This is my personal diary about living in Vicenza in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto during the Italy-wide Coronavirus quarantine.
I am updating it several times a day with thoughts – often jumbled – that go through my head during the days we are spending at home in Italy that is on lockdown.
My diary expresses my personal opinions and subjective experiences during the Covid-19 lockdown in Italy. I fully understand that your opinions and experiences may be completely different from mine.
Please, follow the official guidelines in terms of hygiene, staying at home, and moving around.
For up-to-date information on what is happening in Italy, please, refer to official media and sources. Some of the sources of information I follow are BBC, ANSA, Il Giornale di Vicenza, the official Facebook page of Veneto’s governor – Luca Zaia, La Repubblica, and Corriere della Sera.
If you don’t speak Italian and want to keep an eye on the Italian press and Italy’s governmental websites, you can use Google Translate to get an idea of the information if an official translation in English or other languages is not provided.
I hope that everyone is safe, healthy, and keeping a cool head.
Thank you for reading!
N.B.: If you want to share your own experiences and thoughts, please, send me a private message via my blog’s page on Facebook. I may (with your permission) post your words in my diary herewith so that the picture of how people are feeling and what they are going through is fuller. You can be in Italy or anywhere in the world!
If you decide to do it, please, kindly note that I may not be able to get back to you immediately and I don’t promise that everything and/or anything you write will be published in my blog.
Also, no defamatory language is allowed. Only personal thoughts and experiences will be considered but not necessarily accepted.
Finally, no monetary or other remuneration is offered. Just a chance to share with other people your experiences in quite an extraordinary situation.
How It All Started
On 6th March 2020, I wrote a blog post My Life in Vicenza in the Current Coronavirus Times – A Totally Personal Point of View describing the days before and after the term Covid-19 put a deep, indelible imprint on everything we do.
Since then many things have changed. The restrictions on what we can do and can’t do here in Italy have gotten more and more stringent. The goal is to curtail and stop the spread of the virus.
Hello! My name is Rossi Thomson. I am Bulgarian and for the past six years, I have been living in the city of Vicenza in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. I speak and write in English on account of my studying this particular language for years and then spending 14 years living in England.
I have been writing this blog for over five years now. I am a linguist (originally specialising in Spanish and Portuguese) and currently I am a stay-at-home mother who writes.
Thursday – 12th March 2020
It’s Thursday and it feels like Tuesday. Which is to say that I am losing my sense of time.
It’s the third week that I am staying at home. The last time that I was out of the house was Monday – 9th March – when I went to the local bank and the small food shop just down the road. In the shop, they had asked me to put plastic gloves on my hands. They were the same thin, see-through, one-size-fits-all gloves that usually are provided free of charge in Italian shops to pick the fresh fruit and vegs.
This time, a large box filled to the brim with gloves was placed right by the entrance of the shop. I put a pair on (they are so easy to split) and then executed a complicated dance trying to stay away from the other patrons. At least a meter away, as the official decree of the Italian government prescribes. A lady with bright orange hair made my dance steps extra difficult, zipping in and out of the aisles and muttering under her breath.
The feeling was strange. In my adult life, I have never been one to willingly search the company of other people, preferring alone time, but this active avoidance of people felt really, really strange.
Since that day, I have been cooped in. I have tried to maintain a sort of routine.
Had I been left on my own devices, most probably I would have stoked on tubs of ice-cream and binge-watched Netflix.
Yet, this is not a very good approach if other people depend on you. So, I’ve defined priorities.
List of Personal Priorities While We Need to Remain Home
1. Homeschool my child – thankfully, the school has sent homework. I have printed every resource and try to maintain a semblance of a normal school day by spending time each day on the different school subjects. I am, actually, enjoying this new task of mine.
2. Spend time outside each day – once a day I walk out of the front door and spend 45 mins in our small fenced-off front yard. I have never been one for much physical exercise but now I make an effort to do some basic movements and even run up and down the length of the yard about ten times.
3. Keep the house tidy – I don’t know how we do it but we can have a clean and tidy house turn into a total mess within a minute or two. I have never been big on housework much preferring ice-cream and Netflix to dish-washing and dusting. However, at present, I make an effort to hoover every day (hurray for robot vacuums!!!), to put away stuff as soon as we are finished with it, and so on. Tidy surroundings, tidy mind!
4. Continue writing – even if it is a hundred words a day.
A friend sent me a message today to ask how we are doing in locked down Italy. I said:
‘We are OK so far. Ask me again in three weeks’ time!’
A friend sends me a picture of a balcony with something attached to it.
It’s a banner that her neighbours here in Italy have put up in the last hour or so. I zoom in as much as I can. A rainbow, a butterfly, a heart and the words:
Andra’ tutto bene
Everything is going to be alright!
It’s great! Just the boost that I am needing.
Perhaps I can also pull a sheet out of the cupboard and get our own positive placard up on the balcony!
I post on my blog’s Facebook page about this diary and the uplifting banner.
I am delighted when a lady I have never met in real life but who has been so friendly to me and a great supporter of my blog during its existence, comments with a link to an article in the British newspaper The Guardian.
The rainbow with the message Andra’ tutto bene is a spontaneous initiative taking over Italy. I feel warm inside reading the article and pleasantly surprised when I see that Luisella Romeo – an excellent licensed tourist guide for Venice – is quoted in it.
I also put a call out on Facebook asking people to share their personal experiences with me. I say:
If you want to share your own experiences and thoughts, please, send me a private message via my blog’s page on Facebook. I may (with your permission) post your words in my diary herewith so that the picture of how people are feeling and what they are going through is fuller. You can be in Italy or anywhere in the world!
If you decide to do it, please, kindly note that I may not be able to get back to you immediately and I don’t promise that everything and/or anything you write will be published in my blog.
Also, no defamatory language is allowed. Only personal thoughts and experiences will be considered but not necessarily accepted.
Finally, no monetary or other remuneration is offered. Just a chance to share with other people your experiences in quite an extraordinary situation.
Late at night.
Scrolling through the news and social media updates, it’s difficult not to feel sad.
Every night for the past two weeks or so, I ask my husband one question: ‘How many?’
I don’t need to clarify what I mean. He tells me the figure and every time I am left in shock.
From single digits to the dozens and now, three days in a row, in the hundreds.
News pieces talk about Italy’s overwhelmed health system. There are first-hand accounts of the impossible choices that Italian doctors need to make every hour of every day. Earlier today, a headline announces the passing of a leading medical figure.
A video published by a local newspaper talks about the closure of all public parks and gardens in Padua – a city a stone’s throw away from us – in order to stop people from gathering in them and thus, potentially, spreading the disease. Public parks and gardens were closed in Treviso two days ago.
In online forums and groups, people are abuzz. Some are angry with other people for not following the rules. Others are worried sick about the effects that spending long periods of time closed at home will have on them.
Thousands of kids in the Veneto haven’t been to school now for almost three weeks. Playdates and/or simply visiting friends next door are not allowed.
It’s difficult to explain to a child why things are the way they are and why every day brings new restrictions. Every day I am searching for the right words, I am trying to explain serious subjects in a calm, yet realistic way.
With regards to daily activities, I am keeping things light and fun, quickly moving along, with study time peppered with fun projects and restful downtime. Inside though and, especially late at night, I am starting to worry about the effects this isolation may have on all of us.
To counteract the thoughts, I count the many ways – sometimes aloud, often in my mind – in which we are lucky.
Ways in Which We Are Lucky
1. We have a roof over our heads. Touch wood! (or Touch iron!, as they actually say in Italian)
2. We have food. And, so far, we have been lucky enough not to witness the manic panic buying that, if online media is to be trusted, is taking place in so many other nations around the world. Plus, our usual supermarket in Vicenza is fully stocked with toilet paper and Italians are big on bidets.
3. We have each other.
4. We have internet!!!
5. We have our small fenced-off front yard and we have a balcony! Both feel like such a luxury now that we have to stay put at home.
To keep my mind occupied, a few days ago on a whim I bought an online drawing course. Designed for complete newbies and particularly, for people who think they can never learn to draw, it consists of several videos each of which walks you through a drawing exercise.
I like watching the videos. The tutor – a Spanish artist known as Puño – talks about drawing very passionately. How it helps develop our decision-making process. How it was practiced by prehistoric people long before the advent of a written language.
I spend some time working through the first exercise, letting my mind relax while picking felt-tip pens at random to create a colourful, visually raised outline of my hand.
Friday – 13th March 2020
I wake up with a start. It all feels a bit surreal now.
A cursory glance at the news. I think I am overdoing it now for I check the headlines in the British, Italian, and Bulgarian newspapers.
A headline in a British newspaper makes me really angry. It basically states that the real global emergency is that coronavirus is going to bankrupt more people than it kills. So, money is more important than life?!
What a way to prioritise on a global scale!
I am fuming internally but my priority is to keep things as normal as possible at home.
Ways to Calm Down Quickly When You Are Raging Inside But You Don’t Want Media Headlines to Stress Your Family
1. Water your plants – tell them they are beautiful and that they look gorgeous on the windowsill. You can just think it instead of saying it out loud in case you are too embarrassed to be seen talking to your plants. But, who cares, honestly. I tell my orchids they are beautiful every day.
2. Floss your teeth – take some minutes for yourself in the privacy of the bathroom and give them a good floss. Not an angry one, mind you! Just a very good, thorough one.
3. Wash the dishes – remember, tidy house, tidy mind!
4. Open the window or step on the balcony for a minute and let the air clear up your head.
In other, happier news, apparently, there will be an Italy-wide flashmob tonight at 6.00 pm Italian time. A very nice lady who follows my blog sent me a message this morning to tell me about it. All musicians are invited to play at their balcony or window in order to lift people’s spirits.
Later on, I see a post in a Facebook group about the music flashmob. Apparently, everyone can take part, even if they have just a saucepan and a big spoon to drum on it.
