Wednesday, 31 December 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.

Thursday, 25 December 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.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

La verità sul Quebert e altri casi (letterari)

“Un bel libro, Marcus, è un libro che dispiace aver finito - Harry Quebert”
(Joël Dicker, La verità sul caso Harry Quebert)


A voler dar retta a uno dei suoi protagonisti, questo libro non mi è piaciuto un granché.

Molti mesi fa ero a Porta Garibaldi, in Feltrinelli: non volevo comprare nulla, solo fare un giro per ammazzare il tempo che mi separava dal treno per Torino. Ero alla ricerca di un’idea, un libro in cui investire un credito residuo per un e-book. Ed eccolo lì, accatastato in una pila che assomigliava pericolosamente alla torre di Pisa, il libro di Dicker: un bel tomo, con lodi sperticate stampate sulla quarta di copertina e una fascetta che ne declama i premi e i successi.

E ho pensato, “perché no?”. Seduta sul treno, ho usato il codice e scaricato il libro. L’ho capito dopo poche pagine, ma ci ho messo mesi ad ammettere che un no c’era eccome.

Ci ho messo tanto a finirlo e più di una volta sono arrivata al limite dell’abbandono con vaffa incorporato. Ma più che l’onor potè la mancanza di libri nella casa rimessa a nuovo, quindi ho rispolverato il Kindle e ho finito di leggere quale fosse la verità sul caso Quebert.

E la verità è una sola: è fuffa, fuffa letteraria ma pur sempre fuffa.

Non è una lamentela da intellettuale da salotto (non sono un’intellettuale e non ce l’ho nemmeno il salotto), un voler andare contro il coro di lodi che sembrano essere comprovate dai dati di vendita.
Ci sono degli spunti interessanti nel libro, come l’idea del libro dentro il libro o il sovrapporre momenti nella vita dei protagonisti con momenti della stesura di un libro.

Purtroppo però non bastano a sopperire alle troppe mancanze e al fatto che è un libro noioso e prevedibile: chiunque abbia visto la signora Fletcher almeno una volta, riconosce i personaggi, (quelli della città, della cittadina universitaria e quella di provincia a-là-Cabot Cove), non è necessario aver letto centinaia di gialli per capire dove Dicker vuole andare (e poi alla fine va) a parare.

Solo che al posto di J.B. Fletcher c’è uno scrittore tronfio che si pensa furbo ed interessante, ma che è in realtà di una noia e pomposità incredibile.
Più che personaggi, in questo thriler ci sono macchiette che recitano una parte trita e ritrita. I personaggi femminili sono di una tale sciatteria e banalità che sembrano uscite dal salone di Loretta o, nel caso della madre del protagonista, dal palazzo dove abita la zia di Fran la Tata.
Nola, la quindicenne di cui Harry si innamora follemente ha lo spessore di una carta velina, tanto che a un certo punto mi sono augurata che fosse un’invenzione, una specie di Harvey il Coniglio sotto forma di ragazzina. 
Nessuno dei personaggi è memorabile, al punto che faccio già fatica, a meno di 48 ore da quando l'ho finito, a ricordarmi qualche particolare, a parte il senso di profondo fastidio che alcuni di loro mi procuravano, ma già i loro nomi e i loro tratti stanno svanendo nella mia memoria.

Forse l'avrei dovuto leggere sotto un ombrellone d'estate, quando la tintarella frigge i neuroni e non ti rendi conto di quello che stai leggendo. 
Probabilmente diventerà un film di successo, perché ha la consistenza giusta per certi film usa e getta che finiscono per incassare milioni di dollari e vincere Oscar su Oscar e tu poi li guardi e ti domandi come sia possibile anche solo pagare un euro per una tale boiata.

Spero di ricordarmi di questo senso di delusione e spreco che non vuole saperne di andarsene da quando ho finito di leggere il libro (ma anche prima). Spero di ricordarmene la prossima volta che girovagherò fra gli scaffali di una libreria, per ricordarmi di non fidarmi mai e poi mai di recensioni, lodi sperticate e fascette urlanti.

Spero che di fronte a una copertina con una fotografia che sembra promettere emozioni e una storia interessante mi ricorderò che la quantità di pagine è a volte inversamente proporzionale alla qualità che esse contengono; e che mi ricorderò di Harry e di tutti gli altri casi di fuffa letteraria di cui sono caduta vittima.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Where I lay my hats

To say I dislike Milan is, to be soft, an understatement.
Yet I live and work in Milan.

So sooner or later I knew THE question would arrive, and the honor of it fell on Francesco: why do you stay there?  Move back to London: life's good, weather is better and you could earn pretty good money.
Now I never thought the day somebody described London's weather being better than any Italian city weather would arrive.
Yet again, I never lived in Milan before, so I wasn't aware that such possibility existed and that I would eventually agree with that statement: anyway, it's the truth, at least London weather has the ability of making you feel something, for good or for worse, while Milan's grey is so anonymous that when sun finally find a way through the clouds, you automatically think something must be wrong.

So, yeah the question stands: why don't I move back to London?
Saying I never thought about would be a big fat lie. I still find myself missing London with such a passion and tension that almost compares to my fiercest burst of nostalgic homesickness for Torino back in the days. There are days I wonder why I left. I still haven't unsubscribed from mailing list from Tate and Southbank Centre, as if part of me thinks, wishes, wonders about returning there.

But on the other hand, I like my job. I don't like to talk about job that much, but right now, no matter the obvious frustrations that come with any job, no matter what, I think I am lucky: I got a job that allows me to make a difference (no matter how small you want to think of it) in the life of people buying the products I work on; I got a job where diversity (as an Italian woman) is not seen as a negative factor but appreciated as extra value I bring in. And what I do in my job is appreciated by the people I work with and by my manager. I think I'm lucky in being in such a situation nowadays in Italy and to, add on top of it, I like the idea of being so close to home: I just need to take a train and in less than 1 hour I'm home. Once home, I got my family. We're still an highly dysfunctional family, but it's my own dysfunctional family and I wouldn't want it any other way round.
And I got friends: I got the solid "legacy" friends, people that I might meet once every 4 months but it'd still feel we just met the day before; and I got the latest adds-on, like my lovely "harpies" (we named ourselves so: same blunt attitudes and brain wave-lenghts).

That's home right now.
One year ago, more or less, I wrote about feeling at home in Milan, in the flat I'm currently in.
It's not the same anymore. What changed?
I got enough money to start refurbishing my flat in Torino, that's what changed. I will spend the next Christmas break in my flat: it might not be perfect, nor complete, but it will be my flat.
In a way it feels like closing a circle: when I started writing this blog, seven years ago (!!!), I was moving out of the flat, of Italy, of my previous life and moving into being a migrant, a foreigner in UK.
Now I'm going back to where it all started, in the only place I felt belonged to me in the past few years: during the next few weeks I will be there, will tweak things around me, move stuff and get ready for... moving back to Torino. Yeah, after a lot of thinking I decided that I will try to move out of Milan and, instead of moving out of Italy (I don't have the academics curricula to be accounted as "brain drain", I fear) I will move back to my hometown: to do so, I will have to wait for my office to finally move from nowhere land to Milan city center, so that my commute can be bearable.

I will start some trials and tests during the next months so I can understand how to organize my life and work.
I don't know what will happen; it's going to be an interesting experiment, and I'm really excited thinking about it. And scared. Because while part of me doesn't want to move, another part of me is struggling with the 3rd year in a row without a move (of flat! I'm not even talking about moving country); there's some restlessness that needs to be calmed down and I hope being more grounded back in Torino will help me.

As Marvin used to say, home is where I lay my hat. The only thing I worry about is that I knit so many of them, I could lay them in more than a single home.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

November bonsai

On certain Sundays in November

When the weather bothers me
I empty drawers of other summers
Where my shadows used to be
("Hard Candy", Counting Crows)


Last weeks went by in a whirl of emotions, travel and lots of swearing, with an extra pinch of medicine for the cold for good measure.

I've been quite busy at work and outside of it.
Last week I was in Rome for the meeting of my team: the fact we look like a joke walking into a bar made it funnier. I needed a break from Milan, from the rain and from the massive leak caused by a broken common water pipe that caused rain in my kitchen.
Not a figure of speech: I got back from a weekend in Torino around 2 weeks ago only to find about 1 inch of water on good portions of my kitchen surfaces and floor. I've been reassured that the pipe has been repaired, but no words yet on when I'll get the damage fixed in my flat. It really bugs me to think I'll probably have to start using expression as "my lawyer will be in touch" or "will call the health and safety department" or "I will reduce the rent I pay monthly", but it looks like the only way to guarantee my rights.

Rome was a good way to escape from this mess: it was sunny and warm, I walked a lot around town, spoke more Italian than I normally do on average during a week (with only 2 Italians on a team of around 50 people, we had high chances of working as translator).
I managed to get some time to visit the Vatican Museum and an exhibition about Escher (in the palace! sang a-là-Clash, as I usually do): the exhibition was very complete and had lots of game to explain children the scientific basis of many of the optical illusion Escher used in his work. I obviously did try them all and, being a responsible kid, put everything back in place for the next kids visiting the exhibition.

I knitted a lot too, even though it resulted in only one single item: a massive shawl by Stephen West called Exploration Station. So far not only I casted off a huge amount of stitches, but also washed and blocked the shawl:


Only thing left to do is wearing it and I think I got the best excuse (as if I need it) to wear it: tomorrow I'm going to see Paolo Conte playing at the Milan Conservatory.

It's going to be my second concert in 5 days: on Sunday Adri and Francesco dropped the kids to the babysitters (aka the grandparents) and drove to Milan to see Counting Crows playing.
When they arrived we looked better off if we were admitted into an hospital: cold and cough, otitis and headache. But that didn't stopped us (as if!) and we managed to get a pretty good spot near the front: the concert was really good and we enjoyed it a lot.
They played my favorite songs from the most recent album and some good classics.

On the way back home I said I really wished they played "Hard Candy": with that intro, it felt so right for the moment. Plus it's probably the song that cemented my love for the band.
But I guess it would be like finding that diamond cuff lost 20 years before in the fish you eat in a New York restaurant: too much of a coincidence not to laugh in the dark about it.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

When Mom took her first step

I think I should iron more often. Last week the pile of iron-in-waiting clothes and linen resembled the leaning tower of Pisa, both in height and in inclination.
So I finally had to deal with the task of casually and randomly pressing the iron on the fabrics below it, trying to wrinkle out lines that were weeks old by then.

That’s how by ironing, in between a skirt and a shirt I found “Please look after Mom” by Shin Kyung-sook.

Oh, here it is, I thought I lost it somewhere! What is it doing it here of all places? 
And then I remembered: the plan was to iron and then read, so I put the book on top of the pile of clothes, but then the plan changed, and I decided not to iron anymore: I ended up adding stuff to the pile, thus hiding the paperback from view.
It tells you something else about the way I iron: I do it monthly.

I bought the book online: I liked the cover and found the title compelling. Maybe that’s not enough to start reading a book and loosing it for a whole month didn’t help either: anyway, I was quite puzzled about it for it seemed to lack any sense to me in some points.

It tells the story of a hard-working over-70 mom who goes missing in a central Seoul train station: on a visit to her grown-up eldest son, her husband steps on the train, she doesn’t and she’s nowhere to be found.
The husband and their 4 children start searching for her without any luck and in the meanwhile they go over the story of this almost-saint woman they always assumed was going to be there for them, a monolithic rock of love, patience and selfless sacrifice, only to realize what she truly meant now that she’s gone. (Jony Mitchell never lies)

Each part of the book is told by a different character: the eldest daughter now a writer, the first born son that has become a business man, the undeserving husband and Mom.

By recalling the past while searching for her, Mom’s family also journeys through guilt, as they come to realize how indifferent they all have been towards her, how impatient they became once they grew and she aged and how granted her presence in their lives was (or so they thought.
They also realize that there are parts of her life they were never aware of and/or they’ve never been interested into. 

It’s not until this last section that Mom acquires a name, as if she is just “Mom”, a word, a label under which a whole human being, a whole life is hidden.

Most of the book is narrated using the 2nd person, “you”, shifting than to the third person, which adds to the feeling of oddity and alienation .
Did I like it?
At the end, yes, I did, even though there were parts of it I didn’t find that engaging or interesting.
I was left with around 50 pages to go few days ago, when I FaceTimed my parents. My mother asked me something and I snapped. It’s one of those question that she knows irritates the hell out of me, yet she seems unable to refrain herself.
She should know by now that any food-related question is off-limits with me, actually I believe she’s fully aware of it: yet she keeps hammering me there. So I snapped. And as soon as I said my goodbye and ended the conversation, guilt and remorse kicked it. And the words of the book came back to me; that’s how I knew that, no matter whether I liked it or not, the novel had hit some chords (way too) close home. Part of my brain keeps thinking about families in general and my own family in the specific.

How well we think we know the people that raised us and those we grew up together! But is it really so?

“To you, Mom was always Mom. It never occurred to you that she had once taken her first step, or had once been three or twelve or twenty years old.”

Mom is Mom, just as Granny has always been Granny to me.
But Granny was also Mom. For my mom at least.
There are whole parts of their lives I completely ignored, details of their personalities I never glimpsed and vice versa. I can watch the photo of my mum and dad as little kid, but I don't see them as babies, I still see them as my parents. I see them, knowing already what they would become to me in the future, so cutting out all the other parts of them that didn't directly impact me as their daughter.
It might look elementary and obvious, not such a deep meaning to attach to a novel, but sometimes simple truths are harder to address and live with.
Anybody will always be more of what the other people think of them, there’s no way somebody will be able to know completely another person. It hasn’t got nothing to do with how much we love that person, it’s just something we humans can’t achieve.

Because we all fail victims to the limitations time forces on ourselves (and the seeing your parents getting older, your nephew and nieces growing up while you’re aging as well makes you painfully aware of that) and to the constraints we impose on ourselves: cause our fears will prevent us from speaking the truth and asking question, leaving so many feelings unexposed, so many part of ourselves in the dark.

And in the end the only thing that remains is that request, simple yet scaring, “please look after mom”.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Saccharine evil

I was returning home from a day out in central London.
The air was crispy in Surbiton, it had just finished raining. Not the warmest summer ever in London: It was July and I was wearing a jeans jacket and a scarf.
I started walking towards home. It felt like hiking: shoebox #4 was at the top of a small Surrey hill and the way up felt harder than usual. It probably had to do with the km I walked around London. Or those 2 pints at the pub before taking the train.
A car stopped at a crossroad and turn left. The light inside was on and on the backseat I could see 2 girls. The eldest could have been around 12, the little sister must have been 8.
They were both reading. And then it clicked: it was the night of the release of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”.
The kids were probably back from the special opening of the bookstores where their (obviously smart and peace loving) parents got a copy each of the book.

I got my copy by mail the morning after and just like them I started reading and forgot about the world.
Even before that day I got a soft spot for J.K. Rowling. But after that night, I liked her even more: you need to be magical to do what she did and keeps doing, i.e. making kids interested in reading.

I kept up with all her writings after the end of the Harry Potter saga and there’s a piece she wrote about Dolores Umbridge for Pottermore, discussed on many other media as well, I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently.

“A love of all things saccharine often seems present where there is a lack of real warmth or charity […]”

The sentence has been swirling in between my thoughts and I think it’s not just because I always found Dolores repulsive: she's not like other villains, she's revolting. Because of what she is and how she acts and presents herself to the world, she's nothing short of disgusting to me.
I see it all around, this saccharine let’s-all-be-friends my-life-is-so-full-of-sweet-emotions way of presenting oneself to the world. And it irks me to no end.

Why? Well, first of all it’s a innate self-defense instinct I guess. I am more inclined to feel unhappy than happy and it's not something I can cure with paracetamol. There's a part of me that I need to keep under strict control to avoid it to gain power: when it happens, darkness sinks my heart, my brain, my vision. When it happens even getting up in the morning feels like an unachievable goal.
Keeping depression off sometimes is an harsh battle in an ongoing war. 
Keeping depression off is my second job. 
After having worked a whole day in the office, after getting back home to cook, wash, clean, etc. and having this ongoing second job always present during the waking hours, do you think I got the patience and strength to deal with this bullshit?

For some time I had the doubt I resented this attitude out of envy: I can't feel so wonderfully happy and happily smiling all the time, so I despise it just like the fox with the grapes. But then again no, it was not a matter of not reaching the grapes; on the contrary it was about finally managing to grab those grapes, only to realize they were made out of wax. They were fake: you can't alway be happy and you can't always be optimistic.
You can't always and only see the bright side of life. If you do, you're either dumb or a liar. I guess the latter options is what most of the Pollyannas are.

The sentence about Dolores Umbridge, however, introduced another option: distrust. If I look back, all this very happy, always too sugary, full of fluffy feelings people I met were the same people that acted the worse towards other people, that were not profitable to them.
These people would always look for a way to get knowledge out of me, only to later betray my trust or abuse my patience: they would do it with a smile on their face, ready to act as the victim of grumpy Virgi the moment I snapped.

They are the people that hug you only to make sure you can not move when they were busy stabbing you on the back.

Sometimes I wear my heart too much on my sleeves and you can easily tell from my face if I'm fine or truly pissed off (my jaw is set in stone and I got this sod-off-look on my face, as one of my colleague used to tell some years ago, even though I believe it is the pissed-off eyebrows that give me away): if I could learn to be more condescending, I'd probably gain more out of many situations. If I could manage to act so cheerful and smiling all the time, dealing with the Dolores of the world wouldn't be so difficult and tiring.
I guess I could do it if I truly wanted it: but, as I said before, I despise Dolores Umbridge and I don't want to turn into one. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Restless reading

When we were all still living under the same roof, I was impressed by the way my sister read books: by stack. What's the point of reading Proust, after all, if you don't carry more than one volume of the Recherché with you? At least, as a reference tool, to remember what good old Marcel was ranting about 400 pages before.
She seemed to apply the same methodology to pretty much any kind of literature: from fantasy to Kundera via King, the Adri in my memory has always more than one book with her. And she leaves books scattered around the flat, open at the page she arrived to.
I didn't know how she could do it, I found it extremely distracting. Plus I didn't want any crease to form on my books, so the notions of leaving books over the sofa, on the table, on the heaters, etc. was not that appealing to me.

Things have changed recently. I blame it on the lack of decent bookshelves: I already told myself I was going to get a decent book case hundreds of time, but I keep postponing the purchase. There's always something more interesting to do on the weekend: like reading a book, for example.
Situation has worsened in the past months and now the space in the flat assigned to the books is in utter chaos.
I blame Murakami too. After finishing reading his latest novel, I found myself unable to be linear in my readings: I seem unable to start and finish a novel in a straightforward line.
I start reading a book, then I put it aside.
Open another book, read few lines, leave it on the bed to get tangled with the sheets and be found again only when I change them.
Start re-reading a childhood book, forget it in the office drawer for a whole month, while wondering at the same time where I left it.
I jump from novel to short story, unable to focus on more than 2 chapters in a row.

Some months ago I'd find this whole situation deeply unsettling. I would have probably headed straight to Ikea to get a decent bookcase. However, not only I got better things to do in my spare time now, but I also don't want to change things. I don't want to get the shelves, because part of me doesn't want them in the flat: I don't want to invest money and time, I don't want to settle in.

For somebody that always wanted to settle, to be balanced and at peace with herself and the world, it's ironic how much I've come to appreciate my restlessness. I don't want to settle in. When the "in" is so shitty, fake and grey, I welcome the mess and lack of peace.
So no Ikea trip for this flat anytime soon (for the little home in Turin, however this is whole different story): I will enjoy the chaos for some more time, waiting for the books I started reading to eventually turn up somewhere in the flat.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Yarn in Munich

Something I do every time I travel is visiting yarn shops.
It's a joy and a pain at the same time: it's really cool to visit new shops, not necessarily buying things (even though, this time, I shopped in basically every single yarn shop I visited), but just browsing through their shelves, looking at local yarns and just enjoying the atmosphere.  
It's a pain because I know I got to return to Italy, where the situation is awful and depressing. 

Turin fares it slightly better than Milan. In Turin, you can never go wrong with shopping at the traditional Albozzi, where you can get the everyday, heavy-duty pullover yarn: colours don't really change over time, but yarn doesn't pill too much and it's got a pretty good price/quality ratio.
Then there's "La compagnia del cotone" with its amazing rainbow wall and haskets of different yarns. Sometimes I go there with my friends just as a beauty treatment for my eyes. 

As for Milan... Well suffices to say the best yarn can be found at the stall of Antonio at some of the markets around town. Then it's the desert. There are some other shops that offers not a lot of choice in terms of fibers and colours, not to mention the lack of proper manner of some of the shop assistants.
The yarn shops quality in Milan is so poor that I basically gave up on the idea of finding something nice and rely on travels and online shopping to stash up.

Munich has been a great trip for this: I didn't got enough time to visit all the shops, I was there for work after all. Yet, I managed to find enough time to visit 3 stores.
First shop on the list was Wolladiho. The entrance was already promising, with model of their creation outside:


And one colorful welcome at the door:


The shop is really tiny, but it's tightly pack with loads of different kind of yarns, in baskets, shelves up to the ceiling, basically everywhere.

Second stop was at Strickeria.
They have their own needles,  especially made for them by Knit Pro, do I really need to say more?



Other than I bought something else with them, obviously:


But the best shop, the one that I fall in love with was Die Mercerie. It is a yarn and fabric shop with a small cafe and book section: it offers courses and workshops as well.
When you look at it from the outside, you don't expect very much:


But then you step in and you start asking yourself some important questions such as: can I sleep in a yarn store? Can I ask my manager to move my office into the yarn store?
There is yarn everywhere you look: on the shelves, in baskets, hanging from the ceiling!


It hosts a wide variety of international yarns: from Filatura di Crosa to Madeline Tosh, from Holst Garn to Koigu. The variety is impressive, alongside the quantity and different colorways on display







The shop assistants were very helpful: I was looking for some yarn for Manuela and for once I didn't have to dive into the shelves and hope for the best, but just ask them and they checked on their shop database on the computer.
I hope to get a chance to visit Munich again soon, to visit them once more and continue my exploration of the other shops.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Barbottina e il tutto

La sveglia è suonata presto nella nobile ma non troppo magione degli aRissoGatti.
Avendo prenotato il taxi, avevo detto ai miei genitori di non preoccuparsi: davvero, non c'era bisogno che mi accompagnassero all'aeroporto.
Ma cuore di mamma e cuore di papà oblige, e quindi si sono alzati alla mia stessa ora e abbiamo fatto colazione insieme.

Mia mamma si è poi preoccupata che avessi "tutto".

"Hai tutto?"
"Sì."

Sono anni che mi chiede se ho "tutto".  Sono anni che le rispondo di sì.
Dov'è il problema? Il problema è che i nostri rispettivi concetti di tutto non coincidono del tutto. Mia madre l'ha ovviamente capito prima di me e infatti, subito dopo il mio sì, eccola partire con una serie di domande atte a scoprire falle e lacune del mio tutto.

A volte mento dicendo che non ho certe cose. Perché? Beh, perché io sono cuore di figlie, ed è un modo innocuo di far capire all'altra che le si vuole bene senza dover ricorrere alle parole.
Quindi quando mia mamma mi ha chiesto se avevo i fazzolettini di carta, ho risposto di no.

"Vuoi quelli di Peppa Pig?"
"Eh no! Peppa Pig no! Sto partendo per un viaggio di lavoro, cerchiamo di salvare quel minimo di serietà che mi è avanzata!"
"Angry Birds?"
"No, gli Angry Birds no..."
"Barbapapà?"
"Oh sì, vada per i Barbapapà! Però no, non mi dare quello rosa, dammi quello arancione, Barbottina è la più intelligente..."

A quel punto la mia serietà ha deciso di tornarsene a dormire perché era evidentemente di troppo nella conversazione.
E ovviamente nel mio "tutto" mi ero scordata di includere la giacca autunnale, quindi c'è qualche possibilità mi prenda il raffreddore, ma tanto ho i fazzoletti con me.


Friday, 3 October 2014

The mad hat

"The truth is this: for alarmingly large chunks of an average day I am a moron"
(Nick Hornby, "Fever Pitch")

Back in Brighton last July, I bought this wonderful skein of Lush Worsted from The Uncommon Thread:


Beautiful, isn't it?
I knew the universe would be deeply unbalanced if I didn't buy it (so I bought it! You can thank me later, universe); and I knew I had to turn it into a hat (so I knitted it).

I bought the pattern for a hat by Robin Ulrich, called Greyhaven.
As I enjoy swatching and the pattern had info for gauge both in stockinette stitch and in lace pattern I swatched them both. I then proceeded to wash and block the swatch: it turned out that this yarn lets go a little after washing, and this was something I was happy as it meant my tension was at that point perfect without me needing to alter anything. 

I quickly started the project and knitted the hat in less than a day; I didn't try it on: I was just too caught up in how quickly the hat was growing before my eyes and how soft the yarn felt in my hands.
It truly was growing fast and it looked so nice and... and big, but hey, I got a big head, so that's fine!

Binded off the hat, washed it and updated the Ravelry page as the hat was drying. Everything was perfect when... ("Jaws" music cues in)... tragedy! Tragic tragedy!!!
This hat is huge even for my Charlie Brown, very round, XXXL head!
How on earth?!?! WTF!?! I called for help and moral support from some fellow knitters, some of whom had their fair share of gauge drama recently. 

I googled for possible explanations and solutions, while in my heart I knew what was going to happen to me and to the hat. I tried to put off the inevitable, but then I had to give up and admit I had to frog and reknit the whole hat.

So I started frogging the hat, while still trying to understand how my tension managed to change within 2 days. Because obviously the hat must have been bigger than it should have even prior to washing and blocking. Or my head shrunk to the size of an apple. But I checked and no, my head is still closer to the size of an Halloween pumpkin than the one of an apple.

It was puzzling and unnerving. I couldn't understand why: the swatch was ok, I followed the pattern, I didn't cast on more stitches than needed, I used the right needle.... and that was the moment. The moment when I started to doubt myself, the moment when I started connecting the dots, the moment when I went back to the knitting bag and checked the needles. 

The moment I realized I'm a moron, a moron that used the wrong knitting needles for the hat!!! 

Instead of the 4.0 mm I knitted the swatch with, I picked a 5.0 mm circular needle and happily knitted till the end of it as if nothing mattered. What's the difference between a 4 mm and a 5 mm needle after all?
Just a little tiny inconsequential single millimeter, right?
Wrong! It's the difference between knitting a hat for myself and knitting a hat for a Dalek!

I finished the hat yesterday evening, washed and blocked it again and now its dimension are back to normal levels. 
This story taught me that no matter the attention I can put to every single details of a knitting project there's something that will always prevail: my innate capacity of abso-fucking-lutely messing it everything up. Even though now I can do it while wearing a very cool hat!

The right size for my big head

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

totally a feminist

This summer was a lucky string of good reads. I loved almost every single book I picked up and it's something that hasn't happened so often recently.

One of the best book I read was Lauren Bates’s “Everyday Sexism”.
The first time I came across the Everyday Sexism Project was on Twitter.
One of the many possible harassment I could be victim of just because I'm a woman had just happened and I got back home feeling angry and upset.
To quote my sister quoting a De André's song, "it's easier to vent your rage on Twitter rather than doing the same in a movie studio", so I took it to the internet and found the Everyday Sexism website and pour all my frustration in a post.
I start reading the other posts: the more I read the more I felt passionate, angry and tired about this whole fuc**d up situation.
It made me also more aware I'm not alone, it's not just me and it's not my fault. 
I mirrored myself in the words of other women from all over the world: I could see my old self in the tweets from teenagers and I fear my future can be read on that website too.
I took it as my personal daily homework to repeat it to myself. It didn't solve anything per se but it helped.

When the book was published I knew it was a matter of time before I eventually bought it. 
So far I haven't found a better way to explain it but bear with me: by reading this book I detached myself from the world around me in order to plunge deeper into reality. This book hits a lot of painful chords. 
Sometimes I caught myself laughing out loud while reading it on the metro.  Some other times I felt tears in my eyes, because nobody should ever be victim of abuses.
Way too often I felt angry because I recognized how many times I left the catcalls, the abuse and discrimination pass by because I was tired, because "I'm not going to change it by myself alone", because it's downright dangerous, because "that's the way it works".

Yeah, the way it works is that you just shut up. The way it works is that when you try to talk about it with a colleague or a male friend, he shuts you down saying that those are not abuses or violent acts, no, no,  it's just that men need to get laid (sic). It's oh-so-so-so tempting to give up already, thinking it's not worthy the headache and disappointments.

But then, something small and ordinary happened few days ago that changed my whole feeling towards this whole matter, making me thinking humans do stand some chances after all.
Yep, one more thing happened.
I don't really talk about work and colleagues that much, but this is something I just need to tell somebody; or anybody; well, everybody really.

Few days ago, I was chatting with my colleague Mo, telling him how my intention of posting a feedback ended up in a small paper on being a woman in IT and being a woman in IT in Italy.

This is the short chat that followed:
Mo: Totally a feminist
Me: I’ll take it as a compliment ;-)
Mo: It is!

5 words and one exclamation mark. That's it.

Can it get any better? Probably no, and you want to know why? Because it felt natural, normal.
It didn't feel like a struggle to claim a right, or yet another battle to win.

Of course it is a compliment, why should it be something else?!
Life and society have made me feel as if I had to justify my demand of equal rights (and pay, and treatment, etc.), Mo simply reminded me that I didn't have to justify myself but be proud.
And I am; I'm totally a feminist.
I'm proud of being so. And proud of having as colleague and friend some great men, just like Mo.

Monday, 8 September 2014

pensierini sparsi

È Settembre.
Le rondini migrano a sud.
La gente vendemmia.
I/le blogger tornano dalle ferie con un surplus di energie e buoni propositi.
E con questo ho raggiunto la mia quota mensile di luoghi comuni.
Ora aggiungo pure una foto per completare l'opera. Voilà!


La mia estate non è stata propriamente l'ortodossa estate media italiana, d'altro canto non lo è più da tanto tempo ormai, e io tutto questo entusiasmo del "ricominciare" proprio non lo sento.
Deve essere la mia base da bastian contrario ma di fronte a questa esplosione di positività e creatività mi chiudo a riccio e reagisco in maniera estremamente misantropa.
Forse, come mio solito, mi sto facendo troppe paranoie. Anche questa è una mia non troppo sana abitudine che porto avanti da tanti anni. Eppure di spunti di riflessione e cose da raccontare sono circondata, e allora cose che mi frena? Credo che il conclamato terrore dei refusi scampati al correttore automatico e al correttore ortografico del MacBook mi faccia tirare il freno a mano di fronte al post seriale e compulsivo, ma non può essere solo questo.

Allora, visto che non ho buoni propositi, nuovi spunti, inizi o iniziative con cui illuminare le 4 persone che ancora si incaponiscono a leggermi, vi voglio raccontare una storia.
Anzi no. La storia ve la racconto dopo.

Prima voglio ringraziare le suddette 4 persone che ancora si incaponiscono a leggermi: se quando mi fate i complimenti a quattrocchi sembro scostante o poco felice, beh non lo sono, anzi è tutto l'opposto. I complimenti mi fanno molto piacere ma allo stesso tempo mi gettano nel panico: vengo da una lunga tradizione di understatement piemontese, quel tipo di educazione per la quale le cose vanno fatte bene perché è questo l'unico modo accettabile in cui farle, tanto meglio se si aggiunge una una soddisfazione intima e basta; i traguardi raggiunti non vanno sbandierati troppo perché sta male.

Se passi una vita a non ricevere complimenti perché "quello che hai fatto è il minimo che avresti comunque dovuto fare", credetemi, al primo "sei stata brava" da una persona che non conosci magari benissimo, ma alla cui buona opinione tieni tanto, il cervello va in corto: le sinapsi assumono la forma di urlo di Munch e con una vocina da particella d'acqua Lete ti gridano nelle orecchie: "E ora che facciamo? Che facciamo? Che facciamo? Aiuto! Mamma!"
Ecco, io ai complimenti ancora non ho imparato come reagire. Mi fanno piacere ma non so esprimermi, perché tutte le frasi di risposta mi suonano "false e cortesi" e pure presuntuose: allora piuttosto abbozzo un grazie stentato e poi sto zitta.

Ecco, ora vi voglio finalmente raccontare una storia. Storia di vita vissuta, neh, mica bruscolini o pettini per bambole usati sui baffi dei gatti.
Alle superiori non sarò stata la più simpatica della classe, nè la più furba, ma avevo capito che il modo migliore per continuare a farmi gli affari miei, giocare al gioco del 100 e soprattutto leggere Pennac durante le lezioni era capire cosa volessero da me i singoli professori.
Non ero in grado di capire chi fra i miei compagni di scuola mi stesse prendendo per i fondelli, ma i professori erano libri aperti: i miei preferiti erano quelli lineari e onesti, quelli che non facevano gli amiconi o i gggiovani, ma volevano semplicemente impegno e studio. C'erano le perle rare, come la prof di lettere e storia del terzo anno capace di far abbandonare la lettura di "Cioè" anche le takethattiane più sfegatate.

In quarta superiore, mi erano bastati un tema e un'interrogazione di storia per inquadrare la nuova docente di lettere: la professoressa assegnava dei temi dai titoli tremendi, vuoti e io mi vedevo costretta a riempire almeno un intero foglio protocollo di parole vuote. Faceva domande allucinanti alle interrogazioni, ma non mi fregava.
Io sapevo che a lei importavano solo il primo e l'ultimo paragrafo.
Del tema o del capitolo da studiare, la prof valutava solamente in base a quella ventina di righe.
Ovviamente avevo subito ricambiato la mia produzione scolastica ed ero diventata bravissima a scrivere un inizio scoppiettante del tema, a cui facevo seguire tre pagine di "bla bla bla" per poi concludere con un paragrafo altrettanto buono.
Lo facevo per il quieto vivere e perché sapevo che superate le 3 pagine e mezzo di scritto in calligrafia media (spaziata ma non troppo, per non far scattare il sospetto che la stessi prendendo in giro) scattava il sette.
Delle tre ore assegnateci per il tema, riuscivo così a ricavarmi due ore durante le quali scrivevo quel che più pareva a me sui fogli di brutta. Buona parte della mia corrispondenza con Gill di quell'anno è stata un gentile omaggio delle tre ore di tema.
Sapevo che alla professoressa non interessava che io esponessi i miei pensieri e le mie idee in maniera interessante (a Gill invece interessavano eccome); le interessava piuttosto che io non commettessi strafalcioni grammaticali e argomentassi le mie idee secondo il suo punto di vista. Sapevo che impegnarsi a esporre le proprie idee in maniera personale e originale non mi avrebbe fatto guadagnare nulla se non un sei scarso e infinite discussioni; ma io di discussioni infinite non ne volevo fare: ne avevo già diverse in corso nella vita extra-scolastica, le sue ore di lezione erano le mie ore di cessate-il-fuoco cerebrale, perché rovinarsele?

Nel corso degli anni ho spesso ripensato a quei temi: mi sono chiesta se la mia decisione del tempo, quella specie di bandiera bianca sul versante della critica e della libera espressione sia stata la migliore, la più saggia scelta che avessi potuto prendere. Ai tempi mi sembrava tale: era un ennesimo modo di amalgamarsi alla visione che gli altri avevano di me, non scontentavo nessuno e potevo continuare a vivere tranquilla e fare ciò che mi interessava davvero.

Non li rimpiango però, ecco, penso che avessi fatto quei temi come andavano veramente fatti, avrei acquisito delle doti che oggi, di fronte alla schermata bianca di TextEdit, vorrei tanto possedere. Però, di contro, ci avrei messo molto, ma molto di più a finire Dostoevskij.

Monday, 1 September 2014

of communions and not belonging

Communion…
Community…
You hear these words so often, over and over, in a Catholic country such as Italy that you could easily be fooled into believing they hold some true meanings.
Most of the time, however, they feel like nothing but a clutter of vowels and consonants.
It's so easy to be tempted to dismiss it all as me being over-sensitive about it, but then I remind myself that dismissing facts and feelings is the best way to bury my head in the sands.
It happened when visiting the cathedral of Trieste some weeks ago. It’s a magnificent church, yet the thing I remember the most is this panel.



The thing is that the English sentence is not the exact equivalent of the Italian one. The Italian sentence reads: “Who has faith, worship. Who doesn't have such gift pass by with respect and reverence”.

Given that the vast majority of Italians are Catholics (well, they’re baptized and gets married in the church) and I don’t belong to the vast majority, it’s obvious I’m a gift less one.
But with so few people outside Italy speaking my language, I wonder why was it necessary to word the request for respect of a sacred space in such a arrogant way. The tone that transpire for that "Who doesn't have such gift" is closer to a "if you're so unfortunate to not have such a gift, oh you miserable inferior being" than anything.

Do you really need your sense of belonging to a community to be enhanced by reminding people out of it that they don’t belong?
Do you feel more part of it by marking over and over something you supposedly have and others don’t?
Who knows, it probably does work, if you’re inside that community. But I don’t belong to that communion of people and I felt incredibly irritated by it. Sure, there are far worse thing to worry and get upset about it, yet this small event was enough to make me stop: my visit of the church was truly spoiled by it, because while I was admiring the mosaics on the rooftop, I was still thinking about that sign.

It seems there was a need to remark you the need to respect this place of worship: yet who ever placed the sign has obviously forgot most of the people that are so unrespectful to the churches during their visits, using flash to take photos, answering the phones etc, are catholic themselves.

I think it’s mainly due to the fact yes, this is a small event, but it’s not the first and it won’t be the last.
I’ve lived through so many of these small little acts of discrimination (should, can I call them so?), yet I haven’t grew any immunity against them.
I still feel irritated by what I perceive as a conceited act of  self-righteousness and arrogane, an ill-disguised sense of superiority applied on me, as an atheist, by people that leave everyday life not following the advice and words of Vatican yet thinking of themselves standing on a superior moral ground.
I 'm pained by the fact I have to endure people deeming themselves as "tolerant" to other people religious beliefs (or lack of them) yet being effectively the complete opposite on every day life. And it seems there is no way to make them understand what they're doing is not so "christian", if we consider as "christian" the basics teaching of Christ and not the structure of power built up in the centuries by different churches. The most common reply you will hear when you complain (and I can tell it by experience) is "Oh, but we allow them freedoms and rights they would never have in their countries". They don't specify who the "them" are, but it includes anybody who is not exactly 100% like them, i.e. white, Italian and catholic, but by lacking just one of these factor is enough to endure some sort of discrimination.

On the good side, year after year, I met more and more people like me, in Italy: so while I'm still annoyed by events and sentences like the one I met in Trieste, I also hold on to the knowledge there are people out there that not only use the word "communion", but act upon it. I just have to remind myself about it, no matter how hard and tiring it can be.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Fenejum o giù di lì

Ho notato la scritta la prima volta che sono andata a fare la spesa al supermercato vicino a casa mia; persa nei miei pensieri, quasi non ci ho fatto caso ma all'ultimo secondo l'ho notato:


La reazione è stata alla Furio per così dire: "lo vedi che la cosa è specifica?"
Dopo questa scritta ne ho trovate altre in giro, ad esempio questa che gioca sulla somiglianza fonetica delle parole heart e hurt:


Oppure questa, probabilmente la mia preferita:


Non sono sicura di come si chiami l'autore: FeneyJum, Ferret Jim, Ferrey Jum...
Più di una volta mi sono detta che l'avrei cercato su Google, ma ho sempre rimandato, come mio  solito. Poi ieri mattina, il cerchio sì è come chiuso:


Ho fatto una foto anche a questa scritta e stavolta mi sono messa a cercare su internet: c'è un sito che si chiama Fenejum e lo stile, per il poco che ho letto finora, corrisponde a quello che ho letto sui muri.
Forse devo fare qualche ricerca in più, quindi da oggi presterò ancora più attenzione ai muri.

life according to Italo

In Trieste there are some statues dedicated to the different literary figures that shaped its and the world's culture: Saba, Italo Svevo, James Joyce, and each is accompanied by a small plaque with a quote of the writer.I took a picture of the one at the feet of Svevo's statue, because I liked it and found it quicker than pulling out the notebook from the bag:


Life is neither ugly nor beautiful, but it’s original!
(Italo Svevo, "Zeno's Conscience")

Barely one week later, I've found myself looking for my copy of the novel and then deciding it was quicker to buy a new copy.
I took it with me to the laundromat yesterday morning where I spent about one hour washing and drying the content of my last run with the washing machine. On Thursday it went out with a bang that killed the electricity safety system of the apartment and probably roasted its small engine, if the cloud of white smoke and smell of burnt plastic that set into my flat tell anything.

I had some fun time trying to wring all the water out of the towels that I was planning to have washed: right now I like to believe it was all good and original physiotherapy for my wrist.
Yet spending the evening this way doesn't classify as a lifelong aspiration.
I felt so, so, so frustrated, longing for a flat that is my own and where at least I have some control on the quality of the appliances put into it.
This morning when the technician came to fix the damage. So, with this small bit of life fixed I can say that yep, life is neither ugly nor beautiful, but original. And originality doesn't come cheap as my wallet can testify: it feels a good hundred euro lighter.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Traveling alone

I travel by myself a lot of times.
Primarily because of work: it's not real "travel" as I come back with memories of hotel, taxi and airports but once in a while I manage to sneak some hours of wandering around town.
Most of the times, however, it's because I want to go somewhere and either nobody else I know wants to come with me or because of the timing of my holidays is out of sync with most of my friends.

I've been traveling alone for such a long time I expect other people to be familiar with the concept. Yet, when I say I'm going here or there (or everywhere), some friends and acquaintances still wonder about it: "By yourself alone?"
I've become so good at not rolling my eyes: "Yes, all by myself alone. It'd be hard to travel alone with somebody else, wouldn't it?"
I have become pretty good at not rolling my eyes and snap, but sometimes I feel like asking them some basic questions: what else do you suggest me to do? Stay at home on Bank Holiday watching the time pass by on the desktop?! Or maybe browse the internet, looking for pictures of places I could be visiting if only there was somebody else with me?
Thanks but no thanks. I rather browse the internet to search for tickets, hotels, addresses and then, when the time arrives, I pack lightly and go.

And when I arrive wherever I had planned to, be sure somebody will be surprised by the fact I've travelled alone.
But the funny thing is when you travel alone, it doesn't mean you're always alone. On the contrary, it can be quite tricky to get some time by yourself alone.
So, for example, last Friday was Ferragosto, national holiday in Italy: I used the extra day off for a short visit to Trieste.
On the way going there, I chatted a little bit with the family that was going for a day trip to Gardaland.
Then, over 3 days I struck up random conversations with the people that were staying in my same bed and breakfast, a lady on the bus going to visit Miramare, the waiter at the restaurant, the girl at the ice-cream parlor, a tourist from Milan waiting for a bus to Croatia, a couple of guy going back to Milan.
A volunteer working at the synagogue gave me some advices where to go and have lunch and pointed me in the direction of a nice cafe nearby.

I probably met more people than I would have met if I were traveling with somebody else: traveling alone means that what I loose on one hand, I gain on the other, so everything eventually balances out just fine.
Being lonely and feeling lonely don't always overlap: when it happens, most of the times, it's in my everyday life.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Packed and ready to go

Backpack is ready, alarm is set: I got a small 3 days travel ahead of me, destination Trieste.
For once I've had not to debate about DLSR and lenses to carry along: I still got the cast and I simply can't hold the camera very well. Just my luck to have the cast removed on Monday, when I'll be back in Milan.
So phone will do, this time around.
Well, trying to look at the bright side, I can say that at least I've found a perfect way to effortlessly carry my reading along:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

requiem for my TWSBI

I'm trying my best at not being a materialistic person and a hoarder, yet I know I can't really follow those minimalistic trends of über-efficiency and order that seem to have spread like the Blob all over the internet, or on Pinterest at least.

I'm basically trying to balance out my obsession for yarns and books and my love for shiny geeky gizmos with the limitations set by my mortgage, bank accounts and living arrangements: at the same time I'm also trying (and failing) to preserve the appearance of order in the flat and in my life.
It works pretty well in general. I suffer some set backs here and there, normally after a yarn festival or a huge sale at a bookstore.

However sometimes tragedy strikes out of the blue. Yesterday morning I was working at my desk, taking some notes when I noticed something weird. Crap, why's my hand smurfs blue?!?
Simple: my beloved TWSBI broke. It didn't exactly break: its barrel cracked and ink started leaking out.
It didn't happen out of the blue (no pun intended). The crack started forming back in the days in London, when I dropped it on the floor in the library. But this little crack didn't move for such a long time and when it did it was over so many weeks and months, I grew used to see that small cut over the barrel. Yesterday I had to put the ink back in the bottle, clean the mess I made on the palm of my hand and consider what to do now.

Here it is, my lovely fountain pen:


It's still so beautiful but, it used to be so much better! And even more important, I could use it before, while now I can only reuse some parts of it.

I don't know what to do. Should I get another one, same model? Or should I just keep going and be one pen short?
Part of me thinks I don't really "need" another fountain pen: with time my fountain pens stash has increased and it's not I'll have to resort at using my blood in order to write.
I know that an extra TWSBI would be just something I fancy having and I could use my money better.

Yet, on the other hand, it's such a beautiful pen! There's something amazing at writing with a fountain paper and this one is was my favorite: it's smooth, fitted my grip perfectly and was a joy to use. 



The only thing preserving my sanity right now is the fact it's August, so most of the shops in Italy are closed, even my favorite pen dealer, so there is no chance I can fall in temptation... I'll just have to wait September for that.

Monday, 4 August 2014

goldmine

Halfway through my 4 weeks of cast on the left arms, things were going pretty smooth: I managed to get better and better at one hand typing, temperature were not so high and I've also managed to keep frustration at bay.
I helped my niece with the summer homework and with origami: mainly boxes and frogs, frogs and boxes for about 3 days. I caught up with some of my online classes and read some novels.

To celebrate all these achievements and also to leave the flat, on Thursday night I met up with some friends.
We had dinner (note to self: next time avoid burger, it gets really really messy) and after that we stopped in a bar for a drink.
We were talking about one of the biggest issue around books, i.e. how to deal with a great number of them when the space in the flat is limited.
Manu commented that she resorts to the ebook reader: the digital format is less expensive than the paperback and she also saves a lot of space. Still when there's a book she truly loves, then she needs a real book: paper and ink. Reason why she just bought the paper version of the last book by Tiziano Terzani.

In the moment she said those words, I spaced out for few seconds, not many but enough to go back in space and time to remember, think and then return to present chatters.

I recalled the time when I read "A Fortune-Teller Told Me" for the first time and the time I found its english edition on a shelf at "Shakespeare & Co." in Paris.


That holiday, no matter all that happen afterwards, remains in my memory as one of the best travel I ever did and, even after years apart, I think it was meant to be so: everything had to go the way it did so that I could spend some euro for this book and sit on a bench reading it.

A blink of the eyes and I was back in the present, sitting on another bench, laughing and chatting with my friends and I felt... no, I didn't feel happy, that hideous, overrated word, that has been overused and abused too much in everyday life at time of internet to really retain any meaning for me.

I felt that bittersweetness that summer, good company and a spritz carry along with them: it's that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes me hope all sufferings of the past had a reason to be so that I could find myself right where I am. And it doesn't matter I know it's not true, I'm perfectly aware that most of it is due to my own complicated self and other people's pettiness. Yet, for those hours, I decided to treat myself to some denial and peace of mind.

I felt that feeling that seems to tug at my backbone each time I've just returned or I'm getting ready for a travel, no matter how far or close the destination is, an exhilarating need to laugh out loud just because.

I felt like pulling the phone out of my bag and dial some numbers; I wanted to call some people: people I haven't seen in a long time, people that probably are not reachable anymore at the numbers I saved.
"Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread – a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met – and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.
(T. Terzani, A Fortune-Teller Told Me)” 
On a bus going to Lijiang, in a youth hostel in Budapest, on a train going to Cologne, at a bus stop in Rome and in many other place I still have to see, you've all been my very own magic goldmine that never runs out.

Friday, 1 August 2014

A generation gap

It's early afternoon and my nephew is playing a very educational game on the iPad, where he has to direct a granny to rob other people because her pension is obviously not enough, plus if you rob enough people you can buy a jedi light saber.

Than the following conversation happens:

Davide: "Aunt, what's that?"
Me: "What's that what?"
Davide, pointing to the videogame he's been playing with: "That! It's a food vending machine, isn't it? But why does it look so strange?"
Me, quite puzzled: "I don't see any food vending machine, Davide..."
Davide, sounding more and more annoyed: "That one! That one!"
Me, desperately trying not to laugh (because nothing is more hilarious to me than my nephew throwing an hysterical tantrum, he's a bit of a drama queen): "I don't see any food vending machine, Davide, point it to me please."
Davide: "This. One."
Me, finally not puzzled any longer: "Oh, this is a telephone box, Davide. Not a food vending machine"
Davide: "A what?!?"

Spent the following five minutes explaining to my bewildered and amused nephew what telephone boxes were and how they were used. I'm pretty sure he listed it under "fable & fantasy".

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Not a country for college drop-outs

In the past few days, some Italians were busy in one of our national hobby: storm in a teapot. Italians love it especially at this time of the year, something to fill our days before we go on holiday and/or the Serie A begins again.

What was it about?
The digital agenda and its new director.
Two years ago I was wondering about the digital agenda and its advantages over a plain weekly Moleskine, just to realize it was something different, it was a set of policies and activities at EU level to help and strengthen digital technologies so that companies and individuals can benefit from them.
As usual, nothing has changed in the past few years, but a new director has been appointed recently and an article hinted that she didn't have the right profile because her UK degree was not valid. A whole lot of discussions on different topics was born as a side effect: whether she's got a degree or not for Italian standards, whether she was the best choice or the best political choice, whether it makes sense to require degrees with "legal validity" as a job requirement, etc.
(Yawn)
It's not that I don't care about the matter itself, but I believe that we need more than a digital agenda to help Italy emerging from the digital ice age it's deeply stuck into; what interested me was something a bit closer to home.


If I were to apply for a job like the one I'm doing right now in an Italian company, I probably wouldn't succeed in it.
Why? First of all, I'm a woman and Italy is a country where sexism is at its best on the workplace.
Secondly, I have no engineering, informatics, scientific, whatsoever university degree.
I have 10 years of experience and I know I'm good at it, yet this wouldn't matter.
Because the "piece of paper" is more relevant than your abilities and experience.
Somebody with a uni degree but unable to write a mail even under dictation would be more considered than me for the same job, in spite of my resume. It's sad but true: when I talk about it with my non-Italian colleagues, I try to explain it and don't sound to bitter about it; but at the end I do sound upset about the whole system and most of the time my colleagues look at me with skepticism written all over the face. What can we derive from this, aside the fact I can't multitask?

I'm not saying that degrees are not important: laying on a surgery table, I bloody well hoped the doctor operating me had the right degree and knowledge to fix my health problems.
But when it comes to other jobs and other positions, I'm not so sure that the stamp of approval of one university should have the priorities on some other elements. Experience is one key element, your personal abilities come in to play as well. Choosing a manager is not just about finding the guy with the right technical profile, but more importantly finding the person that knows how to "manage" a team and the people it's made of (I guess that's where the word comes from).

Italy might or might not have a new director for its digital agenda, but it doesn't truly matter: as long as you don't change the basis you're operating upon and you start creating a system that truly rewards merit and abilities, you're basically building a skyscraper over quicksands, seeing it being swallowed and than just move a little bit over in the quicksands to start again.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

My daily dose of WTF moments

Twitter needs to cut the advertised tweets as long as the people paying for them don't prove they got a brain aside a wallet. And they can use both in equal measure.

This one tweet appeared on my feed this morning:


It translates: "This is not war, it's human extinction! Watch the video..."
Then you read the hashtag and realize they're talking about a fu****g movie.
How would you react to that? Aside a face palm and instinctively shutting down the tab on the browser while swearing profusely.

But at the end, you re-open the page, capture a screenshot of the tweet before removing it from the feed, and then you're left wondering: where on earth are the "Buddha Gaming" people (ah, the namesake!) living?
Have they got access to tv news, newspaper, internet, radio, whatever it is they can use to inform themselves a little about the state of international politics nowadays?
And why on earth did this "Be On" thought it would be a smart thing to sponsor it? Seriously?
Didn't they see the timestamp and stop for a moment, wondering whether it could have been perceived as not quite a sensible and respectful thing to tweet around right now?

If you have just finished reading the newspaper and then you bump into these two lines, you're left with a depressing feeling of the general state of humanity and some wondering: where did evolution go wrong?
The answer can be partially obtained by simply googling the name of the company and finding out whom it does belong to. And for the rest with a bit of evergreen wisdom: pecunia non olet, as the Latin used to say. Things haven't changed much since the times of Vespasian: truth is that "pecunia olet", but as long as you keep the stink of it in some other world regions and your money in nice (offshore) bank accounts you don't really mind about it.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Cast on!

Coming back from Brighton, I was ready to jump into a whirlwind of knitting projects.
My head was full of ideas, I found new inspirations thanks to the classes I attended and the people I met. I wanted to start new projects, finished those projects that have been going on for way too long... Basically, I just wanted to do things!!! 

And then tragedy (aka real life) struck: it was Thursday evening, it was way too warm; one moment before I was standing out of the metro station and one moment later I was sitting on the pavement, holding my left arm.
I had slipped on a piece of broken pavement and fell: I didn't need any medical degree to realize that I hit my wrist pretty badly so I immediately went to the nearby ER.



Obviously,  Murphy's law was working its way into my evening and there was no orthopedic doctor available; the only thing they could do for me was some x-rays, a provisional cast and then I was sent home and told to return the following day. I did as told and the day after I was the proud carrier of a cast, that will be in my custody for 30 days (27 days at the time of writing, but who's counting?): by then my radius should be completely healed.

Of all the time, this could have happened, it had to be now, when the temperature and humidity in Milan are awful.
Right now everything is complicated: I've never once stopped thinking about the importance of my left arm. Who cares about it? I'm right-handed after all.
Who would spend money for a bag of already grated carrots? I would, after spending around 20 minutes trying to peel and grate a single carrot!
Not to mention showering: after finding a way to protect the cats from the water, you are left with some other dilemma such as how to squeeze the shampoo bottle... I know, I know: tragedies of the modern times and of the privileged ones. 

I had to take a sick leave because I can't really do my job with a single hand.
And the worst thing of all is that knitting is not an option either.
I've tried it: yesterday I met with some friends and even knitted something rows, but I got tired pretty quickly and didn't make that much progress on the hat I was working on.

So, as painful as it may be for me (literally and non-literally speaking), I decided to take a mature decision and stop knitting for the time being.

Is going to be horrible and i will probably suffer of some withdrawal syndrome in the next few hours but I decided to be responsible about it; and I thought I could handle it better if I did something with this non-knitting time, so I'm going to do some knitting studies.
Yup, this next few weeks I'm going to be about studying: watching YouTube videos with new techniques, catching up with my reading list, and lessons on Craftsy.

I can turn this bad experience into an instructive one: so far it is working, as I even decided to give  the dictation system on my MacBook a try. It works pretty well, even more so after having double checked the spelling once finished talking! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

2 days of love, peace and knitting

Since the holiday in China, I discovered I quite like matcha latte.
No, let me rephrase that. I love matcha latte.

So, with 30 minutes to spare at Heathrow T5 before the arrival of my bus, matcha latte sounded like the perfect plan. 
I got one from the Costa at the exit and slowly made my way to the bench at the bus stop.
People coming and going, lots of buses, as for me, I was sitting with my matcha latte and a book, when my eyes spotted something. 
A scarf, A really nice scarf, knitted with some lovely yarn.

I was waiting for the bus for Brighton. I was going to Unwind Brighton, an all-round event about knitting, spinning and yarn, and here there are 2 girls, one with knitwear around her neck.

I stood from the bench and. before even contemplating the possibility of sounding like a psycho, I walked over:
"Excuse me, you're going to Brighton, aren't you?"

They might have thought I was a psycho, but it took less than a minute to prove them wrong. However how many chances were there to meet heading to the same town, for the same event?
Not many I reckon.
And how many chances to meet Cathrin, the owner of WalkCollection, a German company specialized in hand dyed yarns that was on top of my shopping list?
Even less, but that was just the first sign of that magic that run along the whole time back in the UK.



So, I spent a long weekend in in Brighton for a knitting event. As my colleague DC commented, "how very rock'n'roll!". I can imagine him saying in his heavy Northern English accent and just a tiny-little-bit of sarcasm.
And I can't help replying "indeed!".

The past weekend in Brighton has been pretty great for a series of reasons. First of all weather has been quite un-British, so the sun shined for pretty much the whole time. I even managed to return to Italy with a little, faint tan.
I love Brighton: it's a nice town with its own beat. After having been in Australia, it somehow reminds me of Melbourne: the pier, the street art all around, the good coffee (seriously, I had good coffee in Brighton and given how picky I can be with the heavenly beans it says a lot!).
Ok, there were a lot of kids there to "learn" English and the city is infested with seagulls, but overall the place is relaxed and welcoming

I also met with a couple of friends that made the wandering around town more fun and memorable. Francesco and May are two wonderful friends I met while in UK and in The Netherlands, so it was great to see them again.

Unwind was funny and it was a combination of very nice things, such as the meeting with Cathrin at the airport, or sitting next to Daniela, another Italian knitter from Milan (that's apparently the quickest way to meet people from Milan: change timezone!), during the Åsa Tricosa workshop.

The marketplace was just amazing, with so many producers that it's a miracle my credit card survived with not too much damage (and in a shameless ad plug: use google translate and you can read the post I wrote in Italian for the blog of a friend of mine about Unwind).
I came back with many memories, my favorite tea and some yarn. And with the idea full of ideas, project I want to start and things I want to learn: that's the best part Unwind, this massive injection of creativity in my brain that not even my own clumsy self and a arm blocked in a cast won't stop.
But that's another story...