Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Fog, PMS and The Trials and Tribulations of Teaching Toddlers

Ciao all,

Well, this week, let me tell you…


I had my first English teaching lesson with the 4yr old.  It did not go well. He didn’t want to learn, play or do anything and apart from about 10 minutes, he ignored me for the rest of the hour. The session was going to be split into 4 parts: 1) Sitting-down time, 2) Up-and-about time, 3) Going-to-the-toilet/ Having-a-snack (not at the same time) time and 4) Wind-down-story time.  I had a Box Of Fun which had different activities in which he could pick for the first two parts – but he just went through them all like this: “nope, I don’t want to do that” (in Italian) and cast them all to one side. He didn’t even know what they were and wouldn’t let me explain!


Box of Fun. See – how exciting does that look?! EXCITING!!!

Having-a-Snack Time didn’t materialise. He wasn’t interested in the story. When we hit on a successful activity, it lasted 2 minutes before he wanted to do something else. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES TO OCCUPY THIS BOY FOR AN HOUR. I phoned the mum up after and she said sometimes it was difficult to keep the attention of her child. Uh huh. She suggested I should do more drawing activities next week – “NEXT WEEK?! You want ANOTHER lesson?!” I said. Next week I’ll have to bring along some more activities (and a hip flask). I wonder if there’s a local teaching support group where all the teachers can meet up in a room and cry.

The next lot of lessons start on the 4th November with the schools – I’m working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They start from nursery school age (what’s that? 4 as well? God help me). There’ll be 26 of them. Marco wants me to work at the school here too. It’s all a bit like a full-time job this teaching malarkey – particularly given the length of time it takes me to prepare stuff. The work situation for a lot of people here is dire so I know I’ve been very fortunate and I’m honestly very grateful, but I didn’t want a proper full time job! I still have sleeping to catch up on from the last decade of working and I wanted to do more in the way of drawing and painting. I just seem to have fallen into it all. Anyway, my revised plan is to teach until the end of the school year – get materials, get experience and then give up next year and then I can do the occasional private lesson but this time with a modicum of experience behind me. At least it’s a way of making a dent in the car breakdown expenses!


I’ve been driving every day now. The number of Near Death Experiences has thankfully diminished (because I’ve narrowed down my driving times to when the psychos are at work). Today’s NDE was due to a crazy Italian flying down a hill who didn’t look to see if there was someone coming along the main road (I was) before veering onto it at 90 mph. Even though it was my right of way, he glared at me angrily in that 10th of a second it took for him to swerve around the corner. So that’s a classic example of one of my NDEs: nothing to do with me at all. Talk about defensive driving – I spend the entire time looking out for enemy attacks and ambushes. It would be more relaxing driving in a known land mine area. It’s odd – you’d think I’d be more confident…I spend the entire time driving saying positive “I am right” affirmations (to remind me to drive on the right!) 😉


I tried to go swimming this week. There are two “local” pools. This week I went to the more local one which turns out is disgusting – in fact, the pool could be lovely for all I know but the car park looked positively derelict apart from creepy men staring at me and the changing rooms which were in the reception area were ghastly looking. I walked back out again. I’m going to go to the less nasty looking pool next week but it’s a bit further away. More NDE-exposure time <sigh>.

Visits from home!

My parents are here next week so I’m excited about that! I’ve been compiling a list of things to see and do:

Towns/ Villages:

  • Ancona
  • Marcelli (selected on the basis that one of my school’s is there, I suspect it might be dead during the winter but it would make for a nice coastal walk!)
  • Numana
  • Sirollo
  • Osimo
  • Loreto
  • Jesi


  • Around Camerano
  • Around Monte Conero – Passo del Lupo
  • Fiaba di Fiastra
  • San Quirico

Stuff to do if it rains

  • Frassasi Caves
  • Camerano Caves
  • Auchan! Oh yeah…
  • Camerano Commercial Centre

Anybody else have any ideas?

I’ve more visitors coming this month too. People – bring your own entertainment otherwise you’ll be watching CSI Miami in Italian (I really dislike CSI Miami compared to CSI New York – the main guy spends the whole time looking at his feet and then looking up in a dramatic fashion at whoever he’s talking to and then he walks off. No-one can be THAT dramatic ALL of the time. Irritating).


What else? I went for a walk round the local countryside and now have blisters from wearing my proper walking shoes (as opposed to flipflops which are fine (my feet were not designed for shoes). With Autumn here, all the sunflowers have been harvested and the fields are being ploughed.  It looks positively sparse!


I had a race to get around the circuit before the sun completely disappeared. I have had now several confusing conversations with Italians about “the dark”. “Buio” (dark) and “buoi” (cows) are pretty much the same word eh?! Anyway, turns out I told my Italian friend that I needed to get back home before the cow came.

I went on another walk with Il Polemico yesterday too around Monte Conero up a path to the old monastery at the top. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Probably. If we could have seen any of it above the fog. As it was, it was very creepy! Monte Conero is pretty much covered in woodland. The fog meant all the spider webs were glistening with dew. Creepily beautiful.


The entire forest was covered in these! It was like walking through an Indiana Jones set.

Fog has definitely been a bit of a theme lately – every evening it rolls in around 8 or 9pm and stays until midday.


The Fog


I went to the Agenzia Entrata this week and managed to get a new codice fiscale number with my middle name now on – it seems to have placated the Comune so that’s good. I still don’t know what I’ve succeeded in doing.  There doesn’t seem to be anything else bureaucratic to do at the moment so er, that’s good / probably a lie.

Extracurricular activities

I’ve been doing a bit of painting/drawing which has been good. I bought an easel online back in the UK but it didn’t arrive in time so have to wait for that until Christmas when I can bring it back. It took me years to work out that if you paint on a horizontal surface, it skews your perspective. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 😉

What’s a bit odd?

Ladies!!!! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to try and hide it anymore – take inspiration from this graffiti tagger and be PROUD…


One of my friend’s theory is that there might be a “crew” called PMS. I know a few people that could be in that crew…

Ciao x

ps – WIFI IS BACK – HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The Week of Terror, Teaching and Truffles…

Ciao a tutti!,

I need to vent!!!! This week has been traumatic.


I think this will be a regular feature. So – there I am, going at the speed limit which is already too fast for the little winding hilly road with poor visibility that I’m on and I start going up a bit of a hill. The cars behind are attached to my bumper so when my little Granmobile starts inevitably slowing down a bit because it’s a hill, I can’t even change gear because in the time that my foot needs to come off the accelerator to change gear, I will have created a pile-up behind me. As a result, I end up going up even slower up this hill than if they’d have just given me a modicum of space in the first place. There are hills EVERYWHERE so I suppose a way around it is to spend the entire time in 3rd gear but poor little Granmobile, it just wants an easy life.

The thing is – these crazies mean that I end up having to drive like a crazy myself. If I don’t, they’ll crash into me. I used to think “well, it’s their lookout if they’re driving too close to me” but I really don’t want someone to crash into me!!! I still have things I want to do in life! I’m not ready to die!!!!!!!!!!! So I end up going faster than I would like to be going just to try and escape the crazies. BUT THEY RACE AFTER ME. It’s harassment!!! Whatever dad says, I’m not Niki Lauda.

And the other day, I was going along a road, at the speed limit (it’s not like going through a town in the UK at 30mph which feels positively walking speed, the speed limits here are genuinely fast), and I was driving a reasonable distance from the car in front but keeping the same speed as them and some fruitcake behind me decided to overtake on a road where you’re not allowed to overtake, WITH CARS COMING THE OTHER WAY and AROUND A CORNER. Risking HIS life, MY life, and the people on the other side. CRAZIES!!!

AND AND AND, to get to Auchan, my favourite shop that is tantalisingly close but scary as hell to get to, requires joining a road at speed that has no more than a 3 meter slip way and you can’t see the cars coming because there’s a grassy verge. It’s like Russian Roulette but with a much higher chance of dying. I’ve found an alternative route – nobody else takes it. It’s pretty. I can switch the engine off and coast all the way down for 10 minutes to get down from Camerano. Anyway, face your fears and all – I will overcome this. I’m forcing myself to drive every day. If you don’t hear from me again, well, it’s been great. And just in case, I would like my body to be stuffed with potpourri and left sitting on my balcony looking out at the view (if it’s not completely mangled with my steering wheel that is).

