Sunday, 25 April 2010

Those flocks of little green parrots

Are parrots a flock? It seems like a group of them should be called a “gaggle” or a “snaggle” or something ending with “aggle”.
It’s a strange city phenomenon over here in Europe. I first noticed them 4 years ago when I lived in Barcelona. I had just arrived in the city and was having a blissful all alone day pottering around and discovering, when a little ghost arose somewhere in my mind and began it’s lonely whimpering. I felt sorry for myself, I missed my friends and then out of no where, right above my head I heard a very animated conversation between about 20 little green parrots who had just landed in the trees above my head. I laughed out loud in a way that only a woman traveling alone can. I was missing my friends and out of the sky came this waggle of tiny parrot friends to gossip and sort me out. They were my welcome to Barcelona and I later learned rumour had it that a couple of parrots had escaped from the zoo and had become a fraggle of parrots over the years. It was a beautiful story and I believed it readily.
A couple of years ago I moved to Rome and several time since arriving here, I’ve seen a green parrot gang playing cards and drinking scotch in the palm trees. I’ve also seen them in Brazil, which is a bit more expected but very surpisingly I recently spotted them in Greenwich, London. So, what is going on? Either I am being followed because my parrot friends think I can’t be trusted to take care of myself and therefore they need to check on me periodically. Or there is a steadily growing parrot population in major european cities. Why have they chosen us? Where did they come from? What do they eat? What do they talk about so passionately and animatedly? I feel sure their discussion topics include the the Catholic church, who makes the best seeded batch loaf and post post-modern films – call it a hunch.  Nevertheless, my heart sings to see them and if you are traveling to Europe this summer, keep your ears open – you’ll hear them before you see them.

Monday, 19 April 2010

As I was saying...

Only just yesterday in a zen sunday mode, I wrote that being unable to go somewhere can be a kind of freedom. So it's as if God is laughing heartily now, because this evening I was all ready to go out to see a friend's concert and I got in the car which sputtered and refused to start. Am I being tested ? I don't seem to be able to get away with anything, ever - I was the kid who always got caught.
However I am also the kid who doesn't let others get away with stuff I don't think is right. I recently got quite cross with Mia Market. It's the posh organic little hole in the wall cafe on the street where I live in Rome. A couple of nights ago, feeling lazy but healthy, I went in to see what they had in the way of soups for dinner. I found a carton of home-made soup and asked the price which I was informed was 4 euro (about $6). So I bought the soup and went home. In the elevator on the way up to my flat I opened the carton and was horrified to find it less than half full. I kid you not, there was less than 200mls of soup in there - not enought to feed a baby! So I marched back in and announced that it was "half-empty" - note the deliberate choice of point of view here. I was informed that it was supposed to be that way. I gave them what for and here's what I said: this is 2 spoonfuls of soup, we're living in a massive economic crisis at the moment, soup is 90% water, the people who pay this price for something so small are as guilty as those who charge this inflated price because they are feeding the same system, I want my money back. Now, it is quite possible that in the history of Mia Market, no one has ever complained about the prices. They sputtered and stalled (much like my car this evening) and looked embarrassed and generally flawed, but I got my money back. My neighbourhood is pretty touristy which means it's expensive because the prices are set for the tourists not for the residents. And while I agree that" it was only soup Sylvie for Pete's sake" - I am glad that I learned to complain effectively from living in the US for 10 years. Americans are fabulous at customer service and getting what they want - something Italians know relatively little about in comparison. I may have been excessive but I am so glad that I stand up for myself.
PS I had an omelette at home instead, for those wondering!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Clear skies over the volcano cloud....

Well folks, it's a strange thing, to look up and see not one white trail tail left by an airplane. I can't say I mind it. I have a vague suspicion that this is happening to teach us all something...I don't claim to know what exactly I'm supposed to learn from this (which incidentally makes the whole thing feel like a philosophy class) but it might have something to do with noticing things. Also with appreciation. It feels a bit like freedom, to not be able to move - let me qualify that statement. I am no longer obligated to go somewhere so I now just have to get comfortable with being where I am. Maybe I'm just feeling spiritual sunday about things - but isn't that a kind of gift? How often have I been given the opportunity to just get comfortable being exactly where I am without thinking about a) where I'm about to go or b) where I should be going?Being forced to accept something, initially feels claustrophobic but once I've scaled the wall of indignance/frustration/powerlessness, I am free to potter around and see what else is on offer in the land of acceptance. I'm not trapped somewhere expensive with 4 children to feed and house on a daily basis - this is very true. Still, I keep feeling that no matter how apparently stressful the initial situation is, it must also be freeing because all our carefully made plans have evaporated and we are left with space and time to fill and spend as we like. And as inconvenient as that may be, I am absolutely sure it's an opportunity if we hold it right. Breathe - you are online. xx