50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet 1968

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.

The movie premiered in London on the 4th of March, 1968.

When I was in Verona in February 2017 the old house that is now marketed as “Juliet’s House” had some of the costumes from the film on display, as well as Juliet’s bed. If you are ever in Verona, go *into* the house – don’t just hang out in the overpopulated, heavily touristy courtyard. It’s an incredible building in its own right.

Verona is an amazing city, and totally overlooked. The daytrippers really miss out by just glancing at Juliet’s and Romeo’s houses and then moving on to Venice.

DSC00697Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00694Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00696Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

 

What I am up to.

When I travel I always have the best intentions of maintaining my blogs, but of course that never happens!

I have begged off lunch in Venice today to catch up on some things in my work life, but when you are staying on the Grand Canal it is always easy to be distracted!

It didn’t help that when I ducked out to the supermarket I was discovered by friends and “forced” to stop for pre-lunch drinks!

someone-to-hold-westcott-book-2-by-mary-balogh-uk-australian-cover

I finished Mary Balogh’s latest the other day, and loved it to pieces (I honestly don’t ever cry, but this is one of four of thousands of books I’ve read that nearly made me). However, there won’t be a review until I return home in March.

I am now in the process of reading a bunch of Australian books by women writers, as I am to moderate at the Jugiong Writers’ Festival shortly after I return home:

http://jugiongwritersfestival.com/?page_id=715

http://jugiongwritersfestival.com/

I am also now reading a review copy of Eloisa James’ latest book – my first by this very famous author! It is great so far.

img_20170219_135749_467

Breakfast view.

However, I am in Venice at Carnevale, the most important time of the year, there are people in spectacular costumes everywhere, and our long-term Italian friends (who we’ve known since living in India many years ago) have driven here from Asti to spend time with us. So I am falling behind.

My Italian-language skills are becoming terrible, because these days so many people speak English.

I am sorry for all the typos I am sure are in this post, but I have no proper computer at the moment!

I am also sorry for not responding to people. It is not on purpose!

On the move…

Flag_of_Italy_svg

flag_of_england

I am boarding a plane for Italy today, and will be there for the better part of a month, followed by nearly a week in London.

I’m hoping all my scheduled posts and things go up as normal, but if something strange happens, that is the reason!

It will be nice to escape this never-ending Canberra heatwave.

canberra-weather-february-2017

Goodbye, 2016.

Good stuff first, because when I get to thinking back on the year I realise I was sick or injured for much of 2016 (more of that near the end), and unfortunately Putin and Trump still exist!

One good thing: I did quite a lot of travel this year, both nationally and internationally.

IMG_20160607_173230

One of the houses we rented in Southern Italy. Having breakfast and then evening swims there, on a massive property just for us…? A definite highlight of my travels in recent years. Especially after two months of being sick and injured!

Cool things happened, like the fact we accidentally ended up in Spello in Italy during one of the country’s most famous festivals – the Infiorate, where they decorate the entire town with flower petal designs, and well over a hundred-thousand people attend. And we were there by accident, staying in a building that is actually a tourist attraction and part of the event (we didn’t know that when we booked, either!). So odd to be eating breakfast and having tourists coming in with their cameras!

IMG_20160424_173606

Beautiful Lviv, Ukraine. What a pity I was extremely sick for this whole visit!

regular-ssoldiers-lviv-ukraine-sonya-heaney-2016

Hanging out with soldiers in Lviv. They were on a few days’ leave from the war for Easter, and then heading straight back to the warzone. It’s Ukrainian Easter, as you can see by the giant Easter egg in front of the Opera House!

IMG_20160514_131630

Memorials to Ukrainians killed by pro-Russian and actual Russian snipers in the 2013-2014 revolution in Kyiv. The snipers were above the big clock on the ground, and near those trees, and they shot dozens of unarmed civilians.

Building the memorial to the Ukrainians killed by pro-russian and russian dsnipers in Kyiv. Sonya Heaney OKsana. 2016.

More memorials to the dead (it is just being set up in this picture; the Canadian Prime Minister visited soon after). There were also snipers in the hotel on the right of the picture. The brown, wooden, traditional Ukrainian church at the back of the picture is new – part of the memorial – and they had a collection for the war.

vKmLZIug

Plus, Ukraine shocked everyone and won Eurovision while I was in Kyiv – which means Moscow is VERY upset and threatening a boycott for 2017. The winner is a Crimean Tatar who absolutely considers herself Ukrainian.

