Each Christmas it becomes more and more difficult to find something unusual or even just fun to give. The big question around our place is always: Well what do want for Christmas? And for the past while the answer always seems to be: You know there's nothing I really want. So gifts become socks, underwear, gloves - all those practical things that your old aunt gave you as a kid and you turned your nose up at but now accept readily because you always forget to buy them for yourself. Fortunately there are also the little surprises that do appear under the tree such as a 3 CD set of vintage recordings of Mahler, Brahms and Strauss (even after 60 years Kathleen Ferrier and Bruno Walter can break you heart with Mahler's Songs on the Death of Children) or a Cavalry officer from the Greek War of Independence in beautiful detail.
Then there is that gift that you may have mentioned briefly at one time, forgotten about and is suddenly yours. When we spent that fun Sunday at Wendy's Flavor of Italy making pranzo I used this great rasp style grater to zest the lemons for the ravioli. I think I may have said something to our friend Jocelyn about it in passing one day. Well guess what I unwrapped at her place on Christmas Day? The minute I got home I had to try it - voila a pile of lemon zest in seconds and no idea what to do with it at two o'clock in the morning!
And while wandering around the housewares department at Rinascente gazing at 600 euro coffee machines on Wednesday I came across two ceramic cups that I had seen in Pesaro in August and thought were cute. They turned out to be perfect stuffers for Laurent and Lionel's stockings. And also a great idea for the gift exchange on Christmas Day. And of course I had to buy one for myself for those mornings when I need a double espresso to get motivated at the old keyboard.
And finally totally unexpected I received a lovely present when we dropped in to say hello at our friend's Simonetta and Renato. A perennial and delightful guest at their table on family occasions is Alberto Testa, the Italian dancer, choreographer and dance authority. Il professore - I once called him Dottore and was begged not to: "Everyone in Rome is a dottore" he said with a sardonic twinkle in his eye and voice - turned 87 on December 23 and is still elegant, graceful and a wonderful story teller. His description of teaching Burt Lancaster (a natural dancer) and Claudia Cardinale (a stick) the waltz for Il Gattopardo is funny with a bit of a bite. He surprised me with an autographed copy of his book on Nureyev.
Looking over what I've just written I may have to revise those first thoughts - there are still things out there that when given or received give delight, particularly when they come from family and friends.
29 decembre - San Tommaso Becket