Lovely Lesley Porter

08/07/2014

A writer without readers eager to devour his books must surely have occasion to question the point of putting pen to paper.

As a blogger, I don’t even have anything to sell; there can be no monetary purchases of my words to help me feel validated and give me the confidence to believe that I might be doing something right.

Of course I may simply be writing for me – a rather public diary; Lest I Forget, and all that.

But I’m not, not really.

I write for the sheer joy of writing, certainly, but I also write in the hope of providing a little entertainment: an anecdote here, an amusing turn of phrase there, an opinion to be shouted down or heartily agreed with, a glimpse into the inner workings of stranger’s life that facilitates a few moments of escapism for whomsoever might feel the need.

And when someone takes the time to write a little something in the comment section, it goes an awfully long way towards reassuring me that I am succeeding in at least some of my aims.

Since I started Status Viatoris in March 2010, readers have come and readers have gone, but there are a dedicated few who joined me back in the early days, and whose kind consistency in letting me know they are still tuning in has been invaluable in keeping my will to blog alive.

One such person was the Lovely Lesley Porter.

Initially I was in ignorance of the vast extent of her loveliness: yes, I greatly enjoyed her affectionate and encouraging responses to whatever I had posted that day – especially when beloved collie dogs, Obi and Fly, took charge of her keyboard in order to chew the fat with my equally beloved Strauss. I also appreciated her humorously candid turn of phrase when talking about matters of the heart and late motherhood, amongst the other slightly more angst-laden topics.

But it was only when, after several years of Status Viatoris, there was a sudden silence; weeks and weeks and weeks with not a single manifestation of Lesley, that it dawned on me just how important her constant and cheery cyber-presence had become.

So, with the slightly nauseous anxiety that I might be doing something horribly invasive and utterly inappropriate, I tracked her down on the dreaded Facebook, and wrote to her.

She wrote straight back.

It wasn’t good news – she had just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and was awaiting treatment. But with the indomitable, funny and honest attitude to life that I had come to recognise as all her own, Lesley declared herself ready to kick cancer’s butt.

From that moment, our relationship took on a more personal note; the blog comments continued to flow, but we also wrote privately – her messages often appearing in the middle of the night as the gruesomeness of the cancer treatment stole not just her hair and her appetite, but also her sleep.

Burning her wig on the toaster, farting at a nurse – if only Lesley’s brand of hearty irreverence were obligatory, I am convinced society would be a far more congenial collection of folk.

And then it struck me that it might be in my power to offer an additional morale boost with something more personal than the ubiquitous bunch of blooms or bag of grapes: surely a cuddle with a favourite internet pooch would brighten her day. So with the help of Steph (much-loved daughter extraordinaire, also run to earth via the dreaded Facebook) we started to hatch a plan to spring a surprise on my next trip home.

Sadly, the premature loss of Strauss put an end to such plans. But despite the fact that I was rendered unable to spring the best of surprises, I simply couldn’t suppress my own yearning to meet my cyber buddy, so the Mothership and I decided to set off on our road trip to South Wales regardless.

(I sincerely hope it was surprise and not horror I saw on Lesley’s face the day Steph ushered us into her living room.)

Even if it was horror she disguised it heroically, and, armed with cups of tea, the chatter flowed, only pausing with the arrival of the scrumptious Will who kindly broke off from his nap to come and grin disarmingly at us over the rim of his bottle and give outrageous lie to his besotted grandmother’s pre-Will declarations that she would be leaving all baby adoration to husband Howard, while she walked the dogs.

Time was short and Lesley and I found that we had an awful lot to say to each other – far too much to cram into a couple of hours perched on Steph’s sofa. But she was exactly as I had imagined her: all ferocious energy, laughter and life. Then Howard appeared – the man who once promised her, after years of failed pregnancies and heartbreaking disappointment, that he would make her a mother if it was the last thing he did.

