This blog is not a blog

As you’ve no doubt all noticed, it’s been about a month since I last blogged. We’ve done a lot in that time, there’s loads of things I could write about, but the trouble is I don’t actually want to write about any of it.

I could tell you about the wonderful wedding we went to in London where everyone was so welcoming, we saw loads of old friends, we drank, we even danced a bit and we left feeling all warm and nice, but I’m just not in the mood.

I could tell you about all the food we ate on our trip. Within 24 hours of being in England, we’d managed fish and chips on Southend seafront, pie and mash in a pub and a huge fried breakfast sat in the sunshine. Italian food is amazing, fresh and healthy, but sometimes you just need something a bit more… English. Suffice to say our fuel economy suffered on the way back to Italy due to the extra weight in the car.

Pie and mash

I could say how great it was to see all our family and friends. We even got an awesome new nephew while we were back.

I could even tell you how excited we are to be back in the Langhe. That the weather is great, the vines are starting to change colour, there’s fresh snow on the mountains, I’ve spent the past two days chopping wood and hopefully in a few days’ time we’re going to be helping our neighbour, Mauro, harvest this year’s Nebbiolo grapes.

Wood chopping

But I don’t feel like being cheery.

I’d rather moan about SLR Hut. A company I stupidly chose to buy a new camera from and who, it transpires, are (allegedly) lying, (allegedly) tax dodging, (allegedly) scumbags who (allegedly) wouldn’t know customer service if it walked up to them and shoved a Nikon D7100 down their throat. I still don’t have a camera.

I want to complain about Italians constantly giving negative opinions. Sometimes you just need a nod and a smile, maybe a bit of help or encouragement even. But no.

I really want to moan about builders providing quotes but missing out half the things we need, rendering it impossible to compare them. Seriously, why provide a detailed quote for a roof and then right at the end put: “Not included: scaffolding, tiles, waterproofing and guttering.” I need those. It’s not really a roof without them.

And don’t get me started on our geometra who never answers his phone, is forever changing appointments and who, most annoyingly of all, is so charming that you can’t get angry with him.

But I don’t want to write an angry blog.

Which only leaves fear. I’m afraid of everything at the moment.

I’m afraid we don’t have enough money to start, let alone finish, renovating our house.

I’m afraid that we’ll choose the wrong builder.

I’m afraid that, despite my best efforts, I’ll never be able to speak Italian to a decent level and thus will never really fit in here.

And I’m afraid that in less than three months we’re going to have a tiny, crying, puking, stinky little Italian bundle of joy and we won’t have a clue what we’re supposed to do with it.

I think at this point it’s best if I just don’t blog at all.

Nebbiolo grapes

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49 responses to “This blog is not a blog

  1. Oh, it would be a shame if you didn’t write. I’ve enjoyed your posts. Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s not easy living in a different country, especially with a new baby on the way, and your house to finish. I find it difficult enough having to adapt to a new country and a new culture, without having the added stress of a new language to learn, and all the rest of it, so well done you! You are probably doing better than you think you are!
    Jane x

    • Thanks Jane. There’s no danger of me giving up writing, it’s just difficult to write about the enjoyable stuff (and there is still plenty of it!) after days of staring at builders’ quotes that are all wildly different but ultimately the same, and listening to countless unhelpful opinions. We’ll get there though…

  2. Write about the real stuff. If its not always happy, and that’s ok too! I’m terrified I’ll never fully understand German or speak it and forever be misunderstood….I cannot imagine adding building stress and everything else on top. But, blogging isn’t just for the good times, write the shit stuff and I’m sure people going through the same thing will appreciate it! Good Luck!

    • Thanks Carly. I don’t mind writing about the bad as well as the good, but I’m wary of becoming a moaner! It’s all about finding a positive angle on the negative stuff I guess. You’re right though, it’s about keeping it real, as they say on the street… Good luck with your German. If you haven’t already tried it I can highly recommend Michel Thomas (assuming he does a German course), his Italian one is amazing!

