Friday, December 20

My School Christmas Party

I love my job.  I really do.  Especially at Christmas. 

Those of the teachers who are based in England will have probably endured one, or all of the following: Christmas Concert, Christmas Fair/Fete, Christmas Disco, Christmas Dinner, Christmas everything.  And congratulations, I'm onto the third Christmas without these things and I must say I still feel liberated!  Instead, this year I ran a Christmas workshop and then there was just the Christmas Party.  And let me tell you, I'm pretty certain there will never be one quite like it ever again.

Basically.  My colleague has an Uncle and this Uncle has a band.  A band?  Yep.  A band who played consistently for three hours and thirty minutes, and I really mean consistently.  We asked for a time out after about forty-five minutes as sixteen children running manically in circles was getting a bit much but, alas, the guy with the smaller accordion just didn't stop playing.

You are about to witness no ordinary "band", this is a traditional Abruzzese band.  In fact this band did my colleague's "serenade", i.e. the night before her wedding she discovered this band, and her husband to be, under her window with all her friends (with wine of course!).  Imagine discovering this lot under your window...or at your next Christmas Party for that matter!!!

N.B.:  I have had a discussion with both my colleague and my parents about how one of the gentleman (ironically my colleague's Uncle), has a rather "interesting" motion for playing...or more rubbing...his stick instrument.  It is quite immature how much I laughed!

To add some more Christmas hilarity, I have been Skyping my Mum whilst writing this post.  The "Christmas Missive" award this year, as in the award for the best summary letter included with a Christmas card, goes to my best friend, she included photos and everything!  However, we didn't receive a Christmas Missive from our other family friends this year, just a summary written inside the card, perhaps a downgrade in "friends" level, or a decision to not do the missive in the first place.  Oh, and my Mum's best friend get's the "card bigger than her face" award.  Apparently my Mum has never received a card as big as her face before.  Christmas Card friends, I think we have a new challenge for next Christmas!!!

Friday, December 6

I'm trying... least I think I am. 

Having woken up feeling a bit blue, not blue as in cold, but down-in-the-dumps, I thought I'd promote someone who has amazed me these past couple of years and who writes a blog.  In fact THEY write a blog and it's a good one too ;-)

Let me take you back to a time when I was little and having piano lessons with Ernie, an all-round-good-chap who had many talents: singing, piano playing, laughing his socks off, gardening and, most importantly, an insane patience with 7-year-olds who were prone to tantrums in regards to piano practice and scales.  In the good old days I had piano (and singing and clarinet) lessons with him on Tuesdays, and then Thursdays when I started going to Girl Guides and Church Choir.  After these piano lessons (on Tuesdays and later on Thursdays) my Mum, brother and I would "hang out" with our cousins.  Literally my Mum's cousin and her children.  

We were four children and my-oh-my how I love the things we used to do.  Proper kids stuff...climbing trees, making dens, pretending to be horses and gallop round the garden for what seems like hours.  Anyway the point of the story is to promote one cousin in particular, the eldest of our group of four.  David.

David.  He hated peas in his pies.  

Sounds ridiculous I know but for some reason this memory is prevalent when I think about all those Tuesdays and Thursdays I ate dinner at my cousins.  My Mum would take microwave meals for the three of us and then David, for some reason, always had a pie...I think chicken...and it always had peas in it and he didn't like peas so there would (sometimes) be a little squabble about these peas and he'd pick them out.  We'd all be sitting at their massive dining table with the foam padding under the blue flowered, child-proof tablecloth and sit silently whilst the pea issue would be resolved.  From these events I always figured that David was still a fussy eater...but oh no.    

David is currently travelling in Vietnam with his fiance Sally.  They've lived in Australia for, oh, eight months or so and are making their way back to England in time for Christmas.  It turns out that as much as I've moved on from the seven-year-old who doesn't practice the piano...*hmm...I'll rephrase that, twenty years on and I still don't practice the piano, go ask my tutor*...It turns out that as much as I've moved on from the seven-year-old who didn't eat sandwiches, just crackers, but somehow ended up in Pescara, my cousin too has moved on from the pea pie days...go check out their adventures for yourself.  It'll make you want to follow in their coffee tasting, exploring stuff, travelling footsteps:

Friday, November 29


It might seem crazy what I'm 'bout to say...

These two songs are rocking my world right now.  They covered up for the "Oh, I've arrived two hours early for my piano lesson and it's sort of raining, no snowing, no raining....argh, it's cold" issue.  These two even got me through the "How exactly do I plan all the necessary forms of transport to get me to and from England so I am there for Harriet's funeral...without killing myself in the process...?".  And I'm pretty certain they'll help me with "...the M25?  I thought that was a 25 year-old male who was registered at an Orienteering mean it's a road...with a lot of cars...oh no.".

Song No. 1: Happy - Pharrell Williams (who's 40, couldn't believe it myself, figured he must moisturise)

Song No. 2: Go Gentle - Robbie Williams (strangely he'll be 40 years-old next year...)

Two Mr. Williams' - two very different songs :-)

Saturday, November 23

Photos :-)

One of my friends, best friends, died twenty-four days ago.  I tried to find photos of the things we've done together in my own photo albums but I couldn't find any...and then I realised...I never took the photos, she did.  I did some Facebook stalking and I came up with many more memories than I'd remembered by myself.  So here, as the funeral may still be many weeks away, is my personal dedication to Harriet Ward, made up of the photos I found of us on her Facebook, and my memories of the things we did.

26th May 2008

This was the event that made Harriet and I close friends again.  In 2002, when Harriet moved to a different high school for 6th form, we stopped seeing each other regularly.  At school I'd had many lessons with her and we were good friends, but as teenagers do, things changed.  Anyway.  Thanks to my return to the island after Uni, and our mutual 'Lady who Lunches', Kirsten, our friendship was rekindled. For 7 months, after she convinced me it would be a good idea whilst eating crispy seaweed and shredded beef at Hong Kong Express, we trained together for a 10 km run.
That same weekend we took a tour of Lords, the cricket ground, as I love cricket and it was somewhere I had always wanted to go.  As an avid sports fan, Harriet really didn't mind joining me in this quest and was just as excited as me to touch the pitch!  It was a great weekend as I was already set on moving to London the following year and we explored the main sights of "the big city" together.  At the time we didn't know how "big" London would become for the both of us in our lives.

4th-5th September 2010

So.  When I lived in my London house, we had a house party in the beginning of September 2010, sort of for my birthday, sort of "just because".  For the party, my brother, Kirsten and Harriet came to stay and the morning after the night before my poor guests were woken by my clock radio at 5.30am.  We'd only got to sleep around 2.30am.  All very well except my preferred radio station was UCB, United Christian Broadcasting, which was not to their liking.  Hymns in the morning are not what you'd expect I suppose.

Harriet's Birthday: 29th October 2010

Harriet and I ready to go out :-)
After opening her "presents" from me.

As a result of the party in London we arranged to go to visit Kirsten in Birmingham to celebrate Harriet's birthday.  I had completely forgotten that I met Harriet at the train station and made her wear the hat and badge all the way to Birmingham until I saw the photo on her Facebook.  She loved it, and she was given a beer by a train drunk as a present!  We had another great weekend together, drinking a lot of tequila and sharing many laughs with Kirsten and her Uni friends.   