I’ve bought my tea set back from the UK. I have a soothing cup of tea afterward my driving experiences and it makes it takes some of the nightmares away.



The next source of terror is that I have to teach a 4yr old. It didn’t happen Friday thank goodness. It’s happening Tuesday. The woman who’d organised it had told me that I should look up how to teach toddlers. So I did, and I have printed a WEALTH of material – flashcards, lesson plans, activities, games etc.


Forearmed is forewarned (“Uomo avvisato mezzo salvato” – a man who is warned is half saved). I felt better after that. I’ve bought plastic wallets and folder dividers and everything. I look like a professional. And then when I told the woman I’d got some ideas, she said that the child’s mother wants her kid to learn English “naturally” and that I shouldn’t use any of them.  I have to just play with this child. FOR AN HOUR! A TODDLER! I can barely keep myself entertained, let alone another person. I’d have been alright with a lesson plan. I can’t ad-lib for an entire hour.  If I could swap back to an hour of my old job presenting NHS projects to 100’s of people, I would.

And continuing on the scary theme – I had to phone the toddler’s mother to organise the lesson. She speaks a bit of English but the conversation was in Italian. I wish phones could have subtitles. Someone should invent that. I think I only caught half of the conversation. Still, hopefully it’s the half that’s important. It would be a shame if it was “don’t feed the toddler nuts because he has a terrible life threatening nut allergy” and I come bearing nutty treats. I’d have to find another job.

Wine & Truffles

I went to the Lacrime and Tartufo festival a Morro D’alba on Saturday with Il Polemico.


Lacrime is a type of grape used for wine – they use it a lot around that area. And Tartufo is truffles, not the nice chocolate ones, but the lumpy, nasty looking and overpowering smelling funghi. We saw truffles that were 400 Euros each. 400 EUROS!!! I’m going to be a truffle hunter when I grown up. Anyway, that was a good festival and I met some nice new people and there was a cool sort of open air club at the end of the evening.


Morro D’alba is a cute little village with a walled walk that goes around it that has a sort of craft type market.


It’s nice to wander around and we went into a museum as well – showed how things were done in the old days from an agricultural point of view and also from a weaving point of view. Interesting!


Connecting to the world at large

I’ve still not had any luck with wifi. I’ve caned my mobile data on my phone. I have to loiter around the school (the school has wifi). Good job the students are all mature otherwise I’d feel like a paedophile.


So I know you’re all waiting with baited breath as to my residency. My codice fiscale is wrong. Let me tell you why – it’s because it’s just my first and last name and not my NEVER USED second name. The conversation went like this (imagine one half of the conversation being in pigeon Italian):

  • Comune Lady: “You have to change your codice fiscale – the code is not the same as the one that it should be because you should be Sue Maverick Windsor (name changed)” (The code is created by using some algorithm that involves my name and some other stuff).
  • Sue: “Nobody calls me Sue Maverick Windsor. Why don’t you just put Sue Windsor into your whatsitmijig and then the code will be the same” (whatsitmijig doesn’t translate well in Italian).
  • Comune Lady: “But it says here on this form that your name is Sue Maverick Windsor”
  • Sue: “But, you know, we wrote the form together remember? Let’s just cross it out eh?”.
  • Comune Lady: “But it says in your passport that you’re Sue Maverick Windsor”.
  • Sue: “But NOBODY USES IT. I’m still the same person. Don’t YOU have a middle name that you don’t use?”
  • Comune Lady: <empty stare>
  • Sue: “Do you have a middle name?”
  • Comune Lady: “Yes, but nobody uses it”
  • Comune Lady: “But it’s on your passport”.
  • Sue: <Knocks head against plastic barrier. Understands completely why they feel they need to have a barrier> “Ok. Fine. If I change my codice fiscal, you know it will take another year?”
  • Comune Lady: “That’s fine. Whenever”.
  • Sue: “Fine. FINE.”

Tomorrow, I intend to go to the Agenzia Entrata to correct this codice fiscal issue. I imagine it will be closed.

What’s a bit odd?

