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.