Friday, August 31, 2007


... is not a good time for me. I've already mentioned that it would have been my Dad's birthday on the 27th. [He would have been 88 this year.] My Sandy, a labrador / Jack Russell cross who was a prince among dogs, died on 24th August 1990 and I still shed tears for him. He was 18 and I'd had him from when I was 22 to when I was 40. That's a period that saw a lot of changes in this woman's life. And my Gil Blas [in the 3rd picture] died in early September 1999. He was a rescued dog and quite a handful. The love he gave me was of quite a different kind to that offered by Sandy or by my precious Simi now but it was love nonetheless. He wouldn't let anyone near me!

And on this day, at 7.36 pm British time in 1993, my Mum died in my arms. Those of you who have been following the blog since August last year may recall that I like to have a drink to her at that time. And so I did tonight. Cincin, mamma.


I was walking up the steps to Raffaele the hairdresser’s this morning when a woman’s voice from behind me called out, in perfect English, “ Please wait! I think I know you!” Astonished, I turned round and found myself in an embrace before I could work out who it was. Then I found myself looking into a pair of startlingly blue eyes and recognised Alessandra, the Modican teacher with whom I worked on the second school exchange project in 1995. I haven’t seen her since then, as she moved to Rome not long afterwards, so we had one of those rapid catch-up chats. We were genuinely pleased to see each other and exchanged real and email addresses, promising to keep in touch as people do.

The encounter brought back memories of that exchange which, for me, was a rather fraught one: Our previous exchange with a Modica school, in 1993, had gone very well and it had been my friend Marco here who had had his work cut out trying to persuade the protective Sicilian parents that their stereotypical idea of the British – in short, that we are a nation of drunken, drug-taking, promiscuous heathens – was mistaken. No one could possibly have blamed them for having this impression because that is what they saw and heard about, and still see and hear about, in the media. Anyway, we brought the group of 16 – 17-year-olds over, the students from both countries got on well together and the parents were pleasantly surprised. Several romances blossomed, too, and I still have the video of the last assembly before we left for Britain, in which several big, tough-looking 17-year-old boys can be seen with tears streaming down their faces as they faced the parting from their Italian girlfriends. We even gave a light-hearted prize to the boy who had broken the most Sicilian hearts!

This time, however, things went badly wrong and I sensed that they were going to as we were driven into Modica: “Don’t they pay road tax?” was the first loud remark I heard from one of our group: “I know! There’s no pavement!” exclaimed another. Now, I’ve been known to complain about the lack of pavements in certain parts of Modica myself but I just couldn’t believe that nobody noticed the lemon trees , the palms or the sun in February!

When you lead a school exchange, you usually stay with a teacher yourself and of course you are with your students all day at school and on organised trips. The students have your phone number for the duration of the trip so that they can call you at night in the event of any problems or emergency. It usually does take a day or two for students to settle and I do not underestimate the “cultural shock” they may experience at the beginning. We had talked about this and I had warned them what to expect: little or no social life at night; different food; families eating together and no McDonald’s! [I don’t think they believed me, though.] So I was very surprised when at around 11pm on the first evening I received a call from Cardiff: it was the mother of one of the girls and she was in an absolute panic: “My daughter hates it! She doesn’t know how to speak to them! She doesn’t like the food and they went to bed at 10!! Can’t you send her home?” [The girl had been in Italy for all of 4 hours.] I refrained from suggesting that perhaps if her daughter had attended a few more of her Italian lessons she would be better able to communicate and managed to calm the lady down. I explained that it would be quite impossible to send her daughter home , even if we had funds for that, which we did not. I was the only accompanying teacher and I could not leave the group to escort her home . I said that we would give the girl 3 days to settle in and if she was still unhappy at the end of that time we would try to move her to another family. Eventually the parent agreed to this and eventually the girl did settle. I should add that even I did not have a mobile phone then, let alone the students, so the girl had made this long call to Wales on the family phone without asking permission or offering to pay for it.

After 2 days another crisis blew up: I was called by one of the boys to come and rescue 2 of the girls from a situation they had got themselves into with older men in a bar [ late at night]. Apparently these girls had just walked out of their host homes and wandered into Modica Bassa. I got down there and discovered them with some very dubious types indeed. “Have you been drinking?” I asked. “No, Miss." At that I just gave them what I used to call “the look” until they became decidedly sheepish and confessed, “Yeh, all right, we have but what do you expect? We have to sit and be quiet while our exchange partners do their homework!” [This was said as if it doing your homework was the most scandalous activity in the world.] Marco , who had come to help, and I then had to take the girls back to their host families, who were genuinely worried about them and I felt so ashamed. How could our students treat these kind people like this? But more was to come: Marco and I had just about calmed the situation with one family and we were all having a civilised cup of coffee when the mother said, “By the way, I suppose I’d better raise it now. I’m a bit worried about these pills I see her taking.” She didn’t have to explain: we knew what the concern was. “Oh, don’t worry. They’re not drugs; they’re contraceptive pills” , said our girl brightly. I leave you to imagine the look on the mother’s face.

The next day in school I asked for a room where I could be alone with the British group and the riot act was duly read. I spelt out all the risks they were running, from the small matter of their GNVQ project being scrapped to that of rape and police involvement. Alessandra and Marco made it clear that I had the backing of the Italian school and the rest of the two weeks passed relatively peacefully.

The trip did have its lighter moments: I celebrated my 45th birthday during it and, as that morning Irma and I had to take one of our boys to the hospital with a minor injury [the same boy who had helpfully alerted me to the goings-on of that night in Modica Bassa] Irma decided, on the way back, that there was time for a gin and tonic to mark the occasion. So the three of us sat outside a bar on the Via Sacro Cuore and had a very civilised interlude. You’d be fired if you did that in school time in Britain!

When we got back and I discussed it all with colleagues in Britain, we came to the conclusion that in 2 years, something nasty had happened to British society somewhere out there on the streets and that whatever it was had certainly affected our students. Not long after I moved here in 2005 I met, in a shop, the very student whose family had hosted the “contraceptive pill girl” and we talked about what had happened. “Oh, I understood after I came to Britain”, she said. “She didn’t really know what a family is, did she?” That was probably quite an accurate observation and one which I know will resonate with James. Italians are very forgiving and often more tolerant than we give them credit for.

12 years ago I could hardly switch on a computer or write an email and most of us had not heard of blogging. Who would have thought that Alessandra and I would meet again on Raffaele’s steps, that I would have moved to her town and that she would be intending to read this blog and use it with her students in Rome?

The photo shows me on my 45th birthday. Alessandra and her colleagues had taken me to a restaurant in Ragusa.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Telegraph Ex-Pat had this last week so I thought it might be interesting to try to refute it.

