Sunday, April 29, 2007


I am very interested in the food of the Middle East [ a fascination which probably began at school in London, where Jewish friends would invite me home and, from their mothers, I would learn something of their culinary traditions] and the echoes of it that you find in other Mediterranean countries.
A cookbook I use a lot is Diane Seed's Top 100 Mediterranean Dishes. [This might be an updated edition of it. The one I have was published by the BBC.] The recipes in it work better for me here than they did in the UK because of the freshness of the authentic ingredients. But I still have to send to Britain for some of the spices! For example, there is sumac in the dish in the photo which is called Syrian Chicken. According to my reading, the plant grows here but I have never seen the spice for sale in Sicily. For this recipe you line your casserole dish with flat bread and layer onions, chicken [I use thigh fillets], sumac and seasoning, drizzling all with olive oil. Then you make a lid from more bread and drizzle oil over that, too. The pane arabo on sale here is perfect for it.
I've mentioned previously that lamb is difficult to obtain here, except at Easter or from the frozen food centre. Well, last week I asked one of the nearby butchers to ring me if and when any came in and, as I was passing the shop yesterday, he rushed out and cried, "Signora! Signora! C'è dell'agnello!" ["There's lamb!"] If I had been a car, I would have screeched to a halt. So in I went and got some chops, some pieces and, for the first time since I've been here, some minced lamb. [I have frozen it all in small quantities.] One of the dishes I like to cook with minced lamb is Claudia Roden's Baked Kibbeh*. Now, as I hadn't cooked this since I left the UK, I couldn't remember all the ingredients until I looked the recipe up again [and it took me all day to find it as I had misfiled the cutting - aarrrgh!] and it contains bulgur wheat, which is not available here. What I want to know is, what can I use as a substitute? In Middle Eastern Food Roden says that there are Jewish versions of kibbeh / kubba made with matzo meal and she gives recipes for these in The Book of Jewish Food. But I can't get matzo, either! She also states that a ground rice version is made in Egypt. I had thought of using couscous. Are there any kibbeh makers among my readers who know whether couscous would work or who have other suggestions? I would be most grateful to hear from you.
There is general information on kibbeh here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I've just been teaching a private student and we were having fun turning out our handbags - for I am a great believer in doing something as you learn, where possible, to fix it in your mind - in order for her to practise a / some / any. You may imagine the sort of thing:
"Is there a lipstick in your bag?" - "Yes, there's a lipstick in my bag."
"Are there any coins in your bag? - "Yes, there are some coins in my bag."
"Are there any stamps in your bag?" - "No, there aren't any stamps in my bag."
"Is there a mobile phone in your bag?" asked I and at that very moment, reader, the student's mobile rang! So there you have it. The Italians not only invented everything worth having - now they have come up with a telepathic mobile phone!

Friday, April 27, 2007


Remember the election poster wall from which all the posters were torn down by the comune last week? Well, overnight, as you see, a few mysteriously reappeared. Simone and I just passed it on our evening walk [I didn't have my camera with me] and they have gone again! My question is, why do the candidates and / or their supporters bother, when they know this is going to happen?! [The saga keeps me smiling, though.]

Thursday, April 26, 2007


UPDATE: Here is a link to an English version of the Hugh Grant story.
The Prince Harry story has received little coverage here today, though of course people know about it. If you want my opinion he shouldn't go simply because his presence will put other soldiers at greater risk. And it's no good saying he "is like any other soldier". He is not: for a start, he has bodyguards and secondly he has not exactly had to join the army in order to earn a living, has he?

What has received massive coverage here is the Hugh Grant story: Now, I might be a mundane sort of person but three things worry me about this tale:
[1] Why would a man like HG have to go out to get some baked beans at 10am?
[2] Why were they in a plastic container? Baked beans in Britain come in tins [or have I been away too long?!]
[3] Where was the rest of his "great British breakfast"?

MUM - 2

The story I began to tell of what happened to my Mum and, consequently, to me, during her last illness produced a tremendous response. What astonished me was the number of people who had had similar experiences, particularly regarding the NHS. For this reason and because, strangely, if all this had not happened I don’t think I’d have retired from secondary teaching early or even that I would have ended up in Sicily, I have decided to post, in instalments, about what happened subsequently. I should point out, again, that I wrote this before leaving the UK though obviously I have edited it and changed names.

In this post I must tell you that several battles were going on besides the one Mum was having with the grim reaper:

Throughout the three months of Mum’s hospitalisation, I had several run-ins with the benefits agency and other bodies. Just getting Mum’s pension paid directly to me was a drawn-out bureaucratic process. [ There was still rent to pay on her flat and she had other needs.] She was too ill to sign for it, and not sufficiently “of sound mind” to be able to give me power of attorney. I’ve learnt, now, that people should sort these matters out while they’re well, by means of a “living will”. It saves the relatives a lot of added stress at what is already a heartbreaking time. I was also astounded to find that, once a senior citizen has been in hospital for 6 weeks, their state pension, for which they have paid all their lives, is reduced. The logic is that they are not having to pay for food and so on. I was appalled; the person still has needs! This amounts to charging the elderly for being in hospital and again, someone should fight a campaign about it. I did raise this, along with other issues, with my MP afterwards and he asked some questions in the House. But I didn’t have the energy left to kick up more of a stink. Then there was trouble getting Mum's housing benefit through as well; or they’d send it to Mum’s address instead of here [although I had gone through all the correct procedures; Mum didn’t have a bank account and was obviously unable to cash the cheques; therefore they had to be made out to me] .Every time I had to go and sort one of these muddles out, it was time away from that bedside and I eventually threatened to sue the benefits agency if Mum died while I was waiting there. [That got me some action, all right!] I took this up with my MP too and he got me a written apology out of them.

I used to think that if the benefits system was getting me down , and I am not exactly stupid [despite occasional appearances to the contrary !] and I was not afraid of them, then it must wear down some elderly people: I can understand how they just give up and do not claim their entitlement. It makes me angry still. [In fact, I considered doing a course in citizen advocacy at one point after I left secondary teaching.]