And literal cool stuff happened: Europe had a shocking summer, which meant we got snow both in our month in Ukraine AND in our month in Italy. It was an interesting “summer” trip!

Rex

Gorgeous, SOFT Rex. I miss him very much!

As I seem to every year now, I had some unexpected animal experiences. Rex and Trixie, two gorgeous cats, moved in next door to be looked after by our neighbours for a year, and for months there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wake up with Rex sleeping on top of me (the strangest one was being sound asleep and dreaming about something weird and heavy on my stomach, only to lift the covers and find someone else’s cat sound asleep there!).

Rex Burmese Cat Cute

You can literally SEE how soft he is!

I’ve spent the past few years looking after stray cats – and now these cats – but I’m still yet to have a cat of my own. It would be irresponsible when we travel so much.

sonyaheaneyhungry-magpie-visitor-magpie-canberra-australiananimals-bird-australia-spring-funny-cute-cbr-9th-september-2016

Of course, there were also all our crazy native, wild birds who adopt us every spring and summer. Australian magpies (not the same birds as magpies overseas) live for two to three decades, and they think we are part of their family. If I leave my bedroom curtains open they stand there and stare and sing and bash their beaks on the window at me from about 5:30am, to try and get me up to give them a snack.

And – despite all the racism and anti-immigration sentiment in the world at the moment – my cousin’s Turkish fiancé was granted his Australian residency, which meant they could finally marry.

Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Mia Jacyshyn Nadia's Wedding. Sydney Australia 6th August 2016.

Hanging out after the wedding on Sydney Harbour (duh!). Me, my mother, and one of my aunts.

Even if most elections in the world (USA, Brexit, and Australia’s federal election, for example) all took a sharp turn to the extremist, far-right, at least here in Canberra we voted for sanity and progression. There don’t seem to be many places left in the world where that is the case. It’s the 1930s again, with the fascist attitudes just before the Second World War on the rise again, and nobody seeming to care.

act-canberra-election-labor-party-victory-abc-news-15th-october-2016

Me being excited and taking a BAD picture of the TV on Canberra’s election night.

Here, the “Liberal” Party is actually our right-wing, conservative party. Our country is weird. And we spell it “Labor” instead of Labour because more than a century ago some US politician came here and told us we have to use American English if we want to be progressive. And so we did…

Andrew Barr is one of the few openly gay political leaders… well, anywhere, as far as I know. I am proud to be from Canberra when most of Australia is so fascist these days.

I AM thoroughly tired of voting, however. It is compulsory here, and so I have been voting, or been spammed by politics, all year. Even on our trip to Italy they were campaigning for the local elections, and I got caught up in it!

Now, the BAD stuff…

People have called 2016 “the worst year ever”, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. It was a terrible year for people in English-speaking countries who aren’t fans of fascism, but for the people really suffering in the world at the moment, it all began long before this year. The war in Syria has been going a long time. Russia invaded Ukraine 2.5 years ago, and there were already millions of refugees (including in my own family) long before the year began. It’s old news now, but people never care until it is all about THEM, and 2016 was the year bad stuff touched the countries people consider to “matter”.

3rd-debate-putin-and-trump-together

However, what a frightening year! I’m thoroughly sick of the whole topic of Trump, Putin and all their cronies. People are becoming more misogynistic, bigoted, and racist. People are becoming more selfish, and care nothing at all for anybody beyond their own countries’ borders.

But hey – I’ve been saying that for years!

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

norcia-earthquake-destruction-30th-october-2016

Poor Norcia, before and after earthquakes. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and now it is destroyed (the top picture is mine, from June this year.)

What makes me sad about 2016 is the destruction. The natural disasters. I am starting to think I’m a curse on famous landmarks around the world. I was in Christchurch in New Zealand right before the city was destroyed in an earthquake. Before that, (though this one isn’t a natural disaster), I was living in Korea right before a madman burnt down their most famous landmark, the Namdaemun gate, a place I visited about every second weekend.

And now? All those earthquakes that destroyed the centre of Italy happened in all the places I visited this year.