Christmas 2010

Being 'Ladies who Lunch', the three of us would meet up, lunch (or sometimes dinner).  This time, however, Harriet invited us for a Christmas dinner at her house.  We would just talk, and talk, about the good, the bad and the ugly.  Harriet was one of those friends.  Even though our circumstances changed we would catch up on the emails and exchanges we'd had since the last time we'd physically seen each other.  Harriet always told me how proud she was of me and her other friends and I know she used "us" as inspiration for her travelling and her later projects.


During this time I always met Harriet to do something in my time back on the Island, or in London.  Like I said, meeting for coffee, writing CV's, eating lunch, going to museums etc, aren't really the things you take photo's of.  One weekend I stayed with her in her studio flat, we bumbled around the city with my Mum and one of my friends from Italy in tow.  We ended up stumbling across an art-show of Mr. Brainwash, one of the main street artists featured in Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop.  In the beginning of this showcase was the painting that we are photographed with in this post.  Life is indeed very beautiful, if you let it, and Harriet did.

New Years Day, January 1st, 2013

At the Folly

This is the last photo taken of something I did with Harriet, even though we met up many times after.  In this photo I was ridiculously excited about the fact I was eating fish and chips, award-winning fish and chips at that, as it's surprisingly not an Italian delicacy.  At this point in Harriet's life story there was a lot going on and I remember telling Kirsten how worried I was about her but also how she seemed a completely different person.  Since this photo was taken my suspicions had been confirmed and Harriet had a bit of a rocky start to 2013 that ended up leading to, what I view as, the most positive I'd seen her since I'd known her.  I know that Harriet managed to make many changes in her life since she took this picture that had a huge impact on her life and the life of others, she was 'on the up'.

29th October 2013

The last communication I had with her was on her birthday, two days before she died.  I'd actually messaged her just as an ordinary day, as I hadn't heard from her in a while.  Then after doing so, 2 hours later, I realised it was her birthday!!!  I sent her a message covering my error, spelling mistake and all.  I was planning on giving her her birthday present along with her Christmas present.  Ironically I've already bought the Christmas present and not the birthday present.

As my current phone wallpaper says: A good friend knows all your best stories, a best friend has lived them with you.  I'll miss living my stories with Harriet, I really will.

Having not returned to England yet, it still all seems a bit strange.  I have been taking comfort in knowing that Harriet was a success.  She was my encourager and yes, her death has left a huge whole in my life, but she has also left a reminder of how important courage and bravery are if you want to get somewhere.  Harriet was very good at seeing the beauty in her everyday surroundings, in the leaves, in the sky, in the sea, in the people, even on the tough days.  Everyone has their special people and when you lose one of those special people it's tough.  But Harriet has left me a legacy of positivity, a reminder to look at that sunset, and crunch those leaves :-)

Saturday, November 16

Strange Goings On... I go about my daily business.

It's a patchy-cloud-but-sunny-enough-for-my-sunglasses kind of Friday.  I'm cycling to work with a toaster rattling away in my basket, all set to toast the English muffins for snack time with my class.  I've managed to rattle my way to the other side of the river, over the bridge, across a roundabout when...I spy with my little it a bird?  Is it a plane?  Is it a parachutist...?  Maybe...maybe's something beginning with "F"'s a fish, a flying fish ladies and gentleman.  A fish - in the sky.  Not kidding.  It turned out to be a balloon.  If anyone reading this lost a fish balloon at around 12.45 Friday afternoon near Via Tiburtina in Pescara, it was heading towards the airport.

Then.  It's a patchy-cloud-but-sunny-enough-for-my-sunglasses kind of Friday.  I'm cycling to work with a toaster rattling away in my basket, I've just seen a flying fish when...I double check I'm not seeing something else ridiculous by removing my sunglasses..."That's weird."  I say out loud to the railway line to the right of me.  I put my sunglasses back on and flip them up and down over my eyes a few times whilst cycling.  There was definitely a rainbow in a cloud that I could only see when I had my sunglasses on AND it wasn't raining.  Mind boggling.

Moving on.  It's a patchy-cloud-but-sunny-enough-for-my-sunglasses kind of Friday.  I'm cycling to work with a toaster rattling away in my basket, I've just seen a flying fish and a rainbow that's only visible with sunglasses on when...I hear with my two ears...two things beginning with "H"...hint: by this time I'm really not far from the airport...

Helicopters.  Two.  Circling around the zone I work.  It reminded me a lot of when the Police spotter plane would be searching for someone in the woods near my house on the Island.  This time though one of the helicopters stopped.  Just hovered.  Hovering away for roughly 3 minutes.  It didn't budge and I got freaked out even more.

Thankfully I reached work not long after seeing the helicopters.  My colleague received a recount of all the strange happenings I'd seen in the sky which I'm sure she enjoyed.  I then proceeded to laugh my way through my lunch as I kept recalling the fish, the rainbow and the hovering helicopter.  We continue to this evening...

It's Saturday - 8pm.  I've been studying aaaaall day, immersed in educational theory and neuroscience, as you do.  I've been shouting at my computer for not being able to play DVD's and messing up the download of a DVD player...why Microsoft thought it was a good idea to make Windows 8 without a DVD player I don't want to know!  Anyway I'm in the foyer of a theatre waiting to be told to take my seat for a piano concert so I take the opportunity to read the programme notes.  As I start to read, I notice something that I find ridiculously peculiar, never-going-to-happen-again kind of thing.  The pianist is born on the same day, of the same month, of the same year as me.  FREAKY.  I waited at the end to tell her that too.  She thought I was a bit odd at first but then introduced me to her Mum stating the same thing...I felt a little bit like Joey on friends when he finds his hand twin, except without the singing.

And there we go.  Another random update as I bumble around between my various worlds.

Tuesday, November 5


If, like me, you've had one of those days where when someone asks "How are you?" your eyes glaze over then I thought I'd share some of my "short amusing or interesting stories about a real incident or person"...laughter is the best medicine and all that :-)

Anecdote number 1

It's Halloween, I am getting dressed, as a bat.  The taxi is waiting downstairs, my cousin and friend are ready.  I'm having a dilemma about what shoes to wear, ankle boots?  Heels?  Knee-length boots?...I go for the knee-length boots which gets me excited about being able to wear socks.  I unravel the socks, put them both on and then put my left boot on too.  But then...there's a sharp pain on my left foot, like there's cut glass in my shoe.  I assume that's what it is as not that long ago I did break a glass in my room.  So I take off the boot but spy a capsule shape in my sock...guessed what it is yet?...I take off the sock and...

...a wasp.

There was a wasp in my sock.  A wasp.  A WASP!

It was crushed with my trainer, mashed into the floor (tiled thankfully).  The taxi man didn't find the excuse for my lateness that funny, but I tried.

Anecdote number 2

Later that night I end up in a bar, still dressed as a bat.  My cousin and I are chatting separately from my friends and a bloke comes up to me.  Usual random conversation about how I am a bat...obviously...he continues chatting (only in Italian) and takes a shine to my cousin, proceeding to declare his love for her even though we clearly explained that she was married.  Next thing we know this guys friend is standing next to me, not just stroking my arm...but also the chest hair poking out of the top of his didn't help that this chap looked just like Austin Powers.  I am not kidding.  He even had dribble down his shirt...niiiiice.

