30 June 2012

museum visit

From my June photos... 

It's only taken me five years to get to it!  This is just a tiny "taster" from the museum closest to the station in Roma Termini, the Palazzo Massimo.  It was well worth the visit, and the ticket gives you access to another three museums over three days.  

Tomorrow, however, the focus will be on live Italians as they take on Spain in the final of the European Cup (soccer, to those of us from Down Under).

Today I am also grateful for some catch-up time. 

blue water mystery solved

The strangely blue water must have been to prepare the area for an upgrade, presumably chemicals added before draining the reflective pool.  I'll keep you posted over the next little while.  

I still need to photograph the Indian section of the cemetery.  It would be the section that has the least visitors, so I will spend time there the next time I am taking people to the cemetery.  

It is a beautiful and serene place, while being sad at the same time. 

Today I am grateful for caring visitors. 

28 June 2012

evening sun at Cassino War Cemetery

I've had a few guests, and of course we always end up here.  This is from part way down the British section, looking towards the entrance.  

I am way behind with posting photos, so the one above is one I prepared for the FB page for the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation.  I'll add a few from the abbey soon.  I try to find a different angle or something I haven't focused on before each time I go to the abbey. 

Tonight was the European championship soccer (football) semi final, and a meal outdoors to enjoy the fun.  FORZA ITALIA!  Photos later... buonanotte!

Today I am grateful for double glazing. 

26 June 2012

hot and busy

Saturday shopping and a village festival.  Sunday Rome to the airport. Yesterday Spirito Santo, Colle San Magno, Aquino and Roccasecca. Today Trisulti in the morning and a farm tour in the afternoon. Tomorrow the abbey and a battlefield tour... oh yes, and some teaching in there somewhere too.

Heaps of photos but no time to download/upload... 

Sleeeeeeeep, despite it being 35 degrees upstairs, here I come!

Buonanotte a tutti

Today I am grateful for safety on the roads. 

22 June 2012

it's that time of year again

Today I am grateful for refrigerators. 

20 June 2012

up-date on reading

Some time ago I promised that I would update about the things I had been reading.  Now it seems so long ago, and I am struggling to remember all that I wanted to say.

I try to read in Italian each day, and a recent railway station book choice was an historical novel set in England.  I didn't read the back cover; the content seemed to be at a comfortable level for me to read without a dictionary (unlike my current siesta reading which is challenging me somewhat), and the title and general theme seemed pleasant (and romantic) enough for my train trip up to Rome.

I finished reading the book some time later, and it lay on the bedside table for a few days.  When tidying I picked it up and read the back cover.  To my enormous surprise it was written by an Aucklander.
Sophia James Neozelandese, laureata in Letteratura inglese e Storia all'Università di Auckland, ha scoperto la passione per la scrittura leggendo insieme alla sorella gemella i romanzi di Gorgette Heyer. 
I had never heard of this Kiwi writer (but then I tend not to read romance novels in English, only in Italian so I can call it study...). Trusty Google to the rescue.  Here is Sophia James' website.

So that was the light-hearted side of my recent reading.

More serious and compelling perhaps was some on-line reading.  This reading was triggered by a comment about the celebrations for the diamond jubilee of our monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A friend referred to the festivals as "panem et circenses", which translates into bread and circuses.  The origin of the phrase interested me, and is well described here. This website was full of gory and fascinating detail and is a good place to revise your history before a trip to Rome. You can choose to read it in either English or Italian,  the homepage is here.

Another wander through the ether took me here, to an article about Roland Camberton.  I'm not so sure about the style of the article, but packed in there, should you have time to look, are some fascinating glimpses of another life.

And should you wish to contemplate the future of Greece (and the EU, the euro, the world...) then this is quite a good place to start!

Today I am grateful for the written word.

19 June 2012

hibernation time - 24 degrees at 7am

You may laugh, but in my light and airy upstairs studio it is so hot that I have lined the sunny side windows with tinfoil, home-style double glazing. Thanks for the tip Kris!  It means that I can work in about 26 degrees instead of 30°+

The cantina is the place to be... a wonderful cool refuge as we hit 36° by lunchtime, and tomorrow and Thursday are the predicted highs at 37° (98.6° F).  Humidity 98% (but I don't quite believe that, it isn't as bad as my memories of Fiji yet).  The last two summers have seen the temperature hit 41 in the village.

