Monday, March 30, 2015

a dayful of feelings......

Got up this morning feeling a bit down. No particular reason  I could think of. Didn't have too much to drink the previous evening and had several things organised for the day ahead.
I have found from experience that  the best way to deal with mornings like this is 1. ignore  feelings and  2. do what I feel like as far as possible.
So after breakfast I went out on my scooter to pick up a prescription at the docs. That was my first try. no sign of doctor or prescription.
Went for a coffee.
Back to doctor's. Still no sign of doctor.
Went to hardware shop and bought some paint brushes
Back to doctor's. Waiting room full- no sign of prescriptions which are usually left lying on the table, but the doctor was in her room - with a patient.
Waited another 5 minutes and a good friend came in and we had a nice chat. Decided I would phone and find out about my prescriptions later - but thought it had been worth the effort to meet my friend.
Scootered back to house and met friend to discuss electrics in my new house . Found out all I needed to do was plug in an extension ......DOH!!!!  (Temporary measure but quite ok for the time being.)
Back to studio and had substantial lunch to prepare me for an afternoon of cleaning and painting..... aha  reason for feeling low perhaps......
Then off to artist's retreat to paint ceiling - nothing as simple as flat ceiling but pitched roof with rafters. However thanks to my new sleeping area/upstairs I was able to reach much more of it with a paintbrush and only had to use the extending handle for the middle. It wasn't as bad a job as I had imagined but my dear little house still looked pretty rough when I had finished so I thought i would make a start on putting the furniture back.
It was complicated . In fact it's too complicated to explain  but it had to do with beds and bathroom ceilings.
While standing there wondering what to do one of my neighbours looked in, then another and soon there was an animated discussion going on about where to put what  in which I got the occasional word. But I was offered a coffee and I figured I needed one as I was getting nowhere.
Along with the coffee I got some inspired advice from my neighbour and he offered to help.
What a transformation. To have someone help was great but to have someone who was really good at  arranging interiors - like an artist was downright brilliant.  Halfway through this process we were further inspired by a very nice glass of wine.
I was so relieved and happy and in fact almost emotional. I had secretly been worried that by adding the upstairs I had spoiled the look and the atmosphere and the dimensions of my little house but thanks to Luca It looks amazing. But even more so the few paintings I had there are now displayed in a way that makes me feel proud to be the artist, I didn't know they could look so good.
I think now that it looks even better than before.
By this time I was late for meeting friends for pizza and now its well after 11pm ( late for me) but I have written this  cause I said I would....yawn .... and a few more yawns will surely take it to 500 words.......zzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, March 29, 2015

haphazard holiday hunt.........

Kind of a dumb title maybe but it's fairly accurate.
I have a big birthday this year which I am not looking forward to. Whoever says numbers don't matter is not correct in my opinion. I have been feeling 19 plus experience on the inside for some considerable time. So I know  that  the expression  "you are only as old as you feel" is fair enough but , see, when you write down the numbers- it doesn't work.
 I am having a problem with numbers.
So I decided that I should do something a little adventurous, that I have never done before and go somewhere by myself  for this birthday. (possibly trying to prove to myself that life does not stop at ??, but perhaps lots of adventurous holidays ??.)
My first choice was a break in  Copenhagen. I think I wanted to go there because of the little mermaid story. I also read  that it is a very safe place. And it looks very beautiful. Friends have said that the Danish people are lovely too. So that was my plan and I looked for places to stay, lots of possibilities. And then I looked at flights - and I even looked at traveling all the way by train.
And then I bought a pellet stove for my artist's retreat ........then a sleeping platform... and a washing machine......and I thought - maybe next year.
Next big plan was to find somewhere in Italy that I would really like to visit. I could have gone to Florence again (I love Florence) or I could have gone to Lecce - the Florence of the south and considerably nearer. I toyed with going to Sicily  or the Amalfi coast. All good ideas - and I checked trains and hotels and B and Bs and different dates. But I didn't book anything.
Then one day when I wasn't really thinking about it it popped into my head- what I had always wanted to do was explore Basilicata- where I live. Because I don't drive and a scooter is not so good for longer distances I have rarely been anywhere.Two or three times I have gone exploring with an artist friend and I have treasured these times. To live in an area like this and never go anywhere is just plain frustrating.
Buses are not very plentiful and worse; the timetables are non existent. What is on the internet - is mostly incorrect and so it is only recently that I have begun to get a little more confident with buses. (You need to ask at the bus station and cross your fingers.)
It would be an adventure indeed to explore Basilicata by bus. I would need to stay overnight as it would probably take me all day to get very far. I wanted to go north.I didn't really know where I wanted to go so I started with Bella which is actually a town north of Potenza- for no better reason than  having chosen years ago my internet name Bellabasilicata (beautiful basilicata) I thought it would be fun to go there and be Bellabasilicata in Bella, Basilicata. (I had no idea previously that there was a town called Bella.)
Then I had read a book about Tricarico  (Torregreca) so that was another place I thought I would have some connection with. Then when I first came here I read "Christ stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi so I could also go to Aliano.
I got on the internet and could find no guesthouses, rooms or hotels in any of these places. I checked site after site and then I started to look at neighbouring towns . (Not having a car or expectation of regular buses it would have been best to stay in these towns rather than attempt to visit.) So I widened the search and checked for accommodation in towns and found two possibilities. On looking through the photos advertising one of them there was a photo of a lovely little village called Sasso di Castaldo which must have been a local place to visit. I kept on looking at more places in the same area and then noticed that there was actually a place in Sasso di Caldo at a very affordable price. I clicked on it and there it was - my holiday  destination.
Il rifugio stellata (the starry refuge) It sounds and looks amazing.
I pressed the "book" button and  for my birthday this year I will be in Sasso di Caldo , exploring the beautiful scenery, enjoying a new experience of another village, meeting some animals, painting  and celebrating the fact that i have lived this long. (fingers crossed)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

