It is 31st October, Halloween, the UK is still in the EU (don’t worry I will not talk about it as I don’t really care), England is in the Rugby World Cup final (Yay!! That I do care about). I am currently sitting on our terrace in the beautiful sunny warmth of 23°C (40°C in the sun) listening to the majestic sound of what sounds like a pneumatic drill coming from a property across the valley in Centro Storico. I guess I can’t have it all.
October is very nearly over and it has been quite a busy month, so lots to tell.
Our Besties’ Visit to Scalea
It started off really well, our besties Sally and Steve came to stay for a few days. We hired a car and picked them up from Naples airport. It was so good to see them, missed them lots. We showed them Centro Storico, the beach, the places where we drink (da Pietro and La Playa), eat (Il Corsaro) and be merry (everywhere). They met our new Scalea friends and Steve also helped Tony choose a car to replace his old VW.
Steve, he bought the Lancia, thought you’d like to know.
We took them to see San Nicola Arcella, Praia a Mare and Diamante. John and I have never visited Diamante before and had no idea it is an artist’s mini paradise. The old town is covered in amazing murals. It is definitely worth another visit.
Unfortunately, the weather was rubbish for some of the time they were here, but we made the most of the good weather when we had it and kept cosy when it we didn’t. They experienced the major rain running down the stairs and the very strong easterly wind. The shutters had to be shut one night as the horizontal wind and rain was so bad.
They basically experienced a bit of everything we had over the past 10 months in just 5 days. Crazy!
It was very sad we had to say goodbye though. But they are on their own journey, changing their life to get out of the silly stressful rat race and I wish them the very very best. We will see each other again.
Back in England
A week later it was our turn to travel. Our first journey back to England, which we sort of didn’t want to do because of the weather really. Yes, the weather did improve in Scalea once our friends left – typical! We stayed in Birmingham, as we thought it’s a good base as trains are easy to get to wherever we needed to go.
We travelled Tuesday by train from Scalea at 6am to Lamezia airport for the plane to Stansted and then the direct train to Birmingham New Street which arrived at about 7.30pm. We were tired when we finally arrived in Birmingham. I really fancied a Thai curry, so we went to Zen Metro in Birmingham quite close to our hotel and it was so nice.
The weather was wet of course and staying in Birmingham we saw the changes that has happened after just 10 months. Centenary Square is finally complete, but I could not see it properly as they have built a temporary ice rink tent thing, for the lead up to Christmas. Still lots of construction work happening though, I suppose it will be nice when it is all finished, but there is always something being built in Birmingham so I don’t think it will ever be finished.
What has got worse though, which is really sad, is the amount of homeless people there. No idea what the solution is, but a lot of money is being spent on roads, infrastructure and new fancy commercial buildings but there are so many people on the streets. I think priorities are all wrong, but my time away has changed the way I think, I suppose.
Also, seeing everyone going to work at a million miles an hour, looking stressed, getting annoyed with each other or not noticing each other. It cemented the fact that we did the right thing, getting out. We were lucky enough to be able to do so.
I was once one of those people working in Birmingham ignoring everyone, choosing not to see. We were earning OK money and spending it on fancy restaurants, holidays, all the things we felt we needed as a reward for all the hard work we are doing. I now feel there is more to life than that, but it is a treadmill that is very difficult to get off and I didn’t realise it at the time. All those people with stress on their faces rushing around must have always been there in the past, but now we are visitors looking in, it is easier for us to see. I don’t think I would cope if I had to return to that life again.
Anyway, the point of the visit was to see friends and family and that part was the best. On Wednesday, we saw our photography friends, a group of people (including Sally) I met when I did a photography course about 14 or 15 years ago (Yikes!!). Unfortunately, one of them, Claire, was in Greece, well unfortunately for us, I guess she was having a lovely time.
We also collected the rest of our Christmas decorations from Sally and Steve, they brought some with them when they visited us, which was an exceedingly nice thing to do. So now I have Christmas decorations! Ooh I also said hi to my hairdresser, Alison as we had a few minutes waiting for Sally to pick us up.
Thursday, we had to visit our bank to change address, we had to visit the actual home branch, which was in West Bromwich instead of the one in Birmingham. So, John went on the tram for the first time, he probably would not have minded if he never had to. We also met with our friend and also accountant Michelle at her home and met her husband and daughter who were so lovely. We were there to sort out my accounts supposedly but spent most of the time chatting about other stuff.
Friday, I met with my former work colleague and friend Angela, we had a nice meal and a great chat, whilst John met with Alison his friend before we went to my brother Dave’s house. It was so nice to spend quality time with him, sister-in-law Gemma and kids Harry, Millie and Georgie. It is such a happy place to be. They have their place looking really nice and comfortable.
Saturday was the reason we visited the time that we did, seeing Andrea Bocelli at what is now called Resort World Arena. Yes, we travelled all the way from Italy to Birmingham to see an Italian artist. The concert was amazing though.
Sunday was another lovely family day and spent it with John’s daughter Anna, her husband Paul and their boys Jake and Alfie. We met their new rescue rabbits, so cute. The rabbits definitely have a lovely happy home now, that’s for sure. Again, a really lovely time was had, and it was good quality time. As with our visit with Dave and family it was a good amount of time chatting and relaxing with a meal. In the past we probably saw them for just an hour or two, now and again for birthdays and the like, but these visits were longer and lovely.
It was definitely worth extending our concert visit to see family and friends. Many thanks to all who collected us to and from the train station. Unfortunately, we didn’t see everyone we would have liked but that’s life, I guess. People are busy and we had a very short amount of time.
Monday we travelled back to Stansted for our early flight home on the Tuesday.
When we arrived back to Scalea, we did feel like we were coming home, which again cemented our decision. It is definitely better than being in the hustle and bustle of a big city.
The Earth Moved
Yes, on 25th October at about 6.30am I was rudely awakened by a big shake of the bed and windows panes, and a loud rumble. After a little while I realised it was an earthquake. Luckily it was not a major one and I don’t think there was damage anywhere. The local schools were closed as a precaution, but life went on. It was a gentle reminder that we do live in an earthquake zone. Well there are quite a few volcanoes near us, and Italy is basically on a fault line, so it may happen again, hopefully not too often and keep them small please.
The Masters of Queuing
Finally, I have to tell you about our experience of trying to get our ID cards. Firstly, we are officially residents. It actually happened a while ago but have forgotten to write it on here. No idea why, but such a major thing kept slipping my mind for the past 3 months. But yay we are officially residents. So, the next thing is to get ID cards. In principle it is quite easy. You need a passport, codice fiscale (sort of like an NI number in the UK) and a passport size photo.
Sounds simple. It is, in theory.
We had our photos taken and printed by a local photographer one morning. We walked with hope in our heart and we queued at the Municipality (which is like the local council in the UK). Every time you visit the Municipality you queue, so we did for an hour. After explaining in broken Italian the reason we were there, we made an appointment. So we waited an hour to make an appointment! This was just before we left for the UK so we made the appointment for the Thursday following our return. They gave us a form to complete, which we did not understand. So we went to Ivan, our bills manager to let us know what we have to do. He completed it for us and said he will pay it for us using our account whilst we were away. Great, perfect in fact. The fact we did not know we had to pay the fee before we went back was another thing we did not understand.
So on our return to Scalea, we collected the form showing the receipt of payment and went to our appointment at the Municipality, this time it looked like there was a problem. There was a woman who worked there outside talking to people who was queuing, we had an appointment so we thought we could just go in, obviously not understanding what was being said. After a while we finally understood the computer system was down and was told to come back later. We did and guess what? A message was pinned to the window saying it was closed all day due to a computer update. Arghh!
We left it for a few days, before we tried again, for our own sanity mainly. So, we queued again as we had no appointment. There was a long queue. We were there for 2, yes two hours! Once we got in, we were told we had to wait longer as the person we needed was with someone else.
Eventually, we managed to see and sit down with the correct person, yay! All we had to do was give our paperwork, our photo (which they scanned and returned), our height, scan our index finger of each hand (for our fingerprint), sign the documents and that was it. We now wait for a phone call when they are ready for collection. As I said easy in theory.
So sometime next month we will have to queue again to collect our ID cards, oh the joy!
So that is it. A very busy October. Hopefully November will be easier, and England will beat South Africa to win the Rugby World Cup.
Until then ciao…