Archive for the ‘Status Viatoris’ Category

One last look back…


I have spent the last week (in between toddler wrangling, domestic chores and sweating attractively due to the ghastliness of a humid summer) reading all that I have posted since this blog began in March 2010.

And as Status Viatoris was created, in part, to document my experiences on moving to Italy, this nostalgic little journey was made even more interesting by the fact that I am now beginning my preparations to leave.

Having weeded out those posts that in retrospect only existed to fill writers’ block-induced lapses in content, I am still left with almost 300 accounts of this and that. Not a massive amount for a blog over six years old, but certainly enough to keep the memories alive.

So in honour of these last six plus years – to remind me of the wonderful times I have had in Italy whilst reassuring me that leaving is the best decision for me and my little family, I have decided that I will re-post a selection of past writing for old times’ sake.

I shall call them “Tired Old Tales for Tuesdays”.

Consider yourselves warned.


Condemned to Solitude


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No sooner is a woman in the position to pin on her twinkly primigravida badge (yes, they give them away free with each plastic pee pee stick – didn’t you know?), a surprisingly high number of curious bystanders begin to request information regarding her future procreational intentions.

It can be a little disconcerting, especially when her mind is rather full of other things: the anxiety involved in assisting this embryo through the gestational minefield before ushering it into a healthy babyhood, for starters. Questioning her sanity at placing herself in such a responsibility-laden situation, for seconds. And lastly, the dawning realisation that she has just willingly compromised her rights to being entirely her own person for at least the next eighteen years.

But regardless of the mental gymnastics that appear to be delivered – along with nausea and a tendency to easy tears – by the victorious spermatozoon, many women do already know the answer to this rather inappropriate question and can confidently state, “I plan to have two, three, four children…” (delete as appropriate and biology willing, natch), thus apparently satisfying the informationary requirements of the question poser.

However there is an answer that does not seem to satisfy, and – typically, I suppose, given my contrariness in most matters – it is the only answer I can offer.

“I only want this child. I have no intention of having any more.”

A statement that even in Italy, where the birthrate is one of the lowest in Europe and where there are more sibling-less children than one could shake a rosemary and olive oil grissino at, is greeted with a surprising lack of respect for my capacity for rational thought.

So, just to prove to the sceptical masses (ok, to the nosy few) that I have actually given the matter some consideration, I shall now list my reasons for feeling that one child will be my lot in life:

1) Although the statistics on overpopulation vary, there can be no doubt that many of the more serious current and future world problems are/will be caused by there being far too many human beings on the planet. My conscience simply would not allow me any peace if I had more than one child.

2) I would be able to afford educational possibilities and horizon-broadening opportunities for one child, that I would not be in a position to offer to two. Important considerations (I feel) in a world that is becoming evermore competitive and complicated.

3) Similarly, as I am English my husband is Romanian and we live in Italy, much of our holiday time over the next years is going to be spent travelling hither and thither to keep sproglet in touch with far-flung relatives. Not something that we would be able to do either financially or logistically with any ease in the case of multi-sprogs.

4) A child needs to be loved, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated and tirelessly cuddled. Having a sibling is not a need, it is a circumstance. A circumstance which plenty of us have never found ourselves in and not suffered as a consequence. And as an afterthought, it is important to remember that just as there are people who have wonderfully close and supportive relationships with their brothers/sisters, there are plenty of others who would happily cross continents to avoid them.

5) I don’t actually want more than one child. Seeing women walking along with a toddler at her side, another in a pushchair and a third “on the way” (for example) makes me want to run as fast and as far as I can. Watching friends juggling two or more children with their different and often opposing requirements – baby’s having a nap, four-year old is clamouring to go to the park, got to pick her up from ballet, take him to football practice, we’re late for school but the toddler’s just filled his nappy… simply reinforces my conviction that it is not for me.

6) And to the wagging fingers that are accompanied by: “Just you wait and see. As soon as you’ve popped that sprog you will be swept away on an uncontrollable sea of biological impulses that will have you planning the next three before the umbilical cord is even severed!” I would say: whilst I do not doubt that at some point during what remains of my fertile years I may well have a brief hankering for a second baybeeeee, I sincerely hope that I have the strength of character to take my present concerns into account and not be dictated to by my hormones. After all, what woman would seriously consider placing her hormones in the driving seat when attempting a spot of rational decision-making?


