Easter Anomolies, Moving House and the Rip-off Notaio…

Ciao!

Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter!). Good news this week – I’ve found an apartment to rent! It’s in Falconara – which is a bit further north than I am now, just past Ancona. It’s closer to the airport but also unfortunately closer to a massive oil refinery. It’s been such a challenge finding anything suitable. This place has two bedrooms, is ok decorated, has three balconies and is a couple of minutes walk from the beach. It seems like a lively enough area which might make a nice change. However, I’m so sad to be leaving Camerano. It’ll have been my home for almost a year and there’s so much about it that I love. In summer it’s fantastic with things to do and weird traditions (see The Big Tray Race post), the view is fantastic and it’s close to all the places I like. Alas, there are new students coming into the language school here so it’s time to make space for them.

The Big Move Date is 2nd May. So now I’ve found somewhere the stress is off a little but a new string of bureaucracy will start! Every time you move, you need to tell the Comune where you’re moving to (I’m going to place a bet that it will take at least 2 months and 7 visits to fill out the necessary paperwork)!

The other exciting news of course is that it’s Easter! So I’ve discovered some things about Easter over in here in Italy:

  • The kids have a disappointing number of days off. They don’t have 2 weeks off like in the UK. They have 4 school days off. RUBBISH! And they don’t have half terms. They do, however, have a seemingly endless summer holiday (from the end of May to something like mid September). I’m not sure whose approach I like best. It’s nice to have a proper break in the summer but it does seem a bit relentless during term time.
  • The Easter eggs are not wrapped for efficient packing. They’re all in these big wrappers – they look quite glamorous but they’re expensive! Seem to start from around 6 Euros.
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There were aisles and aisles of these… Very impressive display but see what I mean about the packaging?

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This is the one I wanted…

  •  On the Thursday before Good Friday, and I’m not sure if this is just Ancona or whether it spreads further afield, but there seems to be a tradition to visit an odd number of churches (not just one – I checked!). Having said that, I couldn’t find any information about it and I was teaching my adult group unfortunately so didn’t get a chance to experience this one.
  • On Good Friday, something odd happened! Everyone put candles on their balconies and then just after 10pm, there was a procession of people singing a very mournful song along the streets. Quite moving really. I saw on the news that they’d done a similar thing in Rome led by the Pope so I assume that might be a “thing” across Italy.
  • They call Easter Monday “La Pasquetta” – means “little Easter”. Cute!

 

RIP Off Merchant / Notaio

I have other good news this week. I had an offer accepted on a house in Portsmouth so that seems to be going ahead, albeit at a snail’s pace.  I had to get my identity confirmed by a solicitor or a notary (notaio). For that, they needed to fill in a one page form and sign a photocopy of my passport. A whopping 5 minutes work. So I eventually found a notaio that could speak English (my local one refused on the basis that she couldn’t sign off an English document if she didn’t understand it), in Osimo. I asked how much this would cost and she said “just come along and we’ll discuss it”. So they led me into a room and then the Notaio came in, signed off the bits of paper and then said “that’ll be 120 Euros please”. 120 Euros. I could fly back to the UK and get the thing signed off by my own solicitor for less!!! I haven’t paid them yet. On moaning about the extortionate price, he did drop it down to 100 Euros. That’s 20 Euros a minute. I should totally become a Notaio.

Teaching

Well, I’ve been taught a lesson in responsibility this week. My actions have come back to haunt me. I had no idea that by calling in sick or going on holiday, that it meant I didn’t actually get out of going to work and that I had to make up the time! It’s not like calling in sick at my old work – they never made me go in on a Saturday or at Christmas to make up for it!!! This depressing turn of events unfortunately means I have to make up 2 hours with the Class of Evilness. Ugh. UGH.

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Not ALL the kids at school are evil though… :-)

What’s a bit odd?

Last week I mentioned about some of the challenges of finding a house to rent/buy, in particular, locating decent pictures of the houses. I retract it all…

Jug

This picture of a jug was complimented by two pictures of doors and a further two pictures of ceiling lights, thereby covering all of the essential features that I look for in buying a house.

Ok, over and out! Buona Pasqua tutti :-)

xxx

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Hunting for houses, implementing my new motto, and latest art updates

Ciao a tutti,

Well, well, well! These last couple of weeks have been challenging somewhat! I can understand why house hunting is called that now and not simply house finding. I include below an illustrated account of just some of the house hunting hurdles here in Italy…

  • House Hunting Hurdle number 1: Estate agents rarely put prices of apartments/houses in their windows. They’re also rarely in the office so you can’t even ask them. If you email them to ask, well, suffice to say I have NEVER received a response from them.
  • HHH number 2: I’ve been using www.subito.it, a general buying/selling stuff website. People don’t put even the most basic information on their advert. Some of them just say “phone me”. Why? Why would I do that?! Is it a mansion you’re letting or a bedsit and where even is it?! WHY WOULD I PHONE YOU TO FIND OUT???
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Or maybe it’s a bird house they’re letting. Who indeed knows.

  • HHH number 3: Well let me tell you why you would phone them to find out. It’s because people seem to have a morbid fear of email and will not respond. Or if they respond then it’s to ask you to phone them. I don’t like talking to people on the phone at the best of times (I’m more of a face to face person rather than an unsociable person). I especially don’t like phoning people when I’m still terrible at speaking Italian! Charades does not work on the phone!
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Erm. Perhaps not the most realistic sketch of a terrified person. (I’ve drawn him in a sleeping bag jacket though so that’s at least true to life)

  • HHH number 4: The photos on the adverts – you should SEEEEE them (that’s if there are any, there aren’t often!). To sell and rent their houses, they put up photos of their moth-eaten 10 year old sofa, a wall, sometimes a scooter, perhaps a kitchen table covered in the remnants of their last meal… It’s a very rare occasion indeed they’ll put a picture of their actual house/flat up there! And the estate agents themselves are no better. I think there’d be a market for an estate agent who took decent pictures of the ACTUAL house/apartment and then, you know, RESPONDED to people who were interested in it.
  • HHH number 5: Everything is about square meters here. I can’t picture things in square meters. I want a two double bedroom place, not a 80 square foot place. Still – I’m actually getting used to the meters now and it is admittedly useful. It would just be more useful if they described how it was divided up too!
  • HHH number 6: When they say something is unfurnished, and half of them are, they literally mean it’s an empty shell. Nothing. Just rooms with some pipes sticking out of the wall. In any circumstances I think that’s insane, I particularly think it’s insane when you’re renting. It seems crazy to get a kitchen fitted complete with work surfaces and everything and then take it with you into a new place with undoubtedly an entirely different layout. C.R.A.Z.Y.

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  • HHH number 7: Once you’ve located a place that’s furnished, well, I don’t wish to be picky or anything, but OH MY WORD! Suffice to say that modern looking furniture does not seem to be the style here.
  • HHH number 8: Hardly anyone seems to have a bath anymore. And yet they all have bidets! You can’t relax with a glass of wine and candles on a bidet!!!   I WANT A BATH!!!
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I imagine this is what I will be reduced to doing shortly…

So, we’ve seen lots of places (I’ve a friend staying with me at the moment) and there’s one place that doesn’t seem so bad but it’s next door to huge oil refinery. It’s only going to be for 6 months or so whilst I hopefully find somewhere to buy here. In terms of buying,  I can’t get much for my money in any of the towns. I’m now thinking of venturing further into the countryside which could get a bit lonely but I think I’d prefer a nice house and some potential to make some money as a B&B or doing something with the land too in the long run.

Teaching, teaching, teaching

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks – it might be because there’s an end in sight. I’ve got 6 weeks left! I lost my rag at the Evil Class last week again and told them I’m only going to do colouring in with them from now on (which I think they’re all thrilled about). I told the teacher that too. She said that I shouldn’t lose hope and that she thinks that on some very deep, deep, deeeeeeeep level they might have actually been listening. Ha!

I do have a lovely bunch of adults that I’m teaching though so that’s good!

Art progress

I should stop making stuff now and get on with putting it online to see. I’m still struggling to find some decent deep frames and now some packing material so that I can send stuff to people. I think that will be this week’s task. And I need to try and take some decent pictures of these things too – how I’d love to have a proper studio!

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Driftwood Harbour

Village harbour

Driftwood home sign – now all I need is to find a home!!!

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Driftwood Hamlet

 

Spring is in the air…

In other news, spring is definitely in the air and it’s lovely! The daisies are out, the jasmine is blooming (I’m back to sneaking “cuttings” off the local jasmine bushes to bring back to the flat because it smells so nice!) and I’ve seen a few poppies now too. I can’t wait until I’ve stopped teaching and can get out and enjoy it a bit more!

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Looks almost snowy!

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Places to see in Le Marche, the Trials and Tribulations of aperitivos and the delights of iced coffee

Ciao!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks – it’s been a bit non-stop here for a while!

This week I bring you more places to see in Le Marche, the trials and tribulations of having an aperitivo and the delights of iced coffee.

Investigating Southern “Le Marche”

Last weekend I went to stay in a new friend’s house in Curetta, a little village by the Sibillini Mountains (still in Le Marche). The house is absolutely gorgeous and set in beautiful countryside with rolling hills, a snowy mountainous backdrop and little villages to look out onto.

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Look what a beautiful vista there was from the house…

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Nice little patio area for eating

On the way, I stopped off at Civitanova. I’d heard it’s quite good to go out there in the evenings but from what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced. Having said that, everything by the beaches is always dead before June so I’ll go back before making a final judgement on it. On the plus side, the beach was excellent for long flat pieces of driftwood :-) I suspect I could map out quite a few beaches now in Le Marche in terms of their beachcombing value!

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Church tower in Civitanova

INTERLUDE TO PONDER ABOUT THE ITALIAN APERITIVO

We had an aperitivo and dinner in a local town I can’t remember the name of. Almost a year into my living here, I’m still completely flummoxed by the notion of an aperitivo. WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?!  Is it a drink? Is it a drink with snacks? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? (sorry, that felt like a Superman moment). So, here are my various experiences of having an “aperitivo”:

  • You order a drink, you get loads of nice little nibbly treats given to you with your drink. Not just crisps and nuts, but olives, little pastry things, some salads and other bits and pieces etc. The price you pay is for the drink alone. All this extra stuff is free.
  • You order your drink and then you can get some extra nibbly treats from the bar like a buffet and sometimes you end up paying a couple of euros more. You can obviously choose what you have if it’s on the bar.
  • You order your drink and you just get a drink. This is oddest one for me – if you go somewhere and you ask for an “aperitivo” – surely it should mean something more than just a drink otherwise you’d go in and just ask for a drink?!

It’s completely hit and miss what you get. If it’s the first option where you get given a plate of food, then they’ll often bring out a selection of dead animals. I’m vegetarian so that doesn’t work out well for me and I feel rude leaving things that they’ve prepared on my plate untouched. However, I feel ruder asking them “er, will you be providing me a selection of free food and if so, could you go one step further and provide me a vegetarian selection?”. Though I love having free food with my drinks, I do find the whole thing a bit stressful! I’m so caught up on the food element that when they ask “what would you like?”, I start blabbering about being a vegetarian when they actually want to know what I’d like to drink! ARGH!

Anyway, I digress. This “aperitivo” ended up being just a drink. He asked what we’d like, I plumped for wine. This bar, however, didn’t have wine (a bar not having wine?! A bar in ITALY not having wine?!?!). Only prosecco. I hadn’t realised I’d sort of opted for prosecco for my friends too. And then the guy brought out an entire bottle. Does that mean we were now paying for the whole bottle? Anyway – it turned out that’s exactly what it meant. We were the only people in this bar apart from the barman and an old lady (his mother it turns out) who both came to stare at us, standing a foot away open-mouthed and aghast for what must have been about two minutes before saying “you don’t come from ‘round here” (in Italian).  That was my oddest aperitivo experience so far! Lovely prosecco though.

