Thursday, December 27, 2012

christmas at calcarole

It's just after 2.30pm on Boxing day and I have started to write this post outside on the roof terrace of the house in the country , as it's much warmer up here than it is in the house.( and I am saving money by using sunlight instead of gas to keep warm.)
It was foggy this morning when I woke up and after my usual breakfast of  mixed omelette ( still can't chew after the accident.) we set off for Pisticci through the foggy valley.
We had things to do - such as see if we could find someone to fix the gas heater which had refused to  work at all on Christmas morning. Not the best way to start Christmas when I was already feeling a little homesick.
However the friendly gas man not only arranged for a friend of his to come and look at our heater but also gave us a portable one as well.
So while we waited in a cafe to meet the repair man, drinking coffee paid for by the friendly gas man someone asked about getting either one or two portraits done. I have  arranged to return on Friday to get photos. (Back in the country later I had another inquiry about a portrait - so it looks like I need to get back to work.)
On leaving Pisticci I took a photo of the fog which had partly lifted and left what looked like an ocean of mist in front of the mountains.
And now I am sitting outside, having been reading a book about Basilicata by Ann Cornelisen (Torregreca) . Its fascinating and horrific to think that in the late 50s some of the older people I know might have been living in circumstances such as she describes.
It was my gift to myself . I am enjoying learning more about this area and reading it was part of my plan for things to do on the 25th. No heating was not part of the plan.
On Christmas day (as planned) we went to Pisticci and walked up and down the corsa and greeted people and also because it was such a nice day , sat outside and had coffee and a soft cake. (So I could eat it.) Then on returning to the house I lit the pizza oven to cook a not traditional lunch. I have only used the oven twice before so I was a little nervous, but apart from baked potatoes in tin foil which we ate in the evening, the roasted vegetables and chicken and sausages cooked perfectly. We had toasted marshmallows for a sweet - yumm!
By then it was after 3pm and we turned on the portable gas heater we had borrowed and settled down to watch "Miss Potter". It was lovely. By accident I found a Michael Buble Christmas concert on TV and it seemed like a good idea to watch it too.
So there we were eating chocolates - only if broken into small pieces in my case - when the borrowed heater  turned itself off and refused to light again.
What is it with us and heaters?
Anyways I am just so enjoying sitting here in the sunshine. I can hear someone working with a chainsaw somewhere over to the right and there is someone else trying to start a  scooter. And there are dogs barking - then there are always dogs barking. Its peaceful despite that.

The sun is beginning to go down and the shadows are starting to form between the trees and soon it will get cold and I will need to go in , but I want to remember this feeling - sitting reading , writing and dreaming. And keep moments like this in my mind forever.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

sunny morning in calcarole

Thought I would post these photos as it is such a lovely morning. They were all taken at the country house.

Monday, December 3, 2012

flying through the air........

