Posts Tagged With: art

Uncovering Italy’s lakes, my time on the big stage and fun in A&E…

Buongiorno a tutti,

Greetings all! How are you? Where has the summer gone?! There’s definitely a chill in the air here at night these days. I’m hoping it’s an anomaly and it’ll go back to being warm again tomorrow. I’ve had an eventful few weeks – highlights include lakes, opera and A&E! I’ll start off with the good bits…

Lago di Scanno

I went to Lago di Scanno back in April/May and had a great time. I wrote up a blog about it which I never got around to posting but I’ll do that in a week or two as it’s a lovely place to visit. Meanwhile these are a couple of my favourite photos from that trip…

 

Lago di Trasimeno

Next up on the tour of local lakes, myself and my family who were over for a couple of weeks went to Lago di Trasimeno, Umbria. I’m used to sleepy towns and villages but Lago di Trasimeno was busy, particularly in the evenings with lots of nightlife. There are ferries which take you to the islands in the middle of the lake: we went to the only inhabited island in the lake called ‘Isola Maggiore’ for a wander around and some lunch. It’s very pretty. The lake wasn’t very enticing for swimming which was a shame but there are lots of little villages around the lake to visit. Castiglione del Lago was particularly nice with a castle to investigate too and even an open-air cinema if you’re there in the evenings.

 

Lago di Piediluco

Lago di Piediluco has been my final new lake this year. That was much more pleasant to swim in, though it seems to be relatively frowned upon by the lifeguards that kept whistling at me to come back every time I got more than 3 meters out from the shore. Italians are very anti lake swimming and I haven’t really established why; the most valid concern seems to be the presence of eddies that can suck you down into the lake. I haven’t actually seen or read of any evidence of this in the local lakes to back this up but one poor  23yr old died a week or two back swimming in Lake Fiastra which has somewhat dented my argument that they’re perfectly safe. There’s been no explanation as to what happened so the mystery continues. Anyway, apart from swimming in the lake, there are lots of lovely places around Piediluco to visit. We went to Narni (CS Lewis based the name of Narnia on this town, though it has no other similaries!),  Leonessa (very quaint but a bit too patriotic for my liking – Italian flags were plastered everywhere and I felt a bit like an intruder!) and if it’s definitely worth seeing the Marmore Waterfalls, Cascate delle Marmore (the highest of which is the biggest man-made waterfall in the world at 165 meters). Unfortunately I couldn’t visit the waterfalls this time but have a look at an earlier post about them here for photos.

Walks

I’ve been on some lovely walks this year too using Cicerone’s Sibillini National Park Guidebook. I’m hoping to write up some of the walks for their blog. It’s been a bit of a challenge going for walks here this year to be honest. Many of the walks, refuges or routes are still damaged from the earthquakes in 2016. However, things are getting repaired, albeit at a snail’s pace. There’s still plenty of walks to go on and even where paths have been closed, there are sometimes other routes. Here are some photos from some of the walks…

Castelluccio

Monte Priore

Cascate dell’Acquasanta

Cascate dell’Acquasanta – just before this the several meters of path had fallen away due to the earthquake so the path is closed. I *may* have bypassed the fallen path.

Towards Forca di Presta and Monte Vettore…

 

Opera

This year I have been performing in the opera on the very big Sferisterio stage at an amphitheater in Macerata. The production was “The Magic Flute” directed by Graham Vick, an English director. It’s been quite a roller-coaster this opera experience, I must say. I’m still not sure what I think of it all!

It’s worth noting, that I don’t like opera. What other form of entertainment requires you to have subtitles to follow what’s going on and even then, half the time it’s still a mystery?! I’ve seen a handful of opera’s now and apart from one or two ‘arias’ in some of the well-known operas, as far as I can tell, there’s no discernible melody to hardly any of them. Contrast that with a good musical like Les Miserable where all the songs are immediately catchy, you can hear the words clearly and you don’t have to stop and ask your Opera-buddy what’s going on all the time… for me there’s no contest! Anyway, I do really appreciate the skill of the singers but all in all, opera is not my cup of tea. Having said all that, I go to the opera most years regardless because a) our local city, Macerata, hosts one of the biggest opera festivals in Europe every year b) I love dressing up and c) just to double check that I still don’t like it.

So what was I actually doing in the opera? My friend heard they were looking for extras and wanted to be in it and wanted me to do it with her. It’s rare I say no to something that seems like it could possibly be fun so I signed up. There were 80 or so extras and our mission was to do various things on stage to build on the storyline.

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This is the Sferisterio – isn’t it spectacular?!

All in all, I’m glad I did it. Being up on the stage at the Sferisterio is something to behold and it’s not something I’ll forget in a hurry. I met some lovely people that have become friends and who I’d never have met otherwise. It was also great being part of such a big production. The director and his team are well-known in the world of opera and it was interesting to see how they work and see the opera develop. I really liked the production itself – it’s a shame I haven’t actually seen it myself but from the outskirts and behind the scenes it had all the components of a good show – funny, sexy, there were goodies, baddies, bombs, fireworks. As opera’s go, I think I might have enjoyed our one. It certainly got some attention, even in the English newspapers. It turns out our version of the Magic Flute is like marmite – you either love it or hate it.

However, it did have it’s challenging side! In total it was 150 hours of time over a period of 2 months, 45 hours in the car (half of which was down lonely windy roads well past midnight), £££’s petrol and meals out in-between breaks. I’ve driven 30,000 km since the beginning of May. My mechanic thought I was some sort of agent travelling across country for business.  I missed out on every festa and almost every gathering of friends and family this year and I’ve been riddled with colds and bad backs which I think can probably be put down to the lack of sleep and lack of recovery time!  Which leads me onto…

Accident & Emergency Fun

So on the bad back front, I had my first experience of Italian A&E last week. In January, I sneezed whilst carrying some wood and I hurt my back. It never got better; it just goes through phases of being bad and bearable but it never stopped me doing anything so I largely ignored it apart from moaning to friends and family. A month or two ago I went for a walk up our second highest mountain, Monte Priore and since then it got a lot worse. An x-ray confirmed it was arthritis and a reduced gap between some of my bones. I needed an MRI to get a diagnosis but before I could get one done, I woke up with agonising shooting pains down my leg and couldn’t get out of bed without collapsing in a screaming heap. In the end I was whisked to hospital in an ambulance. Anyway to cut a long story short, I probably have a herniated disc. I’m awaiting some MRI results. I’m not in any pain anymore but then again, I can’t really feel my leg much! Much to my frustration I walk like a very slow robot and teeter on slopes. I do very much hope to be back walking in the mountains soon.