I tell this to my family. Enthusiasm reigns! We have a guitar, an ukulele, a toy piano, and a singer. Come on feel the noize…
Lunch today is rice salad – a simple but filling dish we have adopted the habit of preparing since moving to the Veneto in 2014. It’s simply boiled rice mixed with a selection of chopped gherkins, silverskin onions, olives, pickles, sweetcorn, etc. It sounds quite plain but with a dash of olive oil, it becomes a delicious light lunch to have when you can’t spend hours in the kitchen and yet you want to feed your family well.
Plus, with the many varieties of rice grown in Italy, this basic rice salad recipe can be easily spruced up to something quite special.
Today, I use wholegrain red rice. It takes double the time of normal white rice to boil but it has a nice chewy texture to it and makes the quick lunch a nice family meal.
My husband is working from home now and the three of us try to share the available space with as much consideration as possible for the other two.
Before lunch, I spend time playing tangram with my child. An ancient Chinese puzzle consisting of seven flat pieces, we try to arrange them in four different figures. The school has set it up as a task to keep kids learning and occupied while anchored at home.
Online, parents discuss the homework given by the different schools and the different platforms that teachers are using to get pages and pages of different tasks across to their students. It seems like every school is reacting as best as they can. Some email parents the links to pdf files with dozens of pages of homework. Others record video lessons and hold live classes online.
It’s riposo now – the sacrosanct Italian afternoon break. We try to keep quiet as much as possible. Just as we have settled into our own tasks, the bell goes ding-dong and delivery of something we had ordered last week arrives.
The courier wears thick plastic gloves on his hands and a mask on his face. He is the tenth person with a mask I have seen in Vicenza since this all started about three weeks ago. However, most of this time I have spent completely cooped at home so my observations are not really a good representation of the outside world anymore.
In any case, over the last day, I have seen through the window two of my neighbours wearing masks when going out, so wearing one regularly looks like our new normal.
My husband goes to meet the courier at the gate. I hand him a pack of wet wipes to take with him. Yes, it has come to this. Meeting another human requires full protection on both sides. Will it ever feel normal again when we don’t have to wear masks and constantly worry about the last thing our hands have touched?
I open a tin of sweetcorn to use in my rice salad. Apparently and if what’s written online is to be believed, the virus thrives on cold surfaces.
Would it have survived on the tin of corn if someone at the shop had touched it right before we had put it in our trolley and then brought it home days ago?
Questions, questions, questions…
Some absolutely stupid. Others very pertinent.
My mind is abuzz.
Do we have to carry a self-declaration form with us when we need to go outside for such a simple mundane task as throwing the rubbish in the communal bins?
Can I actually go into my own front yard seeing that we all are asked to stay at home?
How to make sure everyone at home is happy, not stressed, well-fed and well-exercised?
I guess we will have to learn as we go.
At 6 pm tonight, we opened the balcony door and presented our very best music-cum-cacophony mix to our quiet street below.
We used a guitar, a ukulele, a tambourine, and a toy piano. We strummed and then sang a song. For a great moment in time, it was fun to simply have fun.
No-one else on our street took part in the music ‘flashmob’ that was planned Italy-wide for 6 pm tonight (see my entry above from 8:34 am today).
And that’s totally OK. I would imagine people have a lot on their minds at the moment.
On Fridays, we would usually get a pizza in.
Not tonight though. Restaurants, cafes, and bars were closed all over Italy a couple of days or so ago. Restaurants can still deliver food if you call an order in. We haven’t tried it yet.
After supper – garlicky chicken with jacket potatoes and sweetcorn – we watch a film. Peter Rabbit! It turns out to be great. Lots and lots of banter. A silly but heart-warming storyline and England (London and Windermere) looking as gorgeous and perfect as they have never been.
We laugh like mad at every rooster scene. The rooster starts each day by shouting over the rooftops that he can’t believe that the sun has risen again.
Saturday – 14th March 2020
The sun has indeed risen again. It’s a bit of a grey, overcast day but here it is to Saturdays!
Although lately, the days seem to blend a bit in my mind, a Saturday is a Saturday so let’s make the best out of it.
My husband is making surprise pancakes for breakfast! But we have told our child that we can’t make pancakes as we are out of milk. Little does she know we have three small size long-lasting bottles of milk hidden in a cupboard away. So, here it is to surprises and to making Saturdays special.
On this note:
Ways to Keep Sane When You Are in a Lockdown (totally motivated by my mood after my morning glance at social media and the world’s news)
1. Find reasons to laugh every day – watch a fun film, crack a joke, be a bit silly. Laughing releases tension and makes you feel human.
2. Ignore social media warriors – that’s it people who will explain to you online how exactly you should be feeling in the situation that you are in without actually having been in the same situation, like, ever before. They are just looking to offload tension and appear important in their head.
3. Take action – from making your bed to writing a diary, anything helps to make you feel productive and useful or just to keep a clear head.
‘But I spent X amount of money!’, people say. ‘It would be a shame to lose it all!’
The reasons for losing it can be of all sorts: lack of insurance, travel company deeming a particular destination ‘safe’, insurance not covering pandemics…
I think we are at a stage where a potential financial loss and personal disappointment due to a missed travel experience must not overweight health considerations.
I mean, it all happened so quickly here in the Veneto. One day we were all celebrating Carnival and stuffing ourselves with frittelle with cream and then, three weeks later we are told to stay at home and not go out without a valid reason (and the valid reasons are very rigidly defined).
The situation changes and develops every day and, I think, our mentality needs to make a big jump to catch up with it.
‘For the common good!’ may sound thousands of times less appealing than ‘But I want it now! And if I don’t get it now, I will complain to the manager!!!’ but it’s the reality at the moment for us.
We have placed our Andra’ Tutto Bene – Everything is Going to Be Alright – poster on the balcony outside.
My child worked long and hard on it. I gave her a square torn off an old sheet, we took the bottles with acrylic paints out of the cupboard and for an hour creating the poster became the most important thing in the world for her.
It’s such a lovely initiative getting children in Italy to draw or paint a rainbow resting on two white clouds with the words Andra’ Tutto Bene painted around them. It gives kids something to focus on, to feel part of the solution, to feel positive.
In other news, someone perceivably important has made comments in the British press that the Italians are treating Coronavirus as an excuse for a long siesta.
Words fail me!
First, why is everyone feeling like they need to say anything at all?! Just because they have a Dr. in front of their name, it doesn’t mean their opinion is of any interest and/or help to anyone.
Then, if we are going to be dismissive of other nations, let’s use the correct terminology, after all. Italy doesn’t have a siesta. Italy has a riposo! It’s an extended lunch break and you can read more about it here:
And then, Italy – often misunderstood and stereotyped – actually and perhaps thanks to its riposo, works very hard. I have never seen so many small and medium businesses in one place. Such an entrepreneurial spirit!
At a time when most high streets all over Europe are an imitation of each other with branches of huge multinational companies taking all available retail space, Italy’s high streets still feature predominantly home-grown brands, small shops, a variety of local businesses.
Italy is a traditional country where things tried and tested over decades and centuries are not easily dismissed in the name of more money and ill-perceived marketability.
Yes, it can be a bit of a shock to the system when you first move to Italy and you find out that shops and businesses – mostly in the small cities and towns – close for two to three hours each afternoon. Yes, it may appear like madness to you coming from a country where overworking and not taking a proper lunch break is considered the norm.
Yet, in Italy, it works for them and given the choice between having to eat my lunch at the computer with my boss hovering over my head or taking a nice long lunch break, I know which I will choose.
Going back to Italy’s small shops.
My husband returns from throwing the rubbish in the communal bins. I had outfitted him with plastic gloves and our one precious bottle of hand gel (and a pack of wet wipes, too!). He tells me the small shops lining the nearby high street – a butcher’s, a bakery, a fruit and veg shop and so on – are open and have small queues in front of each. People are keeping the prescribed one-meter distance from each other but talking cheerfully among themselves.
He suggests that I go out to the fruit and veg shop today to buy some fresh produce.
I haven’t been beyond our front yard since Monday morning of this week. I don’t have a valid need to be out and about and also I am a stickler for rules. And rules say we need to stay at home.
I am sorely tempted to quickly run to the fruit and veg shop. It’s just around the corner, after all.
My child is going to be upset as she can’t come with me.
So many questions are abuzz in my head.
How to make sure we pull through all this feeling happy, relaxed and productive al the way through?!
How to make sure that we observe the rules yet go out when strictly needed without creating drama at home?!
Riposo starts soon.
It’s a great time to relax and think. Thank God for riposo in Italy!
It is so, so silent here.
It has been really quiet for days now.
Before there were constantly cars coming down our street, kids returning from school, the noises of a drilling machine used in home repairs or whatnot.
Lately, it’s been simply silent. To the point where if you watch a video with the volume at 10% in one room, in the room next door I can hear it loud and clear.
It’s drizzling slightly outside.
I went to the fruit and veg shop by myself this afternoon. I need to be honest and tell you that it was an emotionally draining experience for me.
I prepared carefully for what, normally, would be a ten-minute pop down to the shops. I filled an auto-certification form, as it is required to have one when you venture out of the house, to specify what’s the purpose of you being outside. I put my ID in my pocket, then added my debit card and our one precious bottle of hand gel.
The streets were empty. The large street next to us usually is chockfull with traffic and you have to be extra careful on the zebra at all times. Now, the lanes were deserted and I saw three moving cars for the short amount of time I spent outside. So many parked cars though.
I saw perhaps twenty people in total – many of them with masks.
In front of the shop, I had to wait for a minute or two for a customer to finish paying and leave so as to avoid having too many people inside at any one point.
Inside, they were providing thick gloves for customers to put on. In principle, customers in Italian shops are not allowed to touch the fresh produce with bare hands. So, there is always a box with thin plastic gloves that we use to place apples, onions, and whatnot in thin plastic bags.
This time, the gloves provided were proper latex gloves so I put one on each hand and got on with shopping.
People carefully avoided each other, cautiously looking at you to see if you observed the required metre of social distance.
My mind was a flurry with intrusive thoughts. I tried to focus on picking up the fruit and vegetables that we needed at home. Carrots, tomatoes, crunchy apples, bananas, mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, aubergines.
White asparagus is the big event of Veneto’s spring for me.