So there we have it: the reasoning behind my inability to offer curious bystanders a satisfactory answer to their queries in six explanatory steps! Now all that is left to do is translate it into Italian and post flyers round the village 😉

This is Status Viatoris, who maybe one day will have a strongly held conviction that people actually approve of! Unlikely, I know…

The Tedium of a One-Track Mind


 status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

This post comes with a content alert: as much as I have tried and tried to steer my mind towards non-pregnancy related topics over the last months, I regret to announce that I have finally succumbed to the same dreamy preoccupation with my condition that I imagine affects most first-time mothers in this final stretch.

(Of course I quite understand that such a topic holds very little interest for many, so I wholeheartedly forgive you for going in search of more scintillating reading fodder, and hope that in turn you might eventually forgive me for my current one-track-mindedness…)

There is no doubt that I am exceedingly lucky to at last be in a position to succumb to such aforementioned dreamy preoccupation:

The shop has finally been tied up and put to eternal sleep, my Overseas Guides Company writing commitments have been passed to a lady living in Puglia, and my darling husband has taken over the thankless task of tussling with neighbours and daft Italian bureaucrats in order to replace our uninsulated and leaky roof with something entirely more satisfactory.

And me? I have been gifted with the indescribable luxury of being able to flee the frustrations and the potential builders’ dust, straight into the welcoming arms of the mothership and a relaxing month or so of doing little else but observing the perplexing, uncomfortable, fascinating, terrifying, unique and exhilarating changes to which my body and my life are currently being subjected.

That is not to say that this time has been without its challenges: barely four days after touching down in Blighty, my brand-new waddling centre of gravity tipped me off a perfectly straight stretch of path and headlong into the agony of a badly sprained ankle.

Just over a week after that, and I find myself struck down with intense round ligament pain (something to do with those stretchy parts that give the uterus a supporting hand during this, its time of toil and overwork).

But although I am still as permanently knackered and frequently snotty as ever I was, I have found a somewhat greater sense of purpose; as the parasitic little being within me steals my energy, my health (and a worryingly large portion of my heart) in order to become the strong and active individual now turning endless somersaults under my tummy button whilst pushing my spare tyres into miraculous peaks and crests with each flex of its still-tiny limbs.

Being given this opportunity to “enjoy” the last few months of my pregnancy in relative peace and tranquility is exactly what I had hoped for. Primarily in the interests of my health and that of the sproglet; but also because this is highly likely to be my only pregnancy (a tale for another time…) and I am suddenly very aware of the importance of savouring each intriguing moment; as one probably should every major life experience when offered the chance to do so.

So the next few weeks will be spent in quiet contemplation of my rather busy naval, reading it stories from my childhood, using my constant diet of Classic FM to assess its preferences for Saint-Saëns’ organ symphony over Rossini’s overtures and being utterly and undeservedly spoilt by the Mothership whilst indulging my cravings for sleep and books – both of which I suspect I shall soon have to do without for a very long time…

This is Status Viatoris, 28 weeks and hoping that the daft Italian bureaucrats pull their roof-deciding fingers out before she is forced to give birth on an Easy Jet flight somewhere over France…

Small Crises of Identity


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I have a very boring surname; a single-syllabled yawn-inducer of a surname.

In fact over the years, one of the most exciting aspects of potential matrimony has been the thought that I would be presented with a perfectly legitimate reason to change it.

And yet here I am; spliced, ringed-up and officially wed, but without a single appellatory-alteration to show for it.

But, why? You might ask – as I myself do on a semi-regular basis…

Perhaps I should start with the why nots.

Well, it’s certainly not in any way because I’m a feminist (although I am, in the men-and-women-are-equals way), in fact it makes perfect sense when creating a family to give them the same surname, whoever’s it may be.

Having carried a child for nine months, squeezed it painfully out through a hole that is patently too small for such a purpose, fed it, worried about it, and taken marginally good care of it; I certainly don’t want to misplace it in the fresh produce aisle only to realise that the sole links the authorities may find to connect me to my offspring are our shared knock-knee affliction or the results of a long-winded DNA test.

