31 March 2010

Without Guilt

Okay, I'm over my little tantrum (see posting dated 26th March 2010) and ready to write again.
This is partly due to the fact that today was the first day since October that we've had something resembling a 'Siesta'!

Siesta forces me to stop, relax, read and write.

Without Siesta, I feel guilty if I don't work like a convict.

So today I had a nice break in the middle of the day, sat on our beautiful terrace and let my exposed toes soak up the sun.

And I wrote.

Without guilt.

27 March 2010

I am SO sore

I am SO completely and utterly sore today that I can't even type.

We have been clearing some heavy duty weeds, vines and dead trees out of an overgrown section near the house. Pulling and dragging vegetation has taken all of the strength from my forearms and fingers.

I've also been thinning out our plum grove in the hope that the little trees there will be able to fruit this year. Sawing off the in-between seedlings has taken all of the strength from my shoulders and wrists.

So sorry...a longer story to be posted tomorrow...

26 March 2010

You know you've got problems when DHL can't find your address!

I just spent 1.5 hours writing a really brilliant blog entry about my 'lost' study materials (hence the title of this posting).

Despite the fact that I saved it every few minutes during that time, I now can't 'find' it.

I'm really jacked off.

It's times like these when writing is a mug's game.

24 March 2010

My entry visa trauma...

When we moved to Italy in October 2009, Stuart entered on his EU passport which meant that he could stay as long as he wanted to. Since I had an Australian or New Zealand passport, I could stay a maximum of 90 days only on a tourist visa. After that period, I needed to leave Italy for 3 months during which time I had to find out how to legally stay in Italy longer than 3 months at a time.

We made our first trip to the Italian Consulate in Brisbane immediately after Christmas 2009. The Consulate explained that a longterm stay in Italy would be easy for me. Since Stuart has an EU passport, I could enter Italy as his 'wife'!

All we needed was a marriage certificate.

And therein lay the problem: We were not married!

However, we thanked the Consulate and smiled sweetly at him before making an embarrassed escape.

At a local coffee shop, we sought refuge in a dark corner. We sweated profusely at the prospect of an urgent marriage proposal being made in the very near future.

We agreed that these were not the best circumstances under which to pledge undying love for each other.

So it was back to the Consulate to explain our lack of a marriage certificate.

No problems, the Consulate said. There was another alternative. I could apply for a longterm visa. This visa would depend on my health insurance and would therefore expire on the same day as my insurance. Since we had only 6 months insurance, he suggested that we try to extend it to 12 months. We told him we would try and return as soon as possible.

However, first we had to go on a 4 week camping trip.

In hindsight, our trip seems extravagant given the criticality of the longterm visa. On returning from our trip, we would have only 2 weeks before we were to fly back to Italy. But the Consulate had promised that my application could be processed quickly so we weren't unduly worried.

While we were away, our insurance company had advised that our insurance couldn't be extended because the premiums for 2010-2011 hadn't been established.

This was a hiccup but we still weren't worried. We would simply proceed with a 6 month longterm visa instead.

So back to the Consulate we went, only to be told that the Consulate had gone to Italy on compassionate leave! His offsider had utterly no idea what to do with our application. We realised this when he disappeared behind closed doors for 2 hours before emerging with several folders of legislation and a strange nervous tick.

We were doomed.

He told us between twitches that the Consulate would be back 3 days before our flights. We asked him if he thought we should re-schedule our flights. He ticked.

We were on our own. We decided to take the risk.

On the third last day, we were the first customers at the office. We sat shaking in our waiting room seats, desperately straining to view a glimpse of the Consulate.

Finally, with joy beyond description, we saw him!

Within minutes he and his ticking offsider were processing our application.

They told us that the visa 'may' be ready on the day of our flight. We asked them if they thought we should re-schedule our flights. The consulate shrugged. His offsider ticked.

We were on our own. We decided to take the risk.

On the last day, we made the first phone call into the office. Frustration levels were at an alltime high and the tension was unbearable. We waited while the receptionist checked the status of our application.

'Yes, Catherine, your visa is ready', were the sacred words I heard.

We were away. Emotionally exhausted but on our way.

23 March 2010

Aah...the pleasure of a smoke-free environment...

I am pleased to announce that we have a smoke-free environment once again.

Some considerable effort was needed to achieve our new pollution-free air. All of our brooms, buckets and shovels are now black. Not to mention the floors and walls.

Our skin was also black but this has since been corrected.

All in a good cause.

All for a deep breath of pure unadulterated oxygen.

21 March 2010

Where there's smoke there's fire...

Since moving to Italy, it would be reasonable to say that we've had more than our fair share of challenges. Each challenge has called on us to become 'experts' in various ways. We have been plumbers, electricians, stone masons, brick layers, tile layers, water technicians, drain layers, landscapers and gardeners.

You would think by now that there were no more 'experts' that we could be...