whoopee... another booking in artist's retreat.......

Funny how something can completely change the way you are feeling- or at least that happens with me. It has been , shall we say, a challenging week.
My artist's retreat , ( a little house I bought and am hoping to encourage artists, writers and anyone who wants some time out  to use.) has been getting  a sleeping area put in. It is a one roomed house like a lot of the houses here and I thought that it would make good use of the space to add an upstairs and put the bed there - leaving more room for living in the downstairs. It was a big decision as I really liked the high ceiling and the space there was.
However , although it is not quite finished and its difficult to imagine it downstairs while all my furniture is piled in a heap at the back, the upstairs is beautiful. I think  with a bit of judicious arranging of the bed that there will be room to sit upstairs and in fact if I was living there I would be painting upstairs. There is a cute little window with views across the  rooftops to the sea. The wall was stripped back to the stone and I can easily imagine sitting up there reading or writing or painting.
Like any work it has been a bit stressful with a few unexpected problems needing dealt with. These are all  fixed now I hope.  However until it is completely finished I won't know exactly how it is going to work out and what might need changed. I have measured where I think the bed might fit but frankly have no confidence in my measuring. I usually need to actually put something somewhere to see if it will work. My next guest should arrive in about a week so I will be busy.
Then I have also been struggling to come up with an idea for a painting for an exhibition in the summer. I am not too keen on the theme but I would like to be in the exhibition so have spent ages on the computer this morning researching the subject and getting more and more fed up.
I want also to paint a picture to fit in the space above the door in my artist's retreat- this will solve one of the unexpected problems I hope , but I have no canvases or wood to fit the space. Once I had measured it I thought I would just hunt around in my studio and find a large board I could cut to size - but I don't have anything big enough. This would not be a problem if I had a car but large boards and buses don't go well together.
So I had a break.  Got on with reading the next Inspector Montalbano book and had a cup of tea.
Then my phone beeped - and I have another booking. for my retreat!
What a mood lifter!
I went back on the computer and found an image I hadn't noticed  before which I can use part of to start building up a composition.
And it's now occurred to me that I could get the man in the hardware shop to cut a bit of wood for me or sell me some hardboard which I can cut myself. (I can easily carry it through the town)
All sorted then for today .... and that should be about 500 words I think....