This most exclusive and expensive vegetable in other parts of the world was first grown here in the Veneto several centuries ago. To this day, the lands around us are particularly good for the cultivation of white and green asparagus. Come spring thick bunches with perfect straight shoots grace market stalls and fruit and veg shops.
Usually, seeing the first white asparagus for the year is like a big thing for me. It tells me that spring is here and my beloved spring months can be enjoyed in full force with all the trees in bloom, vineyards coming to life, and blue skies above us all.
I put a bunch of white asparagus in my basket and head to the till.
On the way back home, I pass by a neighbour of mine. He and his daughter are exercising in front of their door. I give them the polite wide berth.
He looks at me and says: ‘Ho tanta voglia di stare fuori!‘ (I have such desire to be outside!)
I reply in my faltering Italian: ‘Capisco molto bene!‘ (I understand very well!)
Dinner is a resounding success.
Everyone chips in to help make the food.
I roast chips. My husband marinates and then fries pork chops chopped in tiny pieces and prepares a lovely tomato salad with dry parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Then we make tarator – a traditional Bulgarian dish with cucumber and natural yogurt. It sounds wacky but it’s very nice.
At dinnertime, we listen to music.
Three Songs to Lift Your Spirits and Even Make You Dance a Bit
1. Drops of Jupiter by Train
2. Mr. Brightside by The Killers
3. Feeling Good by Muse
Sunday – 15th March 2020
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and a new life!
And it’s time for breakfast. Hurray! As we have been up since 8.35 am and kept super busy until now.
Sunday is usually when we go on a day trip somewhere in Italy. There are so many wonderful places to see and enjoy here both on and off the beaten track.
Today, instead, we will be doing a deep cleaning of one of the rooms. My husband’s idea and a thing that we have been postponing for a while now.
So, we stripped the room bare, moved out everything that we could and straight after breakfast the plastic sheets are going on the furniture and the actual work begins.
The church bells ring their midday song:
Tan tan tan ta Tan tan ta Tan tan ta Tan
Tan tan tan ta Tan tan ta Tan tan ta Tan
I’m in the front yard which traps the bright Sunday’s sun. I am sitting on a plastic chair. I close my eyes and lean my head back. The sun rays shine straight into my closed eyes. The church bells keep ringing.
It’s a lovely and peaceful moment in time!
Ringing church bells are one of the things I love about Italy.
I am not religious and I find it difficult to describe what I believe in or if I believe in anything at all but the ringing church bells touch something deep inside of me.
It’s really warm and sunny.
The trees are fully bloomed.
The scent of a nice roast wafts through the air and reaches me.
The people in the houses and flats up and down the street are getting ready for their Sunday lunch.
Just up the road a father and a son play football, their voices loud and clear making it all sound like it’s just any other normal Sunday.
And for the first time in a week, I don’t feel guilty about being in the fenced-off front yard, about being able to move around for a little bit, about having the opportunity to do some gymnastics once a day, and about letting my child make some noise in the process. For the first time this week, I don’t feel personally guilty and responsible that millions of other people are stuck inside the blocks of flats that grow dense as a forest in the Italian cities and towns.
Most often than not, we can’t fix the world. We try though and we feel personally responsible for it. We put it on our shoulders and then we sink under its weight. Thus, these precious few moments when we are at peace with our limitations and ourselves are to be remembered and cherished.
Intrusive thoughts I have thought this week:
- What if my child falls and we need to go to the emergency room at the local hospital?
- What if something breaks at home? Are we going to be able to call someone in to fix it? How ethical/dangerous it would be to call someone it?
- What if all this goes for many more months and completely skewers our plans for life?
- Would I be able to ever go to Venice/Padua/Vicenza’s historical centre/local cafe ever again?
- So, this is how it all ends?!
- Do I have to wet wipe/wash with dishwashing liquid/smother in hand gel all the fruits and vegetables (from the first banana to the last potato) that I just brought in from the outside?
- Was this person that passed on the street exactly one meter away from me behind the fence of my front yard?
Constructive thoughts I thought this week:
- It’s time to make lunch/dinner.
- Hey, I am actually writing every day!
- Hey, I am exercising and just rope jumped for a bit (I hadn’t done it for thirty years or so).
- The house looks tidy and clean.
- I love being at home with my husband and child.
- Everything is going to be alright.
Ways to Keep Intrusive Thoughts Away
1. Breathe – remember to take deep breaths.
2. Busy yourself with something – albeit washing the dishes or putting the vacuum on (Thank God for robot vacuums! When are they going to invent robot dusters?).
3. Write. And then write some more – it’s not going to be Pulitzer-worthy but, who cares, the important bit is that you are getting it out of your head this freeing space inside to feel calm again.
I am suffering from news overload and the inevitable panic that sets in when you have read everything from the official media websites to the tabloids to social media updates from doctors, nurses, friends, and Facebook warriors.
People exchange information – some constructive, some not so much – in private groups and chats online.
368 deaths due to Covid-19 in Italy today. A figure which The New York Times calls a death jump.
I need to keep a clear head!
Monday – 16th March 2020
I read several studies online all saying that stress can dampen your immune response.
I decide I don’t want to panic and stress. It’s the start of a new week. I will focus on the tasks at hand at home: homeschooling, keeping a tidy environment and writing instead of on the countless news pieces and toilet paper memes that seem to flood me from everywhere.
If need be, I will temporarily stop following certain people, media, and groups who don’t seem productive to me and my tasks at the moment.
1:34 pm / 2:25 pm / 2:53 pm
Midday is long behind my back and in my mind, I run through the things I have managed to tick off since the start of the morning:
- made breakfast and lunch;
- printed reams of homework emailed by the school;
- spent 45 mins in the sun exercising with my child;
- washed a load of clothes;
- exchanged messages with the other mothers on the school parents’ online group about the amount of homework assigned and other such topics of interest.
There are so many more things left to do though. The house is a mess with dishes waiting for me in the sink. I need to go through the pile of homework (in Italian!!!) and split it into manageable bites. I need to write. I need to make sure I have a plan in mind for the rest of the day.
Every time I start doing something, another thing happens to take me away from it. The phone rings, someone asks me to send them an urgent email, my child pipes in with a question, it’s time to eat, etc.
My life is a series of constant interruptions and the things I manage to do between two of them.
I feel like I am unable to concentrate and do things. I feel like I am lagging behind other people who have a much better handle on their time than me.
I love my drawing course, as the tutor always emphasises that we need to take the right amount of time to draw a line, a circle or whatnot. If we rush it, the drawing easily gets messed up. If we focus on it and slowly and carefully guide our hand over the paper sheet, the drawing comes together very nicely.
I take my time with every line, circle, and dot. I am proud of the result even though it’s just a doodle and even though I have never thought that I am able to draw.
Unlike drawing, usually, I can never fully concentrate on what I am doing here and now.
I feel like I always need to think about the next step. Rush, rush, rush, get it done, get it done, move to the next thing…
What a crazy life we all live.
In the two hours that it has taken me to actually write the text above (between all the interruptions, etc.), I replied to three messages, took a phone call, made a phone call, wrote an email, waved my husband off on his way to do our weekly supermarket shop, deciphered Italian homework, started folding the dry clothes, prepared a new load to put in the washing machine, took the sausages out of the freezer in order to be able to cook them tonight, and these are just the things I actually remember doing.
All the while, at the back of my mind a voice was screaming: You need to do the dishes next! You need to do the dishes next! You neeeeed to doooo the dishshshshshes neeeeeext!
I should try to find some time tonight to continue drawing. I just want to be in the moment for a fleeting moment in time!
Over the last few days, I have spoken via messages, emails, and phone calls with friends in countries all over Europe.
Everyone is asking us if we are OK and I say the truth by replying that, given the circumstances, we are OK.
Reactions to what is happening at present (all over Europe, not just in Italy) differ. There are people who are not bothered by it all and hope that this whole ‘bustle’ (as they define it) will pass them by. Others tell me that the local schools and restaurants are now closed and they are settling in their own country’s quarantine rules.
In my home country – Bulgaria – a state of emergency was declared about three days ago with draconian fines in place for whoever breaks the rules.
How are things in your corner of the world?!
I forgot to mention that the dishes are almost done! In case you’ve been wondering.
I dealt with the washing, too. On the housework front, everything is alright.
People are exchanging links to education resources in order to keep kids focused, occupied and still learning under these extraordinary circumstances.
Here is My Number 1 Resource to Keep Kids Creative, Productive, and Happily Occupied
1. Krokotak – my most favourite place for quick and easy creative projects. It’s a Bulgarian outfit producing videos, printables, books and all sorts of resources for kids. They have millions of followers on Facebook and I love their projects. You don’t have to speak Bulgarian to make use of their Facebook page and other social outlets. The videos are very easy to follow and don’t feature spoken explanations.
Tuesday – 17th March 2020
Pigeons are cooing and birds are chirping outside. I can hear a lorry trundling down the street. And a man on his phone walks past our house.
It feels just like a normal day!
After a busy morning, I feel more of control of things, more organised and with several domestic and homeschooling tasks ticked off my mental list. It’s not perfect! Nothing is ever perfect! But it feels good.
Late last night, I spent an hour and a half on Reddit browsing through the AITA threads reading about moral dilemmas people are having around the world.
I love and hate Reddit with passion.
I have wasted so many hours on it. I start reading a subreddit and tell myself it’s going to be a minute or two. Then, hours later – with my mind both overloaded and completely blank (a very strange sensation but if you have ever spent hours lost in the thoughts of other people online, you know exactly how it feels!) – I come to my senses and realise that I could have done so many other actually useful things. Or, at least, I could have taken a nap instead!
Cue some mental self-flagellation and anguish.
Then, I will myself not to go on Reddit again and my decision lasts for a while. Until I make the mistake to just have a look at a subreddit thinking it’s going to take me only five minutes tops and then hours later, I come to my senses again.
So, OK, here I said it, no more Reddit for me for the next three weeks!
If I need to fill a minute or two with something to do, I better look through the window at the actual world outside!
Earlier today I see the post lady arrive. Zooming on her Vespa down our street, she has a mask across her face. It covers her mouth and nose. Between the mask and the helmet on her head, you can only see her eyes.
