MUM AND DAD, TELL ME ABOUT THE TIME WHEN... - 16.12.20
Reflections on first love. By Linda Riley and Antonio Lo-Giudice
I met your papa through friends. I wasn’t attracted to him at first. It developed over time. In the beginning, we went out in groups on a Thursday evening and that went on for a good few weeks, until we gradually started to do our own thing together. We saw each other once a week and this went on for some time. There was no romance, nothing, just talking. There was no intimate exchanges that all. As that continued and there was no sign of things moving beyond that awkward lack of intimacy, I started to question what was going on between the two of us. I wondered if he was if he was even attracted to me at all. This feeling was highlighted further when he came and picked me up one evening with another women in the car. I had never met her before and there was an uncomfortable animosity between us. She told him that I had evil eyes, which he later said had put him off me for a while. When he told me this, I remember having an argument about it as I found it so offensive and hurtful. Anyway, I didn’t see that woman again with him. Not long after that happened and we had argued, we went out one afternoon. I plucked up the courage to question our ‘relationship’ to him. I asked where things were going. He didn’t say anything at first. This didn’t surprise me at all. Why would he? It was going nowhere. But then, he kissed me. And that was that. We eventually made it public that we were now a couple. We continued to meet up once a week, which then slowly progressed into more frequent visits and time, spent together. I became very fond of him. He cared and showed me attention. He respected me in time I fell in love. Your dad and me used to dance a lot in the early years. We loved dancing together and would often go to the disco. Sometimes we went on our own and sometimes we went with friends. We had some good friends at that time. I remember the jealously, even this early. But, I didn’t take it as a warning sign. Because there was so much intimacy lacking in the beginning, I just used this as a way of understanding that he actually cared for me. I remember the times when we would go to his work together at the racecourse and I would help him with things such as cleaning the stables, washing the horses with him and so on. He was so caring with his horses, which I loved. As well as that, we would also go out to eat pizza. We never went back to each other’s places, so everything other than that had to happen in his car. We talked in the car; we had sex in the car. Everything happed in the car. That went on for about a year. Good times. Our first home together was a flat in Grottozolina in the center of town. It was up two flights of marble stairs. We had a small kitchen with one table and two chairs. There was no cooker or fridge. We had to put all the chilled stuff in water to keep it cool and I had a camping stove to cook on. The living room consisted of a sofa bed and a TV that would frequently break. The bedroom had a double bed and a wardrobe. We have no money to buy anything else. I have many fond memories of your papa from around that time. I remember him trying banana sandwiches for the first time and he adored them. But I think the best memories were when our horse would win a race and we would go out to celebrate. We would go to restaurants, drink and go to nearby discos to dance. We would then use what was left of the winnings to buy furniture for the flat. I remember us being so happy because we had money. When I think about my favorite memories, I have a few…. Starting a family was magical. It wasn't planned and we had no money, but we just got on with it. I wasn't taking birth control so it was inevitable really. I can’t remember it being a big thing when we realized we were going to have a child together. We didn't really talk about it as your papa was too wrapped up his work. We just accepted the fact that I was pregnant and got on with it, Coming home with Elaine was beautiful. I remember bathing her for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing. I was left on my own a lot as your papa was always working. He was good but never helped me at all. That was my job in his eyes. He was happy though. His family didn’t know anything about Elaine or me. It was only when I was pregnant with you that he told his family. I remember him calling them from a payphone and I was stood beside him with Elaine. Shortly after that, his dad came to visit. I really liked him. Soon after, we decided to get married at the registry office in town. No one was present but two witnesses. After a very quick exchange of vows he left to go to work and I went home to continue with the housework. It was a very ordinary day. We left our flat and moved to a bigger place around that time. It was a beautiful but very old and tired house on top of a hill, out of the center of town with no neighbor’s close-by. I remember lots of fruit trees in the garden. We bought a goat called Kikini, who was your first pet. That Christmas we went to Palermo to stay with his family, who only recently knew of me. You were born then. He also worked Christmas Day. I remember being lonely a lot of the time. Your Papa would be gone for days on end. I didn’t drive so I couldn’t go anywhere. I would just be in that big old house, with two kids. Your papa would always be away somewhere. One night we had a terrible thunderstorm. The house was hit by lighting and there was an almighty bang. All the sockets had blue flashes coming out of them. I had no power, just total darkness. You were both screaming and frightened. I had to go down the hill in the pitch black and sort it out. Your papa was away. My least fondest memory? I have many, but the one there is one that sticks more in my head than some of the others. It was when we had gone food shopping. I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone at all otherwise they would be big trouble. I went to buy some cheese and a guy said hello to me and I said hello back. Big mistake. I could see your papa give me dirty looks and I knew I was in trouble. I was dreading getting back into the car as he was furious. We got in the car and I had one of you sat on my knee. Before he started the car he slapped me on the face and then spat on me. He was so angry and his face was red. He was shouting at me asking why I spoke to that man etc. You kids were screaming and crying. He told me he was going to kill me and started to drive really fast, threatening to crash into walls. I can’t remember what happened next. I think we had another argument that night and he slapped me again. There were many incidents like that. There are too many to write down. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone. I remember being struck by a belt because I hadn’t cleaned his shoes properly as his mother watched. She took his side. I think love can get confusing when you have to describe what the word means to you. You have got to do it. But as I’ve got older I’ve realized that love is too big to describe. Its a strange kind of word it can be selfish yet unbelievable too. Love is thinking about the other person and making them happy but also not forgetting about yourself too. The relationship ended because he lost his respect for me. He treated me terribly and I couldn’t do anything right. I began to dislike him so much that I couldn’t remember those earlier days. The times we had in the car. Our friends. The Dancing. My stomach would turn every time I heard the car pull up, I couldn’t take anymore of his anger. He began to call me Brutto Bestia (the hideous beast). He took my personality away from me. I was planning my own funeral in my head. It was around that time I knew things were never going to be as I hoped they could, and that I had to go back to England. Denise (sister) helped me plan my return to England in secrecy. Your papa knew nothing about it. It wasn’t as easy as booking a flight online. It took time. We couldn’t get caught on our way to the airport or even at the airport. Your papa had lots of friends and if anyone realized what I was doing, they would stop me and he would find out. The last day I saw your papa I knew I was flying back to England that day. No one had a clue. I remember him going to work that morning. I went to the balcony and I watched him walk to his car, get in it and drive off to work. . I remember looking at him and saying ‘goodbye, you bastard.’ I felt nothing. Despite everything, when I got on the plane…that was still my saddest day. You were all happy as we were on a plane but I felt sadness inside. I was worried about my future with my children. I didn’t want you all to come from a broken home like I had. But after everything, I also felt very sad, because I had left the love of my life. If I could go back and give Antonio advice it would be to ask ‘Why?’ I loved you. You were my life. I did not deserve to be treated that way. You loved your kids. Was it worth loosing your children and watching them grow up? I'm sorry I left you, but I had no choice. You would have hurt me really bad. I did not want our children growing up and seeing the violence and anger within you. I wanted them to respect you and love you not hate you for the person you had become. I will always love you but not like before. That went along time ago. If I could go back and give myself advice it would be to think about your husband, but don't let him walk over you. Do not make excuses up for his jealousy. You are not his slave! Be strong do not let him bully you. Fight back no matter what it takes Do not feel sorry for him. Be confident. Believe you are beautiful and let your short tongue ruin your life. Fight back at the Bullies. See the world. The song that reminds me of your Papa is Love of the Common People by Paul Young: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVmjKHkgxis
I met your mother through friends in Palermo. She couldn't speak a word of Italian and I spoke English a little better than now. I immediately liked her and after a few months we decided to move in together in Montegiorgio. In the beginning we had almost nothing, but we loved each other very much and immediately I was very successful in my work. Everything was beautiful. I was successful, money and then the children arrived; beautiful in perfect health, we were living a fairytale story. After about three years I had problems in my work and due to my immaturity I didn't leave the problems out, but I always took them with me and your mother and I went into crisis. So I was left alone. I went into depression because I lost the most important value for me which was my family, my children and the people who previously considered me a champion no longer knew me; I felt like a ghost, no one knew me anymore. But then I reacted to the depression by learning to split my personality: one part of me lived the reality, while the other part of me thought and saw forward, sure to overcome everything and that the future would be better because I was sure of my children's love. In the meantime I had returned to professional success, but it was not happiness but melancholy because I could not share those moments with my children and even if in the midst of people, I felt alone. A proverb says: ten minutes of sun dry the road. Now my road has a lot of sun; my children are already adults, they are honest people, they are appreciated people, they love me and above all they are better than me. I don't live on memories: my children are my future. The song that reminds me of your mother is Alan Sorrenti’s Tu sei l'unica donna per me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow69vEslJsA
LEONARD - 24.02.21
Reflections on upbringing. By Anthony Lo-Giudice
I have been sat looking at a blank screen for the past hour. Procrastinating over the dauntless task of putting disparate and unassembled memories into words, and have instead opted to busy myself around the house. I’ve made endless coffees and have begun diverting my attention to sorting through a pile of books by the side of my bed. I’m finding it frustratingly hard to concentrate on the job in hand...
