Charting my progress, for the record

How’s my goal of living in Italy working out?  Pretty well.  It hasn’t been easy or fast, but it has been steady.

I came to Florence at the end of November in 2016.  I arrived with a student Visa, which let me live in Italy beyond the 90 days any American can stay in Europe as a tourist.  I stayed in Florence for 11 months and successfully obtained the all important Permesso di Soggiorno with that Visa.  The Permesso expired after 8 months, regardless of the fact that I had already paid for Italian language school for 12 months.  Lesson 1: there is no logic.

I returned to the states in October of 2017, going from Florence to Chicago where it was necessary for me to go to the Italian Consulate to apply for an elective residency Visa.  Such a Visa allows Americans like me, if we are fortunate enough to receive the Visa, to live in Italy under certain circumstances.  Chicago was necessary for me because my home is in Denver and that’s the way that cookie is divided.  I filed the myriad documents needed to show my eligibility for the elective residency Visa, and then went to Denver to wait its hoped-for arrival.

Fortunately, I received the Visa.  But, it has certain conditions. I won’t enumerate them all, but one of the most important ones is that I am not allowed to have gainful employment in Italy.  I cannot receive any payment from anyone in Italy.  Doing so could result not only in my Visa being revoked, but the Italian government could prohibit me from ever setting foot in Italy again.  It’s a powerful rule.

I returned to Florence in December of 2017, armed with my new elective residency Visa. The first step, then, once within the country, is that within 8 days, one must apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno.  I applied for this before Christmas in 2017 and then began to wait for its arrival.

Some people will receive their Permesso within a month, or so they say.  Others, like me, are not so lucky.  I waited for 8 months to receive word that my new Permesso was ready for me to pick up at the police station, or the dreaded Questura.

In July of 2018, I received a text message telling me to appear at the Questura on a certain date in early August, at a certain time.  I did as I was asked.  I turned in my old, expired, student-based Permesso, and received my new one.  Unfortunately, my new Permesso was already expired when I received it.  You read that right.  Welcome to Italy.

The true impact of this situation on my daily life was nil.  As long as one re-applies for a new Permesso within a short period, and keeps the receipt of that application with them at all times, typically no problems will result.  Fortunately, I have never been stopped by the police in Italy and asked to show my documents.  Theoretically, even if the police did stop me and ask for my documents, the receipt of the new Permesso application would suffice.

I filed my new application for a new Permesso in late September of 2018.  Of course I kept a copy of the receipt for fees paid for that application with me at all times.

And then I began the wait for my new Permesso.

So, what is the importance of this waiting period on my life?  Again, on a daily basis it is unnoticeable.  However, there are other steps that one needs to do to truly function in present day Italy after one receives the Permesso.

For example, I tried to open a bank account in Italy in the winter of 2017, while I had my student Visa and my related Permesso.  With the assistance of an Italian friend, we could not find a bank that was willing to open an account for me.  I suppose I was considered to be too transient to bother with.

At that time, I was warned about opening an Italian bank account in any case.  Still not having one, I cannot tell you exactly why people recommended I NOT open an account, should I ever find a bank that was willing to let me.  Why? As I understand it, bank accounts here are very different from what I’m used to in the USA.  For starters, it is quite costly to maintain an account here.  In any case, no bank would open an account for me if I didn’t have a current Permesso di Soggiorno.  Although I never tried to open an account with just my receipt, perhaps I could have done so.  It just didn’t seem worthwhile to try, so I didn’t.  For months I expected to receive my new Permesso and then I would try. That was my plan

Once I received my elective residency Visa and had an actual, unexpired Permesso di Soggiorno, I could follow other steps. First among these is applying for a Certificato di Residenza.  I still don’t understand why this is important to have, but it is.  There are certain things I just accept here and just accept that it makes no sense to me.  The Serenity Prayer comes in handy.

After obtaining the Certificato di Residenza, one can apply for the Carta d’ Identita, which is necessary to have before applying for an Italian health care card which would allow me to seek medical treatment in Italy should the need arise. Up until such time, it is incumbent upon me to maintain a private traveler’s health insurance policy to cover unforseen events.  As a matter of fact, proof of such a policy is a necessary document needed to apply for both the elective residency Visa and also for the Permesso di Soggiorno.

So, I’ve been waiting since last September (2018), for my new Permesso di Soggiorno.  Six months went by, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months and then, finally, I received a text message telling me my new Permesso would be ready for me to pick up at the Questura last week.  I went with baited breath, wondering if it would already be expired again.

This time, I got lucky.  True, I had to wait 11.5 months for the thing, but at least I got one that does not expire for 12 months!  I’m suddenly completely legal, not needing any receipts for anything, at least for a year!  Then I get to do the whole thing over again.

