Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Dancing and Singing and Stuff


Memories for Mondays

Status Viatoris

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

In the run-up to the Very Last Festa of the Season (to which barely anyone came because the evenings are now on the chilly side and everyone is a little festered out after all the summer shenanigans) there have been a few evenings of note.

There was the night procession from the village to one of the churches a way up the hill. Despite being dyed-in-the-wool atheists, Pooch and I are always up for a walk and so had every intention of joining the group and hoping that nobody would ask us to recite a Hail Mary or indulge in idle theological chit-chat.

However, once we discovered that this 2km walk would take nearly three hours one way, due to the pauses for prayer and a sing-song at every little shrine along the way; and that even when…

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Doing the Piazza Rock


Weary Wanderings for Wednesdays

Status Viatoris

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

The village festa season seems to be suffering from a few fits and starts this year, if reports of last year’s back to back parties in the piazza are to be believed.

A few weeks ago it kicked off with a night of somewhat eclectic musical tastes from the live band. Old style waltzes and paso dobles, so beloved of gentlefolk ‘d’un certain âge’ in villages the length and breadth of France, and apparently also Italy, joined forces with 80’s rock anthems and 60’s ballads, with the odd Latin American ditty thrown in for added piquancy.

Excessive amounts of beer and constant urging from my Argentine neighbour had me up on the dance floor for much of the night, but even my efforts could not compare with the star of the evening. He must have been ninety if…

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An English Fandango hits the cyber-shelves


I am excited, terrified, pleased but nervous to announce that An English Fandango is now on the Amazon shelves in Kindle format.

If you fancy a gander at the cover – hilariously executed by the very talented Simone Chararyn – or if you would like to review and/or even buy, then the link can be found by clicking here.

Any feedback, even here on the blog, will be most gratefully received.

I have already had requests for non-Kindle formats, but as I have initially placed the book with KDP Select (which apparently enables wider promotion) I will only be able to do that after the 90-day exclusivity period ends.

(Please could those interested in another electronic format let me know what that would be? I am utterly clueless about such matters…)

Requests for paperback copies have also been forthcoming, but I have no idea if that will be financially viable on a small-scale – I will report back as soon as I know.

Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!

Valentinesing It Up With The Stars


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

Love, love love…

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.

To anyone who asks, I usually claim my distaste is due to the element of commercial hogwash involved: How dare Interflora and Hallmark hold me to ransom; telling me when to be romantic, how to be romantic and at what cost?

But the reality is also that I have long objected to the feelings of misery and rejection that this day induces in those unfortunate “unloved” and “unadmired from afar”.

For years I looked forward to the 14th of February; an excited tingle in the pit of my stomach promising me that this would be the year in which a longed-for secret admirer would pick me out of the crowd, and make me feel special just for being me.

It never happened.

And as far as I recall, neither of my brief teenage pairings coincided with that most loved-up of days – or if they did, nothing the poor youth did to mark the occasion managed to wangle a mention in my memory bank.

Which brings me to my second issue with this date; for since attaining adulthood, I have most definitely been in long-term relationships over Valentine’s Day, and yet when asked just the other day, I had zero recollection of the romantic gestures performed thereon.

That is not to say that there weren’t any.

It is perhaps more an indication of the value I put on the thoughtful spontaneous gestures – those provoked by real concern for the well-being of the loved one, that gifts of flowers, chocolates and restaurant meals dictated by a ruthless global “romance-fest”, do very little to float my proverbial boat.

But since I now appear to find myself in another relationship, I thought it  prudent to test the waters before declaring these opinions in case I had inadvertently lumbered myself with a traditionalist.

Thankfully, Tigger’s disinterest in Valentine’s Day managed to eclipse even my own, so I decided to instead spend an Anti-Valentine’s night out with a girlfriend in the seaside town of Sanremo; happily coinciding with the first night of the “Festival di Sanremo“.

This well-known event has taken place since 1951, and is a celebration of the Italian music industry; showcasing new talent and new songs, together with many old favourites.

The evening was awash with a scented profusion of ladies in fur coats (rarely have I seen a town that still does such unabashed trade in this nasty item of clothing – possibly explained by the following hilarious photograph purloined from Facebook:)

“2012 will be the end of the world; come to Sanremo – we’re 50 years behind…”

many also bearing that wide-eyed, creased-pillow lipped, snubbed-nosed, expressionless countenance of the cosmetically fiddled-with: another Sanremo speciality…

Also to be spotted were the more edgy music types; exotic as parrots in this provincial little corner of Liguria, with their Indie Rock hairstyles and alternative fashion senses.

