(in Niels’ life)
1) Fry unions and mushrooms in a pot with olive oil. Don’t overdo it, just give them a tiny bit of color.
2) Add chickpeas and pepper (red) and let steam for a few minutes.
3) Add crushed tomatoes. Let cook for a few minutes.
4) Add a cube of vegetable stock and cream (quite a bit).
5) Maybe add some chili powder and pepper if you want.
6) Pour boiling water over cous cous and add some olive oil to it.
7) Serve it to someone and see that person immediately fall in love with you.
Measurements I leave up to you. I’m not gonna reveal everything in one go.
Some lessons I learnt after living for two months without a home and spending all my time on trains, planes, and friends’ houses (thanks!). A note for the random visitor: these are just scattered notes I write for myself, not a coherent post.
People seem to waste too much of their time communicating with digital devices. This is an old refrain, I know, but it is scary how people use their phones nowadays – and for what? I have been on trains where all the persons of a family of four never spoke to each other for the whole ride, because they were all incessantly looking at their devices. Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, emails, sms, Twitter, emails, Telegram: even me, I am inundated by applications to chat. I often think of a line of a certain Passenger’s song, we pretend to be friends on the internet when in real life we have nothing to say. As a reaction I have grown increasingly more inept at communicating with my phone. Forget long messages. Rather, I have elected four simple ways of communicating with you: (1) this blog; (2) a short sarcastic message, picture, or video to laugh about; (2) a handwritten letter, for those of you who really matter; (4) a flight/train ticket to come and see each other in person.
Smartphone apps, more generally
There was a moment of my trip when I was craving for a map of Berlin. Until that point I had been getting around anywhere just fine using googlemaps. Sure, the app was working well; but I realised it was my fourth time in Berlin and I still had no idea of how the city was structured and I could not even remember the name of the neighbourhood where I was staying. The way I use googlemaps is just to get to A to B and, as a consequence, I never memorise the information. I made a resolution for myself to start using old paper maps again – like these. It is not for a case that when I was still in Trento I had the ambitious project of creating one. (I failed, but not for lack of trying).
Being a guest
I received precious hospitality by Giallu, Martina, Pietro, Giulia, Jonas. I learnt to wake up in the sun, listen to classical music, treat wooden objects with respect, prepare a smoothie, separate clothes in the laundry machine. But – hei – I am just not made for being a long-term guest. I feel like I am invading someone else’s space. So this experience confirms that I am a bourgeois deep down in my bones. The word bourgeois, as you know, denotes a person that takes for granted the sanctity of property. This brings me to point 4 of my diary.
Niels, who is going to live with me in Torino in a couple of days, says that he wants to have his belongs packed in one simple bag. A-ha: nonsense. Living in Florence for three years I have accumulated an incredible amount of stuff: books, clothes, games, bikes, paintings, a scooter, laptops, tables, all sorts of technology. This stuff -material stuff, really- reflects my personality; in some ways, it is even an extension of it. This is why I feel so strange knowing that it is now scattered around six different houses (err – and I take the opportunity to thank again my friends for their patience).
Material stuff reflects my personality, sure. There is another reason, though, why it is so important to me: it also captures a particularly happy period of my life. So now when I take up Bruti I remember the late evenings playing it with Dani; when I take that one glass of whiskey I remember the night when I was with Thomas and he knew he got into law school; when I look at the little school bus I remember of my improvised journey all the way to Denmark with Iris; and so on: you got the gist. Now – of course you realise I have been bloody sentimental about leaving my home in Florence, but I think that is for a reason. At the moment I doubt I will ever find a place so welcoming, so radiant, so relaxed as that. But then, who knows? When I got there in 2013 I had just experienced Brussels with Mindo, a truly marvellous flatmate and friend. So I was convinced I could not find anything better than that. In fact, half an hour after my arrival in the house Ada and I were fighting -literally fighting- over the consequences of Spanish colonisation in South America, leaving short of words both Jonas, who had rented the cheapest room but was forcefully assigned the most expensive one upon his arrival ‘because you are the last one who arrived and since we have already put our luggages in the other room it be a bit of a hassle to move them now, no?‘; and Dani, who had been accepted in the house at the last minute just because the girl who had been favoured over him turned out to be pregnant. It ended up going swimmingly: they are my closest friends now. So let us be surprised again.
Take up cooking again. Talk to strangers, make new friends. Keep reading books; and maybe read some poems too. Distill and trade. Spend time with Camilla and Isabella. Volunteer, much. Start and finish a Gran Fondo. Teach one more university seminar. Write three chapters for my Ph.D. dissertation. Become part of something – NGOs? cycling clubs? freemasonry? Hike with Manuel, Mindo, and Giallu. Learn something new – something practical, possibly. Try to read and practice the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. Drink whiskey with Martin and Niels. Travel outside Europe. Meet the Canadians: Iris, Joe, Jasper. Write Thomas. Avoid weddings – except Nele’s. Be present. Make a plan for life. Visit Aosta.
One important discovery I made this year is that moments come back, sometimes in a more mature and tangible way than how you remembered them. Your read about my bromance with Thomas already; now in Montreal I had the luck to share the apartment with Marco and Leila, who made my life a little bit funnier between 2009 and 2012. We have been in touch ever since, on and off, and we also met each other quite a few times; but of course it was never as good as spending one whole week together in the same house. Much time has passed since we first met and of course now we have changed, our lives have changed. And yet, living together just for a little while was so good, and so important to me.
I might not be very good at it, but one thing I know now is that the capacity to cultivate friendships over time is one of the best qualities a man should have.
There are times when I start off very motivated with an ambitious resolution. And then I forget about it. Then there are other times when I start taking my resolutions a little bit too seriously. I experienced the former situation when I forgot to run a race, which was one of my resolutions for the year 2014. Instead, I am afraid I am going through the latter situation now.
So in the last few months I got a little bit fanatic about running races. I started in December with the Firenze – Fiesole – Firenze (17k), then in April I ran the Firenze Half Marathon (21k) and the Maratonina del Partigiano in Sesto Fiorentino (13k); finally, I signed up and completed the DeeJayTen (10k, as the name intuitively suggests) which was held in May – yesterday, in fact.
The thing with these races is that there is a local NGO whose photographers attend every single event and take plenty of pictures of all the participants, even the least professional ones like me. With a contribution of 20 euro everybody can sign up and download them. Which I did, so that now I can keep track of the evolving savage expressions in my eyes in the pursuit of my resolutions.
Disclaimer: the second last is a picture of me taking a sip of Gingerello just after crossing the finish line of my last race. Woah, what a refreshing experience that was. If you want to know more about Gingerello, stay tuned and keep reading this blog.
So there is one thing in particular from my 2014 resolutions I really wanted to do and have not managed yet: the half marathon. Only problem: there is no chance of finding a half marathon anywhere near here at this point of the year. So I have decided I will go for the only run possible, which turned out to be a bit harder than a half-marathon.
The Firenze – Fiesole – Firenze run is 16.5K, with a 370 elevation gain that makes it is a real tough uphill race. It is on the 14th of December, five days from today. Not much time for proper preparation. BUT! this shall be done! I found five brave volunteers who will run with me: Ludvig, Pauline, Niels, Martin, Giallu. Everything considered, my (our?) target is to finish it. To nail it in less than one hour forty-five would be nice.