6 STRONG REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD STEP INTO THE VOID…

It’s my birthday week again! And this is always a beautiful time to reflect on all that I have, all I’ve achieved, all that is coming true of my dreams.

This year is fricking spectacular: the freedoms I sought when I stepped out of what precious little security I had had in Scotland… The freedom was this, and it is now here, as solid and mysteriously epic and wildly magical as I could’ve ever glimpsed in my visionary imaginings: my own home; the deepest and most fulfilling of loving partnerships; my time filled with art and creative living, love and beauty; my view each day as glorious and inspiring as a panorama could ever be; the liberty to express myself deeply and meaningfully in a great spectrum of ways, as the mood takes me; being rewarded for what I do and am – financially yes, but also with friendship, community, heartfelt appreciation; people being inspired by what I do and believe in; being able to contribute to the world, to the universe, in the fullest of ways that I was born to do…

It’s important for me to reflect on how I got here, and to appreciate how hard I worked for it – how hard it was to get to this: 8 yrs ago when, driving from Scotland with my cat and paintings, all the way to Guardia Sanframondi in Italy… Parking my right-hand drive car – barely remembering which side of the road I was meant to drive on each day… Not knowing even how to pronounce the word for ‘bread’, and walking around the town with that particular sense of vulnerability that comes with being a foreign woman alone in a new country…

It was easy, when I first arrived in Italy, to get drawn deep into the panic of having given up all my taken-for-granted familiarity. Despite the fact that there had been a fire under my arse chasing me to Italy, the first months were full of my dwelling on that familiar discomfort of a place where e.g. I was capable of talking on the phone to resolve a bureaucratic issue… where, even if I was cold and damp and miserable, at least I knew where to buy my vegan-organic goodies, and had friends aplenty to discuss Buddhism and ecstatic birth with.

The superficial mind perpetually seeks stability, pattern, anchoring: if it could, it’d probably put the brain in a jar and have it in a secure room, fed by wires and artificial nutriment. In some ways, we’re heading that way – kids not even allowed to learn from experience that fire burns and falling down on concrete breaks skin; no-one letting germs circulate their home any more; everything packaged and everything truly natural to all intents and purposes outlawed. At the end of the day, it gets good-comfy to be laid back on a soft, sterile sofa with the perfect-coloured cushions, in front of an ever-busy TV screen and munching on sugar and slurping down caffeine to keep us perky – to maintain our ‘interest’ in life.

And it’s nice to have the steady drip of a wage: the knowledge that every single month we will have a familiar amount of money deposited in our lap, which corresponds roughly to the amount that we’ll have to put out into the world. This rhythmic symmetry makes us feel like everything is under control, despite life distractions regularly popping up inconveniently.

What does it mean to throw all that comfort out, and to go out on a limb – to stand at the end of a diving board above a mysterious ocean, and to simply jump: to enter a new country and culture and start a new life from nothing… what happens? What would happen if we gave up all the comforts and trappings, and chose the unknown, the new, the unfamiliar? (Wouldn’t it destroy us? Or fuck our lives up?! Shouldn’t we be fighting with all our domesticated life force, to hold onto what small territory we have?!!)

But seriously: what happens when we up give up an old life and start in a completely new, unfamiliar place? I’ll tell you:

  1. First, it creates a void: a void is something we are all terrified of, and yet it is the space into which the better, the best, the life we REALLY WANT to be living can grow. The void – space to think, feel, to be present in – it’s one of the greatest hidden secrets of our time: the best of us are lured into this mythology of time poverty, and of being full to the brim, overstimulated, and ready for terror, in every moment of every day. We seek all kinds of therapy and antidote to this, from holidays in countries with better weather, to titillation of the senses (hard or soft) and over-indulgence: staying up late or pressing the boundary ever-so-gently, but never stepping outside of it. Ultimately however, we all seek peace and gentleness – we want to be more sensitive and quiet, and we want our day to be full of love and significance: to have this, we need the space, the void. There is no room, otherwise, and to cultivate this space, we have to wean ourselves out of the fear of not being filled up. We have to allow life to open up around and in front of us, rather than clawing to get back in the box we’ve made for ourselves.
  2. It makes us realise what inner resources we have – because we have to actually draw on them; use them. In a comfortable life, we rarely challenge ourselves beyond the fluffy yum-numb of our routine. It feels like fulfilment – but it really isn’t: the human soul needs to experience friction and challenge in order to grow, in the same way a tree needs natural soil and wild weather to get it to its potential.
  3. It makes us see that we can actually reinvent ourselves; change, travel, upheaval – particularly when they are consciously chosen rather than imposed on us – are the most useful of tools to get us to stretch our minds into what we might also be/ achieve/ dream of. Staying at home can be satisfying to a degree, but the longer we don’t stretch our legs or hearts or energy, the more accustomed we become to the atrophied version of our self which we’ve elected to prioritise.
  4. It makes us work hard; on ourselves, on our work, on our life and friendships… There is a profound satisfaction in having to make new connections, networks, structures to hold us; there is the deepest meaning and beauty in our having to build a new household, in having to harmonise a chaotic new reality, in having to learn a language and legal system, cultural and religious norms… And that hard work is more honed than it might be if we are living a stagnant life: it is more specific and necessary. Our compulsion fires up our engine, and gets us more streamlined.
  5. It brings us into a realm of raw creative flow. Most lives are full of complacency, and this sense of ‘this’ being ‘all that there is’ – why bother changing anything, if we already have someone to drink coffee and complain about the weather/ our partner/ our boss with? If someone is telling us where to go each day, and we still get to ‘wild out’ on payday by buying a new pair of shoes, or getting drunk and laughing excessively, why would we want to re-accept the power-that-flows-through-all-things-when-we-are-aligned-with-our-life-purpose?! Hmmmmmmn – I wonder.
  6. Possibly most importantly of all: putting ourselves into a new and challenging situation like moving to another country makes us appreciate the value of things: we see how hard it is to find a thing which before was always a bancomat and a supermarket trip away. We being see how communication is so much more than constructed word formations, and that a smile or being touched on the cheek can be profoundly moving, confirming our place in the world. We learn to enjoy what little we have, essentially, rather than seeking more-more-more without questioning whether a thing is really improving the quality of our life. Perhaps our values can even deepen, in time – especially if we’re immersed in a culture which is more rooted in family, spirituality, friendship and nature…

I wanted to make a statement here; yes, about what the positive side of a challenge like moving abroad can be, but also to remind folks that NONE OF THIS COMES ABOUT EASILY OR INSTANTLY OR BY LUCK – NOR CAN IT BE BOUGHT: it has to be earned, slowly and through hard graft, humility, concerted attention and commitment, love and optimism, and by pushing oneself always to be a better human being. We have to know ourselves, and then too, to know craft and hone this self into the best we can be.

I wanted to remind myself, and to folks who are inspired by what I do: none of this happened here by accident, nor was any of it handed to me on a plate. More importantly is that I came from a place of significant fear, grief, illness and imbalance: I didn’t stride over here in confidence like many people assume, throwing it all together in happy nonchalance… I arrived neurotic and shaking, overwhelmed and reactionary, paranoid and terrified, even: nothing flowed well when I got here, and I hated most things about the country and culture. There was a dark night of the soul where I KNEW that I had fucked up phenomenally: that I’d thrown it all away and had nothing, and that I was a mess-up and useless and had sabotaged my future…

And though things got a tad better when I acquired the house, and began settling my roots into this blessed land and my heart into the community, it didn’t get any easier. There was a good 6 + years of anguish and panic, interspersed with tiny blisses and occasional profound beauty… just enough to keep my spirits above the mire, but not always. I struggled with health and social stresses, with financial fears and the strain of trying to stabilise ideas and feelings in a completely different reality.

I want to express this, even if I am repeating myself over the years, because I know that many people don’t ever change their lives because they think that one should be strong, confident, healthy, in equilibrium, solvent, and sure of what one is doing, to move abroad, or to make a big life change. You don’t, you simply have to do it, e basta.

Happiness, freedom, fulfilment grow like plants in a well-tended garden: they don’t appear overnight; they flourish according to whether or not they are planted, and whether or not it’s in the right season and soil, and the good care and attention given to them. They live to their potential not through one big showy action, but through myriad small ones. They yield fruit according to the accumulation of all these tiny attentions and harmonies – and when they are happy and in the right place and time… the fruit is bountiful – and heavenly delicious… And their seeds go on to produce more and more and more life and growth and fruit.

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Much love and creative power to you, Clare xx

 

ART HOLIDAYS!!

The arthouse now has a series of windows open for folks who love art, and who’d like a one-on-one, individually tailored, painting-with-the-artist holiday: go and see VAWAA’s beautiful site, to hear more about it.

Your holiday will include prior consultation on how we’ll craft your art activity; we’ll hone in on your specific goals and needs.
We design the 4 day session just for you: you can focus on skills development, wild expressive work, creative catharsis, a personal project – or even work completely spontaneously.
I’ll be there throughout, and will also show you around this magical town, in which I’m protagonist of a growing international creative community!

It’ll be a highly inspiring break, guaranteed! A completely unique experience, super-nourishing to your creative spirit!

Please share this blog if you know someone who would love such a holiday!

Keep in touch with all my news, and with the Real School of Art, via PATREON and on THIS WEBSITE

Happy August creative expansion to you!


xx Clare 

THE PAIN BODY WE SHARE

responsibilityDETAILresponsibility (detail), 2002, Cyprus

There’s a lot of emotion being thrown around our collective consciousness this week. More than the previous week, despite the heavy fact that just as much death and terrorism was being created (and on our behalf, by our political representatives) over the previous 7 days.

There is so much wrong with the media and with commonly-held perceptions, that I won’t begin to talk about all that, but I’m writing today about something which lies deeper than this surface discourse, and which might serve in this moment to distract from the chaos.

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responsibility, 2002, Cyprus

Firstly, the collective conscious – what is that? It seems to me that there might even be equal and opposing parts of our collective thinking/ being: those of us who are completely unconscious and those who are (or are beginning to be) self-aware.

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Tear Baby, 2000, Findhorn

And then there’s the pain body (I found this phrase useful, listening to Eckhart Tolle recently): the energetic field within and around us, which is locked into a pattern of uncreation and atrophy – rather than creative vitality and expansion.

Tolle describes eloquently how this pain body becomes our actual identity – our reason for being, our means of identifying with others. We share our collective emotional disturbance, because that’s what’s considered the ‘norm’. This makes us highly susceptible to manipulation, both individually (in relationship, family, work, e.g.) and collectively (through media, economics, politics, etc.): it keeps us all in a state on non-conscious tension and anxiety. We blame our suffering on things outside of us, things we (perceive we) can’t do anything about.

(I’ve found other ways of speaking about this ‘body’, through painting intuitively over many years, channeling that deeper wisdom which comes through creative practise and meditation.)

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Running (from the Domestic Alchemy series), 2007

Having been ill recently. I had some deepening insight into the pain body, and the effects I’ve been having both inside and outside myself. I approach illness like a retreat; I know that whatever physical symptoms I have, originate from first mental/ emotional imbalance. And I know that symptoms experienced are linked to behaviours/ patterns leading up to this point, and that I’m in charge of correcting my course – whether or not I take medicine.

In order to be well and happy, we have to look first inwards, rather than seeking to destroy the symptom – which is our teacher!

Illness – or friction – as teacher is a great metaphor for our current collective state; our political and economic warring, our violent foreign policies, our perverse obsession with focussing on the negative, and our absurd falsity around being the righteous victim on the world stage, willingly gulped down daily by the masses.

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Couple With Boundaries, 2000-4, Cyprus and Edinburgh

We have many choices at our current global crossroads. The knee-jerk one is trying to destroy the symptoms, even though they’ve been caused indirectly and directly by ourselves; inflicting even more death and destruction willy-nilly, starting even more people on paths of righteous vengeance, and so on.

Another is that we all begin to look deeper, be more conscious, more aware. We see behind the curtains of the world stage, and we bring light – awareness – to what is suppressed. In this way, we start to see that what we do individually has a radiating effect on our collective situation, our collective ‘pain body’. Rather than reacting out of anger and fear, rather than condoning further violence under the unconscious (and very dubious) thinking of “well, we have to do something!” or “I just want those bastards dead, those people are evil!” – we start instead to look at where do these ‘symptoms’ originate – really: where do they come from, and what are we doing to change that?

