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Leanne Talbot Nowell

There was a big black cloud in the sky yesterday. A cold wind whipped the back of my neck and blew my painting off the terrace. The paper fluttered off in the direction of the subject. That being Renata on her balcony in her scarlet gown. The light was fading fast so there was no time to go running down to look for it. I grabbed another piece of paper and painted it again. The second try was slightly more confident. Like most things in life, letting go and starting again can be a good thing.

Luckily my jacket had a hoodie. While this virus blows around, we all need to put on our hoodies and focus on doing something good for the soul. No running down to look for stuff and delaying the call to non-action.

Those who must go to work to ensure the survival of the rest of us, depend on the fact that the families of their colleagues are also staying at home. So the group stays safely closed.

I made this painting for Marilina who lives in the apartment downstairs. She’s a nurse. More than 8000 medical staff are sick with covid-19. Two ICU nurses have committed suicide because they couldn’t cope emotionally.

63 doctors have died so far. That should be enough to make us …stay… at… home!!

Simon cooked spaghetti with his secret ‘garum’ sauce. It’s something the Roman soldiers were given (as payment) to flavour their food when on assignment. Not much I can tell you about it, but it’s deliciously fishy.

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Wishful walking

Roman pathway

The next time I see a path, I’m going to walk and walk and walk!

Even if the cinghiali (wild boars) are running amok while the hunters sit in quarantine.

Lockdown day 20 in Southern Italy. Simon is reading a colossal German bible illustrated by Salvador Dalì. Apparently he has time to read it now. The Old Testament is quite challenging for a space man like him. I tried to paint a watercolour of Renata’s house down the street. She paces up and down her balcony in a scarlet dressing-gown. Perhaps she’ll notice me and wave in my direction. Below her house is a window where an old man sits and looks out all day. A portrait in a frame. There is no street activity for him to watch, except the two brown birds who hop among the peach blossoms.

The numbers are subsiding slowly. Our Prime Minister says we’re not out of the woods yet. Mind boggling statistics here in Italy, with almost 98 000 cases and a brutal 11 000 deaths. Yesterday we lost another 756 people. Waning new infections point to the peak. We are having trouble understanding our high percentage of mortalities compared to other countries.

You have all been so generous with your comments and good wishes, thank you sending so much love. I know you’re all out there facing similar challenges, some worse than others. This feeling of the impending tsunami of doom makes me think of walking along the beach at Umhlanga. Those frightfully big waves that crash onto the sand don’t usually wash you away, they just fizz and retreat. Sometimes they touch your feet.

The painting is now owned by my friend Francesco Sarti and his little daughter Mathilda.

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19+ days in a flat.

Castelli Romani painting

Things are looking up. The sun is shining between the clouds today, and what a difference that makes to one’s mood. Especially when you live in a flat. Climbing up the little staircase to the loft which is flooded with light, is akin to ascending into heaven. Living in heaven…eternal…never ending. The lonely tulip opens and closes each day. The daisy bush flowers. The tap drips.

Meanwhile the world is full of angst. The local Carabinieri sent a bunch of red heart balloons into the sky. Simon went to the shop yesterday and came home with a tray of huge red strawberries. A man outside the shop hands out numbers and everyone waits in the parking lot until they’re called inside. The farmer from the veggie market phoned us and asked if we would like to place an order for Wednesday. He’ll deliver to our doorstep. Such blessings and kindness!

The doorbell rang. A frightful thing!

It was Immaculata, looking pale and wrapped up in coat and scarf. She wanted to say thank you in person for the envelope! She doesn’t have a cell phone. I leapt back from the doorstep and chatted from an unnatural distance.

The virus infection rate went down slightly in Italy yesterday. Very heartening news. But we’ve sadly lost over 10 000 people in a few weeks. However there are a huge number of recoveries, including a 102 year old woman in Genova who recovered after twenty days in hospital.

Simon is digging in the cupboards looking for a skipping rope. His achilles tendon is still bandaged up. This could lead to some in-house angst today.

The painting is owned by Andy, it features the garden at Castelli International School in Marino, where our kids went elementary school once upon a time. The Monte Cavo (volcano peak) in the background. I can see it from our terrace.