1. I missed the Polish plumber invasion of Britain, I’m afraid. Are they all hunky like the Polish builder in Alexander McCall Smith's The World According to Bertie [which I have just read]? Here you can usually find a local plumber / tecnico quite easily but, as with everything else in Italy but particularly in Sicily, it is better to contact someone your friends know of.
2. I’ve never done that walk. I’m not a countryside kind of person so I don’t miss scenery – except for parks in the middle of cities.
3. Barbecues traditionally take place here on Easter Monday and, as in Britain, it is usually the man of the house who plays with fire. Artichokes, sausages, lamb and steaks are barbecued.
4. You could not say that of most Italian TV schedules! News and current affairs analyses are good, though politicians won’t be grilled by the likes of a Paxman. One excellent programme a day is about all I can find, looking at the schedules of all the channels!
5. Can’t beat the Southbank! But we have our 2 glorious Cathedrals, San Pietro and San Giorgio to marvel at and an excellent Ethnographical Museum.
6. What’s rain?!
7. You dare not go out here without very high protection suncream on - all year round.
8. People here laugh when I tell them we have “drought” summers in Britain!
9, 10: Hate sport.
11. Can’t get a tikka masala of any sort here: spices are hard to find. They do sell one called “Curry” and you wouldn’t even have found that a few years ago. I either buy my spices in a “global” shop in Ragusa or get them sent out from Britain.
12. Haven't got "Skype" - it would be more technology [aargh!] and anyway I like writing to people - but meeting in the pub must be nice, now there's no smoking! [Waiting for Crushed and James to come over and be indignant now!]
13. Never travelled from Plymouth to Penzance but I miss the journey from Cardiff to Bath. But during a long bus journey between cities here you will see some stunning scenery.

14. I've never done camping and I never intend to - anywhere! All those spiders!
15. Oh, I don’t know: This has got to be pretty bonkers, in the most well-intentioned way!
16. International cuisine is definitely not part of the scene here, partly because a lot of people haven’t travelled and partly because the indigenous food is superb!
17. I clean up after my dog and people stop me and say I’m the only one who does! But many dog-owners never take their pets for a walk here, not because they're cruel but simply because they have a different attitude to domestic animals.
18. When I was about 10, my Dad took my friend and me on a trip to North Wales. I’m ashamed to say I spent the whole time reading my “Romeo” comic in the back of the car! Here we have the amazing views around Etna and, nearer, the Cava d’Ispica.
19. I haven’t seen many plays here, but there are a lot of concerts, both pop and classical. And now we have our restored Teatro Garibaldi in Modica, which is quite charming. At the beginning of the summer, you can go to see classical Greek plays being performed at the Teatro Greco in Siracusa. That's something everyone should do once in a lifetime!
20. Yes, we have toll roads here.
21. And how I miss raspberries! But other fruit makes up for that.
22. At least you get announcements regarding public transport delays in Britain: here the bus stops are not obvious, they change their location without telling you and when a bus doesn’t materialise, no one gets on their mobile to the bus company to ask, “Where is it?” What do they do? - Yes, utter “Pazienza”! [Bus links between cities are good - it's within Modica that I'm grumbling about!]
23. We have some of the cleanest beaches in Europe here.
24. Absolutely! I so miss Radio 4 as a background to my life! [Listening on the net is not the same.]
25. Never been Glasgow-Oban but there are many scenic drives or bus journeys, as I've said, here.
26. – Or the air conditioning that we now have in the Post Office here! It was so cool in there this morning that I could have sat there all day! - No, I take that back, having nearly having had to do that on some occasions! [It only took 10 minutes to post a lettter to the US today.]
27. Never been to the Edinburgh Festival. We have our Chocolate Festival and Sagre [festivals devoted to particular foods] but we could do with some more cultural ones.
28. Hate sport.
29. Desperately miss waking up with John Humphrys, so to speak. Again, hearing a politician not being let off the hook by an interviewer is a peculiarly British pleasure.
30. Moving to one of those places where you are surrounded by Brits would be my idea of a nightmare! What would be the point? !!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I have been interviewed for the Sicily Guide blog here. You may care to take a look.

Monday, August 27, 2007


At the butcher's on Saturday I found these swirls of pork meat, stuffed with a little chicken and cooked ham, balancing ever so prettily on slices of cucumber. Of course I had to try them. I just brushed them with olive oil again to cook.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Some snooty food writers claim that a pasta salad is never served in Italy. Well, I've got news for them: it is. OK, you would be unlikely to find it on a restaurant menu but it is certainly made in the home during hot weather. It often contains tuna. I made this recipe up some years ago and call it my "Mediterranean Mélange":

4 oz. farfalle , fusilli or other pretty pasta [ fusilli tricolori look good]

1 onion or 2 shallots, very finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped

small can sweetcorn

some flat-leaved parsley, chopped


3 tablesp. olive oil

1 teasp. Dijon mustard

1.5 tablesp. red wine or fruit vinegar [balsamic is too strong]

1 teasp. tomato purée [not paste]

seasalt & black pepper

[Serves 4]

Cook the pasta and drain. Rinse in cold water and drain. Put into a serving dish. Add the vegetables and parsley. Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together with a fork and pour it over the pasta mixture. Toss all well together. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least a couple of hours.


This recipe was given to me by an Indian friend in Cardiff:

Ranya's Chicken

2 boned, skinned chicken breasts, each cut into 4 pieces, or 4 skinned drumsticks

3 tablesp. sunflower or groundnut oil

2 oz. butter

1 teasp. cumin seeds

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 green pepper, sliced

5 fl. oz. chicken stock

about 1.5 glasses white wine

4 oz. small mushrooms, halved

seasalt and black pepper

chopped parsley to garnish if you want

Heat oil and butter in a deepish frying pan or wok. Add cumin seeds and fry for a couple of minutes. Add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook, stirring, till onion is soft and transparent and the pepper has softened - about 10 mins. Add chicken, liquids, mushrooms and seasoning. Stir well, bring to simmer, cover and cook for about 45 mins. Serve with rice and a salad.

I wanted to make this last night but had forgotten to buy the mushrooms. I have plenty of chicken stock, as I make my own and freeze it in ice cube trays, but didn't want to put the kettle on to use a "cube" as the washing machine and other appliances were on. [Each household is limited to 3 kw of electricity here, unless you pay for more, and putting the kettle on at the same time as the washing machine or oven can cause your supply to cut out.] So I followed the recipe up to adding the chicken, then chucked in extra wine in place of the stock and added some pane grattugiato [the very fine breadcrumbs that we can buy] to soak up some of the liquid. Then I decided to cook the rice in the same pan rather than separately, so in it went. The result was excellent and I will make it this way again!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This cerchio [circle] bread is hard but so good! [Modican bread is said to be hard because, in days gone by, the shepherd could keep some in his pocket for days without its going stale.]

