Monday 30 September 2013

On The Last Day Of September

Our beloved 'Mouse'
3 years ago today we set off in our beautiful Mini, 'Mouse', dropped of a suitcase containing 2 months worth of my clothes at my Dad's, gave him a huge hug & then set off on the journey to a new life....the 'Big Adventure' was about to begin for real.

First stop was M&S at Fosse Park -  the Pickfords removal guys who'd packed up the entire contents of our house the day before
had even put my slippers into a crate while I was putting stuff into storage at the factory & there was no way I could live without my Ugg-style slippers as we headed into autumn.

M&S bag thrown into the back of the car, we set off in earnest for the Channel Tunnel & an overnight stay in France. I am not a great lover of France - it's a country that stops us getting to Italy quicker. We stayed in a rather basic motel just outside St Quentin - not the 4 & 5 star luxury we were used to but hey, this was a journey to a whole new life, not a 2 week holiday. The only restaurant close to the motel was a Buffalo Grill - hardly French but good food nonetheless.

Minimalist Altedia Lodge
And the next morning we set off for one of our favourite stop offs, Altedia Lodge in Barberaz - minimalist but elegant with good food and amazing views from the restaurant. And maybe I like the place because it's our last stop before we travel into Italy.

Saturday morning saw us heading to Italy via the Frejus Tunnel, sister to the Mont Blanc Tunnel and then south to the outskirts of Firenze. Although we didn't stay at Hotel David & get to walk along the banks of the Arno, memories of a previous trip came flooding back - the Ponte Vecchio; being moved to tears by Botticelli's The Birth of Venus; eating the best ever wild boar ragu at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco; climbing to the top of the Duomo; eating ice cream at the ever busy Festival del Gelato on Via del Corso & walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo on a sunny Sunday morning to see for ourselves the spectacular views across the city.
Firenze as viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo

Sunday 29 September 2013

Spoils From My Trip

Additions to my CD collection

Whenever I go back to the UK, I always have a 'mental shopping 
list' - things we either can't get here or are too expensive
to buy in Italy. Last week's trip was no exception, but
I had the added bonus of having belated Christmas & 
birthday pressies to pack in my suitcase for my return home.

Apart from my Boots No 7 moisturiser, Efalex tablets &
Brabantia bin bags - essentials I find it hard to live without -
the things I love to buy most are books & CDs.
Luckily, I had a pile of books sitting at Dad's
that had been too heavy for me to bring back with
all the other Christmas pressies last December, so 
I only bought one book & that wasn't until I
was at Stansted awaiting my return flight.

Most of my spending was on CDs: 5 of
them, all at once, something I've never 
done before. And I played all of them on
my first day back home - ALL of them.
A day without music is a day without sunshine
as far as I'm concerned.
And my choices? Birdy - Fire Within;
Goldfrapp - Tales of Us; Ellie Goulding - Halcyon Days;
Kodaline - In A Perfect World; 
UB40 - Getting Over The Storm.
Yes, I know there's a Lykke Li 2 CD set in the photo -
that's my belated birthday pressie from my Dad &
I'm playing Youth Novels as I type this blog post.
I haven't been disappointed with any of them - I LOVE
great music.

More for the bookcase
And the pile of books? A couple of 'chick lit' novels from
my favourites, Adele Parks & Marian Keyes; Hilary Mantel's 
Bring Up The Bodies and Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter.
I am currently reading my airport buy - Jane Green's
Tempting Fate - 150 pages read in just a couple of hours
on the beach yesterday afternoon, so I'll probably finish it
this afternoon.

Saturday 28 September 2013

A Return to England III

This time last week I was just leaving Carluccio's in 
Leicester's Highcross; it's a place hubby & I used to 
have lunch every Saturday, where the food is almost
always good (we only had to complain & return a 
dish to the kitchen once in 2 years) & the staff are friendly.
It opened in September 2008 and we loved it
from that first lunch until we had our last lunch
there together 2 years later. 

That final lunch on Saturday 25th September 2010 was a bit of an 
emotional one - 5 days later we would be setting off from 
the UK for our new life in Italy. 
Many of the staff had become friends & there were 
lots of hugs when we left.

