Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "My grandmother always said...."

I never actually met either of my grandmothers but I do remember "helping" my grandad to wash the dishes and his saying, "Lady to the house" if I dropped a spoon and "Gentleman to the house" if I dropped a fork.  I lived in hourly expectation of these visits and, as my parents ran a newsagent's and sweet shop in Bristol, UK, people were always dropping in anyway so I was able to nod sagely upon their arrival and puzzle them with the information that "Grandad told me so."

My mother, like many of her generation, instilled in her daughter the necessity of always wearing clean underwear "in case you get run over" and, having grown up in an era when some of her classmates did not have shoes, used to angrily declare that there was "no such thing as the good old days" whenever her contemporaries became sentimental about those times.

My mother - front row on the right - at school in Pencoed, South Wales, UK

From my great aunt Mabel I learned that "This, too, will pass" and that there were few troubles that could not be assuaged by getting your nose into a good book.

My father also taught me to love books and that, as Helen Keller said, "The highest result of education is tolerance."  He deemed it important to have what is termed in one of our favourite films, The Philadelphia Story, "some regard for human frailty".  "There but for the grace of God go I", he would say of the misfortunes of others, much more often than he would utter the words, "Serve him right."

Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in High Society

[I couldn't find the scene where Dexter talks about "regard for human frailty" in The Philadelphia Story so here is the next best thing!]

Dad believed that people should be themselves and he had no time for pretension. If the neighbours disapproved of him, he declared, "They could all move out."  This may be why his daughter, today, can say that those whom she calls the "Sicilian dust police" - women who judge another woman according to her housewifely skills - need not come to her house if it is not to their liking.  Her Sicilian friends find it hard to believe that she really does not care but it is true.

Then there was the uncle who told me that if I ate too many bananas I'd get to look like a banana;  this made me cautious about eating these fruits for years. 

What wisdom will I pass on?  Even though I'll be 62 in a couple of weeks, I'm not sure I've acquired any but I am learning some "new old wisdom" from Sicilian proverbs.  Here are three of my favourites:

"Pi fari beni l'amuri ci voli 'a forza rê picciuotti e 'u pitittu rê viecci" - "To make love you need the strength of the young and the desire of the old."

" 'U Signuri runa 'i viscotta a cu' nun avi rienti" - "God gives biscuits to those with no teeth."

And one for our times.  I wish I'd learned it long ago! 

" 'Cu accatta cosi 'nùtili, prestu vinni 'u bisugnèvuli" - "He who buys useless things will soon have to sell the things he needs."

I think I'll leave you with the advice I offered my female readers on the occasion of my sixtieth birthday, as I am still convinced that it could save generations of women to come from a lifetime of misery:

"Only weigh when you're thin!"

Below is the full list of blogs participating in this theme:

Monday, January 30, 2012


"The inhabitants of Ispica", goes a local saying, "will live to be 100".  And when they reach that great age they receive, not a telegram from their head of state, as in the UK, but a nice fat fine from their city of origin, it seems.

Signora Michela Concetta Leontini, who celebrated her hundredth birthday on 10th January, was dismayed to be handed, a few days later, a fine of over €6,000 for non-payment of a rubbish collection tax in Ispica for the years 2005 - 2010. She has not lived in the house referred to for 72 years, having left Ispica for Ragusa in 1939 and Ragusa for Rome, where she still lives, in 1950.

The house is not only uninhabited but has never had running water, electricity or gas.  Signora Leontini intends to contest the fine at Ragusa County Court.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Here's a beautiful song for a winter Saturday:

Tiziano Ferro - L'ultima notte al mondo

Friday, January 27, 2012


"E accaduto, quindi potrebbe accadere di nuovo - It happened. Therefore it could happen again."
- Primo Levi
Mi ricordo Anna Frank [Rai film]

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In November Cathy, the Director of the English International School, Modica and I were interviewed for an article in the Ragusa Province magazine Freetime and I thought you might like to see a couple of the photographs:

Cathy [right] and me at the school

Welshwoman at the chalkface in Sicily,
 talking about an American festival.

Photos:  Simone Aprile and reproduced here with his kind permission. 