2016 wasn’t all bad, but it seems as though my months in Ukraine and Italy happened years ago, not months ago. My family in Ukraine is suffering very badly, and the older ladies in the family are sick or have just died. The Russian invasion continues.

The more I think about it, the more I remember I was badly sick and/or injured for almost the whole year, from a dislocated knee in Sydney, to a broken hand in Italy, to a ruptured eardrum that left me deaf for the whole month I was in Ukraine, to a terrible disease (the Kremlin is importing illnesses into Ukraine as part of their warfare), where I literally could not speak AT ALL for weeks – that made meeting strangers fun (and at a few points it was incredibly embarrassing)! Plus, I had some painful eye problems (my eyesight is so weak, and my contact lens prescription so strong, that optometrists just about have a heart attack every time I go to a new person). Then on top of all of that I’ve started eating a gluten-free diet because I was becoming nauseous and faint from eating like a regular person. I miss all my favourite foods and drinks!

What a mess! I sound like a drama queen…

I guess the best word to describe 2016 is “dramatic”. Or maybe even “melodramatic”. I think we all learnt a few upsetting, hard truths about our fellow humans. From the neo-Nazi murdering Jo Cox – and it still not having any influence over the Brexit result, to the Russian football hooligans who went on violent and murderous rampages in France, to the terror attacks pretty much everywhere, to the fact so many millions of Americans who disrespect women so much they voted for “grab her by the pussy”, this year we learnt that the average human being isn’t as decent as we’d hoped they were.

I’d like to say 2017 will be better, but I’m not so sure about that… I do wonder where all these monsters are, however. Because, from the people I see regularly at my favourite cafés and bars, to the American tourists I met in Italy who are ashamed of Trump (including those from Republican states), I seem to mostly meet decent people. Where is this silent majority ruining it for the rest of us??

The Week: 31st October – 6th October

spring-flowers-sonya-heaney-canberra-australia-3rd-november-2016-nature-garden

Spring afternoon in Canberra.

It wasn’t actually this week, but the early Sunday morning earthquake in Italy was devastating.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

terremoto-norcia-basilica-san-benedetto-crolli-30-ottobre-2016-2

(The picture at the top is one we took in June. Note in the second picture the tower on the left is destroyed even though it has not yet fallen.)

norcia-earthquake-destruction-30th-october-2016

I am not much of a Catholic anymore, but the fact the church where Saint Benedict was allegedly born finally succumbed to the earthquakes hitting the Norcia region? That is one of the most historically devastating things to have happened to Italy in modern history. One local said that the moment she saw the closed-order nuns fleeing, (women the public never see), she knew the town was finished.

sonya-heaney-norcia-italy-june-2016

I’m not exaggerating or being sentimental because of recent events: Norcia is one of my favourite places in the world, not just in Italy. The people, the food, the beauty of every street (before it was devastated) and of the mountains it sits in the centre of.

The whole town – and many others nearby I have spent time in – are either totally destroyed now, or severely damaged and unlikely to ever recover. I’m so shocked I was last in that part of the world only a few months ago, and we were talking about what a massive earthquake risk the area was; we never really expected it to happen.

I have seen people we’ve spoken with many times in news photos and footage, and so know they survived, but I have no idea how they can ever recover from this. These are the same families who have run the towns for centuries. One older woman, whose family owns many hotels and restaurants there – some of them in that very square – was proudly showing us a magazine article about her family’s success only in June. I still have a copy of it.

We are heading back to Italy for the better part of a month in February. I hope this horror has finished by then.

3rd-debate-putin-and-trump-together

Please, America. Do not put the whole world in danger in a few days’ time. Voting for Trump isn’t just dangerous for Americans; it’s dangerous for all of us, and especially for countries like Ukraine and Syria. We don’t get a say in the election’s outcome, but you do.

The Goodreads Choice Awards

goodreads-choice-awards-2016

My review of The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6) by Valerie Bowman

the-legendary-lord-playful-brides-6-by-valerie-bowman

Anne Gracie’s Upcoming Book

marry-in-haste-marriage-of-convenience-by-anne-gracie

Melbourne Cup Day

life-as-i-know-it-by-michelle-payne-and-john-harms

The Twentieth Anniversary of Romeo + Juliet

 romeo-juliet-1996

The Week: 29th August – 4th September

Flowers late winter Canberra Australia Garden Sonya Oksana Heaney 23rd August 2016

Spring in Canberra!

