THE POWER OF GOODBYE (TO MY OLD CLOTHES)

It all started a month or so ago, when I wore one of my favourite pair of jeans and I noticed they didn’t quite fit anymore. They were not exactly big, but they definitely required a belt to make sure they stayed put. It didn’t take long before everything not only became “slightly too comfortable” but “ffs this is at least a size bigger than what I am”. It ended up being quite the cathartic experience: I decided to go through all my clothes and set aside anything that I don’t like anymore or, better, that doesn’t fit anymore, and after couple of hours trying to wear the next pair of jeans that became too big to be worn, I realised I ended up with only two pair of trousers and three jumpers that I purchased in the last few weeks. Everything else, and I mean my whole wardrobe (which ok, it wasn’t massive, but still…) is now for sale on my eBay page (who knows, maybe I can save some money for my boob job?).
Even though my weight is finally back on track and growing (thank you muscles, I love you!) I’m in fact two sizes down compared to three months ago, and my old clothes make me look like a total clown.
Not only that, if you want to know the truth: size aside, I don’t feel them anymore. They belong to my old me, and that person is someone I can’t relate to anymore. These clothes remind me of things I don’t really want to remember, they make me feel things I don’t want to feel anymore, I just hate the whole lot. Still, when I had to pile them up on one side, it felt a bit bittersweet: I was (physically) saying goodbye to my old self. Part of me wanted to hold on to some of this stranger self, but the new self though “what’s the point?” I worked too hard, I’m still working hard, that’s not me anymore, let it go”. Now I need to buy everything. I mean everything, from underwear to trousers and tops.

It is so strange looking at my past, even the recent one, and not recognising the person I was. I can’t relate to that woman anymore. I sometimes talk to her, trying to understand why I was who I was, why I didn’t do the things I’m doing sooner, what the hell was I thinking when I was thinking those things, but you know what? it all served a purpose in the end: I needed to go through all of that to then finally decide to change.

I’m trying to use this chance as a way to figure out what this new me can wear. Before I met my ex-husband, I was living in Milan and, like a proper Milanese, I loved fashion and I had very lovely clothes. He made me chuck away everything because he was jealous, and he made me feel like a whore ready to jump on every man’s lap the very few times I tried to wear a nice dress. I had a collection of stilettos that I loved, and those went too because he was too embarrassed of me being taller than him – to him, it was offensive, and disrespectful. I will never forget when he ruined my birthday, the first spent together: I went back to Milan to celebrate it with all my friends. Before going to the party (a dinner at a pub, for the record), I decided to wear a very plain and simple pink & black dress. Seriously, I bought it in a charity shop, it wasn’t anything special, I mean, I was going to a pub, not to a catwalk, right? He had a massive hissy fit, because I didn’t warn him I would wear a dress well in advance so he could have prepared psychologically, then complained that I was dressed like a hot hoe (?) and he was looking scruffy and dumb, it was definitely a plan I made up to ensure I’d embarrass him in front of my friends (who were just happy to meet him, they couldn’t have given a remote shit of what he was wearing and some of them he knew them already because they were his friends too)… In the end, I convinced myself that he was right, I put a metal band shirt and pair of trousers on and, in no mood to celebrate, I went to my party. He sulked all.night.long because of course, now I was dressing like shit and of course, I did it to make him feel guilty, not because I wanted him to stop fucking moaning. I hated that night. Every single minute. He didn’t utter a word, he looked pissed off from a mile, and instead of enjoying my friends I spent an evening making excuses for him. What a fucking idiot I have been. So yes, when we came back to the UK, I basically chucked everything away and made sure my wardrobe was full of tracksuit, black clothes, and stuff like that. It changed once I got rid of him, but not too much. Yes I dared some bodycon dresses, but still, having spent a lifetime considering myself ugly and unworthy of wearing nice things, it’s not like I had this wow stuff that I’m now desperate to keep.

So, I now would love to go back to my Milano years, only this time I know for a fact that I have the body to pull those clothes off. Going to the shops it is a weird experience: I always begin by heading towards clothes that are within my “comfort zone”, but then I force myself to try something new, and when I find something that seems interesting enough, I grab three or four different sizes because I seriously don’t know what is the one that is right for me. I even recruited two of my friends/colleagues to have a trip to the shops with me and make me try what they think I might look good in: I trust them dearly, so I’m sure it would be a very fun experience.

gym2Somehow, this process must have triggered something in me because I have never been more driven than now. This week I went to the gym every.single.day. I didn’t feel tired, I didn’t moan, I didn’t think “maybe I’ll skip it…”. Every day, whether rain or fine, happy or sad, I have been there completely in the zone, focussed and determined like I have never been before. I feel absolutely great. I feel like I could lift the whole world and not even sweat a bit. I even told my Personal Trainer that on Tuesday, after we close one of the two programs I’m on (finally, cause I bloody hate that with all my heart and soul), she better prepare me a total killer for the next one: I want something that will push me physically and mentally, I want to feel so much pain that I need to fear I ripped my glutes for good. I want something that will make me want to go to the gym every day to nail it and not feel like I need to urgently purchase a wheelchair. She smiled big time, and by the few bits she let slip, I know I’m in for a very lovely treat.