Southern Le Marche continued…

Then we popped into a local trattoria for dinner and headed back. No scary experiences there. The next day, I helped out a bit in the garden. My host had a couple of gardeners in to help maintain the land a bit. They were a husband and wife team – a lovely guy called Fabio and his wife (with an unpronounceable name that sounds like a sneeze). A thoroughly lovely and incredibly generous couple. I ended up taking home lettuce, fennel and home-made oil that they’d given to us. They come from Albania. I definitely want to go to Albania now after speaking to them. Every sentence started with “In Albania, we have the best <insert food, wine, grappa, countryside, coastline here>. He bought along some Albanian grappa for us to try on the last day. Very sweet of him and everything but he insisted we try it as soon as he got there – 8am! I generally maintain a “not before noon” alcohol policy. I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done shots before I’ve even had breakfast. And goodness was it potent… I wouldn’t like to be up a precariously placed ladder operating a chainsaw after that – but yet he was!

Whilst I was there, I did some exploring of the local area. First stop was Monte San Martino which we could see from the house. Very cute and quaint but not much to do there.

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Excellent views from Monte San Martino

Next up was Amandola which was positively bustling in comparison and had quite a lot of young people around (that tends to stick out in these hill top villages – usually there are just gangs of old men!). Quite pretty little roads, just narrow enough to fit a small car, which were cute although became considerably less cute as my sat nav kept leading me around and around them!

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The square in Amandola…

Then there was Servigliano which was actually not a hill top village – more a valley village. It had an interesting layout, one that I’ve not seen before. It sort of had village “walls” and then some quaint little terraces inside with a big square. Nice to wander around and I hear it’s nice at Christmas as well so I quite fancy going back there then.

 

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Here’s a pic of some of the houses surrounding the square…

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And here’s the square.

My friend came back with me on Sunday to check out my own patch around Camerano. We went via Porto San Giorgio – a new beach for me, on the way back there.

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The Le Marche stretches of coastline, apart from my own Monte Conero area, seem to be much of a muchness. Large stretches of coastline varying between shingle and sandy beaches and in the summer, covered in umbrellas and sun loungers. Seeing other beaches always makes me appreciate my own local beaches which, because we’ve got Monte Conero, offer I think a more interesting coastline with bays and woodland and because some of them are difficult to get to, end up being a lot less commercialised.

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San Michele, one of my favourite local beaches

And we found a new bit of Portonovo whilst we were walking around… Makes a nice circular walk…

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The coastline around Portonovo

House hunting

My parents have been doing a sterling job at investigating houses for me to let out back home and I’ve been putting in offers and getting them turned down! Pah! Meanwhile, I’ve been investigating some new areas around here for houses which I hope might be a bit cheaper than Camerano. I’m currently looking at Polverigi and Offagna. We went into a couple of estate agents and organised a couple of viewings which took place on Thursday. Visiting them made me reconsider my requirements! The most I seem to be able to get for my money around this area seems to be a small 2 bed flat with little outside space. Selling houses here seems to take years so I don’t want to buy something that I can’t see myself living in for the next 10 years at least. The flats were all very well but not my “dream” home by any means. I either need to change area or amend my criteria a bit to something that requires work but could eventually end up being the place I want to live in. So, I’ve asked to see a couple of other places a bit further south which is a cheaper area and perhaps now I’ll look at more of a “country house” type of property.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be homeless come end of May so I need to try and find another property to rent whilst I find something more long term. I’ve got some feelers out but it’s a bit unsettling and I’ve grown to quite like this place!

Iced Coffee

In other news, I quite like iced coffee! I’ve discovered a less faffy way of making it based on this enthusiast’s recipe… It’s very nice and very refreshing! I think I’ll have to take some to school with me to keep me awake :-)

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Iced coffee on my newly acquired driftwood stool/table…(one can never have enough driftwood eh?)

Ok, onwards and upwards. This week is another busy week with school – in fact, tomorrow is a nightmare 12 hour day extravaganza. 12 hours of teaching. ARGH!

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UK Tour, Best Self Controlled Teacher Award and Appropriate Clothing…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Well, I hope! I’m sorry for the silence. I’ve been out and about doing a speedy tour around the UK.

So, the tour started a week ago last Wednesday and I headed up to the Lakes to spend some time with a good friend and her new baby (well new to me at least), then onto Harrogate in Yorkshire for an annual “girls weekend” and had a great time. Then I headed down south to see friends and family in Hampshire and then a flying visit to London before coming back to Italy on Sunday.

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Harrogate – that’s Betty’s Tea Room on the corner. It’s a bit pricey but absolutely lovely!

Meanwhile, I put in an offer for a house in Portsmouth which was rejected (pah!). Why are you buying there and not Italy I hear you ask? Well, I have a cunning plan which involves buying a house to rent out in the UK so I get some more rental income coming in every month and then I can retire from my much loved teaching career.

Much loved teaching career

ARGH I HATE IT!!! One 6 year old swore at me yesterday. I think he was hoping I didn’t know what it meant. Little did he know that I have an Italian friend here obsessed with learning English swear words which has resulted in me acquiring a reasonable grounding in the Italian equivalents. Anyway, in the last 6 months, I haven’t seen this child without ‘disgustingness’ encrusted around his nose. I’ve tried being nice to him which does work occasionally but when he’s actually punching me, it’s a struggle to be nice. I don’t want to ‘big myself up’ at all but I should definitely, DEFINITELY be nominated for some sort of prize for not punching him back (I’ve just checked – there are genuine Teacher Awards. Who knew? I think you have to be nominated by your pupils. Booooo!). I only have 10 weeks there left. I’ve informed the school who contract me out that the mental torture isn’t worth the money and I’m not doing it next year. They seem to have been alright with it and even offered me another teaching job every Thursday to “young adults” which I’ve accepted. It doesn’t sound quite so emotionally draining and apparently there’s a syllabus (not that I’ve seen it, still plenty of time before this Thursday eh?!). These young adults will be working in hotels and restaurants so I really hope this means cheap/free food and drink over the summer period. I’ve another private regular teaching job coming up too.