I also can’t blame the lack of name change on a desire to keep the family surname alive – I am about as clannish as I am patriotic.

Could it be because the mere thought of the bureaucracy involved in changing my surname in a country where it is not the cultural practice chills me to my very vitals?

That plays a part, certainly; but in fact the primary reason I can’t seem to bring myself to alter my nominal identity is far more basic than any of the prior options:

It is simply the blinding realisation that having been plain old “me” for an entire thirty-six years, I find myself in no way inclined to get used to being someone different, even if it is solely in name.

So the very boring surname stays.

And the offspring – already facing confusion by being born to a British mother and a Romanian father, in Italy – will add to its international credentials by following the Hispanic habit of carrying its father’s surname, followed by its mother’s very boring one.

Poor creature.

This is Status Viatoris, finding out new things about herself every single day (none of them especially interesting, I might add) in Italy.

Like a Horse and Carriage


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Marriage is an institution that has gone severely out of fashion; there are occasional reports that it is staging a triumphant comeback, but for many people it is a step that is simply no longer relevant.

Which, I suppose, makes me old-fashioned (ditto my preference for Beethoven over Beyoncé, Pink Floyd over Pink and bog-standard trousers over those that display a spotty, g-stringed arse as soon as the wearer sits down), because I had always felt that should I ever meet a man with whom I decided to have a family, I might quite like to marry him first.

It was never about the big white wedding – horrid, fussy, expensive affairs in which being the dreaded centre of attention is apparently a must – it was more about the stated intention:

We are under no illusions that life is perfect, but we have taken the time and effort to organise a ceremonial promise to each other to try our very best to make our family work.

Giving myself and my intended that one further hoop to jump through seemed to offer an ideal opportunity for a last good think about our most heartfelt desires before we stepped into the bobbing sea of parenthood.

I have always been baffled by those (usually men, I might add) who claim marriage is too much of a commitment, but are happy to impregnate willy-nilly.

Pun, what pun?

But honestly, how on earth is marriage more of a commitment than breeding? You can’t divorce your children – although I understand they can now divorce you, if you don’t buy them the latest x-box or whatnot…

Of course there are still many who reckon love and marriage just go together like a nag and her cart. It has nothing to do with having children, it’s simply about forming a union that is built on mutual love and respect, a union they dearly hope will last forever and so wish to state that hope publicly.

And then there are those who are of the opinion that marriage is just a piece of paper. And I suppose they’re right: marriage can be just a piece of paper, if that is all you want it to be. And if that is all you see it as, then why bother? I get it.

Personally I just felt the need to officially verbalise my commitment to my partner before we went on to make an entirely more binding commitment to our offspring.

I didn’t want to call the father of my child, “my boyfriend” (too frivolous) or “my partner” (too business-like), I wanted to call him my husband and I wanted to be his wife – to me those felt like the building blocks for family.

But I am no romantic. Not a flutter felt I at uttering “I do”, and my heart didn’t dance a jig the first time I said “my husband”, I just felt rather silly – a little girl playing at being grown-up. I had no regrets at taking the plunge, but it changed precisely nothing.


And then, once the overwhelming relief at getting the dreaded hoop-la over and done with had started to dissipate and a sense of normality returned, I began to notice that not all was as it had been: there was an added sense of contentment in the air; a togetherness and a tenderness that I hadn’t previously perceived.

Having set sail on the bobbing sea of life and parenthood – precarious novices in our untried and wobbly little boat – the feeling that we are in this together, a team composed of just the two of us, is overwhelming.

Overwhelming, but utterly and joyfully exhilarating.

And that is the part I had never expected.

This is Status Viatoris, I know I know – just wait a couple of years and all the rosiness will have rubbed off blah blah blah, in Italy.

Shopkeeper Over and Out


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

After a tourist season that lasted approximately three weeks, I have been left with no option but to close the doors of my itty bitty emporium, In po’ de tütu.

