Friday, 25 February 2011

let me shipwreck your thighs

They are Dylan Thomas' words, I can't claim them. We giggled and swooned over them when we were schoolgirls in tunics and ties, dreaming madly. We imagined pale cool thighs and something coming at us, rocking, hard, a wonderful sea-smell, our faces flushed. It wasn't vulgar it was poetic, as poetic as were Thomas' words, damp and mist-filled, taken to bed. It wouldn't hurt it would be sublime.

(I don't think my daughter thinks of it quite like this. Oh, how we were so keen and literary. Oh, how Facebook reporting has altered all of this.)

And now that we are older, and have been shipwrecked many times over, in fact our debris are scattered over the seabed, how does it feel? What have we learnt of sea vessels in the night?

Ask any older woman of love. Often, she won't mind speaking of sexual specifics. What she likes, where she feels she still has to travel, who were her most joyful lovers. There are those of us who have strayed, who have left good men or men who were abusive. There are those of us whose child-bearing years became unbearable and, converted to suckling mothers, we lost ourselves and then rebelled, wanting more with an explosive tenderness learned from motherhood itself. There are those of us who thrive on violence, who need an edge, who like intrigue and deceit or the freshness of younger men.

Then there are those of us who, entwined in a busy throbbing life, so fatigued at the end of the day, brain fitful and awake, suddenly, wretchedly, find themselves lovestruck, struck down by love, wilting and unmoored.

Dreaming again, like a schoolgirl in a tunic and laddered tights.

This may be the spring of sluicing, shipwrecked thighs.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

the things we do for money

Not love? Nah, not today. Living in today's Italy makes one wonder about love. And beauty. And youth. Did you see the half million women marching last Sunday for women's dignity? Scrappy housewives, young militants, women in boots, scarves, jeans, kids on shoulders?

And have you seen the women who have driven them to protest? The veline on television - bums patted by 70 year old presenters - shaking their fake assets? I reckon there is a lull of thirty seconds before one comes out again to revive the male audience.

It's tiring, seeing our leader crump his jaw again. It's tiring, seeing the sleek bad-girl Ruby you can be sure a good share of the country is lolling about.

I'm tired of arrogance, of the loveless sheen of perfectly dressed people.

Here is a funny part from my book:Vanessa, my narrator's London-raised daughter, is visiting her mother in Milano. Federico is her mother's young boyfriend. Do laugh some.

Vanessa was glued to the television frowning. ‘I just can’t believe a woman would do this. Did you see her?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Federico, and I was very embarrassed about what might be coming next.

‘She get undressed on television so husbands at home have something to think of when they make love to fat wife. You know, like pornography. Then women can relax and tidy kitchen while men watch television.’

Vanessa’s eyes widened and she looked over to me. ‘You mean women don’t mind parading around like that?’

I was worried they were going to seriously clash and didn’t know whether to change topic or wait for the fall out.

‘No, I don’t think. Look at,’ He started zapping around all the channels. It was mid- evening and the quiz shows were in full swing as people sat around their dinner tables supplying answers. On each channel there was a booby female holding up a card with a letter or spinning a wheel. On one channel two girls were doing a go-go dance.

‘You see? It is always like this.’ Then he switched to a news channel with an older woman announcer. Her skin had been stretched across her face and her lips were fat and shiny. ‘And then they get them like this.’ He shook his head, glancing for a split second in my direction. ‘But this is awful. This woman she no know who she is anymore. She is like carnevale mask, very scary. But this is Italy now, everyone afraid to get old except short bald man, you see him?’

He was pointing back to game show announcer, a flaccid bald man with a paunch, who was pointing to the girl in the hot pants and reading from his cue card. Then Fede turned off the television and said, ‘Basta! My new Australian family will think Italy crazy place! Tonight I take you out to trattoria!’

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


It was a carnival of masks. Not Venetian masks, delicate and stately as the palazzi themselves, but of the grooved and veined wood of the mountains, with expressions contorted and weathered as the valleys themselves. One of the winning masks had machinations of wood protruding from a grainy forehead. Is it the isolation? Does the silence and the spinning views make one think of this?

We sat on the steps of this steep and furrowed village, the sun on pulleys slipping behind the serrated peaks gradually softening, darkening as the chill settled.

In a bar men began to sing mountain songs as I pushed away the idea of getting drunk and attempting to drive. But grappa with berries is hard to resist. So is standing around a fire, stomping one's feet, too lazy to hike down to the car for a jacket.

This divorcée is warm. The crisp air makes me feel strong and ripe. At 6 that very morning I was feeding a child who will soon be taller than me, loading the car with ski gear for the race, pulling away along the dark winding roads as the dawn marked out the peak of Civetta, and my son told me so. Look at it Mum, look at the sun up there.

I feel it is a stark privilege to see these things and how I hold them close.