Saturday, November 19, 2022


I received this beautiful gift of oranges and mandarins from a friend's garden, presented in a traditional, hand-made Sicilian basket, yesterday.

To quote a certain Mr Sinatra whose father was from Lercara Friddi in Palermo Province, or maybe, as the singer himself once claimed, Catania,


Yes, siree!

Sunday, November 06, 2022



On New Year's Eve 1999 I was having dinner with friends back in Cardiff, Wales. When the clocks struck midnight, we took our glasses of champagne outside, clinked them, watched the spectacular fireworks our hosts had provided, then hugged and kissed and went indoors to drink a toast, proposed by my friend's husband:

"Here's to the new century and we drink this toast in the hope that you young people who are with us tonight will enjoy good things to come, without the kind of horrible events that your grandparents' and, to some extent, your parents' generations had to live through. It seems that you might be lucky."

There is always conflict somewhere and there were conflicts going on even as he spoke, but we all knew that he meant those words sincerely. Then 9/11 happened, less than two years later and the threat of terrorism was everywhere in our daily lives.

As if that were not enough, in 2020, all over the world, we found our peacetime freedoms limited in ways we could never have imagined because of the pandemic and here in Italy we suddenly found ourselves living under a curfew. Every one of us lived in fear of our lives and those of our families and, apart from following the rules, there seemed to be nothing we could do about it. Has this made us better placed to imagine how it feels to have your freedom restricted by war? Perhaps.

On 8th September this year Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died and on the day of her funeral the world witnessed the passing of an era. As a British person, I watched in sadness but also in awe at the splendour of the uniforms and the precision of my country's military. Yet a part of me was in despair for how, I asked myself, could there ever be a mentality of peace when we carry our revered dead monarchs on gun carriages to the sound of gun salutes and have woven the iconography of war into that of the nation? 

I am very aware that I am writing this one week before Remembrance Sunday in the UK, when the fallen and injured of all wars are commemorated, and I mean no disrespect. My own grandfather was blinded in World War I and I am profoundly grateful to him and to all who have fought for my freedom. I just wish there was another way of obtaining it, as, I am sure, do many soldiers. "No one abhors war more than someone who has been in one", my grandfather used to say. And it was that old warrior Sir Winston Churchill who said,

The one image of the war in Ukraine that I cannot get out of my mind is from the beginning of the conflict, when a young Russian soldier - a child, in fact, for he couldn't have been older than 19 - was captured in a village. The Ukrainian villagers were feeding him and being kind and even helped him to call his mother, at which point he began to cry. Is this what we want? Is this fair, that the old send the young into battle to try and resolve the messes that the former have made? Of course we do not want it and of course it is not fair. Where is the freedom for this young man and others like him to finish his education if he wishes, to have the joy of family, to live? No Freedom, No Peace.  

My thanks, as always, to the indefatigable Mimi Lenox, who inspires us all to blog for peace.


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