31 December 2010

a little bit eccentric is good, right?

I woke at 5 this morning, (it's really Friday, New Year's Eve, here in Italy) looking for an email that wasn't there. Stupid, I know, but that's what we do, we solitary bods. It set me thinking about this strange and challenging life of mine.

I've decided that if the electrician sees me as being a bit eccentric then that suits me just fine. I've seen others look at me as though I'm not quite real too. I'm not sure if the looks are of disbelief, admiration, or appreciation. Some, I know, are sympathetic, pitying, and these I reject vehemently. If I choose to sit outside the square that is, absolutely, my choice. I will conform when I find things worth conforming to. For now, it is enough to renovate my house on a shoe-string budget in the manner most appropriate to the house, honouring its 500 year old history. Tomorrow, when it comes, will have to take care of itself.

A friend called in recently, and expressed her concern and sympathy when she noticed that the hot water cylinder above my sink was missing connecting pipes, and clearly wasn't working. Ummm, yes, well... it was, until I had it disconnected. There is no place for a huge, ugly, inefficient, calcium filled water heater that leaks and costs 20 euros a powerbill to run just to wash the dishes for one person, in a beautiful ancient structure where it is ruining the line of the magnificent arch above it. It is on its way out, as soon as I find two strong men to lift it down.

I heat exactly the amount of water I require to wash my dishes, no more. When I carry larger amounts from the bathroom (where the water heater is more efficient) I appreciate the pioneers, the people who have no running water, the need for conservation of resources. Is it little things like that, together with a fragile but beautiful snakeskin on the mantlepiece, that make me eccentric? If so, it is a hat I gladly wear.

The owner of a furniture shop who called to deliver something belonging to another NZer gazed around my apartment with eyes wide and eyebrows arched, then uninvited stepped into the unconventional kitchen, nodded approval and said "so much imagination" or words to that effect.

You can get away with a lot, when you have the label "artist", in this culture. Perhaps that is why it suits me. I am not really expected to conform, in my daily routines. It is a privileged space to be in.

Today I am grateful for the company of two little dogs.

30 December 2010

blame it on Christmas

I've hit another speed bump. I guess such crashes are inevitable. My friends are busy, or overseas. Emails from afar are few as summer pulls friends to the beach. The dreaded Facebook shows wonderful photos of an Italian group in the mountains, a group I belong to, but I wasn't there. It is hard to get on with the things that need to be done.

It makes me think of immigrants to New Zealand. It is one thing to get to know them at work, to chat on the street, but quite another to welcome them in to your home. I am guilty of limited contact on a personal level, and I am ashamed of this. How many times could I have invited a family to my home, but simply didn't think to do so? How many refugees in New Zealand are forced to cling to their own cultures because they are not given the opportunities to assimilate? You are welcome to live in New Zealand, but not to come too close, not to rock our world?

At Christmas I had more invitations to dinner than I could accept. For this I am always grateful. It is in the aftermath of Christmas that I need to be self-propelled again. Or perhaps simply accept a push from others, to get me started again? When chatting with a sympathetic young friend yesterday he wrote:
poi tu sei un artista, gli artisti hanno una percezione molto amplificata del mondo reale. Comunque, in compenso gli artisti, lasciano una testimonianza indelebile nella storia degli esseri umani
tu attraverso i tuoi dipinti
lo fai
Whether or not there is any truth in the perception that artists feel things more deeply, or perhaps have an unreal relationship with the world, I will accept his unintended challenge, to paint the history or our times. (In fact, as I wrote this, I remembered my electrician friend yesterday looking at the snakeskin on my mantlepiece, one I had found in the garden and brought inside to enjoy. He looked around my interesting and unconventional home, banged his head against mine, and told me, in broadly smiling dialect, that I REALLY was unwell...)

Why am I writing this more-personal-than-usual post? A Kiwi friend wanted to "Google Earth" my home. In fact, my address doesn't take Google to the right place. I was looking back through this blog for a photo to send to her, but instead I found this post. It reminded me of my journey, and so instead of feeling alone and sorry for myself I have decided to write my way out of it. It's good therapy.

Among my gifts at Christmas is a hand made card that reads :
"Carissima Kay noi ti vogliamo bene dal primo giorno che ti abbiamo conoscuta e ti pensiamo sempre
perchè se ti senti sola noi ci siamo sempre
I don't need to look very far at all to find the blessings in my life. The family who wrote these lovely words is away skiing at the moment. They have a campervan, and in it is a bed for me. I just need to accept the invitation.

There is another invitation I would like to accept one day soon. That is the invitation to dance, to dance with life. In fact, I think I'll stop writing and go and put the music on...

Today I am grateful for very special friends.

29 December 2010

the joys...

No, not the joys of Christmas, but of living in a house that is 500 years old. Two days ago my walls got damp enough to short out my power supply. The electrician couldn't come yesterday, because it is pig-slaughter time here and he was well committed to the family chores in another village. By the time he arrived this morning power was back on.

We have agreed that I should have isolating switches, and maybe eventually re-wire some of the suspect areas... who knows when? (Best you visit me in the summer, maybe...)

But the great news of the day, thanks to some generous friends, is that I have wireless internet so can hear skype calls if I am in my studio! Wooohooo... maybe I'll spend more time up in the studio now, instead of haunting the downstairs computer for contact with the outside world!

A flurry of domesticity hit me this morning, so there are now eleven jars of preserved mandarines on the bench, the tops making satisfying clicks as they seal. Waste not, want not... the ones that left half the skin on the tree in picking are now my breakfast fruit for the summer.

Happiness is feeling connected with the world again. (OK, so you didn't even miss me, but I knew that we weren't in touch!)

And something nice from yesterday... I was driving on country roads and at a Y intersection was struck by the most paintable sunset, with a great composition all laid out for me. (OK, I know, I don't paint sunsets and usually avoid landscapes, but I do appreciate them...)

I stopped and got out to photograph this with my simple cell phone, and a young man driving in the direction that would take him in front of me stopped, indicated for me to continue, and waited smilingly while I took my pictures. Nice that he too appreciated the magic of the moment and how fleeting sunsets can be.

The sun is shining, the studio is calling... ciao a tutti!

Today I am grateful for supportive and practical friends.

27 December 2010

for word lovers

I found this interesting reading this morning... Hope you enjoy it too.
Christmas in Italy, and some interesting word origins.

Happy new week...

Today I am grateful for bloggers.

26 December 2010

and so that was Christmas...

I have just been reprimanded for not blogging. It's kinda nice knowing that someone cares enough to check up on me. Thankyou, blogger extraordinaire!

Christmas was of course as stress-free as I could make it, but brings stresses just the same. Where to go, what to do, who to visit, to drop in some baking and stop and chat or just be a good fairy and leave it on the doorstep, not intruding on another family's togetherness?

Of course, it wouldn't have been Christmas if I didn't leave things until I was pressed for time. Why didn't I make the condensed milk balls a week earlier, they mature well and are better for it? Why didn't I wrap up the gifts from Zacchi and Pickle and put them in a safe place? (And where the heck are they now?)

I was torn, this year, more than ever. I couldn't make a decision. I couldn't say decisively "This is what I am doing at Christmas". But in the end I left it too late to go to family and after a lovely two week "pre-Christmas" in Alabama I stayed home and simply pleased myself.

I chose to spend the most important part of a European Christian Christmas, the Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve), talking with family in New Zealand. I know this offended at least one friend, but at the end of the day it is about what you believe, and I don't think that eating to excess, particularly in hard economic times, is justified anywhere. The price of fish has sky-rocketed this Christmas, and I want no part of the commercial side of the season. So Skype and G-mail video it was, sharing time with the people I love, while Italy ate and ate and ate... seven courses, all of fish, if you are to do it "properly".

I did go to mass and then to friends for a cup of tea afterwards, and was home by midnight to watch the computer clock tick over into Christmas Day.

