I need to have a word with karma..

It needs to pack its bags and move on.

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Childhood comfort food – ‘chet’ – simple onions, peppers and tomatoes on well toasted bread (my gran used to make this for us on cold Sunday mornings). I needed this today

It was last September when this whole circus of a year started and it is not looking as if things will change anytime soon, but i really wish they would.

It started with redundancy at work which left us at less than a 1/3 of what we used to be. All at risk, it wasn’t the most peaceful of winters having to wonder almost 6 months if i would have a job at all by the end of it. A few interviews only confirmed that i really didn’t want to go anywhere else and be back on the hamster wheel in the commercial world, living out of a suitcase. Then in March thankfully i had a job, but not the job it used to be. About 2x of it in fact as it has turned out. Not all days, but never really less than 1.5x. Followed by the uphill battle for our workplace as a whole, which has only ended about a week ago with finally some certainly over the next 10 years. But with impaired finances and other circumstances which will make life difficult for everyone.

But at this point i owe massive thanks to all those who spoke up and wrote in the papers and took to the street and saved it. For a few months it looked as if it would be much much worse. This, this we can make work.

We still don’t know exactly how things will work out, but we’ve been adjusting during the summer. And i’ve had to adjust to much lonelier summers at work since everyone with kids was off and i was left with it and no holidays in sight. Mine are spent flying back to see my parents and somehow this year the few days i squeezed to take off were spent battling flu around a bank holiday. I hope the good memories from last year’s 1 week Scotland trip will manage to keep me going for many more months.

In the meantime last November my flat was a building site as all window sills were getting replaced, the kitchen got repainted, with smaller paint jobs once windows fixed. I came back from Xmas trip to find a leak in the roof which had stained my bedroom ceiling. And i had the pleasure of the increasing damp until July this summer. Finally after another 6 weeks building site outside the window the roof was (hopefully) fixed for a while. And 2 weeks ago the bedroom got finally repainted. I hope with 3 building sites in a year i’ve completed the 5 year average.

July i joined a friend for 2 days around estates in Derby to get some fresh air and hopefully put a nasty cough behind me. Which i did, but the break was somehow ruined when Brexit hit right in the middle of it. Whatever people say about the timelines and so on, the world around me has changed irrevocably, and not for the better.

(Working with news screens in your view line all day is a stark reminder of what the world is like and how much this place has changed. I have trouble recognising it though when it refuses to shelter even children in the most vulnerable of circumstances 😦 When it and its neighbours can dismiss those in terrible need with threats of dismantling the camps they take shelter in, instead of trying to provide help. I have real trouble reconciling what i read in papers i’ve dealt with to try and claw some security back and how we act. We seem to be drifting far and farther away from the principles we supposedly stand for).

It’s all a bit of an unfortunate chain of events but it felt like every step was into the unknown, job, house and overall life uncertainty all at once. You suddenly realise how few safety nets you have, if any at all. And that it is something almost nobody can understand. Being the boss of your own destiny also means that yours is likely to also be the only hand to stop you from falling.

And then in August, my already small family, scattered around the world dwindled to the fingers of one hand (and this includes cousins and uncles).  Loosing somebody so close to you does tip the scales in some ways. You learn to look past or just accept the declines you can’t stop and just focus on what you still have, at least for a little while longer.

Thankfully there’s been the blip here and there of nice, positive things, like a good word, a workplace which in spite humongous challenges still has hope and inspiration, the unexpected token from far away, a friend who visits, one who gets you out of the house to go see theatre with them. All that has made a difference, as frankly has the sun which decided in September to give us some long overdue summer.

Karma not quite done yet however it seems. At the moment it is telling me that a trip decided in a ‘what the hell’ moment may not be a good idea. Everything that could go wrong has, things that have never ever happened to me in a lifetime of travelling. I ended up booking the same flight twice, because the website had a hick up. And got charged twice and lost a chunk of money in trying to claw it back (cured me of using agency sites ever again, appalling service). And it wasn’t the flights i wanted either, since those increased beyond my budget while i was trying to book. Now i am forced to take a bet in a travel across the pond as if it was Europe, hoping i’ll make it from flight to town and also back in time for theatre. And i hate taking those time gambles. Then i bought the wrong theatre tickets. Yes, wrong dates (never done that before either and i am hardly inexperienced where bookings are concerned). Never mind there is only 1 price in the entire place and it is anything but moderate. I got myself out of that particular disaster at the pricey cost of international phone calls (to which i had to figure out international call numbers on my own as staff was totally unhelpful via email) and another steep fee. (Way to go on making new customers feel welcome).

And it continues with more admin (which  assumed known as i had investigated for reasons of work earlier in the year) to even be able to make the journey. Turns out visa is double the price of a ticket if you are a tourist. Plus it involves personal interviews and begging for admission and justifying all your life enough to be believed and approved. I think it was my subconscious which refused to go there until now and deal with any of the humiliation because i know where it takes me back to and how much i would dislike doing it. It’s possible that if i used my brain and started here instead of applying heart to it i would have not even considered it. Now i have no choice. At present i am not even putting together all the costs vs time in particular because it would spell one clear word : nutter.

While i was still chewing my way through this particular first time ever planning fail  this happened.  Jonas Kaufmann has had to cancel the upcoming Hoffmann performances in  Paris because doctors have found a hematoma on his vocal cords, probably caused by side effects from some medication. He’s under strict orders for total vocal rest until this is absorbed. That’s sort of the scientific bit of it. The long version is that a singer and very nice person i have known for 10 years now is facing career and personal uncertainty. Singers’ careers are so fragile, you rarely know what is around the corner and small things can have important consequences. And singing is rarely just a job for any of them, it’s what they love, what drives them and like in this case, what gives joy to so many people. And they are always under scrutiny, criticism, etc. Not knowing when, how you will be able to sing again can only be a source of horrible anxiety.

Truth be told i never expected this to impact me as much as it did (regardless of having a matinee train ticket to go see him in a role new for him and which i love). But all the years i have enjoyed his singing and acting and all that have come rushing back in my mind. And the thought of somebody so generous with his gift, who has brought so much joy into many years of my life out there, stressed, anxious, not knowing what the future holds for him is just painful. The frustration of not being able to help or support is horrible.

I can only send all my warmest thoughts, virtual hugs and wish him loads of patience and a truckload of good luck. If thoughts can help at all, all mine are his. And this (for no other reason than it is the fist role i ever heard him sing and love this duet the way he sings it very very much):

As he was saying to Violetta the first time i ever heard him 10 years ago:

La tua salute rifiorirà.

And because inevitably i lost myself in youtube videos of him singing here’s 2 more bits from the fabulous Andrea Chenier he did recently at the ROH. Singing, he really is a poet on stage 🙂 Get well soon Jonas! You’ll be back here, having fun with Tony, in no time.

Tomorrow is Monday, sunny day – yay, monthly reporting week – not so yay, but at least i’ll be away from the building site downstairs, next door and across the street during the day, all home appliances working so far, i’m feeling ok (last week’s back pain finally gone), JK has one more recovery day behind him. Things can only get better.

Opera rehearsal- from rehearsal room to opening night

Thinking a lot about rehearsals these days and how people slip into other character’s lives and emotions i remembered i saw this amazing documentary:

This gives a little insight into what it takes to create a role for the Royal Opera House stage. Soprano Elizabeth Watts was absolutely gorgeous as Zerlina by the way 🙂

I remember watching this for the first time and crying for most of it because it found it so touching to see how hard and emotionally demanding the process actually is (even for somebody who is an absolutely fabulous singer!)

Enjoy!

Childhood goodbye

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It’s really not a good year this one… too much change and none good, too much loss. Too much growing up too.

I feel today i’ve lost my last connection to childhood. My auntie, my grandma’s aunt passed away peacefully in her sleep during the night.

Two weeks ago i found this year’s perfect birthday card for her, she was going to turn 94 at the end of August. She loved getting them and generally getting letters from me. She always told me when we spoke she was proud of me and that i was a good granddaughter and that my grandma and granddad would say the same. Nobody else remembered telling me that as often as she did..

She didn’t have an easy life but she lived to see her granddaughter grow up and play with her 3 great-grandchildren. We’ve lived apart for many years now but i grew up with her, she was more like my second grandma than my aunt.

My childhood memories are all tied to my grandparents and by that i mean my grandad, my gran and her sister, my aunt, Tusi Loluti. There was also their brother, uncle Didor. He had his own family but i do remember him, always well dressed and groomed and my auntie and grandma always told me what a good dancer he was 🙂 I have very few memories of daily life from that time with my parents because in fact it was my grandparents who raised me. We all lived together in a house, the 3 of them, my parents and i. My parents both worked, especially dad really long hours, so my days were spent around my grandparents, the garden and especially the kitchen. The kitchen was in an attached building, outside at the back of the garden.

We had a plum tree at the back of the garden, a few vines, rose bushes and a big apricot tree. I remember the old wood and coal stove in the kitchen with the big and tiny pots on top and the smells of cooking. My auntie used to heat up her lunch before going to work in one of these tiny pots, of which we still have a few at home and i remember sitting next to her and she always shared her food with me, always tasted better from those tiny pots 🙂

I remember Christmas time approaching with the 2 of them spending hours in the kitchen baking the most amazing stuff. My mum still has the old small notebook with yellowed pages with the receipes of lifetimes, most of which only have lists of ingredients, no instructions. Because they all knew how to make them. I copied one year all the ones i could remember for myself. Each of them had their own specialty, the share of receipes they knew best.

And i remember my auntie keeping the house ultra tidy. We had the sitting room where you would only sit when guest came, with everything in its place 🙂 And the old painted white cupboard where they kept the plates with the nicely arranged hills of neatly cut and stacked cakes 🙂 And i remember them both alternatively telling me off and telling me to go to sleep in my bed and not keep waking up and asking for another glass of water, my trick to try and stay up just a bit longer.

I remember the juicy apricots every couple of years when the tree nearly broke with their weight and the massive tin bowl where they would be kept and taken to the kitchen to make amazing jam. Still my favourite today! And i was allowed to do some stirring standing on a small wooden chair.

I remember their washing and the smell of starch in the plastic buckets where my grandad’s shirts where being starched and helping to collect the frozen shirts off the lines outside in winter and their stiffness. The smell of the starch as we brought them back in to thaw in the kitchen.

And  i remember both their voices 🙂 My grandad’s too but mostly them, my grandad was not very chatty and he was always fetching things, fixing thing, going to cue up to buy things while they sorted the household.

They are the best and happiest memories of my life.

My mum has a cousin, my auntie’s daughter. They too grew up together in the same house i did years later. She married an Englishman and moved to the UK before i was born but it would b years before my auntie moved to join them, it was only after my cousin was born.

I know leaving a communist country for the West was a very hard process, but i don’t remember much of that… She moved to the UK, we had to leave the house behind as it was going to be torn down by the communists and ended up living in a block of flats. I was about 11 when we moved but it’s not what i associate with childhood. Childhood was the house, the garden, the kitchen, the grandparents.  My auntie and family moved to the US after a short while and they have been there since.

Soon after both my grandparents passed away, none of them got to see me finish school.

But even if far away my auntie was still there, to ask about recipes, to remember the house, the garden, my grandparents by.

I wish i had seen her again these last few years  not just spoken to her. She and my grand used different words, a mix of languages,a different tone than my parents or i. I wish she was still around to tell me to be more tidy and put things where they belong 🙂

I don’t know what i think about life and passing… I’d like to think she is now with her sister and my grandpa and she can tell them about me finishing school, going to uni, about where i live and work, about baking their recipes.. about how i miss making apricot jam with them.

An Opera-Themed “Sampler” Quilt For Hariclea

This was the most wonderful surprise!! Totally unexpected but so lovely ❤

I’ve had half a day away from home and still find it hard to find the words to describe how wonderful the quilt is that jholland has gifted me with! I’ve admired her crafting skills even since i first read her describe her work, but never in a million years did i dream about owning such an amazing creation!

I’ve always read her with great pleasure, not just on our joint ‘pReoccupAtion’ but about the lovely animals she cares about and her fun family 🙂 and all manner of other common themes. But, we’re yet to have the pleasure to meet in person so i never expected to be the undeserving receiver of her hard work! Or her mum’s for that matter 😃

This arrived for me today via a trip to customs! A few days ago i received a letter from customs about a parcel from the US and i was not sure what it was. I went online, did the required formalities and curiously awaited the parcel 🙂 Happy to say whatever customs did has not disturbed the content at all, as you will be able to see below, it seemed untouched and i glad it was so respectfully treated and valued 🙂

I gently unwrapped it while having to stop every minute to wipe my eyes. Beyond just recovering from the sheet surprise of it the detail is just incredible and jholland has hit so many spots 🙂 I loved discovering every square of detail, the lovely bling of black cloth with tiny golden squares surrounding the pattern, the gilded border and the scores of my favourite pieces and places all around. It has prints of opera houses which are dear to me like the Royal Opera House in London, the Garnier in Paris, the Wien Staatsoper and the Metropolitan in NY which i am yet to visit 🙂 There are images of extracts of scores of Tosca, Don Giovanni, Boheme and even Lucia, one of my very favourites!

