Posts Tagged With: car

Cunning plans, car acquisition plans and new cameras…

Buonasera!!!

Well Dear Readers, I’m so sorry for the long disappearance! I hope you’ve all been well during my absence 🙂

I’ve been in the UK so there hasn’t been much to update on from an Italian perspective. It’s been lovely catching up with family and friends although as ever, I don’t feel like I’ve done an effective job of that. However, I’m looking forward to heading back to hopefully sunnier climes! Out of the couple of months I’ve been back, it’s been sunny for about 6 hours 😉

Here are some photo’s from the UK taken on the rare occasions there was not torrential rain. I’ve bought a new camera (I LOVE my new camera!) so I’ve been attempting to go a bit more arty. If anyone has any constructive criticism on the photos please do leave a comment – I’m still learning!

Fensham

Frensham Lake

The beautiful Corfe Castle

The beautiful Corfe Castle

Brighton Beach

Brighton Pier. Italians looking at this may be shocked by the complete lack of back-to-back sun loungers!

Brighton Pier & Seagull

This seagull and myself became good friends.

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This is The Crescent in Bath. Those clouds are much more representative of England’s Summer this year.

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I stayed in Wales a couple of times. They’ve got some spectacular beaches and this is one of them.

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Wales again, where the famous poet Dylan Thomas liked to hang out.

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And this was from a walk in Wales.

I’m back to Italy tomorrow and I’ve been making plans for the rest of the year! Here they are…

Car renting and buying

I need to buy a new car! I drove back to the UK in the Nanmobile (can you guess who I bought the car from?) in July for its annual MOT (car check up) . It’s a costly business having an English car in Italy mainly because of the need to do this and all the costs associated with the trip back. The alternative is to register the Nanmobile in Italy but looking at people’s experiences online of registering an English car in Italy it seems to be so traumatic and costly that it’s not worth it. So, I’m going to try and buy an Italian car.  To buy an Italian car, I need to be a resident in Italy. I now have a beautiful Identity Card to demonstrate my residency so this should be ok. What I’m unclear of is whether I need my Driving License to show the same address. In Italy, the police stop people regularly to have a look at their paperwork to see that it all matches up. There doesn’t seem to be any neat solution for someone that wants to maintain their “home” in both countries. So that will be interesting. I’ve emailed the car people in Italy to ask them if they can help but of course, nobody has replied!

Meanwhile I’m going to hire a car for a week or two. My first experience of driving a left-hand drive car in years will be at 9am, following a night of little or no sleep, on my own and for an hour and a half. I can hardly wait! 🙂

Finish the book

I wrote a book last year but it needs editing still. I did get a good way through whilst I was back in the UK but still have a long way to go so hoping to get the next stage of editing done in the next month or two. This is priority numero uno.

Become a successful artist!

I’ve always been quite creative but I never get particularly good at anything. A jack of all trades, master of none! It’s said you need to put in 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So that said, I like to think it’s not because I lack talent, but because I don’t put the concerted effort in (how annoying it would be to find out after all that time it’s the talent component I miss, not the time!!!!). As such, I’ve decided to make priority numero due (English people, you need to pronounce that “do-ay” otherwise it sounds odd) to pull out the stops and get good at painting. To that end, I’m keen to sign up to an art course in the main town nearby, Macerata. However, the enrollment form confuses me and I can’t seem to get to the bottom of when it starts and what I need to do. I’ll go on a concerted mission on my first day or two back in Italy to get to the bottom of that!  Please send me course enrollment vibes (and car buying vibes come to that).

My plan is to do something akin to the wonderful Edward B Gordon. Everyday he paints a beautiful picture and posts it on his blog and everyday he seems to sell them.

I’m also going to try and get a bit more into the photography thing, but that’s priority numero tre!

Right, I think that’s it for now. Sorry it’s been short and sweet. With any luck next time I’ll be back to posting pics of Italy and telling you how frustrating buying a car is 😉

Buonasera a tutti,

xxx

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Night of Madness, the Beams and Bluetit Serving Platters

Ciao a tutti,

How is everyone?! It’s been horrible weather this week – cloudy and always raining! I think it might have been my fault – in the heat of the week before I decided that I probably wouldn’t be using the stufa for the rest of the year and so I put the remnants of convenient stufa wood into the cantina. I should really move it back upstairs and release Italy from this non-stop rain.