Christmas Day itself was again a choice, and my preference was to go to an ex-pat friend in an Italian family where a Kiwi link was really appreciated. While I have tried very hard to assimilate here, I see why ex-pats do tend to group particularly at "family" times when we are away from the ones we love. These friends, an Italian-English couple, have more than half their family in NZ so are currently jumping through the NZ immigration hoops. Over a mixed English (roast turkey) and Italian traditional meal we laughed about the senility test administered to the over-70 wanting to immigrate, wondering if we younger ones would pass it ourselves, and discussed what a Kiwi Christmas felt like. My gift to the Italian and more reluctant emigrant half of this equation was a bottle of my very Italian olive oil in a clear, stylish, recycled, NZ bottle (from Paeroa). Italy into New Zealand does go.

My reflective time was spent reading and re-reading emails, looking at Youtube videos of Christmas carols, of troops abroad at Christmas, crying over the images with John Lennon's "So this is Christmas (War is Over)" song, and thinking of the homeless and the hungry.

I have felt closer to New Zealand this Christmas. When I came out of a restaurant a week ago where, with an English speaking group, I had been happily singing traditional English Christmas carols, the tune I was humming and the words in my head were "Te Harinui". Now where did that come from? Of course, the subsequent Youtube search took me back to school... and many unbidden memories came floating by. Hours were gobbled by the internet... have you any idea how hard it is to find a clear sung version of "A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree"?

So, Christmas Day for another year is over. The snow came about ten days too early, but yesterday we had sunshowers and temperatures back up to around 16°C. No complaints about that.

And yes, that was Christmas. Some laughter, some tears. Some reflective time, some busy time. Some writing, dreaming, and planning. Some baking and kitchen chaos. Getting out of my jeans and into festive garb. Christmas, for me, was a mixture, and the lows serve only to make the highs much sweeter.

Today I am grateful for my loving family and friends.

20 December 2010


I am beginning to think there is some merit in living between two hemispheres...

The heater has been going in my studio for three hours and it is still only 8 degrees. Back down to the warmer part of the house at least until my fingers thaw enough to continue painting!

Today I am grateful for a hot lunch.

13 December 2010

life in italy

This morning was an early appointment in Frosinone to try to sort out a rather expensive taxation issue to do with the purchase of my apartment. This afternoon I watched Cassino school children doing the haka. This evening I updated the Legato blog. One can never complain of having nothing to do, nor of being bored!

Today I am grateful for safe travel on the foggy autostrada.

10 December 2010

once upon a time...

I read John Ruskin for his literary achievements. The year was 1970, or 1971. I didn't read The Ethics of the Dust containing his lectures The Crystal Orders, but it's better late than never, right?
There's no music in a "rest," Katie, that I know of: but there's the making of music in it. And people are always missing that part of the life-melody; and scrambling on without counting-- not that it's easy to count; but nothing on which so much depends ever IS easy. People are always talking of perseverance, and courage, and fortitude; but patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude,--and the rarest, too. I know twenty persevering girls for one patient one: but it is only that twenty-first who can do her work, out and out, or enjoy it. For patience lies at the root of all pleasures, as well as of all powers.
(Ruskin, 1875. Lecture Four, The Crystal Orders, from The Ethics of the Dust).

In more recent years I have read his critical essays on art, and found them equally interesting and useful.

From Wikipedia:

Ruskin's views on art, wrote Kenneth Clark, "cannot be made to form a logical system, and perhaps owe to this fact a part of their value." Ruskin's accounts of art are descriptions of a superior type that conjure images vividly in the mind's eye.[10] Certain principles, however, remain consistent throughout his work, which Clark summarised as:
1. Art is not a matter of taste, but involves the whole man. Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity, all focused in a flash on a single point. Aesthetic man is a concept as false and dehumanizing as economic man.
2. Even the most superior mind and the most powerful imagination must found itself on facts, which must be recognized for what they are. The imagination will often reshape them in a way which the prosaic mind cannot understand; but this recreation will be based on facts, not on formulas or illusions.
3. These facts must be perceived by the senses, or felt; not learnt.
4. The greatest artists and schools of art have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts of vision, but about religion and the conduct of life.
5. Beauty of form is revealed in organisms which have developed perfectly according to their laws of growth, and so give, in his own words, 'the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function.'
6. This fulfillment of function depends on all parts of an organism cohering and cooperating. This was what he called the 'Law of Help,' one of Ruskin's fundamental beliefs, extending from nature and art to society.
7. Good art is done with enjoyment. The artist must feel that, within certain reasonable limits, he is free, that he is wanted by society, and that the ideas he is asked to express are true and important.
8. Great art is the expression of epochs where people are united by a common faith and a common purpose, accept their laws, believe in their leaders, and take a serious view of human destiny

the cookie walk

Take one church hall, fill it with trestles, decorate for Christmas, and spend an entire morning filling and refilling the trestles with cookies until, around the middle of the afternoon, they have all gone. Picked out by generous patrons who willingly purchase these, chosen with care, looking for favourites from years gone by... all to contribute to "Habitat for Humanity".

As you enter the hall you are issued with a box and a plastic glove, pointed in the general direction of the "start" and then you walk up and down the rows of tables, choosing your Christmas cookies. All the hand-made biscuits are donated, some obviously family affairs if the icing on the gingerbread men is any guide.

The hall is full of music, cheerful voices, and efficient helpers topping up plates and then consolidating the display as thousands of cookies disappear out the door with happy purchasers.

What a great fund-raiser for a wonderful cause. As I watch to make sure noone is sneezing near my chosen cookies, I remember regulations regarding church fairs and something tells me that food and health wardens would not allow this in dear old NZ.

Occasionally, surely, it's OK to bend the rules?

oh, and... (further to yesterday's post)

+ watched a certain short video over and over and over again,
+ renewed friendships with extended family
+ went to a Christmas cookie walk
+ and a Christmas parade
+ enjoyed the squirrels playing on the doorstep,
+ saw a beautiful blue jay in the tree close to the window
+ drooled in a book store
+ bought some art magazines
+ shopped for warm clothes
+ marvelled at the progress of an artist at work
+ revisited a revamped historic part of town
+ contemplated cultural differences
+ purchased some chai tea
+ appreciated being driven around to see the Victorian Front Porch Christmas decorations and lights

and ate fried green tomatoes again!

Today I am also grateful for emails from afar.


* played peek-a-boo in the curtains
* robot Nonna in the hallway
* pirates with booty at munch-time,

* danced to the Wiggles
* laughed with the Tele Tubbies
* "looked" and "see-ed" through a child's eyes
* gazed at "babee tarshar" on the computer
* giggled with the giggler over musical Elmo
* "wowed" at the Christmas lights
* "yummed" at all things yummy
* snuggled at evey opportunity,

* loved being used as a human box-horse
* marvelled at the intelligence of a little one
* enjoyed all the smiles, the cheeky ones, the flirtatious ones

...just been a Nonna!

Today I am grateful for grown up children and not-so-grown-up grandchildren

9 December 2010

the old new broom

Clothes sorted and packed away,
Dozens of tiny socks reunited,
Toys sorted by relevance,
CDs and videos sorted,
Books located and relocated,
Food bin groceries ready for delivery,
Swimming pool dismantled,
Pikelets made and eaten,
Hot soup on the stove,
Cupboards painted, however badly,

...almost done.

It's nearly time for Nonna to go home.

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to lend a helping hand.

6 December 2010


Kettle brand krinkle cut potato chips, (party size) Salt and fresh ground pepper flavour... YUM! (Purchased at Earth Fare).

Today I am grateful for Earth Fare, the healthy supermarket.

1 December 2010

just occasionally

Just occasionally I treat myself to some time reading in English. No big deal? Well, these days it is to me. My struggle to learn Italian is not helped by reading and thinking in English, but often the frustrations of not exercising other parts of my brain is too much and I need to explore themes in depth, in English.

Saturday and Sunday I read a novel, thought provoking, ideologically challenging, historically interesting, and as a novel with a simple yet complicated plot, most satisfying. The novel is Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant. This is the second novel I have read this year that has a deceptively simple story-line. The complexity and satisfaction is in the detail, the accuracy and depth of research, and the richness and flair of description. The other, of course, was The Burning Mountain by L J Adlington, a novel for teenagers based on the eruptions of Mount Vesuvious and the WWII battle of Cassino.

