Sori seems to be the hardest word

There are some nights you just don’t want to end. You’ve been there … the stars all line up … it’s balmy and you’re outside … everyone is in excellent form … the food is good … there’s wine … there’s conversation … there might be dancing … and slowly the night wraps its arms around you with such warmth and contentment … you just want to stay there forever.

Our friends Louise and Paolo texted yesterday and said they’d been under the bridge and up the hill in Recco for the 10/10 focaccia col formagio and had taken a walk into the hills above Portofino.

And her thoughts turned to Liguria.

Of welcomes and lunches and fresh buffalo mozzarella …

fresh buffalo mozzarella

Of home cooked pasta and vineyards, of family and summer colour…

all the good things

Of feeling safe in the company of old friends …

safe

Of laughter and coffee, too many morning pastries at the ‘office’  and the day to day nonsense that comes with living with these boys of ours …

so much fun

Of an Italian sidewalk showdown with an unsuspecting ‘orange bastard’. “You want a piece of me!!”

another orange bastard

And a final drive on a final night, into the high hills of Liguria at sunset, the car a little quieter than usual.

liguria at sunset

About 15kms east of Genova (just before Recco) take a left towards Sori and follow the road to the Chiesa di Sant’ Apollinare, perched on high above the Italian Riviera. It’s yet another of Louise and Paolo’s special places.

chiesa di sant'apollinare sori

That’s Punta Chiappa out on the point beyond Camogli … and Portofino is tucked around the corner on the far side of the headland. But here, the cicadas are in full voice and the olive trees are taking a breather after the heat of the day. And us, well we’re just drinking in the moment ..

chiesa di sant'apollinare sori

To dinner… vai vai vai (go go go) !  A short drive inland to the next ridge, to the Trattoria da Armando in San Bartolomeo. Park the car. Up a hidden path. Another place we would never find on our own.

walking-to-Trattoria da Armando

But before we step into the restaurant, we hear music. We’re curious. Another stroll a little further up the hill and we step into a Saturday night street party, cooked by the locals, common at this time in many villages. How can you not fall in love with Italy! ( 20 seconds hurriedly caught on the iPhone)

Back to da Armando. Local specialities. Local ingredients. Local traditions. I’ve learnt that the Genovese don’t care what their food looks like. It’s all about the taste.

trattoria-da-armando-soritrattoria-da-armando-sori

Lingering …

A special favour asked …

“Paolo would you drive us to Portofino? Steve’s never seen it at nighttime?”

Draw it out … draw the night out … don’t break the spell.

portafino boats

A spell that was first cast on a boat in Split … and wove its way around the islands of Croatia, through the bicycled streets of Padova, the oak forests of Piedmonte and the turquoise waters and steep hillsides of Liguria.

portofino

Yes indeed …. there are some nights you just don’t want to end …

Thankyou Harrie and Vicky for having us on the boat. Thankyou Sue whose friendship led the way. To Paolo and Louise … nobody knows Liguria like you guys – molto molto grazie once again.

To anyone thinking of visiting this part of the world this is where you’ll find them. Louise is originally from Sydney but has lived in Italy for over 30 years…

Forest View Bed and Breakfast, about half an hour north of Genova.

And now, it’s back to reality.  So hope you enjoyed the ride xxxx

    4 Comments

    Is it time to rewrite the script?

    Winter Study II

    So here we are, a month away from 2016, the year I’ve been horizon planning for the last two. The “You’ve got to keep a dream in your pocket year”.

    The kids are finished – if they ever really finish – but the big one is done. The school years are over, finished, finito.

    She breathes.

    Both adults. Whoa!

    They are their own people now.

    Their decisions are their own.

    I was watering the garden during the week and noticed, for the first time in a while, how big one of the conifers has grown. It used to be so small. We have been in this cottage for 20 years. Made a home. Made a garden. Made two young adults. Made a life. A lovely one at that.

    But 2016 is looming and Steve and I should be madly planning our long awaited adventure in the Mediterranean yes? Starting in Algeria, heading east around the coastline through Tunisia, taking in the Roman ruins in Libya, crossing into Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria … ah Syria. I’ve been stuck in Syria on my DH&N Facebook journey for the past two years, staunchly reluctant to move on, hoping hopelessly that they’d find a solution. Instead we have a wave of humanity heading in the same direction we were imagining we might blithely step.

    What a difference two years can make.

    So here is the dilemma.

    To go? Or not to go?

    There is a part of me, the brave part of me, that says now is the moment you must do it. Approach those publishers. Visit those countries. Now more than ever those bridges need to be built. But then the timid part of me says “Are you frickin’ crazy – it’s a war zone. They are shooting people on the beach for fuck sake.”

