Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Me without my Amica

I had plans to write a series of articles called something grand like ,Travels with my Amica.(Amica means a female friend.) I was going to travel to lots little towns in the area in my little green car and then write about the journey there, and then, all about the place. As I am a little scared of driving it would have been an incentive to get better and try harder. But my little green car,( a piaggio amica) doesnt like hills , and as we live on the top of one , then that plan had to be cancelled.) (see the blog called the little car that wouldn't go)

So, with a certain amount of relief I decided I would just have to do it on my scooter. (only it was so unreliable that I was worried I would not get it started again if I stopped and going round exploring and trying to take photos from a scooter was not a great idea either.)

But this week I finally got my scooter repaired again and despite misgivings I set off for Bernalda.

To get to Bernalda from the house in the country I need to go down a really steep hill. ( the kind that makes your ears pop on the way up because of the altitude) I always test my brakes before I get to the hill. It's quite exciting going down. Steep and bendy and narrow. I have never tried to take my scooter up it as its only 50cc s and I don't think it would make it.

The views are lovely if brief as I don't want to plunge over the edge. I am looking over the basento valley and can see Bernalda on the other side. It only takes me about twenty minutes and I am driving into the old part (Centro Storico). This is not my first time so I know roughly where I am going. the first time I decided to follow a lemonade lorry which then meandered round lots of narrow streets till I was completely lost and I was obliged to keep following it until I found somewhere I knew.

So I drive up the one way cobbled street past a variety of types of houses, churches and even a few shops and park in the square with a large church opposite. (This is not a guided tour where I tell you the names of everything, because apart from not knowing them ,it's more about making you want to go there as it looks lovely and feels like another world where you are an explorer.)

I was probably the only explorer/tourist there at about 6.30 pm. There were hardly any people about, just some sitting on balconies or doorsteps enjoying the evening.

I particularly like the diversity of buildings. Looking along cobbled streets there are talls blocks with 3 stories and elaborate balconies, next to old buildings in need of restoration, next to restored houses. There are stairs at the front leading to doors on the first floor with pots of geraniums on each step. Some of the houses are white but as many are brick or stone. Little streets branch off from the main street , some with overhanging arches, others which have been beautifully restored with original archways and balconies and yet more where the stonework is crumbling but there are plants at the windows so someone lives there. I zig zagged about going down one street then another and then up another one that looked more interesting and then wandered on round the next bend. It was magical. Then I went round the back of the church and up another little street where the doors were painted red, then blue , then green. I could hear people inside but very few were in the streets.

I would have stayed longer only I felt a bit lonely(Which I needn't have if I had checked my emails before I left where there was a message arranging to meet.Putting smart phone which does emails on When I am rich I will get..... list)

So feeling in need of some retail therapy , and after taking a photo of my scooter to prove I was there I headed off for the chinese shop where you can buy everything. And on the way I saw a friend who kindly invited me for a coffee , which didn't stop me going for the retail therapy, but did make me feel a lot better.

And finally to yoga. Which was just delightful. We started with feet exercises (I dont't like my feet. they have been too big all of my life and I am fairly self conscious of them.) So there we are sitting there, a little bit of chatting going on as this is the start and it's nice. I have enjoyed this yoga class more than any other one I have attended. Then someone says something about my feet. I think they said I had beautiful feet. Then someone else asked what size they were. Perhaps long thin feet are ok here. Who knows! (Rather disconcertingly all evening afterwards my feet appeared to be growing longer and longer and when I caught a glimpse of them in the mirror they were weirdly long, until I noticed the join in the mirror was extending them.) As usual I fell asleep during the relaxation and then trying to pull myself out of a pleasant daze I got on my scooter to go home in the dark.

It takes twice as long to go home as I can't go up the steep hill , but now that my lights are fixed and I can see the road in front for more than a few yards, it was only mildly scary.

So I think all in all for my first trip without my amica it was a good experience.