Today, in my quest to find something completely different via Google, I stumbled upon more interesting reading. This time it is New Zealand authors on New Zealand themes. I have been accused of deserting New Zealand, of not caring. "Not true", I cry, it is simply that for now I need to be elsewhere. If I really had deserted New Zealand I wouldn't have been excited when I found this page of writings by prominent New Zealanders all caring enough about New Zealand to write their visions for us all to read.

Today I am grateful for stimulating articles and books to read in English.

24 November 2010

on life

(Hoping that this is not breaking copyright, but there were no repercussions from my previous Adcock post so I will post the text with much respect for the poet and the poem).

A poem by one of my favourite poets, Fleur Adcock.

For a five year old

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
Into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see and I explain
That it would be unkind to leave it there:
It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
That no one squashes it. You understand,
And carry it outside, with careful hand,
To eat a daffodil.
I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
Your gentleness is moulded still by words
From me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
Your closest relatives and who purveyed
The harshest kind of truth to many another,
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.

nothing is impossible

Some of you will remember my links to "Chris will Walk" - a young man who was badly injured in a swimming pool accident, paralysed, told that he would not walk again, and with a young family to support. Financial problems arose as he was not insured at the time of the accident. Family and community rallied around, but the most amazing effort was from Chris and his wife, Christy.

One year after the accident Chris walked in a community 5k race with his children, a race he had completed with them only a few days before his horrific accident. View the video on Youtube, or go to the Chris Will Walk website.

Today I am also very grateful for positive outcomes.

t u f f tough

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That's what I learnt, a long time ago. A much loved friend, in her 70s at the time, used to tell me as I struggled balancing work, home, farm and a young family, that she and I were "Tough. T U F F Tough!" Bless you, Nana Jean. Yes, I am tough, t u f f tough. (Maybe not in capitals yet though!)

While it has had its highlights, this has been a really tough year. So much so that in November I am already looking forward to next year. I have even, occasionally, doubted the wisdom of my choice to live in this part of Italy, but I have never doubted the choice itself.

The biggest stresses and problems have all been the result of my big project, Legato. I have absolutely no doubt that it was right inviting all who were interested to participate, but oh how much easier it would have been for me if I had selected only a few artists and worked closely with them instead of accepting all-comers with the resulting problems, some of which continue with customs and the return of works. Still, I look back at comments on the blog and emails from families of veterans and I know that it was the right thing to do.

There have been days when I haven't felt so tough, when the road looked too long and my heart was weary. But a smile from a stranger, a kind word from a friend, a photo from overseas can turn the day around, put a spring in my step, pull my shoulders back and head upright, and on I go again. It is good to be strong, but wise to remember that we are all a little vulnerable too.

We get back what we put in to life. Truly sincere actions, coming from the heart, will always have a positive result. Sometimes it seems that the wait is too long, that the balance is unequal. It is then that we must remember that every action has a reaction, every good deed is passed on and eventually comes back to you, possibly in ways you couldn't possibly imagine. If it seems that there is too much paying forward happening in your life, that you are pouring too much of yourself out with no support coming inwards to keep you afloat, just picture what it will be like when all that you have done for others finally comes back to you!

Today I am grateful for time to think.

23 November 2010


Today a blog that I follow had an "it's over" notice. The blogging, that is. The blog writer had completed what she set out to do, run the races (literally) and decided that she was too busy living the rest of her life to blog about it. I'll miss the blog, but really, I spend too much time at the computer anyway. I'll certainly miss the blogger's witty and astute observations and prose though!

This coincided with notice of a comment on a post I had written in January this year. It always surprises me that people read my blog, and when they stumble upon an old post it surprises me more. Did it turn up in a random connection via google? Was someone actually READING my blog? Occasionally I stumble across one I like and have read back several months of posting. You can learn a lot about a person, but knowing how I write my own blog I know that only a tiny part of the story is put out there for the world to read.

I had noticed that I am too busy living life to write about it too, and that is a shame. The truth is, I like blogging. It is almost a kind of meditation for me. In those random moments during the day, walking the dogs, washing the dishes (who am I kidding, that's every three days), I enjoyed thinking about what I might write in the evenings. Now my evenings have disappeared, and I am not quite sure where. Learning and teaching and meetings take up at least four nights a week.

In my big re-evaluation of my days here I have decided that blogging is coming back into the picture. Exercise and reflective thinking are two essentials for me.

Today I am grateful for the people who take the time to read blogs and validate random bloggers like myself.

19 November 2010

christmas is coming

so you might need to know

how to get superglue off your hands!

Today I am grateful for helpful hints!

13 November 2010

meeting and greeting

Life keeps on changing, yet staying the same. There will always be new adventures, new people, new things to learn.

Today I am grateful for the new people who come into our lives.

9 November 2010

with folded arms

This evening, tucked up warmly with my computer, I am contemplating folded arms. No, not mine, and not here. In general.

We fold our arms to put up a barrier, to be defensive, to assert a position, to state that we are not budging in an argument. We fold them to keep warm. We fold them to establish an authoritative position.

I wonder, do we fold them more often in cold weather, giving out messages different from what we are really feeling? Or does our communicativeness close down in the winter months as well?

Body language is a favourite subject of mine, but I had almost forgotten that until watching a short video this morning. Here is a website which has some interesting observations about folded arms blocking and defending (read the section heading "Crossing").

Today I am grateful for arms that fold and hold.

5 November 2010

three months on...

Happy three months, little one. Miracles really do happen.

Love conquers all.


4 November 2010

nearly over them

I was enjoying picking olives. I am still mostly enjoying picking them. But now that there is a deadline to meet and the weather is changing and they are ready to press (booked them in at the press) I am soooo over picking them! Tomorrow, with a little help from cheerful worker, I hope that the trees will all be stripped. That means that I can get the crop pressed on Saturday, which is as late as I would want it done.

Somewhere between now and then I need to sift out most of the twigs and leaves, and have a presentable crop to take in.

Then I will need my wits about me. I am going to a different press this year, now that I know the owner and his wife. But it is big, and there were maybe twenty people there when I called in this evening. You stay with your crop, and don't let the progress out of your sight until the oil is made. In the smaller presses I had almost got it mastered, but this one was a bit overwhelming for me tonight. Oh dear, wish me luck on Saturday.

Then it is time to preserve the table olives. I have learnt how to do the oven "wilted" black olives, with hot peppers, garlic, mandarine zest and salt, preserved in sunflower oil. Last year it was the green ones split then treated with boiling water, with the addition of fennel seeds and garlic preserved in light oil. Next year I'll have to find another to try. I don't put them in brine, they are so cheap to buy it is not worth the effort. But the added extras are definitely worth doing.

Today I am grateful for a helping hand.

30 October 2010

yummy recipe

When you live alone and like to be frugal occasionally the shopping gets a bit out of kilter. There's always plenty in the cupboard and the freezer, but the fridge...well, it's looking more like a science fair project than a health food store (I really was going to freeze those veges...). When I came in from the olives to cook tea things didn't look very promising. There were a few sad looking vegetables given to me at a time I was eating out with a Kiwi visitor, and some less than attractive hardening cheeses left over from when I shopped for same visitor, but not really anything that looked appetising.

However, every flatter would be delighted with this:
Take the cauliflower from the back of the fridge, cut off all the black bits, dig out the brown bits, and throw into the pot with the last onion cut roughly in big pieces to avoid tears.
Resurrect the sagging pumpkin, give it a shave, then chop into small pieces.
Add the last three tomatoes, and leave all boiling a while.
Decide not to add anything out of the freezer, but throw in some vege stock cubes.
Mash a bit while boiling.
Serve in large soup mug and add generous amounts of crumbled gorgonzola that had seen better days.

YUMMMMMMMMM! This with some wonderful local bread (wood fired oven, bread freshly made today) and I didn't even need a glass of vino to wash it down. Two helpings later I have just remembered the wine, still with the cap on the bottle.

