(**This post originally appeared on March 21st, 2013.
27 Stages is now available in print and ebook.**)
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Sorry about the hiccup posting last week - by which I mean, no TT last Thursday - but I had a good reason (don't I always?). I've been working hard to get things done, writing-wise, and while I'm still lagging behind, I made some time this week to share another sampling of my biggest WiP ever.
So, with your kind indulgence, I'd like to share
13 Snippets from 27 Stages!
Around me the spectators waved flags and signs and cheered – not only for their favorites, but for every rider coming in. All at once, there were excited shouts and piercing whistles all around. Everyone turned to watch the giant screens on the sides of the road. Renard, the rider Charles thought looked so angry, had cleared the second checkpoint in record time. He was presently burning up the road on the descents out of the park, occasionally leaving the less-daring motorcycle cameramen behind. They weren't willing to take the curves at the same rate of speed.
Clearing a bend in the road to fly down to the straightaway beyond, Renard shot past a rider who'd left the start house a full two minutes ahead of him. The next switchbacks in the road made the crowd gasp, and my heart pounded so hard I could scarcely breathe. Finally he swept past yet another rider and out onto somewhat more open road.
The crowd tensed, watching along the road for him. On the screen another dramatic scene played out. Renard had just surpassed the time of his teammate and fan favourite, Heinrich Brunn – quite easily, by the look of it – and was now making his way toward the finish. The seconds which separated them began to expand: Brunn's time was five seconds longer, ten, twenty. The standings on the screen shifted accordingly. Renard rose higher and higher, from fourth to third to second and then to a clear first-place finish.
My camera all but forgotten, I leaned over the barrier and watched eagerly for his arrival. I needn't have worried about missing him – the roar of the crowd swept along with him as he closed in on the finish line. The sound grew louder and louder still, every possible noisemaker being improvised and then employed. Cheers and shouts which bordered on screams, megaphones used to amplify shouts of joy, inflatable "thundersticks" thwapped together to produce manic, percussive sounds. People clapped their hands and banged on the barriers, jumping up and down.
And then, there he was. I gathered my senses and snapped photos of him approaching the line, one arm raised over his head in a show of jubilation, complete and utter joy on his face.
Back at the hotel, I had two thorough goings-over at the same time. The team masseur worked his magic on my legs – cooling the fire smouldering just beneath my skin – while Jerzy tore into me with a restraint I'd never seen before.
"Grandstanding," he growled, pacing the length of the room. "Shameless grandstanding, Ciccio. I don't approve of such things. It could have cost you time."
"But it didn't," I said, looking up at him from the massage table.
He whirled around and narrowed one eye at me, his signal that I should shut up if I intended to keep all my most precious body parts. The masseur kept his head down and continued working as though the threat weren't hanging in the air amongst us.
"It could have, is what I said. Save the shows for when you join the circus."
The blood drained from my face as shame filled it. He was right. Sure, I'd managed a phenomenal lead – fifty-five seconds ahead of Brunn, forty seconds ahead of Schlessinger and Maxxout, who would be marking my ass as a personal vendetta for sure – but starting tomorrow, the stages would be longer and harder, and I wouldn't be on my own.
"Work with the team, Ciccio, not against them."
I nodded, chastened. Jerzy remained at the foot of the table, behind the masseur, and glared at me before storming off. The masseur glanced up at me with a sympathetic look and I closed my eyes, exhausted.
...we stood at the barriers along the road, along with other spectators waiting for the stage to begin.
The riders wouldn't race within the city limits. They'd ride slowly together behind a car full of Tour officials until they reached a more open part of the road. Everything would get off to a proper start then, likely with a group breaking away from the pack to try and gain time, while the rest sat back and waited for their chances closer to the finish.
As for us, once the riders had gone past, we'd check out of the hotel, then drive our rental car to Castro Verde, where the stage ended. I'd take pictures of the finish, and in the morning I'd photograph the opening of the next stage.
This was the plan for the next few weeks, too.
A ripple of applause made its way toward us, reaching a peak when the peloton passed. I smiled as Renard went by, clad in the royal-blue jersey which marked him as the Tour's current leader. I framed him carefully and took several successive shots while he raised his hand and waved at the crowd on my side of the road. An obviously disgruntled Jürgen Schlessinger of Team Maxxout rode alongside him.
A flare of excitement flashed through me and I continued taking photos of the rest of the pack as it streamed by, southward bound.
The whole event didn't last long. Even with all the behind-the-scenes 'mood' shots I'd captured, Charles and I had only been out for a couple of hours.
"Finally," he said with a sigh. "Now let's get our bags before someone steals them, and find some lunch before the restaurants close for some bloody siesta or something."
"There's plenty of time." I checked my watch for good measure. "It's barely twelve-thirty."
He shrugged and turned in the direction of the hotel. "Let's go to that pub again. It's English-owned and they had a nice fry-up listed on the menu. Could be worth trying."
Turning my head so he couldn't see me roll my eyes, I packed up my things. "If you say so, hon."
"I do." He took me by the crook of my elbow and led me through the crowd. "I suppose this whole travel thing isn't so bad, once you find decent places to eat."