I am so committed and loving it that, when a friend showed me a video of a very (ok extremely) hot bodybuilder, my first thought has been “fuck it, I want to train and lift big like him”. All my colleagues who saw me training have been quite shocked and surprised. One of the mangers told me she never saw me so dedicated. I know, my dear, that’s because I’ve never been dedicated! The best bit? Looking at myself in the mirror, seeing how I’m shaping up and feeling so proud of myself. I have never, ever, EVER felt proud of myself. Not even on my graduation day. Not even when the CEO of my company thanked me for my work on a worldwide company townhall. Yet, I now feel I’m doing great. My mood is great, my body is becoming great (I can hear my psychotherapist in my mind saying “why just becoming?” and well, that’s because I can see where I am going and I’m not there yet, but I will), I’m on a roll here and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

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not really appealing, no…

I even managed to beat a panic attack! Ok, it is marginally my merit and all credits go to my colleague Elena who, unknowingly, helped me big time. So, because I’m going big with my training, I’m going big with my nutrition, my protein intake, and supplements to help recovery etc. I had a sample of amino to try and I decide to give it a go – that is, before I actually poured it into my water bottle and I came face to face with this very Chelsea FC blue liquid… I tasted it, it was just… no. NO. I was ready to pour it down the sink, no way Jose I’m drinking that, when Elena came round, had a taste, said “oh, it tastes like medicine! Come on, let’s drink it”, poured a glass for her and one for me and chucked one down like nothing ever happened. My jaw dropped. My brain went into “bitch, the challenge is on, if she did it, you do it too”. Well, we managed to drink the whole lot. I kept my panic attack at bay, and I think those amino worked a treat for my muscles too because I didn’t feel remotely sore. Friday I did the same, only this time it was a special whey powder. I chucked it down like if it was water, and whatever stupid thing my brain was trying to tell me, I kept it as far away as I could because hey, if my muscles need this shit, my muscles will get it.

gym1Today I’m resting as much as I can. My week has been a crazy rollercoaster and who knows what is going to happen tomorrow. One thing is for sure: not matter what, I’ll be at the gym lifting, you can bet on it!

 

COOKING UP A STORM

I have always been an extremely skinny girl. You could have easily counted my bones if you’d seen me naked. I take it from my father, who was just as skinny when he was young. Having said that, I have also been underweight all my life because I barely ate. Just as for being a tomboy, to me not feeling hungry and eating the tiniest amount of food was nothing strange.

I just never felt the need to eat. No, I have never been anorexic, nor I ever had any eating disorder. I was born with it. I grew up nicely and hit every milestone with a swiss clock precision, but I simply ate nothing at all. My mum, who has always been an extremely anxious person, had me checked millions of times by any doctor she could find. My father still recalls the embarrassment of having a doctor who just left the house crossing his path with another one that was about to get in, waving at each other and commenting “first child syndrome?” “yeah, good luck!”. Anyway, no matter how many consultants my mum rang, the diagnosis was always the same: “Madam, your daughter is just not hungry enough”.

You would think that, after 100+ doctors, my mum would just resign to the fact that there was nothing that could have “healed” me from this “horrible issue”, but we are talking about my mum here, who always knows best and who definitely knows more than any doctor in her (often deluded) head. I don’t know, to this day, why she took it so personally and why she made such a drama about it (she still does, by the way: when I told her the other day that my personal trainer at the gym put me on a diet – to build muscles – she screamed blue murder because “YOU? DIET? YOU ARE SO SKINNY YOU LOOK LIKE ANOREXIC”). All I know is that, even though she was doing it for my own good, she made my life hell on Earth.

fotoOK, to be fair to her, in addition of not feeling the need to eat, I became quite soon an extreme pain in the arse with my fussy eating habits. The combination of having an extremely low level of hunger with an extremely high level of fussiness and squeamishness, meant that almost everything triggered my “nope, my stomach is closed” feeling. Believe me, it was so dead easy to upset me. If cutlery, glasses and plates were not absolutely spotlessly clean (including no water stains) I just couldn’t bring myself to eat, and because I have a very sensitive nose, these better not have smelled of eggs (it is still one of my pet hates today!). Meat had to be cut into microscopical pieces, because I would have spit everything back on the place if any amount of fat reached my mouth. My plate had to be half full. Pasta had to be barely cooked. Fruit had to be as unripen as possible as I couldn’t eat it if sweet (I still have a thing for sour flavours) and in case it had a stone in it, like peaches or apricot, my mum had to dispose it before I saw it or – shock horror – touch it: It makes me feel weird just thinking about it (And writing about it, aaaaahhhh), it gives me goosebumps and it totally freaks me out.

Lunches and dinners were dramas, with my mum trying to feed me anything she could and me refusing it. The story was always the same: she put food on the table, I would barely touch it, she proceeded in losing her cool, frustration would rise to the roof, she would demand I eat, then she would start threatening, then yelling, then my father would intervene by barking at me to fucking eat my food and I would end up crying staring at my plate, praying my food would just evaporate like water in the heat. This drama at some point changed though: my mum discovered a medicine called Carpantin: it was liquid, it had a sweet, absolutely vile taste and it made me drowsy as fuck. I think my mum made me drink litres of it throughout my childhood. It stimulated hunger, and it kind of worked as, during “the cure”, as my mum would call the month or so she made me have that shit, I ate more than I normally would. Whenever I saw those bottles in the medicine’s cabinet, my heart sank. I don’t remember why, at some point, this hell ended (I think that there has been a shortage of it and my doctor just stopped prescribing it because “enough is enough”).

The mantras I heard day in, day out, was that I looked sick, that I was skin and bones, that I looked like a stick with clothes. When I was a child, I almost felt a sense of pride: I looked like a boy and I didn’t mind, I fit into tiny clothes, nobody teased me for being overweight (though in the 80s being overweight was rare) and it just seemed a fun thing, so I was welcoming those negative comments about my body because to me they were something cool.

Well.

Not so much when teenage years started: my peers started to have boobs and curves and well, I still had bones on show. Hearing constantly “you will go to the hospital because you are all bones! “you have only skin attached to your bones!” “look at you, you are so skinny you look sick!”, “you are a stick with clothes on”, “you should stay in the science room as you’d be perfect as a skeleton” went from fun to steadily eroding my self-esteem, and once that was gone, it fuelled hate for my body.

