Posts Tagged With: teaching english

Hunting for houses, implementing my new motto, and latest art updates

Ciao a tutti,

Well, well, well! These last couple of weeks have been challenging somewhat! I can understand why house hunting is called that now and not simply house finding. I include below an illustrated account of just some of the house hunting hurdles here in Italy…

  • House Hunting Hurdle number 1: Estate agents rarely put prices of apartments/houses in their windows. They’re also rarely in the office so you can’t even ask them. If you email them to ask, well, suffice to say I have NEVER received a response from them.
  • HHH number 2: I’ve been using, a general buying/selling stuff website. People don’t put even the most basic information on their advert. Some of them just say “phone me”. Why? Why would I do that?! Is it a mansion you’re letting or a bedsit and where even is it?! WHY WOULD I PHONE YOU TO FIND OUT???

Or maybe it’s a bird house they’re letting. Who indeed knows.

  • HHH number 3: Well let me tell you why you would phone them to find out. It’s because people seem to have a morbid fear of email and will not respond. Or if they respond then it’s to ask you to phone them. I don’t like talking to people on the phone at the best of times (I’m more of a face to face person rather than an unsociable person). I especially don’t like phoning people when I’m still terrible at speaking Italian! Charades does not work on the phone!

Erm. Perhaps not the most realistic sketch of a terrified person. (I’ve drawn him in a sleeping bag jacket though so that’s at least true to life)

  • HHH number 4: The photos on the adverts – you should SEEEEE them (that’s if there are any, there aren’t often!). To sell and rent their houses, they put up photos of their moth-eaten 10 year old sofa, a wall, sometimes a scooter, perhaps a kitchen table covered in the remnants of their last meal… It’s a very rare occasion indeed they’ll put a picture of their actual house/flat up there! And the estate agents themselves are no better. I think there’d be a market for an estate agent who took decent pictures of the ACTUAL house/apartment and then, you know, RESPONDED to people who were interested in it.
  • HHH number 5: Everything is about square meters here. I can’t picture things in square meters. I want a two double bedroom place, not a 80 square foot place. Still – I’m actually getting used to the meters now and it is admittedly useful. It would just be more useful if they described how it was divided up too!
  • HHH number 6: When they say something is unfurnished, and half of them are, they literally mean it’s an empty shell. Nothing. Just rooms with some pipes sticking out of the wall. In any circumstances I think that’s insane, I particularly think it’s insane when you’re renting. It seems crazy to get a kitchen fitted complete with work surfaces and everything and then take it with you into a new place with undoubtedly an entirely different layout. C.R.A.Z.Y.


  • HHH number 7: Once you’ve located a place that’s furnished, well, I don’t wish to be picky or anything, but OH MY WORD! Suffice to say that modern looking furniture does not seem to be the style here.
  • HHH number 8: Hardly anyone seems to have a bath anymore. And yet they all have bidets! You can’t relax with a glass of wine and candles on a bidet!!!   I WANT A BATH!!!

I imagine this is what I will be reduced to doing shortly…

So, we’ve seen lots of places (I’ve a friend staying with me at the moment) and there’s one place that doesn’t seem so bad but it’s next door to huge oil refinery. It’s only going to be for 6 months or so whilst I hopefully find somewhere to buy here. In terms of buying,  I can’t get much for my money in any of the towns. I’m now thinking of venturing further into the countryside which could get a bit lonely but I think I’d prefer a nice house and some potential to make some money as a B&B or doing something with the land too in the long run.

Teaching, teaching, teaching

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks – it might be because there’s an end in sight. I’ve got 6 weeks left! I lost my rag at the Evil Class last week again and told them I’m only going to do colouring in with them from now on (which I think they’re all thrilled about). I told the teacher that too. She said that I shouldn’t lose hope and that she thinks that on some very deep, deep, deeeeeeeep level they might have actually been listening. Ha!