"There are lots of great restaurants in Lisbon, Charles. You just have to be willing to try something different."
"And risk Montezuma's revenge? No thanks."
"That's what you call it in Mexico, I think," I offered in mild protest. A shake of his head dismissed me.
"It's all the same, darling. I don't doubt that some of this lot would do it on purpose."
"I think that's pretty unlikely. I mean, they'd lose business if that were the case."
"Not with the bloody Euro in the marketplace. Now they can do as they please without fear of losing their livelihood."
"You're talking like a businessman again. Couldn't we just play happy tourists and have fun?"
He held the door of the pub open and I stepped reluctantly inside.
"Maybe later," he said. "Right now, I want my fry-up, all right?"
"All right. But I'm having the cozido this time."
"Suit yourself – and best of luck to you."
While I warmed up with my teammates on the stationary trainers alongside the team bus, I puzzled over the lack of communication from Solange. Still no calls in response to mine. No messages, either. An unpleasant voice in the back of my mind insisted something was going on: she'd never gone so long without contacting me before.
When I noticed Rom watching me with open curiosity, I returned my focus to what I was doing. I couldn't afford distraction.
I thought about the route ahead for that afternoon. I closed my eyes and visualized the profile: a few gently undulating hills but mostly flat, with one climb once we were well out of Lisbon. The whole course would run about two-hundred kilometres. Remembering the day before, my mood lightened.
I could do this. I knew it.
Supporters watched while we warmed up, taking photos, calling out good wishes to us. I turned up the volume on my mp3 player and let the percussive techno beat drive me on. I looked up only when my trainer nudged me and motioned for me to adjust my position on the bike.
Shit. Focus, Renard.
I let the music play and narrowed my world to the rhythm of my feet on the pedals and to keeping myself steady on the bike. I concentrated until I didn't hear the music anymore, just the thrumming of energy passing through me to power the bike. My legs pistoned smoothly and the hum of my rear wheel reassured me of my steady pace. The longer I went, the better I felt and the clearer my head became.
"Come on, Abby," Charles said from where he lay under the covers, "let's go to sleep."
I looked at my watch; it was only seven p.m.
"I'm hungry." I stood and got my handbag. "I'm going out for a bite. Do you want me to bring anything up for you?"
Charles groaned in reply and rolled over.
"Fair enough. I'll be back soon."
Key in hand, I eased the door shut and went down to the hotel restaurant. I'd forgotten that the Spanish tend to dine late, with dinner beginning around nine at night. Most of the restaurants, including the one in the hotel, weren't even open yet. I certainly didn't want pub fare so I headed along the street in search of something light.
In the main plaza people mingled and chatted around the fountain and in the cafés and pubs. Fathers played with their children or sat with their wives (or girlfriends) sharing coffee or sweets at the outside café tables.
I felt decidedly out of place, flying solo as I was.
I bought an iced lemonade and sat on a bench in the plaza, wishing I had my camera. What wonderful shots I was missing!
The last of the summer evening light gave the plaza a nostalgic feel. The sepia-toned light cast soft shadows with an almost liquid texture in the fading heat of the day.
Finishing my drink, I decided to go and get my camera. Maybe I could still get some good photos after all. I hurried up to our room and slipped inside quietly, hoping Charles was asleep and would stay that way.
No such luck.
"You're back," he said sleepily.
I stopped, putting my camera bag back on the table. "I thought I might get some photos. It's a beautiful evening."
"No, no… Why don't you come to bed? You can get your little snaps in the morning."
I wanted to protest but I was in no mood to argue. Instead, I went to the window and pulled the curtains closed on the plaza.
My 'little snaps' would just have to wait.
With each crank of the pedals, liquid fire ran through my legs. My skin burned in the late afternoon heat radiating from the tarmac. A grimace carved itself into my face, a death's-head grin for exquisite suffering under the summer sun.
Up ahead, a motorcycle swayed to and fro, going slowly up the steep incline so the camera operator on board could keep filming. In its wake the crowd on either side of the road spilled toward us, swallowing us up in a constantly shifting, screaming mass of humanity – all of whom were too close for comfort.
All the usual chaos of a mountain stage on the Tour d'Europa.
The peloton had broken apart prior to the climb, with the leaders and the better climbers forging well ahead of the pack. The blur of colour and noise on either side of my head was lost to my tunnel vision and the sounds inside it.
"You're doing fine, Ciccio." The voice in my earpiece was Michael, our directeur sportif's-second-in command. "Once this climb is done it's straight down to the bottom for the stretch to Granada."
That we were doing well wasn't news to me. That it wasn't Jerzy's voice in my ear, however, was. Brunn had caught up with me after we'd cleared the previous, rather dodgy, descent, where I'd thought he was well behind me. Now he was recovering on my rear wheel and Rom and Attila were doggedly leading us up the hardest climb of today's stage.
I still had no intention of letting Brunn ride my slipstream all the way into Granada. His job – at least for now – was to help protect me and keep the Royal in my possession as long as possible.
Right now the greater threat was Schlessinger, coming up slowly alongside me. Maxxout's blue-green team colours stood out even in the confusion of the crowd surrounding us. I refused to look his way, knowing his smug expression awaited me.
