Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Adventures in Mummying



I am now two years and seven months into this mothering lark.

There are moments when I really cannot recall what my life was like without my daughter, and moments I am so exhausted and Mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed! out that I feel like she has been here forever (which I am aware is not quite the same thing…).

Then there are those other moments I whip round in surprise at the sound of a squeaky little voice summoning her Mumma, and wonder how it is she seems so confident of who I am and all I am apparently able to deliver when most of the time I still feel as clueless as if the stork dropped her off the day before – although, given that young children are in a state of constant change, I cannot be alone in feeling that I never quite manage to get my mothering shit together or that bringing up a child is substantially more blindfolded white-rapid ride than it is guided amble round a park.

20160430_105953Of course the internet offers a myriad of foolproof parenting methods, playgrounds always contain at least one mother fortunate enough to know everything and bookshops bulge with tomes by parenting experts; all of which give the impression that it really could be a guided amble round a park, if we would just follow their 5-point plan to: Getting the child sleeping through from conception! Getting the child feeding on a schedule from the moment he crowns! Don’t put the child down for the first six months! Wash the birth gunk off, and don’t pick the child up ever again in case she gets used to it! Pretend you can’t hear him crying, he only wants attention! Anticipate your child’s needs the day before so she never has to cry!

It’s a confusing minefield with no possible winners (other than that know-it-all-mother’s ego and the royalties enjoyed by the aforementioned parenting “experts”): no two children are exactly the same, no parents are exactly the same, no families are exactly the same and no lifestyles are exactly the same. Parenting is an ongoing exercise in intuition, compromise, guesswork, consistency, patience and bluff.

One lesson I have learnt is that people who do not have children should not form an opinion on child-rearing, much less voice it. That intense emotional bond with the child you are raising colours every situation you are likely to face from the first moment you hold him in your arms. And your intuitive understanding of that child dictates how you decide to deal with those situations. There are very few OSFA solutions to parenting quandaries, and those on the outside looking in only ever have part of the story.


Before Maya was even born, I wrote a condescending piece referencing Attachment Parenting (or at least what I assumed it to be). I feel particularly silly about it now because without even really being aware of it, I seem to have ended up practising many of the AP principles. I read somewhere that a child who has all emotional (as well as physical) needs met, is more likely to grow into a well-rounded and confident adult. And not only does that make perfect sense to me; it also fits very nicely thank you with the way I have always instinctively wanted to respond to my daughter.

But in my pre-motherhood ignorance, I confused nurturing with controlling – something I have witnessed quite a bit here in Italy, where meaningful communication with children often seems to be eschewed in favour of endless commands to: Get up of that floor, you’ll get dirty! Get down off there, you’ll fall! Don’t go up there, you’ll hurt yourself! Get your finger out of your mouth, it’s dirty! Do your coat up, there’s a draft! Don’t run, you’ll fall over! Do that again and I’ll smack you!

20160713_175919 (2)In the playgrounds and piazze of my Italian existence, the gentlest of tumbles frequently results in a flurry of panic, surfaces are treated as terrifying germ-coated threats to fallen snacks (and toys and fingers), potential death-traps are seen everywhere, children are bundled up against dangerous breezes about nine months of the year and empty threats of corporal punishment appear to be considered an acceptable parenting tool more often than I care to notice.

It has an uncomfortable edge of negativity to it. I suspect children who are not offered rational explanations for things might have a harder time making good judgement calls, and children not permitted to play freely may struggle to safely discover their own physical limitations. Admittedly the inculcation of a fear of dirt, weather and theoretical parental slaps is not much worse than pointless, but what of the loud proof that these parents have absolutely no faith in their offspring’s fledgling abilities to get themselves safely from A to B? I can’t envisage that being an ingredient for either confidence or independence.

The bizarre bedfellow of the above is the Italian child-worship phenomenon (perhaps partially a result of ever-decreasing family size?) that grandparents, waiters and random passers-by indulge in. This mainly involves a Willy Wonkaesque deluge of sugar in all its most tooth-rotting forms, and a willingness to humour every cappriccio thrown up by the object of their worship.

IMG-20160704-WA0001So is there an absolute right way? I doubt it – there are simply too many variables, but who really knows. All I know is that I have no desire to shout all day, I don’t care about dirt or weather, I think Maya is more likely to learn respect if she is shown it, I encourage her to climb and jump and run as much as she wants and if she falls I comfort her then release her back into play, and although I did slap my child’s bottom once – she slapped me right back AND I WAS PLEASED!

The result so far is a joyous little girl, with a wonderful sense of humour but also a very strong sense of self: woe betide anyone, family or not, who tries to pet her or assist her without being expressly invited. She has strong opinions about what she wants, but gives in reasonably gracefully when told why she can’t have it. She is independent and adventurous, as long as she knows one of us is close by if required. She doesn’t try to dominate other children, but is slowly getting the hang of standing up for herself. She’s endlessly communicative and she’s kind.

On the other hand: she doesn’t sleep well, she has been known to deface the occasional wall with her wax crayons, she’s a bit Mummy and Mummy Milk-obsessed, she cries every single time she wakes up from a nap for no apparent reason, she’s stubborn, she pees in the bidet, farts like her father, is frequently reluctant to do whatever she has been kindly requested to do, and she is far too fond of the television (Blaze and the Monster Machines in particular).

20160522_105702But as a blindly obedient paragon of “virtue” is the last thing I want to unleash on the world, I am extremely content with progress so far as well as being increasingly more besotted with every passing day.

That said, I am also exhausted, wrung-out and in dire need of some time alone with my thoughts: time to write, time to read, time to walk, time to complete work calmly without the stress of trying to squeeze translations in her all-too-brief nap times. So from the 14th of September a new chapter begins for both of us – nursery school! And I don’t know who is more excited…


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.

