Posts Tagged ‘Opicina’

Oh me, oh my, is it really 3 weeks since I last wrote this blog? Feels like it too! The Other Life has overtaken me (temporarily I hope). Apart from swanning around sightseeing and eating a lot with my guests (two families have been and gone and my dad left just yesterday) I have been busy getting wordplay off the ground here in Opicina – and at the same time trying to hold on to wordplay in London. If that sounds like a painful kind of straddle that should really be the splits – that’s quite accurate. If I can pull it off (an unfortunate mixed metaphor – sorry – though worse if I were a guy…) it will be a GOOD LIFE! And if I can’t I will slowly but surely start to go mad as I stand looking out of my kitchen window onto the glorious woods beyond… 

I had toyed with the idea that coming over here I might just dabble around a bit, settle the kids in, drop them off at school, do the housework…get organised (sounds trivial but believe you me it is ALL CONSUMING) and then, in the little spaces between chores, sit down and write my pot boiling Dickensian/Joycean bestseller (an oxymoron if ever there was one). But somehow or other (even though I did sign up for NaNoWriMo – the international internet attempt to encourage all would-be-writers out there that you can indeed write a novel in a month and November’s the time to do it!) the thought of those empty hours ahead in an empty room, in an empty city…fill me with…emptiness. It is too odd to be displaced so totally and imagine that you are capable of living happily inside your own head in your own world for months on end.

Though it can be done, of course. Many writers I suppose have done it that way (though Marcel Proust clearly had a very deep knowledge of the culture that surrounded his four cork-lined walls) . But ’tis not for me. May well just be another excuse to put off doing what must be done (the writing!) but…for now, it’s an excuse that works. But oh that novel under my bed, how it haunts me! When shall I haul it out and dust it off and knuckle down???

Anyway, number one in a long list of more-urgent-things-to-do-than-write-a-novel was to try and sort my websites/blogs out. Have not been entirely successful – yet – and appreciate your feedback on this. I’m trying to nominally separate the personal from the professional. So now I have a personal blog (this one!) where I mention all my foibles, relatives, and daily battles with toilet-cleaning responsibilities as well as the above mentioned crises and procrastinations about the very thing I am supposed to know so much about in my professional life (actually this kind of painful putting off makes me very qualified to minister sympathy and tolerance to all the wretched would-be writers that come knocking on my door).

And I have a professional (aagggh..such a loaded word, that one. Show me the money!) blog which is over on the other side http://wordplaywriting.wordpress.com The idea is that on that one, I try and keep exclusively to things to do with wordplay – courses I’m running, book clubs I’m organising (magari) – and if I’m really organised I’ll also write up what we do in the courses – and get students to participate. The main reason for this is that, if you’re doing a search for writing courses and you stumble upon this blog, it may well not be entirely clear to you exactly what is going on. 

On the other hand, I am having another breakdown (similar to my earlier blog on classifying the books on my bookshelves…I told you I am an absolute nerd) about where the dividing line falls between these two blogs…all writing is writing innit? Do I put my thoughts on a book I’ve just read (Mick Jackson’s The Underground Man, for example) here – or there? Do I write up my experiences of NaNoWriMo here or there? Is it dangerous to expect people to flit seamlessly between the two? And don’t get me started on twitter??? You may have noticed – I started up a whole new twitter account so it could go on my other blog (save the abovementioned customers stumbling upon my domestic life yet again) – but there are infinite complications with this division of labour which I am too bored (and ignorant) to go into here.

Oh well.

Feels like I’ve written a different kind of entry today – even more random than usual. That’s because I have indeed been gone too long. Blogging is a writing muscle like any other – and needs exercising. Writing is always about finding the words. Not sure I’ve done that at all here. But, can’t be too precious. That was the reason for blogging in the first place.

Ta-ra. I’m off to t’other blog now, to put on my professional cap. Better have a sobering cup of coffee first…


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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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So yesterday I took my first trip to the butcher’s in Opicina (this little town I’ve just moved to near Trieste). Butcher’s are always a daunting propsect: and Italian ones are a double whammy. But he was very friendly, didn’t look aghast when I pointed to a delectable joint of meat (all rolled up and criss-crossed with string, a sprig of rosemary stuck on for good measure) and asked ‘What’s that?’ (vitello) and then, ‘How much is it?’ Expensive (19 Euros) but irresistible.

He told me in fast Triestine dialect how to cook it, and I understood something about white wine, stock and eating it cold, and that the kids would love it. When I got home, the only near enough recipe was in my very trusty ‘Great Italian Cookbook’. But although when the butcher described it, it sounded delectable, in practice it was just boiled meat. And tasted like it. Never again.
But, also did a fab caponata (that’s aubergines, onions, tomatoes, plus possibly peppers – then it’s called peronata – , celery, fennel, pine nuts, raisins – and even dark chocolate apparently in Sicilia – and then lots of balsamic vinegar). It’s a kind of sophisticated ratatouille, but in true Italian style, there’s a special knack to getting all the flavours to combine and unify.

I first came across it at Carluccio’s in Chiswick – and asked the waiter for a recipe – which he gave me – verbally – very enthusiastically. And I’ve been modifying/ perfecting it ever since. Yesterday I used Georgio Locatelli’s version from his book ‘Made in Italy’ – but he deep fries everything. I’m sure it tastes wonderful but I can’t be doing with that. I’m more from the Nigel Slater school of ‘as little hassle as possible while cooking thank you very much’. But did pick up a taste-changing trick: leave the caponata to settle for two hours after cooking, covered in cling film (I didn’t have any so just put a lid on the pot – seemed to work.

Anyway, think I’m hoping to aim for at least one new dish a week, and take a visit to the local fish shop next. I guess I’ll have completed this goal (I’m writing this first as one of my goals on 43things.com) if I can sustain this till Christmas…

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