It reminds me that a few days ago, on Sunday of all days, we received a delivery from Amazon.
It was a package with books that we had ordered before the full lockdown was introduced. We had tried to cancel the order afterward but it was not possible. So, the delivery arrived on Sunday and as my husband went downstairs to meet the driver, the driver got out of the van, left the package by the closed gate, walked back to the van, waved from afar and left.
Today is a very nice day! Sunny and bright and so, so quiet again.
With lunch out of the way, I am thinking about the conversations with people I have been having these past few days. Not face to face, mind you. Via messages, phone calls, emails, Skype, Facebook updates – all sorts of modern ways to connect with each other even when we need to physically stay away.
So many stories and points of view are shared in a handful of words and emoticons.
Someone tells me they refuse to go out in the garden and only open the windows for 15 minutes a day, as they are worried that the virus can be brought in by the wind.
Another person wonders if they should cancel the dance lessons they give in a small town in England. If they cancel them, they won’t be able to pay the rent for the hall they hire from the local council. If they don’t pay the rent, the council is not going to keep their time slot for them.
A small business owner in Vicenza is worried about what’s going to happen to their business and will clients return as and when things go back to normal.
I have a lot of compassion for small business owners in Vicenza and all over Italy at present. It takes such an effort, so much time and, often, a lifelong commitment to become an artisan, to open a patisserie, to run a small shop, to start a ballet school, to tailor-make clothes…
And I have a lot of compassion for people in Italy and everywhere else now. Information and misinformation – the avalanche is huge and sometimes it’s difficult to establish what’s fake and what’s true.
We are constantly told and reminded to wash our hands. My hands are now scrubbed red. But then, what should we do with products bought from the supermarkets – do you wet wipe them, do we leave them aside for a few hours, do we just use them as they are?! My mind tends to block with such questions – stupid as they may appear to you.
I needed some new notebooks and when my husband last went to the supermarket, he got me some. Only for me to really feel unsure what to do with these notebooks before touching them at all. Wet wiping them?! In the meantime, I washed my hands again.
We have such a wonderful sense of freedom. Our particular world – and there are many parallel worlds on the Earth – gives us such a wonderful sense of freedom.
Normally, we can go out of the house and to work, we can pop down to the shops, we can go for a walk in the park, we can get on a bus, on a train, on a plane and travel far, far away to another spot on Earth where the local world may be so much more restricted and regimented than ours and we can note inside ourselves the differences and then simply return to our wonderful free world.
When I was growing up in Bulgaria of the 1980’s and the 1990’s, my world there and then was not free the way this current world is. Our world then was made to feel secure and safe but freedoms were different and (often!) not quite so free (if that makes sense to you!).
We had lifelong work security, we had completely free education, and we had (on theory, at least) completely free healthcare system, too. But we couldn’t freely travel everywhere in the world, we couldn’t simply walk in a car showroom and leave with a brand new car that same day, and we were not truly free to say exactly what we thought.
Some of us, at the time, thought that the Western World was free (and they would secretly listen to Radio Free Europe). But it also turned out that this perceived freedom of the Western World is not quite full and true. For in spite of the freedom of travel and the perceived freedom to say exactly what you want, there are so many things that keep you shackled down – job security, impending bills, school fees, the need to shop and consume.
Yet, in comparison to many historical, political, and religious periods that countries go through, in principle, we – in Italy, England, Bulgaria, all over Europe – are extraordinarily free.
What is freedom to you?
Which facet of your freedom you would miss the most if you lost it one day?
I spend a happy half an hour browsing through an enormous list with resources aiming to help you homeschool your child.
A very lovely lady has shared it on my blog’s Facebook page. The list was compiled by one of her contacts who homeschools. Please, click here to have a look. It is a wonderful list with so many resources on so many topics that you can spend months exploring all the knowledge contained in them.
Ah, to be a child again! To have the world on the palms of your hands with all its knowledge and opportunities. And with the right people in your life who take the time to get to know your strong sides and gently guide you in the right direction for you.
Are you the person you thought you would be as a child?
I wanted to be a ballerina! Often little girls want to be ballerinas, don’t they?! There is something so magical in being able to dance well, in wearing a sparkly costume on stage. I never took ballet classes in my life. I was told I was too plump to be a ballerina and that was that.
I love the new style of parenting these days where you sit down and actually listen to your child and then, as best as you can, you offer your understanding and support.
Wednesday – 18th March 2020
I have found the perfect way to counteract reading ad nauseam Reddit and social media updates. Yesterday someone shared a link to a long list of free Ivy League courses online and so many caught my eye that I decided to do as many as I can.
I start with Wonders of Ancient Egypt – a course developed by Pennsylvania University. Late at night, I watch several of the videos. It feels good and enriching. I learn an exciting tidbit: the figures on Ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs face the beginning of the line of text. In other words, if the figures face to the right, then the adjacent hieroglyphs need to be read from right to left.
In other news, this new day has started bright and sunny. Tomorrow is Father’s Day here in Italy. In previous years, we would go down to the local patisserie and treat my husband to the traditional Zeppole di San Giuseppe. This year we will prepare something at home.
Breakfast is quick and sweet. We have fallen into the Italian habit of having something small and sweet to start the day. In this case, instead of the traditional brioche (a croissant-shaped pastry – also known as cornetto – with different fillings that is sold in Italy’s patisseries and cafes for breakfast each day), we tuck into a slice of Colomba.
Colomba is a dove-shaped sweet bread that is studded with raisins and decorated with sugared almonds. It’s eaten at Easter and supermarkets stock Colombas in colourful boxes for five euros or so each in the month or so leading up to the holiday.
My husband returned from his trip to the supermarket last week laden with three boxes of Colomba. You see, while other nations are stocking on toilet paper, my family stocks on sweet Italian cake breads.
OK, it was a bit of a lame joke! I admit it! But a joke is a joke. Plus, Colomba is very nice. Give it a try if you have the chance.
What did you have for breakfast today?
The afternoon is very sunny, pleasant, and relaxed.
We watch animal videos on the San Diego Zoo website and learn curious facts about the animal world. Like, did you know that ostriches are the only birds in the world with two toes (which helps them run so fast), that bats are the only mammals that can truly fly, and that Egyptian vultures love eating ostrich eggs which they break by repeatedly dropping small stones on them.
The hours slip into a late afternoon. It’s all so nice and peaceful. That’s it until I look through the window and see an ambulance turning down our street. It stops, reverses, and then drives off.
I feel relieved and then I notice that, from their windows and balconies, my neighbours have also been keeping an eye on the movements of the ambulance. We have all become a street of curtain-twitchers.
A lady with a mask and gloves walks down the main street that I can see from the balcony. A man walking his dog passes a few minutes after her.
A stinkbug flies into the kitchen. The last few years the Veneto has been having infestations of stinkbugs but this is one of the first we have seen this season.
The stinkbug is officially declared our family pet and moved to one of our plants.
Small things keep us occupied.
Italian comedians have started to post videos online attempting to shine a little light of fun in times that are quite dark. I particularly like this sketch. He is on the phone to a contact trying to arrange a time to have virtual coffee with one another during the quarantine. It turns out he is so busy with virtual exercise, flashmobs, and other online social events that finally he suggests having the virtual coffee date next time that the world is about to end. ‘This way we can do it all con calma!’
Con calma! is a phrase Italians adore. At least the ones I have come across so far. It means more or less ‘Calmly’ or ‘With calmness!’
For all the stereotypes about Italians being impulsive, I can tell you that they do love doing things con calma. Being serene, calm, and collected is something valued and brings you social brownie points. At least in Vicenza and at least in the social communications I have had so far. I wouldn’t generalise.
I read the Wikipedia entry about Heracleion.
Known also under its Egyptian name Thonis, this was an important and bustling city in the Delta of Nile. It reached its apogee between the 4th and the 2nd centuries BC. Then, natural disasters wiped it off the face of the Earth and nowadays its remnants are on the bottom of the sea. Underwater archaeological teams have been hard at work and bringing to the surface the story of the city and its inhabitants.
What makes a really deep impression on me is that Heracleion was originally built on adjoining islands. It was intersected by canals and ferries, bridges, and pontoons connected its wharves, temples, and tower-houses.
Does it remind you of something?!
I love Venice so much. It’s an incredible city with so much history and art.
Every time that I visit Venice (and usually it’s so easy to get there from Vicenza) I leave a piece of my heart there between the canals, the churches, the traditions, and the splendour that can still be felt.
I have always thought that Venice is such a unique city, without a precedent and how sad, tragic even it is what is happening to it nowadays.
The story of Heracleion leaves a deep impression on me. So, this is how it all ends?! In a couple of thousands of years, it all is just a pile of ruins on the bottom of the sea and people try to read a history that is no more based on what has managed to survive the passage of time: coins, stone pillars, things like this.
Do you think the people who will come in two thousand years from now will have a clear and good idea of what we were, of what we fought for, of what we have been through or what we have achieved? Or will they have just a few pieces left to try to decipher our history from?!
The number has gone up so much today. My heart aches.
Thursday – 19th March 2020
A bit of a mad day!
It’s my husband’s birthday! And it’s Father’s Day in Italy!
How to celebrate when you need to stay inside?!
I have never been big on birthday celebrations. I didn’t have big birthday parties when I was a child so the enthusiasm for organising and enjoying one was killed in me a long time ago. A bit of a sob story, I know! But, OK, I just brought the world’s tiniest violin out and played a sad tune on it.
Now that I have a child and with the help of my husband, birthdays have become something to look forward to. My husband really goes out of his way to make birthdays special. So, I feel he deserves the same on his birthday, too.
Thankfully, my child and I had managed to buy some presents right before the lockdown came into force. Neatly wrapped, they were hidden in my special hiding place where I also hide Christmas presents and other such surprises when the need arises. I am not telling you where the place is. I am sure you also have one or, as a child, have raided one or two of those.
As we can’t go out at present, yesterday, in total secrecy we watched some cake-making videos. This morning, after a birthday breakfast and after my husband retreated to the lounge which functions as his office now, we made this cake.