Mission Statement Ahoy


I give up.

This poor little blog has been left to moulder like an unloved elderly relative in a nursing home, and all because I felt I no longer had much to say about anything but the highs and lows of navigating the rather time-consuming waters of full-time motherhood.

But I like writing.

I love writing.

I miss writing.

And so, until my life becomes less one-dimensional, and as the anniversary marking the start of its sixth year in the blogosphere approaches, I hereby declare Status Viatoris reborn, from this day forth, (temporarily at least) as a Mummy Blog – with occasional forays into Life in Italy, News Items That Make Me Fume, Cross Country Hacks on my High Horse, and Random Philosophical (and not so Philosophical) Ponderings, inspiration permitting…

Mummy Blogs are two a €uro cent, I know, but then so are Ex-Pat Tales from Abroad, so the competition for the hearts and minds of my dozen or so readers is unlikely to be any more fierce than I have been accustomed to up till now, and I am nothing if not primed and ready for the fight.

So primed and ready am I, that I am going to make the rash promise of producing at least one blog post a week from now on.

No matter how dull the content.

And I am aware that for many it will be considered really rather dull, but I find myself with no choice but to write about the things that absorb me, and my current Mummying experiences are both absorbing and entertaining me at least as much as any of my previous adventures.

So if there is anyone still out there, I very much hope you consider the thrills and spills of parenting a trilingual sproglet in Italy enough of a departure from bog-standard Mummy blogging to stick around for this new chapter in the life of Status Viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage.

Two girls on a journey...

Two girls, on a journey…

Just You Wait…


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

An attentive audience is always gratifying...

An attentive audience is always gratifying…

The “just you waits” flew thick and fast when I was carelessly chucking around my (admittedly not very numerous) pre-Maya declarations of mothering intent. They tended to be followed by a slightly world-weary shake of the head, which I’m sure must discomfit even the most confident pre-mother mother. You know, the one who has read ALL the literature, and subsequently mapped out an infallible parenting plan from meticulously choreographed birth through to high school graduation.

But now I’ve been in the thick of my own personal mothering reality for just over a year, I feel a little backward glance at any previous naivety is perhaps due, to see how my intentions have fared:

There is no way baby will be co-sleeping in my bed!

Although she would very much liked to have snuggled down with Mummy from night one (and let me know it with all the breath in her tiny lungs) for me it remained a definite no. Taking a newborn into bed with an exhausted mother and a winter duvet seemed risky, plus I am an appalling sleeper at the best of times and fear of smothering her, as well as the constant baby snuffles and wiggles, would not have helped. Lastly, eventually having to persuade an habituated older child out of my bed and into its own seemed to offer just as much potential for ear-splittingly disturbed nights as having a newborn grizzling itself to sleep next to me in a cot.

Sharing a bed with her for the duration of our Romanian road trip only served to further convince me that I had made the right decision for us: finding Mummy boobs in such tantalisingly close proximity every night turned out to be a much stronger lure than sleep, and from only a couple of nocturnal slurps, I was suddenly being badgered every hour or two – an exercise in sleep deprivation that I sadly remain unable to shake her of to this day.

Baby will be in a cot in her own room from six-months!

What with roof issues and illness-dogged road trips, her room took a little longer than six months to sort out, but she finally went in when she was about eight months old with nary a backward glance at her clingy slightly wistful mother.

I admit to being surprised at my wistfulness, although it only took a couple of nights for the lack of baby snuffles and wiggles to work their restful magic and banish all and any feelings of regret.

Loadsa teef...

Loadsa teef!

I will regularly get a babysitter in order to spend time with my husband as a couple!

So far only twice, and both times under duress.

The first when she was a teeny tiny three weeks old, and I was persuaded out for a pub lunch, through which I fidgeted obsessively. The second; just last month, when we left her with the Mothership and went to watch the latest and final Hobbit offering (rather disappointing, I thought), and through which I again fidgeted obsessively.

Whereas I can cope relatively well with leaving her with sister-in-law for an hour or so when I am secretarialising for the local estate agent, absenting myself for longer periods in the pursuit of leisure activities brings with it a ghastly wave of separation anxiety that I am hoping will lessen with time (and practice). Lord preserve us from clingy mothers 😉

We have, however, opted for one couple-friendly parenting technique than most families around here seem to eschew: the early bedtime. Whereas it seems to be common for local children, no matter how young, to stay up as late as their parents; Maya always goes down sometime between 19 and 20 in the evening, giving us a glorious few hours to be (albeit exhausted and only semi-functioning) grown-ups.

I will encourage baby to be independent! 

Of course it’s very early days, but one thing I was determined to avoid was to find myself still spoon-feeding a child capable of feeding itself (something I have seen rather a lot of here). A potential pitfall that was rendered even less likely when we chose the baby-led weaning route – basically chucking bits of whatever is on our plates at her to do with what she wants. And what she wants so far has been to eat some things, jettison others onto the floor and wipe most things into her eyebrows.

This method of introducing solid food appears unheard of in Italy, where spoons and purées still reign supreme, and at every monthly paediatric appointment I am forced to hide my blushes as the doctor adds another bland ingredient to my daughter’s paltry puréeing list, utterly ignorant of the fact that the previous night the very same baby gobbled down distinctly un-puréed spicy sausage and bean casserole, fish pie complete with leeks and capers, or a beef and broccoli stir fry from which the slices of practically raw ginger and garlic went down a particular treat.



I will be making sure to get as many snatched moments for myself as I can!


Make that a double Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha! now she’s mobile.

