Darlings, Strawberry Fields Forever is the actual colour of my hair. To celebrate my middle-age I decide to change hair colour. I went to a Japanese hairdresser they are incredibly pretty with Japanese doll faces in vintage dresses. In my desperation I asked three times for a lighter brown and when I saw the strawberry colour I gave up! Let it Be, I thought, looking at the doll’s face with a big smile sweetly saying: “Nice colour”!!!

-The year started with the tsunami followed by earthquake, Katrina, Wilma and bombs in the area I was staying in London. The sound of ambulance, fire brigade and police going crazy in the area day and night will always remain in my ears: no panic but a great sense of loss. Natural disasters all over the planet, famine, Aids in Africa and here I am writing about my small world.

-I cannot say it was a Jolly Good Year but I still managed to have a terrific cultural life, as you can see from the photo with one of the famous Argentine gold hands on my shoulders – the virtuoso pianist-conduct-campaigner with his magic hands DANIEL BARENBOIM. I spoke to him in Italian, he was awfully nice I suppose he likes Italians but I should have done so in my miserable Spanish – his first language. I follow his concerts and I love the piano recitals because after the concert he signs CDs, posters and talks to us. Last time I got a CD which he signed for me but when I arrived home the signatures had disappeared, maybe he plays a joke on us fanatics!

Barenboim played at the Festival Hall with the Chicago Symphony conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, the following evening under Pierre Boulez’s direction in Bartok’s First Piano Concerto. Them at the Barbican on two consecutive days for Brahms’ huge piano concertos, one week after I spent Sunday afternoon with the historic Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fuges, Book 1.

At the BBC Proms Barenboim came with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (named after a collection of Goethe’s poems: West-Oestlincher Diwan inspired by the Islamic Hafiz that has hopes of the union of west-east). Barenboim founded the orchestra in 1998 with Edward Said, a Palestinian-American Professor of the Columbia University and a pianist. (Arafat forbids all his books in Palestine). The orchestra compose of Israelis, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians and Palestinians. It was not the first time I had the pleasure of going wild and gave him an ovation for many minutes and it was not the first time he drove me to tears after the concert with his speech as I am one of those who would like to believe it is possible to live in peace. Every time I cry with his idea of this great human project. This time was even more moving as they played Mozart’s Symphony Concertante in Ramallah the Palestinian town under occupation on the West Bank. I admire Barenboim immensely he is one of my heroes for his life as a musician and campaigner.

-I was also fascinated by the creative sound of BAABA MAAL Senegalese, charismatic singer-songwriter with his band Daande Lenol (Voice of the People). A representative of UN on HIV/AIDS in Africa, sometimes at the UN he sings rather than make a speech. He appeared on stage at the Proms on a throne resplendent in a purple and white gown, he has the most divine purity of voice, an unforgettable face, pure black skin with wonderful powerful smile. He changes three times into robes of the most fantastic colours – I would so much like those robes; so cool, man!

-WYNTON MARSALIS’ All Rise is a piece of which he said: “find each other” and “heat recognition will cause our souls to rise” a magic piece from classical, jazz, New Orleans funerals, ragtime, sambas and salsa; a great sound with solos by Marsalis and KURT MASUR conduct-humanist of the impressively structured face with blue eyes. Masur Maestro Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra plus the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra and the London Adventist Choir, all together reaching its apex with Marsalis highly intelligent varied piece. Marsalis is the Music Director and trumpet of the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, Messenger of Peace of UN and Cultural Ambassador of USA. I got really over-excited when Marsalis took me under his arms – I felt great All Rise!

-I left the Death of a Salesman play in tears which didn’t stop for many minutes. But for CORIN REDGRAVE at the GLOBE THEATRE with an absolutely splendid production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre I had a different king of powerful emotion tears. MARK RYLANCE gave a farewell speech thanking everybody but above all Redgrave who could not finish the season as Pericles the Older because he had a heart attack during a speech for the Travellers. Redgrave did manage to survive and was there in tears with all his family in tears too. I was in tears too, of course, to see him shouting to his fellow actor friends: BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! The actors threw flowers to him which he – full of emotion – returned to them, as a gesture that sound I AM ALIVE, SEE ME! This year he played King Lear, Tynan and he supports the Peace and Progress Party with his Sister Vanessa Redgrave.

-PINA BAUSH – my passion for her was even more after Carnation with a stage carpeted by 8,000 pink and white plastic NELKEN-(Carnation) created in 1989 but came to London only this year. PALERMO-PALERMO I didn’t love as much as Carnation but very traumatic with the wall crashing onto the stage floor, supposedly symbolic of degradation/mafia, but I see Palermo differently – with love above all for the food.

-Francesca my daughter with CAETANO VELOSO in a concert in Rome. Francesca is discovering Brazil and all her generation of Italian friends are going on holiday in Brazil. Francesca’s father a journalist-writer-broadcaster wrote two books on Caetano Veloso. Italy not to my surprise with Berlusconi control of the media is the 77th in the press freedom alongside Bulgaria and Mongolia:
The situation became a grosse merde - it’s appalling!

-ALTAN the great Italian cult cartoonist celebrates 30 years of his Pimpa a pois with four books for children and an exhibition of his early drawings. In Rome there is an exhibition to celebrate the 30 years of Pasolini’s death and another for the15 years since Ugo Tognazzi’s death. SERGIO ENDRIGO with his beautiful moving words has left the stage too! “La solitudine che tu m’hai regalato/io la coltivo come un fiore”. “io mi fermero e ti regalero quell che resta della mia gioventu” “c’e gente che ha avuto mille cose della vita, e si perde nelle strade del mondo”. Bellissimo!!!

-Feeling like Les Miserables I board an Eurostar to Paris and queued for hours for
LA MELANCOLIE: GENIE ET FOLIE EN OCCIDENT (Genius and Madness in the West). With my mal de vivre I am told that Paris is the best place for depression, particularly in the Place Sartre-Beauvoir you can really feel the French tristesse-melancolie-folie. I was quite happy to be in my blues and devastated like Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausee: “J’ai horreur d’exister”, gloom mood. It was really the right time for Melancolie, the black mood which is the curse of exceptional men; artists are great sufferers so I can go with my personal pain while those exhibition are on and I will hold my chin on a propped elbow like Van Gogh’s Portray of Dr Gachet or Goya Portrait of Gaspar Melchor as long as I want to.

CARLOS FREIRE the photographer has two exhibitions in Paris till January at the MEP-Maison Europeenne de la Photographie.

MARTHA CARVALHO DE CASTRO my cousin was at the Salon d’Automne-Parc Floral de Paris.

-In London after Rome came the EDVARD MUNCH BY HIMSELF exhibition with all his depression and passion of a cool Norwegian artist. It looks as if the art world has decided to be depressed as well as me. Superb were the exhibitions of EDVARD MUNCH and FRIDA KAHLO – both great painful sufferers – I found comfort in those exhibitions.

. Everywhere I went in London while my mother was dying I heard talk of ashes – but they were actually talking about the famous cricket Ashes – all dashing for these ashes and wanting to hold the small urn containing them. It was beyond belief inappropriate.
-This is not a happy year I lost mother and I am still feeling miserable. She was living in Princess Louise Hospital and for weeks I told them, including the manager that she was not right. They didn’t care, they didn’t understand her problem, and they were completely incompetent. If the staff of Princess Louise Hospital were professionally-trained they should have know that her body was pushing to one side because the blood was not passing so she was keeping her leg and foot out of the bed and had fallen out of bed as the doctor told me on Tuesday morning at St Mary’s Hospital.

The trouble was the by-pass on her legs – exactly 10 years after the operation – was no longer working. She needed a further operation. She was transferred to St Mary’s Hospital on Monday evening. I arrived on Tuesday morning – the consultant and his team were visiting her ward and her foot was much better and normal – not blue anymore. The consultant in charge explained to me the situation and her life was not in danger. She had a scan on Tuesday and I was told she would need an operation for a new by-pass. Wednesday she was OK, her face normal. On Thursday morning she was OK.

On Friday morning she was dying. I arrived there and had a shock that they hadn’t bothered to call me? To my enquiry as to why she no longer had the drip I was told by the Asian doctor that she had taken them out. Them I realised that my mother could not possible have taken the needles out as she was paralysed. What they had done was suspended the drip, medicine and, of course, she was dying.

That was completely wrong: discriminating against an elderly lady assuming that she had lost her quality of life. I am feeling awful, I AM DEVASTATED AS I DIDN’T SEE what was going on and feeling I let my mother down. But if I think of everything that went on during those last few days I question the NHS system. For heavens sake! Didn’t they know that I existed? Didn’t they have any consideration to tell me that they had suspended the drip and medicines? I should have been told and my permission asked for. My mother was a vulnerable invalid – they didn’t have to tell her anything but they should have told me as I went there every day.

I think the doctor was playing-bullying with my feelings when he told me she had taken out the needles as he knew I couldn’t react being absolutely shocking and horrified realising my mother was dying. I was not prepared for a death like that: I always hoped for a natural death. I could no longer do anything. I accused them of not operating on her the two days before everything had got to that stage but I knew I was too late. In all the years that I made my dreadful pilgrimages between ST MARY’S, ST CHARLES and PRINCESS LOUISE HOSPITAL and I realised that I didn’t count for NOTHING! Don’t ever get old and ill under the NHS in England.

They didn’t even have the decency to give me back my mother’s personal clothes – they told they had been put in the rubbish. I found it a terrible violation of my late mother’s rights and mine. All this has left devastated.

In order to see mother after her death I had to wait three hours for someone to open the Mortuary Chapel.

On Monday after her death she became solely my problem and my personal mother once again for the funeral because up until then I had no say regarding my mother’s illness.

Disgust between me and the NHS concerned the BUGS – I was not told when my mother had a bug
(I discovered this myself when I found vomit and faeces on her clothes that I was going to take away to be washed). I will never understand their complete lack of responsibility not to mention hygiene! I developed a phobia after being infected twice with a bug caused by visiting the hospital. I went back to Italy – with the help of my Italian doctor it took five months to get myself together and get myself rid of the bug. Francesca my daughter got the bug too when she visited her granny in hospital – Easter of two years ago. After these experiences with the bug I found the staff very hard to talk to and couldn’t really cope with them. I felt I could not visit the hospital for more than a certain time as I was terrified of getting infected again. I started saying: “I have to go! I have to go! “.

Obtaining the Death Certificate was another tragedy. My mother was supposed to have had the operation on her leg for the by-pass, before she died and it was pronounced satisfactory (by phone). (How can you operate anyone without dripping and medicine? Why this repulsive farce?) But the doctor declined to write the word OPERATED on the Death Certificate as requested by the coroner. After much coming and going and many telephone-calls the word OPERATED appeared on the certificate. The coroner spoke to me about all the illnesses that my mother had as the cause of her death but which she didn’t have five days before.

I cremated my mother. I feel I would like to spread her ashes in Regent’s Park – her favourite park. Even if I was thinking of taking the ashes to Brazil but I don’t think it is possible. I left Brazil before I was eligible to vote and it was a military dictatorship government. It means you couldn’t vote; now in Brazil if you don’t vote you can’t do anything. I really don’t know what kind of democracy is this? Which other country in the world if you don’t vote you can’t buy a place for your mother’s ashes? The vote in Brazil goes with your Tax Number. As if that’s not enough they ask me for my European passport to prove I haven’t voted. I cannot see any European country asking me for my Brazilian passport if I haven’t voted in Europe. I find it intriguing that the country I was born in is not happy to have my Brazilian passport identification. I left Brazil 38 years ago all this for my mother’s ashes it is so pathetic! I will never vote anyway.

-I must leave London my favourite town and the city that I have loved most in my life – a place I adore, which stimulates me, the city that has given me so much but has become painful. I cannot see bus number 7 which took me to Princess Louise Hospital for eight long years without crying!

I am sorry if this year my Christmas letter brings only my bitter-painful personal tragedy. I will put myself together with a long trip to China-Asia. And sweet dreams will be back.

-So Farewell my Darling mother. (It was my greatness achievement to be near her during her illness). Farewell my lovely amazing unique London, I don’t know how I am going to exist without – above all –the English sense of humour.

So if you come to Rome or Rio de Janeiro give me a call.

Wishing you all a Very Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Peaceful Year.
Love Francesca and Vera -

+44 (0) 7941 883412 - +39 3391821611 - +55 (0) 21 22552867