Today I am also grateful for the various very generous friends, who (about a week ago) gave me the cauliflower, the pumpkin and the as yet unopened bottle of wine.

picking olives

After two seasons of the olive pickers not returning to do the pruning that was part of the deal, I decided that this year as I have to do most of the work then I would also have all the oil. I still wanted some pickers though, as the work has to happen over just a few days. The Kiwi pickers let me down, the Italian pickers let me down. Back to being independent again.

This morning, with my Venezuelan friend to advise me, I went shopping... and am now the proud owner of a large amount of net and the rakes to pick olives, should anyone arrive to help. (I prefer to use my bare hands, not the rakes, and the first year I picked into buckets over old sheets). Now to decide where to cut the net - I have two 8 x 6 metre nets, and am putting them one either side of three trees. It is usual to put one net around one tree, and have a split for the trunk. Maybe I should have gone for 3 nets at 6 metres, although I enjoy hauling the nets in and watching the catch run along the folds and gather; I think a fisherman probably enjoys that sensation even more.

I aimed to pick one tree this afternoon just to convince myself that I could still be independent, then have a bigger day tomorrow. But... out in the sun, up the trees, listening to the sound of chatter all along the hillside as others were picking their olives, it was a lovely space to be in. I convinced myself that with a bit of effort I could pick the whole crop myself. I am not pruning as I go though, that can wait for a serious prune in April (when any unsuspecting guests might be roped in to help).

Luckily for my hands and back though, my usual labourer arrived to help. He came just when I was thinking that I had had enough for the day, so I kept on picking. Progress was much faster with two of us. I learnt today that his nickname since he was about 14 is "Number One" (yes, in English with an Italian accent). I am not surprised.

Three trees done, and being the ones that get the most water they were probably the three with the most on. Only 27 to go...

Daylight saving ends tonight, putting us back to 12 hours apart from NZ again (I think...)

Today I am grateful for people who don't mind working hard.

28 October 2010

on butterflies and things

Tonight I am happily singing and (shhhhh) dancing about the place, listening to music and generally reflecting on the good things of life. Why? I am really, really enjoying my Italian classes, I have reduced the number of days I teach English, and I have been wondering what my next motif will be. The first one was the bumblebee... aerodynamically, apparently, a bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly. Shhh, don't tell the bumblebee. What a wonderful inspiration that tiny creature is.

Then came the butterfly. I felt like a caterpillar, and finally I found my wings and was able to fly, to spread a little colour, to feel light and free. Here I am often accompanied by butterflies as I walk along the road, enjoying the wonderful panorama of the Liri Valley.

I sense another change: new focus, new direction, new haircut... is it time to find a new motif?

When I was a cub leader my name was Nushka, meaning Friendly Bear. I rather liked that. Often I am Katie here, and I loved the Katie books when I was younger. One title strikes a chord: "What Katie Did Next".

Watch this space!

Today I am grateful for wonderful teachers and friends.

27 October 2010

things are falling in to place

The mountain of things to attend to doesn't decrease, but there is a natural sorting of order and things are falling in to place. So much so that I let the dogs walk me again, rather than lose this glorious autumn afternoon. Temperatures have dropped to about 18 degrees, sometimes a little lower, so walking is very pleasant. Easier without the dogs, I will admit, but pleasant with them all the same.

Last night in a family home I was served the most enormous piece of succulent salmon that I have even eaten. Then, after the salad, came chestnuts roasted on the fire and home made vino rosso. The son of the house reminded the host that I was driving... so cool that children are aware of such things at an early age.

We then watched the film Benvenuti al Sud, which would have been hilarious if I understood both Milanese and Neopolitan dialect. The little bit of Italian I understood quite well, but the punchlines... not a chance! It was funny despite this, and I guess for the children it was funny that their English teacher couldn't understand the film dialogue and only laughed at the more obvious humour.

Today I am grateful for kind and caring people.

24 October 2010

generation gap?

I phoned my 90 year old dad this morning (my night), carefully waiting until it was about 8.30am his time in case he was having a sleep in. What was I thinking? He said, bright as can be, that I was lucky to catch him as he was just in the door from an hour long walk-run.

An hour later I phoned another number, and nephew who shall remain nameless answered the phone, equally cheerfully, but I had woken him. Ooops. So, of course I told him what his grandfather had already achieved in the earlier part of the day... (grin).

On the home front though, I can't really be smug. After a full day of emailing artists one little Zacchi took matters into his own paws. He politely asked to be taken walking. He grovelled. He begged. (He knew better than to bark). Finally, going up on his back legs, he took my arm between his front paws and pulled. I gave in. Such devotion must be rewarded. I let him walk me.

Today I am grateful for the health my family enjoys.

23 October 2010

chugging along

... but hopefully I am about to have a burst of energy. Roll on the completion of a few of these tasks!

Where did the week go? I could get used to a slower pace of life.

Almost as bad as losing internet connection (this morning) is losing cell phones (this evening). Thank goodness I could skype myself to find them... they were under the study papers I was sure I had checked and double-checked! Moral of story, don't study? I think I have "ci" sorted now.

Today I am grateful for pizza with friends.

17 October 2010


This weekend I had a trip to Rome (talking about exhibiting up there, among other things) and then an art exhibition opening in Sora... and another invitation to exhibit. If only I had time to paint...

I took a wrong turn coming out of Sora and got horribly lost just on dark. Suddenly one of those navigation thingies looks like a good idea.


On Saturday night I met some really interesting people, some of whom work for FAO and were in Rome representing their various countries. Sunday morning saw a big Run for Food in Rome. I didn't run it, but it set me to thinking how little we (I?) know about what goes on in the world. The main FAO website is here (click). There is a lot of interesting reading on the website and its links.


The Wallace Gallery opening was a huge success, and I have had an email from a visitor saying how wonderful the exhibition space is. Well done Wallace Gallery supporters. You have done us proud!

Today I am grateful for people with vision.

14 October 2010

been a bit busy

...out and about with Canadians, photos to follow.

Then came a few other things that needed attending to, some teaching, some learning, some being a local, and today I have given myself the afternoon off! Siesta time...

Today I am grateful for comfortable silence.

9 October 2010

brighter and brighter

In New Zealand it is Sunday. Happy birthday Jude! I know you don't read my blog, but heck, the big 50 has to be recorded somewhere :-) Welcome to the top of the hill... the view is great and the slopes are gentle!

Anna, you don't even know I have a blog, but happy birthday to you as well.

And the day after... have a great day, mate.

This evening I am grateful for things to celebrate!

sometime soon

I'll get around to loading a few photographs. Maybe.

In the meantime it is enough to say that autumn is beautiful, work is coming in although some has been cancelled as a direct result of the poorer economy, and I seem to be spending every cent I earn which is not really a good thing!

But... there is work, there are good and loyal clients and happy students, and the sun shines somewhere every day (lately it has been here...)

In the news today four Italian soldiers have been killed and one badly wounded in Afghanistan. An old man who lived alone in a very expensive hilltop town outside Rome was found dead... seven years after the event. His once immaculate grounds were overgrown and jungle-like and the place was deteriorating... and nobody noticed until leaking water became a problem. How high was his security wall, I wonder? How can it be that noone even asked about him? No man is an island...

In New Zealand the headlines are just as sad or bad... local elections are a highlight, at least they are relatively healthy! Here's hoping that all the newly elected councils are wise, community minded, and there for the common good and not for personal aggrandizement.

What a depressing blog post! A much brighter and more interesting thing is how one person can make a difference. Next week sees the canonisation of the Australian teaching nun, Mary MacKillop. Her story is worth reading, courage and perserverence in difficult times. It seems that in the world of education one person really can bring about change. Her efforts in those times were probably as great as Greg Mortenson's efforts today.

Today I am grateful for altruistic people.

8 October 2010

officially finished...

at the palazzo over the road. It's been a long road, frustrating, demanding, satisfying, all of those things. I will miss it. I am no longer daunted by frescoes dated 1511, scaffolding 4 metres high, or workers from Naples. I am very sure I don't want to do a similar project again... but... give me a week off and I think I'll remember only the highlights, and be tempted again!