Fermo

I’m going to Fermo (a region in Le Marche further south than where I am now) on Friday for a couple of days to catch up with a friend of mine and to see the local area. I can’t wait! I don’t think I’ve been there before and it’ll be great to see some new towns and get a feel for a new area. My friend is then coming back  here with me so I’ve been trying to make the flat look acceptable. Another friend has very rudely dubbed my spare room the “sh*t tip” because of a rather large collection of driftwood and various beach-found materials stored there for artistic purposes. Pah! However, all the great artists were misunderstood and unappreciated when they were alive aren’t they? I suspect it’s just not my time yet ;-)

Spring is here!

The weather has been amazing since I got back – hot and sunny. The flowers are out and everything is green and pretty. People had been asking last week whether I was looking forward to going back to Italy and I have to admit that I wasn’t that fussed this time because it meant going back to work! However, I’m thrilled to report that I still love being here. I was on the beach the last couple of lunchtimes and it’s difficult to imagine a nicer place, for me at least (mainly because I’m surrounded by seaglass and interesting rocks and shells for the artwork!).

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Look how nice and sunny it is around Monte Conero!

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And the nice sunsets are back too :-) This is from my balcony.

Artwork

Well, let me tell you. Nobody (that I saw at least) is using dry brush as a technique for portrait painting in London. They seem to be using charcoal. So the new plan is to do that. I still need a lot of practice on the portrait drawing front. My friend in Harrogate was stroppy for a whole hour after my portrait of her (nobody ever poses for me – they’re always watching TV, or looking at their laptop so everyone always looks a bit gormless. ON THEIR OWN HEADS BE IT!). I need to get better at making everyone look pretty. There’s not been much else going on unfortunately on the art front because I’ve been out of the country but hoping to do some more next week.

What’s a bit odd?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a “what’s a bit odd!”. This one cropped up when I got here last year but it’s worth a repeat because it’s such a weird cultural difference. You can ALWAYS pick out a foreigner here. Today, it was 21 degrees. A beautiful warm and sunny day. I even got a bit of a tan. I, Ms English, was wearing a vest top, cotton trousers and some slip-on shoes. To sum up, I was wearing weather-appropriate clothing. The Italians, also wear a vest top. But on top of that they might wear a long sleeved t-shirt, a jumper and then to all intents and purposes, a sleeping bag. They’ll also probably have heavy jeans/trousers, definitely a scarf, sometimes a hat, and a large percentage will have big boots on. And let me tell you why – it’s simply because it’s not June yet. In Spring and Autumn, the Italian’s wear jeans and jumpers and sleeping-bag-coats REGARDLESS OF THE ACTUAL WEATHER. We English folk will look outside at the weather, see that it’s sunny and warm and go immediately to a beach/park and strip off, lest we completely miss “Summer”.

So, I struggle with this one – I generally try my best to fit in with the Italian culture (mainly by eating pasta, pizza and drinking wine all the time) but I think I would just expire if I attempted to wear the excessive level of clothes that an Italian does. The weirdest thing of all, is that they genuinely don’t seem to realise that it’s hot. It’s not like watching dogs trapped in cars in the summer – they’re not panting and there’s no visible sweat marks (I suppose you’d never see it through the sleeping bag anyway). I think they’re actually just built differently.

Ok, onwards and upwards. Have a good rest of week everybody!

xxx

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The highs and lows of house hunting, the origins of sea glass and ennui…

Ciao!

How is everybody? This week I bring you: House Hunting, The Origins of Sea Glass and Ennui…

First off, I had an interesting couple of days house hunting last week. I found a couple of houses in Serra San Quirico, a lovely hill top town 45 minutes or so away from Camerano at the base of Monte Murano. I wasn’t particularly looking there – I’d prefer somewhere closer to here and the beach, but some nice looking houses popped up there on the search engines so I arranged to go and see them.  The first one was definitely an option – it was quite a unique and quirky property that could have been cosy, but the only outside space was a tiny balcony accessed off the bathroom and I’m not convinced it got any sun. But I’d like land ! It was very good value though at a “negotiable” €80,000 for a two bed and there really wasn’t a lot to be done to it. I wasn’t particularly struck by the second house so that’s out. Then the estate agent took us (I’ve a friend staying at the moment who I’ve been dragging around to the houses) to a “mystery house” (it felt like I was on “A House in the Sun”!). It was the most interesting of all the properties. It was a 4 bed, much bigger than the first property and with a garden, yet the same price. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much junk in a house before – none of the lights worked and every which way you turned there was a creepy, odd shaped object under a sheet. However, after the second visit with an architect, it appears that it would require a lot more work (and I suspect an exorcist) than I’d originally anticipated so I think that’s out unfortunately too.

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The house was beautifully show cased…

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…But look at the view from what would have been my bedroom!

I’m interested in quite a few other properties around here too and have contacted lots of estate agents but many of them didn’t respond or didn’t follow up later. One said they’re on holiday until the end of March. I can’t help but wonder if this might be why the housing market in Italy isn’t doing particularly well.

