In Praise of Laziness

I appear to have been adopted by a kitten who certainly knows which side his bread’s buttered on. He chose the only person staying at home all August, at a loose end, getting fed up with Netflix, kept out of the garden by the extremely debilitating heat and the sheer amount of things to do. How did he know? But at least he’s quiet. that’s the great thing about cats, they tiptoe. After looking after him for a couple of days I’m more in doubt than ever about getting an animal. They need looking after and I thought I’d finished with that part of my life! My mother, who was a dog lover (a whole succession of golden Retrievers who got the best of everything in our household) told me when the last one died , “Anne, never get anything with a mouth” and how right she was! Mind you she should have added “and never get anything that needs watering”.

Of course I have irrigation in the garden, but long ago I mislaid the plans. It’s far too complicated. Pop-up sprays for the lawn areas, dripfeed for the veggie beds and leaky tubes for everything else. At the moment I’m trying to simplify the upkeep in order to be able to enjoy it, not just work in it. I’ve discovered to MY surprise (but nobody else’s) that my painful back is caused by weeding. Not the gentle ladylike stuff you read about in novels, done by ladies in lovely hats and nice gardening gloves, but the straining fall-over-if-you -let -go, tall grasses type! Rant over! However, it is so lovely to sit outside , especially in the evenings when all you have to do is breathe in the perfume of Wintersweet, or jasmine, or roses or Brugmansia depending on the season. I have been trying to make mine a perfumed garden. I really have to fall in love with a flower to give it ground space if it has no scent. This is causing a running battle between me and my helper Davide. He hates my Edgeworthia, but it perfumes the whole garden in early spring when nothing else is doing anything.


Cinema under the stars….

I do love the cinema! and especially cinema under the stars. It’s really a case of”force is no choice” because I spend my weekday evenings during the year teaching, so there’s really only the weekend left .I don’t really like those mega-cinemas, though the seats are comfy. I found a small cinema near me with moderately comfortable seats ( not a lot of stuffing) but that’s ok because the price is really reasonable, and I got into the habit of going regularly. It was a bit like the atmosphere I remember when I used to trek across London with my boyfriend to see a Bergman season. Or at the university cineclub where you could see art films that no one else wanted to see, but there were the great Russian filmakers Eisenstein’s “Ivan the terrible” and the wonderful “Alexander Nevsky”, with music by….wait for it…Prokofiev!

Then nearer to now, more trekking to some weird parish cinemas with my ex to see a Shakespeare festival. “Hamlet” (Kozintchev) most of all which had me scurrying home to read my Shakespeare to check out where that idea of claustrophobia came from. But it’s there ,it’s there in the text. Another eye-opening moment was Roman Polanski’s “Macbeth”, Ive always thought the witches were ridiculous but my small daughter (who I had hoped was too young to understand anything-I must have been in one of my depressed moments where I was dying for a bit of culture) anyway she hollered and I had to leave. The extraordinary thing was that it was shown the next week on tv and she sat and watched, much to my chagrin. This convinced me that cinema IS the big screen, the dark, the undivided concentration…



Guys in the sense of gals. I’m not getting sucked into the murky world of gender fluidity, so I’m addressing myself to anyone who does a bit of housekeeping and household tasks. When I got married, Italy was still a backward place with well-defined gender roles and I, having being fed on shit women’s magazines adhered to the expectations ( more or less) . Remember (before you take umbrage for my use of the word”backward”) that the delitto d’onore was only repealed in 1981!!!! My rebellion, if rebellion it was, was about other things and got shoved to one side when I “fell in love”. Now I happen to think love is a bit of a con. Anyway my then-husband was a very macho-type guy and saw to everything “masculine” in and around the house; do you know what that means? It means I don’t know anything practical! No nothing at all. I’m now on a very steep learning curve as the pergola supports, simply stuck in the ground (“no there’s no need to paint them, the wood has been dried off in ovens madam”) the pergola then, with the rain and gale force wind has come loose, and the risk is that it will collapse under the 3-pronged attack (incorrect preparation, bad weather, too many roses)

So I need to paint the new supports, the guy at Bricoman explains to me the difference between a tin of 8-euro impregnating agent for wood and a 40 -euro one. ‘Nuff said. Then “don’t use a roller, use a brush and work the agent in well. 2,3,4 coats should help it last for a couple of years. Brushes? Prepare then by bending them to give them flexibility, and when you’ve finished wash them and never never STAND them on their bristles! Hang them up that’s what the holes in the handles are for madam!” omg, is that how you feel when you have your first English lesson? Helpless ,uninformed with a mammoth learning task ahead? So now I’m learning to do it myself. You should’ve seen me armed with a screwdriver taking my washing machine apart to empty the filter! What I’m really trying to say is this, we should try and learn a few tricks of the trade . I had always wondered why there were so many men browsing the dull shelves of Brico! But now you know after these humiliations, I’ll be joining them!


Off the launching pad …at last?

Well as most of you know, my ” followers” are all unofficial. I get lots of mails telling me how they enjoy, grapple with understanding ,have learnt new vocabulary and structures and are always very sweet. Some of you are incredible proof readers too and pick up on all my mistakes! This time I’m particularly pleased because I got complimented on my poetry writing skills (naah), I got requests for lessons (that was one of the original reasons for writing this blog together with giving my students some short bits of English to read. But of course, pretty soon I simply started enjoying writing the blog and the mini-research it entailed). I received some gorgeous green filled pictures on fb and insta and whatsapp of my students’ and ex-students’ holidays and last but not least ( and the prompt to write this) was a youtu vid from my friend Catherine who together with Johnny Cash explain the exact number of Ireland’s greens!


Still overwhelmed by Gardens

A very interesting form of garden known as hortus conclusus, is actually a walled Garden. These pleasure gardens, found in castles and fortresses were surrounded by walls and separated from the noisy, chaotic, smelly life of the castle outside their walls, and were used as places of pleasure and often of courtship. Courtly love probably flourished in them; we find references to them in the songs of the troubadors. In these songs the delights of the garden are symbols of man’s capacity to impose order on nature; an appreciation of the bounty of nature and living things; and a lightly veiled reference to sexual conquest. Boccaccio also mentions them, perhaps making fun of the idea of the garden as paradise.

The ladies of the castle could spend time surrounded by the walls in the shade of trees, among perfumed flowers and pleasing quiet except for the sound of running water. From the monastery gardens it was just a short step to linking the idea to the Biblical Song of Songs:” hortus conclusus soror mea, sponsa, hortus conclusus, fons signatus” ( giardino chiuso tu sei,sorella mia,sposa,giardino chiuso,fontana sigillata/A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride,and a sealed fountain) and thus, the garden of paradise ,Eden, has turned into a representation of Mary’s virginity. Shut out of paradise by the actions of one woman,Eve, we are allowed to get back into it through those of another woman,Mary. Like the garden her womb, her virginity, is closed, impenetrable and unviolate and has given rise to many important works of art.