Licensed to Complicate

21/04/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

My husband doesn’t drive.

It’s a family thing: his father didn’t drive, his mother doesn’t drive and out of his three sisters, one brother, one wife, one sister-in-law and three brothers-in-law; only two of us boast the necessary requirements to legally get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and make it go brrrrrmmmmm in a satisfactorily motionful way.

And that is all fine and dandy (as well as being loads better for the environment); but as I would find it infinitely reassuring to know that my other half could, if necessary, whizz me to the nearest A&E in case of a kitchen utensil mishap, nasty shower-related slippage or paranoid-new-mother-real-or-imagined-baby-illness panic; my hubby has kindly taken it upon himself to set sail into the complex and rather choppy waters of the Italian driving examination.

Unfortunately, both his lengthy working hours and his current reliance on bus timetables make attending the initial theory course, and subsequently sitting the theory exam, at a local driving school a logistical impossibility.

Thus his only option is to go it privato.

Which entails:

1) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione (eng. DVLA, DMV) for relevant forms.

2) An entire day off work to:

Queue to see his GP for a certificate stating that he has no health issues that might impede safe driving.

Queue to see the official driving school doctor who transfers whatever the GP has written onto yet another form and checks hubby’s eyesight.

Go to post office to purchase various official stamps to be stuck on various official forms, and get all forms and identity documents photocopied twice.

Have two passport photographs taken.

Return that same afternoon, and queue to see official driving school doctor in order to pick up form relating to morning appointment.

Take said form to post office to be photocopied twice.

3) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione and hand over all the completed documentation for them to process.

No exam date can be set until the paperwork has been processed, and the appointment for the exam cannot be made by telephone or email, so…..

4) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione for an appointment to sit the theory exam.

5) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to actually sit the theory exam.

If he fails the first exam (a very real possibility, given that Italian driving theory question-setters are notoriously keener on testing one’s grasp of the subtle complexities of the Italian language than they are on testing one’s ability to tell a t-junction from a roundabout) then he will have to take half a day off work to make a subsequent exam appointment followed by half a day off work to sit the exam.

If he fails the second exam, then he will have no choice but repeat the entire process all over again.

And in the joyous event of him passing? Well, we haven’t crossed that bridge yet; but I feel quietly confident that we will at that point discover that the practical part of this learning to drive saga has even more potential for will-to-live sapping befuddlement than the theory.

(I’m starting to think we might be better off just investing in a family rickshaw for those theoretical emergency dashes… ;-) )

This is Status Viatoris, mildly curious that a country putting so many flaming hoops in the path of potential drivers can still offer up such a vast number of tailgaters, lane-straddlers, gesticulating swervers and drivers apparently ignorant of the fact that their vehicles come equipped with both indicators and mirrors, in Italy. 

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Home from Home

28/03/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Maya samples budget transport...

Maya voices her opinions on budget travel…

Well, Maya and I finally made it back to Italy where we were duly greeted with much affection and a kind, if unfortunate, deluge of pastel-pink velour.

Pastel pink is just not my daughter’s colour.

Ok, ok. It’s not my colour. And while she’s still small and relatively malleable, I exercise my parental right to deck her in the hues of my delectation – with nary a pastel tone, nor a bow or frill, nor a single cutesy wootsey fluffy image of what society seems to think little girls should represent.

Which might well be why many Italians are wrongly identifying her as a boy (luckily for me, and my belligerent stance against gender pigeon-holing, she couldn’t care less about that… at least not yet).

The only non-pink offering. As you can tell, she's not entirely convinced...

The only non-pink offering. Note she’s still far from convinced by the sheer fluffy bunnyness of this get-up…

Our eventual return to la vita italiana was precipitated, not by the joyous installation of a brand new roof, but by a husband and father who – understandably after five long months and still no apparent end in sight - got thoroughly sick of being without his newly-minted little family.

But as Sod’s Law would have it, and as indeed I had predicted many moons before, the permission to get our roof replaced came through almost as soon as we had finally given up waiting and hoping: in fact on the very day the Mothership, Baby and I flew out of Luton Airport…

The relief after so many months of evasiveness and obfuscation (them), frustration and despair (us) is almost impossible to describe. So, it is with fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes crossed, that we can now tentatively assume the leaky lid will at last be lifted from our living quarters sometime in late spring.

That would be late spring of THIS year, Provincia di Imperia, do you hear me?

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of...

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of…

Maya is adapting well to Italian living.

The clucking concern about her being horribly under-dressed - hypothermia is apparently but a cotton vest away (she’d be so much cosier in pink velour), suffocated by her sling, and traumatised by her backward-facing back-seat car seat, must be a reassuring indication that here her interests will always be defended; even as the grindings from her mother’s pearly whites float down into the dandelion-fluff of her hair.