Happy Father’s (I always want to say Fathers’ – apostrophe at the end) Day to whoever has it today. We will be going to a restaurant for lunch with… whoever can make it!

The anniversary or both the beginning and end of World War Two was this week, but all I saw on the internet was people marking the anniversary of Harry Potter going to Hogwarts. I thought that was very, very sad. Do they even teach history in school these days?!

pauline-mary-heaney-19th-may-1944bw

This week also marked the third anniversary of my father’s mother’s death. Everyone is saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s already three years!’ whereas I’m thinking that since then so much has happened, and I’ve been through the illness and death of my other grandmother (who has been gone a year and a half)… Time goes fast.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

That’s not Verona; it’s earthquake-damaged Norcia, from when we were staying there in June.

We booked some accommodation in Verona this week, for early next year. I’ve never been to Verona before, even though most people seem to go on their first trip to Italy.

There were fights, multiple stabbings, and hundreds of arrests at the Notting Hill Carnival in London over the past weekend, which is shocking. I used to live in Notting Hill, and our street was blocked off by police during the festival time, but this year cars have been trashed etc.

My review of Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

Dare You to Run (Unbroken Heroes #2) by Dawn Ryder

My review of When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

When We Touch (A Graham Novel) by Heather Graham

Trigger Warnings in Books

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Coming Up: Mogul by Joanna Shupe

Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe

Poldark Season Two

Poldark Season Two

The Week: 22nd – 28th August

Queanbeyan to Canberra Australia ACT border Sky Clouds Blue Sky Sonya Heaney Winter 26th August 2016

Gorgeous Friday afternoon. With a dirty windscreen!

Sonya Heaney Norcia Italy June 2016

Poor Italy – we were just saying the Norcia region was due for another earthquake.

When something terrible happens everyone has an “I’m connected to it” story. I was actually staying in Norcia, the epicentre of the earthquake, in June, and we drove through some of the towns that have been destroyed. The church above – in Norcia – has been damaged, and it is a very important church and allegedly the birthplace of Saint Benedict.

Bagan's temples were built between the 10th and 14th centuries

There was also a deadly earthquake in Myanmar (or Burma, depending on if you want to go with the dictatorship name or not!). The famous temples have been badly damaged, but this earthquake isn’t really making the news.

Pierce Brosnan Ukrainian Church London 22nd August 2016

Pierce Brosnan hanging out with Ukrainian activists in London at the start of the week. Tuesday was Ukraine’s national flag day, and Wednesday was Independence Day – a significant and sadly ironic holiday at the moment. We flew the flag in our house, but I was too busy to make it to the function at the embassy here in Canberra.:

Ukrainian Flag Day Tryzub Canberra Australia Sonya OKsana Heaney 23rd August 2016Ukrainian Flag Day Tryzub Canberra Australia Sonya OKsana Heaney 23rd August 2016DSC06712

Kalashnikov (as in the assault rifle manufacturer) now has a shop at the airport in Moscow.

Moscow airport shop sells model Kalashnikov guns

Call me crazy, but is this not the opposite of airport security?? WTF is going on in Putin’s Russia?

Currawong Canberra Australia 25th August 2016 Sonya Heaney DSC06725

In other news, all the birds here are going crazy, running around with twigs and getting ready for spring. Here’s the currawong, and the magpie, the two birds who hang around our front and back doors all day now! The magpie (below) stands beak-to-glass at the back half the day!

Magpie Canberra Australia 25th August 2016 DSC06735

What a poser!

Romance is Trashy, and Other Things You Need to Stop Saying.

Category Romance. No more home renovation. No more ageing parents going into homes. No more bakers. No more etc. etc. etc.

Coming Up for Patricia Briggs

31356099 Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10) by Patricia Briggs

My review of A Vow of Seduction: Hot Night in the Hamptons by Nana Malone and Seduced Before Sunrise by Jamie Pope

A Vow of Seduction Hot Night in the Hamptons by Nana Malone and Seduced Before Sunrise by Jamie Pope

The twenty-fourth anniversary of The Last of the Mohicans

film_lastofthemohicans

Cover Love

Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard