31 August 2008

answered ...

Just when I was feeling very down about my art this evening I received emails from London that reminded me about the things I know I do well.

I think that as a people we New Zealanders find it hard to celebrate our successes other than in sport. We try not to be egotistical. It might make us nice people to be around, but it has a downside, self doubt.

Another email today suggested that it is normal for artists to have on-going identity crises, and that each artist has a unique destiny. I guess there is comfort in that, assuming you own the descriptor of artist. Mostly I do.

Maybe it is the self-doubt that keeps us striving for excellence, and it is knowing that I have strayed from excellence, compromised my standards to complete commissions on time, made some other works that I am not passionate about, that is causing my self doubt now.

I remember reading many years ago that not every work had to be a major work. That is certainly true, but every work must have what I call artistic integrity. When I paint for others in a tight time-frame I sometimes struggle to achieve that.

This rather public "soul-searching" keeps me accountable to myself. I make no apology for it! The alternative is not cutting off my ear, but possibly my hair...


identity crisis - yet again

Quite often I think of giving up painting altogether, but it is part of my identity here, part of the reason I am integrated into this village. I feel an obligation, as well as the occasional creative need, to paint.

Often people ask if I miss New Zealand. No, I don't. Do I miss anything from New Zealand? Yes, my books, Edam cheese, crunchy peanut butter, my well-positioned art studio and supplies, working with post-graduate art students, and of course it goes without saying, my family and friends. Today I realised that I also miss my art magazines, and my artist colleagues. I need some positive affirmation right now.

I treated myself to some magazines in Auburn, and this afternoon I flicked through them during siesta time.

I haven't been happy with what I have been painting for quite some time. Occasionally I get really positive feedback from someone I haven't met before, they have heard of me or seen my work, and I feel good. But mostly I feel insecure, tentative, not really painting as I would like to. I didn't manage to paint what I wanted to last month because I was busy with portraits. I think that work will join the "gallery in my mind", along with other series painted in absolute detail in my head but never allowed to emerge because life kept getting in the way.

An article in one magazine really spoke to me.

An American illustrator, Richard Johnson, pursued his project to draw soldiers and citizens in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. When interviewed for The Artist's Magazine (September 2008, Vol. 25, Number 7, p.p. 20, 21) he said "I wanted to put faces on soldiers when they're alive". This blog leaves me feeling very humbled. Some of us talk, but others do. I particularly liked this post.

But before you go to his blog, read this article published by visual editors.

Sometimes I guide soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan around the battlefields of Cassino. I show, I explain, I narrate. But really, I have absolutely no idea of what war is really like.

One of the paintings that I fear may remain in my mind is a war painting. Not literal, but symbolic. It was important to me, but I have lost the drive I need to paint it.

Do I change my direction, or do I still have work to do here?


we have been studying

We have been studying self-mutilation in dogs. It even has a medical name, Acral Mutilation Syndrome, or idiopathic self-mutilation.

Why oh why did I tie myself to this problem? Much as I love Zacchi I didn't want a dog, I wanted to be free to travel. So much for all the promises to take care of him... this little monster needs to stay at home!

A lot of the advice I have found sounds sooooo familiar... back to being a Resource Teacher, Learning and Behaviour, again!

Zacchi says the place he is less stressed is lying on the cool floor behind the computer chair, because then he is quite confident Mum isn't going far.

More emails, anyone?

30 August 2008

dear Penny

Mum is typing this for me. Tonight I finally realised that Mum was right, the piece of dead skin had to come off because I was making the wound worse all the time.

At first I thought she was going to put that nasty stuff on me again so I hid outside. But then when she didn't come and get me I came back inside and showed her what I had done. I didn't keep my promise you see, although Mum knew all along that I wouldn't.

Then I was really, really good, and even though it hurt I stayed perfectly still and let her fix everything. She had to make four cuts to clear it up, and I didn't move. Not a muscle.

She said it was like when I first came to live with her. I was covered in ticks and she had to save me. I knew she was helping so I was perfect for her.

Right now she says I'm pretty special. I'll bet that she forgets that the next time I am naughty and run off when she calls me though!

