30 May 2009


Just when I am tearing my hair out over straight lines, making things seem antique, wobbly hands and dubious eyesight, I accidentally click on this post by Brennen Reece. That may not be surprising, I did have other related links open. But it happened directly after my loss of confidence in my ability to produce what others want in my art-making, and a conversation about decision-making. In line with my "nothing is a coincidence" theory, I need to contemplate what this post meant for me.

In the last two days I have made a few more decisions about "what I am not" rather than what I am. I have also reminded myself of the things I treasure in life. I have moved from agonising over what I "should" be doing, to accepting that maybe I am doing what is best for this moment. (I do remember banning the words "should" and "must" from my vocabulary).

But getting back to the Mona Lisa and my son-in-law's lesson. This post reminds me of the things I used to know, and have long forgotten. The older I get the more I want things to be simple. I have a huge respect for people who retain knowledge, and more importantly use it and share it, but I seem to have lost all curiousity and the need to obtain and retain knowledge. I don't ask the questions I might have once asked. I don't seek to be a tourist and discover new things. The time is not right for me.

I don't think I am a teacher any more. Does it matter if I am unsure of my role in life?

Today I am grateful for the diversity of people in this world.

29 May 2009

end in sight

For the past little while I have been "A over T" as I paint on the floor. An end was definitely in sight! Now, thank goodness, the end really is in sight...that is, the end of 24 metres (x 20 cms) of straight (or not-so-straight) lines.
All that is left to do on this part (there are four lengths on the floor, stretching from one end of the house to the other) is to yellow and "antique" them a little.

Happiness is being able to stand up straight for a while!

Today I am grateful for being able to bend and straighten, move freely and feel fit and able.

28 May 2009

blogging along

I am a little out of routine so blogging is taking a back seat for a while.

I am painting (those straight lines again) and filling in every spare minute with friends and family. Zacchi is not so sure about all the changes around the place, and is still suffering at times from his bothersome ear.

I will be very happy to have the straight lines finished and "hung" around the vaulted ceiling. I must remember to go to the picture framer and sign the watercolour works this week.

I have reverted to cooking "meat and three veg" for my Antipodean guests, with potatoes included in the meal. My house smells of a different culture this week. We do eat pasta for lunch though, and yesterday cooked too much so Zacchi is delighted.

The hot week of August temperatures has settled back down to 24 - 27 degrees centrigrade, much more bearable, but I remain contented working inside where it is cool.

I have many emails to answer, but don't want to dash off hasty replies.


Energy, energy levels, what makes us who we are; there is much to think about, many things to ponder. I spent too much time last week agonising over what my "real work" should be as I juggled painting and commemorations, memorials and touring groups. My real work is simply living here, accepting what comes along, and doing my best with whatever challenges life brings. For a former 'control freak' like me this has been a hard lesson to learn.

It is good to know who we are, where we come from, to feel strong roots. Roots have their place, but sometimes bind too firmly. The fruit matures, and falls from the plant. I think that I am sometimes like a tree. But at other times it is good to be a butterfly, or a bumblebee.

Home is not a place, it is a recognition of a state where the heart is at peace. Feeling at home is being at one with nature. Being at home for me is also being in contact with the ones I love, whoever and wherever they might be.

There is no path, but many dancing fireflies remind me that a tiny tiny flicker of light can be seen from afar. That light keeps me company as I walk, whether with tiny steps or striding out confidently. It is true that, no matter how short or how long, how adventurous or how familiar, every journey begins with the first step.

Today I am grateful for simply being here.

27 May 2009


After the battle, time for some fun!
Oooops! Ran out of gas!

Today I am grateful for friends and family, fun and laughter.

25 May 2009

monday equilibrium

all happy...

We have a Zacchi minder to shower affection on Zacchi, the tall one to pamper Pickle, and it's back to work for me.

Visitors also mean pizza... Oh, and gelati...
Today I am grateful for the good and affordable food in the village!

sunday all well again

Still a lop-sided little Zacchi but only occasional yelps of pain.



Today I made a quick trip to Fiumicino to collect the tall one and a Zacchi minder from Leonardo da Vinci airport just out of Rome. Talking too much I managed to miss the turn off to the autostrada on the ring road, but a hasty reassessment and off the next ramp had us safely on the journey home without too much time wasted.