Meanwhile Mum’s bills were piling up and I was trying to cope. I carried stinking nighties home to wash most days: in the end it was quicker and less hassle to buy new ones every couple of days. I was spending money on taxis, too. And my phone bill was astronomical because of all the calls to various agencies. Although it was obvious to me that whatever this illness was, it was terminal, I didn’t think I had the right to clear Mum’s flat while she was still alive. I had to be very careful what I said to the warden and others in the building [it was a flat in a “sheltered” complex for the elderly: this means that the person has their independence but there is a warden there to check that they are all right, morning and evening, and who can be called in an emergency]. They’d have liked the flat cleared and someone else housed in it [understandable, I suppose - they must have a waiting list].

There was also a battle to be fought, on one level, with the hospital. At the time the Community Care Act had just been passed: This means that a hospital can no longer discharge someone who is confused and just hope for the best; there has to be a care plan. The Act is also designed to stop unscrupulous relatives from benefitting from the situation. But at the Heath Hospital, nobody knew what they were supposed to do with someone like Mum. There was no diagnosis until post-mortem and they really did not know whether she was acutely physically ill or whether it was all mental. They used to change their minds about this from day to day. [This would upset me terribly; on the days when they would say they thought it might all be psychological, I started blaming myself, thinking that perhaps if I’d given her the pleasure and stimulus of grandchildren she wouldn’t have gone crazy...] Anyway, if they were going to discharge her, they had no idea where to send her. Several possibilities were discussed and I began to feel I had to keep a step ahead of them: At one point - only a week before she died - they talked about transferring her to a “psychogeriatric” hospital [the very term makes me angry] so I went and checked the place out. The standard of care is, I’m sure, very good but I found it an horrific place. All these “lost”, skeletal old souls were wandering around and the ward stank of urine. Mum, as a bed case, would have been an object of curiosity to them and over my dead body was she going there. That day, when I got back to the Heath, the housewoman said she was going to make arrangements for the transfer. I said, “You do that and in the meantime I’ll call my MP.” [His office were getting used to calls from me!] They got a consultant down to see me fast, then, and, as with most situations, once you get to the person at the top you get sense. He promised me they would do nothing without my permission. There were several incidents like that. [How could I have abandoned Mum and got on with my career, when they might have transferred her at any moment because they needed the bed? - I couldn’t do it.] In the end I wrote to the Director of Social Services; he wrote back and agreed that the implementation of the provisions of the Community Care Act was, indeed, a mess , and that because of what I had told him a proper procedure was being established in what was then South Glamorgan. When Mum’s consultant found out what I had done he actually thanked me; it was a relief to his team to be told what they were supposed to do in such cases. I still think that there is something dreadfully wrong with a society in which, if an elderly person has cancer, there are hospices; but if they are confused and too physically ill for a nursing home, the only possibility [I nearly wrote “option” but it is not an option, there being no alternative] is a psychogeriatric ward such as the one I have described. What happened to dignity?

Now I must tell you what was happening with work and this means I must tell you a little about the school where I was a head of department at the time: It was in a very deprived area and the kids were “difficult”, to say the least. It’s important to say that I wasn’t unhappy there prior to Mum’s illness and that I did have my share of successes and laughter there. But it wasn’t like anywhere else I had taught [and I’d taught in some tough schools, including a boys’ secondary school in London where, even all those years ago, there was a police van in the playground every night]. In this school, at that time, heads of department and heads of year walked around with bleepers in their “frees”: If the bleeper went, you ran to the nearest phone and then to wherever the trouble was. Fights broke out all the time and 15-16 –year-olds, if they didn’t like your instructions, would suddenly decide to lie on the floor and scream, “I ain’t fuckin’ doing it!” I got along with the Head quite well and he was a man who liked to delegate; once he delegated that was it; he never intervened in the matter. He delegated staffing issues to his deputy, whom I shall call Mrs Joan Davies. I got on quite well with her, too, but, she was not a person I felt I could talk to about a personal matter.

Anyway, on 9th June 1993 I called school and explained what had happened. Mrs D wasn’t there but the Head was sympathetic and suggested I take the rest of that week off. [You were allowed 2 days’ “compassionate” leave in any case.] I was in shock, crying all the time and in no fit state to deal with children. It was all I could do not to cry whilst I was actually with Mum and I’d decided that this was important; I didn’t want her to know how ill she was. I had no idea ,then, what the timescale was going to be; I honestly thought they’d diagnose within a few days and arrange the necessary care. I really thought I’d be back at work by the Monday. But things deteriorated and it was like a helter-skelter, as you’ll see when I get back to the chronology. Basically Mum was dying but no one could tell me how long we had or how it was likely to happen; they couldn’t even tell me how the illness would progress from day to day. My school was a long way from the Heath and I didn’t have a car or a mobile phone. [Reading this to edit it in 2007, that seems so strange - a mobile phone would have made such a difference!] How would I have felt if Mum had died when I was on the bus or something? It was bad enough when I was on the bus coming home from the Heath [for you have to go home sometimes]; there used to be an interminable wait at the bus station before the bus continued on to my area, during which I used to be terrified that something had happened with Mum and that the hospital had been unable to reach me. Moreover, at school the phones were not manned during breaks and lunchtimes. At one point Mum screamed for 2 whole days. I just did not feel I could go in and deal with volatile, screaming pupils; I was scared I’d break down or just end up being a screaming wreck myself. I didn’t know what to do so in the end I called my teaching union . The union officer, whom I knew pretty well, thought that the risks of a message going astray at school or of my bursting into tears in front of a class were too great and he advised that I take sick leave. This was not an easy decision: I was still very much a career woman and the work of an HOD at the end of the summer term is considerable . Having said that, at least the exams were over and marked. So I went to see my own doctor and he immediately said that there was no way I could cope with my kind of job and the situation with Mum. He was protective and would have gladly signed me off with some vague physical cause [and I should have let him] but I wanted to be honest and so he put “stress”. I should also point out that I didn’t have a brother, sister or even another relative who could have been with Mum when I couldn’t. And she desperately needed someone with her most of the time, not least because someone had to fight for her. That person could only be me.

Well, Joan started calling at all hours and being quite aggressive. When someone close to you is seriously ill in hospital your heart stops every time the phone rings. What I was dealing with at the hospital was bad enough, but Joan Davies would have me in floods of tears every time she rang. Other staff, friends of mine,would come to the hospital and then try to explain to her what was going on but she kept calling. And I made the fatal mistake of being honest with her[ instead of saying I was ill myself]. Once I asked her to come over to the Heath and see and then she would have understood but she wouldn’t go near illness. Yes, the woman had a management problem with an HOD being off, but if I’d been run over or taken ill they’d have had to cope, just as they’d have had to cope if I’d had maternity leave! There are just times when all “normal life” has to be put on hold and this was one of them. The calls became more and more frequent and the tone of them was deeply upsetting, even threatening. The union officer wanted to call Joan and tell her, in no uncertain terms, to stop. Perhaps the best method of defence would have been attack with her - I don’t know. But I was thinking that it was nearly end of term and I’d have to go back and work with her so I left it.