The mini nettarine bianche [white nectarines] are just arriving. They are excellent.


Gleds has tagged me with the "8 random things about me" meme. [I thought no one ever would!] I can't think of anything remarkable, surprising or fantastically courageous to tell you about and some of you will already know most of these, but here goes:

1. Such a sweet little angel of a child was I [yes, that's me!] that when I was about 3 I broke a flowerpot over my best friend's head. In mitigation, I must tell you that this friend destroyed every toy I ever had, because she couldn't resist taking things apart to "see how they worked " and one day I just got fed up with it! My friend's surname was Roberts and my Dad used to call her "Wrecker Roberts". I got a rollicking from my Mum that day but my Dad could hardly conceal his delight that "Wrecker Roberts" had got her comeuppance at last.

2. I had a broad Bristol accent till I was 15. Then we moved to London and people said things like, "Look - that's a street light. You've never seen one, have you?" After that I lost my accent pretty quickly but I am told I can still lapse into it, especially when I am tired.

3. I kept all my vinyl records.

4. I talk to objects. To ornaments and pictures I've had for what seems like forever, I say, "I bet you never thought you'd end up in Sicily, did you?"; to those that came from here in the first place and that I brought back with me, I croon, when dusting, "Are you glad to be home?"

5. I have a gold medal for tap dancing!! [Do any Bristolian readers remember Miss Daisy Luxton's School of Dancing?]

6. I have no team spirit and hate all sport: not certain sports - all of it. I'll even angrily turn off the news when the sports stuff comes on.

7. Nelson Gabriel from The Archers was the man I most wanted to marry!

8. My Dad was my "first prince" and I miss him every day of my life. There he is as a young man in the second photo, with a dog [of course] and the ladies.

I don't like tagging people so I won't, but if anyone else wants to do this one I'll be happy to read your thoughts.

Friday, August 24, 2007


... was this strawberry, chocolate and vanilla semifreddo [a dessert which usually has a biscuity base, stuffed with ice cream] at the Altro Posto today.


43 C here at 1pm and many parts of Sicily are in flames. Three people were killed on Wednesday in a fire at a hotel in the Messina area and today a village in the Palermo area has been evacuated. Some of these fires have been started deliberately and Sicily Guide gives two possible reasons here. As I've mentioned before, I have read that another motive may be the hope of obtaining a job as a firefighter. This would seem to be an erroneous assumption, though, as I read in Corriere today [article unavailable online] that at this time, 70% of Protezione Civile workers are on holiday! Can you believe it, at the most dangerous period of the year? The reason? Good old Italian bureaucracy, of course: these workers' contracts are renewed annually on 31st August and in early August this year 7/10 of them were ordered to take their statutory leave entitlement of 19 days plus 4 bank holidays, so that if their contracts are not renewed they will not have to be paid for holidays they did not take. An almighty row has broken out, with the authorities saying that the workers on leave do not work for the fire service, their colleagues stating that they jolly well do and the public calling for the head of whoever signed this leave law into existence. Meanwhile the President of Italy is calling for a mobilitazione permanente to prevent further tragedies like the one in Patti, Messina.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


UPDATE: 24.8.07: The plumber / electrician has just left: €70 for an hour's work - some things are the same everywhere! But at least everything is fixed.
Yesterday I found water had got into one of the washing machine drawers, the sink in the utility room had become blocked [I think I have managed to rectify that with bicarbonate of soda and boiling water] a light fitting broke, and the handle of the flush on the loo came off in my hand. Can you believe all that, in one day? Now the lamp in one of the balcony lights needs changing and it's too high up for me to reach. No way am I playing with a stepladder on a balcony! So this particular feminist, James, if you're reading, could do with a man [one who's a a bit practical - "a man who does" as a Cardiff friend of mine puts it] around right now. The plumber/electrician couldn't come yesterday but promised to ring today. I am telling myself it is only 5.30 pm and he will work till 8 or 9 pm. Pazienza....


Do have a look at the Sicily videos posted today over at Sicily Guide. They remind me what a beautiful place I am lucky enough to live in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Most of you know of my antipathy towards the Italian Post Office and James and Tuscan Tony have had similar experiences where they are. But I must say that I went into the Sorda branch today and found it much improved: more staff were on duty, air conditioning has been installed and enough seats have been placed around the walls for everyone who wants or needs to sit to be able to do so. If it’s not stiflingly hot and I can sit I don’t mind the wait as I can pass the time happily people-watching.

There is now a machine near the door from which you take a numbered ticket as you enter so there is no longer any jostling or surreptitious elbowing in a long queue [though I suspect that there still is some at 8 am when the place opens, in order to get to the machine!] This morning my ticket was number 106 and the display board was showing 89 when I sat down. But the numbers in between came up really quickly as the holders of tickets 90 - 95 and 100 – 104 were nowhere to be seen. Sicilians will just say “pazienza” , go away and come back tomorrow if they realise they will not be served for some time, whilst I, as a Brit., feel honour-bound to wait it out. In addition to this – I could hardly believe my eyes – two postage counters and three banco posta counters were open! So it took me only 30 minutes to pay a bill.

When I went there on a similar errand last week, one of the clerks remarked, “You’re the lady with the dog, aren’t you? We see you passing every day and we laugh when the dog barks at the motorbikes.” So it seems that Simi has cheered up some routine days for the staff! That particular clerk waves at us cheerfully whenever she sees us go by now. This morning all the clerks were smiling and I’m thinking it could be that they’ve had a holiday; it could be the effect of the air conditioning and the nicer surroundings they are now working in; but I like to imagine that it’s this conversation about the dog that has “humanised” me in their eyes: I know I can appear quite cool and unapproachable when I am irritated and my lack of pazienza in there must have shown in the past. What a leveller a dog is!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


As Simi and I were strolling along this morning, I saw the man from the comune office waving enthusiastically from the other side of the road and shouting something. As we got nearer, I realised that he was yelling, "Complimenti!" and, as I had just dropped a little bag of dog poo into a nearby bin, assumed he was referring to this act, as that's the only thing anyone ever congratulates me upon in the street. But when we reached his side, he said, "Congratulations on your TV appearance". I just stared at him and asked, "What TV appearance?" "The interview!" he explained. Then I remembered: on the 26th April 2006 [I know the date because I blogged about it at the time, when I didn't have any readers] I was in via Sacro Cuore, minding my own business, when a microphone was thrust into my face and a camera started rolling: "Signora, 35 seconds to say whatever you want" the TV lady had instructed and I babbled on about the sun, the food and all the good things of Sicily. [I was in a positive mood, having just come out of the hairdresser's.] Anyway, it seems that this snippet was shown on local TV on Sunday night. I missed it, of course, and I can only assume that they save such inconsequential items up for this time of year when hardly anyone is watching.

