Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Lazy days: fever, food and geekiness...

Christmas came and went by, leaving behind some kilos extra (way too  many, can see a lot of gym and diet on the horizon for me) and loads of paper and cardboard in the recycle bin.

It's been a quiet Christmas, family, food, wine, Davide playing with cars and Sara explaining me the meaning of the universe and demanding explanations on the why of life.
Tradition wants Italia 1 to broadcast "Trading Places" and I watched it with the rest of the family, even though my dad added in a lot of zapping between channels as he can't stand ads. 
It was a rainy Christmas, no snow to play with in the garden, but after all the worries and fear of flight cancellation, I'm quite happy to not see any snow for the next month!
Before I'll even have the time to realize it, New Year's Eve will be here.
And it'll bring the usual questions: where and how are we going to celebrate it?
I hate New Year's Eve. I hate it with venom and passion. Even more than the Christmas hypocrisy even more of that stupid non-sense of people feeling good and behaving nicely because it's Christmas (only to return to be mean and normal from Boxing Day onwards), I can't stand the "let's have fun and party because it's NYE".
Last year I refused to celebrate it and this year I started worrying about the usual NYE questions since November.
Every year, shortly before Christmas Eve, the usual questions surface in every conversation: plans for the 31st? Where are you going to celebrate the new year? How are you going to say goodbye to the old year?

This year, however, Davide, my lovely nephew, may have found a way to answer to all these questions for his aunt.
Davide was feeling a bit sick over Christmas and on Monday he looked really bad. Maybe some food allergy? How to explain otherwise that rash on the arms?
Simple: it's scarlet fever.
Guess who never had scarlet fever as a kid? Well, not only me. I discovered a lot of people never had it.
In my family, only my mum had it when she was a child. So fa,r none of the friend I spoke to about it have had scarlet fever already.
Ok, the possibility of catching it as an adult is, apparently, very low.
But I had chickenpox back in February and, lucky as I am, I might finish the year with another child disease.
I should find it out very soon as my "quarantine" is about to end: in theory if I don't start to see symptoms by tomorrow I should be safe.
Still, I couldn't really go and meet my friends during the past 2-3 days and had to stay home.
It was not so bad, however. I had the time to spend some time with mum and dad, having discussions about politics, watching movies and sorting small little crafts project that have been stashed away for ages.
I watched "The good, the bad and the ugly", even though I had a Sergio Leone's marathon only last week, and taught my mum how to knit in the round a hat.

However I had to find other things to do, to fight the boredom of the last 2-3 days of forced isolation: I spent some good hours playing a Sherlock Holmes videogames, one of those where you're supposed to use the brain to solve puzzle and you don't have to shoot, boxe, destroy armies and civilization.
I tried to read a awful book and decide to read "The stand" again instead.

Did some knitting:

hat and neckwarmer

And tried my luck at crochet. I learnt them both with my grandmother, when I was a kid, and then stopped. Now I find it relaxing as I always did, but also a nice way to make good old memories resurface.
Still... I couldn't bring myself to crochet a tea-cozy: I have no teapot I can use it with and it's not something an Italian would crochet. Nor a pot-holder or a coaster.
So I found something else I could do, a small multi-purpose project: I started crocheting again, I made my geeky side happy and got myself something I can give to Enric as souvenir. 
Now, don't ask me how I decided it, but I went online and googled for a pattern to crochet a... nothing big, just a..., ehm ehm, google android robot.
Ok, let's write it clearly: I found a pattern to crochet a Google Android droid.

I find it cute. Geeky and nerd, but cute.

Android

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The lionel, the witch and other horrors

Maybe he had some doubts before, but now Enric must be sure I don't fall completely into the definition of "normality".

I kept asking him explanation of different flight status: what is "taxied"? And "airborne"?
Not (completely) my fault, it's just that given the problems of the past few days in London airports, I grew a bit apprehensive when it comes to flight status, expecially since I got a printed boarding pass I'm very keen to use tomorrow afternoon.

If I were a bit more "normal", I might use my time in more interesting or productive way. Such as finding a way to survive the months leading me to my April vacation, also known as the moment I don't want to be anywhere around this country, alias the wedding of William and Kate.

The countdown has started and it's bringing along a bandwagon of memorabilias worth the museum of horrors.
So far I spotted the "Official Royal Wedding Commemorative China": what better way to flush away 25 quid, but a nice commemorative pillbox?!?! WTF???

For more "intellectual" presents, yesterday in Waterstones I spotted at least 3 different books about the lovely couple: such volumes deserve a place of honour on the bookshelves of every single household of the kingdom. Yesterday, watching people buying them, I thought that illiteracy might start to be considered a blessing in disguise.

At lunch time, I was watching the news on telly and I think I spotted the top of the presents, la crème de la crème of disgusting gadgets... the first commemorative coin to celebrate this engagemen.
With just 5£ you can bring something that escapes any possible description.
There's a picture of it in an article on Telegraph website.
I think the most fitting and nicest adjective that I can associate with it is "atrocious".
No, really, what I thought was: exponential WTF!!!

It looks as if William booked the same surgeon Berluska uses for his hairline and he's marrying a zombie with worringly raised eyebrows! No, really! Who did engrave this coin!?!? 

I got a main suspect and maybe next round of revelations from wikileaks will prove me right:



(Hello, is it me you're looking for?)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Google Maps and London


I never suspected Buckingham Palace was so close to Westminster, but if Google says so...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

ufficio e misure

Non c'è molto lavoro in questi giorni. A pochi giorni da Natale, la maggior parte dei miei colleghi sono in ferie.
O bloccati dalla neve da qualche parte.
Il che mi da un po' di tempo in più per prendere le misure. Alla scrivania, all'ufficio, al lavoro.
Il mio nuovo ufficio è molto diverso da quello precedente, per quanto appartengono alla stessa società: le differenze fra Londra e Hampshire e fra i diversi lavori che si svolgono nei due luoghi si riflettono nell'arredamento e nella disposizione di tutto ciò che mi circonda.