When it was all over and I was back in the swing at school, a year 11 pupil called Lucy [whom I first encountered as she was trying to burn the handle off Joan’s office door with a cigarette lighter!] used to hyperventilate and create havoc in my lesson every Tuesday morning. This was all to do with the fact that she had a lesson with Joan next and “I 'ates Mrs Davies”, she would yell. [“So do I”, I wanted to say.] I used to sit her in the storeroom and try to calm her down. One day she went hysterical and told me there was some wood loose on a desk in Mrs Davies’s classroom and she spent every lesson loosening it some more so she could eventually go for Joan’s skull with this plank of wood. “And now I’ve told you and you’re gonna spoil it and tell!” screamed Lucy. “I’ll personally hand you the bloody plank”, thought I. I did spoil it, of course..

2007: What I think all this points to, apart from shortcomings in care for the elderly, is that in the UK there is no provision for extended compassionate leave when you are faced with a situation like this. Yet, as people live longer, more and more of us are going to find ourselves needing it. Usually, when someone develops dementia, it is a long process. When the time does come when the person can no longer be cared for at home, sad though it is, the care home gradually takes over and you, as the relative, slowly learn to accept that. In Mum’s case it was not a long process. She went from being my Mum, with whom I discussed politics and the state of the world every day, to being this person who didn’t know me half the time and whom I didn’t recognise, within a matter of a couple of weeks. There was no time to “come to terms” with it; all I knew was that she needed me and I had to keep a step ahead of those who would have put her “on display” in a ward for patients with a mental illness which she didn’t even have.

The personal irony of what happened is still not lost on me: before all this, I was the archetypal single, career woman. I’d never had any patience with women colleagues who took time off when their children were ill [I don’t mean in the case of serious illness; I mean in the case of their child having a cold or a stomach upset]. I never understood. “You’ve got a job so do it”, I would think. Then I found myself in this position and I could not do mine.

To be continued

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Today is the Liberation Day holiday and Simi and I have been for a stroll along the promenade at Sampieri. I thought you'd like to see what the Med looked like this morning.


Sometimes, when my palate is jaded and my body tired, I just want a dish of vegetables. That's when I cook myself a Roman vignarola. This is another dish from Marcella Hazan's Marcella Cucina and it consists of small onions, broad beans, peas, shredded lettuce and artichoke hearts cooked slowly in olive oil, the only seasoning being coarse seasalt. The green beans are not an authentic ingredient, being my own addition; in Britain I used to like to add a few finely sliced, runner beans. I am hopeless at trimming artichokes and usually end up with nothing left so I confess that I cheat, for this dish, by using the frozen artichoke hearts available here. [In Britain you could use the tinned ones, but not antipasti artichokes.] Vignarola can be served warm or at room temperature and the only accompaniment needed is some good, home-made, flavoured bread.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The complimentary plate of bruschette, arancino [mini rice-ball] and mini-sandwich I was served with my apéritif at the Altro Posto looked particularly inviting today, so I thought I'd share it with you.
Hard bread especially for making bruschette is sold in the supermarkets here, so all you have to do at home is grill or bake the slices , brush them with the best olive oil whilst still hot and add whichever pretty toppings you have created. A good book in English with ideas for bruschette and other antipasti is Lorenza's Antipasti by Lorenza de' Medici.


Like all of Raffaele's regular clients, I imagine, I have received one of these room scenting doofers: you pour the scented oil which comes with it into the vase, put in the bamboo sticks, which absorb it, and lo and behold, the scent wafts itself around. It's in the bathroom, where the perfume of the chocolate bubble bath lingers, too - so it smells very boudoir-ish indeed!

Monday, April 23, 2007


I refer to the kind gentleman across the road whom I've mentioned before and who, whenever he goes to the supermarket, brings me a pack of mineral water. He has just rung my bell and brought me two packs for, as he says, the real hot weather is beginning. [The Scirocco seems to have finished its last fling of the year.]

This thoughtful neighbour is also a policeman and he, too, has given me his phone number in case of another unwelcome night-time disturbance. What an army of men I have at my disposal now! But even so, I'd rather sleep peacefully and not have such an incident reoccur.

I have commented on Ruthie's and Lord Nazh's blogs regarding the issue of gun control during the past week. Like Tom Paine, I don't think we British are in a position to preach, given the level of violent crime that we have, but like James, I am ambivalent about the whole issue: as a Brit, it makes me uneasy to see armed police. Yet if I am faced with another potentially threatening situation at 6.30 am or the like, my policeman neighbour will presumably arrive with his gun. And does that make me feel better? For all my Britishness, I have to admit - yes, it does.


The patron saint of Modica is the very same St George as England's and today his statue is taken from his magnificent Cathedral and paraded around the town [although not twirled around, as in the Scicli Easter festa!] The day is not a full holiday, as shops and businesses are open, but schools are off and, as Wednesday is a national holiday [Liberation Day] many of them have allowed a ponte [bridge] between the two holidays and so the children and teachers have tomorrow off as well.

San Giorgio is also the patron saint of nearby Ragusa Ibla and of Genova and Ferrara. He can be asked to intercede in cases of plague, skin disease and venereal disease and he is the protector of halbadiers, arms makers, horses, horsemen, soldiers, scouts, lepers and, last but not least, husbands!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


We have comune elections on 13th and 14th May. Everyone is interested and involved and there is no sign of the voter apathy or "They're all the same" cynicism that you find in the UK. Three people are standing for election from my little side street alone and this would be very unusual in Britain. [The ballot papers are as long as your arm and I don't know how people remember who they want to vote for!]
I took this photo of the various candidates' posters on a nearby wall yesterday morning, which was just as well, as by evening they had all been torn down! A stern comune notice says they have been removed because they had been placed there in contravention of law 212 of 4.4.56 [just as happened with the regional election posters last year]. Now, let's see how quickly they reappear!


[1] This is a toy clock which I use to teach students how to say the time in English.
[2] and [3] This is Simone ignoring it. Ever since we switched to European Summer Time this year her own little doggie body clock has been out of sync and she wants each walk an hour early. So for the past few days I have been moving the hands on the clock and repeating to her:
[a.m.] "Now, this is seven o'clock and this is eight o'clock. Seven o'clock - naughty girl. Eight o'clock - good girl. We don't go out at seven o'clock - no. We go out at eight o'clock - yes."
[p.m] - A similar conversation, but substituting the times four o'clock and five o'clock, then seven-thirty and eight- thirty.
- Could it be that I have finally flipped, reader?
Simone says:
"Hi, everybody! I just read this. A toy clock and an ESL lesson, indeed! As if a doggie-girl hasn't had enough to do learning Italian. I know perfectly well when it's walkies time and I don't need a toy clock or any other kind to tell me. Buona domenica a tutti!"

Saturday, April 21, 2007


My blog is one year old today! Prior to starting it, I knew about blogging, of course, and was reading news and political blogs in order to keep up with events in the UK. Then I read an article about blogging in Mslexia magazine, to which I subscribe [I recommend this magazine to all women who want to write] and began to think that maybe this was something I could do. I looked at all the blogs mentioned in the article and, well, you know what it's like; one blog leads you to another and before you know it, you're hooked! So I decided the only way I was going to find out if blogging was for me would be to give it a go!

I perused all the blog hosting sites I could find and concluded that blogger had the clearest instructions and the most help topics for a technical nitwit like me [and for all its faults, I still think this is so] then finally, with some trepidation, I wrote my first post. It was with even more trepidation that I uploaded my first photo; I didn't even know there was a zoom thing on the digcam! [OK, I could have read the instructions but I do like to imagine that I have a sense of adventure.] It was all trial and error at first and I didn't really expect anyone to read my blog, though of course I hoped that they would! I was terrified and thrilled at the same time when I received my first comment and it was a while before I found the confidence to comment on other blogs myself.

Later I joined blogpower and that was the injection of adrenalin that my blog [and I] needed: I've found so many "daily reads" among its members and also so much support, both technically and emotionally. I've also found blogs that have changed my mind about various issues, for blogs, like travel, have the ability to do that.

I am not a very disciplined person [except when I'm out at work or have a deadline] and blogging has disciplined me into writing something every day, or nearly every day. Because of the need to write, I feel I observe my surroudings more acutely than I would otherwise.

But the best part has definitely been finding, meeting and corresponding with so many interesting friends, all over the world.

Now I am wondering where this blog goes from here. I know I have veered off the topic of strictly Sicily once or twice lately, though I have tried to confine myself, in such posts, to writing about events that have led me here or affect me here. I have contemplated widening the scope of the blog and writing not just about Sicily but about the world as I see it from here, for when you move to another country your perceptions of your own and of the world change: it's as if an "extra layer" is added to them. [It's rather like the time I went, with friends, to a Chinese restaurant here: for them, it was a Chinese restaurant in Sicily, which was novelty enough; for me, it was a Chinese restaurant in Sicily which is different from a Chinese restaurant in Britain, so my experience of it and the judgements I was making were very different from theirs. ]

But I don't want to alienate or lose readers. I suppose it depends whether what you all come over here to read about truly is a slice of Sicilian life. My guess is that it is but I'd love to know what you think.

Meanwhile, thank you all for reading and commenting during the past year: you keep me going!

Friday, April 20, 2007


There is a butcher in one of the supermarkets who really enjoys his job: he knows everyone, flirts with all the women and he always has a smile and a joke for you. Most days I find him a tonic but I'm ashamed to say that today I got the "grumps" with him: He was serving me and discussing how I wanted the meat cut when two young women who obviously knew him interrupted to ask his advice about quantities for a barbecue they were planning. To be fair, he did say there was a customer help desk, but they replied that they'd rather talk to him. So he answered their queries, and as Italians find it impossible to talk without waving their arms about, he stopped cutting the meat in order to do so. I'm afraid I had one of my "British moments" in which I sighed deeply, folded my arms and stared at the young women incredulously. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying, "Excuse me, but he's serving a customer." It just amazes me that Italian shop assistants or clerks [especially in the dreaded post office!] will stop what they are doing to answer people like this. The butcher must have noticed my annoyance because he did apologise when the women left but I was angry with them rather than him! Sometimes I think I will never acquire sufficient pazienza!

Thursday, April 19, 2007


According to figures released yesterday, Siracusa in Sicily has the least absenteeism from work in all Italy. It has just got to be the Mediterranean diet, though you might, then, ask what is different in the food of the Siracusani to that of the rest of Mediterranean Italy; or could it just be that the town authorities are more rigorous in their checks on workers taking sick leave? [The medico fiscale comes round to make sure you are sick here!] - No, that is an unkind supposition. Mind you, James had an interesting post yesterday which suggested that, given the amount of cured meat on offer here, Italians should be rather unhealthy! As I commented, I can only assume that the fresh fruit and vegetables counteract the effects.
But what is going on here? According to this poll, the Italians are not at all the happy bunnies the rest of us usually suppose them to be! Those interviewed must have been waiting in post office queues all over Italy!
[If you are new to this blog, you can read about my post office bugbear here.]


I have begun to contribute some ramblings to FauxNEWS, because I want to write about matters outside Sicily as well and I don't have the energy or technical skills to maintain two blogs of my own! Do take a look if you're interested. I am posting as Patzmaria over there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


At last my ratafia di arance is ready to drink. Cointreau manufacturers, eat your hearts out!
The recipe is here in case you missed it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


[I write this at the risk of upsetting everyone again.]

First of all, take a look at this song lyric.

