Archive for October, 2009

Hmmm…so here we are in the bucolic paradise of Opicina, just 20 mins walk (10 mins cycle ride) from the kids’ lovely school. We travel along winding country lanes bordered with high stone walls, the smells of wisteria and jasmine wafting in the breeze, the buzzing of bees, the chirping of birds to accompany our own joyful song, etc. One small minor problem. No pavements – and roads not wide enough for two cars to pass. Result = pericoloso!!!

Add to that two very big, very fast main roads to cross – equals a recipe for high stress and lots of shouting between us, and kids not wanting ever to get on their bikes ever again.  Plus, zebra crossings here are hilarious (I’ll take a picture this afternoon and post it ). Since there are no pavements, the zebra crossings (le strisce pedonali) are put in arbitrary places that lead from one roadside wall to the next – literally. There is no where to go once you get to the other side! You can only walk backwards and forwards on the zebra crossing, crossing the road in the middle of nowhere. 

And anyway there’s no point since cars WILL NOT STOP just because you’re on a zebra crossing. Are you kidding? It just makes you an easier target.  

And since the roads are built ONLY with cars in mind, many of them are one way (senso unico) which means that as a cyclist/ pedestrian you either go the very long way round (not us, obviously) or you risk life and limb every morning and afternoon going contro senso

There’s something about Italians and cars. Prepotenti, my father-in-law explains. Or the overwhelming need to show who’s boss.


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Gardener has just been round with a quote for re-laying the lawn which has blown my head off. “We’re only renting” I splutter”, “Exactly, signora,” he says enigmatically.

I had entertained thoughts of digging up an ‘orto’ (vegetable patch) to one side – and putting up a gazebo, planting berries and fruit trees, climbing wisteria and roses and…BUT must remind myself we’re only renting

Which reminds me not to think about the rental situation back at home in Acton, West London. Out of the frying pan (see earlier post on the Ukrainian situation) into, possibly, the fire…Would rather not go into it now (palpitations…) but will probably bemoan you with details at a later date.  

But here the week is a round of activities, for the girls, for me, for Stef. Micky has packed more into her week than is humanly (humanely?) possible: roller skating at the local ‘campo sportivo’ three times a week (I tried to persuade her into 2 but she loves it too much), basketball and drama; Fran is doing video and creative writing, piano and now possibly tennis. Stef is off to study for his motor boat licence (don’t ask) two nights a week and I manage to go to African drumming AND dance (yahoo! I found a class – it is soooo good..more later) down in Trieste, as well as yoga with the serene Roberto up here in Opicina (though I have never had a yoga teacher who talks so much). 

There is still so much I’d love to do. Horse riding! We’re in the country for goodness sake. How could we not go horse riding? I have only been a couple of times in my life. One of the few things I remember about my grandad (apart from his blue armchair and his terrible emphysematic cough) was his conviction (based on absolutely nothing) that I was a horse woman. No one in his family as far as I know rode horses so it was a propos of nada. Though I did inherit my mother’s long neck. 

And so far we have miraculously managed to coordinate ourselves without too much strain. Today, for example, Stef and I will both meet at the school for a one-to-one with Micky’s teacher, then he will cycle off with Micky to roller skating and Fran and I will go down to Trieste (by car purtroppo) to the dentist. Fran is getting braces put on today. TODAY! My God, I’m glad we forgot to remind her yesterday. Though she is excited. I hated having braces. It was torture. I didn’t smile for two years. But now it is cool and okay, and Fran has researched dozens of You Tube videos of fledgling adolescents showing off their metal mouths and explaining in intricate detail exactly what to expect, when it hurts and how much. 

Writing this has reminded me that I want to have a rant about Italian roads, cyclists and pedestrians, so I’m moving on to that now. See you later!

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Yeah, though I’ve had some time, I’ve really not had the head space.