I’ve got some visitors in the next few weeks: parents, my brother and sister-in-law (a special occasion indeed – it will mark I think the second visit in 15 years! ;-)) and then a group of friends in July. It’s spurred me back into the DIY. I have a big blackboard for my month goals in the kitchen and every single month, I tick off everything, but “finish the beams” is always ongoing to the following month. It’s such a life sapping task. However, this month I FINISHED THE BEAMS!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!! When I say finished, I mean “I am finished” rather than the beams are now finished per se. I spent an entire day up a ladder sanding them with a machine and by the end of it, I didn’t notice even a slight difference. So, I decided to oil and wax them anyway. Voila. Finished beams.

 

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh?

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh? Despite the blurry photo, you can see it’s not a bad beam.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I've neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit neater at least.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I’ve neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit better at least. My hope is that nobody ever looks at the ceiling.


The rest of that week was spent painting and decorating the living room. I had grand plans to put lots of photos on the main wall in the living room which, you might remember from previous blogs I had blocked off a door-sized niche with wood and plaster. It turns out I am not amazing at plastering. You can quite clearly see where I blocked it off. So I’ve reworked my plans and put some big canvasses there instead! The photo’s are now on the wall by the stufa. In all, I’m reasonably pleased with how it looks at the moment bar a few finishing touches though it certainly looks “unique” and “rustic” what with the half painted beams, random rough plaster patches and a weird zigzag in the floor where there are no tiles (after the wall was taken down) .

I’ve painted one of the bedrooms too and have managed to turn what would have been quite a nice bright room if I’d have just carried on with the white paint, into another “unique” and “quirky” room. I have great reservations about it and I’m considering painting over it, particularly because at some point I was considering renting the room out. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Blue Tits

In other exciting news, we have some Blue Tits that have been nesting in the roof. For several days Mr and Mrs Bluetit had been perching next to the terrace with great long worms in their beaks, eyeing me up suspiciously before flying off. I couldn’t understand why these birds weren’t obese. They seemed to be worm killing machines. And then eventually, when they disappeared under a roof tile a couple of times, I suddenly cottoned on that maybe they had a nest there and were feeding their young. The closer I got, I heard some tiny little chirps! Cute. My mother suggested I feed them…

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…..but she was not impressed with the initial blue tit serving platter saying it was perhaps too sparkly white.

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This is Blue tit Service Platter Mark 2. I can report that the Blue Tits of Sarnano do not eat raisins or coleslaw but they do like cheese. Or at least something on the roof does. Unfortunately the family have now gone. I’m worried something bad happened – a tile where their nest appeared to be had moved quite considerably. I’m hoping their house was under another tile because there’s no sign of them.

ID card

I got myself an Italian ID card the other day. As far as I can see as general life goes, there’s no point to this card – it has a picture of me on with a description (brown hair, green eyes etc) and my address and cost 5 euros and 49 cents (that 1 cent extra to make it easier for everyone would have pushed it over into the realms of too expensive). Passports and driving licenses seem to be just as effective. However, I decided to go ahead with it because I needed it to open a bank account (my English passport and driving license didn’t cut the mustard) so I braced myself for months of red tape and bureaucracy and multiple visits to the Comune to attain this ID card. It took 5 minutes! I walked in with 3 passport sized photos and it was done. I recommend the process to everyone! So I have a nice ID card now and it makes me feel very Italian so I’m glad I have it, though it ended up being entirely useless in my quest to open a bank account. It turns out banks are annoying in Italy too, not just in the UK.

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One of the oldest road races went through Sarnano the other day so I popped down and took lots of photos of old cars as they sped past. Here’s one…

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Visit to the beautiful Ambro fraction of Montefortino

May is a special month for the Madonna here in Italy, being a predominately Catholic country. Jesus’ mother is big news here. In fact, not being religious or particularly well read in the bible, I was somewhat confused up until very recently. Town’s often refer to their churches by “Madonna di <town name> “.  Not really thinking about it, I had assumed, that all of these towns had their own Madonnas and it was just a very common name (a bit like if you’re not sure of a man’s name here in Sarnano, you can call them Giuseppe and you’ll more than likely be correct!). The Sue of Portsmouth, is not the same Sue of Edinburgh for instance. However, I’ve been informed that there’s just the one Madonna and she does good works everywhere. Every year, a trip is organised for the Sarnanese (the people of Sarnano) to go and worship the Madonna at the Madonna dell’Ambro church in the fraction of Montefortino. The story goes that the Madonna appeared to a mute shepherd girl in the month of May just by the river and where the church is now, and was given the gift of words. It’s certainly a stunning place and it looks like there’s some nice walks there too. I’ll have to investigate.

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This was actually taken from Montefortino itself rather than Ambro.

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Birthday Celebrations

It was my birthday on Saturday so I decided to have a party. I don’t like the idea of having parties; if people show up then there’s all the pressure of having to make it fun with food everyone likes and if people don’t show up then it’s a bit depressing isn’t it? It’s a lose, lose situation! However, I wanted to do something just as a gesture to my neighbours to say thank you for being so welcoming to me in the last year or so, so I prepared an English-style buffet (sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, pastry nibbles etc.). In the end, not that many people came but it was really good! I must have them over again – they were positively overflowing with compliments about the house and food.

The celebrations continued with a virtual online Eurovision Song Contest party that evening with my friends and family back home which was very good. It could have been a bit of a miserable day being away from everyone but in fact, it turned out to be a good day all around!

My immediate neighbour gave me a ‘massage experience’ at the Sarnano Terme where she works. Terme means spa/thermal baths in English. It’s not like a beauty spa though – everything is geared towards health. There are three springs within the Terme – the waters are all used in various different treatments: Inhalation to treat allergies etc, hydromassages to treat aches/pains and water retention etc. and if you drink the water from one of the springs it has amazing diuretic properties (I didn’t even know this was a good thing but it apparently is). My experience started off with a hydromassage first with a lovely man who explained about the terme and was very patient whilst I laughed my way through the first 5 minutes. It’s an unusual experience! You walk up some little steps to a big metal bath filled with this special thermal water and then the masseuse uses a reasonably high powered hose to massage you under the water. Once the initial ‘surrealness’ had passed, it was actually very relaxing. Then I had a more conventional massage which was lovely. All in all, a great birthday present and a unique experience.  If you’re coming to Sarnano, it’s definitely worth checking the spa out. In fact, the grounds themselves are lovely and it’s free to go to them. Take an empty bottle with you and fill it up with the thermal water (and when you drink it, make sure you’re near a bathroom).

The Hunt for Wild Boar

Apparently the area is rife with wild boar. Rife. However, in almost a year, I’ve not seen a single one (apart from perhaps the bottom of one running into some trees being chased by dogs during the hunting season but I can’t be sure). I have seen evidence of them though (they sort of nose around in the soil looking for food and churn it up) so I’m sure they exist in the area. My neighbour has taken it upon herself to show me the local wild boar so we’ve been on a few wild boar searches of the local area. We’ve seen some from a distance which look strikingly similar to bushes so I still don’t feel I’ve really experienced seeing a wild boar. Still, the hunt continues so who knows, I might have some photos for the next blog.

Notte dei folli

A week or two back was Notte dei folli in Sarnano – Night of madness. People dressed up in costume and there were lots of people performing: lots of bands, singers, dancers. And I’ve never, ever seen so much alcohol available here, or so many people in Sarnano. The Italians are somewhat boring drinkers – most of them seem to have one glass of wine and call it a night (unless they’re driving in which case they’ll have a bottle or two). Even if they do drink, they hold it remarkably well and you wouldn’t particularly know. It’s not like in the UK where past 9pm all the pubs are full to the brim of people being loud and stupid and then later photographed sprawled across pavements. So I was shocked to discover at this festival there were actually DRUNK people, it was like being back in London 🙂 I’m definitely going next year. There was an absolutely brilliant performance from a group called DuMadet. I don’t think I’ve actually seen two such talented musicians before.  It was a guitarist and a violinist doing wonderful and quite elaborate versions of modern songs. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

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This was a band called “Cecco e Cipo”. The two main guys were in the Italian X-factor a few years back. Here’s their x-factor audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvngeQTlyA. Cipo, the beardless dude, is particularly mad /amusing. It could never be said that he gives a boring performance. For their final performance of the night, they just all came into the audience and starting singing, much to the displeasure of the sound and light people!

I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having a great week.

xxx

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One Year On: An exclusive interview with myself…

Ciao!

It’s my year anniversary of moving here today! So, what better way of marking the occasion than interviewing myself…<first sign of madness?>

Sue: So, a year on Sue….did it go as you expected?

Sue: Well Sue, let me tell you. No it did not! Before I came out, my plan was basically to do a month at the language school, become completely fluent and proficient in Italian, buy a car, move out of the language school accommodation after 2 months and then find somewhere to rent whilst I look for somewhere to buy. In my free time, I would spend my time doing artistic things and writing a novel. It didn’t happen quite like that! 

Sue: Mmm…. So what DID happen?

Sue: Well…….I didn’t become remotely fluent in Italian in that month. It turns out I significantly underestimated how long it takes to become conversant in a language (by several years). “Immersion” is not the miracle language learning environment that it’s cracked up to be. I stayed on a further month at the language school to improve and it served as quite a nice social base for meeting new people and for visiting the local area. Eventually I ended up staying at the language school flat for 3 days short of a year having initially been exasperated at the sheer complicatedness of trying to find somewhere to rent, and then actually becoming quite fond of the place. As for buying a car here, you are required to be a resident and that was a long-winded process taking months longer than I think it should do. And it’s difficult to buy a car without having access to a car to travel to find one! So I bought the ‘Nan-mobile’ (my grandmother’s car) back from the UK. With regard to the artistic things, I accidentally committed myself to working as an infant and primary school teacher which has taken up an inordinate amount of time and effort.

Sue: And was that a good idea Sue?

Sue: No Sue, it wasn’t.

Sue: Oh really? Why ever not?

Sue: Well Sue, it’s because the children are happiness-killing nightmares. 

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Typical lesson. I’ve taken on board advice from my editor (thanks mum) than “happiness killing nightmares” is a bit strong. I’ve decided to keep it in 😉

Sue: So are you going to do it next year?

Sue: No………. No I will not be doing it again.

Sue: Sounds like a fabulous decision there Sue. So, the teaching seemed like it was a bit of low, but did anything go well in your move to Italy?

Sue: Loads went well. I’ve had a great time this year. In fact, I would say that it’s been my best year yet! Admittedly, the biggest factor in that was giving up “proper work” and allowing myself the freedom to do stuff I actually like doing…

Sue: Er, the teaching Sue….

… was a terrible, terrible mistake. Anyway. I really, REALLY like not having to go to a 9-5 office job. Then there was the move here… I’ve loved living in Camerano and I think this region of Italy is beautiful. I’m really pleased I chose the particular language school that I did – they’re a great bunch there and that definitely helped me with the “transition” to Italy. I’ve also  had lots of visits from friends and family which has been lovely too.

Sue: What has been the most difficult thing for you being in Italy?

Sue: People warn you about the bureaucracy here but it never prepares you for what you’ll face. Every tiny thing takes several months longer than you anticipate it will. And I miss my friends and family. Technology has been a life saver – without regular contact with friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and email I’d have felt isolated and depressed but I feel just as ‘in the fold’ as I was before. What has been difficult is when I feel like my friends and family at home have needed my support and I’ve not been there in the UK to give it.  I don’t like that I can’t be there in person and that I’m not as readily on hand for things like that as I would have been in the past.  Having said that – now that the teaching will be done in a month or so I’ll be a bit freer to go back and forth to visit.

Sue: Are the Italians really the insane drivers that we think they are?

Sue: Yes. Driving here has been traumatic and characterised by frequent near death experiences. However, it has got better. I worry that’s because maybe I’ve become an insane driver too rather than their sudden appreciation of life. I hope not. I take heart in that it still scares me when they drive at speed until they’re touching my rear bumper and then overtake 5 cars around a blind corner.

One example of insane driving...

One example of insane driving…

Sue: Does anything shock you about Italy?

Sue: I have to confess to spending a great deal of time light-hardheartedly poking fun at my new countrymen and I’ve been shocked on a fairly regular basis. This has been the source for a good 6 months worth of “what’s a bit odd” material to include in my weekly blogs.

Some of the ‘shocking’ highlights have been their terrible driving, their bureaucracy, their weird seasonal dress sense  (thou shalt not wear flipflops before 1st June even if it is 30 degrees celsius) and their weird dress sense full stop (thou shalt wear a mismatched pastel-coloured chino and shirt combo). They have awful TV – it seems to be back to back terrible game shows with big bosomed blonds prancing about in 10 inch heels. And oddly, Italians don’t really do “greetings”. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a hello out of someone when you walk past which I think is odd for a small town or if you’re on a walk in the middle of nowhere. And the custom of asking people you know how they are doesn’t seem to exist here at all unless it’s an official visit!

However, the truth is I feel I can say all that because in my heart there’s so much great stuff about the country and the people here. I should mention it more often. They’re friendly, generous and kind, and they’re helpful if you have problems. They are always interested and eager to hear about people. They organise weird festivals in the summer (the three day Festival of Fish is coming up in the next town in a week or so). They give you free food when you buy a drink.  It’s been really interesting living in a new country and there is lots that’s really not like we do things back home. Having said that – when I’m here chatting to new friends and we laugh about a joint experience it serves as an excellent reminder that we are all essentially the same – regardless of upbringing, culture and climate! 

Sue: You’re rambling a bit Sue… you should ramble less. So, is there anything you really miss?