There was a basso profundo shout from somewhere in the crowd as Schlessinger made a subtle gesture in my direction – something between a wave and an obscenity, I thought – and then he crept upward, first aligning himself with his support and then slyly sidling next to Rom.
I ducked to avoid a carelessly-handled German flag, and heard yet another guttural shout, this time cheering Brunn on. There was no point in responding, no sense in coming any further out of my trance. Some of these people cheered for all of us, which gave the riders the will to dig deeper and make the climb. Others were oblivious to the mayhem they caused while they mugged for the television cameras, and frankly, for the most part, so were we.
We only just made it into Granada before the end of the race. I changed quickly into my walking shorts and left Charles unpacking at the hotel before hurrying to the finish line, camera in hand, still hoping to salvage something of the day. The crowd was raucous and I knew something huge was happening. Fuming over my continued lack of credentials, I pushed through the crowd, trying to get close to the road.
Thanks to a generous group of Germans, I managed to squeeze up to the barriers where I could hold my camera out and snag some shots. I managed just a few as the breakaway group crossed the line, fighting for the stage win in a bunch sprint.
The chanting began soon after the sprint ended. It started out at a moderate tempo, accentuated by handclaps: "Brunn! Brunn! Brunn! Brunn!"
I looked up at the screens showing an overhead shot of the final stretch into Granada. Five cyclists – two of them in Alta VeloCidad's violet and grey colours, one in Maxxout's blue-green, one in the red and blue of Ligne Infinie and Renard in the distinct Royal jersey – had broken away from the peloton and were bearing down on the finish with all their might.
One in particular was swiftly pulling ahead.
At this, the chanting grew louder, and one of the Germans next to me began to pound out a steadily intensifying rhythm on the barrier ahead of us. With every thunderous whap of his hand on the plastic banner taped over the railing, my heart sank lower into my stomach.
"BRUNN! BRUNN! BRUNN! BRUNN!"
I looked up at the times on the screen above the road. Brunn had broken away from Renard and Schlessinger. As I watched the broadcast, the other rider in Alta VeloCidad's colours dropped back, head hung low, slowing while he drifted to the side of the course to wait for the peloton to pick him up. Renard's domestique was exhausted, unable to help him any more.
In spite of the late afternoon heat, my arms were covered in gooseflesh.
I didn't know why I wanted so much for Renard to win, but I did. I wanted it with all my heart.
As one, the crowd turned their attention away from the screen to watch Brunn's actual arrival. His name was no longer being chanted, the crowd was screaming it, the noise riotous and manic until my heart raced so hard I could barely keep my camera in hand. I managed to lean out across the barrier to capture his arrival. I squeezed the release and the shutter obligingly snapped shot after shot in quick succession as Brunn lifted his hands from the handlebars of the bike and waved to the tumultuous crowd, long before he crossed the line.
The sky grew dark, the clouds gathering for a late-afternoon shower. Photographers instinctively covered their precious cameras and other equipment as thunder rumbled and rain began to fall. I couldn't speak for the others, but I was slightly relieved. In the muggy mid-afternoon heat, the rain brought some relief after standing out on the tarmac for so long. The rainfall was short, but intense, over almost as quickly as it had begun, leaving shallow puddles to reflect the reemerging sunlight.
As the helicopters hovered overhead, harbouring the arrival of the riders, more photographers assembled until the lines of our designated box seemed completely arbitrary. A final few arrived at a dead run, one of them vaulting the barrier to take a place directly in front of me.
"Hey!" I jostled him out of my way, gesturing angrily toward the road and the line at my feet. He shook his head and made as though to take the spot again, before another man reached out for his arm and tugged him roughly to one side. I glanced over to find my supporter was the French photographer who had sneaked me inside the barriers a couple of days ago. He smiled warmly and gave me a wink and I couldn't help smiling in return.
The crowd noise ratcheted up a notch – or ten – and all of the photographers took their positions. Some lay on the ground sniper-style while others, like me, knelt precariously in a line, aiming our cameras down the final stretch. The rest stood waiting, ready to jump or shift as necessary to capture their shots.
A rising roar of excitement rolled toward us, chasing the bunch sprint as it thundered our way. The battle for the stage win was fierce, and even though I'd photographed a few finishes already, this was the first time I'd seen one from this point of view: through my lens, it seemed that they were barrelling straight toward me with no sign of slowing. Several riders skidded through the water still on the road, losing control of their bikes before they could slow down.
One moment I was taking photos of riders crossing the finish line, the next I was backing up and stumbling over the feet of one photographer and being knocked to the ground by the elbow of another.
I landed hard, breath wooshing out of my lungs even as I held my camera aloft in an attempt to protect it. I was aware of equipment scattered around me – lenses, battery packs, memory cards – some of it mine, some of it theirs. Then the base of a crowd-control barrier was at my back, the sharp metal edge of one foot biting into me.
Winded, I lay on the pavement, my eyes closed, one hand clutching my side as though I could press the pain so deep I wouldn't feel it any more. I was dizzy; taking quick, short breaths had pushed me to the point of hyperventilation.
A moment later the sun broke through the cloud, warming my face before shadow settled over me.
