Black and White

What is it about a black and white photograph that makes it so interesting?

I love my colourful photos and while looking through dusty old albums today I smiled as I remembered the scents and tastes that accompanied each snapshot. I have a wall in my kitchen which is covered in happy photos of loved ones and I never take one down, just add to then with each new adventure.

Kitchen

However, the images that really stay in my mind are the black and white photos I have admired such as the work by Robert Doisneau or my beautiful mother when she was a teenager, with so much potential shining out of her sweet face.

Mum

Of course, we no longer take black and white photos usually but today I wanted to play a bit and so I took family shots that I liked and using a program on the computer I changed them into black and white. The result was so different. It is as if, by taking away the colour you can see deeper into a persons soul. A snap becomes a portrait.

Guido black and white

Guido’s lovely face looks wise and strong.

James black and white

James is mysterious and his sardonic sense of humour shows through.

Tonia black and white 2

and me … not sure what my portrait shows but I like it.

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Perfect, if unpronounceable, places.

I have been struggling with the  Italian language for over 26 years now. At first I found nearly everything difficult to pronounce but now I have become quite good at most words. The great thing about Italian is that, if you know how to pronounce the letters, you can say the whole word – unlike in English! So, the way to go about reading a long and complicated Italian word is to go very slowly and enunciate each letter. Easy, isn’t it?

Recently I had a delightful visit from a couple of friends who live near Rome. I adore Romans as they do not mind so much when I forget to use double letters in a word. They are notorious for making the same mistake, so I can relax a bit. With Tuscans I sometimes get so uptight about doubles that I end up making it sound as if there are 3 or 4 of the tricky little things. Beer, for example, is birra. Easy, really easy, unless I am trying too hard and end up saying birrrra, which makes me seem like a drunken Scot or as if I have already imbibed too much!

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Guido and the Romans on the Roman Bridge in Loro Chiuffenna

As to place names, well it is harder to know how to pronounce most English village names unless you were born there. With Italian you just have to slow down and have a go.

So, one of my favourite places to visit and take my guests is Loro Chiuffenna. The ch in Italian is pronounced as a hard sound, like key. So our surname Parronchi is parronkey. However, if followed by an i it gets tricky again and is pronounced like ch in chips. Have I lost you yet?  Fortunately us locals cut the village name short by removing the River Chiuffenna and it is realy VERY easy to say Loro 🙂

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Beautiful Loro C

Another wonderful place, nestling in the Apennine mountains above Loro C, is the hamlet of Chiassaia – ready? A hard ch like key, ass as in you are an …, ai as in i and a final a!!!

Told you it was easy.

Anyway, once you find “the hamlet that should not be named”, you can relax and devour the best picnic ever. I have been going up there for lunch ever since I met Guido and he has been going there for over 50 years. I have photos from every summer taken up there with the children as they were growing up. I tried to find at least one photo as proof but they were evasive and all I ended up with were very grimy fingers and a new resolution to dust better.

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Latest of the Chiassais photos – the only one that wasn’t hiding!

However, the little bottega has not changed at all over the years. The tables seem like the same old uncomfortable ones and have certainly seen much better days.

Unchanged for at least 50 years – Chiassaia

The food cannot be faulted though. The sciacchiata bread (go on, have a go – you know the rules now!!) is made on site and the cheeses and cold meats are all local.

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Wash it all down with enough of the fantastic local wine or birrra and you will have no more problems pronouncing anything!

Fears and Phobias

 

How strange we humans are! We all have our fears, even if often we don’t admit to them. There are the silly ones that we can easily dismiss like – “Yikes, where did that wrinkle come from. I am getting older.” or “I just put the apples in the fridge and the yoghurt in the fruit bowl – is it the first sign of dementia?”

Then there are genuine fears created by dangerous moments. I have a few of those in my memory banks, mostly from the time we had our sailing boat when our sons were small and found ourselves in situations that were potentially life threatening. Fortunately it seems that my British genes come to the fore in these instants and I get on with things without a fuss, keeping my upper lip beautifully stiff until the danger has passed. Then I go to pieces, need cuddles and large amounts of chocolate to recover but am surprisingly brave during the worst moments.

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The boys loved the boat but the sea was not always so calm!

I do not have the same sang-froid, at all, when it comes to insects. Fortunately I live with two strapping men who help me out with any small spider problems around the house. If they are not there, the next best thing is the handy present my brother gave me one birthday – a small plastic  tube you place over the insect before sucking it up, unhurt, then rushing to squirt it out in the garden. However much I dislike all insects, none of them reduce me to jelly the way wasps do. Most of my friends and relatives have been embarrassed by me in public when a wasp ventures nearby. I lose all self control and run in circles shouting “get it away, get it away!” until someone saves me. I’m not proud of it but at least I can say that I am braver with reptiles than many men I know. I find snakes quite cute unless they are poisonous ones and adore lizards and geckos whereas all the boys I shared a house with at university  used to pull up their feet onto the safety of the sofa when watching TV documentaries about snakes.

On Friday, while driving in my old Panda which has no air conditioning, a wasp flew through the open window, pinged off my cheek and flew out the other side of the car. Luckily Guido was driving because I shrieked, frantically shooed the poor creature away even though it was already heading towards my window and shouted “Oh, that’s a big one, it’s a big ******”. My heart raced, I was pouring with sweat, in total panic  and the sensation lasted for well over ten minutes. Guido just drove on, shaking his head at me and waiting for me to calm down.

Later that day I had an unwelcome run in with a very large dog. Any of you who know me will be aware that I absolutely love dogs and am not afraid of them at all. However, when an angry one that has been chained up in the heat breaks free and decides you are intruding on its territory, even I feel like running as fast as I can in my high-heeled sandals (silver ones to be precise, very girly glittery 🙂 ) Being VERY brave, instead I stood my ground, spoke softly to it and held out my hand for it to sniff while its owner grabbed hold of it. Unfortunately, either I smelt bed or it was just too fed up and it lunged at me and had a good bite of my wrist. As it was dragged away it kept its eyes on me as if it fancied coming back to finish off the job, so I think I will be doubly wary of that particular hound in future. However, I managed to keep making jokes and reassuring everyone that I was fine, even with blood dripping down my hand and then Guido drove me to the local Pronto Soccorso (ER) where I had the wound dressed, antibiotics prescribed and tetanus jabs administered. The dog’s owner was shaking more than me and I was able to go out and tuck into a large pizza that evening in spite of a badly bruised and very sore arm.

So, that is the difference between a sensible fear and a phobia. That little wasp did not even sting me as it skimmed across my cheek yet I turned into a gibbering wreck but the fierce doggie who did actual harm did not bother me too much.

I would be interested to know about my reader’s fears and phobias. I am sure I am not the only one!