For me, Carluccio's is my 'little piece of Italy' when I return to
the UK - most of the staff from 3 years ago are
still there, so the place is full of familiar faces.
The menu varies slightly according to the
season, just as it would here in Italy, but
the Menu Fisso usually retains my 2 favourites:
Paté di Fegatini di Pollo and
Penne alla Luganica. Unless the 'Speciali'
offer anything unmissable, that is what I plump for
when I'm dining there alone.

Penne alla Luganica
And dining there alone is not the big ordeal I
once expected it to be - if I can get on a plane
from Naples to Stansted alone, having lunch in a
bustling restaurant is child's play.

Friday 27 September 2013

A Return to England II

John Lewis Leicester
It was cold & raining as the plane landed at Stansted but, as we 
journeyed towards Melton Mowbray, the rain
stopped and the sun managed to put in an appearance.
As the English countryside became more familiar 
the closer we got to our destination, the thought suddenly
hit me, "I don't belong here any more".

Don't get me wrong, I miss my family & friends so much and it
hurts like hell when I can't just hop in the car & take off to the 
next village or an hour down the road to see our son or daughter 
when they need me.  But this was the first time I didn't actually 
feel that a return to England was 'coming home'; 
this time I had left home behind in Italy, not just hubby, 
but 'home' - that place where one feels safe & secure, 
a haven from the rest of the world.

It was after my last trip to the UK, 10 months ago now, 
that Il Sogno finally felt like home. On all my
previous trips I'd missed hubby terribly but not
the house particularly. This time I missed everything -
I struggled with even queueing for bag drop at
Naples airport; I was close to tears before I
even had to say goodbye to hubby.

I loved my 'flying visit' - knowing you only have one week
to do stuff in makes you cram so much in; every spare
moment possible was spent with the grandchildren. Saturday 
morning was spent in Leicester town centre - I do miss
'mooching' around the shops & department stores more
than I care to admit to. The afternoon was spent babysitting
the grandchildren so my 'yummy mummy' daughter-in-law could 
visit the hairdressers.
Sunday was spent leisurely at my
Dad's - reading the Sunday Times (which I used to
hate when hubby bought it every weekend),
listening to Radio 2 whilst having lunch & 
then watching the Rugby highlights on ITV4 in the
evening - after an afternoon spent with the grandchildren,
of course.

Weekdays were spent in the office but Monday evening I met up
with our daughter & her BF for dinner at Carluccio's - it's
my 'little bit of Italy' when I'm away from home.
Tuesday evening I had dinner with my friend Viv, whose
daughter Jenni was born the same day as our daughter Flik.
And then Wednesday was a late dinner with Dad as I
needed to bid my farewells to the grandchildren -
our son & daughter-in-law were jetting off to
Portugal early on Thursday morning.
After dinner I did most of my packing, so that I could
spend a couple of hours in the office on Thursday
before Viv very kindly ran me back to Stansted.

And the feeling as I hugged my Dad & bid him goodbye was one of
absolute delight at the prospect of flying back to Naples & coming
home to Il Sogno. My heart belongs here now, and 'home is
where the heart is'.


A Return to England I

An English Sunrise 
So I'm now safely returned home after my week in the UK & I 
really did miss my early morning sunrises - standing in my old 
bedroom in the house I lived in from the ages of 11 to 19 & 
glimpsing it on my final morning there was nowhere near as 
breathtaking as standing on the terrace of Il Sogno

My flight to the UK was uneventful - the 'fun' began when we 
landed early.  I knew one of the guys from the office would be 
picking me up, I just didn't know who (our son was busy 
signmaking, so I knew it wouldn't be him). I whizzed through 
the passport scanner, my suitcase was about 20th
onto the baggage carousel & I was in arrivals before I knew it.
I scanned the faces of everyone waiting for passengers & failed to
register a familiar one among them. "Oh well, turn on the mobile, 
call the office & find out who drew the short straw" I thought to 
myself.  Only my mobile refused to co-operate - it steadfastly 
refused to connect me to a network.  I waited what seemed like 
forever before trying again but the mobile was
definitely being a male & my pleas for it to connect
were ignored.  So I enlisted the help of the guy on the
Tourist Information desk, who very kindly put out a
couple of calls for whoever was picking me up to come to the
desk.  What seemed like hours went by & no-one arrived.  One final
attempt at getting my mobile to connect, met by 
failure once more. 

