domenica 27 novembre 2011

The sound of the devil

When I was a ittle girl, more or less during the reign of Julius Caesar, one could easily tell good from bad. Madeleine was good, for instance, and Marigold too. And they - two paper characters that stood out of the books I dearly loved - were definatlely my heroines and my best friends too..And they were good, as good as crispy bread out of a pat-a-c-ake oven... They both smiled at the good, in fact, and frowned at the bad. As easy-beasy as that and they, the little paper girls, helped me, the flesh and bones sister of theirs, in my little day by day life, to sift  wheat from chaff, and walk with the sun inside.  To me, not only little girls like me could be good. Also Maria, the step mother of the Von Trapp children in "The sound of music" was good, oh, ever so ever so good! How I would have liked to have a mother that had the same eyes and smile of my Julie Andrews dream! I loved her songs, the favourite things and Edelweiss and all the others, which I knew by heart. and I  sang and danced stepping on the stones of my imaginary brook. I watched the movie over and over again as soon as I could, of course, in that old wolrd in which I lived, that did not have computers nor Dvds...
So my little life went fastly by, in good and bad, the years rolling by like raindrops from heaven and nothing confused in my heart. I marched along, with Madeleins yellow hat on my head,, thinking that things were rather black or white, no grays no moulds to ruin my clear horizon. One day, I might have been in my teens then, here comes a friend of one of my au pairs, an american girl, with purple eyes and a native american flare, a somebody in jeans from Atlanta. I d not recall why it happened, but she stated talking of the sound of music. Did I know that Maria was not the angel showed in the picture? Did I know that one of the Von Trapp hildren died crazy? I did not of course. And  while she went on and on breaking my black and white dreams, her eyes changed colour, I swear, they darted, red as fire. When she went away I coud not remember the lyrics of my edelweiss song anymore...

giovedì 24 novembre 2011

My irish fairies

I was, at that time - aproximately, some twenty or maybe even thirty years or so ago - spending a couple of months in Dublin in a pretty little house, with a staircase winding up towards my bedroom and a little green garden sparkling day and night, in rain or shine, at its back. It was a long and narrow garden, and it looked like the dainty tail of my little irish home...
 In the house, only me, my hostess and her old mother, slim and tall, skin like pearls, who baked the loveliest soda bread I had ever tasted in my life. I ate and drunk and chatted and spent my time reading and visiting museums and prehistoric ombs. Always ever so nice and polite with Miss and Mrs Ro who were ever so nice and polite with me. Of course I had no friends of my age, but as I had always loved the company of poor little me (even if I had four brothers of my own at home in Rome) that was not a big problem at all. I could survive, I reckon. And I did.
But one day a phone call arrived and my miss, in frenzy, announced me that the daughter of a friend of hers, a Susan (maybe...) who studied history of art, wanted to invite me at a party somewhere out in the country. It was arranged for me to go. Of that night, I only recall a funny egg and mushroom dish - "frittata" we call it in Italy - that seemed to be the humdrum of the party. Everybody, asked for more. Except me. It had a weird and funny taste. After dinner everybody crammed outside, in the dark and cold, to spot - they said - the little people. And thery did. At least this is what they told me. I looked and looked, no lepricauns, no fairies, no pixies.  Only a black and bleak night and around me, dropped on sofas like old duvets, only sleepy faces and, when they glanced at me, funny round eyes and laughing mouths...
I did see the little people, though, but some days after that funny party. I saw them at the Hellfire hotel that haunts from the hills the quietness of the Liffey. I saw them all, fairies and lepricauns and trolls too, running up and downhill, changing the colour of the grass as the wind came and went, sweeping the earth, with its rich, silky mantle,,,   . 

domenica 20 novembre 2011

the platypus can wait

When I was seventeen, with a bennibag full of dreams and homesickness, I was packed up by my mother in a big indian jet and sent to Australia. Of the trip, nothing, I remember only a beauty of a hostess dressed in a yellow sari, a smiling sun going up and down the aisles of the airoplane. Her red, third eye blinking at me while she brought me, in a hush hush, banana crisps which were new to me like dawn in heaven...
I arrived in a sunny Sydney morning and Jane, the au pair of my heart and soul, came to pick me up, her bushy red hair beaming just like her eyes. Of those days spent in the bright winter of the Antipodes, a memory sticks out of the lot. I am, with two friends and a Mister Bellam (a little man with round Trotsky glasses and hair stiking up like the spikes of and Echidna), in a little hut in the Blue mountains, all around me the australian wilderness, next to a little barren hill, a merry brook dancing downwards down under. Perfect to spot a platypus, says Mr Bellam, jumping in his trainers. The girls, lazy and sleepy, stay inside, sitting by the fire, talkng the nonsense of teenager dumdrum. As for me, the italian,  I go platypus watching. There we are, in the middle of nowhere, a girl and a man, two strangers in the australian bush, with keen eyes and sawn mouths, and our mind focused on little wet platypus... We spent the morning, ate our lunch, and waited and waited, in vain, till the sun started to brush its teeth and go to bed...
"Did you spot the platypus?", asked one of the girls, as soon as we entered the shelter. Our long faces spoke much more than words. After a sausage dinner, off to bed.
In the middle of my sleep, with a ray of sunshine sleaking through the small window, I felt a hand shaking me hard, my italian name like an echo of me. It's mr Bellam. Not a word. I follow my Virgil, with eyes wide shut, in the break of day. And there, in front of our door, I see them: two kangaroos a-boxing.  The platypus can wait. 

sabato 12 novembre 2011

Fairyland at last

Ireland is for me the sunny, freckled face of Ann.
She had arrived to my parent’s home, in Rome, through the winds of chance that blew in the school I attended. It was a convent school, for girls only, with a big, spooky door that opened in the mornings to gobble up the pupils and windows that peeked over the shadowy, timid Salita San Sebastianello that crawled up from Piazza di Spagna to Trinità dei Monti.
“There... is... a girl from Ennis...”, the principal had said to my mother, in a weird, shaky voice that had little to do with the frightful bulk of a nun that boxed me on my ears if I dared speak during the rosary.
“Perfetto!”, my mother said in italian, because she did not speak a word of the language she wanted me to learn.
Ann arrived on a grey Sunday morning, carrying a tiny pink bag which contained all her belongings. She had a small, pale freckled face, and all aound it savage, brown curls. Her chin curled up too, longing to touch her nose which poured down as if ready to fall. She was no beauty. She beamed at me and I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She smiled to my family, but I thought that all those smiles only belonged to me.
“Mathilda is for you!”, she said, handing me the cutest ragdoll I had ever seen. She was dressed in purple and red and had a pair of button black eyes which stared at me from  the stars up above.
“My mother made her! Isn’t she adorable!”, came Ann’s voice. Then, with a tump, Ann sat down on the floor, beside me. La Mimma, our faithful housemaid sighed in despair: “What is this “signorina” going to teach to the little one...”.
I learnt to look for  Fairyland. Ann was convinced that the door was inside the great big cupboard where the sport stuff was kept. We looked and looked, fishing under old tennis rackets, dirty trainers, shabby tracksuits. Nothing. Mathilda watched with her black, keen eyes. Ann decided we should explore the garden and that is what we did. We looked beside the headless statue, inside the beheaded olive tree, in the old kennels of the dogs. We even went into the green shed where the rusty wheel barrows slept in peace and quiet.
 I asked Ann if we could look for Fairyland also in my parent’s villa in Sardinia. She answered that fairies do not like the heat and sun.
When we got to Sardinia, Ann started to feel sick. Her legs ached, she could not walk, her face was white as milk. I thought it was because we could not look for the entrance to Fairyland and said so to my mother. She did not listen to me. My mother rang my principal, and my principal rang Ann’s family in Ennis. Two days later Mrs Q. arrived. She packed the little pink bag, she talked gravely to my mother about a sickness that bore a kind of tender name, she thanked her for the blessed gift her daughter had received. The two mothers shook hands.
“I’ll see you soon! Be good to Mathilda”, said Ann to me with her moony voice. I never saw her again, but I did find Fairyland.
Many years later I visited Ann’s mother in Ennis. She led me in a small parlour. We sat, silently, in front of a cup of tea. Ann smiling in every corner. Then all of a sudden Mrs Q. stood up and showed me to a door. She opened it: hundreds and hundreds of Mathildas sat on sofas and stools and benches and cupboards. Their frocks had stolen the colours of the rainbow, black eyes watched me in mirth, a cloud of beauty and grace. Fairyland at last.