Down Wiv Skool

24/08/2016

Weary Wanderings for Wednesdays!

Status Viatoris

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

I loathed school, I mean really really loathed it. Even now – seventeen years after my torture schooling ended (bloody hell that makes me feel old :-() – when I find myself on the wrong side of the gates, my heart beats wildly and I struggle to catch my breath until freedom has been safely regained.

Knowing that I would have to spend several days traipsing the hallowed halls, filled me with not a little trepidation.

So as a panic-reducing displacement activity, I attempted to distract myself by studying the idiosyncrasies of Italian school life…

Most noticeable is that Italian children talk A LOT. The noise levels in the classroom, in the dining hall, in the playground, and indeed anywhere where there is more than one bimbo italiano are excruciating.

They also find sitting still for longer than…

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A Translator Very Good Am I

23/08/2016

Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays!

Status Viatoris

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

For a few days I fielded some rather odd questions from Fiona;

Fiona: Would you say ‘a sea borough’ or ‘a sea district’?

SV: What the…? Let me have a look at that.

Fiona: No, no. It’s ok. I’ll get you to check it afterwards.

I struggled to concentrate as she redirected her strange questioning to an Italian colleague, X;

Fiona: X, would you say ‘the San Marco palace is made revived on the will of the Filippi’s family’ or ‘the Filippi’s family made will the San Marco palace to revived’?

X: Ummm… I think the second one.

SV: ?@!*!@*?!

Needless to say, the document ended up on my desk, and after tearing my hair out over it for less than a day, I was treated to the following haranguing;

Fiona: Why are you taking so long to…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (final part)

22/08/2016

Memories for Mondays

Status Viatoris

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

My frustrations were somewhat alleviated by the arrival of ten other English speakers to help prepare the summer camps.

All ex-tutors from previous years or actors from the school theatre tour, they brought a much-needed breath of fresh air and sanity. Even Shrek seemed to find it in him to generously overlook their exuberant English-Speakingness; copping sly squeezes of the pretty girls and jovially slapping the boys on the back.

So having spent a fortnight stapling sheets of paper and stuffing them into 250 plastic folders (in funereal silence, Fiona’s orders – she objected to the fact that I was conversing with a colleague in Spanish because she couldn’t understand what we were saying) I was allowed to escape the office and start training with them.

After a few days singing the camp song (a ditty so mind-bogglingly…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (part two)

19/08/2016

Flashback Friday!

Status Viatoris

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

After the ‘business trip’, the director asked me if thought I would be capable of taking over that side of the job.

Ummm, how can I put this…

I think I would probably be as capable as the next man of zigzagging aimlessly round the Italian countryside, wasting hours and hours and hours due to sheer incompetence before talking rubbish to Italian parents for half an hour. However, despite being aware of the very great honour bestowed on me by the assumption that one day I might be a suitable candidate for filling the great man’s shoes, I had to decline. Leaving (and paying someone to look after) Pooch for five days out of every seven, for an itinerant life of tedium was not exactly what I had in mind.

That having been explained (in words not dissimilar…

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Job Disatisfaction Guaranteed (part one)

18/08/2016

Tired Old Tales for Thursdays

Status Viatoris

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

A little over three months ago I saw an advertisement for some sort of office job in Italy. This was lucky, because any sort of office job in Italy was exactly what I was looking for. The company even had an interesting concept to sweeten the bitter pill of shackling myself to a desk once again – English theatre productions in Italian schools, and English summer camps in Italy.

I applied.

The first blow was the monthly salary. I had been prepared for the fact that Italian salaries were very low, but this was worse than peanuts. Even monkeys would have politely declined.

Then the director told me that if I took the job I had to stay with them for a reasonable amount of time.

“That’s ok,” thought I, “truthfully I had been considering nine months, but…

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Adventures in Mummying

16/08/2016

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I am now two years and seven months into this mothering lark.

There are moments when I really cannot recall what my life was like without my daughter, and moments I am so exhausted and Mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed! out that I feel like she has been here forever (which I am aware is not quite the same thing…).