Have had another adventure - of a painful nature- when  a dog attacked my scooter, causing me to fly off over the handles and land on my face. I was wearing my helmet , as always, but  as I sat up my nose bled like 2 fountains. If I hadn't been worried about having ruined whatever looks I had I would have been more fascinated by the way my nose could bleed. My foot was stuck under the scooter but I managed to yank it out - all the while saying to myself - I cant find a hanky, where is my hanky. I staggered to my feet while the blood sprayed out my nostrils and manged to get my scooter upright and push it into the side and park it. There was no one around so I got out my phone and trying to avoid the blood managed to phone my partner and mumble enough to make him get in the car and come down to find me. He didnt really understand my mumblings and was apparently horrified when he arrived and I stood covered in blood and looking a bit bemused. (I have never been someone who panicked - so far at least- which is not neccessarily a good thing!)
So after deciding to use my scarf as a hanky  we set off in the car for the hospital - only to realise part way along the road that I had left my handbag in the scooter box - at which point I did consider panicking as all my stuff including nasal spray and passport were in it. So we went back for it. By this time my nose was only bleeding copiously. What a relief!
It only took about 15 minutes to reach the hospital at Tinchi. (The same place I went to when I got stung on the throat.)
I staggered into the waiting room and not surprisingly was seen straight away. It was such a relief to arrive and the staff there are not only professional but so kind and friendly and soon had me on a bed and checked me over. It looked like I was more or less in one piece and had probably not broken my nose and my teeth appeared to still be stuck in. I had a big scrape on one knee and various bruises and  small cuts but basically my bleeding nose - which didn't stop bleeding for over 7 hours - was really the worst thing.
I was at the hospital for about an hour and was given some sort of drug through a drip and then left gratefully to go back to the country house. Where I have been ever since.
When I left the hospital , apart from the bleeding nose I looked relatively normal but by the next morning I looked like a piebald chipmunk. I ached a bit but actually having a practically blocked nose bothered me much more. And I think the drugs also made me feel a little queasy.
And my er good looks only got worse over the next few days. I turned black and blue and red and green and yellow all over my face. (I was so lucky that only my lip was cut and I had no scrapes on my face.)
So is now a week since all this happened and I am getting better every day. I still cant eat normally and I have not taken my face out anywhere incase it scares little children.
Am  assuming that in another week I should be more or less back to normal. I have been and started my scooter, cleaned off the blood and am arranging for it to get checked over in the next few days.
I have sort of enjoyed  relaxing (once my nose got unblocked) and actually started a little painting of a big vase of flowers today.
And I have no idea what happened to the dog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lingerie and Seduction

Sunday morning,Crawl out of bed at 5am . Do 3 minutes of yoga , grab slice of toast and as many layers of clothes  as possible as the weather could be cold.
It's not yet light and we are on the road to Taranto. It's surprising how many other people are up so early as well.
Arriving at Taranto it's neccessary to limit breathing for the first kilometre as there is a chemical plant which looks like something from a nightmare future - and it stinks.
After that I like the city. First we pass the old part where the houses are tall, lean in towards each other and are mostly run down. If you go for a walk through them, as I have done when the market was there previously , its like stepping back in time and a little scary.
On the other side of the road in contrast there are hundreds of boats tied up. Not fishing boats - we will see them on the way home- but  pleasure boats, small yachts - expensive looking speedboats etc.
On round the corner and the sea is on our right  and the buildings on the left grow more imposing, though only a few metres in are the scary slummy ones.
On we go over the bridge , past the fort looking out to sea and we are into the newer smarter part of Taranto .Very imposing buildings on the left with enormous doorways, restaurants, banks and on the other side of the road a large tree lined promenade going on as far as we can see.
 About half way along this road we turn off and head inwards to the piazza Immacolata also known as  Piazza with Palms.
We turn up the road and there is always a moment when we wonder - have we got the right day, is it on and where are the other stallholders. (It has happened that we have gone on the wrong day and another time that it had been moved- once to another town and once to another piazza.)
But everything is ok today. The weather is fine and there are other stallholders setting up and plenty of room to park and unload.
Setting up the stand is like making up your own little shop. My part of it is only an add on but the antiques part looks very appealing and artistic when it's done. I think the 2 parts compliment each other.
So by 8am we are having a coffee and chocolate cornetto - sitting in the (limited) sunshine and ready for lots of sales. Ever hopeful!
We sit and watch as other stall holders unload goods from cars, ape's, vans and camper vans. You can buy an enormous variety of things at an Italian antiques market. There are also about 40% of the stallholders selling handmade crafts.
Several of us sell paintings but only me and Letizia  sell our own.
After two or three hours I am bored. Although I only take paintings of Taranto and Martina Franca I was getting a fair amount of people stopping and looking ,but no sales.
I  decide a walk is in order.
The piazza is part of a  shopping street and I set off window shopping. Some shops however are open and I remember a year ago going into one of the larger department stores and being surprised by a sign pointing to the department of Lingerie and Seduction. I was a little to shy to go have a look then , but now I determined to see what is on offer. I am not exactly sure what  to expect, but I am disappointed. I think maybe I thought it was going to be an Italian "Anne Summers" . It is however a pretty boring underwear selection with nothing very notably seductive in my opinion and nobody offering advice on seducing fact it  is so boring I go straight through and into the christmas decoration part and find some cute unsexy  teddy bears.
Further along the street I stop to take photos of  a pink and white building that looks like someone had a lot of fun decorating. It reminds me off a cake with decorations. (In a nice way.)
On the way back I see two shops selling  military or naval uniforms. I had always assumed that if you were in the navy or army you get provided with a uniform. It amuses me to think that perhaps these are designer uniforms for the more fashion conscious Italians.
Once more back at the stall I can see a lot of people in uniforms at the end of the street and soon we are entertained by a brass band marching past and then performing in the piazza.
By then there are lots of people about and just sitting watching people go by is an entertainment in itself.
Eventually it is lunch time and we have a carry out chinese - the second time in 8 years.
And then it is packing up time. It takes about one and a half hours and invariably looks like all the stuff will never fit into the car. (It has been a close thing once or twice.)