Brunn and I were riding at speed amongst the peloton, but the group containing the sprinters was well ahead of us, gunning for the finish at the end of this flat stage. From Valencia to Torreblanca, Alvaro had sparred with Teodoro, promising his own victory to even the score with his brother. Teodoro had instead assured us all of his own imminent victory, going so far as to predict a one-second gap at the finish.
Braggadocio, all of it – but the good-natured teasing between the brothers was enough to entertain the rest of us for the length of the stage.
A burst of shrieking and screaming across the team's radio frequency was difficult to comprehend. Either Jerzy had just slipped over the edge into insanity, or somewhere closer to the line, one or more of my teammates had made a tactical mistake.
Brunn glanced at me, his expression inscrutable, save for a flicker of concern in his eyes before he turned back to the matter at hand.
Listening to the invective spewing over the airwaves, I had the feeling things weren't exactly going according to plan at the finish.
We pressed forward, the final roundabout looming ahead when Attilio gave a shout and bumped shoulders with another rider who was riding too close as the curve tightened.
Rom broke through the last few cyclists blocking us and I followed close on his wheel, the two of us making our way up to the head of the pack to lead the group through the roundabout and down the short final stretch.
We breezed our way down Avinguda de Sant Jordi, avoiding the concrete lip of the island separating the lanes of the road, but other riders weren't so lucky, judging from the shouts of the crowd and the skree of titanium on pavement which followed the final turn.
Rom fell back behind me in short order and Brunn was soon at my shoulder, a slight grin on his face the only indication that he was pleased with how things had gone. As far as I could tell, there wasn't even a hint of curiosity regarding Jerzy's previous rant, not one iota of concern for Alvaro or Teodoro or for how they'd fared.
We'd find out soon enough.
I did my best to remain professional as Renard stepped out to receive his Royal for the stage. A strange melancholy came over me as he stepped off the podium and shook hands with the town officials and other guests, before making his way backstage.
I thought of his expression when he'd checked on me after the crash and felt a slow melting inside. Ridiculous. A schoolgirl's crush, and I was – what? – at least ten years older than he was. At least.
I made a mental note to look up his birthdate online when I got back to the hotel. Or maybe I'd look it up on my netbook from the bar before I went up to the room. I didn't really feel like enduring any snide comments from Charles when I returned to Barcelona.
Then again, maybe he wouldn't be making them anymore, now that I'd called him on his "phone mate" and everything.
Drifting back to my car, I paused as a shiver ran along my spine in a light, tingling caress. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I turned toward the Village, where the remainder of the crowd milled around just outside the team areas.
There was no-one there, but I would have sworn I'd felt his gaze on me, if just for a split second. I clucked my tongue dismissively. I'm getting dotty in my old age, I reckoned, and resumed my walk to the car.
When the feeling came again, I took out my camera, aimed it over my shoulder, and clicked the shutter. I'd examine the shot when I got to Barcelona.
James sat on the edge of the big bench, his head hung low, only chancing a glance at Jerzy as he moved away. He caught my eye and his expression was one of purest misery. He'd fucked up and he knew it.
And so did Jerzy.
"It was stupid! Careless! What the fuck were you thinking?"
"Jer-" Alvaro didn't get the chance to finish.
"Where was your focus? On your stupid jokes with your brother? When you race you aren't brothers, do you understand? You are teammates. You are riders, nothing more!"
A torrent of rather colourful Spanish followed, and Teodoro, seated next to James, winced.
Adrie was reflected in the back window of the bus even though he stood just out of my sight. When Jerzy turned on James, Adrie's arms were folded across his chest in the posture of someone about to be sick.
"Sloppy! I should send Goosh out there tomorrow in your place, if I only could. He'd do a better job, if that's the best you can do. You had it! You fucking had it, and then you let the American get it? The American? It's his first fucking Tour and your third, and you still let him by? You fucking Brits are useless!"
I couldn't bear to watch any more but I couldn't avoid hearing it.
"Did you see how he was riding?" Adrie shouted back, and the murmur of conversation in the main cabin of the bus silenced. "It was too dangerous to hold the line, Jerzy. If James hadn't let him go, he'd have taken the whole lot of us out! The pack was too goddamn tight!"
"I watched the video, Adrie. I watched it. Where the fuck was your defence?"
"I shouldered as hard as I could, and he came back with more," Adrie answered calmly. "That little fucker is crazy. The finish was suicidal in that last turn – you saw how many got taken out by the kerb – and, frankly, I thought I'd like to end the stage without a busted collarbone or a broken neck."
Another silence, this time including the group at the back of the bus. Only Brunn had ever been so bold with Jerzy in the past, and he got a special pass by being his best friend.
"You've been drinking...?" Charles put his cell phone on the bedside table and gave me a quizzical look.
"Not much. Just a little wine with dinner. You know, as you do." I shrugged and went through my suitcase, digging out my nightgown and slippers.
"Are you upset about something?"
The disingenuousness of the question was insulting.
"Charles, how do you play at ignorance so well?"
"Come on, Abby." He stood and came over to my side of the bed to stare down at me while I changed clothes.
