For my Friends

This is a personal blog. Recently I have written a lot to promote my books but today I feel compelled to write about growing old. I am fifty-one and do not feel old at all, although I remember that as a teenager anyone over fifty seemed ancient. I remember my grandmother at ninety-one, putting on lipstick without a mirror before being taken out to dinner. I admired her artful make-up technique and she replied candidly,
“Darling, I never look in the mirror. When I do I see a wrinkled old prune looking back but in my mind I am still twenty one.”
My mother started going to her local gym when she was seventy-three and ten years later still goes three times a week, staying an extra hour on Wednesdays for the abs class. She dresses beautifully, has her hair done once a week and is incredibly independent. So you see, I come from a family of strong women. Age itself does not scared me and I have even taken the decision to stop dying my hair and let myself go grey slowly. I am taking care of my body, doing yoga and eating healthily and am slimmer and healthier than I have been in years. I have no intentions of letting myself go but do want to be as true to myself as I can.
Over the last year I have seen a big change in the lives of my close friends. Each of us have had our own personal ups and downs but there is something which links us all and it is to do with our age. Firstly we are coping with the beginning of the menopause and therefore an inevitable confrontation with our femininity. None of us seems particularly worried or threatened by this lack of fertility and my friends are as attractive as they have ever been, taking care of their appearance and showing no signs of slowing down. What links us all right now and is causing a lot of worry and stress is the fact of having parents who are coming to the end of their lives. Some of us have already had to deal with the sadness of a loved one’s death while others are slowly losing parents to memory loss and illness. At the same time our children are leaving home, for university or work.
The key word that sums up our complex worries is loss; loss of youth, of beauty, of parents to death and ill health and of children to the world as they take wing. How to cope with this loss is what is challenging us all. Some throw themselves into more work and a frenetic social life that leaves little time for contemplation. Others turn inward, meditating and opening up to the shadows within, in the hopes of understanding and combating our fears this way. If we are lucky we have a strong and loving partner by our side to help us through this moment but all too many of us find that this is the precise moment when marriages and relationships break up, adding another thing to the list of losses to cope with.
There is no short cut through this. It is life, simply life. We are being tested, stretched to breaking point again and again. Then, when our worries for our parents end with a death, we will have the grief to deal with. Some of us have religious beliefs to lean on while others do not have this comfort. What I know for sure is that we will all get through it. Because that is the thing about life – one cannot stop it and get off, we are here for the whole ride.
I am grateful for so many things in my life. Grateful for my wonderful children who are growing into fine men. Grateful for my parents who loved and cherished me through my childhood, helping me grow strong enough in their safe harbour to leave them behind and plunge into my own life. Not everyone has this kind of upbringing, this amazing safety net that allows one to take chances and risk new adventures with no fear of abandonment. Then I am incredibly lucky because my husband is also my best friend. The twenty-four years that we have spent together have been the best years of my life and he really is there for me as I struggle to get through these difficult days.
I want to dedicate this blog to my close friends, though. Each of them have such different personalities and yet when we get together we blend so well, creating a mixture of strengths that serve us all. At the beginning of this year an event in my personal life shattered me completely and I reached out to them with an e-mail, asking for help. The reaction was immediate, loving and practical. I had friends driving me places because I felt too wobbly to drive alone, others came round with hugs or phoned every day. Even some friends who I know only via Face-Book were incredibly supportive and kind. I want to take a moment to thank them all here and let them know how important they are to me.
So, as we go on through life, as each new phase takes us and shakes us up, dashing our settled lives on the rocks and throwing us back into the waves, I know that we will survive. My friends will be there for me as I will be for them, to help us face and overcome every problem but also to share our joys and celebrate our successes.

Thank you all xxx
Girls at birthday party (FILEminimizer)

Themah (FILEminimizer)Abby (FILEminimizer)

A Whisper on the Mediterranean

It is summer and I am feeling very nostalgic and longing to be sailing again. Summers should be spent hopping barefoot over scorching decking, trimming sails and watching dolphins playing under the boat’s prow. Instead I am writing in my study with the shutters down to try to keep the air cool enough so that my fingers do not slip on the keyboard.