On the way out we pass the harbour with falling down tenements on one side and  fishing boats tied up on the other. It doesn't look like a very safe place to walk but with a beautiful blue sky even gaping windows and washing look picturesque. I always want to stop , but we never do.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Back In Pisticci

I have only been back a week and been busy catching up, tidying up and trying to finish a very large( for me)  portrait of four people , but I still managed to get out for coffee and take photos. Also been getting my studio  set up for colder weather - found the rugs under a bed and spread them about, tested the gas heater, found my hat, hung up the blanket in the doorway and moved my internet connection to the small room at the back..Have two more portraits to get started on from Monday so am nicely busy.

sad reminder of summer and my exhibition.

So just posting photos today. Will get back to writing about life here when I get back into it.(Soon!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Very Exciting day

As distinct from my many other quite exciting days.........
Got up this morning quite anxious and a little excited as a new grandchild was due to be born today.  I rushed up to my studio as I have the internet, a "real" phone and better mobile reception here and I didnt want to miss hearing about the great event. I didnt have long to wait until I got the phone call and I have a new granddaughter called Mila sofia. That means my son is a father - it doesnt  seem that long ago that he was my little boy and now he has a daughter!
Moving swiftly on before I get maudlin and feel very very old.
That was only the beginning of my very exciting day.
I had arranged to go for lunch at a friends house near Bernalda so set off in a great mood and was soon whizzing along- then slowing down as I reached 60kph - and then whizzing along again,  up and down the hills, windy roads, blind corners when all of a sudden WHAM  - a wasp hit me in the throat and stung me. I slowed down and stopped as, I was on a straight bit of road  , and by looking in the mirror I could see where I had been stung - right on the middle of my throat. It hurt quite a bit. I have been stung by a wasp on my scooter before but never there. I started to imagine it swelling up and not being able to swallow and then not being able to breathe. Naturally I was quite calm while all this was crossing my mind!!
I was in the middle of the countryside on my own - and memories of a friend who had not previously been allergic to wasp stings but had swollen up all over and spent 4 days in hospital after being stung - were bothering me.
So I decided to take my self to Casualty  (Pronto soccorso) at the local hospital which was only 15 minutes away. I reasoned that however unlikely, it would be very selfish of me to swell up and die on my granddaughters birthday. So I sped off in the direction of the hospital trying not to imagine that my throat was swelling more by the minute and wondering if I would be found in time if I fell off my scooter cause I couldnt breathe. There was very little traffic on that particular road. But I reached the hospital, parked my scooter and sidled into the hospital. The sting hurt and my throat felt a bit numb but I was definitely still breathing and swallowing. I didnt have to wait long and I figured if I stopped breathing they would see me straight away.
I think they were reasonably entertained and very pleasant . I did mention my friend who had spent 4 days in the same hospital and I think I explained myself as well as possible especially when I mimed gasping for air.
I thanked  the staff very much departed in slightly embarassed fashion, and hope that I brightened up their day
Relieved that it didnt look as if I was going to swell up I set off again feeling quite proud of myself  for having been reasonably sensible. If I had been allergic and swollen up in the middle of the countryside with no one around I would have felt pretty silly.
So I zoomed off, thinking, "must wear scarf on scooter".
As I reached Bernalda  I thought I was wobbling about a bit going round corners, but put it down to too much excitement. However in the middle of town I went round a corner and nearly came off the scooter as the back wheel started to slide out from under me. I pulled into the side slightly shaken and sure enough  I had a puncture.
I don't know Bernalda that well. I don't know the word for puncture either. But since I came to Italy I have almost always found people very helpful. So I went into the nearest open gate which led into a DIY  yard and asked if they could help. I was not completely successful as they explained where I could get my tyre repaired but seemed to be at the other side of town and I wasnt sure that I could ride my scooter with a completely flat tyre. So I thanked them and walked back out. I decided I would need to phone my friend again (was already late after being at the hospital ) and see if she could help. Just as I was saying "Guess what happened now....." a young man came out of the yard on a scooter and said follow me. I decided that I could at least try to see if I could move and managed to follow him very slowly and scarily to the other side of town. That was almost as frightening as thinking I was going to swell up. My scooter wobbled like crazy at the back and I kept it upright more by luck than anything else.
It didn't take long to replace both tyre and inner tube. (And cost less than I expected) And I set off again. Just as I was turning into my friend's drive way a car coming out stopped, a man rolled down his window and stuck his hand out to shake , saying he was  ....... ...... and was one of my friends on facebook. He then wished me a good day and drove off. I found that very funny for no particular reason.
I arrived only one and a half hours late , but in a very good mood.
After having a gorgeous lunch, a serious coffee and a totally inspiring chat about life and art I left and had a very uneventful trip back to Pisticci.
Now I am planning to hang a large mirror which I bought at the antiques market yesterday and then I may go home for a peaceful evening.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another little adventure and the secret of happiness.