Non ho tutto lo spazio che avevo a Southwood, ma ho anche meno "rumenta" in giro per cassetti e tavoli. Non ho ancora deciso bene come organizzero' lo spazio, come lo decorero'... e' troppo spoglio, ma non ho voglia di impegnarmi e rimando dicendomi che mancano pochi giorni alle ferie e posso occuparmene nell'anno nuovo. Dalla mia finestra godo di un panorama di cieli e tetti. Nessun tetto "famoso", semplici edifici, tutti uffici del centro di Londra, tranne il tetto di un teatro. Il cielo oggi e' quello tipico di Londra: grigio fumo, noioso, monotono, anonimo.
Si sposa bene al silenzio quasi surreale che avvolge l'ufficio. La neve sul tetto di fronte si sta lentamente sciogliendo e questo mi fa ben sperare per il resto della settimana.

Craig, il mio capo, mi ha consigliato di approfittare di questi giorni di calma, godermeli finché durano: al mio rientro dalle ferie, la mole di lavoro è destinata a cambiare in maniera notevole.
Se il capo dice una cosa simile, ehi! Chi sono io per dargli torto?!?

Solo che tutto questo tempo "libero", non è tale, perché il cervello è in piena attività. E' arrivato quel momento dell'anno, quando oh oh oh! arriva Natale e siamo tutti più buoni e poi subito dopo ecco Capodanno ed è tempo di bilanci. Ecco, il fatto di dover fare un bilancio, trarre le somme, mi destabilizza un po'. Specie quest'anno: sembra che nulla sia cambiato, eppure è tutto diverso.

Domenica Mario ha lasciato un commento a un mio posto e mi sono resa conto che molte persone non sanno degli sviluppi degli ultimi dodici o sei mesi, a seconda di dove sono rimasti con il riassunto delle puntate precedenti.

Posso riassumere il tutto con una sola frase: il 2010 è stato un anno di lezioni importanti.
Ho imparato che:
1. Se il mio istinto mi dice che una persona non fa per me, ha poco senso non darmi ascolto e credere a ciò che dicono gli altri. Meglio sola che un'ameba emotiva al mio fianco.

2. La varicella fa schifo.

3. La varicella a 31 anni fa ancora più schifo.

4. Perdere il concerto degli Swell Season per via della varicella è l'apoteosi dello schifo.

5. I sogni se li possono permettere solo quelli con i soldi. Altrimenti, poche balle: meglio un lavoro che paga le bollette.

6. Meglio andarsene in ferie o permettersi un cinema ogni tanto, piuttosto che sentirsi dire che fai bene a inseguire i tuoi sogni e simili minchiate da gente che poi se ne va in giro, esce e pensa che sei un'asociale, quando in realtà non puoi fare molto, visto che guadagni 700 euro al mese per sei giorni di lavoro alla settimana.

7. Se qualcuno si arrabbia oltre ogni modo per una minima rimostranza e ti accusa non solo di aver torto, ma avere altri "problemi", può avere anche ragione, ma ha soprattutto una coscienza sporca oltre ogni dire, altro che Omino Bianco!

8. Se non riesci a risolvere i tuoi problemi, meglio non invischiarsi con quelli altrui.

9. Non è possibile mettere troppa cannella in un dolce.

10. Cracovia non è Ciriè.

In dodici mesi ho perso molto del mio idealismo, speranze, sogni, (presunti) amici e due orecchini (ora ho due paia spaiati, sigh). Ho guadagnato in realismo, cinismo, pazienza.

Mentre pensavo a tutto questo, ero seduta su una sedia di plastica alla Royal Festival Hall, ad ascoltare il VoiceLab che cantava canzoni più o meno natalizie.
I pensieri si susseguivano veloci, anche per via di quel vin brulè bevuto poco prima, a stomaco vuoto.
E mi è venuto da sorridere quando, ripensando alle lezioni del 2010, il coro ha iniziato una canzone che conosco e amo molto.

Seasons of Love

E come due anni fa mi sono chiesta: "How do you measure, measure a year?"
In tazze di caffè, bamboline voodoo, curry e tortilla.
In potom potom, cicciottini e film della disney.
In concerti, racconti e fiabe stravaccate.
In molte lezioni imparate, in alcune impartite.
Nostalgia, rassegnazione, speranze e progetti.
In delusioni e tradimenti.
In abbracci e amici.

E nel silenzio dell'ufficio vuoto, la risposta, sebbene scontata e forse pure banale, è chiara: in amore.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Still...

Odissey

This morning, after freezing for about 20 minutes at the bus stop, hoping for an 87 to stop by, I decided to walk, ehm, skate to Stockwell tube station.

Pointless and needless to say, the heavy snow that fell on Saturday had turned in a nice, compact, slippery ice slab, that allowed me to revise the skating 101 I learnt some years ago. And exercise my swearing skills. A lot.
There's nothing I can do right now, but hope for my flight to not be cancelled and pay a lot of attention while walking.
No point in getting frustrated or upset because of the whole situation, still...

Still, it's the 3rd winter in a row this country is hit by some days of heavy snow and for the 3rd winter in a row I have to listen to the same sort of comments: it's only few weeks a year... didn't happen in the past 20 years... it's all about cost/benefit, we can't invest the taxpayers money in it and leave more important issue without foundings... bla bla bla.

All very true of course, but I get this nagging feeling of something being untold, a "this country is a joke" soundtrack to all of this cliche' talking.

Ok agreed: it snows only 2 weeks over 52, no point doing extra spending in equipment that will rot in warehouse for the remaining 50 weeks of the year.

On the other hand: is the money otherwise spent in infrastructure in this country? I doubt it. 
Train are not cancelled only for snow... Any possible weather condition you heard of has been a cause of delays and cancellations.
This country might not have a long legacy of living under the snow, but how about rain? Don't tell me this country doesn't know a lot about life under the rain! Still, I lost the counts of how many times my trains were cancelled or delayed because of "unexpected rain on tracks" or "slippery rail condition".
And let's not forget the leaves! How many other countries in this world run a different train timetable in autumn, because of "leaves on tracks"??! Do leaves fall in a peculiar, British-only, fashion only here, so that train companies are forced to make changes to timetables?