Did I tell you what she brought me back from America? Some aeroplane socks, all of my own! Two pairs, 'cos the seat next to her was empty! You see, she does try. But Penny, just between you and me, your socks were the very very best.


oh dear

The end of the month is bath time, flea and tick treatment time, and to add insult to injury, also time for a trim and more disinfectant on the wound. I type one-handed; on my lap is one quietly seething but also appreciative dog who has never wanted to be a lap-dog! Affection in the form of scratching only, please!

He has to stay on my lap until the prescribed disinfectant dries on the wound. I think it should have had stitches but they weren't suggested. He has finally fallen asleep, (bravo Zacchi) and I am uncomfortably wet underneath him.

We have a kind of truce; Zacchi says "I will hide under the bed and promise not to lick the wound if you will leave the collar off".
I am not so sure about that...

more music

Double click on the photo.

In total six files to listen to, including the flautist, the diva, the finale (a duet) and the "extra" finale (O Sole Mio).

Camera steadiness not my priority as the evening went on... with my little camera I really didn't expect the reproduction to be worth watching or listening to. Next time...


29 August 2008

Facebook: love it or hate it

Facebook: love it or hate it, eventually most of us use it.

I joined to stay in closer touch with my children, one of whom promptly left it declaring that it was far too time-consuming. She is right.

Unfortunately, before she left it, she got me me playing Scrabulous, and I was very soon addicted. Now Scrabulous (you naughty copyright infringer) has gone. Very occasionally I check Facebook to see what family and friends are doing. Thank goodness it notifies my gmail account if someone sends me a message.

Recently Sophia Elise began using it for the NZ Art Guild. I like such links, I can see a lot of sense in that. What does worry me is how easily I can follow personal links (yes, I tested soon after I joined) and find out what other people are doing. Now from a blog writer that might be a little odd, but I know, as I write this, that anyone can read it. From what some Facebook readers write on their pages, I am sure they have no idea how easily others can access what they have written for their friends. The two occasions when I have idly followed links to people I know I have ended up feeling uncomfortable, as though I have opened a door uninvited. My former students can relax, I don't check up on them. Future employers might, though!

Today I received an invitation which I accepted without hesitation. Yesterday a Facebook group was established (from London) for the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation. We have three members. Let's make it more. The link is:


The internet shrinks the world. It is so easy for international projects to be shared. The Monte Cassino Stiftung has its website in three languages.

For now we are waiting on the dates for the official commemorations in Cassino in May 2009, the end of the four battles for Cassino. These commemorations are about peace and unity as much as commemoration. If they are not also about peace, then so many died for nothing.


nessun dorma

Adrian Xhema, La Notte delle Stelle, Roccasecca, 28 agosto 2008.

No cheap shots at the videographer, thanks. Remember I was spellbound... it's a wonder I got any of it on film!

bless you, little camera...

Nessun dorma, nessun dorma (no-one sleeps)...yes, I should be asleep, I know, it is 2.46am, but I have just discovered that my little camera, from about ten rows from the stage, recorded the concert beautifully. I had no idea how good the camera was! I wanted a momento, and thought wistfully that the camera wouldn't be able to capture the magnificence from where I was. I set it going, tried to steady it a little, ignored the moving heads in the row in front of me, and concentrated on the music.

As I play the songs again my skin is tingling, I am back in Via Roma, Roccasecca, lost in the music, filling my heart and my soul.

Grazie ancora, Adrian Xhema, you really are very special.


I'm in love...

The programme was a little more serious than last year.

Maria Dragoni was magnificent, but I didn't particularly like the songs.

Paulo Taballione, the flautist was superb.

But the tenor... every fibre in my body tingled, his voice thrilled.
I lined up for an autograph, and a photo.

If only I could replay his music over and over...

And to think that this morning I couldn't even remember his name!

*Adrian Xhema*

(How old is too old to become a groupie? I could move to Munich...)

Youtube has a concert I missed this summer... Adrian Xhena is the soloist in the middle of this piece of fun, O Sole Mio from the five tenors.

28 August 2008

we need rest

We need to rest, this part-shaven dog and I. The concert starts at 9, we must be there by about 8 to have a chance of a good seat, and we are just home from a wonderful pranzo which means only a gelato while waiting for the concert for tea tonight.

It will be another very late night.

Last night I asked how many gelati are consumed each night in the summer here. A friend estimated that the tiny little shop would serve 300-400 gelati on a summer evening... the folk from down below come up for our cooler air and sit out to enjoy the view, the people-watching, the chatter. Tables spill out onto the road, the road is filled with walkers, and the occasional car moves slowly through. Pedestrians claim the village. As I left at 11pm others were just arriving!