Exhibition News

A month or two back, I was somewhat unenthusiastic when my neighbour came around to say that he’d found us a place for the exhibition and it would cost us both €600 each for 6 months. I said at the time that I would be interested, but couldn’t pay that much and he should probably find someone else (who….er, actually had some art). Meanwhile, I decided to give it a go – you only live once eh? Hence the mad “produce some art” rush. I’ve been hesitant to follow up with him on the off chance it wasn’t going to happen anymore. Without the pressure, I’m not so productive. However, we met on the stairs the other day and had a chat about it. He’s found another artist to pay for the other part of the exhibition but is still interested in a “guest” section for me. For free! So it’s worked out perfectly. He’s not that fussed by the concept of the paintings but seemed to like the driftwood art and the stuff in frames so I think they’re in – I’m particularly pleased with that because I’m more interested in doing that than the paintings.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try and set up an “Etsy” shop (Etsy is a website where artists can sell their work) to see if there’s a market for any of my art. If not, you should all take it upon yourselves to buy my stuff so I don’t feel like a failure ;-)

This week I’ve done…

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Next set of driftwood houses

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Mussel shell, pebble and driftwood mirror

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Mussel shell mosaic mirror

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Mussel shell heart card… Hoping to sell them in packs

I’ve also been experimenting with dry brushing. I’ve done 3 dry brush portraits now, but it takes me ages for some reason (it’s supposed to be super quick!) and it’s easy to get impatient and make a mistake that you can’t fix. I’m not known for my patience. My attempts have been somewhat blotchy (you have to dip your paintbrush in oil and  then blot it all off. If you don’t, you get a blotchy look).  I’m back in the UK briefly next week and hope to spy on some of the street portrait artists in Trafalgar Square to see if it’s a technique they use and how they do it. Here’s my latest attempt at Angelina Jolie…

Doesn’t much look like Anglina eh? Annoying. I can see that dry brushing would be an effective technique if I could just get quicker and develop the art of patience.

Doesn’t much look like Anglina eh? Annoying. I can see that dry brushing would be an effective technique if I could just get quicker and develop the art of patience.

On the sea glass front – I’ve been getting worried that I’m exhausting my supply of sea glass in Le Marche. It made me wonder where it came from, so I wikipedia’d it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaglass) and oh my goodness, there are people obsessed with sea glass out there! I mean, I like it and everything, but some people actually belong to a Sea Glass Association! Anyway, I had hoped that the sea had a limitless supply of sea glass. I’d hoped that perhaps some of it might be produced naturally a bit like diamonds are so that I didn’t have to rely on people littering the sea with bottles and jars. Alas, sea glass always comes from the man-made stuff that gets tumbled around at the bottom of the sea for ages and then washed up. There are different colours – people go to great lengths to work out the origin of it. I think mine all comes from beer bottles rather unromantically apart from a couple of mysterious pastel blue pieces. Anyway, friends, family, randoms – I have a favour to ask – if you go to the beach, can you look me out some sea glass please! And if you’re completely devoid of morals, perhaps you could take your beer bottles down to the sea front when you’re done with them and chuck them in.

Ennui!

I have diagnosed myself with occasional bouts of ennui! I’ve never heard the term before last week but it’s spot on! According to dictionary.com it’s “a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement”.  It doesn’t feel quite the same as “boredom”.  In fact, someone once told me that one can never be bored if one has stuff to do and I think I can safely say there’s never been a time when I’ve had nothing to do! Anyway, all I need now is a definition for my “glitch in the space time continuum” feeling (I think it’s a superhero sense but I’ve unfortunately been born without my super power) and I’ll be sorted!

I went to Carnevale yesterday – I’ll give you an update in a separate blog post tomorrow (though issues with WordPress mean that some of you have already had a sneak preview I think!)!

Ok, have lovely weeks all.

Ciao x

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Carnevale

Sunday was a big carnevale day in Fano, one of the towns a bit further north in Le Marche so myself and some friends headed there on the train to have a look!

It was great!  Fab atmosphere,  loads of massive floats with bits that moved and dancing and best of all, sweets. They just chucked loads of sweets from the floats (when I say chucked I think some of the throwees were wannabe snipers and certainly got a few head shots in. There’s probably worse ways to go than being killed by chocolate though). We had quite a bit of a collection at the end though I suspect not as big as the folks who’d taken their umbrellas and upturned them to catch all the sweets!

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Carnevale, Pebble Fish and Driftwood Sculptures!

Ciao all,

This week’s blog post will be short as I’ve not been up to much other than the usual. It’s the “Carnevale” period in Italy at the moment which means quite a few street parades etc. though I’ve not seen any yet. Hoping to go and see the Carnevale in Fano tomorrow and I’ll of course report back next week, I’m quite excited about it! Meanwhile, I’ve been having fun with the art stuff. I’m really into this beach recycling business at the moment and making things out of driftwood, sea glass and pebbles. I should do more paintings – I think it might be more lucrative but it’s not quite as amusing as my other projects so I’ve been slacking. Here’s some of my efforts in the last week or so…

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My house, in the middle of my street…. (is that how the Madness song goes?!)

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Sea glass and pebble tree (this has a glass front – it kept getting my reflection so I took it from a distance but then the quality as a result is poor! Does anyone have an ideas on how to do that?! I want the frame in the photo but I can’t take the glass out on this frame to take it without)

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Phone holder – it’s got a handy hole in the bottom for the phone charger and everything…

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Driftwood and sea glass mobile

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Driftwood and shell Incense holder

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Driftwood fish

On the portrait drawing front, I’ve hit a brick wall (which I’m intending to bulldoze soon). I don’t seem to be able to do a reasonable looking portrait in less than an hour and twenty minutes. The problem is in the shading, it seems to take me ages. HOWEVER, I have found a new technique which looks very promising called “Dry brush” and it’s a lot quicker. It’s basically using oil paint but a tiny, tiny bit of it. However, it’s really poorly documented. If you “Youtube” it, you’ll see some artists that have posted speeded up videos of them doing the portraits but it’s really not at all helpful! It’s not really the drawing bit that I have the problem with (though these are incredibly talented artists – it’s very clever!) – it’s the bits that don’t happen on the canvas which you can’t see that I’m confused about. The pioneer of this technique seems to be Igor Kazarin and he goes to great lengths to explain the technique but it makes absolutely no sense at all so I’m no clearer. My first attempt was blotchy and horrid. Anyway, I’ll experiment more with it this week. 