Occasionally an excited babble of photographers would rush past, hot in the pursuit of some artiste or other, and on two occasions we even witnessed them cornering their prey in a pyrotechnical explosion of flashbulbs – but unfortunately were unable to identify the stars in question; even without the face-obscuring qualities of big fluffy microphones, all of our group were apparently stunningly uninformed when it comes to the Italian celebrity circuit.

Thus passed an extremely amusing Valentine’s Evening, as we goggled at all the handsome out-of-towners, attempted to spot famous faces we had no hope of recognising: all whilst simultaneously poking fun at the parade of girls tottering along in their spangly dresses and overly high heels, clutching the mandatory rose in one hand and their Valentine date in the other.

And the very next evening there appeared at my door, Tigger, clutching a large box of Swiss chocolates.

Best of both worlds? I think so… 🙂

And for all the romantics out there, here is a romantic song – You’ll Return to Me – written and performed by a local band, some of whom even hail from My Little Italian Village…

This is Status Viatoris, feeling the luuuuuuuuurve, in Italy.

Can It Really Be That Time Again?


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

I’m afraid so.

Snootzer – temporarily replacing Blitzer during his spell in rehab.

Yes: yet another year has managed to sneak on past, astounding those of us who suffer from the malady commonly known as: “Crisping cowpats! Where has the time gone?!”

(I am told it is an age-related thing I shall eventually come to terms with; possibly in much the same way I have resigned myself to rarely remembering what I came into the kitchen to get, or the occasional mad hunt for glasses that are already perched on the top of my head.)

Twinkling Terrazza

So Christmas 2011 has been and gone, and we are now a few short hours from the ushering in of 2012 – and the end of the world if those enlightened spokespeople for superstitious bonkersdom are to be believed.

And other than an on-going list of piffling illnesses (to which laringitus, mouth ulcers and a yeast infection can now be added), I have to admit that the last week or so has been all I could have wished for and more.

Fibre optics spreading a little festive cheer…

Admittedly it got off to a rather chaotic start, with the harrying of the builders from a (still half-completed) apartment in order to install my much longed-for French furniture.

But amazingly (movers grumbling at 54 steps-induced respiratory difficulties notwithstanding)  the whole endeavour was gloriously hitch-free, and having met the removal lorry in My Little French Village at 8h00, by 14h00 I was already elbow-deep in dust and suds getting my newly furnished Italian home scrubbed up to mothership standards…

…for she was due for a docking the very next day and there is nothing I enjoy more than the challenge of a tight turnaround.

Cosy just ain’t the word!

Thus, 24 frantically busy hours later, and I was racing – late, comme d’habitude – to Nice International Airport to collect  Mother who, by failing to recognise my car at the Kiss, Bye, Fly collection/drop-off/ speedy drive-past, almost caused a fatal tits-upping of the entire enterprise.

Luckily our stars eventually collided in a flurry of waves and shrieks, and we were able to stage a triumphant return to My Little Italian Village; snuggling in for the duration amongst the merry twinkle of Xmas decs, and in the company of a most delighted Pooch.

When only tooth and claw will get the job done.

We spent the evening of the 23rd enjoying a typically chaotic and noisy  dinner with my adoptive famiglia (being now utterly inured to Italian decibels, it took Mother’s wincing visage to remind me just how loud they can get), and rather rashly decided to return the favour in the form of an “apero-cena” on the 24th in order to show off the now furnished apartment, and obtain forgiveness for opting out of the Christmas Day meal in a local pizzeria.

Contrary to all expectations, and with the rallying round of these excellent folk with polpette (little meat balls), Argentine empanadas (savoury mince and egg pastries) and a torta di formaggio (savoury cheese tart) to add to the salamini, parmeggiano, insalata caprese, olives and smoked salmon already littering the table, the evening was a roaring success.

Pandoro joins an otherwise rather British Xmas

With all the most pressing social engagements behind us, we were therefore able to spend a peaceful and guilt-free Xmas day at home with Pooch and my favourite Kiwi friend, contemplating the bottoms of rather too many bottles of prosecco and demolishing a roast chicken and apple crumble feast tipsily prepared by yours truly.

Boxing Day brought yet more delights in the shape of a classical concert in our local church. The repertoire was rather ambitious for a small brass and woodwind orchestra, with Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Dvorak providing some serious meat to accompany the more light-hearted carol veg.

A gentleman of my acquaintance rather aptly described the performance as “well-meant”, but although parts of it could certainly not be called technically masterful renditions, it was a truly delightful concert delivered with a joy and enthusiasm that was uplifting to behold.

