The House of Blue – the beginning

I am currently revising my first book, the House of Blue. One can never stop, can one? (ugh, that sounds horrid). It is necessary, because of how this book came about.

I will begin posting excerpts here again so I can look at them and polish them better. Feel free to read and if you want to purchase the kindle version of my book, which updates as I update it, you can do so on Amazon.

Chanctonbury Ring
The South Downs
England – by Toby Deveson

In the meantime, here is the beginning.


The House of Blue

a short novel


Valentina Sarno

To the memory of us, to being «one of us»


The moments of my life I treasure like no other are the moments spent intensely, sometimes with family and friends.

The moment I swam in the ferociously strong currents of the river near my house in Italy, at dawn. We’d all come off an acid trip, and in hindsight, how irresponsible and scary… but it was hot, the colours were pastel blue and pink and purple, the river water so fresh and dawn just exploding and we were happy.

The moment I met your father him, following him up and down the steps of a concert arena, and knowing as I watched his firm bum and muscular back through his thin t-shirt as he walked that I would, and could, follow him my whole life. I, who had been everything but a follower till then.

The moment I danced around happily with my boys in that attic room of windows and sunshine, because the man I had a fantastic crush on was coming over to see me as a couple for the first time. To see us.

There were moments.

The moment I I felt and saw my friends’ heroin death.

The moment I saw the flower-filled towns and hills of Alsace.

The moment my friend Linda and I… many moments of Linda and I.

The moment I saw your faces, you, my angels, the most incredibly beautiful bit that ever, ever came from me.

There were just so many moments. Perhaps one day I will tell you about them all.

The moments were many, and in-between it was so hard, so hard for someone like me. All I wanted was rest.

The House of Blue was where I found my rest. I was with the few who loved me, and some who didn’t, but it didn’t matter anymore.

I just wanted the quiet, the calm, the beauty all around me, in my House of Blue.

Bit 1

Nila and Hercules are walking idly in front of the house, embraced by the setting sun. She loves that time of day when light becomes golden, setting off the remaining blonde in her white hair, and most creatures settle down to rest. She sits on the rock near the drop to the valley, and looks out through her tired spectacled eyes at the landscape stretching beyond her for miles, and then further, the sea. “It is a good place”, you hear her say aloud, as she places her hand on Hercules’ back and caresses him gently.

She looks all around her and then lingers on her house behind her. On the left it looks like a normal house, with normal windows and doors. On the right, there is a large enclosed area, and many windows.

Above the flat roof, a huge dome of crystal panes.

Behind it, the forest, climbing up the steep mountain. Beyond the drop, at the end of the little plateau the house stands on, there are mountains, and the river slides towards them through a large valley.

Sheep, Scottish “coos”, goats, and a donkey. Hercules the dog and a couple of cats, and then Pretty, her daughter Francesca’s “Posh Dog”, a Parisian poodle who just refuses to die. Her fur that used to be pink has turned to a sorry looking grey with a reddish tinge.

The sun sinks below the gap between the mountains. Nila sighs – is she thinking about you? Is she remembering you how you were?

You used to be friends, you and Nila. You were the one who would never be stopped from visiting, and you always visited at the “wrong time”. The right time, she later found out, because you were there to look out for her, to protect her from him. You were her guardian angel, and once, while she was tripping, and you were the only lucid, sane and peaceful voice that could get through to her (it was a bad trip, Nila remembered with a grimace), she laughed with joy at the realisation of who you were: you were an angel! Of course! Oh how she laughed. She felt drenched and inundated in the joyful realisation. You were her angel, her protector and you had always been? Maybe, but mainly, you were there for her, you would guide her if needed be out of the insanity that was her death, the death she was sure she was going through at that very moment, and she would come out all right, after bawling her heart out and screaming and endless cream of despair

Nila frowns, remembering other terrifying moments of that acid-induced mind of hers. But you remember, that when she spoke to you, yes she sounded insane, but you wouldn’t let her see that, you had no judgement for her, you, the judge, you passed no judgement for her, only concern, only love, calm.

Nila smiles again, throws off her cigarette after one last long inhalation, and seems about to get up and go back inside.

She doesn’t know you were standing behind her all along, leaning against the side of the house, looking at her from the back. You are back to your old self, you can’t see yourself but you can feel it, you are long, and lean, with your long black hair and the eyes Nila always swore were green… but you told her they were blue.

Who knows – you think – I may have green eyes for her now, if she would only see me…You wish intensely for her to see you, you want to talk to her, give her a hug.

Nila turns around sharply, looking straight at you. No, she can’t see you. But she looks up and down, left and right, all round where you are standing. Would she see me with green eyes? You know she would run to you and hug you if she could see you. Nila was like that, always so emotional. You liked her hugs though, do you remember? You just forgot.