Partly because of my fussiness, and partly because I wanted to gain weight and shush all the “skinny bitch” shit, I started to learn how to cook by myself. My mum is worldwide famous OCD: if anything is not spotless (especially her kitchen), hell will break lose, so she never taught me anything in case I made a mess in her house. I didn’t mind, I wanted to do things my way and learn flavours, techniques and recipes all by myself: yes, I’m a loner when it comes to learning and I thrive when I am left alone to do my own things (this is also the way I managed to get a Law degree: no classroom, just me, my books and a tutor for help).

Turned out, cooking became a relaxing session for my brain: I didn’t have to think anything but what I wanted to eat and what steps I had to follow in order to feed me what I wanted. There was no fussiness, no anxiety, no drama: I had total control on everything: the flavours, the portion sizes, the recipes. Moreover, it helped me be more curious about food, more inclined to taste and give it a go. An amazing world of possibilities opened its doors for me and I loved it because I was the undisputed Queen of it.

Cooking became my life saviour when my post-natal depression took a turn for the worst, and I lived on a chain of endless panic attacks. Guess what was the main thing who triggered my attacks? Yes, food: I became scared of dying of an anaphylactic shock from a random allergy. I know, rationally, that it was absolutely insane, but there and then? No way, Jose. It took me 2 years to discover that the feeling of suffocating and dying triggered by food was due to a combination of asthma and gastric reflux, but in the meantime it was constant horror.
Anything that was not plain pasta (and I mean just boiled, no oil, cheese, nothing), plain rice or water sent me in a terrible meltdown. I lost so much weight in the space of two months that I (truly) became a skeleton with clothes on. No one seemed to care though: doctors brushed me off with “first time mum syndrome”, “it’s just baby blues”, “cheer up and enjoy this moment”, like I was having a blast living in that horrible.

I could have never tolerated anyone cooking for me at that stage. I would have never, ever, trusted anyone to cook exactly how my anxiety dictated and with the only few things that spared me a panic attack. I spent more time than I’m happy to admit staring at my kitchen thinking “here we go again… Russian roulette bring it on….”. I started re-introducing things little by little, one item at a time. Depending on how brave I felt in that moment, or how strong I felt to push myself, I increased variety, I added spices and flavours. It took ages but being the master of my own resurrection has been very empowering (but please, if you read this, don’t feel like there is no help out there: there is. Don’t surrender like me. SEEK HELP. I beg you), but it left massive mental scars that only now I’m managing to heal.

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A cake I made recently to celebrate Seb Vettel’s victory at the Belgium Grand Prix

Now that I’m better, I am back at loving cooking for what it is. Over the last couple of years I have also improved my baking skills, and every now and then I test my creations on my colleagues. Funny thing is, when I started bringing cakes at the office, their feedback was “good”, “nice”, “ok”, “amazing”; now that it happens quite often, they are used to it and their feedback is like Michelin Star inspector: “needs more moisture”, “this was good but slightly too lemony”, “amazing, but decoration could have been neater”.

By the way, since I see that my blog gets read all over the world, if you have any recipe please please please share it with me (any good dhal recipe would be greatly appreciated!)!

IT’S BRITNEY B#TCH!

Before anyone says anything: yes, I am a metalhead and proud.
Yes, I grew up with Kreator, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and the whole lot of thrash metal; I got more band merchandise than what a “normal” person is supposed to own; I probably spent way too much money on heavy metal gig tickets than what I should have done and yes, I even got Slayer tattooed on my left leg.

But.

I have an insane love for Britney Spears.
I love her, I worship her, she is the mighty Britney bitch and I’m a devoted, proud fan. Whoever says anything bad about her in front of me ends up at the receiving end of a massive rant so don’t you ever dare do it, ok?
LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE, OK?

siso2Lot of people teased me for being a Britney fan in the past, and some still tried to teas me nowadays. As you can imagine, I care about it just as much as I care about what Kim Kardashian ate for lunch today: a big, fat zero.
People think it is absolutely odd for a metalhead, who is all Slayer and horns up, to listen to such a cheesy popstar. The fact that I (predominantly) listen to Heavy Metal doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate anything else, I mean, I grew up being Madonna fan, and maybe one day I’ll tell the funny tale of that time I went to see her gig alone lying to my mum, but for some reason people are not that bothered about me being Madge’s fan as about me adoring Britney.
I have never bothered to explain the reasons why I am such a fan to these people, mainly because:
a) I knew the people having fun at me were not really interested in hearing them anyway, they just wanted more stuff to laugh at my expenses (like I give a single fuck about it), and
b) because, fundamentally, I couldn’t have been remotely arsed to waste my time and energy to do it, and since it involves my mental health too, the less thing I shared the better.

I did a post on Facebook once about it, but I have been stupid enough to cancel it because it was very personal, and I didn’t want my ex to see it (yeah, call me Queen Dumb, I deserve it). I’ll try to re-explain it here, and I promise this time I won’t remove it.

I hated Britney Spears.

43159It took me a split second to hate her, as soon as I caught a glimpse of her on tv. She was a fabricated cute little girl vomited out of that Disney club where everyone seemed to be pushed out to make money: Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera… you name it.
When she came out with “Baby one more time” I was already a metal head, and she was the personification of everything I hated in a girl: pretty blonde hair, pretty body, dumb acting like a teenager, silly girlie face and behaviour, that horrid baby voice, the hideous clothes, the even more hideous dance moves…
Shivers down my spine.
She was indeed beautiful, a classic case of “all the girls want to be like her and all the boys want to be with her”. Everywhere you went, every time you turned MTv on, she was there, with her stupid bimbo songs about stupid bimbo stuff. Jeez she made me want to pull my hair and rip my ears! She became big like very few pop stars did, she sang with Michael Jackson (think whatever you want about him, but he was the King of Pop ok?), she did a song with Madonna (!!!) and who can’t forget her performance at the MTv VMAs 2001, with a massive snake on her shoulder? Or the one with Madonna and Christina Aguilera? I watched all of them in a sort of shock horror (for the record, “I’m a Slave for You” it is not one of my favourite songs still today).
I kept disliking her for years, who cares about that American, ex-Disney stupid girl anyway right? She is nothing like the Real Queen of Pop Madonna, I don’t care.