Both Raffaele the hairdresser and the Altro Posto have reopened today so I feel human and had to have a celebratory ice [lemon, orange and amarena]. They have a new barman who has been well trained as to when to bring me my second gin and tonic!

Monday, August 20, 2007


You don't see wrapped sandwiches on sale here; come to think of it you don't see any ready-prepared sandwiches on sale. But if you go to a salumeria they will make them for you while you wait and this is what you get if you ask for a panino col crudo e pomodoro [sarnie with Parma ham and tomato] at the one around the corner, where Mr T... takes great pride in his work. You may, of course, choose from the many breads he stocks, all of which arrive freshly baked in several deliveries throughout the day and Mr T... always cuts the prosciutto or other cold meat to the exact size of your roll. No butter or spread is used but he will sprinkle the filling with oil for you, and season it with salt, black pepper and origano if you wish.

He does a roaring trade at lunch time and popular fillings are lettuce with or without ham, topped with wafer thin slices of provola cheese or Emmenthal [one of the few foreign cheeses eaten here] various salame meats and even sgombro [mackerel].

I was amused, this morning, to see two toddlers, obviously out for a happy day with their father, selecting their panini with great care: both knew exactly which bread they wanted and the girl ordered provola and crudo [Parma] ham with absolutely no origano, whilst her brother desired lettuce, tomato and salame with origano. The little girl even instructed patient Mr T... as to the proper height for her sandwich. How lovely to be brought up in this fresh food culture and to be so discerning at such an early age.

However much I have carped recently about erratic opening hours and summer closures, it is only fair to point out that most salumerie open at 6 or 6.30 am to attract the commuters on their way to work. Mr T..., though, has become a hero to me , for throughout the August closure period, he has shut up shop for only one day, ferragosto itself. Therefore I privately call his shop "The Windmill Theatre of Modica".

Sunday, August 19, 2007


249 clandestini [would-be illegal immigrants] arrived at the port of Lampedusa this morning, among them 18 women and 2 babies, one of whom is reported as being 15 - 20 days old. I find myself, on the one hand, gasping with astonishment that people can be so desperate as to risk the life of one so tiny and so vulnerable, whilst yet again trying to imagine what they are fleeing and, on the other hand, sympathising to some extent with the exasperation of the inhabitants of Lampedusa, where , it seems, an understandable feeling of "Charity begins at home " has taken root: the lampedusani fear that the image of their beautiful island has been tarnished, tourism is said to be down by one third this year, and the Mayor complains that the schools cannot be reopened because the buildings need repair and the funds for this have not been received from central government. Lampedusa, he says, is at the end of its tether.

An irony of the situation is that in May the islanders elected a right-wing coalition [you may need to click "try the request again" on this link] which includes in its ranks members of the Lega - the very party that had had enough of the "hopeless" south and desired an independent state in the north of Italy.

Now it emerges that the Sardinians are worried, too, as there is talk of their island becoming a "second Lampedusa", with boatloads of clandestini from Algeria, in particular, making for there. That will please the hoteliers and others catering for the jet set , won't it?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bella Bella Signorina - Patrizio@Movida

A bit of non-feminist fun!


"If you spend €40", proclaimed a notice in one of the larger supermarkets this morning, "you can purchase this set of carafe and 6 glasses for just €4.99!" And a set was attractively displayed below the notice. My weekly shop having come to €53, of course I had to, didn't I? I have enough glasses already to be able to throw a cocktail party for the entire Italian military without hiring any but I wanted the carafe, you see, because it has one of those doofers in the middle that you can put ice in to keep the water /wine / juice cool. I have spent the entire afternoon making space in the sideboard to put these acquisitons and now I'm rather pleased with myself.

While I was there, I got some mini fast food in the form of potato polpette, arancine [rice balls - only these are pear-shaped] and a mini focaccia and here's a photo for any new readers who may not have seen these before. I just love arancine! A neighbour [yes, one has returned!] gave me a lift back and we had a discussion on where to get the best arancine in Modica, agreeing that these are pretty good.

As I write I am listening to my new Patrizio Buanne CD and I know that fellow Patrizio fan Lee will be happy to read that I've completely gone now I've heard our idol say, "Don't be afraid" ever so sexily at the end of the title track, Forever Begins Tonight.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Things were much more lively down in Modica Bassa this morning with fewer shops still closed than up here, where I thought I was going to die of the silence: most neighbours are still in their houses at the sea or in the countryside, only one bar is open at this end of our long street and I can't even cheer myself up with a visit to Raffaele the hairdresser's till Tuesday! Bar Ciacera was open and in celebration of this fact I decided to partake of this delicious melon, banana and amarena flavoured ice cream.

Regular readers may be pleased to read that the water supply held out over the holiday and we have had a refill this afternoon. I phoned to ask for one this morning, in the absence of the capo condomnio [the tenant whose responsibility this is] and was surprised when the clerk [not the one I usually speak to] asked me which lorry company supplies our block as I have never been asked this before. The comune contracts the work of delivering the water to several private water carriers and although I know the names of each of these I have never bothered to look at which name is on the lorry when it appears: I am always just so relieved that it has come that it is all I can do to stop myself embracing the drivers! Anyway, I dug out one of the pieces of paper I sign for the delivery, found the name and all was well. Simi can hear the lorry when it is down on the main road, despite the other traffic noises, so I always know when it is on its way!


It is so, well, nice of Lady Macleod to give me this award and now - this is going to seem like a cop-out but it isn't - I am going to pass it on to every one of my blogging friends because you are all nice, too! I just love the pretty ribbons on this one!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I have a guest post, nothing to do with Sicily at all, up at Shades in case any of you would like to read it.


A friend called in an hour or so ago, bearing these offerings from her garden. Thoughtfulness like this can simply make your day.

And it gets better, for a parcel of goodies from Amazon has just arrived, right on time. Want to know what I've got? I'm going to tell you anyway:

Hot Mettle by Brenda Dean: For those of you who do not know of her, Brenda Dean was the first woman leader of a major British Trade Union, the printers' union SOGAT, and, as such, she had many battles with Rupert Murdoch in the 1980s. I've always respected Brenda Dean for being a tough, intelligent and very feminine woman and I am interested in the inside story . She is now a Labour working peer.

The Islamist by Ed Husain: Ed Husain was involved in radical Islam in Britain and this is the true story of why he joined the movement and later became disillusioned. I saw him being interviewed on Sky and thought he talked a lot of sense.

Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and their Food by John Dickie: Simply because the reviews of this intrigued me.

44 Scotland Street, Espresso Tales and The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith: I have come to like AMS, having resisted his novels for a long time. They are heart-warming and well crafted and I think the character of Bertie is a wonderful creation. These books help me in that I need to read good prose in order to be able to write what I hope is good prose.

And finally a new Collins monolingual English dictionary, as my old one had decided to self-destruct. It was probably time for an updated one anyway and here's a point about dictionaries that non-linguists may not have thought about: All dictionaries have to be updated via new editions but this is happening much more frequently than it used to. When I was a modern languages student, Harrap would update their French dictionary every 8 - 10 years by bringing out supplements. Now full new editons appear from most publishers every 2 years. This is because language is changing much faster than it ever has before; whilst slang and jargon have always changed fairly quickly and there have always been new words for new inventions, dictionary compilers just can't keep up with new technological terms that appear every day!

Oh, I almost forgot: slipped into the parcel with the above was Patrizio Buanne's CD Forever Begins Tonight. I had asked the man in the nearby video / CD shop if he could get it but he was adamant that it didn't exist, though I knew that it was available in Italy, so I thought, "Bugger you - I'll get it from Amazon."

All awfully naughty, I know, but I haven't treated myself to anything from Amazon since Xmas and if you're going to order from abroad you might as well have several items to make the postage costs worthwhile. That's my excuse, anyway... Besides, this little lot should just about keep me going through the rest of the silly August shut-down of everything. Yes, I do read in Italian as well but all the bookshops are closed so what's a girl to do?!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Today is the ferragosto bank holiday, my third since coming to live in Sicily and once again, I was lucky enough to be invited by kind friends to sit under a pair of shady mulberry trees in their garden and partake of a leisurely lunch which lasted till 4pm. The menu consisted of:

2 kinds of antipasto

pasta [with shellfish for most, with oil for another friend and myself]

veal for me

fish for the others

green salad

stuffed aubergines

bowls of juicy, cooling melon

a selection of other fruit

And I made my lemon semifreddo again [which is really Jennifer Paterson's "Suffolk Lemon Pudding"].

Oh yes, look who came too and she was such a good girl!

I stole the aubergine recipe from my friend some years ago so here it is:

Boil some aubergines for 20-30 minutes, until the skin is soft. When they are cool enough to handle, halve them lengthways and score the flesh. You can then halve them again vertically if you want to. Place them on an oiled baking tray, season the flesh and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Add chopped basil and whatever other herbs you like - Sicilians insist that aubergine and mint make a "good marriage" - some grated parmesan and some toasted breadcrumbs. Drizzle with oil. Cook for about 30 minutes at 180 C, have a look and add more oil if the mixture seems to be drying, then continue cooking at about 110 C till they look done. I serve these with a tomato and caper salad.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


14 bodies of clandestini [would-be illegal immigrants] were spotted 55 miles south-west of Lampedusa, in Maltese waters, early today. So far 6 have been recovered. There was no sign of a boat anywhere near the bodies.

Meanwhile, a new "welcome" [read "detention"] centre has opened on Lampedusa. Its director has come up with the idea of giving names to the poor souls who die on their way to Sicily's shores. Even if, to give it the benefit of the doubt, this initiative has been undertaken with the best of motives, it seems to me to be fraught with as yet unconsidered difficulties: true, the majority of those so tragically drowned are going to be Muslims; but there could also be, among them, some Christians, such as the women I taught back in Cardiff who had fled from religious persecution in certain countries. So what sort of names are to be chosen?

The unknown soldiers killed in both World Wars were buried with crosses simply stating , "A British / US / Australian / NZ / German / Italian soldier" [apologies for nationalities I have left out - it was not intentionally done] and there is a dignity in that. These people were not soldiers but is there no dignity at all in trying, in the most dangerous and desperate way imaginable, to make your life just a little better? This, as far as we know, was their only "crime".

Monday, August 13, 2007


I hadn't made ciambotta, a mixture of cooked vegetables which is related to both ratatouille and caponata, since I've been here, so at lunchtime I decided to put that right. There are many versions of ciambotta, most containing potatoes, and the recipe I used to use in the UK added celery and green olives, which I think are unnecessary. Anyway, today I used a recipe from one of the newer tomes on Mediterranean cookery which I have acquired here, and it turned out very well: peppers, potatoes, aubergine and peeled, seeded tomatoes all cooked separately in olive oil, then mixed back together at the end, after a clove of garlic and a red chilli pepper have been tossed around in the very little remaining oil in the same pan. This is a typical southern dish and it can be served warm or at room temperature, as a contorno [accompaniment] or as an antipasto. But I should tell you that Italian cooks would peel the potatoes, a concession I will not make!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I was delighted to receive yesterday, via eurodogtraining, the Inspirational Blogger Award. It means a lot to me. Do take a look at eurodog's blog, if you have not already done so and especially if you are a pet person. Here you will find dog stories to both warm and break your heart, plus a lot of history regarding dogs that I, for one, did not know about.

Now to pass the award on: this is always difficult when you can choose only 5, as there are so many blogs out there that are daily reads for me, but here goes:

1. The most inspirational blogger I know has to be James: his output is amazing and just by that, he inspires me. But he also encourages and keeps everyone in Blogpower going, and of course he is the inspiration behind the Blogpower movement, which has been so good for so many of us. Cincin, James!

2. My American friend Ballpoint Wren has been "resting" for a while, but she reappeared last week with a wonderful video post. Bonnie Wren kept me going many times in my early days of blogging and her wonderfully funny yet heart-warming posts about her bulldog Mojo inspired my Simi dog to contribute to our blog all by herself!

3. Anne in Oxfordshire also helps me feel that blogging is worthwhile: even in the midst of her own sorrow, she reads my blog, links to me and generally encourages me. And her photos of the pretty ceramics she makes always cheer me on a gloomy day.

4. Crushed has inspired me to write several posts recently. His thoughtful and considered style is a lesson in good writing in itself and he is a must read, I know, for many of us. He's partying this weekend so I hope he is having a drink for me as well!

5. Kizzie's blog is one I have come to only in the past few days and I am fascinated by her insight into the many conflicts and tragedies of this world. Her well thought -out posts deserve a wide readership and she has inspired me, at any rate, to reassess what I see and hear in the media.
So thank you to all the above for enriching my life and inspiring me in so many ways.


Three bars, all closed for business. But I hope you can just see that the owner of the Capriccio has stacked his terrace furniture outside. [The Altro Posto does this when closed, too.] If this were Britain, this furniture would have been "liberated" and dispersed overnight, and the various chairs and tables would be adorning patios over a wide area of our green and pleasant land by now. I don't know whether the fact that no one has touched them is down to the innate honesty of the folk around here or to the number of eyes that are always watching everything you do. Let us be charitable and imagine that the reason is the first.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


"Just a simple salad" was what I asked for at the Caffè Consorzio at lunchtime but how beautifully presented it was. Then an ice cream of mandarin, amarena [sour cherry] and coffee flavours.