Actually, I am astonished at how much I actually enjoy my daughter’s company. Having lived the epitome of a selfish existence for almost thirty-six years, one of my biggest worries about becoming a mother was that I would resent the time it took from me. And yes, I would be lying if I said that I don’t think longingly about the possibility of sitting down with a book, of being able to write an entire blog post uninterrupted or even clean the house without a small helper bumbling along in my wake, pongling in the dustpan and attempting to cram its contents into her mouth. Some days I feel utterly cowed by the monotony of keeping on top of the nappy changes, the naps, the demands for attention, the constant clearing up of spilled food and the scattered contents of my lower shelves…

But I still wouldn’t change a thing: being able to spend so much time with this little person – being able to watch her explore, grow and learn, without any twinges of nostalgia or sadness at the passing of time because I am not missing a single moment, makes me feel indescribably lucky.

I have lived almost exclusively for myself – wandering off on this whim or that whim at any given opportunity, fretting about ways in which I could justify my rather feckless existence by finding something worthwhile to do – and now I am now living the ultimate dream of someone who thrives on the excitement of new beginnings, but who is frankly too old and knackered to keep setting off on her own: I am experiencing them vicariously through the insatiably curious eyes of the next generation.

There will be no more babies after this one!

On Maya’s second night in the big wide world, she started feeding at 19:30 in the evening, and at 5 the following morning she was still going strong (cluster feeding to get my milk supply up, although I didn’t know that at the time). I was tearful with exhaustion, and desperate to make it stop, so eventually a nurse took her away in order to let me get some rest.

Rather than feeling relief, I just felt all wrong. I lay there for an hour or two trying to sleep, but eventually gave in to the overwhelming need to find my baby. She was asleep on the nurse’s chest, but my whispered enquiry immediately cut through the noise and chatter of a busy maternity ward, and up reared the tiny head – craning tearfully around in a desperate attempt to locate me. Me. Her mother: the only person in the world she wanted to be with.

It was a terrifying, yet heady moment. One I never want to forget, and one of the many that have thus far epitomised what becoming a mother means to me. But for all the reasons listed here, I still have no intention of experiencing it all over again, except through my memories.

I am hugely fortunate to be Maya’s mother, and that is enough for me.

From this....

From this…

To this, in 365 days. Crazy!

…to this, in 365 days. How crazy is that?!

This is Status Viatoris, currently compiling her declarations of mothering intent for the next 365 days of Maya’s life, in the hope and dread of harvesting another intimidating crop of just-you-waits, in Italy 😉

From Romania with Reflux…


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

Thelma, or is it Louise...

Thelma, or is it Louise…

Frighteningly foolish or amazingly adventurous: well, one of those two descriptions must surely apply to a couple who decide to drive their seven-month old daughter the 2,000km from Italy to Romania for a fortnight in mid-August.

In our defence, the mid-August part of the plan was forced upon us by my husband’s place of work – having decreed that no employee may have more than a week off at any one time, they very reluctantly allowed him to tack an additional week onto their summer closing. (Given as how we were planning to immediately hit the open strada, I wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to manage to obey their other golden holiday rule: employees must always be available to go into work during their time off if summoned). Welcome to Italian employment; please check your life in at the door…

The first day’s driving took us from our little village in Liguria right up to the coastal town of Trieste, practically on the border with Slovenia. And what a drive: unforgiving August sunshine, nose-to-tail Italian August traffic and bump-to-pothole Italian motorways quickly led to a wailingly miserable little daughter and two irritable parents questioning their own and each other’s sanity in distinctly un-vacational tones.

Even the service station stop-off (usually my favourite part of any road trip) provided no relief: heaving with single-minded holidaymakers and a distinct dearth of available parking spaces, a long traffic-dodging trek over shimmeringly hot concrete delivered us into the further confusion of a shop, cafeteria and restaurant served by only one cashier – dash to the café and attempt to force a way through the throng in order to catch a glimpse of what may be on offer, dash back to the cashier and join the queue to describe and pay for chosen items, dash back to the café and queue again in order to obtain chosen, described and paid for items, weave a way through a restaurant in search of a clean table. Fail to find one. Sit down anyway, and unrestfully polish off purchases whilst trying to prevent seven-month old from licking all the surrounding filthy surfaces in her joy at being released from her car seat.

Louise, or is it Thelma...

Louise, or is it Thelma…

Thankfully, Day Two amply rewarded our doggedness in the face of adversity by delivering us from the unmitigated hell of August travel in Italy, and into the paradisical-by-comparison delights that are offered when traversing Slovenia. A country I shamefully know nothing about, but whose silken motorways and stunningly lush countryside provided a much-needed balm to three over-stressed nomadic souls.

If I could have chosen a soundtrack for this leg of the journey, it would have undoubtedly been Smetana’s Má vlast – wrong Fatherland, I know, but the best I can come up with until someone composes a similarly stirring ode to Slovenia.

As I suspected it might be, Day Two’s service station stop-off was a well thought-out exercise in soothing traveller revitalisation. Leaving the car in the kindly shade of an overhanging tree, we were greeted by a cool and airy interior holding all the wholesome appeal of a farmer’s market: no droopy panini or dry focaccia here, instead an irresistible spread of fresh roasted vegetables, pasta, rice and tomato salads – moussaka, roast chicken and schnitzel for the more carnivorous member of our little party.

And the highlight of the entire experience (squeakily clean tables aside)? The natty wooden trolley with space for both food trays and thrilled-to-bits small child…

Roasted aubergine has never tasted so good...

Roasted aubergine has never tasted so good…

Refuelled, reinvigorated and with our faith in life and human nature (or motorway service stations, at least) restored, we continued on the disappointingly short trek across beautiful Slovenia and soon popped cheerfully out into Hungary, where old friends were waiting in their rural idyll to spoil us with gulyás, laughter, a large selection of loom band jewellery (they have two daughters…) and a comfy bed for the night.