"You can't honestly be this oblivious." I looked up and met his eyes, daring him to pretend further.
Instead, he returned to his side of the bed. After a moment's silence, he sank down onto the bed and sighed. "This is why I thought we should consider…"
"I've already told you why I don't want that." I got under the coverlet, and Charles kept his back to me.
"I'd just feel better, Abby, if I thought you had someone with you when I'm away."
"No, you'd feel better if I said you could have someone with you when you're away. That's what this is all about."
"No, it isn't."
"For all I know, you already have."
I turned onto my side and resisted the urge to sigh, too.
"I didn't want you to feel this way about it," he said.
"How else would I feel? You're talking about taking a lover." I turned to face him and found him staring at the carpet, shaking his head. "And me, giving you the okay."
"No, I'm not."
My throat tightened and I got out of bed. I stood up straight and smoothed down my nightgown, trying to keep my hand from shaking. I held up the other hand and started counting off: "You put down the phone when I come in the room, you stay late at work even if you don't have to, and you get more phone calls than you need from work…"
"That's not proof of anything, Abby. Circumstantial at best."
"Give me time..." I gathered my clothes and piled them into the laundry bag. "I'm sure I'll dig up ample evidence soon enough."
Charles said nothing, just exhaled softly behind me. I got back into bed and pulled the blanket up to my shoulder after putting my back to him. Silence stretched out between us until he switched off the light and lay down.
The pub was practically empty and I wasn't really surprised. The team made up the majority of the patronage of the hotel, and most of them were either with their families or attending the festivities in the city centre.
The server led us to a circular booth in one corner. I liked the enforced privacy of the set-up right away. Between the high edges of the booth seat, the plentiful greenery scattered around the top and the low lighting in the pub, there was little chance of someone spotting us.
Abby ordered a white wine and the server looked expectantly at me.
"Una birra, per favore," I said, figuring today I'd earned at least a beer.
We sat in silence, which gave me a chance to consider a few things. First, there was the fact I'd repeatedly run into Abigail in the pubs. The second thing was that I always found her alone, in spite of her claim she was married. I'd yet to see this phantom husband, though she said he'd somehow played a part in her photographing the Tour.
Any mention of her husband saddened her – that much was clear. When we discussed the stage, or I told her about events on the road, her mood improved. Every time she laughed – or even just smiled – I felt myself getting drawn in deeper than ever.
This is bad. Very, very bad.
My heart clenched tight with understanding: married woman or no, I wanted her. Never mind the Solange debacle. Never mind her mythical Charles, wherever he was. I wanted Abigail White, and I couldn't have her.
"Federico? What are you thinking?"
I had to laugh. Why do women always ask that? If men were ever honest enough to answer with the truth, women would never come near us again.
"What's so funny?" she asked. "Tell me."
"You really don't want to know."
"Sure I do."
Her wide eyes searched mine, and I had no choice but to be honest. Maybe it would be best if she did go away.
"For a while I was thinking about the next stage," I said. "Then I thought about how I keep finding you alone in these places. Then I wondered where your husband really is. And then…?" I shrugged, hoping to make light of my next thought. "I started thinking how much I want to kiss you."
I looked down at my drink, not wanting to see her disappointment. I'd had enough of that in the past week to last me a lifetime.
Well, there you have them: 13 Snippets from 27 Stages!
I sure hope you've enjoyed them.
And in addition to all the lovely photos accompanying these excerpts, I'll share one more pretty photo.
Of course, it's of my favorite cyclist, who provided much of the inspiration for the story.
And you know what?
I reckon many of you will understand why that is.
Ciao for now!
This blurry pic is of me, on Pietra di Bismantova (well, just above the parking area, anyway) back in February 2004. It was just a week or two before Alle and I got married.
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody!
Well, now. That was some hiatus, eh? Unplanned and longer than I'd like, but now I'm back, and for today, I'm going to keep it pretty random, with
Thirteen Fairly Random Thoughts
1) I went home to the US for the summer, as usual. While I was there, I managed to lose and then keep off six more pounds. (Considering how little physical activity I was doing for those two-and-a-half months, after riding my bike several times a week in Italy, I found that to be a good thing.)
2) Alas, when the hubby joined me in the US in August, we ate a lot of restaurant meals. As a result, I gained back four pounds. So that's a net loss of two pounds.
I'll take it, though.
3) Regardless, that's a grand total of forty pounds lost over the course of two years. I'm not ashamed to admit that.
4) With the help of an app on my new tablet (my birthday gift from my hubby), I started trying to do yoga. While I'm not terribly "good" at it (I don't think), I did see an improvement in my flexibility and a reduction in back/leg pain.
5) I haven't done yoga since I've been back in Italy, and that's something I need to change, soon. It would complement my cycling very well - not to mention the benefit of stretching before and after rides.
6) In the States, I got reacquainted with my roommate from last year. Yahtzee.
7) Yahtzee was much fluffier than he was in the above photo, and needed a good trim.
He got it. The results were rather...interesting.
I'm just sharing this one photo of him (a few weeks post-shave) because, well... It just feels rude to have so many people laughing at him. Bless.