The ups: the challenge, being trusted with the work, using many different skills and techniques, seeing the end product and feeling an affinity with the building.
The downs: sore knees, difficult working conditions, language barriers.
The surprises: how long it took (over a year) and climbing up to the fresco and finding that the artist who had repaired it once before did so with a hand identical to mine.

I'll miss it all.

Today I am grateful for kind co-workers.

6 October 2010

facebook, friend or foe?

This post is simply blather, talking to myself I suspect. I had so many deep and meaningful things to write, but the sun is too cheerful, the day too balmy, the sky too blue...

The building where I work is locked up today, so that lets me off the hook but delays completion time. I am not supposed to go out into the sun, and the plumber has yet to arrive to hook up the heating bits and pieces upstairs.

Today I accepted odd friend requests from people I don't know. Once FB was a way of staying in touch with family, but now it is a time-consuming, greedy and unwelcome distraction. Do I stay or do I go?

The reality is that in today's world FB is a marketing tool, so for Legato I will stay. Life got much happier though, when I started "hiding" feeds and blocking other people's games. I was reading and discarding far too many words in a day.

Now to train myself not to open FB until evening... maybe I will get through a few more important emails if I am not reading posts that really are not so necessary in my life.

Autumn is glorious, there is no better word for it this year. The forecast was for rain, but after the rain we have clear vistas and the most wonderful sky. I could almost pretend that I was back in Hawkes Bay, the sky is so blue! The leaves are only now starting to turn, and the little bit of rain we have had gives depth to the colours in the rocks and the stone walls.

Today I am also grateful for beautiful weather.

it's normal, isn't it?

To spend time looking at photos of distant grandchildren instead of getting on with the pile of work ahead of me? That's not procrastinating, it's called "being in the moment"!

Today I am grateful for photographs, videos and word pictures.

5 October 2010

Burning Mountain - the next children's classic?

Occasionally I change hats, and write rather than paint. Below is a recent review written for Hodder Children's Books, the publisher of Burning Mountain. Click on this website to read the York Press review as well, and to meet the author, Lucy Adlington.

Burning Mountain by L J Adlington.

It is not often that a novel written for young readers grips and holds the adult reader from start to finish. L J Adlington’s Burning Mountain is one that does. Spanning countries, generations and wars past and present, this deceptively simple story is destined to become a classic novel for teenagers.

Moving between modern England and wartime Italy, the unfolding wartime drama and modern mystery can be read on many levels. The seamless intertwining of past and present, the subtle mix of fact and fantasy and the complexity of the levels of message within the story make this novel not only an ideal text for classroom study, but also a powerful and contemporary contribution towards international understanding and peace.

Accidentally locked out in the rain, Denise and Craig seek refuge next door. An uneasy friendship is formed with their elderly neighbours who share an intriguing story with them. The repeated request is not clear. What did the crazy old lady next door want Denise to do?

The life and death issues that the children face as the tale unfolds provide ample opportunity for classroom discussion. The mystery from the past draws out lessons from WWII and ties them firmly to the present realities of the children’s life as they think of their brother fighting in Afghanistan.

Wartime social, ethical and political issues emerge as the young Vittoria and Erich face their challenges, differences, hopes and fears. When survival, rather than victory, becomes the aim, lines between friend and foe are blurred.

While the younger reader is given more obvious clues to follow and switches in time are marked by changing typefaces, the more sophisticated reader is given subtle hints and a sprinkling of Latin, German and Italian phrases to challenge without disrupting the story. A complex multi-levelled approach to solving the mystery can be found on every page, sometimes to be recognised only on a second look as the storyline pulls the reader in eager anticipation quickly through the pages.

Modern social problems don’t escape the attention of this talented writer as she exposes the realities of suburban life. Overriding all of this though is the message that war is not something that happens to other people in far away places. The reader is reminded that while the Battle of Cassino veterans who once were enemies meet in friendship, peace and reconciliation remains only a distant dream in many parts of the world today.

Proving that truth can be stranger than fiction, this well researched novel teaches as much as it enthrals. From an erupting volcano to a scruffy ragamuffin dog, each element has its place. Fast moving, colourful, with just enough hint of romance and empathy to soften the brutality of war, Burning Mountain leaves the reader challenged yet satisfied.

Reviewed by J K Scott MFA (Hons) P G Dip SNRT (Dist), BA, TTC.
Education Consultant, co-author of
Listening and Speaking, English in the New Zealand Curriculum and former teacher of English and Media Studies in New Zealand secondary schools.

and the finished product

The colours became quite rich when I added the varnish later.

Today I am grateful for time to finish a few jobs.

the small trial piece

4 October 2010

nearly there

I can see a few things that need adjusting, but I am happy that I will have it to the framers by the deadline. Whew!

Today I am also grateful for music while I work.

progress photos

Not sure how to crop these... I am missing my computer!!! Still, I have one to use so should be grateful, I am grateful, but I don't know how to install the programmes I need (not even in English, let alone Italian!)

My clients have opted for the bigger version, so I will finish it first.

So after this break it's back to work... am loving the weather and it is so easy to get distracted!

Today I am grateful for clear blues skies and a gentle breeze.

3 October 2010

works on the old nag

Bruises are starting to come out but they are not nearly as bad as I expected, thanks to some "horse medicine". I hobbled to put in my apology at a beer festa at a friend's home, (it is October, and the friend is German) to be despatched by an Italian friend, expressing great concern, to purchase a gel to apply to prevent the bruises developing. Here you can buy a huge range of powerful medicines without prescription.

The gel came with a warning to keep out of direct sunlight (and for two weeks after using it). I checked the active ingredient, ketoprofene, which sounded very familiar. Sure enough it is ketoprofen, used in horses. I applied with caution, but have to admit it worked a treat!

This morning when the dogs walked me I was able to go upstairs "normally", and Zacchi thought that I could walk further than I wanted to. He was right.

Today I am grateful for compassionate friends.

1 October 2010

i guess it had to happen...

Today the scaffolding was not particularly secure, safe but wobbly, with difficult access. I took extra care, and managed most of my work without incident although I did hurt the problem knee again. When I am up on wobbly scaffolding, or reaching out without something to hold on to, I marvel at how much we use toes to balance. I think I am pretty proud of myself and what I have achieved up on those planks, but...

I guess it had to happen. I have been working in the building for over a year, and today I had my first fall. I was working on a small ladder, got my shoe caught when coming down I think, and half fell, ladder and paint as well, onto the marble stairs. Luckily it was less than a metre and I am well enough padded to expect only a few bruises. There wasn't much paint, it was my palette not the paint pot, so that was lucky. So no harm done really, but for now I am feeling a little sorry for myself.

The good news is that the work is really really truly almost finished. Yes, of course, there is more that needs doing after other workers have done their bit, but the patch of daylight gets bigger and bigger.

Today I am grateful for my good wide feet and monkey toes.

30 September 2010

wanting to share

I have just been watching a programme about sharing with the rest of the world if you think that the world can be a better place. The "movement of change" just might be worth looking into. If you have read "The Tipping Point" then it all makes sense... if enough of us, in our own best ways, try to bring changes for peace, then we MUST make a difference.

Tonight I was at a presentation of a CD followed by a concert. The theme was the region's history and the battle of Cassino. The speakers and projected photographs were very interesting - as much as I understood anyway! One of the speakers challenged the musicians to see the work not as the culmination of a project, but as the launching pad for what comes next. Strong, stirring words, and so well chosen! The concert, as usual, was highly professional and uplifting despite the sad stories in the songs.

But now I must sleep, it is late. On the way home I thought to myself that one of the downsides about living alone, in any country, is there is noone to check to make sure you got home safely. I wonder if that is why I often blog after an evening out? Just to affirm to myself that I am safely home?

Today I am grateful for inspirational people.

29 September 2010


Back up the scaffolding today, and up and down the ladder, and up and down the steps in the village... it's got to be good for me!

Progress at last, I can see the end of the work in sight! Now to wait for a little stucco to be done, and tomorrow will be full on with sponging walls again. Then there is a painting to have finished and ready to go by Monday, and then back to the work that I had put aside for now.

Then, hopefully, some time to get next year's Legato up and running with a bit more energy...

Life is good!