It’s funny what blogging does to you (and here it’s very different from fiction writing). I find myself at various moments throughout the day thinking about how I will translate what I’m feeling/seeing/learning into a blog post (or a twitter – again, another very different writing animal).

As I sweep the floor I might compose a post which begins , ‘As I sweep the floor…’ Most days it’s really obvious what I want to write. Some days I have so many thoughts I keep them in a notebook as possible springboards for another day (yeah right, my writing persona is very well organised, don’t ya know?). Other days, I just think so what? who cares? Then I might get an e-mail or a comment from a friend asking what’s happened to my blog, they miss it, and that spurs me on. Or from someone who’s come across it for the first time and read the whole lot – all of my posts ever – in one absorbed sitting. That’s the kind of instant gratification I need.  (You can see why writing a novel has been tough for me…)

But anyway, with the muse cracked, I’ve been distracted by other things. Twitter is less impegnativo than blogging, requiring only 140 characters. Ignore this next bit if you’re already an accomplished twit…

Twitter entries are supposed to be your answer to the question ‘What are you doing? I took this rather too literally at first and all my tweets (as they’re called by the conoscenti) started with ‘Just..’ as in ‘Just hung up the laundry [yawn!] or…’just got up…’ 

Why twitter? is a completely different question – and equally hard to grasp but there is a lot to be said for condensing an experience into 140 characters – it’s a good writing practice and can throw up an interesting mosaic of thoughts. And you can get loads of material for fiction from scanning other people’s tweets. 

 You can see my tweets in the column to the right of this blog post under ‘Tonya’s Updates’ – and if you click on that title, you can see all the tweets I’ve ever written if you really so desire. I still haven’t mastered the art of twittering. There’s a hell of a lot going on out there that I don’t understand (like, why is Jay Z always a trending topic? I bet you’re thinking ‘ But I don’t even know what a trending topic is?’ Hah! Catch up!) 

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve spent some surfing time trying to get to grips with some of the intricacies of twitter (I’ve absolutely given up on Facebook  again – for now) and I’ve discovered a great thing. When you read my tweets, you might see some that have this phrase #amwriting in red, or more often than not, #amnotwriting. I keep seeing people I’m following (yeah, if you like somebody’s tweets you can choose to follow them – then all their tweets show up on your twitter home page. One of the people I love to follow is Stephen Fry (just click @stephenfry )- cos he’s famous for being the most followed twitterer ever. Well, he used to be. And he has a pretty interesting life. Writes things like ‘ I just want it known that when I put that shirt on this morning I had no idea I’d be on C4 News 5 hours later.’ Good to know. And then he keeps on making websites crash because he sends so much traffic their way [hey, Stephen, send someone to me, why don’t you? I can take it!] 

Anyway, when you put  #amwriting  (it’s called a hashtag) in your tweet, it flags up to other twitterers that you’re communicating with all the other twits who’ve put that same hashtag in their tweet. And you’re instantly connected to the #amwriting community. And that, if you’re a writer who finds herself in the middle of nowhere (well at least that’s how Jan Morris describes Trieste) like me, can be amazingly inspiring (though I still haven’t been inspired enough to get back to the novel…)

Look at the kind of things these people are sharing –

johannaharness Fog rising off canal this morning=mesmerizing. Frost so heavy in surrounding fields that it looks like snow.


mezpacker #amwriting Prostitutes, dead babies, sorcerers and social media all feature – an interesting combination

so you get real time descriptions of what writers are doing and thinking as they write. It’s really neat. I could only copy these tweets from people I follow but you can read all of them at #amwriting.

Then I explored a bit and discovered that Johanna Harness (quoted above) started this hashtag off, and she does a rollcall every morning to see which writers are up and running. She has a great blog too – where she explains that she’s primarily a twitterer who occasionally likes to blog when the twit word limit outdoes her… 

Anyway, I’m all twittered out for now. Not sure if this post is the one I composed while loading the dishwasher this morning but – at least I got it off my chest!

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