The months of indecision and evermore tangled thought processes have been brain-scrambling in the extreme; but ultimately, all my ponderings on what to stock and how to stock it, opening hours and window displays, lead me unfailing to the same conclusion – if there is little or no footfall past the door, most everything else is futile.

I live in a village of barely a thousand inhabitants. There are three grocery shops, a butcher’s, a patisserie, a newsagent, two hairdressers, a post office, a bank and a shop selling anything from bras to olive nets – i.e. most residents’ basic requirements are met.

And understandably, in the current climate of financial uncertainty, basic requirements are all most of us are really concerned about.

Which leaves the usually fairly predictable tourist season; this year beset not only by atrocious weather, but also what has undoubtedly been a record low in pit-stopping travellers.

The second-home owners (never my best customers anyway) staged their annual arrival en masse, but there was a pronounced dearth of new faces; those that did pop up being primarily of the self-catering variety and in frustrating possession of well-honed budgets that did not apparently include serious provision for knick knacks, souvenirs and/or bric-à-brac.

Thus the final dawn of yet another SV endeavour is heralded, but as battling on in the face of such financial precariousness seems the very antithesis of a sensible parent-type, I shed no tears…

Besides, having some stress-free time to spend getting used to the terrifying connotations of impending motherhood, may be just what the dottore ordered 😉

This is Status Viatoris, bobbing plumply on a never-ending sea of change, in Italy.

No Turning Back…


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Heavy left hands...

Heavy left hands…

For I am now officially married.




I jumped the broom, tied the knot, took the marital plunge; and do you know what? Life doesn’t feel remotely different.

Who’d a thunk it.

In the end, and like all the best bridezillas, I managed to get away with the wedding I had always wanted (if I had to have one at all, that was).

No fuss, minimal flap, a complete absence of fancy white dress and the bare necessity of guests.

Having ignored my bridal apparel for as long as possible (much to the anxiety of the much-into-forward-planning Mothership) I jumped in the bathtub for an ablute about an hour prior to the ceremony before finally allaying her fears by squeezing my ample tum into its nuptial threads without bursting any of the more obvious seams.

By ten to seven on Monday evening – apparently a most irregular choice of moments for matrimony – Tigger (resplendent in his new trainers) and I were hanging around outside the town hall with the majority of our 25 strong wedding party, waiting for the stragglers whilst being snapped in the first of far too many photos.

Civil wedding ceremonies in Italy, like many supposedly formal occasions, are nothing if not laid back; especially when the lady mayoress/celebrant happens to be a neighbour and very close friend.

With our very special marriage celebrant...

With our very special marriage celebrant…

Tigger and I were told not to bother sitting down in the chairs provided – no point, this will only take about five minutes! – so we stood obediently before her as she read out the contractual obligations we were entering in to, while our unruly party milled about taking yet more photos and umpiring a small ruckus that briefly broke out between a canine wedding guest and a curious cat that had popped in from the street midway to see what all the fuss was about.

Other than the usual exhortations to look after one’s spouse and not to get frisky with third parties, there was one final request in the wedding service that I found particularly poignant – the obligation to:

“instruct and educate offspring whilst taking into account their abilities, their natural inclinations and their own aspirations.” 

Potential Pushy Parents – you have been warned…

So, the final “sì” having been said, rings and kisses exchanged; newly weds and witnesses signed the register and Tigger and I made our way back down into the fresh air to be liberally showered with rice (and a random box of macaroni) for good luck in our new life together.

Then, horns blaring, the wedding party convoy made its noisy way along the 3km between village and pizzeria, where we settled in for an exquisite “giro pizza” and an unforgettable evening in the company of our most beloved blood relatives and our adoptive Italian family.

Non-traditional eco-flavour wedding favours...

Non-traditional eco-flavour wedding favours…

Romanians, Brits, Italians, Argentines and a random Ecuadorian – a truly international wedding.

This is Mrs Status Viatoris, who now has to decide if she has the energy to tussle with Italian bureaucracy in order to exchange her very boring surname for a marginally more exotic one, in Italy.

Learning to Bake


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

At the beginning of May I tinkled on a plastic stick and was rewarded with two faint lines, confirming my suspicion that the ingredients for a previously theoretical bun had been successfully combined and introduced into the oven pre-heated for just such a purpose.

I admit to being somewhat surprised – like many women I have been well-indoctrinated in the facts of life by the all-knowledgeable media: pregnancy at 36, as well as being indescribably selfish, is also practically impossible as all eggs are simultaneously snuffed out with the extinguishing of the 35th candle on the cake.

A well-known fact.

But apparently there was at least one survivor in there amongst the tumble weed, and thus, against all Daily Wail odds, bull’s-eye was achieved only two months after the cook book had been pulled from the cupboard and dusted off.

To say we were euphoric would have been an understatement; for ten days I walked about on a cloud, oozing Earth Mother zenitude from every pore and hugging my new secret to me like a particularly cuddlesome teddy.

But then, from about six weeks pregnant, the nausea hit. And although I have never actually been sick, the gut-churning desire to be so greets me from the moment I open my eyes in the morning and keeps me company until I hit the hay once again – sometimes even waking me during the night, as if to give me a little reminder that life as I knew it is over.

With the nausea came the debilitating exhaustion, and as the weeks have passed, those two evil twins have been joined by an even less-welcome visitor: pre-natal depression.

My initial elation at finding myself pregnant has been replaced with acute anxiety, feelings of dread and hopelessness – not the best state of mind to be in whilst nurturing a bun. When well-meaning friends gush about how wonderful it will be to have a baby, I just want to throw up on their shoes and make a dive for the nearest exit. I feel utterly detached when the doctor is walking me through my ultrasounds, and the few brave souls who have patted my stomach may never know just how lucky they are to still have the use of their hands.

In a way it was inevitable that I would be visited by this condition, either pre or post: I have been a sufferer for many years, and the amount of unfamiliar hormones zipping around my person at this time were always likely to knock something of its perch.

Sadly, that something has turned out to be everything even vaguely resembling peace of mind.

Getting myself through this in Italy is shaping up to be a struggle. Unlike the UK, where accepted studies have shown that it is safer for both mother and foetus if women with depression continue their medication, in Italy even the mental health professionals have reacted with surprise when I tell them I’m still on mine.

My gynaecologist is at a loss as to who I can be referred and internet searches for appropriate health professionals have turned up next to nothing.

The one thing I can be thankful for is the support of the ever-wonderful Mothership, and of her GP back in Northamptonshire, who are both going above and beyond the call of duty to gather useful information and put me in touch with the right people.

I now have my fingers firmly crossed that with their help, I will eventually begin to enjoy what the future brings rather than feeling utterly beaten down by the prospect.

This is Status Viatoris, who apparently can’t even do pregnancy like a normal person, hey ho, in Italy.

Return to French Notary Hell


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Wanting to avoid all possible risks of jinxing (yes, that scientifically proven law of physics) I had until now refrained from mentioning that tomorrow I have an appointment to sign the bilateral sales agreement that should at last set the wheels in motion for the sale of my French apartment.

A brand new and very un-French real estate agent – friendly, cheerful, polite and communicative – managed to find me a lovely young French couple who fell in love with the property at first visit, and after various tussles with their bank, were eventually able to make me an offer.

Admittedly it was an extremely low offer.

An entire €50,000 lower than the offer I accepted back in 2011 (which due to the combined efforts of Supercilious Turd French Notary and dear old Nicky Sarkozy never resulted in a sale).

But after three years of struggling every month to find the mortgage, and with the French real estate market a fly ridden carcass of its former self, I was happy to accept any offer at all.

So far, so good.

Until my cheery estate agent asked me to contact Supercilious Turd and request that he leave the deeds to my house for her to collect.

During an initial telephone call, I was asked to formulate my request in an email, which I did.

It remained answer-less.

So I sent another email.


And then another.


At which point my estate agent stepped in.

It took her an entire week to get any response at all from Supercilious Turd’s office, at which point she was informed that the Bill of Sale for my problem room had never been signed.

Meaning that the room was still not mine to sell.

But how could that be?

Way back in July 2011 the previous owner and I had met in front of Supercilious Turd, both signed a document and I had handed over a cheque. Up until that meeting, the ownership of that room had been the only thing standing between me and a sale, and the signing of that document was what permitted Supercilious Turd to laboriously plod his way to preparing the bilateral sales agreement for the sale that never went through.

I am speechless.

Even if I completed misunderstood, even if the document I signed in July 2011 was only a preliminary to the bill of sale, why on earth would a notary make no further attempt to contact a buyer who was already halfway through a sale?

It makes no sense.

Thus my overwhelming relief at having been informed that this second chance at a sale would be overseen by a different notary giving me no reason whatsoever to have contact with Supercilious Turd, has been wiped away on a tsunami of distress that this incompetent excuse for a public servant once again has the power to fuck up my life.

It is almost too ridiculous to believe that I am yet again at his mercy.

This is Status Viatoris, feeling guilty that all the horrors currently going on the world over are not embarrassing her into feel less sorry for herself, in Italy.

Itchy Feet or Green Fingers


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Yesterday morning, an Antipodean friend set off on the next leg of her Overseas Experience: for Tesni it was a case of Arrivederci Italia, and Здравствуйте Россия! (or Hello Russia, if on-line dictionaries can be relied on…).

Usually such a move undertaken by a third-party would have me salivating with jealousy – all those new experiences! A brand new language! The sheer foreignness of it all! I wanna go toooooooo!

This time, however, I find myself strangely unmoved.

Curious to hear about her adventures, yes. But not remotely desirous of experiencing them for myself.

Very odd indeed.

It appears that whilst my mind has been occupied with other things – a small souvenir shop, publishing books on Kindle (by the way, have you bought and/or reviewed An English Fandango yet??), attempting to rid myself of a Gallic real estate behemoth, translating a Kenyan travel website and settling into life with a toyboy – my itchy feet have been busy transforming themselves into something rather more akin to roots.

In brief, and much to my surprise, life in My Little Italian village is still doing a pretty good job at holding my usually mosquito-length attention span; even after three long years.

One clear indication that I might at long last be growing up, is my ever-increasing passion for balcony plant life. With the expert guidance of Mothership, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time cooing over false shamrock and strawberries, chatting encouragingly to mint, chives, parsley and marjoram, and whispering sweet nothings to geraniums, thyme, oregano and rosemary.

Strawberries and friends

Strawberries and friends

I was ridiculously proud when the strawflowers overwintered, and racked with guilt when one of the fuchsias didn’t. Happiness was restored when I found twenty cockshafer larvae in the bottom of one pot, and abruptly torn away again when I read about the damage those little critters are capable of inflicting.


Fuchsia mark 2.

And so each new leaf, bud and flower is greeted with the surprised delight of one who is still not at all convinced of her plant-nurturing qualifications, nor her right-sort-of-wildlife identification skills.


A flowerful wall

Not being into purely ornamental flowers, my primary goal was to get the air a-buzzing with honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies, butterflies and any other airborne creature of pollinatory inclinations.


Bee Corner

Other than the obvious advantages of providing me with an extremely fragrant outside space – lavender, thyme, chives and other flowering herbs being, apparently, what buzzy beasts like best – I am offered the added satisfaction of feeling that I am doing my best for the agriculturally beleaguered honey bee.


Wood sorrel attempting to distance itself from the disappointingly droopy basil plant next door…

With the assistance of a Friends of the Earth Bee Saver Kit, I have been able to choose the best plants for the job, and the helpfully provided pack of “bee-friendly” wild-flower seeds has been duly emptied into a hanging pot and molly coddled into sprouting fresh green shoots – indicative of exciting things to come.


The babiest of the three lavenders

Even Tigger has been called to action, and will soon begin his chosen task of building a nest box for solitary bees – much to the horror of our dear friend and next door neighbour, the lady mayoress, who is utterly convinced that we will all be stung into an early grave as soon as the last bit of bamboo is wedged into place.


Future wildflowers

All in all growing up is not half as bad as I had feared; and although pottering around plant pots in ones jim-jams at seven o’clock in the morning is not quite as glamorous as jetting off to Moscow, it seems to be suiting me just fine.

For now.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping to encourage all gardeners and plant pot owners to take the humbly honey bee into consideration when choosing their blooms, in Italy.

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