Today I am grateful for glorious blue skies.

28 September 2010

another day

Today was a Kiwi day, sharing my beloved village with a group from NZ. The time was so short... there is so much to see and do, and only a few hours to try to share how wonderful this place is, and the history so closely entwined with NZ after World War II.

It's a very small world, one of the group even knows my uncle from Dunedin!

Now I am tired, happy, and relieved that the time went well. I was surprised at how nervous I was, knowing that the group comprised well travelled, well educated kiwis. They were lovely, I didn't want to let them down, and then I didn't want to let them go.

Today I am grateful for our welcome in my Italian village.

25 September 2010

autumn is here

I drive 12 kilometres to teach three children twice a week. At 3.30pm the sun is catching a crop of corn and the cyprus trees in the background frame a house on a hill. Do you think I could remember my camera? Three weeks now, and no stopping for a photo. Today I took a photo on my phone. I wonder, how on earth do I download it?

Today I am grateful for beautiful vistas.

24 September 2010


My computer finally stopped functioning today... a rather dramatic exit, so I am not holding out too much hope for it! If I can save it I will be a very happy chappy. In the meantime I am not even thinking about what I have backed up and what I might have lost... let's hope it is all for the best whatever the outcome!

In the meantime, I had an interesting experience this morning on the dreaded Facebook. A friend had shared a link, with the comment "I'm one of the 7 percent". Because this friend is usually sharing inspirational quotes I clicked on the presentation. It was thought-provoking to say the least. I found it very difficult to write the "I'm one of the 7%" it asked for, but in the end I did.

It's not that I don't believe in the power of prayer, in fact I do, but I don't believe that there is only one way to a spiritual life, and that made me hesitate. How many religions strive to attain the same goals, each believing that they have found the right way? There are as many "right ways" as there are people.

Today I am grateful for spiritual challenges.

23 September 2010

way back in june

I had "all but" finished this painting of the local landscape. I can't (yes I can, really) believe how long it took me to make the final adjustments. Now, when they are completely dry, it's varnish and then to the framers to stretch out the last little wrinkles in the canvas.

So, it is onwards and upwards, on with the next commission.

"All but" reminds me of playing cards with my father-in-law - I think it was euchre or five hundred. Now to remember how it was used... ready to lay down the cards, all but done?

Today I am grateful for patient clients.

22 September 2010

where did today go?

I have hit a creative blip. Today it was an effort to even get out of bed, so making it up to the studio has yet to happen. I think that once I have sorted all my accounts, located and filed and understood the last few months of payments, and maybe had a nice cold beer, I will feel much more able to concentrate on work.

In the meantime I have listened to a couple of tapes on keeping life simple. I have been trying to do exactly that since I moved to Italy, but saying no to other people is difficult and I seem to have too many projects on the go.

Note to myself: remember which is which of the balls you are juggling and make sure you don't drop the crystal ones. Rubber balls bounce back; crystal ones, the beautiful ones, shatter if you don't give them enough attention (from Rich German's daily post.

It is time to make a list... and the first thing on it will be exercise.

Today I am grateful for two well behaved little dogs who walk me.

19 September 2010

and then it was sunday

Doing what Italians do so well... pranzo, cena... lots of good food!

Came home from the wonderful lunch with friends and happily wandered out to hang the sheets on the line...

beautiful slither
wonderful movement

...and by far the longest of the few snakes I have seen in my garden glided elegantly from plant to plant along the wall of the house and down a two metre drop over the edge of the path into the orchard.

Don't worry, it was not a dangerous one. When I think that four years ago this would have set my heart racing I think "Wow! I've come a long way!" Instead of being fearful I simply stood and enjoyed the beauty of the movement and tried to estimate the length of the elegant creature.

Today I am grateful for green vegetables.

long day and night

It started reasonably early Saturday morning with a couple of hours cleaning the stairwell in the palazzo (no, not all my mess, there was a bit of glue and cement dotted among the drops of paint) and ended at 2-30am Sunday with an all night festa. It's now 4.15am and I think perhaps I should get some sleep...

Today I am grateful for talented and dedicated musicians.

18 September 2010


Today was the last day up the top lot of scaffolding, working under the domed ceiling above the staircase, and as far as I know it was dismantled after I finished work today. The other side of the coin is, however, that as I came downstairs I saw that the next lot of scaffolding was already under construction... for me!

Photos later,

Today I am grateful for careful, safety conscious construction workers.

14 September 2010

new eyes...

Today I saw my year's work in the palazzo for the first time after a two month break. I am thrilled with how it looks now the wrought iron light fittings are casting shadows and the splendour of the building is being revealed.

What was a burden on my shoulders getting it complete has become a work of joy! Tomorrow it's back up the scaffolding, this time with a happy, not heavy heart!

Today I am grateful for the appreciation of my work by an Italian architect.

international dinner, lights and peace

Tonight I enjoyed a meal with an international group. Historians, peace workers, and assorted immigrants like myself. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera, so you can't see the lights on the Via Latina, which were turned on with due ceremony for the first time before dinner. Even worse, I forgot that outdoor dinners at close to midnight in the autumn can become a little chilly if you happen to be at the breezy end of the table, so I was home relatively early.

Today I am grateful for peace workers who really do make a difference.

12 September 2010

ps, there's progress

Much overdue work completed this afternoon. Who knows, I could get creative soon!

Today I am also grateful for an encouraging hug from a friend.

today and passion, or lack of

Today I read two inspiring blog posts. One was on Sarah Scott's painting blog manganese blue and the other on writer Lucy Adlington's blog. I envy their passion and burning need to create.

I am alone in the house for the first time in ages and find myself doing repetitive things, domestic chores, searching for cheap flights to family, and procrastinating.

Is it creative block? Is it a need to fill my soul again? Is it that I need to reclaim my personal space?

I think lunch and a cuppa, followed by some more blog reading to my favourite music, might help.

Today I am grateful for passionate people.

10 September 2010


Tonight a concert at Caselvieri, in the company of four other Kiwis. I wonder, do they wonder how they ended up at a concert in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night?

MBL is a fantastic band, I'm a big fan.

Today I am grateful for toe-tapping, hand clapping music.

7 September 2010

emails and emails...

Am still dealing with a backlog of emails. Had a day off on Sunday, and spent the whole day at a first communion. Diet? Don't know what the word means!

Today I am grateful for
a peaceful space in my day.

2 September 2010


Internet functioning on laptop, I am in touch with the world again!

I have a huge backlog of emails to answer, then I'll be blogging away again.

All is well in cyberland...

Today I am grateful for
reliable communication systems and pleasant technicians.

5 August 2010


So excited with my new book purchases.

No computer time, but a quick catch up here on the Legato blog will update you on some of it.

Today I am grateful for artists and writers who work for peace.

8 July 2010

where did the days go?

Day two of Legato in the new gallery had 120 very interested evening visitors, the last ones leaving just after midnight. There are increasing numbers of requests for more private viewings of the works. The tee-shirts with peace messages on them were very popular, with people being astounded that they didn't even need to make a donation for them (thanks to the generosity of Beate Minderjahn, see Legato blog for her details).

The most recent visitor to the gallery was so moved by the works that tears flowed, and the next booking is by an Italian who has a small museum further south than Cassino and who wants to bring his Scottish guests to the gallery. Thankfully I have a conscripted docent who is hosting the show, lighting the candles, turning on the lights.

Today I am thankful for the messages of support for Legato.

4 July 2010

fantastic night...

Tired, sore feet, but very happy :-)

There were 48 very interested visitors to Legato tonight, some returning tomorrow with friends, and some asking if they can come at other times with their children. A successful evening.

Happiness is... closing the gallery doors after the last guests leave at midnight!

Tomorrow is the "big night" and the weather is expected to be better also. For now it is "buona notte a tutti..."

Today I am grateful for new friends.

27 June 2010

the gallery

Last week I decided that it would be best for Legato if the next exhibition were to be of longer duration. I have had several calls asking where people can see the works, so instead of having a short week-long exhibition in the available public space, open only during office hours, I have made temporary provision to host the exhibition here in my village in my as yet unfinished gallery. This means that visitors can have appointments to view the work at hours to suit them, and I can have a more normal life as well. Legato can stay "more or less" on display until it is time to move it to the next centre.