  3. CORAGGIO! I agree with both Jane and Carly.It is not easy to be an expatriate. I know because I also changed countries, came to the U.S. and went through all that necessary hard learning of new ways.
    You have lot on your shoulders, Italians are notoriously difficult in all the matters you mention. Even to themselves. That is why nepotism, parentage (I mean relatives) and words of true friends are so much in use. Let off the blogging for a while and use all your patience with the undependable workers, the coming winter, the early heavy snows, fog that you “can cut with a knife” on the highways, etc. etc.. Learn how to put the dots on the i’s when hiring somebody, be clever like they try to be, and fire them on the spot if you are not happy.
    Most of all cultivate friendships and alliances with the locals who eventually will assist you in your troubles. It is a complex web of connections that one must have in Italy.
    It must be difficult to learn it but stay aware of it, build it and use it. As far as the language goes Italians are perheps the most forgiving people on that item as long as you try. Therefore ‘coraggio!’. Ciao, Vera

    • Thanks Vera, very wise words, as always! We’re doing ok at cultivating friendships with the locals, but I think we still have a lot to learn about the way things are done here. We need to learn to throw aside our English restraint and become more Italian in how we operate. It’s not easy though! The hardest thing to get used to is the giving of opinions… everyone has an opinion on everything, and it is rarely positive or helpful! Still,onwards and upwards, and thanks for your helpful words.

      • Yes! the matter of having an opinion and expressing it can be exasperating to the unwary person from another culture. These opinions often sound negative but they are only a way to tell you how to do things better….they show their interest in your affairs and in being helpful. The ‘advice’ to do ‘what you think is best’ does not exit because if people knew ‘what is best’ they would not need advice! Have you ever heard; ‘Ma… fai quello che vuoi !!’ – it is a final derisory word to those who do not listen to the good advice-opinions.

        I still have this problem after living here longer than in Italy. Now that I live in my daughter’s house I’ve had to learned to keep my point of view to myself, a hard thing to do for an Italian !!!
        But you are in the middle of the opinionated so throw aside your restraint, speak louder, tell everyone what they ought to be doing, and see what happens.

      • I’ve started getting used to the opinions, and generally I don’t mind it anymore, I’ve even come to appreciate it sometimes. I know that it is supposed to be helpful. But really… sometimes it’s just too much!

  4. Oh this so resonates with me right now, I often look blankly at the computer when images of the dog with it’s leg ripped to the bone and the neighbors want to leave it to rot in a shed. When they have the next poor animal already chained up that they have stolen from the village and it’s howling all night but you are expected to look the other way. I find it hard to be up beat about the expat experience all the time.

    It really is about connections here and that is the only way things get done. If we can be of any help don’t hesitate to ask, Sam is good with builders having had a property maintenance business and renovating so many properties oh and speaking Italian!!

    OH and money, we have next to none, it’s easy to fall in the trap of misery and anger, the first time we lived in Italy I couldn’t wait to leave. Everything was just so hard, and different. This time much easier, and a bigger network.

    I can’t imagine as a man how you feel but I know Sam stresses big time about how we will survive and what is going to happen next. I often feel obliged to be positive and sunny all the time and hide the ‘hidden’ side of life here.

    Sorry now I’m ranting, it’s wonderful and terrible all at the same time and you have a baby due any time now. Gather your resources and your network and don’t think you have to do it all by yourself. xxx

    • Perfectly put Lisa… “wonderful and terrible all at the same time”. I genuinely love it here, but every now and then it can all just get a bit too much. As you say, it feels like we should always be happy, we are “living the dream” after all, but it’s just not that easy.

      Right now, with loads of quotes coming in for work, each more expensive than the last, it’s hard to keep positive. And everyone we speak to says ” Ah well, of course…” but doesn’t offer any actual useful advice. It’s so frustrating!

      Thank you so much for your offer, I’m sure we will end up taking you up on it and speaking to Sam at some point. It’s just so hard to know how much things should cost. On the plus side, we’ve met some fantastic people and we’re building up a nice little group of friends, and our neighbours are all great!

      I can’t believe they have another dog, that’s terrible!! If I were you I think I’d find it hard to resist helping it miraculously escape and find it’s way back to the other village. It’s not a good way to make friends, but I don’t think I’d be able to hold back… good luck!

  5. Hey, I’m a newcomer to your blog (thanks to Renovating Italy) and just wanted to say: Please don’t despair! It’s the usual “downer” after returning to the UK and a diet of fish n’chips, pub life and the old ways. Take it from me, as someone who left Swindon yonks ago to live in France (and I mean yonks, like 40 yrs or so, ahem), every trip back was followed by “oh dear, I just want to speak English, I haven’t the energy to speak to the locals and go native again”. But as all things must pass, that mood soon will and you’ll be back into the swing of things. If your visit had lasted any longer, you’d have tired of the place, I can assure you. And pre-birth jitters aren’t helping but there will soon be a new baby to coo over. In the meanwhile, ask around for recommendations from locals, that’s the best way to choose a builder, ask to see their work and find some satisfied customers. Can’t wait to read your next post, I really envy you and well done for chasing the dream!

    • Hi Candida, thanks for your comment and encouragement! I think it is partly what you say, you quickly get used to that familiarity and ease again, but I was actually quite looking forward to getting back to Italy. Pubs are nice, and it was great to see friends and family, but I really love it in Italy. As you say, it’s just a case of getting back into the swing of things I guess.

      And thanks for the advice about speaking to locals. We’ve had a few recommendations, but most people seem either unable to recommend any builders (one neighbour told us they’ve got through four or five and still haven’t found one they like), or are wary of giving us a recommendation in case it doesn’t work out and we blame them… We’ve got a few leads now though. We’ll get there.

      Welcome to the blog, and I promise not to be so downbeat next time!

  6. Wonderful and terrible, horror and joy – you are perfectly equipped for a new baby. You’re not supposed to know what to do with the baby, the baby doesn’t know what to do with you. Albie has behaviourally reinforced us with smiles and crying to do his bidding now, but it’s taken him 7 months. Very quickly it’ll all be going smoothly both with baby and house. You guys are doing a brilliant job and we can’t wait to come and see it all next year. I love ranty blogs. Keep ’em coming x x x

    • Thanks Izzy, I’m glad someone enjoys the ranting! It’s kind of cathartic writing it all down… I’m not sure we’ll take to the whole baby thing as naturally as you have, but I’m sure we’ll work it out eventually. And we look forward to showing you around our half-built house next year! 😉

  7. I love your blog. Even this one. I rant on a daily basis. I live in Vanuatu where things tend to disappear regularly or otherwise become broken and then hidden away so that you can’t find them. But that said there are lovely warm moments as well. I have been here for nine years and still can’t speak the local pigeon language Bislama fluently, but a few terse words and a couple of minor swear words seem to get things working. A lot of people here also speak French as this was once a French and English Condominium. I am sure that all will come right for you and a new baby in the mix will be wonderful. Just stop sometimes and take a deep breath and if that doesn’t work a stiff drink has always done it for me. I love your blog so keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Valerie. Sometimes even a deep breath and a stiff drink doesn’t seem to work, but you’re right there are always lovely moments to offset the annoying times. And at least I can find CDs and books to teach me Italian, I guess there aren’t too many for Bislama… 🙂

  8. I’m glad to see you back on line- I was getting worried you’d bailed out of bloggyland. Don’t worry about blogging about the negative-the most important thing is to be there, and not be square. Blogging is real- noone’s expecting to hear you say that everything’s perfect, cos life ain’t perfect all the time – particularly when you’ve taken on expat life and renovation. Congratulations for the bundle of joy – and don’t worry, I speak for myself but I reckon that blogging means taking the rough with the smooth. Hang on in there, and blog if and when you want- without worrying if it corresponds to what you think readers expect. Because I expect real people, and as far as I can see, that’s what you are. Hugs (if i may) from someone who’s been there too.

    • Thanks for the hug MM… I won’t tell my wife! I don’t think I’ll ever retire from blog land, I enjoy it too much, but at the same time I have to be in the right mood, I guess it’s the same for everyone. Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll keep on keeping it real, but hopefully in a slightly happier way from here on in!

  9. ‘Living the dream’ is Italy is no easy life to be sure, even if friends back home think it’s all prosecco, prosciutto and pacchia (had to look that one up, but it’s quite a good word!)
    Readers enjoy finding out how things are actually going so if things are rough, then they will sympathise with that. Other ex-pats would be flabbergasted if you had no problems they could compare notes with!
    And, believe me, nobody has any idea what to do with a baby until it arrives but once you’ve put a nappy on back-to-front a couple of times and forgot to put the brake on the pushchair so it rolls into the road (less said about that, the better), then you get the hang of it!

    • Haha… I really hope not to do the brake thing, especially given the size of the hills around here, but it does sound like something I would do!

      And good alliteration too, I’m very impressed. Though you missed off pizza! 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement. I’m sure you’re right, I guess it’s just about finding a balance.