Monday, June 20, 2011

ciao bella

(Some painting opportunities in Pisticci)

I just love being greeted , by "Ciao bella".

This morning as I was passing the olive mill at the end of the road on my scooter an older gentleman waved me down. I think he has a country house just there.

He came over, said, "Ciao bella" and kissed me on both cheeks, then asked if I remembered him, reminded me who he was , smiling continually, then shook my hand , said "Buona Giornata" ( have a good day) and went back to what he was working on. And I scootered on with a big smile. Who wouldn't be flattered to be called "bella".

What a lovely way to start my day. "Ciao bella" literally means "hi beautiful" and that's the translation I like.

It is a gorgeous day today and I am having a semi -holiday.

Last week I sold 7 paintings and a small sculpture and helped out at a conference in a local hotel over the weekend . Then I have guests coming to stay in my studio for 2 weeks from Friday so will be moving my things out and cleaning for the rest of the week.

So today I am pottering in Pisticci.

Have finally got the hang of the system at the doctors, so been and scootered up there and left details of a prescription I want. No longer do I sit there for 2 hours wondering what is going on . Now I only need to go back after a couple of hours, collect it and its done.

Then I need to go to the post office. Unfortunately the ticket machine is not working and the queue , such as it is, is just too difficult to negotiate so I go have a coffee and come back later. No point in fretting when it's an opportunity for coffee.

When the sun shines like today the streets are so pretty. The pavements in some streets are tiled and they sparkle in the sun. Decide I must bring my camera next time and then stop in at the farmacia.

I don't really want to go back to the studio because its so nice wandering about and then I meet someone who wants me to paint a portrait of a relative and I am reminded that for me , a big part of marketing is just being out and about.

I am so curious about all the people living in these narrow streets. Sometimes I get a glimpse inside and see that there are only stairs leading to an upper floor , sometimes its a little one room house or a workshop, or maybe the kitchen only is on the ground floor and the signora of the house is fit because there are three or four floors in the house but only one room on each.

Been thinking that although I am not an art teacher I could certainly offer accommodation, materials and a tour of limitless painting opportunities. Busy day dreaming about this and how I find the right words to encourage everyone to make a painting they are proud of when I screech to a halt behind a car stopped in the middle of the road while the driver chats to someone sitting outside a bar.

Then I dawdle with rather more attention on to the supermarket and park in the shade. I am quite pleased with myself for remembering to do this simple thing. It is possible , as I have experienced, to get on my scooter and go "Ow Ow OW!!!" because the leather seat is baking. I think it's about 30 degrees today.

Eventually I return slowly to the studio, open both doors and admire the unusual state of tidiness.

Starting the day with "Ciao Bella" should be compulsory!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

painting in the street

My street is lovely, the view is lovely and I have painted it loads of times but never from life. So I usually stand inside (all be it near the door) and paint what is outside from a photo. I have thought previously that it is a bit ridiculous but have always been comfortable with photos.

So yesterday was a first for me. It was a bit scary and I was quite disorientated just looking at the street because there were no boundaries or edges like in a photo and I couldn't say for instance , that house is half way up the page or it finishes here at the side ,or even lets draw a line here as a checking device.

I was out on the street attempting to paint from life because my friend Eevi was round and she was doing it. She always paints from life. I've only done it once before.

So we got organised with two cute little chairs that came with the studio when I bought it. They were just the right height to sit on and put your paints and stuff on the ground..

Eevi got started right away and I tried not to panic about where do I start, where do I put the horizon, where is the bottom of the painting, where are the edges, somebody tell me what to do!!

So as Eevi got going with what seemed like relative ease, I decided that I wanted the flowers to be an important part of my painting cause I am awfully proud of them. I have been watering them and feeding them , instead of ignoring them, and they are just gorgeous.

I felt so ignorant! I have all these paintings, sold hundreds over the years, painted this street countless times and I just didn't know how to get going and apart from deciding that the flowers were to be in it ,I was still stuck.