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Laughing At Anger, 2001, Burghead

On a personal level, I’m bringing quiet conscious awareness into the part of me which is out-of-kilter, in pain. It is giving me huge insight into how unconsciously I have occupied my body and my mind in recent years… I’m certainly not the most loutish of citizens, but there have been more than a couple of occasions when I’ve chosen to ‘raise my voice’ with indignant negative emotion, rather than presenting enlightened – peaceful – insight.

As my awareness is more infused with light and love, I radiate out that light and love, rather than my own bigotry or indignancy – even though our individual acts seem so small and inconsequential, now more than ever before, we have power to share widely, whatever we are thinking, feeeling, intending. I have optimism we can collectively rise our vibration at times like this.

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I’ll be writing more about the subject of the pain body and transforming creatively, in the Live Like A Happy Artist book series.

Lots of love, Clare xx

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SKIN SLOUGHING SEASON

This is an exciting time of the year, in terms of transformation!

I just had my birthday, so it’s my new year, and I always use this transition into a whole new cycle as a way of looking afresh at my life and work – sometimes I make big changes!

This particular season is also special for me, because it marks both the end of my fifth year in Guardia Sanframondi – and a new phase of my professional life as an artist. The past few months have been highly successful and satisfying on one level, and yet on another, they’ve felt like I’m dragging a heavy load of responsibility and worry – which shouldn’t really be mine.

So it feels like time to slough an old skin!

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all images by the artist, from the oriental museum of rome

‘Sloughing a skin’, to me, means a big clear out/ tidy-up/ autumn deep clean (body and house), but it’s also a shedding of e.g. inappropriate workloads and others’ projections. A time for delegation and release.

It is powerful to do this at least once annually, and why not during the period when all of nature is dropping fruit, shedding leaves, letting go and resting back into itself, as the nights become longer.

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One potent way that I’m marking my own ‘letting go of inappropriate responsibilities’, is by transferring all the useful wisdom I have about Guardia Sanframondi into book form. This coincides with a much tougher line on interruptions: i.e. not allowing interruptions at all, thus making a renewed commitment to my art practise.

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It took me these past 5 years to restore my house, learn the language and set up a business abroad: it is a dream made true, and I am doing everything I want to, so it was bothering me that I wasn’t waking up ecstatic every morning.

In fact, I was feeling consistently agitated and too full – my head crammed with all sorts of trivialities, emails ting-ing away, and infinite requests for answers streaming in and out of my social media accounts: most of it around the town, and practicalities, orientation… The doorbell was being buzzed far too often, and folks getting into my head space, my workspace, my emotional space, with things that had nothing to do with me. In the end, it felt like I was re-living my own struggle to get established here, whilst simultaneously acting as counsellor and councillor!

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It is a great thing for us humans to be able to have symptoms – to feel negative emotions – because these draw our attention to what needs attending to. Without symptoms, we’d just keep crashing on towards self-destruction.

So having figured out what was holding me back, and why people were asking for my time, I can now figure out how to proceed, whilst hopefully not abandoning or offending anyone!

I’m excited to be honing my practise; focussing much more on the creative acts at the centre of my work. My relationship with creativity is like a strong tree trunk in my life – and my being inspired is the nutriment which is required to keep the structure solid and vibrant; my own pleasure and enjoyment of the place I live in, my travels, my painting and writing.

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If we’re stretched out into others’ needs and wants, then our trunk begins to become brittle, our limbs limp – and less and less essential nutrients gets to where they need to go.

I’ll be announcing some new Patreon rewards this week and next: particularly interesting for those of you passionate about Guardia Sanframondi!

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Tante belle cose, Clare

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ONE WORD WHICH SUMS UP 2014

Sei italiano? Vedi sotto, è in italiano!

Mine is peace. What about you? What was your theme for 2014 – a positive word which sums up the best that came out of the year?

The past week we had two days of severe weather, with snow and ice in great quantities (everything being relative!): the town came to a standstill, and we all looked out on this landscape transformed anew into a clean and magestic place. No choice but to sit in peace, and enjoy it!