Her first experience of climbing a Hungarian tree.

First time climbing a Hungarian (or indeed any) tree.

The next day’s drive tipped us out of Hungary and into Romania, together with most of the rest of Europe – or so it appeared.

August is the month in which vast numbers of the Romanians working and living abroad make the long pilgrimage home. Italian, Spanish, British, German, French, Belgian and you-name-it plated cars all converge at the border before spilling onto the badly-maintained single carriageways that serve the entire country. There is a very smart motorway system under construction, but only tantalizingly short sections are open, allowing the weary driver but the briefest sensation of the wind in his hair before he is deposited back onto the nose-to-tail fume-drenched bumps of the overloaded b-roads.

So along we meandered; through village after village; colourful, single-storied houses lining the principal, and only, tarmacked street – all other thoroughfares snaking off right and left in dusty, unsurfaced nonchalance.

Storks peppered the tops of chimney stacks and electricity pylons, only adding to the sensation of otherworldliness already provided by the frequent appearance of slowly moving horses with their carts and fields of curiously stacked hay, occasionally interspersed with 500 metres of outrageous edifices – the Roma shrines to pockets picked and begging bowls filled throughout Europe’s major cities…

Taking time out from helping to overpopulate the planet with their excessive human-baby distribution..

Taking time out from helping to overpopulate the planet with their excessive human-baby distribution..

A slower pace is what's required.

A slower pace is what’s required.

Seriously and fabulously green.

Where the colour green was invented…

Roma gypsy gin palace

And a Roma gypsy gin-palace…

Ill-gotten gains are apparently injurious to good taste

Ill-gotten gains are apparently injurious to good taste.

Words have long since failed me

Words have long since failed me…

My eyes are now bleeding

My eyes are now bleeding.

It took one more overnight stop, and a further half day’s driving to reach my mother-in-law’s village, time enough to note two further developments: firstly that we had arrived in Romania just in time for a suffocating heatwave of the sort that fells the old and the infirm the length and breadth of a country, and secondly, that I was feeling progressively more unwell.

The final four hours of the journey I spent hunched deliriously over the steering wheel, periodically bursting out into paroxysms of sobs miserable enough to rival those of my now thoroughly fed-up daughter.

Not the best introduction to hubby’s childhood home, but I felt sure that after a few days’ rest I would stop feeling as if a band of invisible sadists was tearing me apart at the sinews and be able to throw myself as wholeheartedly into the Romanian experience as Maya had done.

Flower fairies...

Flower fairies…

Sure beats a bloody car seat!

Sure beats a bloody car seat!

A split second before she managed to pick two baby rabbits up in one of her baby fists, and stuff them halfway into her mouth...

A split second before she managed to grasp two baby rabbits  in one of her baby fists, and stuff them halfway into her baby mouth…

It wasn’t to be.

The invisible sadists – seemingly tired of twanging my tendons and jig-sawing at my joints – decided to make like a log, using my oesophagus as the flume, and subsequently jam up my digestive tract to such an extent that not even a sip of water could make it from mouth to stomach without the accompanying feeling that I was ingesting molten lead.

As for food, barely a bite of it past my lips for seven days – one way to get shot of the “baby” weight (ok, so the spare tyres pre-dated the baby by a number of years). Unfortunately my mother-in-law, despite being repeatedly assured of the contrary, was convinced that I wasn’t eating because I couldn’t abide her cooking. So ill-advised attempts at diplomacy would periodically prompt me into trying a little morsel of something, only to spend the following forty minutes pacing the property, groaning in pain and with tears streaming into the gullies of my rapidly diminishing chins.

We went to the pharmacy, a lot. Did we use the air-conditioning in the car on our long journey? Yes? That would be the cause then. Take this, this and that. Did we stop to eat on our long journey? Yes? That would be the cause then. Dodgy sandwich. Take this, this and that.

Nothing worked. And the resultant medicinal smorgasbord wasted no time in giving me the rampant trots on top of everything else. At least the walk to the outside long-drop toilet was scenic…

Not the queenliest of thrones, and far from ideal when a girl feels death might be looming...

Not the queenliest of thrones, and far from ideal when a girl feels death might be looming…

So many trips to the pharmacy did serve one purpose, and that was to give me something other than four walls to gander at. Through a haze of self-pity and poorliness I was able to observe cows being walked along the main thoroughfare to cow daycare – nosh and company whilst their humans were out at work. Dogs of all shapes, sizes and degrees of benign neglect wandered the dusty tracks or prostrated themselves in the sun. Horses pulled their long carts, complete with cargo – rubble from a building site, logs to be sawn up for winter fuel, hay for livestock, huge watermelons whose availability for purchase was loudly proclaimed by the dark-eyed and colourfully attired gypsy children perched atop them.

I was able to observe that the rural Romanian is an intensely sociable being, for the streets were simply never empty regardless of the heat. The elderly and the not so elderly sit for hours outside their garden gates to chat, and to observe – I doubt much escapes their notice: woe betide the precocious teenager who wears her skirt too short, or the boy who answers back – I imagine parents are informed of any misdeeds before the wrongdoer even makes it home for tea.

I was also able to observe that the rural Romanian does not seem to be into gratuitous smiling – something I noticed in my husband when we first met and have since remedied to a certain extent in case his default stony stare alarmed dogs and small children more accustomed to the upward motion of mouth corners that is prevalent, and indeed expected, in most of Western Europe when interacting with other human beings, having one’s photograph taken or even on those occasions unacquainted eyes meet accidentally across a public space. My personal range of friendly, wry, grateful, self-deprecating, empathetic, amused and encouraging grins (usually tossed about like rice at an Italian wedding) were for the most part greeted with something embarrassingly resembling suspicion.

