Tendonitis and blogs are mutually exclusive

October 25, 2010

Just realised I haven't blogged for over a year. It's not that I haven't been writing (in fact I've just completed my first novel and am also about a third of the way through a sequel to Head Over Heel), it's because six hours a day at the keyboard for ten years has given me tendonitis in both elbows, to such an extent that I struggle to lift my evening beer (writer's reward) to my lips.


So at the risk of cheating ... again ... I am going to have my readers blog for me, given many of the messages I receive are most amusing. So while I rub Arnica into my humerus, here is some humourous feedback I have received recently. I wish it could include the woman who only gave me two stars on Amazon because I mistook a sea urchin for a sea anemone, but alas she didn't contact me directly via the website, as did the other readers whose opinions on the book you will find below:


Emma Box wrote:


Hi Chris, I am writing this at 4 am (as I can't sleep with jetlag) from Siracusa, Sicily. I am Australian (with a northern Italian father & Australian mother) and I am in Sicily as my brother is marrying a Sicilian from Siracusa, the beautiful and magical Stefania. My sister & parents have come from Brisbane for the wedding. At home, being busy with two young kids, my pre-trip research consisted entirely of reading your book 'Head Over Heel'. Having been in Sicily for two days I am astounded by the accuracy of the book. I feel like, in many ways, I am living it! It's more like a manual/instruction guide for my brother, a criminal lawyer currently based in Perth. In fact there seem to be so many similarities that I half expect both you and Daniela to suddenly appear in the pre-wedding frenzy! Most of all though, I just wish you were around to lend some support to my very overwhelmed and frequently bamboozled 35-year-old little brother who is sporting an enormous pimple on his nose and a look of bewiderment on his face as a result of being over fed and over loved by his new Sicilian family-to-be! Their generosity and love is heartwarming! I only hope he survives it! I am sure he will as he is completely smitten with his Stefania. She is beautiful both inside and out and I am happy to see him so much in love. Thank you for writing your magnificent book! Whether you want to see it or not, I will be emailing you a photo of the wedding. Warmest regards, Emma


Emma kept her promise/threat and Stefania was indeed beautiful in the wedding photo. Fortunately for Dominic, the Etna-like pimple on his snoz erupted before his big day, in which I was pleased to play a vicarious part.


Jon Watson wrote:


Dear Mr Harrison, I am only on page 243 (I am trying to make it last!) of your book however I already feel that I should write to you for the great literary experience I'm having reading Head over Heel. As a man approaching 30 and having had the Italian bug since the age of 13 when I enjoyed watching Gazza and James Richardson present Football Italia on channel 4 whilst failing my homework assignments (I blame Gazza's alarmingly small shorts) I have rarely felt an affinity with any other person until I picked up your book and started reading. I have travelled to Italy only three times, all to the South. My passion lies firmly here. To read of your travels to and via Brindisi, the smoking chimney stacks of the industrial coast, Lecce and so on takes me back every time I read it. I am sad in some ways of the increasing attraction for tourism to the South, such an unspoilt area rich in tradition which I would so dislike to become Westernised. Perhaps you may feel differently? Your book is a welcome escape from a currently grim part of the West Country! I have to say I will be looking up Andrano via Google to get a better impression...your writing gives just enough to entise the reader to want more, no bad thing. I generally stick to non fiction and for me buying Head over Heel was a bit of a gamble however I'm so very glad that I did as it's reignited my passion and endeavours to acheive just a small slice of Italy in my life. Learning the language however is proving the most difficult element of it all, the bookshelf in the living room is creaking and groaning under the weight of various teach yourself books ... Michele Thomas would be distraught. I assume that you are now residing back in blighty? I hope that you still have one foot still firmly in Italy and that you keep writing about your experiences. I shall cease my mail now, it's a leap of faith sending this into the atmosphere in the hope that it may reach you, however, I at least feel that I've put some effort into telling you how much I appreciate and am enjoying the years that you spent 'researching' Head over Heel. With best regards, Jon Watson.


It is slowly becoming Westernised. Since Ryanair started flying from Stansted to Brindisi, more and more Brits are arriving, buying houses, and hoping others don't follow suit. And I too remember Gazza's shorts. You'd have to pay the likes of Wayne Rooney £250k a week to be seen dead in those. Hang on ...


Lynda Higgs wrote: (I usually leave off the surname for privacy, but as you'll see it is necessary ere, sorry, here.)


Dear Christopher, thank you for "Head over Heel", which not only echoes how we feel about Puglia, a region that we both want to shout about from the roof-tops and keep a secret so that it doesn't become another Chianti/Umbria, et al, but for so accurately describing the experience of trying to put down roots in Italy in the 21st Century. For a family who've experienced a lot of what you have (but in the bureaucratic capital of the world, Rome), we could not but help laugh out loud at your descriptions of the Italian bureaucratic experience - and how to expedite it. I was crying with laughter when I read about the Italian authorities battling with your name, in particular the impossible "H" (for Italians) in your surname; we are referred to, variously, as the Eggs, Iggs, Ixes, or just gli Inglesi. Your book has captured so well so much of our own experiences in Italy, not least the wonderful character and hospitality of Puglia and the Pugliese, and has, more than many other recent autobiographies about Italy, conveyed the experience of being an "Anglo-Sassone" in this marvellous, yet maddening, Latin country. Keep writing! Lynda Higgs


There you have it - anyone who thought the eccentricity of Italy was confined to my fishing village, think again. They're slowly going mad in Rome as well.