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I’ve been doing a few inspiration stones… this one of Stephen King’s is my favourite!

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Some mussel shell hearts and my bowl of inspiration stones and random fish

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Pebble Fish!

Finally, on a non artistic front, I’m seeing a couple of houses tomorrow to maybe buy so I’m really pleased about that – it’ll be interesting to see what I can get for my money here.

Anyway, that about sums up my week. Hope you’re all well!

Buona notte!

x

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Bologna, Scandalous Proportions and Muddy Water-flumes

Ciao!

I hope you’ve all had excellent weeks. I’ve been out and about a fair bit this week but I shall dedicate this blog post mainly to Bologna…

Bologna

I’ve just had a lovely weekend in Bologna. I’ve been meaning to go there for months so I’m pleased I finally got around to it. I went with the same friend I went to Rome with. I wasn’t on accommodation booking duty this time which meant we had a nice hotel (I advise anyone going on holiday with me to be responsible for the hotel booking). We even had coffee and tea making facilities in the room, a rarity in Italy.

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Unfortunately, the kettle didn’t plug into any of the sockets in the room (Italy has the most frustratingly random plug/socket situation involving a variety of different sockets catering for different plugs which, even more frustratingly to all intents and purposes, look exactly the same. If you buy anything electronic, it is a gamble whether you’ll be able to power it without having to buy an adapter) so the bulk of tea making proceedings actually took place in the corridor where we located the only socket that would work.

I really like Bologna – it’s lively and young and there are places to go and things to do. It’s a University town so I suspect that’s why it feels quite vibrant and there was a fantastic selection of bookshops everywhere. Bologna is the perfect place to go if it’s raining because most of the pavements are covered over. In fact, it has apparently the longest “portico” (covered walkway basically) in the world. All towns and cities should have porticos: It’s cooler when it’s hot, it’s dryer when it rains and it’s a great space-saving idea because accommodation and offices are built over the pavements.

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The start of the “longest portico in the world”…

There were big open tree lined spaces…

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This is the Giardini Margherita. Look at the guy balancing on the rope! It felt like London here…

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And this was taken from a park called “San Michele in Bosco”

Neptune’s statue: My “Guide to Italy” book said that Neptune’s naked lower half had to be concealed by bronze trousers to protect his scandalous proportions. How on earth do you create bronze trousers to go over a bronze lower half and then remove the bronze trousers later?! I think I’ve underestimated the flexibility of bronze as a sculpting material. That or my book has been telling porkies.

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Neptune and his scandalous proportions (you may need to zoom in!)

And there were other sculptures…

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I like the naturalness of the tail…

And there were leaning towers…

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This is a horrible photo. I meant to get a better photo but I forgot so I’m afraid you’re stuck with this one… However, they lean and they’re quite a symbol of Bologna and you can go up one (well, presumably both of them) for a good view. Not that we did.

And they had a market that reminded me of Camden Market in London…

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It even came complete with dreadlocked hippies and full finger skull rings…

Food wise there were lots of options but alas, nothing I could see that wasn’t Italian. I’d hoped it would be a bit more diverse (I WANT CURRY!!!!!!). I found what I think is one of my favourite all time restaurants: Cinque50. It had good reviews on Tripadvisor (I’d recommend downloading the app – it’s great for finding places to eat and things to do nearby). Alas it was Valentines Day so it was fully booked. We managed to negotiate a table all the same and had a lovely meal there and the waiter was really nice. I might be slightly biased – he seemed to think I was genuinely Italian after two sentences in. That’s never happened before. One day I hope to make it to three sentences without them cottoning on.

We also went to a new exhibition in Bologna to see Vermeer’s “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” painting. If you follow the blog you’ll know I like art so you may be surprised to discover that I really, really dislike big exhibitions. However, it’s good form to check every now and then to see if the things we dislike are still dislikeable, so in we went. We waited almost an hour to get in and then we were crammed like sardines into 5 or 6 rooms, unable to move whilst everyone listened to audioguides telling them how the long brush strokes in x painting represented the artist’s internal struggle against their childhood (hmm). Then everyone congregated in a room to “appreciate” the main painting. It’s a very good painting and an interesting portrait. I’m never sure if I can use pictures from other websites on this blog or not so here’s my interpretation of it drawn in the queue for memory jogging purposes. Obviously you’ll instantly know which painting I’m talking about now…(yup)

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Admittedly in this, her evocative mouth looks a little bit like she’s having a stroke.

In my opinion, it’s no better than any of the other paintings in there which were also beautifully painted, with interesting compositions and also by equally talented artists. If you eradicated the “fame” surrounding that painting and conducted a survey of the “art-lovers” that went to the exhibition about their favourite painting there – the Girl with the Pearl Earring would not have necessarily been a clear winner. And that’s how it should be! And if you removed the audioguide and the painting blurb telling people what they should like or dislike and how they should interpret and react to each of the paintings and instead encouraged them to think for themselves, then maybe more of them would have even noticed the fabulous trompe l’oeil cherubs holding the ceiling up! In summary, I still dislike big art exhibitions.

My Art progress

I’ve made some progress – I’ll post another blog update on this next week but in honour of San Valentino last week, here’s a sneak preview of a driftwood work…

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I hope you all had a good valentines day…

In other news, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the beach this week collecting stuff… I think I have enough now to build a lifelike replica of a beach. One of the trips involved a rather perilous journey to Mezzavalle beach which was I imagine exactly what walking down a muddy water flume would be like.

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Mezzavalle. Don’t go when it’s been raining for months. I screamed the entire way down (it’s only reachable by boat and a 25 minute steep path / slide).