Friday, March 27, 2015

A rainy day off... and how I can't eat like an Italian

I shouldn't really have a glass of wine at lunch time if I want to do anything else in the afternoon but when the rain is pouring down outside and you are in a little trattoria where famous people have occasionally eaten - so it is said - then it's a bit hard not to have a glass along with a plate of  mushed up beans and some dark green vegetable.
I think the dish is called fave e verdure (beans and veg) . It loses something in the translation it is true but it tastes really good and I get to feel like I am doing a good thing for myself by  choosing this. Not that I exactly chose it- more agreed with the waitress/owner's recommendation. It's a complicated situation
Eating out in Italy has almost always led to me feeling like I am a sad failure.
And today was no different.
I don't know what it's like in other parts of Italy but down where we are lunches are big- in general.
Theoretically one would begin with antipasti which could include up to a dozen different small dishes. It could be vegetables, hams, cheeses, fish- lots of variations and I love antipasti because trying lots of different things is great- like a buffet. But that is only the first course so I rarely have antipasti because its too embarrassing  to finish with the starter.
Then there is the primo  ( first course) That would be pasta or rice and something. I love this course too. one of my favourites is pasta arrabiata  which I once saw translated as "pasta to the angry"   Its really hot and spicy and makes me laugh when I remember the name.  Or lasagne is one of the primo dishes. I had a very delicious  pasta course last week in Scanzano with sausage and various other things. In this restaurant they have a gorgeous selection of antipasti which you help yourself to, but I have to decide which course to have as I have tried to eat both but I just can't. At least in this particular restaurant they know us and are resigned to the fact that we don't eat "right".
Then there is the secondo. That is usually meat, or fish served on its own so you need to order separately a salad or patatine fritte.(chips)  Sometimes this looks so delicious . There might be a choice of meats or sausages or various types of fish. I have once had  a secondo- while missing out antipasti and the pasta course.
Then there is a sweet course. And Italian sweets are wonderful.
That would be followed by coffee and a digestivo.( like limoncello or amaro lucano or grappa)
And that is a sort of basic meal- all of that!
Scottish friends, visiting ,went to Aliano to see the town where Carlo Levi lived and when they asked if there was anywhere to eat they were shown to a back street and ushered into a large room where it looked like half the town was dining. There was no menu. And there were nine courses. I have always wanted to visit Aliano but I was glad to have missed this.
I am reading the Inspector Montalbano mysteries just now and food is so important in these stories.
Everybody here talks about food. Hearing teenagers in a supermarket discussing what they are having for lunch and how it is being cooked is so strange...
So back to the trattoria in Bernalda where the lovely lady who served us was so nice and offered us so many lovely dishes and I hated to disappoint her but ...... I just can't eat like an Italian.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 1 of 500 words a day for 31 days- a cure for perfectionism???

I am taking this seriously - but I have 40 minutes to rattle on and write 500 words before a client arrives to look at paintings.
If my Italian was better then I would know who it was that was going to be arriving and if they had been before... I sometimes think that the reason I find life so exciting in Pisticci is that a lot of the time  I have no idea what is going on. I understand enough to know that there is someone coming  and that they want to look at paintings but I am not so good on the phone  and the rest of the conversation ( other than the time) went over my head. However  this is normal for me.
I used to get very anxious - especially when I understood even less- but most of the time as long as I turned up everything got sorted out.
Being a painter is a pretty good thing when your language skills are a bit lacking . (Not that I haven't tried, really!) But at least a painting is what it is. I know the words for canvas, acrylic and oils etc and portrait and so with a lot of smiling and pointing , generally we reach an understanding.
The only problem I have had twice lately is when I have painted the wrong scene. In future I am going to get the person to show me exactly what ,or which house they want painted. I completely misunderstood someone's directions.
As this is me trying to cure my perfectionism then I am not going to get too precious about what I am writing about - and I think that probably it will be more fun to read if I am  more random. And random is a good word to describe life here.
I have had such a lovely afternoon all by chance....I had just answered the aforementioned phone call in my artist's retreat where I had been  measuring stuff and planning where to put things when I do my big tidy up next week.
I heard some friends outside  and invited them in to see what had been done in the house.
Ten minutes later I was still there, drinking grappa (not mine) and realising that the first and only glass of grappa I had drunk in Italy (home made) was nothing like this and I have been missing out for the last ten years.
This led on to a discussion on houses, prices and life  and coffee next door  served in the most exquisite little cups  and I was having such a good time I was left with only 40 minutes to get this written for today.
I had decided that to do this in a fresh manner -I wanted to write about something that happened or was important to me that day- so I would need to write later in the day - and not first thing in the morning as I have done before. This time of day is usually free so....... see you tomorrow around the same time with more random thoughts in Pisticci.