So, how did I celebrate?  I did so by immediately (the next week) applying for my Certificato di Residenza.  I was informed by knowledgeable people and blogs that this would arrive 45 days after I applied for it.  Then I could apply for the Carta d’ Identita.

Imagine my surprise, after going to the correct government office in Florence, when the clerk told me she could produce and give it to me that same day!  She asked me if I wanted to apply for the Carta d’ Identita and I mostly certainly did.  She gave me the forms to sign and submitted them.  She said I should receive it within a week (I’ll expect it within a month, if I’m lucky).

Once I have that in hand, I intend to apply for the Italian health care card which, if I understand things correctly, will allow me to seek medical assistance if the need were to arise, which I obviously hope it will not!

And, bonus, in the meantime I met an Italian who works with a lot of English speakers, and she told me that she thought I could apply for a “bank account” with the Italian postal system.  Say what?

It turned out, she was correct.  I went into the Post Office in Florence last week and opened an account that seems to be something like a bank account…even if it is with the postal system.  I have a new debit card and the ability to wire money into this account from the US.  For the first time since I arrived in Italy in November of 2016, I will be able to pay my rent to my landlord’s bank account.  Up until now, I’ve had to take cash out of the ATM over the period of a few days to get enough money together to pay my rent.

All of a sudden, I feel like I’m living in the 21st century again.  However, I’ve been in Italy long enough to know that any number of things could and may still go wrong.  I’ll check in again once money has successfully been wired from the states to my post office bank account and I’ve paid my rent.  Fingers crossed.

And, next week, I’ll apply for a health insurance card.  Step by slow step, my life in Italy is becoming complete.

Arrividerla, L

 

 

 

 

The American Memorial Chapel at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral

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The website of  St Paul’s proudly states that “the UK has had a long relationship with the American people, formed largely after the Second World War, a conflict in which thousands of Americans based within the UK were to give their lives.”
The most visible striking reminder of this sacrifice and subsequent deep friendship can be found beyond the High Altar at the very east end of the Cathedral, in the American Memorial Chapel, a space rebuilt after being destroyed in the Blitz and dedicated in its entirety to the American dead of WWII.

 

At the heart of the chapel sits a huge, 500-page, leather-bound book; a roll of honor to the 28,000 Americans – from Aaberg to Zingale – stationed in the UK who gave their lives throughout the War. The book opens:

Defending freedom from the fierce assault of tyranny

they shared the honor and the sacrifice.

Though they died before the dawn of victory their names and deed

will long be remembered where ever free men live.

Thousands of the men named in the roll of honor died on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, as well as in training operations in the lead up to the campaign and in the subsequent battles on the European mainland, right up until the day on which the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe.

The book was unveiled in 1958 at a service to dedicate the Chapel, attended by The Queen and American Vice President, Richard M Nixon.

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A year later, President Dwight D Eisenhower visited the Chapel and the roll of honor. Words in the book written by the President, who as a soldier commanded the Allied troops on D-Day, read:

Each name inscribed in this book is a story of personal tragedy and a grieving family; a story repeated endlessly in white crosses girdling the globe. The Americans, whose names here appear, were part of the price that free men have been forced a second time to pay in this century to defend human liberty and rights.

Fittingly, this roll of honor has been enshrined by the Mother Country of all English-speaking democracies in this special chapel of St Paul’s, once a target of barbaric attack. Here, we and all who shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades of all the Allies we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally.

St Paul’s proudly states that the chapel itself is truly a place for all Americans. The three stained-glass windows contain the state symbols of every American state. The wood carvings contain the birds, plants and flowers of America and hidden away in one panel are a space rocket and stars – a nod to the space program that was being developed at the time the Chapel was completed.

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Each November, St Paul’s holds a US Thanksgiving service, to which all Americans in London are invited.

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I visited this august memorial last month and was struck by its peaceful majesty.  In this calm, quiet space, the American war dead are remembered.  The inscription in the floor tells the story, simply and beautifully. It reads: “To the American dead of the Second World War from the People of Britain.”

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Mary Quant

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Last month I got to see the Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  It was a childhood dream to wear Mary Quant fashion.  Her work was not for sale in the small interior West American town where I grew up.  But, my mother could sew anything and she fashioned some Quant designs for me.  It breaks my heart that we didn’t keep all of those great things my mom sewed. But, they are stored in my memory and I remember how I felt when I wore them.  That suffices in a pretty big way.  Thanks mom!

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But Mary Quant’s fashions, along with Twiggy and the Beatles, were a big part of my burgeoning (teenage) identity.  Well, I mean that’s obvious.  The name of my blog is from the Beatles: “Get back!”

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The photo above of legs and the next 3 of hair were the kind of thing that fired my imagination.  I couldn’t buy her fashions in South Dakota in the 1960s, but I could wear the tights and haircuts she inspired!  And I did!

 

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The rest of my pictures of the V & A exhibition are in no particular order.  It was a great and very fun show, and I loved seeing and snapping pix of it.

 

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The next photo was completely my scene.  I wore these styles, these colors, and this vibe.

 

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I didn’t know about Mary Quant’s paper dolls, or sticker books, or I would have been seeking them out.  We didn’t have the internet back then, but I bet I could have figured it out, long-hand, so to speak.  I guarantee you that I would have placed an international order with my babysitting money and waited for months to receive my treasures.  This is how I honed my long game, which I still use with great results.

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The jersey dress changed fashion.  I’m a big fan and I still wear it.

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Liberty of London

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A fixture in the London shopping scene, Liberty is a department store in Great Marlborough Street, in the West End of London. It sells highly curated selections of women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, make-up and perfume, jewelry, accessories, furniture and furnishings, stationery and gifts. The firm is well known for its floral and graphic prints.

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I love any business with a great history and didactic information in a store window.  They could just as well be showing their product line for sale, but they choose to edify.  That’s my kinda store. Especially when it’s Liberty of London!

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While the exterior of this classic London stop has remained in its mock Tudor style best, the interior and the product lines have changed vastly, even in my lifetime.  While I prefer the way the store was when I first visited it with my mother in the 1980s, I have no doubt the management knows how to keep the store vital.  I always enjoy a visit to this lovely emporium on any trip to London.

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Before this summer, the last time I was at Liberty was in the early 2000s with my then 11-year-old red-headed son. At that time, Paula Pryke had a flower shop at the Liberty main entrance.  It was dynamic! Her shop is gone and the store still has a ghost of a flower shop at its front door.  But, I miss seeing Paula Pryke’s gorgeous arrangements there.  He was less interested in Liberty than in going in and out of tube stations and traveling by train.

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Liberty was created by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, who was born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, in 1843. His father was a draper and, beginning work at 16, he was apprenticed to a draper. Later, Liberty took a job at Farmer and Rogers, a women’s fashions specialist in Regent Street, rising quickly up the ranks.

He was employed by Messrs Farmer and Rogers  in 1862, the year of the International Exhibition. By 1874, inspired by his 10 years of service, he decided to start a business of his own, which he did the next year.

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With a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, Liberty took the lease of half a shop at 218a Regent Street with three staff members. His shop opened in 1875 selling ornaments, fabric and objets d’art from Japan and the East.

Liberty hadn’t wanted to open just another store — he dreamed of an “Eastern Bazaar” in London that could fundamentally change homeware and fashion. Naming his new shop “East India House,” his collection of ornaments, fabrics and objects d’art from the Far East captured the attention of London, already in the crux of orientalist fervor.

It only took 18 months for Liberty to repay his loan, purchase the second half of the store, and begin to add neighbouring properties to his portfolio. From the beginning, the store also imported antiques, with the original V&A museum actually purchasing pieces of Eastern embroidery and rugs for its collection. As the business grew, neighboring properties were bought and added.

In 1884, he introduced the costume department, directed by Edward William Godwin (1833–86), a distinguished architect and a founding member of The Costume Society. Godwin and Liberty created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris.

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In 1885, 142–144 Regent Street was acquired and housed the ever-increasing demand for carpets and furniture. The basement was named the Eastern Bazaar, and it was the vending place for what was described as “decorative furnishing objects”.

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Liberty renamed the property “Chesham House,” after the place in which he grew up. The store became the most fashionable place to shop in London, and Liberty fabrics were used for both clothing and furnishings. Some of its clientele included famous Pre-Raphaelite artists.

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To show the kind of innovative approach Liberty had for his business, in November of 1885, he brought 42 villagers from India to stage a living village of Indian artisans.

Liberty’s specialised in Oriental goods, in particular imported Indian silks, and the aim of the display was to generate both publicity and sales for the store.

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During the 1890s, Liberty built strong relationships with many English designers. Some of these designers, including Archibald Knox, practiced the artistic styles we now call  Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau.  Liberty helped develop Art Nouveau in England through his encouragement of such designers. The company became associated with this new style, to the extent that even today in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty, after the London shop.

In 1882, author and playwright Oscar Wilde went on a tour of the United States, bringing with him a wardrobe full of clothes from Liberty, creating a demand for the store’s fashions with Americans. Wilde was obviously a huge fan of Liberty.

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The iconic Tudor revival building was built by Liberty so that business could continue while renovations were being completed on the other premises.  This great building was constructed in 1924 from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable (formerly HMS Howe) and HMS Hindustan.