And despite hubby’s declaration that local children nowadays spend far more time in front of the computer than playing outside, I was able to observe that there certainly didn’t appear to be a lack of them as they swarmed the streets with their footballs, dolls, snacks, bicycles and those ubiquitous bloody loom bands – all intent on enjoying the last few weeks of freedom before a new school term beckoned.

This rural Romanian village was also observed to be enjoying a modest property boom. The older and simpler single-story properties like my mother-in-law’s – brightly coloured façade, wrap(part the way)around veranda, vine-shaded courtyard, chickens, rabbits, a pig and perhaps a cow in adjacent sheds, dog tethered to an outside kennel, hollow internal walls fed warming smoke from a log-burning stove, water supplied by a well, long-drop loo, and a parcel of land containing vegetables, some fruit trees and an awful lot of maize, were now interspersed with more modern abodes in various stages of completion.

These, still modest, two-storey houses (presumably with the accoutrements necessary to facilitate indoor micturation, and worse), are primarily the fruits of Romanians labouring abroad – a place to return to in the longed-for holiday periods, and hopefully to retire to should finances ever permit it. As unimposing as they are, they must take years to complete: each visit home adding a further improvement – a bit of paint here, another double-glazed window there, wiring, plumbing, flooring… almost all carried out by the family whenever time and funds allow.

I observed the abandoned agricultural colective – an eerie echo of Romania’s communist past, the plethora of orthodox and catholic churches that absorb so much of the rural Romanian’s time, and rather too many faces stamped with the unmistakable mark of alcoholism – both perhaps symptomatic of the transition from that bygone era.


Who wouldn’t want to return if this was home?

But despite unavoidable curiosity, attempts to absorb myself completely in the observation of my surroundings were rendered impossible by the red-hot poker insistently belabouring my midsection – bed rest was to be an unavoidable evil.

And in the manner of many large families, privacy in my husband’s childhood home is not a familiar concept so whilst battling intense physical discomfort, the mental anguish of not being able to adequately care for my daughter or even pick her up, and the worry that the lack of imbibed liquids would dry up the Mummy Milk supplies; most days I also had to deal with most of the family sitting on my mattress, mercilessly stretching both my Romanian language skills and my inherently British desire to please.

Each night I tried to fall asleep; hopeful that the next day would bring some relief, but whatever was ailing me seemed only to get worse until my husband and his sister decided enough was enough, and called an ambulance.

Yes, on my Romanian hols I got to go to a Romanian hospital in a Romanian ambulance – and if that doesn’t just beat the socks off the tired old tourist trails to Vlad Tepes’ crenelations and the Biserica Neagră, I don’t know what would.

It was quickly decided (after hubby slipping the odd Leu to the hospital staff to improve my standard of care) that other than an inflamed pancreas,  I also had a rampaging bacteria that could only be subdued with antibiotics so strong that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed whilst taking them. Perfect time to wean her onto bottles! said the woman in the next bed, apparently not accustomed to mad British hippies who intend to have offspring dangling from the boob until toddlerhood.

A drip, a painful injection in the right buttock and several more palm-greasing Lei later, and I was released back into the world feeling not remotely better, but vaguely more hopeful.

The primary hurdle was persuading Maya to take formula milk from a bottle. Not so much a hurdle, more a huge and impassable mountain. My daughter left us in no doubt that a rubber teat (or a sippy cup, or a teaspoon, or a mug, or indeed anything at all) was not an acceptable alternative to the maternal bosom. And as for the “milk”, I tasted it – the inverted commas are no exaggeration… She cried, I cried and it felt exactly like I imagine the end of the world might, until I glanced at the box of antibiotics and noticed that the pharmacist had written “do not breastfeed for two hours after taking”. Two hours was a huge improvement on not at all, and after throwing ourselves at the informative mercy of the mighty Google, we decided that on balance we would risk it.

Our most immediate crisis averted, we were eventually able to bid la revedere to my hubby’s bemused (and robustly healthy) family, and limp the two thousand kilometres back home; where it took me a further three weeks to regain the strength necessary just to be able to go about my daily life without the assistance of my poor, put-upon mother who kindly allowed herself to be drafted in for crisis management.

A gastroenterology appointment and an anaesthetic-free and sedative-less endoscopy later – a horror I would not recommend to any but those I truly despise, damn that breastfeeding – revealed that I have Gastroesophageal reflux disease and a hiatus hernia. The management plan: pills for ever, stronger pills for ever when I stop breastfeeding, no eating anything vaguely tasty, no drinking anything vaguely tasty, no bending over after eating, and try to control stress levels.

Most unsatisfactorily incompatible with the nicer aspects, as well as the largely unavoidable aspects, of life.

And Romania? Well, despite it having taken most of the last six weeks for memories of that nightmare to fade, I find my mind can’t help but linger on the more visual recollections of spectacular scenery passed on our way back towards Hungary  – Cheile Bicazului, Lacul Roșu, and the rest…

So I doubt it will be too long before I find my way back to the land of my husband – hopefully this time for an infinitely more positive experience.

This is Status Viatoris, seemingly unable to go anywhere without making an absolutely spectacle of herself, in Italy.

Those Maleficent Men ‘n Their Mud Machine


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

There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.

I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.

Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.

It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.

I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:

– Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.

– Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.

– Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).

– Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).

– Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.

Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.

The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.

For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of  the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.

And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.

Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):

We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.

We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.

We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!

We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.

As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.

Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.

One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.

Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.

This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.

