East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


What if it’s IT?

I came down with a cold. It’s not unusual – summer is fading into autumn, and the temperatures dropped drastically. Cold wind and pouring rain. A quick jaunt to the baker’s to buy some bread, and catching a cold is the easiest thing in the world.

But then you wake up in the middle of the night, short of breath and with your throat burning, and shivering, and the first thing you think is… damn, what if I caught IT?
And you feel a chill of a different nature, and think you need to get those last payments in before they come to take you away.

And by IT I don’t mean of course the creepy killer clown with the red balloon, but rather the virus that has kept us company all these months.

It’s a cold spike of fear that’s easily dismissed with an aspirin and a warm cup of lemon ginger tea (that apparently is also good for your skin and your hair – see? Health and beauty), but it’s there, like a ghost, to haunt us.

And in the meantime, there’s people in the streets protesting their right to not believe in the virus, proclaiming strange political slogans.
We are really living in interesting times, and that’s really a Chinese curse.

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The best thing to come out of this pandemic

The best thing to come out of this pandemic, for me, has been the opportunity to launch a podcast with my friend Lucy – we decided to do it because we were (and actually still are) in lockdown, with our respective jobs fizzing out, and too much time on our hands.
Why not try something new?

Just imagine, spending about two hours a week chatting with one of your best friends about your favorite – or least favorite – movies.
A lot of those are horror movies – but we have a very broad definition of “horror”.
Basically we do online what we’d normally do going out for a pizza, with one significant difference – I am sitting in the hills of Astigianistan, while my friend Lucy is in Rome, 600 kms away. Hooking up for a bite and a night of movie-talking would be complicated.

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Sleeping patterns and other stuff

You may have notice a sudden increase of video posts on this blog – and a few shorter posts. Fact is, while the lockdown’s been lifted in my country, I am still in my old house, in my old village, doing my old things. I used to say that the lockdown had not changed my daily routines… well, the lifting of the lockdown did not change them either.

The only thing that’s changed is my sleep patterns – after six weeks of solid insomnia, now I have developed the vitality and spark of a dormouse: I’d spend 16 hours a day sleeping.

This new scrambling on my daily rhythms is starting to get annoying.

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The Poor Writer’s Dinner

I was talking with a friend, today, about a book I always liked a lot – Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a classic collection of food writing and other wonders published in ’84 and compiling a selection of thirty-odd years of the writer’s articles on magazines and newspapers.

I was also celebrating the fact that yesterday, for the first time in over six weeks of lockdown, I was able to find eggs at the supermarket.

This led to talking about food, and the fact that I have learned to eat well on a very tight budget, and thiis led to the the idea of a challenge – can I prepare a good simple dinner for two people, spending less than 3.50 euro each, that is 7 euro in total?
Considering that a Margherita pizza is 4.50 and a pack of crisps at the local grocery is 2.50, what could I do?, I was asked.

Well, I said, I’ll show you what I can do…
And this is quite interesting, as my #StoryADayMay from a few days back asked me to compile a list, and give it a meaning. So, here’s to killing tow birds with a stone. This is the Poor Writer’s Dinner.

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Type faster

One of the things we normally do not pause to consider is that, in most post-apocalyptic fiction – be it an after-the-bomb movie or a zombie plague comic or a novel about a killer virus leading to the collapse of Western civilization – we are, most likely, dead.
The thought struck me a long time ago, watching a movie in which, after some unnamed catastrophe, the main characters walked over a field of sun-bleached skeletons, the victims of that ancient whatever. And I thought, that’s probably me, the one whose skull’s just been crushed under the boot of the hero.

A few hours ago the news came – through Facebook, of all things – that the first COVID-19 case has been reported here in the village where I live.

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Never gonna be the same

No, not the minor hit for Scottish band Danny Wilson.
I was reading an article on the plight of the poor fiction writer, relentless purveyor of narratives for the entertainment and the edification of the hoi polloi. You see, not only your garden variety fiction writer is locked up in their house, with the stress and anxiety of seeing the system slowly trying to cope with a change that was expected but ignored, and often failing in the attempt. Not only the writer has to deal with insomnia, increasing alienation, the pneumatic void of most social media contents and the bills that keep piling up as the bank account dwindles. No, the fiction writer has to deal with the fact that our world and our society are changing, and what the writer writes is no longer relevant and connected with our present.

No, but… really?

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Dusting off my French with Arsène Lupin

I have talked in the past about how, to Italian kids of my generation, Arsène Lupin, the character created at the turn of the last century by Maurice Leblanc, was a timely and much welcome introduction to tongue-in-cheek adventure and good-natured rule-breaking, jazz, sophistication and beautiful women, thanks to a wonderful TV series featuring the excellent Georges Descrières in the role of the gentleman thief.
Indeed, Descrières as Lupin and Patrick Macnee as John Steed have a lot to answer about how I turned out as a person.

Later came the Lupin books, often in strange translations and abridged editions to make them suitable for young readers, and later still the movies, but everything started with the TV series. Re-watched today, the series is slow-paced and suffers from an almost theatrical construction of certain scenes, and yet the acting, the production values and the locations (episodes were shot all over Europe) are worth alone the price of admission.

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