“Ho.. ho… how the floating pooh sticks am I going to get back up there after all those delicious mince pies that SV was so incredibly touched to receive?”

Thus I slide, well-fed, contemplative and still a little snotty, towards the dawning of a brand spanking new year.

And on that note, I would like very much to wish all Status Viatoris readers, their families and their friends, oodles of health and happiness for 2012.

 “Dance as though no one is watching.

Love as though you’ve never been hurt.

Sing as though no one can hear you.”

And, most importantly:

“Live as though heaven is on earth.”

Because that is precisely where it is.

This is Status Viatoris, extremely hopeful that 2012 will see all French notaries being rounded up and repeatedly slapped with wet fish in a public place, in Italy.

Twinkletoes Twirls Again


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

Quite the natural.

All us village lasses were simply thrilled when the kiddies’ ballet teacher started aerobics lessons up in the school gym.

A month down the line, and most of us are slightly less thrilled to have discovered just how truly uncoordinated we are. Freestyle bopping in the piazza when high on a euphoric cocktail of summer madness and a few glasses of vino, turns out to be not at all the same as being put through strict “Waka Waka” and “Candyman” paces in front of a horribly reflective mirror.

I suppose the fact that the teacher is a Russian ballet dancer should have been an indication that  star-jumps and sit-ups were unlikely to be the sole ingredients of our fitness regime, but I’m not sure any of us were truly prepared for the amount of rhythm she was going to ask us to force from recalcitrant limbs.

These feet were made for dancing…

Shoes not being allowed in the gym, the humiliation is completed by colourful socks with grippy bits on the bottom, or tweet ickle ballet shoes, much like the ones in the photos.

(My bunions are not keen on either of them, but have learnt to keep schtum and twirl on regardless.)

So for the princely sum of 30€ a month, twelve to fifteen girls and ladies sashay up the hill to school two evenings a week; hobbling sweatily back down again an hour later, egos in tatters.

…so that’s just what they’ll do. Sort of.

In Southern Spain I alternated between envy, admiration and a mixture of the two when observing how naturally people there moved to music, especially the female of the species. A culture of sevillanas, rumba or other dances learnt from childhood definitely breaks through the self-concious jerkiness that so many of us suffer from when confronted with the prospect of a dance floor.

And although it was a relief to get to France and discover that the French are no more gifted in that department than the Brits, it was also a little sad to realise that there was now zero chance a sense of rhythm was going to inadvertently rub off on me.

Italy differs from the previous two, in that although Italians do not have the natural dancing abilities of the Southern Spaniards, they do have a thriving culture of learning how to fake it.

Dance classes.


Nowhere is that more apparent than My Little Italian Village during the summer festas, when the instructed few strut confidently out into the middle of the piazza, and proceed to put the rest of us to shame.

And if the look of fierce concentration on their faces as they undulate round a bachata, spin off a salsa or unite the dance floor in a rousing Waka Waka, does not exactly convey an impression of enjoyment, they still look a heck of a lot better than me.

But as luck would have it, none of them has yet infiltrated our keep-fit sessions, so a surfeit of left feet wins the day.

At least I can still see my feet, which is a blessing I suppose.

This is Status Viatoris, whose cronky old knees are especially enjoying aerobics, 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… 😉

A Tribute, or a Massacre?


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

Italy has always been a musical country – one only has to sneak a glance at the impressive roll call of classical composers to realise that. And today, despite having some more than respectable home-grown talent especially in the rock department: Vasco Rossi, Negramaro, Litfiba and Ligabue, to name but a few; many Italians are also very keen on the English language stuff.

Hence the existence of the myriad of tribute bands that perform in bars, clubs and at village feste throughout the summer months. Their musical talent, although amateur, is usually fairly indisputable; it’s the singing I cannot help but take issue with.

For if you are going to make a habit of standing up in front of a crowd to warble in a language not your own, surely you would first take the trouble to learn  how to pronounce said language, no?

Apparently not.

And it is not just in Italy that I have noticed this particular phenomenon; I have also had the misfortune of bearing witness to dodgily yodeled “English” in both Spain and France.

The crime against articulation takes two different forms, and for demonstration purposes only, we will be using the first verse of the song “Rocking All Over the World” by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival:

Oh here we are and here we are and here we go

All aboard and we’re hittin’ the road

Here we go

Rockin’ all over the world

Singer A has heard this song a thousand times; he thinks he knows the words off by heart. But not only does he not speak English, he has never even seen the song written down. Combined factors that render him incapable of distinguishing the end of one word, from the beginning of the next. He therefore does not actually know the words off by heart at all, but has instead learnt an approximation of the sounds. NOT THE SAME THING, LADDY, NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL.