But eventually I decided I would just need to pick something and begin. I drew a rough approximation of the view but the edges kept changing. Oh how I longed for a photo with nice edges. One of these things made of card where you look through it and pick your view would maybe have helped but I had been sitting twiddling for so long that I didn't think I should put off painting for any longer.

So somehow I got on and did it. It looked horrible for ages and I had to trust it was going to get better eventually. (That naturally was when one of the neighbours decided to come and have a look!)

So we sat there in the sun and got on with it. Gradually mine began to take shape. ( Eevi's had been good from the beginning.)

Then it was lunch time and from on high (two stories up) lunch was delivered in a carrier bag on the end of a piece of string, by my very kind neighbour Nella, who had made us my favourite courgette fritters and also some kind of chicken. She has been doing this for at least half the time I have had my studio here and so I have been lucky enough to taste lots of authentic Italian food. She's a great cook and I am lucky to know her.

After lunch we carried on , only interrupted by two dishes of ice cream arriving by the same delivery method, until it got very dull and eventually rained. But we both finished.

It was so very nice (once I got over my inital panic) to paint with someone else. To see my view through someone elses eyes and in a different style. Now I want to do it again!

So if anyone is in my area I would be delighted to have company painting in the street.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Three Trullis and I'm Done!

This week it was my Birthday and I am way , way older than I think I am, though now that I am going to yoga every week, I also feel lots younger than I did. It's nice not to creak.

This is not my first birthday in Italy. The first one was one of those special ones and I celebrated, unintentionally ,in style.

I remember it rained, but as I had texted everybody on my phone to tell them to text me cause it was my birthday and they wouldnt want me to be lonely, I had messages all day. Have not felt as popular since.

Then in the evening we had arranged to go out for a meal in a local restaurant with a couple of friends. We had gone in and booked a table two or three days before, so we arrived about 8pm after having tried to go to the william wallace bar for a drink first. ( we didn't know it never opens before 9pm).

So we walked in to this enormous ballroom , with long lacy curtains at the windows, a polished wood floor and one table set for four in the middle. We were a bit taken aback and at first thought maybe we hadn't made ourselves understood, but no, the table was for us. So we sat down and waited for a menu. Along came the first course. We wondered when some other diners would come in, assuming it just must be some sort of peculiar Italian tradition to just set up tables as people arrived. ( there were chairs and tables pushed up against the wall at one side)

So while we waited for the menu , thinking that the starter must have been sort of freebie, the second course arrived, along with a bottle of prosecco.

It's quite disconcerting to be sitting in the middle of a ballroom not knowing what is going on. There was no menu. Course followed course and gradually it dawned on us that they had opened specially for us and no one else would be coming in. I think there were 7 courses. And like good little children we ate them up. By now I was beginning to see the funny side of it and had stopped feeling quite so weird.

It was the most unusual and special birthday meal I have ever had (and the most expensive).Sitting in the middle of an empty ballroom I felt like it was just the greatest start to the next decade of my life. And who knows what would happen next.

Anyways , apart from it being my birthday this week, what about the trullis!

Trulli s are little round houses with conical roofs which you can find in Puglia. And as I am probably going to to two markets in Ostuni and Martina Franca (In Puglia) I thought I would have a go at painting some , and better still selling some. So last week I hung out the car window on the way to the market and photographed as many as possible. Which was not easy as most had their backs to the road and often we couldn't stop as the road was so narrow. However I managed to get some photos to use . So this week I got going and have managed three so far, despite, plumbers, missing electric bills , the post office having 300 people in the queue after it had been shut for 4 or 5 days , painting all the pipes in the shower room to look like gold, trying to find the source of the damp smell, moving a large sofa from the country house to my studio : meaning it took all morning to move all the rest of the furniture round to make it fit and painting all the bits on the wall that had previously been hidden , and fitting in a lovely meal with friends to celebrate my birthday.

so now I am done.