On the plus side of all this, it’s been really heart-warming to see how many people care 🙂 Without my family here and an inability to move, things could have been a lot more challenging but all my friends have really rallied around to make sure I’m alright and have everything I need. If any of you are reading this, I can’t thank you enough!

Painting

I’ve not been doing anywhere near the amount of painting that I’d like to be doing! I had grand plans to produce a calendar, gift certificates, postcards etc. I exhibited some of my paintings earlier in the year at a festival in Sant’Angelo in Pontano and sold a few paintings to some friends recently so in that sense it’s been successful! I was hoping to do a workshop in conjunction with a lovely local B&B called Il Picchio Verde in Sant’Angelo in Pontano, however I think that might need to be next year now following a rather busy summer! I might have an opportunity to sell some paintings at the Montefalcone Sapori d’Autunno festival in October though so fingers crossed!

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This was at Cupra Marittima a few weeks back during a weekly art group excursion.

There’s not much other news to report. I’ve moved out of ‘home’ for a couple of weeks (nothing is happening on my home in terms of rebuilding work or an alternative flat which I was told would be available back in Spring!) or so whilst they’re doing some work so I’m staying nearer the coast. It’s another new area so new places to visit! I’m down to the Amalfi coast in a couple of days too for a week so I’ll report back on that soon. Meanwhile, I hope you are all well!

x

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Artwork, weeds and travels…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? It’s been a busy month or so here and yet another mixed bag.

To get the bad news over and done with first, there’s been yet another loss in my family, another Uncle. He used to read all my blog posts and keep tabs on me from afar and I shall miss him greatly. I think one of the biggest challenges to being an ex-pat is when things like this happen. Living in another country away from your family is difficult – grieving is better done together so I’ve been back over in the UK for a bit.

On a positive note, the weather has really started to pick up in Italy and it’s been lovely to spend a bit of time in the garden again. I’ve even been attempting to hone my (entirely non-existent) gardening skills. I’ve discovered that weeding is surprisingly relaxing (even though my current level of expertise leaves me unsure of what is and isn’t a weed). Somewhat linked to that, I went to a fabulous event in Urbisaglia hosted by Il Salto which showed us how to identify wild plants primarily for the purposes of eating or even medicinal use. It was one of the first nice days of the year and it was a really good group so we had a lot of fun and learnt a lot. They run a few similar events and I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone in the area interested in that kind of thing.

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We collected our wild plants, then had a lovely buffet lunch which everyone had contributed to and then went to the local library to identify our plants and learn more about them. Alas, at that point, they were a little dead looking.

I’ve also been out and about on a few trips…

Rome

I do love Rome. It’s one of my favourite cities. There’s just so much to see and there’s such an eclectic mix between old, really really old and new. It’s an artist’s paradise – one could never be bored and certainly I wasn’t when I was there and managed to squeeze in a few sketches. I’ve discovered it has my favourite shop in the world too – an art shop near the Pantheon. I could probably have spent the entire 3 days just in there! Here are a few of my quick sketches to make a change from showing you photos…

Venice

I also went to Venice to meet up with a friend. It was just a short trip – less than a day really but I got to see a new part of Venice for me (near the Biennale Gardens). It feels like we uncovered the “real” Venice rather than just the tourist area. Venice is such a stunning city that it sort of overwhelms the senses. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called Liassidi Palace in the centre overlooking one of the canals so it really was a special trip all in all.

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View from our hotel window!

Art Update

I have some paintings up at the gym on display – I’m feeling quite famous every time I head to the changing rooms. I might put some portraits up there too in the next month if they’ll let me to see if I can get any commissions. I’m quite keen to do pet portraits but I’ve lost a bit of momentum on that in the last few months with one thing or the other. I have entered a couple of painting competitions but haven’t had a great deal of success so far but fingers crossed for a future one.  I painted this one below for the SAA Alive & Kicking competition (here’s a link if you want to browse my competition!)…

alive and kicking

A life drawing class has just started as well which I’m enjoying. It’s a combined class with younger Italian students and English ex-pats. This was a quick watercolour sketch done in the last class.

Life Drawing

I had some success this month on the photography front and won a prize for being one of the winners in a Touring Club Italia photographic competition – have a look here to see my photo. I’ve won a weekend away for two somewhere yet to be confirmed! I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I’m thrilled to announce I’m a gold medalist swimmer! GOLD! (Yes, admittedly there were only two people in my category for that particular race but still, that’s just  a petty detail). I did quite badly really – my nose clip came off after the first length and I spent the following three lengths drowning. I did manage to beat my personal best in a competitive race though (it being my second gala ever that wasn’t particularly difficult either). Technically, all I need to do is not drown quite so much in the next race and I should beat my latest personal best too.

I think that’s it from my side. I wish you all a good week or two.

x

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Exhibitions, physical exertion and singing…

Buongiorno a tutti,

Apologies it’s been such a long time between posts again! I hope you’ve all been well.

It’s been a bit of a sparse year on the blog post front, I know. I struggled at the beginning of the year. It was all a bit of an upheaval after the earthquakes which were still going on and then with headaches and my cats dying, I lost the will to write! Things have certainly picked up again now and I’m back into a routine. In fact there are so many bits and pieces to update on it’s difficult to know where to start which is the other reason for the delay! I do miss writing though and I  particularly miss the photography side as it’s become apparent that the blog is the main reason why I’m motivated to try and take good photos. So this post will be a relatively brief one to catch you up with the latest and then I hope to get back to being a bit more frequent after Christmas.

