What shall I be when I grow up?

Unrelentingly perky, Doris Day used to sing a song called “che sarà, sarà”. I hated it because it’s not my kind of music and anyway I had this idea that what will be will be…..what I want it to be .Total exclusion of fate, good luck, destiny and so on!

Yet here we are, in Italy at least, asking eleven, twelve-year-old kids to map out the rest of their lives! At that tender age they’re asked what school they want to attend! Classics, scientific, arts? That’s right, let’s start slamming a few doors in their faces! We all know that adolescence is a time when our mind is sparking off in so many different directions, we are so full of life that today and tomorrow we hold ideas that may even be opposite to each other, we’re full of the joys of rebellion. So let’s put a straightjacket on them and if they don’t do well because we’ve put them in the wrong place, let’s call them failures, bocciati, ripetenti…..

What we need is a more flexible system, where choices can be made when they are older. Although I don’t go down the path as far as Ilych (who theorised vouchers, spendable with whatever teacher, whatever subject was available) I still think school should start off serving horsd’oevres so the kids can get a better taste of what the main meal of learning really is.

I’m an English teacher, a fabulous job, but I very well could’ve been something else. I sometimes dream of being a cartoonist, making brilliant stories for the late, great “Eternauta” comic! Aiming high of course.

And what about gardening? Hands in the life-giving soil, enjoying those bacteria (!) healing and growing with plants. As the monthly magazine of the Royal Horticultural Society once said “driven by a mixture of energy, love – and a dash of obsession. In short, the epitome of an Englishwoman’s garden”.



Macbeth at La Scala

We finally made it. At long last we got our season tickets from la Scala and were looking forward to Macbeth with childish enthusiasm. Then? A strike, yes a full- blown nationwide transport strike. (Weeping and gnashing of teeth) Sometimes you just don’t luck out! We were not even sure about the day either but in the end IT WAS ON .

So off to Milan pretty early and thank goodness too because the traffic was awful and the metro seemed to be taking longer than usual, but I arrived. No time to take a leisurely look at the Galleria and when I’d passed the barriers ,green pass, temperature, ticket, I decided to take the lift. But as so often happens, the many flights of steps were quicker than waiting. I also noticed another thing: the carpeting stops at the landing leading to the boxes, just la Scala underlining that you are one of the “poor” people who have “cheap seats in the gods”!

The usual feeling of breathless expectation, it’s been such a long time since we were last here , but here we go. An overture that sounds to my untrained ear very Verdiano; then the heady mixture of theatre to take in; choreography, the scenery, the unloved video projections. Got it! The orchestra under Chailly, the chorus, the singers; what can I say? They had slipped into their roles and were confident and in great voice, better than on First Night I was told. In fact the appreciative audience interrupted after every aria which doesn’t always happen. Obviously the stars were incredible, but I also liked the choreography (by Daniel Ezralow), I found it very meaningful, a representation of all that was rotten in Macbeth’s world; but at the same time I perceived it as a possible comment on modern-day haters while the witches were obviously purveyors of fake news . The controversial videos might have been too much for people who have problems with flashing lights but they symbolised the hallucinatory world of supersition and ambition, or perhaps the world order crashing about his ears I felt. A quick look at the marvellous decorations in the Galleria before making tracks home. Could we be getting back to normality?

My Diary

In Praise of Masks

Let’s take a look at the tradition of masking. The Venetians were big in this field as carnival time was a moment in all Europe to upset traditional hierarchies even for a day, but was particularly keenly felt in Venice where social hierarchies were extremely rigid. Masks had a practical purpose, that of secrecy, but also aspirational. Do you dream of being rich, just for a day? Mask up as a noble; or maybe you fancy belonging to the opposite sex ? You can do that too. Illicit loves could prosper behind a mask too. From the 12th century onwards Venetians had been hiding behind masks until the untoward happenings consumed behind them, eventually forced one of the Doges to emanate a law restricting masks to carnival.

The BAUTA mask is a simple , all-white mask with a projecting jaw so that the wearer can eat and drink. Held in place by a tricorn hat it was the standardised way to participate and even VOTE in political decision making.

The PLAGUE DOCTOR mask with its long beak-like nose was actually used by doctors to keep their distance, and the beak stuffed with herbs and flowers to filter the air and mitigate the stench coming from decaying bodies.

The MORETTA mask is an oval black mask,with holes for eyes; it is held in place by biting the button on the rear which means that the wearer cannot eat, drink or speak lending her an aura of mystery.

The GNAGA or cat mask worn by ante-litteram drag queens! It had to be accompanied by a basket of kittens and was a loophole in the ferocious anti-homosexual laws which carried a very heavy sentence……. death.