We sold our beautiful 40ft Contest Ketch, Euriklea a couple of years ago when we invested in a ruined farmhouse to renovate. At the time it seemed like a good idea. We imagined the huge farmhouse filled with family; my parents in one apartment, my brother making a small holiday home in another part and our sons noisily filling the place with their mess and chatter. Now both boys are living away, one in Australia and one in America, my brother got married and has other ideas and my parents have declared that they are too old to leave the UK. This means that Guido and I would be rattling around in 380sqm of house, alone. Lord, we would need walkie-talkies to get in touch with each other! So, we are selling the farmhouse and at first I was a little sad to see my dreams slip away until I realized that I was relieved. Suddenly the house idea seemed like a golden prison where I would have been trapped on dry land.

The sea is calling with its siren song and I am craving the utter freedom that the sailing life offers. Guido has felt like this ever since the day we sold Euriklea and has been searching for the prefect replacement. In past years we have sailed with friends in Greece (thanks Jean-Francois and Paola for some wonderful times together!) but this year, for a number of reasons too boring to go into, we are stranded. As I edit A Whisper on the Mediterranean and look at the photos of the first sailing trip I ever took, with James as a toddler, I am overwhelmed by the memories of those golden days but it is making me ever more certain that our future lies on the seas and not in the farmhouse.

I remember all the scary moments too with storms that flung open every cupboard below deck, scattering provisions and turning us a fetching shade of green. Guido was never daunted by the weather and has always sworn that the biggest danger was being hit by a flying can of baked-beans rather than risking the boat. He is probably right – I have a tendency to exaggerate somewhat, as writers do. Time does have a tendency to colour memories in soft hues though and so this time spent editing and rereading the book is very special.

Guido has his eye on a boat in North Carolina. She has all the characteristics he is looking for; seaworthy, safe, beautiful lines and capacious storage. I have to admit she looks lovely; the owners have already hung pretty curtains and redone the upholstery, she has a comfortable looking cockpit to relax in and the galley is spacious and neat. These are the things that really concern me if I am truthful. So, if things go according to plan by next summer we will be living aboard our new boat and maybe we will keep her in the Caribbean for a couple of years and enjoy some sailing there.

Life is as unpredictable as the sea and all you can really do is be aware of your position, point for the horizon, then ride out the waves and whatever nature decides to hurl at you as best you can. Having a dream helps you through the bad times. Our future looks bright again to me, no more self-made cages.

The heat is too much now. My fingers are sweaty so I will stop writing, get a cool drink and lose myself in dreams of this same sun cooled by sea breezes, painting the endlessly changing sea-scape in metalic hues of burnished pewter and silver throughout the day. As the sun sets and the sea becomes a golden mirror I think I might just pour a glass of chilled, white wine and …… Bliss!

5 star reviews

I am so thrilled with the three new reviews I discovered on Amazon and Goodreads this week. How wonderful of readers to take the trouble to tell me how much they enjoyed The Song of the Cypress. Thank you all !

“I’m not skilled enough as a writer to pen a review for Tonia Parronchi’s The Song of the Cypress. Her poignant word artistry crosshatches Annie and Joe’s idyllic love story in luminous, pulsing colors that splash off the page.
While the Cypress sings its cadence of circular links of time and the opulence of changing seasons in the Tuscan landscape, Annie transforms from the shadow person created by the unrelenting demands of a demented mother into a real person, capable of loving and being loved. She embraces both the country lifestyle and her vibrant neighbors, including the “white witch” Fiammetta who transforms The Song of the Cypress into knowledge of herbal remedies and healing.
The spirituality espoused in this glorious Technicolor book is not Christian, but it echoes the same spiritual truth found in the Christian Bible: life does not end with death and every death is a new beginning.
Parronchi’s voice as troubadour for The Song of the Cypress never falters as it draws readers into words so rich, alive, and powerful that they can taste the food, feel the changing seasons and revel in the passion of love ripened to maturity.
Not that Annie and Joe get a free walk. Too hurt to trust, Ann flees from Joe when they first meet. She is so like the wild deer Joe carves from wood that he must maintain gentleness and patience to tame her flight. When Joe is faced with the truth that Annie has embraced The Song of the Cypress and belongs to the tree and its song, he must choose between loving her anyway – or leaving her behind.
This is the most lyrical and beautifully written story I have ever read. It deserves nothing less than a perfect rating.”
Stephanie Parker McKean