A kid on the next terrace is calling to his Nonna. “Nonnaaa mi senti” and her voice comes back with a yes.

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Fountains of tears

Ariccia fountain Leanne Talbot Nowell

This is a painting of the BAR in Ariccia. Simon and I had been for a long bike ride around lake Nemi and got caught in a storm. A variety of chatty women squeezed in with us to escape the hail. It’s a small place and we merrily drank very thick hot chocolate together and talked about the virus. One lady said she would go to Rome now that there were no tourists. She hadn’t been for about twenty years.

That was 18 days ago. She didn’t know the following day would be the start of the lockdown.

There are two matching fountains in the lovely piazza. They are full of tears.

You have probably seen the news. Over 900 Italians died yesterday. Pope Francis came out alone and prayed in vast rainy piazza. A tiny white figure in the dark echoing space. I think that image will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. As I type this letter to you, the screen blurs through my tears. (Good thing I can touch type).

The fountain painting belongs to Libby in Boston now. I hope those fountains will soon flow with tears of joy.

I painted a watercolour for you, but it’s quite boring. I may post it later when I feel braver.

Happy birthday Lucy Liu. (A friend in Modena)

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The painted lake

Lago Albano watercolour

If our house flew up vertically and hovered at 50m this would be our view. Castel Gandolfo with the Pope’s summer palace on the opposite rim. Rome and the Mediterranean sea beyond.

I know you’re going to say this painting was not made yesterday. It was raining yesterday, and the view from our house is the backside of this crater lake, Lago Albano. However, knowing that the lake is so close gives me artist-license to share it as part of my surrounds here in quarantine. When it was being painted ‘plein air’ a Syrian man came over and sat on the stone wall nearby, and told me his sad story. The painting belongs to Andrew Zmuda, a friend in Marino.

Very scary numbers coming out of the USA, the infection rate has overtaken Italy. South Africa in lockdown will be another story altogether. Rule nr. 3…no alcohol or smoking permitted!

In Italy we had 6203 new cases yesterday. We can’t understand it, with the lockdown as strict as this. 712 deaths again a terrible number but it is hovering and not doubling at least. 80589 cases in total.

Simon and I are fans of Yuval Noah Harari, and read all his books. 21 lessons for the 21st century is appropriate for now. We had to strap up the achilles tendon with a bandage.

Immaculata, an elderly lady who lives two balconies away, had been coming over to do the ironing for me for years. She has had a difficult time understanding the quarantine thing. When I told her the day before lockdown not to come over anymore, she desperately assured me that she wasn’t infectious with the ‘batteria’ … now after 17 days she is glad to have three cats to keep her company. She called to chat and said she has a bit of fruit to eat. Turns out that she is supporting her son and his family with her meagre state pension. Once a week I dash over and drop a little envelope into her postbox to keep her going. I make sure not to alert her to the delivery until the following day, so any possible virus attached to the envelope have since passed away.

Another beautiful, blue peaceful day here. The lonely tulip is opening in the morning sun.

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Light and shade

daisy shadows

Still bubbling in the quarantine cauldron. Seems that blame is going around as fast as the virus. It’s just as bad for human wellbeing.

Especially when your view of the world is limited to a couple of square meters. The small things become intensely interesting. To paint something brighter than bright, you need shadows darker than dark.

New infections are slightly lower again, at 5210. Maybe we’ve peaked and the very strict lockdown will ensure a downward curve? 683 people died yesterday, which is way too many. We sit in front of the TV, staring at the dramatic news from around the world, and feeling dreadful and almost numb. The borders are now properly closed.

Simon and I enjoyed our short separate jogs yesterday. Although he hurt his achilles tendon. He says what better time to hurt a tendon than now. Today it’s raining, thank the heavens! The plants were so dry. I attempted to make a chicken curry with very limited ingredients, and we sat at the table eating it with sticky rice and a side of green ‘verza’ which is a very frilly cabbage. How blessed we are to have food.

Talking about food, here is Simon’s french recipe for crepe: 250g flour, pinch of salt, a glugga of oil (tblsp), 250 ml of milk. Mix that up. Whisk 3 eggs and add them to the mixture. Stir until smooth, then add another 250 ml milk. It must be liquid enough to pour into a large pan. Use it immediately. You all know how to do it.