Just as we took the cake out of the oven and left it to cool, my husband came in the kitchen, took one look at the cake in the baking tin and said:
‘Is this chocolate or a really burnt sponge cake?!’
It’s a chocolate cake! No worries! It’s not burnt!
But, maybe, just maybe, I didn’t leave it long enough in the oven as currently, the cake has a deep indentation right in the middle. No worries though! I am sure, we will be able to mask it with lots of chocolate frosting later on.
The cake is OK! Don’t worry about the cake!
I don’t worry about the cake. But the news that Italy looks set to extend the quarantine period leaves me in a strange place between ‘I knew it!’ and ‘I can’t believe it!’.
With the sun shining outside, staying at home doesn’t feel that bad at all. After all, all I have to do is to sit tight, make sure that things at home run smoothly, and that’s about it.
I don’t have to go outside to a workplace feeling stressed about who can look after my children while I am at work. I don’t have to deliver food or mail to people and wonder which one of them may have it while I try to shield myself behind a mask and the obligatory social distance. And, when I think about doctors, nurses and all hospital and medical staff, I feel destroyed just imagining what they must be going through.
Yet, sitting at home without a firm date as to when things can potentially start going back to normal feels quite deconstructive inside. My main concern is about children.
Children whose routine has been suddenly changed completely, who try to follow online lessons, tick off answers on reams of printed sheets with homework, whose parents worry about life and things, who – beyond their siblings (if they are lucky to have them) – haven’t played with another child for weeks now.
As a mother, when I look to the future, to the day when we will be able to go on about our daily lives again, I want to be sure that there will be systems in place to help kids internalise this whole experience and make the best out of it.
If I have to periphrase the headline that made me mad several days ago (see entry above for Friday, 13th March 2020), the real global emergency is not that coronavirus is going to bankrupt more people than it kills but that we don’t know what the social isolation will do long-term to our children.
So, if you allow me to share with you this small revelation I had a few days ago, give all your attention to your children. I think at present it’s incredibly important to keep them lively, curious about things and energetic. It may feel like such a disruption when your child comes to ask you a question right as you have made yourself comfie in front of the computer or two minutes before an important Skype call. Yet, believe me, that question that your child has right now is the most important thing in the world.
At 9:00 pm tonight and led by the Pope, Italy prayed the Rosary. Invoking the protection of St. Joseph – the guardian of the Holy Family – it was a prayer by Italy for Italy and against the coronavirus.
Over the last couple of days, many messages were exchanged on social media and in online parents’ groups about the collective prayer. Families were asked to be together at 9:00 pm and to place in a symbolic gesture a piece of white drape and a lit candle on a windowsill. A file with a drawing of the Virgin Mary was circulated, too so that mummies and daddies could print it and give it to their small children to draw their families underneath the protective cloak of the Virgin during the prayer.
The bells of all churches started ringing at 8:45 pm invoking the faithful to prayer at their homes, surrounded by their families.
Although I wasn’t brought up in a religious environment, I admire this ability of Italians to assign time to pray together. It must feel very reassuring, quite empowering even to be part of such a large-scale ritual, to use words to centre your energy and send it off into the Universe asking for help and protection.
I would imagine such a collective effort would make you feel less alone and isolated. Also, less scared.
I sometimes wonder if I did miss much by growing in a society which at the time was strictly atheist. This ability to pray and to direct your innermost thoughts and hopes to a higher power sometimes feels very attractive and very soothing.
On some mornings during my walks around Vicenza (in the five and a half years that I have been living here and long before the quarantine started), I would open quietly the door of a church and then spend a few moments just sitting on one of the benches inside while looking at the works of art around me and letting my thoughts run around for a bit before quickly quietening down.
It was always a very peaceful moment in time when I felt very present, very now and here. And sometimes, other people would walk in – on their way to work or just after dropping their kids at school. They would cross themselves and say a little prayer, light a candle and then off they would go to continue with their daily life secure in the knowledge that there is someone up there who takes care of them.
Friday – 20th March 2020
I overslept. Or, actually, I had a nice lie-in as there is nowhere to be outside of the house.
Breakfast is a small pot of cherry yougurt and a nice piece of Colomba. Now a cup of coffee in hand I am ready to face the day.
The sound of drilling comes through the open balcony door. People, it seems, are making small home repairs or perhaps drilling a hole in the wall to hang a new picture or painting. My family chatters around the table and a radio station is on somewhere on our street and I can hear the voices of the presenters but not make their words out.
It’s sunny and warm with just a tiny thread of morning chill in the air.
It was quite delightful as people started posting photos of their cups of coffee, too.
Such moments of connection make me so happy inside. No matter what’s happening, we as humans are still able to enjoy a get-together. Even if the primitive fire that once served as a focal point to our cave lives is no more, nowadays we have a cup of coffee (albeit virtual) and the internet to connect.
Yesterday a Coop van trundled down the main street that I can see from my balcony. Coop is one of the large supermarket chains that we have in the Veneto.
It was one of the very first times that I had seen a supermarket delivery van here in Italy.
While in England online food shopping has been part of daily life for over two decades now, it is still quite the novelty here in the Veneto. I remember chatting to another mum here about two years ago after an online food shopping service was launched in Vicenza.
‘It’s very convenient!’, she enthused. ‘You do the shopping online and then they pack it for you and you just have to drive to the supermarket to collect it!’
Italians, actually, love to shop in person and they love to shop daily. Fresh food is paramount. Traditionally, you buy small quantities – just what you need for a day or two – and you also use the visit to the shop as a type of social activity.
You chat with the people behind the counter, you spend time choosing exactly what you want and the day after you repeat it all over again.
Now, with us having to stay at home and with every trip to the shops (or anywhere else) carefully considered prior to execution, home deliveries have quickly caught on.
Restaurants and pizzerias – which otherwise can’t serve customers on their premises – are delivering orders to people’s flats and houses. Pharmacies have started to home deliver medication to those who can’t make it outside. I even saw a pet shop announcing online that they would gladly deliver food for your pets and patisseries were home delivering the traditional for Father’s Day sweet – zeppole di San Giuseppe – yesterday.
It remains to be seen how the quarantine and the social distancing are going to affect the shopping habits of the Italians in the long run. Is the online food shopping going to take on such a big scale as in the UK? Are takeaways going to become the new Friday night thing in Italy? Will Italy lose a bit of its sociability in result of it all?
Lots of questions for a social commentator to dig in in the months and years to come!
I see the stinkbug relaxing on one of the roots of my pale pink orchid.
Is it the same stinkbug as the one we adopted as a pet the other day? I have no way to know.
With the warm weather outside, we have seen a rebirth happening in the insect world around us. A plump locust – big as a small bird – jumps from branch to branch. A gorgeous wasp suns herself on our balcony. A couple of flies swivel and air-dance.
I am OK with them all. I am happy to see them around, free to fly and enjoy the sunny day.
Just, don’t let mosquito season start any time soon.
I don’t know what the situation is where you live, but the Veneto has some of the most vicious mosquitoes I have ever had the misfortune to be bitten by.
Come spring and summer, huge and striped, the local mosquitoes (or zanzare as they call them in Italian) attack you any opportunity they have. When you walk in the supermarkets here and you see a whole aisle dedicated to anti-mosquito products you start to understand how torturous the local mosquitoes are.
To combat them, the local councils spray gardens and parks all over cities and towns.
With everything that is going on at present, it will be small mercy if mosquitoes stay asleep for another week or three.
At 4:30 pm today I open the front gate of our house and step on the street outside.
Since last Saturday it is the first time that I physically am beyond our front yard. I am on my way to the nearby fruit and veg shop.
Earlier today my husband asked me if I wanted to go. We needed potatoes and other fruit and veg. Then, immediately he volunteered to go himself if I couldn’t face it. Last Saturday I had a very tense and emotionally charged trip to the fruit and veg shop and I had felt helplessly overwhelmed by all that is happening in the world at present.
Yet, no matter how long we will have to stay inside and no matter what is happening, I don’t want to become afraid of the world. I want to be able to keep a cool mind and face up to the daily tasks that running a family, a home, and a sane life entails.
If I become scared of going to the fruit and veg shop now, how am I going to deal with things going forward?!
So, I said yes, of course, I will go and straight after riposo I did it.
I carefully prepared for my one trip out of the house this week. I put nice clothes on, combed my hair carefully, and looked at myself in the mirror. I noticed that I had overplucked my left eyebrow these past few days and I made a mental note to go easy on it.
I wanted to look presentable for the world, for the handful of people I would come across on the street. And even though we all avoid each other and don’t dare look at each other’s faces as we pass each other by at a meter distance or more, I wanted to look presentable and good.
I have always admired the Italian women for their constant strife to look good even when they pop down to the shops. And even though often this can degenerate into a show-off of brands or a constant preoccupation with one’s looks, on this occasion – my going down to the fruit and veg shop – I totally understood where the Italian ladies are coming from.
I wanted to show a bit of civilisation and social skills, to show the world that I respected both myself and the environment we are in.
I also filled in the self-certification form that we all need to carry when we go outside, packed our one precious bottle with hand gel, added a pack of wet wipes just in case and headed out.
Our outings these days are reduced to the bare minimum. Once a week my husband goes to the supermarket to do a weekly shop. If he is needed at work, he goes there, too. The rest of the time he works from home. I go out once a week to the fruit and veg shop.
We can get the fruit and veg from the supermarket, that’s true. But we wanted to support our local small shop during these testing times.
Inside the shop, I once again performed the difficult dance of staying away from people as much as possible.
If I am not careful, I can easily be overwhelmed with tense thoughts. Instead of thinking, I concentrate on doing.
I pile my basket high, then pay, then put everything in my bags and then leave.
During all this, there is an awkward moment when I drop a banana on the floor while stuffing bananas in a plastic bag.
The sales assistant – always very helpful and cheery – tells me: ‘Don’t worry! I’ll get it!’
And then completely naturally and normally he steps towards me to try and pick the banana off the floor. Both of us freeze, unsure what to do next.
His helpfulness will bring him within the meter distance that we need to keep between us. But then again, he can’t not be helpful to a customer.
I quickly step back as far as I can and he picks the banana off the floor.
I walk outside and head home. In the distance, I see two large trees covered in spring blooms. They look like enormous pretty snowflakes. I admire them every spring as I pass by them.
This spring though the trees are beyond my reach. They wave to me from a hundred or so metres away but it’s a distance too great for me to cover considering the circumstances. I turn right and get ready to cross at the zebra the empty road.
Governed by habit, I look left and right. At the end of the road, I spot an ambulance. It drives quickly and before I know it, it flies through the zebra. I catch a glimpse of the driver and the medic next to him. They are wearing full protective suits, with faces covered with masks and see-through plastic shields.
‘It is real!’, I think. ‘All this is real!’
Saturday – 21st March 2020
It’s Saturday! The start of the weekend and of astronomical spring.
Actually, I just checked and spring seems to have started early yesterday morning. The weekend is still about to start though.
Yesterday, the Veneto’s governor signed off new, even more restrictive measures for people to observe during the quarantine. I have a quick look at the list: all parks in all of the Veneto are now closed, supermarkets will close on Sundays, and people can’t go for walks any further than 200 m away from their front door.
A lady asks me in a comment underneath one of my Facebook posts how do I stay so positive.
I have my moments of feeling real raw fear but the most important thing for me is that I cannot afford to stress my child.
Being shut at home without contact with other children is already strange and stressful enough for kids at present. If you add to this environment parents who are stressed and talk about the virus all day long, can you imagine how this is going to affect and shape a child?!
I don’t want to imagine that. I prefer to focus on simple things like watching a film with my family, exercise when I can, make meals together, and be silly every now and then.
Being able to be silly is a very important skill to have. I was never able to let go, I always had to be in control. I grew up during endless political and social crises in Bulgaria with parents who were incredibly strict. Not being able to relax, always worrying what people thought of me, full of anxieties and stress. Now that I look back, I don’t want to fall into the same hole again.
There are many plans that this COVID-19 is messing for me and my family. It’s also hitting me badly financially. My blog has lost over 50% of its traffic. I still don’t know if I will have to fold it soon or re-direct its topic. If I spend my days thinking just about this, I will most surely not be a great person to have around.
Instead, I prefer to be silly every now and then.
Ways to Being Silly Every Now and Then
1. Dance – as I said above, I wanted to be a ballerina when I was a child and I never had lessons, so now it’s the perfect time for me to dance around the house like no-one’s watching. My child thinks I am hilarious. I am quite lame in fact but who cares.
2. Crack a joke – OK, I will start. And now my mind is blank so I went to ask my husband for one of his jokes that he cracks on request for the smallest of things. And now his mind is blank. But it still gave us a chance to spend some time together and goof around. He finally found this gem on ThoughtCatalogue: ‘My therapist thinks that I am preoccupied with vengeance. We’ll see about that!’ Now he is busy reading the rest of the jokes on the page and laughing to himself which makes me laugh, too.
3. Spontaneously make a poem – come up with little verses about small things in life. It’s difficult at the start and then becomes second nature. Soon you will find inspiration in anything and everything and your rhyming skills will give you thrills.
4. Watch funny dogs and cats videos – no need to explain this one.
Nothing deep, inspirational or of interest happens today.
I feel shattered, so I take a two-hour nap. It’s strange how tired staying at home can make you feel.
With riposo finished, I try to doodle following the guidance of the online drawing course I started a few days (weeks? months?) ago. I have no inspiration whatsoever and can’t really focus on the sheet of paper in front of me.
It’s just an unremarkable day, really.
A thought has been playing on my mind for days now. Namely, how is travel going to change once the quarantine ends? What the new rules of travel will be? I toy with the idea of writing a blog post with my predictions for travel. At the same time, I am not a bonafide travel analyst or professional, so whatever I write could be complete rubbish.
Let me see if I can muster the energy to jot down my thoughts anyway. Or if it will be easier to simply look at the world outside through the open balcony door.
Sunday – 22nd March 2020
It’s Sunday! Yesterday wasn’t such a bad day after all.
Late in the evening, I managed to process a large batch of photos from London – something that I have been putting away since last summer. Yes, procrastination can be my second name. Now I feel all fired up to finish updating a blog post about the 50 free things you can do in the British capital. The text is almost ready, just a couple of more hours to spend first on editing and then inserting the photos between the different portions of text.
Hopefully, I can finish it all by tonight.
Today is my printing day, too. The teachers have sent the homework for the new week and I will be hitting the Print button many times this morning. Great exercise for my index finger.
Also yesterday I spent some time reading about Roman history. I started from the very, very beginning, so I delved deep into the myths about Dido and Aeneas. Heartbreaking stuff! Now, I want to know more about Carthage and the Punic Wars. So much to read, so little time! Actually, time is in abundance now. Look for the silver lining, I tell myself. Otherwise, it will be back to Reddit and its creepy stories’ threads for me.
I can’t say I haven’t been tempted to have a look at them. Just for a minute or two, I coax myself. Thankfully, I haven’t done it so far. As I know, only too well what the outcome is going to be. Hours of me staring at my mobile while everyone is asleep. I better continue with my Ancient History refresher.
So, how is your weekend going so far? It’s only polite to ask, isn’t it?!
The news paint a world that seems to be going a bit mad. Between the toilet paper grab, the baring of supermarket shelves, the emails which people seem to be getting from their respective governments telling them to get on the very last flights home, and the constant arguments and name-calling on Bulgarian mountaineer groups (for people are unhappy that they can’t go to the mountains anymore), it all can get quite overwhelming. In addition to last nights’ numbers in Italy and now in France and Spain.
I can only hope that things will normalise soon. Until then, let’s get cracking on that blog post that I am updating. I love using the time while everyone is having a Sunday lie-in.
I have washed the dishes, put two loads of freshly laundered clothes on the drier outside, and made coffee. Plus, I am just about to unleash the vacuum on the floors.
Yes! I can do this domestic stuff! I can be like the domestic goddess like or something!
On the other hand, this whole domestic stuff takes so much time!
Yet, on the other hand, washing dishes, folding dry clothes, carefully measuring coffee grounds for two cups of coffee and so on are all wonderful ways to not sit around and think.
Overthinking things is my personal downfall. So, if it takes a load of housework to avoid overthinking things, I’ll take it.
Now, off to making breakfast. Or brunch, seeing that it’s close to 11 am! Poached eggs, some nicely sliced speck, pale toast, perhaps a cup of English tea, the works.
Apparently, no-one is hungry yet. This is what happens when you wake up at 10 am. It’s Sunday, after all! Lie-ins are like the law!
How is this staying at home affecting your appetite?! I must say, my constant snacking has stopped.
The temperatures have gone down a bit over the last couple of days. It’s overcast outside with the clouds in a beautiful pattern over the sky.
It feels a bit like it’s going to start raining any moment now. Although, the official weather forecast tells me that no rain is expected until Thursday.
We don’t keep the balcony door open anymore and have put the heating back on. I didn’t go to the garden to exercise yesterday. And I have stayed inside all day today. So far, at least. There is still about an hour of daylight left. Perhaps, I will make an effort to go to the garden and then straight back in or perhaps I will just stay put here sitting in my comfie chair.
Like a proper lazy weekend when just sitting at home is more than enough.
Yesterday, I had a terrifying thought about all this coronavirus stuff. Then I had to put this thought out of my mind. Everything is going to be alright.
It’s crazy how our minds sometimes work against us. It takes mental discipline to keep your thoughts organised.
So, I am taking it easy. Relaxing, not thinking of it all, checking the news and social media a couple of times a day at most.
Everything is going to be alright and this too shall I pass.
Big Events in My Life That I Was Glad to See the Back Of
1. Couponing system in Bulgaria in the 1990’s
2. Devaluation of money in Bulgaria in the 1990’s
Funnily both events seem completely meshed up in my mind. I can’t remember the particular years when they happened. I was in high school for the first and at University for the second but I remember it all as one long bleak period.
3. The credit crunch in England in 2008 (or was it 2007?!).
4. The riots in London in 2011 (this was scary! I was living on my own and remember wondering what to use to barricade the front door).
5. Again in 2011, someone stealing the lead flashings off the roof of the flat that I was renting in London. This leading to a flood through the roof during a torrential rainfall. The ceilings of the top-floor bedrooms (one of which served as my office as I was working from home) almost collapsed on me.
Looking at it objectively it’s not that much. Billions of people have been through much more testing times and events. So, nothing to worry about here.
Everything is going to be alright.
Plus, it’s Mother’s Day today in England. My child made me a lovely necklace out of beads, brought me strawberries and a cup of water, and gave me a small sticker shaped as a little heart. Ah!!!
It’s time for a small cup of coffee now and then I will continue cracking on my London blog post. I made some good progress on it today.
Monday – 23rd March 2020
The days are blending quite a bit now in my mind. It’s Monday – the start of a new week – so I have spent the morning getting on with the tasks at hand: dishes, breakfast, and homeschooling.
I feel a bit short-tempered with myself. A direct consequence of not going to the front yard over the weekend. I need that Vitamin D and fresh air. At least the sun is shining bright so I am looking forward to my 45 mins of exercise later on this morning. On the bright side, I have become quite good at rope skipping. I can do ten jumps without getting all tangled up in the rope. This week I will be working towards twenty uninterrupted jumps.
On the bad side, I felt really frustrated with things last night so I had a look at a Reddit thread last night. Thankfully, I didn’t spend hours on it. More like ten minutes before falling asleep.
In any case, I have frustrating thoughts playing on my mind all this morning.
There is no polite or diplomatic way to say it and anyway I have never been very skillful in terms of diplomacy so here it is, I will say it as it is: I am tired of people fetishising Italy. Or any other country for that reason.
But my gripe currently is specifically with the fetishising of Italy. There seem to be people who think that Italy is paradise on Earth and spend their days looking at beautiful pictures of Italy and thinking that’s all that there is to it. They want to have the film experience or better said the Instagram experience.
In line with the current situation, they feed on videos of Italians singing on their balconies and photos of iconic Italian sights and streets completely deserted of people. And, based on a comment I got on Facebook yesterday, they seem to think that we – lucky to be living here – have an idea when they will be able to have their holidays here again.