I like the Rod Stewart version of this song: the slight rasp in his voice is perfect for it. But I also like the Al Jolson [who would now be considered very politically incorrect] version. I still have it and, as far as I know, Jolson's is the only version which has the antepenultimate line as " and when the day is through" rather than " and when the night is new". The lyrics were written, of course, in an era when the word "gay" could still be used to mean "happy" and I think of my Dad whenever I hear this song.
That was a Tuesday, too - the 17th April 1973, the day when my wonderful, gambling, generous, exuberant, kindly Dad died. Until I watched Mum's last illness twenty years later, I thought it was the worst day of my life. Dad was 52 years old and it is only as I age myself that I realise how comparatively young that is. Every year, in the run-up to the 17th April, I get gloomy and wonder what is the matter with me. Then I remember the date. James would say that it is "done" and in a way it is; but in another, I don't think that the people who made you what you are or the events that change you can ever quite be done with. That does not mean that you have to be sad about them all the time or take grief to the extremes that the Victorians did. In time, if you are lucky, you will remember the good moments, and I do.
From my Dad I learnt to love books and dogs and to be tolerant. He also gave me the confidence to sit in a restaurant on my own [I get so annoyed with some professional woman friends who say that they wouldn't do it, even if on a business trip - this, in the 21st century!] an appreciation of quality which may not have done me so much good, upon reflection, and what, in Philadelphia Story, is referred to as a "regard for human frailty."
One of our favourite haunts when I was a very little girl was christened "Buttercup Lane" by Dad: all I remember is that this idyllic, flower-lined oasis was somewhere on the Weston road out of Bristol and at the very end of the lane there was a large, red-brick house which I would gaze at for hours and declare my intention of living in it some day. "Buttercup Lane" is where we spent some of our happiest hours as a family and I wonder if Shani, Pete, Shirl or other Bristol readers have any idea where it was /is? I'd like to see it once more, though I expect that the area has been developed and that the red-brick house has had a Tesco's built onto it!
I have not spent today being maudlin about Dad: I have been to the perfumery , the hairdresser's and the Altro Posto to raise a glass to him, and those are the sort of things he would want me to do. He would also be so glad to know that I am in Italy now.
Dad, I'm not in the "old, familiar places" of the song and I'm a long way from "Buttercup Lane" but I do see you: I see you wherever there is beauty, I see you when I'm with Simi [my dog] and think how much you would love her and, oddly enough, I see you, here in Sicily, whenever we pass a group of twittering sparrows on our morning walk, for you once said, "If these were rare, people would come from miles to see them". And that phrase, I feel, tells you everything about the kind of man my Dad was.
"I'll be looking at the moon
but I'll be seeing you".


Guys, you are going to hate this post!

Sicilian proverb:
Fimmina vana, non vale cinque grana = A vain woman isn't worth 10 centesimi.

There being no department stores this side of Catania [I think I'm right in this and if I'm wrong, somebody tell me and let me at 'em!] there are no beauty consultants from any one company in the perfumeries. Rather, the perfumeries you frequent will ring you to tell you that "viene la beauty" from Clinique/Clarins/Lancôme/other make-up company when that particular beautician is in town [usually once or twice a year]. So this morning off I trotted to consult la beauty di Clarins: "Now, what have you got that will work a miracle?" I began, ever the optimist. Out came all the pots and potions, serums and masks and, of course, I fall for it every time!
It must be my skin or something but the only way I can get my eye make-up to stay on [especially in the summer heat when it can just melt] is to apply a Clinique eye base first: this has just not been available in Italy and, having used up the two I bought in the UK in October, I was beginning to despair. [I have written to Clinique about this to no avail so I was going to ask a friend to send some over.] But the other day I found that their new "touch tint" for eyes has arrived here - and ladies, it works! [Believe me, I have tried so many other bases /fixative sprays / glue that I have a whole drawerful!]
I do miss a good Clarins facial: I've been to beauty salons here but have not found the experience particularly relaxing because they do not put the heating on in winter. James won't agree, but the reluctance of Italians to switch on the heating is something I'll never understand! Anyway, come on, Clarins: if you are going to sell your make-up here it's about time you trained the perfumery owners to administer your facials!

Monday, April 16, 2007


My Italian email service has been down all day, so it is possible that some comments are not getting through. Please bear with me if yours do not appear tonight - we are promised that all will be well tomorrow!


I wanted to post something more cheerful tonight, so here are some favourite photos from my Sicilian adventures before I came to live here:
[1] Me some years ago at nearby Donnalucata.
[2] The fishmarket there.
[3] The beautiful sea at Eloro, taken one Easter.
[4] I love this memory! I was the only person who wanted to take a boat trip around the harbour at Siracusa on this occasion, and this kind crew member played for me!
[I am trying to make my photos smaller and am aware that I haven't yet got it quite right. Are you there, Ludlingtonian??]

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Both Ellee and James have been focussing on care of the elderly, and jmb recently wrote a moving post about Alzheimer's disease. These are subjects close to my heart as you will see, and, as Sicily does come into the story, I thought that today I would tell you what I was faced with when my mother became desperately ill. I do not think that one would encounter such an attitude from a medical professional here and, with the proviso of course that I can only comment on what I have seen or discussed with friends, families do still seem ready to take responsibility for their own elderly folk in Italy. There are many reasons for this, the most important being that it is still a very family-orientated society, but other factors are that fewer women go out to work here than in the UK and so are able to take on the caring and houses here do tend to be more spacious. The casa di cura [care home ] is regarded as the last resort. I have been looking at some figures here. But Italy has an ageing population so it is difficult to predict what the situation will be in a few years' time. The following, which I wrote whilst still in Britain, is the story of a terrible night and the run-up to it:
The nightmare began the night I got back from the first Italian exchange to Sicily, just before Easter 1993: Mum had come to stay down here for the fortnight in order to look after the dog and the house. I’d been in regular phone contact with her and she seemed fine, even looking up an obscure quote for me at one point. Anyway, that night she burnt some food and it struck me that normally she’d have been quite upset about it but she just didn’t seem bothered. The next day there were other things - little things- that seemed strange to me, too. They were so trivial that only I would have noticed but I was worried enough to ask my neighbours if they’d noticed any change in her behaviour; they all said no. It went on like this for a few days.

Mum was here on the night of 23rd April and she suddenly asked me why all the lights had gone out. It took me a minute to realise that there was something terribly wrong but when I did I immediately dialled 999 and then called Katie [my neighbour who is a nurse]. Mum was talking incoherently and calling for Dad. She said, "He’s only downstairs in the shop." [My Dad had been dead for twenty years and the shop he had was sold in 1959.] The ambulance took us straight to the Heath [Cardiff's main hospital] and they said they thought it was a TIA or mini-stroke. They stabilised her and I left at around 6am. At that time the emergency admissions entrance was just in front of the maternity unit, and, as I left, a woman obviously about to give birth arrived. I remember thinking, "life and death".

They only kept Mum in a couple of days. They confirmed the TIA diagnosis and when I asked the registrar if it was likely to happen again, he said it was unlikely provided she took an aspirin every day. I believed him because I wanted to.