I’ve done a couple of language swaps this week (I speak Italian, they speak English and we correct each other as we go) which have been really good – at the moment I suspect I could go weeks without speaking Italian apart from barking orders at school so it’s been useful. I’ve been getting the kids at lunchtime to teach me Italian as well so that’s been quite entertaining. I’m also trying to read George R R Martin’s “Game of Thrones” in Italian. It has a LOT of pages. It’ll take me decades. But I’m reading it on Kindle which means I can tap words I don’t know and it brings up the dictionary so that’s handy.

Right, I think that’s about it for this week. I hope you all have good weeks!

x

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Guide to Rome, glue guns and what not to say to children…

Ciao!!!

How is everyone? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wetter week! Even when I was living in England!!! Though I can see from the news it’s been pretty dismal back there too. Anyway, this week I bring you: Getting rained on in Rome, the frustrating case of the broken glue gun and what not to say to children…

Raining in Rome

I went to Rome last weekend with a friend. I love Rome, it’s my favourite city. There’s such a lot to see; lots of historical monuments, beautiful architecture and the city always has a buzz about it. However, I can confirm that when you go during a relentless, torrential downpour, then it’s not got quite the same vibe about it. It didn’t help that I booked a particularly nasty hotel and in fact, didn’t even book a room with a bathroom (I had wondered why it was so cheap, all became clear!). We ended up spending a ridiculous amount on an upgrade so we could have a bathroom and still it wasn’t great – you had to plan bathroom visits 5 minutes in advance so the light could eventually flicker on.

We did have a walk around the Colosseum and The Forum though during the few minutes reprieve we had from the rain. I’ve got a good tip for this one: Get a joint Colosseum and Forum ticket from the Forum itself. You pay the same amount as you do at the Colosseum but there’s no queue and then when you get to the Colosseum you can go straight past what seems to be a 4 hour queue. My next tip is to remember that you’ve got that ticket and don’t queue in that queue anyway (we realised after half an hour).

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A very moody looking Forum…

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Colosseum

The Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona 

I have located a Secret Forbidden Parking Lot in Ancona. It’s behind the train station and only for people that work for Trenitalia and other organisations in the immediate vicinity. It is handily located for The Secret Forbidden Subway that you can walk through to get to the train station. There are downsides parking there – there’s no guarantee you wont get pulled up for trespassing and/or have your car towed away. However, needs must and I was stuck for a parking spot when I headed to Rome at the weekend (it’s all very well parking in the official parking lots but they’re all closed on Sundays so you can’t actually get out again) but it all worked out well in the end so I might do that again.

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Ancona’s Secret Forbidden Parking Lot

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The Secret Forbidden Subway – I couldn’t stop for the photo, hence the blur but I thought it gave a good representation of the rising panic about being, well, told to presumably go back the other way. Tense!

Operation Art Production continues…

I’m up to speed on the drawing practice which is good – this week I’ve been drawing more portraits from life though I still need to improve so I’m working on that! It should take about 20 minutes I think whereas it’s taking me over an hour!!!

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My friend’s baby…

However, all my other plans have gone sadly awry.  I should be on my third painting now but I’m only half way through my second – hope to finish that this weekend… I did not take into account the Rome jaunt into my self-imposed timescales.

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Boats in Porto Recanati. I might still amend it a bit. Looks maybe a bit washed out here – I need to work out how best to take photos of the paintings…

And well, my driftwood sculpting has been a disaster. I bought a glue gun last week but now, part way through a fish sculpture, the glue got stuck in the gun and wont melt down or come out from whence it came. Mother suggested sticking a hot metal thing in the glue, waiting until it was cold and then yanking it out (“like a popsical” she said).

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Hmm. It did not come out “like a popsical”. It’s there for good. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Customer Services that the glue gun I bought last week has broken and I’ve had nothing to do with it.

And THEN I’ve been collecting sea-glass and nice rocks to write inspirational messages on. I am pleased to report I’ve found two other odd people on the beach in the last week or so – one who was also collecting sea glass (ergo, an arch rival) and one woman collecting bottle tops. Anyway, that branch of Operation Art has been going ok. Tune in next week for inspirational stone messages :-).

What not to say to young students

Teaching has been bad this week. I think I’ll start my inspirational message stones off with “don’t thwack the children around the head”.

This week in the Class of Horror, one of the bad “behaviourally challenged” children, did what I asked them. It’s NEVER happened. I was gobsmacked! And like many surprised people – I said “Oh my god!” under my breath.  To which, the children in the Class of Horror, who up until this point have never listened to anything I say, know absolutely no English whatsoever and have never repeated anything I ask them to repeat, by the end of the lesson were all chanting “oh my god”.

I did have a couple of private lessons with older children this week, which was a lot less traumatic and a lot more lucrative. And a private lesson with a new younger child who seems to be to all intents and purposes, completely mute.

Sanitaria Success!

I have a Tessera Sanitaria (it’s the Italian equivalent of the European Health Insurance Card). I have a doctor now and everything. It’s only taken a few months to sort out! In the end it was fairly easy – you need proof of residency (which is traumatic to get) and a copy of your work contract (otherwise there’s other complicated means of acquiring the Tessera) and then it was done in 5 minutes. Next thing: Trying to get the car registered in Italy.

What’s a bit odd?

There are trams in Ancona! Who knew?! I’ve been here 9 months and have never seen one but on the way to the station the other day I noticed the overhead electric cables and a tram for the first time! Huh!

Right, onwards and upwards. Have fabulous weekends all…

xxx

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The Grand Exhibition Plan, The Never-ending Cold and Top Tips for Dealing with Children

Ciao a tutti!

