On being an immigrant

Today is the day of the immigrant — and this is something I can identify with, as I too am an immigrant. It is something, that once started can be passed on from generation to generation: I emigrated to Cordova due to my husband’s health; my mother immigrated to London from Italy with her parents because of financial reasons — though first they tried their luck in Australia.

When my grandfather went over to Australia a second time with his brother (which entailed a long, arduous journey by boat, lasting a month), my grandmother and mother were due to follow, but unfortunately WWII broke out and they were separated — seven years passed before they were finally reunited, by which time my mother had grown into a young woman and felt her father quite a stranger. In his absence, my great grandfather (her mother’s father) had adopted the role of father and she grew extremely fond of him: he was a loving, sensible and very wise man, so much so that he was elected to be the mayor of their town in the Piemonti region. When he died a few years later, the whole town and neighbouring villages turned up at his funeral; but my mother and grandmother felt their world had collapsed.

After a few years had passed, my grandfather, or ‘nonno’ as we say in Italian, decided to up and leave Italy once again, looking for a better fortune in London. So my mother, together with her mother (my ‘nonna’) and uncle emigrated to London. They left their whole life behind them: friends, family, customs, climate, traditions, way of life, education… and so much more. My mother, being the only child just like her mother was an only child, felt the sharp and harsh contrast of the loneliness and lost feeling that an immigrant can feel. However, in the end, my grandparents had to go back to Italy because my nonno suffered from bad angina due to the smutty, London fogs. My mother was left behind in London where she had a stable job and where she had already met my father. Her future in that cold, grey city was soon signed and sealed.

Meanwhile, the story was much the same for my father and his family, with the exception that my ‘nonni’ (grandparents) went straight from the Trentino region in the Dolomites to London, with no detours. However, many relatives did head for America instead; hence my family is distributed far and wide. It was hard for my paternal grandparents too. When the war broke out, my father, grandfather and uncles were all interned in prison for a while until it could be proved that they weren’t Mussolini’s spies. So they also left behind everything they had, while trying to anglicise themselves (though my grandparent’s English was fairly poor as they always preferred to speak in their Italian dialect). The contrast between living in Italy and England was stark, what with the better weather and more laid-back approach of Italy as compared to the then colder, frostier climate and sterner way-of-life in England.

So when I look back and remember my earlier generations, I can sympathise with them: I too had to leave my country in search of a dry, arid climate. Though I am very fortunate in many more ways than one, I still feel the pinch after all these years of being an immigrant, always different to the rest, to not having your family round you nor there to support you and to mostly going it ‘alone’; this is felt even more so when you live in a small community like a village, where you see that most people have their ‘extended’ family around them. It is not easy either if you have had to give up your career or studies and adapt and retrain, redirecting the course of your life, or when you see the best friends you had gradually fade in the background due to not being able to physically meet up as often as before, or when you notice that part of your character may sometimes become muted by the sense of wistfulness and nostalgia… though, needless to say, much worse are those who leave because of wars, political instability, poverty and natural disasters — this is no comparison to my case.

However, I know that neither I nor my past generations were the only ones in this situation. Just in my catholic secondary school alone there were various nationalities and all were immigrants, also experiencing the same feelings. In my class there were Irish, Italians, Spanish, Czechs, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Hongkongers, Indians, Sri Lankans, Africans, South Americans etc., etc., etc., (As you can see, I grew up with a wide mix of people, and great fun it was too, learning about other cultures and ways of life!) I know that their parents also felt the pinch of leaving everything behind. Many never grasped the language too well and continued to speak to their children in their mother tongues so the kids grew up learning their original language fluently. Even here in Cordova, which is much smaller than London, I know many immigrants: Moroccans, Syrians, Algerians, Dutch, Canadian, Chinese, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Turks, Colombians, Hondurans, Romanians, Pakistanis, Indians, Georgians, Israelis etc., etc., etc.

They and I are grateful for the opportunities, friendliness and accommodating ways that the host countries offer, as so too are our former generations, though generally when you are an immigrant, you do always feel a bit different… or at least those are my sentiments…

The important thing I have learnt from all this is:

  • to not to consider yourself too much,
  • to be ever-grateful of all you have,
  • to view other people as your family and to be like moving water, being able to flow past obstacles and always adapt, and
  • to be a child of God, a child of the world and another child, brother or sister in what is this, our vast, worldwide family.

