Thursday, June 11, 2015

Home is best...

...especially when you live here.

(Note to self: when waking from a week in Rome-Horrible-Rome and discovering that the decompression process has generated a blazing anxiety attack, do not start the day by guzzling down an entire pot of espresso. Oh, I'm just full of helpful tips today!)

All the nice shop people and local regulars were happy to see me. Several asked where I had been, and gravely sympathised when I told them.

Updates, updates:

As soon as I got home last night, I became enveloped by vague but overpowering anxieties. Then, as I was making the tea and went to gaze out the kitchen window for solace at my beautiful garden of wildflowers, I yelped in shock and horror to discover that someone had come and destroyed it utterly. I was white with rage and spent half the night unable to sleep, and the other dreaming about the end of the world. Woke with the anxiety attack already well under way. If someone can just come over to your house and ruin your garden like that, it's hard to feel very safe.

The "gardener," whose sole skill seems to be the operation of an industrial gas-powered weed-whacker, has mowed down to the bare soil every single living thing in sight, reducing to nearly a moonscape what had been a veritable paradise of wildflowers and green and verdant loveliness. I went down the hill to pay the rent, and had a word with the landlord and have been assured that from now on at least my own section of the garden will be left alone.

I was advised that the constant mowing is in an effort to discourage vipers, which I can understand. But when I replied that at least snakes kept the population of rodents down, I got a very odd look. (Italians are not very friendly towards snakes.)

I managed to explain in my still-halting Italian that "weeds" are in fact beautiful and valuable wildflowers, including orchids, and that on the 30 degree slope that takes up most of my garden they prevent soil erosion, retain moisture in the soil and fix nitrogen, allowing what little soil there is to remain fertile. I said that from now on I am going to be growing aromatics and ground cover plants on the slope in an effort to encourage soil and moisture retention, and that further mowing will ruin all my efforts. I think I was understood, for the most part.


Good news is that the upstairs flat, from which the Gashlycumb Noisies have at last removed their horrible selves, is to be let to a fellow-anglo from Scotland whom I know slightly, and who is well-known for being quite a civilised grown-up. So that's taken care of. This means that the menacingly young-looking people, and their two small stompy children, who were looking at it yesterday will not be coming, which is a source of great relief.

The only thing left is to figure out how my lovely Rome friends could work here, and then we could all live happily ever after.


Today, the second set of local Nursini parents asked me if I would be interested in teaching their child English. The first has a son who is fifteen and is failing English in school and also wants to learn to draw. Today's is six and just starting school in September and can already read and write in Italian. In addition, my own Italian teacher has asked me if I would be willing to trade lessons for lessons.

I begin to see a potential happy future fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a character in a Barbara Pym novel, cycling to Evensong every day, (though the 4 am start-time for Matins is a bit much) wearing tweed skirts and twin-sets and teaching the local children how to make a proper cup of tea.

Thank you, Grandpa, for teaching me to be a grammar-nazi! I knew it would come in handy some day.


While in Rome, I blew all this month's extra dough on art supplies. I am risking really grinding the finances down to the bone this month because I'm quite excited about the picture idea. The rent is paid and the bills can wait until I receive payment for a few articles I've produced recently, so all the expenses are covered (barely). And I've got loads of cheap protein and green veg in the fridge and freezer, so though things will be frugal and non-extravagant, there won't be any actual difficulties.

Thank God, again, I live here where it is lovely and cool and airy and green and beautiful, where my entertainment is all wholesome, holy and free, and the rent is cheap so I can afford to take this big risky shift in direction. I really do have great hopes for this painting idea and am moving forward.

I visited the artist supply shop in Rome and came away with some solid advice as well as sufficient art materials to get started. I got very lucky indeed and found two large and good quality books of medieval art, including one that is entirely about manuscript illumination and painting from the 4th to the 16th centuries. I'm all set to go.

As we go along, I look forward very much to outfitting the third bedroom, which is quite small and would be uncomfortable even as a guest room, as a studio. I am a great believer in not rushing. One acquires the pieces of furniture for one's home as one does one's friends; slowly and with careful attention to suitability.

But in the end, I'd be happy if it looked quite a lot like this:
Lovely, isn't it? It's "The Studio" by the 19th century water colour master Carl Larsson.


Note to the kind people who like to send me things:

I do love receiving these nice little presents of books from Amazon, and of course appreciate them the more since there is no English language book shop in Norcia. However, if I might add, it would be helpful if I got a bit of warning. One never knows what sort of thing might turn up in the post, and it is sometimes a bit alarming to get a note from the Post Office that a mysterious package has arrived with anonymous contents from persons unknown and parts foreign and far away.

You get my gist here... anthrax ripple, live tarantulas and whatnot... one's imagination can run along to some odd places in our uncertain times. So, send me an email letting me know what to expect. Thanks.



Unknown said...


With you're interest in medieval manuscripts
and your love of cats, I thought you might like
this poem by a monk about his cat, Pangur Bán.
It was found in the margins of a manuscript in
the Monastery of St Paul, Austria, and is
thought to have been written by an Irish monk,
sometime around the ninth century.

No doubt you'll be able to identify with the
author so perhaps you're already familiar with
the poem but just in case you're not I've
copied it below.

Bán is the Irish word for white so at least
we can imagine what the cat in the poem
looked like.

In Domino


The scholar and his cat, Pangur Bán

(from the Irish by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Oh, I love Pangur Ban! Thanks for the reminder.

gracem said...

So nice to be reminded of Barbara Pym...thanks!