Monday, November 28, 2016

Working out when to go home.

It's not quite this...

But it is this.

As you might have guessed, I'm OK. But I am spending every waking moment of every day thinking about when I can go home and start doing my life again.

I admit that for about five seconds I contemplated the idea of not going back. Maybe just staying down in the lowlands and being a Vatican reporter again.



(I was probably thinking this while I was in the City eating Japanese food with a friend of mine - neither of whom I see very often.)

Frankly, even with Norcia being described as being like a war zone, I'm this close to just going home. I'm so bored. I need my house. If this experience has taught me nothing else it's that I am to my core a domestic country mouse. I don't do cities, and I really shouldn't be away from my house for more than very short periods.

This camping out is OK. I finally settled in a little holiday flat in Santa Marinella. It's decent, clean and close to the train station. It's got every domestic thing you might need to survive and it's cheap because it's the off season. So I'm not suffering anything worse than homesickness (which is actually amazingly acute!) and boredom. But the fact is, we're physical beings and, to put it simply, your life happens where your stuff is.

the studio work bench

I've been thinking about what physical elements go to make up life. My art studio is in my house. My kitchen and all my culinary and garden experiments are in my house. My garden, my sewing, books, bike, projects... life.

How do you know you're not a mendicant? How do you figure out that you've got a more stability-oriented vocation in life? Try an earthquake or some other natural disaster and see how it suits you. If you feel relieved that you're free to move around and do lots of stuff out in the world, that's a pretty good sign you should look into the Franciscans. If you keep trying unconsciously to go to your book case and find a book or absent-mindedly think, "Oh, I should turn over the compost tomorrow," or "I really do need to bottle the last batch of beer," ... if you wake up every morning wondering where the heck you are...

I've got nothing to do here and it's driving me up the wall. Up there, especially since my house is OK, I could be of some help. I could go down to the zona industriale and help serve meals and sort donations and whatnot. There must be a volunteer signup sheet, right?

And of course, it's becoming clear that outside an extremely small number of places in this country (five, I think) the Faith isn't practiced. You can go it alone only for so long. Mass on Sundays in Rome is fine, but it's an hour long train ride. All the reasons I left Santa Marinella to live in Norcia in the first place are still out here.

So, I've been working on a list of basic things I need to start thinking about going home:

- electricity and running water - which I'm told we have at my house. No gas, but I've bought a cannister-run heater that is incredibly efficient and just before the quakes I got in a three month load of firewood, so heat isn't an issue. Cold showers don't scare me;

- a place to buy food, even a little shop where I can get the basics: meat and veg, rice, oil, milk, tea coffee and kitty food. I don't mind simple fare and short rations, but I really don't want to be another mouth that the volunteers and military have to feed. And there's always the kitties to think about. They're pretty good hunters, but they like their meals regular. I could prolly benefit from a little fasting but they can't. But, I'm told the shops are open in Cascia and a friend with a car has stayed in town. Also, the bus is apparently running daily down to Spoleto - not much further away from Norcia than Rome is from S. Mar - so if it comes to that, I can make a weekly shopping run. Also, the Umbria Journal says that the Coop (big supermarket chain that is the main food thing in Norcia) is planning to open a smaller version in a new building in the zona industriale by Christmas.

- (this is a big one) for a place to go to Mass. I actually left England because there were so few choices. I moved to Norcia in the first place to be closer to the Mass. Even if I suck about going to daily Mass, I need it to be close enough.

This latest update from the monks has given me hope that we could be closer than I had first anticipated:

"Starting next Sunday, the chapel will make it possible for us to offer Mass on the monastery grounds (San Benedetto in Monte) for the few brave souls still remaining in Norcia, providing immediate benefits to locals and to allow us to start getting back, if only a little, to normal."

kind of up there

Now, that's up on their mountain property, which is physically too much for me to get to every day. It's about 3 miles from my house and up the side of a mountain.

I have walked it, but the simple truth is that I'm not as physically strong as I once was (chemo... middle age... etc) and whenever I've done the hike, I've generally been good for nothing the next day.

Same road in winter. Pretty but kind of hard to walk on

I'd need to find some form of transport.

- some kind of internet access that is at least regular if not constant so I can make a living. I've got my mobile internet stick, however, and can recharge it in Spoleto or Cascia. Not sure if it would get a signal there. On Quake Day, we were only getting sporadic cell phone signal, so I don't know. But my friend Emanuele is up there and seems to have daily access from somewhere. He's the expert and if anyone can get me enough internet to keep working it's him.

- and, last, but far from least...





Latest earthquake news isn't very encouraging:

We had a 3.9 yesterday at 9:41 pm with the epicentre a few miles north of Norcia.

But the day's list is a lot longer and includes quite a lot more over 3.0:

3.1 just after midnight,

3.5 at 3:57 am,

3.1 at 3:41pm,

3.3 at 4:16 pm,

3.5 at 7:09 pm,

3.6 at 7:34 pm,

3.2 at 7:51 pm,

3.4 at 8:40 pm,

November 27 total: 88 above 2.0

And at least a few smaller shakes for every hour of the day.

That's a pretty big jump.

Up from November 26: 44 above 2.0 and only  2 over 3.0

So yeah, it looks like it's getting lively again.


But even with the quakes continuing, I'm wavering.

Dulce Domum

Home, for me, is what life is for.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vatican firefighters in Norcia

They're helping people with shops and homes inside the Red Zone (the whole town inside the walls) get their stuff out.

Take a spin around and see everyone. Cool tech, huh?

These are my two friends, Emanuele and Katia, who own and run the computer/internet shop in town. Emanuele does most of the computer/internet communications for everyone. So getting his business up and running is a key component of making the town function as a town again, and making it possible for me and everyone else to go home and start putting our lives back in order.

He has asked me to pass on his heartfelt thanks for all who have donated to get the business functioning again in temporary accommodations in the town's industrial zone (that is all recent construction and was mostly undamaged).

Anyone with a few spare shekels can donate here.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Leftover turkey pie

The English tradition of sealed, raised meat pies meets American Thanksgiving leftovers.

This method of making meat pie crust is not very well known anymore. But it was very commonly used in the Old Days when refrigeration was rare. It completely seals in the meat and gravy and doesn't leak. In the town of Melton Mowbray, it is used to make their famous pork pies. They make the dough a little more dense and build it up without a form, so the sides bow out a bit, then when it's baked, pour in melted aspic and allow it to cool together. The aspic gells and seals the meat. If they're not cut, they can keep a very long time. Much of the old timey cooking methods are actually meant as ways of preserving foods.

With this kind of meat pie crust, you can do any sort of meat or veg pie, and of course it keeps and reheats beautifully. The real blessing is the spring form cake pan. You can't easily buy English pork pie pots here, and the spring form thing allows you to just lift the sides away without any bother. Much easier with baking paper. The carta al forno helps too.

(Had to steal these pics from the innernet. My camera was damaged in the quake.)

1 pound of flour
1/2 tsp each salt and sugar
200 g lard (butter will do)
1/4 cup each water and milk
1 egg

Warm the lard, with the water and milk and beaten egg, over a low flame until the lard is melted. Wisk.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the mixture while stirring, to form a soft dough. Knead gently a few times and set aside in a bowl to rest.

Leftover turkey dinner

Cut up the meat into nice big meaty chunks and put it in a large mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red wine. You could melt a turkey or "delicato" soup cube in a few spoonfuls of water in the microwave and mix that in.

Line a spring form cake pan with baking paper. (I didn't do it this neatly; just sort of stuffed it in.) Into this, place a large blob of dough in the centre and use your fingers to press it outward until you have covered the bottom of the pan.

Add lumps of dough around the edge, and press those gently upwards until the pan is entirely lined with dough. This can be a bit tricky and takes some patience.

The dough should be no more than 1/4 inch (1cm) thick and even all over. It will tend to be thicker in the corners. Make sure there is a little bit hanging over the edges of the pan.

Take another bit of dough, roll it out on the counter and save it for the top. Cut three good vents. Big ones.

Put the pan and the top into the fridge for a few minutes for it to stiffen up a bit.

When it's a bit less goopy, take a layer of turkey meat and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie. Do a layer of leftover stuffing, then a layer of whatever you've got leftover. Corn is especially good. Do a thin layer of cranberry sauce, then more turkey. Keep filing up until the pie is full. To keep the pie from being dry, include plenty of gravy. Don't worry, it won't run out if you put a layer of stuffing in to absorb the liquid.

When it's full, flip the edges of the dough over the top and lay the top bit over it all. Pinch the edges together well.

You can brush it with an egg to give it a bit of shine.

Place in the oven and bake for maybe 30 minutes.

V. good with hot English mustard or Branston Pickle.

You're welcome.

Yes, it's possible to rebuild

Norcia, after the quake in 1859

Valletta, 1941


Monte Casino

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A walk through Norcia today

My friend Emanuele, the owner of ABC Online, the shop where I got all my internet/computer work done, made this video of Norcia today, from the Porta Ascolana, past the destroyed Sta. Maria Addolorata church, past the destroyed Basilica of San Benedetto, past my beloved Enoteca, into the little piazza where that video was made of me running through the rubble and yellow dust, and down the main strip and out the Porta Romana.

This is my town, and I want to go home.

I'd rather live in a tent in the ruins of Cair Paravel than in the new suburbs of Mordor.


If you can, please consider making a donation to Emanuele to get the shop up and running again in temporary mobile accommodations. He is the author of an initiative to get all of Norcia's businesses - the little mom n' pop places that sell the sausages as well as the farm produce, the shoes, the hardware, the clothes and linens... and all the stuff that makes a town function. He's kind of the communications guy for the town, and he knows that telecommunications are central to getting Norcia functioning as a town once again, and making it possible for all of us displaced by the terremoti to go home.

Donate to ABC Online, via Paypal here.