Sue: Curry. English Breakfasts. Reasonably priced baked beans. Gravy. Decent tea. And reasonably sized coffee. And of course friends and family 🙂

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Sue: But it’s offset by?

Sue: Italian Yoghurt, ice-cream, piadinas, peaches, tomatoes, oranges, grissini.

Sue: So you had planned to do arty stuff and write a book – did any of that happen?

Sue: Not as much as I wanted but I’ve just got my online shop up and running now so I’m really pleased and enthusiastic about that. I do like making stuff out of things I’ve found on the beach. It’s fun, it’s free and I feel all environmentally friendly. I put off writing a book because I wanted to get better at Italian and writing in English all day wouldn’t have helped that. However, I’m sort of resigned to my level of Italian at the moment. I do really want to get better but I’m going to give myself less of a hard time about it and maybe it’ll just come. 

Sue:Has it been difficult moving from London to a rather tranquil village essentially in the middle of nowhere (according to UK standards)?

Sue: Not at all. I loved London but it is a rather hectic place and I definitely made it more hectic for myself by trying to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. I like this new quieter pace of life a lot. If I lived the life I do now in London I would have felt I was missing things – too many people to see, places to go, courses to do etc. But here, it feels as if even if there were the exhaustive list of things to do, by doing those things I would be missing out on doing Italian things like appreciating the scenery, drinking and eating nice food, relaxing and sunbathing 😉

Sue: Good. And have you made any friends here Sue? 

Sue: Well Sue, I’ve met a bunch of new people, and I hope at least some of them will be life-long buddies. It’s difficult making new friends. The language barrier adds an extra complication and the Italian’s can be quite private sometimes, keeping themselves to themselves. I’ve made a couple of friends doing language swaps which has been good. Friendships are difficult between men and women here – they keep to their own sex usually. A perfect example is when you drive through any village in the summer and there’s clumps of old men on one bench and clumps of old ladies on another (that’s if the ladies are not back at home cooking dinner…if only that was a joke!!!). Having said that, it’s been hard in particular meeting females though and I’m thrilled about stumbling into my new best friend here in a hotel last year, a New Zealander with a fab sense of humour. That’s made a big difference.

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Old Lady / Old Man Clumps. Scene in ANY piazza across Italy in the summer.

Sue: So do you think you did the right thing moving to Italy? 

Sue: Yes! In April last year I couldn’t even picture my life at the point where it is now – there were too many factors completely new for me to even imagine. But I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I do occasionally ask myself if I moved back home (because the UK will always be “home”), where would I live and what would I do? I’d love being near my friends and family again but is that enough? Particularly when I probably speak to many of them as much, if not more now than before.

We spend the bulk of our adult lives working. It tends to end up defining us – what we do, where we live, who we associate with. When you remove the job, it’s easy to feel a bit lost – the reason for waking up everyday has gone and there’s often no reason to be where you are anymore. Given there’s not much of a reason for me to be anywhere……. then well, I’d like to be here in Italy 🙂 

Sue: Aw Sue, that’s sort of sad that you don’t feel like you “belong” anywhere isn’t it?

Sue: No, it’s OK. I definitely have feeling “lost” moments but it’s more liberating than scary. Returning to the UK would feel like clinging onto the past rather than taking a step forward. I’d have to start out all over again when I’ve only just got myself on my feet here. I think I’ll feel a bit more settled and a bit more “at home” when I have my own house, with my own stuff in it. I can’t wait for that. 

Sue: So what’s the new plan?

Sue: Well Sue, good question. I’ve just moved into a new flat by the beach this summer. I intend to have fun, snorkel, sunbathe, do art, write, improve my Italian, make new friends, go out more, travel a bit and I hope before the year is out, to buy a house here. Then, who knows?

Sue: Do you think Italy has changed you Sue?

Sue: Yes, I think it has! This will make me sound incredibly smug, I almost don’t want to say it, but I’m so proud of myself! I set a goal to ‘up-sticks’ and come here by myself and I did it. I thought maybe I was just all talk –  but I wasn’t, so I’m happy about that <takes a moment to pat self on back>. So that’s a nice confidence booster and I feel a lot more self-sufficient than before.

Sue: OK, final question – do you have anything to say to your wonderful loyal followers?

Sue: Writing this blog has been excellent! Coming here on my own has been somewhat of a journey of self discovery but I’m a sociable soul at heart and it’s been sharing my experiences on this blog and getting feedback from friends, family and people I’ve never even met that has made my life here as good as it has been. So, a heartfelt thank you to the people who have been following my blog all this time! 

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Sue: Sue, you’ve gone all soppy and philosophical. Put the wine down.

x

 

 

 

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