Nothing for it but to beg the use of the Tourist guy's phone to call 
the office - Mark answered, so it wasn't him meeting me.  
I explained that my mobile wouldn't work, asked who was
picking me up & was told "Craig - he's there, hasn't he phoned 
you?" Typical male, not listening to me! I told Mark where I was;
he said he'd phone Craig to let him know.  Ten minutes later,
still no sign of Craig.  Another phone call to Mark, whose 
first words were, "I tried phoning you back". Grrr!!!

I had forgotten that Craig was a smoker so he was, of course,
standing outside in the Car Park where he could have
a cigarette or two (or more) while he waited for me. 
Finally, over an hour after I'd walked out of the baggage hall, I
got into the car & set off on my journey to the office.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Things I'll Miss

Clouds bask in the evening sun
My suitcase is packed (almost); we have been into town so that I 
could have a deliciously creamy gelato from Baffo, 
had a walk by the sea and watched the sunset 
from our terrace. And it's the last time we'll do this 
together for over a week. Tomorrow we have an early start 
to drive the 2 hours to Naples airport for me to catch
the 10.25 am flight to Stansted. 

And I am going miss so many things in the week I'm away:
hubby (obviously), waking up at silly o'clock & watching the
new day dawn as I drink a cuppa,

Cilento dawn
seeing the sun rise above the mountain behind Il Sogno,

Sunrise, sunrise

having a sea view in 2 directions and being able to hear the
waves crashing onto the shore on wild & windy days
(yes, even in summer we have rough seas - the
past couple of days have seen the red flags out on
all the beaches).

Carry me down to the sea

And although I'll miss hubby the most, I will miss Il Sogno, the 
place I have finally come to love as 'home'.

Il Sogno sunset

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Farewell to Summer?

Brooding skies
The last few mornings have felt distinctly chilly, with the temps falling to 18 degrees overnight -
a bit of a shock after weeks of lows of 26! This morning it was a 
respectable 20 degrees at 5 am and we reached a high of 25, but it 
was very windy & I mean VERY windy. In fact it was too
windy to sit out for lunch & dinner today - I can't remember the
last time we ate a meal indoors.
The sun did put in the occasional appearance but there were 
brooding skies for a large part of the day - cue lots of clicking 
away with my Canon PowerShot SX240 HS.

La Spiaggia Maiori
And so what does 'farewell to summer' really mean? 
It means goodbye to the crowded beaches with their regimented 
rows of sunloungers and parasols. It means 'arrivederci' to the
HUGE selection of flavours in all the gelaterie - most are now 
only offering half the choice they had on display a month ago.

Gelato, gelato, gelato
But for me it means having to finally give in & get dressed - after 
4 months of only wearing a bikini, I finally have to put clothes on.
And for the last 2 days that's what I've had to do - yuck!
However, we are lucky - the Cilento has a unique
micro climate and we are likely to see temperatures
in their 20s right to the end of October. Then should follow
the November rains & we will know that summer is finally over.

September sunset

Friday 13 September 2013

Friday the 13th

Venerdi il tredici
So today is Friday the 13th - that Friday when we dare bad luck to befall us &, if it does, we blame it all on the day & date. However, in Italy, 13 is considered lucky, although no-one seems to know precisely why. Here in Campania, people say 'tredici' when they consider their luck to have taken a turn for the worse - presumably in the hope of reversing their fortunes. But why, when Western culture usually considers 13 unlucky, does Italy differ?

Maybe study of the moon in ancient times & the realisation that there are 13 cycles of the moon in a year (a lunar month lasting only 28 days). This coincides with the female menstrual cycle & the ancient Romans most certainly were in awe of their Goddesses, both celestial & terrestrial.

Ancient cultures sanctified the number: the Egyptians believed life has 13 stages, the last of which is, obviously, death; in Israel 13 was also sanctified - maybe this is why 13 items were deemed necessary for the Tabernacle?

No-one can give a definitive answer as to why 13 is considered lucky here, but hey, the Italians love being different, so maybe that's why!

Lucky or not?