  10. Oh my…I’m sorry to hear that you are frightened and worried. But everyone has moments of frustration and insecurities, especially right before having a baby! But, don’t despair because in absolutely no time, you will feel like a pro! Instinct takes over and you will be fine. Sure, there will be times when you’re exasperated (mostly because you are cranky from lack of sleep), but just know that you aren’t alone. Babies aren’t born with user’s manuals and as long as you are loving that little bundle of joy, he/she will be just fine! Parent from the heart! And corraggio with the house project…it will get done eventually (even if only on Italian time!). But writing about everything is a good way to vent, so write away! I still enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of life in Italy…and also about all the good stuff, too!

    • Thanks for your lovely comment… everyone has been so nice on here, it’s really cheered us both up this past day or so! I’m sure it’s natural to be worried, couple that with renovating a house in Italy and you have a recipe for a lot of stress. That’s what yesterday was. Hopefully it won’t be a regular occurence though and we can go back to just a small amount of stress… thanks!

  11. Keep blogging, use us as a way of getting rid of all the frustrations of living in Italy. Life is often not a bed of roses over here, but we are all here reading and willing to give support. Even advice (but you might want to ignore it) I was out of work for 3 months, I was panicking, whether I could find work in Italy or if I would have to admit defeat and go back to the UK 😦 I also nearly gave up blogging, because I couldn’t find anything fun to blog about.

    But things change, although we couldn’t afford our summer trip to Sicily, I am now back in work and looking forward to more fun and mayhem in Italy.

    And if you are still stressed with builders, camera shops etc, remember it takes 365 muscles to smile and only 2 to punch someone in the face.

    • That’s the best piece of advice so far, I’ll remember that one!

      And you’re right, things do change very quickly… I’m glad to hear that it’s all working out for you again now, that’s great news, and that you’re back blogging of course. It wasn’t the same when you disappeared for a while!

      • Thanks 🙂 We all hit difficult times. The problem with Italy is without the language the problems feel bigger, plus it frustrates when you compare how things work in the UK and how they don’t in Italy.

        I have to make a concious effort not to compare Italy with the UK, well except the weather. 🙂

        Besides it is important to blog about the fustrations and difficulties in Italy. People living in the UK and USA dream of the La Dolce Vita and are surprised when they get here and find life is difficult.

        I go on http://britishexpats.com/ and you would be amazed at the questions that are asked, such as can I live on the dole in Italy or I am a hairdresser, I don’t speak Italian are there any English speaking hairdressing shops in Lucca where I can find work…

      • I’m the same. I try not to compare the two, though if I ever do, Italy comes out on top still at the moment.

        When we were back in England a few weeks ago, the traffic was horrendous, we had to deal with a plumber who kept changing his appointment and eventually turned up 27 hours late, a chimney sweep with an amazing computer system (which just seemed a bit wrong…) that didn’t actually work, and a lettings agent who was just useless. So I can confirm that things don’t work any better in the UK than they do here.

        I must go on Britishexpats some time. I’m a hairdresser by trade and I need to find an English speaking salon where I can work. There must be one around here somewhere…

    • I’m glad my misery can provide some sort of solace for you… 🙂 Seriously though, if there’s one thing I’ve realised in the past couple of days it’s that in Italy if you’re angry never alone!

  12. Take all the time you need, something in the universe will happen to inspire you once again. It would be a shame for you to give up blogging. And judging by all the love in these comment’s and all the beautiful work in your blog this won’t happen!

    Every once in a while living in Italy will get to you, I find lots of small worries tend to build up. But luckily we human beings are made to survive it all!

    All the best possible karma!

  13. Hey Rich…chin up! One day you’ll look back on this post and laugh…and then go back to playing your banjo on the corner of the piazza.
    As for the bundle of joy…don’t worry…the first 18 years are the worst…after that, you get the gang of it.
    X

  14. hi guys – bravo to both of you. i have a rustica in the langhe (close to roddino) that i am visiting in the next couple of weeks to ‘tame’ some of the land so that the mayor doesn’t think i have abandoned it, as well as getting water re-connected. where is your place? would be good to share a glass of nebbiolo if we’re not too far from each other. let me know if you’re interested

      • va bene…i’m booking my flights, prob from nov 1 – 8th. i had to provide my email address so if you have that, perhaps we could arrange using that? let me know; but sounds great. i’m staying with some friends who do a great nebbiolo so i’ll bring the wine 😉

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