I will try to explain what social distancing and isolation is. And I can’t talk for other people as this is the point of isolation: we all are isolated from one another. So, this is my experience:
- we stay inside without any contact with other people beyond our immediate family.
- if we see a neighbour on his balcony or in his front yard, we wave and smile to each other (instinctively checking that we are at a safe distance albeit we perfectly well know that there are dozens of meters between our house and theirs). But we don’t talk. We can’t simply run to the fence and start chatting about our feelings or pour them (albeit from a distance) a cup of coffee (like in that drawing that is doing the rounds on social media at present). And we also don’t talk because they may be wearing a mask on their face as they may be on their way back from the shop or work.
- we are careful not to use too much of this or that as if we run out one of us will need to go to the shops and running to the shops for one or two things only is out of the question now. Shopping is a big expedition with a carefully prepared and double-checked shopping list. Shopping is also an exercise in staying away from other people and constantly worrying that they are coming too close. By the way, we are very low on bread so I will be kneading and baking bread today as we have everything else and I can’t justify asking my husband to go to the shops just for bread. And no, my bread-making is not some wee cute exercise in rusticality. It’s just a need that we need to deal with.
- there is a 14-day clock in your head that resets every time that you go out.
- every time that we hear the siren of an ambulance I think who is inside it and what they are going through.
- we follow the news and social media updates and try to keep a cool head and a smile. As if we panic, we can’t continue forward. And, also, apparently panicking lowers your immune system’s defenses.
- I, personally, follow the media in three countries: Italy, England, and Bulgaria and try to keep a cool head in spite of this triple onslaught. Sometimes, it’s difficult.
These are just the things that come to mind now. I am sure there are others.
And, no, we don’t all spontaneously jump on our windows and balconies to play and sing music in order to keep our spirits high. Actually, as I wrote above, on the day that flashmob was supposed to happen, we – meaning my family – did play some music in our kitchen. It was to keep our spirits high and to feel part of something.
We were the only ones. And then I understood (although I am old enough to know it anyway) that life is not social media. And that people have so much on their minds now. Worries, job (in)security, the schooling of their children, the health of their relatives.
So, no, guys, sorry, I don’t know when travel to Italy is going to be open. I can only hope that things will normalise soon. All the while, perfectly well knowing at the back of my head that the big day of re-opening – currently set for the 3rd April – may be moved several times.
If you want to come to Italy when things are re-opened and governments officially allow travel again, by all means, do. In the meantime, please, keep an eye on the official media and try to think that beyond the walls of the eerily empty streets of Italy that you see on social media updates are real people with real worries trying to live life as normally as possible while adjusting to the circumstances and keeping their emotions in check.
It is a lovely, lovely day outside. Very sunny, very bright, with just a thread of chill going through the air underneath the blue skies.
We baked bread! It’s a success! It’s very tasty. I have to physically stop myself from going to the hob on which the baking pan rests with our soda bread in. I’ve already torn off nice big pieces of bread twice and if I continue like this the bread may be finished before my husband finishes his last online meeting for the day.
So, instead, I need to practice restraint.
This is the story of how we baked bread. I knew we had flour but I realised we didn’t have yeast. No problem! We would make Irish soda bread, I thought. That’s it until I read a few recipes online and they all called for buttermilk.
It’s a quarantine here, people, no such fancy stuff in my fridge. Plus, I don’t even think I know how to say buttermilk in Italian. (Note to self: Google Translate buttermilk once you’ve done diarising this super incredible episode of life at home!)
I remembered my mother baking soda bread when I was a child. Bulgarian recipes tend to use few ingredients and the result is always good (take it from me, Bulgarian cuisine is delicious!). One online search later and we had the perfect recipe. Very simple. You literally take some flour, water, olive oil, soda bicarbonate, and vinegar and voila! you get Bulgarian soda bread. It only takes half an hour in the oven, too.
Hence, inspired by our baking success, I have been looking at bread- and pita-making recipes for the past hour or so. I need to add yeast to our shopping list!
Are you a dab hand at breadmaking?
P.S. Buttermilk is apparently burro di latte in Italian!
Tuesday – 24th March 2020
The day starts with a quick look at the news. Britain is now on lockdown but, apparently, tube trains and railway trains continue being full of people (if photos online are to be trusted) and a certain company insisted on keeping their shops open until it provoked a backlash.
I wonder how is the lockdown going to work in the UK from a practical point of view. The silver lining could be that, in general, British people have an aversion to living in a flat so theoretically most people have access to a garden space. Which is such a luxury when you need to stay put at home for long periods of time.
According to this detailed analysis, one-third of the UK population lives in a semi-detached house!
Then again, the picture for London is completely different with 43% of Londoners living in flats. The flats may not necessarily be in tower blocks and could simply be in a large house that has been split into different flats. Thus, theoretically, some flat-dwellers may still have access to a garden.
All this is just theoretical, of course. It just helps to pass the time and keeps my mind busy. It’s interesting to see how the lockdowns are going to work in different countries and what the locals are going to find most difficult to deal without.
A local newspaper in the Veneto the other day had an article about a person caught by the police in Chioggia without a valid reason to be there during the lockdown. Apparently, he calmly explained that he had a great desire to see the sea so he travelled to Chioggia thus breaking the restrictions.
What crazy excuses would people in other nations use, I try to joke in my mind, quite un-PC-stically.
‘I just had a great desire for a fresh baguette!’
‘I just had a great desire for a pint!’
‘I just had a great desire for a bowl of mussels with some chips!’
My trying-too-hard-to-be-funny monologue is cut short in my head when I realise I don’t have a great desire to be anywhere at present. Just sitting at home, in front of my laptop feels enough. My horizons have shrunk. No great desires left in me. I just want to abide by the rules and for things to quickly go back to whatever we considered normal before it all started.
I spent an hour last night reading through a reddit thread (yes, I fell into the rabbit hole again, please, don’t judge me too harsh, I hope to stay away from reddit for a while now!!!) about people who lost their jobs due to the crisis. It makes for grim reading with over 18,000 comments from, what it seems to be, all over the world.
The sentiment I am left with is that I am not panicking enough. All this keeping a cool head when people are talking about being laid off with an hour’s notice or having to rely on food banks. I feel guilty for still being able to shop for food and for not having an immediate doom over my head. Although, in six months time, who knows.
But, enough of these unproductive thoughts. The sun is shining bright outside. The birds are chirping and for the first time in many days, our flat is completely silent. Everyone is ensconced in their tasks, there are no Zoom meetings to be had, the vacuum is not swirling around, and I still have lots of hope left in me that things can only get better, especially if the figures keep getting smaller no matter how slowly this happens.
The good news is that I achieved my personal goal for this week – twenty uninterrupted rope skips! The bad news (it’s never perfect, isn’t it?!) is that I must have hit or somehow bruised the area around my left shin. It feels very tender.
I ask my husband what does he think it is.
‘I am not a doctor!’, he says and then enigmatically concludes ‘So, I would rather not say anything!’
I admire his restraint. It’s a rare quality nowadays to not feel tempted to express an opinion and/or speculate on anything and everything.
But, then, again, reader, this is why I married him.
I looked online and discovered that there are actually people who can do 1,000 rope skips in one go.
I feel rather small with my 20!
But then again, a week or so ago I couldn’t do even two. So, 20 will do for now.
And then 30 next week!
I am tired of memes. There is a terrible overdoing of memes on social media. It’s like these little pictures with a line of clever text across them are the only way we can express our emotions, fears, and smartassedness nowadays.
I just saw the most godawful one of them. Written from the perspective of the Year 2030, it consists of an imaginary dialogue between a college kid doing research on the 2020’s Covid-19 pandemics and a parent. Apparently, the parent remembers the panic shopping, the lack of adherence to the rules, and the fear of economic failure. Whereas the college kid remembers it as the most amazing time for eating meals together with the family, having time to sleep, and watching their pastor on the laptop(!).
Please, spare me the positivism.
When I wash the dishes, I often look outside. My sink is next to the window and washing dishes is a job that lets my thoughts fly away. I often find myself miles away when I am at the kitchen sink. So, I was looking through the window this afternoon while carefully soaping a large dish and I saw the following scene:
A father was walking with his two small children down the main street that I can see from my window. Both children were dressed for cold winter weather with hats on their heads and thick gloves. Before I could see more of them, they walked out of my line of vision.
I felt really warm inside for having seen this lovely family scene – a daddy taking his kids out for a nice walk. It’s been such a long time I have seen kids walking down the street, I thought.
And, then, of course, I remembered. I remembered the rules, the fear, the social distancing. And I asked myself what must have made this father take his two children for a walk outside.
Maybe he had to go to the shop and didn’t have anyone to leave the kids with, maybe they were walking to their car to go to an urgent medical appointment, or maybe they all were so tired of staying locked in a flat that he decided to take them for a walk up to 200 metres away from his front door (which currently is the maximum allowed distance for dog walks and exercise).
I would never know his reasons. Even if I did, as a human, I am in no way in a position to throw the first stone.
I know (for myself, at least) what is the most difficult thing that this social distancing has imposed on us. It’s the restriction of the movement of our children. The inability for them to socialise with their peers and friends for a long time.
And if the kids remember this time as ‘the happiest time’ of their childhood (according to that meme that got me started writing all this), which planets are these kids coming from?!
Kids are emphatic and they can understand complex concepts like ‘it’s for the common good’ if you take the time to explain these concepts to them with suitable examples and words.
Yet, even if you give your children all of your attention and time, under these extraordinary circumstances sooner or later they do start feeling cut off from the world. They understand there are things (normal up to two weeks ago) that they can’t do anymore: they can’t see their friends, they can’t go to school, they can only see their teacher during short video calls, they can’t go to the patisserie with their parents, they can’t not wash their hands time and time and time again.
So, yes, please, no more memes. Here is a revolutionary thought instead. Next time, when you want to share how you feel, please, use your own words. It is very likely that fewer people will give you the Sign of Social Approval – the almighty Like – but, at least, what you have said will be unique. And, maybe, another person will recognise themselves in your words and offer their own words to you back.
