giovedì 15 gennaio 2015


I sent a message to my friend Flavia during Christmas break. She was way over busy back then: she and Rob had decided that there was nothing better to do in the middle of Australian summer than becoming parents, moving to a new house and celebrate Christmas in a timespan of barely 4 weeks.
When she told me she was tired, I did believe her, fully.
Yet, she took the time to share some of my puzzled bewilderment and laughters.

Back in Hoofddorp we would scan our company canteen, despair at the food selection, then one of us would go: "mmmh, lekker!"
The other one (and anybody else around) would crack up laughing in return.

Of course she had to something to say when I sent her photographic proof of the new food hype in Italy is: chips. Duch chips.
They are basically everywhere: no more kebabs, or pizza, or focaccia or burgers. It seems we turned into the Van Gogh's potato eaters v. 2.0
So far I've counted 3 different chips shop chains. And each one of those has a big queue in front of each one of them. I just can't believe it!

I used to say to my curious niece that in order to understand food in Holland, you have to take into account that Belgian chips are the national Dutch food and now they're everywhere, masked as "Amsterdam" chips.

My friend Franceschina says is the perfect business: you don't need a lot of space, material is cheap, you get a good income (at least until a new food fashion comes along), still I can't understand it. Chips with some mayo and everybody around me goes... "Mmmmh, lekker!"

Where did we all go wrong?

martedì 6 gennaio 2015

A morning stroll into town

What a difference a year made
365 little days
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to me rain

One year ago I was fighting to get away.
Now I’m finding hard not to stay.

What happened?
It happened I got a flat I feel my own: it’s so nice, warm and there’s so much light coming in from the window right now.
I've put an armchair in front of the window: it’s not an amazing landscape the one I can admire from there, the courtyard of the building in front of mine and the buildings on the street after; yet it’s so nice and quiet, and it’s nice to just sit there knitting or reading, while I listen to the Wilco’s opera omnia.

It happened I still struggle at crying most of the time, but found moments when I can do it freely and I’ve started calling my problems by their proper names, rather than looking for excuses.

The combination of these 2 facts brought me to a dreadful Sunday afternoon when I started feeling a familiar sense of anguish creeping up. I used to call it the "Sunday afternoon-Monday morning school angst". It’s that horrible feeling I used to get on Sunday afternoon, when I knew it was time to get the school backpack ready for the morning after and I just thought that if I didn’t do anything, denial would have taken all my worries away and it would be Sunday afternoon forever.

Yesterday the feeling was so strong and I felt so bad, I had to do something. And instead of hiding under the bed cover to resurface only tomorrow morning (when I’ll have to go back to Milan), I went out.

I took a bus to the city center early in the morning and basked in how beautiful everything around me was.
Monday before Epiphany is a weird day: sales are on, kids still on holiday, some people were returning to work while, at the same time, there were still a lot of tourist around.
First stop, the Mole Antonelliana: there was an exhibition dedicated to Sergio Leone I wanted to see and after that I spent some time watching the movie rolls they broadcast at its base.
The Mole is magic in bricks, now lovingly watching over the magic of movies.

I never get tired of walking around it, discovering bits and pieces I missed in the previous visit, or finding mementos of past exhibitions.


I left after having watched Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman dancing a couple of times, not before spending some time in the shop, just to listen to Lou Reed singing "Perfect day".

I strolled up to Piazza Castello, under the portici of Via Po, and then got into Palazzo Madama. I took the stairs up to the tower: not many tourists get on top of the tower, most of the people get their share of panoramic beauty from the top of the Mole but in front of me I could see why it’s so damn hard to leave. I could see the Alps faraway covered in snow, I could see Superga in the distance and the Gran Madre church still partially covered by the mist coming from the river.

And the sky was so blue and the city below me so beautiful, I couldn’t help but smile; and dry some small tears.

Before heading back home I decided to try my luck and went to queue for the Russian Avantguardes exhibition. And lo and behold, there was no queue! Actually there was nobody, just me and the girls at the cashier.

I ended up enjoying a private tour of the exhibition; there were my favorite Rodchenko and Popova and I also discovered some new names I’ll have to google to know more about. I didn’t understand everything I saw (especially the portion about painting the sound), but I enjoyed it and I liked what I saw so much I’m pretty sure I’ll queue one more time for an encore before the exhibition closes next month.