Gone to Slush


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

My days seem to have taken on a slightly drifty quality since we arrived back in Italy. I would blame it on the baby (she certainly provides excellent cover for tardiness, absence, unfinished tasks and odd smells), but I suspect that it’s really just my true nature kicking in.

After years of attempting to keep up the pretence that I seek a fascinating existence, I finally have the perfect excuse to fart around doing very little of any note – an endless succession of happy toothless smiles reassuring me that any guilt I might feel about such idleness is nothing but wasted emotion.

Qui, moi?

Qui, moi?

So time passes in a lazy haze of cuddles, storybooks, long walks, cautious exploration and mutual adoration – with the soundtrack of experimental squeals, cheerful chuckles and incomprehensible nattering that has accompanied my baby’s transformation from helpless newborn to increasingly characterful four-month old.

(It would be remiss of me not to also give mention to the poo explosions, the occasional unexplained crying – both hers and mine, the regurgitation splats that land on most of my clothing within 10 minutes of me dressing, the dearth of more than half a minute to myself at any one time, and the realisation when I leave the house that I have apparently been rendered invisible by the plump and sumptuous little creature strapped to my chest – although in all fairness, my years with Pooch should have inured me to the pain of being overlooked in favour of a more charming companion…)

You got time to burn, I got the matches...

You got time to burn? Coz I got the matches…

Being a new mamma here is certainly an experience – the Mothership was astonished to note that Italian men are just as keen to rush over for a goo goo gaa gaa as the women (most British men preferring to devour their bowler hats rather than interact with a small child).

On the downside, I am still having to work hard at ignoring the insistence of some on telling me how to care for my daughter: “Put a hat on her, there’s a breeze!” “Put some socks on her, there’s a breeze!” “She should be wearing thicker clothes, there’s a breeze!” “You shouldn’t be going for a walk with that baby, there’s a breeze!” and one of my personal favourites: “Does your husband know you brought her out in this breeze?”

Oh please don’t tell him, signora! I’m still sore from the beating I got for not having warmed his slippers…

What do you mean "underdressed"? I've got my cosy socks on, haven't I?!

What do you mean “under-dressed”? I’ve got my cosy socks on, haven’t I?!

I’m also getting it in the neck on a daily basis for the sling, although it quickly became apparent that the pressure to trundle Maya around in a pushchair as opposed to attached to me, has rather more to do with people’s desire to get handsy with her, than any real concern for her well-being.

Many dive in anyway, huffing breathily into my cleavage and grabbing at my spare tyres in their eagerness to lay claim to a beaming grin or force a finger into the gratifying grip of a fat little fist, while I attempt to repress the very British desire for personal space that threatens to bubble out in a blur of aggressively wielded elbows and a swift knee to the groin.

Hanging with Mummy

I’m the only one allowed in Mummy’s personal space, ‘cept perhaps Daddy…

Repressed crossness with an overenthusiastic fan club notwithstanding, overall this is proving to be a magical time.

I never anticipated just how quickly the helpless eating/sleeping/crying stage would morph into something hugely much more entertaining, and I am now captivated by my daughter launching herself with joyful excitement at each new developmental milestone.

The fragile little soul that lay obediently on her playmat until someone saw fit to move her, now throws her way vigorously around the floor with kicks and semi-rolls, frequently parting company with the mat altogether to end up partially wedged under the surrounding furniture.

(No need to panic – we usually manage to hoik her back out before the dust bunnies can get at her.)

Help! The dust bunnies are nibbling my toes!

Heeeeelp! The dust bunnies are nibbling on my toes!

Feeds are interrupted every few sucks with an unmistakable demand to be sat up so she can check nothing exciting is escaping her notice, and even if the view that greets her remains unchanged from the previous inspection, it doesn’t seem to dent her delighted surprise at being faced with it again.

Vocal chords that previously only served to utter monotonous complaints, have stretched to accommodate a spectrum of sounds and volumes ranging from giggles to gusty belly laughs through shrieks and shouts to chatter so conversational that it almost makes me believe we are really communicating.

(I have been told that bringing up a child in multiple languages can make for late speech development. And as I natter away to her primarily in English, hubby in Romanian and most everyone else she comes across at the moment in Italian, I will raise my hat to her if she manages to produce a coherent sentence before puberty.)

You can look, but you can't touch!

I are cute, but confused!

But all this change does bring with it a pang of worry that everything is going by far too fast, that so many delightful moments will be forgotten as she learns and grows.

So at the expense of those readers who would rather eat their headgear than read stuff about children, I am simply going to have to record those moments here from time to time:

Chuckles of hungry excitement at glimpsing an approaching boob – dimpled arms reaching up to guide it home, little mouth pursed into an “O” of welcoming anticipation.

Being woken at 6 in the morning by her chattering and laughing to the teddies in her cot.

Little fingers tracing lazy patterns on my breast as she feeds, playing with my shirt buttons, catching at my necklace – smiling eyes never leaving mine.

Taking a hank of my hair in each hand for added stability whenever I carry her in my arms.

Cooing meditatively at the trees we pass on our daily walks, before resting a chubby cheek on my breastbone and dozing off.

The fist-sucking, body-contorting, fussing and squalling fight she puts up every other time her body clock tries to lull her into having a nap.

The constant and enthusiastic squealing that goes with us lying on our backs reading a book – not forgetting the over excited fist in the eye I get with every page turn.

Kisses to her cheek that she ambushes and turns into drooly, gummy, open-mouthed and milky-breathed declarations of love pressed to my grateful skin.

I am in love.

Just hanging out...

Just hanging out…

This is Status Viatoris who would just like to say – Hang in there, Folks! It’s election time in My Little Italian Village, and the political intrigue is more hot than not… will be digging the dirt for my next post, in Italy!

Licensed to Complicate


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

My husband doesn’t drive.

