Monday, 18 September 2017

Italy: La Città è Tua Part 1

Note: I started intending to write all of my Italy experiences in one post. This is not going to work. So, have day 1.

On Sunday August 27th, at 930, I found myself walking through departures in Gatwick Airport, my heart beating fast as I waved cheerily to my mother. I didn't want anyone to see the panic I was suffering. Flying fills me with fear, but that wasn't the only reason for my fast beating heart. I was excited, nervous, and yes, scared. As I walked through the wide corridors to arrive at security, I was looking out for a man I had met just once, over a year ago, who had hired me based on recommendation alone, to teach English and Drama in a small village in Northern Italy, and stay with an Italian family for a week. Impress the theatre company, the school we would work for, the students and a host family? There was a lot to be nervous about.
Now, I could write a detailed report of how I met with everyone, how we had tea at the airport and my nerves for flying grew as I began to relax about work. I could talk to you about the silly putty my sister won for me, which caused strange looks but helped me calm myself on the plane. I could complain about expensive sun cream at the airport, and the terror of broken headphones. The sinking realisation that I'd forgotten to choreograph a dance. But that all disappeared into the back ground as I, bravely!, peered out the window as the plane lowered and my ears began to feel that awful pain. I looked out, and saw the city in the sea. The city I had dreamed of since I was 11, Venice. That was the first time it really sank in. "I'm going to Italy!" I said this out loud, and the woman in the seat next to me (who was already disapproving of my silly putty antics) gave me yet another strange look. The plane landed, I managed not to cry, and I ran off that plane as fast as I could, grateful to be on solid land.
We found our fourth and final member of the group, and bought bus tickets. Suitcases in tow, the heat of Italy was like a wall as we left the airport. Lovely. From then, it was travel. Buses, trains and cars (the first man I met in Italy was called Mario and this gives me great joy) all of which I stared wistfully out of the window. Italy.
And then we were in small town, Trissino.  It was about 6pm. I still couldn't believe it. I'd seen the Romeo and Juliet castles through the car window, the mountains and vineyards. An Aperol Spritz in front of me, the reality rather than the romance started to sink in. I was at a table with a large group of lovely, friendly Italians. And one of these families was going to take me home for a week. How do you live with a stranger? What if I forgot something? or started my period? Or what if they didn't like me?
The four of us were assigned a family, and mine seemed lovely and equally wary. We were whisked off into cars, and as I sat in the front seat making polite 'sorry I don't speak Italian' small talk, it occurred to me that being driven into the mountains by a stranger is the start of a terrifying horror story. What was I doing? I don't speak Italian!
This was not going to be the first time I cursed my lack of language skills.
After a shower, some more small talk, and then a lovely evening where all four host families and teachers came together for a lot of pizza, I started to feel better, more relaxed. I could do this. I managed to fumble through ordering my pizza in Italian, laughed and shared stories of England, of our various acting and dating disasters, and began to know my family a little better.
I went to bed in an 8 year olds room, he had been evicted to stay with mum and dad, and in my Star Wars bedsheets I looked out at the door I'd propped open onto the Italian hillside and couldn't believe my luck.
(The gratitude had waned somewhat when I awoke in the morning covered in mosquito bites. I swear a memo goes around as soon as I arrive in a new country 'She's here! The one with the tasty blood!'. I am convinced mosquitos have a hive mind and won't hear anything to the contrary. )
I didn't sleep that first night. Despite exhaustion, as the light had clicked off I realised that as lovely as my first night had been, tomorrow was work. Now, I must confess that had I been doing a week long holiday course in England, putting on a short musical in a week, I would have had similar fears and probably not slept well. It's part of the job, especially when you care as much as I do. What games do I do to start with? I know I've written a lesson plan but what if I forget? I've not choreographed a dance yet, so shall I start that tomorrow? Or Tuesday? I've got to teach singing god I hate teaching singing. Then, with a bang, I have to teach English. I don't know what level of English these children speak. I know I'm working with 12 year olds and try to think how much French I knew at 12. Shit. Not much at all.
What Italian did I know? 'Ciao' 'posso avere?' and 'grazie'.
I wish I spoke Italian.
I had been told that breakfast would be at 740, just myself and Camilla, the daughter of the family. She was 13, beautiful, and had been very shy on Sunday.
At 745 we sat down to have breakfast, and after some polite small talk (she spoke fantastic English) she asked about eyeliner. I promised to teach her, and from then we were fine. More than fine. By the end of the week, Camilla was like a sister. We talked make up, and boys, and she asked about my husband and my family, and told me all about hers. That first breakfast was quiet, but we came to an unspoken agreement. We were both tired on a morning, we would have a quiet breakfast and then we could both wake up to deal with the day.
A grandparent who spoke pure Italian to me collected us to take us to School, and off we went to explore our classrooms, find out our registers and start the day.
First lesson, English. I don't think I've ever been more worried about a teaching job. The chalkboard was worryingly blank, the children loud. I started with the register, and as I pronounced the names terribly, I realised just how much of the things I say as a teacher are completely irrelevant, and not worth translating. 'Okay so if I say your name wrong let me know and I'll try again' was met with blank looks, but when I pronounced a name wrong, they corrected me anyway. I also learnt very quickly that I speak to fast. 'Can we move the tables to the sides please' was understood only the third time I repeated it, slowly and clearly, with some hand gestures. This week was going to be learning for us all.

Saturday, 24 September 2016


I've not written a blog in over two years. If I'm honest, I've not really written in over two years. However, I'm excellent at re-reading my old writing and dying on the inside. My attempt at a novel (all 6000+ words of it) is mediocre at best, and so very A level. Some of my poetry is less than murderous, but excessively cringeworthy. Odd paragraphs and writing prompts are scattered everywhere, but I am a short and sweet writer and as such, looking back on words I wrote at age 16,18,21, is not fun. I won't delete these posts, I won't deny my past self her emotions. I will worry very much about starting a masters degree, admittedly not for a while yet, and having to get back into the habit of writing.
However, reading the blog posts from this blog, from two years ago, I feel proud. But not that my writing is exceptional, but seeing how far I've come since January 2014. There's a lot that hasn't changed. And a lot that has. I could easily list the things that have changed, massage my ego, give myself a much needed boost. On the other hand, I could very easily list all the things I wish had changed. All the things in my life I am unhappy with.
You will be thankful to know I'm not going to do any of those things.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Still flying, just about.

I'm writing at work, which may get me in trouble, but more likely no one will notice. For I have realised that is my life, unnoticed. A lifetime of being promised I'll go somewhere, I'll be someone and now I put 100% every day into being pure loveliness, and yet all I am is the nice receptionist.
As a teenager I realised I needed to work in theatre to be content, because the reality of the lies of theatre makes me feel safe and at home. And heck, theatre people are fun. I devoted every minute I had to getting experience, working hard. I travelled to America to teach, from the age of 14 I gave up every Saturday morning and most evenings, as well as my New Years Eve and the entire Christmas period to amateur dramatics. Eight years. As a student I juggled my degree, working 30+ hours a week and my rehearsals so there wasn't a gap in my CV, and I volunteered for 18hour days regularly working backstage at the university theatre. Yet despite this, I am a receptionist. Yeah, a good one. But no more.

I guess a lot of this is to do with the fact that the start of 2013 took the wind out of my sails big time, and now it is hard work to bring myself to do simple things, like apply for jobs, or some days even get out of bed.
I've also been rejected for two 'dream' jobs this year.

Things are not easy when you've been told you are special and gifted and will go far. Because the real world often disagrees with this. No one is special. Just being the nice reception lady is about as special as I feel I can dream of at the moment.

But I am trying. My wonderful boyfriend is giving me more support than I ever could have dreamed of, and I am slowly bucking up the courage to start the horrendous application process for a list of jobs. Surely there is a limit to how many times a person can be turned down for a job they are qualified for and experienced in?

The last few days, the start of 2014, have been some of the hardest days because the whole new year new start resolution bollocks that is everywhere has made me look at myself, and what I've achieved over 12 months. A great big fat load of bollocks is what. I'm living in a lovely flat sure, but my rent is more than it was, and yet I'm earning £300 a month less than I was. Yeah I've still got a full time job, but I never know my rota more than two days in advance, have to work until 11 then start at 7am some days, and I'm on minimum wage and treated like shit by the majority of people I work with.
At least I have some great friends. Truly fabulous friends, who are always there and know when to ask and know when to leave me alone. Friends for laughing and drinking and crying and living.
And being with Connor, although thoroughly unexpected, is exactly the relationship I need. Head over heels and made of laughter. I couldn't ask for more.

I guess things are half shit, half lovely. And it's the people I spend my time with outside of work that keep me going. And I am still going. Despite the threats, I've not thrown the towel in and started again elsewhere. I've not quit my job or run away. I'm still going, and things could be so much worse.

'We're still flying.'
'That's not much.'
'It's enough.'

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The True Story of What Is

Though I'm not really who I said I was
Or who I thought I'd be
Just a collection of recollections
Conversations consisting
Of the kind of marks we make
When we're trying to get a pen to work again
A lifetime of them

How things change! My circumstances since my last post have improved somewhat, largely due to my determination to get shit sorted.
I have a job I enjoy which I am good at, and it pays my rent and then some. I have a flat with a good friend, and I feel like it's a home. And my boxes are ticked.
That's what I said, didn't I? A job a like and somewhere nice to live. That's all I need to be content. But, am I content? I still feel lost and scared but in a safe way, I'm supposed to feel lost and scared after all. It's all part of being 22 and starting a life again.
The city doesn't sleep, it merely pauses. Sleep suggests dreams and this is not a city of dreams. This is a city of safety, and lullabies. The far off ringing of the Cathedral bells lull the world into a false sense of routine. Everything changes but those bells keep ringing. People laugh and cry and come and go and yet there is a constant. Seeing the Cathedral daily, hearing those bells. It helps me focus. It reminds me that time passes, and things have a way of keeping going.
Occasionally I have a thought of 'I can't do this'. Or 'I don't want to go to this place.' But sure enough, the time passes and it gets done. In June 2010 I lay in my bed thinking to myself that there was no way I could go to America alone. But somehow I did it. How? The time passed, I got there because that was what happened.
The world doesn't end. I've left jobs, boyfriends, universities. I've hurt myself, hurt others, risked all sorts. And yet the world doesn't end, nothing stops, judgement doesn't rain down upon me.
I have a very 'well, why the hell not?' attitude at the moment. Why shouldn't I flirt with that guy, or stay up that late, or go on holiday? Why shouldn't I take a risk and try something new?
The world doesn't end. The only constant is time. It just keeps passing.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Happiness: am I here for a day or forever?

I remember not long ago, my father telling me that there is no point in striving to gain things, because eventually you realise it will all be taken from you, and there's no point in aspiring to be anything because you cannot achieve happiness. He's a cheerful man as you can see, and in his defence he was feeling a bit sorry for himself having just been burgled. However, his argument centered around happiness coming from belongings. When I stated that I'd be happy with the same naff car for as long as I could, and I just want somewhere nice to live and a job I enjoy, he laughed.
This is something I've been thinking a lot about really. Where does happiness come from? What makes us happy? Recently my happiness has been on a pretty low level. I have a job I enjoy and I'm good at, a lovely room in a houseshare and a good group of friends. But that's today, two days ago I had the same job, house and friends, but it wasn't enough. Today it still isn't enough, but I accept that it's not forever.
And I'm starting to think that what really makes me happy, is the knowledge that things can and will change. Knowing that a flirtation may become a relationship, a house may become a home, a job a career. And then, once we get there? I don't know.
Things change regularly for me. I am surrounded by inconsistencies, and it's an emotional rollercoaster but it keeps me going. It inspires me to keep trying, because I am aware of the rate my luck can change, I went from working full time with a partner and a flat to living with my parents unemployed within a few days. A week or so later and I had a new job and a place to live. Things Change. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes for the better. And if we tell ourselves that things will change again, it makes it slightly easier to deal with I think.
And if we accept we can make our own changes to life, that we can move house, make plans, apply for jobs, things get better quicker.

You are not here forever. The place you are in right now will not stay the same. It's just a matter of making your own changes, instead of letting the world make the changes for you.
I don't know what my next change will be, but I'm putting one foot in front of the other to getting there.
I still dream of 'unpathed waters'. I still struggle and get angry and spend too long crying on my mother. But I am making changes.
And this is why I update less and less. Because you'd start to think I was lying, the rate things change for me.
I don't want new pretty things, I'm not searching to tick every box. I don't want to be thin and pretty with a good job a gorgeous flat a gorgeous boyfriend a shiny car etc etc.
I want to be content with what I have until I can make the final changes to make me happy.
I want a job I like and somewhere nice to live, and, contrary to my father's opinions, that is enough. For now.