Monday 9 September 2013

Mountain Fires

Vigili di Fuoco at work
We saw our first ever summer mountain fires back in August 2007 whilst staying in Ravello - there seemed to be one every other day - and it was fascinating to watch the Vigili di Fuoco's seaplanes in action, swooping down to the sea to scoop up quantities of water before winging their way up the mountain & dropping their payload.  And now we live in the Cilento, fires have become a
common occurrence - there have been 3 fires on our mountain in the past 3 days.  However, fires are not confined to the summer months - one of the most dramatic happened on 1st December 2011 (I was away on a trip to the UK) & hubby captured this late afternoon shot.....
Fire below Castellabate
And for me personally, the most dramatic was the one that threatened our garden on 8th October last year......
Danilo using our garden hose to little effect
Someone living down in Case del Conte decided it would be a good idea to bring their olive nets home to burn in the garden. Obviously, olive nets are going to be highly flammable, having contained the fruit of the harvest for several years. The bonfire was out of control within a few minutes of starting &, after a hot summer, the flames soon spread up the mountain. As they came ever closer, our driveway began to fill up with cars - first to arrive was Danilo, our nearest neighbour, who grabbed our garden hose & ran to the edge of the garden to start an attempt to keep the flames at bay. He was swiftly followed by members of our adoptive family - Maria, Raffaela & Erminio had seen the flames encroaching from their homes down in Ogliastro Marina & so came to check that we were OK.  Erminio took one look and shot back off down the mountain to ask the Vigili di Fuoco to bring 
the fire tender up to Il Sogno to fight the flames. Within a couple of minutes we had 5 firefighters up here, connecting to our reserve tank & pumping water like crazy.

Firemen in our garden & not a 'hot' one among them!
However, it soon became obvious that the hoses were not going to extinguish the flames & the decision was taken to call in reinforcements - cue the helicopter....
Vigili di Fuoco's helicopter heads straight for hubby as he takes this shot
Watching the helicopter swoop down in Ogliastro bay to scoop up seawater & then head directly for Il Sogno was one of the most surreal moments in my life; hubby was out there with his camera & the helicopter pilot seemed to aim straight for him in a game of
'chicken' when he saw the camera pointed in his direction. Three visits to Ogliastro bay later, the flames were doused, the helicopter returned to base & the firemen had a cigarette break whilst filling the tender from our reserve water tank. Yes, that's right, having just put out a fire on the mountain, they stood in my garden puffing away - the irony was not lost on me.

Saturday 7 September 2013

San Marco Sagra di Paranza

San Marco port
A couple of weeks back hubby spotted on Cilento Notizie's website 
that there would be a sagra di paranza in San Marco this weekend 
- 2 evenings when we could watch the day's catch be landed 
at the port and then proceed to eat it. 
Gamberi don't come fresher than this  
 For those of you wondering, 'sagra di paranza' means
'feast of fish' and that is, literally, what this is.
Gamberi & alice abound, an open air kitchen is set up
& locals and tourists alike pay their 8 Euros each
for their 'completi', receive a ticket & then queue 
to receive this Italian version of 'fast food'.
Coating gamberi & alice in flour
Last night's sagra was quite a subdued affair compared to some 
we've been to in previous years, but it is the end of the 
holiday season & the only entertainment was watching the
fish being prepared & cooked. Zona Lago has a HUGE 
sagra at the start of the season - funfair, live bands - and
thousands of people turn up for that one.   
Alice fresh from the sea
Dinner is served
We were third in line for the food last night (not that we were
eager to eat, but the Italians tend to get their ticket then wander 
off) & were dished up the final 2 servings from the first cooking
 - never have we had such a fresh sagra cena.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Internet Friends.......or not?

Just me
Hi, this is me, admittedly the pic is 6 years old now, but it's still me; almost as naked as the day I was born, wearing the only pieces of jewellery I ever wear - diamond earrings, my Gucci twirl watch and my platinum engagement & wedding rings, which hubby had surprised me with at Easter 2007 (there's a story behind the giving of those, but that's another blog
entirely). And what you see is what you get, end of.

Yesterday on Twitter I upset a new follower, who promptly unfollowed me. They have a locked account, their profile gives nothing away about them & I couldn't see who followed them.
I did what I always do and posted a tweet asking if anyone followed them & should I follow back. The locked account took
exception to my posting such a tweet & that is why she unfollowed me. She told another follower that you wouldn't ask someone else in RL whether you should be friends with someone, you'd decide for yourself, so why do it on the internet?  Let me tell you why.....

