28 February 2010

most under-rated

The most under-rated health mechanism we have must surely be the deep breath. It releases tension, clears the fuddled brain, relaxes the muscles. And, according to yours truly, when you are already feeling happy and contented, it multiplies the feeling ten-fold.

The sun is shining. It feels like spring. It is Sunday. It is after mid-day and I am still in my PJs. Deep breath. Life is great.

Photo... a random snapshot of my yesterday and today.

Now to leave the computer, go outside, and breathe deeply as I pick cadmium deep mandarines under a cobalt sky...

Today I am grateful for the gift of wild asparagus.

27 February 2010

almost ready to paint

It has been a glorious spring day, with lots happening under a cobalt sky.

The local exhibition that was going to happen at short notice next week has been postponed. I am not sure if that is good for me or bad for me. Good, I think.

Today I completed two more sections in the palazzo, and will hopefully finish the design over them on Monday. After that it will just be a few additions and alterations, and then I will start on the panels in the first apartment where I started the whole project. That work is for the apartment owner, not for the project developer.

It's time to start bringing bits and pieces home again. I'll miss it, but my life will be so much more manageable again :-) Zacchi and Pickle will be delighted if the walks are more frequent and a little longer!

Today I am grateful for being accepted as a local in the art community.

26 February 2010


Sometimes it seems that I see images in the distance that aren't visible to others, rims of light, shimmers. I used to be confused by it, when others looked at me in my excitement as though I were mad, but now I simply enjoy what I see. But tonight the camera caught some for me to share.

A ray of light is always a symbol of hope.

Today I am also grateful for the promise of tomorrow.

from this

to this...
This one is hard to photograph so I will try again when the scaffolding has gone. The brief was to clean, cover the new stucco, but not actually repaint anything. It ended up being a bit more than that, with some areas being toned down and others brightened a little, and contrasts being reduced but water damage and the signs of the time the place was left exposed to the elements I softened but didn't repair.

crossing the line

There is an area of overlap between art and craft. It's an interesting area of discussion, finding that defining point.

These wonderful papercraft structures, if made by following a pattern, in my opinion would be craft. But as the maker has designed them as well, surely that is fine art? Check out the A4 Paper Cut on line gallery of Peter Callesen and scroll to the bottom to read what he says about his work.

His website is full and well worth exploring. The works convey more than skill; there is metaphor, symbolism, social comment... I particularly liked the large work entitled "Human Ruin". (If this link doesn't take you there go to the large scale papercut section of the website and scroll down to it).

Today I am grateful for artists who make me think.

25 February 2010

a thought

"The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
~Randy Pausch

24 February 2010

the now

Sometimes it is good to look ahead. Always, I suspect, it is good to have a dream. But now, this moment, is where we are. Every moment is precious, let's enjoy them all!

I have decided that my cup is half full, not half empty. And sometimes it is overflowing. At least, that's what it looks like to me. I think I am finally standing on my own two feet, and the constant leak in the cup has closed over.

Friends are wonderful, they add richness to life. But at the end of the day, the person I am accountable to is the one in my shoes, the one I see in the mirror. Somewhere (probably filed in a box in New Zealand) I have a wonderful piece of writing about the woman in the looking glass. I'd like to read it again.

Today I am grateful for shoes that fit.


PS Found it, thanks google! Here is the poem, adapted from the original "Guy in the Glass" by Dale Wimbrow:
The Woman in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you queen for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that woman has to say.

For it isn't your father or mother or husband
Whose judgement upon you must pass;
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

She's the person to please, never mind all the rest,
For she's with you clear up to the end.
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the woman in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of life,
And get pats on your back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you've cheated the woman in the glass

Further to this, here in this link, is a copy of the original poem, "The Guy in the Glass", with correct acknowledgement. Please read the story and also go to this link, the official page for the poem. Interesting that the word "self" was originally "pelf" (money, riches).

I wonder how many people have been touched by this poem? One person really CAN make a difference.

I also very much like the gentle poem "My Religion" by Dale Wimbrow.