Buongiorno all. I hope you’re all good. In this week’s gripping update, I bring you The Grand Exhibition Plan, The Never-ending Cold and Tips for Dealing with Children’s Requests…

The Grand Exhibition Plan

This week, I have mostly been doing art, art and more art! The potential exhibition draws ever closer.  If this contract for the exhibition studio materialises then I’ve decided to give it a go. You only live once. It’ll cost €300 for 6 months but I think it’ll be open only for 3 months during summer giving me 3 months to try and at least make my money back. Quite a good little challenge really! I feel a bit like the Del Boy of the art world. My plan is as follows:

-          Exhibition Plan Part Uno – Paintings: Have a sort of “nautical” theme to my exhibition pieces. Specifically:

  • 10 paintings, primarily seascapes given that we’re by the coast here and a significant portion of the Italians seem to be obsessed with the beach and have beach houses… I’ll aim to sell them for €100 each.  To be honest, I imagine I’ll only have space for about 4 or 5 – if that, but obviously they’ll be selling like hot cakes so er…, good to have back up.  I started a painting last week – I shall finish it and post it here next week!

-          Exhibition Plan Part Due – Driftwood, Shell & Stone art:

  • 10 driftwood sculptures / pieces.
  • Stone painting (I know. It does sound odd. However, it looks like quite a quick, fun and relaxing thing to do when I’ve got a bit of time!).
  • Stuff with shells!
  • If I’m any good, take some photos of the above and get some prints made (thank you to my friend who suggested that one).
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Experimenting with shells!

-          Exhibition Plan Part Tre – Portraits: I want to use part of the exhibition space for drawing portraits. I hope it will be a good way of getting people into the exhibition so they might look around and stay in there and hopefully buy other stuff.  I’ll aim to sell a portrait for €20 each.  Specifically:

  • Get 5 or 6 really good “demonstration” portraits of famous people done in different mediums.
  • Practice, practice, practice – try and do some portrait work every day.
  • This week’s attempts below excluding one truly horrible self portrait. Let’s play “guess the person?” – submit guesses in the comments below! Free portrait for anyone that gets them all. The two men are Italian actors so folks back home, I suspect you won’t stand a chance anyway!
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Numero Uno

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Numero due. The UK people might know her…

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Numero Tre. Horrible portrait I think. Annoying because he’s quite handsome! I’ll have another go I think.

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I’ll exclude this one from the guesses – it’s a friend’s little boy!

-       Exhibition Plan Part Quattro:  Get an art website set up.

-        Exhibition Plan Part Cinque:  Get business cards printed (if not for the art, at least I can give them out to people that keep asking about English teaching!)

Selling a couple of paintings and a handful of portraits doesn’t sound that daunting eh? I wonder if I can do it?!

Other art related news

I’ve finally worked out what to do with Pinterest after having an account for a year. (For those that don’t know, Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo-sharing website). I used to trawl the net copying and pasting images into a document to use for inspiration at a later date but Pinterest is MUCH more convenient! Alas, I hadn’t amended my settings so my poor friends have been receiving what must now be hundreds of Driftwood and Stone inspiration “pins”! If you’re interested in looking at the kinds of things I’m looking at doing for the exhibition, then I suspect you can “follow” me (on Pinterest. Not literally!). Having said that, I’m still learning and haven’t worked out entirely how you would go about that but please feel free to give it a go!

I found an equivalent to B&Q! It’s called OBI. I am THRILLED. I spent ages in there this week and even better, it has ART STUFF! Woohoo! It’s the first place I’ve seen around here with canvasses and paint. Admittedly expensive canvasses and a shocking selection of paint but still, it’s a relief to know that it exists!

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OBI – Proof art supplies in Italy do actually exist

Work and The Never-Ending Cold.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of work for my language school on their website this week. My task was to just check it through to make sure the English makes sense but there is a LOT of information on it. It’s been quite fun really.  It’s paid for half my rent this month so that’s not bad going.

I have yet another cold, possibly my 89th in 6 months. I think the schools I teach at are breeding grounds for this stuff and I just haven’t built up a resiliency yet.  When my voice actually gets back to normal, people will wonder what on earth has happened – most people who know me here have only known me with a husky voice. However, I’m determined to not let it get to me and went out for a nice meal last night at a very cool restaurant in Ancona – Mangiare, Bere, Uomo, Donna.

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Mangiare, Bere, Uomo, Donna – not great for vegetarians but quite a variety of different types of food.

Return to Bureaucracy – The Case of the Tessera Sanitaria

Well, as anticipated, I did not succeed in getting a Tessera Sanitaria, the Italian health card which seems to be the equivalent of an E111 in the UK. I’ve spoken to the woman there 4 times over the months to try and get this card. It was quite a good mark of “progress” given I can vaguely understand her now whereas before she could have been speaking Chinese! Anyway, I needed to have a contract with the school to show that I’m earning and then she assures me I can get the card.  I emailed the school knowing full well there would be no chance they’d send me a contract and within an hour, they sent me a contract! Just like that! Amazing! (It’s a shame they’ve not been quite so efficient with my salary.)

Next week I’m going to Rome for a long weekend which I’m looking forward to – €18 return for what will be 7 hours of train travel. What excellent value! I think it might be cheaper than renting a house. I’m considering just living on the train.

What’s a bit odd?

Fellow elementary / junior school teachers: Is it normal for children to obsessively ask whether they can use felt-tip pens to colour stuff in?!?! Every single child will run up to me (despite my constant instructions for them to stay in their seats) and ask/shout at me about using “colori a spirito”. Sometimes I’ll be standing up at the front talking to the class and a child will come up and pull on my jumper until I stop, thinking it must be a  life or death situation, and then they ask me if it’s OK if they use a blue pen to write with.  I’ve been trying to find a satisfying way of saying “I really don’t care” in Italian but there’s nothing (not that I can use with children at least). There’s only the equivalent of “it’s not important” or “I’m not interested”. I really miss “I don’t care”. I have to make do with supplementing “it’s not important” with a mocking laugh and hand gestures!

I really miss “I can’t be bothered” as well!!!  There are lots of discussion forums on that one on the Italian Word Reference site and nothing seems to be very satisfying. If anyone knows how I can say that, I’ll be eternally grateful!

Ok, have lovely weekends and tune in next week for more info.

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