Hello once again

Last night I watched a 2003 movie called ‘My House in Umbria’ one of my favourite movies.

If you haven’t seen this movie starring the British actress Maggie Smith, try to get hold of it and watch it; such a poignant and beautifully made movie. The movie has had it’s critics and some say it is a strange movie, but really, to me it is all about escapism!

It is set in Umbria in Italy. The scenery is pure Italian with Maggie as a prolific author of romance novels which have made her quite wealthy, It is the story of a set of people who have met by chance in a carriage on a train. A bomb explodes killing some of the occupants of the carriage with only four people surviving.

The people who survive are Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith), a retired old British General (Ronnie Barker), a young German man,Verna, and an eight-year old American girl named Amy. Mrs Delahunty invites them all in various stages of recovery to her beautiful old Chateau in the Umbrian hills to stay until a full investigation is completed. It is the story of how one lonely older woman, comes to love a little girl and build a “family” around her with the old man and the young man, all who love little Amy dearly.

But not all of us have a House in Umbria to retreat to when life gets tough, do we? No, It is the stuff that movies are made of and we watch these movies to escape and for a short moment, pretend that we are in Umbria in those beautiful hills surrounded by the romance of Italy. And If you are like me, you get into the spirit of the movie and lose yourself in it. This is how I too have a House in Umbria, even if it is only in a movie!! (photo: the view from the House in Umbria)

For instance, I love it when Mrs. Delahunty is on the train and she is looking thoughtfully out of the window as it passes through fields covered in red poppies and feeling inspired, she gets out her notebook and begins to write down the opening words to a new novel. If you enjoy the spoken word this is for you! The words are spoken wistfully as only Maggie Smith can say them:

“In the garden the delphiniums were in full flower. through scented twilight, the girl in the white dress walked with a step as light as morning cobwebs.”

Just after this, a bomb explodes! Yet you are left with these melodic words hanging in the air. You can almost picture the garden and the delphiniums in flower. The movie then explores the relationships between them, life in Umbria with leisurely meals under the wisteria served by Italians working there. And then there is the Irish “Quinty” who is the glue that holds it all together: friend and confidante of Emily; he knew her when she was a prostitute many years before.  

Oh, it’s a rip-roaring tale. You’ve got to see it!  I will not give away the ending but let’s just say that it ends well. The story in-between is lovely and full of uplifting elements as well as awkwardness when Amy’s uncle arrives to take her back to the US but  he is universally disliked by them all. Meanwhile, the investigation into the bomb continues.  

And Mrs Delahunty, for all her bad past, is a woman of wisdom and gets to utter some wonderful lines, like this one to the young German, Verna, who was burned:

“All we can do is HOPE. Yes, hope is the one thing that is left to us – isn’t that right? We must look to the future and hope”

This positive message keeps coming through in the movie and it is what draws me to watch it again and again and leads me to keep pondering on it long after it is over. Also the movie reminds us that we can never judge a book by its cover.

Emily Delahunty with her various ‘nom de plumes’ that she uses for writing books, has not had a perfect life but she has all the qualities we want to emulate: kindness, patience, wisdom and gratitude. I always feel that I am in the presence of goodness (albeit a little tipsy at times) when I watch her character in this movie. Sometimes, we are confounded: things are not always as they appear.

It reminds me of a line in the telemovie Pride and Prejudice when one sister says to the other about two men, something to the effect of:“One man has all the ‘appearances’ of goodness whilst the other has all the goodness without any of the appearance.” Things are never as they appear! And isn’t life exactly the same folks? Watch out for this in REAL LIFE!!

The movie ends with the General and Mrs Delahunty in the garden full of colourful summer flowers which they planted in the early Spring when they arrived at the house. The General tells her “Cape Diem“. she says she never knows what that really means. He explains:

Seize the day! Embrace the present moment. It really means to embrace life while you have the chance.”

This is what I have done today. I have seized the day (with Geoff) and gone to St. Agnes school to celebrate its 50th anniversary with Maria and our girls. I now have the chance to attend this type of thing without expensive plane fares or time spent travelling by car to Sydney. This is the essence of life. Like I said yesterday, maybe it is not in the big things but in the small things that we find our happiness?

As a younger woman wanting a university degree and then a career, I saw things a little differently perhaps. Older age gives one the perspective that one may lack in younger days. Now that all those days of achieving are behind me, I can take the time to do the things that are the most important, such as spending time with family and friends, dining under the wisteria, reading good novels and drinking fine wine. Or even having a sausage sizzle and drinking tea out of polystyrene cups as we did together today!

Time is too short to waste on anything less worthy!

And when life does get tough, find your own House in Umbria to escape to