NAO (feat. middle of the night ramblings)

A map of the area around which I travelled.

It is just gone 4am and I can’t seem to drift off. I have a dentist appointment followed by a diverse errand shop (i.e. new jeans, violin rosin and contact lenses) to look forward to in a few hours. A rather pedestrian Saturday. It feels all the more so considering where I spent the last few weekends.

I just returned from a month working in Italy and it was an invigorating and charming experience. I stayed in the tiny mountain valley town of Feltre, teaching English to around 20 (largely wonderful) children between the ages of 4 and 13. But at weekends and on afternoons off I was able to visit (by the grace of the fairly affordable Trenitalia and a friend with a car) Padua, Trento, Verona, Cortina, Cibiana, and my favourite place of all, Venice. I met some remarkably generous and interesting people, did some marvellous new things and learnt a great deal. (I also ate and drank a great deal – hence the new jeans!)

Back home in London, the sky is far too gloomy for the luminous month of August. Rain falls indiscriminately and I, failing to re-acclimatise appropriately, have already caught a chill. I’ve always enjoyed lazing about, but after a month of constant action and movement, the inertia of illness is all the more frustrating.

I haven’t written anything on here in a while. I guess all this aimless tossing and turning prompted me to fidget a little more fruitfully. There are so many apt things I could write about. I wrote that The Gallery was dedicated to ‘literature, art, ancient history, music and languages’. During my month away all these things seemed to converge with effortless and relentless beauty.

The astonishing view from Monte Rite– reading amongst the wildflowers and beneath the dappled clouds. The amazing i Tintoretto Ritrovati‘ exhibition curated by Vittorio Sgarbi at Padua’s Musei Civici. The production of Bizet’s Carmen I saw sitting on the stone steps of the Arena in Verona; plaintive voices a little distorted by the cool night air. The archeological remains in Feltre itself and the ancient splintered statue of the Greco-Roman god AesculapiusVenice. I could sing the praises of every knotted alleyway, every crumbling facade, every ratty and bold little pigeon, so magical is that city in my eyes. (The selfie stick wielding vendors, trattoria tourist traps and souvenir kiosks do dim the majesty a little though!)

The experience was lovely. There was lots of hard (and rewarding) work, but it was definitely la dolce vita.

So I’m back, and it’s nice to be home. To see loved ones and not constantly be tending to new insect bites. (They really adore my ankles for some reason?) But it’s rainy and I’m under the weather too, figuratively speaking. Enter Nao, a singer from East London, who on the 29th July dropped her debut album, ‘For All We Know‘.

I’ve been listening to it on loop for the last couple days and I really love it! I usually don’t like the term ‘sound of summer’, but I feel it is appropriate for the refreshing frivolity and beguiling dreaminess of her music. It’s kind of hard to pin down genre wise: there’s electronica, funk, pop and neo soul in there as well as the definite nostalgic echo of 90s RnB. I’m no music cognoscente: I like what I like and I don’t usually probe deeply into why. But something about Nao is striking to me- I heard only a snippet of ‘Give Me A Little‘ (thanks to the handy little music app Hillydilly!) and was instantly and intensely hooked. She has quite a peculiar voice. It’s syrupy and yet earnest. It seems to flutter above you, light as air, and yet remains distinct and unyieldingly powerful amidst the synth beats and trembling bass.

Her music has been a kind of sunshine and medicine for me these last few days.

My eyes are really drooping now. The sun will be up soon.

I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.                       David Benioff, City of Thieves (an old favourite)

Goodnight? Good morning? Either way, goodbye!

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