If you are in Ragusa, you can see the article, our newsletter and more pictures in the December - January edition of Freetime but if you are elsewhere and can read Italian, the text of the article is here on the school blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


It's always nice to have lunch with a friend and this is what we had today in Bar Cicara's new extension, from where we could watch the world go by:

A plate of antipasti

Palermitana di carne
Veal cutlet in a herbed & seasoned breadcrumb mixture
[Who am I to refuse the chips?]

and prettily served fresh fruit for dessert

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


You didn't expect me to get close enough
to take a decent photo, did you?

There I was, almost ready for bed at around 1 am this morning when I glanced at the pillow and - eeeeeek! - there was this creature making itself comfortable.  All right, I know it's not big, by spider standards, but it's a tarantula to me!

At first, standing well back, I tried to persuade it to just go away and, when it took no notice, wondered if perhaps it would appreciate being spoken to in Sicilian dialect . Alas, my invocation to "Avattinni a cògghiri cardi" =  "Go and pick cardoons" fell on deaf spider ears - or hairs- and by 2 am I was a desperate woman.

At that time of night in a flat in Italy, you can't use the vacuum cleaner tube, try to frighten the creature with noise or even scream for fear of disturbing the neighbours, so I'm standing there, still starkers, trying to work out what to do when I realise my pyjamas are under the pillow! This is not the only pair of pyjamas I own but I was too freaked out to remember that at the time. Having what I thought was a brainwave, I managed to pull them out from under the pillow under the spider with a walking stick but this caused the spider to move and then I didn't know if it was in the pyjamas or not.  Finally  I remembered the other pyjamas and decided to don them as if ever a situation required clothes, this was it!

Being thus attired seemed to make me braver and next, I fetched my oven gloves and proceeded to strip the bed because no way was I lying down on it if spiderman or woman was still there.  Still with the gloves on, I lifted the mattress several times to look under it but there was no sign of  signor/a ragno there either.  Now only the pillow cases remained to be examined inside so I poked about in them with the walking stick and managed to slip them off using this, too - because I had to change them, didn't I?  I mean, could you sleep on a pillow case where this creepiest of creepy crawlies had made itself at home?

By 3.30 am I just had to lie down but I kept the light on and did not close my eyes for a minute, knowing that our unwelcome guest was probably still in the room. Then, suddenly at 4 am there it was under the bookcase - I might have respected it had it been exploring some books -  but it  escaped yet again.   By this time Simi the dog, who had slept through most of the drama, had begun to take an interest and, once she was on the bed too, I felt safer so nodded off uneasily. We woke up to bright sun but I'm afraid the Italian proverb, "Se il ragno fa il filato, il bel tempo è assicurato - If the spider is spinning its web, you can be sure of fine weather"was no comfort to me at all!

Doris Day - Pillow Talk

Monday, January 23, 2012


Every autumn in Britain, I would make a batch of apple chutney.  For American readers, chutney is a kind of thick salsa which is, however, a preserve.  The word "chutney" comes from Hindi "chatni", meaning "strongly spiced" and it was the colonising British who began eating spiced mixtures, probably as condiments, in India.  The custom spread to other colonies and tropical fruit, too, began to be incorporated into some of the recipes. Then the travelling British decided they wanted spiced mixtures of fruit and vegetables which would keep and so began adding vinegar and large quantities of sugar.  Eventually they brought their recipes and the word "chutney" back to Britain.

And now I am carrying on the tradition of chutney making in Sicily!  Sadly, it is wasted on most of my Sicilian friends who abhor the British habit of mixing sweet and savoury ingredients and when I point out that they do it themselves in several dishes such as coniglio in agrodolce [sweet and sour rabbit] they just shrug their shoulders and say that is different. Anyway, I brought my preserving pan and extremely long-handled wooden chutney-mixing spoon from Britain and I haven't given up yet!

On Saturday - better late than never -  I made my first batch of apple chutney here in three years: Once again Rosa was the willing "gofer" and once again I used a mixture of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples in the absence of cooking apples.  The recipe I use, from a Jennifer Paterson book called Feast Days [published long before her incarnation as one of the famous Two Fat Ladies] calls for white malt vinegar, but as I like apple chutney to be quite dark and you can't get malt vinegar here, I used a mixture of red and white wine vinegars. I don't leave the chutney to cool before potting it but pour it straight into sterilised jars and then I leave it covered with a clean tea towel for twelve hours before putting on the lids, which I line with greaseproof paper, just as my mother taught me.

This time it took ages to cut out the "hats" as my pinking shears has seen better days and is getting hard to manoeuvre but all will be worth it when the flavours have mellowed after a month and I can use the chutney!