I do have a lovely bunch of adults that I’m teaching though so that’s good!

Art progress

I should stop making stuff now and get on with putting it online to see. I’m still struggling to find some decent deep frames and now some packing material so that I can send stuff to people. I think that will be this week’s task. And I need to try and take some decent pictures of these things too – how I’d love to have a proper studio!


Driftwood Harbour

Village harbour

Driftwood home sign – now all I need is to find a home!!!


Driftwood Hamlet


Spring is in the air…

In other news, spring is definitely in the air and it’s lovely! The daisies are out, the jasmine is blooming (I’m back to sneaking “cuttings” off the local jasmine bushes to bring back to the flat because it smells so nice!) and I’ve seen a few poppies now too. I can’t wait until I’ve stopped teaching and can get out and enjoy it a bit more!


Looks almost snowy!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guide to Rome, glue guns and what not to say to children…


How is everyone? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wetter week! Even when I was living in England!!! Though I can see from the news it’s been pretty dismal back there too. Anyway, this week I bring you: Getting rained on in Rome, the frustrating case of the broken glue gun and what not to say to children…

Raining in Rome

I went to Rome last weekend with a friend. I love Rome, it’s my favourite city. There’s such a lot to see; lots of historical monuments, beautiful architecture and the city always has a buzz about it. However, I can confirm that when you go during a relentless, torrential downpour, then it’s not got quite the same vibe about it. It didn’t help that I booked a particularly nasty hotel and in fact, didn’t even book a room with a bathroom (I had wondered why it was so cheap, all became clear!). We ended up spending a ridiculous amount on an upgrade so we could have a bathroom and still it wasn’t great – you had to plan bathroom visits 5 minutes in advance so the light could eventually flicker on.

We did have a walk around the Colosseum and The Forum though during the few minutes reprieve we had from the rain. I’ve got a good tip for this one: Get a joint Colosseum and Forum ticket from the Forum itself. You pay the same amount as you do at the Colosseum but there’s no queue and then when you get to the Colosseum you can go straight past what seems to be a 4 hour queue. My next tip is to remember that you’ve got that ticket and don’t queue in that queue anyway (we realised after half an hour).


A very moody looking Forum…



The Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona 

I have located a Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona. It’s behind the train station and only for people that work for Trenitalia and other organisations in the immediate vicinity. It is handily located for The Secret Forbidden Subway that you can walk through to get to the train station. There are downsides parking there – there’s no guarantee you wont get pulled up for trespassing and/or have your car towed away. However, needs must and I was stuck for a parking spot when I headed to Rome at the weekend (it’s all very well parking in the official parking lots but they’re all closed on Sundays so you can’t actually get out again) but it all worked out well in the end so I might do that again.


Ancona’s Secret Forbidden Parking Lot


The Secret Forbidden Subway – I couldn’t stop for the photo, hence the blur but I thought it gave a good representation of the rising panic about being, well, told to presumably go back the other way. Tense!

Operation Art Production continues…

I’m up to speed on the drawing practice which is good – this week I’ve been drawing more portraits from life though I still need to improve so I’m working on that! It should take about 20 minutes I think whereas it’s taking me over an hour!!!


My friend’s baby…

However, all my other plans have gone sadly awry.  I should be on my third painting now but I’m only half way through my second – hope to finish that this weekend… I did not take into account the Rome jaunt into my self-imposed timescales.


Boats in Porto Recanati. I might still amend it a bit. Looks maybe a bit washed out here – I need to work out how best to take photos of the paintings…

And well, my driftwood sculpting has been a disaster. I bought a glue gun last week but now, part way through a fish sculpture, the glue got stuck in the gun and wont melt down or come out from whence it came. Mother suggested sticking a hot metal thing in the glue, waiting until it was cold and then yanking it out (“like a popsical” she said).


Hmm. It did not come out “like a popsical”. It’s there for good. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Customer Services that the glue gun I bought last week has broken and I’ve had nothing to do with it.

