Sunday, 15 August 2010

Other people's holidays

So you’re an expat. You’ve lived in your chosen country for a couple of years. You’ve learnt the language, you’ve adapted to the local customs and you can even cook a couple of favourite dishes. So what’s to stop you feeling like you completely fit in? For me, it’s festivals and holidays. There’s nothing like another’s culture’s feast days to send me straight back to outsider status.

I’m thinking about this today, August 15th, as it’s one of Italy’s favourite holidays, Ferragosto. Celebrated since Roman Times (according to Wikipedia), families get together, usually at the beach, to enjoy food, fun and fireworks. I guess it’s the Italian version of August Bank Holiday, but much more important.

But it’s on festival days like these that you often feel like an outsider again. You may be lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home to celebrate (Chinese New Year in Taipei, for example), but however much you enjoy the food and the company, it’s the true meaning of the festival that is hard to grasp. You can understand that this festival celebrates the hottest part of the year, or that festival celebrates the first new moon, but without the cultural background, the spirit of the event can be frustratingly out of reach.

My advice? Shrug your shoulders and adopt the ‘When in Rome…’ approach. You may not be able to understand exactly what it is that people are celebrating, but c’mon – good food, friends and time off – surely these are enough reasons to celebrate anything.

Buon Ferragosto.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

First ambitions

Last night I watched my son drive solo for the first time. A kiddie-car at the fair, granted, but a car, none-the-less. And he was doing it, on his own.

Many of the things he’s done for the first time have been things that we’ve been waiting for him to do. Walking, speaking, sleeping through the night (though, fortunately, not necessarily in that order). This driving thing had an extra dimension though – for watching him negotiate the track in a fake electric Ferrari, I was also watching him achieve one of his first ambitions.

At the time it felt like a big moment. In hindsight I realise that it was.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Driving in Italy

The roads may be pockmarked
But most drive like Monza.
Accelerate, break
Take the racing line
Overtake, accelerate some more.

In their hearts all men here are Felipe Massa.
Except the old drivers in their rustic three-wheeled bees that buzz through the back lanes.
Always ensuring they stay
In the middle
And when navigating a roundabout cause others to pray
‘Not my way. Not my way. Not my way.’

Friday, 12 March 2010

Why I should write a Salento platform for BootsnAll

Dear BootsnAll,

If you’re reading this then it means you’ve received my application and decided to take a look at my blog. For various reasons I don’t blog much, so I thought I’d add this post to back up my application. So, to cut a long story short, here’s why I think I’d be a great fit for your platform project.

I love to write great copy for quality websites

In the past I’ve written copy (online and offline) for a number of blue-chip clients and employers. I’ve produced travel copy for Air Miles, British Airways, Disneyland Paris and Beachcomber holidays. I spent four and a half years writing content for the East Sussex County Council website. It was awarded Best UK council website in 2008 by SOCITM (The Society of It Managers). I updated and maintained over 200 pages of content. I enjoy writing for sites that get traffic and for an audience that wants to read my stuff.

I love Salento

After all, why else would you give up a good job that you enjoy to move to a place with high unemployment and a poor future prospects? My husband and I fell in love with Salento on day two of our first holiday here and we always vowed that we’d move here some day. It’s not the easiest place to live, but as anyone who’s head-over-heels knows – the sacrifice is worth it.

I enjoy collaborating with other professionals to achieve a common goal

Whether it’s on a marketing project team or as part of the web team that relaunched the council’s website, I’ve always enjoyed working as part of a team. After all, there’s no way anyone can be the best at everything. I know how to write and I produce engaging web content, but I can’t create a database or design a usable web page. And why should I, when there are other professionals who can? The chance to work as a team again and launch something like this would be an exiting opportunity for me.

I want to work on a long-term project

I’ve moved to Salento long term, and I’d love to get my teeth into a project that I can work on for years. If that project can also help develop Salento’s much needed tourism industry then it’s a win-win situation for me.

I want to get back in the saddle again

After spending 10 years honing my skills, I need to keep writing. This opportunity would allow me to write about a subject I love and to stay in touch with today’s emerging web trends. I tweet, I use Facebook and now I would like to create content for a quality website again.

View my full CV on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

I wrote this old school

I wrote this old school, with a pen and paper. Waiting in the car with my sleeping son whilst my husband held our place in the queue at the Doctor's surgery. Pen and paper. So lovely to form the words again, instead of tapping out typos on a keyboard. Creating emphasis with a flourish at the end of a word. No wonder people think they can read your personality through your handwriting.

I wrote this with a skinny, black, diary pen. Designed for short memos and jottings, not long pieces of prose. Fine for these brief thoughts, but not suitable for a few thousand words a day.

As I move from one page to another my handwriting alters to reflect the new angle I'm writing at. And the reduction of solidity underneath.

Seeing my handwriting again is almost like bumping into an old friend you haven't met for ages. A pleasure. I should write like this more often. I bet I don't.

PS - After posting a link to this on Twitter @MrWordsWorth was inspired to write this poem. Thanks Mark.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Locked out of Twitter

For three days I've been locked out of my online social network. Twitter, Facebook, my email and a bunch of other random sites I use to touch base with the real world are now no longer within my grasp. I feel bereft.

Sounds dramatic? Well look at it from my position. I live in a small town in southern Italy, far away from my family and old friends who I connect with on Facebook. I've been looking for freelance work. My computer problems mean that I can't access the sites I use to search for work and as I can't get onto my email I can't see if anyone has a job for me. And Twitter? Twitter is my office water cooler. With no fixed workplace it's the place I go to swap gossip with people who have similar interests to me or who work in the same field.

So I guess saying I feel bereft isn't so dramatic after all.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Buying a house in an Italian kitchen

Last Friday at about 1pm my husband and I were was sitting in a stranger’s front room in Italy waiting to buy a house. It was a fairly standard southern Italian living room. The walls were covered with family photos, there were china ornaments on most surfaces and, of course, the obligatory Padre Pio plaque.

When you buy a house in the UK it’s all very unspectacular. You exchange contracts, then something electronic happens behind the scenes and later that day the Estate Agent calls to say you can collect the keys. In Italy the process is far more personal.

When you buy a property in Italy, the buyer and seller meet, usually at the offices of the buyer’s solicitor. The solicitor reads a detailed contract at the speed of a horseracing commentator and when she (or he) has finished reading everyone pretends they’ve understood what was said and signs it. Then you pay. And it’s not an electronic payment between banks either. The buyer pays by cheque, so it has the feel of a lottery win presentation. You almost want the bank to draw up a massive cheque so you can photograph the handover.

But this time he process was even stranger, because we didn’t complete all these legal manoeuvres in our solicitor’s office, we were in someone’s kitchen. And that, surely, has to be one of the weirdest places to buy a house.