And he did, first with step-children (and a seemingly endless stream of youngsters who Lesley took under her wing at various times), and then with Steph, whose arrival led to her mother missing out on a ski trip – I’m guessing she was worth it!

I like a man who keeps his word, and apparently so did Lesley judging by the declarations of her love for him that were worked into many of her blog comments.

Best friends, husband and wife – what could be better?

We parted bemoaning the brevity of the meeting, but I was left with their assurances that the large soon-to-be camper van parked outside their house would be chugging its way to Italy sooner or later.

And we continued exchanging our news: Will was crawling, then walking and talking, Steph was looking for a wedding dress and trying out a new range of soaps in her little gift shop. Lesley was thrilled to be back in a small size 14 and that her locks were at last growing back in most fetching Mia Farrowesque fashion.

She was one of the very first people I announced my pregnancy to, and, a few months later, one of the very first to know that my bump cradled a baby girl. Happily, she was then able to completely trump that announcement by getting herself declared free of cancer!

But then she wrote to tell me of her devastation that adored elder sister Beryl – the one she was so proud of for having paved the way with what was then a pioneering breast cancer treatment – had herself been felled by cancer again, this time inoperable. Beryl had brought Lesley and her brother up from the age of 10. She spent her life helping and improving the lives of others, she was witty and intelligent and had a fabulous sense of humour.

To my ears, Beryl sounded uncannily like the person describing her.

Lesley’s family surprised her with tickets to see Bon Jovi (a wish from her bucket list of the previous year) – she cried because they had remembered and then danced and screamed like a youngster at that concert; declaring Bon Jovi still a great singer, and with the dance moves to boot, but plastic surgery and over whitened teeth ensured he was only attractive from a distance. What a shame. She wrote to tell me how wonderful Steph’s wedding to Allyn had been, and how stunning they had all looked – Steph, Allyn and Will. Such a superb and happy day. Her words.

But the words Lesley hadn’t written to me were that her own cancer had come back. The dreaded Facebook imparted that news, and when it was already too late to respond.

What complete sadness.

My heart goes out to Steph, Howard, Will and the rest of the family. They have lost a most remarkable and beloved woman: their best friend, their mother, their wife, their grandmother.

And I find I have lost the person I most often had in mind when I put fingertips to keyboard. The person for whom I sought to provide a little entertainment: an anecdote here, an amusing turn of phrase there, an opinion to be shouted down or heartily agreed with, a glimpse into the inner workings of new friend’s life.

I imagine most writers have a muse, and mine was the Lovely Lesley Porter. I shall miss her more than I could ever have imagined possible when I read her very first words to me over four years ago, but I shall always be so very grateful to her, and for her.

Marvelous Mother of the Bride

Marvellous Mother of the Bride

It is the memories of your wise words, your fabulously unwise words, your love of life and your quickness to laughter that will have to be enough keep these fingers zinging over the qwerty.

Goodbye, lovely lady.

About these ads

Having a Ball

30/06/2014

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

Can't think who that could be...

Mirror mirror on the floor…

Try as I might, I cannot quite get over my disbelief that in less than two weeks I will be the mother of a burly six-month old; whilst at the same time struggling even to recall a life before this practically new baby arrived to take up the majority of my thoughts and about 99.8% of my time.

Even more curiously – whilst I am pretty certain these have been by far the most exhausting six months of my entire existence; other than keeping one small child fed, cleanish and relatively perky, I am also pretty certain that I haven’t managed to achieve anything else of any real importance.

Motherhood, it would seem, is nothing but a wily manipulator of the very concept of time, as well as being an endless serious of contradictions.

But, oh… how indescribably delicious it is all proving to be.

Hard work? Moi?

Hard work? Moi?

Our last five weeks have been spent chez la Mothership, who assures me she has been delighted (perhaps in a way only a newly fledged grandmother can be) to sacrifice the relative peace of her rural existence to the endless and noisy demands of a tiny, attention-hungry egotist.