It has been a tiring couple of days but things are taking shape nicely.

Today I am grateful for willing helpers.

23 June 2010

music in the air

Paintings to finish, lessons to teach, stucco to sand, letters to write and parcels to post...


...there's music in the air, there's music in the air! Spontaneous bursts of song, lots of laughter, and the occasional woof woof about the place.

Today I am grateful for a full and busy life.

20 June 2010

finished apart from a few windows?

Time is up... a few details, stretch the canvas, and I think it is done. For now it is away with the brushes and off to the excitement of the game on a big screen, three Kiwis in the midst of the Italians!

Aotearoa or Italia... let's hope it is an exciting and even match. Let good sport be the winner :-)

Today I am also grateful for my two countries.

Monday morning post script: Well, yes... my mother did tell me that I should be very careful about what I wished for...

sunday morning soccer day

In the studio I mix my colours.
Today I am torn between white and blue. Best to settle it with a good game of football, soccer, calcio...

Today I am thankful for friends who are "good sports".

19 June 2010

back to basics

This week gone by has been a mix of work, with the palazzo being the main focus. I have been touching up where the winter damp has done some damage. Buildings like this need to be lived in, and even my own home has developed a few damp patches after our extremely wet winter.

Today I was sanding down the stucco where I filled holes last Thursday. Where the big switch-boards have gone I have to repair the damage, so it is back to mixing the colours I haven't used in months.

I like having the palazzo to myself, and now that the weather is hot it is a cool and peaceful place to work. The huge crane went yesterday, the garden is underway, and the apartments are filling with kitchen and bathroom fittings. Soon the building will come to life, and the birds who try to nest there will meet much more opposition!

Today I am grateful for access to exciting places.

15 June 2010

ancient rocks

Do good things really have to take time?(NB: This photo is not an accurate crop so the composition appears a little out of balance).
I am struggling with the scale of these tiny buildings. Each window and wall has to be accurate, but I am not that kind of painter - I prefer commissions that give me room to move with my brushes and don't tie me down to detail. I checked against the photograph this morning and was encouraged by how accurate my work was, but when it comes to miniscule windows and parallel roof lines I am quick to take a break!

There is a problem with the particular canvas I am working on. It is not the quality it appeared to be, and is stretching unevenly. I will need to take it to be restretched, as it seems to have a plasticised coating which appeared to be a coat of gesso and didn't reveal its true nature until too late. I wont be using the rest of the roll.

Today I am grateful for my cheerful picture framer.

10 June 2010

a reasonably steady hand and some progress

The villages at either end of the landscape have been blocked in, a few more olive groves have appeared, and the main village is tentatively blocked in. Another work (a touch-up of another artist's copy of a Raphael) has been completed. The decks are a long way from being cleared, but there is light all around!

Today I am grateful for happy emails.

8 June 2010

slow progress

I'm struggling to stay on task today. I want to lean all over the work, put in tiny details, and start "constructing" the village in the centre of the painting, but it's all too wet! Working in oils again is good but...
Today I am grateful for good weather.

7 June 2010

on the job again...

Landscape, stage two.
A wide landscape is difficult to photograph. The photo montage that I am working from is taped to the shelf above the canvas. Soon I will be ready to head outdoors and pick out the highlight colours from the landscape.

Oh, and oops! The bookshelf hasn't been tidied since my artist student/visitor left. I wonder where I have put the rest of the books? Must sort that before the next photograph!

Today I am grateful for the smells of home cooking.

4 June 2010

a little too busy still

I am slowly getting some order back in the chaos that was my life leading up to and during Legato. It is time to write a few more blog posts and get back into routine. There are many many loose ends to tie, new applications to make, letters to write in another language... but there is also a little sunshine and a comfortable couch that I can flop onto occasionally.

Today I am grateful for the semblance of order and getting a few bills paid!

24 May 2010

forgive the quality...

but here's a video for Angela and her family :-)

Today I am grateful for understanding and patient people.

along the way

Check the Legato blog for photos. The exhibition is now into week two.

Today I am grateful for good food and company.

14 May 2010

The Artist has left the building....

Here is a post copied from the "Legato" blog.

The Commander-in-Chief of this army of peace has given the job of (Legato's) blog to a lesser ranked communications officer. I'm Nicola, the videographer for the Legato exhibition, and on the eve of the opening I've taken over the writing of this blog. Please excuse the change of style. Kay is currently lost under lists of things to do and only the scent of tea or the sound of a cell-phone brings her to the surface.

Over the last few days the pace has changed from hectic to chaotic as wave after wave of kiwi artists (lugging tubes of rolled canvas and oddly shaped parcels) sweep into the small Italian village of Roccasecca. It's a bit ironic that an exhibition promoting peace has prompted such tumult and noise. "Legato" is demonstrating that peace can be a state of delight and laughter, not just calm. It is also showing that there is room for lofty ideas and philosophical chat alongside the mundane minutae of bedding, brackets and bolts, or breakfast in a foreign place.

By tomorrow night (Italian time) the artworks will be in place, the opening party will have started and those lucky enough to be here will be able to view the culmination of a huge amount of effort from many many people, all working towards the common goal of world peace and rememberance. We wish you were here to enjoy it too.

For those that couldn't make the trip I am hoping to have video highlights throughout the course of the exhibition available online, so keep checking this blog for updates.

11 May 2010

the ups and downs... and up again!

Six travellers, including three artists and their works, will be a day late as their flight out of Auckland was cancelled. That really stretched my Italian, changing their accommodation bookings by phone!

The brochure for Legato, which really is more of an essay with illustrations, is ready to be put to bed... that was REALLY cutting it fine!

The works are still arriving daily, or not arriving, depending on how you look at it. I will not stress! We have more than enough for an exhibition, but it would be better not to be changing it every day, which I will do if works arrive late. Ah well, if life were simple it would be less interesting.. maybe?

The four lots of works that arrived yesterday were very interesting... completely diverse, and equally wonderful! Kiwi artists are right up there with the rest of the world.... and ahead in many ways! Perhaps because of our isolation we do try harder?

Zacchi has an upset tummy. I think that maybe when the Kiwi artist and friend arrived yesterday with two bags (artwork, wonderful!) he thought that I was heading away again. Poor wee mite.

I have a list a mile long, things to do, but somewhere inside me I know that they wont be done, they are not so important. More important for me now is to "chill out" with my blog and my cuppa, and hope that I will be disturbed by arriving artworks.

The Legato blog has had well over 3000 hits in only a few weeks... 8 or 9 weeks, I think it is. There are as many now from Italy as from NZ. That's well worth the effort, spreading the word!

And after Legato? "But wait, there's more". Yes, an equally important project, this time in summertime New Zealand. Watch this space!

Today I am thankful for loyal friends.

8 May 2010

time to make a stand

The more I thought about the senseless dangers of the unexploded bombs in these hillsides the more I was determined to finish this painting. It was not so much about having the work in the exhibition as an exhibiting artist, but about not missing the opportunity to highlight the dangers that the civilians here still live with, 66 years after the war has ended.

The late Princess Diana led a high profile campaign against land mines. I don't know if this work continues, I hope so. If there are any other high profile figures out there who will come and join me, to highlight this cause, please let me know! In the meantime, I'll fight a low profile battle to clean up these beautiful mountains. My Italian vocabulary is not adequate, but maybe my paints and brush will speak for me. This is the test painting. There will be more, bigger, better, speaking louder! A picture paints 1000 words. Instead of counting words, let's make those words count.
Today I am grateful for passion and energy.

7 May 2010

shifting the gaze

"They Were Only Boys: 1944-2010"

So nearly finished... I think the title works as I have written it above. However, comments are welcome if anyone has a better idea for it!

Today I am grateful for the right to protest.