Anecdote number 3

I am cycling home from work. Halfway home I feel that my bicycle resembles a boneshaker, jarring away underneath me.  Marvellous.  A flat tyre.  I proceed to walk the rest of the way home singing away happily to my iPod.  I love making myself purposefully look crazy.  Especially as Fyfe Dangerfield, The Cat Empire and Biffy Clyro are not normally songs that people sing loudly to here.  If they sing loudly at all....

Saturday, November 2

Life is beautiful

Today I found out a friend of mine, at the age of 28, died from a heart attack. 

My friends are my life line, always have been and always will be. 

If it hadn't been for another friend I would've found out this news through Facebook and I would not have been able to personally tell my other friend before she saw Facebook.   I know, as a Christian, that Harriet is not the one who is suffering but those she has left behind and so I just really hope, and pray, that all her friends and family have friends like I have: Friends that make life beautiful.  Friends that support and smile with you through the crap.  Friends that hate you for silly things but love you for the great.  Friends that put up with the nonsense that we put on ourselves.  Those kinds of friends.

So in light of this heart breaking news I have to thank you all.  My friends rock.

You kick arse Miss. Harriet Ward :-)
29/10/1985 - 31/10/2013

Wednesday, October 23


Yes I'm supposed to be studying but I just had to note these things down:

- reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell for my English A Level with Ms. Acton, was more influential for my career decisions and my views of education than I will ever understand.

- when I go to sleep, when I set foot in my room, shut the door and lay in bed...the baby downstairs WILL start crying.  This was proven the other night, with my housemate as a witness.

- Stephen Ball, although a very adept sociologist with smashing ideas, does not write in an audience friendly style.  i.e. a Laura friendly style.

- I love my job.  Including "stealing" playtime from the children because they didn't clean up :-)  Today my colleague and I played volleyball, and hoopla...all in 7 minutes...and the next time they cleared the toys away, boy were they thorough!

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, 'The essence of the second wave......' *yawn*

Sunday, October 20

A nutshell

I don't contact my brother that often but when I do I always find it very entertaining...

Today.  It wasn't so much as a "Sunday Funday" but a "Sunday none-day".  I do love Sundays yes.  But lately they have calmed down a lot.  This might be due to my choice to become a bit more involved in my church because a) a bit more focus on God never hurt fact the contrary does and b) it gives me less time to spend money and therefore save for my American adventure.

So this morning I went to church, came home, ate lunch, and then Skyped one of my good friends in America.  That was awesome.  Really awesome.  I love to know people are doing ok despite the struggles.  Oh, I also emailed a draft "itinerary" to my cousin for her pending trip to see me.  Very exciting.  Hmm...then I rang my American friend qho is in Pescara to see what she was up to.  Nothing.  She was doing nothing.  In fact when I turned up at her house there was a theme of "nothing" amongst her housemates...two of them were watching a documentary about timpani, the orchestral percussion.

So cue a trip to eat ice cream, people watching, or rather Italian watching, and a discussion about the finer things in life.  Turns out my friend doesn't have a theme song...just one for different moods.  However I favour Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" and have done since 2007.  It's easy to hum, or bumble, or bash out on the piano.  It's an uplifting number that slips easily into any activity and if you slow it down it can actually be quite melancholy, plus it can be repeated over, and over, and over...moving on...we did eat sushi, and dumplings, and fried things, and well...I ate a lot.  Unusual.

The disaster came when I returned home to discover I had lost my gloves.  However on checking the pockets of my coat I narrowed this statement down to "I have lost a glove.".  Luckily, thanks to my housemates suggestion, I decided to retrace my steps to find the glove.  I do love my gloves.  So when I found the glove on the pavement outside my house I couldn't Adam-and-Eve-it.  This was a momentous moment for me, my glove had returned!  My hands would once again treasure the warmth of the fleece lining and the smooth leather.  It made me a little sad to find my brother didn't share my excitement...

For some reason I always use the term "blud" when addressing my bro.  Urban Dictionary is a good reference for this 'endearing' expression...I am not Jamaican.

And that's all my news in a nutshell.  Cousin's coming to stay, Brother might come for a ski.  In the meantime I've got to practice the piano, study for my Masters, oh and teach children English. 

Saturday, October 19


Psalm 147:3

Many people around me at the moment are in a period of change. Things of the past are no longer functioning efficiently, for whatever reason, and so now friends, colleagues, people, are faced with decisions, big decisions.

I believe that we are all broken, and that only through faith, we are able to live completely, the idea of "enlightenment" if you like, living in a peace - a stillness - which (as a Christian) reflects God's love onto ourselves and others.  However, it is not until we accept our own brokenness that we are able to reach this stillness, this peace.  Somedays I think I've reached it, but normally not.  So I was surprised when my Masters study today touched on this idea whilst discussing 'Human Agency'...

I was asked to think of a situation in which I had been able 'act on the world purposefully'.  Then, in the commentary that followed this task, the Guide drew out a discussion that referred to the idea that there were others involved in this situation, like "enablers", who assisted you in that situation.

You can probably think of many instances where a quick word with someone whom you thought would know something helpful has enabled you to move forward. The key to such agentive experiences is connecting with what you do not know, knowing who does know and being proactive. It follows from this that a person can be prevented from acting or feeling able to act because of a lack of know-how or of knowing whom to connect with to get that know-how. 
The Open University, 2013, p. 27 

However, what struck me more than the idea of needing to reach out to others when you face something new, or when you are trying to move forward is that 'Understanding and having ownership of your goals are a key to knowing how to act and feeling able to act.' (The Open University, 2013, p. 27). 

Goals, i.e. to "fix" - correct or improve - something that is "broken" in our lives (lose weight, think positively etc), affect our everyday actions.  Goals can be achieved but they can also be changed, adapted, modified, erased completely or joined with someone else's on the route to achievement.  But, if you have no goals in the first place, what the hell do you do when you have to make a decision?  Time needs to be invested in securing the "ownership" of your goals, so that when a fork in the road appears in front of you, you can own the decision, and be able to live with the consequences, even if the chosen path turns out to lead you somewhere completely unexpected...but more importantly take the decision and the consequences as an opportunity for learning.

And that, folks, is my view of the "meaning of life" for today.  I'm pretty certain it will be different tomorrow!

The Open University (2013) E846 Study Guide, Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Tuesday, October 15

When the housemate's away...

So the housemate went to Naples and I...

...threw an amazing party?  No.
...burnt not only the house, but the apartment block down?  Nah.
...charged around like a "bull in a china shop" and broke everything?  Nope.
...changed the locks?  Hell no.
...didn't wash for the whole weekend and only wore my pyjamas?...this was tempting, but no.

Nope, I cooked up a storm in the kitchen.  Yes.  Three weeks of interchangeable meals all set and freezered for my lunches ahead!  Go ME!

Parmiggiana, it tastes better than it looks! (Aubergine, Tomato, Mozzarella, bit of Parmesan on the top)  Although the next time I have to leave the tomato sauce to thicken a bit more.

Aubergine, Pepper, Onion, Potato, and Courgette, all put together in a tray and shoved in the oven for an hour with a bit of oil.  Done.
Fried Chicken Strips, pretty plain but means they can be added to pasta, or one of the things included in this post!
Sort of Steamed Spinach, yummy!
Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan Quiche.

Ok, so I didn't cook this one, but look very carefully at the English Section, one word has not been translated correctly. ...everyone wants tasty insoles for their yummy feet!