It’s a family thing: his father didn’t drive, his mother doesn’t drive and out of his three sisters, one brother, one wife, one sister-in-law and three brothers-in-law; only two of us boast the necessary requirements to legally get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and make it go brrrrrmmmmm in a satisfactorily motionful way.

And that is all fine and dandy (as well as being loads better for the environment); but as I would find it infinitely reassuring to know that my other half could, if necessary, whizz me to the nearest A&E in case of a kitchen utensil mishap, nasty shower-related slippage or paranoid-new-mother-real-or-imagined-baby-illness panic; my hubby has kindly taken it upon himself to set sail into the complex and rather choppy waters of the Italian driving examination.

Unfortunately, both his lengthy working hours and his current reliance on bus timetables make attending the initial theory course, and subsequently sitting the theory exam, at a local driving school a logistical impossibility.

Thus his only option is to go it privato.

Which entails:

1) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione (eng. DVLA, DMV) for relevant forms.

2) An entire day off work to:

Queue to see his GP for a certificate stating that he has no health issues that might impede safe driving.

Queue to see the official driving school doctor who transfers whatever the GP has written onto yet another form and checks hubby’s eyesight.

Go to post office to purchase various official stamps to be stuck on various official forms, and get all forms and identity documents photocopied twice.

Have two passport photographs taken.

Return that same afternoon, and queue to see official driving school doctor in order to pick up form relating to morning appointment.

Take said form to post office to be photocopied twice.

3) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione and hand over all the completed documentation for them to process.

No exam date can be set until the paperwork has been processed, and the appointment for the exam cannot be made by telephone or email, so…..

4) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to queue at the Motorizzazione for an appointment to sit the theory exam.

5) Half a day off work to take the bus to the next town in order to actually sit the theory exam.

If he fails the first exam (a very real possibility, given that Italian driving theory question-setters are notoriously keener on testing one’s grasp of the subtle complexities of the Italian language than they are on testing one’s ability to tell a t-junction from a roundabout) then he will have to take half a day off work to make a subsequent exam appointment followed by half a day off work to sit the exam.

If he fails the second exam, then he will have no choice but repeat the entire process all over again.

And in the joyous event of him passing? Well, we haven’t crossed that bridge yet; but I feel quietly confident that we will at that point discover that the practical part of this learning to drive saga has even more potential for will-to-live sapping befuddlement than the theory.

(I’m starting to think we might be better off just investing in a family rickshaw for those theoretical emergency dashes… 😉 )

This is Status Viatoris, mildly curious that a country putting so many flaming hoops in the path of potential drivers can still offer up such a vast number of tailgaters, lane-straddlers, gesticulating swervers and drivers apparently ignorant of the fact that their vehicles come equipped with both indicators and mirrors, in Italy. 

Home from Home


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

Maya samples budget transport...

Maya voices her opinions on budget travel…

Well, Maya and I finally made it back to Italy where we were duly greeted with much affection and a kind, if unfortunate, deluge of pastel-pink velour.

Pastel pink is just not my daughter’s colour.

Ok, ok. It’s not my colour. And while she’s still small and relatively malleable, I exercise my parental right to deck her in the hues of my delectation – with nary a pastel tone, nor a bow or frill, nor a single cutesy wootsey fluffy image of what society seems to think little girls should represent.

Which might well be why many Italians are wrongly identifying her as a boy (luckily for me, and my belligerent stance against gender pigeon-holing, she couldn’t care less about that… at least not yet).

The only non-pink offering. As you can tell, she's not entirely convinced...

The only non-pink offering. Note she’s still far from convinced by the sheer fluffy bunnyness of this get-up…

Our eventual return to la vita italiana was precipitated, not by the joyous installation of a brand new roof, but by a husband and father who – understandably after five long months and still no apparent end in sight – got thoroughly sick of being without his newly-minted little family.

But as Sod’s Law would have it, and as indeed I had predicted many moons before, the permission to get our roof replaced came through almost as soon as we had finally given up waiting and hoping: in fact on the very day the Mothership, Baby and I flew out of Luton Airport…

The relief after so many months of evasiveness and obfuscation (them), frustration and despair (us) is almost impossible to describe. So, it is with fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes crossed, that we can now tentatively assume the leaky lid will at last be lifted from our living quarters sometime in late spring.

That would be late spring of THIS year, Provincia di Imperia, do you hear me?

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of...

Baby-in-the-nuddy pink? Now THAT is a pink we both heartily approve of…

Maya is adapting well to Italian living.

The clucking concern about her being horribly under-dressed – hypothermia is apparently but a cotton vest away (she’d be so much cosier in pink velour), suffocated by her sling, and traumatised by her backward-facing back-seat car seat, must be a reassuring indication that here her interests will always be defended; even as the grindings from her mother’s pearly whites float down into the dandelion-fluff of her hair.

The first question on all Italian lips seems to be: Are you breastfeeding? Or as they rather clunkily put it: Are you giving her your own milk?

To which the answer is unfailingly: Yes, and lots of it.

Frustrations over sodden nightwear and chafed nipples aside, I find breastfeeding to be an absolute joy – especially now the dinky diner has entered that charming stage of staring adoringly up into my eyes as she guzzles; occasionally breaking suction in order to further wow me with a beaming milky grin.

I've been spotted!

Ooops! I appear to have been spotted…

We have become unabashed public feeders (always doing our utmost not to flash possibly prudish bystanders with unacceptable levels of bare boob, naturally). Maya has now noshed on a train, on a plane, in a train station and in an airport, on a bus, in many and varied cafés and restaurants, in public offices, in a curtain shop and even walking down the busy shopping street of a swanky coastal resort.