However, the picture-perfect image of this lovely cute girl suddenly started to break. She became like a wild beast in a cage, trying to get out of a very gold prison she wasn’t happy to be locked in anymore… and one day she just lost her shit. Royally. Like a supernova explosion, she literally exploded in a massive, full blown mentally insane fit: she shaved her beautiful, gold blonde hair, she beat the shit out of a paparazzi car with an umbrella, she was completely, completely insane. Her eyes when she shaved her head where those of someone who’s not right in their head and that cannot be stopped unless sedated. Everyone who was there with her was either trying to get a picture of her or trying to upset her even more to make her go even crazier. I felt sick in the stomach.

I remember watching the footages (the “perks” of being a celebrity is that all your ups and downs get ruthlessly broadcasted on and on and on….) and I just felt… sorry.
I was so sorry for her.
I wanted to hug her, to hug her like I would have hug my best friend in a similar fit of rage, and just cry with her.

For once, I felt even luckier than her: very few people witnessed me losing my shit, having panic attacks, and ending up in a very horrible meltdown, or not making it on time to get to the toilet during one of my anxiety attacks and… well…  etc. etc. Everything people know about my problems is what I decide to share. It is up to me what I want to make people aware of, I have full control of it. When I cut my long hair very, very short, not too far from Britney’s shaved head, because I hated myself and I wanted to rip off the only thing I liked about me, I didn’t have an army of people outside, taking billions of pictures of me and laughing at my expenses. It was just me and a stupid hair stylist, who should have spent a bit more time talking with me and maybe, just maybe, convince me to gradually shorten my hair, rather than chopping all my locks in one go then grabbing the razor like he had been waiting for that moment all his life. It took me 6 years to set foot in another hair saloon, such traumatic was that experience. Still, no one waited for me outside to laugh at me and my almost bald head. Thankfully. I would have killed myself there and then, and I mean what I’m saying (I was that fragile).

Britney? Not so much. Every single detail fed tabloid for months, and years. Her pictures, the measures that her family had to take in order to keep her alive and (medically) cared for, the custody of her kids gone to that work-shy sleazebag of her ex-husband, everything. It still haunts her today, 11 years later. Everything she does, good or bad, she will always be “the one who went mental” in 2007. All. The. Time. Give it a bloody rest, we got it!!!

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My metal collection and Britney (with her show’s ticket!)

That day, Britney may have lost her marbles, but she gained a fan: me.
I started rooting for her. Every progress she made, I was there cheering for her. When “Blackout” came out, I bought it immediately, and much to my surprise, I loved it to bits. It is still amongst my all-time favourite albums ever, together with Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, Kreator’s “Endorama” and Megadeth’s “Rest in Peace”. If you wonder, my favourite song from “Blackout” is “Break the Ice”. No discussion about it mates.
When she performed “Gimme More” at the VMAs in 2007, not in her best mental and physical shape, I cried all my tears in front of the tv: everybody bitched and trashed her, saying she was a fat cow unable to move and sing. Yes, she wasn’t exactly in the same shape of when she was dancing with that bloody yellow snake years before, ok. However, what I saw was more than what the tv transmitted: I saw a strong woman, performing in the face of all the shit that happened to her, still trying to do her bit in the best way she could. Yes, it was atrocious, but I dare you do the same when your mind is in a blur: best of times, when I’m in my worst states, I can barely tolerate to function, let alone get on a stage and putting up a show. When it was my turn to go to work even though I was suicidal and out of my right mind, that performance kept playing in my head: “if Britney did it in front of a huge crowd, live on tv where millions of people were watching, so can I” I kept repeating myself. Every single minute of every single day.
Still today, every time I have to face something difficult, I channel that thought in my head and off I go.

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That’s my Britney!

I am so happy that not only she recovered, but that she is still a successful performer, has her life back on track, a smoking hot body, her kids back with her and so many good things. Think what you want, I don’t care, she deserves everything she gets.

Why all this blurb about Britney?

Well, on Friday I went to see her live in London, for the very first time in my life.

Yes, I was still recovering from food poisoning, but I was there.

I wore my hair extensions, some very pink and funky makeup (I had to get ready at the office, in the only Friday where everyone was in, so I had the pleasure of doing a walk of shame out of it) and yeah, as you can imagine, I was so agitated and emotional that I felt almost sick.

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Me on the train back home. DEVASTATED.

The gig was…. Well, the only thing I can say is that I cried all my tears. All my emotions, all my suffering, all my mental problems… I felt like it was the beginning of a new era for me. I sang all songs, I danced like crazy, I laughed and had fun with everyone around me, it was just magical. Magical.
I don’t care if she lip-synced all her performance, or if her moves where not super complicated: the whole show was just exceptional, and I had the night of my life.
Before anyone asks: no, I didn’t take any picture of video of the show. I kept my phone in my pocket and just lived the moment as it was unfolding (and I was too busy trying not to lose my fake eyelashes because I was in a flood of tears).
The next day I felt like I suddenly became a 98 years old woman, since part of my body ached (including my hair: fucking hell, hair extensions are heavy!!!). I regretted not having bought tickets to see her even Saturday and Sunday, but hey, I’m sure it won’t be her last tour and who knows what the future holds for both of us?