I love our log fire. In fact I wouldn't be alive now if it wasn't for our log fire. The nights before Christmas were some of the coldest I had ever experienced, where even 5 layers of clothing and a down sleeping bag weren't enough to keep me warm.

My relationship with our log fire had progressed to such an extent that I have lately been lighting it with only 1 match (as opposed to the 8 matches that I used to need!)

So you can imagine my confusion when the Afghan biscuits I baked this morning didn't seem to fill the kitchen with their sweet aroma like they normally did.

Instead, there was another more insidious stink pervading the air.

'The rustico smells of smoke!', I cried out to Stuart.

Stuart dropped his gardening tools and rushed inside, where he sniffed the air and announced that it was all in my imagination.

I wondered fleetingly about my own sanity before opening the doors and windows to allow the smoke to clear. Maybe there was too much ash in the fire...I would clean it out before lighting tonight's fire...

But that evening, just as we were enjoying a meal of chilli con carne, we were again surrounded by smoke.

'There's smoke everywhere!', I cried to Stuart.

Stuart must have considered the distraught woman before him long enough to realise that a little tact was necessary. He suggested that the wood might be damp.

'I'm telling you! I can't breathe!', I yelled as I grabbed the torch and shone it at the flue where great swatches of smoke were escaping through every nook and cranny.

After realising the gravity of the situation, Stuart launched himself at the flue, prodding and pushing its 9 different sections in an attempt to tighten the gaps.

Unfortunately, there was little improvement and smoke continued to ooze into the room.

I guess this means that there's one more 'expert' that we will need to be tomorrow...

Chimney Sweeps.

20 March 2010

My Mind Works in Mysterious Ways

It was raining today, that thick misty rain that doesn't seem to make a noise but soaks you right through to your bones.

So there was nothing for it but to cook!

I cooked a perfect sugo sauce with 30 cherry tomatoes, then creamy honey and date muffins.

And then I realised that I always listen to ABBA when I'm descending in a plane.

Yes, I know that these activities/thoughts may not appear to be connected...but I just thought I'd share with you a typical deranged movement of my brain...

19 March 2010

It's better for me if he's ignorant!

The thing that has surprised me most of all about our return to Italy is just how comfortable Stuart is in this country.

Except for (very) occasionally listening to an Italian language course on his ipod, he doesn't make any attempt to practice the language.

On our first day back, he drove on the 'right' hand side of the road instantly and was even seen to go to the 'wrong' side of the road to park! (For those of you who don't understand this, Italians park in any direction regardless of the flow of traffic).

Today, we ventured to the market. Stuart looked so comfortable with all the locals yapping in Italian around him. On the contrary, I looked to be under severe mental strain as I prepared the words I would use to order the various foods.

So you can imagine my surprise when, as all the necessary words relating to cheese were buzzing around in my head, I heard a giggle next to me.

I turned to find Stuart apparently enjoying a joke.

I must have looked a little confused (dismayed?) because he quickly explained.

'See that lady beside you?', he said.

'The one about my age? Yes', I replied.

'The shopkeeper called her Signorina (young woman) and you Signora (old woman)!', he laughed.

'Ha ha', I grunted.

Where and when had he learned this!?

When your man knows that you've been classified as an 'old woman' instead of a 'young woman' it's time he 'lost' his ipod...

18 March 2010


After spending a heavenly three months with family in Australia, one's can't help but pose a question to the universe: 'Is it right that I live so far away from family and country?'

Panic regarding our return to Italy had only set in during the last few days of our holiday. We started to doubt our ability to 'brave' the unknowns in a country where we had no support structure. We started to believe that we would never learn Italian. We started to believe that all of our improvements that we'd done to date had collapsed or failed and that all of our services and utilities had been cut off!

We panicked even more after our long flight to Italy...

We'd hired a small car at the Milan airport in order to get our embarrassingly heavy suitcases home without slipping any vertabrae (the lure of second hand book shops in Australia had been too much of a temptation and we were laden with literature).

About ten kilometres from Canelli, we found snow laying on the hills!

Now, while I am normally gleeful about snow, it did pose a particular concern yesterday. The 2 kilometre drive into our small valley is dotted with sections that never see the sun so it was reasonable for us to assume that the snow may have made it impassable.

Fortunately, 'someone' was looking after us. While there were a few patches of snow on the road, the thickest snow was to be found in our lower paddocks only.

So after three months in hot humid weather, where I frequently found myself in a state of panic regarding over-heating, it was with immense pleasure that I alighted from the car to the fresh intensity of 7 degrees, the tranquillity of our valley, the first of our Spring bulbs and the reawakening of our birdlife.

I like to think that nature and fate was sending me a message: 'Living overseas is the right thing to do at the moment'. We're simply meant to be here for a while longer.

Or at least until all of the family have had their Italian holiday experience!