5 to 11 years of age in South America (though two different countries, so I’m sure accents varied there too) so nobody cared what a little girl sounded like, and when I was living in Spain, in Andalusia, they thought I had a perfectly natural South American accent and to my joy their first guess as to my nationality was “Hang on, you’re from… Argentina right?” (it was the wrong guess, as I never lived in Argentina, but it felt better than “I can’t place your accent, where are you from?” because I felt I was “from” nowhere in particular, and I never knew how to answer that question

When your national identity is defined only by your name or the passport you hold, it is very difficult to feel like you are ever at home. You are always the “one from somewhere else”. It can be handy sometimes, because, for example, here in Salento where they see I have ways that differ quite greatly from their own I am called “The English lady with the big dog”, when I am certainly not English, but it ensures they are not offended when I do not follow cultural norms of social behaviour. In Northern Italy I was “La Peruviana”, and so on. I feel like I have written about this many times before, but as you can imagine, it is still very present in my life.
When translating, or even when teaching, people (both clients and schools and agencies) expect you to fit one mould: which is your native language?
And it makes sense actually, not so much for the language, but because when you speak many languages picked up form even more countries or regions, you miss out on a tremendous amount of knowledge: TV memes, cultural traditions, moods and feelings and behaviours which will always be alien to you.
Am I saying that thus I am not a qualified translator or teacher?
I am merely admitting that keeping up with others’ definitions of what is “natural” for you is tiring, and perhaps yes, teaching and translating means being constantly aware and constantly researching what a “native” would say, but, sometimes, even feel in response to something.
This is partly why I have become more of a writer and less of a translator. I need to speak in my own language, which is when I speak in three or even four languages combined, mixed up, and thrown in there casually, and make up my own inside jokes and expressions.

My first book, House of Blue, is published here. It has a magical realist feel and was a sort of dream of a possible future, beginning as something I would wish for but ending being filled with realistic outcomes. It is set in Norway, for some reason, a country I never lived in, and involves characters who are composites of people I actually know, sometimes barely changed.

My second book begins in Bangkok and will span all the places and continents I actually know. In this book, I finally hope to find my home.

Lezioni di Inglese

Approfitto di una lezione rimandata per parlare di come sta andando con l’insegnamento dell’inglese.
Non ne ho parlato molto qui perché sono sempre sommersa di cose di fare. Ma, nelle mie intenzioni, c’è quella di iniziare a pianificare le mie giornate: mettere ordine nel (tendenzialmente allegro) chaos che contraddistingue la mia esistenza.
Buffo come non abbia trovato ancora la voglia, il tempo e l’occasione di pianificare il mio tempo, ma ci arriverò.
Dunque: all’inizio della mia fase adulta, dopo la maturità, fu inevitabile che insieme all’interpretariato in fiera e nelle aziende e alle mie prime traduzioni, iniziassi ad insegnare anche le lingue. In fondo all’epoca ero assolutamente ancora trilingue, dovevo solo studiarmi un po’ di grammatica, o seguire il libro datomi dalle scuole di lingue per cui lavoravo.
Mi piacque subito: ogni studente o gruppo di studenti era diverso e presentava nuove sfide, ispirazioni e quant’altro. Insegnavo inglese agli italiani, ma anche spagnolo e qualche volta mi capitava anche di insegnare italiano agli stranieri.
Dopodiché è iniziata una lunga serie di spostamenti, nuova università, poi figli, cambio di paesi, di regioni… insomma, mantenere l’insegnamento non fu più possibile.
In Inghilterra, nessuno voleva imparare l’italiano e non riuscii ad entrare nei contesti dove poter insegnare inglese agli stranieri che entravano in Inghilterra.

Al rientro in Italia, dunque, ho iniziato a riprendere in considerazione l’insegnamento. Purtroppo nel frattempo avevo sviluppato parecchia ansia sociale, rimanevo presissima con mille cose da fare, non volevo mollare le traduzioni con le quali mi garantivo una piccola entrata fissa, e quindi non l’ho mai veramente lanciato. Però ha fatto in tempo a prenotarmi una nuova nostra amica, una persona così piacevole che era impossibile resisterle.

Con lei abbiamo deciso di seguire un metodo “intuitivo”. Come per molti aspetti della mia vita, anche professionale, a me piace molto (e considero la mia forza) adattarmi alla persona che ho davanti. Quindi prima di comprare libri di testo da seguire, ho pensato andiamo passo passo e vediamo cosa è meglio per lei.
Ho notato che le è piaciuta molto una lezione del corso di inglese del National Geographic, che insegnava concetti grammaticali intorno alla storia di un orfanotrofio per elefanti. Purtroppo quel programma è estremamente complicato da ottenere.

Grazie ad internet, ho sempre trovato varie esercizi, consigli su come spiegare questo o quel aspetto di grammatica, attività, eccetera. Ma dopo qualche mesetto di lezioni, ho concluso che quelle migliori sono quelle scritti ad hoc da me.
Solo così, infatti, posso usare esattamente il linguaggio e il livello della mia allieva, senza dovermi rifare ad un arbitrario Beginner, Elementary, Lower-Intermediate e via dicendo.
Sto seguendo il corso di qualifica TEFL Cambridge, ed è utilissimo, ma mai come la mia bellissima lezione centrata sull’argomento rose.

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Almeno, a me è piaciuta e la mia allieva ha commentato che ha sentito questa lezione essere estremamente produttiva.
Comprendeva punti grammaticali che abbiamo seguito finora, commenti personali sulle rose, sul farsi spedire le rose, i tipi di rose, chi sono i grandi creatori di questi magnifici fiori, la differenza tra un negozio Inglese e un equivalente Americano, differenze di spelling e tono, eccetera. Chi volesse vederla può scaricarla a questo link di Google Drive.