With chapter headings like “how to eat and not put on weight” and “how to celebrate being a woman,” it’s probably fair to say I’m not the target audience for Kamin Mohammadi’s Bella Figura but I liked it anyway. So what?
I enjoyed Kamin’s story of escape from a high-pressure London job as a fashion magazine editor and into the inexpensive good life of Florence, Italy.
It’s full of remarks about indulging in colour and taste and sensation; tactile, mammalian experiences. She successfully bottles the sense familiar to Escapologists of the anxieties (I would add exhilarations) of setting out anew, the going back-and-forth on whether escape is a sensible idea or not.
Here’s a passage concerning the first days of her escape:
I had no idea how long my redundancy money would last. With no savings and a mountain of credit cards that needed paying off, I took the irresponsible (according to my mother) decision to use the money to come to Florence instead of sinking it into my debts and starting again with another job. I had calculated that I could make it last a few months if I lived carefully, perhaps a whole year if I lived very frugally. It would be a challenge — my salary had regularly petered out before I reached the end of the month, spent at first on the designer labels my job demanded, and then on expensive diet plans, personal trainers and sessions with health gurus. I had no firm plans for Florence; the agreement with [my host] had been for me to stay for the winter and then we would see. I had bought a small notebook in which to assiduously write down every penny I spent, determined to get a grip on the art of budgeting while I was here. But anger and bitterness raged inside me alongside defeat and self-pity, the voice in my head repeatedly telling me I had achieved nothing and would now fail too at being a writer.
Target audience or not, I relate to every word of that.
Well, except for the fear of failing as a writer. That’s ridiculous.
Note the part about how a salary is too often be gobbled up by job-related expenses. Even without the need to wear high-fashion brands and the likes, there’s always train and taxi fares, lunches, drinks after work, the cost of cheer-yourself-up gifts that come from work-related unhappiness. A job can be expensive when one is not vigilant. Luckily, Kamin’s easy technique of recording expenses in a notebook saves the day every time.
A Redundancy-funded escape to Florence is seldom a bad plan. You can always come back.