Wednesday, October 9 offence intended

An article on Borracce di poesia has been written for the World Cycling Atlas, quite an important little article this one:

And yes it's in English, so yes, they are my translations of the awesome poems, in collaboration with Mr. Ricci of course ;-)

To continue on the bicycle theme I have been thinking a lot about the name of my new wheels.  As I stated I hope that I do not offend anyone in the following blog but I have made my decision.  There was a lot of deliberation and careful reflection involved, and discussions with many friends and family as to me this process is important.  Goodness knows what I'd be like if I ever have to choose the name of a real human being, I think I'd stick to Pickle ;-)

There were many suggestions so thank you to all of those who provided them.  In no particular order they were:

Mercedes Pakes
Lancia Pakes
Blu Scuro
Freccia Azzurra
(and there was one from my colleague but I cannot remember it so it can't have been suitable, sorry!)

As it happens I've chosen to combine two of the suggestions above as I feel that they add to the nature of my work and my aspirations to  and that the bike is in fact, blue.  So, without further ado, I hereby announce that the name of my new, secondhand bicycle is....drumroll....

Bikey Blu

Ta daaaaaaaaaaaaaa.  Thank you, thank you, thank you *cough*

Sunday, October 6

Suggestions please...

I am calling for your help.

Recently my bicycle and I (Azzurra) have been falling apart, rather than together.  Thanks to the new location for work and the fact she has to provide me with 40 minutes of cycling each work day, Azzurra decided she no longer wanted to maintain our relationship.

Thursday morning Azzurra began whirring, quietly at first, but by the evening she was not happy and the last 10 minutes of my ride home resembled a Spinning class.  My god, that bike packed some resistance!  Friday morning I stride on down to Il Biciclettaio and it gets fixed, the back wheel was rubbing against the frame, hence the resistance.  Thankfully I'd arranged a lift to work and back so bumbled off without any thought that there would be any more problems.  However, returning that evening from the ice-cream meeting with my friends, Azzurra's back wheel started wobbling precariously.  It was in such a manner that I refused to ride it but pushed it home from the station.  Honestly, at that point my world began crumbling down around my ears...what would I do without Azzurra?

Saturday was a busy day: meetings here, there and everywhere and all relating to work but there was the constant black cloud of Azzurra following me around.  In the late afternoon I finally had time to get her sorted.  Although strapped for cash - this is the first month I am officially "saving" for the big trip to America next year - I decide I have to sort out my bike so I ask Il Biciclettaio to quote me how much it would be to get Azzurra back to some sort of normality.  He looked at the back wheel and exclaimed it was ready to fall off...yeh...I'd figured that one out.  Anyway he said that the wheel would be €36 to replace and he knew that the brakes and the gears were buggered too....
see I told you...a basket!

Then I asked if he had a bike that I could buy now, and...yep.  He did: €80.  And this is where it was a little bit freaky.  I had to have a think.  I love Azzurra.  She has done well to serve me for over a year now and sometimes it's hard to part with things you've loved so I went outside to ring a friend to run the options past her.  Instead I saw a different friend literally standing on the pavement next to me...random!  I excitedly dragged her over to explain the situation and of course it was decided that the "new" bike was the best option, especially when Il Biciclettaio said he'd put on a basket...A BASKET!

At that news I declared the relationship between Azzurra and myself officially over, gave her a gentle kick and moved on.  Now, what the hell do I name this bike?!

Thursday, October 3

Englishness Part 3: Skittles

I was all set to do the Morris Dancers post...but alas the video would not upload so you've got skittles instead.  

I love this game.  I'm not entirely certain how "English" it is in general but to me it's English because we play this pretty much every Cricket Tour due to an actual game of cricket being rained off.  Like when I go bowling, sometimes I'm good and sometimes I'm not this is not me bowling, rather it is me taking the get the jist though!

Saturday, September 28

...mettendo tutto a posto

Putting everything in it's place

It's been one of those days.  I've actually stopped.  My housemate has been in and out of the house and I've not moved.  I even decided only to eat lunch.  No breakfast, no dinner, just lunch.  And why?

Well honestly, I've been doing ok, but things have just been chugging along like a steam engine.  I've been shovelling everything into the fire (eating, sleeping, exercising, a bit of studying, socialising etc) so I have been moving along the tracks but I've been pulling a few carriages of bad habits.  I've been ignoring the Masters carriage for example which is missing a few windows, and the money's covered in 8 months of grime and soot with some squeaky pivots thrown in for good measure.

And that's why today I stopped.  I've done some "me time".  A Spring clean, in Autumn, I suppose.  I've managed to read everything I can for the first week of my latest Masters course.  I've researched various things for work and established that my Twitter account is a good tool for keeping up-to-date with the...da da daaaa...News...and the developments in the Education world (mainly relating to the ridiculously massive gap that still exists between Policy and Practice).   That puts the windows back in the Masters carriage.

The Money carriage is not so easy to clean.  I've become really set on the American Adventure, determined is the right word, and I know that the only way I can afford to go is if I just STOP SPENDING.  It's a very simple concept, the best one that there is, and really the only one.  However it is not one that can be solved without a bit of 'mind over matter', a bit of elbow grease.  Thanks to keeping track of every penny that I have earned and spent since December last year, I know that my social life is the biggest "unnessecary" expense that I have: eating out 5 times a week is a bit excessive after all.  I'm now restricting myself to once in the week and once at the weekend.   Done.

Then there's the "misc" purchases I tend to pick up here, there and everywhere.  I can no longer rationalise the need for a new pair of shoes unless others break (which is why I can get these, or these, or maybe these...), nor can I buy chocolate because I've had a tough day, rather I need to wait til I get home and eat the chocolate I ration in the fridge.  You see, what really gets me is that I have all these things to help me with my finances set-up: a budget for everything, a tracker on my iPod for said budget and, most importantly, a box of chocolate in the fridge for emergencies, oh, wait no, I mean a decent enough, regular income.  It's just I don't use these things to help me.

Now it's time to put theory into practice.

Tuesday, September 24

A confession

Two of my closest friends in Italy...are American.

There.  I said it.  And it feels good to off-load such a weighted statement.  For me anyway.

Before moving to Pescara I was not an America fan.  All the movies, all the loud shouty hip-hop music or the Diva culture, and then there's Jersey Shore, and Southpark, and other things that, in my eyes, tinged my view of "America".  Sure.  I love loads of the American series that make it out of America, you know, Friends, New Girl, The Big Bang Theory, oh and my all time fave, Monk.  But I moved to Pescara with the stereotype that Americans are crass, white teethed, loudly spoken, normally correct and therefore stubborn, either completely dumb or ridiculously nerdy, weight-obsessed on either end of the paradigm, who go on holiday with cameras round there necks and baseball caps glued to their head with massive sunglasses asking silly questions to tourists guides which annoys everyone else.  Yeaaaaah.  My actual personal experience of "America" is pretty limited and therefore...stereotypical.

Anyway.  I'm not saying that my American friends here don't have amazing teeth...they do...and as a result I now floss regularly(ish).  But everything else sort of doesn't match.  This proves, yet again, that stereotyping is always something can close doors and not open them.  I say this because by befriending some, once dreaded, "Americans" I will not go to England next August, but go on a three week American adventure.  If the parents can do it, I can.