And then there are the instruments, the masks, the opera glasses! It’s more glamourous really than my entire opera going life 😜

It’s such a labour of love! Please do read jhollands lovely post below which describes in detail how it was made and all the details! And i can only imagine the long hours of work. I am incredibly grateful to jholland and her lovely mum 💛💙💜💚❤💗💓💕💞

It has so much in it of my love of opera, which has always been driven by the music itself and the singing rather than individual voices and the added details of instruments and opera glasses also remind me of all the nights at the opera i spent with my parents and especially my grandmother , who is the one who gifted me my first pair of opera glasses, which i still own. And it is filled with the love of the gentle hands of those who made it 🙂

I never would have guessed an unassuming trip to a Miller play in London would one day land this treasure in my lap 🙂 But it has and it has brought me wonderful friends with incredibly big hearts who i hope one day i will be able to meet in person and hug for real (preferably while we attend another piece of theater with RA together 😉😍)

Thank you sososososo much! And here it is in all it’s wonderful glory, with all the spot on details on the front, the beautiful patterns, the border, the bling, the  music of the design and almost even more on the back where you can hopefully see from the photos the swirling handmade patterns of spirals, flowers, waves 🙂

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If you right click on the images and click open in new window you’ll see each of them in  bigger size.

Can’t wait to sit with it watching a recording of an opera.. or of a play 😉 and i can’t stop running my hand over the it…

Big hugs and kisses to you jholland and your mum! i feel truly lucky and spoiled rotten!

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Final Product Opera Is Magic, 2016. (I named the quilt, of course, after Hariclea’s wonderful blog!)

Funny that I should receive the heartwarming response that she received my gift from Hari on Mother’s Day- made my warm-fuzzy-filled day all the better! And somewhat fitting, as well, because my own Mom had quite a part in this quilt. We’ve been in a bit of an Armitage Drought, lately, and in case anyone ever wonders what I tend to do when I’m not full-on preoccupiedwitharmitage, well, I’m generally spending time with Mom quite preoccupiedwithquilting. =)

Lately, though, my hobbies have converged to some degree, as I’ve found myself obsessing thinking about doing some sort of an Armitage-themed quilt. And while I ponder that, I’ve been inspired by some really warm fandom friendships. When I think about these people, I’m afraid my quilting addiction kicks in. You see, when I’m fond of someone and feel like I…

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Snow

Edit – click on the images to enlarge, i’ve figured out how to do it!

Sorry everyone, i know this place has been somewhat lonely lately. Still working through stuff and things just keep dropping on the pile accumulating… But more about that sometimes when it won’t be just an unreadable windge-fest.

On to more seasonal things.. or not, as you will see shortly 🙂 The lovely Herba and Poe have been setting monthly creative themes, which have been much fun to read and see so far. I got in late for the Oktoberfest one with a theme inspired meal of Schnitzel and potato salad but this was a no-brainer!

Herba’s monthly theme was snow 🙂

So, here it is:

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Isle of Skye – Cuillins

And you’re probably asking yourself: where??? Well, on the top of the mountains, where else! Of course, there is a bit of fog so you can’t quite see it well, so here’s some more:

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There it is, between the peeks…

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and on the tops… (yes it was raining as you see, and it rained…. and it rained and rained and rained…)

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Wet did not tarnish the beauty, at least i didn’t think it did….

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Since i am not sure you can see in any way when these were taken.. it was 2nd of June 2015…. yes, snow… in summer 🙂 Quite unusual even for the highlands and the isles, but it was 8 degrees C and snowing that weekend and the temperatures stayed that low all week.

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It had the major advantage or saving us from the highland monster – the midges- and giving us dazzlingly fresh air to inhale up and down these mountains. In spite of appearances it was not really mucky, just wet and pretty slippery. The ground is mossy and it absorbs water like a sponge. The season had been however unusually wet so there were waterfalls and ponds everywhere and you had to watch your step if you didn’t want to end up with wet ankles.

Oh and it makes for perfect weather for a wee dram 🙂

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For those still doubtful here are some wobbly speed snaps from the bus on the way around Skye 🙂 Fresh snow, our guide had been skiing there that very weekend.

But it wasn’t all grey, the very next day i was on a boat at breathtaking winds and mostly clear skies (dolphin spotting trip).

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The Cuillins in the distance and parts of the Black isle closer by.

It was Burn’s night the other day and i got email from my usual restaurants in Edinburgh with evening menu of cullen skink, haggis, cranachen and i thought of snow and Inverness and Skye and missed Scotland terribly… and had the taste of Singleton of Glen Ord in my mouth. Now i wish i had found a way to squeeze a bottle in my backpack last summer…

I just want to close my eyes and be back in the highlands, with the patches of snow in the summer 🙂

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and back to this place where i had the most amazing lunch bap with fresh crab, salmon and Scottish langoustines! It’s heaven on the palate.