I need to write a blog about my newest project ROMA, an autobiographical story centred on my anglo-sicilian heritage and the story of my parents. I don’t know why I said I would do this. There is something so distressingly narcissistic in writing about one's own life, especially through choice and at a time it seems as though no one is particularly interested. Perhaps it’s an inferiority complex, the feeling of complete inadequacy or some woeful self-saboteurs' existential drama that I can’t quite seem to shake off. Perhaps, I’ve just found it difficult to articulate exactly who it is that I am. Or maybe, I just find more pleasure in arranging my books nicely…
What I do know, and can open by saying, is that my work in some way always manifests itself out of a myriad of underlying anxieties that stem from a combination of intimate fears, and the pains of insurmountable memories that I find hard to articulate into words. I’ve always held onto the notion that some things, are better best kept within the veil of silence. These words therefore, unable to be audible, have instead manifested themselves as a language of the body and a cacophony of choreography, music and song. I know ROMA is some attempt of creating a vessel in which I want to bury them. Hence, I’m finding this rather tricky.
OK. First attempt. If we start at the beginning of an autobiographical memoir and with the discussion of ‘your first memory’, one would hope the opening of the tale provides some tangible access into the psychological make-up of the protagonist in reference. I have two and alas, neither one is particularly pleasant. My first is repeatedly banging my head against a wall whilst my parents were fighting and my dad was hanging my mum out of a window. My second is the flight we took to the UK, which was the day that my mum left my dad. Not even 30 years old. 3 children and a failed dream, returning to the place she had left to start a better life. I remember her looking exhausted, 3 children in tow and the feeling that ‘something’ was changing. If I think really hard, I do also remember our first pet, a goat on our farm named Kikina, and that’s nice I suppose…
I close the computer and carry on with my procrastinations. Too many memories. I'm holding onto things I don't want to talk about. Some time later, by revelation of divine intervention, a calling from an old relative presents itself me. An old photograph falls out from one of the books that I’m organizing (The book is ‘All Good Things, by Stephen Ellcock, which for the phenomenological dreamer looking for nice images, is a book that I highly recommend). It is a photo of my great granddad Leonard Armstrong and his friend entertaining the troops during WWII.
Ive always loved this photo. For me, I've always found it to give some kind of comforting gravity. A sense of family and a grounding that comes from the past. The reason we are who we are and the crescendo of events from him that will have undoubtedly reverberated through my family history (I'd love to think this is where I got the pleasure of dance from, but its more likely the art of escapism through entertaining and performing which sticks best) OK Leonard, I’ve got the message…Coffee made and books placed beautifully, it is now time to write…
Dearest reader. Hello. I am Anthony Lo-Giudice (pronounced Lo Judy Chay). I am an anglo-sicilian dance artist. For those of you from the dance world who have continued thus far with this memoir, I trained regionally, cancelling my place at the Conservatoire of my choice, for an ex-boyfriend and dream…both failed endeavors (though I pat myself on the shoulder for the underdog credentials). I am 34 years old and like most people that I know, during this current climate, I am currently having an existential crisis. At present, I’m making a dance theatre work about family, with whom I carry inexplicable levels of both love and disdain.
I am Sicilian born and was raised in Italy until the age of four, when my parents separated and my mum brought me and my siblings back to live in the UK where I have remained ever since. We left one of the most beautiful parts of Italy to start a new life in one of the most socially deprived communities in the country, a town that once won the coveted title of ‘The worst place to live in Britain’. The Victorians affectionately named it ‘The Infant Hercules’, but this grandiose title refers to a place that is better known today to most folk as Middleborough. Surely, there's a story in that alone?
If we continue to maintain our focus on upbringing and the formative years of youth, I will start by saying that people found me very odd as a child. I was a prima donna in hand-me-down Kappa’s. I was extravagant, melodramatic, deep, mildly snobbish and desperately lonely. I also loved to laugh, dance and put on shows like most young kids of the 90’s did, but bitterness and despair are a tastier blend of tonic for the dark romantic making theatre work I find.
I never recall feeling like I belonged anywhere in my younger years and I remember that a predominant bulk of my time spent trying relentlessly in vain to ground myself within some kind of group or hobby, or a calling that would provide some tangible sense of purpose and community, yet never feeling like anything was the right fit. I do recall a phase of brief satanic worship at one point, believing fully that a fallen angel was a much more palatable Saviour for my forsaken soul and that some mystical ability astral-project and escape the horrors of my situation was a far more alluring prospect than the blessing of a god who hates gays. Note, I was praying to the devil whilst also learning spice girls routines and alas found no one to join me in my dark crusade (or my girl band tribute act for that matter), so gave it all up as quickly as I did my Thursday night gymnastics classes. I must say however, that demonic worship aside, I don’t feel I was particularly profound for a little queer kid in the working class 90’s of Northern England. I probably just needed a bit more love than what those around me were able to give. They were battling their own monsters.