The chart below, (sorry, it is a bit squashed to fit) with a serene 23 degrees, is at 7am with temperatures rising :-)  Another website says that we will have 35+ degrees and humidity at about 98% for the rest of the month.

Roccasecca Weather at a Glance

23 °C
Sembra 24 °C
Sorgere del sole / Set
5:31 AM
8:42 PM
Luna calante
Possibilità di temporale36 °C
Chance of T-storms
30% possibilità di precipitazioni
Sereno15 °C
Sereno37 | 16 °C
Sereno37 | 15 °C
Possibilità di temporale36 | 16 °C
Chance of T-storms
20% possibilità di precipitazioni
Possibilità di temporale35 | 16 °C
Chance of T-storms
40% possibilità di precipitazioni

17 June 2012

wondering why

Last week I visited the Cassino War Cemetery and found the colour of the water feature quite an amazing blue. It didn't seem to reflect the colour of the sky, and weather conditions were quite normal.  The previous week the colour was also "normal".  Whatever the reason for it, it made for striking photographs of this peaceful and beautiful resting place. 

Today I am grateful for flowers. 

15 June 2012

another day at the abbey

A week later I was back at the abbey again.  This is the Bramante cloister from the top of the stairs, the stairs being the original ones buried by rubble when the building was bombed.  

Contrary to popular opinion, large parts of the abbey were undamaged in the bombing. Even the altar in the Basilica was undamaged. I have heard that the altar in the basilica is on the highest point of Monte Cassino, the site of the original pagan sacrificial altar.  

The floors below are intact in their original state.  It is surely a huge tribute to the  construction of the building that so much of it remained intact. 

The centre photograph is a rare peek into the sacristry on the left hand side of the Basilica.  

It is nice to see things are a little more relaxed there these days, with people even sitting and eating picnics on the steps, something strictly forbidden until recently.  The doves are enjoying the difference, becoming as cheeky as seagulls on a New Zealand beach! 

You can take a virtual tour of the abbey here

one cloudy afternoon

 I am a frequent visitor to the Benedictine abbey on Monte Cassino, so try to take different photographs each time I am there.  Another nook, a different light on the mosaics... there is always something new to focus on.  But this visit a week or so ago was a very atmospheric one.  It was a stormy afternoon, but the weather mostly held out for us.

At this time of the year it is unusual to get these shots with no people in them.  This one (above) is looking in to the Benefactor's cloister from the top of the main stairs in the beautiful Bramante cloister. 

And outside the end of the vast building is obscured by cloud.

My subsequent visit a few days later was very different.  It will be the next post.  

or never quite finished

Here's another "spot the difference" for my Australian painting friends :-)  (Colours are more accurate in this morning light photo taken 10am indoors, no flash). 

I could go on and on refining this, but the new owner says it is perfect as it is so I have put the tiniest signature in the corner and will be varnishing it later today.

Today I am grateful for a happy client.  

14 June 2012


Done!  Well, at least until I see it with fresh eyes tomorrow. And here you see it across the two easels to get an idea of the size. All done in record time.

PS.  It does have a focal point, but the camera doesn't pick it up.  Butterfly number five seems to have light on its wings in the real version. And I have since added a little mauve to the pink butterfly...  

and she likes it :-)

Almost finished.  I need to make a few changes to correct the light in the clouds, and then some tonal adjustments.  I have one happy client :-) who saw it almost finished, and a day up my sleeve as she has changed her departure time by almost 24 hours.

Today I am also grateful for work.   

making progress

I think I am getting somewhere... and it hasn't been tooooo many hours of work!  The deadline is tonight, the client leaves town tomorrow.  Wish me luck with getting it finished this afternoon so I can varnish it tonight!

To do: break up the central hydrangeas, finish the daisies and the left hand side flowers, define the right hand side hydrangeas, make a decision about the tonal values of the butterflies, finish the clouds in consultation with the client (how dark, how strong etc) and add the last minute "skinny" foliage and grass and a few vines and tiny flowers.  

