I’m not of a particularly superstitious disposition, but I always register Friday 13th for some reason. And on the one that has just passed, I reflected as I sipped a glass of chilled locally-produced Passerina at the close of a dazzling spring day that the one before that had been the previous October. No, I’m not one of those people who has an obscure but impressive memory for dates either. Friday 13th October 2017 had stuck in my mind, though, because it was my first day at work in Italy and the day on which I returned to an EFL class after a break of some 15 years.
It had felt simultaneously huge and yet utterly natural. Huge because it meant that a significant piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is building a new life in Italy had dropped into place; and utterly natural because it meant that I was at last working with the grain of my own personal needs, interests and talents rather than against it. EFL (which stands for English as a Foreign Language, by the way) had long been the means by which I was able to pursue professionally ‘my thing’: words and language. So it had just felt right; as right as moving to Italy itself.
It occurred to me that since then I have helped about a hundred students from four different secondary schools through a range of international exams for speakers of English as a foreign language. I have also become familiar with the finer points of injection-moulded plastics (my first in-company business English gig) and with various aspects of the tourism industry in the region (thanks to a short contract with a coastal holiday village) and have garnered all sorts of inside knowledge about the people, culture, economy and history of Le Marche thanks to my general English students.
This has been just one small part of all that we have achieved over the last six months, however. We’ve also sold a house and a business in the UK, had our first Christmas, New Year and Easter here, picked and pressed our first olive harvest, been snowed in, experienced a minor earth tremor, and hosted three sets of visitors. Mr Blue-Shirt made four flying visits and two overland trips while still extricating himself from the business, and since being here permanently has undertaken a vast array of jobs involving carpentry, electrics, IT, plumbing, gardening and general building work that have turned an already lovely house into one that also now suits the way we live; that is truly ours.
It may not be surprising, therefore, that we sometimes find ourselves wanting to do absolutely nothing: moving 1200 miles and settling into a new country – even one that you have known and loved for years – is a protracted and exhausting process after all. But no, it’s not just that. There is so much actually ‘living in Italy’ that we have barely even scratched the surface of; so many places we want to discover, so much food to try and wines to taste, so many customs to learn, events to experience, people to meet. And that’s quite apart from all the jobs we still need to do (whitewashing the house, laying the patio, building the holiday cottage, starting a business…). It seems, rather, to be a contented indolence that washes over us from time to time, induced by the sheer beauty of our surroundings: magnificent snow-capped mountains and a benign turquoise sea, between which roll olive- and vine-clad hills from whose tops rise a succession of tiny medieval villages. And the fact that we have done it; that this – all this! – is now Our Home.