23 February 2010


Today the boss agreed that I have almost finished the scaffolding work! Back onto ladders for a bit... and then the floor... and out the door! It's been a long time coming, but daylight (and springtime) is ahead.

A few more lines, lots of "touching up" damage and bits and pieces, and we're through! And that means my windows with double glazing and lovely wooden frames can be ordered :-) Am I a happy chappy or what? (Don't answer, rhetorical question!)

Now to get the paint out of my hair, let the dogs walk me before the glorious sun goes down, and then (except that there isn't one in the house) I'd love a beer!

Today I am grateful for my confidence and balance on ladders.

22 February 2010

new project

Today I joined a new Cultural Association here, and will participate in an exhibition in March for the festival commemorating San Tommaso, or Thomas Aquinas (born here). It is really nice to be invited, and expected to be able to help develop cultural awareness in this rural town.

And... I popped out to do some photocopying, telling my neighbour I would be back shortly. He told the the people who had come to invite me that I would be back in two minutes, so they waited for half an hour (chatting to neighbours) until I returned. That's what you do here!

Today I am grateful for a sense of belonging.

21 February 2010

sunday morning springtime

SO it's still winter. But it certainly looks and feels like spring out there!

I'm off to enjoy...
Under the watchful eye of the Abbey on Monte Cassinoenergetic "she-devils" danced up some heatwhile the men watched, only mildly interested. yes, the green sign is advertising the "Kiwi" restarant in the Liri valley, another reminder that our troops were here.The central piazza...It's hard to forget what happened here:
Today I am grateful for lunch with special friends.

20 February 2010

having said that...

I feel a trip to an exhibition coming up :-)

Ah... time to get my head out of the sand and start enjoying all that Italy offers! I might have missed the dates of this, but for a comment on Facebook. Perhaps it has its uses after all!

I saw a wonderful exhibition of Caravaggio in Dublin some years ago. It's time to study him again. Kiwi artists coming in May who might check my blog, we'll schedule this one in! Here is the link in English.

Today I am grateful for Facebook!

19 February 2010

cicero, chick peas and bare foot running

A large part of my conversation with my dad yesterday was about running, as in competitive sport. Out with a shoulder injury for a few months, he has been thinking hard about his training routine and is excited about a few changes he has made. He is now studying the physiology of bare-foot running and practises his sprints bare foot.

In his athletic career, which began with the Rotorua Marathon at the age of 63, his first track races at the age of 71, he has been a wonderful inspiration. Not only is he a world champion, but he is also one of the most philosophical people I know. I think it's wonderful that after a few months of pain with injury, and approaching his 90th birthday, he can be so enthusiastic about trying new programmes, still learning how the body works and adapts.

How lucky are we, his children and grandchildren!

I was happy to find this quotation in my email inbox this morning. I don't think I agree with it entirely, but certainly I do think it has merit.
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero was born not far from here, maybe a half-hour's drive through winding country roads in the very interesting town of Arpino. (Note in the photo in the link the very distinctive arch with no central keystone at the top).

This (mind/spirit and body) is an interesting topic, leading me in many directions. This Wikipedia entry for the Latin expression "Mens sana in corpore sano" suggests that all we should pray for is physical and mental health. That simplifies things wonderfully!

Exercise, good nutrition, and a philosophical approach to life. That's not a bad ideal, and certainly is keeping my Dad in good spirits no matter what life throws at him.

One of my favourite quotes is one I saw in a retirement home: "If you feel old age approaching, walk a little faster!" I'm sure that Dad will agree.

Today I am grateful for inspirational quotations.

18 February 2010

things i had forgotten

"... things I had fogotten, but they're still there" said my 89 year old dad tonight. It takes two to remember. Recently my dad and his brother were reminiscing about their time in Italy during the war. Each prompted the other to recall things they had forgotten.

Occasionally I need help from a sister or an old school friend to recall things that I have forgotten. Old times, school days, places and memories that noone in my current environment experienced. Now, in a new country, I don't look back too often. I wonder if that is contributing to the change in my art work? So much of my previous work was about memory.

