Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Stuffing the Hollow Legs


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

It never ceases to astound me just how much food the Italians (and the Spanish, and the French) can pack away, and still not be beset by the obesity issues that so trouble some Anglo-Saxon countries.

I spent a truly delightful evening in the company of my neighbours and some of their friends a few nights ago, but had to practically roll myself home afterwards. The combination of a five course meal (FIVE courses on a TUESDAY!) accompanied by five different sorts of alcohol ensuring that the following day passed in a cumbersome blur of post-overindulgence.

Accompanied by copious amounts of red wine, we began with anti-pasti; stuffed courgette flowers (fiori riempiti), courgette quiche and spinach (ge in dialect) quiche.

Followed by pasta; pappardelle (very wide tagliatelle) with anchovies, tomato, mint, basil, garlic and…

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I’ll Show You Mine


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays

Status Viatoris

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I have finally got myself a language exchange partner.

Sadly not the 6ft, raven-haired, dark-eyed hunk of unruly Italian masculinity that I had been hoping for; more a 4ft10, brown-haired, dark-eyed slip of Italian womanhood, but very welcome nevertheless. Especially in light of the fact that I seem to get away with conversing in Italian far more than she gets to practise her English.

Being single girls, and of roughly the same age, most of our conversations in both languages so far have been about boys. She has been giving me the low-down on Italian men – confirming most of what I had originally suspected, and I have been making stuff up about British ones.

Not having been anywhere near one since I was eighteen, my fictional Brit seems to have taken the middle ground somewhere between…

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To Old Friends


Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays.

Status Viatoris

One of the most uplifting sights that greets me on my way home from work, rain or shine, is that of the local village ladies out for their afternoon leg stretch.

Even the springiest of these particular chickens is probably pushing eighty, and I am not even going to guess how many seasons some of the others have seen come and go.

Cardies or shawls over blouses, skirts just below the knee, woollen socks over legs bandied by age, and sensible shoes (sometimes even Wellington boots) are the order of the day; the perfect get-up for a leisurely promenade with lifelong friends.

I pass them, sometimes miles from the village, gazing out over the valley. One or other of them will be gesticulating, the others nodding as they stare towards a faraway point.

I wonder what they’re actually seeing. The countryside as it is now, or is their minds’ eye…

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The Writing on the Wall


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

The ageing process is yet again doing its terrible worst: I find myself in a state of total disbelief at the realisation that an entire year has passed and that it is already time for me to be wishing a heartfelt  Bon Cumpleannu a Cheli du ’93!

But this year, in light of recent and devastating local tragedy – three girls in their early twenties killed in a car accident, our eighteen year olds have sensitively restricted their youthful exuberance and reigned in their graffiti excesses; leaving us with three symbolic butterflies, and just one simple message:

Graffiti from the heart…

“A smile lasts no more than an instant,

but the memory of it becomes eternal.”

They’re not bad kids, this lot, not bad at all.

And I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, bearing in mind the sort of examples they are often set by their community:

Just last week a local man in his fifties, slightly simple of mind, but a popular and well-loved presence about town, suffered a severe brain haemorrhage. He was taken to a hospital that is an hour’s drive away along the coast. Close friends and neighbours immediately rallied, setting up a rota for people to visit him three times a day in order to keep him company, feed him his meals and take care of his general hygiene.

I was only half an hour into my visit, when an additional five villagers appeared in the ward. They stayed with us for two hours, taking it in turns holding his hand, massaging his frozen limbs, waiting for the doctor to pass by with some news.

Such affection and dedication is indeed a sight to behold.

Sadly he is not making the progress we had hoped for, so all we can do is cross our fingers, continue our vigil, and hope that we are not about to be deprived of yet another valid member of my brave little Italian village.

On a brighter note, I am currently (and rather sheepishly) flying the flag for cougardom. But that, my dears, is a story for another time… 😉

This is Status Viatoris, the odd blog post is better than no blog post at all, n’est ce pas? in Italy

The SV Guide to a Good Night Out


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Step One: Put on your best party frock – making very sure not to forget your dancing shoes – and carefully apply glittery make-up (optional for men).

Step Two: Make your way to the village bar, where good friends and oodles of beer await.

Step Three: Pile seven people of various sizes into a small Italian car, and laugh far more uproariously that the situation actually warrants as the driver makes four attempts to propel said vehicle up the steep ramp and out of the carpark.

Step Four: Pump up the music and sing unnecessarily loudly for the entire 2km journey to the local beer festival’s Brazilian evening.

Step Five: Fill your plate with rostelle (little kebabs), stinco (pork shin), chips, pasta, sausage, bruschette (various things on toast) and indeed anything else that you can think of  (it helps if they are also on the menu).

Step Six: Fill your glass with beer.

Step Seven: Repeat step six.

Step Eight: Ditto.

Step Nine: Ditto.

Step Ten: Ditto.

Step Eleven: You are now ready to hit the dance floor. Now, you know perfectly well that you are the undisputed queen of dance, so when the nice lady with the feather on her head and the nipple tassels shimmies up to entice you into joining her in a bit of samba, just do it!

Step Twelve: Repeat step six – dancing like a goddess is thirsty work.

Step Thirteen: Ditto.

Step Fourteen: Chat to lots of people. It really doesn’t matter if you know them or not; your wit is sparkling and your conversation scintillating. Your presence can only serve to enhance their beer festival/Brazilian evening experience.

Step Fifteen: Repeat step six.

Step Sixteen: It’s time to shake that booty again, and show all those rhythm-less people how it’s done. Wiggle those hips! Windmill those arms! Holy moly, you’ve sure got the moves…

Step Seventeen: Refuse the offer of a perfectly good car seat, and instead travel home in style. For the flat bed of a small red motocarro undoubtedly constitutes stylish transport. And comfort. And warmth. As well as providing a sense of adventure and a really good view of the stars – which look strangely more appealing this night than any other you can remember – luckily there are lots of people around to whom to impart this suddenly very important conviction.

Step Eighteen: Stagger up the squillion steps to your apartment, making sure to giggle loudly enough to wake the neighbours (their little brats make enough noise the rest of the time, so what the hell).

Step Nineteen:
You really haven’t consumed enough calories in the last eight hours, so cook up an enormous pot of pasta and consume rapidly and messily.

Step Twenty: Drink a large glass of water and collapse into bed – you are still blissfully unaware that the builder will be ringing on your door bell in a little under four hours, so make the most of such ignorance, and go to bloody sleep!

This is Status Viatoris, please note that the SV Guide has not been approved by any medical professional thus ensuring absolute enjoyment, unhindered by any boring and tedious “health” advice… 😉

Bil-hanā’ wa ash-shifā’…


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Beef tajine with prunes. Yum!

…or for those of us who do not have our modern Arabic down pat  – “May you have your meal with gladness and health.”

Which is exactly what I did on Sunday night, having been lucky enough to have been invited to an evening with a very international flavour: four Poms, a Kiwi and a Canuck, all sitting down to enjoy the most mouthwatering repast, prepared right in front of our eyes by the Moroccan cousin of one of the girls’ paramours.

A pasticciere (confectioner) by trade, and a passionate adherent to healthy eating, he excels in combining traditional Moroccan recipes with an organic style all his own. Herbs to clean this, spices to purify that; it is all minutely thought-out in order to provide guilt-free sustenance to those who treat their bodies as a temple, as well as titillating the taste buds of us rather less corporally-discerning souls.

Whilst the tajine was cooking I was set to work hand-rolling seasoned meatballs, quite a few of which the paramour was then popping raw into his mouth  – making me mightily relieved that it was not going to be me kissing him later on in the evening ;-). They were then cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, before being scooped into hungry mouths with lumps of soft Moroccan bread – a vast improvement on the often ghastly dry Italian stuff.

All those familiar food aromas, coupled with the sound of what is one of my favourite languages, ensured that I spent the entire night awash on a tide of nostalgia. Whisked right back to Granada in the late nineties, and the three years I spent with a pharmacy student from Ksar el-Kebir. The relationship itself was an unmitigated disaster (my speciality), but boy did I revel in the exoticism. The music, the food, the traditions; all perks of an association with someone from a vastly different background. And, for a while at least, more than enough recompense for turning a blind eye to the glaringly obvious examples of long-term incompatibility.

So I am led to conclude that Moroccan food with an organic twist is manna of the gods, my desire to see Cheb Khaled live in concert remains undiminished and I STILL DESPERATELY WANT TO LEARN ARABIC!

Oh dear, let’s just hope that the renewed itching in my flip flops is simply a sweat-induced fungal condition and not something with more serious geographical ramifications…

This is Status Viatoris, wahad for the sharia, and off we go!

Not Wholey Holy


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Regular readers of this blog may (reading between the lines, of course, being as how I are not remotely self-opinionated… cough cough) have picked up on my incompatibility with organised religion. I understand why it came about, I understand why it held sway for so long; but I simply cannot comprehend why it still has a place in today’s society, especially in that of the developed world.

Evening procession setting off…

Italy, however, despite its historical and geographical ties with that most despicably hypocritical of organisations – The Vatican, aka HQ of the Roman Catholic Church – appears to me to approach the pomp and circumstance of Christian festivities with a definite spirit of cultural joie de vivre, as opposed to the faith-based fervour present in certain other countries.

Singing their way towards the church.