HEAVY METAL OR NO METAL AT ALL

When people say “music saved my life”, I don’t have to make any effort to believe it.
I am one of them too.

kreator1My life saviour was Heavy Metal, discovered through MTv (dinousaur mode on: back in my days, MTv was a true music channel!). In Italy, we could only watch the US version of it, and just for a handful of hours a day, as it was hosted on another italian tv channel. MTv Italia came later on, when MTv headquarters realised that Italian youngsters were eager to have a brand new, modern channel dedicated to them.
Being a teenager, I soon decided that sleeping a decent amount of hours at night was overrated, and that staying up late at night (and waking up with massive dark circles around my eyes) was super cool;  Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were on at 1am, so there I was, cup of tea in my hand, mesmerised in front of my best friend forever the TV, and who cares if the price to pay was being a zombie at school the next day.

One night, skipping channels out of boredom, I ended up watching a programme on MTv called SuperRock.

And DAMN!

That music! Those guitars! Those sweaty, long haired people shouting anger and fury at a microphone, surrounded by even sweatier and angrier people down the stage. I had an epiphany there and then. Like for all my passions, I went from nothing to “I’m so into it like nobody can ever be able to”. Out with the colours, in with all black clothes.

Yes, Madonna was my hero (because she was so doing whatever she wanted to do, whether it was appropriate or not, and to me she was an inspiration of the woman I wanted to be), I quite liked rock music and I am still a proud Queen fan, but other than that, pop music never spoke to me at a deeper level. Boy bands? oh dear me no… I found them embarassaing (now, 20 years later, I am one with Gary Barlow and Gary Barlow is with me. Oh, and Backstreet’s back alright!).
Spice Girls? PPPlllease. Bunch of chavs (I didn’t know what a chav was, of course, but in Italy we called them “zarri” o “tamarri” which is kind of the same thing).
That creepy dance music? What is love (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more – sorry I HAD TO!)?
Heavy metal didn’t need me to be anything but myself. All that frustration, all that fury, all the drama of being so not the norm, suddenly it had a voice, and a fucking loud as hell one. I finally found something I could relate to.

Hiding in my bedroom now went from “I hate everyone, I don’t want them to see what an ugly, stupid disaster I am” to “I’m meditating about life whilst listening to Slayer”. Hours and hours with headphones on, crying over those lyrics, raising my horns up in the sky, releasing through those guitar riffs all the pain I had inside. Those people really knew what I was going through, they were just like me, only older and more famous. I found my dimension.

My parents were not convinced at first, but being my parents and being used to my craziness, they decided it was best to allow me to enjoy my latest passion rather than denying it. They hoped that, like other previous stuff I got into, I would grow out of it at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later) and maybe, just maybe, that I would pick something less doom and gloom next (unfortunately for them, it never happened).

I saved like a crazy Uncle Scrooge every single penny to afford any metal album out there. I was like a drug addict, I needed more, more, more, more! On the subject, I would like to officially blame Luca Signorelli (HAHAHA I love you!) who, thanks to his album reviews on the italian version of Metal Hammer, made me fall in love with some amazing bands I still adore to this day (Kreator, Megadeth and Testament, to name a few!). My poor dad had to be dragged every single Saturday to the music store to buy CDs (“dad, Luca says that Endorama is a bomb, I have to have it”; “dad, you don’t get it, I know, but Machine Head “The More Things Change” is like… omg dad… read Luca’s review, come on, I MUST OWN IT RIGHT NOW daddy please daddy he is raving about it I will die if I don’t listen to it”). My dad rolled his eyes, resigned himself at spending another Saturday amongst the weirdos at the music store and stared at me and my peers, surrounded by those CDs with these quite creepy covers, pretending to be totally fine even though he looked like a fish out of water, because yeah, she is my daughter, she is cool, poor you other dads who don’t get it.

My mum, eager to do shopping with her daughter even-if-not-for-the-lovely-pretty-dressed-she-hoped-for, came with me to all those metal-dark-all black shops full of band merchandise (SoundCave and Mariposa, I salute you!) and helped me pick the best t-shirts (“no that dragon is too brown, get this one instead, the red writing matches your new jeans better, oh and you definitely need this one with all these skulls and blood. Oh, get this long-sleeve, for colder days. Oh, accessories! Get this necklace with this 15cm sword pendant”). Of course, she also got me a leather jacket because you ain’t a metalhead without having one. FACT!
Best of all, I was allowed to wear those t-shirts at school. My mum said so. Who am I to go against my mum?
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we didn’t have school uniforms in Italy (and we still don’t)!
Once a teacher dared to make me feel bad about my beloved Blind Guardian t-shirt, 19featuring a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’ Silmarillion; she said I should have worn it upside down because she couldn’t stand that horrible drawing of some creepy satanic scene. I went histerical and I basically told her she was ignorant as fuck (ok I didn’t say it in these terms, of course, I was a good girl, I didn’t want to be suspended) because those satanic drawings were, in fact, a scene from the Silmarillion written by Tolkien, and that maybe she should have studied some proper literature before saying shit about my shirt.
Read some books bitch!
Of course the teacher was not impressed at my attitue and of course she called my mum. If you read my previous posts, you know that my mum is… my mum. Yeah, she stormed in my teacher office telling her to mind her fucking business, that her job was to teach me Latin, not to be fashion police, besides what the hell she thinks she knew about fashion anyway, it is known that black is flattering, skulls are cool, and I picked the t-shirt for my daughter, it is not offensive in any shape or form, it is art, this is Tolkien ok? Never heard of the Lord of The Rings? Hey I will make my daughter wear it every single day till the end of the school if I have to OK? How about you get the book and you read it in class so that you can teach the kids some culture?.