Mum went back home and seemed OK at first. One Friday I got there from work and thought her eyes looked a bit strange. I had an appointment to see her GP , up the road, as I wanted to ask him some questions. When I told him my concerns, he drove straight down to Mum's with me and examined her. He couldn’t find any abnormalities.

I began to keep a diary - it was just instinct. I had a feeling I would need to go through all these incidents with someone in authority one day. Things were getting more and more bizarre, you see [and dangerous; one day I arrived at Mum's to find no sign of her but three badly burnt saucepans on the hob].

On the morning of 22nd May, a Saturday, I got there, let myself in and there was, again, no sign of Mum. [She knew I was coming.] No one had seen her leave the building and she hadn’t left me a note. This was so unlike her - she knew I would worry. I spent a frantic couple of hours phoning round: I called Katie , to check she hadn’t turned up here; called friends; considered calling the hospitals; I was afraid to go and look for her in case she turned up or in case there had been an accident and someone called her home. [This was not the era of mobile phones.] Besides, I didn’t know where to start. Mum eventually turned up, calm as anything, saying she’d gone up the road to buy a bottle of gin for me. I went bezerk at her.

I was so ignorant of the effects of stroke at the time. I knew about partial paralysis and dysphasia but I knew nothing about stroke-related dementia. I just couldn’t understand what was happening.

Well, I was trying to do my job and keep checking on Mum. There were so many strange things happening with her ; it was like everything I’d ever read about Alzheimer’s except for one thing - this was all so quick.

One day she came down here and left the front door open. I had a go at her, telling her that the dog would get out. She said, "No, he can’t" and I just couldn’t make her see that he could get through that door! Then there was some sort of incident in the corner shop ; she accused them of shortchanging her and came back with a load of figures written down which were meaningless.

Then she started arriving here at odd times in taxis [which she didn’t have the money to pay for]. I’d pay them and try to reason with her; I didn’t realise that you can’t reason with someone suffering from a kind of dementia.

One day we were in Safeway’s and she put five poussins in her trolley! [Neither of us had a freezer at the time.] I just couldn’t reason with her and I got exasperated and shouted at her. Everyone was looking. Why didn’t I just pay for them?

By now I was calling Mum's doctor regularly. I kept telling him I knew there was something wrong. To be fair to him, he’d always respond to my requests that he go and see Mum; he’d ask her some stupid questions, like who was the prime minister, and declare that she was OK. It wasn’t his fault - he just wasn’t catching her at her "odd" moments. I’d also got in touch with the Stroke Association and the South East Wales Alzheimer’s Careline; both were helpful and the latter were wonderful. They took what I was telling them very seriously; one of their medical staff went to see Mum and was as worried by the speed of the deterioration as I was. I knew there was a memory clinic at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and I’d asked her doctor to refer Mum, which he agreed to do, but the Careline people bypassed the usual procedure and got us an emergency appointment, for 9th June.

Now we come to the incident of the ring, the sapphire and diamond one that I always wear. I was here doing schoolwork on 3rd June [it was half -term] and thinking , I admit, how lovely it was to have a day’s peace when my friend and neighbour Martha rang and said , "Your mother’s just arrived here in a taxi." I admit my first reaction was one of anger - "Shit, can’t I have a day without this?" , then I went up to Martha’s and paid the taxi off. Mum was sitting there looking flushed and excited. Then she presented me with the ring: "I want you to have something to remember me by, darling." It was heartbreaking. She’d spent her whole pension on it - Mum, who had always been so careful! [I’d discovered,by the way, that she hadn’t been paying her rent in the previous weeks - out of character again.] Anyway, she was so pleased she’d got me this ring; apparently she’d got the taxi from home, not from town, and made the driver wait outside Samuel’s while she got it! So I thanked her and hugged her, put it on and told her I would always wear it, which I do. Then Mum came up here to see the dog - it was the last time she set foot in this house - and said she was off to meet her friend Margaret. [I later found out that Mum didn’t turn up.]

I think that the taxi rides - which were always to me - were bizarre cries for help. I also think that she was feeling too physically ill to walk very far, but she wouldn’t admit it.

That weekend she seemed calmer but on the Monday she went in to M&S with Margaret and bought herself a pretty dress on the spur of the moment. [She still hadn’t paid any rent and I could not reason with her.] Did she know she was dying and decide she was bloody well having things? Did she always secretly want to be extravagant like Dad? Or was it all just part of this seemingly manic phase? I don’t know.

On the evening of Tuesday 8th June I went to the flat: Mum was wearing the pretty dress ; I can see her now, so pleased with herself in it! I was trying to sort out the rent book, about which she was totally unconcerned. I left her at about 20.00. I was worried but we had the memory clinic appointment the next morning [I’d arranged time off to go with her] and I kept telling myself, "Someone will realise tomorrow; someone will help us."

At midnight the phone went. It was Mum, saying that she had suddenly become a rich woman and I was to come to the flat immediately. I tried to calm her, saying that it was midnight, we had an appointment in the morning, etc., but she became very demanding. [Now Mum had never been demanding; if anything, she was much too gentle, so this really did frighten me.] I called Martha and, kind lady that she is, she drove me to Mum's.

What happened next is imprinted upon my memory, but if it wasn’t I have documents to refer to for I wrote it all down later in a formal complaint.

The sight that greeted us when we got to Mum's was distressing beyond belief: For the first time in twenty years, I was actually glad that Dad was dead; I wouldn’t have wanted him to see this [or any of what happened in the ensuing weeks and months]: Mum was flushed and kept dialling and redialling my number. I was saying, "But I’m here, Mum." She kept saying, "But I’m rich and I’ve got to tell Pat - why doesn’t she answer?" - "Because I’m here, Mum"... I went out to the hall phone and dialled 999. I couldn’t think what else to do.At one point Mum did drop the phone for long enough to go and knock up the warden: "I’m rich; I’m rich and I’ve got to tell you!" [Funny that it all related to money, isn’t it?] I almost had to physically restrain her from waking up other neighbours. In Mum’s hand was one of those stupid "You may already have won" letters; to this day, I think there is a campaign to be fought in making companies more careful about where they send these. [The next morning I found another lot of senseless pencilled figures in the kitchen.] Then the dialling and redialling began again. [Have you ever had that "This can’t be happening" sensation?]