Still, this is the 3rd year in a row of heavy snowing in winter and people in this town (and country) haven't learnt yet... not even the dumbest lab rat would have so many learning problem as most of Londoners seem to have when it comes to snow.
On the skate along Lansdowne Way this morning, it was hilarious seeing my street neighbours trying to shovel the snow, now turned into ice, off the driveway! 
They were basically hammering the ice with plastic Asda shovel... smart, very smart!
Aside me and the pub owner one block down, nobody thought that clearing the stairs and/or the drive way was something to be done on Saturday, when the snow was still fresh... And I didn't use a shovel, but an old broom doomed to the bin anyway, so the lack of equipment is a pitiful excuse.
The only possible explanation I came up with this morning is that the people here are not used to snow. And they're not very much used to reason and use their brains either.

Politically correct... bullshit

Lo scorso sabato, dopo aver deliziato i passeggeri della Jubilee con un saggio "f you know of any other way you can get home, I suggest you take it", il guidatore della metro ha elencato tutta la serie di ritardi e chiusure delle linee della metro dovute alla neve.
Quando è arrivato il turno della Bakerloo, ne ha annunciato la chiusura, dicendo però che era dovuta a... "dispute with management".
Poco dopo affermava che la causa era "industrial action".
Ma che cavolo! La parola in inglese esiste, nonostante i tentativi della signora Thatcher di sradicarla dalla faccia della terra: si dice "strike", sciopero!!!

Da quando pure lo sciopero ha una versione politicamente corretta???

Gramellini una volta ha scritto, in uno dei suoi Buongiorno, che "politicamente corretto" è quello strano processo per cui uno spazzino viene chiamato operatore ecologico ma continua a guadagnare quanto uno spazzino. 

"Politically correct" è lo strumento perfetto per incatramare con una patina di mediocrità le nostre vite e in questo Paese va per la maggiore.
A me fa saltare i nervi ma ancora di più mi fa arrabbiare come si stia diffondendo, la nuova peste nere.

Tanto i fatti alla fin fine non cambiano. La Bakerloo non c'era perché c'era
Lo sciopero non è scomparso solo perché non nessuno ha pronunciato la parola.
E anche non ci fosse stato lo sciopero, la Bakerloo sarebbe rimasta chiusa, visto che basta un niente perché la metropolitana collassi!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

ma per fortuna o purtroppo

Quanto tempo è passato dall'ultimo post in italiano? Un mese o giù di li?

Non so che cosa sia successo, di sicuro parlo sempre meno italiano a casa e fuori. Capita sempre meno che mi trovi in un gruppo di soli italiani e a parte le chiamate a casa non esiste un moment durante la settimana in cui so per certo che parlerò italiano.
Poi a leggere le notizie dall'Italia mi prende un tale senso di nausea che mi passa la voglia di parlare italiano.
La nostra è una lingua così bella e musicale, è un peccato lasciarla ammuffire nel caotico dimenticatio del mio cervello, solo perché sono disgustata da ciò che capita in Italia, all'interno e all'esterno del Parlamento.

Anche perché poi... insomma, diciamocela tutta: non è che abito nel paese dei balocchi.
In questi giorni mi sono ritrovata spesso a riascoltare questa canzone:


Nemo profeta in patria, mio caro signor G! Mai, come da quando abito qua in Inghilterra, riascolto questa canzone con le orecchie spalancate!

Oggi non mi ha lasciato un secondo.
Mentre camminavo sotto la neve per le strade di Islington, sperando in una veloce riapertura di Gatwick (potrei suicidarmi a dover passare le ferie qua!).
Mentre tornavo, o almeno tentavo di tornare, a casa.
Mentre scivolavo per strada con la grazia di un elefante rosa di Dumbo.

Ok, ha nevicato tanto, ma per poco! E l'intera nazione ha smesso di muovermi. 
Mi ricorda un'illustrazione del mio sussidiario delle elementari che spiegava la creazione dei fossili: un enorme mammuth impantanato in una palude che affonda piano piano, senza dare segni di cercare una via d'uscita.
Ecco, il Regno Unito in questo momento è un mammuth impantanato nella neve.

Spesso sento dire "this country is a joke". Più che uno scherzo, mi sembra un mistero dell'evoluzione.
Come hanno fatto a possedere 1/4 del mondo e non riuscire oggi a far funzionare il sistema ferroviario alla minima traccia di pioggia?

Ma soprattutto, come fanno a farmi battutine sull'Italia (più che giustificate, ça va sans dire), ma poi non fare nulla quando sulla metropolitana sentono l'annuncio all'interfono: "If you know of any other way you can get home, I suggest you take it"?!?!
Gli unici a protestare e fare battute sono stati gli stranieri. Gli inglesi li ho riconosciuti subito, perché hanno abbassato le orecchie da somaro e zitti! guai a dire qualcosa o a mostrare un qualsiasi tipo di emozione!

Certo, cose così succedono anche in Italia, ma un minimo di emozioni almeno noi le mostriamo. Casomai ci ridiamo un po' su.

"Rispetto agli stranieri
noi ci crediamo meno
ma forse abbiam capito
che il mondo è un teatrino...
"

Qui invece no. E' ironico che un paese che così tanto ha dato a satira e umorismo ne sia così privo nella vita quotidiana dei suoi abitanti, come fosse una specie di contrappasso intellettuale: i Monty Python in cambio di apatia sociale.
Si prendessero meno sul serio, non si ritenessero così importanti (per cosa, poi?), probabilmente vivrebbero meglio. E io con loro...

Friday, 17 December 2010

A perfect day, by this river

sunset over thames 

Maybe it's just a coincidence; or maybe a trick played by my evilish subconscious; anyhow the two songs in the title are always side by side in any of my playlist: always in the same order, I got almost no time to recover from the emotion caused by Lou Reed that here comes Brian Eno.

I never tried to change this pattern in my musical choices, nor I ever wanted to.
I find that the two songs, combined together, just as they are, fit most of my moods and "emotional phases".
They have a streak of bittersweetness, longing, hope and despair that will fit in most of the moments of life.