A couple of days ago, I came across this blog post: It really brings home the fact that, on the internet, we can all pretend to be someone we're not. Admittedly, when I first opened my Twitter account, I was reluctant to share the real me in my profile pic and, as I am known
as the 'Google Fairy' in our house (owing to my penchant for Googling anything & everything in my thirst for knowledge), I assumed the Fairy as my avi. But my profile blurb told it like it is - wife, mum, grandma, Leicester Tigers fan, living the fairytale ending in the Cilento. And my tweets reflected - and still continue to reflect - the somewhat flirty untamed 'wild child' who refuses to grow old gracefully.

But what of some of my followers? Earlier this year I was followed by a locked account which someone else asked me to follow back as they thought it was a 'fake' account. I did so and, as soon as
my follow request was accepted, the DM's started. Just a simple 'good morning' at first, always followed by a 'hope you don't mind me DMing you'. But I did - why couldn't a simple 'good morning'
go on TL - why did it have to be said in private? And then she
started to DM me with personal details: she had a 'toyboy' hubby, 13 years younger than her - was I jealous? How well did I know one particular follower? When I failed to respond to those DMs more followed, checking that I'd received them. Yes, I had, but I was choosing to ignore them - I was actually wondering why someone 'all loved up' with a toyboy hubby they'd only been married to for 3 years was even on Twitter. So I decided to ask some questions of my own: where did she live, what did hubby do, did they have children? And that's when I began to realise this WAS a fake account. She said she lived in East Anglia, had a 2 year old daughter & hubby was a farmer. The few pics she'd posted on her TL were all of Leicester or Birmingham & yet no mention of trips/days out to meet up with friends had ever appeared on her TL - what girl doesn't get excited at the prospect of a girlie day out & tell everyone about it? There was also no sign of any toddler in any of her pics, nor was she any great shakes in the beauty department & the story of the 'toyboy' hubby no longer gelled as far as I was concerned. And then I noticed something else.....every single pic had been posted from another Twitter account.

Of course, that really aroused my curiosity, so I did 'what it says on the can' & started Googling. The second account was a real person & she lived just outside Leicester; I was able to discover
that her hubby was actually in his 60's (although it may be possible she's an only child still living at home with her father). All the while I was delving, the DMs were continuing, telling a sob story of being bullied on Twitter (again, nothing in her TL or her pics could give rise to any reason for bullying). Then they turned really personal, wanting to know if I 'fancied' any of my tweeps & what would I do if I had the chance to be alone with them, as well as telling me how sexy they found some of their followers and what they'd like to do with them, given the chance. Of course, I failed to respond & she really didn't like that, so there were some 3-way TL convos that she instigated & tried to twist to make it look as though I'd turned against her. I decided to call her bluff, 'name & shame' her and that's when my suspicions were confirmed by numerous tweeps: yes, this is a fake account, run by the 60-something year old guy who is trying to groom couples for his porn website.

And so, at the risk of upsetting anyone with a locked account, I
will continue to double-check before I follow back.......

Sunday 1 September 2013

And Relax......

September sunrise
So it's Sunday 1st September and the weather is decidedly 'unsummery' today. Despite a rather spectacular sunrise, the skies clouded over somewhat rapidly & we've had several showers this afternoon. However, there
are positives to the fact that August has passed, the first of which is: most Italian holidaymakers went home yesterday, yay!!!!

Yes, when we went to La Torretta for lunch yesterday, there were spaces in the car park - not just one, but loads - we were spoilt for choice. They still had the ticketing system operating for ordering your food but as soon as we took a ticket  it was our turn.  And, after lunch, when we walked to the supermarket there were only 4 cars in the car park - only 4! - a sight not seen for months. No queue at the deli counter, no queue at the checkouts (in fact, only one checkout was open, it was so quiet).

Spiaggia Pozzillo

We decided to go into Santa Maria for a gelato & a coke this afternoon and again we had no trouble finding a parking space. Town was very quiet with only a handful of diners at Il Cantuccio in Piazza Lucia and less than a dozen customers at Bar L'Ancora. As for the beaches, they all still have their regimented rows of sunbeds & parasols but very few were occupied.

And so we feel that we can finally reclaim Santa Maria as 'our own'; no more traffic jams, no more queueing for what seems hours at the deli counter, no more battling through throngs of holidaymakers up & down Corso Matarazzo and, best of all, we'll be able to get on the beach whenever we want.