Saturday, March 28, 2015


Fourth at Sanremo was this pretty song from Annalisa:

Annalisa - Una finestra tra le stelle

Friday, March 27, 2015


Great fun and games were enjoyed today by our youngest students at London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale when we made Easter chicks out of paper cups. Simplified instructions were, of course, given in English.

Thanks to the Guardian Teacher Network for the idea.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Images: Lorenzo Fragola on facebook

The city of Catania was one of the 24 chosen by McDonald's to participate in their "World's Biggest Breakfast" event on Tuesday and everyone who attended thought it was the cat's pyjamas, according to reports. This was especially so when Lorenzo Fragola, the catanese singer who won Italy's X Factor in December, appeared and sang in his very cute pyjamas.

The breakfast event took a different form in each of the cities, in order to appeal to the various cultures involved, and the Catania restaurant decided to turn it into a pyjama party - perhaps because the country produces such stylish nightwear. Anyone who turned up in decent, unscruffy pyjamas got a free brioche and hot drink, plus the opportunity to enjoy young Mr Fragola's music.

The twitter hashtag for the worldwide event was #imlovinit24 and, at the risk of being a spoilsport, I'd just like to put in a plea on behalf of English language teachers here: it's the devil of a job getting students to remember that certain verbs, including those that denote likes and dislikes, are not usually used in the present continuous and the "I'm lovin' it" campaign has not helped us! Yes, I know that the language is constantly changing and that the form is likely to become widely accepted in the not too distant future but for the purposes of most exams, it is not acceptable yet!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The statue of Christ that is carried around Scicli at Easter

A day or so ago, some good folk in nearby Scicli, having heard several bloodcurdling screams coming from an apartment in their street, did what most of us would do and alerted the police. One can only suppose that they were relieved to learn that no burglary, murder or other crime had been committed and that the cause of the noise was.... an exorcism. Or perhaps they just shrugged their shoulders and uttered, "Pazienza", this supposedly being the second exorcism to which police had been called in their city in the past two weeks, a detail which the local press has been enjoying immensely.

It was first reported that this second "exorcism" was being carried out to help a teenage boy, but today the priest involved has denied this, saying that he had been asked to go to the apartment because the boy was in deep distress and that the Carabinieri were already there, along with an ambulance crew. The priest did his best to calm the boy and one feels for him and his parents.

As I understand it, in Catholicism exorcism of a person can only be carried out by a priest authorised to perform the "rite" and with the express permission of his bishop. There has to have been a medical examination to exclude the possibility that the person involved is mentally or physically ill. 

A few years ago, someone did something bad to me and at that time I figured I needed all the help I could get. So when a religious friend brought round some holy water which had been blessed by a priest authorised to carry out exorcisms and started sprinkling it around my house, presumably to cast out any lurking demons, I decided to accept gracefully. Strangely enough, things have gone a lot better since then.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Third at Sanremo this year and again, beautifully performed:

Malika Ayane - Adesso e qui [nostalgico presente]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Some regular readers may remember this photo from last year. It was taken by my friend the photographer Luca Migliore and is part of his 11 Donne project.

Luca will shortly be holding an exhibition of the photos in Ragusa and in connection with this, there is an artiucle about them in the Corriere della Sera online supplememt, Io Donna. The introduction says that although Italy is suffering a "brain drain" at the moment, there are people, like the women featured in the photos, who have chosen to move here. The bit about me partially recounts the story of my reunion with my birth sister Jill [although they have the name wrong - never mind].

I am again honoured to have been photographed by Luca and to be in the pictorial company of such interesting women.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I owe the idea for this recipe to Corriere della Sera, but as usual, I've done my own thing with it: I couldn't get the very crisp type of radicchio mentioned, so I separated mine into leaves. I incorporated the honey with the oil and balsamic vinegar [as in the video] instead of adding it afterwards [as in the text], and I used rather more of it. The Corriere recipe uses pomegranate seeds, adding them when the radicchio is cooked, but as pomegranates are out of season here, my first idea was to use sultanas. However, I didn't have any and torrential rain prevented me from going out to get some, so I used the dried cranberries I did have, adding them before baking. 

Here's what I did:

Separate two medium-sized radicchi into leaves and wash ,drain and get them as dry as you can. Arrange in a roasting dish and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Make a dressing from 4 tablesp olive oil, 1 tablesp balsamic vinegar, 1 tablesp honey and seasoning to taste.  Pour over the radicchio leaves and toss it through. Add a few dried cranberries or sultanas and some pinenuts. Bake at 180 C for 15 mins. 

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled chicken.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Here's another song I liked from this year's Sanremo. Written by Grazia Di Michele herself, it is a gentle song about hypocrisy and prejudice. I thought it was beautifully performed:

Grazia Di Michele e Mauro Coruzzi - Io sono una finestra

Friday, March 13, 2015


There seems to be a fashion for combining Ester eggs with clothing items this year, which I would have thought was a bit of a risk in a country which does not like diversification in the retail sector. I've seen some Easter eggs wrapped in jolly headscarves and I must say the Condorelli "L'Egging" is cheerful too:

I doubt that even Kate Moss is thin enough to use it as a legging but the leaflet on the egg does suggest using it as a scarf or hair band.  Perhaps Bertie-Pierrine will set a new canine fashion in it!

Anyway, I enjoyed the pun - and the chocolate!

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I meant to get this booklet for London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale ready for St. David's Day but when Bertie-Pierrine bounded into my life, she kind of took it over! Anyway, it is ready now and free for our students. If anyone in Modica still thinks Wales is in England, they haven't met me!

Homeland, I think of you!

Sunday, March 08, 2015


First of all, Bertie-Pierrine hopes you all had a happy International Women's Day:

She wants you to know that she has had a very busy week, in which she redoubled her efforts to learn to read in honour of World Book Day:

Then there was the obligatory chewing of one of her mummy's socks [while the latter's foot was still in it]

and she is practising to be a sommelier when she grows up!

There'll be more news of her progress soon and meanwhile she sends lots of baci..

Saturday, March 07, 2015


Tomorrow is International Women's Day [symbolised by the mimosa flower in Italy] and I dedicate this French song, an old favourite of mine, to every woman who needs a break.

Anne Sylvestre - Clémence en vacances

Friday, March 06, 2015


Tonight I was hoping to be able to bring you my insights into this year's MasterChef Italia, which held its final last night, but unfortunately my Sky signal chose 9 pm to give up the ghost in the face of a few gusts of wind. [This part of Sicily got the tail end of the heavy winds which had mercilessly lashed mainland Italy throughout Wednesday and Thursday, causing considerable damage and three deaths.]  I'd been looking forward to the programme all day so, needless to say, I was not pleased!

I did know who the winner would be, as much to the judges' chagrin, the contest result had been leaked on Tuesday's Striscia La Notizia programme, and even if I hadn't, I could have worked out what was happening from social media.  However, I did want to see what tasks were set for the three finalists, generally enjoy the drama and feast my eyes once more on chef Carlo Cracco. The Striscia spoiler caused a twitter storm, as you may imagine, and the programme also accused one of the finalists of working in a professional kitchen before becoming a contestant.  If this is true, it of course breaks the MasterChef rules. Both the contestant and the restaurant concerned deny that he has worked there and the argument is ongoing.

Congratulations to worthy winner Stefano Callegaro and I would like to express the hope that when his recipe book is published, it will actually contain some recipes, unlike last year's effort, which was supposed to give readers ideas rather than recipes. Such a book is fine by me as long as it is not marketed as a recipe book!

My Sky signal is back on now so, barring a few drops of rain or the odd breeze, I should be able to watch the repeat tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


On the day when the Italian Coast Guard has completed the rescue and bringing to safety of 941 migrants in the Mediterranean, we are once again witnessing politicians arguing about who should carry out patrol and rescue missions in these waters and the scale of any such operations. The Italian Mare Nostrum operation having been wound up in October, the Triton operation [coordinated by the European External Borders Agency Frontex, which may have different priorities] has been working on a much smaller scale and its ships have not patrolled near the Libyan coast, as the Italian ships did. Italy, to its credit, continues to send in rescuers close to the Libyan shore after alerting Libya to migrant boats in danger in its waters.

Thus it has been over the past two days, during which Italian Coast Guard vessels, three  merchant ships and one Triton naval unit rescued migrants in seven different operations. The migrants were travelling in five dinghies and two other boats. Sadly, one of the larger dinghies, which was carrying around 130 people, capsized 50 miles north of Libya and ten bodies were recovered.

The rescued migrants are said to be of Syrian, Palestinian, Tunisian and Sub-Saharan nationality. Among them were 30 children and 50 women, one of whom is pregnant and needed urgent medical evacuation by the Coast Guard on Lampedusa.  The migrants have been brought to Porto Empedocle, Augusta and Pozzallo today. Pozzallo has again received the saddest delivery - that of bodies - a sight which always causes great sorrow in the town.

The Court at Siracusa has opened an investigation into the deaths and it is being treated as a murder enquiry. That said, just what is it going to take to get the EU as a whole to act on the Mediterranean migration issue? How much longer are other countries,including my own, going to stand by and watch desperate people die?  Italy has said it will not abandon migrants in danger at sea but the rest of the EU continues to abandon Italy.

Gauri van Gulik of Amnesty International said today,

"Merchant vessels and national Coast Guard have again responded valiantly to the immense and growing challenge of saving the lives of vulnerable migrants but that falls far short of sufficient in the face of this growing humanitarian crisis. Without a European search and rescue operation, the European Union's approach looks increasingly haphazard and negligent."

Update at 15.15 on 5.3.15
The death toll from the capsized boat now appears to be around 50. Two people have been arrested on suspicion of people-trafficking.

Monday, March 02, 2015


Do you ever wonder at the circular nature of life? I often do and it was brought home to me again on Friday, as I racked my brains for a St David's Day teaching activity that I hadn't used with the same group of little girls before.

Putting out a display of books about Wales, I picked up my beloved copy of Mary Jones and her Bible, a book I have had since I was four years old and which my mother used to read to me in her soft, Welsh tones. I'm not a particularly religious person but the story of a farm girl who wanted a Bible in Welsh so much that she saved for six years to be able to buy one, then, in 1800, walked, barefoot, the twenty-five miles to Bala to get it, has stayed with me. It was Mary's focus and determination that held me a lifetime ago and still does now. [If you do not know the story, you will find it here.]

On Friday I thought that my group of eleven-year-olds might be interested so I simplified the story, leaving out all the past simple tense forms for them to insert. As I had predicted, the story impressed them, too, especially the barefoot bit, which they could hardly believe!

Little did I think, as I lay tucked up in bed listening to the story in early 1950s Bristol, that I would be using it as a teaching resource 60 years later in Sicily!

Incidentally, I was glad to read this in October.


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