mercoledì 25 novembre 2009

Another farewell

That is not much of a tribute, I know. But I felt like doing it, anyway.

It seems that November is time for me to lose my dearest.
After crashing my car, that, after all, is quite a little trouble, today I had to face a more important, more painful and more definitive loss.

I used to have four cats.

The first one - named Sheila years ago, now known by everyone as "The Nasty Old One" - is an old, fat, mischievous, slightly paranoic Siamese.

An extremely sweet (and adorably goofy) white-and-grey boy with a pink nose, named Toby, is the loveliest cat you can imagine.

His brother Tigre (the obvious Italian for "Tiger"), a pearl grey tabby cat, is the funniest, fattest and cutest little sluggard in the world.

The last one, Mimi (nickname for Mississippi) was our lap cat.
She was five years old: completely black, with round golden eyes, a funny plump face; and she was as sweet as you can imagine a cat to be.
She spent her life purring on our knees when we were sitting; and, everytime we went to sleep, she jumped on my bed, or my brothers'.
When nobody was sitting or laying on a bed, or doing anything that allowed her to be held in our arms, she used to rub against our legs or to jovially chat with us, bottom-up, with her husky, low, funny "Barry White" voice.
She was not a clever cat, as the Siamese one is - or nearly as elegant as the Old One; nor funny as Tigre, our little clown.
She had never been as good as Toby in catching mice or lizards.
But she was the one always purring on your knees when you were studying; the black shadow following you everywhere in the house; the pair of round, golden eyes that blinked to you under the table, the head pressed against our hand to say she wanted to be cuddled. The furry black ball always glad to be petted (actually, I think no cat have been cuddled as much as Mimi had been. Even my father, who's not fond of cats at all, liked her - our little, dumpy, awkward, super sweet black cat).
She was the little girl who was afraid of the vacuum cleaner; the one who hid under your bed in the night and, when you were comfortably wrapped into your sheets and nearly falling asleep, jumped so silently and softly on your bed, that you lacked the courage to chase her away.

Mimi died today, in my arms.
A few days ago she began to rapidly - and painlessly - lose weigh; on Monday we learned she suffered from FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus). The vet told us she was going to leave us in a month - at best.
This evening, just three days later - three days! -, when I got home from work, Mimi looked, for the first time, sick; she looked at me with watery, suffering eyes, and began to cry out of fear.
I understood that the veterinary had been optimist.
I wrapped Mimi into an old sweatshirt, held her and tried to comfort her, for over two hours; she was barely able to move, breathed with great difficulty and was clearly scared, but as long as I was by her side, she was quite calm, and didn't whine at all; at some point she closed her eyes and even managed to purr - just to reassure me, I believe... because I can't think about any other reason why the poor thing should have purred in such a painful situation.
My little, brave cat.
At some point, I - stupidly, stupidly - tried to sedate her, to spare her more pain: but to my dismay that made her feel even worse; and I think I'll never forgive myself for doing it - for causing her further pain, when I could have just let her in peace.
In a couple of hours, anyway, she slipped in a sort of haze, and I think she didn't understand what happened next. At least, I wish so. She died after a brief, unconscious struggle.

I spent the next two hours crying like a baby.
I hope to God Toby, Tigre and The Old One had not contracted FeLV, too: I really couldn't stand another day like this. I never thought I could ever be that fond of an animal, and suffer as much as I do because of it.

* * *

EDIT [November 26]: We buried Mimi this morning - a windy, cold, clear morning - in the backyard, and planted colorful tulips on her pit. They should flower in the early spring.
Tigre, as curious as only a cat can be, came to see what we were doing; but soon, amused by the leaf fall caused by the windy weather, he began to run up and down the garden, jumping into the leaf piles like a kid, to make leaves fly.
That made us all chuckle.

I don't have many photos of her.
Those are the only ones in which she looked pretty good.

1. A six-months-old Mimi, half-sleeping into my mum's Chanel purse - classy cat!
2. Little Mimi exploring the house
3. Mimi looking down her chair - what did you see, kitty?
4. Mimi sleeping on my bed

"Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
and save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers
Slipping through my fingers all the time"

venerdì 20 novembre 2009

Library finds

As I promised, I'm trying to make the most of my car wreck, and I'm enjoying the newly found library section devoted to the history of fashion.
From a book called "Vestiti: lo stile degli italiani in un secolo di fotografie" ("Dresses: Italian style, a century of pictures"), here's a few of my favourites.

Look at this girl from 1935, looking amazingly modern in her plain, smooth, low-necked blouse and black pearl necklace, with an elegant silver fox fur around her shoulders and a malicious smile on her face.
Only her super thin, penciled eyebrows, a hint of finger waves, and her cloche hat point out her belonging to the 30s: had the picture been not dated, I could have thought it was taken yesterday.

Looking at those two elegant women, you could bet they were posing for the photographer - just waiting, in their best side, for the picture to be taken.
But, actually, this picture was taken at some horse racing in 1935-1936, and those ladies are actually following their front-runner with a tiny pair of field-glasses.
But look at the bucket purse the lady on the right is holding - or the belt the other one has wrapped around her waist, in contrast with the white, double-breasted jacket: didn't they look like they were modelling for some fashion designer?