The first question on all Italian lips seems to be: Are you breastfeeding? Or as they rather clunkily put it: Are you giving her your own milk?

To which the answer is unfailingly: Yes, and lots of it.

Frustrations over sodden nightwear and chafed nipples aside, I find breastfeeding to be an absolute joy – especially now the dinky diner has entered that charming stage of staring adoringly up into my eyes as she guzzles; occasionally breaking suction in order to further wow me with a beaming milky grin.

I've been spotted!

Ooops! I appear to have been spotted…

We have become unabashed public feeders (always doing our utmost not to flash possibly prudish bystanders with unacceptable levels of bare boob, naturally). Maya has now noshed on a train, on a plane, in a train station and in an airport, on a bus, in many and varied cafés and restaurants, in public offices, in a curtain shop and even walking down the busy shopping street of a swanky coastal resort.

She has also weed on a desk of the local Fiat dealership, but that, dear Readers, is a story for another day…

Some of the older residents of My Little Italian Village are obviously slightly baffled by my sling-wearing, gender-ambiguous, meteorologically-unconcerned approach to motherhood in a place where prams appropriately decked with either pale pink or pale blue tend to contain infants bundled like Eskimos against those dreaded colpi d’aria.

And the younger mothers couldn’t help but express their astonishment when I declared my allegiance to washable nappies. All that extra lavoro! I must be completely fuori di testa!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

But I honestly don’t find the additional maintenance to be all that onerous – rinsing off a bit of poo and setting the washing machine to a cool wash every three days seems pretty simple when coupled with the satisfaction of not having contributed to the grotesque state of our landfills.

Plus they are wonderfully colourful and give my daughter the most squeezably plumped-up backside you could possibly imagine.

What’s not to like?!

This Living business is exhausting

Life is pretty exhausting when you’re only ten weeks old…

Another frequent question – and one I sometimes sense may be laced with a certain amount of sympathy-masked glee – is how we are sleeping.

She’ll be keeping you awake all night, I imagine?

Pacing the tiles from dusk to dawn with a squealing bundle in your arms, are you?

And for the first couple of weeks that’s exactly what happened, but as we approach the three-month mark I am hugely grateful to be able to announce that (at least for the time being) we have a baby who seems to have grasped that nighttime is for trundling off to the Land of Nod.

With just a little encouragement, and a tummy full of warm milk, she currently goes down at about half past seven every evening, waking for two or three dozy snacks during the night before finally rejoining full wakefulness any time from about half past seven in the morning.

Long may it last.

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what's required...

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what’s required…

So Life trundles on, with me still alternately overjoyed and petrified by the weight of my new responsibilities; not wanting to take them either too seriously, nor too lightly. Trying to continue being An Independent Woman, but whilst losing myself in the gloriously fascinating changes that mark Maya’s development with every passing day.

I helplessly confess to it: I’m having a blast. But as the nth nosy neighbour asks me if I’m expecting baby number two, it is brought to my uncomfortable attention that there are some things this Mummy has to set her mind to doing just for her…

Hey ho, it’s time to put the bikkies away and get out those trainers!

This is Status Viatoris, heading off to hang out a horde of vibrant crap-catchers and shockingly non-pink baby garments on her sun-drenched washing line, in Italy.

Where oh Where Does All the Time Go?

27/02/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Thoughtfullness...

Thoughtfullness…

I am only too aware that my posts have not only become pitifully sporadic, but that their recent content is also yawn-inducingly repetitious.

What can I say? My daily life has been reduced to the dietary and waste disposal requirements of a 3.66kg, 50cm being – and it doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for philosophical ponderation, observational rumination or even an uninterrupted couple of hours in the company of a good book…

However I would most certainly be lying if I said that I minded even a little bit.

For a newborn baby, as part of its clever armoury of evolutionary tricks to lure unsuspecting adult humans into providing for and protecting it, exerts a positively hypnotic effect on all but the most hardened characters. And if you happen to share genetic material with the tiny scrap, then surrender now; for you haven’t a hope of escaping the magnetism.

Snooziness...

Snooziness…

Awake or asleep; ever-changing facial expressions (babies are the world’s most natural gurners), fleetingly angelic smiles and astonishingly whirly limbs provide a constant source of entertainment – effortlessly filling the hours between the cuddling, the comforting, the feeding, the burping and the mopping up of possets, poo and pee.

In fact, as befits the modern middle-class mother (according to all the lit-rit-chur on the subject, anyhow), it would appear that my daughter has unwittingly become my brand new project.