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HMS Impregnable (c.1900), one of the two ships used to build Liberty

The emporium was designed by Edwin Thomas Hall and his son, Edwin Stanley Hall. They designed the building at the height of the 1920s fashion for Tudor revival.

In 1922, the builders had been given a lump sum of £198,000 to construct it, which they did from the timbers of two ancient ‘three-decker’ battle ships. Records show more than 24,000 cubic feet of ships timbers were used including their decks now being the shop flooring: The HMS Impregnable – built from 3040 100-year-old oaks from the New Forest – and the HMS Hindustan, which measured the length and height of the famous Liberty building.

The ships were not Liberty’s only association with warfare. Carved memorials line the department store’s old staircase pay tribute to the Liberty staff who lost their lives fighting in WWII for a different kind of liberty – freedom from the regimes of the Axis powers.

One only need to look up to the roof , upon which stands a marvel of a gilded copper weathervane. Standing four feet tall and weighing 112 pounds, this golden ship recreates The Mayflower, the English vessel famous in American history for taking pilgrims to the new world in 1620.

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The interior of the shop was designed around three light wells that form the main focus es of the building. Each of these wells was surrounded by smaller rooms to create a cosy feeling. Many of the rooms had fireplaces and some of them still exist.

 

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Liberty of London was designed to feel like a home, with each atrium was surrounded by smaller rooms, complete with fireplaces and furnishings.

Ever the purveyor of craftsmanship, Arthur Liberty had a furniture workshop in Archway, London. Run by Lawrence Turner, the workshop produced Liberty Arts and Crafts furniture and the intricately carved panels and pillars found throughout the store. The craftsmen allowed his fantasy, ensuring every ornament was a one-off – paving the way for discovery.

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Sadly, Arthur died seven years before the building’s completion and so never saw his dream realised. But, his statue stands proudly at our Flower Shop entrance to welcome you warmly into his emporium of wonder.

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The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner was very critical of the building’s architecture, saying: “The scale is wrong, the symmetry is wrong. The proximity to a classical façade put up by the same firm at the same time is wrong, and the goings-on of a store behind such a façade (and below those twisted Tudor chimneys) are wrongest of all”.

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During the 1950s, the store continued its tradition for fashionable and eclectic design. All departments in the shop had a collection of both contemporary and traditional designs. New designers were promoted and often included those still representing the Liberty tradition for handcrafted work.

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In 1955, Liberty began opening several regional stores in other UK cities; the first of these was in Manchester. Subsequent shops opened in Bath, Brighton, Chester, York, Exeter and Norwich.

During the 1960s, extravagant and Eastern influences once again became fashionable, as well as the Art Deco style, and Liberty adapted its furnishing designs from its archive.

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LIBERTY PRINT ‘CONSTANTIA,’ 1961

In 1996, Liberty announced the closure of all of its department stores outside London, and instead focused on small shops at airports.

Since 1988, Liberty has had a subsidiary in Japan which sells Liberty-branded products in major Japanese shops. It also sells Liberty fabrics to international and local fashion stores with bases in Japan.

Liberty’s London store was sold for £41.5 million and then leased back by the firm in 2009, to pay off debts ahead of a sale. Subsequently, in 2010, Liberty was taken over by private equity firm BlueGem Capital in a deal worth £32 million.

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In 2013, Liberty was the focus of a three-part hour-long episode TV documentary series titled Liberty of London, airing on Channel 4. The documentary follows Ed Burstell (Managing Director) and the department’s retail team in the busy lead up to Christmas 2013.

Channel 4 further commissioned a second series of the documentary on 28 October 2014. This series featured four, one hour-long episodes based on six months worth of unprecedented footage. Series two aired in 2014.

Liberty has a history of collaborative projects – from William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the nineteenth century to Yves Saint Laurent and Dame Vivienne Westwood in the twentieth.

Recent collaborations include brands such as Scott Henshall, Nike, Dr. Martens, Hello Kitty, Barbour, House of Hackney, Vans, Onia, Manolo Blahnik, Uniqlo, Superga, Drew Pritchard of Salvage Hunters and antique lighting specialist Fritz Fryer.

The website for Liberty also has these suggestions for you to watch for as you sally throughout the sprawling store:

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The clock on the Kingly Street entrance of the Liberty store has some words of wisdom for the shoppers who pass by. It says “No minute gone comes back again, take heed and see ye do nothing in vain.” Above the clock, the striking of the hour chime brings out figures of St. George and the Dragon, to recreate their legendary battle every sixty minutes. On each corner of the clock are the angels of the Four Winds: Uriel (south), Michael (east), Raphael (west), and Gabriel (north).