I think today is Thursday. Our 16th day in quarantine.

Not a great painting today, but will try harder tomorrow.

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15 days in quarantine

Italian balcony

This is the view from my painting table. I’m much more a petal painter, but sometimes it’s good to broaden the horizon and tackle a scene. Anyway, the tulip and the daisy bush are included. I’ll need to repaint the olive tree to give it justice.

The numbers are 33 paces and 16 steps from the studio down to the kitchen and back. I try to make the steps count as exercise but it’s becoming obvious that I’ll need to put on shoes and go out for jog. Really lucky to have another gracious blue day of health, and the peach trees are blossoming in celebration.

Yesterday evening we had a very nice aperitivo with Robert in Cape Town. He was supposed to start a new life here in Rome this month. Sold up everything, learnt fluent Italian, and is now stuck in purgatory…alone!

Simon made us paper thin crepes last night for supper. We had them with jam and caciocavallo cheese. As you can tell from this diary, our lives are becoming focused on eating and drinking. So make sure you have some of your favorite things in the larder before you go into lockdown!

When I saw the statistics for the day my heart bottomed out, but there is a glimmer of light. The new infections are slightly down. They have been for a couple of days now. We lost 743 people which is a lot more than the day before. Altogether in a month we’ve lost 6820 lives to covid-19. The number of infected people is almost 70 000 here in Italy. In Marino we have 11 new cases, according to our app. Each town has a municipal app. I have been getting this info from the worldometer website if any of you want check that for your country.

I know you are feeling the dread. Separate your inner worry voice from your normal voice… have a conversation with it, and then tell it to shut up for a while and leave you in peace. Listen to music, or do this…I made a demo Easter card for you. Chat to friends online, write your own book with illustrations. Put your hands up in the air and laugh!

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Go home beloved country

South Africa woman

We are feeling EXTREMELY RELIEVED here in Italy to see the numbers going down over the past two days. If that becomes a downward trend we will be coming out of this lockdown soon. 601 deaths and 4789 new cases, which is still terrible but it’s significantly less than Saturday’s cases.

Three are ways to handle a pandemic – Ignore, Mitigation and THE HAMMER. South Africa has chosen the hammer and will go into total lockdown on Thursday night. I’m happy to know all my parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and friends will be safely at home.

President Ramaphosa made a riveting speech last night. More or less the same speech that our Prime Minister Conte made. Extreme measures for a country where so many live in poverty, where the ensuing domestic violence could have worse effects on the population than the plague itself. The world will be watching you… particularly the young men of South Africa.

Simon went for a run down the ravine in front of our house. There is a overgrown path that takes you down to the railway station. It would be a garden if it wasn’t mucked up with litter. He was stopped by the police there. They interrogated him. He argued that the government decree allows ‘running’ up to 400 m from your home. They were not convinced, but in good Italian spirit they drew an imaginary line on the road and said ‘not beyond this line’. So Simon ran up and down that short path for an hour.

It was announced yesterday evening, that the municipalities will now be using drones to monitor people walking around in the streets. Big fines or jail sentences for the naughty ones.

At our evening aperitivo meetings with friends online, we celebrated the ‘calo’ (downward trend), touching our glasses to the phone screen! We talked of hugging and parties when all this is over.

This painting now belongs to my friend Debra who is living in Hong Kong. It’s called the RAIN QUEEN, but I thought it appropriate. Mysterious and magical Majoji. It’s another beautiful sunny spring day and there is hope in the air.

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Lockdown loneliness

peony pastel painting white

The trending social activity is online aperitivo! We poured goblets of red wine and chatted to friends all evening. Until the wifi collapsed and we had to go and cook sausages for supper. Earlier in the day I had soaked the market veggies in a large basin of bleach. As an extra precaution I cleaned the kitchen counter and cast-iron griddle with bleach. Then forgot to rinse the grid, upon which I later cooked our sausages. Not the best flavour enhancer!

Italy had 651 deaths yesterday, which is 100 less than the day before, and 5560 new cases. Let’s hope that is the crest, and the worst is over.

