Do you feel it too,

This warring of our limbs,

Rebellion of our bodies,

Betrayal in full force?

Kisses seem a battlefield

Of lips and mouths

Tongues  pushing  

Faces pressing.

Take a breath,

Start again

Softly, gently

Passion rises.

For today,

The war has been



Adventures in teaching English in Italy

I’ve just survived my second week of teaching English at a summer city camp in Italy. The first week, in June, was extremely nerve wracking. I was so nervous and agitated about being prepared that I couldn’t sleep at night after spending the last few hours before bed reviewing what I would be doing the next day. By the end of the week I was shattered.

This time, I was ready for my overactive brain and didn’t prepare late into the night. Sleep came more easily, and a rested mind left me with more energy the next day.

As before, we stayed with a host family whose daughter would be attending the camp. My partner teacher, Giulia, and I were welcomed with open arms and shared an attic room with an en-suite bathroom and a resident cat. Actually, there were two cats, but only Micio came looking for company and slept at the foot of my bed every night. He had the most gorgeous face with an intelligent gaze. While practising the guitar one morning, I looked up to find him watching me intently from the top stair, his unblinking gaze and tilted head taking in everything I was doing. I almost expected him to start talking to me!

So here are a few observations and ideas from my experience.

  • Be prepared, but be flexible. Things can change in a moment and if you see something isn’t working, it’s better to change it. When a game or activity was no longer fun, we moved on to the next idea to keep things fresh and fun.
  • It’s not really necessary to organise every moment of the day. We found that our kids begged us for free time when they would quite happily organise their own games with a ball. If you have enough balls, you can have three or four different games going. Favourites were football for the boys and various versions of tag using a ball. They also loved it if we joined in with their games. Although it was quite exhausting, judicious use of my time and energy helped forge a bond between myself and the children and made class discipline a little easier.
  • I found a lot of good ideas on the Internet. Besides finding examples of English camp songs (for ESL purposes), I found a number of brilliant ideas that worked very well. The first of these was a simple call and answer to get the kids’attention when they were particularly excited and noisy. Most teachers will probably know this one, but I didn’t.  It was a lifesaver! Teacher shouts, “One, two,  three, eyes on me!” Campers must reply, “One, two, eyes on you!” I stressed that they should stop what they were doing, look at me, and listen for instructions. It worked like a charm, and made a very good impression at the final day concert.
  • The second was my “Good English” cards. Most Italian kids of this age can’t string together a sentence in English, although they maye be able to conjugate various verbs correctly. My main aim for this camp was to get them talking and to help them realise that it’s not as hard as they think. So I found this sheet of squares with “Good English”, printed off a large amount and cut them apart to keep in my pocket. I told my kids that if they used good English any time in the day, they could get a card. At the end of the day, each camper counted his or her cards and the camper with the most cards could choose a sticker from a supply i brought with me. I also decided on a second camper to get a sticker every day so that not only the best students got stickers. I was soon surrounded by campers, even during the freeplay period, as they asked me questions and tried to make conversation. Success!

      The final day mini concert was a proud moment for me as campers who hadn’t wanted to speak last time around spoke loudly and proudly in front of their parents. All in all it was exciting, exhausting and very satisfying and I’m looking forward to doing it all again next summer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and write a reply to a twelve-year-old camper who wants to continue speaking English.

      Soul food

      Take a bite…

      A burst of sweet summer sunshine

      Explodes in my mouth and

      Slides down my throat.

      Another bite…

      Warm, salty sea

      Rolls over my tongue

      Mingles with sweet sun.

      I close my eyes.

      Another bite…

      Sweet summer days fill

      My mouth,

      My stomach,

      My soul.

      Margaret Brizzolari August 2016
      This poem was inspired by my supper: sweet, ripe melon slices and parma ham, a match made in heaven!

      What foods evoke strong emotions for you? Write about it and link to  the comments if you like.

      Happy summer days, everyone.


      “I’ll play tomorrow,” the child cried, while rushing headlong to maturity. Forever and forever lay ahead in golden days and unexplored dreams but the child, in petulant stubbornness, reached steadfastly for tomorrow, while today lay wasted and neglected at the door. Climb a tree? No thanks. Must watch TV. One day I shall be that princess, teenager, twenty-something. 

      “I can’t wait for tomorrow, ” the teenager cried, reaching with greedy hands for independence,  sexuality, sensuality, childhood left behind like the tattered teddy bear forgotten on the porch stair. Play a game? No thanks. Must send this chat, watch this video, do my makeup. One day soon I shall find a partner, start a family.

