Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "Taking a Second Look".

When I saw the theme for this week's Blog Off  - changing the way in which you perceive someone or something - I tried to think back to my early days in Sicily and the things I found strange.  Believe me, there were plenty, even for someone like me who has spent most of her life studying Italian culture and who is fluent in the language.  When you change your country, the things that disturb or worry you are not always the "big" issues in your life but seemingly trivial occurences which can throw you off-balance.  It is, of course, a manifestation of "culture shock", which is a known psychological condition.  The good news is that it does not last forever and you look back with amusement at your former self and the assumptions you made.

Modica  - Corso Umberto, di notte

I've mentioned the signora I call "Eleonora" before but for those of you who are new to my musings, she is an elderly, very elegant lady who takes her passeggiata at the same time every evening and her fashionable, expensive attire never fails to turn heads.  The first time I saw her , from a café terrace one Sunday, I stopped eating my gelato mid-scoop, so striking a sight was she.  As I watched this senior citizen gliding  along the Corso like Marilyn Monroe, I wondered if she was, indeed, playing a part in some film and I actually looked around for the cameraman.  This was because the lady's makeup, clothing and hairstyle would have been considered "overdone" back in the UK, where she would probably have attracted laughter rather than admiration.  And so it was that I began to change the way I judged people's appearance: elegance is always "in" in Italy, whatever the occasion, and the concept of overdressing simply does not exist.

Cuddles with my great aunt Mabel
Xmas Day, 1950

In the six years I have been here, and especially since an illness in 2008, I have become very aware that my attitude to ageing is changing. How can you explain to a younger person how it feels to grow old?  The answer is that you can't so you might as well save yourself the bother.  When I remember my mother in her sixties, I am amazed at her physical energy and I often find myself thinking of my lovely grandad and great aunt, who lived with us when I was a child.  They seemed so old to me but when I was adopted in 1950, they were not much older than I am now.  How I wish I could talk to them today and apologise for my youthful impatience! 

Ageing was, perhaps, the one thing that I hadn't bargained for when I moved to Italy:  oh, I knew it would happen, but I had no idea what it was like!   I ponder the fact that, although I am covered by the Italian health service, hospital patients here do not routinely receive non-medical care;  this means that, if you need help to go to the bathroom, for instance, it will not be forthcoming from the nursing staff.  Yesterday I heard of an elderly female hospital patient who is paying her cleaner € 100 per night to help her in this way and it worries me.

However, it is as useless to fret about the next illness as it is to live in a constant state of angst over the next wrinkle, as there is nothing to do but "keep buggering on", in Churchill's words.

My slightly tanned, Modican Santa

My final reflection on the theme is a seasonal one for, over the past eighteen years, I have completely revised my attitude to Christmas:  After my dad died, I hated this period because I missed him so much and Ebenezer Scrooge became my hero. I have my beloved Sicilians to thank for teaching me, after my mother's death, to love Christmas again and one year, back in old Cardiff, I decided that it was a betrayal of my parents, who had given me such wonderful Christmases, not to at least try to enjoy the festival.  So now I decorate like crazy, bake Christmas treats, play seasonal music for a month and I even get upset when it's time to take the decorations down!  

I have come to the conclusion that, if you are brave enough to admit your mistakes and are prepared, at any age, to learn and have your mind changed, you might just stay young.  And signora Eleonora has taught me that, whilst beauty may fade, glamour doesn't have to.  Now, where are my false eyelashes?

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Frank Sinatra - Young at Heart

Below is the complete list of blogs participating in this theme:


Joseph said...

Wow, that’s one of my favorite songs. I’m with you on the ageing thing, though. In my heart, in my mind, I am not much older than I have been for the last few decades, but the plain fact of it is that I’m 66, and I’m starting to get aches and pains. Other than that, so far, so good with the health thing, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. You’re also right about reevaluating things from time to time. “If you are among the very young at heart,” may well be the secret of success for that particular venture!

Anonymous said...

You are quite the writer... The word "eloquent" comes to mind. Quite poetic for a blogger! : )

I look forward to your posts!

Anonymous said...

I love your post and its oh! so true.
'Eleonora' struck a chord with me.
A frequent visitor to Venice I would love to sit outside Florian on a beautiful evening and watch all the beautifully elegant ladies out for a stroll.It's another world.
Blessings and prayers,

Unknown said...

Wonderful post Pat and we will all age, that much is certain. How we deal with it is the important part.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Joseph. I've always loved that sdong and I think there's a lot of truth in it. I'll be 62 in Feb and I'm sure getting the aches and pains! I pray every day that my mind remains sound. Hi, Scott and it is very kind of you to say so. Thank you. I enjoy your posts, too. Hi, PH. Thank you. Yes, sitting on a café terrace watching the world go by is one of the joysd of Italy. There is something to be said for the Italian concept of time. Love to you. x Thank you, Todd and I totally agree.

LindyLouMac said...

Well expressed Pat.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, LindyLouMac.

elleeseymour said...

I really enjoyed reading your reflections and imagine you have picked up some Italian elegance and will age most gracefully too.
I hope this Christmas will be happier for you too. x

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Ellee. That's very kind. Will be in touch before Xmas. xx

leslie said...

I love that a woman like signora Eleonora exists.

I enjoyed reading your reflections and your conclusion is marvelous. I love the wisdom in it, and the hopefulness.



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