Well, that’s it from me for now, but to end with, here’s a moving poem about immigrants:

 “THINGS WE CARRY ON THE SEA” BY WANG PING (born 1957, Shanghai, China)

We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother

We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts

We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats

We carry scars from proxy wars of greed

We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides

We carry dust of our families and neighbours incinerated in mushroom clouds

We carry our islands sinking under the sea

We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life

We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore

We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs

We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests

We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow

We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us

We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes

And we carry our mother tongues
(ai),حب  (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love

平安 (ping’an), سلام ( salaam), shalom, paz, peace

希望(xi’wang), أمل (’amal), hofenung, esperanza, hope, hope, hope

As we drift…in our rubber boats…from shore…to shore…to shore…

Thank you for reading. Goodbye for now — take care! xxx

Hand-painted stones from Posadas (Cordova)

Hi folks! I hope this finds you all well…

The good news is that since the incidence numbers have fallen here in Cordova and the province is now in level 1, things are gradually opening up and there has been more movement on the tourist front. This is also good for me, as the tourist shop in the Judería (Jewish Quarters) which sells locally-crafted items, has also opened. (See photos of the Judería here.)

I regularly place some of my items with them, the latest being a couple of paintings on locally-sourced cork from the oak trees in my neighbouring Hornachuelos Natural Park area — you can read about this area here in case you’re thinking about visiting in the future — after all, it is a place rich in ecological diversity and also boasts a supposedly-haunted monastery).

I have also painted some stones with acrylics and will start my new autumn/winter/Christmassy selection next week.

Here are a few photos of what I’ve been doing. (Most of these items are available in my Etsy shop at this link.)

But how could I leave without a quote? So here’s one for reflection:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

~ Saint Mother Theresa (26 August 1910, Skopje – 5 September 1997, India)

That’s all for now — thank you for visiting.

Take care xxx

¡Olé! How artistic Posadas village is!

What an artistic village Posadas is! As I have mentioned before in my earlier blogs, there is a lot of art and craftwork, needlework, basket weaving, lace-making and crochet going on here (among other creative activities that I might have forgotten to mention). Some of the artwork, can be seen here; and earlier crochet projects (not including the Christmas work because it is out of season), here. Oh — for my crochet and lace-making classes to start once again!

However, in the photo below you can see the most recent example of the group’s crochet work: it is a large cross honouring Our Lady and Her month of May. In fact you can find many crosses that are on display for several days decorating the plazas, streets and shop windows all over Cordova; they are made up of a myriad of sweet-smelling flowers.

I remember often singing Bring flowers of the rarest hymn when I was living in England, since both my primary and secondary schools were catholic. (I also remember dear old Sister Carmela who used to nod off during our history class as she steadily munched her way through her McVitie’s digestives!).

Anyway, I have included the hymn below, for old times’ sake. I wonder how many of you remember it…

Happy month of May to all of you, even if it coming to a close!

Take care — bye for now! xxx

Early heat!

Yep — it’s already 35° C here in Posadas (Cordova) and some of us are already feeling the heat!

 “How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.” — Robert A. Heinlein US (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988)

 Robert A. Heinlein was an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer and naval officer. Known as the ‘dean of science fiction writers’, he, together with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered the “Big Three” of English-language science fiction authors.

He obviously had a higher understanding of cats too!

Take care — bye for now! xxx

The Lonely Lupin (in my country abode of Posadas, Cordova)

Hello folks — hope this finds you well…

Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).

So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.

So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:

A lone, blue lupin growing wild amongst the tall grasses and in front of an unruly olive tree
But further along there was a row of them growing behind the neighbour’s wire fence — they return every year (the lupins, not the neighbours who come regularly to tend their olive trees)
And here was a white lupin plant (I had to walk 50 minutes to find one!). The leaves look acacia-like and quite typical of the leguminosae and you can see the bean pods of the lupin
And here’s a close-up of the flowers which are already beginning to shrivel and fade (I know the feeling…)

Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:

The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.  

Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed.  The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins

NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside  the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.

Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.

The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)

Lupin beans, soaked (Wiki)

On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)

So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.

But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins by Seamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background. 

Seamus Heaney (Wiki)

Lupins

Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there
For sure. Sure and unbending.
Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:
Lupin spires, erotics of the future,
Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending
And even when they blanched would never balk.
And none of this surpassed our understanding.

——————————————————————————————————

Thank you for reading, bye for now — take care x

Caterpillars, Cordovan roof tiles and Wordsworth’s daffodils

Hello again! I hope this finds you all well.