Aaaaand I ended up parading metal shirt all school year long.
Cheers mum, you da best!

I remember the very first time I went to a metal gig: Blind Guardian were playing in a little, punk / rock place called Rainbow in some dodgy area somewhere in Milan. A friend and I, both 14 years old (I think) went there totally unprepared for what we were about to experience: we thought we were super cool and super alternative, probably amongst the older chaps in the place. Turns out, we were just… exactly who we were. Two kids. Amongst very hairy, older, taller, bigger people than us. We kind of lied to our mums to be able to go (“noooo don’t worry it is just… some Germans…. Fans of Tolkien…. Yeah super cool thing, fantasy lovers, nothing to be concerned….”), and I can still see as it happened yesterday the look of pure horror and terror when they realised where their precious 14 something years old offspring were about to spend their evening. We smiled and waved, then run inside in the hope they would not chase us and drag our sorry asses back in the car and home. We were sure we’d be grounder for couple of years after this, but fuck it, we were too cool to care. We had the time of our lives. Metal has always been (at least back then) such an inclusive community, because at the end of the day we were all in the same condition of being outcasts, and weird, and different, so if you had a band t-shirt and you lived and breathed metal, you were part of the family and be looked after. Period.

Incidentally, my love for heavy metal happened at the start of what I like to call “The tech revolution” in Italy. It was the beginning of a “fast”, reliable, affordable 24/7 internet. Before that, internet was only for those who could pay quite the eye-watering telephone bill, and if you wanted it for free you were allowed only 30 minutes a day. But there’s more: you had to unplug the landline phone, plug the internet one in, turn on that fucking noisy 56k modem and hope for the best. Ahhhh, those where the days where websites were 4 lines of texts and a picture or two, and you’d see it loading line by line. You had to have patience. Now I freak out if my 4G doesn’t load BBC Sport in 3 seconds. Our parents used to yell at us if we forgot to re-plug the landline back, and important calls went missing (yep!). Google made its debut and suddenly everyone discovered what a search engine was. Gosh I feel ancient! ANCIENT!

The world started to feel smaller. In the comfort of my room, I discovered I could connect with everyone, from Australia to Peru; most importantly, I discovered something totally ground-breaking: I was not alone.

Hyperventilating moment.

I was NOT alone.

Out there, thanks to my computer, I had the power to reach tons of people that were like me.

Weird, like me. Different, like me. Listening to heavy metal, like me. Wearing black, like me. Being outcasts, and nerds, and crazy, and fun, and intelligent, and non-judgemental…. And the list goes on and on. Words cannot express how good and relieving it felt to finally be part of something, to have a gang of friends always ready to be there for me and chat with me and have fun with me anytime I switched my computer on.

Of course, my parents wanted to make sure I was not ending up in some satanic cult, so they met all my new friends, and because all of us were based in various cities across Italy, they drove me to whatever city we decided to have our meeting in (and joined the fun too!). By the way, I was the youngest amongst my friends. Most of them were at university already, some were older and were working, some had family and kids. Still, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. What matter was what we had inside, what we had to say, the music we loved, not what society labelled us (“old”, “freak”, “ugly”, “student”, “son”, “father”, “wife” etc…). To this day, I’m grateful for this experience: it taught me you can be friend with anyone, anywhere.

To this day, I’m still a metalhead, and I’m still crazy at heart.

slayer
yeah, I looked a bit like this that day

My wardrobe is full of black band t-shirts that I wear to go to work: I traumatised few colleagues with my t-shirts; one of them had the “baptism of fire” the day he started: he was all suited and booted (corporate, finance world attire) in reception, waiting for “Silvia” to pick him up. He was expecting, well, a corporate dressed woman…. and instead, he got me, Slayer t-shirt, ripped jeans, scruffy hair, storming in the reception, phone in my hand, yelling at whoever forgot to tell me that guests needed to be picked up.
Oh, the day I turned up at my desk with my Kreator “Satan is Real” t-shirt: hey, it was casual Friday, nobody said anything about “maybe NOT that casual”…!
If someone wanders around my office looking for me, my desk is easy to spot: there are pictures of Slayer everywhere, including on my stapler, and before we moved area, I even had a German corner with all my German favourite bands (sorry, Ich liebe Deutschland sehr).

Heavy metal made me travel countries for gigs like crazy, to the point I ended up being in a special, secret EasyJet club for frequent flyers (no lies!).
I met almost all my favourite musicians and I got some funny stories to tell about it… ah, the day I almost fainted in front of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, the poor guy kept hugging me, telling me “it’s ok, it’s going to be fine, give me a big smile”; the day I spent hanging out with Testament thanks to the cake I baked for Chuck Billy’s birthday, or

anthrax
Amongst the Italians

Steve Souza of Exodus on stage dedicating “Blacklist” to me as he met me outside the venue before the gig, I was in tears ’cause I got dumped recently (by the same guy I got recently dumped, I should add)…. or when I froze to death to meet Sven Dirkschneider, or Wolf Hoffmann, or Kreator, and the time I met Anthrax and Frank Bello shouted “this picture will be called Amongst the Italians”….

And those friends I made on the internet? They are still (!!!) my friends. We chat on Facebook all the time, we meet if we have the chance and we have fun just like we did when we were younger. Over the years I met some incredible people thanks to this music. Hand on heart, the sweetest, craziest, funniest guys on Earth. Boy, they have to handle me, and some of them learned the hard way what it is like to have me as “your

ros
Ros and I at Slayer’s gig

BFF”. Rosario, my dearest of all, still has nightmares thinking about going to gigs with me: to give you an idea, the time we saw Kreator together, I began the gig by promising him I’d behave, but by the time the lights went off, I have been told I threw my beer up in the air shouting “OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD” and I began ramming people down to reach the front row…. Rosario eventually found me, headbanging the hell out of that gig somewhere in the venue, totally mental. Slightly better than the time we saw Slayer, and I kept texting him a barrage of messages, then I started jumping around him, yelling in hir ears and be a total nuisance. He still loves me, somehow (till the next gig).

