Ode to my old life…


How is everyone?

Well it’s been a while since I’ve given an earthquake update. For those new to the blog, my house was badly damaged by the series of earthquakes that hit Central Italy, the first of which struck in August 31st 2016 and killed 299 people.

From a practical point of view things are moving – but very slowly. Our little collective (that makes up the larger building of which my house is a part) has agreed on a Structural Engineer to complete the necessary forms and evaluate the damage. Depending upon that evaluation and Government legislation which we’re still awaiting, we’ll have an idea of how much money we’ll get for repairs/rebuild and our Engineer will devise a plan for the house accordingly. The upshot is that it will take years before I can move back to my home and who knows what form that will take – a patched up house or new one entirely.

From an emotional point of view, things are moving even more slowly. When things go wrong, I usually pick myself up, dust myself off and come up with a new plan. That’s not happened this time, something I’ve been immensely annoyed at myself for. A house is just a “thing” after all and I and my neighbours are all very lucky to be alive.  I know that of course.  I’m also very fortunate that I was offered somewhere to stay temporarily, an hour away from Sarnano. There’s room to put my things and it’s safe for the cat too.

I can easily list the reasons why I’m lucky and what I have to be grateful for which makes me feel even more guilty for not embracing this new lease of life I should now have!  I feel like I don’t have the right to feel sad at all. I only bought the house 3 and a half years ago. I haven’t lost a family home like my neighbours that had been passed down through generations and I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to get some of my things out rather than losing everything like many others.

This feeling sad but guiltily so, has got me thinking that it’s probably quite a unique experience being an ex-pat earthquake victim. We may not have lost our family homes where we grew up but we’ve lost “the dream”. Moving to Italy was my plan for years before I finally achieved it. I didn’t buy a ‘house’, I bought an ‘experience’; knocking down walls, putting in the kitchen and bathroom, painting a massive blackboard in my kitchen and a mountain range on the wall in my bedroom. My house was not some lovely villa in the middle of nowhere; it was a cheap and oddly constructed somewhat ugly part of a larger ‘house’. But…it was the first place I’ve ever felt was ‘home’. It was like the house version of me – a bit peculiar and untidy but quirky with character.

I miss painting in my little studio upstairs. I miss trying to spot deer and wild boar on the hill that my terrace overlooked. I miss having a bath with a glass of wine and candles, watching a documentary from my laptop propped up on the Bidet/Laptop-and-Cosmetics-Shelf. I miss my neighbour yelling at me from the road to see if I wanted to go for a walk around the block, and I miss my other neighbour yelling… well, just yelling (the Italians are more boisterous and loud than we English are!).

Making myself a little ‘home from home’ was one thing but there’s so, so much else that’s part of the ex-pat experience. You have to build an entire new life for yourself when you move abroad. I threw myself into the community. I joined clubs and classes, I went to festas. Not a local hilltop town was left unvisited and I know Sarnano like the back of my hand. The Italians were so very welcoming to me and really made me feel part of the community. I was affectionately called ‘La Inglesina’ – The English Girl (admittedly not that imaginative as nicknames go but better than ‘Fatty’). When I went into town I recognised lots of people and I loved that. I loved chatting to the Nice Supermarket Checkout woman and trying to get the Unfriendly One to at least say hello. I miss that I can’t actually fulfill my long-standing promise to go swimming with Petrol Man. I miss asking the Stationary Dude for things that he never has in stock and having a laugh with him about it. I miss Fruit & Veg man wishing me a Happy Christmas regardless of the time of year. I miss beeping at my neighbours and saying hello as I go past them whilst they’re doing their gardening. Not only am I not there anymore but neither are they.

I feel lost without my house and my old life. When I moved to Sarnano, I did it with all the enthusiasm of building a new and exciting life for myself. I know I can do all that again of course somewhere new in a new house, but… I just don’t want to. There’s no alternative however and herein lies the problem! Having been plunged into this new situation, doing all this; moving into a new house and/or community, takes levels of enthusiasm that I just don’t have at the minute because well, I think losing your house is a grief of sorts. So, I’m going to let myself off the hook. I’m back in the UK for a bit. I’ll see friends and family and do some painting, travel around and try to replenish the enthusiasm reserves. So this update, though seeming to be a depressing one, isn’t at all – I think I’ve turned a corner and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit the tunnel is long and the light is a bit faint at the moment. I’ll meander towards it though and I’ll come up with a cunning plan along the way. So please bear with me and I’ll keep you updated as I go.

Meanwhile here’s a picture of the kittens back in Italy to offset the gloomy blog post…



Fated and Doomed enjoying some tree time!

A presto,


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Ode to my old life…

  1. I’m so glad you’ve let yourself off the guilty hook as you have nothing to feel guilty for Sue! Time in the UK to recharge sounds perfect too although sadly its rather damp over here! Take care, take it one step at a time and please don’t stop sharing your story! xxx

    • Thank you Liz! Much appreciated 🙂 The recharging is going well though miss Italy lots! Hope you’re getting on alright in sunny Venice! xxx

  2. Thanks for your post, a touch of real does us all good, Italy is not just pix of Florence, Venice and Rome. It is human and has to deal with whatever nature throws at us. So sorry about your home. In a strange and unhappy way it links you more with Italians than you probably ever anticipated. You are connected on a very deep and meaningful way now. Maybe there is some new journey for you in this whole experience, maybe a book ?… cathartic and it may make you rich ! 🙂

    • Thank you! Yes, there’s definitely a new journey in there somewhere – I just have to work out what it is 🙂 I like the sound of the rich bit though!

  3. This is quite sad, hope you’re having some relaxation here and things work out again. At least you’ll hopefully never have to teach the children again!

  4. Normo

    I think you have it right, Sue – it is basically grieving! So…. give yourself a bit of time and space to do so (basically, be kind to yourself) – then get orf your arse and get back on the horse and face the problems! 🙂 (Have you forgotten my ‘caring and sharing’ side? 😉 )

    You had plenty of such problems to sort out in grabbing hold of this new experience, and have managed them brilliantly – so you know you are quite capable of tackling them. Just think of the fact that you’ve gone through an Earthquake – so are up there in “The Cool Stakes” as far as Brits are concerned!

    Don’t forget to say hello whilst you are back (and I might even ask for The Cool One’s Autograph!) 🙂

    P.S. What is this ‘guilty’ thing? I’ve never felt ‘guilty’ on anything – there’s no point to it. (OK, I’ve been annoyed with my stupidity at times, and have also balanced that with being impressed with myself. It all balances out in the end! 🙂

    • Thanks Norm 🙂 Yeah, I think the being kind to myself will help rather than constantly chastising myself for being sad! And you’re right, I think this has definitely confirmed my “cool” status 😉 I shall be around and about at S&G’s I suspect – I shall suggest a skiiing reunion pub lunch or something! x

  5. david gerstel

    actually, i feel you personally are responsible for brexit, the earthquakes and donald trump . nevertheless, this was a very good and personal post. you are welcome back anytime. i do feel badly and your absence, even temporary, will affect all of us.

    • Thank you 🙂 Still need to book flights but hoping to be back for a bit in April so I shan’t be gone too long! 🙂

  6. Ciao Sue!
    Non sapevo che anche Sarnano fosse stata duramente colpita dal sisma! Oggi stavo sfogliando delle foto su instagram e ne ho trovate un paio che ritraevano i danni del terremoto in quel paese. Ho subito pensato a te…mi dispiace moltissimo per la tua perdita, vedrai che troverai un altro angolo di sole, presto.
    Un abbraccio! E se vuoi passare dalla Liguria, noi ti aspettiamo!

    • Grazie mille Elena! Un abbraccio anche a voi e infatti sto pensando di passare un po’ di tempo in Liguria presto! Ti faccio sapere 🙂 Buona Pasqua!

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