Thus we are hit with:

Oh he waran he waran he wargo

All awaran wittin derow

He wargo

Rocky allora dewer

Singer B has also heard this song a thousand times; he thinks he knows the words off by heart. In fact he KNOWS he knows the words, because he has them right in front of him when he sings. But, Singer B does not speak English. Singer B does not know what the words of the song mean, nor has he ever sought to find out how they are actually pronounced.

Thus we are left with the highly tuneful:

Oh hairy weh aray an hairy weh aray an hairy weh go

Al abo-ared weary ittin’ de row-add

Hairy weh go

Rocky al ovay der werd

Mate, you have a great voice and your musicians are a talented bunch; but please please please stop raping the eardrums of your English-speaking audience, and take some bloody English lessons!

Thank you.

This is Status Viatoris, rocking all over the world at her own leisurely and highly critical pace… 😉



A man came to my house last night. A friend.

We talked for a while.

He told me about the first time he ever left his home country.

His folk group won a national competition to spend an entire month playing in venues throughout France. They set off in a bus, drove for four days and three nights, through Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Germany.

The bus was old, and every time they stopped at a checkpoint, the men in the group would have to get out and push to get it going again.

Eventually they arrived in France, and performed alongside musicians from 36 other countries.

It was the proudest moment of his life.

In turn I talked to him about my own travels, my hopes and ideas. We exchanged proverbs, translated into the only language we have in common. And we laughed.

Feel free to come round whenever you want, I said.

I’ll come from time to time, he said. If I came to see you whenever I wanted, I would never leave.

Dancing and Singing and Stuff


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

In the run-up to the Very Last Festa of the Season (to which barely anyone came because the evenings are now on the chilly side and everyone is a little festered out after all the summer shenanigans) there have been a few evenings of note.

There was the night procession from the village to one of the churches a way up the hill. Despite being dyed-in-the-wool atheists, Pooch and I are always up for a walk and so had every intention of joining the group and hoping that nobody would ask us to recite a Hail Mary or indulge in idle theological chit-chat.

However, once we discovered that this 2km walk would take nearly three hours one way, due to the pauses for prayer and a sing-song at every little shrine along the way; and that even when we reached the top we would then have to sit outside for well over an hour whilst everyone else attended Mass, we decided to give it a miss.

(I promise I didn’t indulge in a single snigger from the warmth of my cosy apartment when the heavens opened and treated the area to the coldest and wettest night it’d had for quite some time)

Then came ‘Musiche della Terra’, the first concert of which was Sufi music from Iran, and which I didn’t make due to matters of a batular nature. The second, however, was a folk group from Hungary which I felt compelled to go and see given my tenuous links to that particular country.

Magyar musicians delighting their audience

The music was pleasant enough, but the evening was made by the fabulous stories of concerts past, recounted by the bearded leader of the group. He had the entire piazza in stitches with tales of gaining the attention of a distracted public in Marseilles and holding an impromptu jamming session in a Roman bus shelter amongst other such gems.

The following night was the turn of all the local choirs, the most endearing of which was obviously the children’s choir, who sang a selection of the local songs in dialect with their breathlessly youthful voices.

The local girls’ choir ‘E garsune’ making their parents proud

The local men’s choir ‘Compagnia Sacco’ giving it some baritone welly

And that brought us up to the Very Last Festa of the Season.

I had even invited friends to the village for what I thought was going to be the event of the year, and then had to rapidly get them squiffy so they wouldn’t notice that we were practically alone in the piazza.

Despite the impoverished turn-out, we still managed to have a wonderful time watching everybody tootling round the dance floor, and even had a twirl ourselves, as we got steadily more plastered on red wine and free vodka/green apple shots that the eager barmen were pressing on my girlfriends.

The song might have been anything from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or even 00s; in my village, all tastes are catered for

A Whirling Waltz

At the end of the night, the locals gathered to enjoy the wonderful harmonies that this village does so well. Everybody standing together to sing song after unaccompanied song, just as they’ve done for generations.

It is moments like these, moments when the hairs on the back of my arms stand up, that I realise just how lucky I am to have been able to spend so many years indulging my avid stalking of other cultures and customs. Coming from a country that boasts very few, I am drawn to them like a moth to a candle.

Eventually us girls staggered home, pished, happy and ready for bed.

Unfortunately the barmen also staggered home behind us clutching more bottles, and proceeded to keep us up chatting, boozing and singing until nearly 5 o’clock in the morning.

I can’t say we minded terribly much.

This is Status Viatoris, who will miss the party season, especially the part where she tries to teach people the correct moves to YMCA, in Italy.

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