I'll make it. 

Today I am grateful for helpful people at the comune. 

13 June 2012

thinking out loud

This is 40 x 150 cms.  Not typical proportions...
I'm still looking for something to excite me here. In the end it could well be the challenge of producing something that meets the client's expecations that is the driving force that fires me up.

I think I need to bring one hydrangea to life and then build around it... but then I risk trapping myself into more realism than time and other restraints permit.

There are fundamental problems of scale that I have yet to resolve.  I want to create a walk way to give the sense of freedom to explore further. 

I like a warm palette so began with a warm cream underpainting which allows white highlights over a warm base.  

The clouds actually work reasonably well, and have more colour than appears here. I am using exactly the same paints in the flowers to give warmth and unity.  The brief is for a field of blue and violet flowers with hydrangeas, butterflies and a blue and violet sunset.  I don't want to go too dark or too dramatic/strong until the client has seen the lighter version.  These colourings match better the photographs she has sent as "starters".

It's a big ask... and I have to review my approach from time to time!

Later:  I have added in a small hill, pushing back part of the composition and allowing the smaller flowers to be forward over a background, and been a little drastic with the clouds near the skyline. I will probably break up the solid clump of flowers near the middle on the lower edge.

This is all just blocked in for now... it's lunchtime!

and after lunch... 

a detail shot of the major change... plus bringing in the hues of the sunset
and now a break before I tackle the remaining flowers and those butterflies!!!


I am well behind with blogging and emails.  This painting has a tight deadline, so is very much in the impressionist style.  This was day one, not a full day at all.

I want to blog about so many things but it is 1.30am.  Don't give up on me, I will return...

Today I am grateful for safety on the roads. 

10 June 2012

home from roma

and more reading (and a museum... photos later)

tonight a festa...

Today I am grateful for more young kiwi friends.

8 June 2012


lots of interesting reading... will update in a few days!  

6 June 2012

lovely day

Living the magic of where I am with two interesting and vibrant young Kiwi travellers.

Today I am grateful for sharing. 

3 June 2012

a strange thing to call progress

Last night I wrote an email to a distant cousin organising a family reunion, updating a few things on the family tree.

I had written in the update that I have been divorced for about six years.

I think that's probably the first time I have actually owned the "divorced" word.

I guess that's progress?

And why post such an odd thing? Well, maybe I am not the only person in the world who struggles with the concept.  So, to all those singles out there, in my opinion it's a huge conceptual leap from saying you are separated to accepting that you are divorced.

Is it only my generation that struggles with the word and sees it as being loaded with negative connotations? Failure, shame, broken promises...

This evening, as I head out dressed in royal blue taffeta and wearing a plastic tiara to celebrate the jubilee I shall make the (silent) proclamation to myself that "Divorced" is not a dirty word.  I will be the only single at the party, but not the only divorcee.

So, in my regalia, I proclaim...

Mmmm.... I wonder, should I leave the tiara behind.  Ponders.  Our queen wasn't actually crowned until 1953. I wasn't born this time 60 years ago but I do have a coronation mug somewhere in the world!

Oh the choices a girl has to make... hat or tiara...

I know, BOTH!

Single by choice or divorced?


Today I am grateful for acceptance. 

it ain't finished till it's finished...

Coffee break at 9.30 am... it's been a busy day already and much more to do!  There's nothing like fine weather and new visitors to get the old witch waving the broomstick about.  I've even scrubbed the "folly steps" and raked up the sand.  Time for some vegemite (supporting the Kiwi Marmite calamity by not eating precious supplies ear-marked for Scotland - they are hidden from in-coming Kiwi guests).

Speaking of precious supplies... how's this for timing? Scissors to the rescue.  New vegemite supplies arrive on 24 June... I have only 20 days of privation... it ain't finished till it's finished!

Today I am grateful for the generosity of travellers. 