Most Thurday mornings I go for a walk in Pisticci with a friend. The purpose being  to spend some time together, explore Pisticci, practise our Italian, enjoy a coffee, and get some exercise.
Today was beautiful. Not too hot for walking, but hot enough to wear sandals and no need for a jacket.
We usually start off from my studio and taking our time and saying "Buon Giorno" to virutally everyone we meet , we stroll through Dirupo on the way into town.
At this time of year the light is fantastic and today the blue skies and tiled roofs, the white houses and the geraniums were so picturesque that we were obliged to stop every few yards to take another photo or chat to the man on the red scooter or take a detour up a narrow set of steps and then wonder if we had walked into someone's backyard. Even the washing blowing in the breeze looked pretty.
We could see the sea in the distance looking silvery in the sun and the mountains almost as blue as the sky. Am still wondering who lives in the tall house with the blue shutters. It rises up higher than any other building in Dirupo and used to be a bit of an eyesore before someone painted it and made it look pretty. I have heard that an artist lives there! We had all the time we liked to wonder and look about us.
We wind our way out of the narrow streets and then my friend stops to look at a woman putting something out to dry. She asks what it is - it's dried peppers- they are like crisps. She invites us in and shows us how she has made them, they are dried in the sun, and then apologises for not having many she could give us. While she is wrapping some up a neighbour pops her head in and says that she has plenty so we have to go to her house and get some more. We go into the next house and it is breathtakingly beautiful.  From outside it looks like an ordinarily pretty Pisticci house but inside it has curved brick ceilings and goes on back into a sort of bricked cellar. It is like going back in time. I love this kind of building. To actually live in a house like this would be dream for me, but presumably it is normal here.
While she was putting some more dried peppers and tomatoes into a bag the owner said I could take photos. I did, but they don't really show what it was like.
Coming back into the sunshine in the street again, we thanked both ladies profusely  .(Rosa and Grazia) and headed onwards and upwards marvelling at the kindness of strangers and bemoaning our lack of ability to speak better Italian. Not that we are not both of us, very good at using, faces, hands and bodies to talk. It is true that a lot of communication is done without words.
After  meeting the man on the red scooter twice more, we reached the corsa and remarked on the fact that it was built so that you can always be in the shade. It  was quite hot in the sun.
Leaving  the Tabbacheria someone called out "Ciao Bella". Feeling 20 years younger we went into the cafe and ordered coffees. No sooner had we sat down (after our long but extremely slow and intermittent walk - so much for exercise!)  than a man brought over a plate with a heap of pieces of chocolate on it and put it on the table. It was for us to taste. It is apparently wine flavoured chocolate. (So much for diet!)
It was very nice.
So after sampling about half of the chocolate, we left in great spirits and strolled off back towards the studio. As my friend said "Today everything looks beautiful" and I replied "That must be the secret of happiness, to appreciate all the little things - and in Pisticci there are just so many of them.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