Nevertheless, when I was asked to attend Thursday evening’s church service to witness a friend’s daughter having her feet washed by the priest in preparation for her Holy Communion in June, I confess that I would far rather have stayed in the pub. But friendship must be obeyed, and with much reluctance, I shuffled in to take my place on a creaky wooden pew.

and again the next day…

It was the disorganisation of the event that struck me most when comparing it with the Church of England services of my reluctant youth; people milling around constantly, seemingly unaware of when to sit and when to stand, the ceaseless chattering of the congregation almost drowning out the prompts and responses so beloved of Catholic clergy. I stayed long enough to watch the children giggle uncomfortably as their little feet were washed then dried by a rather aged man of God, before escaping out of a side door and gasping some oxygen into my incense-abused lungs.

For purposes of cultural-enlightenment, it just had to be done, but I don’t think I’ll be crossing the threshold again any time soon…

Winding their way through the village (with the occasional pause for refreshment)

Once the service was over, the men all fell out of the pub and made their way to their respective cofraternita churches to prepare for the evening procession. There are four different confraternita in the village – black, red, blue and green (the colour of their robes seems to stick in my mind more successfully than the names of their individual churches). They pay a certain amount each year for the privilege of belonging to the group and thus taking part in all the religious and cultural activities, the most interesting surely being the sausage festival – more details of which I shall no doubt be supplying when it takes place in the summer.

Once assembled, each confraternita then takes it in turn to walk to the church singing their particular dirge. Then it’s robes off, and once more to the pub.

Friday’s procession is a little more long-winded, with the groups making their way around the entire village to sing in each of the churches; stopping off along the way for much-needed liquid refreshment provided by kindly womenfolk, before kiddy corne-blowing in the square, and then; you’ve guessed it, it’s back to the pub!

Future nectar of the gods…

Now that sort of organised religion I can definitely cope with; God bless the fruit of the vine and all those who remain true to her ruby-red call to worship… 😉

This is Status Viatoris, picking and choosing her religious activity at will, in Italy.

Spring is most definitely Sprung…


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

…and I simply cannot get enough of it.

The start of another beautiful day…

Very budulate indeed…

The birds are deafening in their joie de vivre, and competing with them for the title of Noisiest Wee Beasties are about a million

Bloomin’ gorgeous!

randy frogs.

Even the trees are bursting into life, filling the air with gorgeous smells and clouds of scratchy stuff that is getting up everyone’s noses, tickling the backs of their throats and attractively puffing up their eyes…

Hey! It can’t all be fun and games, you know.

Pooch and I were recently invited to a friend’s campagna to help plant stuff and generally get in the way. Pooch was put to work turning the soil, which he did with admirable enthusiasm whilst I took pictures, ate panini and nattered – all of which, it must be said, I also did with admirable enthusiasm.

Diggy dog…

Diggy Dog – the story continues…

Diggy Dog digs on…

Diggy Dog’s all dug out…

All in all it’s utterly glorious and, as usually happens at this time of year, my mind has started to resemble the myriad of buzzy creatures that have suddenly appeared from nowhere to flit ceaselessly from one thing to another without ever managing to settle. Pooch is being dragged out for endless walks, I have picked up a dozen books only to put them back down again after a paragraph, I tidy the house only for chaos to re-establish itself again in a matter of hours, I keep forgetting what it was I was supposed to be doing and an article takes me an entire day to write…

However, I intend to make more of an effort to fulfil my Status Viatoris duties over the next weeks, spring or no spring, especially bearing in mind that I actually do have bits of interesting news to impart!

This is Status Viatoris, attempting to concentrate her flighty mind, in Italy…

Dating for the Emotionally Incapable


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Interesting fact courtesy of Kiwi friend: The word “spinster” referred to women who made their living by spinning wool. Women who married no longer needed to work, but those who never married, span forever… How nice.

Interesting question courtesy of North American friend: How do people in Europe “date”?

It was a question I struggled to answer, namely because I have never really “dated”. The patience required for such activities is beyond me; I want to skip right to the interesting part – no, not THAT part. The part where I find out whether or not the person could potentially be THE ONE.

Because if he’s not THE ONE, there are plenty more exciting things to do with my time; life is short and relationships for relationships’ sake are nothing but a whole lot of bother. Thus, lacking the necessary emotional wherewithal to let things develop in their own sweet time, I instead indulge in a lot of trying to squeeze the unlucky suitor into THE ONE shaped box.

Cue a hefty dose of manipulation with lashings of imagination and a sprinkle of self-delusion…

When I first saw him, my heart went bumpty bump – must be because he’s THE ONE.

There are zero fireworks, but he is kind and dependable and that is what grown-ups want in a relationship – he must be THE ONE.

We have discovered that we were in the same place at the same time five years ago. Can’t possibly be a coincidence – he must be THE ONE!

He’s not shallow and self-centred, he is deep and misunderstood. And nobody likes a challenge more than I do – he must be THE ONE.

I like classical music and living in the country, he likes nightclubs and bright lights. But opposites attract – he must be THE ONE.

There was nothing going on, but one night he had a starring role in one of my dreams – no doubt about it, he’s THE ONE!

But, surprising though it may seem given such promising “signs”, he turns out not to be THE ONE at all, and I am left with a box all bent out of shape and expectations to match.

Since arriving in Italy, that side of my life has been rather more straightforward; Albanians and Italians alike seem to be on the hunt for one thing, and one thing only. Slightly depressing, granted, but at least you know where you stand and can thus pick and choose accordingly.

But a few weeks ago, there was a development…

One night I went out with friends as usual, but this time there appeared at my side a man. I knew this man vaguely, so when he stayed at my side for six long hours I didn’t think a lot of it. Until it happened again the next time I went out, and then the next. Soon we had accumulated about 15 hours of talk-time, and he had started to intrigue me.

He talked about teaching me some dance moves (he’s heavily in to the whole Latino scene), he talked about me visiting him to drink wine in the campagna where he works cultivating ornamental plants, he even offered to take me (the 100m) home on his motorbike. Practically every opinion I hold garners the response ME TOO! and he has taken on the role of protector against the more obtuse”lonely” Albanians who follow me round and round the village like hopeful hyenas tracking an injured wildebeest.

And yet nothing… He has followed up none of his “suggestions” with a possible meeting time, nor has he used the telephone number he now has saved in his mobile phone.

I, on the other hand, have somehow managed to spend most of the last weeks in the pub just in order to enjoy his company. And enough is enough. Rather than trying to rush this to a definite conclusion so I can get on with something else – interested or not interested? THE ONE or not THE ONE? I am going to change the behaviour of a lifetime and simply step away.

I live here. He lives here.

Things can happen in their own sweet time, or not at all.

Either way, it is all good.

This is Status Viatoris, who, if a certain someone ever picks up the phone may be able one day to tell you all about how Italians “date”, isn’t growing-up fun! in Italy.

How to Eat Cheaply in Italy


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Today is the first day I have had to cook for myself since last Wednesday – I had salmon and veg, in case anyone’s interested.

Thursday, being the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, was set aside for a five course, green, red and white-themed lunch in the cavernous room underneath our main piazza. I had every intention of taking titillatory photographs – indeed my camera was primed and ready by my side. Sadly, excessive amounts of white wine combined with certain individuals kidnapping said camera in order to give free rein to their “artistic” license, left me with over 50 blurred shots of drunkards.

And as I’m sure you all have your own similarly dissolute collection of party pix, I decided it was probably not worth me inflicting mine on you…

It was a wonderful day, apparently. I certainly left the house at 13h00 and didn’t roll back in until 01h00, so it is highly likely I was having fun. Pooch greatly enjoyed the attention, and especially the non-stop nibbles that delighted revellers showered on him every time he looked vaguely beseeching or lifted up a golden paw.

So in rolled Friday, headachy and mildly puzzled at the loss of most of the previous day. Thank goodness I had no commitments. I finally managed to drag myself out of the house in the afternoon for a gorgeously sunny dog walk, but was captured outside the bar on my way home by friends’ three girls, who bounced relentlessly whilst firing complicated questions about planets, stars and earthly rotations until my eyes were describing their very own figure of eight inside my head.

Such treatment left me utterly vulnerable to attack. Which is why I found myself accepting a kindly meant invitation to a birthday meal at a friend’s house.

We spent a pretty hilarious evening, sometime during the course of which I found myself agreeing to cook an English meal for everyone to inaugurate the new apartment (should I ever actually sign for and move into the damn thing). A special request was made for porridge, so perhaps my house-warming will have to be an all day event.

I behaved myself and had a reasonably early night, so Saturday bounced in full of the joys of spring, and very excited to have been invited to lunch followed by  live BBC coverage of Six Nations final at the house of some English friends.

The food was wonderful, the company even more so… The rugby, sadly, a bit of a disappointment. Visitors to the SV Facebook page will be able to see for themselves just how highly Pooch rated England’s playing…

And then it was the turn of Sunday, and lunch with my friend/neighbour/landlady/mayoress and family. Postprandial coffee drunk; we set off for a three-hour , girls only trek up and down a hill to check out the campagna where, I am informed, we will be holding our Easter barbecue.

Naturally I forgot to take my camera so was unable to get a shot of Pooch, black earth-encrusted tongue hanging down to his little bony knees as he excavated the campagna. Nor was I able to snap the moment the biggest dog raced down  the hill so fast that he tripped over the tiny dog and sent them both sprawling into the hedge. And as for the view…


This is Status Viatoris, culinary scrounging in Italy is such fun, but should really be photographed for posterity…

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