Friday, 30 September 2011

Feels like home

breakfast and knitting

I took a day off from work.

The moving company was delivering all my boxes and I had to be home to sort everything out.
The movers arrived pretty early, around 8 in the morning: 5 minutes, a signature, 2 handshakes and they were gone.

This left me with 8 boxes to open and sort out.
I worked the all morning and I managed to clean up most of the mess I created by opening the boxes.
With me being so me, it's almost superflous to mention the fact that I lost some stuff, wait, no, I just temporarily misplaced them... I'm quite sure they will turn out. Sooner or later. Eventually. Quite probably after I had bought them new.

Ok, maybe I won't buy a new phrenology head: I remember packing it, remember taking it out of the box, no sure where I put it later on.
Around one I decided I needed a break and that I needed breakfast too!

The flat has a small balcony, which is perfect these days, as Indian summer decided to stay around for a while. I decided to have some coffee: I picked a new mug, a farewell present from my (knitting) friends, and the glasses before heading out. 
I sat at the small table, enjoying the sun and knitting a bit: I'm working on a lovely pair of socks that I hope to finish by the end of next week.
I placed the LP player in the living room, so I could hear the last Wilco's album playing.

When side A finished, I raised and stepped inside to change side. Having stayed out for some minutes, I could feel on the skin the temperature drop, something I haven't felt for a while.
I let Wilco play, I put the sunglasses back on and went outside again to enjoy the sun, finish my breakfast and knit a little bit more.
Maybe it's too early to say it but, at least in those minutes, it felt like home. I hope I'll keep feeling like that, I really want to feel grounded and rooted to a place for a while.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Indian summer

My first summer in UK was miserable.
If I close my eyes, I can still picture the water pouring down, the wind blowing and making me feel even colder. I remember drinking liters of tea, just for the sake of holding a scalding hot cup in my hands
And I can also see almost everybody trying to apologize for it, as if they were directly responsible for the weather. And then, as if there was no other way to end the sentence, everybody would tell me: "You just have wait for the Indian summer!"
"What the h**l is the Indian summer?", I thought back then, "I don't care what type of summer it is, as long as it fall within summer months!"


Still, I waited for the Indian summer.
And waited.
And waited.
Yawned a little, fixed myself an endless number of cups of tea and went back to waiting.
The Indian summer showed up eventually, about one year later.
By that time the term had become a known joke among my friends and colleagues, with Beth constantly and evilly reminding me about it.


To be honest, I never really checked or looked for the reason why it's called like that, until yesterday evening. I found out that the etymology of the term arrives from America and its Indians. In Italian we call it "St. Martin's summer".

Sunday evening I spent some time chatting with my parents, telling them about the sunny weekend I had just spent: it was sometime after nine and the window was still open. I don't think there were less than 20 degrees, and it really felt like summer.
The whole weekend did. And I spent it quite cheerfully.
Nothing big or glamorous, but it was very relaxing.

On Saturday I went for a walk.
In spite of having felt a bit depressed by looking at shops windows recently, I still managed to get some shopping done. I think it helped the fact I didn't start my shopping with clothes but vinyls!
I bought a live LP from Paolo Conte and "The Whole Love", the latest album by Wilco. Given that the turntable is still packed in a warehouse it might look a slightly hasty purchase, but I am quite sure I won' regret it. Feeling cheered up by that, I ventured into some clothes shopping without spending too much and without feeling like a huge whale among toothpicks! 

The evening went away quickly, I had dinner and some drinks with Kiran and Francesco, but we called it a night quite early as we knew that Sunday was going to be a nice day and we all wanted to spent the most time possible outside.


And we were right! Indian summer all the way! Went to Vondel Park, sat a little bit in the shadow, then spent some time in the sun.




Before I knew it, Sunday was over and maybe the Indian Summer as well, but I try to keep an optimistic outlook on the weeks to come.

Things are slowly moving and I'm setting in little by little: documents, bureaucracy, bank account, moving into the flat... yet, still no turntable to listen to Wilco! 
(OK, there is a CD with the vinyl, but it's not the same thing!)

Friday, 23 September 2011

i wear jeans, stick-insects don't

I was walking down one of the central street of Amsterdam and I stopped in front of a shop. Looking at the display on the window, I immediately recalled an article I read about one month ago on boingboing. The title is explanatory enough in itself: "Gap's Death-Camp Chic mannequins".
Well it's not just Gap, obviously. 
All the big brands follow thin anorexic trend, so it was not a surprise to see the same type of pole wearing a pair of jeans today.
Still, why do men mannequins look more normal? Ok, a mannequin doesn't starve, but that's what it seems to be happening on the main shops windows across the continent.
The fact that only 0.5% of the girls and women I see around me has that type of body structure doesn't deter the big (and small) brands to promote a warped woman body image.

