Monday, 19 December 2011

Caffè corretto

Though my kids all grew up in the tropics we now live in northern Italy where there is a sweltering summer and a foggy freezing winter. I don't mean Siberian freezing, but Venetian fog that will not leave our valley for entire weeks. Suggestivo for someone on a writing streak, but not good for the bones or a seratonin fix.

My ex considered himself a mountain man and dragged me up to the Dolomites a few times before we had offspring. It was when I thought I was a chic Parisienne. I remember my Aussie toes turned blue and I counted the hours before I would be back inside the stuffy warm car driving home. I didn't fall for the cold, the peaks or the ski instructors.

Zap ahead to a divorcée trying not to go nuts in Italy after ten tropical years in Ghana. Those first winters, come January and I would have sold a child to clear the sky, to see some sun, to work up a sweat. That was when I discovered skiing.

What a wonderful way to round up the adolescents, keep them off the streets, spend heaps of money on 'necessary' equipment and cool gear, and watch the winter dissolve. I quickly found mountain folk to be very warm inside, like their pine-panelled homes and hand-carved chairs, their lovely canederli and addictive grappa al carugo. And fitness. In truth I come from an entirely sporty family, waterskied as a kid and did swimming training. It has been a smooth transition. From Africa-babe to powderhound in a few years. Now I telemark or free-heel ski with the local crazies and it's a far cry from designer shop sales in town or Ikea on weekends (swearing, assembling cupboards) or merciless long Sunday lunches in trattorias.

The first run every morning is preceded by a caffè corretto (in my novel this becomes Marilyn's preferred poison for facing her Milanese mornings) - which is espresso with a splash of local grappa to warm up wooden legs and ease shoulders, to deepen the glow in red cheeks. Then skis on shoulders and up to the lift, a slow rise to the top, a gliding towards the peaks.

I am hooked.

** ** **

ps: waiting for my dummy book copy to arrive; my ears ache from straining to hear the postman...

ALSO on 24th December I am on the Ether Books Advent Calendar with the title story of my just-accepted collection 'Pelt and Other Stories'. The story is called 'Pelt' and tells of a pregnant Ghanaian woman trying to lure back her lover from his German ex-wife.

Buon Natale a tutti!


  1. Oh, hurrah! Sneak peak of your short story prowess!!

    Also, my Aussie toes turn blue even in our winter, so this kind of holiday sounds not-so-good to me. Give me a fireplace and book instead any day :)

  2. I hope you like it Hannah! It's one of my favourites.

    As for blue toes my secret is two pairs of socks and, around my chilly house, ugg boots! The good thing about skiing is that it warms the bones, muscles and the soul! Ciao cat

  3. I love your versatility in life and writing. I'm finding it inspirational this morning.

  4. Oh but you always give me a good laugh! Wish I had one of those Chrissy hats for Sunday... I'd go skiing in it!

  5. Fun fun fun! I've been skiing since I was a little girl, but missed out entirely when we were in Italy.

    Enjoy yourself, Cat, and DON'T break a leg.


  6. I'll try not to, the grappa should help shouldn't it? I hope you have a great Christmas and that everything you wish for in the New Year comes your way.

    Ciaociao xxcat

  7. I've never been a skier, but envy the prowess of those who are. I signed up when I was younger for a 7 week session. It was terrifying. I subscribed to the theory that at my height the falls were too great and if I was meant to ski, my feet would have been marginally longer but definitely flatter.
    Then I read your view of it and think, alas, maybe I gave up too soon. Because you know what I really need is another project...

    Now I can get on board with the caffe corretto...

  8. My blue toes, combined with a toe issue that lasted 18 months and saw two rounds of surgery, resulted in my doctor prescribing me blood pressure meds to take throughout winter and ordering me to wear ugg boots outside, which is anathema to my Australian sense of self. Sigh! :p

  9. Why not? I find it is great for rounding up the family and strengthening the lungs. I DON'T recommend trying to do the jumps your kids sail over as that can have very inelegant consequences.

  10. Hannah this sounds painful! I hope you are enjoying some summer heat and bare feet at the moment. Uggs, well, I think Britney Spears took them to the next level, although I'd be lost without mine. Ciao cat

  11. Yes Lady its me! Unfortunately in Australia for Xmas this year - previous 2 years were Switzerland. So very jealous to read about the Dolomiti! Its not even a real summer here as I'm sure you've heard. Our plan is to head north to live in about April 2012 so who knows - that long talked about visit may just happen!! Wish you were at Lago Di Macquarie this natale however - to keep me sane. x tschuessli !

  12. Hey Meret! I'd still love to be at Lago di M for Xmas, lots of crodka and beers and salt water. Today first day of hard skiing, not much snow and zero people - I'm doing telemark, it is crazy tiring but so cool! Let me know about this big move and come hang out next summer!! Ciao xxcat

  13. Unfortunate to be in Australia for Xmas? At Lake Macquarie? What's wrong with your commenter! I'm a summer gal through and through ... and while a winter Xmas was nice to experience it's, well, just not Xmas! Still, I'm sure skiing is fun if you can do it ... we are off to the Snowy Mountains in a few days for some summer bushwalking. Can't wait.

  14. Well for me too it's not Christmas without my Nana's pudding and custard at the Lake and I do miss my family! We come out every two years as we are quite a big bunch. Christmas for us was pretty flat this year but always good to see family (I confess I was dying to get out of the city and back up to the slopes!)

    Enjoy the Snowy Mountains. I climbed Mount Kosciusko about a million Decembers ago when I was 16. And now I have my very own 16-year-old, today wearing an acid green python-printed ski jacket!! Crazy what comes to pass..

  15. Skiing sounds like an absolutely brilliant way to get and keep fit. I've never tried it myself - I have it in my head that I would break a limb if I did!

  16. Hi Rebecca,
    I saw your video blurb on your blog it looks great! Makes me think I should be home cranking up my promotion instead of skiing!

    It is amazingly fun though, hard work and keeps my kids off the street. I should add that I AM terrified of breaking a limb and don't do anything daring.

    Good luck with everything in 2012 ciao ciao cat