So here goes…

The House

There’s good news and bad news on this front. The bad news is that nothing at all is happening in the reconstruction of my house. The good news is that I shall be getting a flat in Sarnano courtesy of the government until my house is rebuilt (in 2089?).  It’s a new-build and won’t be ready until Spring 2018 (but this is Italy so add on a few months/years/millennia). I’ve had a lovely summer staying in the house of my friends near Servigliano and they’ve very kindly said that they’re happy for me to stay on there for a bit longer (thank you A&R!). From going from no house to two house possibilities is an excellent dilemma to have. I do miss Sarnano – it still feels like going back “home” when I visit. However, the flat there is on the 3rd floor in a block surrounded by lots of other blocks which isn’t really an ideal living situation for me or the cats! I’ll see how things go in the new year. However, it’s such a big relief that I’ll at least have somewhere I can  put furniture and things that are still in my old/falling down house and somewhere that’s “mine” again on a more permanent-temporary basis!

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The view from the house isn’t too bad!

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And now there’s quite a bit of snow…

In other news I’ve been….

Swimming

I’ve joined a swimming club at my local gym/swimming pool. My fellow swimming buddies are a lovely bunch and we had a good time at my first swimming meet (why are they called ‘meets’ when it’s a race? It was so chaotic, I barely met my own team, let alone anyone else!). I was initially very nervous about racing. I swim fast compared to the average swimmer in the pool but I certainly don’t ‘race’. Physical exertion has never particularly appealed to me and all of the sports I’ve done to date I’ve always been able to do at my own pace really.  I imagined my races (50m and 100m backstroke) would be quite humiliating not even really knowing what time I could do them in, let alone what a respectable time is.  However, I held my own and came 3rd in both of my races (out of 4 but who’s counting!) and actually nobody was watching (even my instructor!) so there wasn’t the slightest bit of pressure.

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Osimo, the location of my first swimming meet!

The only time anyone pays any attention is for the really speedy swimmers so really, I’m quite happy with my distinctly average speed. It’s nice to have a personal best to beat. The next race is in February. I’ve been practicing the physical exertion thing and I can almost do 100m without needing to be resuscitated. Almost.

And then….

Choir

I’ve joined a choir! I saw this particular choir in the summer and I thought they were great.

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This is them!

A couple of my aunties and friends are in choirs and they’ve inspired me to give it a go. I didn’t think they’d want me – my Italian accent is poor (it sounds authentic to another English person but the Italian’s take the micky out of me saying I sound like Laurel and Hardy. It turns out the Laurel  and Hardy films are quite popular here. They’ve dubbed them into Italian but given them ridiculous English accents. That’s apparently what I sound like). However, they were pleased to have me as they’ve been singing English Christmas songs. It’s nice to get back at the Italians by constantly correcting their pronunciation of “the” (it’s not “duh”) and “virgin” (it’s not “veergin”) and “thou” (it’s not “dow”)! We had our first concert this week at a church and apparently we sounded alright! The next one is on Saturday.

The only downside with the choir (and it seems all choirs everywhere in Italy) is that rehearsals start at 9.30pm and by the time we’ve finished singing and I’ve got home, I’m completely wired and unable to get any of the songs out of my head! I find myself having to turn the radio on at 3am just to listen to something that’s not about ‘duh veergin Mary’.

And then perhaps in my most exciting news…

Exhibitions!

I’m thrilled to say I think I can legitimately call myself at “artist”. My self-imposed definition for artist is to have sold paintings to random people and I have! There was no coercion, nobody was obligated to buy my paintings or say they were good so I’m chuffed to bits really.  It’s been very satisfying. The first exhibition was earlier in the year which was in conjunction with a few other local artists, mainly Italian. My art group booked the same space for a couple of weeks this December. We’ve had quite a few visitors and we’ve sold some paintings. I’ve also agreed with my gym that after the exhibition I can put up some paintings there too which will be a great opportunity to show some of my paintings. I’ve been focusing more on pet portraits lately and I’ve been trying to get a website together with a view to selling things on a wider scale. If you’re in the area, then we’re still open until the 17th December 2017 so come and see us.

 

So all in all, it’s been a busy few months but they’re the main things to report back on!

I’ll write more in the new year but meanwhile, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! 🙂

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Painting Occasionally…

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well! I’m utterly terrified to announce I have created a new blog called ‘A Painting Occasionally‘. I’ve spent a lifetime wanting to be an ‘artist’ and yet, I’ve been too much of a wimp to show anyone my work. To  be honest, the website still needs some fine tuning but if I delay anymore it just wont ever happen!

Due to the earthquake, I’ve had to move to a new apartment. It’s going well and I’ll update in the next few days but one of the positives to come out of it all is having a new artist buddy / landlord on hand to go on field trips with and having a lovely new area to explore.

So the blog is really just a way of charting my progress and hopefully motivating me to improve. I’m still trying to find my style and getting used to new mediums. At the moment I’m in a watercolour phase which is surprisingly tricky!

Anyway, this is just a quick update to point you to the new blog and if you want to receive painting updates, please ‘follow me‘ on that blog.

x

 

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Touring Forli…

Buongiorno a tutti!