My plan is to city hop (well, state hop) to visit the friends I've made as they'll all be in America in August too.  That way I'll experience "their" Americas that they talk about on nights out here.  It means I'll pop into Colorado, bumble around Chicago and hopefully celebrate my "golden" birthday (my 28th birthday on the 28th) in New York.  Plus, with all the influence from my American friends here, by then I'll be calling jumpers-sweaters, trousers-pants and may have even finally acknowledged what top a tank top is...

Just got to complete the Masters and save money...

Sunday, September 15

I did it!

And it only took me three and a half months!

Oh yeh.  I passed my level A2 Italian exam...woop, go me!

Thursday, September 12

Borrace di poesia, again!

I'm a translating poet, and I definitely know it!

I am still proud to be helping a friend with his project.  As I've explained before, Borracce di poesia combines two of my favourite things: poems and cycling.  Since living in Pescara my bicycle and I have conquered the World (well the World of Pescara).  I now have a commute of 20 minutes to work everyday rather than just for the Summer School in July and I cycle 40 minutes to church on Sundays.  I'm definitely getting my daily forty minutes of "cardio" as kindly pointed out by one of my friends.  I'm pretty certain I won't be so happy about this when it's pissing down with rain, snow, sleet and hail that always seems to commence coincidentally at 18:30 when I finish work.  Sundays I cycle to church which is 40 minutes away, although I have been known to do it in 25 minutes thanks to Azzurra's incredible time warping skillz.  Anyway...let me get to the point...

Borracce is off to Vienna again for the cycling festival Radkult.  As a result I've been busy translating some additional poems for this new adventure.  Even though it's "work" it is something I really enjoy doing as there's the challenge of ensuring the imagery and sense is not lost but is repeated in a stand alone English version of the quatrain.  It's one of those things that I get really engrossed in as quite often, because it seems Italian words often have more syllables than English words, I get caught up with whether or not a "the" is needed, or if there is a two syllable word to describe the wind.  I do look a bit ridiculous when I'm counting the syllables by dropping my jaw onto my fingers..."tyre" (or "tire" if you're American) was particularly confusing.  I decided it's only one syllable after reading a ridculously long forum argument about it.

So if you happen to be in Vienna this weekend, head on down to listen to the readings of the latest poems and grab yourself a water-bottle.  Personally, I'm waiting for the t-shirt of this poem to be printed  :-)

Saturday, September 7

Being back...

I will eventually put up all the things I did in my 'English Summer', but until then...

So.  It's been almost two weeks since I've been back and I can't help thinking about how I felt when I left Pescara for England.  It really doesn't feel like over a month ago.  If I'm perfectly honest it doesn't feel like I was in England at all but I was and in that time away from Pescara things definitely changed.  It's not the same being back, the things I left have all been a bit shook a caff√® shakerato.

I don't mean things changed you know, in that I returned to a completely different place.  The sun is still shining, people still walk ridiculously slowly around the centre staring into shop windows.  It's just that there are subtleties that have...well...moved on I guess.  And that's what I've been struggling with lately, the slow undercurrents of movement.  Especially as, at this time of year, things naturally end and begin.

My career, my Masters, my friends, my own personal perspective on those things.  What I want to do, what I want to be, where I want to be, why I want to do it, why I want to be it...things that all seemed so clear and certain and hot out of the coffee machine before I went to England has been been put in a mixer with some rock hard ice cubes and shaken.  Violently. 

In a way it is exciting that I'm living in a place that allows this sort of natural transition but it's tough to come to terms with those subtleties that once felt so, grounded.  Thankfully, I've brought back from England a new bible study so this morning I turned my focus back round to the one and only thing that really is secure, the one thing that really is not going anywhere :-)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139: 23-24 NKJV

Monday, August 26

Englishness Part 2: Pubs

I've returned to Pescara.  I've eaten ice cream and I've seen my friends, so the all is right in the world of Laura once again!

Pubs - for me - are an important part of my English lifestyle, and are also important within a community, especially coming from a village on a small island.  My village has three pubs.  Well three pubs and a restaurant.  And it depends on where you live, and what you do in the village as to which pub you go to.  And that's generally how it is in my experience...everywhere.

The local whilst on cricket tour
(although really
it's a members club)
Sports Teams of all kinds (like cricket teams for example) have their pub; work places have theirs; most social groups and groups of friends have a regular pub they meet in; my Grandma has her pub; my Mum has hers and my Dad has his (yes they are different).  These pubs are referred to as the/your 'local', the place where if someone says "They're down the pub...." it's the place they'll be...the nearest pub to wherever the 'event', whether it be cricket ground, book club or house, is.  But this Summer I didn't go to my local(s) as often as I would've done if I wasn't currently battling with my end-of-module-assessment for my Masters.  Drastic times.

The local where I used to live in London, well I had two, had really good food and were pretty chic, gastropubs you might say.  However the two locals I frequent on the Island are of an older style, still good food but typical 'pub grub'.  In one there's the chance to play a bit of pool, or maybe darts.  Or perhaps watch the old guy fall asleep at the bar, if that tickles your fancy.  In the other local I always seem to be there for the folk groups practise with their violins and strummed guitar chords.  Sometimes I've eaten free chips because the Bridge group were low in numbers, and we've had to stop our conversations before to wait for the cyclists with their cycling shoes to clip-clop off of the floorboards.

I cycled here with a friend
for an impromptu lunch
The Pub for the
Axbridge Cricket Team
Either way, for me, a pub is a place to socialise and put the world to right.  To eat and drink yes, but more importantly meet people and natter.  I might head out to a pub that I haven't been to before for a catch-up with a friend I haven't seen in a while.  Or I might join my brother and his cricket team to reflect on the day's play.  Or perhaps I'll sit with my Mum and my Godmum to hear the latest news on the bees and their swarms.

Pubs.  Just good round places to sit, relax and have a chinwag.  End of.

Sunday, August 11

Bicycle Shenanigans

To interrupt the English series, I realised I never got round to uploading the following post about when my friend came to stay in mid July...oh what fun we had!

I'm not sure what my friend was expecting when she came to stay for six nights but I'm pretty certain she wasn't expecting to enjoy riding a bicycle quite so much...

Wednesday, August 7

Englishness Part 1: Cricket

I have recently returned to England where I am spending the majority of August studying for the last essay of my current Masters module.  However for five days I was on cricket tour.  Those of you who know me personally will know just how big this event is for me.  It has been a stable fixture of my calendar for...eight years (because I have eight tour shirts) and it's a weekend that I know will consist  It is a form of escapism for me: on tour I see people I only see on tour and so the only thing we have to talk about is the tour!  All the stuff that's occurred in the year between tours only matters if it affects your ability to partake in the tour.  The fact I flew in from Italy hardly got mentioned, conversations about our lives outside of Cricket Tour went something like "So, how's it going?"..."Yeh, good thanks." and that was that.  Bliss.  

However this year I noticed that the weekend was like a checklist of things that are "English" so I am going to do a series of blog posts focusing on these particular things: things I see as being traditionally "English".  They of course may be very different from your view of what "English" is...if that's the case, write your own blog about it!

Part 1: Cricket

It would be really, really silly if I didn't start with Cricket.

I got off the plane at 18:05 in Bristol.  My Mum met me in arrivals at 18:45 and by 19:20 I was scoring a Cricket game.  Bish, bash, bosh!

