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The country of your dreams and how to get your regular fix

daydreaming

As a child, I had a thing for Rhett Butler. I had come across him at 5 while keeping company to my grandmother who was a die-hard fan, before both these words even existed. Rhett was the first kind of man I met beside family members and I thought that his macho manners and his half-concealed big heart were ideal qualities to look for once I grew up.

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Decades later, another world war, an economic boom and the surge of feminist writers slowly changed the perception of ideal qualities in a man and my chosen one became Colin Firth. Honest, sensitive, bright, decent. More suitable for these times. 1404478504_741767_1404478749_noticia_normal

(I chose deliberately a picture where he isn’t outrageously handsome).

Last week I realised we all have a dream man/woman AND a dream country. In the exact same way we idolise actors and characters from a novel or famous people we read of on newspapers we cherish in our hearts the image of a perfect country where we would be so happy and where nothing bad could happen to us.

I am always a little taken aback when I realise that country is Italy for an insane amount of people. Apparently, Italy for them has stayed in the 50s. A poor country rich of history and art and populated by gentle, warm-hearted and slightly chaotic people who love to dance and sing and eat. Something between Roman Holidays and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

GREGORY PECK & AUDREY HEPBURN in Roman Holiday *Editorial Use Only* www.capitalpictures.com sales@capitalpictures.com Supplied by Capital Pictures

ripley

Where many float on their little Italian cloud whenever visiting the Belpaese and indulge in cappuccinos outside a café while abandoning themselves to fantasies of a lazy day in a white shirt under a pergola, sipping real, actual espresso(not the Swiss sort) made in a Bialetti moka machine by a beautiful brunette with an accent, I found myself in the midst of my own dream last week.

Funnily enough I have never lived in England. While most of my uni friends migrated there to pursue Gordon Gekko fantasies and work in the European capital of finance, I thought Brussels was a more sensible option. I used to be a EU fan, after all.

England stayed somewhere between my brain and my heart as a magical place where I would never live but could visit often, inhabited by lovely people who liked birds, flowers and tea. They would have conversations about the weather and never, ever, lose their temper. They were brave and resilient but also incommensurably funny. England has always been, basically, the one that got away. The love story that I never lived and that was so perfect because of that.

So the joy was overwhelming last week when an English friend invited us to the most English event you can think of: Glyndebourne opera festival. I had been preparing for weeks. Listening to Carmen and daydreaming about the place.

It turned out it was even better than anticipated. Blessed with a fantastic weather and the most adorable little cottage found on the Internet, we spent the ultimate English weekend, hiking on the high cliffs from where you could vaguely get a glimpse of France and savouring perfect pub meals. I found myself ecstatically staring at a box of apricots at Waitrose. The label said: “Home ripening apricots”. What a smart way to say they have travelled half across the world and were picked long before they were ripe. So British.

Our English friend thought I was a total freak. He can’t see my own perfect England of course. He sees everything that is wrong with it, instead.

After my crumpets filled weekend, being home again was quite a shock. I needed a decompression chamber. I found my fix in the new Marks&Spencer shop which just opened in Brussels. I literally ran there yesterday and in the basement, surrounded by romantically named British foods, I felt at peace again.

Do you have a dream country? How do you feel when you visit?

The expat contradiction: how long will you be a foreigner?

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There are many sorts of expats: those who left willing to go back home at some point, those who realized they won’t eventually go back anywhere, those who left following a foreign spouse, those who left without a plan. What they have in common is that in most cases they won’t be able to contribute to the political life of the place they live their everyday life, pay taxes and raise children in. The idea that you have to lean in and take another nationality to be able to vote had some sense in a different world: one where people didn’t move that much, didn’t speak foreign languages or know different cultures easily. I guess the point was that before contributing to public life you had to show a proper will to become something else and embrace fully your country of adoption.