      “Not today, I’ll play with you tomorrow, ” the young mother cried, while frantically juggling home, work and family. No time to play now. Must clean the house, do the washing, cook a star meal for an ever-more-distant and stressed husband. Tomorrow I’ll play. Tomorrow I’ll be your play princess, but not today.

      “There’s always tomorrow, ” the retired couple cried, while navigating a life filled with hobbies, meals, appointments with friends and living past each other every day. No time for midnight chats, afternoon love or coffee dates. Not now! Tomorrow I’ll tell you my dreams, but not today. Gotta rush… friends to see and places to be. Tomorrow I’ll see you. Tomorrow we’ll talk.

      “There is no tomorrow,” the wise man said. You have only today. This day, this moment. Live it wisely. Live it fully. Give yourself fully to the task, to the person you are with. That moment will never come again. Life is NOW. Hold it NOW. Live it NOW.

      Carpe Diem


      Don’t weigh me down

      With might have beens,

      Would haves, could haves

      Or should have seen.

      My soul can’t live

      On dreams and wishes

      And empty dishes.

      I need to feel 

      The grass beneath

      My feet

      The water lapping at my ankles

      The wind tugging

      At my hair.

      I need to

      Seize the day,

      Live the day,

      Hold the day

      My way.

      Come play

      With me

      Stay with me

      Ride the wind with me

      For as long as we can.

      Book review: Venuto al mondo (Twice Born) and Sword and Scimitar

      A funny thing happened to me recently. First of all, a friend lent me a book by Margaret Mazzantini which she praised as a beautifully written novel. And then another friend gave me a bag of historical novels to read.

      I read the Mazzantini novel first.

      I read the original language, so I can’t vouch for the translation, which is called Twice Born, but I presume if it’s good, it should have the same lyrical quality. To be honest, I hated the main character at first, finding her immature and irritating. However, I realised in retrospect that the slow chapters at the start of the book are a vital part, establishing character and motivation for the later action.

      A large part of the story is set during the siege of Sarajevo and if I hadn’t been fascinated with the main character by then, I would probably have put the book down. But I was hooked, and laboured through the painful matter-of-fact  descriptions of daily life and degradation in the city. It was this matter-of-fact attitude that hit me in the gut, increasing my shock and outrage. But this book is more than the siege, and the story twists and turns before reaching its end and a satisfying catharsis. This is one of those books where every word matters. Every action, thought and dialogue carries the account towards that final moment for more than one character.

      Would I recommend this book? Definitely!

      The next book I picked up was Sword & Scimitar by Simon Scarrow.

       Without realising it, I had chosen another siege novel! This one was set in 1565 during the great siege of Malta. At that time, the Ottoman empire besieged Malta in an attempt to wipe out the Christian Order of St. John whose knights used Malta as their base and were constantly hampering and fighting the Ottoman forces. The principal character of this novel is a disgraced knight who has been summoned along with all knights of the Order to protect Malta. The novel was full of graphic descriptions of the fighting, which gave it a sense of reality, and a quick websearch showed that much of the action depicted was recorded in historical annals of the time. It was too much for me, however, and I must confess to skimming large parts towards the end just to find out what happened. 

      The writing was good, if not spectacular. I would recommend this book if you really like historical novels, and particularly war novels.


      Rebuild the homes
      That once we had
      Rebuild the community
      Now gone bad

      Renew the bond
      Of neighbour love
      Renew the trust
      Destroyed from above

      Bring back the fields
      Raise up the farms
      Now razed to dust
      By fire and arms

      Raise up the schools
      The playing fields
      Let violins sound
      And music heal

      Let children’s voices
      Raised in song
      Bring back our soul
      And touch the throng

      Of broken hearts,
      Lives torn apart
      Now hear the joy,
      Let building start.

      Margaret Brizzolari
      June 2016

      Written in respone to the daily prompt rebuild

      A Year in Seasons


      Summer blasted in,
      A roaring furnace
      First greening fields and hills
      Then parching leaf and vale.
      Giving and taking life
      With each heavy, sun-scorched day.

      We gasped for breath
      Through long, desultory days,
      Quarrelled in the baking sun,
      Tossed in bed, keeping our distance,
      Waiting for better times.

      Autumn blew in,
      A chilly breeze,
      Misty mornings and soft showers
      Replenishing parched earth
      Softly swelling, ripening
      She burst forth her bounty.