With no immediate plans for learning a new language, moving to a new country, trying out a new career, attempting a new e-book, or even a diet; my goals are now frighteningly baby-oriented: tummy-time to ensure Maya has a strong neck and good balance, plenty of music, storybooks, conversation and visual stimulus to ensure Maya’s brain synapses start connecting the dots, an hour or two a day in the fresh air to set up Maya’s body clock and enable her to sleep better at night, and at least half an hour of skin-to-skin contact every day to reinforce Maya’s bond with her mother (moi) and help boost her immune system…

And whilst I didn’t go so far as to fry up the afterbirth, I don’t intend to  breastfeed her up to the age of five, and I even occasionally allow other people to hold her; in most other aspects it would appear that despite my best intentions I have lost myself happily in the all-consuming minutiae of proactive mothering.

At least for the moment.

Baby orangutangness...

Baby orangutangness…

But its not all dimply smiles and talc-scented cuddles. No; there are hidden dangers in this world of baby wrangling:

Boobs, for example, that sprout milk leaks in places other than the conventional nipple tip; liberally soaking unsuspecting babies, clothes and bedsheets alike.

Nipple tips that suddenly go white and burn as if some unkind soul is holding a match to them – the only solution being to tug them from their restraints and leave them bobbing free until the blood flow returns. (Apparently, in the Western world, this is not a socially acceptable thing to do in public places :-( )

Caesarean scars that get infected, requiring antibiotics, which give the baby oral thrush, which in turn gives you nipple thrush (ex-cur-rooooo-shee-ate-ing), which in turn gives you mastitis (in-des-cry-bab-lee ex-cur-rooooooooooo-shee-ate-ing), which in turn requires more antibiotics.

Babies that wait until you have placed a new nappy under them before shooting out a high-speed squirt of poo over nappy, changing mat, table and beyond. You laboriously clean that up, place a new nappy under little pink bum, and then sit back to watch a fountain of pee soak nappy, changing mat, babygrow and most other things in the vicinity. Sigh. And repeat.

Babies that have fussed frustratingly at the breast all day, only to regurgitate their one hard-won and satisfactorily thorough feed down your back after a particularly aggressive hiccough – just as you were preparing to go somewhere, and when you are already horribly late – before succumbing to hysteria as they realise that at least half the contents of their tiny stomachs has been forcibly and snottily ejected via their even tinier nostrils.

And then of course there’s the crying for no discernible reason: she’s fed, she’s changed, she’s been played with and cuddled – but nothing, absolutely nothing, is right. You throw your hands despairingly to the sky and think about throwing the towel despairingly in (only a very very bad mother can’t soothe the fruit of her loins, surely?) when suddenly the sun comes out and all is just as inexplicably peachy once again…

Sunniness...

Sunniness…

…until the next time.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping this particular project doesn’t lose its appeal after a few years as has happened with most of her past ventures… ;-)

Deliverance

08/02/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Can I really have already been here for four whole weeks??

Can I really have already been here four whole weeks??

As boringly unnecessary as some might find this post, the burning desire I had to write it simply could not be suppressed: my memory alone cannot be relied upon to furnish my tiny daughter with the details of her arrival into this world (should she ever request them).

Thus, here I am; hurling my most intimate experience into the blogosphere, all in the name of posterity and those of Life’s little moments that should never be forgotten.

After a few days spent pawing at the straw like a restless old ewe (the Mothership is to be thanked for that most poetic analogy), I woke at 3am on Friday the 10th of January 2014, surprised to discover that I had given birth to a jellyfish – for the uninitiated among you I should perhaps expand on that by explaining that the mucus plug, which protects a pregnant cervix from infection, is decidedly more spready than pluggy, and infinitely more mucusy than anything, anywhere, has any right to be…

Feeling queasy? Then look away now, for the tale I have to tell is only going to get worse.

Naturally sleep did not visit again after my body’s rather glutinous announcement of intent, and three hours later a gush of amniotic fluid and a spasm of acute lower back pain drove home the realisation that I was not likely to stay pregnant for much longer – five days before my due date, but not a single moment too soon.

The breaking of the waters necessitated a trip to hospital to check that the baby was still of cheerful countenance, so with the Mothership crouched anxiously behind the steering wheel, and me groaning my way over each and every pothole and bump in the road, we advanced on the professionals – hopeful that the increasing intensity of my pains would mean a speedy delivery of the next generation.

Only 1cm dilated. Bloody hell. How could that possibly be? The pain was coming ever more frequently: each contraction sending more amniotic fluid torrenting down towards my socks and leaving me bent agonisingly over the hospital furniture,  yet I was not even in “active labour”.

How much more sodding “active” was this going to have to get??

Luckily (or something) a complete inability to sit or lie down by this stage spared me the 30 minute trip back home to wait for my contractions to hot up, and I was instead allowed up to the pre-labour ward to pace the corridors, continue soaking my socks and fail to find any comfort whatsoever in leaning on hospital furniture.

