Monday, August 31, 2009

Distant memories

It's been so long since I came here, I almost forgot why I started this off in the first place. It seems like another world, a simpler time, when my biggest worry was where my next big meal would be and how much grappa I could sample afterwards.

Not that I really have anything more important to trouble my mind nowadays. It's just that everything seems that bit more difficult. Two children, bills to pay and that thing all men must try to duck and avoid - responsibility.

I'm not going to pretend it has been plain sailing. I have had some bad times in these first years of parenthood. I don't cope well with a lack of sleep, I miss being able to pretty much suit myself what I watch on television, listen to in the car or do at weekends. Sometimes I forget the payback for these little sacrifices and my life looks bleak.

But I wanted to come back to this blog when I was in a better place than I have been of late and that mood has landed on me tonight. It is pouring with rain outside - as it has for most of this Scottish summer - but I don't care much. Something inside my brain has clicked onto a positive setting for the time being and I am going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts. I know there will be other fights with the darkness to come.

Above all, I want to get back to my writing. There are ideas rattling around inside me bursting to get out. Who knows, some of them may even be worthwhile. The clock is counting down to 40 and a certain urgency seems to be pressing me onwards. Since ever I can remember this has been what has driven me forward - a love of words, of storytelling and trying to put a structure on the chaos of existence.

So let's get on with it once again.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tasting notes #1

Cooked myself a nice sirloin steak the other night with a red wine and mushroom sauce. Definitely a success - accompanied with just a little steamed broccoli. All in all, very pleasant.

It was joined by a £5.99 bottle of Barbera from Marks and Spencer which did not disappoint either. I like a Barbera anyway and this was a decent example. Nice and warm and reassuring - my only complaint, if any, was that it was almost too smooth and easy to drink. Now that really is getting picky...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brothers in a bottle

You know, there is something in the chemistry of a good night out that I would love to bottle and preserve. You can put all the same ingredients together 20 times and they won't work out. Then one night they all fall into place. This Thursday was a good example.

Yes, when my old co-conspirator of the Grappa Diaries, Martino is in town there is always a high percentage chance of a fine night. In presidential parlance, his approval rating is about 100%. It has never dipped below that, as far as I can recall. Pull up a chair, pour him a grappa and sit back and relax.

However, his presence alone is not enough to explain the magic which took place. There I sat with a local shopkeeper, a fish and chip man, a farmer, a furniture restorer and a water worker and had a fantastic time. The meal was good, naturally. A starter of pasta with Italian sausage followed by pork escalopes in a cream and mushroom sauce. Also, my surrogate father (for when my own is out of the country) kept topping up my glass with a lovely Vermentino. All that before the grappas even arrived!

You know how a conversation just sometimes flows? That was how it was. It was daft, irrelevant, crude, nonsensical and fantastic. That's the part you just never know about.

It inspired me to come back to this blog - I have never really been away. This is my security blanket, I think. I need a little snuggle every now and again and couldn't live without it. Viva la Grappa, ragazzi!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mine's a large one!

I feel a bit guilty now. First time I've blogged in ages and I'm blogging over children's birthday greetings to their nonna. So to make up for it a belated happy birthday from me too Mrs R!

Anyhoo this is what has brought me out of blogging retirement as I thought it deserved a bit more publicity than it is currently getting through sitting on my phone. On a recent visit to Milan I stopped at the Panzera close to central station and as is customary ordered a grappa at the end of the meal. This is what arrived.......

Now that is only a half bottle of wine next to it but is that not just about the largest grappa measure you have ever seen?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Nonna!

Happy birthday from Dumfries!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Where did it all begin?

Where did it all begin? Well, let me tell you.

It started off up in the Tuscan hills, the Garfagnana to be specific. It was there that my great-grandfather Rizzieri discovered that there was not enough money to live on and set off for Glasgow. That was after the First World War and the story would be more simple if he had stayed in Scotland but he didn't.

He went back home after a few years and spent the rest of his days in Italy. One of his children, Maria, died at the age of 18 from one of those diseases that would probably be easily cured nowadays. Her four sisters survived to much riper ages, one of them is still alive. The only boy, Romeo, my grandfather, was born in Scotland during his father's time in the country. He returned to Italy to spend his childhood in those wild cowboy lands of the 1920s and 1930s.

However, by 1936 - at the age of 16 - he too realised there was no money and little future in that family home nestled in the hills. He set off towards Glasgow with the plan of spending a year and making some money before going back to the land where he felt he belonged.

Now that, I guess, is where it all began.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Is it possible to have nostalgia for a place where you have never lived? I sometimes feel a generational pang for the homeland not of my father but my grandfather.

It seems real enough, like a calling back to somewhere I belong. But how can it be? It's impossible, isn't it?