I received terrible news from Italy in the past few days and I had to deal with the situation and the feelings generated by it.
Tragedy stroke out of the blue and I was left to my own devices to face the big questions of life, knowing fully there's no answer for them. 
But at the same time the world keeps on moving and this is what causes problems, most of the time at least: every one of us is caught in his/her own little world, with problems, worries, good and bad news, so that it's almost an automatic self-defence response to not pay attention to every problem around us.
 
I struggled quite a lot not to send to hell people around me, even friends: "Do you really think this is a problem!? Do you really believe this is the end of the line for you, the worse thing that can happen?! Do you really think your life is meaningless??? Well, let me tell you one thing: you're perfectly right on the last statement. Now just do me a favour: either disappear or grow up, or both!"
Yet, I didn't say it to anybody, mostly because it was a instinctive reaction, made of pain and annoyance. Furthermore. I've learnt to accept that not everybody reacts the same way and is able to display the same level of understanding and empathy (wisdom of the old folks!?!), so I stopped being hurt by people who react in quite selfish ways... "Oh, well, yeah, tragedy, sorry for your friend, now let me tell you how miserable my life is".

When moments like this hit me in the face, Lou and Brian are able to work magic: they just keep me hanging on and I remember that everything, no matter how big or small, tragic or joyful, is part of something bigger. Something bigger than us, almost impossible to understand, something called life.
I set the songs on repeat and remind myself that the only way out is to try my best to give life a meaning: remember the people that wandered on my same path for a while, cherish the loved ones, cry and smile.

holidays, trooper and winter chill

The holiday season is here.
The office is getting emptier and emptier each days.
Even the tube this morning was not as crowded as yesterday, but it might as well be the weekend effect.

On the other hand, however, the house will be emptier tonight, as Robert is the first one to set off for holidays.
He was still sleeping when Enric and I left this morning.
Before going off with our work life, however, we wrote a goodbye note (one sentence each) and then I set the Trooper to guard it.
Given it's winter and cold, I provided the Trooper with a winter uniform:

Santa Trooper

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The helpdesk

British Airways customer centre, few days to Christmas...
Telephones are ringing, servers are receiveing mails...
Names have been changed to protect the innocents.


Operator A: "So, operator B, any plans for tonight? Should we go and get one pint or two?"
Operator B: "Not sure, operator A, we got work to do tomorrow. Moreover..."
Operator A: "What's wrong, operator B?!? Jeez, you look so pale!!! Are you alright?"
Operator B: "Oh no, oh no, oh my god, please no!!!"
Operator A: "What?!?! What?!?!"
Operator B: "She's back!"
Operator A: "Who's she?"
Operator B: "Remember the weird girl? The one that last year wanted to know whether she could board on one of our planes bringing a cactus?"
Operator A: "Oh gosh, yeah, I remember her. Is she back? A different type of cactus this time?"
Operator B: "No, she didn't mention any cactus this time around, but wants to knit on board and wants to know if she can bring her circular needles in the hand luggage..."
Operator A: "So, about that pint..."
Operator B: "Forget the pint, let's have whisky..."

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

a house that is a home

Robert, Enric and I are finally settled into our new flat. It took us some time, lots of cleaning, even more swearing, but on Saturday evening we were ready to have the house warming party.
We had hanged our voodoo doll some days in advance, so that she could get used to the feeling and the day before we also put some pins in:


bad juju


We spent good part of Saturday sorting the groceries, cooking and baking.
On Sunday morning, after waking up and some water to dilute the alcohol, I had a look around.
Jeez, what a mess!!!


Nachos on the ground, some food left halfway through:


the day after




I start collecting the cups used to drink sangria and at the end they were piled in a tall column, higher than the small Christmas tree that Marina bought to brighten up our living room. I'd rather had some 100W light bulbs, but the tree is fine too:


xmas tree and sangria cups


Moving to the kitchen, Vasi's shisha was sieged by bottles, cupcakes, soft drinks and other sangria's cups:


leftovers


At the end, it looked like a mess, but was not so bad. In less than one hour, all the garbage was collected and divided in the bins, the dishes were in the dishwasher, half kitchen cleaned. I went on with my Sunday and Robert and Enric finished cleaning.


Yesterday evening I felt very tired, but also happy. I don't think the house needed to be warmed, as it got already quite a good insulation from the outside world: it's very home-y and familiar, we spend lot of time chatting in the kitchen and I felt home from the first minute on.


Today I'm still tired: partially I still need to recover from Saturday party and, on top of that, there is the tension for the new job. I started today and I think I'm so tired because everything is new. The way of commuting, the kind of job and office.


Yet, it's always nice and comforting knowing that at the end of the day I can come back to a place I finally call home. It's a feeling I have been missing a lot for too many months, I have a lot to catch up with now!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Upside down

In the past few days I had the feeling I was doing nothing: waking up, going to work, getting back home, but nothing else worth remembering.
No pictures, no blog posts, no baking, no laundry (thus no ironing).

Yet, yesterday, sitting in the kitchen, staring blankly at the kettle boiling the water, I realized that it was not exactly true.

I did a lot of things: being sick took away a lot of time, but I've been quite busy with moving into the new house, cleaning the new house (professionally cleaned my @$$!, pardon my French), going to Ikea to buy new stuff for the new house, trying to understand how the washing machine and the oven work.

I still haven't had the chance to use the washing machine, so obviously there was no laundry done and ironing was definitely not even in discussion.
Yesterday I discovered that the instruction for the oven we found in the kitchen were not for the oven in the kitchen. Not that we have a oven in the living room, we only have the one in the kitchen, just not with matching instruction leaflet.

Did it stop me from baking? Ah, think again!
I had a recipe waiting for ages to be tested, I managed to get all the ingredients and An-li lent me the cake mould I needed, why should have I stopped.