Simona wrote:


Great book, Chris! I finished reading it just before my holiday in Puglia. So my husband and I went to see Andrano and the nearby villages. I made my husbnad read the book because when I talked about the bureaucracy in Italy he didn't believe me!!!! Now he does!!!! Simona


Glad I could be of service.


Les Grice wrote:


Dear Crris, after looking on t'internet for a 'travel book' about Italy, I plumped for yours based on all the excellent reviews and a feeling that this would be full of humour, pathos and large amounts of reality about Italy. (And something to stir my imagination and blood knowing you were seduced by a beautiful Italian). I am not dissapointed. It's a wonderful book. Half way through and I've laughed out loud (the lost handbag), cried, (Freccia the dog) and fallen in love with Daniela almost as much as you have. (Why no photos of Daniela on the website? It's unusual to ask another man for some photos of his wife, though internet rules overide this decorum, but any chance? Nudge, nudge). Have you been approached to turn it into a series for T.V.? I'm no judge, but to see this played out would be wonderful and I think, quite original. I can see it on BBC 4 ( a slow grower like ''The Office'.) Characters we've never seen before on English TV. I am going to Amalfi early October for a week and though it's not Andrano, I am sure I will be charmed and bewitched by my first visit to Italy. I will be going solo, so I am bound to fall in love with it all I fear. Great writing, thank you. PS Daniela have a sister in Amalfi?


'Fraid not, Les. But I've just heard they've banned mini-skirts in that part of Italy, so you might want to rethink your choice of destination. If you do get lucky, don't kiss her in a moving car, they've banned that as well. I'm not joking. Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11617091


Angela wrote:


My brother bought me Head Over Heel as a 40th birthday present this year in February. What a great gift! I really enjoyed your book, it's warmth brightening a long Scottish winter where snow still lies on the ground in April! Thank you.


Snow in April?! Brrr ... I hope you don't mean you tossed the book on the fire to keep warm. 


David wrote:


Hello Chris. Just a quick note to say **Great Book! ** My wife and I, who have a shack in Italy, loved the book. So much so that my wife is reading it again, having only finished it a couple of months ago. We spend a lot of time there in Tuscany and Sicily (now there's a contradiction!). Both amazing in their own ways. Just back from a five day stint with my buddies in a town called Pachino, in southern Sicily, which would give Andrano a run for its money. But what beaches and seafood! Anyway, hope you get around to a follow-up to H.O.H soon. Look forward to it! In the pipeline? Cheers, David. Ps: Johnny Fox's is only a few miles from where I live - good auld spot.


Yes, David, the sequel is in the pipeline. Long pipeline, but it's in there! 


Dilip wrote:


Dear Chris, 'Head over Heel' - absolutely brilliant book. Will plan a motorbike trip to the Heel of Italy next summer. You have captured the nuances of Italian life very well. Kind regards.


Careful of the potholes, Dilip. As I said in the book - the best Italian mosaics are the roads in southern Italy.


Maria wrote:


Dear Chris, it took me one weekend to read "Head over heel" and to translate parts of it to my Italian boyfriend. I live in an "Andrano" near Rome and can only say I know how you feel!!! Thank you so much for writing this book - I recommended it to our little Danish Community on FB "danskere i Italien" and I'm sure they will have a good laugh too.


I hope the humour isn't lost in translation.


Margaret wrote:


I have just finished reading 'Head over Heel'. I laughed out loud so much! My husband, who reads very rarely, is now enjoying it as much as I did. We have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Puglia and the Salento and of course we detoured to drive through Andrano. When staying in Matera the Italian receptionist in the hotel (cave) saw the book in my hand and told me that her mother came from Tricase and that 'everything in the book is true'. So, when is the movie going to be made?!! From two very senior citizens in the North of Ireland - a big thank you!!


Movie also in the pipeline, though a pipeline with a knot in it.


John wrote:


Just finished Head over Heel; really enjoyed it, and as a South African I could certainly chuckle at a lot of the similarities with our society, whilst still being able to enjoy the view on Italian life. I think the Itialian tourism people should honour you, as a lot of people are going to want to visit Italy after reading your book.


It's Signor Api who should thank me - all the visitors stop in at his garage for fuel, but he's yet to offer me a free tank.


Steve wrote:


Dear Chris. I'm not much of a writer but felt like contacting you anyway. Prior to holidaying in Puglia I found your book and loved every minute of it. Having travelled 1300 miles criss-crossing this lovely region we could only manage to briefly pass through Andrano, but made sure to fill up at "Mr Api's". We did our best to explain why we were there and he seemed well chuffed. He's a gem, a real character and I think he's enjoying his celebrity status. Anyway keep writing and thanks. Regards. Steve.