2 June 2012

for sarah

Painting in its new home - unless someone wants to buy it (the painting, not the house, of course!)  The bed is a super king size, so you can see how big the painting over it needs to be.  I do have a headboard for the bed, it's just up in the other apartment at the moment.  Next unsuspecting guests might be asked to carry it down... 

positively ancient but no hi-fi (from an email)

Bring back any memories?
Someone asked the other day, 'What was your favourite 'fast food' when you were growing up?'
'We didn't have fast food when I was growing up,' I informed him.
'All the food was slow.'
'C'mon, seriously.. Where did you eat?'
'It was a place called 'home,'' I explained. !
'Mum cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate, I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.'

By this time, the lad was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.

But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I'd figured his system could have handled it:

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore jeans, set foot on a golf course, travelled out of the country or had a credit card.

My parents never drove me to school... I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed

We didn't have a television in our house until I was 10.
It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at 10 PM, after playing the national anthem and epilogue; it came back on the air at about 6 am. And there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people...

Pizzas were not delivered to our home... But milk was.

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers 
--My brother delivered a newspaper, seven days a week.
He had to get up at
 6am every morning.

Film stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the films. There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or almost anything offensive.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?

MEMORIES from a friend:

My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother's house (she died in December) and he brought me an old lemonade
In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea.
She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to 'sprinkle' clothes with because we didn't have steam irons. Man, I am old.

How many do you remember?
Headlight dip-switches on the floor of the car.

Ignition switches on the dashboard.

Trouser leg clips for bicycles without chain guards. 

Soldering irons you heated on a gas burner.

Using hand signals for cars without turn indicators.

Older Than Dirt Quiz:

Count all the ones that you remember, not the ones you were told about. Ratings at the bottom

1. Sweet cigarettes

2. Coffee shops with juke
3. Home milk delivery in glass bottles 

4. Party lines
 on the telephone
5. Newsreels before the movie
6. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning.
(There were only 2 channels
 [if you were fortunate])
7. Peashooters
8. 33 rpm records

9. 45 RPM records

10. Hi-fi's
11. Metal ice trays with levers

12. Blue flashbulb

13. Cork popguns 

Wash tub wringers 

If you remembered 0-3 = You're still young
If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older
If you remembered 7-10 = Don't tell your age
If you remembered 11-14 = You're positively ancient!


Today is the Festa della Repubbica, and wikipedia has an interesting entry about it.

My festa began at 2.25am with a text from a New Zealand phone proclaiming "I am on the 1.40 train".   Um.  What does one do, at that hour? Get up and look for train times? But from where, to where? And do I want to go out alone to a deserted station?  And my station or Cassino?

I sent a reply "Who, arriving where, and when?"  There was no reply.

Maybe it was a wrong number, but...? Common sense prevailed, and I stayed where I was.  But it ate away at my subconscious, so my big "sleep in" turned out to be up before 7am, and now at 7.30 I am tired again.

A friend sent me an email with a heap of memory triggers on it.  She said she didn't remember them all, but her dad did.  I, of course... sigh!  I'll post them shortly so you can feel ancient too :-)  

Washing is done, coffee is made, on with the day!

Two little dogs will be happy that mum is around full time again.  I hope.  On both counts.

Today I am grateful for washing machines. 

1 June 2012

bring me a beer please?

I have taken down fifty art works, delivered two car loads of them back to my place, and left 5 works for artists to collect themselves.  Another artist collected 5 works.  So I have handled forty works several times, and now all are hanging back up on the chains in the cantina to keep them safe.  Among them are works belonging to six Italy based artists who couldn't arrange to collect their work.

My feet are protesting, my legs are feeling the steps, stairs and the little ladder, not to mention the big step up to hang them in the cantina.  I have also put back all the works that had to come down so I could use the chains and hooks in Cassino.  I have decided that I wont do that again, the "organisers" can arrange a hanging system for next year!  Each time I take my hooks and chains anywhere I seem to lose a few more, and I have only enough for my own gallery left.

Bonus is that the big poppy painting looks perfect over the guest bed in the stone room :-)

Will somebody bring me a nice cold beer please? (Makes mental note to add beer to the list of essentials for the next exhibition).

Today I am grateful for my couch.