The first time I saw a chiffon cake was at Akiko's place: she baked a green tea chiffon cake and I was fascinated by the way you have to turn the mould and leave it there, so that the cake can slide down gently. And the fact it was so spongy!
For a reason or another I kept postponing the baking. Mainly it was the turning the cake and resting it on a bottle to wait for it to cool down that unsettled me.
But, to quote Jack Johnson, "who's to say what's impossible" and "I want to turn the whole thing upside down".
So I baked the cake and watched it fascinated resting on Enric's whisky bottle... before I switched the bottle for a glass that looked safer.


upside down


It's still not perfect, mainly because I haven't whisked the egg whites enough and I used a recipe for a 24 cm pan and a 30 cm pan, so the mix spread out more and didn't raise enough. Still, it means I got room for improvement and now that my curiosity is in motion (and An-li might get me a pan like hers, he he ^_^), who knows what I might come up with?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

My Christmas desk

What happen when you return to the office after one day off?
Nothing can really change in one day and the most it can happen is to find more unread mails than usual in your inbox.
Well, think again. A lot can happen if a.) Christmas is getting closer; b.) you got colleagues like mine; c.) the colleagues are in Christmas mood and d.) because of their Christmas mood, the colleagues decide some decoration is in order.

This is how my desk looked like this morning:
my desk

Actually it still looks like this. I find it quite cute, albeit cheesy and very hard to see the top angles of both monitors!
And this is the Nativity set:

Everybody was kung-fu fighing!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A puzzled cough

So, I'm sick, got a very nasty cough and need to take some medicines.
I went to Boots, got some cough relief syrup and...

"This medicine should be swallowed."
Well, no shit Sherlock!
But now I wonder whether Britons normally use the syrup in some other, ehm, cough cough, alternative way. If so, how do they take their syrup???

Monday, 29 November 2010

Amici miei

Things I don't understand

There are some random stuff happening around me that leave me quite puzzled at the moment. Big and small questions that fill the voids of boredom of my everyday emmenthal-shaped life.
Things like the salt at Clapham Junction. Ok, you need to spread salt to avoid ice to form overnight, but why some platform have become a white blanket, but yesterday I was about to slide for the whole length of another platform?
And still talking about the station, why do I keep left as asked? Just to let people bumb into me, apologizing for the blow even before the impact?
I've been ill for the whole weekend and now I'm basic with no voice left.
A colleague told me that when I'm sick I get this "fairy-like", delicate voice. I don't understand! Am I not normally like that?

And then there is all this wikileaks talking: reactions from different country governments (and for once the Italian one is not the only one looking like an helpless bunch of idiot), analysts and of course journalists, outraged at the danger posed by all these documents going on line. I read a little bit of it but I still can't understand, in random order, some things such as:
1. What's new in it? Aside that they're stating black on white something most of people already knew.
2. Shouldn't they be blaming themselves? I mean, if you're so stupid to write something down and not take care it gets leaked, then just face the consequences. Yet again, it's nothing new.
3. But above all, why are the newspapers covering the story with so much interest and details? Isn't this going and uncover the truth supposed to be their job? 

I still have to decide whether it's more depressing reading about the political reactions on Italian or English newspapers, but on the other hand, it's good to know that some questions get answered.
For example, have you ever wondered what could happen if you embarked on a potato-only diet for, say, 20 years? Well, you can check BBC website for the answer.


Aspettando mercoledì

Sabato e domenica sono stati giorni pigri, il cui senso di pigrizia si è espanso fino ad andare ad occupare ogni angolo rimasto alla libera iniziativa.
Alla tosse, che è arrivata puntuale venerdì sera, è arrivato a dare man forte pure un cielo plumbeo e anonimo, di quelli che risucchiano via la luce e lasciano solo una patina opaca.

Qualcosa ho fatto, ad esempio una torta di pere e cioccolato per far fuori un po' di pesi extra dalla dispensa in vista del trasloco.
Sono anche andata a conoscere la padrona di casa, sempre in vista del trasloco, che finalmente è davvero vicino.

Ecco, mercoledì ci danno le chiavi della nostra casa e a che punto sono i preparativi per l'ennesimo trasloco?
Preparativi??? E' il nome dell'ennesimo biscotto alla moda, ma dal sapore deludente come i macaron?
No, credo che con il termine "preparativi" si intenda tutta quella serie di attività volte a organizzare lo spostamento dei propri beni materiali. Insomma una serie di cose che avrei dovuto fare fra venerdì e ieri sera e ovviamente non ho fatto.
L'idea è di spostare le cose più importanti la prima sera e poi, un po' alla volta, visto che comunque sono giorni lavorativi, spostare il rimanente entro sabato.
Ma cos'è importante? Cosa non lo è?
Lo stampino per fare i canestrelli, ad esempio, è importante, anche se non lo utilizzerò immediatamente. Questo vuol dire che va subito messo in valigia?
La vodka polacca è importante e, a differenza dello stampino, credo che quella verrà utilizzata immediatamente.

Alla fine so già ciò che capiterà: mercoledì tornerò dal lavoro, butterò in valigia le prime cose che mi capiteranno sotto mano e, arrivata nella nuova casa, mi accorgerò di aver dimenticato lo spazzolino da denti. O le lenzuola. O tutti e due. La nuova casa è il primo cambiamento del mese, insieme al lavoro nuovo. Cambierà molte abitudini grandi e piccole della vita di tutti i giorni.
Di sicuro vorrà dire una cucina più grande e un riscaldamento migliore. Di sicuro dovrò dire addio a tutti quegli sguardi perplessi che accompagnano una delle mie risposte preferite.
R.A. (random acquaintance): "So, Virginia, where do you live?" 
Virgi: "Oh well, currently I'm living with my future flatmate".

Thursday, 25 November 2010

On this day...

Days like today always leave me with a sour feeling of disillusionment, a "so what?" that keeps hanging around the many other thoughts, without any hope to find a good answer for that.


U.N. decided some years ago that November 25th was to the the "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women".
I feel so much safer now.


After all, since there's this international day and politicians all around the world are making some pro-forma speech about violence against women, I won't have to worry next time I have to walk home by myself at night (or morning, afternoon, evening...). Nor I will have to mind about the possibility the clothes I choose to wear might be considered a justification or invitation for an assault. And will not have to make sure to sit close to the driver if I take a night bus, hoping this will somewhat protect me for harassment.


If you go and read the U.N. resolution, you'll find that the U.N. "invites, as appropriate, Governments, the relevant agencies, bodies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, and other international organizations and non-governmental organizations, to organize on that day activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem of violence against women."