And THEN I’ve been collecting sea-glass and nice rocks to write inspirational messages on. I am pleased to report I’ve found two other odd people on the beach in the last week or so – one who was also collecting sea glass (ergo, an arch rival) and one woman collecting bottle tops. Anyway, that branch of Operation Art has been going ok. Tune in next week for inspirational stone messages :-).

What not to say to young students

Teaching has been bad this week. I think I’ll start my inspirational message stones off with “don’t thwack the children around the head”.

This week in the Class of Horror, one of the bad “behaviourally challenged” children, did what I asked them. It’s NEVER happened. I was gobsmacked! And like many surprised people – I said “Oh my god!” under my breath.  To which, the children in the Class of Horror, who up until this point have never listened to anything I say, know absolutely no English whatsoever and have never repeated anything I ask them to repeat, by the end of the lesson were all chanting “oh my god”.

I did have a couple of private lessons with older children this week, which was a lot less traumatic and a lot more lucrative. And a private lesson with a new younger child who seems to be to all intents and purposes, completely mute.

Sanitaria Success!

I have a Tessera Sanitaria (it’s the Italian equivalent of the European Health Insurance Card). I have a doctor now and everything. It’s only taken a few months to sort out! In the end it was fairly easy – you need proof of residency (which is traumatic to get) and a copy of your work contract (otherwise there’s other complicated means of acquiring the Tessera) and then it was done in 5 minutes. Next thing: Trying to get the car registered in Italy.

What’s a bit odd?

There are trams in Ancona! Who knew?! I’ve been here 9 months and have never seen one but on the way to the station the other day I noticed the overhead electric cables and a tram for the first time! Huh!

Right, onwards and upwards. Have fabulous weekends all…


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rosso Conero Festival, Working and Bureaucratic Success(ish)…


Come va? Hope you’re all hunky-dory!

I’ve been waitressing this weekend for the Rosso Conero festival in Camerano. Let me tell you – waiters and waitresses should get 100x more money than people that work in offices if they have anything like the experience I had last night! I was working for Angeli di Varano, a local cantina who had teamed up with a well known chef to offer a fancy 4 course meal. I was on clearing table duty. I had to learn some new words. “Lay the table” sounds a lot like “hairdressers” in Italian. For a while, I thought we had to serve an influx of hairdressers. I’m back on again tonight as well…


Angeli di Varano restaurant / eatery at Rosso Conero before we opened…

Rosso Conero Festival runs for 3 days from Friday to Sunday. Thankfully I was only working two of the days – it’s the oddest wine festival I’ve been too. In fact, I think “wine festival” is misleading. There’s a place you can buy a glass and then there appeared to be about 3 tiny stalls where you could chose from an incredibly limited selection of wine. No free tastings! I’ve only ever been to wine / beer festivals in London where you buy / put a deposit down on a glass and then spend the entire day visiting 100’s of stalls getting free samples. A more accurate description of the event would have been “Cool art, music and other random stuff festival – oh, and you can buy a bit of alcohol if you want”. 


One of the bands that were playing in Piazza Roma – they were a good laugh, very engaging!


Piazza Roma at about midnight on Friday!

Other stuff this week – I had a business discussion with Marco (from the Language School) on Monday to discuss recruiting more students from the UK and teaching English to Italians so I’m putting together some proposals this week on that front. It’s been quite good engaging the brain on things other than what shall I eat today!

Continuing on with the “working” theme, this week’s English lesson with the Italian girls was actually fun! I printed out a couple of articles from BBC news – difficult ones it turns out and got them to read them out as “newsreaders”. English is difficult to pronounce for foreigners – we don’t pronounce words as they’re written – putting on a phoney newsreader voice seems to help for some reason. And then we spent the rest of the lesson playing “Taboo”/ “Articulate” – I prepared some cards with some of the words from the articles and they had to describe the words without using the word itself or miming so the other person could guess. That was amusing. On reflection, I think including “torture” and “immune system” was harsh 🙂

I finished my Italian Exercise book – I’m on the next level up now. Woohoo! And I’ve been doing “combined pronouns” this week (which I think are probably right up there with “rocket science” in terms of difficulty) and occasionally, OCCASIONALLY, I get them right.

Oh and I’ve got some bureaucracy done! What a productive sounding blog update this is. It feels like months have past since Monday for some reason. Anyway, I managed to buy health insurance and then, THEN, I did something at the Comune. I don’t entirely know what. I think what I’ve succeeded in doing is declaring that I live in Camerano. It seems odd to need so much stuff to declare that I live here. I had to get Marco to complete a form say that he’s letting me stay in the flat and now I’m waiting for the police to come and visit to double check. Obviously there would be serious consequences indeed if they didn’t know who was living where. I mean, imagine…someone could be living somewhere and if the comune didn’t know, then it would be bad because of the er….. because of the erm….. yeah, I don’t know why. Anyway, I don’t know if declaring that I’m a resident here is the same as this “carta di residenza” mythical beast – I don’t think so because I don’t get a card. Only a letter. Which I might frame if it does actually come through.

What else? Ah my neighbour popped around with a care package of stuffed tomatoes – very tasty. There’s a festival coming up in Jesi in the next couple of weeks – I think I’m going to that with him and will be helping with his grape harvest in his field nearby too. Goodness – look at that – more productivity. I’m on form!

What’s a bit odd? I don’t know whether this one applies generally to all people or not or just me but something strange has happened. I’ve never been able to make a proper omelette before – I turns into scrambled eggs to matter what I do. However, since arriving in this country, without changing my method in the slightest, I’ve nailed omelette making! So. Disappointed with your omelettes coming out scrambled? Come to Italy! 


My omelette – it looks like an omelette and everything! Spinach, tomato and cheese. Mmmm.

Right, that’s about it. Short update this week (I bet you’re all breathing a sigh of relief ;-)) – all this productivity has taken it out of me!

Have good weeks.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Big Tray Race, eating dogs and I have a JOB!


I’m so proud of Camerano!!! Every, EVERY town should have a Big Tray Race, otherwise known in Camerano as “Contesa del sacro Vassoio”. So that was Thursday, our Patron Saint’s day. In fact, it was more than a Big Tray Race. There was a Wooden Block Transportation race and Tug a Large Metal Wheeled Thing competition and there were other games too but hunger took over and I went to get something to eat so I’m not sure what I missed. Anyway in summary: there were 8 teams of generally young folk from areas in Camerano – my area is called “Oak” (La Quercia). There were 4 or 5 “games” with a complex scoring system which made no sense at all. All of it was presented by Eurovision song contest style hosts. The Grande Finale was the Big Tray Race which was basically a relay race around Camerano with a large metal heavy looking tray carried by 4 people at a time. We (La Quercia) won that race but overall we came second. The team that won the whole thing were ecstatic, I don’t think they could have been more enthusiastic if they’d won the Olympics.


“Tug a Large Metal Wheeled Thing”. The team that succeeds in tugging the large metal wheeled thing over a line on that wooden platform, wins.


Wooden Block Transportation Race – In fact, I thought they were really heavy these wooden blocks; after all, it requires two guys to transport them on that metal pole, but when the race finished, an old guy picked up 3 of them and moved them back to the starting position without any noticeable problem. That seemed a much more effective means of wooden block transportation. Clearly this race wasn’t an intelligence / logic test. The guys here were the winning team. They had their own gladiator so not surprising (bearded curly haired dude at the back – he was good…)


La Quercia! My Team!!! WE WON!!!!!


This is the kiddy version of The Big Tray Race

What else? This week I’ve been walking in Monte Conero – Passo del Lupo is a very pretty and easy walk to a lovely viewpoint overlooking the coastline and you can see the mountains in the distance too. I’ve done that walk a few times now with the school but it never gets old.


Taken from a particularly perilous part of Passo del Lupo

I had another dinner with the palazzo (the other people in my block of flats). This time, rather than making too sweet biscuits, I made overcooked potato salad (well, to be honest, potato mash) which was a big hit. Nobody seemed to comment on the overcooked-ness – I think I can pretty much get away with serving up anything under the guise of it being a “Traditional English Delicacy”.

After the dinner, I headed to Piazza Roma where they had a free dance show going on courtesy of our Patron Saint again. That was really good to watch too – a good mix of traditional and modern dance.


One group of dancers… very good…

Tuesday I went to dinner at a local cantina  (winery) – Angeli di Varano – and had a lovely meal there with some friends and family of Marco. The cantina mentioned there might be a job serving wine at the Rosso Conero festival next week – I’d be paid in wine. Seems alright to me. The latest cheap wine box purchase gives me a headache after one glass!

I had a new housemate this week for 4 days but I’m back on my own again now in the flat and really liking having my own space again. I think that’s it now in terms of housemates for a while – hopefully I’m on my own for a bit!

Ooo and probably the biggest news this week was I HAVE A BIT OF A JOB! Teaching 3 Italian girls English in a group lesson – in fact, not really teaching at all because their grammar is pretty good. I think it went ok – they want another lesson at least. They just want conversation practice really so if anybody has any ideas for good things to do to get shy teenage girls talking, let me know! I made a whopping 30 Euros for an hour and a half.


Post teaching treat… This was on a day where I was supposed to be eating only “500 calories”. Oops.

Il Polemico (“The Argumentative One” / my language swap buddy :-)) is back from holiday. We went for dinner yesterday and headed to see a band “Gli Amici Dello Zio Pecos” playing at the sports ground in Camerano. They’re a fab band – real characters and the lead singer was brilliant.  Here’s one of their songs on Youtube (*correction!  The song “Volta la carta” is Fabrizio De Andre’s song – see comment below for a link to one of their own). Il Polemico has given me some other songs to listen to now so looking forward to that (grazie!!!).


Gli Amici dello Zio Pecos

Ferragosto (the 15th August is Ferragosto but the couple of weeks after, nobody seems to go to work), has finished now and I should be able to get my health insurance. *Should* being the operative word. I will eat my hat if I actually succeed. If I get health insurance, I *should* be able to get my carta di residenza (as if… AS IF!!!).

This week’s “What’s a bit odd”: Noises and gestures! My all time favourite noise that Italian’s make is “boh” – it means “I don’t know”. It’s usually accompanied by a shoulder shrug. I could listen to “boh” all day… And they all say it. I don’t think we English people have recognised random noises like that. I use a combination of “huh” (how interesting), “pfft” (you’re being annoying), “meh” (whatever), “pah” (you’re wrong) but I don’t think they’re universal and there’s a chance I’ve just made them up. Certainly the Italian’s don’t know what I’m on about. And they don’t use the acronym “lol” (Laugh out loud) when they message, understandably, but there’s no alternative Italian equivalent – they write out the full laugh, but it’s “Ahaha” rather than “hahaha”. Who starts a laugh with a?! That just sounds like their making repeated discoveries – “Aha!” (Huh. I wonder what noise they make when they’re discovering something then…). On a separate noise related front – I can’t roll my r’s. You need to be able to roll your r’s here in Italy otherwise you sound weird. I’ve been practicing to no avail. It’s a particular problem when I say I don’t eat meat – meat being “carne” (carrrr-nay). Without rolling your r’s, it basically comes out like “cane” (ca-nay) which is a dog. Basically, I tell people that I don’t eat dogs.  Which I suppose is true. I’ve found a YouTube r-rolling guidance video. I’m going on a r-rolling mission this week.

Ok, have good weeks everybody.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Blog at