This week – dialects and accents. I’ve learnt a bit of dialect J Instead of “Andiamo a mangiare qualcosa” (let’s go and eat something) in Jesi (local town), you say something that sounds like “Anamo a manya qualco”. And I learnt some interesting gestures that did not appear in the gestures section of my “learn Italian” book (because they are a bit rude). It’s really a sign language in its own right! Napolitans (people from Naples) apparently have a dialect that even regular Italians can’t understand. And people don’t seem to like their accent. I haven’t been able to distinguish that they sound even remotely different from anyone else which goes to show how terrible my Italian still is! But what it is, is that I CAN tell that there’s a difference – I just thought the people I’d heard happened to have a weird lisp but that’s their accent apparently e.g. rather than saying ospedale (for hospital), they say oschpedale. So perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

Right, I’ve written too much but I feel better now. It’s very therapeutic this blog writing malarkey!

Hope you’re all well.







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Home, Roadtrips and Jobs…

Ciao all!

So I’m back in Italy! The last 3 weeks has been a bit full on with family and friend visits so I’ve had no time to write. Here’s a rundown of the last couple of weeks:

Return to the UK: Did it feel like coming “home”? Well it felt like coming back to somewhere I know and there’s a definite comfort in that. It was odd being able to eavesdrop on people’s conversations and understand them for a change! London doesn’t feel like home at all to me now – it moves at such a fast pace that unless you live and breathe it, you just get left behind. Back at the parents always feels like home so no change there.  It was really good to see friends and family again – it’s just a shame I didn’t get to see as many people as I’d hoped or spend much time with anyone.


Proof that the UK has nice sunsets (sometimes I forget!) This was taken at Gunwharf in Portsmouth…

Job: I have two! Possibly three. A couple of people that I met at the Rosso Conero Wine Festival last month have said they’d like me to teach with them. The first one seems to be a language school at Ancona – I will be teaching kids aged 6 – 12 years (26 of them at a time) at 3 local state schools for a wage so small that I’ve decided to consider it voluntary work to maintain my self-respect. I might have to pay tax. In which case, I think it will be the opposite of having a salary. I don’t have any experience with children – it’s going to be interesting. That job starts in November. The second job is doing some private English lessons but through someone else that seems to be contracting me out – my first lesson will be with a 4 year old possibly tomorrow. Do they even speak at that age? The third job will hopefully be doing some teaching with the school here. That still needs to be finalised.

I’m dedicating today to brainstorming lesson plans – hopefully with a few lesson plans up my sleeve, I’ll feel marginally less terrified. So far it takes me about a day to prepare a 1 hour lesson and I’ll be doing 10 hours + a week so I’m slightly concerned. If I was a full time teacher, I’d most certainly have a nervous breakdown.

Car acquisition: I do like my little car. It makes me feel like a grown up. However, I feel like I could have brought a brand new Mercedes and it still work out cheaper 😉 For people doing the same thing as me – I would not advocate buying a UK car and driving it back – it’s a terrible faff with the insurance, and with breakdown cover etc and it’s reasonably expensive in petrol and hotels (though if you consider it a mini holiday, then it’s not so bad). I’ll be doing that every year to get MOT and tax sorted for it. Having said that, there is still no alternative in terms of being able to buy one here so despite Everything (see below), I would still have done it. As background to Everything – the trip was planned with…let’s call him Sergio (he is very anti-blog!) who’s my Italian friend who lives in London and who kindly agreed to help me get the car back. The trip was due to take 4 days in total and take us through France, Switzerland and Italy.  So that’s the background.

“Everything” can be summarised as follows:

–          The Granmobile smelt musty so in an effort to freshen it up before the Big Italy Trip, I drove around with the windows wide open. On closing the window after the first Freshen Up Mission, the window fell back into the door. It turns out Fiat Panda’s, my model at least, are known for windows that fall back into the car. I managed to get it back up but it stopped working from then on. Road tolls are rife in Europe and you pay them/collect tickets from the left hand side of the car. This is annoying if you’re driving on the right. With a working window there’s at least hope that you could reach through and get it. There was a day to spare before heading up to London so I got it booked into the local garage and they managed to do a quick fix on it. I’ve no doubt it will fall down again soon – it has an unnerving click.