Basically, they're not talking about putting an end to the violence and jailing for some good years violent men, i.e. the root cause. No, no. they have to raise awareness of the problem.
Oh, what a relief! I can imagine that if they succeed in the scope, any rapist will probably deliver a nice speech stating of how aware is he of the problem of violence against women.


And after all, what else can I expect to happen when people such as Berlusconi are assigned with this task? I can't expect nothing but void words and articles on newspaper that have been probably automatically generated (or recycled from last year edition), while hoping, as usual, the lamp posts will all be on tonight on the way back home...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Non so se la notizia sia giunta pure in Italia, ma il rampollo con la calvizia incipiente si sposa. E un bel chi se ne frega non ce lo vogliamo mettere?!?!

Mettiamocelo pure, ma sta di fatto che il regno è in subbuglio ed è un proliferare di analisi, speciali, servizi televisivi, un fiorire di merchandising con le facce dei futuri spose dipinte su ogni possibile oggetto e souvenir, e così sarà fino a quando si sposeranno in un giubilare di buoni sentimenti e uno spreco di commenti improntati sui mille modi di utilizzare l'espressione "favola moderna" in un discorso.

Si prospettano mesi terribili per il mio intelletto e la mia pazienza. Eppure io non vedo l'ora. Davvero. 
Il fatto è che il giorno del matrimonio, il 29 aprile del prossimo anno, è stato dichiarato giorno di festa nazionale. 

E dando una rapida occhiata al calendario del prossimo anno e guardando dove va a cadere questo giorno in più di festa... tadaaaaa!!!


Praticamente ci sono tre miseri giorni di lavoro incastrati fra le feste!
Ho sentito qualcuno in ufficio lamentarsi che sono troppi (!!!), ma io penso sarò in grado di utilizzarli al meglio... Ora vado a dare un'occhiata al planisfero e inizio a sognare e pensare a viaggi e vacanze.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Getting into the mood for Christmas

From the moment Halloween was over every single shop, supermarket, newspaper and street has turned into a huge commercial for the celebration of the biggest event of the consumer society: Christmas.
As a non-Catholic kid in a Catholic country I used to love Christmas: I'd get toys and books, days off from school and didn't even have to go and freeze in a church for the midnight mass.
Growing up and moving abroad I kept on liking Christmas: it's the best moment in the year to meet friends and relatives, enjoy some time with my closer family, get books and days off from work, and I still don't have to go and freeze in a church for the midnight mass.

Still, there are things I find unnerving: this all-around push to spend spend spend, buy tons of Christmas cards to give to colleagues you haven't barely spoken to the whole year, spend some more and, just to balance out all this spending for our own egotistical selves, spend some money in charity.
Ah, nothing like charity to get me in a very Christmas-y mood and make me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge!

I hate receiving junk mail from charities in the post box or hearing ads at the radio. Apparently with just 3£ a month one can save a child, but I wonder whether the child is always the same over and over, as the situation around the world hasn't improved a lot. Or so it seems.

Yesterday evening, on the way to the supermarket, just out of Clapham Junction, one of this charity promoters stopped me.
"Can you spare 20 seconds to help the world, madam?"
Madam!?!? Do I look as old as your granny? 
A look on the jacket and badge were enough to have the perfect answer for that.
Christian Aid.

"Nope, as a Satanist, I have no seconds to spare".
Ah, now it feels like Christmas!

Friday, 19 November 2010

in the winding way

As a child, I was amazed at how easily most of my schoolmates and friends were able to tell immediately the horoscope sign of a person when told of the birth date. To me it was astonishing: how on earth are they able to memorize the signs? How could they tell whether you're a Virgo or a Scorpion, just by the birthday???
I couldn't do it and no matter how hard I tried to memorize the beginning and ending dates of each astrological sign, I would just forget the whole lot in few minutes. I just knew I was a Cancer and my sister a Virgo, the maximum achievement on the topic was to learn my dad and mum signs. 

It's got nothing to do with believing in the horoscope, but when you're a kid everything that you can't do can be used against you as a way to taunt you... so I was not particularly keen on having also this deficiency added to the already way too long list.

Then when you grow up, horoscope becomes one of those generic empty topic you can use when you grow tired of talking about the weather (the mere concept might be inconceivable to the Britons, but trust me, you do get tired of talking about the weather), but because I never remembered the signs of my friends and had to ask over and over, I looked as somebody with some attention deficit disorder.

Did this stop me from reading the horoscope? Way not, since I started reading Rob Brezny's Free Will Astrology. It gets translated on Internazionale, one of my favourite magazines. I like the positive vibes I get from it; no matter how bad things can be, the horoscope cheers me up. I read it sign after sign, without really paying attention to the signs. Who cares if it's for an Aries or a Pisces? It makes me feel a bit more positive about myself, the human kind and the future, and that's the only important thing I need to know about it.

Last week, however, I had to smile a little when I read this:

"My friend Ariel's six-year-old daughter Juno doesn't understand why anyone would build streets that run in a straight line. Isn't it more fun if the highways and byways are crooked and curvy? Shouldn't people want to get to where they're going by veering this way and that, relishing the playful twists and turns? That's where the best action is, says Juno, and I agree: in the tweak, in the twirl, in the winding way -- not in the beeline route that leaves no room for improvisation. That's especially true for you right now, my fellow Cancerian."

Hey I'm a Cancer! And it makes sense to me! In the past few weeks (should I say months?) many things haven't been smooth or easy. Yet they've been great, funny, illuminating and a nice journey of self-discovery. It may seems that not a lot have changed, but it did. I changed, I might even say I got slightly wiser, even though less forgiving (I'm running out of patience, hey, nobody's perfect!). 
Sometimes it looks that the winding way is not the right one, because of all the twists and because you can't see what's really waiting for you after a bend; one might wish to have taken the straight highway instead. But when you stop for a short break and look back, what do you see in an highway? And which view can you admire instead in a smaller road?

