Thinking of all those volunteering and working over this time when many get to take a break. It still amazes me how my grandparents opened their milk bar and fruit shop 7 days a week from early morning ‘til late at night with only two days a year off – for 20 years straight! And then ‘scaled back’ to 5 days a week for the following years.
Nonno Anni worked for 36 years before his first holiday and Nanna Francesca wasn’t far behind. It makes me feel blessed and so grateful to write for a living, something I dreamed of from when I was 7 and found out the stories that I loved writing could actually be a job.
Thank you for your lovely comments and messages throughout the year. It is always wonderful to hear from you. Fingers crossed I have some book news I can share with you in 2020! In the meantime, whether you are working, volunteering or taking time out over this time, please stay safe and all the very best for the coming year. Tante belle cose! Zoë xx
It’s been a tough past few days for those facing bushfires and an incredible effort by people banding together to fight fires and help people and animals. The resolve and grace of those who have lost so much is extraordinary.
Among the fires still burning are those at Stanthorpe and Applethorpe where, as many of you will know from my books, my Dad was born and three generations of my family previously lived at their Applethorpe farm.
According to QFES, firefighting is currently focused around the very roads bordering the farm. I can’t help but feel the area has had enough to deal in recent times with their water supply almost gone due to drought and now must face unprecedented fires. Really hoping for a reprieve all round very soon.
(Nanna Francesca beside the packing shed her father built and Nonno Anni pointing to the farmhouse – so him to get up on the fence!)
Update: While nearby paddocks got burnt out, relieved to say the house and sheds have survived thanks to the fantastic firefighting crews. That said, when an event like this occurs , it’s often a long time for things to return to ‘normal’, particularly for those who’ve lost much and especially an area already doing it tough and almost out of water. Really hoping for some decent rain soon.
Looking closer at this old photo from the Brisbane Ekka (exhibition/show) that recently appeared on several local history sites, I couldn’t believe it when I happened to see my Dad in it. In 1971 he worked at the chairlift after he and Mum returned from travels and working overseas for a couple of years and he did other work until he resumed his teaching job. (Dad is one of the blokes in red and white and is under the OR of the Escort sign above).
It’s the first photo I’ve seen of him working at the chairlift (unfortunately, I don’t know who took this photo to credit them) but incredibly there’s more to this photo than first realised. In the foreground, a short, brown-haired woman in pale blue looking toward my Dad appears to be Nanna Francesca. What is especially poignant is that they’d been estranged for a few years after my parents’ cross-cultural wedding (not so accepted back in the 1960s) and it was when they accidentally first saw each other at the Ekka chairlift that my Dad and his parents reunited and became close again.
Little did the person who took this photo know they’d captured such a time in my family that we’d only happen to see almost 50 years later.
So lovely that Mezza Italiana has been picked in conjunction with Amazon US as one the best books to inspire a trip to Italy. Especially to be in the company of some great authors. Many thanks to Red Around the World. xx
31 Of The Best Books Set In Italy To Inspire Your Next Trip
Came across this in an old, cardboard box of photographs of my grandmother’s:
Fossa, 1975 – Nonno Anni looking melancholy (his first time there again since 1939), and Nanna Francesca, sleeves rolled, her usual harried look when about to get back to a pot on the stove or the washing or something. So very them.
Have kept it in a frame on my wall and whenever I wish I could seek their advice or miss just having a chat, it’s a comfort to remember how they were at times. (I think Nanna Francesca had almost this same look peering from the doorway when I arrived in Fossa for the first time 20 years later!!) xx
Mezza Italiana has been released in paperback in the US! With many thanks to HarperCollins 360, Mezza is now available at US bookstores, online or to order in.
So lovely and incredible to think this book that was first written on a kitchen table in Italy has made its way across another ocean! Thank you for embracing it!
Tante belle cose, Zoë xx
Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar continues each weeknight on ABC Nightlife – thank you to all who’ve sent messages upon discovering the book – lovely to hear from you!
By chance, I came across this photograph when looking for something else for the next book and realised it might be the only one to show the family unit of Maddalena and Vitale and their two sons Elia (left) and Annibale/Joe (right) taken not long after they were reunited in Australia.
Financial hardship, separate migration, the Depression and WW2 forced Vitale and Maddalena apart for all but about three of their first 26 years of marriage, the boys without their father, and then Maddalena and Annibale apart for a decade after he migrated at 15. So lovely to see them reunited here. They remained close for the rest of their lives in Australia with Maddalena and Vitale even living with Annibale and his family for many years.
Filed under australia, italy
Life in Abruzzo is currently doing a series called, My Nonni from Abruzzo that looks at how such migrant heritage may reach well beyond its original Italian borders to other areas of the world through the influence of grandparents. Such a pleasure to be asked to contribute and be among these family stories.
If you’d like to read the article you may do so here… My Nonni from Abruzzo
Buon anno a tutti and warmest wishes!
The new year was generally start of harvest time at my family’s Applethorpe farm, with various fruit and vegetable picking over the first four months or so. Seeing photographs of that time, I’m taken by the generous camaraderie that comes across among the hard work and summer heat, especially knowing family and friends came from near and far to help my great-grandmother, Cesca and her youngest two left alone on their farm after her husband Mico’s sudden death at fifty-three.
At my desk again for the first time this year, while I await the next step on book three I am making a start to some research, a bit like ‘harvesting’ snippets and stories, that I hope (and I can’t believe I am writing this) will become book four!! Again, best wishes for the year and tante belle cose. xx
Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.
In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)
Dancing with my great-grandmothers, Maddalena and Charlotte when I was two. They were of such different Italian and English backgrounds yet had much in common in their day-to-day lives really. This is my only picture of the three of us. Apparently, from when I was very little I loved to dance and often got people up to join me!
Most of all, I love the joy in this old photograph and am so touched by the generosity of two women in their eighties in getting up to dance for their great-granddaughter. Wishing you much joy. xx
In this photograph of my family’s fruit shop and milk bar in its earlier days, it’s apparent how it began very modestly with my grandparents standing on the footpath in Ann Street selling produce from a ‘hole in the wall’ before they expanded the space to include a milk bar. Visible in the top left is some of the sign that hung over the footpath from around the early 1950s. It was white with ‘milk bar’ in red Perspex letters and lit up at night.
Below is the only part of the sign we managed to salvage after Brisbane’s 2011 floods (and happens to be the bit seen in this photograph taken almost 70 years ago!) It might be broken but it’s one of only a handful of items my grandparents kept when they closed their milk bar and with now no trace that it ever existed, it seems lucky to have this piece left.