This is basically the most advanced form of art review I’ll ever be able to give, but also what will put me through the doom and gloom of returning to Milan tomorrow. No better way to fight back but booking some train tickets first thing in the morning.

domenica 4 gennaio 2015

The sweater fairytale

When I was a kid I inherited a lot of my parents childhood books. Well, it was more of a long-term loan, to be honest. I liked most of them more than the new books I received: they had a physical presence that was more fascinating than the new ones, not to mention the pictures looked nicer and seemed to promise more fun, adventures and enchantment than newer editions.

There were a lot of Jules Verne’s novels, children literature authors now long forgotten and collections of classical fables and folklore tales.We had a series of books by the Grimm brothers and H.C. Andersen.

I enjoyed reading them a lot, even though I found most of them quite sad, if not depressing. In hindsight, I wonder what possessed my parents to allow me read those books; that was pure psychological terror in prints, not to mention the predecessor of pulp literature: kids eaten alive, witches roasted in the oven (alive), murders and misery; and now I hear people wondering whether Harry Potter saga isn’t a bit to violent for kids… seriously?

One of my favorite fable was "The Wild Swans". It’s a tale of misery, social injustice, persecutions and how petty and ugly people can be, not to mention a yet-another-feable excuse of a king. Still the princess marries him at the end, when she should have just dumped him and go away with her brothers.

Anyway, as a child, I didn’t really read that much into it. I just liked the story, and even more so the illustrations that came with it. There was this drawing of the princess throwing into the sky the shirts she knitted out to the her brothers, while standing on this already lit and burning pire. But worry do not, everybody lived happily ever after, also the brother that got the uncompleted shirt; Elisa had not enough time to complete knitting the last sleeve, so one of the brothers was left with one wing, instead of an arm.

The tale of the poor brother of Elisa is something that resonates a lot with me recently, because it looks like I am like Elisa right now and all my knitting projects lack something to be completed: scarves left halfway through, single-sock pair of socks and sweater that look knitted out just for Elisa’s brother.

When I go and browse on Ravelry the finished project section, I can’t help but feeling a little envious: how can people can be so good at finishing projects? Why can’t I manage to complete one single work, before casting on a couple of new ones?

And how can people find the time to knit so many nice things?

I have been asking myself these question for a really long time now and without any result: I can’t find the answers I’m looking for.

So instead I decided to not look for answers, but count rounds: I’ve taken up again knitting my sweatrrr!

After taking the class with Åsa Tricosa back in Brighton I had wanted to start it straight away, but then I broke my arm and everything went on hold, until the cast was removed and my left arm started cooperating once more. So at the end of August, I picked some nice Albozzi yarn and casted on: the project grew quickly and easily under my eyes… Until I reached sleeve #2. Once I picked up the stitches for that sleeve, everything seemed to slow down to a complete stop.

It was frustrating yet I couldn’t resolve to pick it up and finish it. Instead I finished 2 shawls, 3 hats and started other 3 projects.

I put the project bag on the sofa, thinking that if I saw it there, it’d be easier to pick it at the end of the day and knit some rounds. The project bag stayed on the sofa for almost 2 months, looking at me as accusingly and offended as a project bag can do. And trust me, it can do it pretty well for an inanimate object.

I then moved the project bag into the suitcase and brought it with me to Torino… this time around, however, I prevailed over my own idiocy and picked it up again! I even hold some hope to finish it before my break is over and I return to work.




sabato 3 gennaio 2015

The small houses

I think it's because I've been talking so much about houses, flat, home and apartments... It must have somehow got into some of my friends subconsciousness.

How to explain otherwise this pair of earrings I got from Franceschina??!

She told me she immediately thought of me when she saw them. And now I literally got two houses I carry around with me, while travelling and living in between my Milan flat and Turin home.

I hope I will solve this situation as soon as possible, but there's very little I can do now (aside calling the furniture shop to get my table and chair delivered before the next ice age!). In the meantime I must start obsessing my friends about Malabrigo yarns as much as I can.

giovedì 1 gennaio 2015

And so it begins again...

The best part of non celebrating New Years Eve, aside avoiding all the stress to prepare for it, is waking up with no headache and battling no hangover.

This time I chose to avoid any form of celebration: I read, knitted, wrote a letter and when people started firing fireworks I realised that the year has changed.

Basically, everything I think and feel about yesterday has been brilliantly summed up by Jonathan Oliver here:

Up to few years ago I woud have (and did) lived such an evening as pure and utter failure and tragedy.
This time was a whole different story, so this morning I woke up with no consequences from the night before and just spent a nice day.

I went for a walk. I answered a lot of why and how come Ilaria wanted answers. And when I write a lot, I mean a lot, the quantity and the frequency rate only a 3-years old can come up with.

