Sunday, May 28, 2006


On June 2nd, Simone the dog and I will have been in Sicily a whole, incredible year. Therefore it is natural, at this time, that I am in a reflective mood and am thinking back to all that happened and how I was feeling a year ago. I did say that I would tell you how I got here, so now seems an appropriate time to post a few of my diary entries from May and June 2005. Hopefully they will be of interest to anyone who is also thinking of "upping sticks":

I have loved Italy since I was 19 years old, and Sicily, in particular, for the past 13 years. The culture, the people, the food of this fascinating, beautiful island have just struck a chord with me and, despite its dark side, I know I am at home. Anywhere in Italy does it for me: I cry when I land, I cry when I leave and when I am at home in Wales I cannot even watch a TV programme about Italy without crying because I am not there. It is, in Browning’s words, “the land of lands”. I am crying as I write this, remembering so many times getting off the plane and thinking, “It'll be OK now. I’m on Italian soil.” Browning says it all:

Open my heart and you will see
Graved inside of it, “Italy.”
Such lovers old are I and she;
So it always was, so shall ever be.

“Such lovers old”, indeed. And Sicily? Well, Sicily surprised me in love. For a long time, I thought it would be Florence that would draw me back, again and again. But no, the old, stone towns of Sicily have finally beguiled me. And it is the people of Sicily who have shown me the greatest love.

I am not your run of the mill language teacher: a single woman, I have not been able to have the extended campsite or camper-van continental holidays so beloved of former colleagues. No, I have always had to struggle to get back to what Browning called, “Italy, my Italy”. And now that I have decided to take the gamble of my life and make “Persephone’s island” [thank you, Mary Taylor Simeti] my home, it will not be with the security of being able to buy a property outright – or even at all – and I shall not be growing a vineyard or making olive oil!

So how do I feel on the eve of it all?

I must admit that I veer between absolute elation and the most dire fear! The fear has not driven a hole into the pit of my stomach yet – it is not yet physical – but I’m sure that will come! For it will be a terrible wrench, leaving my little house of the past 21 years, where I have lived with my mother, sporadically, and with 3 dogs to date – the present one flying with me.

But at 55, it’s now or never; I won’t have the guts or the energy to do this if I postpone it another year. Indeed, I’m not sure about the energy bit now! Today, for instance, is the Bank Holiday, my last in my little house. So I decided not to spoil it by sorting things out. And what have I done with this day? – I have sat here admiring my copious collection of books! I tell myself it has been a last chance to gaze at the collection before they are packed up by the removal men, in a few weeks’ time.

For the removal men will be packing: I could not do it, emotionally or physically, myself. They are coming in on 24.5, for 3 days, and they have been told categorically that the books [all 4000 + of them], go on first! Then the ornamants – the personal things that a single woman with no family surrounds herself with to affirm her place in the world: “I may not have had a family, but I went there and here is the ornamant and – not the T-shirt – but a well-thumbed book from that place”.

I have done 4 years’ research on this venture: I nearly upped and went in 2000 but was not quite ready. Well-meaning friends try to find cheaper ways for me to do it: “Send some stuff by sea yourself”, says one. “Sell your furniture and buy new”, counsels another. It is kindly meant but they do not realise that [a] they are couples and so have not only help but each other’s encouragement [b] that I like my wonky Victorian dining table and other furnishings and [c] that once I had arranged my own insurance, very little would have been saved, anyway. And I have read horror stories of people who have tried to “DIY” it having their goods turned back at the border because some piece of documentation has not been sufficient – and Italy is a very bureaucratic country! So I will do it properly and the way it’s going there will be very little money left at the end of it all! So what? I have a teacher’s pension, I speak the language and I’ll survive!

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