Thursday, 22 September 2011

Tiepolo Skies

We were tossed back on our striped deckchairs on the grass the other day looking up at the sky. It was a Tiepolo sky - streaky pale blue, skeins of cloud floss, liquid lightness - which one can tilt up and see across the ceilings of certain villas and churches in this area, all the way to Venice where the painter was born. Anyone who has seen Tiepolo's work will have seen how he captures the gauzy fluidity of bright summer light, making it warm and enticing, providing a background for the flight of cheeky ladies in cascaded skirts, dainty ankles revealed, stockinged calves.

We were quiet in thought after a big meal, good wine. These are the last late days of summer, just as Tiepolo painted in the last season of the vast and decadent Venetian Republic, in the mid-1700s when Baroque art exploded into sizzling Rococco forms. But what Tiepolo gave us most of all - I think - was this colour, this almost-transparent blue that begs us to look upward.

This month as summer wanes our Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has given us much to think about. Tapped phone conversations - how vulgar - leading to greater vulgarities still. Young prostitutes whom he did or not pay for sex. Women in a line outside of his chamber, women seeking fame on his tits-and-arse TV stations from a lover who boasts: 'I govern this country in my spare time.'

Though perhaps I shouldn't have watched 'Spartacus' the other night or 'The Borgias', I wonder whether Italy in her worst moments has always had such feisty immoral leadership and a proclaimed appetite for women and delights. I think back to her debauched popes and feuding ducal families, her virgins and sinners, her pomp and hyperpole.

I am beginning to see Berlusconi in a toga, Italy burning to a crisp behind him.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

George Clooney Appears in Debut Novel

One of the unlikeliest characters in my upcoming novel ‘The Divorced Lady’s Companion to Living in Italy’ is Mr. George Clooney. Mr. Clooney makes several brief appearances in the life of our protagonist, Marilyn Wade, who discovers a signed photograph of the Hollywood actor on the book shelf of her unscrupulous Australian host, Fiona Miller:

"I had no doubt Fiona was a woman who had sex, miles of it. Grimly, I made myself a jam sandwich in the kitchen then took it into the living room where I noticed a signed photograph of George Clooney on a bookshelf stacked with fashion magazines.
George Clooney?
I walked over and it was George Clooney all right. With his crushed black opal eyes and gritted teeth smile. He didn’t look too happy to be spending the night.
‘Hello George,’ I said softly. ‘Nothing planned? Poor old you!’"

George’s presence within the sexually charged Milanese apartment is explained by Fiona soon enough:

"‘And what about that signed George Clooney photo? How on earth did you get that?’ I asked scornfully.
‘What? What has that got to do with anything?’
‘The one on your bookshelf. Where I might add there is hardly a single book.’
‘Last year I went to the première. His translator spilt red wine on my dress and the photo came back with the dry cleaning…’
I had no intention of listening to her anymore. I thought of George Clooney’s clumsy translator and suave George Clooney with his pen poised to sign yet another photograph of himself."

Here I ought to add that I am not a George Clooney fan, unlike a girlfriend of mine who shares his birthday and for a while there was convinced he would come shimmering over to her at a gathering of some foundation he belongs to, with some friend of hers who is a member. Or the ladies at my local post office who, next to the crucifix on the wall, have a giant-sized calendar of Mr. Clooney whose Holiness I check out each time I pay my electricity bill.

The other day however I did see him. A huge spread in the newspaper. George in Venice for the film festival. An intimate shot of George looking out over the Grand Canal in front of San Giorgio Maggiore (where another crucial scene of my novel is set) as though he were thinking of... buying it?

In my book I never say it but I think I ought to say Grazie mille George Clooney. Italy truly adores your smug classiness and you make a great pin-up on certain ladies’ walls.

Oh and just one more reference from our jolly divorcée:

"I sat on a velvet bar stool and ordered the cocktail of the evening, a syrupy Campari with whatever. Within moments it had lined the pit of my stomach like a small animal with a growl.
I looked around, suddenly feeling fantastic. Three grey-haired men in suits were grouped around an attractive woman in a tailored jacket. I realised I had more to show off than what she or poor Jean could afford in a month of weekends in Spain. The men’s eyes drifted my way, and soon enough one of them turned around and took a few steps over to me.
‘Buona sera,’ he smiled, making George Clooney look slightly jaded. My feathers ruffled at the genteel greeting.
‘Good evening,’ I said cheekily in English.
‘Vuole sedersi con noi? Mi chiamo Alessandro. Would you like to join us?’ he added in flawless English. I was introduced to the small party and handed a glass of the robust red wine they were drinking.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

In the bubble

I am in Paris with a Bubble Card. A fashion trade fair. Hats, heels, jewellery. More spanking handsome men than you can shake your croissant at. Possession of the Bubble Card means that at the end of the day you can hobble up to the counter and decide how many flutes of champagne you can juggle across the pavillion. Yesterday it was five. Or six.

After work the Parisian sky drifts over us and each evening there is a sort of happening outside. Mild dancing, mild eye-snagging, more champagne. Then gorgeous food. In our off-beat area the food does not disappoint.

I've yet to go into town, let my eyes graze over the buildings I used to love. It is bubbling up inside of me - memories of the skinny pram-pushing au pair crossing bridges, crossing parks, selecting 'tarte au citron' in her favourite patisserie, shifting through the secondhand stalls. That young cropped-headed thing without a clue, typing her first novel above the Indian sweat shop, with her father-figure lover nourishing her education in film, and the lady with the whip next door to Bruno-the-Swiss-banker, her stilted admirer.

I wonder where that tough determined young woman has gotten to. It's time to shake that Bubble Card.