      We found each other
      Through gentle rainy days,
      Snuggled close in bed,
      Hands reaching, touching
      Living a better time.

      Winter crept in
      On softly floating flakes,
      Crisp morns and howling winds.
      Frosting and freezing
      Life and earth,
      She cloaked our love in icy mirth.

      Silent we became
      Through frozen, sterile weeks,
      Souls darkened as the days
      Were dark and laden
      Skies wept tears upon the earth

      Spring fluttered in
      On birdsong and butterfly wing,
      Each dawn a promise.
      Spring buds clamoured
      For warming sun,
      Welcomed with open petals.

      Spring’s thaw for us
      Came none too soon.
      Warmed beating hearts
      Love’s rising heat
      Burning through our limbs
      As we journeyed to love’s ecstacy.

      Spaghetti Alla Norma a Modo Mio (Spaghetti Alla Norma My Way)

      Yesterday was Cleaning Day and I hate Cleaning Day! Perhaps I should qualify that: I hate the process but I love the result. There is nothing like the smell of a freshly dusted and polished house or the feel of a newly washed floor underfoot. Anyway, since it was a hard day cleaning, it had to be an easy day cooking and nothing is easier than pasta, in my book.

      A quick look in the fridge revealed an aubergine begging to be eaten and a plan began to form. This recipe is based on a recipe from an Italian recipe book, but I tweaked it with the addition of bacon bits. My daughter has the firm belief that there’s nothing that can’t be improved with the addition of bacon, and I tend to agree. If you want the authentic recipe, just leave out the bacon. The ingredients are enough for two hungry people as a main meal. If you serve this as a primo, Italian style, then it would probably serve three or four people.

      Ingredients :

      1 aubergine
      1 onion
      100g bacon bits
      250g spaghetti
      Tomato passata
      A few fresh basil leaves finely chopped
      A small mozzarella ball (about 125g)
      Chilli pepper to taste

      Peel and slice the aubergines in thick slices. Salt them and leave them to draw for twenty minutes.

      In the meantime, peel and dice the onion and the bacon if it isn’t already diced. Prepare the basil leaves and keep them aside.

      Fry the bacon and onion together. You can add a little oil if needed. I always fry my onion until it is soft as I don’t like it crunchy, but you do it the way you like it. It should be golden and delicious. Mmmmm….can you smell that delicious onion and bacon smell?

      Now prepare the aubergine. Rinse and dry the slices well. Cut them into squares and fry them in a little hot oil. They will absorb the oil. When they have browned all over, drain them on kitchen paper. Be careful not to let them brown too much!


      When they are ready, add them to the pan with the bacon and onion. Add the passata, salt and chilli pepper to taste and allow to cook until the brinjal is cooked through and the sauce is rich and glossy.


      Now prepare the pasta.

      You need a large pot because pasta needs to cook in lots of water. None of this shoving it in a tiny pot. You need one this size and the water must be boiling with a rolling boil before you put the pasta in. Add lots of salt to the water. According to one italian saying, the pasta water should be as salty a the sea.


      Add the spaghetti to the pot in one piece. Do not break it or you’ll spoil the chance to eat it like an italian, slowly slurping in those stray strands that wouldn’t twirl on the fork. The strands slowly sink into the water as they soften and you can help them with a fork, turning and mixing them slowly. Put the pot lid on to bring the water back to the boil quickly, but watch the pot as it boils over easily. Once you have a rolling boil again, you can remove the lid. Use a long fork or spaghetti spoon to agitate and turn the pasta now and then while it cooks. This will help prevent the strands from sticking to each other. Cook until the spaghetti is cooked enough for you. It’s a personal thing. Al dente for most Italians means that there must still be a hard bite in the centre of the pasta. I don’t like that and cook until that bite is gone but the pasta is still relatively firm. About 14 minutes for this pasta.


      While the pasta is cooking, dice the mozzarella into small dices.

      Drain the pasta in a colander, keeping aside a little of the cooking water to add to your sauce if it’s too thick or too little and needs extra liquid. This is a trick all Italian mammas know and use to make a sauce stretch. It also helps make a sauce creamier. Put the spaghetti back in the pot and slowly add the hot pasta sauce, the diced mozzarella and the chopped basil, mixing gently. Add only enough to give the pasta a generous coating, not to drown it in sauce. I used about half the sauce and froze the rest for another meal.

      Serve with a little grated parmesan. Buon appetito!