Then there are those other moments I whip round in surprise at the sound of a squeaky little voice summoning her Mumma, and wonder how it is she seems so confident of who I am and all I am apparently able to deliver when most of the time I still feel as clueless as if the stork dropped her off the day before – although, given that young children are in a state of constant change, I cannot be alone in feeling that I never quite manage to get my mothering shit together or that bringing up a child is substantially more blindfolded white-rapid ride than it is guided amble round a park.

20160430_105953Of course the internet offers a myriad of foolproof parenting methods, playgrounds always contain at least one mother fortunate enough to know everything and bookshops bulge with tomes by parenting experts; all of which give the impression that it really could be a guided amble round a park, if we would just follow their 5-point plan to: Getting the child sleeping through from conception! Getting the child feeding on a schedule from the moment he crowns! Don’t put the child down for the first six months! Wash the birth gunk off, and don’t pick the child up ever again in case she gets used to it! Pretend you can’t hear him crying, he only wants attention! Anticipate your child’s needs the day before so she never has to cry!

It’s a confusing minefield with no possible winners (other than that know-it-all-mother’s ego and the royalties enjoyed by the aforementioned parenting “experts”): no two children are exactly the same, no parents are exactly the same, no families are exactly the same and no lifestyles are exactly the same. Parenting is an ongoing exercise in intuition, compromise, guesswork, consistency, patience and bluff.

One lesson I have learnt is that people who do not have children should not form an opinion on child-rearing, much less voice it. That intense emotional bond with the child you are raising colours every situation you are likely to face from the first moment you hold him in your arms. And your intuitive understanding of that child dictates how you decide to deal with those situations. There are very few OSFA solutions to parenting quandaries, and those on the outside looking in only ever have part of the story.

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Before Maya was even born, I wrote a condescending piece referencing Attachment Parenting (or at least what I assumed it to be). I feel particularly silly about it now because without even really being aware of it, I seem to have ended up practising many of the AP principles. I read somewhere that a child who has all emotional (as well as physical) needs met, is more likely to grow into a well-rounded and confident adult. And not only does that make perfect sense to me; it also fits very nicely thank you with the way I have always instinctively wanted to respond to my daughter.

But in my pre-motherhood ignorance, I confused nurturing with controlling – something I have witnessed quite a bit here in Italy, where meaningful communication with children often seems to be eschewed in favour of endless commands to: Get up of that floor, you’ll get dirty! Get down off there, you’ll fall! Don’t go up there, you’ll hurt yourself! Get your finger out of your mouth, it’s dirty! Do your coat up, there’s a draft! Don’t run, you’ll fall over! Do that again and I’ll smack you!

20160713_175919 (2)In the playgrounds and piazze of my Italian existence, the gentlest of tumbles frequently results in a flurry of panic, surfaces are treated as terrifying germ-coated threats to fallen snacks (and toys and fingers), potential death-traps are seen everywhere, children are bundled up against dangerous breezes about nine months of the year and empty threats of corporal punishment appear to be considered an acceptable parenting tool more often than I care to notice.

It has an uncomfortable edge of negativity to it. I suspect children who are not offered rational explanations for things might have a harder time making good judgement calls, and children not permitted to play freely may struggle to safely discover their own physical limitations. Admittedly the inculcation of a fear of dirt, weather and theoretical parental slaps is not much worse than pointless, but what of the loud proof that these parents have absolutely no faith in their offspring’s fledgling abilities to get themselves safely from A to B? I can’t envisage that being an ingredient for either confidence or independence.

The bizarre bedfellow of the above is the Italian child-worship phenomenon (perhaps partially a result of ever-decreasing family size?) that grandparents, waiters and random passers-by indulge in. This mainly involves a Willy Wonkaesque deluge of sugar in all its most tooth-rotting forms, and a willingness to humour every cappriccio thrown up by the object of their worship.

IMG-20160704-WA0001So is there an absolute right way? I doubt it – there are simply too many variables, but who really knows. All I know is that I have no desire to shout all day, I don’t care about dirt or weather, I think Maya is more likely to learn respect if she is shown it, I encourage her to climb and jump and run as much as she wants and if she falls I comfort her then release her back into play, and although I did slap my child’s bottom once – she slapped me right back AND I WAS PLEASED!