The ambulancemen came: They took one look at Mum and said that they thought it would be better to call out the GP, as the GP could get her admitted straight to the right sort of ward. [I think they thought that she was a case for the psychiatric hospital and that they were trying to save us from having to go through casualty.] The ambulancemen called the surgery locum service on their radio.

Between 01.30-02.00 a doctor arrived. He was obviously not pleased to have been called out! Before he entered the flat, I tried to explain to him what had been happening but he physically pushed me aside. I did say that my mother had been acting strangely for a few weeks but that what was happening now was utterly incomprehensible; I said that I thought she needed to go to hospital to be thoroughly checked over. He said, " She can only go to hospital if it’s an emergency". I said it was an emergency! He entered the room, looked at Mum, and said, in front of her [she was still dialling], "Of course, all you can do with these Alzheimer’s people is give them a tranquilising shot." [Now, whatever was in Mum’s confused mind at that time, she knew what Alzheimer’s was; how could he say that in front of her? - He hadn’t even bothered to examine her.] I couldn’t believe that this was happening on top of everything else: Here was my mother, "going mad" as it seemed, before my eyes, and this guy wanted to give her a valium?! [Looking back, it would have made more sense if he’d offered it to me!]

Anyway, I managed to say that I didn’t think that that would be sufficient and that I didn’t think that a non-medical person could handle the situation overnight. To this, he said, "Why haven’t you told your GP?" [!!!!] Then, because I was refusing to let him administer the valium, he said, "You called a doctor, didn’t you?" I replied, "Yes, and god help me, I got you!" [Mum was still dialling and dialling, saying "I’ve got to tell Pat."] I was at the end of my tether by now, so I wrenched the phone from Mum and redialled 999. The ambulance controller said Mum couldn’t go to hospital without the locum’s permission. So I then decided I’d scream at the doctor till he gave in , which he did. I put him onto the controller and he said, "Oh, you know what she’s like - shouting and screaming." I said, "I’m shouting and screaming to get you to do something!" The locum then wrote the casualty referral and left, passing a remark about me to Martha on the way. Mum started dialling again.

I opened the casualty referral; it gave a few cursory details about Mum - he never did examine her - and it also said "situation combined with the daughter shouting and screaming." This could have prejudiced casualty’s willingness to communicate with me, but did not.

The same ambulancemen came back; they were very kind. They sent me out of the room so that they could get the phone off Mum. It was now so distressing that they advised me not to get into the ambulance; Martha and I followed in her car.

Once we got to CRI and, from there, the Heath, the attitude of the medical staff was completely different: they realised that this was extremely serious and were kind with me. At the Heath they admitted Mum to an acute ward straightaway. They said that they didn’t know what it was, but they felt that it was something physical, not mental. The receiving doctor at the Heath was on the team that looked after Mum, and that helped a lot during the weeks to come.

I talked to a nursing tutor friend the next day, and she said that there was nothing else I could have done that night. When I spoke to the Careline people, they said that it is very common, in cases where the elderly, possibly mentally ill are involved, for call-out doctors to be dismissive. So I thought, that had been me that night, and I’d been prepared to fight for Mum. What if it had been some old dear who wouldn’t have stood up to the doctor? What would have happened then? So I made my mind up to have a battle. I lost it, but I think I managed to highlight some issues and hopefully make some people more careful in their dealings in such cases. I have to say that the medical care that Mum received once admitted to hospital was superb. But no one should have to go through what Mum and I did on the night of 8th - 9th June 1993.

Three months later Mum died in my arms. Not until the post-mortem was it established that she had suffered a massive stroke that night in an area of the brain that did not show up in any scan available at the time.
And even fourteen years later and many miles away, on the island of Sicily, sometimes when there is a dawn Scirocco and I cannot sleep, I go over and over the events of that night in my mind...

Saturday, April 14, 2007


... of having matching crockery! Indeed, it already looks as if I have some, as today I decided to get out all the "free" espresso cups and saucers that I have acquired, through various food purchases, since I've been here. Look, I even have a set! If you've never been the recipient of wedding presents, dear reader, this can, indeed, seem a miracle.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I have never understood why, in Britain, most kitchens are planned so that the sink is under the window. I can only imagine that it is an idea dreamed up by a man somewhere who imagined the little woman, up to the elbows in soapsuds, gazing out happily and acquiring homely thoughts. But few of us have windows from which we can watch lambs frolicking, roses growing or other pleasant idylls. From my Cardiff kitchen window I could see my garden, but that only depressed me because of work needed in it which I had neither the inclination nor the ability to do.
Italian kitchens are planned rather differently: the windows are usually too long for any unit to be placed under them and there tends to be a block of units along one wall rather than the triangular arrangement you so often see in Britain. The wall space over the sink is often occupied by a draining cupboard such as this, and I used to covet one during my visits here. You will see that I also use mine as a dumping ground for utensils that I use too often to put right away and that the top shelf is falling down due, no doubt, to my having overloaded it with colanders and sieves. Now I realise that I don't have enough food storage space in my kitchen so I am wondering whether to have this space converted into a conventional cupboard after all. What do you think? - I'd still have to find a home for the things that are in there, wouldn't I? Part of the problem is that the wall along which I could put another cupboard is full of bookshelves and I've no intention of altering that arrangement!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


... have a first Modica Bassa ice cream of the year to celebrate spring when I was down there this morning. So I stopped off at Bar Ciacera and congratulated the pleasant owner on her memory, for she recalled that amarena [black cherry] is my favourite flavour. Here it is mixed with some stracciatella [chocolate flake ice cream]. Oh, it is good to sit on the terrace of a café on a sunny day in a Mediterranean country and remind myself that I don't have to go back next week, or the week after that, or even next month!

I had two reasons for being in Modica Bassa this morning: one was to collect a supply of doggie treats for Simi [the supermarkets stock dog food but are not very good for biscuits, etc] from the nice pet shop where I always get a couple of extra packs thrown in as a gift and the other was to at last pick up my new glasses. I say "at last" not because of any delay on the part of the optician but because I didn't get around to going for the test earlier. Italy, for all its apparent slowness, can sometimes surprise you because these spectacles were ready in 3 days. OK, there are no "your glasses ready in one hour" stores here but that was still quicker than my Cardiff optician would have been. I have given up on frameless specs, stylish though they are; I find them difficult to keep clean and they used to bounce around like Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout every time I put them down. Now that I can actually see what I am doing here again, I notice that when I upload photos I get a message saying I am using 20 MB of my 1040 MB, or something. Can anybody please explain it and am I supposed to do anything? Do I need to make the photos smaller? What happens when I use all the MB up?


