Monday, March 17, 2014


I’m sitting in Pellegrini’s Bar in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District, or as they would say in Europe, “the centre.”) I’m drinking the worst hot chocolate of my life made by an under-stimulated barista who is currently yelling out in Italian, “2 Spaghetti Napoli, Maria!” but it’s ok… I get that hot chocolate isn’t their thing. I’ve come here because I miss Italy. This bar is an institution in Melbourne. It’s apparently run by a guy named Sisto, to whom several notes on the shelves have been dedicated. Despite being right in the middle of Melbourne in 2014, it, like many a bar back in Italy, is stuck in some brown-stained, technology-resistant yesteryear that retains ostensibly useless pieces of historic junk on the knick-knack cluttered shelves.

I’m talking about gems like this:

poor quality photo stealthily taken on my out of date smart-phone

My knee bumps up against the underside of the bar and splinters from cheap chipboard scratch at my leggings. I know I’m making it sound tacky, but it’s exactly this lack of pretension that lovers of the humble Italian bar flock to. It’s so contrary to the other aesthetically obsessed features of their beauty conscious culture. It’s a mystery I’m yet to figure out. I guess people love the dependability of its well-loved stools and benches, which have been a kind of stage for the place’s history to unfold on. If you hang out there enough, well, then they’re a part of your history too, and you want it to stay the same no matter how ragged or unfashionable it gets. You want to be able to depend on it. Why else would that dirty, unidentifiable piece of ancient “technology” be left rotting on the shelf long after its used-by date?

I’m not sure if being at Pellegrini’s is helping my nostalgia for Italy or not, but there is also a practical reason why I’m here on a Monday afternoon, writing to you about decaying furniture. It’s a complicated reason with many layers, and it’s responsible for my long absence from this blog. The simple answer is, I’ve moved back to Australia and am trying to pick up the pieces of my displaced life! I’m doing an intensive course in the CBD that will hopefully open up some job opportunities for me. I’ve decided not to go back to Occupational Therapy if I can help it, and stick to teaching English if I can. So far it hasn’t been easy to get steady work, though I have been working casually at a couple of places. Right now I’m also killing time until my first French class starts at 6pm. That’s an attempt at keeping my brain from turning to mush while I’m working inconsistently.

I said it was layered… I really hate cliché analogies like “layers,” but it’s apt.  The top layer is that I love my home, but I guess when I moved back here, I thought it would be easier. I thought it would be different to starting from scratch in a new city (which I did four times while I was away), but actually, it’s a lot harder than I imagined. I’m four years older. I’ve changed. Not just as a result of living overseas and “experiencing the world”, but simply as a result of getting older, of making mistakes, and learning new things. It’s impossible to fit back into the space I left when I first went overseas. I’ve changed shape, or size, or something. I have some things to resolve, and I have lots of things to figure out in this new place I find myself in. I feel like I’m walking along a dark path with only a candle. I can only see what’s one or two steps ahead of me, and it’s a long path out of the woods.

By the way, while I was writing all that stuff, the bored – albeit likable – waiter used the dirty, prosaic machine thing to call Sisto; it’s an intercom! Mystery solved. Wish all life’s mysteries disappeared with the touch of a discoloured plastic button. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Just the name is poetic, don’t you think? I have just returned to Verona from a week in this region of Spain and I loved it! I didn’t really know much about Andalusia before I went, but then I do like to go to places being a little ignorant of what I’ll find. I feel like it helps me to have uninfluenced experiences and form my own real-life impressions.

Andalusia was incredibly beautiful, with its mixed architecture and melting pot of cultures. Arabs, Jews and Christians have all had their influence on the region’s history and present-day reality. I guess I always relate to places like that because I feel like a bit of a melting pot myself. I felt like their history really contributed to the open, welcoming mentality of the people. They are helpful, friendly and wonderfully warm. 


Prior to landing in Seville, the only real thought I had in my “Andalusia file”  (besides flamenco and tapas) was this quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist:

“I left my father, my mother, and the town castle behind. They have gotten used to my being away, and so have I…  The levanter was still getting stronger, and he felt its force on his face. That wind had brought the Moors, yes, but it also brought the smell of the desert... It had brought with it the sweat and the dreams of men who had once left to search for the unknown... The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself. The sheep, the merchant’s daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only steps along the way to his personal legend”

La Mezquita, Cordoba

Like most people who read that book, I related profoundly to the main character, Santiago. Perhaps for me it is because my inner nomad has always been an integral part of who I am, and has informed some pretty major decisions in my life. I read The Alchemist last year during a period in which I  was experiencing the dichotomy of thought that I imagine afflicts most wanderers my age: Do I go home and live a “normal” life, or keep exploring the unknown with the 'freedom of the wind'?