_DSC0855It has been an extraordinary year on all levels, personally, culturally, globally, but the thing which stands out for me, is this all-consuming peace which has entered my life and work recently – and which I see descending on the minds of people across the world, but that is a subject for another day.

Peace is a quality I searched long and hard for, in different countries and cultures, multifarious work/ living conditions, in communities and in solitude, but which I hadn’t really experienced much of, until this year. I got in a pattern of getting up and moving on, to avoid having to look at any one thing too long.

_DSC0996There’s something wonderful about the freedom of living nomadically, but only up to a point. That point was when I decided to set up a centre for creative transformation, and bought my house in Italy, early in 2011. From then, it was all about being still, putting down roots, resting on my laurels – though I underestimated entirely the scale of setting up a business and life in a foreign country!

_DSC0880Despite the past years being hard slog, I learned something profound recently, about what happens when one stays in one place more than a couple of years. We become part of that place, whether or not we are even trying. We become woven into the fabric of the community; all our tiny interactions and conversations, deeds and events, slowly enter like threads into the multicoloured textile of the place.

_DSC0830There was a meeting at the castle this week, when I was gifted the ‘keys to the city’ (freedom of the town!), alongside other Guardia citizens who were being recognised for their work in the world. I was overwhelmed by the good words from the mayor and the cultural assessor, about the positive effects these past 5 yrs, of my presence in the town. I got emotional, when I thanked the people of Guardia in return, for what they have done to help lift me up to where I am now.

_DSC0919And I was ruminating the past couple of days, about what it is to stay still a while, and how it naturally brings peace. I was searching so hard for my right environment, when all the time, my very act of upping and leaving every year or so, was disrupting that very state I was searching for. How ironic, as often life is!

 _DSC0889  In Guardia, despite the fact I’m more Scottish-focussed than ever (and was never really an Italophile!), a quiet peace descended without my noticing, until it completely enveloped me, and I was an integral part of where I am: the people, the landscape, the food, the wine, the language, the atmosphere and energy…

_DSC0892The mayor and cultural assessor made such beautiful speeches, and then the many sweet folks from the town came and shook my hand, and gave me generous words of support – this brought me an amazing feeling of warmth, of home, of safety and security, of being looked after and respected. It also made me realise, I am doing what I’m meant to be doing in the world – helping people see the beauty and value of where they already are.

_DSC0823So this new year, I am appreciating all this peace in my life, which is so wonderfully nourishing and healing, inspiring and encouraging, stabilising and empowering. And I am working on how I can better radiate this peace out into the world more.

Tell me your word which best represents what 2014 meant to you (and why?) in the comments below – I’d love to hear what you’re ruminating on, at this big gateway into the new year!

Thank you so much for reading! You can follow this blog, and share it with your friends, if you like it!

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_DSC0911 UNA PAROLA PER 2014

Il mio èpace’. E tu?
Quale era la tua tema per il 2014?
C’è una parola positiva per te, che riassume le cose migliori che hanno arrivati quest‘anno?

La scorsa settimana ci sono stati due giorni di maltempo, con neve e ghiaccio in grandi quantità (si, tutto e relativo, ma per qui, era tanto!): il paesi si è fermato. Guardavamo il paesaggio trasformato nuovamente in un luogo pulito e maestoso. Niente altro da fare, che sedersi in pace, e goderne!

_DSC0983E ‘stato un anno straordinario a tutti i livell: personalmente, culturalmente, a livello globale, ma la più grande differenzà per me, è questa pace che pervade tutto, che è entrata di recente nella mia vita e nel mio lavoro è che io vedo entrare nelle menti nelle persone in tutto il mondo, ma questo è un argomento per un altro giorno.

La pace è una qualità che l’ho cercato per, lungo e duramente; in paesi e culture diverse, in molteplici condizioni di lavoro / vita, e nelle comunità e nella solitudine. Ma non avevo realmente trovato, finché adesso. Ho seguito un ritmo di alzarsi e allontanamento, per evitare di dover guardare una qualsiasi cosa troppo lunga.

_DSC0940C’è qualcosa di meraviglioso della libertà di vivere nomadicamente, ma solo fino a un certo punto. Questo punto è stato quando ho deciso per creare un centro di trasformazione creative, e ho comprato la mia casa in Italia, all’inizio del 2011. Da questo punto, ho voluto essere firmata, mettere radici, riposare anche se ho sottovalutato completamente la scala di creare un’impresa e una vita all’estero!

_DSC0866Nonostante i ultimi anni sono stati così duri e faticosi, ho imparato recentemente qualcosa di profondo, su che cosa succede quando rimaniamo in un luogo per più d’un anno. Diventiamo una parte di quello posts, anche se non stiamo nemmeno cercando di fare. Diventiamo intrecciata nel tessuto della comunità; tutti i nostri piccoli interazioni e conversazioni, atti ed eventi, lentamente entrano come fili nel tessuto multicolorato del paese.

_DSC0903C’è stato un incontro al castello questa settimana, quando ero dotato le ‘chiavi della città(la libertà del paese), a fianco di altri cittadini Guardiesi che erano riconosciuti per il loro lavoro nel mondo. Sono stato sopraffatto dalle buone parole dal parte del sindaco e dall’assessore culturale, sugli effetti positivi di questi ultimi 5 anni, della mia presenza in città. Sono diventato emozionale, quando in cambio l’ho ringraziato il popolo di Guardia, per tutto quello che hanno fatto per aiutarmi alzare, fino a dove ho arrivato quest’anno.

_DSC0917Sono stato ruminando negli ultimi due giorni, su cosa significa rimanere in un solo posto per un periodo lungo: come questo atto si porta naturalmente la pace. Stavo cercando tanti anni così duramente per il mio ambiente giusto, quando tutti questi anni, il mio atto di traslocare, ha disturbato quel stato stavo cercando. Che ironia, come le nostre vite sono spesso!

In Guardia, nonostante il fatto che sono più orientate alla Scozia che mai (pure perche non era mai veramente Italophile), un pace tranquillo ha disceso – senza che me ne accorga, finché mi avvolse completamente. Ed ecco: io sono una parte integrate di dove mi trovo: legato con le gente, il paesaggio, il cibo, il linguaggio, l’atmosfera e l’energia

 _DSC0863  Il sindaco e assessore culturale reso così belle discorsi, e quindi molte persone simpatiche dalla città vennero e strinsero il mio mano, e mi ha dato generose parole. Tutto questo mi ha portato una sensazione straordinaria; di calore, di sentirsi a casa, di sicurezza e protezione, di essere curato e rispettato. Inoltre mi ha fatto capire, sto facendo quello che devo fare nel mondo aiutare le persone a vedere la bellezza ed il valore di ciò che li circonda.

_DSC0823Quindi questo anno nuovo, sto apprezzando tutte questa pace nella mia vita, cio è così meravigliosamente nutriente e guarigiante, ispirando e incoraggiando, stabilizzando e rafforzando. E sto lavorando per irradiare questa pace più nel mondo!
Dimmi la tua parola che rappresenta il meglio quello che 2014 ha significato per voi (e perché) nei commenti qui sotto mi piacerebbe sentire cosa stai pensando!
Grazie mille per aver letto! Puoi seguire questo blog, e condividerlo con i tuoi amici, se ti piace!
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LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

ARRANGED MARRIAGE

Unlike every other person who comes to Italy, I was absolutely not an Italophile when I arrived, having never had, up until meeting un Italiano online, any interest in the country: neither the language nor the food, the fashion nor the folks. It all seemed like a clichè in fact, and not my kind of clichè either.

17166_223120506985_6708118_n‘at least it’s warmer than scotland’, sperlonga beach, december 2009

I remember all my first impressions: overload of the senses (I do suffer with HSP or sensory overload, mind you – hehe!); having come from very rural Scotland at midwinter, the designer-everything of Caserta was kind of a shock to my system. Rural Scottish people don’t always do glamour so well and, though in Scotland I was considered ‘scrubs up well’, my new partner was highly, visibly, verbally unimpressed. Now, where I came from, it was either extremely rude or extremely mean to openly comment on another person’s appearance in an overtly negative way – unless we are all drunk, and all laughing about it together. Continue reading