–          Midway through Switzerland the car came to a spluttering halt half way up a hill on a motorway.  We stopped on the hard shoulder and we were overwhelmed with smoke. Poor Granmobile. I hoped that it might go away so we had lunch up on a nearby grassy bit and waited for the smoke to disperse. It did not go away and a few minutes later a very nice breakdown man stopped and confirmed the clutch (la frizione – my knowledge of Italian bits of cars that can go wrong has substantially increased) was gone. I phoned my breakdown insurance people who were going to send someone out to us but meanwhile, the Nice Breakdown Man towed us to a safer spot.


Nice Breakdown Man towing us to a safer spot

He left us by a cafe and garage to await my breakdown insurance lot and then reappeared 1 minute later to say that it turns out that he’s the guy that is supposed to be helping us anyway. He towed us to the local Fiat garage (shut because it was Sunday) and took us to a local hotel (Sergio was stuffed in the boot with the tools because there wasn’t space. That was amusing).


Reception at Hotel La Perla in San Antonio (Switzerland)

This breakdown cost: £240 in hotel bills, £650 in clutch replacement bills, £120 in getting-ripped-off-at-the-local-restaurant bills, £60 in not-being-able-to-get-to-the-next-hotel-that-we’d-booked-and-paid-for bills, £150 to buy-another-plane-ticket-for-Sergio-who-was-due-to-return-back-the-following-day-and-now-couldn’t-get-to-the-airport bills and then another £100 to buy-ANOTHER-plane-ticket-because-we-were-in-a-mad-panic-to-get-out-of-the-hotel-room-and-actually-rebooked-it-for-a-weeks-time-rather-than-the-following-day-by-mistake bills and £20 taxi-to-drive-2-minutes-up-the-road-bills. I’ve decided Switzerland is the worst place to breakdown in the world in terms of expense. I’ll be able to recover a bit of the hotel bill I think from the insurance folk hopefully. On the other hand, look at how incredibly pretty Switzerland is…


Pretty pretty pretty….

–          Driving on the other side of the road with a steering wheel on the other side is a doddle. Nobody should worry about that. Toll booths will be annoying – I’ll have to get out of the car – I don’t think I’m going to be able to reach through without inelegantly getting stuck on the hand brake.  Having said that, I’m going to avoid them now that I’m here. Sometimes it’s difficult to overtake because you can’t see easily what’s coming in the other direction but to be honest, there’s no need to ever overtake anyone it Italy because they all drive like drunk, psychotic formula one drivers. If you’re a rational human being with a healthy respect for life and death, the opportunity to overtake here simply doesn’t arise. I shouldn’t make such blanket statements of course. I know there’s one or two of them that are safe. It’s actually been fascinating to see – in France, Germany and Switzerland the driving was very good – people keep at a reasonable distance from the cars in front and it’s all very ordered. Then about 1 mile from the Italian border, the roads are overtaken by maniacs (this doubles up as my  “What’s a bit odd” bit for this week). It’s a mystery to me how as a nation, they’ve managed to avoid becoming extinct. They drive up within a centimetre of your bumper at speed, they flash their lights, they yell (I should add, I’ve only had so far experienced the light flashing and yelling at a distance looking at some other poor person), they overtake when they’re not allowed, they drive like the speed of light regardless of whether it’s night, raining, foggy etc., they swerve in and out of cars and lanes apart from when there’s nobody else on the road and then they stay only in the middle and fast lane (poor slow lane). The roads are badly marked – in fact, sometimes there’s no marks at all. They’re pot-holed. Signage is poor. In summary, I really dislike driving in this country!

So that was the car trouble but in general it was a good trip back! Our route took us to:

–          Calais (France): The IBIS Budget Hotel is nigh impossible to get into at night. It’s like an Anneka Rice challenge. We went into Calais for a quick look around the next day – it’s got a nice park, a pretty cathedral, and some freaky public toilets that automatically wash down everything, including the walls and ceilings after you’ve gone to the loo. French people aren’t THAT bad eh?


Cathedral in Calais. There wasn’t a lot to Calais – they did have a fabulous shop in the commercial center with loads of nice ornaments and things. I have a permanent wooden lizard on my wall now courtesy of that shop – I’ve called Maximus. I’ll have to take a picture of him for the next blog. Cute.