“An absolutely fascinating, beautifully told story…make time for it because it’s “unputdownable”
The Author has so cleverly and sensitively captured the essence of magic in the nature and traditions of Tuscany, the very essence that draws visitors from all over the world. As I read the beautifully written story of Annie and the other colourful characters, Fiammetta and Joe, Rita, Pietro and Lucia and Luna the dog, I felt I was immediately part of the story. This book has everything from great humour and irony, enchantment and awe to moments of sadness and nostalgia, soul searching. It made me laugh, chuckle, ponder, meditate and sob. The saddest moment being when I came to the end of the last page, I felt like I’d lost someone dear! All the ingredients for a Best Seller are here. Tonia Parronchi has great talent and truly deserves great recognition. This has to become a Bestseller and a film is bound to be made of this ! can’t wait to see it and truly hope Tonia has another book in the pipeline! ” Ruth E Philbin

I read ‘The Song of the Cypress’ with great enjoyment and interest. The story, written in a beautifully fluid and poetic way, is gentle, satisfying and touched by magic. The characters seem to etch their way into your heart as you turn the pages and find yourself participating emotionally in their lives. I too know and love that part of Tuscany and I feel that the author has really managed to capture the mystical essence of that evocative land and the folk that live there.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read; its a lovely book and a joy to anyone who loves Tuscany. Scarlett Laroma
http://www.amazon.com/The-Song-Cypress-Tonia-Parronchi/dp/8890510706/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399268062&sr=1-1

Front cover

 

A Date for your Diaries

20th September – Book Launch Party at the Romito Restaurant, Laterina Stazione, Pergine, Arezzo
I have just been trying to make an invitation for the party to launch “A Whisper on the Mediterranean”. I cannot work out how to crop the photo I want to use. I cannot divide a piece of A4 into equal parts in invitation shape and I cannot work out how to modify templates either! I am getting quite exasperated with myself and my fingers are sticking to the keyboard in this heat too.
How I struggle with technology. I see young children zapping around with TV remote controls and mobile phones that seem to be a part of their anatomy and get quite envious. I have a good grasp of a computer keyboard by now, although even there, since I never took typing lessons, I have an odd, two-fingered method that would make a real typist wince. I am also quite proud that I have managed to set up a website, get a Facebook page and use Twitter, however, I am never going to be a modern technological writer. This fact was brought home to me recently when I had to Skype with my 19 year old son who has moved to America for a year.
I desperately wanted to see his lovely little face. Stop, start again – he is 19 now, not a child and will be really fed up with me if I write that.
I desperately wanted to see his lovely, manly, grown-up and by now if he is reading this, scowling face!
So I got my husband to position the camera and microphone and took my place beside him as he made the call. Seconds later we had a great connection and I would have been able to hear all of James’ news, if only I had been able to concentrate on him. Instead I was distracted by a small image in a corner of the screen, of me and Guido staring into the camera. I got all self-conscious, started blushing and fiddling with my hair (It looked odd on the right side. Maybe I should have combed it beforehand) James asked me a question and I started to answer with my usual enthusiastic hand gestures and expressions. Yikes. No one had told me how many faces I pull when I speak. I sat on my hands and tried to compose myself and smile sweetly without screwing up my eyes. James wondered if I was feeling ill and Guido gave me a nudge so I pulled myself together and ignored my image for the rest of the conversation. Am I the only one to feel awkward like this, I wonder?
I prefer photos, especially the digital ones that you can cut, modify and generally tweak. You can also eliminate ones that are downright ugly (very frequent) and settle on an image, like the one shown here, that makes you look almost the way you think you look. This photo was taken at 6am on the morning we left James at Fiumicino airport. I had not slept much for worrying about how much I would miss him and then got up at 4am. I put no make-up on and admit to having cried on Guido’s shoulder all the way from the airport to the port. However I wanted to put it here as it really does show me as I am and also proves how a beautiful light and no fidgeting can work wonders.
Fiumicino port is where we moored before setting off on our very first adventure, with 16 month old James, on our beautiful ketch Whisper. I have so many memories of that day which were stirred up again last week. I was really disappointed that the Rusticelli Bar was closed so I missed out on the most delicious “cornetto” ever. As we wandered along past the boats waiting to set off for Ponza and the Italian Islands we felt so nostalgic and longed to buy another boat. We are inbetween boats right now as Guido wanted a slightly larger one than our Contest 40 in order to live comfortably for a long navigation. He has his eye on a lovely one if Florida – a good excuse to visit the young one soon!
You can find all the funny stories about our first year sailing the Med with a toddler on board in “A Whisper on the Mediterranean” which will be released by Sunpenny Publishing this August.
I look forward to seeing all of you who live in Italy at the book launch party X

 

Author Tonia Parronchi, Fiumicino Port, Rome, Italy, sailing boats Mediterranean Tonia parronchi, author with family. Tuscany, Italy