The ward was awash with other women in early labour, and listening to the short periods of groaning liberally interspersed with otherwise cheerful chitter chatter, I began to feel a little hard done by – for from about 8 o’clock that morning there had been no discernible break in my pain at all. Somebody with a particularly vicious and pointy drill had set up shop in my lower back and was going at my pelvic girdle with enthusiastic vigour, periodically winding my lower abdomen into an industrial strength vice for additional kicks.

After a few grim hours, and a thermos of mysterious herbal infusion sent by my Romanian sister-in-law to help with dilatation, the duty midwife was delighted to inform me that I had reached 5cm. Meaning that rather than soaking her nice clean floors and pestering her about whether this much pain was really right or fair, I was instead wheeled down to a delivery suite and handed into the care of the two midwives hoping to assist me in releasing my bundle of joy from her uterine prison.

There followed the most entertaining few hours: gas and air are without doubt the best matched pair since toast and honey and I partook liberally of their delights to ride out the pain of my advancing contractions, whilst nattering with the Mothership and caterwauling Bohemian Rhapsody and other catchy hits with Sarah and Gemma – two of Kettering General Hospital’s finest midwives.

I’m not embarrassed to confess that it felt like the most exhilarating journey of my life – the pain had a purpose, I was coping with it better than I had ever anticipated and only a handful of hours later I was already fully dilated on one side, 8cm on the other.

We were so nearly there!

It was about 6 o’clock that afternoon when things started to go a little awry: an acute and unrelenting pain started up behind my left hip that even gas and air were unable to ease. The Mothership massaged until her fingers were numb, but the agony just kept on building together with an increasing desire to push.

Unfortunately, however, my cervix was disinclined to cooperate; refusing to budge any further than 8cm and keeping my daughter tantalisingly out of reach.

After some sort of painkilling injection that served no purpose, I eventually agreed to an epidural which kept the pain at bay for about 10 minutes before I was howling like an animal once again and liberally vomiting up my stomach lining into a cardboard bowl.

A couple more hours passed with no further progress before it was decided that an emergency caesarean section was the only likely outcome to my labour. At the time I was convinced it was because I was being too shamefully pathetic about the pain, but as the spinal block took effect and I was at last able to stop vomiting and relax back onto the operating table, I decided that neither my pride nor I really cared very much at all…

(It transpired that despite her unwaveringly strong heartbeat, Maya had the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck, which is why she was not descending – a natural birth was sadly never on the cards. If only we’d been privy to that information fifteen hours earlier!)

I tried to tune out the chatter of the operating staff as they fished around inside me – if I had dwelled too closely on what was actually going on the other side of that sheet I think I might have been psychologically scarred for life.

In fact, so well did I detach myself from the situation that I almost forgot what I was there for, until a faint but unmistakable wail dragged me back to the present and to that indescribably joyous moment in which I at last met my baby daughter…

Are you sure we haven't met before? I really feel I know you...

Are you sure we haven’t met before? I really feel I know you…

This is Status Viatoris, planning never to forget a single moment of that amazing day, but, given her current baby-brain affliction, is still relieved that she at last got the details written down!

Maya

24/01/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Home at last

Home at last

I have been trying to write a blog post for a number of days now, but something always seems to crop up at the most inopportune moments.

Beatific - for a moment, at least...

Beatific – for a moment, at least…

And that something goes by the name of Maya.

Daddy's onesie - a temporary alternative to Daddy himself

Daddy’s onesie – a temporary alternative to Daddy himself

The reason I no longer have five minutes to myself, can barely string together a coherent sentence and am lugging around udders that would do Daisy the Cow proud, finally made an appearance on Friday 10th of January at 21h32 after a fifteen hour labour followed by an emergency caesarean section, and weighed in at a modest 2.56kg.

A lady always crosses her legs

Even the littlest of ladies should always cross her legs…

And as soon as I manage to snatch an hour to myself (ha ha ha), I shall offer up the warts n’ all birth story – why the grimace? sharing is caring, don’t you know… ;-) But for the moment I leave you with a few photos of the new arrival, and the unsurprising news that I am exhausted but exhilarated, terrified by my new responsibilities but bursting with excitement about what the future may bring.

Also comes with eyes!

Also comes with eyes!

This is Status Viatoris: no longer just a Modern Day Nomad, now also Mummy to a tiny daughter. Who’d a thunk it…

Plodding Towards the Finish Line

11/12/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I honestly never believed I would be a mother.

In fact, having made peace with the unlikelihood of ever meeting a suitable life partner; a future filled with foreign languages, travel, writing and the occasional empowering but short-lived sexual fling with a modest succession of mysterious strangers came to seem like a pretty reasonable alternative to family life.