Next week I shall atone for these outings, shutting myself indoors with dog, blog and books as everything will be closed for the week.

Friday, August 10, 2007


A cooling glass of orzata for everyone at Raffaele the hairdresser's this morning. [Therefore you see the bottle on a salon counter, in front of some hair gel.] Orzata is a non-alcoholic, refreshing drink made from the extract of fresh, roasted almonds. It looks brown in the bottle but when it is poured into glasses it is almost white. And of course, it was the best orzata in all Sicily, for Raffaele's mamma had made it! He is going to ask her to make a half-litre for me.


Two encounters as Simi and I strolled along this morning:

The first person we met was Luca, the eldest son of my kind friends, Marco and Giovanna. I don’t bump into him often, as he is usually away at university, but when I do he always has a hug for me and some kind words for Simi. I avoid exclaiming, “Haven’t you grown?!” but admit it is what I think: Marco and Giovanna have a brood of 4 boys, but when I first came to Sicily there was just Luca and his brother Piero, whilst Giovanna was expecting the third baby. It was in Marco and Giovanna’s house that I first stayed and Luca, then 11 years old, was the sweetest child. He was always eager to tell me about Modica, helping his father show me around and he became very protective of me. Every time I see him I still feel that that protectiveness is there and it makes me feel warm inside. During that first visit, I took to calling Luca “my little gentleman”, a title which delighted him and his parents, whilst Piero became “my other little gentleman”. I visited the family again soon after baby number 3, Andrea, was born, so then they all became “the little gentlemen and the tiny gentleman”. And for years after that, I’d write in my Christmas card, “Per Marco, Giovanna e tutti i 'little gentlemen' ”. Now I don’t go a bundle on babies, not because I don’t like them but because, never having had one, I’m scared of them as I don’t know what you’re supposed to do around them. But Andrea was different: he never cried, had the most wonderful smile, would clutch at my hand and I would coo, “beautiful baby” to him, over and over again. When I left Sicily that second time it was as though I had a premonition of the tragedy that would soon occur in my own life, for I cried when I said goodbye to Andrea and I remember thinking, “I wonder what will have happened to everybody before I see him again?” Not long after that, my mother died and when, at Marco’s request, I sent the family a copy of what I had said at her funeral, he told me that Luca had read it and cried. I was so touched by that but explained to Luca on the phone that my mother loved children and she wouldn’t have wanted him to cry for her. She’d have wanted him to be happy and enjoy all that his young life offered and she’d have liked him very much because he had been so nice to me. Luca and Piero are “big gentlemen” now but in my heart they will always be the “little gentlemen” I met the first time I came to Sicily.

Our second encounter was with a gentleman who works over the road in one of the comune offices [the same man who dishes out the flattery whenever I’m wearing blue, for some reason]. Obviously on holiday, for he was very casually dressed, he was standing outside the locked gate to his place of work and acknowledging nearly all the drivers that passed. At least every other one slowed down or stopped, beeped at him and shouted a few words of greeting, not caring if they caused a gridlock behind them and my acquaintance accepted all this as his due, beaming and reminding me, in his demeanour, of no one so much as Prince Philip taking the salute of his wife’s soldiers. “Look, look, signora!”, he cried: “They all know me and greet me. It’s the rispetto, you see.” Well, that’s one way of enjoying your holiday!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


At lunchtime today I decided to use my giant white Giarratana onions to attempt cipolle ripiene [baked, stuffed onions], a popular dish all over the south of Italy. I am pleased because it turned out rather better than I expected, considering that I cobbled together ideas from Carluccio, Lorenza de' Medici and Elizabeth David and guessed the quantities: Both Lorenza and ED tell you to boil the onions [peeled, says Lorenza, unpeeled says ED] for 15 minutes first, but Carluccio doesn't, as he is using red onions which don't need to be peeled. I should think the purpose of boiling them is to tenderise them, though, not to make the peeling easier. Given the size of these particular onions, I decided that it would be best to do the boiling, then, once they were cool enough to handle, I peeled them [not that there was much skin on these] cut the tops off and hollowed out the centre as best I could. [OK, I broke a bit off the edge of the one on the left but I'm not Nigella or Saint Delia!] Then the fun bit: following the suggestions of all 3 cooks, I made a stuffing mixture from grated parmigiano and pecorino, breadcrumbs [the fine pane grattugiato that we can buy in packets here; in Britain you could use wholemeal breadcrumbs but do make them yourself from day-old bread - don't use those dry breadcrumbs that you can buy there] capers [always use salted ones if you can] chopped black olives, a little chopped, cooked ham, chopped basil and parsley and of course seasoning. I used eggs and olive oil to bind the mixture together. ED adds anchovies , in which case you would leave the salt out, but as I am allergic to any sort of fish that was not a possibility for me. Then I drizzled olive oil over and baked them in an oiled roasting dish at 200 C for 30 minutes. You can, of course, use smaller onions and I should think red ones would look very pretty.

In the top picture they are ready to go in the oven, in the second one they have just come out, in the third I have just cut one and I wanted to show you the texture of the pane grattugiato. You wouldn't need to get your breadcrumbs anywhere near as fine as this so don't worry!


Let's have a food post after all that!

The Altro Posto being closed for a fortnight, I have transferred my patronage to the Caffè Consorzio for this week. It is so peaceful there on the patio: you'd never think you were in the middle of town. Yesterday lunchtime I was served this pretty complimentary platter of bites with my aperitivo, then this maiale in agrodolce [pork which has been cooked in oil and balsamic vinegar] with salad. The pot of chips just appeared with it and who was I to argue? I remain firmly convinced that the calories from chips do not count when you are out. Italian bars and restaurants are generous with the bread and this is served so prettily here with the packets of breadsticks around the edge of the basket. [I cannot stand those British establishments where you are offered one roll or else charged for any bread you order.] A gelato misto of lemon, strawberry and peach flavours to finish and the bill came to €17.50 including drinks.

But even this oasis will be closed all of next week, because of the crazy Ferragosto disappearance of everyone and everything. I still think you have got to be seriously mad to have a bar or restaurant and close it in the middle of the tourist season but..... pazienza!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This post is far too long and I don’t really expect anyone to read the whole of it. But what the heck? Publish and be dammed!

Questions of love, chivalry, feminism and the links between these three have much exercised James lately, here, here and here, so here is my inadequate two-centesimi’s worth on these matters:

First of all, let us remember that throughout history, there would have been no change without those who were willing to be strident, to break the law for what they believed in and even to risk their lives for it. Feminism, in winning the freedoms and rights that women in western countries now enjoy, was and is a necessary movement, for once freedoms have been won, they have to be protected.