She has also weed on a desk of the local Fiat dealership, but that, dear Readers, is a story for another day…

Some of the older residents of My Little Italian Village are obviously slightly baffled by my sling-wearing, gender-ambiguous, meteorologically-unconcerned approach to motherhood in a place where prams appropriately decked with either pale pink or pale blue tend to contain infants bundled like Eskimos against those dreaded colpi d’aria.

And the younger mothers couldn’t help but express their astonishment when I declared my allegiance to washable nappies. All that extra lavoro! I must be completely fuori di testa!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

Pocket nappies ahoy!

But I honestly don’t find the additional maintenance to be all that onerous – rinsing off a bit of poo and setting the washing machine to a cool wash every three days seems pretty simple when coupled with the satisfaction of not having contributed to the grotesque state of our landfills.

Plus they are wonderfully colourful and give my daughter the most squeezably plumped-up backside you could possibly imagine.

What’s not to like?!

This Living business is exhausting

Life is pretty exhausting when you’re only ten weeks old…

Another frequent question – and one I sometimes sense may be laced with a certain amount of sympathy-masked glee – is how we are sleeping.

She’ll be keeping you awake all night, I imagine?

Pacing the tiles from dusk to dawn with a squealing bundle in your arms, are you?

And for the first couple of weeks that’s exactly what happened, but as we approach the three-month mark I am hugely grateful to be able to announce that (at least for the time being) we have a baby who seems to have grasped that nighttime is for trundling off to the Land of Nod.

With just a little encouragement, and a tummy full of warm milk, she currently goes down at about half past seven every evening, waking for two or three dozy snacks during the night before finally rejoining full wakefulness any time from about half past seven in the morning.

Long may it last.

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what's required...

A sneaky doze on the Mothership is what’s required…

So Life trundles on, with me still alternately overjoyed and petrified by the weight of my new responsibilities; not wanting to take them either too seriously, nor too lightly. Trying to continue being An Independent Woman, but whilst losing myself in the gloriously fascinating changes that mark Maya’s development with every passing day.

I helplessly confess to it: I’m having a blast. But as the nth nosy neighbour asks me if I’m expecting baby number two, it is brought to my uncomfortable attention that there are some things this Mummy has to set her mind to doing just for her…

Hey ho, it’s time to put the bikkies away and get out those trainers!

This is Status Viatoris, heading off to hang out a horde of vibrant crap-catchers and shockingly non-pink baby garments on her sun-drenched washing line, in Italy.

Temporary Nests


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

So it appears that I shall be missing out on the Italian birthing experience after all, although having now been confronted with a steady stream of jolly midwives as opposed to one rather austere male gynaecologist, as well as the promise of tea and hot buttered toast after delivery as opposed to, well, I don’t know – crodino and a dish of olives, perhaps? – on one level at least, I find myself not minding too much.

Yes, as you may have already surmised, the roof situation remains unresolved; with occasional mutterings about possibly having an answer before Christmas but no information we can either get our teeth into or make any plans around, and no answer whatsoever to one desperate letter and three evermore desperate emails to the provincial reinforced concrete department explaining our situation and begging for some sort of clarification.

My husband is finding it hard to heat the apartment to even his satisfaction now the temperatures have plummeted (and he is far from being the weedy freddolosa I am), and the engineers who tramped the roof all those months ago taking measurements for our paperwork managed to break several more tiles, ensuring even more rain can now find its way into our bedroom.

Such are the circumstances that have forced us into making a decision, and as unjust as this whole situation feels, it seems I am to graduate Learning to be Philosophical 101 after all, although undoubtedly more complaining loudly than cum laude.

And whilst up to that point I never actually let the idea of giving birth in Blighty take root – as a non-resident I must pay for NHS care, there is no evidence that the quality of healthcare is superior, and it would have always meant being away from my husband at the crucial moment – I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t been experiencing a very strong homeward call ever since I knew I was pregnant.

The first in eighteen years.

I wonder what that’s all about.

But aside from the obvious warm, dry house in which to lay sproglet, there may well be additional advantages to this new situation (the tea and toast influence in the decision-making process, for one, cannot be stated strongly enough):

In England the Mothership is in a position to confidently undertake emergency dashes to hospital (hubby not being in possession of a driving license).

I won’t have to try to slot back into Italian healthcare after an absence of almost two months and several unexpected pregnancy hiccoughs.

It will be quicker and easier to get a baby passport in England, allowing us to shoot back as soon as the roof has been done.

Health professionals in this country are more geared up to help with the anti-depressant pill-swap which will have to take place on delivery.

And finally, I won’t have the stress of dealing with certain Italian acquaintances who will put their desire to get their baby-obsessed hands on my child far above my need for peace and privacy in those early days.

For personal experience has shown me that privacy in Italy can be a rare commodity; neighbours having been known to rap only once on my door before opening it and coming in – occasionally finding me in a pregnancy-induced, underwear-clad slump on the sofa, and with one elderly gentleman choosing a Sunday morning to surprise my husband and I still in bed in our pyjamas.

One such culprit of the uninvited entry made us the very kind offer of an apartment until such a time as the roof was fixed, insisting that due to the lack of kitchen, we would eat with them downstairs. A generous proposition indeed, but one that had me running for the hills at the complete lack of independence and intimacy it would entail. For how would I be able to ration visits for baby-viewing, baby-squeezing and unwelcome baby-rearing interference from my hosts and their extended family under those circumstances?

Exactly. Far better to put 1,600km between us and be done with it 😉

This is Status Viatoris, ticking off the days until hubby’s Xmas Eve arrival, whilst signing up for Impending Motherhood 101 and hoping she will achieve a rather more impressive score… 32 weeks and counting!


%d bloggers like this: