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.