For the record, since when it comes to Heavy Metal I’m still the bonkers teenager at

mille
Me & the lengendary Mille Petrozza

heart, my friends still treats me as such, and to this day, they still tease me for having Slayer tattoed on my leg (of course!) and, most of all, for still fancying Mille Petrozza of Kreator. Hey, 20+ years of pure, undisputed love here guys, I travelled half of Europe to follow the guy, I even mastered to learn some German for him! Show some respect!

HAHAH HORNS UP! \m/

FORMULA FERRARI

I have always been, and I will always be, 100% daddy’s girl. I am not sure if this is the root cause of me being a total, unapologetic tomboy, but I can’t deny that my undisputed love for my dad had certainly an impact on who I am.

Hands up, no lies, my dad in my eyes was this mystical creature descended from heaven, the saviour and bringer of anything good and amazing, the legendary super powerful dude who-drives-the-car and who-goes-to-work and who-spends-time-in-office and who-owns-a-computer and omg he is such a hero fuck you stupid princes my dad is the real shit. I never quite got why the entire planet Earth didn’t consider itself honoured and blessed to be The Planet were my dad was born – I certainly considered myself being so lucky to be his daughter.

As you can imagine, anything my dad did or said was pure gold out of a fountain of diamonds and rainbows; anything he liked was to be religiously and devotedly liked, and anything he owned or hoped to own were the official Most Precious Things Ever Existed.

Much for my mum’s dismay, it became quite obvious that I had more things in common with my dad than with her.

He loved (and still loves) to travel, he had amazing stories to tell, he took beautiful papapictures, he used to have a dark room kit to develop photos from film, he did some pretty cool stuff when he was “young and wild” (and hippie!)… excitement all around. But most importantly, my dad has always been into sports. When he was at home, the TV was constantly showing some sport programme: NBA basketball, wrestling, football, motorbikes, athletics, skiing, you name it.

For the average Italian catholic family, Sundays were the days dedicated to God: you had a shower, you wore your Sunday best clothes (aka: the prettiest dresses to make all other church-goers green with envy), you went to church to attend mass, you spent mass doing some proper fashion police and gossiping about people you saw, you repented from your sins (or pretended to), and if you survived long enough to see the end of it, then you went to the nearest patisserie to buy dessert to take home for the Sunday lunch.

Well… in my house, only my mum was (is) religious. My dad is as atheist as it comes. My mum made sure I did all the sacraments and Catholics bits and bobs, hoping for me to develop some sort of faith. I did, just not for the God she was hoping for. For my dad and I, the Only Religion Worth of Worship was Formula 1. Still is! (yes, and to a much worse lever of hysteria, for the record). Trust me, when people talk about “religious integralists”, they could have easily portrayed my dad and I on a race Sunday. Infidels-hating people? HA! No match for my dad and I’s rage against whoever dared to step in the way of Ferrari and its racing glory. Oh, and we A L W A Y S watched it live (and still do). Even if it meant waking up at 4am and be barely able to keep our eyes open.

The ritual was always the same every single racing Sunday: silence fell at exactly hqdefault12:00pm with the first few notes of Grand Prix’s theme tune (an Italian programme about Formula 1 and motorsports in general). The presenter, Mr Andrea De Adamich (a former racing driver), was our Pope. My dad and I stared at the TV without even blinking our eyes. If we were eating, we didn’t chew, or swallow, or anything, to not miss any single breath coming out of the presenter’s mouth. No guests were allowed, unless they loved Formula 1 AND only if they brought luck to Ferrari. I remember I had a friend, during those glorious Schumacher years, who supported Mika Hakkinen and McLaren. For four Sundays in a row, he came over to watch the race at my house, and in each race, Michael Schumacher didn’t even make it to the first corner. I unplugged the 526x297-u6llandline and went into hiding, or faked sicknesses, or other things to avoid him like the plague on the following Sundays (vengeance tasted so sweet when Michael won in Monza and Hakkinen was found crying somewhere around the track)

Of course, my dad and I spent Sundays praying. Oh yes, we did! We prayed non-stop, deeply, and intensely, we prayed hard and till tears run down our faces… only we prayed whoever the Ferrari drivers were at the time to not let us spend another depressing Sunday afternoon witnessing Ferrari doing the usual shitty race and mourning the driver’s championship that surely, we’ll win – just not this year (again. FFS).

Put it this way, I learned the hard way that prayers don’t work. Period.

Whenever Ferrari won, our household exploded: we got the cakes and the wine out, we’d shout, and jump, and scream, then I’d run to grab my enormous Ferrari flags and I would hang them in every window or terrace of the house. My mum was not allowed toschumacher_1980206c touch our display of Ferrari love up until the following Sunday. YES SIR. Oh, when Michael Schumacher made the Miracle with capital M to win the Constructor’s championship and then, finally, the DRIVER championship. My dad and I cried for a week solid, and then we enjoyed 7 blissful years of:
– turning the tv on to watch the race;
– sit on the sofa (bed in my case, as I had the tv in my bedroom);
– watch the race start;
– ensure Michael was leading the race;
– fall asleep;
– wake up when Michael was on the podium;
– repeat the next race.

s-l300On Monday, my dad would buy Austosprint, the most famous motorport magazines, and when he finished reading it, he’d pass it on to me so I could cut Ferrari’s pictures and stick them to my bedroom’s wall. If it was summertime, then he’d also buy “La Gazzetta dello Sport” every day. I am proud to say that those two things helped me perfecting my reading skills at a very young age, because my dad was kind and prima schumi-kVkE-U901001961194ISG-350x467@Gazzetta-Web_articolosweet, yes, but after the fourth time I made him re-read the same old article, he’d tell me “learn to read and read it yourself!”. And rightly so! Oh, that day I read that Ferrari was about to sell Jean Alesi and Gehrard Berger to hire Michael Schumacher… I was FURIOUS! I hated that German prick with a passion. That hate didn’t last long though!