Many other things are going to change in the next future, but I think that, no matter what, I'll stay on the crooked and curved way for a little longer. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Vieni via con me

Ieri sera, dopo una trasfusione monetaria per affittare casa, sono andata alla Royal Albert Hall.
Fino alla prossima domenica si svolge il London Jazz Festival e ieri il programma recitava così: Paolo Conte. Impossibile anche solo il concepire l'idea di non andarci.

una faccia in prestito

Che con-cer-to. 
Ovviamente un po' di sfiga c'è sempre ad accompagnarmi: gente che entra con 40 minuti di ritardo e fa alzare tre o quattro file di persone perché non trova posto.
Inglesi mezz'alticci che prima ridono e poi sbadigliano perché non capiscono...
Ma ormai ho sviluppato una specie di filtro anti-dementi-da-concerto e dopo un po' smetto di farci caso.
Anche fossi stata sprovvista di tale filtro, ieri non sarebbe cambiato nulla perché Paolo Conte e orchestra hanno il potere di portarti lontano lontano, ti rapiscono in un tripudio di suoni e melodie.
Conte è un diesel vecchia maniera (essere come lui a 73 anni!), parte piano, ma non gli ci vuole molto per acquistare in scioltezza, verve, voce. 
Fra i musicisti non so dire chi fosse il più bravo, se li è scelti davvero bene.
Canzoni nuove, ma anche classici, alcuni riarrangiati in maniera non banale e capaci di reggere il paragone con l'originale.

Ha suonato "Gli impermeabili", e già solo per quello valeva la pena andare al concerto.
Poi è partito quel refrain di piano così familiare. 

Via, via, vieni via di qui,

niente più ti lega a questi luoghi,
neanche questi fiori azzurri...
via, via, neanche questo tempo grigio
pieno di musiche
e di uomini che ti sono piaciuti...

It's wonderful, it's wonderful, it's wonderful,
good luck my babe,
it's wonderful, it's wonderful, it's wonderful,
I dream of you...
chips, chips, du-du-du-du-du

Via, via, vieni via con me,
entra in questo amore buio,
non perderti per niente al mondo...
via, via, non perderti per niente al mondo
lo spettacolo d'arte varia
di uno innamorato di te...

It's wonderful, it's wonderful, it's wonderful...

Via, via, vieni via con me,
entra in questo amore buio,
pieno di uomini...
via, entra e fatti un bagno caldo,
c'è un accappatoio azzurro,
fuori piove un mondo freddo...

E mi sono ricordata di un viaggio con papà, su Corso Francia, quando avevamo ancora la Lantra. L'autoradio suonava Razmataz e io la sera prima avevo bevuto troppo e male. Tentavo di mantenere un'espressione normale ma mi sentivo svenire e Conte non aiutava certo, anzi sembrava far forza sulle palpebre, che crollavano sempre più.

foschia ai muri

Mi sono ricordata di un freddo pomeriggio di dicembre, meno di un anno fa, a un museo, un caffè e un bicerin.
"Torino è così bella", mi sono detta fra me e me, e ho sorriso, perché non si può che sorridere con il cuore contento di fronte a tanto splendore.

Ascolta le fiabe

Ad aspettarmi a casa, c'era Sara, impaziente di usare il giradischi. voleva sentire una fiaba della Disney, "Red e Toby nemiciamici". L'abbiamo ascoltata e riascoltata, e mi sembrava che il cervello bruciasse un neurone ogni volta che cambiavo lato del 45 giri.  Eppure guardavo mia nipote ed ero felice: mi sono detta che era bello essere tornata, nonostante l'incertezza, perché sentivo di potercela fare. Nonostante tutto, nonostante tutti, nonostante me stessa.Gli affetti, i ricordi, le speranze mi legano ancora a questi luoghi, un filo invisibile che non posso e non voglio tagliare, fatto di amore, abbracci, coccole, bicchieri di vino, fette di torte, passeggiate, risate...


Mentre Conte suonava ripensavo a tutto questo ma anche al mio personale elenco, come uno di quelli della trasmissione di Saviano e Fazio.

Sono andata via per cercare un futuro migliore.
Sono tornata per amore e per sperare.
Sono rimasta soltanto per avere l'ennesima conferma che se non conosci qualcuno o non hai i soldi, hai ben poco da fare.

Sono ripartita per cercare di dare nuova vita alle speranze che l'Italia, intesa come società (in)civile ha preso a calci.
Spero di tornare e restare, per un periodo di tempo più lungo delle vacanze di Natale.

Ma come si dice da queste parti, "beggars can't be choosers". Così cercherò di approfittare al massimo dei miei giorni di vacanza. Nel frattempo continuo a sperare, a sognare e ad ascoltare Conte.

It's wonderful, it's wonderful, it's wonderful, good luck my babe...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Adoro i piani ben riusciti

Il piano geniale che avevo così ingegnosamente architettato era diabolico nella sua semplicità di esecuzione: prima del trasloco (l'ennesimo, mi verrebbe da aggiungere, ma sappiamo fin troppo bene che se non cambio tre case in meno di sei mesi non vale come trasloco secondo i miei canoni) non compro nessun libro in modo da non aumentare ulteriormente il peso delle cose da portare da Clapham a Vauxhall. E non è che viaggi leggera! Come sia riuscita ad accumulare così tanto in meno di 6 mesi rimane un mistero che non voglio nemmeno tentare di risolvere.

Il piano geniale è andato ampiamente a farsi benedire quando oggi pomeriggio sono passata davanti a Watersone's e mi sono accorta che c'era un offerta, tre libri al prezzo di due, su tutta la narrativa. Che faccio?
Entro? Non entro? 
Tiro dritto e non entro, ecco...
Anche se, in effetti, potrei entrare e guardare innocuamente che titoli ci sono.
Magari c'è qualcosa di nuovo.
Ecco, piuttosto entro, guardo, ma non compro. No-no-no-non-compro. Mi limito a guardare e segnarmi dei titoli per il futuro.
Ho limitato i danni evitando di scegliere i tomi più pesanti e limitandomi a tre libri...
Ora dovrò cercare di stare alla larga da qualsiasi libreria. Facile, giusto!?!?

revolutionary writing

Friday, 12 November 2010

Eternal sunshine of the spotted apple

David told Marina he never really celebrates his birthday. He also told her that his birthday is November 11th. Five minutes later he had completely forgotten about sharing this information with Marina. Marina didn't. She took note and when time came, she started another managerial project of hers, the kind of project she knows no rival and where she exceptionally exceeds any expectation of success: "let's celebrate and have a party".
Sure, as David doesn't really celebrate his birthday, we had to change the project in "let's celebrate and have a surprise party".

As present for the birthday boy, we settled for an unicycle, as we know he used to unicycle in the past (well, the day we found out David can't do something will be the day the world comes to the end...). Then Marina took care of most of the cooking, Enric made tortilla, Mikel brought some peppers and I, well, what could I do? I settled for the cake.

Some days ago my colleague Vasi brought me some apples. He's got an apple tree in his backyard and nobody picks them or use them. I think it's a shame, because they're real local food, no pesticides, grown and ripened as apples have been doing in centuries. OK, they're not shiny as the one in the supermarket.
And they got spots all over. But leave them rest 1 day on the kitchen counter, peel them and use them for a cake or for a snack and man, they're the most delicious treat you'll ever get!
I ate one yesterday afternoon and it reminded me of the apples of my grandparents garden: you always had to open them, because there was always the risk of finding some little bug living there (just to prove, perhaps, that squatting might be a natural condition), but they tasted of apples! 
It seems an obvious thing to say, that an apple tastes of apple. But this morning I had a supermarket apple and it tested a bit of lemon and a bit of mango, with some hint of apple here and there.
Only thing left to do was to find a recipe for the zero kilometers apple. And here it is!


zero kilometers cake


I found a very good one in an Italian forum, by a girl named Paola and you can find it here but, if you don't speak Italian, here's the translation:

Ingredients:


Short pastry300 g flour
150 g sugar
150 g ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt

Filling
400 g ricotta cheese
4 tbsp sugar
2 apples
cinnamon (I overdid, as usual)
(3 egg whites, I didn't put them in, if you want to use them, beat them stiff first and add them as last ingredient)


Mix all the ingredients for the pastry, make a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 10 mins.

Mix the ricotta with the sugar and cinnamon and later add the apples cut into pieces.

Roll the pastry into a cake tray (I used a 24 cm one) and level the filling in.
Bake at 170-180° for 45 minutes (check with a toothpick if it's ready).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lest not forget...

ci vuole tanto troppo coraggio


... but how about learning the damn lesson, once and for all?


Today's Remembrance Day, the day of the poppies. For those of you who can't be bothered to click on the link, Remembrance Day  is a memorial day to remember soldiers and civilians killed in time of war and it's celebrated on this day because it's the day of the armistice of World War I.


So, in the best of the hypocritical tradition our society can offer, a lot of people are wearing the poppy you can buy for charity.
I think TV is full of documentaries and movies about WWI and newspaper have articles about it.
This morning I noticed some people retweeting the reminder of the 2 minutes silence, taking place at 11.

I received a mail in the office, stating that the company was going to observe the 2 minutes silence at 11 am... to allow us to take a few moments to remember bla bla bla.
At that point my mind was already off and faraway from the topic.


First of all, because WWI formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", so if you want to remember, at least do it properly!
Secondly, ok, let's all shut up for 2 minutes, then what? 
We go back to typing our email, meetings, powerpoint presentation and any other bullshitting that form our daily agenda.


Lest not forget...
Really? Maybe we haven't forgotten, problem is we just don't care.
2 minutes silence... how many mines will have blown in Afghanistan in that 120 seconds? Or in Cambodia? How many collateral damages in Iraq? How many people imprisoned in Burma? Do we know? Do we want to know? Do we really care?


We should know and we should care, but most of the time we don't.
So I did what everybody else did. I shut up (during the 2 wrong minutes, let me state that once more).
But instead of hanging my head down, faking a deep concentration on heavy thoughts, I kept staring at my 2 monitors.
On one of them there is a picture my sis took of me and my nephew Davide. I love it, because it's a sweet pictures, full of love and promises for the future.


On the other screen I had this web page open: it's the 2009 Conflict Barometer, made by the HIIK. A nice reminder of what life around me is about.


If you want to spare other 2 minutes during your day (not necessarily today), you might also be interested in this page, or keep going and check the latest new on PeaceReporter.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Blue and pink

I started knitting again. Given it was about 10 years since the last time I used knitting needles, it meant I was basically back to square one.
And with knitting, this can mean one and one only thing: scarf. No, wait: scarves.
Back and forth, forth and back, knit and purl, purl and knit.


Even after so many years, knitting still has a quite soothing and calming effect on me. Sometimes I still do loose my patience and temper is still the same bad old one, but knitting makes me more forgiving towards idiots.:-D


And knitting fits perfectly with the commuting: in the past few weeks, I've been knitting in the morning, on the way to work, while Enric reads about the relativity theory, Marina study about the art of bullshitting (i.e. management) and David sleeps (most of the time anyway).


When I agreed with Enric he was going to get the first scarf, he also asked for it to be half pink. Not stripes. Half and half. So I knit half scarf in baby blue, then I went to get some pink.
Then knit here, there and everywhere, yesterday evening I casted it off and washed it. Tonight I ironed it and voilà!


enric's scarf


It's a good thing it's ready now, as it seems that winter has decided it's time to stay over the country for a long while and let us have more and more days of freezing cold weather.



If he had some doubts about how pink was the pink yarn I picked, he didn't show. He could as... well... it's quite pink! Baby pink!



baby blue and baby pink


I think it's a nice colour, but let's face it, how likely is it for a guy to get jokes about wearing pink? 
Some might just be that, silly jokes between friends. However chances are that, given the high average of idiots on the planet, the jokes are just yet another display of ignorance and homophobia. You'd think that in the 21st century we'd be way beyond this stupidity, but you just need to read the last atrocious statements by the Italian prime minister to suspect that we haven't evolved that much. 
But I decided not to get upset about it, too much anyway. Other than being ashamed of being represented by such a dement and vote the opposition, what can I do?
I can only be happy that not everybody "thinks" it like that.
I can keep calm and knit on. And I still got about 1 skein of pink wool, if somebody's interested in a scarf...