Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Heart In Winter

My desk in our little apartment.
Snow, blizzards & stuck indoors at 600 metres altitude puts a dent in the mood of a slightly stir-crazy Jonnie Falafel.

The thick duvet of snow laid over the landscape doesn't help my natural tendency to indolence! I want to stay holed up in this cosy apartment - tiny enough to be heated in it's entirety by a single wood burner – doing very little save concocting vast vats of soup from scrapings from the dwindling larder. Dried mushrooms, a few jars of sugo, some bottled vegetables, sprouting potatoes and gradually dehydrating zucchini. An adorable friend Filippo came to lunch on Sunday bringing a huge bouquet of ornamental cabbages. Two more days of this and we may have to soup them. No benevolent soul could get here to dine today.

The wind whines and complains around the chimney cowels and the sharp edges of the roof, but the snow tamps everything else. The valleys – giant echo bowls – normally amplify the sound of planes 7,000 mts above, but even that's muffled now. There are bats hanging under the loggia day and night, and little yellow finches pressing themselves into the gaps between the wall and the drainpipes beneath the roof over-hang. Sudden gusts of wind ruffle their feathers. Preoccupied with survival, they have nothing to sing about now. In the eerie silence one is acutely aware of the dull crunch of snow underfoot when venturing out to replenish the logs. Am I being followed? Stop. The footsteps stop. Look. Nothing. One set of steps traced through the powder white.

Cabbage Bouquet
The fluorescent-tube harshness of the light lends a drab hue to the stone houses. Those seduced here by the summer sun wouldn't recognise them. They felt these same stones exude heat on summer nights, they've witnessed the swift amber dawns, lazed in the syrupy late afternoon light or dined under a moon bloodied and pink. You wouldn't believe the moon now, with it's frosty unwelcoming stare.

Indolence indulges melancholy. Or is it the other way round? I don't want to read, I don't want to watch DVDs. I don't really feel inspired to do much of anything except stick close to the stove and brood. I might want to listen to the Tiger Lillies to ramp up the mood but instead listen to the churning mind raking over the coals to rekindle the embers of uncomfortable memories – disappointments, losses, former friends, mistakes and every rueful morsel of disgraceful behaviour gets chewed over. Parades of faces from another lifetime. What finally happened to her? What must they have thought of me? Why did I do nothing? It's too late to say.....

It's not like I don't have plenty to think about. I should be focused on our reboot of the mission next season which involves some big changes at Tenuta Savorgnano. We're off to England in just over a week and I should be planning for that, but I can't think about it today, when the mood colours everything. It just leads me to sour assessments of the impending consumer orgy we call Christmas. Did anyone read George Monbiot's recent article which mentioned gifts such as wi-fi controlled electric kettles, mahogany skateboards, souped-up cuckoo clocks and specially packaged balls of garden twine at £16 a piece!! And don't get me started on the mad economic system sustained only by spending on fripperies. It conjures the image of bored zombies plodding towards eco-doom.

Snow hits the hills
Paul says I should ring the Samaritans to whinge about my two houses in Tuscany. A friend says when life offers you lemons, make lemonade. I can laugh at the irony of the former but the latter riles me. It just sounds too off pat 'self-helpish' Straight from one of those books with strident covers pedalling mendacious pseudo-psychology. Think of opportunities and not obstacles. Oh purleeese! Pass the sick bag Alice.

I was the kind of kid who moped over moons and sat on the doorstep swathed in an old Naval overcoat to watch the rain detach bits of rough-cast from the house. I was given to wandering around the local cemetery to ensure the equitable distribution of flowers and almost weeping when I encountered a child's grave at the awful unfairness of it all. Children got slightly more than their due shares. Melancholy is my friend I don't want ironing out of my character. It's a masochistic disposition, a sweet malady, an exquisite pain. It's natural, it's not depression, doesn't require Prozac and is written through my soul like a stick of Blackpool rock.



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