I'm not going to go into the nitty-gritty of the rules of Cricket, that would be annoying and ridiculously boring for the majority of readers, but basically two teams of 11 players try and get the most "runs" in a specified limit (in a certain amount of time, in a certain amount of balls etc).  One team bats whilst the other fields and then they swap over.  The team batting are trying to get as many runs as possible - a "run" is a point scored by running from one wicket to the other (the wicket consists of three vertical sticks with 2 smaller sticks on top, called bails).  The team fielding are trying to stop the batting team getting runs, ideally by getting the batters "out" as quickly as possible.  Normally a batter gets out by:

a) being caught
b) being stumped
c) being run out
d) being bowled
e) leg before wicket (lbw)

...but according to this explanation there are 10 ways to get out, all of which are explained further if you want to have a gander.

I like the game because it's got everything and everything has it's place.  There are times to excel as an individual and times to work as a team.  It can be serious and elitist but it can be light-hearted and hilarious.  It's an inclusive sort of game, there's "something for everyone": batting, bowling, throwing, catching, running (and standing still) on the pitch, and scoring off the pitch.   Being able to catch a ball successfully is just as important as being able to throw accurately, or hitting the ball really far.  It can be very slow, but it can also be fast-paced.  Trust me, when I'm scoring, if I take my eye off the game, all hell can break loose and I've got no idea what's going on resulting often in a score book covered in tippex, which happened on the Friday when I had issues with my phone.

The first game we played on Thursday against Axbridge
I'm not an avid follower in terms of following a particular team like some people are with football teams but I am going to watch the 2nd day of the last test match of the Ashes at the Oval on he 23 rd August.  The Ashes is a tournament between England and Australia that's been held ever other year since 1882, here's the wiki link if you really want to know more!

Sunday, July 28

I'm tired, but isn't everybody...

I'm really tired.  Tired in the sense that I've not been sleeping because I'm that tired.  Tired of this place, tired of the heat, tired of people, tired of things taking twice as long as they should.  Tired of working, tired of studying, and tired with tiredness making everything seem, well, tired.  In fact, apart from the moon, there are not many things that I am not tired of.  Maybe the piano...I never tire of the piano.  Oh and God, but that's a-given.

Perhaps it's because I set high expectations of myself and then, as a result, I have to break myself a little bit to meet that expectation.  My "holiday" that's coming up, the 25 days I have in England, consists of 10 days of "holiday", the first and last 5 days, (which, as a bonus, are both centered around cricket).  The rest, 15 days, I will be studying my arse off and then socialising with those I love so dearly on the island, as a reward for all the studying I've done.  The carrot-on-a-stick method.  The only way I function.

Recently, knowing that I'm going back for a bit has been what's kept me going.  Returning to a place where my history is, where I can say things like, "Remember that time when..." and not be talking about last week - my heritage, as it were.  I'm excited to be seeing the faces of the people that are in my scrapbook.  The one I started when I was 16.  To hear what they want to tell me, the selection of information that's accrued over the last 4-8 months, depending on when I last saw them.  Oh and to see the new babies, who now aren't so new, and the new houses that have now been lived in for a year.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my life in Pescara but right now it's time to recharge my Englishness.

I forgot.  Ice-cream.  I'm not tired of ice-cream.

Sunday, July 14

"It's been a good day...

...because I burnt my bum cheeks" is quite possibly the best summary of a day I've heard of in a while.

It's been a day of: floating in the sea; sitting and sort of studying on the beach; discovering an amazing ice cream parlour with dark chocolate gelato to die for; napping; honing my Italian fashion know-how; being told twice that I speak Italian well; following strangers to toilets without a queue; and the introduction of Japanese iced tea.  But best of all it was the day we sorted out where we are to explore tomorrow in a hire car thanks to the very detailed instructions from an Uncle and his nephew whilst devouring crepes at 3:30am.  

Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, July 10

Ralph McTell

I'm not really sure where to start...there's a lot I'd like to write today.

So.  I was reading back some of my blog posts the other day.  I found myself laughing at myself as I relived some of the ridiculous things that I've done since living in Pescara.  From the confusion between hat and onions in the first few months here to skiing, with the crashing and the rolling and the split trousers.  Plus after all the ice cream I've eaten (which is a lot more than I've blogged!) it really is amazing I have lost weight.  Then there was my Christmas in Naples: my first Christmas away from home and my family and my biggest, in terms of attendees, to date., that's where I'll start.

I don't have a big family, not in the Italian way of "big" anyway.  My blood relatives are pretty sparse, which actually contradicts the jokes my good school friends (OBG) used to have about how many cousins I have.  I have no "blood" first cousins.  I do have step-cousins from my Uncle's last marriage and some very awesome second cousins.  That's probably where the idea I have so many cousins came from, because families get broken and families get fixed.  Families get bigger and families get smaller...

This morning I received an email.  It was from my Mum.  She's bought tickets for a concert, to see Ralph McTell.  This singer is one of my Mum's favourites, he did Streets of London and this really awesome album of animals that I love called "Alphabet Zoo".  He's a folk singer, with a knack for story songs.  His songs, along with Simon and Garfunkel were the "car soundtrack" as Mum drove my brother and I around the island as kids, probably trying to make us shut-up.  Anyway.  My Mum's email made me cry.  I know it wasn't meant to but it did.  She wrote about how McTell was one of my Uncle's favourite singers too,  I use "was" because my Uncle died in September 2009.  My family has been getting smaller over the years: death outweighs birth.  I was going to illustrate this with a diagram, but then I realised that would have been depressing.

Without dwelling on such morbidity my Mum linked a particular song to the email "Jesus Wept" and this morning it struck me as strange that, in this moment, where I am now, my Mum sends me that song.  As far as I know I am the only member of my family who is a "practicing" Christian.  My definition of "practicing" is quite simple: I read and meditate on the bible and try and put what I read into practice.  I cannot say whether or not I am the only Christian in my family as I don't know my other family members beliefs, it's not something we talk about, but I'd say the majority are agnostic with a sprinkling of atheism.

Argh, I need to get to the point.  Basically, all my bible readings, the church sermons, conversations with my Christian friends and friends alike have been pointing towards doing one thing: cutting away my limits.  This can be represented by an image of a hot air balloon, with sand bags weighing it down, and then cutting off the sand bags so that the balloon soars through the air.  My limits have been deadlines mainly, imposed on myself: leave Pescara September 2014, no dating til 22nd December 2013, do this by that time, complete I've cut them all away, and now I'm soaring :-)

...but what does that have to do with the song my Mum sent?

The song, building upon the shortest verse in the bible, John 11:35 NKJV, takes the idea that Jesus knew about everything that was going to happen after his death (and consequent resurrection).  As a practicing Christian I believe that God, in all three manifestations, knows everything about me and my life, everything: the mundane, the excitement, the unknown and everything in-between, what has happened, what I am now, and what is to come and if I focus on that then everything will just......happen.  But not just happen, happen in a way that is more than I could ever expect.  By believing that, so far, has made my journey both rocky but rewarding.  I've never wanted just a nice life and have always lived by silly sayings, writing "I'll find out when I get there" and "A nuclear war can ruin your day" on my high school back pack, and scrawling bible verses on my hand, just to make sure that every decision I make is the best decision for that moment, no matter how big or small.  Of course I get it wrong but heck, that's life!