8) I spent the summer driving a lot, running errands for my mother, taking her to appointments and occasionally doing my own thing, alone or with my best mate, Cristy. I do enough driving in the US every summer to keep me from wanting to drive for the rest of the year. Heh.
9) As a surprise, my mother and Cristy colluded on my birthday present and got me a FitBit Flex step tracker. I've enjoyed using it quite a lot and wear it every day. It's very useful for keeping track of my activity level!
10) Since getting back to Italy, using the FitBit for motivation, I'm managing to walk more than usual, which is great. I also drag the hubby along for walks in our neighborhood, which he enjoys.
11) What kept us busy last week was something that had been in the works for quite a while: We painted our bedroom and my office! Woo-hoo!!!
12) It was a loooonnnng week, but we got the two rooms done, and aside from the rearranging of items and disposal of others, we're nearly finished with the whole project. Hurrah!
13) And, yes, for those who are curious: I am working on a new project which I hope to get out ASAP. Now that I have my lovely office set up, I have the space I need to get to work!
And there you have Thirteen Random Thoughts from my fairly rattled mind.
I hope you've enjoyed them.
And it's only fair that I share this lovely image with you all, too:
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Well, I know I missed last week, but I wanted to post something for Thursday Thirteen this week and I'm slightly pressed for time (who isn't, amirite???). So, I thought I'd share a little something that's been taking up a lot of my time - in a good way.
So, this week, please allow me to share with you
13 Photos I've Taken During Bike Rides
And there you have them: 13 Photos I've Taken During Bike Rides!
I hope this little glimpse into my world was at least a little interesting for you.
If not, I promise to try to do better.
Because, you know...
I want to keep things interesting.
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's that time again, and I admit - I'm lagging a bit behind. So let's jump right in with this week's topic:
Thirteen Things Which Make Me Happy
1) Obviously, reading a good book makes me happy.
2) Writing a good book makes me happy, too.
3) A review like this? Yeah, that makes me happy!
4) Hearing the voices of my neighbors joking around outside makes me happy.
5) Watching a good TV show with my hubby makes me happy.
6) Finally sitting down to dinner after a long day (preferably involving a bike ride) makes me super happy!
7) Kitty spotting makes me happy.
8) In a similar vein to number seven, watching my kitty sleep makes me happy, too.
9) Watching a good bike race makes me happy.
10) Getting in a good ride of my own makes me very happy. Exhausted, yes, but very happy.
11) Taking photos makes me happy.
12) Hearing my hubby's voice when he's talking with friends (which generally means in Italian) makes me happy too.
13) Listening to my hubby's heartbeat when we cuddle? That makes me happy, indeed.
Well, there you go - Thirteen Things Which Make Me Happy.
What sort of things make YOU happy?
Feel free to share in the comments, please.
And in the meantime...
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's that time again, so let's just jump right in, eh?
Thirteen Things I've Seen While Riding My Bike
In February, I became the proud owner of a brand-spankin' new bike, and I've been tooling about on the mixed-use paths here in Reggio a few times a week ever since. So far, I've put about 382km on the bike, and I hope to put even more on it before I leave for the US for the summer.
Along with the new bike came the usual necessary goodies, including a helmet, gloves, cycling shoes and socks. Naturally, I'm loving all of this.
Anyway, let's get on with the list, shall we? Here we go!
1) Kitties! I see cats nearly every time I ride, since the paths I choose run alongside fields near people's homes. Of course, the kitties are out prowling around on their own.
2) Dogs/Puppies! There are loads of people out walking their dogs where I ride. Most of these folks are respectful and attentive with their pets, keeping them well under control so neither the dogs nor I manage to get in a tangle. There are a few owners, however, who don't seem to understand that someone's going to end up hurt, one of these days. ...sigh...
3) Pheasants! Where I live, pheasants are remarkably abundant - and they do seem to enjoy calling attention to themselves at awkward moments.
4) An enormous hare. I was treated to the sight of a hare (or was it a rodent of unusual size?) "racing" me on a ride last week.
5) Roadies. "Roadies" are what most folks might think of as stereotypical cyclists - non-professionals decked out head-to-toe in brightly colored kit on racing bikes. Once in a while, these riders (who are retirees, for the most part, since I ride in the morning) deviate from the road to shortcut through the paths to their destination.
6) An exhibitionist jogger in his late forties. I've seen this guy a couple of times, and the warmer the weather gets, the fewer clothes he bothers with. At this rate, it's getting pretty scary, as the last time I saw him he was down to a pair of super-skimpy jogging shorts and his shoes. That's it. Sure he's fairly easy on the eyes, but... Please, just stop.
7) New places. While just about everywhere I've gone had to be a new place to me at some point, certain places stand out for me. The photo above, for example, was taken the first time I reached the end of this portion of the path. I was only a couple of miles from home, but I'd never gone there on my own before. The more confident I become, the farther I want to go.
8) A kestrel flew past me on one memorable ride about two weeks ago. I wished desperately I had my camera with me, but it was gone before I could stop, anyway.