–          Saint Dizier (France): We stayed at a lovely hotel called Balledins which was alas, in the middle of an industrial estate. There was a good Italian restaurant opposite the hotel. We didn’t have time to look around unfortunately and left early the next day.


Balledins – I think my favourite of the hotels although it would have been better with a bath tub. Why are hotels eradicating bath tubs these days?!


Restaurant next to the hotel. We went to the restaurant with the bright sign. I can’t remember what it was but I recommend it! I don’t think I’m being unreasonable to say that French people as a general rule, have no concept of vegetarianism. It’s annoying. However, they had a lovely veggie pasta so I was happy.

–          Prattelm (Switzerland): We stayed in an IBIS Budget Hotel again – they look the same! It’s like a prison cell but with a double bed and a TV. Having said that – it’s perfectly fine and did the job. We got there in the afternoon and headed to a spa we’d heard good things about called Aquabasilia. My tips for Aquabasilia are:

  • Don’t spend an hour being disappointed that you have no swimming costume and can’t go into the water park with all the water flumes – if you go into the spa section there’s a large section of the complex that is both inside and outside and everyone’s naked and there’s LOADS to do in there.  Lots of saunas and steam rooms, weird rooms with hot stone seats, jacuzzis, swimming pools with various jets of water and a lot of it is outside with a lovely cedar wood fire making everything smell nice and alpine-y.
  • Don’t bother with the Hammam (Turkish steam room experience) – it was nice but they already have steam rooms in the spa bit of the complex.
  • Get the 4 hour ticket at least – 2 hours isn’t enough.

–          San Antonio / Breakdown Place (Switzerland): We stayed in Hotel La Perla. I have very mixed feelings about San Antonio! It’s expensive but nice. We went for dinner in a local restaurant – extortionate. In fact, we made 3 visits to the cashpoint just to be able to cover the cost of the dinner. They have the same set up that Italy have with a lot of their restaurants – no menu so you just ask what there is and they make it up and give it to you. In Italy it’s quite an endearingly flexible way of eating what you want and excellent value usually. In Switzerland, it’s a way of extorting money from innocent breakdown victims. When we walked in, the entire restaurant stopped their conversations and gave us a “you don’t come from ‘round here” stare. But by the end of the night, we were having “free” rounds with the owners and the local mayor and on mobile number exchanging terms with a couple of them so that was nice.

So we made it back eventually! The car is now parked outside the flat. I had never realised before but I think Camerano is the world’s centre for Fiat Pandas. There are hundreds of them. When I got in the car this morning and glanced back in the rear view mirror my heart stopped because I saw my car still in the parking space. It turns out that someone else has exactly the same model and had parked next to me. I had to reassure myself I hadn’t stolen someone else’s car.

Back to Italy – I do love Camerano so it’s really nice to be back here but it doesn’t feel like home yet. I still feel like I’m squatting. In fact, the Comune have come back to say something is wrong with my residency so I probably still am! Given the obscene amount of time I’ve spent in the Comune, that will probably feel more homely than “home” 😉  I remain obsessed with my view from my kitchen and have taken already dozens of balcony sunset shots.


Even foggy, my view from the balcony is still beautiful…

I saw the neighbours today – they seemed to be happy to see me too and have invited me over for dinner at some point. And I’ve popped into the school to say hello. I’ve got a few things lined up with people as well in the next week. November is the month for visits – my parents are out and some friends from home are too.  I’ve brought a bit more of my stuff back now so it feels a bit more like “me” than before. I’ve swapped rooms back into the one I started with and my other room will be turned into a living room and I’ll have a decent TV (EXCITING!).


My new old room.

I’m absolutely mortified to report that the wifi I’ve been er, borrowing appears to have disappeared so I’m left with 2gb mobile data on my phone which I could use up in a day given my usual internet usage levels. I imagine I’ll have hoops to jump through to get my own wifi and I imagine the contracts are all a year long which I don’t want. I am distraught. I’ll have to ask the neighbour if he’ll give me the password for his if I give him some money.

So, that’s been the last three weeks or so. I feel like I could do with a holiday now!

Back to regular blogging levels now I think!


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