As usual, I’ve been busy these days both flicking off caterpillars from my plants and painting (not at the same time though), as you can see in the following photos:

And here they are! Steadily munching their way through my broad bean plantlets!!!
Ouch! My poor iris, suffering a beheading from the merciless jaws of the caterpillar. (What wonderful in-focus photography, ha ha!)
But I did manage to rush to the iris’s rescue before it was all devoured, taking it inside with me to safety! (These are the tall irises, not the dwarf ones irises that I talked about in my previous blog.)
And being inspired by all the springy buds that are opening around me, I couldn’t resist trying to immortalise these by painting them on an old clay roof tile

And while recalling this ‘host of golden daffodils‘, how could I not end with the daffodil poem written by the English Romantic poet, Wordsworth.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud  by William Wordsworth  (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850, Cumberland, England) 

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

————————————–

Thank you for visiting — take care! xxx

Bunnies and springtime flowers galore!

Hi folks — I hope that you’re all well.

Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.

I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.

There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).

The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.

(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…

Acrylic paint on linen… I WILL be buying a fabric medium to use with acrylic paint for other future fabric work…
Painted with acrylic paints and acrylic pens

And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)

Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.

Wikipedia’s first two paras also give a succinct, interesting summary on Blake.

SPRING

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
Nightingale,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,–
Merrily,
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Thank you for visting — take care! xxx

Self-service or à la carte?

Gobble on!!!

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.” — Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949, Hampshire England – 15 December 2011).

Christopher Hitchens was certainly a very colourful man, as far as thinking, reasoning, debating and philosophy is concerned.

He was ‘an English intellectual, polemicist, and socio-political critic who expressed himself as an author, orator, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays on culture, politics, and literature.’ (Wikipedia).

He was an anti-theist and his dictum, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” is now known as Hitchen’s Razor.

In short, he was quite a character and as you can see from the above quote, he even went as far as discussing and concluding the differences between cats and dogs!

Thank you for reading. I hope this finds you well — take care!xxx

After the rains have passed…

A photo of the cloud as it gradually encroaches upon the neighbouring cottage here in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova)

The Cloud Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 Sussex, England –1822 Tuscany, Italy)

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ‘tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

Thank you for visiting — take care xxx

Happy St Valentine’s!

A copy of John Everett Millais‘ — The Huguenot, which was one of my first oil paintings that I had a bash at. I used oils on wood, though I made the mistake of diluting them too much with turps which had the effect of matting the colours — but not bad for that first attempt a few years ago. The height is about 1.5 m

Happy Valentine’s Day…

… although the above painting , however tender and sweet it may seem, might not really be so… Read on…

The Huguenot was painted by John Everett Millais in 1852. It is also known as A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge. 

The Huguenots were French Protestants who were persecuted because of their religion. This painting refers to their massacre of 3,000 Protestants in Paris (and 20,000 in the rest of France) on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. In order to protect themselves and escape the danger they had to wear white armbands, one of the Roman Catholic symbols. The rise of Protestantism in France in the sixteenth century resulted in hostility from the Catholics which eventually gave rise to a series of religious conflicts knows as The French Wars of Religion.

I think the painting speaks for itself. Though soft and sweet in its appearance, especially where the girl is devotedly tying the ‘catholic’ armband on her lover to keep him out of harm, if one analyses the painting, it is not so sweet and simple: the main colours are dark, except for the brightness of the white band, which depicts that this is the only light and hope, shining out from the surrounding darkness and uncertainty, and without this there is death. The fallen petals that lie on his shoe and on the ground indicate hopelessness and the deathly fate of their love, while the Canterbury bells signify faith and constancy…

And here is a photo of the artist himself:

John Everett Millais (England 1829-1896) Wiki

John Everett Millais was a child prodigy who, at the age of 11 was the youngest to enter the Royal Academy Schools and later was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ( a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 who painted abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art, basing many of their themes on romanticism, nature, history, legends, stories, fables and religion).

See more of his lovely (subjective!) paintings here

One of his paintings (oil on canvas, painted in 1886) was later used as the original advert for Pears soap:-

Bubbles‘ Millais (Wiki)

Hurrah for Pre-Raphaelite paintings!… but I’m sorry that my Valentine’s Day theme had a bit of morose side to it…

Anyway, here’s to hoping that you have a nice Valentine’s Day, not forgetting that originally Valentine cards were made by children for their MOTHERS!!!

xxx