I definitely want one of the cheerful, casual, glossy bags in the first picture. In the second are some more expensive, sporty ones - not really my style - and in the third, the pretty little silvery bags I mentioned last week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


On Easter Monday everyone in Sicily goes out into the countryside to feast there and celebrate the coming of spring. This year I was invited to Irma's country house and arrived in time to watch husband Cesare barbecuing the traditional artichokes. I've mentioned eating them roasted before, but on Easter Monday they are cooked alla brace and their wonderful aroma pervades gardens and fields everywhere.

Irma served up her lovely spring pasta dish, containing zucchini, asparagus and carrots and to follow there were enormous barbecued lamb steaks [the lamb having been seasoned with coarse seasalt, oregano, garlic and lemon juice] with thick, barbecued slices of pancetta and Italian sausage. Then came the moment to eat the artichokes: apart from being absolutely delicious, these clear the palate ready for the dessert. You just pick off the leaves, suck the gorgeous juices and make a mess. Served like this, on good, hard Modican bread, they are a double delight for the slice of bread, too, has become impregnated with the juices by the time you get to it and tastes divine.

In the last two pictures you can see my own contribution to this feast: a pavé al cioccolato, the recipe for which I found in a supermarket recipe leaflet here some years ago. You just layer savoiardi biscuits [the tips of which you have cut off] sprinkling them liberally with whatever colourless liqueur you fancy as you go [in this case Maraschino] then cover the layers with a chocolate and whisked egg-white mixture. Finally you cover the whole caboodle with the chocolate mixture and chill it overnight.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


My new blogging friend Nanni kindly invited me to the nearby town of Scicli on Sunday night so that I could witness the remarkable festa there: it is called Gioia [Joy] or L'Uomo Vivo [The Living Man] and, as Nanni says, it is unusual in Sicily in that it truly celebrates life, not death.
The statue of Christ is brought out of its church at 13.00 and again at around 23.00 and young men carry it around the town shouting "Gioia!", hotting up their pace with every turn of the square that they complete and stopping now and then to make the statue spin round at terrifying speed. God help you if you, or your car, happens to get in their way, for they stop for nobody and nothing and, as Nanni, says, should they knock you down, they are not going to get all British and apologise ; they will just keep going!
When Nanni and I first arrived at the church from which the statue was to be carried, at around 11pm., the young men were "revving up" and practising their shouts of "Gioia". Nanni said, "Oh, they are calm at the moment" and I thought , "If that's calm, what happens later?!" I soon found out and, as the statue was carried round, to clamourous movement, fireworks and applause, Nanni kept telling me to stand well back from its path. "I'm frightened of these people", he explained at one point. I thought, "If you're frightened and you're from here, Nanni, I'm right behind you!" [Note that I did not say "beside"!]
This festival really does celebrate new life and part of its purpose is for the young men carrying the statue to be seen by the young women and to be able to demonstrate how strong and virile they are. It also allows them to let off steam and it seems a much better way of doing so to me than going to a football match for the express purpose of having a fight!
As you see from the pictures, everyone in Scicli came out to enjoy the festa and enjoy it they did. Good for them, say I! Nanni has a video of the proceedings over on his site which is much better than anything I could manage, so I urge you to take a look at it. You'll be amazed, as I was! Grazie per la bella serata, Nanni.


Easter was going well until, on Sunday afternoon, the internet socket decided to fall out of the wall! [Why do these things always have to happen on a holiday?] I resisted the temptation to jam it back into the hole and carry on blogging [for what use is an electrocuted blogger?] but only by sitting on my hands! So that is why I couldn't write anything yesterday, visit any of you or put the comments on till now, the electrician having just left. I'll catch up with everyone during tonight and tomorrow.
Anyway, at last I can continue the account of my Paschal adventures. At midday on Sunday it was off to Linda's for a wonderful lunch of:
antipasti of freshly marinated olives
Linda's lasagne [photo 1]
chicken cotolette [photo 2]
crown roast of lamb
various salads
fresh fruit
various Colomba cakes [photo 3]
Sicilian Easter cassate [photo 4] made by Chiara and about which I must say something:

According to Simeti, the word cassata is from Arabic qas'ah, denoting the steep-sided mould used to make the original version of this cake. There is frozen cassata [a dish much imitated, often badly, by the British]; there is a very ornate, baked version which uses both pastry and sponge cake and which probably dates back to the Arabic dish; and there is the plainer, still delicious, baked kind made by the Sicilians at Easter today. I'm sure other friends here will forgive me when I say that Chiara is the best cassata maker I know, and she's quite ferocious with a long, thin, Italian rolling pin! [I would not like to start an argument with her whilst she is wielding one!] The pasta frolla [Sicilian sweet pastry] is filled with a ricotta and honey mixture, and when the cassate are cooked they are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Linda and family also had some German guests and one thing I love about living on mainland Europe is that most people are multi-lingual and can switch easily from one language to another. I used to so miss this in the UK.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


A peaceful Easter is what I would like to wish the whole world, though a glance through this morning's papers would indicate that there is little hope of that, sadly.
I'm off to an Easter lunch with friends shortly and am taking along the traditional Colomba cake, made in the shape of a dove, symbolising peace. [Most people buy these, rather than making them.] The second picture shows a smaller, chocolate-covered version, for children. [I expect many of you will know this cake already; they are available in the UK now.]
It's a lovely day here and down in Modica Bassa the ceremony of the Madonna Vasa-Vasa is under way: This festa was introduced to Sicily by the Spaniards and dates back to about the year 1600. The statues of the Madonna and the risen Christ are taken separately out of the church of Santa Maria di Betlemme, the Madonna wearing a black cloak of mourning. She is carried all around the town for she is looking for her son. At midday all the bells ring, the statues meet, the Madonna loses her mourning cloak and the two are manipulated so that they kiss. This being Italy, a great deal of noise is made throughout the festa! In bygone days, mothers used, upon hearing the bells, to leave all their chores and scoop their babies into their arms. They would go outside, hold the children aloft and shout, "Crisci, crisci!" believing that this would make the children grow faster and ensure their health.
I do think that being able to find some joy in your religion is a great gift.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Some shoe displays for you on Easter Saturday. Now, guess which pair I want the most, girls! Thanks for the tip about turning off the flash, Ruthie.


View My Stats