I’ve been on a Blog Tour! Never heard of one of those? Neither had I until a month or so ago when I was invited along as part of a tour by Romagna Fulltime and the Camera di Commercio di Forlì to explore the city of Forlì (note the accented “i” which means you pronounce it Forleee!). There were only seven  other fellow bloggers here with me so I felt thoroughly honoured to be invited along. As it turns out I’ve been following some of these bloggers for years so it was lovely to meet them in person and I’m thrilled to have discovered some new blogs too. We were a diverse bunch, each with  our own individual perspectives. My fellow bloggers are experts in art, history, wine, food and architecture and then there’s me of course, more of a jack of all trades and master of none!!!!!!!!! Anyway, to hear what the others have to say about Forlì, check out these blogs:

As a bit of background, Forlì is a city in Emilia-Romagna (the next region to the north of Le Marche where I live). It’s a nice city. It doesn’t have the grandeur of places like Rome and it’s definitely not quaint. In fact, the city initially has a bit of a utilitarian feel to me. From a purely superficial standpoint it would be easy to overlook Forlì because of that, but don’t! It’s interesting BECAUSE of that. It’s the architecture, and the history behind it that sets it apart from other Italian cities and makes it well worth a visit. Apart from the cultural and architectural aspects, the town authorities are passionate about Forlì as a base for art and exhibitions. I visited Forli for the first time earlier this year to see an exhibition of one of my favourite artists Giovanni Boldini, an absolutely amazing portrait painter from Ferrara (one of the nearby towns). It was an excellent exhibition so I was already somewhat pre-dispositioned to like Forlì  from an artistic perspective anyway.  However, we had a whirlwind tour of three other exhibitions (some of which served to further my  confidence in my own artistic abilities!) and it’s only added to my esteem in that regard.

As an aside, if I’ve got any of the information in this blog wrong, then it’s entirely my fault. The talks and the Guides were excellent but my Italian translation skills at speed, particularly after wine and massive meals sometimes leave a little to be desired!

Anyway, here are some photos taken around the town…

 

 

Architecture – Fascist and otherwise

We had a very interesting walking tour from Bernadette, our guide, focusing on the architectural side of the city. If you want to do this yourself, everything is in very easy walking distance of the center and there are lots of maps to help you find your way at the Information Tourist Office.

Mussolini, the Italian Dictator, was born 15km away from Forlì in a town called Predappio. I don’t think this was adequately impressive enough as a town in its own right so Forlì took on the role of being his more public “home”. It was an important place for him and his regime and there are a lot of reminders of that around the city . There are a lot of people who like Mussolini in Italy, including most of my neighbours. We learnt about him in school in the UK, none of it particularly good, so it was a surprise coming to Italy and hearing about how many still to hold him in such high regard. However, in Forlì, I can see why people might have liked him and still do. There were vast parts of Emilia-Romagna completely under-developed and covered in bogs. Mussolini extended railway networks, built schools and housing and developed industries on otherwise unused land.

My favourite part of the tour though was a stop off in what is now a school but previously, was the ex Collegio Aeronautico (Aeronautical College, Piazzale della Vittoria). A series of black and white mosaics cover the walls and show the history of air travel from start to finish (well, not quite  “finish”, things have carried on a bit since then). It was fascinating! Click on the images for more information…

If you’re interested in Fascist Architecture, then check out the Atrium Route. It’s a tourist itinerary connecting several countries in Europe which have cultural heritage of different totalitarian regimes. Forlì is on the route, as is Predappio (Mussolini’s hometown). The pack we received as part of the tour is pretty extensive and comes with information cards for each of the main sites. I’ll be keeping it in mind if I venture further afield.

Though there was a focus on the Fascist architecture on the tour, actually for me, of note are the number of houses that have frescos just beneath the roofs, all with different designs. Really quite pretty. You don’t see that in my area!

The Verzocchi Collection at Palazzo Romagnoli

This exhibition was in Palazzo Romagnoli, an interesting building in itself with frescos on almost all of the ceilings. It’s a nice place to wander around. Verzocchi was Forlivese (meaning someone that comes from Forlì) and an entrepreneur. He commissioned paintings with the theme of “Work”. There are about seventy all in all and they show not just a slice of history in terms of the type of work back in those days, but also the style of paintings. They all had his brand “V&D” painted into the picture, usually on a brick. It’s quite a challenge to find some of them! My thoughts on this exhibition? I really like the idea that this entrepreneur requested paintings from people with only two criteria – the theme and the brand. There should be more of that! From a wanna-be-artist perspective, I found this collection an odd mix of inspiring and frustrating. I’ve included below three of the ones I found most inspiring/frustrating with  my rationale.

So, in summary, I’m always worried to present myself as an “artist” but no more; if these guys can get away with it, so can I (and now you can see perhaps why I’m not a famous art critic). On a separate note, there’s little information about this collection online. If you’re interested, visit!

Afro, Pensieri nella mano at Musei San Domenico

This building is ideal for exhibitions. It’s a converted ex-convent and where I saw the Giovvani Boldini exhibition a few months back. Currently the downstairs is dedicated to the works of Afro Basaldella, an Italian painter  (1912 – 1976). Afro seemed to do a bit of everything; painting, tapestry, jewellry makingand printing.

His works are a bit too abstract for my liking but I appreciate his diversifying into different mediums!

Steve McCurry at Musei San Domenico

Now this was spectacular. I suspect many of you will know some of his most famous photos, even if you didn’t know his name. The exhibition is entitled “Icons and Women” and is a photo journal of his time travelling the world. His photos are amazing. The subject matter, the composition, the photos themselves… they’re just absolutely stunning, each and every one. Our guide was very knowledgeable and was able to recount the stories behind many of the photos making it even more interesting. The exhibition is breath-taking. I thoroughly recommend going!

The next exhibition at the San Domenico Museo is dedicated to Piero della Francesca, Indagine di un Mito (Investigating a Myth) from the 13th February 2016. We had a sneak peak at some of the paintings (or at least, photos of the paintings) that would be included in the exhibition and there are some I recognised from other exhibitions in the area. I think my favourite painting of his is of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. I always thought with portraits that you’re supposed to paint your subject with an element of flattery. Poor Duke. Piero must have been a brave man. Anyway, it’s an interesting style of portrait. You don’t often see portraits in full profile and the vast background makes it pretty unique. I’m hoping to go back to Forlì to see the rest of the exhibition.

Duke

Churches

My neighbour has drilled it into me that I must visit every church I come acrosss. I did my duty in Forli. Evidence included below.

She often tells me that the churches are where most of the artistic masterpieces are and she’s right. This is my new favourite statue…

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Where better place to keep your creepy looking lion?

 

Where to eat

As part of the tour we ate at a couple of restaurants. On the first night we went to Salume’.  It’s highly rated on TripAdvisor and I can see why. The food was great. They had some good vegetarian options too and a massive selection of wine it seemed. The service was good and the restaurant stylish and intimate. The mascarpone cream desert was gooooooood.

The next day we had lunch in Eataly, a chain of restaurants and seller of Italian food products. The Eataly in Forlì is the first one I’ve come across but there are others around Italy too. It was in a superb location, in the main square (Piazza Saffi) and there are great views from the piazza from the third floor where the restaurant is.

Where to stay

We were based in Hotel Massini which is a minute or so walk from the main piazza so very central. The service was good. They didn’t even complain when I forgot to check out!

Travelling around

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It’s easy to get around the center in Forli just on foot but there are bikes to hire if you’d like and if you want to go further afield, there are buses and good train links to the local area.

Summary

All in all, it was an interesting couple of days and I’d certainly recommend a visit. If you’re coming from outside the area then it would be easy to combine it with a tour taking in Ravenna (click here for my review of Ravenna!), Rimini, San Leo and San Marino (I went to those in one fell swoop – read about it here). There’s even a Romagna Visit Card which will allow you to get into some of the main sites at a discount or for free.

Finally, something that made me chuckle (but not the woman at the stall)…

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Forli is the only place I know of where you can buy wallets made of man skin (ok, OK, I can see that perhaps the more likely translation is that these wallets are made out of leather and are for men but I prefer my version!).

If you have any questions on Forli, or if I’ve made any heinous errors, or if you’d like to  invite me on a Blog Tour (I would like to make it clear that I’m available to travel abroad too… the Maldives, the Bahamas…), then please get in touch!

Have good weeks all,

x

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Welcoming committee, driving traumas and course enrollment!

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well. I made it back in one piece! It’s been lovely 🙂 I’m back to wearing vest tops rather than jumpers!!!

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Sarnano looking sunny 🙂

Car rental trials and tribulations

I hired a car from Ancona airport. ‘Budget’ cars seem to offer the best deal so much so that there was absolutely nobody at any other car hire place and a massive queue for Budget. The others should up their game (or help out Budget so people don’t have to queue for hours).

In the UK our steering wheels are on the right hand side. In Europe and everywhere else pretty much, steering wheels are on the left. So I was a bit nervous about this and driving a new type of car as well but really, it’s only been mildly traumatic. I hit the window each time I want to change gears and I feel less comfortable being on that side for other reasons too – given the Italian’s have a penchant for driving at speed in the middle of the road, me physically being on the pavement side of the car used to feel safer (in the event of a crash, hopefully they’d just take out my passenger. Phew.)  Also, I suspect I might have been scathing in the past about how Italians sometimes just park basically where they are, rather than at the side of the road. But mystery solved! It’s quite difficult for some reason parking when controlling it from the left-hand side. I think me, the cars behind and all the onlookers were all thrilled today when I eventually managed to parallel park in the tiniest space imaginable in a car that seems to have blind spots in almost all directions. I am about as quick and reactive as a sloth. I wish there was a “Learner” style sign for people trying to work out how to drive new cars and on the wrong side. I can’t even point to my trusty old GB sticker by way of explanation.

House and feline welcoming committee

It’s been lovely catching up with the neighbours. I’ve been duly provided with eggs from the chickens next door, celery, herbs, several jars of preserved tomatoes, onions, grapes, peppers, courgettes… I hardly needed to go to the supermarket. I do have the best neighbours of all time.

Batfink the cat was here to welcome me when I arrived! He was very sweet and didn’t leave my side all day and meowed incessantly wanting to sit on my lap whenever I sat down for a second. Before I left for the UK he seemed to be having a thing with his auntie (despite frequent lectures on what’s right and wrong) and had almost ditched me entirely but I think they’ve fallen out because I seem to be his favourite again. He’s turned into a bit of a grumpy old man. I think he’s been emotionally scarred by the kittens who are naughtiness epitomized. To be honest, I think I will be scarred soon too.

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Batfink with a kitten sneaking into the background.

Every time I open my door, Batfink comes in followed quickly by 4 kittens, Batfink’s ex/aunty, his mother and his father. Eight flea-bags is just too much. So I shoo the cats out, and the adult cats go. But the kittens remain. Nothing at all scares these kittens. So I pick up a kitten in each hand and put them outside, close the door and then go to get the remaining kittens. I pick up those kittens and as soon as I open the door to put them out, the other two kittens come in. So I close the door to get the other two kittens. Guess what happens when I put the other two kittens out? Yes, kittens number three and four come in. It’s relentless kitten removal. I’ve had to resort to using the handheld kittens as sort of bowling balls to knock the others out of the way so I have enough time to close the door.

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Sometimes, they all manage to squeeze onto my front door mat. So from left to right: Pellosina (“Hairy”, Batfink’s Aunt/Ex), Felixa (I’ve dubbed her this, I don’t think she’s been named), Scaredycat, Naughtiness, Batfink, Grigia (“Grey”, not particularly imaginative name but this is Batfink’s aunt), Neve (“Snow”, Batfink’s dad. They hate each other), Sole (“Sun”, or Naughtiness 2). I could write a book on the life of these cats. There’s everything you could ever want in a story: forbidden love, fights, illicit children, the devastating effects of favouritism, bullying… If I wrote it without people knowing they were cats perhaps people would even read it (maybe that could be an incredibly unsatisfying final revelation/ twist at the end)

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The kittens are more persistent than even the most frustrating cold callers. I’m going to have to start exiting the building from a window.

I was also welcomed by a giant scorpion, a massive spider occupying most of the terrace, and several dried up ants. They were less cute but expected nonetheless.

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This spider is roughly 5 foot by 8 foot. I’m too scared to even remove it. I imagine this is how Frodo felt in Lord of the Rings when Shelob comes to get him.

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So this scorpion was dead which was initially a relief but now I’m worried about what killed it. Shelob?