Nila looks straight ahead again. The sun has gone now, the twilight lingers, bright and cold. Nila has lit another cigarette and is weeping ever so gently. She really will miss you, even though you had left her many years before. You know what she’s thinking: she won’t ever be able to see you again. All those years secretly waiting for you to return to her, to her embrace, to her love, they were for nothing. Because now, she sighs and weeps a little more shakily, now you are really really gone.

Hercules nuzzles her. He might be feeling a little chilly, he is an old dog after all. Plus he never did like to see her sad.

You look at the handsome large dog. You smile at him and uncross your arms and try to call him to you. He turns around and looks straight at you, vaguely wags his tail, then returns his attention to his friend. He’s there for her, not for you. And you never did do anything to reach out to him while you were there.

ok Herc, ok”, Nila says.

She pats him on the head and fondles his face and ears and gives him a kiss, throws away her last cigarette, sighs again,

Damn it Travis, damn you. Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”

You know she doesn’t mean it, the damning part. She is just upset.

She turns around and goes back inside.

You follow Nila and let her go off to do her thing, while you explore the house. After all, you never really got the chance to do it before.

A room to your left, door shut, its handle a translucent blue. Further, a corner and turning right. This part of the corridor is suddenly very dark. Only one very small window on the whole wall, and around the window a mural. A small lamp on each end, lighting the way, just barely. A little creepy to walk through. It looks cold, shivery. At the end and turning right again, another long corridor, more doors to the right. Each door handle is different. Ornate brass ones, a deep red bauble, a very simple and elegant silver one.

Looking outside the windows, the twilight is making it difficult to see. You think you see a shadow running into the woods. A lone, mournful howl chills you to the bone, you feel like it sucks you towards it, it calls you.

Let it go, let it run through you.

It was the saddest sound you ever heard.

For a moment you feel a bit lost and lonely, and wonder whether it would be best to go back to your room and go the other way, but the spell is broken by Dean’s warm voice further along the corridor. He is making some sort of joke about Claudio’s cooking.

You like Dean. He really is a cheerful sort of young man, handsome as hell, everyone likes him. You used to be like that once, remember?

Everyone is in love with Travis” was what they all said. You knew they thought that about you. You never really paid any mind to whether or not you really were as crush-worthy as they implied. Nila had been the only one to enquire further, and find out you quietly suffered through a deep, old, unrequited love. You were not gay, as many thought and most women hoped, because why else would you ignore them so? You didn’t mind the many crushes many men had on you either.

You come upon a balcony looking down onto a huge open space. Cosy, warm, wooden. Though somehow the fires are not as bright as you feel they ought to be, and the spirit in the place is just not right. There is a slight gloom, a stillness, a silence.

Well, someone did just die.

You go down the stairs and arrive at the big table. About a Half a dozen people there, even Linda, your wife. You don’t see Jane, on of your daughters, who’d been peeping into your bedroom earlier. You wonder if she was the one you saw running into the woods.

Nila begins to talk as Dean, one of the grown kids who lives in the house and Claudio, Nila’s husband, bring some food to the table, to all of them and to no-one in particular. You think she is talking to Linda, your wife.

Well, tonight’s the night we say goodbye. There are no words. This was all too much to happen and feels so unfair, and we are all ready to continue to help you overcome this. But please, do say goodbye to him. Let us not keep anybody here who does not belong.”

You really are not sure who she’s talking about. Then they all start eating, and that is that. They didn’t see you there. You feel damp, and you feel a little shivery.

Later, you follow the silent stream of people outside. It is very foggy and eerie and you can almost feel the wet cold creeping under the woollen jumpers they are wearing.

Dean and his father and mother, Peter and Deirdre, and Tony, Nila’s friend, are carrying a wooden frame with carrying handles and a body is lying on top. You can’t see who it is, as the body is covered with a twilight blue funeral shroud. Everybody is solemn and serious, nobody is crying. Jane your 13-year-old daughter is not there. Where is Jill, her twin? You can’t remember. You have a feeling something is not right with Jill, but you can’t remember what. They walk towards and into the woods, and as they do so you feel sure there are shadows running ahead and on the side of them, on the right and then on the left. They are more than one. Is it a dog? A person? Many beings? They are whitish, greyish. You can’t tell what they are, but something is definitely moving within these woods.

You follow the procession.

They climb a little, winding through tall trees, berry bushes around them and all through the forest as far as you can see, which is not very far, because the fog is so thick. You just know they carry on for miles.

They arrive at a clearing. There is a large rectangular hole already dug just under a tree. The bearers place the frame down carefully. They wait silently, perhaps in case anybody wants to say anything. Nobody does. Everyone stares at the frame and the shrouded body. Linda your wife, your love, she is beautiful, she and her long dark hair, falling softly on her long blue deep velvet dress, almost ethereal, barely there. Her eyes are wide and wild, trembling, she gazes ahead at the body under the shroud, she keeps composed, graceful as always, still. Then, as though upon a secret signal, they all hoist up the frame with the ropes and then slowly lower it down into the hole. It looks very heavy and they struggle, but they manage not to dump it in.

They all pause for a moment then, without a word, Nila leaves the scene and heads back down to the house. Two of them fill in the hole, the others follow back to the house too. Linda lingers a little longer, she seems to shake something off her hair, she looks up to the sky and turns away, catches up with Nila, and takes her by the hand.

You stay behind, in the woods and watch them all go.

This was your funeral, and you are not supposed to return with them.


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.

La nostra nuova vita in Salento – 2/Our new life in Salento – 2

Il caldo è iniziato e stamattina, dopo una meravigliosa sosta sul lungomare a prendere un donut, un latte macchiato senza zucchero da quanto erano dolci il caffè e il latte, e un pasticciotto, dolcetto tipico di queste parti, poi una sosta piacevolissima al parcogiochi sul mare, chiacchierando con persone che sono scappate da Londra a fare crescere i bambini in un luogo più sano e bello, e una mamma di una bambina che probabilmente andrà a scuola con mia figlia, infine una microcamminata sugli scogli, siamo tornate spedite alla macchina trovata già rovente e siamo salite su in fretta in fretta alla nostra casetta, fresca e vivibile.

Oggi dicevo a mia figlia, che era impressionata dalla facilità con cui facciamo amicizia qua, o parliamo con le persone, vedi, questo è il rapporto naturale che ci dovrebbe essere tra gli esseri umani. Sì a noi sorprende perché veniamo dall’Inghilterra, ma è questo che è normale, non il contrario.

Parlarsi, raccontarsi, viversi.

Traduco il mio romanzo, ricordo perfettamente tutti gli anni trascorsi prima di questo, e la tristezza di fondo che permea il mio libro, The House of Blue (potete leggerlo qui)


i fantasmi che vi aleggiano che sono ancora lì, ma adesso seduti, in disparte, perché intorno a me c’è il sole.

Questo pomeriggio incredibilmente è nuvolo, e ha pure piovuto un po’. Immediatamente la malinconia si avvicina un po’, mi guarda speranzosa. Ok, le dico, mi metto a tradurre, ma non vado oltre. Malinconia qui non sei più di casa.

In Salento in questo momento mi sento a casa, qui dove davvero il colore che domina è il blu.




The heat began this morning, after a marvellous stop on the waterfront to grab a donut, a sugar-free caffelatte since the coffee and milk were so sweet already, and a pasticciotto, a traditional pastry of these parts, then a very pleasant stop at the playground overlooking the Sea, chatting with people who have run away from London to raise their children in a healthier and more beautiful place, and a mother of a little girl who will probably go to school with my daughter, finally a micro-walk along the rocks, we went back to the car which we found found scorching hot and drove up quickly back to our little fresh and liveable house.

Today I said to my daughter, who was impressed by the ease with which we make friends here, or talk with people, you see, this is the natural relationship there should be among humans. Yes, we are surprised because we come from England, but this is what is normal, not the other way around.

Talking, telling, living.

I translate my novel, I remember perfectly all the years before this, and the melancholia that permeates my book, The House of Blue (you can read it here)

The ghosts that lie there that are still around, but now sit, on the side, because the sun shines around me.

This afternoon is, incredibly, cloudy, and it has rained a bit. Immediately the melancholia approaches, looking hopefully towards me. Okay, I tell her, I’m going to translate the book, but I’m not going beyond that. Melancholia is no longer at home here.

In Salento, right now, I feel at home, surrounded by the dominating colour, the colour blue.


The House of Blue is out in print

And so, here it is.

My novel, The House of Blue, is finally available in hard copy too. Also in Kindle format (free if you bought the print copy).


It is available on Amazon (and soon other places too) all over the world.

It is a strange feeling, a feeling of peace and relief.

This is not how I would have chosen to write my book. I’ve been writing since forever but always postponing, always impossibly busy doing crazy things with my life which, fortunately, as I stand now, didn’t turn out too badly. Then again, looking back, that was not how I would have lived my life, given a choice, which I felt I never really had: I always took it by force, wilfully, that choice, and did “whatever I very well pleased”, often to survive.

This book is similar: it was written in stolen time during a Nanorimo burst, just before I started working in a shop and therefore felt it was my swallow soul’s final wingbeat. It started out wanting to be a humorous novel and ended up being a desperate attempt to create a dream pension scheme of mine (I’m serious, the book is full of oldish people) at first and then, as friendships waned and faded and changed, a shrine to enclose precious thoughts in. By releasing it into the Bookverse, all those thoughts are now released and I am more at peace.

The narrative is a little chaotic, you’re not always sure who’s doing the talking. Chaotic, imaginative, confusing, frustrating, beautiful: all terms that have been used for me. So, I guess, there goes quite a big chunk of me! Shoo! Shoo! Off you go then!