The result so far is a joyous little girl, with a wonderful sense of humour but also a very strong sense of self: woe betide anyone, family or not, who tries to pet her or assist her without being expressly invited. She has strong opinions about what she wants, but gives in reasonably gracefully when told why she can’t have it. She is independent and adventurous, as long as she knows one of us is close by if required. She doesn’t try to dominate other children, but is slowly getting the hang of standing up for herself. She’s endlessly communicative and she’s kind.

On the other hand: she doesn’t sleep well, she has been known to deface the occasional wall with her wax crayons, she’s a bit Mummy and Mummy Milk-obsessed, she cries every single time she wakes up from a nap for no apparent reason, she’s stubborn, she pees in the bidet, farts like her father, is frequently reluctant to do whatever she has been kindly requested to do, and she is far too fond of the television (Blaze and the Monster Machines in particular).

20160522_105702But as a blindly obedient paragon of “virtue” is the last thing I want to unleash on the world, I am extremely content with progress so far as well as being increasingly more besotted with every passing day.

That said, I am also exhausted, wrung-out and in dire need of some time alone with my thoughts: time to write, time to read, time to walk, time to complete work calmly without the stress of trying to squeeze translations in her all-too-brief nap times. So from the 14th of September a new chapter begins for both of us – nursery school! And I don’t know who is more excited…

On Second Thoughts, I’ll Take The Treno

12/08/2016

And it’s Flashback Friday once again!

Status Viatoris

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

Some very helpful instructions from the boss, designed to help a nervous Canadian colleague make the transition to Italian driving.

***

1. Be constantly alert, you cannot relax your guard for an instant.

2. Being a considerate driver in Italy is highly dangerous, Italian road users are not used to it and may react in a myriad of unexpected ways.

3. Italian drivers are always right. In an event of an accident call the Polizia Locale to decide who is a fault. If necessary, they will then call an ambulance.

4. Be prepared for the fact that Italian drivers park anywhere, even in the middle of the road. You, however, must only park in the designated parking areas. Check up and down the street for small complicated signs explaining why you shouldn’t park there before you park.

5…

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An Eggz-Pat Rant

11/08/2016

Tired Old Tales for Thursdays
(Recently I feel as if I might have turned into one of these…)

Status Viatoris

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

As my main motivation for travelling is to learn languages, it makes very little sense for me to spend too much time hobnobbing with other Anglophone ex-pats, so I have always avoided their company wherever possible.

And there is a certain sort of Anglophone ex-pat that I am more than happy to steer clear of. An example of which I was unlucky enough to encounter just the other day:

***

Ex-pat (with just the right amount of snooty condescension): So, you’re here on holiday?

SV: No, I live here.

Ex-pat (peeved): Really? Whereabouts?

SV: In an apartment near the mayor’s house.

Ex-pat (suspiciously): Really? Well I’ve never seen you here before.

SV: Ah. Well I can assure you that I have been here for a couple of months now.

Ex-pat (with dawning realisation): Oh!…

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A Parallel Universe

10/08/2016

Weary Wanderings for Wednesdays…

Status Viatoris

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

I am beginning to get the very strong feeling that Italian carpark spaces are just not as other carpark spaces.

They are very much into the angled variety over here. Something that seems to pose all sorts of problems for many local drivers. Should their vehicles run parallel to the lines? Or should they be parallel to the edges of the carpark? Or perhaps just parallel to the guy next to them who obviously couldn’t decide between the two? The choices are endless, and infinitely confusing.

And then I pull into a carpark where everyone has got the hang of it. Nobody is spilling over the lines, all vehicles are pointing in the right direction and at the right angle. There is even the perfect space for my little car. So I joyfully tuck it in between two…

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To Old Friends

09/08/2016

Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays.

Status Viatoris

One of the most uplifting sights that greets me on my way home from work, rain or shine, is that of the local village ladies out for their afternoon leg stretch.

Even the springiest of these particular chickens is probably pushing eighty, and I am not even going to guess how many seasons some of the others have seen come and go.

Cardies or shawls over blouses, skirts just below the knee, woollen socks over legs bandied by age, and sensible shoes (sometimes even Wellington boots) are the order of the day; the perfect get-up for a leisurely promenade with lifelong friends.

I pass them, sometimes miles from the village, gazing out over the valley. One or other of them will be gesticulating, the others nodding as they stare towards a faraway point.

I wonder what they’re actually seeing. The countryside as it is now, or is their minds’ eye…

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