This may sound melodramatic but when lying in bed in the dark my mind wanders very near to the edge of a worry precipice. I have forbidden myself to look over the edge into that deep ravine. After many days of quarantine, feelings begin to intensify. With very little distraction, one becomes mindful. I know it’s the same for many of us. Not only are we enduring our own thoughtful wandering and fearful wondering, but also share those of our loved ones. We must hold each other back from that edge!

Simon is much more practical. He went to the local ATM to get a bit of cash for market food. Always keep a little bit of cash under your mattress!

Our bose sound speaker thing broke down, which is annoying because we use it for the tv sound. The hot water boiler machine sprung a leak, and water ran all the way down the back steps. A young man came to fix it, just in time! Those businesses are now closed by law.

I’m perched in my loft thinking too much, listening to music and painting. Oh, and writing up my cycling journal…which hopes to become a book.

This painting is a pastel on paper. Peony flowers.

PS For those who asked about kids… we have five beautiful children and their special partners ;), and three exquisite little grandchildren ;). None of them live in Italy. It has been hard to letting them go, flying the nest to universities in far off countries. All of them have graduated and enjoy good jobs. We are lucky that we are able to visit them often, and they like coming to Italy for holidays. I hope the future is good for them all.

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Sunday PEP – day 13

Daisy bush by leanne Talbot Nowell

Because it’s Sunday (we had to look that up on the calendar) Simon is going to make us a celebratory PEPOSO. He has written out his recipe for us all…

Today Simon prepares a peposo notturno, a Tuscan meat stew stemming from the town of Impruneta – close to Florence. The legend tells, that the workers of Filippo Brunelleschi building the Cathedral of Florence in the 1400, used the brick ovens overnight in Impruneta for cooking their meat stews – therefore called “notturno”.  There are many new and old recipes around, which very often are far from the simple traditional one: 2 beef shanks (Muscles) cut in big quadratic blocks, 4 spoons of pepper, 1 spoon of salt, garlic, 1 ltr. of Chianti to be cooked for 8 hours – first at great heat for 10 min. then reduced to 100 deg. C for the remaining time. Important: Do not open the lid! In Tuscany you eat the stew with bread accompanied of course by a full-bodied Tuscan Chianti. Some funny stories about the peposo you find in Bill Bufford’s book “Heat”, who had as teacher for this meal the famous ‘crazy’ tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti – not far from our dear in-laws Malo and Guido.

Simon Jutz

That idea of a two week lockdown has gone out the window. We probably need a few months in quarantine to get this thing under control? In just four weeks 5000 people have died from the coronavirus here in Italy. Yesterday was a blacker than black day with 793 deaths.

Our Prime Minister said at a press announcement late last night that stricter measures will be enforced from today. All business must close except the absolute essential services. A lot of young people are also suffering from the virus, so nobody should be complacent. It’s going to be very quiet spring without the blacksmith whacking his metal gates below our apartment.

A call went out yesterday for more medics willing to serve in the ‘danger zone’. Seven thousand volunteered! That’s so heartening.

Interesting to see who is walking around outside. Italian dogs and cats never had it so good. Their owners are walking them in record numbers. Many are walking their cats on leashes? A couple of times per day! One cannot go to prison for that.

My daisy bush has been flowering for months in it’s pot on the terrace. It has been a joy to see all the bees and butterflies working on it. You should get one for yourself before lockdown. Great for making daisy crowns, or simply tuck one behind your beloveds ear. Daisies symbolize purity, spirituality and innocence.

ps. Simon is an Italianized Bavarian.

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Lunch on the balcony

Marino park

I’m writing to you early today, the first sunbeams are just touching the top of the Roman pines on the rim of the volcano. This little watercolour painting was done in the park just a few steps from our apartment. I took my folding chair and sat there under the trees and painted…this time last year.

Last night our mayor announced new restrictions. We’re not allowed in the parks, gardens or villas anymore, not even with dogs. We can go for a run apparently, so today Simon and I will jog down to the old tower and back. Separately.

Everyday we have lunch on the balcony in the spring sunshine and talk about our friends and family all over the world. I’m particularly touched by all the loving comments you write on my facebook post. Yesterday Simon opened a bottle of cold white “Grillo”. The sky was full of birds. Ambulances passed by regularly with sirens blaring. Neighbours chatted from balcony to balcony. Not sure what today will bring…but most likely the same.

Simon spends his days in tele meetings, satellites don’t have flight restrictions! I tiptoe through the lounge where he sits, to the kitchen to make coffee or tea, trying not to make a sound with the cups. Up in my loft, it’s like heaven. My art materials are at arms reach, lots of light coming in through the glass sliding doors. Plants flowering on the balcony. Music. Especially ‘perhaps love’ by Placido Domingo.

Can’t say I slept well after hearing that 627 people died yesterday from the virus. After all these strict quarantine rules, things still seem to be getting worse by the day. 6000 new infections! Just before lockdown there was a holiday when many from the north travelled to visit relatives in the south. Here in Rome and Grottaferrata, two convents have announced 56 positive infections amongst their nuns. We are bracing ourselves.

ps. stock up on chocolate.

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Vespa lockdown

Leanne Talbot -vespa painting

Simon walked to the local grocery shop yesterday afternoon. We can’t go there together as they only allow one person into the shop at a time. He gets that privilege, at the cost of carrying the heavy shopping bags home. He said there was a short queue, very disciplined, and the shop was abundantly stocked.

His Vespa is in lockdown because there is no reason to use it. You cannot take a passenger. If you take the car, only two people are allowed, so one of you must sit in the back furthest from the driver. Not that we need the car for anything, so the weeds are growing up around the tires.

We have an app, run by the municipality, where they publish regular announcements. This one just arrived : Before 12:00 of the 30.04.2020 interested persons can send a manifesto of their intention to buy agricultural terrain in Marino… more or less translated. Don’t ask me what that means.

I must admit, this quarantine is feeling less like a vacation these days. I haven’t been out of the house all week. Getting dressed in the morning is a simple task, usually a matter of throwing on what you wore the day before, which is what you wore the day before that. Although, yesterday after a good long shower, I felt the need to put on something pretty. My underwear drawer hasn’t been opened for a long time. Why bother to strap up?

The statistics are unfortunately unavoidable. I had considered not mentioning the numbers, but this is a pandemic, it affects the whole world, and being alarmed is the new normal. My opinion on the matter is best not expressed as things change every day. Tomorrow we might feel differently.

Yesterday 427 people died and we had 5322 new cases. We have overtaken China. The army are transporting the coffins from Bergamo to other cremation sites in the country as they cannot cope with the numbers.

As I write this the Mayor is shouting over the town loudspeakers. We are just far enough away to not be able to make out what he’s saying. Apparently they are having difficulty locking down those who think going to buy cigarettes every day is a valid reason to leave the house. A siren is blaring, which is strange since the streets are almost empty.

The picture is an oil painting I made a couple of years ago in Ostuni, Southern Italy.

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The tulips

watercolour painting by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Lockdown day 10 – a beautiful spring day here on my balcony. The tulip I promised to paint for you is a vibrant blazing orange, open now in the early sunshine. We need bold and bright to distract us from the dark news.

The tulip plant shares a pot with the olive tree just meters from my desk. The little olive tree is dripping with black olives. Usually a thrush visits my balcony and gobbles them up. No sign of him this year.

Last night there was loud music and singing from the Carabinieri building. They have balloons and flags flying.

Simon and I are in shock after hearing that a record 475 people died of the coronavirus yesterday. Almost doubled the number from the day before. Long lines of military are taking supplies to the worst hit areas in Lombardy.

Here in Rome we are still ok…. ‘contained’ which actually means there is no collapse of the system. However, the lockdown which is supposed to end on the 3 April, is likely to be extended.

Berlusconi, bless him, has donated 10 million euros to a hospital in Milan. The European Central Bank will donate a massive 750 billion euros to the EU countries to keep the economy going.

I will make some painting videos for my three precious grandchildren today. They are all at home in lockdown Norway and Australia. There is not much more I can do to help.

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Looking out from my perch

Leanne Talbot Nowell watercolour terrace railing

Looking out from the perch in my loft this morning, through this 130 year old wrought iron railing. We live on the edge of a crater. That’s faith for you, building houses on the edge of a precarious volcano! Which brings me to thinking about faith in general, and faith in our neighbours most of all.

The newspapers this morning all say there are way too many people wandering around. You are to %&”* STAY AT HOME! Now in Lombardi the government have access to your cell phone data, and they are tracking your movements. If you’re found to be visiting your neighbour, you will go to jail for 12 years!

By visiting friends you could be killing them. So basically it’s a murder charge.

345 died in the past 24 hours, 3500 were infected. Infection numbers are only those who need treatment.
The curve is still going up sharply, but NOT accelerating thanks to the lockdown. I wish the whole world would go into lockdown this very minute. Like in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, we could just stop everything until the virus dies off. I’m so worried about all my family and friends and people scattered all over the world. Worrying doesn’t help any of them of course.

Thanks to you all for your nice comments and messages. Your love is returned. I am so grateful to have this loft studio where I can get some air and sunshine. My first tulip has opened this morning! So I will be painting that for you today!

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1 week in lockdown

watercolour illustration - cyclamens

Tuesday today, so we’ve been in lockdown for only 1 week. It feels like a month! But we do have plenty of food and supplies thanks to Simon’s hunting skills. I would recommend all husbands bring home your meat and pack the freezer. Because the wives don’t want to stand in a miserable queue for meat.

The situation in Lombardy is not good. Anyone over the age of 60 will not get a respirator.
The morgues are overflowing and no funerals are allowed. Nobody can go into the old age homes to say goodbye to their dying parents, aunties and uncles. This makes me cry so hard.
Be it a warning to you to make every effort to be loving right now before the covid-19 does it’s gruesome damage. And to our precious oldies, be brave and know you are loved, whether the virus comes or not.
Who knows, maybe miracles will happen and it will all be gone soon. HOPE.

Cyclamen painting for you – winter flower fairies.

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Going bloggy

Italy lonely lockdown

It has been a week since we went into lockdown. People are still going to work so there is some movement, and I can hear building and vehicle noise. The loud speakers blasted us with ‘please stay at home’ messages this morning.

From my terrace I see quite a few oldies, all solitary and bored in their tiny apartments. Usually these ladies wander up the hill into town to chat with friends in the piazza. How sad it makes me to see them in this covid-19 situation. You wonder if lockdown is really the right solution?

I spoke to my Mom this morning. My parents and brothers are all in South Africa. I have no idea what will happen there. I think a total lockdown will be impossible. Beyond that, I don’t want to imagine.

Ok, enough said, back to the drawing board!

ps. For those who are already subscribed to this blog, I apologize for the onslaught of email notifications. Today I transferred my facebook posts to the blog….so there is some continuation. From now you’ll only get one per day, if you want.

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Applause for doctors and nurses

Pastel painted peony

There were general applause from all the windows at midday, for the medical staff who are working very hard these days. A nurse, Marilina, lives downstairs, so I clapped extra loud, but I think she’s probably at the hospital. There are 3500 new cases today (18:00). Huge number because of the socializing that went on last weekend before the lockdown.
Death rate went down to 175 and the recovered rate went up to 527, so that’s encouraging.
Happy to tell you that a team of nine Chinese doctors have arrived in Rome and brought 31 tonnes of equipment with them! Respirators etc.

Our Health Minister is on TV reassuring people and explaining things. He has asked us to buy only “Made in Italy” products.

Simon went for a run around the lake. His was the only car parked there. There were four other rebels like him on the 10 km track. Lunch was a disappointing mush of couscous, but I promised him dinner will be divine.

I baked a batch of Ouma’s buttermilk rusks, which shatter with each bite, but they taste ok.

We need to go shopping for veggies and bread tomorrow. The local supermarket is about 200m from the house. Usually I would stop for a cappuccino at Wunderkammer Bar, but they’re closed. I will put on my mask and stand in line with a good distance between customers. I’ll let you know tomorrow how that goes.

I painted some cheerful yellow ranunculus today, but will need to do some touching up before showing them to you. Hoping the watercolour paper ordered from Amazon will arrive soon. Running out of paper here!
Made in Italy pink pastel peony for my mother.