Many Italians express surprise that I am living here rather than near Florence. In fact, I seldom go to the museums in Italy, unless there is a particular exhibition I want to see. I find the old masters too restricting, stifling me, demanding that I conform to Renaissance style.

Yesterday, however, I worked on the copy of the Raffaello. Now there is a master worth looking at! If you are going to visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, don't rush; in my opinion the best works are in the Raphael Rooms, just before you get to the Sistine Chapel.

Today I am grateful for Skype communications.

17 February 2010

more snowy pics

Here are more snowy pics from last week... a little further along, and looking back, but not too far from home!

Tonight I am grateful for good company and laughter.


This morning I made one of the most expensive and challenging artistic decisions I have ever made, and against the advice of friends chose what I believe is right for the paving in my cantina. So... you wont find rustic terracotta tiles on my floor.

Over 500 years ago there would have been either wood, terracotta tiles or simply beaten earth. My excavations have shown no indication of any tiles, and as it was probably used for animals, with storage for oil and wine etc, I believe it was beaten earth below, with wooden staging above.

So... wait and see! Hopefully in about two weeks there will be something to show you :-)

Today I am grateful for a salesman who was prepared to listen my point of view.

16 February 2010


This morning, while contemplating my emails re the May exhibition in Cassino, my reaction (and subsequent post) yesterday to what I interpreted as criticism of my culture, and the inextricable links between Italy and New Zealand, the word "legato" popped into my head.

It is an interesting word. In music, legato is playing smoothly, but not necessarily slurring the notes together. In Italian it means "tied together". In one of my favourite songs, Non Ti Scordar Di Me, it is used as an adverb, and becomes "legata" as it refers to "la vita" life, which is feminine. Here Pavarotti sings Non Ti Scordar Di Me (concert in Budapest, 1991).

"Tied" can have negative implications, but linked, intertwined, joined does have appeal. The strands of a rope are intertwined, giving it strength. When I first asked an Italian friend to translate the song for me he explained the word "legato" in those terms, the parts of a rope intertwined, joined together. In the context of the song that image is quite beautiful. Your life, and mine, entwined. And so it is with Italy and New Zealand.

The musical definition appeals to me too. Notes are played close together, but with careful fingering are not lost in one another. Maybe that is how our cultures should be. Each has a space, there is no supremacy, but together they make beautiful music.

Italy and New Zealand are truly tied together, with so many friendships formed between families during WWII and maintained after the war. Now, two generations later, the grandchildren of the Kiwi soldiers are returning to Italy to visit these families, and young Italians are moving to New Zealand. Every year hundreds of New Zealanders visit the graves of their countrymen who remained here.

The horror of war has passed into memory, but the friendships are alive and vibrant. Nationally this connection may feel stronger in New Zealand where almost every family has a direct link to Italy, whereas in Italy there are many areas where other nations played a similar role and have these same ties. Where I live it is New Zealanders and Canadians who have strong links with the Italian people.

While I continue to search for the most appropriate name for the exhibition in May, "Legato" along with "Papaveri per la Pace" (Poppies for Peace), is taking a prominent place in my thoughts.

Today I am grateful for a happy email from NZ.

15 February 2010

proud to be a kiwi on the edge

Some comments made which implied that New Zealand, while green and beautiful, must be a cultural backwater and behind America and Europe because of its isolation got this ex-pat all fired up. In my defensive research I found facts I didn't know myself, and some I had forgotten details of.

This site, www.nzedge.com, has some interesting reading.

There are many more interesting sites, telling of our exploits and some of our less brilliant and rather bloody history.

Today I am grateful for my kiwi-ness.

14 February 2010

Valentine's Day

Meet my young love! Here is my first Valentine for at least 40 years :-)

dEer noNnan cAke.

wiLLing yOo pleeSe beEn mINe vallENtiMes?


Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Today I am grateful for my thoughtful and creative family :-)

13 February 2010


A friend I hadn't seen for two years popped in with a painting for me to touch up. It is his copy of the Raffaello's "Madonna del Cardelino" (photo of original above). He wasn't happy with his reproduction of the young angel, but the original is not easy! I will need to balance and integrate his hand, my hand, and the hand of the master. It will be a welcome change, something in oil and only technique and judgement involved, quite soothing and meditative work.

Today I am grateful for renewed friendships.

12 February 2010

slip sliding away

I suppose I should stop playing and go to work now? It's going to be cold under that cement roof! Maybe after lunch will be soon enough :-)

9am and i think it's stopping

Just beautiful...
That's my car down there!

real snow!

Friday morning, at 5.30am, I woke up to... REAL SNOW! Then a little rain, and now...Photo of my car, 6.30am.

7.00am and it's still snowing...

8.00am and there's enough to make a snowman :-)

Today I am grateful for a sixth sense.

11 February 2010


It's even colder. It was 11 degrees inside tonight, according to my heater when I turned it on. That is too cold even for me. Snow is predicted to 100 metres, but I doubt that I will wake up to a white carpet as it is rare that there is snow here; I heard that the last real snowfall here was fifteen years ago.

So... fire burning at one end, heater at the other, electric blanket on... off to bed to dream new paintings!

Two little dogs are in voluntary exile for tearing up two pillows while I was out this evening. All I did was open the door, say "Who did this?" and they both ran out. Perhaps I'll let them back in now.

Today I am grateful for electricity.

10 February 2010

going straight

Painting straight lines on curved surfaces is so much easier than painting curved lines on (supposedly) straight surfaces. I wonder why that is?

It's officially cold here, 12 degrees in the house when I got home tonight, but people still go walking. The dogs made sure that I did too.

Today I am grateful for singing at work.

9 February 2010


I haven't found the painting desk I am dreaming of, but I have got the key to my studio :-) (I also paid for a TV licence, obligatory here, TV or not).

Work is going well across the road, but every time I think I am almost finished the boss adds a few more requests. I guess that is good? I don't work many hours a day though, my wrist and back are feeling it a bit. New workers are doing a fantastic job bringing finishing details up to standard. I am an egghead today, yesterday I whacked my forehead on the rim of this light... not only is the lamp big, but it is extremely heavy. Thank goodness I have a fringe, tomorrow the bruise wont show and without that bit of protection the damage might have been worse.

Happiness is an attitude of gratitude, and I have so much to be grateful for!

Today's peace quote is rather nice.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. The Beatles
Yesterday, apparently, NZ featured on Italian TV. Italians love New Zealand as much as Kiwis love Italy.

Today I am grateful for professional and helpful co-workers.

8 February 2010

changes in the air

It's tough being a dog. Confused and disillusioned by the new fan heater Pickle howled her protest and retired to bed only to find that Zacchi had already exited in disgust and was there ahead of her.

Two unreliable and potentially dangerous gas heaters are on their way out. They were not burning the gas properly. I don't want to have them repaired, and wouldn't risk giving them away in case someone used them without changing the burners.

Tomorrow I get the key to the new studio. I can't wait to move my paints and papers and pencils and brushes and books and canvases and tins and palettes and... I'll leave the computer downstairs! More painting, fewer blog posts? First thing in the morning I'm off to buy a desk :-)

Today I am grateful for exciting beginnings.

7 February 2010

peeking though

spring is coming...

work progress

The top floor ceiling is more of a "once-over-lightly" - cleaning and evening out some of the water-damaged colours but not really repainting. It is coming along quite fast. Where there is, or will be, white stucco I paint from scratch and then "age" the new work to match the rest of the surface.The finished surface will have a lot of colour variations but I am expecting to tone it all down with a series of white washes on the brighter side when it is almost done. Soon it will be off the scaffolding and back onto the ladder for the finishing touches downstairs.

poppies for peace

I need a name for the exhibition in Cassino. Simple, you would think. The themes are peace and remembrance. But my dream is that this becomes a peace exhibition far wider than the Battle of Cassino in years to come. The title is important - or is it? Can we choose one now, and change it later? Yes, I think so.

So... something honouring remembrance and spreading the message of peace, in Italian, and that translates well into English and Maori. Any ideas?

Today I am grateful for a truly beautiful sunset.

6 February 2010

day off

It's Waitangi Day in New Zealand. When there is an "event" in NZ it seems time to reflect on cultural differences and similarities, on choices and on futures.