As I have commented on James’s site, I am old enough to remember when a woman doing exactly the same job as a man was automatically paid less and I can remember when a single woman, however much she earned, could not obtain a mortgage in Britain. I can also remember finding it difficult to get lodgings because I didn’t have a “nice fiancé” [the landladies, presumably, thought that therefore hundreds of men would be trooping in and out of the place at all hours - if only!] and I can remember even having invitations withdrawn because I didn’t have a partner to accompany me to the parties or events.

A man, when he receives a letter or fills in a form, does not thereby proclaim his marital status to the world: a woman, until the advent of the “Ms” title in English-speaking countries, did. And make no mistake: marital status mattered. There were women who, if they received bad service, would threaten, “Oh, I’ll get my husband to deal with you” - as if they were incapable of standing up for themselves – and often, in times gone by, this utterance achieved the desired result. When I was teaching in secondary education, I could never understand why, at school speech days, the guest speaker 's wife would receive a bouquet of flowers from the Head. What had this woman done but come along and sit there? She obviously did not have a job if she could be there on a Wednesday afternoon; yet she got this bouquet just for being someone’s wife. I have never had any time for women who obtain their social status from men. [It is perhaps worth mentioning that in Italy you become signora and in France you become madame at a certain point: neither title is an indication of marital status.]

So yes, I am a feminist, in that I wish to receive the same remuneration as a man for what I do, provided that the work is truly the same, and in that I desire rights and freedoms which are really the rights and freedoms of all humanity. Where it all goes wrong, I believe, is when we say, “Ok, we’ve got those so now let’s get more rights and freedoms than men have.” I have never, for instance, gone along with the “wages for housework” idea for none of its proponents ever stopped to consider that single women have to do it as well, and certainly nobody was going to reward us. And, however “hard” running a home might be, it cannot, just cannot, be compared with competing in the ruthless, target-setting environment that is the world of work today. Whilst I’m on this topic, I should also say that I do not believe that the State should pay for pre-school child care or that women who are pregnant or who have young children should be exempt from shift work. If you take the job, you do the job, especially if you want equality!

Sometimes I do wonder if I have ended up in the wrong “bit” of life, though, and I imagine that I would have enjoyed keeping house, having children and cooking for someone. But would it have been enough? Victorian women [middle class and above] were so bored that they just took to their beds with their opium. And literature is full of exasperating, interfering or misguided female characters who would have been so much happier and fulfilled if they had only had a job: Emma Woodhouse would certainly have saved herself and others a lot of heartache had she been able to use her talents to run a matrimonial agency; status-obsessed Mrs Bennet definitely needed something to take her out of herself; and silly Dora Copperfield might have been a calmer and more interesting wife if she had been trained for something – she might even have lived, as might Richardson's Clarissa had she had more experience of meeting men and seen through Lovelace . But the character who takes the biscuit for exasperating modern readers has to be “Patient Griselda” who first appears in Boccaccio [Decameron, x. x ]. If ever a husband needed a whack around the head with a frying pan, it was Griselda’s, and if ever a woman needed contraception, an education and an interest outside the home, it was she!

As in literature so it has been in history: unsatisfied women in unhappy marriages from time immemorial, often with no outlet for their abilities or emotions before the last century. Contrary to what the adverts of the late 1950s and early 60s would have us believe, with their images of housewives dancing around because their “composition floors” had polished up nicely, many women resented being “just the little wife” again after making such a contribution to war work and certainly no one wanted to be a maid any more after WW2. A maid was unnecessary, anyway, as suddenly, in the west at any rate, all sorts of machines and gadgets were available which made housework easier [a process which had begun in Victorian times, only then it was still the domestic staff, not the mistress of the house, who used them]. So the appliances gave women more time on their hands but something else had enabled them to choose to work too: At last women could control their own fertility. In 2004 availability of contraception won the title of the most influential event to impact on women’s lives in a BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour debate.

With the acquisition of power in the workplace came a whole bunch of accusations for women: they were said to be neglecting their families, selfish and, most often , “unfeminine” or “mannish”. Was it not always so? Elizabeth I was deemed, by some, to be a man, for no other reason that I can find than that she refused to marry. Yet you do not need a PhD in psychology to figure out that if your father had murdered your mother, you might be a little wary of men. The TV programme Spitting Image always portrayed Margaret Thatcher in a man’s suit, because a woman who had won and retained power just had to be “acting like a man”. Now I am no defender of that lady and it quite worries me that a generation has now grown up who don’t remember the harshness of her regime and the misery she wrought. But Thatcher’s real genius was not in “acting like a man” ; it was in in manipulating the language: “We spend more than we earn”, she would preach, making the national debt sound for all the world as if you’d bought a 1lb of potatoes on the slate at the corner shop. Then “You” [meaning politicians] “have to do this and you have to do that” – not “one” any more – a use of “familiar” language similar to Mussolini's insistence on the use of the voi form for the polite "you". If you can control language, you can control everything! Ok, Margaret Thatcher did give the nation the shake-up that it partially needed and we will certainly never be the same again, but surely you would concur that banging on about credit when you have never had to use it because your husband is a millionaire and making political principles sound like housewifely platitudes is, shall we say, a bit rich? Thatcher was no ordinary housewife and she was not a self-made woman. Her marriage gave her the economic freedom to pursue her ambitions.

With liberation, too, there appeared, briefly in the 1970s and 80s what I call the “dungaree brigade” as in, “Oh, I can strip the walls / plumb in a new bathroom / build a house from scratch. I just put on my son’s / husband’s dungarees and get on with it”. Now I am not of a practical nature so these women made me feel seriously inadequate. And they forgot that they had men to do the heavy work and access to a tool shed. Nothing annoys me so much as women who profess to be independent in this way but never, in reality, have to lift anything heavier than a kettle! Now I’ve decided I don’t want to strip the walls / plumb in a bathroom, etc., even if I could.

So where does all this leave us on "love, feminism, chivalry and everything” ? I once loved a man who was rather like Mr Rochester: he didn’t have a mad wife locked in the garret and he didn’t attempt bigamy but he was self-centred yet madly attractive in the way that Rochester is. But when does Rochester become human and when does Jane love him most? When he is blinded and vulnerable, indicating that not only do we all need someone; we also need to be needed: I think that, because of the demands of our era, both men and women sadly spend a lot of time pretending to be strong and that we do not.

"It’s not every day we are needed”, says Vladimir in Waiting for Godot.