The Alhambra, Granada

Being in Andalusia really painted the mental backdrop to that story for me. It reminded me of my own “steps”. Steps in a story… I’m not sure what the next chapter is about yet, but as I looked out the bus window, passing those mysterious hills, I couldn’t help thinking that the fields of Andalusia were part of Santiago’s story the way the river-stone streets of Verona are part of mine.

I left with a little reminder note in my heart of who I am and what I value – viva Andalusia!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pick-Up Non-Artists Part 2

The Swinger
A couple of months ago a friend got me hooked on a game for smart phones called, Quiz Cross. It’s a trivia game with the option of playing with other random people in the world who have no nerdy friends and are looking for an opponent. Enter: “Sparkle” (full username not disclosed out of respect).  Her icon was that of a blonde-haired, cartoon chick and she was a formidable opponent. My icon is my facebook profile picture because I lazily used my facebook account to register with the game. One day I get a normal-enough message saying hi, where are you from etc. Then she says, “You’re very beautiful,” to which I replied, “Thanks, very kind of you to say.” It struck me as a bit odd but then I thought she was just being nice… until she started sending me kisses and those little faces with hearts for eyes! I told her I wasn’t into girls, and she informed me that she was "into both". After consistently more audacious messages she thought I should know that her husband also thought I was “a hottie.” What the?! I ignored these messages and continued to play (after all, she was a good player!) but when she started requesting pictures of me in my swimsuit I had to tell her she was crossing the line. I know there are all sorts of kinky things that have become ‘normal’ these days, but, I’m sorry, a couple perving on you together is just gross.

The Leicester Square Affair
While I was living in London, my dear friend Deb told me the story of this guy who trained lonely, socially awkward men to be smooth pick-up artists. She had watched a documentary one time that showed them trying out their lines on girls in Leicester Square. It became a symbol for us, of the sad state of the male population and the reasons why we were single! One evening, I was in Leicester Square with “the Gang,” a group of dear friends that consisted of Deb, Leo, Priya and Raffa (I miss you guys!). We were chatting and joking around until a decent-looking young guy (accompanied by another man) came up to us and started quoting me his number. I told him if he were really interested, the least he could do was write it down himself. (My technique with unwanted guys is to take their number so they leave me alone, and then obviously, never call. I know it sounds cruel, but otherwise they just don’t go away!) He reached for his card and as he was about to hand it to me, Deb raised her hand in a gesture that seemed to say both, “stop” and “ooh, ooh, I know the answer!” Then the most classic line she has ever uttered flowed from her lips: “I saw a documentary and you’re teaching him how to pick up girls!!” She was addressing the tall, blond man that was overseeing this budding lady’s man, at which point, the said lady’s man put away his business card, and muttered a thousand words a second that went something like: “Well I just wanted to know if you wanted to get jiggy with it. I mean, I was just playing. I’m gay anyway.” Then he and his tutor skittled away in a wave of embarrassment. I mean really, if you want anonymity, don’t make a documentary!

Europe is another planet! Haha I’m gonna miss these characters when I head back to Australia where guys keep quiet and only check you out on the sly. I’ll deliver a Part 3 at some point; I have an endless barrel of these stories!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Parents Part 3: Dedication

I was three-and-a-half-years-old and my mum picked me up for a weekend visit. My dad had dropped me off somewhere near the centre of Melbourne, where Mum worked, and we got on an almost empty bus. There were maybe two people on the whole bus: one of them a tall, dark figure with a black winter coat, black gloves and a black brief case. It’s common knowledge that villains dress in black, right?

I remember thinking, there are so many empty seats, we won’t have to sit next to him… and yet – incomprehensibly – Mum headed determinedly towards the black-gloved man. I tugged on her skirt hoping to enlighten her to the fact that there were many other seats available, but she didn’t stop! She sat down next to him and started chatting!

It wasn’t long before I realised that Mum knew the black-gloved man (maybe it’s my Australianness, but the gloves really made an impact on my impressionable young mind. Now that I have lived in Europe, I realise how few people wear gloves in Australia; I mean for the cold, and not just for fashion. Let’s face it, our winters often crack out days of 15-19 degrees: T-shirt weather in England).

Anyway, Black Gloves eventually started hanging out with us more and more. I soon learned that he did have other colours in his wardrobe, and that he wasn’t as villainous as I initially thought. Sure, he won me over cheaply with a pink possum (which I still have) that said “For Some Special” on its stomach, but I eventually liked him for reasons less superficial than that.

When I was five, my mum married Black Gloves and added an irreplaceable person to my life. We’ve known each other for 27 years now, and I have always been able to count on him for support, advice, comfort, hugs and anything else I might need. He is always looking out for me and I know for sure that if I am ever in trouble, or need the slightest bit of help, I can always rely on him. I’m 30-years-old now, and I have come to realise how rare it is to have someone that you can sincerely say that about.

Gavin (Black Gloves) is, without a doubt, the most dedicated and generous person I know. He is dedicated to his family, dedicated to his job, dedicated to God and to helping others. It’s from this constant willingness to give of himself that he has taught me to be reliable and to live generously.

I know you’re reading this blog, Black Gloves, and even for that bit of support, I’m grateful daily. I love you from a very special place in my heart! Thanks for always being in my corner  xxx

Saturday, February 2, 2013

From the Archives...

I just found this bit of poetry that I wrote around the same time I started this blog back in 2010. It's strange to think about how I've changed and grown as a person since then. I've seen and experienced a lot over the past three years... I think my general outrage over the state of society has mellowed into a quiet rejection of the things that I feel belittle, contradict or ignore the intrinsic value of individuals, and  which contribute to the attrition of society's ability to ask hard questions of itself, admit its own distractedness and give precedence to interpersonal relationships over superficial ideas of success. Anyway, here it is:


Written by Tania Plunkett, 21/03/2010

They prescribed the medication
For my clandestine generation
Pop art pills
And sour milk spills
The property placebo
To subjugate our wills
If you work more, you’ll have more
More stuff than you could care for
So discard the word ‘why’
‘Cause there’s no adequate reply
Just fill up your schedules
And you can rest when you die
And yet there’s an underground
Who see just what went down
The disenchanted minority
With a non-fiscal priority
Searching for each other
Among the plastic majority
Has our moment passed by?
Or is it still worth a try?
Can we untwist the truth
That was wrapped round our youth
Or have we been hanging too long
From this propaganda noose?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pick-Up Non-Artists

The “Priest”

It was only my second or third day in Europe and I was at a Metro station in Rome, waiting for the train. I saw a middle-aged African man in a priest’s get-up who looked lost and disorientated. I, assuming he may speak English, asked him if he needed a hand. He told me he was trying to get to the Colosseum so I replied that I was headed to that stop as well and could show him where to get off. It all seemed harmless enough and I was happy to help someone out. THEN! We got on the train and he started to ask questions about where I was staying. I said it was a B&B with a shared bathroom etc. So he asks me, “Can I follow you there and see what it’s like?”
           “No,” I said, proud of my correct reflex answer (my usual tendency is to be obliging). 
            “Why not?”
           “Because I don’t know you,” I said. The tone of his voice and the way he was looking at me was starting to freak me out.
            “Oh. Can I have your email address or your telephone number in case I want to ask you something later?”
            “Because I don’t know you.”
            “Oh are you sure?”
            “Yeah I’m sure. Oh look, here’s the stop you want!” With that I jumped out of the train and ran up the stairs. I knew I was a lot fitter than him and would lose him but I walked home looking behind me the whole way. Ughh… It was a good experience to have early on because it made me much more wary when travelling on my own.

The Gladiator

I’ve mentioned the Gladiator before, but he deserved to be remembered in this post. Around the same time as the Priest – in Rome 2010 – I was staying at a B&B near the Colosseum and consequently had to walk past it every time I took the Metro. As I crossed the open area in front of the entrance to the Colosseum a Roman “gladiator”, who in that moment had no tourists to pose with, threw me this classic line (in a thick Italian accent) that I still chuckle about: “Hey darling you’re so sexy. What’s your name, Paradise?” Do you think he’s actually ever picked anyone up with that one?

The Hands-on Professor

There was a certain – married – middle-aged professor where I was contracted to teach some high schoolers. He couldn’t keep his hands to himself. He stared at me everywhere but in the eye and paid me repetitious compliments. I tried to be polite but when I finished working with that class and he asked for my number I couldn’t resist calling him on his crap. “Why do you want my number?” I said innocently but straightforwardly. “Oh, uh, you know, in case there’s some problem here and I need to contact you.” I assured him that the teacher taking over from me would be more than capable of handling any issues and if not, he could contact my boss! *Creep*

The B&B Sock Saviour

To cut a long story short… I left my socks at a B&B in Verona where I stayed with my sister before finding an apartment here. We moved onto the next city and the young Spanish guy from the B&B wrote to me to inform me of my loss. I told him I was on my way to Le Cinque Terre and would have to relinquish the socks. He wrote to me three times trying to convince me that I needed them. He even went to the trouble of detailing all the possible solutions for reclaiming them – every option depended upon me seeing him again, of course… Needless to say, I bought new socks!

The Ambos

It was 8am and I was walking across Ponte della Vittoria in Verona, next to the stop-start peak-hour traffic. The footpath and the car lanes are quite intimate on this bridge so you can almost hear the drivers cursing the traffic lights or singing along to tacky love-songs. I walked past the bumper-to-bumper cars in a purposeful yet distracted way. In my dream-like mental state, I heard someone say, “Buongiorno!” (Good Morning!) over some kind of loud speaker. I wondered what it was all about so I looked up and saw two ambulance officers smiling at me with all the self-satisfaction of two young guys who had just used the truck’s megaphone to get my attention! Only in Italy! All three of us had a little giggle and then went on our merry way.

The Little Grandpa on a Bike

The prize goes to my personal favourite… a sweet, little old man in his 70’s who was riding down the same street that I was walking down. He was going so slowly that I overtook him despite having no wheels. When I got near him, he had already pretty much ground to a halt. He saw me passing by, and said something I didn’t hear properly. I thought I’d better check seeing as he was elderly and might need a hand. I asked him to please repeat what he had said. He stopped fiddling with his bike and with both hands made a gesture of perfection, “Sei bellissima,” (you’re very beautiful). He had nothing else to say… He collected his bike and tottered off at the same break-neck speed as before. He made my day :)

There are several more stories I could share here, but this post is already too long and there’s only so much we can all take of these smooth operators! Maybe there’ll be a Part 2 some time! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where I Live

I just got back from a weekend in Rome where I celebrated my 30th birthday with some very special friends. It was the best birthday of my life simply because I was laughing, eating, walking and chatting with people that I love dearly. They flew to Rome from London to be with me, knowing that I had just moved to a new city and may not have had anyone to really celebrate with! Aren’t they wonderful? I was also able to catch up with some local Italian friends ‘a cui voglio tanto bene’ :) It was fantastic!

I departed from Termini Station this morning, Verona-bound. As I stepped onto the train, my heart pumped out a strange and wonderful sensation that coursed through my arteries and gave me that tingly feeling in the guts that makes you smile. I can only describe it as a mixture of satisfaction, excitement and relief in one deep-seated hit.  It was something I recognised but had not experienced for a very long time… I felt like I was going home.

I’ve been travelling for two-and-a-half years now and during all that time, I have not stayed put anywhere longer than six months. I have lived in places for two, three, four months and then moved to another job, another flat, another city. However, as I got on that train to head back to Verona, I felt like I finally had a place to call home. A place where I could unpack my winter AND summer wardrobe because I’d be staying for more than one season; a place where I could put books on the shelves and own more than one suitcase-full of stuff.

Verona is gorgeous. It is an ancient city that has been dominated and developed by a myriad of people. You’ll see ruins and constructions still standing from the Roman to Austrian Empires. 

Every day I cross over the river at Ponte della Vittoria, and even if I have been wondering what on Earth I’m doing in Italy, I glance over to Castelvecchio on my right and the dome of San Giorgio in Braida on my left, and I know that I’ve made the right decision. It’s just so beautiful! Then in the evenings I walk along the Adige River listening to him rush by the soft yellow lights of San Zeno and I sigh contentedly… I live here.