saturday morning in Pisticci

Its been a while since I wrote a nice relaxed blog about an ordinary morning.
So this was Saturday morning just passed, yesterday in fact!
I had come up to my studio about 8.30am as I had a commission I was working on and I wanted to get it finished. It included a very shiny red sports car which I had left till last as I wasn't all that sure how I would do it.
So having arrived here I decided to go out shopping for food - putting off the evil hour. It was a lovely morning . I jumped on my scooter and headed for the supermarket. I like this particular one (Qui) because apart from being reasonably affordable , the staff are all really friendly. I was taken aback one day when one of the girls at the till asked if I had had my hair cut. (That was way more observant than someone else I can think of)  I like the car park too. There are trees to park under if its hot ,and often one of those cute little cinquecentos which look like you could pick em up and put them in your pocket, parked diagonally in the corner or anywhere else at any angle. I think I would learn to drive for one of these. And they are painted such bright colours too. Sigh!!
Anyways off home I went with more choc ices and other important stuff. But I still had not had a coffee - you know - to wake me up and help me paint more .So not giving myself any time to argue that the time was getting on and I could make coffee myself I sped off again.
Only my two favourite cafes were closed so I went to another one down by the fruit market with the most gorgeous views.  I sat there for a pleasant 15 minutes , took some photos and chatted to the nice guy working there who told me some of the history of the area. I just love that particular view as you look right down over a lot of old roofs with the original tiles and then accross the valley and on to the hills, then the mountains in the distance. Apparently there is a man's hairdresser 2 or 3  doors along where you can get your hair cut and look out over the same view.

Having had my stimulating cup of coffee I dawdled up the corsa margherita and had a look round the chinese shop. Oh what lovely things they have, but I resisted. (Only have 15euros left to end of month so wasn't that hard.)
Decided I should go to the farmacia next and stock up on decongestants. I tell myself I will be much better when I stop eating so much ice cream. While I am waiting in the the queue I hear  drums and trumpets  coming closer. I decide that, having my camera I am obligated to take photos so leave just before it's my turn.
It's a small parade with men in tights and velvet tunics carrying large flags, girls dressed up and playing drums and trumpets and various other people dressed in beautiful outfits just walking or carrying a large banner. They go into the piazza and hang about , so after taking some photos I go back into the farmacia. There is now a bigger queue, but am in no hurry.
By the time I come out the procession has reformed and the guys with the flags do a display of flag throwing, twirling , catching, juggling and dropping.  They are mostly quite young. I take lots of photos trying to get the flags in the air.
After about 20 minutes it is over and they march off loudly back down the corsa.
By this time someone has offered to meet me for a coffee so ,as its's saturday and whatever hurry I was in I am successfully ignoring, I arrange to meet him in the cafe with the lovely view and as he joins me there I am being offered a guided tour of historical basilicata. I really hope this happens as I have seen pitifully little of this area.
Decided I had better have a fruit juice this time as I don't want to be over stimulated . It is a beautiful cafe inside too. There is a balcony on two sides upstairs and a pitched roof with beams. There are lovely old tiles on the floor and a gorgeous antique cupboard right next to where we are sitting.
So after a last stroll up the corsa I go off through the narrow streets to where my scooter is parked. I love scootering in the town, though its neccessary to be alert as you just never know what the other drivers will do. 
What a lovely morning - and now for that red car!
Have added a photo of my flowers outside my door as I am awfully proud that they are still alive. And the three little girls in the drawing thought that if I drew them they would be famous, so I look forward to telling them next time I see them that their drawing has been seen by people from all over the world.

Friday, August 31, 2012

End of August, Hope It's Not The End Of Summer!