I love it.

Life is about people, not things.

27 August 2008

the vet said

that Zacchi chewed the holes himself, because he was pining for me.

I prefer to think that he fought with a cat.

Tomorrow I have to buy a collar to stop him chewing... grrr and grrrr and grrrrr!

(Actually, that's exactly what Zacchi told the vet!)


I am just home from a concert in the long piazza. It was the local musicians warming the audience for the night of international stars tomorrow night. Tomorrow evening is the highlight of the Severino Gazelloni concerts which finish 1 September. Internationally famous Gazelloni (see previous portraits) was born here.

Tomorrow night a wonderful Italian soprano, Maria Dragoni, often compared with Maria Callas, will be singing here. Tomorrow night is the only night this parched village wants the rain to stay away. Over a thousand people will be seated outdoors, it will be magnificent. I have been lucky enough to go to two of these spectacular events already. A stage is built at the bottom of the street, chairs fill the roadway, and magic fills the air. The music is fantastic, and I sit there pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

one and two

Now that I have posted I can see some changes I need to make. The distance of the computer screen brings objectivity.

Photographed wet. Mixed feelings about this one.

26 August 2008

this might be it... almost

Life is about balance. I've abandoned work to go to dinner with travelling Kiwis...

buon appetito!

PS after a late meal I worked on one a little more... two almost finished now. Guiding in the morning, painting after... nearly there! Sarah is right, number three works best. Revised other coming along well too. Possibly two will make it to the exhibition.


going cautiously

and now for the flute... I think an impression will be enough. I see the flute as being something you either paint perfectly, or leave to the imagination. The perfect flute four times over would take me about 3 weeks. I will concentrate on the likeness of the man.

the Zacchi report

Zacchi came home with parallel wounds on his back. They looked clean and healthy, had been treated with disinfectant. His hostess thought possibly it was the result of fighting with a cat. Quite likely!

During the day he is good, leaves it alone when I growl. While I sleep he chews at it and has made quite a mess. We might have to go to the vet.


25 August 2008

roma ten days ago...

Not a Roman in sight. The streets were empty of traffic. Favourite restaurants away from the centre were closed for the summer break. The town is full of tourists trying to stay out of the sun...
who'd be one?

while waiting

While waiting on the lower slopes of Montecassino to meet clients for a battlefield tour today I spotted this young figure. How many times have I passed and not known it was there, gazing out over the Liri Valley?

Mmmm... I'm confused. From a distance I assumed it was a young man, but now that I see the photo I am not so sure!

24 August 2008

so easy...

Sarah made it look so easy.

I figured that if I did four at a time I could get one right... so here they are, stage one times four...

I do like absorbent ground, but it suits Sarah's style so much more than mine. I will enjoy these and then go back to use up the paper I carried so fondly from Riccione.

Sarah, if you look behind the shoe box in the shelves near the door you will find your Christmas present... a little early, but I think you will need it before December!

Now I am going to look for egg platters... I love my palettes, but for clear and clean colours Sarah's egg platters are close to perfect!

And I thought *I* was the one who had kitchen and studio confused...

23 August 2008

the work

Watercolour on absorbent ground, a kind of pre-prepared gesso painted onto (in this case) canvas. I set out to paint beautiful works about music, life and peace. This is what came out of the paint tubes, off the end of the brush. It was not my intention at all.

Temporary titles are:

Marching towards...
After the Battle
Seeking Equilibrium
More than a Dream


I didn't know

I didn't know that I could sleep so much!

I've been up for a whole 7 hours... now back to sleep again!


22 August 2008

Zacchi says...

happiness is hearing Mum call your name just when you thought you would never see her again...

and showing her how happy you are by jumping into the car all by yourself when really you don't like cars at all!

Mum says:
One very happy little dog was at the end of that leash... what AM I going to do in November?

House/dog sitting in Italy, anyone?

testing my wings

It is so hard leaving the ones you love behind at airports. But when you give your children wings you must be proud when you see them fly, to all parts of the world. You think that they will always come home again... but sometimes home changes too!

Now it is time for the mother to fly too...
flying solo, learning to dance again.

