Other Plagues

This is not the first time obviously, nor will it be the last so let me remind you that epidemics have always been a potent inspiration for interesting and sometimes great, art. Let’s start with my least favourite in this moment. Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” published in 1772 but purporting to be an eyewitness account of London’s great plague of 1665….though of course it wasn’t as our Dan was only 5 years old at the time! But there you are , poets’ licence I guess,a narrative cobbled together using old documents and eyewitness accounts. Apparently he did a very similar thing when he wrote his more famous “Robinson Crusoe”.

“Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Now is this just a sentimental, absurdly romantic love story? Certainly not a story of “true” love! And what IS this love? Is it a disease just like the plague? Colera is certainly passion in some languages (even in English we have choleric) so not just an epidemic. Which of the two diseases do we want to eradicate? It’s also striking in its treatment of love at advanced age, pretty unusual for a best seller. And what about the film? It got quite critical reviews for its tone, swinging as it does from a great, life-long unrequited love with Bardem gazing eternally at his love with big moist doggy eyes, to hilarious sex scenes of the eternally “faithful” lover. But there you are , it whiles away a few hours.

La Peste” by Albert Camus, and here we are on firmer literary ground with the description of the effect of the epidemic on a town in Algeria, perhaps based on an actual plague in 1849.But is that what Camus is really writing about? What resonates with a reader in our current situation is the uncovering of “paltriness and generosity” and “small heroism and large cowardice” (Marina Waldner). It is almost impossible not to notice the similarities with today’s news items which literally steamroll us with similar information of caring generosiy as well as me-first idiots and virulent loathsome uninformed criticism.. What IS receding is possibly the historical memory or even the desire, to see Camus’s chef-d’oeuvre as a comment on advancing Nazism and even there I’m afraid, there are parallels

And lastly I can’t avoid talking about my favourite film “Nosferatu”by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski in the title role absolutely perfect, and underlined by a score performed by Popul Vu a German group as far as I know underestimated in the AngloSaxon world and of course, as Jonathan Harker rides out to meet Nosferatu the glorious breath -stopping prelude by Wagner. Herzog’s masterly market place scenes of wild abandon of the people who knew they were on the Grim Reaper’s list reminded me of the Danses Macabres that you can find on walls all around Italy. “the scene in the town square is brilliant: moving because of the wonderful music and important to the understanding of why this too could be linked to Nazism. Anyone who has ever seen Ani-Jewish Nazi propaganda will immediately make the link. I do realise that it might be difficult to watch as we who live in Italy are having to deal with images of coffins almost every day.”


A bit of love, a bit of breath, a bit of peace


I think the first big thing we can all do, for the community, as well as for ourselves, is stop vomiting those really nasty thoughts and judgmental spew on the internet. There is no fighting, there are no bombs, no ethnic cleansing, so get your act together. Our grandfathers went to war and almost certain death, here, in the uncertainty, we’re playing roulette and fate is totally blind unlike justice systems so not just the rich, the powerful, the beautiful are going to be saved, so suck it up! What have we then? well, time. Time to spend with our families, time for the kids, quality me-time (and when do you EVER get that?) Time to read, to listen to music, to study (try a Future Learn course to take your mind off things) And even on the balcony if you’re lucky enough to have one you’ll notice you can breathe better because Greta’s wish is suddenly becoming true! So be calm for a while, see what that does for your (fashionable topic) mental health. And you are free of the incessant noise we are daily subjected to. I once read an interesting insight from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh concerning noise pollution. He said that being immersed in noise noise noise as we are, coming from all directions is like living in a house with the windows always open. Everything flies in! Dirt dust dead leaves and insects, filth…. So what about a few deep breaths. I won’t call it meditation because that smacks of the sixties and hippydom, rather update it to mindfulness. Counting and concentrating your breaths is a great tranquilliser, just that, no funny stuff. It’ll help.