So it is with repeated and overwhelming surprise that I greet the swollen, irrefutable evidence of how very much things have changed each time I happen to cast my eyes feet-wards.

The Incredible Bulk

The Incredible Bulk

I am full of baby. How wonderfully barmy and improbable that feels.

And the side effects no less so; one of the most unexpected being that I have at long last made peace with this lumpy, bumpy body of mine.

Such a visually unimpressive mishmash of flesh, bone, fat and sinew which has caused me nothing but shame and regret for so many years finally seems to have come into its own as it goes about, without any apparent help or guidance, building a brand new human being.

A little person, who despite having been gifted half of my DNA and lent the use of my innards for almost nine months, is already an individual in its own right; hardwired with its own personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences and potential for opinion.

In fact as I feel the determined kicks, wiggles and stretches – perhaps the most bizarre, occasionally unsettling but often wondrous, aspect of late pregnancy – I find it hard to imagine that this creature, so apparently purposeful and in control of its destiny, will pop out of me as vulnerable and helpless as any other newborn.

(Although in retrospect, if it instead popped out and strolled from the room in search of coffee and a newspaper, that might be more disconcerting…)

Having largely managed to avoid the whole preparing-for-motherhood behemoth so popular in the UK (I’m utterly intimidated by those gangs of pregnant women and/or new mums often to be found lurking in Starbucks et al) my midwife recently ordered me, on pain of anesthetic-free episiotomy stitches, to attend at least one antenatal meeting.

A meeting in which a group of fat, knackered-looking “ladies” with bumps of all dimensions, sat around in increasing horror as it was explained how best we could assist our poor bodies in expelling their oversized burdens, and what drugs (not as many as I had hoped) would be on offer to us in the event of the whole unlovely process smarting a tad.

Naturally there are always those who loudly declare their intention to eshew any type of pain-relief – does wanting to really feel the burn mean you will be a better class of mother? These declarations certainly release a sort of smugness into the air which is indicative of such an opinion.

Which would therefore mean that I am destined to be a pretty crap parent, given that I would be more than happy to take a needle to the back if it all gets too much.

The conversation then moved on to breastfeeding, another touchy topic offering mammas-to-be a hint of the ruthlessness of future motherhood-related peer pressure…

Personally, I do want to breastfeed: even as I recoil from stories of cracked nipples, mastitis, and dodgy latches, I still find myself hugely looking forward to those intimate moments with my child.

Going the boob route also seems (to the lazy layperson, me) to be a far more convenient arrangement than faffing around with tubs of powder, bottles, teats, sterilisers and microwaves at 2 o’clock in the morning.

And as for the miserly layperson (me, again), she is very much swayed by the lack of any financial implication involved in swinging her breasts around.

But all in all I feel that it is a matter of personal choice, and not a potential guilt-stick with which to belabour women already made vulnerable by the physically and emotionally arduous impact of pregnancy and childbirth.

In fact I know plenty of people – the Mothership, my lovely husband, and all of his siblings to name but a few – who were not breastfed. And who all enjoy health far more robust than my own boob-nourished, asthma-riddled, allergy-beleaguered, sinusitis-whipped, IBS-slapped, migraine-mangled-immune-system-of-a-newborn-kitten.

Hmmm…

Drug-free birth, only breast milk will do – could this be just the tip of the iceberg in the game of guilt-ridden parenthood chess??

This is Status Viatoris, thirty-five weeks and counting (and hoping and praying and loudly pleading with sproglet not to leave her trapped in this penguin-waddling, back-aching hell for too much longer)… :-)

Temporary Nests

22/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

So it appears that I shall be missing out on the Italian birthing experience after all, although having now been confronted with a steady stream of jolly midwives as opposed to one rather austere male gynaecologist, as well as the promise of tea and hot buttered toast after delivery as opposed to, well, I don’t know – crodino and a dish of olives, perhaps? – on one level at least, I find myself not minding too much.

Yes, as you may have already surmised, the roof situation remains unresolved; with occasional mutterings about possibly having an answer before Christmas but no information we can either get our teeth into or make any plans around, and no answer whatsoever to one desperate letter and three evermore desperate emails to the provincial reinforced concrete department explaining our situation and begging for some sort of clarification.

My husband is finding it hard to heat the apartment to even his satisfaction now the temperatures have plummeted (and he is far from being the weedy freddolosa I am), and the engineers who tramped the roof all those months ago taking measurements for our paperwork managed to break several more tiles, ensuring even more rain can now find its way into our bedroom.

Such are the circumstances that have forced us into making a decision, and as unjust as this whole situation feels, it seems I am to graduate Learning to be Philosophical 101 after all, although undoubtedly more complaining loudly than cum laude.

And whilst up to that point I never actually let the idea of giving birth in Blighty take root – as a non-resident I must pay for NHS care, there is no evidence that the quality of healthcare is superior, and it would have always meant being away from my husband at the crucial moment – I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t been experiencing a very strong homeward call ever since I knew I was pregnant.

The first in eighteen years.

I wonder what that’s all about.

But aside from the obvious warm, dry house in which to lay sproglet, there may well be additional advantages to this new situation (the tea and toast influence in the decision-making process, for one, cannot be stated strongly enough):

In England the Mothership is in a position to confidently undertake emergency dashes to hospital (hubby not being in possession of a driving license).

I won’t have to try to slot back into Italian healthcare after an absence of almost two months and several unexpected pregnancy hiccoughs.

It will be quicker and easier to get a baby passport in England, allowing us to shoot back as soon as the roof has been done.

Health professionals in this country are more geared up to help with the anti-depressant pill-swap which will have to take place on delivery.

And finally, I won’t have the stress of dealing with certain Italian acquaintances who will put their desire to get their baby-obsessed hands on my child far above my need for peace and privacy in those early days.

For personal experience has shown me that privacy in Italy can be a rare commodity; neighbours having been known to rap only once on my door before opening it and coming in – occasionally finding me in a pregnancy-induced, underwear-clad slump on the sofa, and with one elderly gentleman choosing a Sunday morning to surprise my husband and I still in bed in our pyjamas.

One such culprit of the uninvited entry made us the very kind offer of an apartment until such a time as the roof was fixed, insisting that due to the lack of kitchen, we would eat with them downstairs. A generous proposition indeed, but one that had me running for the hills at the complete lack of independence and intimacy it would entail. For how would I be able to ration visits for baby-viewing, baby-squeezing and unwelcome baby-rearing interference from my hosts and their extended family under those circumstances?

Exactly. Far better to put 1,600km between us and be done with it ;-)

This is Status Viatoris, ticking off the days until hubby’s Xmas Eve arrival, whilst signing up for Impending Motherhood 101 and hoping she will achieve a rather more impressive score… 32 weeks and counting!

 

“There is No Such Thing as an Honest Romanian”

12/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Declared some daft besom apropos of nobody seems to quite know what, at the Mothership’s Italian class recently.

And had I been there personally, I would have hauled my pregnant bulk over the desks and taken enormous pleasure in bopping my fist right onto the end of her nose.

Of course it’s hardly surprising that she, and many others like her, feel utterly entitled to verbalise such prejudice in the righteous foghorn tones so beloved of the rather ignorant, given that their only information on it (and a vast many other subjects) comes from the criminally irresponsible British media.

And it would be a delightful thing if people actually backed up some of the “facts” they absorb from their Daily Rag (right or left-wing, tabloid or broadsheet – they are none of them free from the stigma of politically self-serving partiality) with a dash of thinking-for-themselves and a pinch of additional research, but hey, blindly following somebody else’s neatly packaged ideology-for-idiots is so much easier on an already overstretched brain cell.

(I wonder if any of them, media or media follower alike, has ever given a moment’s consideration to another time a country allowed itself to be whipped into a frenzy of distrust and hatred against a particular group of people. No? You know, way back when a significant proportion of an entire First World nation let themselves be convinced that all their socio-economic problems could be laid firmly at the door of an easily identifiable scapegoat? Still nothing? Oh well.)

Even the Italians, with their long history of fleeing Italian shores in times of crisis in order to seek their fortune elsewhere – North America, South America, Australasia, Germany, France, the UK… loathe these modern-day economic migrants just as much as the British, with their long history of pinching other people’s land and plundering its natural resources whilst oppressing the natives for their own good.

What a pair.

So what of the reviled Romanians?

Well first of all – and this might come as a surprise to much of the British media: all Romanians are not gypsies and not all gypsies are Romanian. Something I can only assume to be a well-kept secret when I note that 90% of articles talking about Romanians in the British press, clearly feature Roma gypsies.

The Roma, or Țigani, have been in Romania since before the 14th century, and, like their cousins in Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain and many other places, originate from Northern India. They have a rich musical tradition – usually one of the only aspects of their culture that finds favour with their host countries – but in most other ways they tend to be disliked outcasts due in part to their disregard for the local laws and social norms by which the rest of the local community abide.

They do emigrate, and all over the place, but sadly begging and pick-pocketing often remain their employment of choice (and necessity – prejudice rendering most other doors closed to them).

A Romanian is a different sort of character altogether.

Whilst keeping a strong sense of family and community, many are well-used to travelling to find employment, especially when it comes to construction and other manual labour. Sometimes within Romania itself, but very often further afield: Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia… Men leave their families, sometimes only returning once or twice a year, in order to work and send money home.

And not just the men, there are also plenty of Romanian women who opt to work (often as carers for the elderly or infirm) far away from their loved ones, so that they are in a position to be able to support them financially.

It is far from an easy life – and certainly not one the comfortable, media-led armchair critics from wealthier nations would consider sullying themselves with – but many Romanians just get on with it.

Because they have to.

Because they don’t have a government that will give them money if they can’t find employment in their home town.

Because there is nobody to complain to if they can’t find quite the right sort of job to suit them, or if the little work that is available doesn’t pay enough to keep on top of the bills.

Because they exist within the harsh parameters of the real world.

Yes; there are dishonest Romanians, just as there are dishonest Brits and dishonest Italians.

And yes, maybe a few might take advantage of Britain’s absurdly generous benefit system – after all, there are plenty of British natives who feel not a jot of loyalty to their country of birth, and happily plunder the loopholes presented by the lumbering welfare state.

But that is absolutely no reason not to accord respect to the vast numbers of hard-working, honest Romanians out there. As well as the Bulgarians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Albanians and indeed whoever else is just trying to do what every other human being has tried to do since the dawn of time…

…keep crop, feathers and family together.

It is, after all, a basic human right.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping that her honest, hard-working, kind-hearted, lovely Romanian husband never has to hear the sort of crap her countrymen are capable of coming out with, although after nearly five years in Italy, he is probably getting used to it… :-(

Condemned to Solitude

07/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No sooner is a woman in the position to pin on her twinkly primigravida badge (yes, they give them away free with each plastic pee pee stick – didn’t you know?), a surprisingly high number of curious bystanders begin to request information regarding her future procreational intentions.

It can be a little disconcerting, especially when her mind is rather full of other things: the anxiety involved in assisting this embryo through the gestational minefield before ushering it into a healthy babyhood, for starters. Questioning her sanity at placing herself in such a responsibility-laden situation, for seconds. And lastly, the dawning realisation that she has just willingly compromised her rights to being entirely her own person for at least the next eighteen years.

But regardless of the mental gymnastics that appear to be delivered – along with nausea and a tendency to easy tears – by the victorious spermatozoon, many women do already know the answer to this rather inappropriate question and can confidently state, “I plan to have two, three, four children…” (delete as appropriate and biology willing, natch), thus apparently satisfying the informationary requirements of the question poser.

However there is an answer that does not seem to satisfy, and – typically, I suppose, given my contrariness in most matters – it is the only answer I can offer.

“I only want this child. I have no intention of having any more.”

A statement that even in Italy, where the birthrate is one of the lowest in Europe and where there are more sibling-less children than one could shake a rosemary and olive oil grissino at, is greeted with a surprising lack of respect for my capacity for rational thought.

So, just to prove to the sceptical masses (ok, to the nosy few) that I have actually given the matter some consideration, I shall now list my reasons for feeling that one child will be my lot in life:

1) Although the statistics on overpopulation vary, there can be no doubt that many of the more serious current and future world problems are/will be caused by there being far too many human beings on the planet. My conscience simply would not allow me any peace if I had more than one child.

2) I would be able to afford educational possibilities and horizon-broadening opportunities for one child, that I would not be in a position to offer to two. Important considerations (I feel) in a world that is becoming evermore competitive and complicated.

3) Similarly, as I am English my husband is Romanian and we live in Italy, much of our holiday time over the next years is going to be spent travelling hither and thither to keep sproglet in touch with far-flung relatives. Not something that we would be able to do either financially or logistically with any ease in the case of multi-sprogs.

4) A child needs to be loved, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated and tirelessly cuddled. Having a sibling is not a need, it is a circumstance. A circumstance which plenty of us have never found ourselves in and not suffered as a consequence. And as an afterthought, it is important to remember that just as there are people who have wonderfully close and supportive relationships with their brothers/sisters, there are plenty of others who would happily cross continents to avoid them.

5) I don’t actually want more than one child. Seeing women walking along with a toddler at her side, another in a pushchair and a third “on the way” (for example) makes me want to run as fast and as far as I can. Watching friends juggling two or more children with their different and often opposing requirements – baby’s having a nap, four-year old is clamouring to go to the park, got to pick her up from ballet, take him to football practice, we’re late for school but the toddler’s just filled his nappy… simply reinforces my conviction that it is not for me.

6) And to the wagging fingers that are accompanied by: “Just you wait and see. As soon as you’ve popped that sprog you will be swept away on an uncontrollable sea of biological impulses that will have you planning the next three before the umbilical cord is even severed!” I would say: whilst I do not doubt that at some point during what remains of my fertile years I may well have a brief hankering for a second baybeeeee, I sincerely hope that I have the strength of character to take my present concerns into account and not be dictated to by my hormones. After all, what woman would seriously consider placing her hormones in the driving seat when attempting a spot of rational decision-making?

Exactly.

So there we have it: the reasoning behind my inability to offer curious bystanders a satisfactory answer to their queries in six explanatory steps! Now all that is left to do is translate it into Italian and post flyers round the village ;-)

This is Status Viatoris, who maybe one day will have a strongly held conviction that people actually approve of! Unlikely, I know…

An Undeniably Italian Irritation

28/10/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

There are certain things that any foreigner moving to Italy comes prepared for.

First are the obvious, and undoubtedly most hotly-anticipated: tasty food, extremely quaffable wine, endless degrees and variations on a theme of coffee, a rich history of music and the arts, and vibrant and diverse countryside.

Then come those that many ex-pats secretly hope for: a strong sense of community, warmth and welcome, simplicity, kindness and a zest for life.

Trailing way behind are the distastefully inevitable: unpredictable driving, a frustrating lack of order, and that most dreaded of old chestnuts… bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is, of course, a necessary evil of an evermore chaotic and overpopulated modern world; but in Italy especially, the ranks of box-ticking bureaucrats have grown to wield a frankly Orwellian power.

The slightest change in one’s circumstances, or the need to complete an administrative task of any nature can eat away hour after indescribable hour: visiting Office A to beg for Form B, carting Form B to Office C to purchase Official Stamp D, taking the newly stamped Form B to Office E and waiting for an hour, only to be told that it is Office F you should have been sitting in, and arriving at Office F to be told that they need a signature from Bureaucrat G before they will even consider ticking whatever box needs to be ticked, oh! and have you brought a doctor’s note with that?

Gritted teeth and a vague semblance of a philosophical outlook are the only tools at most people’s disposition to get them through often farcical official procedure, but sometimes even those tools are simply not man enough for the job.

A situation I now find myself only too closely acquainted with, much to my frustration and sorrow.

I managed somehow to keep my calm when neighbours, through suspicious parsimony (despite my already voiced intention to shoulder the bulk of the costs), scuppered perfectly justified plans for a new roof two years ago – forcing me to spend money on a temporary solution that did nothing to insulate my apartment, nor to stop water gushing down newly plastered walls into electrical sockets and pouring onto my bedroom furniture every time the rain stepped it up a notch.

But things are different now.

I am expecting a baby. A baby that deserves to start life in a warm house, without the ever-present risk of rain dripping onto its button nose as it catches forty winks.

So when everyone returned from their holidays at the beginning of September, I began my new roof offensive – quotes all round, neighbours coaxed into making a decision, chosen quote delivered to the geometra, and the initial administrative fee paid.

It would take 20 days to get the quote approved by the powers that be, leaving work to begin around the second week of October – hopefully before the onset of autumnal precipitation.

But when October came without the smallest rattle of scaffolding, a visit to the geometra became necessary; at which point we were informed that sometime between submitting the quote and getting it approved, a brand new law had been plucked from the skies requiring the intervention of yet another office of bureaucrats (who would also have to be paid large sums of money, certo…).

Weeks passed with no news, so the geometra was contacted again. Was there really no way this new office could give an indication of how long we would be expected to wait for their diamond-incrusted tick? Might it be a week? Twenty days? A month? Six months? I am expecting a baby in January, a baby that deserves to be warm and raindrop-free. I need to come back to Italy to be with my husband before I am too pregnant to travel, but we have to know what is likely to happen with the roof on order to decide how to proceed. Help.

Nothing.

And then the ridiculous, almost unbelievable truth began to emerge:

Someone, somewhere, at some point along the line (and nobody seems to know more than that) decided that the new roof requires the builder to knock the top of our walls off and build them up again with reinforced concrete.

Further cost. Nature of the beast. Oh well.

But…. and this is the big butt…. the bureaucrat previously dealing with all matters of a reinforced concrete nature in the provincial administrative offices has recently retired, and his replacement is point blank refusing to take on the responsibility of signing off on works of a reinforced concrete nature.

Thus ensuring that AN ENTIRE PROVINCE has ground to a halt in all construction/renovation matters pertaining to reinforced concrete, leaving us high, dry and without a clue where next to turn.

Our paperwork has been signed off by a role call of various geometra and engineers, but if we got to work without this one last tick, the hounds of officialdom would be snapping at our heels before the first tile was laid – fining the owners, the builders and the geometra, before whisking us all off to court.

Despite the fact that it is they who have put us in this position.

Oh, Italy… :-(

This is Status Viatoris, who would have liked to rebut a recent sarcastic enquiry as to whether there was no bureaucracy in the UK, with a cold and damning stare.


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