Sunday, May 28, 2006


2.5.05 – continued:

With regard to my belongings, sometimes I wish I was more like my mother, who was not so attached to material objects as I am. Poor woman – having to follow my father and then me around on our various moves [all propelled by financial necessity] she was probably afraid to be. But we are what we are and I can’t change that trait in myself now. And, as one Sicilian friend says, it has to be a “home from home”. My things will be a talking point, especially my books, once they arrive, hopefully a month or so after dog and me.

The past 2 weeks have been a real helter-skelter: the buyer had offered on my house at the end of Feb and I have had weeks of stupid questions from his solicitors about the configuration of my drains and other matters of which I know nothing. I was beginning to despair when all of a sudden the contract was signed! I asked for a month’s grace between that and completion and was granted it, as it is such a big move for me to co-ordinate. I gave my notice in the very next day [only a week being required as I teach on an hourly rate these days], got the international removal manager down from Swansea that very evening to do the paperwork on that contract, and blimey! – the dream began to look like a reality!

At this point, I thought I might have to go out to Sicily before completion to find a place to rent . Now, a Sicilian friend, Giovanna, [wife of the adventurous Marco] has had a tiny house left to her. She showed me this house when I was last there in Feb 2004 and said, if I did move to Sicily, that Simone [dog] and I could have it – provided she hadn’t sold it in the meantime - until we found somewhere to live permanently. The house is in Modica Bassa [“low” Modica, the old centre] and has a room with chairs, a table, a fridge, gas rings to cook on, an enclosed shower and a bedroom upstairs. It would be fine until our stuff arrived! But you may have gathered by now that I’m an awful coward and I have to get my courage up to ask people for help. [This comes of living alone as well as being shy, I think.] So it took me a week after the contract-signing to gear myself up for rejection and call Giovanna but when I did she was fantastic: Of course you can have the casetta; just let us know when you’re coming; non c’è problema, Pat.”

I celebrated with a few gins that night, I can tell you! [a] It would give me more time to sort things here [b] it would give me more time with my precious Simone before flying and [c] it would save money on an extra trip out.

The next task was to book Simone’s flight, which I did the next day. Again, I had researched this and there are several companies that fly animals. [It is not a problem on an internal flight within a country but otherwise it is not an easy thing, even within the EU and with no quarantine!] The removal co had recommended “Airpets”: although I had researched other companies, the removal manager – Andrew R, for future reference – said he had 4 dogs of his own and if it was him, he’d use “Airpets”. – Whether he was getting commission or not, that was good enough for me! Well, a first call to “Airpets” produced the answer that “No one flies animals into Sicily”. Help ! Panic! Fear! I wish I’d thought to say, “But I know it’s possible as I’ve seen dogs and cats come into Catania and Palermo with my own eyes”! A second call produces the response that it can be done – on Air Malta – and they will send me their quote. The quote arrives 2 days later – only it is for flying Simi into bloody Sardinia! Aaaarg!! More fear and panic and I am thinking, “If that is the nearest they can get her, how will we ever get off Sardinia?” But when I finally get through to them again – I had been warned that they are very good but difficult to get hold of – it is all a mistake and the quote was meant to be for Catania! OK – I ask them to go ahead. They can book Simi’s flight but not mine on the same plane. So I ask them to let me know as soon as Simi’s flight is booked. I do not have an address yet in Sicily and I tell them this. They must have one so there is a slight delay while I call Linda Churchill and ask if we can give hers; yes, that is fine. So the next day I get an e-mail from Airpets saying that Simi’s flight has been booked on Air Malta for 2.6 – the first they can get her on – and then I hurriedly call the airline and book myself on it. Then I receive no e-mail confirmation, so call again the next day, only to find Air Malta have booked me all the way to flaming Malta via Catania! “No, no!” I say; “My dog and I are going to live near Catania!” and eventually it is sorted. Thank god I got off my indolent butt and checked with them! Simone will be picked up from here by Airpets on 23.5; then they will kennel her in London until we fly! That is going to be horrible but it is less stress for her – I decided after much deliberation – to be kenneled in one place prior to the flight. So everyone who knows me, get the tissue box ready for me on 23.5!

So far, so good. Then on Saturday I looked at Gatwick hotel availability on the internet and realised I’d have to get off my butt again if I wanted to book one. So I had a debate with myself and decided that, as I’ll be homeless [!] by the next bank holiday, I might as well spend that one on the coach to Gatwick. So booked the hotel for the 3 nights from 30.5 – 1.6 and then booked a one-way fare from Cardiff to LGW. And that’s when it hit: on that morning, I shall get a taxi across Cardiff – my city of childhood holidays from Bristol, my university city and my professional city since 1974 – for the last time [or for a very long period, at least]. And then for the first time in the whole process, I really did sit here and think, “Oh, my god; what have I done?” For there is no turning back; I’ve already burnt my bridges.

Later I phoned a friend who lives near Bologna, just to keep her up to date, and I must say I found her reaction unnerving! It was something like: “I never thought you’d actually do it; I never thought you meant it. You’ll find it difficult to find somewhere with a dog”, etc., etc.. She was not unkind, by any means, but god, she frightened me! What was the use of telling me that at this stage, for Christ’s sake?! But then I realised that it is probably [hopefully!] just a different attitude to animals - she has an enormous dog guarding her country house and it functions purely as a guard dog; and, because I have been procrastinating for so long, she probably did think it would never happen!

My friend Jane is very wise on this: she says I am in a heightened state of awareness and it is not going to take much to throw me and she is right!

On the journey front, the next thing to do is work out getting from Catania down to Modica with Simone. [2.6 is a public holiday in Italy, which will make it more difficult.]

I must also contact Sicily estate agents [2 of whom I made contact with last year, when I was trying to price the whole enterprise]. And I must send a card to my Italian hairdresser Raffaele. [My friends laugh at me, as I am usually off the bus to Modica and straight into Raffaele’s!]

So how do I feel tonight? Scared! Elated! Worried whenever the phone goes, in case it is Giovanna to say she has suddenly sold the casetta. And sometimes I look around my little house here and wonder if I will come back to haunt it.. It seems so many years since I stood at the back bedroom window with Mum, not quite knowing what I had got myself into. And I don’t know what I have got myself into again, 21 years later.

Yet if I have any real doubt about the whole adventure, I have only to look again at Browning’s words.

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