Gardening, Music, My Diary

The Best of times, the Worst of times…

I’m quoting Dickens from memory so I might be wrong. I believe they are the first few lines of “A Tale of Two Cities”. So,in this period, I guess we’re learning a lot, I think we’ll have lost some of our fascination with social media by the time this is all over. Honestly, just how much crap can you read? I’m tired of the inane comments and the way people rush onto social mediia to comment on some evidently misunderstood headlines instead of reading the whole article;maybe after this we shall have all become more discerning and more cautious in its use. Having said that, the possibility to video call must be a lifeline to those who are alone, friendless and family-less, and I just dread to think of people dying alone without being able to see their loved ones because they have no devices. There is too the wonderful work being done by LaVerdi who are still trying to get music to us; tiny groups of 2,3,4 musicians get together to play for us, what a treat! It looks as if La Scala will soon be doing the same thing

Modern technology has been a godsend to people isolated in their homes. There is just so much reading, listening to Youtube, watching old DVDs and Netflix that a human being can stomach! Walking the dog seems to have become an obsession as does jogging and running! Me, I take a brief walk along the railway lines right at the bottom of the garden, no one is ever there. I realize that I must stick to the straight and narrow path of virtue from now on, I could not possibly be locked up! So a bit more attention to red light traffic lights Anne!

Personally, this difficult time has sparked my creativity. Look at the hat! I have to stay still when I wear it because if I don’t the flowers fall off the brim! Apart from doing a lot of reading, (no, I haven’t dared to re-read “La Peste” yet! I’m also looking at old DVDs and films but I’m careful to choose the feel-good type. Last week I watched “Schindler’s list” and plunged myself into deepest despair. I’m listening to a lot of classical music and the silence, both without and within has led to a more profound appreciation, we’re just not too hurried to listen to the greats. Now I’m going gardening. That is one of the most cheering things you can do. As you walk the grasshoppers jump ahead of you, the bees buzz, ignoring you but impollinating the fruit trees and there’s sometimes a rare butterfly.I’ve noticed that there seems to be more birdsong than usual too. I’ll bet you wish you’d spent your hard-earned money on a smaller appartment and a garden or at least a bigger balcony now don’t you?

My Diary


I have a bit of a problem. My worms. I buy them regularly at the garden exhibitions I go to and they reward me with a wonderful soft friable soil. I must admit that the first time I bought FIVE EUROS of worms and the man said: “Remember to feed them” I was shocked. “I’ve never fed my worms!”

“Well you should”. So I crept out in the dead of night so the neighbours didn’t see me and think I was a cranky old lady, dug a hole for the household waste ,and another for my wrigglers….and I’ve never looked back!

Until recently. A couple of rather cheeky blackbirds and their missuses have taken up reisidence. They swoop down anywhere I move the earth and steal my precious “soil improvers”.They ignore the bird seed I bought for them! But they are so beautiful, so shiny black and glossy with their bright yellow beaks and their song. The thieves at least serenade me! Unfortunately I have a recurring problem with slugs in the garden but I’m frightened to put down slug pellets in case the birds eat them .If there are any gardeners out there….please help what shall I do?

Gardening, My Diary

Come rain or shine

Let’s start with the rain. A really cold, heavy rain driven by a blustery wind, managed to invade the usually safe haven of my patio and wet all my precious seed packets! I’d got stuff in envelopes saved from my own garden, little brown paper packets from the RHS gardens (these contained the more unusual plants) as well as all the brightly coloured packets bought in England and endowed with great hope! Now what to do? I know, I just know they’ll germinate so it’s asbsolutely necessary to get them in the ground, sharp! But I’ll need so many pots, so much soil, so much space and lastly, so much patience…. Gardening has taught me patience, but it’s of the long-term ,waiting-for-bulbs type of patience, not the short-term quickie patience needed for seeds!

The next day it was warm. A wonderful sunny day. With a little help from my friends I eventually found out how to prune Lantana .Pretty easy actually, but maybe I ought to wait for results before saying that.It was also a suitable day to exploit my grandchildren! I love being Head Gardener! I even bought myself a mug once in a garden centre saying just that! You’ve got to make things clear to people right from the start! The job was to dig up the Iris foetida and transplant it outside the garden in the “orchard”. Done. We were then able to plant a Hydrangea “Hopcorn” in its place. I bought this at the Chelsea Flower Show 2/3 years ago and it has been lovingly cared for in a pot since then. An oleander plant which was given to me was transplanted easily because it is still small, next to the one already outside.

And when I’m not in the garden? Well I fill in my 5-year gardener’s record book, look up pruning in the RHS handbook, and NEVER lounge on the sofa in the patio. But at least I’m still relatively sane.There are gardeners who are so enthusiastic that they use miners’ headlights to garden at night. Did you know?