There you are, see ... more royalties for Signor Api.


Jennifer Bennett wrote:


Chris - thank you for writing "Head Over Heel". I'm a recent university grad living just north of Rome as a nanny. This is my first summer in Italy and your book has helped me get through this summer in more ways than I can count. In June I spent two weeks staying in a trullo just outside Ceglie Messapica. I kept your book by my side through every afternoon and night while on that trip - sneaking in chapters here and there and laughing at your oh-so-true statements about Italian life. As I write this, I'm packing my backpack to head back down to Ceglie for a few days and explore the Salento. Your writing is witty, talented, and engaging. Thank you again for helping to make my summer complete, and for helping me to not feel so alone in Italy. Jennifer


I loved this message, Jennifer, because it reminded me of how Tim Parks's books helped me in my early days in Sicily. Never thought I would help someone as he helped me.


Rita wrote:


Just finishing your book - really enjoyed it immensely - wonderful descriptive writing. We love Italy but have never been to the Salento - farthest south for us has been Capri. Wonderful but less colourful, I suspect, than Andrano.We have just booked a holiday for next year to Rimini, where we have not been before, except when I passed through it with you in your book. [So any tips for when we visit?] Many thanks for a lovely read - so sorry to be getting near the end - trying to ready 'slowly'. Kind regards to you and Daniela and best wishes - I feel I know you both and all the 'Andranesi. Will try Barzini's 'The Italians' next.


Dozens of readers have got in touch to say they have read Barzini's 'The Italians' because of the references to it in my book. Now I understand why his publisher gave me the rights to reproduce part of the text.


Steve wrote:


I have just finished your book Head over Heel. We lived in Italy (Milan) for a total of 11 years in two stages. I have been back in England now since 1999 and reading your book reminded me of so many of our experiences, both good and not so good (or rather downright awful). Italy is a country of so many contradictions, brought out so well in the book. Thank you for a great read and for reminding me of what a great time we had in that country - almost in spite of everything we experienced rather than because of it. Kind regards, Steve.


Well put - 'almost in spite of everything rather than because of it'.


Tony wrote:


Hi Chris, I have just finished reading your book and wanted to relay to you how much I enjoyed it. As an Australian of Southern Italian heritage, so much of what you observed resounded firmly with my own experiences. Thanks for expressing in such an entertaining and funny way, the simultaneous delight and frustration so many of us feel when trying to reconcile our Anglo society upbringing with the whimsical, nonchalant and often absurd attitudes that permeate Italian life (Cant get married on a Friday??? What the???) … If only there was a country where we could have the best of both worlds! A truly fantastic read! PS Cant wait for the next book!


Don't forget Tuesday! You can't get married on a Tuesday either. Nope, still doesn't make sense.


Tony Marshall wrote:


Chris, I've just finished Head Over Heel and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your wonderful account of life and love in southern Italy. I've lived in Puglia for the past two years, in a small town called Noci, close to Alberobello. I recognise so many of the wonders and horrors of Italian life that you mention in your book. Living here is indeed "The Bittersweet Life". Lately I've read so many badly written books about "life in Italy" and, by comparison, your book is a breath of fresh air. Simply delightful. Thanks for making me smile, laugh and cry. I really look forward to your next book. With very best wishes, Tony Marshall.


Tony runs the Masseria Il Gelsomino in Noci near Alberobello (BA). Drop in and stay if you're in the area. Looks lovely in the photos.  


Anton wrote:


I recently read your book in 2 sittings, or rather lieins. I found it to be very moving and amusing, having an Italian mother from Naples and a Ukrainian father. And being born in England I definitely know what it's like to be raised in a multicultural home where you have to shout to be heard. I very much hope there is a follow-on to the book as it would be nice to know what happens to everyone. Much success. Regards, Anton


I hear you, Anton.


Paula wrote:


Hi Chris, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your book. Having moved from the UK to Sydney over 6 years ago, I found it really interesting to imagine how much harder a move overseas would be if it also involved a new language, culture etc ... Your observations about your brief trip back to the UK were spot on. I tried to make the move back home, but after feeling like a forgeigner in my own country I came back to Sydney! I think I remain undecided though about where to live - with pros and cons to both places, and sometimes not feeling like I fully belong in either! My English husband and I married in June 2009 in Torri del Benaco, Lake Garda, as we too did not want a traditional wedding. We were married in the beautiful castle there with just 40 close family and friends, and the mayor and local community were amazing - and very excited that a couple were coming all the way from Australia to marry there! (I must admit, we did have the multiple courses that people were too full to eat!). I have never written to an author before, but I wanted to in this case as it was just so fantastic to read something that you can really relate to, but also learn more about the "real" Italy - something that my Italian work colleagues had always told me about. Best of luck with all that you do, Paula.


After coming all that way, Paula, your guests deserved the full menu. Ours only had to drive down the road, so a bowl of spaghetti did the trick.


Hmm, that's whet my apetitite. And the elbows need a rest. See you next time, Chris.


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