And I also learnt to double knit: no matter what this year will bring, I will make sure to have nice and colourful garnments to face it.

Bring it on, 2015. Bring it on.

mercoledì 31 dicembre 2014

The strategy of a (light) snail

Many years ago, before I even had started moving around on a semestral basis, I watched a Colombian movie, Sergio Cabrera’s “La estrategia del caracol” (The strategy of the snail): when the owner of a building kicks his tenants out, they decide to react and move taking with them all of their homes, internal walls, windows, roofs, pipes included. Just like a snail, they brought their home with them.

I watched it by pure chance and enjoyed it a lot: I missed no opportunity to talk about it to anybody I knew. As it seems to happen with every single movie I watch by pure chance and I like, I never saw “La estrategia del caracol” broadcasted on tv ever again and was nowhere to be found in the shop. So imagine my happiness when Colin found it for me many years later.

Moving flats, cities and countries in the past 10 years has taught me many important lessons.
I had to learn to take into account many things and reevaluate concepts that I thought I grasped already.

One of such concept is “space”.
Space is all around, it’s obvious, isn’t it?
But can you touch space? No you can't, unless of course you run out of it and you start touching the lack of if.
In the past I was almost maniacally obsessed with things and consequently with space, or lack of it. I was a hoarder in the making: I wasn’t able to throw away even the smallest item, if it had a memory or emotional meaning attached to it.

“What?!? Throwing away this very old bus ticket? No way! It’s the ticket I used when I went to the movie with mum and Adri to watch Back to the Future II, I can’t part from it! Plus, what’s the harm? It’s only a small ticket, it doesn’t take that much space anyway.”

You probably can't even imagine how many small tickets I had and what was the harm they became for me.
I had so much stuff I couldn’t possibly move them all with me when I migrated to the UK. I needed to find a solution for it and I did find it: I started putting stuff into the cellar.
Ok, let’s be honest: the cellars, as I took over my parents' cellar too. Not to mention how I slowly but surely formed a literary colony on their book shelves.

Out of sight, out of mind.

When I moved back to Milan, I realized there was not enough space for all the things I had hidden in the cellars over the years. Well, not much of a problem really, I kept repeating to myself: I just need to put my flat back together and sort out everything once that was done.

This small trick allowed me 2 and an half extra years to come up with a solution. And look and behold! I found a solution!
Or, rather, the solution found me.
In the last years I somehow learnt to value my space, to enjoy having space around me without feeling the compulsion to fill it with stuff.

I’ve also started disentangling from things. I realized I don’t need to keep e-ve-ry single little thing, souvenir, piece of paper and photo in order to keep my memories alive. They’re still there: I threw back the bus ticket, but I can still remember the massive amount of people packing the Reposi cinema when mum fought her way to the cashier and got us the tickets.

I’m still a snail, carrying my little home with me wherever I go, but I’ve started learning to make it lighter.

giovedì 25 dicembre 2014

Back home for Christmas

I got in Torino some days ago.

I wasn’t feeling that much in the mood for Christmas, I had tons of things to do: clear up my work tasks before disappearing for my holiday break was the priority, alongside all the tasks of setting up my flat in Torino.

In the past week I set up the utilities, moved in, tested the dishwasher, enjoyed the notion the heater works ok, moved stuff in the kitchen, fell asleep on my new armchair (twice! I’ll have to force myself not to sit there after 9 in the evening) and bought a Christmas star to make the flat a bit more Christmas.

It’s the first time in 7+ years I actually make some small, yet conscious effort at decorating my flat for Christmas. When I was abroad, it made no sense, as I knew I would be spending my Christmas break in Torino anyway: what’s the point?
In Milan, it was actually the same thing: in the past 2 years I did not bother at all.

This is the last flat I set up the Christmas tree: it feels like a lifetime ago and in many way it is.
So, after one night here, it felt a bit empty and not only because I had not time to move the books into the shelves yet.
It just looked it needed something to make it warmer. I didn’t want to get anything too big and this poinsettia is small enough yet the eyes are drawn to it. It might even outlive the Christmas break, who knows? maybe my plant-terminator ability won’t work its magical destructive power on it.

This is the flat where, a Christmas Eve many years ago, I went to bed slightly tipsy, setting up an alarm so to make sure to be at my parents’ in time for the Christmas lunch.
And I set up the alarm clock yesterday for the same purpose.

I woke up kind of early so to have a lazy start of the day. Then I doubled check I got everything in the handbag, put the gloves and hat on and smiled at the Christmas star before heading out.
I’m pretty sure she smiled back at me.