9) Nice people. I've made a friend of sorts as a result of my riding on the same paths with some regularity. An older gentleman named Rino stopped me one morning to ask me if I knew where the path led to, or knew any other paths to take. Let's just say my attempts to answer gave my Italian (and a tiny bit of his English) a workout. Rino's the first person I see regularly who now stops to talk to me. In the same vein as Rino is a charming older couple who always say "Ciao" or "Buongiorno" as I pass them by. I see them nearly every time I go out, and our exchanges are very brief since I'm on the bike and they're power walking, but the smiles are genuine and welcoming every time we meet.
10) The conductor. I think of one person in particular this way - a young guy riding on the path towards the city center who gave me a nod as he passed, and then proceeded to ride hands-free up and over the bridge while gesturing as though he were conducting a symphony or attempting to fly.
11) Miniature horse! On one part of the path is a most squee-worthy miniature horse. I must get a photo of it one day soon.
Alas, not everything I see is wonderful...
12) Poo! Despite the availability of bags for doggy-doo, some people are still inclined to ignore their pet's, um, "leavings". As a result, some rides do result in a bit of sticky dodge 'em. So far, so good. *crosses fingers*
13) Poopers! This was the biggest surprise - and one of the most bizarre, so far: On one reasonably remote part of the path, I was "treated" to the sight of an elderly couple relieving themselves on opposite sides of the path itself. She behind a shrubbery, he in the field. In full view.
Erm... Right. What has been seen cannot be unseen they say. To my sorrow, this seems to be true.
And so, there you go - a (regrettably photo-free) listing of the wonders of the world spotted from the saddle of my bike.
I'm sorry I might have left you with such an unpleasant vision with that last one.
Truly, I am sorry.
Here, let me attempt to provide some sort of mind-bleach for you:
There - did that help?
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! I'm back for another Thursday Thirteen, where I'm sharing some of my favorite book-to-film adaptations. Most of these are films I saw after I'd read the book, a few I read after seeing the film, and only one is a film where I haven't read the book at all.
It's worth noting that some adaptations were quite faithful to the source material and others weren't. In fact, one of my picks was actually "disowned" by the author, in that he asked they change the names of the characters and of the film itself because he didn't think the screenplay could do it justice. Do you know which film/book it is?
(I'll share the answer at the end of the post.)
If you have a little time to kill (heh, that's a little book-to-film humor for ya), I hope you'll have a look at these clips - I've tried to find the best quality version for each one, but some are too old to have a good trailer available on YouTube.
And so, now, please allow me to share with you
Thirteen Books-to-Film I Love!
1) First off, a Stephen King classic! (To be fair, I could have done nearly the whole list using only Stephen King stories, but I thought better of it.)
2) Next, a film which I still watch compulsively whenever I find it on TV. It truly had a profound effect on me at an impressionable age. I've been a fan of John Irving ever since. (Fun fact - Irving has a cameo as the wrestling referee in the film.)
3) I saw this film the day it was first released in theaters, and I'm not embarrassed to admit I still get chills when I watch the trailer. Michael Crichton created a classic which endures, in my humble opinion.
4) This film just might qualify as an addiction for me. I've watched it so many times I have literally lost track of my viewings. I have the DVD in the US. I have the DVD in Italy. If I come in at any point of the film on TV, I have to watch it all the way to the end. Irvine Welsh's characters really came to life in this film, and now I can't read their stories without picturing these actors in the roles.
5) I saw this with a friend of the family - she vowed never to go to a film with me again. I took that as a sign of the quality of the film as opposed to the quality of my company. *ahem* A genuinely creepy novel made into a supremely disturbing film. Another Stephen King classic.
6) To be fair, it might not be the best film on this list, but I really enjoyed it anyway. I admit I wasn't disappointed in the transition of this book to the big screen, but it would have been impossible to make a film as good as the source material.
7) It's the '80s in a nutshell; a slimy, scary, spectacularly twisted nutshell. Casting Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in this adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' novel was a stroke of genius, as he gave the character all the nuances necessary to elevate the shallow go-getter to someone we start rooting for in spite of ourselves.
8) Another John Irving adaptation - this time of his novel A Widow For One Year - this film actually only depicts (approximately) the first third of the book. I had read the book long before seeing the film, but that doesn't make the story any less compelling.
9) Another film I compulsively watch is Fight Club, based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel. I don't know what it is about the film, but once I start watching it, I'm compelled to see it through to the end. Surprisingly, I haven't read the novel yet, but I have read a few of his other works. (I really need to add it to my TBR pile.)
10) Yet another John Irving adaptation (he even has a cameo as the stationmaster!), The Cider House Rules won two Academy Awards, for Best Adapted Screenplay and for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine).
11) Another brilliant film, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. Stark, bleak and utterly without hope, it features Javier Bardem's chilling portrayal of a hitman on a mission. Tommy Lee Jones is also a wonder to watch; his final scene is particularly memorable to me, love it or hate it.
12) This film, an adaptation of Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, came along at precisely the right moment of my life. I'd already enjoyed the story (it was originally published in King's collection, Different Seasons), but the line "Get busy living, or get busy dying" hit home with me in a most unexpected way. An all-time favorite film.
13) As crazy as it sounds, Watership Down is one of the most important films I ever saw, if only for the effect it had on me. After becoming (essentially) obsessed with the movie, I sought out the book, and I can say it truly did change my life. I even wrote about it!