I am sitting here at the computer wearing vest, shorts and sandals. The door is open and there is quite a strong breeze blowing the net curtain in and out. My thermometer on the mantlepiece says its 30c in here, so its probably warmer outside. It's after 6pm.
I don't want the summer to end. This year in particular has been so good. I enjoy feeling warm, having to shut the door to keep the midday heat out, sitting outside in the evenings, scootering around in shorts and tee shirt, wakening up to sun streaming in every morning and opening the door, looking up and down the street and smiling at the start of another sunny day.
It is the official end of the Italian summer holidays today and most of the tourists from the north have already left. The town is much quieter than  two weeks ago.
On the beach all the temporary bars will be being taken down and by the end of next week the beach will be deserted apart from a few people who come down with camper vans  and spend September by the  beach. The temperatures should still be good for most people (25c -30c or maybe more.)
In the next few weeks all the people who worked all through August in shops and bars will have a chance to take a holiday. They deserve it , some bars have been open 7 days a week from 6am till  midnight- or so it seemed as they were always open when I passed.
The last two weeks were not uneventful even after the buzz of the feste etc. There have been some bad fires around Pisticci and there was a serious chance that the country house could have been burned. The fire stopped about 200m from the house. Some friends' houses escaped when the fire passed much closer. Most damage has been done to the trees planted on the hills round Pisticci to prevent soil erosion.
It was quite frightening as you can see from the photo I took in the dark of the hill up to Pisticci on fire. Now driving up the road its all black on both sides.
Round by my studio you wouldn't know there had been a fire as it was mainly the other side that was affected.
So maybe next week, when my bottle of fake tan arrives in the post , I will go to the beach. (Am not appearing  without some sort of colour- and I just havent had the time or the inclination to sit or be outside getting brown. Though I did notice my toes are very brown, but that's not enough!)

And if this weather continues then maybe I can stretch summer out for another month.before I have to accept it's over.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Out every night till 2am - film festival and feste 2012

The last official day of the feste was yesterday, but there are still events for at least the next three days, so will get to continue to practise my new skill of staying up till 2am.
What a wonderful month it has been. There has been virtually no rain since June and the temperatures have been above 30c every day (including some days at 45c) so a lot of things happen in the evenings when it is cooler.
August began with fireworks, bells and a brass band at 6am not counting the all night party held round the corner.
Then there was my very first exhibition in Pisticci on the 7th and 8th of August . ( )
And immediately after that the lucania film festival began with 4 days of films from all over the world. This year's special guest was award winning film director Emir Kusturica who spoke about film making to the many film makers from various countries who had come to Pisticci to compete for various prizes and also have a great time meeting people and no doubt enjoying Pisticci in the sun shine. I watched several feature length films, including  one directed by Emir Kusturica called , Black Cat, White Cat. I have ordered a copy with english subtitles as it was dubbed in Italian but was so funny I want to know what i missed. I have never seen anything like it, but would reccomend it . I also loved a film called Father ,Son and Holy Cow.I don't know who made it.
The finale of the film festival was a concert by Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra which was absolutely amazing. Teaching the Pisticcese to swear in english was only one of the many things that happened along with the music. It was great all round entertainment  with a Serbian flavour. You can find  short extracts from other concerts on youtube but you just had to be there in an open air arena with 4000 people all shouting "Fuck you MTV " jumping up and down, laughing, dancing and singing.. Indescribable!!
After that, a hard act to follow, there has been three days of Feste. That includes, processions, brass bands , horses, fireworks, bells, market stalls, thousands of people and at least three different entertainments on every night, from traditional plays, dancing and singing, rock singers, sixties group, accordion group and finally a burlesque performance. (Very funny)
I will have missed out lots but it was almost impossible to go to everything - though i did try! Tonight I am going to another traditional event, tomorrow night there is an italian film night , organised by the film festival and on tuesday night , I think , a classical evening. whew!!
I am the one with the camera and the strange expression.

The feste is best described in photos, though they don't do justice to the incredible noise of people talking and shouting, competing outdoor concerts  and finally fireworks.