But masks are not just fun and games. A lot of our super heroes Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Ironman, Zorro all wear them. Probably to protect their identity from ill-wishers. The Baddies too wear them to protect THEIR identity, presumably from the super heroes; bank robbers have always been depicted as being masked men, even when the mask was only a nylon stocking pulled over the head giving them blurred features and recently the joker mask worn in a tv series has been adopted by protesters over the globe.

And what about us? Shall we grumble grumble grumble? Let’s cough and sneeze and spread our germs through the air, or shall we put up with the relative discomfort of wearing a mask? Consider its advantages (apart from of course keeping your grandmother safe!) I like the mask for at least a couple of reasons: it warms the cold winter air which is a good thing for all the asthmatics out there; The biggest plus however is that I can eat garlic and onions with impunity! Before the advent of Covid, I had to eat spaghetti, aglio, olio and peperoncino on a Saturday evening so I had all Sunday to sweeten my breath and be able to teach students to pronounce “TH” correctly without them turning green!! And last night I heard the most unusual one of all; a dear friend told me that when they played the Hallelujah chorus as an encore she was able to sing with them from behind her mask! Lovely!

Gardening, My Diary, Seasons, Trip

Last garden outing? Surely not

The latest outing was planned and organised by the Garden Club of Monza, not as well-attended as it should have been unfortunately. And the weather …… awful ,after a wonderful week of sun, anyhow we went up to ….. the nursery Anna Peyron. We had been there before, in fact it’s where I first got the idea of a hydrangea tree and decided to let my beautiful macrophylla grow into a tree. We had a nice if slippery and wet walk round the nursery, very much left to its own devices to see how the plants behave when they are not too manhandled. The owner’s daughter Saskia took me to see the tree that had inspired me and I was able to ask a few questions which she answered very willingly. On our walk round she illustrated a little experiment she’d done on a rose bush; half of it had had the summer chop or if you prefer green pruning, the other half left to mature, wither and make hips. The difference was absolutely astounding, the pruned bush was pink all over with roses so next summer I think I’ll try my hand at summer pruning.

Hungry? We then went to a restaurant inside a rocca (La Rocca di Arignano) dating back to the year 1000.What an experience! In the entrance, together with the books and studies concerning the building was a beautiful modern piece of art work. (it’s by Arnaldo Pomodoro entitled “La Soglia and is one of only three examples) We went down to the dining room though I’m tempted to call it dining hall. Everything on the menu was unusual and one of the ladies was going to opt for the risotto (which is the people of Lombardy’s default menu) but we convinced her to try the taster menu.Thank god, it was fantastic. Comments like “I’ve got some of this in my garden” (plantain? ) “Is this …….”, “Can you taste the……?”a fantastic meal , washed down by a couple of bottles of the good stuff (Nebbiolo), thanks to Oliviero. Next, feeling warm and replenished and very good humoured, off to the second nursey in serious rainfall

Feletig had organised a group of like- minded people to hold a small garden show but of course there was quite enough to keep us busy. Some interesting plants with autumnal colours and particularly berries. The garden is a year-round project after all. There were some garden antiques and an English lady demonstrating water colour botanic painting. I was happy to find the young people I’d met before who have set up a firm selling wood chippings, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with them. Home lateish but extremely happy with my single plant ( symphoricarpos) and a bag of chippings!

Wicca's Diary

Wicca’s Diary 8

She’s a dear woman and we get on like a house on fire .She writes too much though, I’ve literally had to jump onto the keyboard and prance on it until she lets me get a look in at the blog.

Something very strange has happened; it seems to me that there is less light than there was. I jump on her bed in the morning at the usual time and she grumbles “Wicca it’s half past 5!”.What’s that mean? I know when I have to eat don’t I! She also makes a fuss about leaving the door open as we’ve always done, says it’s cold. I suppose it might be for humans, poor naked things that they are. I’m not cold although I have changed from my daytime cushion where I do my toilette to a softer deeper warmer one at night. I’ve upped my calorie intake too. She says I eat as if there’s no tomorrow but I really want to put on some weight because I absolutely have to let the yellow cat (ginger I suppose but for me he’s yeller!) actually know who’s boss round here and he’s twice my size. But the reason I’m writing this is a rant directed towards my human. She has moved the bird table from a very convenient position accessible both from a tree branch or the fence and she’s put it in the middle of the lawn!

So if the birds do come there’s no hope of being able to get at them! Oh Anne you’re making my life more difficult, I can’t fly you know. Haven’t you enjoyed the dead birds I’ve brought you? And I’ve also brought you some delicious little mice so you don’t have to go hunting. (I’ve underestimated my human,she simply”hunts” in a different way to me. She goes out and comes back with a lot of bags full of the weird stuff she eats, I believe it’s called “shopping” or “going to the supermarket”)

I’m off on my evening rounds now; she’s finished in my garden for today and I must say it’s looking good. I just hope she remembers not to cover all the soil up with bark chippings otherwise I won’t know where to sh*t