Monday, 9 July 2007


As you know if you have been reading Andy’s blog we are in Italy. We have been through Scilly and are now in Italy again. I am really not sure how I am feeling about this part of our trip. The Walk in March seemed to be about tying up loose ends; the trip to India about exploring the possibility of working with friends and seeing the homeland of yoga. The trip through France was about getting to Italy and getting used to being together. The first part of going into Italy about getting to Scilly before it got too hot, something we absolutely failed at doing since when we got there it was climbing to the 50 degree centigrade mark with a hot wind coming from Africa. Now we have left where we have been aiming to get too and I am feeling a little like so many of the rivers we have seen, large placid and meandering around the land.

Sicily Weeks 1 and 2
I kind of hit a low point in week 6. It seemed we were working towards Sicily for so long and then when we got there I just ran out of steam. I just felt lost and a little purposeless. Sicily was all about the water, mainly because it was just too hot to do anything else. I truly felt on the outside of the experience as I could not swim or bike or snorkel or do any of the things that brought Andy and the kids so much pleasure and relief from the heat. I started longing for land for soil for flowers for my garden. I felt fed up with not being able to speak to anyone with anything more than the most basic Italian. Just generally feeling like a square peg in the round hole of mia familia. I became acutely aware of myself and my own limitations the way I like to see the world and take part in it, i.e. largely on land, by foot and in English and just how limiting that way of seeing has been.

I suspect this is the joy of being in a family. The people who make up your family are so close to you that they reflect your limitations and if they love you can encourage you to expand in as many directions as possible. So with snorkels on eyes and mouth piece clamped between my teeth holding onto Andy’s shorts I went snorkelling into the deep waters on the hottest day of the year so far. All around us there were fires burning and the inhospitability of the land just pushed me into the water. Live freely or die trying I said to myself but whatever you do let go of the limits and live. What a beautiful day that was, I saw very little of the ocean creatures as I was so bloody terrified; but I could feel Andy being so proud of me and the children loving me being with them and that was enough.

Sicily will always feature warm in my heart as it is where the home-schooling has really taken off. The kids have taught me to ride a bike and to swim and every morning I try to learn a little Italian. Little did I know that when we started out I would be the one learning, learning, learning but it is so good to be taught by them, a great privilege. To be honest I started to feel a little younger day by day especially when Ellie and I spent over an hour doing handstands in the water or Josh and I played volley ball. Or even when Andy and I just lay on our sides shutting one eye and then the other or just jabbered about nothing in particular. I never seemed to have time to do these things in London but these are the experiences that make you feel so silly, young and free and don’t cost you a penny.

Sicily is indeed bellissima. The beaches reminded me so much of Barbados and the Sicilians are incredibly friendly, warm just like the climate until they get too hot. The heat of the people can be experienced in its finest when driving. So many times I was certain someone was going to crash into us as waiting for anyone is not the done thing. However with our mouths wide open and many times my eyes squeezed shut we managed to stay intact.

You can not have warmth without some heat and when these Italians are good oh they are so good. They move in packs, large groups of families, they do the same things at the same time, like arrive on the beach at 10 and leave at 1 and be back at 3 and leave at 6. They all wear bikinis no matter how big or small how young or old. I love that, big lovely mamas without a care in the world, I felt so at home amongst them and very small! They all bring umbrellas to the beach and lie under them or swim very gentling and then go swiftly back to the work of lying down. When camping they bring what looks like their entire homes with them and they eat, eat, eat and talk, talk, talk. The family is a beautiful thing to behold here. To be a Mama is an honour a privilege something close to sainthood and even more so if your children are even a little attractive. Joshua and Eloise have been absorbed into several large families for an evening or two leaving Andy and I waiting up for them wondering when we will be allowed to go to bed. Children are never a problem and always a pleasure and as they are so incorporated into everything that is good about the world I felt so proud of myself for having them.

