The Archives: Life

Life

Holiday tradition, looking back and forward

The Christmas lights have been going up all around Rome. I first spotted a lone tinsel-draped tree standing defiantly in a shop window in mid-November and thought, huh, that’s oddly early this year, and then the decorations started gaining momentum and spreading steadily through the city until one day it was undeniable. The holidays had arrived. So here we are: December. On the first day of the month, embracing one of the few holiday traditions that I actually look forward to, I headed to one of my favourite bakeries and bought a loaf of panettone – a sweet, cake-like bread that appears...

Life

Horror story without an ending

I found it just after lunch, a seemingly insignificant brownish shape on the floor behind the table, right next to the baseboard. It was a leaf, I assumed, blown in from outside. Possibly a scrap of dark paper. I swooped down to pick up and dispose of it, then stopped. Something was wrong. This was not a leaf. This was rather three-dimensional, more defined, more… leggy. This was a scorpion. There was a scorpion in my apartment. There was a short pause, maybe two seconds, although it felt much longer, during which my brain processed this discovery: First, a fleeting feeling of...

Food  |  Life

Lamenting and then savouring summer: A recipe

Yesterday afternoon, I did something that I haven’t done for months: I pulled a cake out of the oven and set it on top of the stove to cool. It was a simple cake, a fairly basic batter studded with halved plums and showered in brown sugar, but it felt oddly symbolic: plums are an end-of-summer fruit that make their appearance just before the season changes, and the cake itself – the first thing I’d baked in ages – was a celebration of the temperature finally starting to feel cool enough that turning on the oven wouldn’t make the kitchen...

Life  |  Travel

The wrong side of the road

I was introduced to my adversary, a tiny white hatchback car, in a nondescript parking lot in front of a bland-looking low-rise office building. It would have been the most unremarkable, non-threatening encounter ever, had the parking lot not been in Ireland and the office building not an outpost of a car rental company. But, as it happened, I was about to rent the car for four days, which meant that I was also about to drive on the opposite side of the road for the first time. The car, with an overall style that edged more towards adorable than...

Food  |  Life

Despair and frustration at the supermarket: A rant

I had intended to write about something reasonably interesting to break my months-long silence here, but as I’ve just come back from the supermarket, and, as usual, am feeling irritable after the experience, I’ve decided to write about that instead. Grocery shopping is decidedly un-glamerous, but as it’s also unavoidable – and unavoidably frustrating, especially recently – I will write about it. I’m fortunate enough to have a supermarket just around the corner from my house, although calling it a “supermarket” actually feels like a fairly significant stretch of the word, since the whole thing occupies about the same amount of floor space as my apartment...

Life

Winter… inside the house

Let’s be honest: Rome is not exactly a wintery city. It’s known for long stretches of sunny days and its fierce summer heat, and maybe also for its equally fierce rainstorms, but it is not known for excessively cold weather or snow or anything else that would make its winter months remarkable in any way. Except, despite this, between December and March I am constantly, uncomfortably cold. I can deal with it being cold outside. This seems natural, and it’s easy enough to block out most of the cold with appropriate clothing. It’s the part where I’m also cold indoors, everywhere, that starts to get to me after a...

Life

Photo Friday: After the rain

It’s been a rainy, grey week in Rome. Not exceptionally cold, but sufficiently damp and unpleasant to keep me mostly cooped up indoors, with an umbrella close at hand every time I step outside. A day or two of rain can qualify as cozy and justify some time spent lounging around with blankets and mugs of tea; any more than that starts to feel excessive. A string of rainy days has its upside though: When the rain lets up and the sky clears, the whole city emerges feeling refreshed – even the colours seem brighter....

Life

Photo Friday: Layers

One of the things I love most about Rome (and there are many things that I love about Rome) are the layers of sun-faded colour, chipped stucco and haphazard stonework that make up the city’s buildings. It’s almost impossible to find a perfect, unblemished facade within the historical centre – even the most recently restored palazzo is soon under attack from the weather, careless vehicles rounding too-tight corners and vines creeping their way over everything. The layers are like a building’s personal history; hundreds of years expressed on a stone canvas....

Food  |  Life

Sugar and light

A few weeks ago the Christmas lights went up around the neighbourhood. This was a complicated, dangerous-looking process that involved workmen in fluorescent coveralls zig-zagging across the streets, strings of lights draped over their shoulders and trailing along behind them and ladders haphazardly propped up against buildings. One guy, cigarette clamped firmly between his teeth while teetering precariously at the top of a ladder, attempted to hook the lights onto various protrusions (lamp post; a wooden shutter; someone’s washing line) while another guy halfheartedly steadied the ladder from below, periodically taking his hands off of it to yell directions while...

Life

It was not destined to be a very good morning

If you were to ask me if I tended to be more of a morning person or a night owl, I would tell you that I am undeniably a morning person. Late nights out are, in general, not my thing, even though I live in a city where dinner goes late, after-dinner drinks go even later, and the streets in many areas feel more lively after midnight than they do at ten in the morning. I'm convinced that the morning is actually the best part of the day and – aside from simply evading the barrage of guilty feelings that...

Life

A bit of quiet

After a long silence here, it feels like it might be time to give this blog another go. It seems fitting that this is where I'm picking up where I left off – this being summer, once again, nearly a year since I last wrote here about the experience of summer in Rome. And after a year of not writing anything, there are plenty of words to share. I've come to the conclusion that Sundays in Rome during the summer are strange. Not overtly, obviously strange, but subtly strange, sort of like the feeling that something is just a bit off. A bit empty. I...

Life

Inferno

When I arrived in Rome – almost a year ago, back in September – everyone told me the exact same thing: That I had arrived after the worst of the summer heat had subsided, and that I should be thankful for this fact. I found this simultaneously relieving and alarming; it was nice to know that I wouldn't be trying to get settled into my new life in the midst of a heatwave, but – given that September itself was still fairly hot – it was also disconcerting to consider just how much warmer the city was capable of getting....

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