Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Being Eaten by a Polar Bear

Oh look another story

This one has been published by a journal called Bone Parade which I rather like the title of. They got the title of my story slightly wrong. It should read On Being Eaten By a Polar Bear but it doesn't really matter.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Imp and the Bones

Unbelievable I know, but I actually have another short story out now as well.
Here it is.

It is called The Imp and the Bones and is about a village with no thumbs..among other things.  I have had so many rejections over these past months, it is nice to see something out there. I just wish it could pay the bills. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Swinging bears

So I have been here and not been here. I promise to write more soon but in the meantime, defibrillators at the ready, I had a short story published and it was paid.

It is about a man who builds a swing over the edge of the world and I have to confess that even as I wrote it, I loved it.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Fare una passeggiata

I have started walking recently. I mean obviously I have been walking since I was two years old. (Apparently I was a late bloomer. Too busy chatting!) No. What I am talking about is purposeful striding into the countryside for the sheer pleasure and exhaustion of it.
I always wear my hat which means I get many odd glances from the villagers ( What be that thing atop her head. A spaceship per chance) and a lot of thumbs up from the contadini ( farmers) for my efforts.

The best thing, by far though, is that every time I go out, a new adventure awaits me.

Sometimes I discover a new view of San Miniato.

Which is always reassuring because it means I can never get truly lost. 

Or I pass flowers and butterflies doing their pretty things.

I have met a goat farmer called Maria who makes delicious goat cheese and will let you come meet her menagerie of animals if you pass by her gates. I have also walked passed verdant vineyards and whispered thank you to the grapes.

Likewise with the olive groves.

And a field full of wild chamomile which I harvested for my night tea. 

One time I was even  tailed by a swarm of giggling, wild piglets; trotting behind me in full oink and squeal. I eventually encouraged them down a hillside out of the eye of any hunters who might fancy cinghiale for lunch.

Sometimes I happen upon  memorials to war. Always tragic, and at odds with the peaceful countryside I find myself passing through now .  One of some children massacred by the Nazis. 

Another commemorating the great battle which happened on the hills outside of San Miniato in the last months of German occupation.

When I pass ruined farmhouses, I imagine the partisans who may have hidden there. How many lives were saved and lost in the bones of these old buildings.

Often I come across one of the many first-aid boxes littered across the landscape. I always check their contents to see if they have the requisite items: bandages, syringes, tourniquets, antiseptic, medicine for sever allergies. Sometimes I leave a note if I find the box wanting.

Some days i walk so far I feel I will need to carry my legs home in my arms.

But when I get home, I always feel enriched by my stroll and I often find pirate expressing how tired I feel.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


Today I made my first menemen complete with pul biber. Culinary goddess or what?

Menemen is a Turkish breakfast dish made with tomatoes and peppers and onion and oil and eggs. You can then jazz it up with your own additional flavours. I added some feta cheese (Greek ..sacrilege I know) and some ginger.

Feeling Harika!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Tiny Tuscan Tale

I won a local short story competition created by the Sigh Press here in Florence. No money, only glory and publication in a  future anthology. I am not complaining though. I have had A LOT of rejections lately for my short stories so this little accolade is just the shot in the arm I needed before I threw my pen away for good. I actually wrote it more as a writing exercise to make myself feel better so I am glad that I did.

I am not sure why the rejections have been so many of late. A combination of things I guess. I mean perhaps the stories are just not good enough or maybe I am sending them to the wrong sort of journals. It is probably a mix of both to be honest.

Small sigh.  

Friday, 1 June 2018

Vale The Pigeon

Vale Sergio ( the pigeon) Brunelli

I seem to be losing my old-man friends in the village this year. First Franco and now adorable Sergio.
Sergio lived in San Miniato his entire life, even surviving the war and the horrific atrocities that happened all around him. He owned a butcher’s shop ( macelleria) just up the road from me in which he sold chicken – probably where he got his village nickname ‘the pigeon’ from! I don’t think Sergio held the soybean in much esteem. In fact, he owned this shop for so many years, even the newspapers announcing his untimely passing referred to him as an historic trader. 

The shop closed a few years ago but Sergio still sat in his shop every day to greet passersby with a hearty Buongiorno. If you were lucky enough to pass him twice in the one morning you would get a wonderful rrrre-Buongiorno resplendent with a well-rolled ‘r’. Sometimes he was joined in the afternoon by his adorable wife, Rina, and together they would smile at the world as it passed them by.
Now Sergio sat in his shop whatever the weather – through sweltering Sicilian winds, icy Alpi Apuane squalls, rain with drops the size of elephants tears. He loved his city and the rolling hills that embraced it. In fact, when rare snow came to the village earlier this year, Sergio sat up late into the night watching the wolves frolic in the powdered fields below.
I remember one morning just this past winter when the wind was blowing bitterly through the serpentine streets, and I had been greeted as always with an exuberant Buongiorno. In fact, by then, we had graduated into chitchat as well which had pleased me no end. I went to have a cappuccino and decided I would bring him back one because it was so bleak. I remember giving it to him; his face riddled with astonishment. Later I learned through his daughter ( who has recently become my friend) that on the evening of the cappuccino he had come home and told his family about the foreigner who gave him a cappuccino. “Perhaps she thinks I am a peasant, “ he speculated. His daughter and I often laughed about this over the months which followed.
Today the town buried our pigeon. A funeral was held in San Domenico; a beautiful, melancholic service awash with golden afternoon sun, and organ music which soared all the way to its frescoed vaults. When I went to hug his daughter at the end of the ceremony she sobbed ‘O my sweet friend, no more cappuccino.’ And I took her face in my hands and said ‘ Oh no my darling,. cappuccino forever, because every time I have one now he will be resting in my heart.”
Sergio brought joy to my morning day and a welcome smile at its close. He was old school Italy for me: tiny, effervescent, every word he spoke had his whole body behind it.
I will miss him. As will all my town.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Franco the barber

This photo was taken by my friend - Angeliki Coconi
Earlier this year San Miniato lost one of its most colorful characters - Franco the Barber. And by lost, I don't mean he disappeared into the sea never to be seen again (a la Harold Holt) or he got caught up in a magic trick gone awry :-( if only this were the case.

I remember noticing at the time his barber shop was closed, which was unusual, but I had figured it was cold and an 85-year-old man had surely earned the right to a sleep in from time to time. Then I saw the local voluntary ambulance folk ferreting amongst the clutter in his shop and I began to wonder.
I had also noticed a sign on the walls of the village announcing the passing of a Franco Oliva but I hadn't connected the dots because I never knew his surname. Anyway by the time I put it all together, genius that I am, I had missed the funeral  - by only one day. I felt really disappointed.

This photo was taken by my friend - Angeliki Coconi
This photo was taken by my friend - Angeliki Coconi

I liked Franco. He always wore a bright red jumper, was slightly pervy, and gave me pens with lamps on them. We had always waved every time I passed his shop - well, when he wasn't cutting the hair off bald men's heads that was. We had a running banter about him loving summer and me loving winter and now as the heat has begun to suffocate the days I find myself thinking of him often.

It took me a while to find his final resting place. First, I visited the wrong cemetrery. Then I visited the correct one but had been misinformed he was at the back when actually he was at the front. Finally this week I found him so I told him all about the heat and how sorry I was I never got to say goodbye. I feel particuarly sad about this because in the weeks leading to his death I had hardly spoken to him. It was early January and I was still much consumed by Three Paw I could barely look up. I wish I had just once, if only to say goodbye.