Sicily Week 3
I am feeling quite comfortable now, even beginning to feel a little comfort with the stares for as soon as I brave a Buona Sera or a Buonjourno the smiles light up faces that would otherwise be thought of as extremely austere. There have been many times when we have arrived at a place apprehensive as to what we will find only to have people cross the street walk up to our camper and say would you like a glass of wine or beer (never a cup of tea which is what I would really want). Or to offer us cake or biscuits or fruit or a welcome just anything that they have on offer at the time. I have even started introducing myself as Maria (my middle name) as opposed to Vonetta. Vonetta just seemed to be too confusing a name. Whenever I introduce myself as Maria the warmth that comes from them is incredible. “Ah Maria, that is a good name” punctuated by kisses on both cheeks and lots of hand holding and even some crossing of the chest on their part. I love it! Yet it also speaks of another side of Italy the side that wants everything as it has always been as it is supposed to be. So that while I enjoy the warmth I also fear the implicit cultural control. But as a visitor it is all good and the kisses from the black clad grandmas is too yummy to think about any further.

Moses has even managed to be a big hit in Sicily. Very surprising as many Sicilians are extremely afraid of dogs. Sadly, many people simply use their dogs as guard dogs, locked in a small space all day these poor creatures become mad with boredom and fear. After three weeks in Sicily we could understand and appreciate that fear. Moses charmed himself into many hearts by swimming. And swim, swim, swim is all he has been doing. We have even taken to continuing his training in the water. The throw of a stone brings him even more pleasure than a treat and I have looked up often to see a small crowd of families watching then clapping saying Bravo, molto buono.

I am sad to be leaving Sicily but it is just too hot now and I think we have come to the conclusion that it is not the place for us. A wonderful place to holiday by the beach but that is just not enough for us.

We have now arrived in Calabria in Italy and have stopped for the night at the home of a family from Tuscany at their summer bolt hole in the mountains. I can not begin to express how wonderful it is to be here. The air is deliciously crisp and cool as if God himself is blowing a gentle breeze on us, greatly appreciated after being hot and dry for so long. All around us there are fields and mountains, mountains and trees. The yellow laburnum flowers are coming out all over the mountain sides so that the air is filled with their gently sweet smell. Jazz is playing , Ellie is reading her latest book, Josh is reading over my shoulder, Moses is lying at my feet and Andy is cooking a risotto, “tutt’a posto”, everything in place, as they say. I think we will stay here another night after all what else is there to do other than whatever is happening.

We are really quite high up in the mountains and have stopped off for the night a home/restaurant/camper parking place. It is owned by a truly gregarious Italian he could not be more archetypal if he tried. Round in the middle, red in the face with long laugh lines, quick to laugh loudly and gesticulate wildly. His name, Guiseppe! Perfetto!

Leaving Guiseppe and travelling through the Pollino mountains I have fallen in love and am certain we will be back here. Everywhere we look there is nothing but mountain and high rolling plateaux, goats, sheep, cows with musical bells. This time our welcome came from two Golden Eagles, one carrying a newly acquired snake and the other trying to steal it. As we drove down we realised the snake-free Eagle decided to check out our motor home and swooped down to around three feet from my window. Hearing these beautiful creatures calling out over the mountain landscape, their cries carried by the wind, was enough. But to see them carrying prey and then to have one come so close to my window, well…

From Basilicata to Puglia
So what is happening with me, Von? Well not a lot and everything at the same time. It’s my birthday tomorrow, 8th of July 2007 a Sunday. I was born on a Sunday and I think birthdays which occur on the day you were born are somehow more special than any other. In fact today seems even more significant for so many reasons as it is the 07-07-2007 I lived in Barbados for 17 years, England for 17 and who knows where for the next 17! We are also in Puglia and it’s about 7 months ago that I saw Puglia on a travel programme and thought, “what a lovely place I would like to go there” not for a moment actually thinking I would. You see the Barbadian girl in me still speaks and says those places are just too far and too expensive and too foreign and yet here I am! In Puglia and feeling very happy. Honestly speaking I can not think of one negative thing to say about our experiences in Italy so far even the scary ones outlined above have been appreciated; just life happening as necessary as love, happiness and good times, all legitimate all adding to the adventure.

The drive to Basilicata to Puglia was indeed a long one. We had two days waiting in a WWF car park for a vet who we felt would not take advantage of us. Moses had been bitten by another dog on his paw and it was a little swollen. We were not too worried as he was still his old self rushing to the sea as soon and as often as possible, still it needed looking at. As it turned out the vet was lovely and gave us yet another lead to the possibility of finding a new home. That is how it feels really that we are being given leads or clues by the people we meet having no real plan but just following the latest scent.

Anyway back to Puglia, after the long drive and a stop off at a shopping mall to kit out the outside of the motorhome and a stop off to fix our leaky gas we decided to set out for Puglia. My reaction to being in a shopping mall revealed the truly natural life we have been living. The experience sent me into sensory overdrive and left me hiding in the motorhome like the coward I am, leaving Andy and the kids to brave the shiny surfaces on their own. Not an experience I am hoping to repeat soon.

Generally speaking I have found the architecture in Southern Italy (apart from the Duomos and Churches) just a little dull, square and uninspiring. Puglia is famous for its olives, wine, pasta and Trulli. I had seen a few of the Trulli on the programme about Puglia and was expecting to have to hunt out the dwellings in the usual archaeological sites. However, as we turned a corner into Alberobello…. we were suddenly orbitally blessed with the site of a previously unimaginable number of these whitewashed circular stone tepees complemented by beautiful whitewashed homes, rich red well turned earth, olive trees, gardens and a vast sky. Being a lover of mountains and hills or expanses of water I was surprised by my appreciation of the flat landscape not only because of the vast sky and uninterrupted views of the beautiful Trulli but also because I knew my cycling muscles would be grateful for a break from mountain cycling.

We haven’t quite as yet walked through the towns to see the Trulli up close as we have chosen to hang out in our delightfully and surprisingly simple campsite with the newly upgraded motorhome. (This picture added after we saw the Alberbello yesterday.) You see we spent a lot of the time in Sicily thinking wouldn’t it be nice to live outside of the motorhome more, seduced by the large Sicilian family camping style. So we bought two tents so the kids can sleep outside (result!); a dining room table, a pretty table cloth and a large ground sheet to which we have created a sitting area or dance floor as Ellie prefers to see it. However now we have arrived at a campsite with simple rented caravans and not one single extended table, armchairs or any of the other home away from home stuff we had grown accustomed to seeing and coveting when in Sicily. So instead of looking like another well equipped Sicilian family on a camping holiday, we look like total urbanites bringing as many creature comforts as possible.

The day has been spent, cleaning, tidying, swimming, painting toenails (girls only) singing and dancing. Ellie has this amazing new bikini which I wouldn’t have been caught dead in not even when it was possible for me to wear such a thing. Andy frowns everytime he looks at it, I guess he can see that she is no longer a baby and blossoming perhaps a little quicker than any protective father would wish. But this is Italia after all and I love seeing how happy it makes her to wear it. Josh is hanging out being the little Andy and I can see that he wants so much to be like Dad now that Andy is around all the time. I can’t help staring at them all for even in the thick of having a good time just being family I can feel the time passing, the kids growing and leaving and these moments quickly becoming fond memories to keep us warm in our old age. The slow letting go of their parents is so bittersweet to watch and be a part of esp when there really is nothing else to do but watch it.

It truly is amazing to live like this for the moment to have no other agenda but to live in each moment, to not know where we will be going next or whether a little Barbadians girls dreams will come true and then waking up day after day and finding that all my dreams are coming through one by one. When I think of all the things I could have been an artist, a lawyer, a doctor unfortunately never a singer (next life), I am so grateful for being the thing I am at this moment Andy’s wife, Ellie and Josh’s and Moses and Angel’s Mum and just Von on the edge of being 34!.

As to the question “Could I be one of the pack? Could I live in Sicily or in Italy?” Who knows, I most certainly don’t and right now I couldn’t care less too busy just living right here and right now and exploring Puglia tomorrow.

Last night I dreamt I was dancing. Dancing in a large richly coloured room. Dancing to ballroom music. The room seemed to sparkle without lights. I was dancing but my dancing partner was not in front of me, my partner was behind me dancing close. Holding my left hand with their left hand and holding my waist with the right arm my partner danced close taking every step I took and breathing in time with every breath I made. My partner was my dear sweet Mum and behind her, her mother and behind her, her mother and today I danced with Ellie. I just want to keep dancing. Do I miss you all? Do I wish my friends and extended family were here with me? No, because I now think that all the people who have been part of my life so far are here with me all making me the person I am and the person I am yet to be. Ci vediamo! Maria.

1 comment:

anne Mackay said...

Hi Vonnie and family,
Loving the story of your new life.
I am very jealous (of course).
Glad to see that you have grasped the essence of so-called 'home education' so quickly.
Love and best wishes
Anne Mackay