How can I not love the casual, yet stylish jacket and matching culottes this girl wears in winter 1937?
The sobriety of her dress, anyway, is sweetened by the nice hat on her head, with its ducky ribbon bow.
According to the caption, she is a model showing a new kind of fabric; at the time, in Italy, there were more than 800 fashion houses.

This amazingly beautiful girl in the picture, dated 1945, is not the starlet of a forgotten Hollywood movie, but Marella Caracciolo Agnelli, the wife of Gianni Agnelli - The Lawyer, as they used to call him - the most well-known, much speculated-about Italian industrialist, the principal shareholder of Fiat (Agnelli was also known worldwide for his impeccable, slightly eccentric fashion sense).
She is still now one of the most influent patron of the arts in Italy - but she is also the daughter of a Duke... as her husband was the son of a princess.

It Italy, we say "Donne al volante, pericolo costante", that we can translate as "Woman driving, peril thriving"; or "Donne e motori, gioie e dolori", that is to say, " Women and engines, joys and pains".
Women and machinery do not mix?
It does not look like so, if we take a glance at this 1948 picture, where two gals smiles at each other through a 1100 Sport Fiat.

I think that, apart from the pleased expression the woman at the wheel is showing, the elegant lines of the car, and the stylish clothes of the ladies... match perfectly!

giovedì 12 novembre 2009

Crash!, and an eulogy for an old friend

Rain, sharp turn, tree.

A car accident can be that easy!

That's what happened to me a few days ago... and that's why I don't have a car anymore.
Actually, I was quite fond of my eleven-year-old, rusty, wheezy Polo, that scared cyclists with its farm tractor-like clatter...
My clapped out Polo, whose dents and scratches I used to fix with blue nail varnish and a little brush.
My old banger, whose back seat covering was frayed, because my brother used to chew its edges when he was a baby.
My noisy jalopy, whose trunk smelled as rotten grease, and I never understood why.
My old rusty friend, whose engine compartment was - I swear, I swear! - the nest of a little field mouse, that used to pile up hazelnuts under the battery case (what a lot of laughter me and my parents had, when we found out what the strange ticking noise into the engine was: nuts knocking one into the other!).

But this Monday morning was raining, at the time I was going to work; the street I usually travel on is narrow and quite uneven - but it's shorter than the others.
I drove on it a thousand times, at least.
But this Monday, I sheered too abruptly to avoid a pick-up coming towards me, my car went into a skid on the wet asphalt, and the next thing I remember was the bang and the sickening smell of the air bag exploding.
I did it all by myself, actually.

My first thought was, I swear, "Where are my glasses? Oh, no, I've just bought them, they're new!", and the second was "How can I be that stupid? I can't believe it!"

For me, just a few bruises and tons of irritation towards my foolishness and the inanity of the whole thing. For my car, a journey to the junkyard.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though. I will finally have a new car - well, at least, a newer car.
I rediscovered the pleasure of taking a bus and sleep all the way to my office.
And, because of the bus' timetable, that does not coincide with my work schedule, I have a free hour to spend at the library - where I found out there's a section all devoted to the history of fashion.
Today I spent my free hour enjoying an amazing picture book on Italian fashion of the 50s and 60s.
I think my next posts will be devoted to my next finds in the public library...

PS: just a silly thing. Being involved in a car accident in an elegant, well-combed, feminine outfit can be pretty useful.
At least ten people stopped to ask me if they could help me in any way. A man called a tow truck for me. Another lent me his umbrella. Five guys tried to help me move my car from the street to a courtyard.
I'm not sure that would have happened if I had tousled hair and no makeup on! :)

domenica 1 novembre 2009

Halloween by proxy

Not being able to do the 1930s murder mystery party I would
have liked to stage with my friends, because of a flu - not the swine one, just an uninteresting, regular flu - I decided to dress up my eleven-year-old brother, so at least one member of the family (my older brother, Enrico, who is fourteen, had flu like me) would have had some fun.
After some argy-bargy - I leaned towards the Mad Hatter, he was more inclined towards Freddy Krueger - we finally agreed upon the nineteenth-century barber Sweeney Todd, lately performed by a pale, and more-than-ever disquieting, Johnny Depp.
We made it in less than three hours, using only a few safety pins, some glue and quite a lot of food coloring.
Here's the result.

Gossamer shirt (mine): Stefanel
Vest: mum
Greatcoat: an old coat of mine
Belt: mum
Half-finger gloves: mine
Bloody handkerchief: made with an old piece of fabric and some red food colouring. In doing this, I succeeded in staining with permament red spots my hands, my arms, my chin, my nose and even, don't know how, my teeth.
Shavers: made by me and my bro using some nail files covered in aluminium foil
Leather tie: dad (don't ask me *why* my dad should own a leather tie, because I really don't know; and I probably wouldn't want to)
White "Sweeney" wisp: made cutting some locks from a white Marie Antoinette-like wig and sticking them onto a hairgrip. Actually, I sticked it onto my fingers, firstly, and only after a good team work I succeeded in pasting it on the hairpin - but that's irrelevant into the economy of this post.


White greasepaint: theatre wear shop
Eye shadows: Maybelline? (not sure of that, the case has lost its label)
White concealer (for lips and eyebrows): GOTbeauty

My brother received loads of compliments from his friends ("How can you be that cool?!" being the most common comment)
The hardest part (and I mean, really hard) was cleaning the makeup out, when he came home after his "trick or treat" walk!