Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heat wave in Lucca

It is so hot here that every time I go out I need to shower again when I come back. Tomorrow I will be leaving for London because I am going to meet my latest grandchild Toby who is one week old and help my daughter for a few weeks. I am now procrastinating about getting ready as I really hate packing a suitcase. Even though I travel quite often, I never get any better at it. I always seem to leave something vital behind and take all the wrong things instead. I inevitably pack too much and then there are all the presents and requested olive oil and wine that I hope will not break in my case and ruin all my any case travelling is rather horrid these days, I think. I feel like an alien the moment I enter the airport. Passengers are now the potential enemy and are treated as such. I know that it is a necessary process but it makes the airport experience so frustrating not to mention slow. When I travel in the U.S. I am always singled out for a search. I always ask why they pick me and they always assure me it is quite random and not because I have a gallows face!
Chelsea hates me going away and she gets very glum from the moment the suitcase comes out and she follows me around from room to room as I wander about deciding and then changing my mind about what to pack. Usually she goes to my friend Giovanni and despite the hang-dog face before I leave she has a wonderful time there in the country. She loves him and goes off without a backward glance...

London is a wonderful city as it is so vibrant although it is very expensive. The parks are beautiful and plentiful and the main museums are free which is amazing. My daughter is always bumping into famous people like Jude Law and Hugh Grant but I only seem to see people I recognize but can't quite place. Once I saw the Hobbit uncle ? Bilbo Baggins though (great actor name of Sir Ian Holm) as I was walking around Kensington High Street. The pace of life is so different from Lucca, as everyone rushes around running for trains and buses whereas here no one hurries about and I like that so much.
Well, this was fun but I really must go and pack!

Monday, July 21, 2008


It has been over a year since I wrote last and I can't really imagine that anyone will read this but it has been a fantastic year in many ways. Dominating this period was the birth of Baz, who I have now met twice and of course the Hewlett-Loughman wedding which, because it was in the UK, turned out to be such a very happy reunion of our enormous, crazy, wonderful family. Jane was beautiful, David was handsome, Baz was making his voice heard and the child attendants were enchanting. My other little grandson was afraid of my fascinator ( this is a strange head decoration worn at weddings and Ascot by crazy English women) and looked at me in horror until I removed it and then he saw it was his Nonna--which is Italian for Granny --and not some strange bird of prey swooping down to gobble him up.
Sisters Kate and Moyra sang a wonderful song and David and Jane were absolutely crying with emotion.

After the wedding Kate came back with me and my partner Fabrizio to Lucca. Fabrizio hadn't met most of the family before this but he was instantly accepted as he is as crazy and funny and sweet as they are. Alas, Kate could only stay three days before heading off back to London for the Meet the Hewletts convention or whatever. I have heard little from her since as she is fantastically busy but maybe she will come and spend time here in the fall (everything is maybe with Kate as so much is happening in her life right now!)

After a couple of years of procrastination I started to write again and I really haven't stopped since. I had fun researching a hero of Lucca named Francesco Burlamacchi who planned to raise a revolt to free the cities of Tuscany and unite them 1546. Sadly he was betrayed and tortured and eventually executed. I looked at why a middle-aged respectable statesman would at his stage of life dream of doing such a thing and I found the key in his love of reading the classics. He is now safely locked in a chapter of a book in honour of my wonderful supervisor. The other contributers are all distinguished historians and my only claim to fame was that I was his last student before he retired, so it was a great privilege for me.

After this I decided to honour another hero: this is a wonderful old dog who has lived on the streets of Lucca for 14 years. His story is also both sad and noble. I have written a book for children and it has been endorsed by my 5 year old granddaughters. Hopefully David's little son Baz may enjoy it when he is older. The illustrations are currently being done by Shira who is a talented artist friend of Kate's.
Finally I have finished a semi-autobiographical book about my research year here in Lucca in 1997. I had kept a detailed diary that year so it was a matter of recounting some of the adventures that happened to me in while I struggled with Italian and archival documents in Siena and Lucca. I am not too sure what I will do with it now!
Currently I am working on a series of walking seminars of Lucca. As it is a fantastic place and it easy to talk about its history.

The bad news is that I lost my camera at the wedding so unfortunately I have no photos and no camera. I feel especially sick about it especially as I lost 1500 photos when my computer did something strange earlier this year. No sympathy from David as he is always telling me BACK UP EVERYTHING REGULARLY! I must say that losing all your photos is like having years of your life erased.

The concert series is going on in Lucca. Last night Alicia Keys (? Spelling) was here in Piazza Grande. At the same time it is the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini who was born in Lucca and so there are lots of concerts of his music too.

Thanks to all who have kindly written and kept in touch. Some of you have visited Italy this year and I hope you have enjoyed it!
Right now it is very HOT! My dog Chelsea is spread out at my feet on the tile floor like a bear rug!
Fabrizio has just brought me a glass of cold wine--viva l'Italia!