Romantic love, let us remember, is an invention. It was a convention which began in the courts of Eleanor of Aquitaine. [Blame the French!] The songs of the troubadours were perhaps a release for more unhappy , aristocratic women. [I don’t suppose the peasants had much time to indulge such fantasies, for that is what they were.] An invention it may be, but we know about it now. And that means that we will go on searching for it, taking risks for it and even, in some cases, killing for it. This is nowhere better illustrated than in Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry and the beach Romeos who await the naïve compliment-starved British girls in continental resorts worked it out long ago, cerebrally challenged though some of them may be. Whatever age a woman is, a Frenchman, Spaniard or Italian will always notice what she is wearing, her perfume , her hair and comment on it. Why an educated Anglo-Saxon male cannot do so is beyond me. Such a compliment lifts your heart, makes your day , makes you feel alive, for goodness sake!

A couple of weeks back Tom Paine wrote a post suggesting that people end up on their own because they look for perfection in a partner and I got in a strop about it because I think there are many more reasons why one might remain single, among them just pure bad luck. Maybe “real” as opposed to “romantic” love is what is left when the “scales drop from our eyes” and we see that the person we love is a fallible human being, just like ourselves. If, at that stage, we can still respect, talk to and – yes, love – the object of our dreams then we are very lucky.

What, then, do women want? We are all different but to illustrate what I think a lot of us want let me take you back to my favourite book as a child: yes, like a lot of little girls, I was brought up on Little Women. And, also like a lot of little girls, I wanted to be like Jo, not because I was what was then called a "tomboy" [I was, in fact, rather more like vain Amy than Jo] but because Jo had spirit, she broke the rules and she knew what was right for her. Most of my generation of western women had read Little Women and, in my time, I have met many women who wanted to be like Jo; I have met a few who wouldn't have minded being like Amy [who married rich, handsome Laurie, after all]. But I have yet to meet a woman who wanted to be like boring Meg or goody-goody Beth. I can't speak for all women but what this woman probably wants is a man not unlike Professor Bhaer, who would respect me, love me for who I am, discuss trivia and politics with me - and, yes, protect me from the world outside occasionally, as I would him. I suspect that most men want much the same thing. Or is that, and not romantic love, la grande illusion?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


If you thought it was il calcio [football] think again! The national sport in Italy is avoiding taxes, as sneaky ones appear out of nowhere all the time. Italians justify this "game" of avoidance by explaining that it's all the State's fault for "robbing" them in the first place and the tax system is discussed, moaned about and decried over coffee in bars throughout the land. It's not uncommon for a shopkeeper or service provider to give you a receipt for less than you have paid and when you settle the bill in a bar or restaurant, you must always make sure you are given a proper receipt [ricevuta fiscale] because by law you must keep this until you are 300 metres away from the establishment. Whilst you walk this distance, you could be stopped by police asking to see it. This is less a check on whether you have paid than a check on whether the bar owner has charged you tax, but if he / she has not, you could both be fined!

The country that invented banking has turned it into a complicated and expensive process: I am charged for every single bank transaction and there is a state tax to pay on my account too, besides the annual charge which the bank levies for the privilege of having an account. I understand that the average charge is somewhere in the region of €640 per annum, so I am not going to be a happy bunny when I receive this notification! [I haven't had my Italian bank account for quite a year.] But it seems my days of thinking with nostalgia of free banking in Britain may be numbered as I was astounded to read this yesterday.

Monday, August 06, 2007


A few days ago, Lady Macleod kindly passed on to me the "thoughtful blogger"award. I am delighted to receive it and I urge you, if you don't already know Lady M's fascinating blog about her life in Morocco, to take a look. She writes effervescently, beautifully, touchingly and very evocatively about all aspects of her sojourn there, and she hints at a past in which she has endured her troubles, too. I hope she won't mind my saying that this makes her writing all the more attractive to me. Today she has received the "Courageous blogger" award and that is well-deserved, too. Do take a look at her post on courage. It moved me to tears.

Lady M commented on the picture of Simone I posted yesterday and it occurred to me that newer readers have not been properly introduced! So here is my favourite photo of my precious, taken in Britain, and it is the photo that appears in her EU doggy passport, of which we are both justly proud. She will be 9 years old in December [such a big girl!] and yes, I am aware that time is passing ... Every moment with her is one to treasure. She is such a brave little girl: she has had a big change in her life, moving here [for her mummy would not have left Britain without her!] and she has largely taken it all in her paw- stride. She has won many Sicilian hearts in the 2 years we have been here and continues to do so [and a lot of these hearts belong to people who are not used to dogs as pets]. She shares my life; she runs my life ; she is my life.

Now I must pass the "Thoughtful blogger" award on to 5 others:

1. Ruthie, who writes thought-provoking, always fair-minded posts on a number of political issues but who also takes time to tell us of her feelings as a single Mom and all about the delightful "Little C".

2. Eurodog: My friend in Belgium is a dog-trainer whose love for animals shines through in every thoughtful post. Eurodog has stories about the way in which dogs are treated all over the world and I have learnt so much from her blog.

3. Steve: you never know what this kindly American is going to post about, and that is part of the charm of his blog. Book reviews, jokes, pretty photos - they are all here and Steve is such a gent! Do take a look at his photo blog too: recently he posted about a visit to Flossenburg Concentration Camp and it is something we should all look at.

4. Shirl: My friend in South Glos has a very interesting format for her blog and she keeps to it, reminding us how much happiness, heartache and hope there can be in every single day [for I cannot put it better than Shirl does in her blog title]. Hope always wins out, at Shirl's.

5. Marymary: A fairly new Irish friend, Marymary is always thoughtful, sometimes whimsical, sometimes challenging and she often cheers me up. She always replies to her commenters and is frank about her feelings.
[Trouble with spacing again in this post.]

Eleonora Crupi - Non voglio mica la luna

It's cooler and I feel like having a dance!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


OK, I'm aware that you have had too much in Britain but today we have had wonderfully welcome, fairly heavy rain here. Like a lot of British people deprived of rain for any length of time, when it does come, I just have to stand out in it and feel it [to the consternation of my Sicilian neighbours, I'm sure]. Fortunately, we have not yet had any thunder to accompany it. [We get quite frightening, loud thunder here, often without lightning.] When we went out at 5pm, Simi looked at me as if to say, "What's this wet stuff?" and she was definitely unimpressed by the drainage system!

When we do get bad weather, it becomes surprisingly dark indoors, but at this time of year, if you put the overhead lights on, it still gets unbearably hot. The other day, as an afterthought, I bought this clip-on reading light in the bookshop [I know they're not new but I have resisited them before] and this afternoon it turned out to be just what I needed. I simply must have sufficient light to read by!

Saturday, August 04, 2007


I love this: the angurie on sale get their very own parasol!

And I wonder how much TLC it took to produce these giant white onions from nearby Giarratana?


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