If that is the underlying logic, then why should we expats – even after decades away from home – still have a say in our natal country public life? With the upcoming elections in Italy I am a little lost. I have always voted, passing through many different états d’âme: I have been a temporarily expatriated Italian, still deeply concerned by what was happening back home, then I became a long-time expat who still fantasized about going back to the Belpaese. Last step is where I am now: I doubt I will ever go back to live in Italy, I have more and more troubles understanding the complicated dynamics of political life there (don’t think about reading papers to get it, they make it even more unintelligible) and, most of all, every time I interact with true Italians (those born and bred in Italy and that never left) I realize I am unable to look at the country’s reality as they do. I see it now through the often unforgiving eyes of a foreigner.

So, why on earth should I still vote in Italy when I am not allowed to decide anything about life in Belgium, the country I have been living 11 years in?

In my optimistic vision of the world, one should participate to the political life of the country he/she makes his daily life in. Which means that if you move, then your right of vote moves with you and you can have a voice in the next place’s organization. It would probably translate into a massive workload for the national administration (keeping track of moving residents) but it would be so much fairer.

Becoming Italian has become relatively easy a few years ago, when having an Italian ancestor has often proved  enough to legally claim a right to nationality. I have a South American friend who can’t speak a word of Italian and has never visited the country but can nonetheless participate to elections in virtue of an half-Italian grandfather.I can’t see the point of this.

Have you ever felt the same frustration I do in being glued as a political actor to the country you were born in while being forever labeled as a foreigner in the place you willfully chose to live in? Should all expats in the world unite and lobby for their voting rights?

My day on Campari and Sofa

My favorite blog on earth, Campari and Sofa, asked me some time ago to write about my day for their A day in the life of series. They published it today and you can read it here.

I am flattered and grateful to have a little space on Claudia and Sue’s elegant, beautifully designed website, one of those places on the Internet where you’d just like to sit and have coffee for hours, while reading anything from art insights to life reflections, yummy recipes and delightfully posed questions on the human soul.

Campari and Sofa tells us of life after 50s and I have to credit its authors for relieving much of my stress regarding growing up. If 50s are like they describe them, then I can’t wait to get in!

Thank you Sue and Claudia, you rock!

Liebster Liebster Liebster…I am thankful and clueless

The strangest thing happened this morning. My phone beeped while I was in the car listening to Carla Bruni and swearing in my head against the usual Monday Morning jam: it was ladyofthecakes messaging about a nomination for the Liebster Award. I was thrown in panic: there are rules, and things to do, and a link to open. I am the least practical person on earth, rarely understand rules (Italian genes, you know…) and panic whenever I have to follow a ritual. But I am thankful for this nomination, which follows the one I received by Miss Fanny P. a few days ago (and didn’t properly understand, sorry if I didn’t post about it).

Ok, so I copy and paste from ladyofthecakes the rules:

• Post the award on your blog
• Thank the blogger presenting you with this award and provide a link back to their blog
• You then need to write 11 random facts about yourself
• One good turn deserves another, meaning, you then need to find 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers who you think are deserving of the award so that you can then nominate them! In other words, keep the love going!
• Finally, the award presenter will ask 11 questions of you which you need to answer and then you, in turn, ask your nominees 11 questions, and so it goes.

Here we go:

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2.I have been nominated by two great bloggers: ladyofthecakes, a very English sounding German who speaks more languages than Mata Hari and lives in Toledo. She knows absolutely everything about food (and I just found out why in her last post) and feels sometimes lost in translation as I do. Miss Fanny P is a London raised Italian who went back to her home country with a Russian husband and two multilingual kids, she writes with a lot of humour about motherhood, marriage and cultural crashes. Thank you both, ladies, I love reading you!

3. Eleven facts about myself, very randomly:

1. I love dogs. I grew up with them and couldn’t conceive life without a 4 legged friend. My current dog is a Boxer and I consider her my firstborn daughter.

2. I have never been in a long term relationship before getting married. And that happened after less than a month actually spent together.

3. I love feeding people. Nothing makes me happier than a huge table filled with family and friends and a sunny Sunday eating together.

4.I struggle with the material world: paying bills, organizing a trip, taking an appointment, fixing stuff are impossible tasks for me. I tend to delegate that whenever I can and when I am obliged to do something related to everyday administration I get very stressed out.

5.My favorite writer of all times is Leo Tolstoy.

6. My favorite actor and ultimate sex symbol is Colin Firth. I guess I like conservative guys who make good husband material

7.Greece is my favorite country. I frankly consider the possibility of having lived previous lives there.

8.I have dejà-vu all the time. Unfortunately I discovered it’s only a trick that your brain plays on you.

9. I am an utterly rational person. The only irrationality I concede my self is a passion for astrology.

10. I am a huge Downton Abbey fan and I totally relate to the character of Lady Mary.

11. Peonies and cherries are my June obsession.

4. 11 blogs I nominate for the award:

1.Jumble is the journal of an American living in China. It’s a super interesting chronicle of the Far East life and habits.

2.A girl and her travels is the journal of an American girl living in Moscow. Plenty of beautiful pictures and interesting facts

3.Kiwigipsy is a very funny kiwi guy living in India

4.DIstantdrumlin tells of an English woman living in Bangalore

5.My Small Hours is a stylish blog with great pictures

6.Chez Sasha is a yummy food blog

7.Italy with Grace is a blog about an American living in Milan with her Italian husband and children. It’s…a graceful place, full of sweet stories.

8.5cities6women , in their own words “a metropolitan survival rant by 6 friends scattered around the country

9.South Pacific Journal A thai/canadian couple planning to sail to the South Pacific

I couldn’t come up with two more links, I am sorry. Most of the blogs I enjoy reading already have more than 200 followers. You’re too successful, guys!

And now I will answer ladyofthecakes’ questions:

1. If you had to choose between a snake and a spider as a pet, which would it be?

A snake, without doubts. Even the smallest spider makes me scream in panic.
2. When you were little, what was the meanest thing another kid ever did to you?

My cousin loved to tell everybody I was living “in a movie” and so not worth listening to. I still ache when I think of it. I always had a great imagination but why ill talking behind my back at age 6?

3. You’re King/Queen Of The World for a day. What’s the first law you would pass?

I’d love to say beautiful and generous things but truth is, I’d love to have forced exile for all the mean, petty people I know.
4. What was your most hated subject at school?

Math. And I regret it now.

5. If you could bring two historical figures together, who would it be and why? (They needn’t have lived at the same time.)

I’d love to see together Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi. They corresponded for some time, at the end of Tolstoy’s life and I would have loved to see them doing something great together.
6. What type of social occasion do you enjoy the least?

Seated dinners when people are boring or the food is bad. Otherwise I am an extremely social person, so I basically love going anywhere.
7. What is the most adventurous food you’ve ever tried?

Snake, in Vietnam. Tasted like chicken, just more chewy.
8. Sweet or savoury?

savoury
9. Which physical feature do you least appreciate inheriting from your either one of your parents?

sticking out ears, from my grandfather. (jumped a generation and got to me, my parents have perfectly nice ears)

10. Fast forward to age 75. What do you think you’d regret most not ever having done?

I hope nothing. There is still plenty of time to do a couple o’ things I really care about 🙂
11. Name one item/style of clothing that’s in fashion right now and that you just can’t stand the sight of. Or, if you’ve not been out recently, you can name something from a past era. The 80s usually provide rich pickings…

derby shoes. I wore them as a teenager. Enough is enough.

My 11 questions to my nominees:

1. What’s your middle name?

2. Best year of your life?

3. Greatest regret?

4. What would you call the most defining moment of your life?

5. What did your parents teach you that proved itself very useful later on?

6. What’s your favorite planet?

7. How would you like to die?

8.Who’s your favorite writer?

9. What country influenced you most?

10. Are you a country or city person?

11. Wine, beer or champagne?

Xmas or the scariest time of the year

I didn’t mean to take such long pauses between posts but real life keeps unsettling all of my plans (but that is how it goes for everybody, isn’t it?) and Xmas time utterly complicates the task of compressing multiple lives into one. My past week dissolved itself between amazon orders, presents to family, friends and teachers, bills, dinners and other mundane occupations. It happens every year in December but I still wonder: why do people need to see each other all the time and drink and hug and wish and overeat and love this time of the year? Is it the relief of ending a year still alive and the unconscious fear of the new that pushes us together? The carols, decorations, trees and even the drinks are all very nice but they don’t justify the persistence, decade after decade, of this apparently incontrollable pulsion to human proximity.