Ramblings from An Englishman in Italy.
Ok plan B We will rent out our house and I will take any job in Italy.
Eunice calmly and slowly pointed out my inability to understand or construct even the most basic sentence in Italian.
“You are married to an Italian.
Your two best friends are Italian.
And so far the only words you have learnt are:-
ciao, si, non, cosi cosi (so so)
and non e’ vero (not true).”
“Non e’ vero” I replied.
In 2005 I married Eunice an Italian who had emigrated to the UK to try and escape the problems, confusion, poor driving and in her words corruption in Italy. After two years of married life and against her better judgement I managed to persuade her that we could make a life in Sunny Italy. I think the constant English rain helped me to convince her that it might work.
I suggested to Eunice that if she finds a job in Italy as a teacher, she can support me while I turn our new Italian home into a bed and breakfast . This was plan A, which was well and totally scuppered by the collapse of several banks in the UK and of course the housing market. My wife had played her part, she had found the teachers job and was sat in Italy waiting for yours truly. I on the other hand was sat in rainy Sheffield with a house we couldn’t sell.
Plan B didn’t really work either, I spent 2 years doing manual labour, gardening, builders labourer and fetch and carry for a landscape gardener. Despite my poor spelling and grammar I even considered teaching English, the traditional fall back position for any self respecting English Expat.
My first teaching assignment organised by my wife, was conversation with an Italian businessman. This was ideal because I didn’t need to spell anything. Marco and I met at the local cafe for our first lesson and my first piece of conversation was are we drinking wine or beer? After several bottles of Peroni (we kept asking the cafe owner to clear the table in case my wife turned up) Marco suggested we start a business importing and marketing a range of liquid pumps, he must have realised I was not cut out to be a teacher.
Do I love Italy?
Yes, it is a great place but it shouldn’t be run by the Italians.
Do I hate Italy?
Yes there is a lot wrong with the country, as my wife tells me “life is hard in Italy”
When I have to deal with anything to do with paperwork, the Italian post office or when the education department fails to pay Eunice for 3 months I do think that I should have listened to my wife when she said “life in Italy is hard”. But all the problems of Italy disappear when I have a glass of fine wine in my hand and I am sat in the glorious sunshine outside one of the many cafe’s in the villages hidden in the Monferrato hills.
Do I miss the UK? I don’t miss the weather, or the traffic and speed cameras, I do miss Bacon, Walkers Crisps and a decent cup of tea and of course English humour. At times I miss standing in a real pub, having a couple of drinks with friends and laughing out loud. In Italy only drunkards drink beer without a plate of food in front of them, even if it is only a couple of slices of salami, olives and a chunk of cheese.
I have tried to find other English people who have escaped to La Dolce Vita, but in the large part in vain.
According to the latest data released by the Institute for Public Policy Research, there are 29 thousand British people who are registered as residents of Italy. If this is true and you are out there, where are you??
Lord knows where they are all hiding because in the past 5 years I have bumped into a grand total of 18 of them. Starved of English humour I even took a train from the north of Italy to meet up for an Expats lunch in Florence. Two British turned up the rest were from the USA, New Zealand and one Italian man. I am not sure why Daniele was there perhaps he was from the south of Italy and considered himself an Expat in his own country.
So 5 years on, am I fluent in the language, am I living the Dolce Vita, do I have regrets? No, Cosi cosi, si. You see I do speak the lingo.