Her recompense (other than my finely honed washing-up skills) has been the witnessing of a quite astonishing array of Maya milestones: the sudden appearance of the back-to-tummy roll only slightly marred by a periodic inability to reverse the process – frustration that leads to much slobbery, heartfelt sobbing into the play mat until our need to retain some sort of hold on our sanity obliges us to flip the pitiful creature over onto her back, only for the process to be repeated again almost immediately.

This'll be fun for at least two minutes!

Well this’ll be fun for at least two minutes!

Being in a house with two endlessly yakking women has also borne fruit, this time of a verbal nature, with a babbling stream of chat that is (I imagine) my daughter’s take on what she is hearing.

In which case it would appear that what she is hearing are two rather deaf simpletons, if decibels (lots) and content (arbuldarbundarbuldar) are an accurate reproduction of reality.

(On an idly curious note, I do wonder if the sound and rhythm of this more sophisticated pseudo-speech would have been different if it had manifested itself while we were still in Italy, where she had daily exposure to Italian and Romanian, as well as English…?)

Sadly, the odious and unloved distant cousin of conversational chitter chatter has also recently made an appearance. Yes, the trepanning squeal is here, and apparently to stay, if my desperate questioning of mothers with older tots has been answered truthfully.

Previously restful pit-stops in eateries and coffee houses are now often rushed and red-faced affairs, and to be avoided altogether on particularly squeally days.

Even my plethora of crappy plastic toys can't muffle the din!

Even my plethora of crappy plastic toys can’t muffle the din!

But it’s not all screeching and chagrin; added to the list of the rather more pleasing developments is the fact that Maya can now also sit for more extended periods of time – always providing she does not reach for a toy too far to her left or to her right, in which case she executes a slow motioned yet surprisingly ungraceful face-plant into the floor.

Just waiting for Mummy to get cocky, then I'll pitch headfirst off the sofa and ruin her day...

Just waiting for Mummy to get cocky, then I’ll pitch headfirst off the sofa and ruin her day…

But not content with almost having conquered the rolling and the sitting, she has also taken to stubbornly straightening her little dimply pins when we are attempting to lower her down, forcing whoever is doing the baby wrangling into patiently assisting with the not unimportant issue of balance as she stands there, proud and plump, until gravity and muscle exhaustion bring her back to earth with a bump.

Naturally I am thrilled with all these new developments – not least because of Maya’s unmistakable excitement at getting to grips with her world and her own dinky limbs, but if it does transpire she takes after her happily static mother (who didn’t take a step until she was 18 months old), that would be peachy too ;-)

Is this walking, Mummy, is it? Is it?

Is this walking, Mummy, is it? Is it?

The entertainment value of a cheery nearly six month old is quite frankly priceless, even at witching hour.

Being woken up by fake crying that promptly turns into a gusty giggle if I sniff or cough is enough to tell me that madam simply feels at a little bit of a loose end, and reckons that a midnight cuddle and two and a half sucks at the maternal udder might be just the thing to lull her pleasantly back into the land of nod.

Unfortunately for her, she is in possession of not only a most unconvincing fake cry, but also a mother who does not consider two and a half paltry sucks at the maternal udder worth getting out of bed for. So I muffle my laughter as she manfully attempts to keep up the fakery whilst being inconveniently distracted from her mission by the fascinating patterns on her quilt, the pleasing scritch scratch of her nails on the cot mesh, her teddy’s astonishingly soft fur, and, after not too many minutes, the welcome onset of sleep…

Yippee!

Baby-led weaning, AKA – a legitimate food fight.

At our last paediatric appointment before we left Italy, the doctor informed me that at nearly four and a half months old, Maya was now old enough to start sampling solids. Of course by “solids”, she really meant purees (naturally, it being Italy, the recipes suggested did include a healthy wallop of olio di oliva and a hearty dusting of parmeggiano).

But having been witness to the unidentifiable and frankly unappetising gloop being spooned mechanically into my niece’s mouth, I decided to have a gander at this “baby-led weaning” I had heard whisper of.

Now I usually cringe unavoidably at anything possessing a fancy-pants modern parenting moniker (even when I myself am indulging in the practice) – “baby-wearing”, “co-sleeping”, “attachment parenting”, “mommy blogging”, “permissive parenting” are just some of the many descriptive titles which induce in me a perceptible shudder.

I would hazard a guess that regardless of the parenting style you adopt to raise your offspring – neglect, psychological or physical abuse being the obvious exceptions – and allowing for micro-differences in nature and nurture, the end result will be fairly similar.

And I would also hazard a guess that sticking too religiously to the concepts set down by such styles, could easily and stressfully complicate what is already a fairly daunting task.

So in the end I didn’t plump for baby-led weaning because I feel that it is a healthier or more life-affirming option for my sproglet. I have plumped for it because it just seems like a hell of a lot more fun – and who doesn’t need a little of that in their lives?

(Although I am not yet sure how I will explain it to our pediatra italiana… what on earth is the Italian for baby-led weaning??)

Glorious messes here we come!

Hmmm… what do I fancy for lunch today.

Hmmm… what do I fancy smearing in my hair for lunch today.

This is Status Viatoris, delighted to announce that a) her roof is nearly finished b) the “goodies” won the mayoral elections and c) hubby finally passed his driving theory exam! Whoopee!

 

 

 

 

 

Those Maleficent Men ‘n Their Mud Machine

15/05/2014

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

There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.

I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.

Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.

It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.

I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:

- Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.

- Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.

- Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).

- Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).

- Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.

Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.

The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.

For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of  the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.

And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.

Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):

We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.

We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.

We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!

We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.

As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.

Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.

One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.

Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.

This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.

Gone to Slush

12/05/2014

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

My days seem to have taken on a slightly drifty quality since we arrived back in Italy. I would blame it on the baby (she certainly provides excellent cover for tardiness, absence, unfinished tasks and odd smells), but I suspect that it’s really just my true nature kicking in.

After years of attempting to keep up the pretence that I seek a fascinating existence, I finally have the perfect excuse to fart around doing very little of any note – an endless succession of happy toothless smiles reassuring me that any guilt I might feel about such idleness is nothing but wasted emotion.

Qui, moi?

Qui, moi?

So time passes in a lazy haze of cuddles, storybooks, long walks, cautious exploration and mutual adoration – with the soundtrack of experimental squeals, cheerful chuckles and incomprehensible nattering that has accompanied my baby’s transformation from helpless newborn to increasingly characterful four-month old.

(It would be remiss of me not to also give mention to the poo explosions, the occasional unexplained crying – both hers and mine, the regurgitation splats that land on most of my clothing within 10 minutes of me dressing, the dearth of more than half a minute to myself at any one time, and the realisation when I leave the house that I have apparently been rendered invisible by the plump and sumptuous little creature strapped to my chest – although in all fairness, my years with Pooch should have inured me to the pain of being overlooked in favour of a more charming companion…)

You got time to burn, I got the matches...

You got time to burn? Coz I got the matches…

Being a new mamma here is certainly an experience – the Mothership was astonished to note that Italian men are just as keen to rush over for a goo goo gaa gaa as the women (most British men preferring to devour their bowler hats rather than interact with a small child).

On the downside, I am still having to work hard at ignoring the insistence of some on telling me how to care for my daughter: “Put a hat on her, there’s a breeze!” “Put some socks on her, there’s a breeze!” “She should be wearing thicker clothes, there’s a breeze!” “You shouldn’t be going for a walk with that baby, there’s a breeze!” and one of my personal favourites: “Does your husband know you brought her out in this breeze?”

Oh please don’t tell him, signora! I’m still sore from the beating I got for not having warmed his slippers…

What do you mean "underdressed"? I've got my cosy socks on, haven't I?!

What do you mean “under-dressed”? I’ve got my cosy socks on, haven’t I?!

I’m also getting it in the neck on a daily basis for the sling, although it quickly became apparent that the pressure to trundle Maya around in a pushchair as opposed to attached to me, has rather more to do with people’s desire to get handsy with her, than any real concern for her well-being.

Many dive in anyway, huffing breathily into my cleavage and grabbing at my spare tyres in their eagerness to lay claim to a beaming grin or force a finger into the gratifying grip of a fat little fist, while I attempt to repress the very British desire for personal space that threatens to bubble out in a blur of aggressively wielded elbows and a swift knee to the groin.

Hanging with Mummy

I’m the only one allowed in Mummy’s personal space, ‘cept perhaps Daddy…

Repressed crossness with an overenthusiastic fan club notwithstanding, overall this is proving to be a magical time.

I never anticipated just how quickly the helpless eating/sleeping/crying stage would morph into something hugely much more entertaining, and I am now captivated by my daughter launching herself with joyful excitement at each new developmental milestone.

The fragile little soul that lay obediently on her playmat until someone saw fit to move her, now throws her way vigorously around the floor with kicks and semi-rolls, frequently parting company with the mat altogether to end up partially wedged under the surrounding furniture.

(No need to panic – we usually manage to hoik her back out before the dust bunnies can get at her.)

Help! The dust bunnies are nibbling my toes!

Heeeeelp! The dust bunnies are nibbling on my toes!

Feeds are interrupted every few sucks with an unmistakable demand to be sat up so she can check nothing exciting is escaping her notice, and even if the view that greets her remains unchanged from the previous inspection, it doesn’t seem to dent her delighted surprise at being faced with it again.

Vocal chords that previously only served to utter monotonous complaints, have stretched to accommodate a spectrum of sounds and volumes ranging from giggles to gusty belly laughs through shrieks and shouts to chatter so conversational that it almost makes me believe we are really communicating.

(I have been told that bringing up a child in multiple languages can make for late speech development. And as I natter away to her primarily in English, hubby in Romanian and most everyone else she comes across at the moment in Italian, I will raise my hat to her if she manages to produce a coherent sentence before puberty.)

You can look, but you can't touch!

I are cute, but confused!

But all this change does bring with it a pang of worry that everything is going by far too fast, that so many delightful moments will be forgotten as she learns and grows.

So at the expense of those readers who would rather eat their headgear than read stuff about children, I am simply going to have to record those moments here from time to time:

Chuckles of hungry excitement at glimpsing an approaching boob – dimpled arms reaching up to guide it home, little mouth pursed into an “O” of welcoming anticipation.

Being woken at 6 in the morning by her chattering and laughing to the teddies in her cot.

Little fingers tracing lazy patterns on my breast as she feeds, playing with my shirt buttons, catching at my necklace – smiling eyes never leaving mine.

Taking a hank of my hair in each hand for added stability whenever I carry her in my arms.

Cooing meditatively at the trees we pass on our daily walks, before resting a chubby cheek on my breastbone and dozing off.

The fist-sucking, body-contorting, fussing and squalling fight she puts up every other time her body clock tries to lull her into having a nap.

The constant and enthusiastic squealing that goes with us lying on our backs reading a book – not forgetting the over excited fist in the eye I get with every page turn.

Kisses to her cheek that she ambushes and turns into drooly, gummy, open-mouthed and milky-breathed declarations of love pressed to my grateful skin.

I am in love.

Just hanging out...

Just hanging out…

This is Status Viatoris who would just like to say – Hang in there, Folks! It’s election time in My Little Italian Village, and the political intrigue is more hot than not… will be digging the dirt for my next post, in Italy!

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. 

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)… :-)


%d bloggers like this: