Sunday, 27 October 2013

Guess what?

We're in sporran heaven!

Yes, you guessed right: no photos of our place because it's not finished yet!

We're taking a much-needed break from negotiating/ arguing/ pleading with the builders to finish the snagging list and having a week in Edinburgh for our wee niece's christening.

She is of course absolutely adorable and, alongside loving all the baby cuddles, we are loving the opportunity to eat something other than Italian!  Fish and chips, roast beef and trimmings, moules mariniere, char siu buns, cupcakes, profiteroles... oh yes!  Just 3 days down and we have been busy!

Attempting to walk off some of the calories!

P.S. Look what we spotted on the side of the road:

Embodying the despair and anger I've felt in Italy lately!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A day in court

Not an Italian court: an English small claims court.  So Mr RR and I flew in yesterday evening, turned up suited and booted this morning to defend ourselves and return to Puglia first thing tomorrow!

And the result?  The claimant saw his case against us dismissed!

A victory of sorts, but what a stressful (and expensive) pallava!

Friday, 11 October 2013

A run-in with the police!

Today started with a bit of excitement: I got pulled over by the police! They were on the side of the road seemingly pulling every car over for a spot check.

This happened once before when I was with my Italian friend. On that occasion they kept us at least 15 minutes, checking insurance details, proof of ownership and so on, not caring when she said she was going to be late to collect her kids from school. 

Today by contrast, I saw them casting their eyes over the car with the foreign plates as I pulled over and after a quick glance at the very un-Italian-looking ragazza inside it, they indicated I should go, (reassuring me that local residents haven't been all been reporting the terrible English driver!). I'm guessing it's more trouble than it's worth trying to interrogate a tourist who'll probably play dumb and pretend they speak no Italian!  Result!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

I am now an English teacher!

Today was the first English lesson held by yours truly with the 3 older children of my friends.  This seemed the right time as the excitement of the first weeks back at school have passed and they're settling into a routine.  I've never taught English before and the kids are at slightly different levels so I'm not sure how well it's going to work out!  But myself and the mothers have discussed that it's all an experiment and perhaps down the line we'll decide to do the lessons one on one.

The youngest of these 3 kids, at just 5 years old, asked me last week if I would teach him English, but he today had the hardest time staying focussed, spending most of the lesson going off to get different food from the nearby kitchen and playing around us, desperate for attention.  Bless him!  I am usually among the first to indulge him but today I was the teacher and the other 2 were being so good and attentive, it wouldn't have been fair to let myself get distracted.

We practised some colours, learned some parts of the body, played a variation of Simon Says, and it was all well received.  The idea was to have the lesson total immersion so we would all be speaking only English throughout, but it would have been far too strict had I scolded them whenever they made the connection out loud between the words I was saying and the words they know in Italian.  So instead I spoke only English throughout - mostly!  It was actually quite hard to keep to English!  I slipped a few times saying si (yes)! - and it was great to see how much they could grasp from intonation, body language and context so I never had to resort to explaining myself in Italian.

Most liberating of all: I sang!  I never ever sing in front of anyone, not even drunk karaoke and was so self-conscious I practised in the car on my drive to the lesson!  But the kids loved every minute of the Head, shoulders, knees and toes song, never stopping once to tell me I'm no Britney!

At the end the girl passed me a picture she'd made of a heart with (in Italian) "I like English.  Thank you for letting us learn a bit of English".  Yes, I can see this being very worthwhile.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A story about a man, a house, a promise!

So in my last post I promised to come back with good news.  I'll be honest, right now I'm struggling to make good on that promise as work is progressing at a snail's pace and there was no-one on site today (they all think they are finished!), but I know I can come up with something given a minute to think!

The internal doors are the biggest hold up preventing us moving in.  Other than the complete lack of privacy that living without any internal doors brings, they will be fitted at the same time as all the (Italian equivalent of) architraves and I don't want to clean and move in now when fitting will make a lot of dust that, without internal doors, I can't stop moving throughout the whole building!

So, my most recent deadline is next Thursday.  I have guests flying out that day to come stay with us so it's what Mr RR would call a hard deadline (as opposed to a soft one with no consequences that doesn't matter!).  To give you an idea of how deadlines work around here I'd like to share a little story.  It concerns the aforementioned internal doors (the internal doors which are costing £thousands!).  The joiner said he could make them in 3 weeks once he had the wood.  They're big on their signed contracts and hefty deposits here, especially for craftsmen (apparently it's the done thing to offer a deposit to secure their work, which goes against everything I normally hold dear!) so the order was confirmed, contract signed and deposit paid.  As it was the first week of August when all of Italy is on holiday (see my post What do you do in Monopoli when it rains?), our contract stated the doors would be fitted by 13th October, but he stressed this was the absolute latest.

Now, call me naive, but I thought this guy was different!  (Haven't we all heard that before?!)  This joiner is quietly-spoken and understated and I believed him when he said he wasn't like some Italians who don't consider time or deadlines to be important.  Mamma mia!  Che stupida!  (What a fool!)

So 2 weeks ago he told the architect he'd be fitting the doors 8th October.  Cutting it fine, but before his deadline on 13th so I couldn't grumble.  Today I heard he won't be fitting them until the end of next week!  That's a full 10 days later than his last ETA and, crucially, after his "absolute latest".  When I asked him why, because he had said 2 weeks ago they'd be ready now and because it was agreed they'd be fitted before this weekend and because I have guests coming on Thursday so I really need the doors, he replied, and I'll give this the literal translation from Italian it merits:

"It's just 4 days, it's not the end of the world."!

You can perhaps imagine how much I appreciated his pointing this out to me!  How helpful I found his attempt to alter my perspective!  Given the rush of adrenaline, I believe I responded well, calmly pointing out that I knew it wasn't the end of the world but this is my house and I have nowhere to live!

I acknowledge he was factually accurate and, had I been wailing down the phone indicating I thought it was the end of the world, he'd be justified in making his statement.  But I wasn't hysterical!  I was simply restating our agreement, my confusion as to what had changed in the 2 weeks since he said he would make the agreed deadline and my explanation as to why it was important to me that he do all he can to meet it still!  All utterly reasonable, surely?!  I still believe the appropriate response from him is to apologise at least once for the inconvenience and to explain in far more detail than strictly necessary, why the original deadline can't be met.  But then, maybe that's the Brit in me!

Oh yes, and the reason for the delay?  La Vernice  (The varnish)  The mind boggles!

So that's the story of the internal doors and the joiner who isn't like all those other Italians who don't think deadlines are important, but is still missing our contractually agreed deadline!  And this is the norm judging by what I see here.  The kitchen worktops were due in a maximum of 15 days: we're still waiting 6 weeks later.  The lights for the roof terrace would be in the store within 2-3 days: they took more than 3 weeks!  What's a girl to do?!  I'm on time for everything and everyone and feel terrible on the rare occasion that I have to go back on my word.  In these situations, I'm learning to do as the Italians do: gesticulate forcefully in exasperation and speak with lots of exclamation marks!

And I'm remembering this is the south of Italy!  We love it because it's laid-back.  We love it because the work/life balance tilts towards life and work takes a back seat.  If we wanted deadlines to be met and an on-schedule renovation there are European countries north of here famed for their efficiency we could have chosen!  But we didn't!  So I'm trying to relax, let go and let it all wash over me.

And, while I'm still waiting for the internal doors and kitchen worktops, the lights for the roof terrace did eventually arrive and have been fitted and, while I'm sure it's not doing them justice photographing them in the bright daylight, there's some good news to end on!

Cute little wall lights!
Even cuter and littler stair lights!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The answer...

Apologies for yesterday's post: it appears that episode was brought to you by the letters P, M and T!

(En route to Bari and looking forward to sharing some good news with you very soon.)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Still homeless and living like a bag lady!

I feel like I'm holding out on you in terms of pictures of progress in our place.  The main reason is because it isn't finished and the progress is hard to show you for as long as the forefront of any photo continues to be the same big pile of dusty boxes!

We can't be more than a week away from getting the industrial cleaners in and then we can move in and unpack, but I have thought that oh-so-many times before, and, honestly, it's getting tiresome.

Telling caring, enquiring Italians it's quasi finita (almost finished); telling caring, enquiring Brits it's moving forward; making and hearing jokes about it being ready for Christmas (in both languages!); responding "I really don't think so!" to the builder's statement that he wants to be finished and out of there more than I want him to be finished and out of there: it all gets tiresome!  

I'm tired of having our lives in a jumble of dust-covered boxes and carrier bags, I'm tired of feeling like a burden on our lovely friends and family and I'm tired of having to make plans week by week as the builder's "we'll be finished in 2 days" fails to materialise again.

Anyone who's had builders renovate their home knows this feeling.  Today's the first day it's hit hard.  

With just one day before I fly back out to Italy there's so much I should be getting done which adds to the pressure, and means I can't afford to wallow ... just time instead for a little chocolate!