Course enrollment

Well I have enrolled in my art course – I’m quite excited!!! It wasn’t a simple enrollment process. In England, my usual method of course enrollment goes: Look at the prospectus either online or paper copy. Decide on the course based on course information (syllabus / dates and whatnot) and complete / download the enrollment form and send it off with a cheque. Receive confirmation with details as to where and when it is.

So there’s some information online about this course but for the year 2013/2014. I downloaded a form and attempted to complete that but it’s out of date. Not to be put off, I went to the school itself. The conversation went thusly:

S: Help me! Is this the right form for the course I want to enroll in?

Guy (G): Meh, looks like it <glances at it briefly>. You need to go to the bank and send us some money.

S: But is there space for me on the course?

G: There’ll be space.

S: And this form, I’ve filled it in ok?

G: Hmm. Yeah I reckon so.

S: So I can just send you money and then come back with it?

G: Yeah.

S: It’s just I wasn’t even sure this was the right form because it seemed old and for another course.

G: Hmm, I guess you could use this form <hands me this years form, an entirely different form in fact which requires a passport photo and tells me the course is actually 100 euros more expensive>.

S: Ok. So I fill in this form and do the money thing and then what? When does it start?

G: November.

S: Any specific date?

G: Thursday.

S: The first Thursday?

G: Usually.

S: And like, when?

G: Usually afternoon.

S: Right.

He seemed thoroughly bemused about the level of information I was asking for. I do wonder how people here usually enroll for courses. Perhaps they fill out random forms and then just sort of hang around hoping to come across the course. In fact, there were a few people loitering outside…

So to enroll in the course you can’t just send in a cheque. You have to:

  1. Go to the post office and pay some money (I wonder what the post office do with this money…?).
  2. Go to the bank and transfer some money (to the school I presume).
  3. Go to the tabaccheria and pay for a very expensive stamp which gets stuck on the application form (for tax purposes I was told).

Anyway, despite all that, I’ve done it!!! It wont be long now until artistic fame and fortune rolls in, I’m sure.

That’s about it so far apart from a quick excursion to Lago di Fiastra yesterday (photos below). Car buying is in full swing. I’m seeing some at the weekend. Please keep up with the vibes!

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A presto,

x

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Cunning plans, car acquisition plans and new cameras…

Buonasera!!!

Well Dear Readers, I’m so sorry for the long disappearance! I hope you’ve all been well during my absence 🙂

I’ve been in the UK so there hasn’t been much to update on from an Italian perspective. It’s been lovely catching up with family and friends although as ever, I don’t feel like I’ve done an effective job of that. However, I’m looking forward to heading back to hopefully sunnier climes! Out of the couple of months I’ve been back, it’s been sunny for about 6 hours 😉

Here are some photo’s from the UK taken on the rare occasions there was not torrential rain. I’ve bought a new camera (I LOVE my new camera!) so I’ve been attempting to go a bit more arty. If anyone has any constructive criticism on the photos please do leave a comment – I’m still learning!

Fensham

Frensham Lake

The beautiful Corfe Castle

The beautiful Corfe Castle

Brighton Beach

Brighton Pier. Italians looking at this may be shocked by the complete lack of back-to-back sun loungers!

Brighton Pier & Seagull

This seagull and myself became good friends.

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This is The Crescent in Bath. Those clouds are much more representative of England’s Summer this year.

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I stayed in Wales a couple of times. They’ve got some spectacular beaches and this is one of them.

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Wales again, where the famous poet Dylan Thomas liked to hang out.

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And this was from a walk in Wales.

I’m back to Italy tomorrow and I’ve been making plans for the rest of the year! Here they are…

Car renting and buying

I need to buy a new car! I drove back to the UK in the Nanmobile (can you guess who I bought the car from?) in July for its annual MOT (car check up) . It’s a costly business having an English car in Italy mainly because of the need to do this and all the costs associated with the trip back. The alternative is to register the Nanmobile in Italy but looking at people’s experiences online of registering an English car in Italy it seems to be so traumatic and costly that it’s not worth it. So, I’m going to try and buy an Italian car.  To buy an Italian car, I need to be a resident in Italy. I now have a beautiful Identity Card to demonstrate my residency so this should be ok. What I’m unclear of is whether I need my Driving License to show the same address. In Italy, the police stop people regularly to have a look at their paperwork to see that it all matches up. There doesn’t seem to be any neat solution for someone that wants to maintain their “home” in both countries. So that will be interesting. I’ve emailed the car people in Italy to ask them if they can help but of course, nobody has replied!

Meanwhile I’m going to hire a car for a week or two. My first experience of driving a left-hand drive car in years will be at 9am, following a night of little or no sleep, on my own and for an hour and a half. I can hardly wait! 🙂

Finish the book

I wrote a book last year but it needs editing still. I did get a good way through whilst I was back in the UK but still have a long way to go so hoping to get the next stage of editing done in the next month or two. This is priority numero uno.

Become a successful artist!

I’ve always been quite creative but I never get particularly good at anything. A jack of all trades, master of none! It’s said you need to put in 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So that said, I like to think it’s not because I lack talent, but because I don’t put the concerted effort in (how annoying it would be to find out after all that time it’s the talent component I miss, not the time!!!!). As such, I’ve decided to make priority numero due (English people, you need to pronounce that “do-ay” otherwise it sounds odd) to pull out the stops and get good at painting. To that end, I’m keen to sign up to an art course in the main town nearby, Macerata. However, the enrollment form confuses me and I can’t seem to get to the bottom of when it starts and what I need to do. I’ll go on a concerted mission on my first day or two back in Italy to get to the bottom of that!  Please send me course enrollment vibes (and car buying vibes come to that).

My plan is to do something akin to the wonderful Edward B Gordon. Everyday he paints a beautiful picture and posts it on his blog and everyday he seems to sell them.

I’m also going to try and get a bit more into the photography thing, but that’s priority numero tre!

Right, I think that’s it for now. Sorry it’s been short and sweet. With any luck next time I’ll be back to posting pics of Italy and telling you how frustrating buying a car is 😉

Buonasera a tutti,

xxx

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Hunting for houses, implementing my new motto, and latest art updates

Ciao a tutti,

Well, well, well! These last couple of weeks have been challenging somewhat! I can understand why house hunting is called that now and not simply house finding. I include below an illustrated account of just some of the house hunting hurdles here in Italy…

  • House Hunting Hurdle number 1: Estate agents rarely put prices of apartments/houses in their windows. They’re also rarely in the office so you can’t even ask them. If you email them to ask, well, suffice to say I have NEVER received a response from them.
  • HHH number 2: I’ve been using www.subito.it, a general buying/selling stuff website. People don’t put even the most basic information on their advert. Some of them just say “phone me”. Why? Why would I do that?! Is it a mansion you’re letting or a bedsit and where even is it?! WHY WOULD I PHONE YOU TO FIND OUT???
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Or maybe it’s a bird house they’re letting. Who indeed knows.

  • HHH number 3: Well let me tell you why you would phone them to find out. It’s because people seem to have a morbid fear of email and will not respond. Or if they respond then it’s to ask you to phone them. I don’t like talking to people on the phone at the best of times (I’m more of a face to face person rather than an unsociable person). I especially don’t like phoning people when I’m still terrible at speaking Italian! Charades does not work on the phone!
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Erm. Perhaps not the most realistic sketch of a terrified person. (I’ve drawn him in a sleeping bag jacket though so that’s at least true to life)

  • HHH number 4: The photos on the adverts – you should SEEEEE them (that’s if there are any, there aren’t often!). To sell and rent their houses, they put up photos of their moth-eaten 10 year old sofa, a wall, sometimes a scooter, perhaps a kitchen table covered in the remnants of their last meal… It’s a very rare occasion indeed they’ll put a picture of their actual house/flat up there! And the estate agents themselves are no better. I think there’d be a market for an estate agent who took decent pictures of the ACTUAL house/apartment and then, you know, RESPONDED to people who were interested in it.
  • HHH number 5: Everything is about square meters here. I can’t picture things in square meters. I want a two double bedroom place, not a 80 square foot place. Still – I’m actually getting used to the meters now and it is admittedly useful. It would just be more useful if they described how it was divided up too!
  • HHH number 6: When they say something is unfurnished, and half of them are, they literally mean it’s an empty shell. Nothing. Just rooms with some pipes sticking out of the wall. In any circumstances I think that’s insane, I particularly think it’s insane when you’re renting. It seems crazy to get a kitchen fitted complete with work surfaces and everything and then take it with you into a new place with undoubtedly an entirely different layout. C.R.A.Z.Y.

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  • HHH number 7: Once you’ve located a place that’s furnished, well, I don’t wish to be picky or anything, but OH MY WORD! Suffice to say that modern looking furniture does not seem to be the style here.
  • HHH number 8: Hardly anyone seems to have a bath anymore. And yet they all have bidets! You can’t relax with a glass of wine and candles on a bidet!!!   I WANT A BATH!!!
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I imagine this is what I will be reduced to doing shortly…

So, we’ve seen lots of places (I’ve a friend staying with me at the moment) and there’s one place that doesn’t seem so bad but it’s next door to huge oil refinery. It’s only going to be for 6 months or so whilst I hopefully find somewhere to buy here. In terms of buying,  I can’t get much for my money in any of the towns. I’m now thinking of venturing further into the countryside which could get a bit lonely but I think I’d prefer a nice house and some potential to make some money as a B&B or doing something with the land too in the long run.

Teaching, teaching, teaching

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks – it might be because there’s an end in sight. I’ve got 6 weeks left! I lost my rag at the Evil Class last week again and told them I’m only going to do colouring in with them from now on (which I think they’re all thrilled about). I told the teacher that too. She said that I shouldn’t lose hope and that she thinks that on some very deep, deep, deeeeeeeep level they might have actually been listening. Ha!

I do have a lovely bunch of adults that I’m teaching though so that’s good!

Art progress

I should stop making stuff now and get on with putting it online to see. I’m still struggling to find some decent deep frames and now some packing material so that I can send stuff to people. I think that will be this week’s task. And I need to try and take some decent pictures of these things too – how I’d love to have a proper studio!

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Driftwood Harbour

Village harbour

Driftwood home sign – now all I need is to find a home!!!

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Driftwood Hamlet

 

Spring is in the air…

In other news, spring is definitely in the air and it’s lovely! The daisies are out, the jasmine is blooming (I’m back to sneaking “cuttings” off the local jasmine bushes to bring back to the flat because it smells so nice!) and I’ve seen a few poppies now too. I can’t wait until I’ve stopped teaching and can get out and enjoy it a bit more!

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Looks almost snowy!

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Carnevale, Pebble Fish and Driftwood Sculptures!

Ciao all,

This week’s blog post will be short as I’ve not been up to much other than the usual. It’s the “Carnevale” period in Italy at the moment which means quite a few street parades etc. though I’ve not seen any yet. Hoping to go and see the Carnevale in Fano tomorrow and I’ll of course report back next week, I’m quite excited about it! Meanwhile, I’ve been having fun with the art stuff. I’m really into this beach recycling business at the moment and making things out of driftwood, sea glass and pebbles. I should do more paintings – I think it might be more lucrative but it’s not quite as amusing as my other projects so I’ve been slacking. Here’s some of my efforts in the last week or so…

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My house, in the middle of my street…. (is that how the Madness song goes?!)

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Sea glass and pebble tree (this has a glass front – it kept getting my reflection so I took it from a distance but then the quality as a result is poor! Does anyone have an ideas on how to do that?! I want the frame in the photo but I can’t take the glass out on this frame to take it without)

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Phone holder – it’s got a handy hole in the bottom for the phone charger and everything…

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Driftwood and sea glass mobile

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Driftwood and shell Incense holder

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Driftwood fish

On the portrait drawing front, I’ve hit a brick wall (which I’m intending to bulldoze soon). I don’t seem to be able to do a reasonable looking portrait in less than an hour and twenty minutes. The problem is in the shading, it seems to take me ages. HOWEVER, I have found a new technique which looks very promising called “Dry brush” and it’s a lot quicker. It’s basically using oil paint but a tiny, tiny bit of it. However, it’s really poorly documented. If you “Youtube” it, you’ll see some artists that have posted speeded up videos of them doing the portraits but it’s really not at all helpful! It’s not really the drawing bit that I have the problem with (though these are incredibly talented artists – it’s very clever!) – it’s the bits that don’t happen on the canvas which you can’t see that I’m confused about. The pioneer of this technique seems to be Igor Kazarin and he goes to great lengths to explain the technique but it makes absolutely no sense at all so I’m no clearer. My first attempt was blotchy and horrid. Anyway, I’ll experiment more with it this week. 

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I’ve been doing a few inspiration stones… this one of Stephen King’s is my favourite!

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Some mussel shell hearts and my bowl of inspiration stones and random fish

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Pebble Fish!

Finally, on a non artistic front, I’m seeing a couple of houses tomorrow to maybe buy so I’m really pleased about that – it’ll be interesting to see what I can get for my money here.

Anyway, that about sums up my week. Hope you’re all well!

Buona notte!

x

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Guide to Rome, glue guns and what not to say to children…

Ciao!!!

How is everyone? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wetter week! Even when I was living in England!!! Though I can see from the news it’s been pretty dismal back there too. Anyway, this week I bring you: Getting rained on in Rome, the frustrating case of the broken glue gun and what not to say to children…

Raining in Rome

I went to Rome last weekend with a friend. I love Rome, it’s my favourite city. There’s such a lot to see; lots of historical monuments, beautiful architecture and the city always has a buzz about it. However, I can confirm that when you go during a relentless, torrential downpour, then it’s not got quite the same vibe about it. It didn’t help that I booked a particularly nasty hotel and in fact, didn’t even book a room with a bathroom (I had wondered why it was so cheap, all became clear!). We ended up spending a ridiculous amount on an upgrade so we could have a bathroom and still it wasn’t great – you had to plan bathroom visits 5 minutes in advance so the light could eventually flicker on.

We did have a walk around the Colosseum and The Forum though during the few minutes reprieve we had from the rain. I’ve got a good tip for this one: Get a joint Colosseum and Forum ticket from the Forum itself. You pay the same amount as you do at the Colosseum but there’s no queue and then when you get to the Colosseum you can go straight past what seems to be a 4 hour queue. My next tip is to remember that you’ve got that ticket and don’t queue in that queue anyway (we realised after half an hour).

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A very moody looking Forum…

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Colosseum

The Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona 

I have located a Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona. It’s behind the train station and only for people that work for Trenitalia and other organisations in the immediate vicinity. It is handily located for The Secret Forbidden Subway that you can walk through to get to the train station. There are downsides parking there – there’s no guarantee you wont get pulled up for trespassing and/or have your car towed away. However, needs must and I was stuck for a parking spot when I headed to Rome at the weekend (it’s all very well parking in the official parking lots but they’re all closed on Sundays so you can’t actually get out again) but it all worked out well in the end so I might do that again.

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Ancona’s Secret Forbidden Parking Lot

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The Secret Forbidden Subway – I couldn’t stop for the photo, hence the blur but I thought it gave a good representation of the rising panic about being, well, told to presumably go back the other way. Tense!

Operation Art Production continues…

I’m up to speed on the drawing practice which is good – this week I’ve been drawing more portraits from life though I still need to improve so I’m working on that! It should take about 20 minutes I think whereas it’s taking me over an hour!!!

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My friend’s baby…

However, all my other plans have gone sadly awry.  I should be on my third painting now but I’m only half way through my second – hope to finish that this weekend… I did not take into account the Rome jaunt into my self-imposed timescales.

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Boats in Porto Recanati. I might still amend it a bit. Looks maybe a bit washed out here – I need to work out how best to take photos of the paintings…

And well, my driftwood sculpting has been a disaster. I bought a glue gun last week but now, part way through a fish sculpture, the glue got stuck in the gun and wont melt down or come out from whence it came. Mother suggested sticking a hot metal thing in the glue, waiting until it was cold and then yanking it out (“like a popsical” she said).

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Hmm. It did not come out “like a popsical”. It’s there for good. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Customer Services that the glue gun I bought last week has broken and I’ve had nothing to do with it.

And THEN I’ve been collecting sea-glass and nice rocks to write inspirational messages on. I am pleased to report I’ve found two other odd people on the beach in the last week or so – one who was also collecting sea glass (ergo, an arch rival) and one woman collecting bottle tops. Anyway, that branch of Operation Art has been going ok. Tune in next week for inspirational stone messages :-).

What not to say to young students

Teaching has been bad this week. I think I’ll start my inspirational message stones off with “don’t thwack the children around the head”.

This week in the Class of Horror, one of the bad “behaviourally challenged” children, did what I asked them. It’s NEVER happened. I was gobsmacked! And like many surprised people – I said “Oh my god!” under my breath.  To which, the children in the Class of Horror, who up until this point have never listened to anything I say, know absolutely no English whatsoever and have never repeated anything I ask them to repeat, by the end of the lesson were all chanting “oh my god”.

I did have a couple of private lessons with older children this week, which was a lot less traumatic and a lot more lucrative. And a private lesson with a new younger child who seems to be to all intents and purposes, completely mute.

Sanitaria Success!

I have a Tessera Sanitaria (it’s the Italian equivalent of the European Health Insurance Card). I have a doctor now and everything. It’s only taken a few months to sort out! In the end it was fairly easy – you need proof of residency (which is traumatic to get) and a copy of your work contract (otherwise there’s other complicated means of acquiring the Tessera) and then it was done in 5 minutes. Next thing: Trying to get the car registered in Italy.

What’s a bit odd?

There are trams in Ancona! Who knew?! I’ve been here 9 months and have never seen one but on the way to the station the other day I noticed the overhead electric cables and a tram for the first time! Huh!

Right, onwards and upwards. Have fabulous weekends all…

xxx

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