I would love to be at Mount Maunganui today, watching my nephews surf, chatting with my sister, talking to my Dad. But the reality is that if I were living in NZ I would probably be immersed in other work and not make the journey. At least the me who lived there before might not have. The revised me who lives here thinks differently about work and life in general.

I have been looking as much as one can at my immediate future. I have no plans to move from here, other than to visit family.

This morning in response to a comment on Facebook I wrote, without thinking first, that I paint with my heart not my hands. I wonder what part of my subconscious that came from? It's time I got back to it!

I can't wait to set up my studio, and have everything clean and ready to go. Cement dust has been a formidable opponent!

Today I am grateful for the colours that I see and feel.

5 February 2010

change in attitude

The night before the spey, jostling cautiously for position close to mum and the fire... and the day after the operation. Zacchi has finally opted for keeping guard, wondering why, despite all his coaxing, Pickle wont come outside to play.
Today I am grateful for canine company and a warm fire.

4 February 2010

i have to admit

I have to admit that on beautiful clear sunny days like today it is much easier to manage 11+ a day. And, on such days, I have more energy. Maybe these vegetarians know something?

Over at the palazzo I have started on the last hurdle. Forgot to photograph the before state, so you'll just have to believe that I am making progress with it.

Pickle (Piccolina) is waiting for me at the vets, minus all her reproductive parts. She was wonderful in the car, in the waiting room, on the operating table. Another couple of hours and she will be home again. Tonight the fire will be just for her benefit.

Today I am grateful for competent and pleasant professional people.

3 February 2010


It snowed this morning, for about half an hour! The snow didn't stay on the ground, but the flakes were beautiful on the car windscreen. I wonder, how many fall, and is it true that no two are ever alike?

After my beloved fireflies there is nothing more magical... in fact, they are equal in their "I can't believe this is real" awe-inspiringness, just very very different.

This afternoon a shaft of sunlight coming through a colourful crocheted rug had almost as much "wow factor" in the dark central room.

Today I am grateful for the wonders of nature.

2 February 2010

to counter monday's quote

This morning's quote in my mailbox from Rich German is:
We shall find peace.
We shall hear angels.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
—Anton Chekov

Today I am grateful for people who go the extra mile.

confused, it is, i am

palazzo. il palazzo. and i have been writing palazza. after all, it is la mia casa, la sua reggia, but no, wait, it's il mio apartamento... a quick google threw up lots of palazza feminines, but the dictionary confirms that I am wrong, it is il masculine palazzo. Darn. La reggia is a palace. Il palazzo is a palace. aaaaargh!!!!!

So, please take as corrected (they are not, yet) all my references to palazza. They should read palazzo.

Is it any wonder that my progress with the language is slow?

Cassino is a place, not too far from here. A casino is a mess, chaos or a loud noise, or problems/difficulties. It can also be a brothel. Be careful how you say where you are going! And just to add to it all, a casina is a small house. So easy to slip up!

Palazzo is a palace (masculine)
Reggia is a (royal) palace (feminine)
Casa is a house (feminine)
Apartamento is an apartment (masculine).

Buon giorno (good day) is masculine, but buona giornata, have a good day, is feminine.

La pace (peace) and la guerra (war) are both feminine. But il guerrafondaio (warmonger) is masculine. Giustizia (justice), however, is feminine.

The logic? There is none! Confused, it is, I am.

1 February 2010

mid winter ish

Mid winter in the long piazza. Television was in town... and so were all the young folk.
Not all our winter days have been this good, but there are far more good ones than dull ones. It is a bit chilly in the evenings and mornings though. This morning I wore a hat for the second time. It's so true, we lose so much heat off the top of our heads. However, in looking for the percentage (I thought it was 40%) it seems that the myth busters have been at work. This site claims we lose only 7% through the scalp. (Scroll down to the second part of the article). More accessible is this article though. I too prefer the myth to the facts!

Today I am grateful for dry firewood stacked beside the fireplace.

monday morning inbox

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing;
that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.

—Agatha Christie