Tonight I go to see Jovanotti, an Italian singer, both loved and hated over here.  If you'd told me one year ago I would be so excited about going to see him I'd have laughed in your face and told you swiftly that I had no intention of spending €50 on a ticket but that his video for La notte dei desideri was quite good.  If he doesn't do the 'spinning-around-and-hand' move tonight, I'm asking for my money back.

Saturday, June 29

Chips and houmous...

...have been replaced.

I've got a friend coming to visit and I'm really excited.  For a while I was planning on hiring a car, driving around Abruzzo for the weekend she's here but then I decided not to.  The main reason, apart from my usual lack of money, is that what has become "normal" to me is going to be...interesting...for her, I just feel it in me bones!

For example.  I lived "in" London for roughly three years.  In those three years I stayed in the same area, going out in the same zone, visiting the same bars/pubs etc on the regular nights out.  Of course I did go further afield for the odd special occasion, but the places I'm talking about here are the Friday night haunts the, "Hooray it's the weekend but I'm too tired after the week to really go too far from my house..." kind of nights.

In Battersea, sometimes a Friday night would consist of dinner at one of the local pubs.  Or if we were feeling adventurous it might even have been cocktails at Clapham Common, although I think that was more likely on a Saturday.  If, on the rare occasion I was feeling particularly...erm...drunk...there was, and still is, Infernos.  Open til 3am for a bit of dancing...and drinking...if one didn't mind the sticky floor and £10 entrance fee.  I used to hate the nights someone would say "Let's go to Infernos..." but by the end of the evening I would be loving it and as a result I have many fond memories of that place: toilet dogs, and fancy dress cows, Jagerbombs, and bog trolls, and that one time a man drank the drink I'd just paid for so I took his wallet and used his money to pay for another one, I could go on...but basically it was a place to "let go" of the hell of a week that had unfurled, or celebrate something, or just because there was no where else to go when the bars shut...

Anyways, my point is that on deciding to return home we would get food.  My favourite late night feast being chips and houmous from the kebab shop by the bus stop.  Nothing beat chips and houmous-literally a takeaway box of chips with a good two or three dollops of houmous, amazing!  It was my bid to fight off the effects of the amount of alcohol I had consumed the next day...sometimes it worked.

For me here the concept is roughly the same: Friday night I meet friends at the same place in the centre before moving somewhere else for dinner/drinks however, instead of the pub or average cocktail bar, we're talking beach bars as Summer's here...or at least was until yesterday.  No sticky floors but sand.  Then, when it comes to the end of the night, and we're not just talking Fridays and Saturdays but whenever (the joy of starting work at 1.30pm)...after having drank one pint of beer cocktail, having danced under the moon and the stars in a much more reserved manner to what I really am capable of (to music I've never heard before, that I don't know the words to and that's just not Bryan Adams, no Journey, no Baywatch...*sigh*), it's all about a cornetto: a cornetto being a croissant, not the ice-cream!

My favourite late night cornetto is with white chocolate even though the chocolate usually ends up on my chin, top, scarf, trousers, nose, basically everywhere.  Last night was no exception...I ate two from two different places!  At the first place we went to we literally stood in the back doorway of a bakery, with delivery boxes around us, whilst we watched a guy prepare the cornettos.  Totally random but totally fitting with the other unpredictable and sometimes down-right ridiculous things that I find myself doing in Pescara.  Who'd have thought there could be a black-market for cornetto, hilarious!  Sometimes there are no words...

Monday, June 17

3 birds...

...1 stone, score!

I took the reading/writing and listening sections of my Italian test today.  I'm feeling quietly confident.  I mean, I completed the reading/writing part in one hour with one hour left.  When the invigilator noticed me joining up all the little dots on the front of the test paper she handed me a sheet of A4.  It was very kind of her as I was then able to spend the rest of the 45 minutes mind-mapping the observations I need to take for my Masters and I was able to note down the reasons why a mini-ethnographic approach is appropriate to investigate my research focus of a sociocultural paradigm.

Tomorrow morning I have the spoken part of the exam.  We've not had so much practice of that in the lessons but we do get a bit of time to prepare before hand.   It's a busy week!

Ah yeh, forgot to add that during the listening test we had CD player issues and had to re-listen to some of the exam because it kept skipping or going ridiculously fast like when a tape would be nearing it's end in the tape player.  At points I couldn't stop grinning at the hilarity.  Classic.

I should probably listen to some thing 'Italian' rather than update my blog in English, erm......

Tuesday, June 11

Bananas and cottage cheese... I love, one I hate.

My Mum.  She had a birthday at the weekend so happy birthday Mum!  I know she had a tip-top weekend as I Skyped the gathering of people at our house where the usual hilarity of trying to position the laptop in a place where a) I can see all of them, and b) they can see me, ensued.  This time round, "I", as in the laptop, was placed on the fridge.  Big deal you say, but Mum and Dad have a fridge/freezer tower that I can't see on top of without standing on a chair.  It made me think of Holly, the on-board computer in Red Dwarf, an English TV series, who is just a head on a computer screen that is a bit....senile but clever.  Maybe next time I'll wear my red top so that I blend into the red wall of my room so that I am in fact a "floating head"!

Anyway, bananas.  I hate bananas.  I just thought I'd share that with you.  Nowadays I pretty much eat anything except particular types of fruit, bananas being one of them.  My Mum, and Dad for that matter, probably hates the fact that as an adult I am quite happy to eat everything except fruit as when I was a child I was a fussy eater.  At one point I didn't even like sandwiches...SANDWICHES!!  I am now trying to combat my dislike of bananas and every day that we have bananas for snack at school I eat a tiny bit.  Yesterday was a revolution, I didn't feel like spitting it out.  That's not to say I liked it but it's a step in the right direction.  I heard somewhere that you have to eat something you don't like twelve times in order to "get the taste for it".  That's a lie.

Cottage cheese on the other hand was, for many years, my staple Friday food at my Grandma's house.  Ironically I ate ham and cottage cheese sandwiches every Friday evening.  My reason for bringing that up is yesterday I impulse-bought a tub of the Italian version of cottage cheese - fiocchi di latte - and proceeded to eat the whole thing with a spoon.  Turns out I'm still a fan of cottage cheese...though when it's got pineapple in that's a big no-no.  I don't think I'll ever like pineapple.  Or raspberries.  Raspberries are sheer evil *shudders*

Saturday, June 1

Cycling without hands...

...any tips greatly appreciated ;-)

Lying in bed last night I heard the familiar sound of my friend the mosquito.  There have been two in my room for a few days now and they just don't seem to want to give up.  So.  I killed one of them.

In fact I was very cunning in the deed.  I used the light of my mobile phone to lure the winged fiend to the white part of the wall near my bed.  I then stayed very still and waited.  BAM.  My self defence/kick boxing/karate lessons have actually come in use for something.  I hit the wall so hard I'm certain my housemate, if she had been in, would have definitely woken up.  And the mosquito?  Splatted nicely.  I cleaned up the poor critter with a tissue and it's now in my bin.  Huzzah!  One down, one to go.  Mosquito numero due, you have been warned.

I move on to elaborate on my latest work in progress: cycling with no hands.  This task it seems, is impossible.  But I know, thanks to Luke 1:37, that I will achieve it and be able to cycle the length of the bridge that I often take to and from work without holding the handlebars.  It's ruddy hard and as yet I've not beaten 5 seconds so I am pretty far from the skills of the guy I saw cycling without his hands the other day: he took a tissue out of his backpack and blew his nose!  Incredible.

Tuesday, May 21

Garlic seems to be....

...working in my fight against mosquitoes.

I went to a party the other night.  It was a particularly good party as the main ingredients for a party, except jelly, was there: friends, dancing, social hilarity, ice-cream (but no jelly as stated even though I have some Rowntrees jelly in my cupboard, doh!), a ruddy good cheesecake and grissinini, my new favourite party snack (and yes Italian speaking people I know the name is grissini but these were really thin breadsticks!) and everything a good party entails.  It was for two very good friends of mine and it was a party with a three-fold meaning: a 'moving out' party, a 'it was my birthday yesterday' party, and a 'it's my birthday in 2 days' party...a very clever ploy indeed.  Never mind killing two birds with one stone, but three!

Moving on this party another friend of mine was bitten by mosquitoes pretty badly.  In fact so badly one could've mistaken the bites as being from a vampire mosquito, or of a jungle boy's dart shooter, or something similar found only in the Amazon...I then proceeded to babble on about garlic, poor friend.

At least five times a week, with my breakfast, I've eaten a clove of garlic chopped up like I explained here.  Currently I have three mosquito bites, two of which are from two weeks ago (I scratched them pretty badly *tut* *tut*) and one from last night.  This is a very different story to what was occurring to me last year when my legs were constantly covered in bites.  The fact that I did not get bitten by the vampire mosquito/jungle dart at the party suggests that I'm doing something right and as the garlic is really the only thing I've changed I'm not going to stop dicing and swallowing a clove every morning now.

And of course, as my housemate said, garlic can also act as a "man repellent" therefore eating garlic every morning is two-fold: it's beating the mosquitoes and helping me with my 'no dating til 22nd December 2013' promise at the same time!  Hooray for 'multi-fold' events like parties and garlic.

Friday, May 10

A new level!

I answered the phone at work today!  It's only taken a year and a half but I finally did it and I am proud of myself.

I have a small fear of answering the phone.  It's not that big of a fear, hence using the word 'small', but at my second Saturday job, at the ripe old age of 16, I used to refuse to answer the phone.  Literally walking away from it.  Then the other staff members cottoned on after about 6 months and would coax me into it. 

Anyway.  Today I answered the phone at work and I managed to say all of:

Buona sera, nido √® chiuso...sono di Serendipity...Arrivederci. 
(Good Evening, Serendipity...the nursery is closed...I am from Serendipity...Bye Bye)

Score!  Fear faced....NEXT!

Thursday, May 2

The count begins...

The mosquitoes are back in town people and so far I've got six bites on my left leg and three on my right. 

This year I AM NOT going to scratch them...nope.  I have an electrocuting device that my friends gave me for Christmas.  You literally electrocute the bite a few times as 'pain relief'.   Oh and for a deterrent I am going to eat a clove of garlic everyday...anything is worth a try!

Now garlic wise, I've eaten a whole clove before and it wasn't pleasant.  However I've been advised that if you shell the clove, cut it lengthways, take out the middle bit, cut the halves length ways again and dice it into really small pieces you can then make it into a "tablet" to swallow in one go and therefore avoid the garlic odour that I know so well.  N.B. I advise everyone against making garlic soup unless you live on your own in the middle of nowhere.

I'm going to beat the little bitey critters, oh yes I am, even if I have to resort to my stealthy karate/self defence moves!

Sunday, April 28

Saturday night at the "Charlton's"...

...who cares what pictures we see...

This Saturday included baking yummy cheesecake and a lawn assessment. 

And so...e I am sitting "in" the Starbucks at Stansted's departures area I am skint and unsure of my "big plan" but I am happy.  I have spent the weekend with my closest friends, a "retreat" as it were.   Nothing quite beats a good chin wag, putting the world to rights and sharing opinions with those who you feel truly "at home" with and loved (the cooking, baking and shopping at Tesco were welcome bonuses).  I wish everyone finds friends like I've found with the Charlton's.

I feel I have climbed another step, albeit a rather small one, in this years quest to become as my perspective on life, the universe and all that is contained there-in, is being pushed, pulled, stretched and moulded.  Oh yeh, that and the fact I was baptised spontaneously at the church my friends go to.  Just a little reminder that:

  ...with God nothing will be impossible.   Luke 1:37

Saturday, April 20

Be Strong. Be Brave. Be True. Endure.

There's a little book I remember that I have buried in all my possessions that remain on the Island.  It's a book that I kidnapped from my Mum's childhood bedroom and within it I remember this verse:
I love my friend and the reason why is he is he and I am I.
I don't know where it comes from but this verse "pops" into my head on various occasions.  All my friends are awesome but they are all very different.  They have their own successes and struggles and I am always very grateful when I witness a struggle turn into a success.  One such event was last night when I attended my friend's celebration for completing a PhD.  As all others battling through a thesis, they literally spent hours upon continuous hours thinking and doing stuff for that one goal.  It was awesome to see them enjoying the company of those that had been supportive through the struggles and many, many sleepless nights.

Another friend keeps a blog, with the same title as this blog post, and in it they are so honest and frank about their experiences.  At times I've been mentioned and I've found their comments about me the most open and descriptive I have ever read.  I've since copied and pasted the comments into a document so I can re-read them when I am in the midst of my own struggles.  However I find it strange because they have written mainly about something I tend not to blog: my journey as a Christian.

With some of my friends I've not talked about my faith, ever.  It's not because it's not something I don't enjoy talking about, quite the contrary, but I don't like provoking conversations that could make others feel uncomfortable.  I'm certain all of my friends know that I am a "Christian" however with that there is the image linked to that label.  This image depends on the individual and their cultural, historical and social experiences of a word, so, for example, the stereotypes and generalisations of "being a Christian" I meet here in Italy are of a different nature to those I meet in England, even between fellow followers of Christ.

The word of my year, of 2013, is becoming.  Of course I know there is no realistic "end product", I'm not going to wake up on the 1st of January 2014 having "become" but I'm taking this year to learn to be satisfied with being myself in the present.   Some areas of my life have more structure to help me with this, like studying for a Masters and my "no dating until the 22nd December 2013" promise, whereas other areas are more about my ability to: "Be Strong.  Be Brave.  Be True.  Endure."

*This promise was made on the 22nd December 2012 due to a series of videos, by the Christian preacher Andy Stanley, on 'The new rules of Love, Sex and Dating'.

Tuesday, April 16

When in Rome... tiramisu sitting on the Spanish Steps.

I spent the weekend in Rome and it was definitely a calm before the storm: there's nothing like a good chatter with friends and meeting lovely people to remind one why one is doing what one is doing.  Now I have to get my "eyes down" and get stuck in to design frames, research paradigms and research questions which are congruently connected in a transparent fashion...or not.

To summarise the goings-on in one phrase I have to say it was a weekend from "the sublime to the ridiculous": there was eating tiramisu on the Spanish Steps with a good friend; there was a picnic in the park; there was a scantily clad girl climbing a tree: there were flowers everywhere; there was sunshine; there were good friends and new friends; there was a silent grand piano and a music shop; there was an art hotel and a garden hotel; there was hot chocolate and chocolate cake; there were old buildings; there was aperitivo; there were strawberries and well...I could carry on but I'm losing myself in a day-dream.

One could almost say I loved Rome...but that would be going to far.  I'll have to go back and see what I think fourth time round!