I came from a broken home that was filled with the inexplicable odor of failed love. It was pungent with the smell of it. A smell, you will always struggle to completely wash off. I do have some wonderful memories too, but the why pepper the melodrama with niceties?
My first language was Italian, until at the age of 4 it was pried out of my siblings and me and was essentially banned from being spoken. The formative years following that were spent communicatively expressing myself through broken words and body language, until we were fluent in English. Which perhaps explains some early fascination into the human body as a conduit for story tellings…that then naturally lends itself to the medium of dance. Imagine trying to say ‘I want to go back to my real home. I do not belong here.’ at the age of 4/5 years to someone who neither speaks your language who particularly cares how you are feeling.
The notion of what it means to belong and feel a sense of belonging has always lurked within the shadows of my work as an artist. Overtime, I have come to accept the beauty and benevolence of the strange circumstances that my upbringing had thrust upon me. On reflection, I don’t feel I live within some darkened veil of the past, but I certainly cannot talk about who I am without acknowledging the impact my parent's lives had upon my youth. Their lack of concealing any pain acquired from their breakup and its inevitable messy aftermath has subsequently provided some long-term benefits. I’ve learnt sometimes vocalizing emotion is tacky and crass and selfish, and sometimes it is absolutely the essential of navigating ones way through life. I have my parents to thank for that and in some strange way, I am glad they are not together. Their failings created a tough outer shell that I can armour myself with in times of need. Though I do question what my life would be if they had worked things out between them…
For starters, I would likely be still living in Italy, speaking Italian, and not dancing.
When I fast forward from my youth to recent memory (do not pass go and do not collect £200 through the horror of early teen years) and look back on the past 10 years of my career working as a dance artist, I’m often perplexed and filled with questions that are as hard to ask, as they are to answer. Primarily, how on earth (and why on earth) did this happen? I don’t know if what I have achieved artistically over the past decade has amounted to anything worthy of notable accolade or prestige, but what I can say however, is that I have fallen in love with the miracle, mystery and complexity of the human condition again and again, and I have found the moving body an immeasurably superior vehicle in which I attempt explain my understanding of what it means to exist more than any other method of choice.
Whatever direction my relationship with dance has taken and will continue to shift in the future, I am forever grateful that I found it.
Heading back to the vortex of time. My chance discovery of dance came about from the invitation from a friend at the tender age of 16. One Friday evening, I accompanied her to her weekly ballet class purely out of having nothing to do that evening except to get out of the house and away from my family.
Her ballet mistress was called Janice Wilson. She taught the whole class with a cigarette in her mouth and a glass of sherry in her hand. I remember she had a blind poodle named Linford who urinated everywhere. She was cut from a very formidable cloth. The dancers would sooner jete into a puddle of dog piss or swerve their petite allegro exercises in order to avoid the dog and the wrath of a sherry filled mad woman than ask for Linford to be taken out of the room. I was completely entranced! This was going to be my new home. I had found my clan…
I was able to dance about my dreams, my desires, my pains and my sorrows in that little living room studio of Miss Janice’s. I was (and remain) a connoisseur-in -training of the art of Escapism. Even the odd slip in dog piss did not deter my mesmeric musings in that studio. Miss Janice never charged me for a single class as I was simply too skint to pay. Its only now I realize how special this was. She taught me the essential language I had so desperately craved, the language of movement to tell stories and exorcise my demons. She did it, because she knew I had something to say and there was no other way I could get it out. She taught me the mystical art of escapism, with the body and soul combined as a conduit to fly and flee ‘The Infant Hercules’ (albeit, only 40 minutes up the A19). Escapism, over reality, when placed in the hands of one who respects it, can be the most beautiful thing. It saved my life. But in order to have fantasy, reality must exist.
So, 17 years later, here I am. Things achieved. Mistakes made. Some comfortable momentum in my work, yet aware that time is slipping away. I have fewer and fewer friends that are still dancing. I haven’t spoken to Miss Janice in years. Linford is most certainly dead. But in everything I have made (or may continue to make), I always see that lost little boy stepping onto Miss Janice’s dance floor for the first time. The making of ROMA comes at a crossroads in my life. I need to move forward; I need to forgive and I need to open up. I need realize that I will likely never have children and that I can’t blame my parent's failings on my youth forever. I’m older than what they are when they broke up. My Parents story ends with me but I carry its scars and I hold its memories. I’m a proud carrier, I think. I love and honour them.
When making ROMA, I start with their story and see where it takes me…undoubtedly mine will mirror it.
History always has a way of repeating itself. I wonder how long this story goes back?
Thanks for inspo Leonard x