Oh, I know that it's not only that! I know way too well that the problems related to and caused by the distorted perception of one's own body image are far more complicated and tough to untangle than this.

Yet, standing straight in front of that windows, I couldn't help but think that my thighs look like giant baobab compared to those toothpicks and I felt slightly desperate thinking that no matter what I would never have such tiny legs.
Some people may joke and say you just need to be stronger, feel superior to this kind of peer pressure: I wish these people could that a walk in my shoes... but wearing a pair of those jeans on display.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

it's not the end of the world

(yet I don't feel that fine)

Era  sulle prime pagine di tutti i giornali.
No, non la crisi! Per una volta non si tratta della Grecia, di noi italiani o dei cugini francesi, le cui banche sembravano comunque traballare.

Oggi si parla del fatto che gli R.E.M. si sono sciolti.
A scrivere una frase simile mi viene inevitabilmente da sorridere. In inglese direi "R.E.M. split up", si sono spaccati, si sono divisi. Invece in italiano, dobbiamo aggiungere una dose costituzionale di melodramma ed ecco che allora i nostri 3 musicisti di Athens pian piano perdono consistenza, le ossa si trasformano in gelatina, e crollano giù a terra; come gelati al sole, eccoli diventare una pozzanghera di talento musicale.

I R.E.M. sono stati importanti per buona parte della mia vita. Non solo ho imparato l'inglese nel tentativo (via via sempre meno vano) di capire cosa stesse cantando Micheal Stipe.
Non solo mi hanno fatto scoprire fra gli altri i Pylon, grazie alla loro di cover di "Crazy", e i 10,000 Maniacs.
Per buona parte della mia adolescenza, loro sono stati l'unico punto di contatto con mia sorella: separate in camera, chiuse tutte e due in un ostinato mutismo, sembrava non avessimo più nulla, nemmeno il sangue ad unirci: nulla ad eccezione dei R.E.M.

Quindi, sono triste per la notizia? Non proprio. E' nella natura del mondo che le cose arrivino prima o poi al termine, per di più, un po' "sciolti" erano già da un po' in un certo senso: quando Bill Berry aveva lasciato il gruppo, era finito il periodo dei R.E.M. a quattro e ora semplicemente siamo nel periodo "a zero", tutto qua.

La vita continua, per loro, per me e rimane comunque un bel numero di CD e vinili a cui attingere quando sentirò nostalgia (e soprattutto quando arriveranno le scatole del trasloco!).

Comunque, dire che mi sento bene in questo momento è una forzatura. Sono sicura che il loro scioglimento non ha nulla a che fare con il fatto che stamattina sono svenuta.
In un certo senso mi sono sciolta anche io, mi sono liquefatta sul pavimento del bagno, aggiungendo però la mia proverbiale grazia da elefante.

Per mia fortuna, anni e anni di allenamenti nello svenire mi hanno insegnato a "sentire" lo svenimento arrivare.
Così, invece che cadere di testa, ho fatto ancora in tempo a crollare a pizzicchi e mozzichi, scivolare piano piano e alla fine sono pure riuscita ad appoggiare la testa sul pavimento, senza farla sbattere violentemente.
Peccato non poter dire la stessa cosa del mio fondoschiena.
Ho preso una botta non indifferente, ho riscoperto imprecazioni che non sapevo di sapere e ora ho un bel livido multicolore. Ma anche questa non è la fine del mondo...



Quando sono riuscita a trascrivere questa canzone da sola (ai tempi non pubblicavano i test sugli album e internet manco sapevo cosa fosse), mi è sembrato che sarebbe potuta arrivare la fine del mondo e non mi sarei preoccupata troppo, tanto il più difficile ormai l'avevo fatto.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

tasse e frieten

La mia prima settimana di vita olandese è ormai al termine.
In sette giorni ci sono stati il sole, le nuvole, la pioggia e il vento. Tanto, tanto vento! Ovviamente tutto in un solo giorno, ogni giorno.
Suppongo che quelli che dicevano che l'Olanda è un paese con quattro stagioni in un giorno non scherzassero...

Ancora non ho preso le misure della vita quotidiana. Ho trovato casa, ma sarà libera solo all'inizio di ottobre, quindi per ora vivo in maniera molto precaria, aggiungendo un pezzettino di quotidianità e abitudini ogni giorno.
Cerco di mantenere i contatti il più possibile con il mondo, gli amici e la famiglia. Ho fatto gli auguri a mia sorella, parlato con i nipoti, cercato di scrivere un po' di mail, letto i giornali...