    But who are they?  I want to meet the theys – like us – who are living quietly in their part of the world, making a home, making a garden, making young adults, making a life.

    We have a few months to think this through. Darce is over the line but he’s not quite out of the nest 😉 He has his own travel plans that will take some time to make real.

    And all the while, the artist, hidden deep beneath layers of work and cooking and partnering and mothering is quietly saying “Pick me! Pick me!”

    Maybe it’s her turn.

    Maybe it’s time to rewrite the script.

     

     

    Photo: Winter Study II. Margaret Hogan

      10 Comments

      How to fix a broken fence …

      roses

      There is an undercurrent in the media at the moment.

      It goes something like this.

      Muslims will be applauded if they:

      1. Condemn all terror attacks and
      2. Promote peace and unity

      But the moment a Muslim goes a step further and tries to explore the reasons behind fundamentalism and terrorism, they are howled down. In the western press at least.

      It’s got me thinking about the importance of having a voice. Whether it’s in a relationship, a family, a workplace or a community. Everyone needs to feel that they have a voice.

      Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t have a voice? When someone has shut you down? Silenced you?

      How did you feel?

      Hurt? Resentful?

      I am thinking back to conversations we’ve had with the kids when, as parents, we’ve made mistakes, jumped to conclusions, made accusations or spoken out of line and found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of apologising – to them.

      A little seismic shift occurs. The kids suddenly see you as human. As fallible. But I think they also respect the fact that from your position of parental power, you are big enough to say “I was wrong. And I’m sorry.” And perhaps most importantly they know that they have a voice. And that is has been heard.

      The flip side of this is when you don’t listen, when you stubbornly hold your position and say …

      “Go to your room!”
      “But I just …”
      “I don’t want to hear it. Go to your room!”

      Try this on …

      “Shut up and be a good Muslim and go back to your suburb.”
      “But I just want to talk about why I think this is happening …”
      “No. We don’t want to hear it.”

      Silenced. Hurt. Resentful.

      Is that really the result we want?

      garden 1

      I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the West has a less than glowing history in many corners of the world and if Obama and Turnbull et al really want to find a political, humanitarian solution to the current mess they have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and apologise for the hurts inflicted.

      Imagine you run into your neighbour’s fence with your car. Big damage.

      I asked a friend today how would she set out to fix it.

      “Well I’d pay for the damage.”

      But I said, “No. How would you begin the process of fixing it?”

      “Well I’d walk across to the neighbours, I’d apologise profusely and I’d set out to make it right. Then I’d pay for the damage.”

      Exactly.

      birdbath

      garden 2

      The most moving moment for Steve and I this week was the press conference in Western Australia with the first of the Syrian refugees finding sanctuary in Australia. A mechanic and his wife and five children. I have no doubt the PR machine had them polished and shined to within an inch of their lives. Their pictures taken. The littlies smiling. But even despite all of that, we looked at each other and said “Imagine having been on the run or in a camp in Jordan for four years and finally, finally you know your children are going to sleep safely tonight, and they will be able to go to school and you have a chance for a new start. A good life.”

      And the tears welled up.

      We visited Syria in 2010, five months before it went to hell. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. We have watched it unravel for the past five years. The Syria we experienced is no more.

      The father’s last words were: “All the respect. All the respect to Australia. Thank you again.”

      Respect.

      Respect for your voice.

      Respect for mine.

      18 months ago we pulled down our broken front fence and replaced it with a garden. I wrote about it here. We extended the little verandah so we could have a table and chairs out the front. Like so many Australians our focus has always been in the backyard but I can’t tell you the pleasure we’ve had bringing this little area to life, from funking up some chairs from the tip shop to planting Provencal thyme and lavenders and a curving box hedge. Last night, just on dark, I sat out there with a cup of tea and got chatting to a young guy who was walking the street, trying to settle his adorable 11 month old son who was unwell. Five years they’ve lived five doors away and last night was the first time we’d met.

      marg's watercolour in the style of Edna Walling

      stephen hogan sculpture letterbox

      santolina

      abstract shadows and light

      When we’re frightened our natural response is to close in on ourselves. But I think now more than ever we need to be reaching out.

      Please don’t be afraid of robust conversations.

      Please don’t be frightened of different.

      Different clothes. Different faces. Different ideas. Different opinions.

      Different is wonderful.

      Different is what makes this planet so mind blowingly beautiful.

      Open your doors. Open your hearts. And make room for the voices.

      There are stories that need to be told.

      Stories that need to be heard.

      From both sides of that broken fence.

      roses

      ….

      I’d be grateful if you’d share this one.  xo

        10 Comments
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