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People and Places

Where do you call home? Nursing a love of two countries?

MicheleBarcaIntroducing Michele Barca - Nicoise with a hint of Italian and, for more than 30 years, a resident of South East London - and many other places…...

Michele’s heritage allows her to have a claim on no less than 4 key locations which continue to influence and drive how she lives, what she does and with whom. Firstly, her parents held a key position in the community as restaurateurs - she was born in the Cours Saleya, the heart of Nice’s old town. Holding court and providing the best food along the strip, the restaurant was a popular meeting place and helped to build the identity which we now see as the main eating quarter of Nice. Secondly, Michele recently re-newed her links with Pavia, near Milan, providing a nostalgic opportunity for Michele to step into her grandmother’s past. She traced the steps which brought her family from Northern Italy to Provence-Cote d’Azur. Step three saw Michele travelling to England, aged 20, settling in London to train as a nurse. Specializing in psychiatry, she qualified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and hypnosis, working extensively with UK doctors. Subsequently, she has travelled around the globe as a management and training consultant, in both the public and commercial sectors. Her published training manuals continue to be used in management education.

What now? At 73 years, and showing no signs of slowing down, Michele is now in active retirement in Vallauris, near Antibes. Prior to this longest period of settlement, she lived and maintains roots in the Mercantour village of La Brigue - the 4th location. Hanging in the mountains on the Italian border, La Brigue is Michele in landscape form. The area holds a strong Italian identity, and proudly indulges itself with the local food and wine produce. The area voted to become French, breaking away from Italian control, post-war - a ‘Michele-like’ metaphor regarding identity.

Where does Michele call home? In Nice, her birthplace, the Haute-Var, where she frequently visits and stays, or Italy, the origins of which gives her a love of life, people, and all things gastronomic? Or any of her other adopted, if temporary, locations? Her home for over 30 years in South East London reflected her Provencal hospitality - most evenings saw large volumes of food around a big kitchen table with plenty of chat and laughter - ‘Provence, in the rain’, to quote one happy eater! A lengthy assignment in North Africa allowed Michele to become part of another culinary culture. When not working, she was welcomed into local homes to receive the warmth and welcome she exudes to others on her home soil.

The final word needs to go to Michele…. When asked ‘Where DO you call home’, her response remains the same. She feels ‘at home’ and comfortable in any/all of the locations. Her French birthright remains dominant above all, but, in a literal sense, she is at home where she exists at the time, surrounded by people, eating and enjoying the here and now. The conviviality of her immediate surroundings appears to determine ‘home’ for Michele. But the very last word has to highlight her non-human companions. For most of her adult life, Michele has rescued and given a home to many abandoned and vulnerable animals. She is never far from a grateful dog or cat who - along with her human friends - have benefited from her natural nursing care. Perhaps ‘home’ is not a physical place, but something more ephemeral, based on who, or what is around you at any one time?

Thursday, 1 October 2015    Section: People and Places    Author: Julia Moore
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