My dad’s and my love for Formula 1 has been often borderline insane; I bet that my mum has secretly wondered more than once whether she should have had us locked up in a mental facility. The stuff we did…. like waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning to queue at Monza and get the best seats to watch the private practice’s sessions, lying to my mum “we are just having a little gathering with some Ferrari fans….” and ending up in Monaco for the Thursday practice session (my mum was not pleased….). There is one lovely episode that I feel like sharing though:

My dad knew I was madly in love with Nigel Mansell. He is still today one of my all-time Ferrari heroes (my son’s second name is Nigel… just sayin’…). One of the Italian petrol companies came up with a Formula 1 sticker album, with all the drivers and cars: every

nigel
of course I bought his authobiography!

10 Mila Lire of fuel (no Euros when I was a little girl!) you got a bag of sticker, so the more you filled your car, the more stickers you got. The thing was though that fuel of that brand was more expensive, and my dad didn’t really want to spend more for some stickers, since my bedroom was plastered with Ferrari stuff top to bottom anyway. I begged, I begged, and I begged some more, till he gave in and said, “ok but JUST THIS TIME”. He filled the car, got the stickers, gave them to me.
We both held our breaths whilst I opened the first little bag.
And I saw it.
One shot, one kill, here it was, Nigel’s sticker in my hand.
We had a moment of silence.
My hands were shaking.
My dad and I screamed the car down of happiness (I bet he was also very happy that he didn’t have to put up with a very disappointed daughter and, potentially, more fuel purchases to find that fucking sticker!).

The price to pay for loving an extreme sport is that, unfortunately, sooner or later, you’ll learn that those daredevils you hail as heroes are just as mortal as you are. My dad used to tell me all about those legendary accidents that he witnessed over the years of his Formula 1 love, such as when Niki Lauda almost got burned alive in 1976, or when Wolfgang von Trips collided with Jim Clarke’s car and his car went flying, killing him and 15 spectators at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961. I remember how emotional it was for both of us, walking around Monza’s circuit, and stand in the sport where it happened. Yes, if you are wondering, my dad also talked an awful lot about his personal legend: Gilles Villeneuve.
When you are a kid, and you hear all these stories, you don’t really get that these are real things. Most importantly, you don’t think that, one day, you’d be the one witnessing it happening in front of your eyes.
My rose-tinted, legendary portrait of the Formula 1 world ended dramatically on the 1st of May 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix. Even though 24 years have passed since that fatal day, I still had to pause for a moment before keeping writing about it.
That race was just… NO. That weekend was doomed from the start.  Rubens Barrichello almost died on the Friday practice session. On the Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger was killed by crashing his car at 310kmh on a wall. It was not looking good. But, life goes on, and to quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. I can still see it happening in front of my eyes as we speak. It felt so surreal. I didn’t want to believe it. Nobody wanted to believe it. My dad was shocked and he wanted to just shut the television for good. He knew. I didn’t. I held on to all the hope I could with all my heart; I prayed, yes, for the first time I summoned any god or anything above to do something and… please don’t take him, please don’t. I spent my day glued at the TV in search for news, any news. In the evening, Ayrton was declared dead. I cried like a baby in my dad’s arms. My dad just kept hugging me in silence. Ayrton was gone and with him, the fairy tale died as well.

Ok, before I burst into tears, let’s bring the mood of this post to a fun one, shall we?

As I said, my passion for Formula 1 is still alive and strong. Even though we don’t have our Sunday ritual anymore, my dad and I are still as crazy as ever. Even though he is in Italy and I’m in the UK, we make it work but furiouslyferrari2 texting each other constantly during qualifying session and, most importantly, during the race. We don’t have filters, and most our conversation is made by an endless list of swearing words, curses thrown at random drivers, F-bombs (or, V words, as we go VAFFANCULO in Italy) and so on. Yeah, we would make sailors blush.
However, I missed sharing this crazy passion of mine on a daily basis with someone, and guess who is now at the receiving end of my Formula 1 love? My dear colleague Shary!
I know you are reading this my friend, and I want to use this space to personally thank you for being an awesome friend and Ferrari fan. You are da best in da world!

shary
bad Monday….

Shary and I are on a constant stream of Formula 1 talks and updates. We live and breathe BBC Sport Formula 1 Gossip. On a Monday, depending on how the race went, we don’t even have to talk: we just look at each other and we instantly know what the other one is thinking… and then we start debating like two Formula 1 pundits, much for the “pleasure” of the other colleagues surrounding us!
Over the last 2 years I’ve worked hard to get the rest of my office not only into the racing spirit, but also into supporting Ferrari, and to do so, I have used the most powerful resource after “money bribery”: FOOD. Everyone knows that, if Ferrari

ferrari
caught in the act of delivering the cake

wins, I will bake a cake and bring it over to celebrate. They may not watch the race and be truly Ferrari fanatics like Shary and I, but they WILL check the race results and they will text me “so…. How about Lemon Drizzle?” “is it going to be Red Velvet tomorrow?” “can we have cake even though Vettel arrived second?”
I’m telling you, should Sebastian Vettel win the Driver’s championship, I’ll bake a cake so big I’ll need to come to the office in a truck to carry it!!!!!