Oh, and this is a 2002 photo of me making chutney in Carson City, Nevada, USA., where a friend had cajoled me into giving a demonstration!

Friday, January 20, 2012


I always get depressed when it's time to take the Christmas decorations down but one advantage of living in Italy is that in February we have the Carnival season to cheer us all up again.

In Termini Imerese [Palermo Province] where the townsfolk claim to have the oldest carnival tradition in Sicily - it dates back to 1876 - this year's promises to be so much fun that it will be "the end of the world":  As usual, eight floats will be in the processions, six of them in competition with each other and two which will be non-competing.  These last are the children's float and the float carrying u nannu e a nanna [grandfather and grandmother], the grandfather being a hale and hearty fellow while the grandmother is a rather gaunt figure in a frilly dress with lots of lace. This float traditionally leads the procession and on Shrove Tuesday the grandparents are burned in the town square - but don't worry, as they are made of papier-mâché!  This burning is believed to ward off evil spirits and symbolises the renewal that is spring.

The floats in the competition will contain allegorical figures and in one there will be a model of Mr Monti, who will be portrayed drinking wine, perhaps in an effort to forget the economy for the duration of the processions.

One thing is certain:  nothing - not even the current economic crisis - is going to stop the Carnival at Termini Imerese!

The Termini Imerese Carnival runs from 12th - 21st February 2012.  There will be music and entertainment throughout the event and the processions will take place on Saturday 18th February, Sunday 19th February and on Shrove Tuesday, 21st February.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The video shows part of a performance, in happier times, by Antonello Tonna, the talented catanese pianist who survived the Costa Concordia disaster.  Signor Tonna told BlogSicilia that he had been working as an entertainer on cruise ships for many years but that, although he had previously survived a force 10 storm at sea, he had never witnessed anything like what happened off the Isola del Giglio last Friday night.  Clearly, he thought his last moment had come and he said he thought he was actually living scenes from Titanic.

I am sure that you will join me in sending good wishes to signor Tonna and all the survivors and that your hearts, like mine, go out to those who were lost or injured and their loved ones.

Antonello Tonna - Baia Taormina Hotel

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This recipe, a sort of Italian cottage pie, is from a book called Cucina Low Cost. Only garlic and onion are cooked in olive oil prior to adding the meat but, in addition to the mince - in this case, a mixture of beef and pork but it could be mince of your choice - there is an ingredient I had never heard of before, pasta di salame. I was rather irritated with myself about this but was comforted by the fact that none of the Sicilians I asked knew what it was either.  I did an internet search and, although I found some recipes requiring this ingredient, none of them told me what it was. "From the best supermarkets", said a note in one of these recipes but no one had heard of it in the local supermarket.  By this time, I had begun to suspect that we were probably talking about a sausage mix and at my next stop, the butcher's, this was confirmed.  My butcher seasons his sausage meat with fennel seeds, sage and red wine so some of this to put in the dish seemed a great idea to me!

One thing I don't miss about Britain is most British cheese and I cannot stand cooked Cheddar cheese, so I was happy to sprinkle a mixture of ragusano and grana cheese over the top of the dish.  Oh, and some 'strattu was stirred in with the meat, onion and garlic, too.

I was pleased with the result and will definitely be making this again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "If you could turn back time...".

We've all done it, haven't we?  At certain moments, we've all thought, about trivial events or life-changing ones, "If only I had...", "If only I hadn't..." or "If only I had said / could say...".  Here are some of the the things I might change if I could turn back time:

I wish I could have come of age in an era when women wore hats - it would have spared me so many stressful moments on bad hair days

and I often wish I'd become a housewife and a mother instead of a career woman:

The garden shed my grandad made into a "little house"
for me to play in

I'd like to be able to say that if I could turn back time I wouldn't have broken a flowerpot over my friend "Wrecker's" head when I was four - she got the nickname because she broke all my toys - but I'd be lying, even 58 years later.

"Wrecker" sitting on my car [which she didn't break!]

Being blessed with curves was not an advantage in the late 1960s so I'd change the fashions of the Mary Quant era.

And I wish I'd spent more time studying and less living it up at university, but to have done so would have been to have denied being young.

If I could turn back time I would have spoken out more often about some situations and kept a wise silence about others. The advice in this early twentieth century postcard is not a bad maxim:

"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."

I also wish that I had learned to live within my means long ago and had not, in Mr Micawber's words, "blighted the blossom".

If I could turn back time, I would have come to live in  lovely, Baroque Sicily sooner but we tend to forget how "life" can get in the way of our plans and dreams.

Duomo di San Giorgio, Modica

We can, of course, never know how things would have turned out on "the road not taken" and perhaps it is better thus so I would like to end this post by telling you about a happy moment that I would change only by prolonging it:

Christmas Steps (Rosalind Mitchell) / CC BY-SA 2.0

I do not know how old I was but probably not more than two or three.  I was standing with my mother at the top of Christmas Steps in Bristol, UK and we were waiting for my father.  

Christmas Steps:  such a wonderful, Dickensian-sounding name for a little street full of secondhand bookshops, as it was then, and in my mind, it snowed every time we went there.

And suddenly there was my father, walking up the steps towards us and beaming at me, holding his arms out.  I loved him so much at that moment and as his arms and warmth envelopped me I felt so safe.

If I could turn back the clock, I would make that moment last forever - as, indeed, it has, in my heart.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
The roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference."

- Robert Frost:  The Road Not Taken 

Below is the full list of bloggers participating in this week's theme:

Monday, January 16, 2012


A transport strike of goods vehicles has more or less brought Sicily to a standstill today, with intercity roads and ports being blocked all over the island.  This, in turn, has caused the closure of some petrol stations and long queues outside those remaining open, while some pupils were unable to get to school and supermarkets quickly ran out of milk, bread and other fresh products.

The stoppage, called by Forza D'Urto,  a new movement made up of members of Autotrasportatori Aias, the Movimento dei Forconi [an agricultural workers' movement] fishermen, businesspeople from the agricultural sector, indignati and others, is intended to be a peaceful protest that will not hurt Sicilians but will make people all over Italy realise that something must be done about the current economic crisis.  The banners of trade unions or political parties will not be displayed during the protest.  The organisers say that the movement is for all Sicilians who are tired of bureaucracy and corruption of all kinds and who wish to reclaim their rights. Italy's main trade unions have, however, distanced themselves from the movement in statements issued today.

Members of the movement are particularly calling for a reduction in the excise duty on fuel, which has hit their industry and, consequently, Sicilian producers and exporters, hard and the strike is scheduled to last for five days, ending at midnight on Friday-Saturday night.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012


On the day that Italy has had its credit rating downgraded by one of the absurd ratings agencies, I thought I would share with you the cheerful news that, if you happen to live in the town of Ragusa, there is no escape from the eurozone crisis, not even when you reach that great financial market in the sky.

The Corriere di Ragusa reports that, on New Year's Eve, while everyone else was preparing to celebrate, the city councillors of Ragusa held a jolly meeting at which it was decided to increase the cost of burials in the city's cemetery from €20 to €50,  that of entombment from €31 to €100 and that of exhumations - necessary because after a certain period your remains are removed to a slot in the wall - from €23 to €100.

As Dorothy Parker famously said, "You might as well live."

Update: Clarification in view of comments
Perhaps I should clarify that the costs mentioned above are for the physical acts of entombment, burial and, eventually, exhumation.  They do not take into account the additional costs of the cemetery plot or the funeral.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


This excellent recipe is in one of my favourite cookbooks, La Cucina del Sole by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.  I altered it in only one detail by adding a little cut-up lardo [white bacon] with the potatoes.  The result was better than ever!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A few hours ago, ANAS S.p.A. [the organisation which manages Italy's roads] and the Province of Ragusa made motorists in the area very happy by announcing that the requirement for them to have snow tyres or to carry snow chains in their vehicles when travelling between the cities of Modica and Ragusa from 15th December - 15th March has been dropped.

In an area where winters are generally mild and snow is a rarity, the ruling has been regarded as absurd and anyway, soon after it came into force there were no snow chains to be had anywhere in Ragusa Province!

From now on motorists will only be required to travel with chains when the meteorological conditions necessitate it - that is, in....er.... snow.

You do not need to understand Italian to appreciate this satirical video about the situation.  Needless to say, the footage in the first part was not shot in Ragusa!  I also thought you might like to see some of the local scenery.

Il Clandestino,  Modica - Bufera di neve sulla Modica - Ragusa

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was sad and disappointed to learn, over the Christmas holidays, of tour operators who are again setting up "Mafia tours" of  Sicily.  I am not going to pretend that the Mafia is dead and I have expressed my thoughts about its continued existence in this post.  However, there is so much that is lovely to see here, such a varied and fascinating culture to explore and there are so many fantastic taste sensations to be enjoyed that I cannot understand why anyone would want to persist in promoting the stereotypes.  Sicily and the Sicilian people deserve better so here is a very personal and eclectic list of good reasons to visit my island in the sun:

1.  Marvel at the Greek sites of Agrigento, Segesta and Selinunte.

Tempio della Concordia, Agrigento

2.  In the summer, attend a performance of a Greek play at the Greek Amphitheatre in Siracusa.

Performance of Medea at Siracusa in 2009

3.  Visit the Infiorata [carpet of flowers] in Noto in May.

4.  See the breathtaking beauty of the Val di Noto towns, which collectively form a World Heritage Site.

Duomo di San Giorgio, Modica

5.  See the Venere di Aidone, over two thousand years old and home after so many years of enforced wandering.

6.  Relax on clean, unpolluted beaches.

7.  See the settings of the Montalbano films.

8.  And, talking of that gourmet detective, try the local arancini!

9.  Breathe in the heady scent of orange blossom and buy some zagara cologne.

10.  Eat a Sicilian vanilla orange!

11.  Take a bus ride along the edge of the Stretto at Messina.  It is stunningly beautiful.  While you're there, gaze over at the Calabrian coast - you could even take the ferry across if you have time - and remember all who passed along this route as they emigrated to Northern Italy and far, far beyond.  Like migrating peoples today, they wanted only a better life. 

12.  Go to a street market, such as the ones in Modica and Catania.  You'll be amazed by what you find there!

13.  Visit Bellini's house in Catania.

Image of Vincenzo Bellini: Wikipedia

14.  Admire Norman and Arabic architecture in Palermo and visit the seat of one of the world's oldest parliaments.

15.  See Modican chocolate being made to the Aztec method at Bonajuto in the town's Corso Umberto.

16. Don't miss out on the best gelato in the world!

17.  Take a trip up grumpy old Etna.

18.  Eat plentiful prickly pears in autumn and sip prickly pear liqueur.

19.  See traditionally painted Sicilian carts at Donnafugata in Ragusa or at the Mostra Permanente del Carretto Siciliano housed in the Museum at Terrasini [Palermo Province].

20.  Go to a Sagra, such as the Strawberry Festival at Casssibile in spring, the Prickly Pear Festival at Militello in Val di Catania or any number of chestnut festivals in the Etna area in autumn.  Relearn the art of living in tune with the seasons.

Finally, if you are genuinely interested in Mafia history but not in sensationalising tragedy, please pay homage to those brave Sicilians who lost their lives campaigning against the criminal organisation:  Giuseppe Impastato, Paolo Borsellino, Giovanni Falcone and others like them deserve wider world recognition, as do the thousands of Sicilians who work daily to preserve their best traditions and make their region a better place.

For all of them, please come and see the Sicily I love.

Monday, January 09, 2012


This recipe, which I found late in 2011 in an Italian magazine - sorry, I forget which - definitely gets my vote for culinary discovery of the past year!  Having made it several times now, I have altered it a little and so give it here:

Ask your butcher for 1 kg pork loin in one piece [Italian cut] and also ask him to wrap it in butcher's netting.  If, like my butcher, he offers to season it for you with fresh sage, garlic, seasalt and black pepper, let him, for the finished result will be all the more delicious! When you get the meat home, make incisions all over the top - I used a skewer to do this - and jam some rosemary needles into the holes.  Put the meat in a Pyrex dish in which it will just fit and pour 2 large glasses of white wine over it. Sprinkle a little more rosemary over the top and  leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.  Cook in an oven heated to 180 C for 25 mins, then turn the meat over and cook for 20 mins more. While this is happening, stir 4 teasp brown sugar with the juice of 4 large lemons over a low heat. When the mixture gets syrupy, add 2 tablesp Calvados and stir to amalgamate. Pour the sauce over the meat and cook it for another 10 mins. 

Slice the meat as thinly as you can to serve and pour the sauce over.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


One of my favourite Italian singers, Irene Grandi, is in a bit of trouble, having sung the song below wearing a real fur cape during Rai Uno's New Year's Eve show.  There have been demonstrations and furious rebukes by animal rights groups.  Miss Grandi made no statment until Wednesday, when she apologised for offending the sensibilities of animal lovers but tried to justify her choice of clothing by saying that it was an alpaca fur, so the animal had not been bred solely to be turned into clothing.  Not good enough, Irene!

Fur has, to my disappointment, come back into fashion recently in Italy and I was not happy to see some real fur garments on sale in a certain hairdressing salon today!

Here is the song - one that it is hard not to dance to - that Irene Grandi sang but I will not publicise the video of her singing it dressed in fur:

Irene Grandi - Bruci la città

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Tonight is the Eve of Epiphany so children all over Italy will be expecting a visit from that good witch, the Befana who, it is believed, will leave sweets and chocolates for good children but only pieces of coal for those who have been bad.

The Befana, whose name is probably a corruption of Epifania, sometimes even sweeps the floor before she leaves so she will be very welcome in my house!  I  am, of course, expecting lots of candy - how about you?

Gianni Morandi - La Befana Trullallà

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Some fresh cranberries arrived, via a kind friend in the UK, yesterday and, as I love and miss cranberry sauce, I had no doubts as to what I would make with them.  I have found, over the years, that if I add  half a nice, fat cinnamon stick while the sauce is cooking and the rind of one and juice of two Sicilian oranges when I take the pan off the heat, the result is sublime:

Cranberry Sauce alla Siciliana

8 oz / 250 gr fresh cranberries
4 oz / 125 gr sugar
8 tablesp fresh orange juice
Grated rind of 1 orange
Half a large cinnamon stick or a few twists of cinnamon ground from a mill

Put the orange juice and sugar in a medium pan and stir to dissolve the sugar over low heat.  Add the cranberries and cinnamon, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Cook for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally.  When the cranberries have begun to "pop" and are soft, take the pan off the heat.  Stir in the orange juice and rind.  Pot as for jam and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What are you looking forward to in the New Year?"

Ever since I first came to Sicily in 1992, I've been fascinated by the way in which elderly people here, when asked how they are or even sometimes just for the sake of saying something, will sigh and utter, "Siamo qua" - "We are here".  It took me a while to figure out that they were not referring to their physical surroundings, but were really thanking God for the fact that they were still alive.  And that is pretty much how I am feeling this New Year.

Image: http://www.italymag.co.uk/

I know that some of my readers imagine that I live the "life of Riley" and it is true that I am happy in Sicily and would not turn back, even if I could.  But it may surprise you to learn that there is a situation in my life - partly of my own making and partly not - which has rendered me suicidal several times in the past year and it is my earnest wish never to feel like that again.

Some of my long-term readers will also know that, just over a year ago, someone who I thought had left my life forever suddenly came back into it - in the sense that we are in touch, that is - and I would love this to be the year of a reunion. Sadly, that seems a forlorn hope right now.

I've also been hurt by another man recently but, whatever I might write facetiously on facebook, I have no wish for revenge for I am old enough to know that, in the phrase my mother was fond of quoting, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" and that what goes round tends to come round - eventually.

On a more positive note, I'd like to think that this is the year in which I'll achieve my ambition and write that book and for that you'll have to watch this space!

With regard to my adopted country, I hope it has a better year:  it was a brave step to appoint an unelected government of "experts" and I wish Mr Monti and his ministers every success.  However, the trouble with "experts" is that few of them, in my experience, are experts on how ordinary people have to live.

I also find myself with some contradictory feelings this New Year:  I hate sport and consider the Olympics a spectacular waste of money but I can't help hoping that my country of origin puts on a good show [given that we have to have it] and I of course pray that no terrorist threat or act will mar the occasion.  Staying with Britain for the moment, I am no monarchist or supporter of unearned wealth but I do think it's a bit sad that Her Majesty the Queen is expected to celebrate the death of her father this year and I wonder why her Diamond Jubilee could not have been celebrated next year upon the anniversary of the Coronation.  

Official emblem of Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth 11
by 10-year-old Katherine Dewar from Chester, UK

One event I am looking forward to is the Peace One Day Global Truce on 21st September 2012:  if we can stop war for one day, then why not for two or three or a year or forever? All it takes is for enough people to "Imagine".


But most of all I hope that I will be granted more time with my precious thirteen-year-old dog, Simi and that this time next year I'll be able to say, "Siamo qua - We are here."

Simi as a puppy in the UK

John Lennon - Imagine

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