3 May 2010

maybe tomorrow

Maybe tomorrow I can get this finished. But I think that today I should show it to my biggest and most useful critic, my picture framer. I am not objective enough at the moment, too close to it, and I know that there are parts I will never be satisfied with. If they get by him, then I can live with the message being more important than the painting. If not... another lesson in what happens when you try to do too many things at once! I went to sleep thinking about this painting, then when Zacchi woke me by barking at the fox (3am every morning) it hit me that this is neither about peace nor commemoration. It was inspired by true stories of post-war tragedies, but, in effect, it is about today, and the legacy of war. When even the curator gets it wrong... anything goes!

Today I am grateful for honest and helpful art critics.

2 May 2010


Working title: They Were Just/Only Boys. (Just/Only - I am not sure which word will translate more accurately).

Progress after day two. The challenge for me is to make these figures real, or real enough to carry meaning, as with such a horrible message I didn't want to use real models.

I have chosen the title to link the tragedy of 65 years ago to the present. So often I hear people say "They were just boys" when they read the names and ages in the war cemeteries. Here we still deal with the legacy of the war, with children, trampers and hunters at risk every time they venture into some of these mountains. I have heard stories of children playing with grenades and bombs completely oblivious to the danger, and adults with little more knowledge or respect for the unstable mortars picking them up to have a closer look. The danger is real, and is not going away.

Today I am grateful for journalists.

30 April 2010

little windows...

Today five paintings arrived from NZ for Legato. It gave me such a lift that I was able to steal some time in my afternoon and start a small work myself! Tomorrow is festa, so there will be no deliveries, no paperwork to do, not a lot beyond computer work to weigh me down. When things are out of your control there is no point in worrying, that doesn't help and only adds to the wrinkles.

I have started a work for Legato. I would love to say that I am going to take my time and it will be great, but I know that I am not in that space at the moment. I do, though, see little windows of opportunity ahead in the next week where I can paint. So maybe not the ideal working conditions, but it will be a work. More than that, it will be a work with a strong message, and that is important to me.

Today I am grateful for the wonderful scent of orange blossoms.

28 April 2010

paint relationships

Here is another great post from Mike Bailey. Read the comments too. I will (hopefully) write more on this later, lots of things popping into my mind (especially about painting relationships!) but for now it is back to Legato details. It's time I put some new artwork on the blog; it has been a bit neglected since the Legato Fan Page took off on Facebook. It will probably be more neglected as I stand in queues trying to retrieve art works as they arrive in Italy!

You can see Legato works here on the photo pages.

Today I am grateful for a helping hand.

26 April 2010


Saturday I composed myself, ready to go to battle with only soft voice, a smile and a "Mi dispiace ma...(I'm sorry but...)" to help me, and set about curating a local exhibition in my town.

This is a place where artists guard their status and their relative positions jealously. My task was to present us as a new association, a unified group, in the best way possible. Knowing that I was going "where angels fear to tread" I happily admit to asking for divine intervention to get me through the weekend.

Twenty artists and crafts people brought their works and jostled for position. Tempers flared. For six hours I argued politely, explained, insisted, and quietly worked away at producing something worth seeing. I requested potted trees, and added drapes. I altered positions, and split up displays. After six hours I was exhausted and asked for a bottle of water. The president and the deputy mayor then realised that I had been there for the whole time without a break, while eveyone else came and went for food and coffee. One of the artists said "Haven't you eaten?" Another said "She hasn't even stopped to pee!"

Sunday brought more drama, as egos were bruised. I had made everyone equal. Cultural differences were showing! One wanted to remove her whole display. Another tried to pull rank and pointed out to me that his work was the most important in the show. In the end it was I who "pulled rank" and pointed out that it was my name on the posters, it was my work and my responsibility, and that being in a curated exhibition meant giving away some control of the works.

Luckily for me the layout was a hit with the visitors, the special guest was generous with his praises, the photographer said "I've never seen an exhibition like this before in this town, this is a first" and the artists one by one came round and either apologised for their outbursts or thanked me for the work.

I think I'll keep my body-guards nearby when I go shopping, just the same!

Today I am thankful for inner strength.

22 April 2010


I've been procrastinating. The one thing that really needs to be done now is the souvenir brochure for Legato. I have started on it. But I keep doing other (equally important but maybe less urgent) things instead.

I think that deep down I know something hasn't formed properly in my mind yet, and I am waiting for that inspiration.

I hope it comes soon!

Speaking of Legato, the blog has had well over 2,000 hits. Not bad for a few short weeks! The facebook fan page has also grown. It has many photos, and newspaper articles.

This morning I found something written on another blog, mentioning the starfish story in the context of the Legato peace project. I have always loved that story: it's a great metaphor for life. I think also of the ripple effect, and the butterfly effect.

We can make a difference, each one of us. The road might be long, and many have said to me "Kay, so many have tried to bring world peace and failed. What makes you think you can do it? Why are you doing this?" I am doing it because I am driven. I cannot bring about world peace, but I can contribute a tiny bit in my little corner of the world. I've noticed lately, though, that thanks to the internet there are no longer corners, so things do go around.

All we can change is ourselves. But as we change, those around us change. And so it goes...

Today I am grateful for people who believe that we can make a positive difference.

21 April 2010

thought for the day

Use what talent you possess:
the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang
except those that sang best.

Henry Van Dyke

Today I am grateful for inspirational and supportive people.

a sunday picnic

A Sunday picnic - or living in a war zone? This isn't Italy as the tourist brochures show it.

Day two of Quattro Passi Sulla Gustav 2010:

The programme: DOMENICA 18 APRILE 2010
· 8,30 appuntamento al parcheggio multipiano ingresso Via Montecassino,
· 9,00 partenza per Villa Santa Lucia con piccoli autobus riservati, sosta in località “la
· 9.30 partenza a piedi per Monte Castellone, visita a quota 702, Colle S. Angelo, Cresta del
Fantasma, quota 575 (I luoghi dell’attacco del II Corpo Polacco e la tana del 4°
· 13.00 pranzo al sacco presso la Fattoria Albaneta,
· 14,30 partenza per quota 593 “Il Calvario” attraverso il sentiero dalla “Cavendish Road”,
· 17,30 fine manifestazione al Cimitero Polacco, in autobus riservato fino al parcheggio

We were a group of about 40 people, with several children of school age amongst us. The day turned out to be a much greater adventure than anyone could have predicted.
It is not uncommon to find bombs in these hills. Mostly, they are not live. Often, however, they are. And, after 66 years out in all weather, they are unstable. That's when it is good to have sharp eyes and follow the beaten path.

Quite often someone has carefully lifted the mortar onto a flat rock in the open so that there is no risk of it being trodden on accidentally. One hopes that they are then disposed of by an expert, but...

This (below) was the first or second we saw.This day we had plenty to worry about. Apparently these (below) might contain phosporous. We took turns at being "on guard" until all were safely out of harm's way. (Above) Roberto Molle, President of the Association and main organiser of the weekend, made sure that parents and children were aware of the unexpected dangers.
Some were, apparently, more volatile than others. This one (below) had the group organizer firmly planted until all had gone by; there would be no mistakes with this highly unstable American beauty. Soon I was losing count, and certainly keeping my eyes to the ground.

Not even our regular metal detector weekend trampers were prepared for this one! It is the biggest anyone in the group had ever seen lying unexploded on the slopes around Cassino. I make no apology for the poor photograph; I wasn't going any closer, nor was I risking losing my balance trying to use two hands to hold the camera and zoom in, possibly sending rocks crashing down onto more nasty surprises. I sent the photo to the friend who was leading us down this steep rocky slope and he replied: Dovrebbe trattarsi di un proiettile di artiglieria 205 mm americano (205 mm shell).

The descent was steep, with rocks crashing if people chose the wrong footing. My chosen path, grasping the trees and sticking to the rock face where fewer loose rocks were dislodged, was not the exact path taken by the leaders. It was raining, and slippery, and the first tracks were now too dangerous. As I forged a new and less slippery track I was extremely cautious as I poked my walking stick tip in between the leaves and rocks.

It was strange, though, to realise that I felt no fear, only caution. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

Members of the group who live near this dangerous slope have contacted authorities, but it is highly likely that these hillsides will continue to be unsafe for a long long time.

Today I am grateful for cautious people.