20 August 2008

where oh where...?

Where did the time go? It's almost time to pack.

19 August 2008

shopping and big is not best

Today was shopping day. Running shoes for me and for Sarah. And the inevitable eating out for lunch... Sarah joined me in pizza today! Brennen ate Asian.

Here everything is too big... the cars, the roads (so much further to cross than in my little village) and the servings of food, the cups, the drinking tumblers... everything is over-sized. Maybe I had forgotten how wide and big everything is, but really I think it is that I am smaller, and used to things on a smaller scale. Even Sarah has got taller... am I shrinking?

Today I painted. Not hugely successfully, not prettily, not beautifully, but with a message. In light of the present preoccupation with war, I think I have painted appropriately. Photos later.
Sarah and Brennen need to move house. This wonderful spooky run-down creative haven is far too expensive to heat in the winter, and to cool in the summer. It shows off Sarah's works wonderfully, and her studios have great views, but eventually even artists must be realistic and keep warm in the winter. Darn it!

This house has a great sloping verandah that reminds me of my childhood home. In fact, a lot of things about it remind me of my home, although that was beautifully maintained and warmed by an oil burning heater and a huge fire place. That particular fire place in Maru Maru holds so many happy memories.

I didn't become the best fire-lighter in the world by chance.

17 August 2008

all set to go

I have prepared my canvases with absorbent ground. After seeing how successfully Sarah uses it I am really excited to try... but it means doing a re-think of my subject as what I had in mind will be quite different on this ground.

I will keep you posted...

BTW I have bought some clayboard, something else to try.


Friday we chilled out a little, went shopping for art supplies at Tigertown, lunch at a Chinese restaurant, went to yoga with Chellis, wandered around Auburn university for a while and then ate at Cheeburger Cheeburger. I was completely lost, that is a mission in itself. So many choices to be made, with absolutely no idea of what I was really ordering!

Yesterday we went swimming in Lake Martin, a huge and beautiful man-made lake, and then a wonderfully romantic setting for dinner lakeside, at sunset. Then to a real toe-tapping concert at Waverly (where I learned to do the cake walk three years ago).

I am really surprised at how much I recognise, things I had apparently filed away but not forgotten!

Now to go out for coffee, and I must confess that yesterday I ordered a pizza at Subway, just couldn't help myself, really. It was good too!

15 August 2008

sweet alabama home

It is so good to be here, and incredibly after it being more than three years since my last visit, it is as though I was here only a few months ago.


in that three years...

I am totally blown away by seeing Sarah's works "in the real". They are so strong, so powerful, so good! Far more impressive than they appear on her blog. They mark the passage of time more than anything else.

It is so good, so very good to be here.

And if I go home sounding American, instead of turning Sarah's accent back into a Kiwi one... then so be it!

Life is great, it truly is.

12 August 2008

all packed

Paintings secure in the box, bag all packed... all I have to do is let the credit card company know I am on the move in case they panic and cancel my card, it gets so little use these days, and deliver Zacchi to his resort for the week.

I'm excited.........it is far too long since I have seen Sarah and I am sure I will paint so well in her studio! We haven't painted together before, it will be exciting.

Tomorrow morning train to Rome, then early Thursday off to Fumicino, London, Atlanta. Crazy, I know, to exchange one hot climate for another! But we artists are supposed to be a little crazy, aren't we? Atlanta airport has wonderful artwork. I hope I get a different terminal again so I can see some more.

No posts for the next two days, far too busy having fun!

in the mail today...

the perfect gift!

Nancy Tichborne's book... it takes me straight back to those wonderful watercolour lessons in Akaroa.

I have had some wonderful workshop tutors, in oils, watercolours and other media. The two who stay with me the most are Anne de Silva (Matamata) who gave me confidence, and Nancy Tichborne (Akaroa) who liberated in me a passion for pushing water and the properties of the pigments to the limit, using glazes of wet in wet.

Thankyou, Ray and Ann. I am going to get a huge amount of pleasure from Nancy's book, and my mop and other watercolour brushes are packed to travel with me...

Yes, it's back to watercolours for me. Anything else I do becomes my "day job". The watercolours have an element of play... as do some of the subjects! This one was a while ago, but I still enjoy "discovering" it again when I check my own website!