Well, I hope you've enjoyed these trailers. If you guessed that Simon Birch was the film "disowned" by John Irving (it was nominally based on his heartbreaking masterpiece A Prayer for Owen Meany), you guessed correctly! Well done!
And now, I hope you'll indulge me just one last time.
No, it's not a trailer...
But I hope you'll agree...
This is one actor who's worth the price of admission!
Ciao for now!
Today I'm pleased to share a link to a guest post I've written for the lovely and talented Dan Holloway, as part of his series on creativity and extreme sports. I'd be thrilled if you would drop by, read and comment.
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's that time again, and this week, I've prepared a special little tribute to my hubby of ten years - and tomorrow, that number is official! That's right, our tenth wedding anniversary is Friday the 28th, and I thought I'd "celebrate" a bit by sharing some of my favorite photos of my hottie hubby, Alessandro, taken over the years.
So now, please allow me to share with you:
Thirteen Photos of My Hubby!
And there you have them: Thirteen Photos of My Hubby!
I think you'll agree he's a cutie, eh?
And since this is a special edition of my Thursday Thirteen, I've prepared an equally special final photo for you all.
It's a little different from the usual fare (to say the least), but...
I sure hope you don't mind!
Ciao for now! :)
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's that time again - and this week, I'm sharing with you a portion of the books stacked up in my To-Be-Read pile, at the moment. So, here we go:
Thirteen Books in My To-Be-Read Pile
1) Sex is Forbidden - Tim Parks
2) Talking About It - Tim Parks
3) Adultery and Other Diversions - Tim Parks
4) Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
5) Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
6) Stardust - Neil Gaiman
7) The Red House - Mark Haddon
8) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- Mark Haddon
9) Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - Matthew Green
10) To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
11) Look at the Birdie - Kurt Vonnegut
12) Joyland - Stephen King
13) A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
And there you have them: Thirteen Books in My To-Be-Read Pile!
Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments, won't you?
And, in the meantime, I think we can agree that it's perfect weather for kicking back and reading a good book.
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Well, it has been another busy week for me, filled with writing, editing, cover designing, and blah-blah-blah (as my niece Mia loves to say). This week also saw - albeit very briefly - my novella, Alternate Rialto, at number ONE (sorry, mustn't shout) on one of Amazon Italy's freebie lists. (See this post for more details.) As a result, I've decided to share
Thirteen Reasons to Download Alternate Rialto
1) Call me crazy, but I think that's a reasonably lovely cover, if I do say so myself.
2) It's the story of an ordinary young woman making some important self-discoveries while in Venice.
3) It's romantic without being too saccharine about it.
4) There's a genuine friendship between the two female characters, who support one another without competition.
5) The male character has an air of mystery about him.
7) There's a darker undercurrent to the story which keeps you guessing.
8) If you've already read Ask Me if I'm Happy, but haven't read Alternate Rialto, you'll finally learn how Emily and Jacopo met in the first place.
9) If you haven't read Ask Me if I'm Happy, this is your chance to read the whole story in a more linear fashion, from start to finish!
10) It takes place in VENICE, ITALY! What's not to like about that?
11) It's a realistic portrait of the city, too, both beautiful and flawed.
12) Here's an excerpt, should you desire one:
The streets were virtually empty, the campi deserted. They crossed the Rialto Bridge again, Jacopo guiding her as before, but this time he steered her to a place at the wall. The bridge was aglow, the ghostly pale stone surface softly illuminated by strategically placed lights. They stood and looked out at the reflections on the water which rippled, rose and fell with soft, gentle lapping against the boats moored nearby.
"Emily," he said, his voice scarcely carrying above the soft murmurs of conversation around them. She drew her gaze away from the hypnotic dance of light on water to face him.
Yes? she wanted to ask, but the word never formed on her lips. Instead, his hands framed her face and held her still as he brought his lips to hers in a soft kiss. She raised her own trembling hands to cover his as he kissed her again. At once, the other people vanished, along with the bridge, the water and the city itself.
His hands slipped from under hers to stroke her hair, twisting and tangling in the length of it while his kiss deepened. Her heartbeat was distant and remote, somewhere else. There were only his lips, parting hers and lingering while he pulled her to him and held her securely in his embrace. Emily trembled as eagerness, anxiety and need warred amongst themselves, threatening to breach the surface at any moment.
An adventure. I need to have an adventure. I deserve it, too, don't I?
Awareness of her surroundings filtered through, murky and submerged but slowly clarifying in the laughter and soft talk all around them. At last, she opened her eyes to find herself looking directly into his. The pale, Summer-sky blue of his eyes held her transfixed for what seemed like forever.
13) Finally, I hasten to add: it's FREE!!! What more reason could you need? What have you got to lose?
And there you go: Thirteen Reasons to Download Alternate Rialto!
I hope you'll find them persuasive.
And if not, I'll just ask nicely.
So... Pretty please?
With sugar on top!
Ciao for now!
Author. Happily Married. Survivor of life with a deranged kitten.
Please note: Thanks to an increase in spam comments, I'll be approving the comments before they post. Sorry!