Home again it was down to the Melfa river to farewell the group of Canadian visitors and veteran soldiers, and watch the children float the poppies for remembrance into the river.

Today I am grateful for safe travels.

saturday, zacchi's traumatic day



OK, I suppose it is later, so just for TC here it is in brief:

It started with being de-wormed and de-flea etcerererered (that being after the previous backside wash and being crotched like a sheep after I ummm... errrr... might have just had a wee bit too much of the puppy's milk).

And it's bad enough that Pickle is here to stay.

But then

Mum thinks I got a sting. At first she feared it might have been a snake bite. I squealed and yelped and ran around and puffed and had my head on the side.

Mum called the vet. Then she sat beside me and cried. The vet said it was probably a sting and told her what to give me. Franca had some at her house. Mum and Franca looked after me.

I still put my head on the side and yelp sometimes, so mum is going to take me to see the vet and get my ears checked in case there is still something in there.

But now I have lots of energy, I am eating again, and I am not going to die. But the good thing was when mum thought I might die she did say she supposed she really loved me...

And now Big Uncle C is here and he bends way way down to play with... grrrrr... the puppy!!!!! But I am working on him. I reckon by tomorrow evening he'll be under my spell too.

OH, and don't tell, but Pickle has worked out that I am the boss so I guess that's progress... I suppose she is company of sorts!

21 May 2009

progress of sorts

I am hoping the background colour will have been painted when I return on Monday. I talked with the painter today. Cross fingers and toes...

Speaking of toes, I can't have enough monkey in my breeding. I seem to hold on with my toes when I am on the scaffolding, and keep getting pins and needles in them. Odd when there is nothing for my toes to grip; perhaps it IS monkey instinct!

Today I am grateful for the kind words from the project manager.

20 May 2009




an angel called saturday

Back on the work site I needed to find a ladder. The ever-changing staff of workmen meant it was yet another new face I asked to help in my search for a "scala". He held the ladder (the smallest and least secure ladder so far) as I climbed up. His name was Sabotino ("little Saturday") he told me with a smile, but I could just call for Sabato if I needed anything and he would come. A while later he appeared with a very welcome coffee and the offer of a cigarette.

Later he popped in to check that all was OK up on my platform, and I guess to see what I was doing there. I was doing my "up and down" to my paint, thinking that at least the bending down was stretching out the spine so constricted in the 'painting up'. Not good enough, says Saturday, who turns out to be a guardian angel. He brings me a mini bench to put my colours on, helps me to move the planks so I have a secure four-plank platform behind me, and tells me that when we go home from work we must take with us both our money and our health.

I like this young man!

The morning's work:
And at the end of the day...Today I am grateful for the angels who come into my life when I least expect them.

19 May 2009

the things one does...

This evening saw me crouched below the hand basin in the men's loo at the railway station, trying to connect up my hose to water the garden.

The fitting I bought last week was perfect for the tap in the garden that turned out to be dry. The smaller one I bought to fit the tap in the men's loo was too small for my hose. Noone had any suggestions of what I could do. I went to the nearby hardware store, asking for the connections I needed. Apparently they don't exist here. Joiners of different sizes? Nope. Something to tighten the hose onto the smaller fitting? Nope. Back to the station I trudged, a blister on my toe.

It had been a long day of ceremonies, with groups, and driving. I was hot, tired, and perhaps a little emotional. I had lugged my heavy 50 metre hose from the car to the tap... and no luck. I really did feel like sitting down on the footpath and crying. Perhaps it showed. A kindly railway worker offered to take me to see if there was anything that would help down in the shed at the end of the platform.

Ignoring all the advice a mother gives her daughters, I went to the shed and followed him in. At the bottom of the second tool box, just as I was beginning to think I should give up and go home, he found exactly what I needed to join the hose to the small fitting... but oh so rusty. However, with few squirts of spray and some surgery with the screw driver it was ready to attach to the tap!

Happiness is standing in the garden with the hose running, watering grateful plants, while everyone else scuttles away from the "rain" accompanying the thunderstorm.

Today I am grateful to the helpful railway worker who showed a little compassion towards a jaded Kiwi.

18 May 2009

post script

I peeked out to see how things were in the doggy department. Zacchi was sitting staring out into the darkness while Pickle was contentedly curled up on ZACCHI'S BED on the top step.

Really, is nothing certain in this life any more?

on the domestic front

Finally back to the painting project which is suddenly going much better. I think my promise (self-inflicted) to get the gardens ready for the commemorations was hanging over me a bit. But now, all is good!


Well, not quite all!

Zacchi has belly ache. I guess that's what happens when you steal the puppy's milk several times a day for four days or so and you aren't used to it!

He is resigned to staying outside overnight, but instead of sleeping on his mat on the little patio he is lying across the bottom step... Ain't no little pesky puppy gettin' past this king of the jungle!

I think this is the beginning of the "dogs belong outside" phase. Zacchi is an inside dog only because he was so tiny and frail when he moved in. Pickle (her temporary name, short for piccolina, little one) is not going to be so spoilt! She has made it into the house three times for three widdles... this time I'm with Zacchi on where she belongs!

Today I am grateful for my pesky little dogs.

17 May 2009

cassino railway station

From this...To this...

In memory of New Zealand soldiers killed in Italy in World War II.

16 May 2009

lovely evening

Sometimes things come from nowhere to give you a lovely surprise. I have been spoilt this week with two unexpected Kiwi connections.

I don't miss New Zealand at all, and in fact often don't remember to think about it although I wish family were much much closer, but when you are unexpectedly with family and/or like-minded fellow Kiwis there is a lovely understanding (and fun conversation) that reminds you of all the good things about the kiwi culture.

Early this week relatives were surprised to find that their Battlefield Tour assistant was a distant cousin. It was great to share their excitement as they traced the steps of a grandfather. Names on the family tree before, friends now. Life is extraordinary and beautiful!

Guests at the local agriturismo last night had their peace interrupted by me popping in to say hello and see if they needed anything. I was expecting a "foreign" English speaker to appear, but there was no mistaking the accent when the surprised gentleman and his lovely wife came out to say hello to the intruder.

I hope the Kiwis who came to Lazio enjoyed their visits here as much as I did.

Today I am grateful for travelling Kiwis.

15 May 2009

and more garden...

photos later!!!

camera battery flat, cellphone needs recharging, body needs coffee...

oh, and sleep? yes, lots of it...

14 May 2009

gardens at the station

Rosemary for RemembranceBegonias for the colour of poppies... and the heat!

more photos later

12 May 2009

pigeonhole theory

I know a teacher whose school mail-box, or pigeonhole, was/probably-still-is always overfilled. Chaos, it seemed, near my immaculate and cleared three or four times daily pigeonhole. (OK, so maybe I am a bit AR about communication...mmmmph!)

I asked him, one day long ago, how he coped.

I never check it, he replied. I'm too busy doing other things. I work on the theory that if there is anything important in there, someone else will bring it to my attention. Then, when it is completely overflowing and the office staff complain that nothing more will fit in, or it starts falling on the floor, or at the end of the term when pigeonholes need to be cleared, I put it all in a box and take it home. If I really need anything, it is still there. At the end of the year, I dump it all.

Then he asked "How much time do you waste, reading things you don't need to know about, just because someone put it in your pigeonhole?"

Today I am grateful for the cooing of pigeons (daily dropping their messages of "good fortune" from the roof onto my car...)

Post-posting: I see that this says Monday, but really it is 9.00am Tuesday here and this is Tuesday's post... pigeon post, anyone?

11 May 2009

slowly slowly

Slowly all the things I have misplaced are revealing their locations. Zacchi's shampoo, my sunglasses, odd pieces of clothing... whew! Locating the sunglasses (prescription ones) was becoming urgent, now that summer is really here.

Now if only I could find my new really glitzy American jandals (bought when the suitcase didn't arrive in Alabama with me) I'd even put the jeans away in the cupboard and iron a skirt...

Today I am grateful for some semblance of order in my casa.

(Painting? What painting?)

10 May 2009


Too much of a good thing...

I had lunch out again today and I am going to dinner for a friend's birthday tonight. I hope the MOB outfit still fits me tomorrow!

It is custom here to take the dessert with you when you are invited out. This is generally a range of tiny attractive sweet pastries and biscuits on a gold foiled cardboard tray, beautifully gift-wrapped. I bought the ones for the lunch "down in the valley" up in my village, and the ones for tonight "up here" down in their village. Makes a change, I reckon!

Lunch? Beautiful fresh pasta with a special mountain chicory which only grows above a certain altitude, and a second round of fresh pasta with mushrooms. White pizza with rosemary and sea salt. Tomato pizza cooked in an outdoor wood-fired oven by the host. Roast potatoes and onions. Fish fresh from the sea... steamed over the barbecue with parsley, wine from the host's own family vineyard, and lots and lots of water because today summer really has arrived!

Buon appetito!

Today I am grateful for
friends who are fantastic cooks!

9 May 2009


I wish you could see! Tonight the first fireflies of the season are out and about... there is no way of describing the magic they bring. I watch them like a child seeing something that leaves them in wonder, awe, and without words.

I so love this crazy place! Who can possibly not love these beautiful creatures? Nothing else exists for me when they come into my garden!

I will always be grateful for fireflies!


from another artist blog;

"Don't miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow
looking for that pot of gold."
~Author unknown

After I had posted this I read it again and thought: This message is for me. Stop being so busy, and enjoy the lovely long evenings now that summer is finally here.

So, too lazy/tired to go walking, to be self-indulgent I researched a little more and found a beautiful tribute to Andrew Wyeth on the same artist blog.

Often when you paint commisions you learn more about what you are not than about what you are. I have always considered myself a colourist who preferred a bright palette, but now I am not so sure. As I look at the work of Graham Sydney, Andrew Wyeth, and Michael Shepherd to name just a few, I realise that I am being pulled more and more to pared-back images, the lean glazes I love to build up, and a more limited palette. Still a tonal painter, still a figurative painter, but maybe less of a colourist?

Food for thought. I wonder if it is a reaction to the opulence of art in Italy? Or has this urge always been there, as I have long been a fan of these artists even though my own work was very different from theirs? Or tomorrow, when I step out into the beautiful light and the warmth of the ancient buildings will I be back to where I was again?

I do know, though, that it is not that I am sparing with paint that I like to glaze with small amounts of pigment in a carrying medium. I simply don't enjoy large amounts of paint on a canvas, no matter how dramatic and moving the work might be.

It is/was very fashionable to say "I am" in art. I think it is easier to say "I am not..."

long day

This morning began early, with an email reply discussing one of my favourite "basics" in my watercolour palette. When I want a coolish base to a work I often wash with aureolin yellow. It would seem that tests (800 hours in the sun) show that it is not colourfast, and can leave a brownish caste. I have never had any problems with it, or none that I know of. I also don't leave watercolours in the sun, and always advise that they be hung out of the sun. But now, with the research below, do I have to remove it from my palette? Cost-wise I would be happy too as it is not a cheap pigment. For now I'll just make a note of the alternative colours, and wait and see what is available when I next go shopping.

At risk of seeming to be promoting one brand over another, here are some guides sent to me.

This from Handprint and more from Hilary Page casts doubt over one of my most used colours. Luckily, though, the warmth in the landcape here has had me leaning towards warmer yellows as a base, and I have been using Indian Yellow and New Gamboge.


This morning I took the train to Frosinone to speak with students in their final year of high school. Scarily enough I quite enjoyed being back in the school corridors, with all the young energy bouncing around me. I doubt that I would feel the same in a week or two, with preparation and marking as well as a full teaching load. Here the teachers seem to work fewer hours than in New Zealand, but they do teach on a Saturday.

When we returned to Cassino I was ready for the wonderful lunch prepared for us, and was lucky enough to make new friends. It was good to feel at home, relax, even joke a little, as much as is possible in my new language. Oddly enough, although I was supposed to be speaking in English this morning, when students asked questions in Italian it was instinctive to try to reply in Italian. And of course, with all that wonderful food, there were new ideas to try...

My game of Lexulous in Italian on Facebook is another thing altogether. Now THAT is difficult!

Today I am grateful for a warm welcome and new friends in Cassino.

8 May 2009

identity crisis?

Today I am grateful for hardy plants!

testing times

Testing times in every department... testing colours, testing territory!Zacchi and I share a foot fetish... and Podge (we are still searching for a name) will soon learn not to go near any feet belonging to Zacchi.

But despite the disputed ownership of the feet, (yes, the dusty boots are mine too) Podge/Splodge? and Zacchi are doing just fine!

7 May 2009

so on monday

This morning, will all the nerve I could muster, I phoned the head of the Cassino railway station, asking if the written authorisation had arrived so we could commence our work in the monument gardens. This time it seems that written permission is unnecessary.

She said she was sorry she was not there when we had tried to do the work at the weekend, and if we could be there Monday at 11 she would have other workers there to help with the task...
Aaah la bella Italia! Gotta love it!

Today I am grateful for patient people who speak kindly in simple Italian on the telephone.

6 May 2009

just when I was getting worried

about mail that hadn't arrived, posted in New Zealand 9 April, and other similar dates, all three pieces of mail I was waiting for, including what turned out to be a cheeky gift of some sexy knickers from New Zealand, arrived along with the power bill and my car insurance bill.
Huge sigh of relief! My international drivers licence is safely here.

Food for thought. Very interesting article about a New Zealand portrait artist.

Dream on! The gift... very "provocante", Elle McPherson, but they would be wasted under my work track pants and jeans! Besides, I don't think I have earrings to match... or should it be high-heeled sandals? Now there's a thought...(wobbles off into the sunset, paintbrush between teeth).
And the power bill? Yes, it keeps going up. I heard today that our electricity is the dearest in the world. I am ready to believe that.
The car insurance I had already paid for, I hope, with a portrait. I should just need to collect my window sticker before the due date.

Today I am grateful for mail that arrives!

so the little pooch

I think I'll call him "Hobo" (if he really is masculine... let's wait a little and see! I think he is only a week old. My diagnostic skills are not that great, I haven't looked yet!)

The little one is being well behaved most of the time. But he wants the same privileges as Zacchi, and tries to climb up the steps to the kitchen door. He gets stuck on the second step and yips and yaps for help. Earlier he was well and truly stuck in the netting fence; his big adventure onto the grass ended in trauma for him... it took a while for me to extract him!

He seems to have learnt from big brother that it is not the done thing to widdle on the concrete, so he uses the little patch of weeds I was planning on spraying. Spray is not used here, so perhaps he has saved me from prosecution!

He follows Zacchi around, wanting to be mothered, but Zacchi is not so sure that he wants to play that game!

PS my fears have been confirmed by different neighbour, not the one who said "she" was a "he". Hobo is a Hoba! Darn it, will have to have her speyed, or find her another home. Soon Zacchi will be wanting her to stay...

5 May 2009

you would have done it too...

Nature's gift?

Abandoned in a (different) carton beside my car last night.Zacchi, most unimpressed, is being very good! He says he doesn't know what the thing is, but it can stay as long as it doesn't touch his food, go near Mum, or enter the house. Fair enough, I reckon!Just what is this thing? Do I eat it or play with it?

(If he survives the next few days we will name him, Zacchi and I, but for now we will wait).

Today I am grateful for kind neighbours who rescued the pup from the roadside late at night.

4 May 2009


Not finished, not really furnished, but functional up to a point!


I'm sure that is what Zacchi is thinking! Mum is soooo boring! He has given up on me, and is sulking outside because I am (was) working in the cantina again. I think he is beginning to associate bright and breezy music with home renovations, and is totally unimpressed!

On the real work front, I am finding the straight line work incredibly frustrating! Tape to guide me wont stick, and bending to paint at an angle (the curve of the roof prevents standing up straight) does not make for particularly straight lines even when I have drawn them on. Big sigh. Ah well, tomorrow may be better...

I think I will pretend to be a butterfly, and stretch my wings and paint with light hand and heart. I am sure that will help.

Today I am grateful that butterflies and bumblebees really can fly.


3 May 2009

just chilling...

I don't enjoy being in limbo between works. Sometimes I would love some simple routine, knowing what each day might hold, being sure of something. But I guess in time I would tire of that.

Today was completely different from the day I had planned. In fact, the whole weekend was. I suppose that was a good thing? I used to enjoy being flexible, not knowing what was ahead of me. I wonder if it is the general uncertainty of life in 2009 that is making me yearn for a little predictability?

Tomorrow is back to work up on the scaffolding. I will be pleased when I can sit down at the table with my watercolours again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder... that applies to painting techniques as well!


When talking about what to wear to a wedding an Italian friend commented about how high the heels are on the summer shoes this year. I thought they were high (too high) last year. They are worse this year. I looked, eagerly, for some elegant bronze or ivory footwear... and came away with nothing. Interesting, though, that while Sunday browsers like me looked at these creations, admired the stunning heels, and "oohed" and "aahed" over the designs, they were bending down to the lesser displays and picking up shoes with more wearable styles when it came to serious looking!


2 May 2009

dancing shoes

Memory lane and a little before...

Just couldn't resist sharing this: Oldies but Goodies - all good fun!

Put your dancing shoes on...

i guess i'll never know

I guess I'll never know whether my burst of energy and enthusiasm today was from the excessive coffee I consumed, or whether it is just that I am well again. The main thing is, I have energy and optimism again!

I guess it was timely.

Today I took my hard-working labourer to Cassino to show him the size of the job we have restoring the garden around the memorial to the New Zealand soldiers. We took what we needed to commence the tidy-up around the actual plaque, just in case it was in urgent need after my time away.

BUT... I didn't take written permission to do the work on the garden... (I have requested it but not uplifted the piece of paper yet and of course the boss wasn't there today) so we were not allowed to turn a sod or pull a weed. It really does depend on who you strike on the day! Sometimes the railway police are really helpful, pointing out where I can get water for my plants etc. Today, unfortunately, they were obstructive. Just doing their duty...

Ah well, I will uplift the written permission (assuming it has arrived) and make multiple copies of it!!!!!

However, all ready for some hard work, I put the same energy into ordering my house. I don't think it was quite enough to call it spring cleaning, but certainly putting away heavy jackets felt good! Cliff Richard, your music really helps keep the action going.

Today I am grateful for cheerful music and sunny skies.

1 May 2009

1 maggio

Today is a public holiday. It is the day of the worker. Zacchi is sitting contentedly outside while I turn into a domestic goddess (yeah right! I hear from the other side of the world)and put all thoughts of other work aside.

The television in the background talks about workers conditions and the world crisis. I listen, trying to learn and to test my language skills, but really Wikipedia tells me much more. In 1834 the British colonies abolished slavery. Sometimes I think that slavery simply has another name now.

The Penny Black was issued in 1840. Now with too many forgeries Italy has all but out-moded the adhesive postage stamp.

Although we have had far too much rain, too many floods and earthquakes, and spring has merely teased us, there is life and energy in the village again. The financial crisis is beginning to bite a little, but walking, talking and laughing is free.

Card playing... well, that can be free too. I have refreshed my memory and played scopa with the rascal, and learned a high risk version of the game when the winner isn't known until the last card is played. Mmmm... I think I need to look for the official rules, my little friend is pretty sharp!

I ran some errands the other day and was asked why I was in my car, and not on my bike. Good question. I must remedy that!

Today I am grateful for good friends and a large pot of tea.


...come in all shapes, sizes and colours. As I paint, up on my scaffolding, a small black butterfly joins me. As I walk in the mountains it is small yellow one. Occasionally there is a monarch, swan plants may be found here too.

Somewhere I have a card featuring butterflies. I must find it. The message is about leaving the safe box, flying free with glorious colour, seeking adventure. At least that is how I remember it.

Many of you know that my "mascot" was always the bumblebee. Aerodynamically, it shouldn't be able to fly. But nobody told that to the bumblebee.

Buzzy Bee.
Each one is

Just living is not enough, said the Butterfly.
One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
- Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875)

How does one become a butterfly?" she asked pensively. "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
- Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

ps. butterfly image stolen from the www. Apologies if I have broken copyright...