11 August 2008

serenate a Caprile

I don't think I have ever had so many people coming through an exhibition in New Zealand. Even in our tiny village of 90 people several hundred can come through an exhibition. The villages are all so close, people from all walks of life and of all ages come, and I am beoming used to hearing children of about 6 years old exclaiming to their parents in most adult tones about the paintings. I am now seeing repeat visitors, and they are asking/talking about paintings that I have not included in the most recent show. It really is a culture that supports artists. This time, as the exhibition was for only one evening, I used lanterns and torches to light the space. It had a wonderful ambience, even though potential customers had to take paintings out into the piazza to have a closer look.

10 August 2008

yesterday and today

Tante belle cose... many beautiful things.

I want to write about lots of beautiful little things that have happened that make me so glad that I live here, but for now it is best I don't type. Still much pain in my right arm, and my eyes are very tired.

Exhibition tonight, work to do.

New dog next door is absolutely magnificent. Zacchi is less impressed. The abandoned dog that arrived last week still wants to live with us. I hate closing the door on him.

Re the birthday sketch - she loved it. It makes you feel good when you get things right. She said "You knew my exact taste in art" ... I didn't really, but I am beginning to know the person.

9 August 2008



I am not a cartoonist.
I am not a pen and wash artist.
I am not a mixed media painter.

I am having to walk away from this, resolutely. The longer I stay and fiddle with it, the more likely I am to make a mistake.

It was never intended to be more than a light-hearted record of the occasion. It was entirely my own idea to do a cartoon. I was going to keep it clean and simple. When will I ever learn?

Call it finished, and take it to its new home.

Be what you are, not what you think you ought to be.

I am... a watercolourist who paints in washes.
I am a painter of ideas, not things.

It is time...
Time to be who I am, to paint what I feel.

I learn a lot, painting for other people. I will still paint commissions, Zacchi needs to eat.
But now, in all things, to be true to myself...



It just occurred to me now that at New Year when I was in Scotland I received a greetings text from the family I have sketched above. I have it still.

They had written, very carefully in English, "To open the door of happiness, you need the right kay. Happy New Year".

I have been "flying solo" for two and a half years. I am still learning who Kay is. Each day is the beginning of a new year. A calendar is only numbers on paper.

Happy New Year!

another hour to finish, I think

I must wait for it to be really, truly, completely, absolutely dry before I do any more. I am painting on Fabiano 640gsm hot press and it will take a while to dry, even in this scorching weather.

I must pick out my highlights (this time I have cheated and used masking fluid) and choose where my darkest darks will be. It was a night-time dinner outdoors, but I want to keep it bright and happy, as the occasion really was. The candle in the cake was a spectacular firework that seemed to go on for ever.

Zacchi has always been amazing with both artwork and food. I can put this out to dry without a worry about him running on it, even when chasing cats. He is really delicate with food too. Such a well brought up wee scruffin-muffin!


Aaaaah it is so good to be back in watercolours... this is a lovely warm-up for next week...

I'm having fun!

to the Zacchi fans

Don't worry, while I am on my one week intensive painting in Sarah's studio (and hopefully a little bit of fun time too!) Zacchi is going to be in charge of the local agriturismo where I swim most days. He loves it there, and is relatively safe.
They are off the road a bit, and there is little traffic. The road is officially closed and the barrier (which we drive around) is right by the agriturismo, so hopefully he wont be run over. He knows the cats there, and they accept him. He loves running and playing with the 8 year old son, and is spoilt by the mother.

I don't think he will run away looking for me because he is afraid of the roaming dogs in the town and also the wild dogs in the gorge. In fact, all things considered, despite the natural barriers to escaping, it is probably small doggy paradise there.

I'm not such a bad mother, really...

8 August 2008

too much

Today I am working on a family portrait, in a cartoon style, to record the fiftieth birthday I went to recently. I am enjoying the project, it is my gift to a lovely family, but it is quite literally a pain!

On top of the recent flurry of paintings I have been spending too long at the computer, working on other things, and now have RSI in my elbow, if that can happen. We called it "tennis elbow" when I was a child, although this is in a slightly different place from the tennis elbow I got when I helped Dad to paint the cool room for the milk tank. When milk tankers arrived in Wairoa we stopped keeping pigs and sent the whole milk to the factory, not just the cream. It was a big change in our lives at the time.

I had elbow problems again two years ago, clearing rubbish and carting bucket loads of it to the bins here when I moved into my house. My body says I do need a holiday...

Pigs, Jersey cows, rich cream straight from the cowshed (the best!) carried home in a chipped enamel mug... feeding calves before going to school, sleeping fully dressed and hoping Mum didn't notice so I didn't have to feel the cold when I got up to help Dad... I can see it, smell it, hear it now!

Ah... those were the days! Deep sigh! I was young then!

7 August 2008


41 degrees today.

It is 11pm and still 30 degrees centigrade.

My house is cool, it is probably about 25 degrees.

I have a better chance of sleeping than my friends further up the hillside. They have more glass and less shade. I have a fountain and mosquitoes.

I think I am better off.

I think I will cope OK in hot and sticky Alabama.
Sarah has cats and squirrels, not mosquitoes.


itchy feet...

and it's not just the mosquitoes!

I think I wore myself out with those portraits. I have had a four-day break just sleeping, pottering, paints out of sight. I have packaged work to send overseas, paid some bills, swept, wiped, scrubbed, organised...

I'm coming right.

Now, unfortunately, work has stopped in my cantina. My worker has hurt his back. Right at the time Italy is on holiday and he has more hours he could have worked for me. I believe him. I know all about bad backs, and I watched him walk down the street. It is real.

So, no energy to paint, no progress in the house, I am getting itchy feet. I am building up for a creative surge in Sarah's studio. I have been talking to New Zealand. I have been chatting with Scotland. (Aussie, where are you?)

In this "down-time" the work for the exhibition in three weeks time (yikes that is close!) has fully formed in my head.

I'm getting excited, counting the days. My ticket is booked, the materials are ordered (thankyou, paypal and Dick Blick) and next week, after catching up with a friend over "una bella cena" (a wonderful meal), I am on my way to paint up a storm (figuratively speaking, that is!)

But first, gotta go! I'm heading out the door now to book my ticket to New Zealand for November-December. And then maybe check out cheap flights to London to follow my paintings over there.

Zacchi, you will be OK without me, truly you will. You get to have a holiday too!

6 August 2008


It's hot and dry. The poppies have gone. The citrus trees are curling their leaves, thirsty. I am losing my suntan as I stay indoors in the cool.

Holding their heads high, catching the light at certain times of the day, tough and enduring, these floral gems look delicate and precious, but thrive in such conditions.

This one, growing a metre out from my steps, has survived hot soapy water, bleach, Zacchi, Zacchi food, brooms and rakes. It makes you stop and think, really.

Some people, in the face of adversity, weep and wail, break and fall. Others smile, work a little harder, and look the world in the eye.

If I can't be a poppy, can I be the blue flower growing strong against the odds?

5 August 2008

feathered friends

Tomorrow I part with some works that are going to London, hopefully to be sold by the NZ Society to raise funds to save the rarest plover in the world, Thinornis Novæ Zealandiæ — the New Zealand Shore Plover. (Photo from DOC media release 18 January 2008).

Artists are frequently asked to donate paintings for worthy causes. Often I am tempted to ask "Are you donating three weeks of YOUR salary too?" of the person who thinks they are doing you a favour by asking for donations of your work, but I never say "No". In this case I volunteered: yes, it is a good cause, but truthfully the chance to exhibit with other New Zealanders in London was too good to turn down.

If you are in Mayfair between 1 September and 10 October do pop in and let me know how it all looks. Mine will be the tiny works, 4 inches by 8 inches, not at all conspicuous.

I hate parting with some works; it will hurt letting these ones go.


all we did...

Zacchi and I, was take two buckets of recycling to the bins not 50 metres away from the house. I am dripping with perspiration. It is 10.30pm. No point in trying to sleep for a while yet! It's no wonder Italians and Spanish eat at 9pm and the piazzas come alive at 11pm. Unfortunately we didn't take a siesta today. Or maybe Zacchi did. Several, in fact. Wise dog.

It is absolute rubbish that
"Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies merely glow..."
I may share their New Zealand birthday, but I am NOT a horse!

another dinner, another day...

Last night dinner with the same friends was a completely different scenario. We went to a different restaurant, near another town. It is rural and has a delightfully South Pacific feel to it in that you can smell the countryside and the outdoor area has bamboo screens attached to the pergola to form an outdoor ceiling that could be on any island in the Pacific. The music is gentle, the indoors has a non-specific classic feel, the presentation of the seafood is very tropical and the quality superb. In daylight it looks quite strange, a mixture of American ranch and wagon-wheel country growing out of a classical Italian building. By night it is delightful.

Discussion was food, family, and life in general, a pleasant and relaxing evening. Just lovely.

Wandering around this part of Italy I am often reminded of Tonga. Now that trip was a long time ago!

Now back to work for me... breakfast is over, and today seems a little cooler. The night was only 22 degrees, great for sleeping! So much for yesterday's great intentions, says she who opened her eyes at 7.23 this morning!

4 August 2008


This morning at 6.15 Zacchi and I went walking. We have been sleeping in lately and it has been too hot to walk later, well into the 30s and dropping to a mere 29 by 9pm. It was great. All our friendly morning walkers greeted us with the Italian equivalent of "long time no see". We had to confess to sleeping in other mornings.

Zacchi is getting much better at going for short sprints then coming back to the leash. It is still too dangerous to let him free too much, some traffic is fast. We both enjoyed the outing, and promised not to lapse again.

While waiting to make a call from the computer I idly checked the photographs from the Oceania Games (just finished in Townsville, Australia). What an inspiration! I missed myself being there (how does the Jim Reeves song go? I missed me at your place last night?) Masters athletes meetings (support crew only) had become a habit. It was good to see the familiar faces from the New Zealand team.

There is a fabulous shot of Margaret Peters flying, feet nowhere near touching the track. Last year at the World Masters Games she was described as New Zealand masters athletes "golden girl of the sprints". There was a similar photo of Dad in Riccione, Italy, last year. If I can have half of Margaret's energy and passion for life when I catch up with her age group (W70) I will be doing well. I can do it, with a Dad like mine it must be in my genes somewhere, just well hidden for now!

Tomorrow morning, Zacchi, we are up with the sparrows and jogging!

(Was that a tui I heard?)

3 August 2008

clash of opinions

Last night dinner with friends became a long and very heated discussion about the music being played in the piazza. The group was singing English songs, with a few in Italian as our meal progressed. It was toe-tapping music, easy to dance to. It had been advertised as music and dance.

We were seated outdoors at a restaurant not too far from the band. Further down the road a BBQ sizzled and the road was closed to traffic for the feast and summer fun. Literally hundreds of people were out and about, enjoying the summer evening. The old and the young mingled, meandered, chatted. The music was not too loud, did not intrude as some bands can. In fact, when the songs were in Italian, I barely noticed the change.

My re-patriated Italian friend became quite upset that what she saw as American music was being imposed on the community by the town council. I maintained that over a three month summer programme to find two concerts in English was appropriate, not an imposition.

English is taught in the schools, and music is a powerful tool for learning. Other Italian friends play music in English by choice, often asking me to listen to a phrase and help them to understand the words.

I am getting better at expressing my right to have an opinion, the right to be heard. I insisted that there was another way of seeing this. She argued vehemently and stood firm. There was no way to move the conversation ahead. Unfortunately we couldn't even agree to differ. We fell silent; there was nothing more to be said.

Globalisation cannot be halted. I remember quite vividly the disappointment I felt when, after some tiring travel, I found the New Zealand pavillion at the 2001 Venice Biennale. I was needing a touch of home; what I saw was international art. Back then I saw it differently. I was a wandering Kiwi needing a touch of culture from "down under". In 2005 I viewed the New Zealand pavillion with the controversial work by Et al. with much interest. I was happy to see with different eyes, to defend this exhibit, to explain how and why I thought it was appropriate. I regret not seeing the 2003 exhibit, a conceptual work by Michael Stevenson which in my mind bridged the "gap" between Kiwi culture and the international art scene. But I digress.

We make our choices. These choices are largely influenced by our situation at the time. I like living in this culture, and enjoy what makes it Italian. When I have a choice I boycott the large commercial centres (shopping malls) because I believe that they damage the local businesses and take money out of the community. These I see as an unnecessary evil eroding at what is so good about Italy. But Italy is not a static place. If progress and movement means listening to a mix of music in public places then surely that is also good for international relations and the confidence of young Italians as they venture out into the wider world.

I will enjoy whatever music the comune offers me... be it in Italian, English, or any other language. Music is more than words, it is a universal language.