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Yellow Ranunculus watercolour

Watercolour illustration of yellow Ranunculus

Cheerful yellow for you this Sunday. Today we ventured out to the farmers market, and were cheerfully greeted by the organizers. Fully masked and gloved of course.

There were very few customers but the market is bigger than ever, with nice wooden walkways all around. It’s very encouraging to see this, it almost brought me to my knees with gratitude. Sitting writing about it brings some tears and a lump in the throat.

Not for myself, but for everybody everywhere, a sign that things will be ok, that the world is full of people who will get up early in the morning and bring lovely fresh food to you.

That is love conquering fear.

Our neighbours across the road hung up their “Andrà tutto bene” (everything will be ok) flag on their balcony and we waved at each other.

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Venturing out

My house

Simon threw me out of the house this evening. He said we should take a quick walk and check if Marino is still jello. Weirdly eery, just the sound of our steps and police cars driving around to check that people like us are staying at home.

The church bells began to toll at 18:00. Lamp post speakers crackled to life. People appeared at the windows and stared down at us. Some were filming us. Simon tried to blend with a tree, but I managed to get this bit of footage before flying back to the safety of my nest in the loft.

Sad to say that 358 people died from coronavirus in the past 24 hrs, which is a record high. The average age of those who died is 80 years old.

The government are offering Eur 1400 per family to get people through this time if they can’t go to work. No mortgage, no utilities and no tax payments for now.

It is so good to hear the sound of birds and kid voices for a change. Usually the blacksmith hammering downstairs drowns out all pretty sounds. He makes amazing wrought iron gates and things, but heck, what a noise. Then there’s our busy, busy street.
Strangely there are no ambulance sirens! No tourist buses. And the sky is a lovely blue, with no crisscrossing airplane trails. It’s really peaceful.

By the way, the Amazon fairy delivered my art paper.

Walking in Marino

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Hello from my perch

Marino watercolour by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Hello from the ‘perch’ in my loft, which is quite messy. One advantage of living in lockdown is that you can be sure that nobody will see you without bra and makeup, except your poor long-suffering husband.
Usually at midday I hear a little “hunger” call from Simon who is teleworking downstairs.
We set the table and open a bottle of the best vino in our small collection. May as well make the best of it while we last.
Yesterday 250 people died from the virus in Italy. That’s worse than it’s been. We watch a lot of TV in the afternoon.
Thank heavens for whatsapp and facebook, they keep us connected. Someone organised a flashmob at 18.00, where everyone sang or played an instrument from windows and balconies. I played the tambourine and did a weird version of the tarantula – a mad dance from the south. Today we’ll do it again at midday. Even in lockdown this country rocks!
The watercolour you see here was painted a while back and it is now owned by my friend Carol. It features the main street of Marino, Corso Trieste, with the Church tower…which makes me think….for whom the bell tolls?

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Lockdown announcement in Italy – MONDAY – 9 March 2020

Leanne Talbot Nowell olives & birds painting

Last night the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, declared a nation wide “lockdown” from today. He is right, we must do what we can. Sitting here in my sunny studio painting flowers, seems the idyllic way to spend the days, but the thought of what is happening out there is not pleasant at all. It will be a while before I see my family and friends again. Take good care everyone. Like birds in the olive trees, each on his own branch.

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The police

Painting a white flower

The police have been driving up and down the road today yelling at people through a loudspeaker. Not sure why, but presume they found some rebel pedestrians. Simon is out ‘hunting’ at the local butchery, and I’m on the perch in my loft. We are allowed to go out for essential grocery shopping or to the pharmacy only.

See a video of the painting process.

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Terrace view

Leanne Talbot Nowell view from my terrace

View from my terrace. Quite a few neighbours sitting out on their balconies catching some winter sunshine. That’s the happy side of a lockdown. Queueing for the supermarket takes about an hour here in Marino. One must take a number and wait your turn to enter. They are allowing only a few to enter at a time. Luckily we did our big shop last week. Dried beans, lentils, rice and pasta. Long life milk too. I think the supply chain will be ok, so no need to go crazy. Just enough to avoid going every day.