Ho camminato tanto, in primis perché non ho ancora una bici, e poi perché mi sembra il modo migliore per prendere le misure al posto in cui mi trovo a vivere, anche se per poco. Ho deciso di vivere ad Haarlem, almeno per gli inizi, ma per ora sono ospite ad Amsterdam, in attesa che si liberi l'appartamento che ho affittato.
Cammino e a volte mi perdo, perché i canali mi sembrano uguali e le bici parcheggiate lungo i bordi pure. Ogni tanto ce n'è qualcuna con un adesivo diverso dagli altri, e ancora non ho capito se c'è un significato nascosto, se c'è qualche nesso con Padoa Schioppa, come mi ha ricordato Prisci o se è una pubblicità per uno studio di commercialisti...

Point of view 

Ho scoperto che il mio vecchio ufficio di Southwood e il nuovo ufficio hanno almeno un elemento in comune: venerdì è giorno di fish and chips. Però per molta gente qua il pesce è un elemento di corredo e infatti molti colleghi hanno preso soltanto le patatine fritte, affogate successivamente nella maionese.
Due o tre mi hanno detto che le "frieten" qua sono diverse, che sono più buone, che la maionese è migliore e che gli asini volano. Io ovviamente non ho abboccato: gli asini mica volano!, mi sono ripetuta mentre ieri mi accingevo a fare pranzo con un cartoccio di patatine fritte pressate al fondo dal chilo di maionese sovrastante.
Da buona tester, ho testato e sono giunta alla conclusione che tutta sta differenza le mie papille gustative non la sentivano e che continuo a preferire quelle che ogni tanto fa mia mamma!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A little letter to my friend(s)

My dear friends,


As you can imagine, the past weekend and yesterday have been quite hectic, tiring, interesting days...


Alas I got not enough time and web-connection time to write a mail to each one of you, so I hope a blog entry will do.


Well, after dragging my suitcase to Clapham Junction first and Gatwick later, I found out that there was no need to hurry, as the plane was late. The plane landed on the furthest runaway possible, so after another twenty minutes of touristic tour of Schipol airport, the delay added up to one hour and half.
I guess there is something wrong in the very same day I move, because each time weather is quite miserable or something else goes wrong, or both.
So, by the time I got to the Amsterdam Centraal, it was literally pouring down.


It didn't help that I took the wrong turn and ended up 3 canals further down from where my friend lives, so I had to accept once again I got no orientation skills whatsoever, turn around and add other 10-15 minutes to the journey.


Sunday flew away so quickly, I barely had time to register it.
I spent some time walking around, getting a ogv-chip card and thinking about how my life has changed in the past ten years. I went back to a younger version of myself, waiting for bus 62 and looking at the birthday card I just bought. I remember waiting to get my glasses at the optician desk, chatting with my mum, trying to make sense of what the television all around the shopping centre were broadcasting.
I thought I don't live in any safer or better world than the one I walked on back in 2001, even though I still wish it, if not for me, at least for my nieces' and nephew's sakes.


But life doesn't stop, time ticks by and yesterday I got on a train and went to the office.


My new office.
Starting a new job is something scary,exciting and funny at the same time. There are still so many stuff up in the air: no bank account, no national security number, no flat!!!


Yet, for my family, my first day at my new job, was not the most important event of the day.


My sister turned one year older yesterday. The two of us haven't always had the easiest time and our relationship have swayed from one side to the other of the emotional rainbow. Still, she is my little sister, the one that my mum let me cuddle when she was few weeks old, the one I thought how to write, the one I fought with over the ownership of books and joined forces for our collection of Smurfs (still going strong).




Happy Birthday, sis




Obviously her birthday is more important, not to mention the fact it falls just one day before her wedding anniversary, i.e. today!


Should I be happy about being at number two, right?!?


I wish! It was not only my sister: my niece helped her pushing me off the spotlight, so to speak.
Yesterday was Sara's first day at elementary school. Little tiny Sara started school!!!
Honestly, how can I compete? I feel a bit sad for "missing" this day. I know that if I had been living in Torino, I was probably not going to take her to school or anything like that, but it's one of the small events that look so huge to a child's eye.


I still celebrate though. After dinner, I had a shot (ok, two shots) with Fran and Mateusz. Today is another day, my sis will be probably celebrating again, but also getting ready for the next big event: taking Davide to his first day at nursery.
I got up, walked to the station, got on the train, knitted on the way to work and got ready for another day and for life going on "as usual", even though "as usual" is set now in a different country.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Last days in London: weird and surreal

It feels weird, almost surreal.
I'm leaving London, the UK again!
It's kind of become an habit of mine. Nothing better to do? Feeling bored? Let's go to London, reassure myself I can't live there but only leave.


Well, yeah, that's what is happening right now, even though it's not going to be exactly the same experience as almost two years ago. I'm not going back to Italy, but moving to the Netherlands, I have no dreams to follow, but the need to find a better life pace and living environment.
Something in common between the 2 movings is the state of my bedroom: it looks as if Big Bang happened just in the middle of it.


When I resigned, I thought I had plenty of time, but then time decided to start running and slipped like sand through my hands.
And that's how I found myself, last Friday afternoon, to kick-start a long list of farewell drinks/lunch/dinners/meet-ups that will go on until next Friday.


It's a weird mix of feelings: sadness and happiness, trepidation, melancholy, curiosity...

First stop, just off work, I had some drinks with some colleagues: I walked the streets around the office so many times in the past few months, but never really stopped. But on Friday I had to take a picture to one of my favorite spots in Soho: just in front of the pub, in Ganton Street there is a huge green switch.


Turn the light on, Ganton Street


I just find it hilarious, but it's not the only colourful thing I spotted around:


Untitled



Flirty isn't it? I passed in front of it on Monday morning and the eyelashes were gone... I guess she just dressed up for the night out and turned to a more sober working day attire after the party was over.


I kept bumping in other weird and funny things also in the following days.
On Sunday, after getting properly showered on the way back from the London Skyride, I went out for a Sunday roast with Enric, Robert and Irene. We got our table next to some bookshelves. I started looking at the titles, but the selection was not exactly something I'd describe as my favorite genres: journals of Christian studies, sermons and so on.
The last book I took off the shelf was this one:




A Dutch book!!!
I used Google Translate to check the meaning of the title and, while part of me finds it somehow, ehm, fitting, I do hope it's a mistake in the translation tool! 


Weirdness kept going strong on Monday.
On my last day at work, I decided to walk to the office. It's a really lovely walk: from where I live up to Vauxhall is a short walk and from there I just keep going along the Thames up to the Jubilee Bridge.


Halfway through the walk, I spotted this sign:


Love trees


"Love Trees"... what is it supposed to mean?
My friend Prisci has doubts too: is it a gentle request, "Love the trees", or an alert, "Watch out! Trees are loving each other here"?
Or maybe they are loving trees and I ran the risk of being swept into a hug by the branches of one of this "love trees"!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Berlusconi and Ivonne

And we're back in the news.
We as "Italy", with yet another embarrassing news.
This morning the most viewed world news on the guardian was the one about Berlusconi and his vow to leave "shitty" Italy.


I'm not sure what's more shameful to me: the fact he said that or the way I found out about it?


No matter the fact it was a police transcription of a phone call and not an official statement, you'd like to think that after such a comment is made public, the news is on the front pages of Italian newspaper, big bold type and bright colour. 
You wish.
No, the way I found out was via a tweet by Spinoza, an Italian collective satirical blog. Later on I did find the news on other newspaper but nothing major.

So, I'm left to wonder: if this had happened in a different country, what the reaction of its people would have been? If David Cameron said something like that, what would have happened? What would people have told him?



Probably, just the same thing I feel saying to Berlusconi right now: "Fine, then go, don't waste any more time, leave and don't come back, chop chop!"
Okay, I would say it with much more swearing in between, but the notion is the same.


It's quite depressing to read about it and see how little emotion this is causing on the main Italian newspaper, as if we just got used to it: we're not surprised anymore, we know how it's like, he's going to say he didn't mean it (he doesn't mean 99% of the things he says apparently), etc. etc.


Still, this story managed to put a smile on my face. While I was reading the article, my eyes fell on the "most viewed" tab:



I'm not sure the reason why, but the association of the picture of grumpy Berlusconi in Parliament and the news that "Yvonne the cow has been found" was so weird that I dissolved into laughters.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

unicorn and oyster

Yesterday afternoon I strolled down to Trafalgar Square, as I do every working day, to go and take the 87 back home.
It arrived almost immediately, it was half empty, I sat down and started reading.
Then, at the following stop, something unexpected happened.
Something that never happened to me in four years of life in UK.






A ticket inspector.
A ticket inspector got on board and, after a brief chat with the driver, started inspecting tickets. Well mainly Oyster cards, not many people left today with single tickets.
He used something like a scanner to check validity of the cards.


Ok, I am aware of the existence of ticket inspectors: they're briefly in the lyrics of "Job opportunities" by the Clash! Furthermore, in Turin they're fairly common, but in Turin we have no oyster and you don't show the ticket when boarding (thus the problem we have of too many people not buying the tickets). Here on the other hand you need to have the Oyster or pay the ticket to the driver


I'm just not sure whether they do write any ticket during one of this inspection, that's all. It's just felt weird seeing one yesterday in central London.
I showed him my oyster, he scanned it, thanked me and moved one, but I kept staring at him, just as if I had just saw an unicorn!