2 August 2008

finished... or not?

I am fiddling. I have to finish this today, and varnish her as well. I am not sure that she is finished. I have the challenge of working from several photographs, none being exactly what I want to paint.

I wanted to leave this in a more simple style, but I keep changing things... the tip of the nose, the lips... the photographs were very "whited out", quite artistic and dramatic, but not helpful for likenesses. I wonder also if I am unconsciously painting the nose to conform to my own idea of beauty, so I will check again with angles and distances before I do too much more.

If I had stopped a two days ago and left her more stylised I might have been better off. I guess that try as you might, you really can't subjugate your own style unless you are doing a deliberate copy of something, or the altered style, rather than the portrait, is the main goal.

Finished? Yes, I think so. I think I am having a problem with the prettiness of the colours, I like things to be much stronger, with more contrast. I will stop now, before I do any real damage!

una bella festa...


I didn't really want the evening to end. To celebrate a house purchase, a birthday, and a permesso di soggiorno, there was a street dinner. (No, not all of them mine!)

Not my street, but the street where I first lived in Caprile. It is still my street too. This is where I know everybody's names, where I too can use Caprile telephone, leaning out the window and calling to a neighbour. Sono molto contenta!

Picture this: an ancient village street, foot traffic only. For a party, you simply move the tables out into the street. And the BBQ. Then you knock a few nails into the mortar and hang a few lights. One of the plugs is used for a hairdrier which blows on the embers and gets things happening faster.

Food appears out of three houses. Some of us come from a little further afield.

Conversation is mixed; food, art, photography, weddings, and an intensive perusal of a volume of "Share Your Tears" which has been produced by a friend who borrowed it yesterday. The artist gets a nod of approval from two very learned and severe critics.

Conversation is mainly about the excess of food. We are struggling. I am enjoying my first BBQ in Italy. The stayers move on to the more potent stuff. I mentally review what I wrote yesterday. The little plastic tumblers are tiny. Noone drinks to excess.

Someone calls for speeches. I pursuade my host that at this point we should be dancing on the table tops. We stand on the bench seat, conscious that it is a plastic table under the cloth. He says a few words about being a part of the community. He and I are the two most recent arrivals.

There are calls for a haka. I protest that I cannot perform this, being female. One of the guests affirms this and relates the uproar over the car advertisement here which has women doing the haka. It was withdrawn after protest from New Zealand but occasionally it sneaks back onto the screen. The women here love it. The Maori haka sells cars to Italian women. The world has shrunk, and gone slightly mad at the same time.

It is after midnight. It has been a very good day. Buonanotte a tutti. Photos very soon.

1 August 2008


Today is one of those days when there is time to reflect. I am pottering, catching up on a few long overdue things, taking little breaks here and there.

An email this morning wished me "a brilliant year ahead". That comment made me think about the year just gone. It has had some pretty tough moments in it. It has had some good news too. I don't think I want to look at the balance, it is better to look ahead a little, and plan for an exciting, happy year from now. The birds still sing, the butterflies dance. The sun still shines, the moon hangs in the sky (back to front and upside down, occasionally turning red but still there). On the whole I am stronger, hopefully a little wiser, and, when I need to, choosing how I react to things that happen.

I used to plan so much for the future. I have learnt that we live only in the now. That does not mean we are being selfish, living in the now, and it can also include preparations for the future. The now is all that we know we have. My now is pretty good. Yes I live alone, or rather, with a ragamuffin dog who is now learning to be good when he escapes onto the road. Sometimes human company would be nice. But tonight I am dining in the village, a bar-b-q in the street. This blog post was interrupted by two friends calling in to say "auguri". The sun is streaming in my window. I have spoken with most of my family over the past couple of days. I have food, clothing, a roof over my head. I can paint, play the piano, sleep, walk, do as I choose. What more do I need?

When I lived in Morrinsville I had the Serenity Prayer on my kitchen wall. Sometimes, depending on the space you are in, it can sound trite. But it made a lot of sense to me. I hadn't thought of it for a long time, but it has come back to me now.

GOD, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and the
Wisdom to know the difference.

~By Reinhold Neibuhr

His wife wrote in an undated letter:
Often the prayer is not quite as he wrote it. The form he preferred was as follows:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

The Wikipedia reference is also interesting.