Wednesday – 25th March 2020
Sciopero was one of the first Italian words that I learned when we moved to Italy. In English it means a strike.
I still remember the nursery where my child used to go to giving us a letter almost every week warning the parents that there was a sciopero scheduled for the days ahead and to make provisional childminding arrangements. They never actually went on strike but the talk was always there.
There were a few actual strikes here though. For example, of the railway transport a couple of times. But there hasn’t been anything major or incredibly stressing. Life in Vicenza always just went on.
Yesterday, the Italian newspapers wrote about an incoming strike. That of the gas station workers – 100,000 people in all of Italy. It seems that they feel invisible and underappreciated at a time when every business needs to take measures to make sure that its workers are suitably protected against contagion.
So, the talk is that first, the gas stations along the highways are going to close followed by the ones along the peripheral roads and then the ones in towns and cities.
My mind went into overdrive when I read this. We have gas left for about 100 km. How is this strike going to affect us all? What about deliveries of food, key workers who need to travel to their place of work and so on. On a purely personal level, if we can’t get to the supermarket to do our weekly shop, one of us will have to go to many different local shops in search of bread from one, meats and cheese from another, toilet paper and cleaning supplies from a third and so on. For the first time in my life, I regret not having a shopping bag on wheels. Perhaps, I can take a small cabin-size suitcase with me to stuff everything in so that I don’t have to carry it up and down the street?
I hope that everything is going to be OK.
It’s sunny but very windy outside. To the point where I have to pull the drying rack with freshly laundered clothes off the balcony as sheets and pillowcases are flapping wildly in the air.
Perhaps they will fly off, I think as I open the balcony door, fly all the way to the neighbours’ yards and this will give me an excuse to step outside on the street to go collect them. With the drying rack pulled safely back inside, my wild dreams of escape are put an end to.
We haven’t been outside yet today. But we have made a mental note to get in the front yard at 4 pm when riposo ends and to throw our rugby ball around for a while.
Tomorrow, I need to go to the local shops. While we are waiting to find out what’s going to happen with the gas stations nation-wide (I haven’t checked the newspapers since this morning, perhaps the schiopero has been called off?!), we’ve decided to support the local businesses a bit more so I will do a shop tour to fulfill our shopping list.
I am looking forward to buying some chocolate! I have been having a craving for chocolate for a couple of days now and as luck would have it, we don’t have any left at home. Last night my craving got so bad, I asked my husband to kindly give me one of his Mars bars that he keeps a stash of in his backpack.
A Mars bar is a chocolate dessert I, otherwise, really don’t have a taste for. It’s chewy and sticky whereas I prefer smooth milk or dark chocolates, ideally studded with some hazelnut pieces.
Lunch was a huge bowl of pasta that we saw the bottom of. This staying at home really makes one hungry.
We still have two large packs and one small pack of pasta left so that’s two and a half kilos of love hiding in the cupboard.
What we know as pasta in both English and Bulgarian, is referred to as pastasciutta in Italian. It literally means dry pasta and, once boiled, it is served in thick and/or chunky sauce. Pasta in brodo on the other hand is the pasta that is served in broth like the famous tortellini of Bologna.
We love our pastasciutta at home.
We usually have it with pesto calabrese. Sold in small thin jars, this is a delicately spicy red sauce made of peppers, chilies, and two types of cheese – Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano. We can’t have enough of pesto calabrese and when the supermarket we would usually shop at wouldn’t stock it for months, we used to make the pilgrimage to another supermarket especially to buy a jar or five.
Since we have been stuck at home, a lunch of pasta and calabrese has been on the menu rather often. Today, I added a tin of peas and a tin of tuna to the mix and in ten minutes lunch was ready on the table.
In the end, I went to the shops this afternoon.
It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way through but I am glad I did it. I also took the rubbish to the bins. Sorry to bother you with daily trivia but, actually, taking the rubbish to the bins is not a daily thing anymore plus any outing feels like a momentous event, so, yes, OK, let me tell you all about my trip to the communal rubbish bins.
Seeing that I was going to the shops anyway, it made sense to also do the bins, said my husband. Vicenza is big on recycling so we collect our rubbish in five different bins.
Now, I have to admit that in my close to six years here I have never done the bins myself. It’s one of the things that my husband does and, yes, I am very spoiled in this regard. So, this afternoon, he had to talk me through the different bins, their respective colours, what to put in each, and how to use the green hob that opens one of the bins.
Off I went with five plastic bags in hand and one large bag stuffed with paper recycling. With all the printing of school-assigned homework that I am currently doing for the homeschooling of my child, the bag with the waste papers was rather bulky.
OK, I found the bins on the main street, identified them by their colours, pushed and shoved the respective bags in each, fought with the green hob that controls the one electronically locked bin, and broke a nail in the process. So, feeling like I had achieved something with my day, I headed back home to wash my hands (after dosing them with hand gel first) and to grab my shopping bags.
I walked the short distance to the tiny supermarket down the road. Along the way, I saw three ambulances passing by. Although their lights were flashing, their sirens were not on. I don’t know what that means. Is it that they don’t need to have the siren on seeing that the roads are practically empty so they don’t need to clear traffic away. Or is it that they didn’t need the siren on as the medics were not tending to an ill person.
I truly hope it is the second option.
At the shop, I put the plastic gloves provided on both of my hands and got on with ticking stuff off my shopping list.
I got a bit panicky when two different people kept coming closer to me than the prescribed and expected one-meter distance. They also were not wearing masks. As we don’t have masks at home and as we go out so very rarely, I had put my husband’s black motorcycle snood on. It leaves just my eyes and the top of my head explosed (maybe I looked a bit funny but, honestly, it’s not a moment to be that fashion-conscious).
So, these two people kept coming closer than strictly needed so I had to wheel my trolley from aisle to aisle trying to keep the distance.
Gosh, people, shoo!
Follow the rules!
The other thing that upset me was that while I was placing everything on the checkout belt, one of the thin plastic gloves on my hands broke. I went to pick another one and it broke, too. My hands were incredibly sweaty and trying to push a new plastic glove on turned out to be very difficult. Finally, I did it somehow and went back to pack my purchases.
As I don’t want to have to leave the house within the next few days, I had bought two large bags worth of items. It took me some time to place them in my bags and the person behind me in the queue started to show his impatience. I was doing my very best but, come one, a minute would have been appreciated.
Seeing this, the sales assistant decided to help me and started putting my items in my bag while I was doing the same. This made me even more nervous. Thinking about it now, perhaps I should have asked her to simply give me a minute and keep the distance. But, as they say, hindsight is 20:20.
In any case, if you feel like you are being rushed, don’t be afraid to state that distances should still be observed and that you need a minute.
Then I walked home with my heavy bags, got in, wet wiped what I could, put the snood and everything else in the wash and took a deep breath!
Gosh, I used to enjoy shopping!
Still, I am getting better at managing my anxiety when I need to go out and if I feel like anxious thoughts are about to take over, I keep telling myself that stress affects adversely our immune system and I calm myself down again.
Thursday – 26th March 2020
It’s been raining all morning here. It just about stopped.
It was strong, drenching the earth rain. We can’t open the windows as the heating is on, so I stepped on the balcony for a minute and it was chilly but not shivery cold outside. A great day for a bracing walk.
I watch a couple of videos on Facebook showing the Venetian lagoon at Chioggia on this rainy day. Steely grey choppy waters. Beautiful to look at. I can almost feel the strong wind on my face. The smell of the sea!
I have such desire to for us all to get in the car and drive to Chioggia for the day. We would so often do it before. Just get in the car and off we went – flamingo spotting, hill hiking, castle capturing. The world was our oyster! Or if not the whole world then, at least, everywhere we could easily reach from Vicenza.
Yet, rules are rules. I know some people are trying to bend them yet this is not a very clever idea at the time. What happens if you decide to go hiking on the assumption that it will be safe as there won’t be any people around and then you fall or suffer another such misfortune and then search parties need to be despatched to find you thus putting people in close contact with one another and taking resources away from where they are most needed at present??
I spend ten minutes looking at a website that delivers monthly boxes with Japanese sweets and drinks. They promise such delights as Sakura Kit-Kats and caramel popcorn milk. Even I am tempted by the milk considering that I don’t drink milk at all and can’t stomach the taste of raw milk (I have no problem with cheese and ice-cream though!).
The box looks lush and above all, it brings the promise of faraway lands, of adventure, of being on the move. I don’t order it but may do it later. In the meantime, in my mind there is a battle between the want for cutely packaged sweet things and the fear that money needs to be saved in these strange times.
I haven’t checked the news today. Fingers crossed they are good.
I still haven’t checked the news. And have no desire to do it at present.
I spent the late morning and now the early afternoon overseeing the school tasks that my child needs to do.
Considering the circumstances and how suddenly it all happened, the teachers are doing incredibly well. We receive a batch with tasks for the new week every weekend. There are videos, drawings, fun information, many resources. Plus, the lead teacher provides a daily reading which is sent to us as an audio file.
I know that homeschooling and distance learning have been on the lips of every parent in quarantine/isolation over the last few weeks. Believe me, I’ve seen the memes.
People compare notes, schools, approaches. WhatsApps’ parental groups are abuzz with discussions. Some people have had to adapt quickly to new apps and virtual ways to do schoolwork, other people are complaining that the assigned tasks are too much or too little.
All in all, and considering the circumstances, I am happy so far. The important thing is to keep the kids’ interest in learning and to make sure they remain open to the world and curious about new things.
My main concern is the time and opportunities that are being lost in terms of missed extracurricular activities like sports and dance. Will the kids lose the habit and the enthusiasm to do them once or twice weekly when all this finishes? It remains to be seen.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a pushy mother but inside myself I grieve a little bit about these missed extracurricular activities, about the lessons in mental and physical strength they were teaching and about the system of rewards through hard work they were promoting.
On a positive note, I managed to buy two small bottles of hand gel during my expedition to the shops yesterday afternoon!
Tomorrow, I am planning to go rummaging deep in my jewellery-making box. I remember having a pack of masks there. Many years ago, when I was into jewellery-making, I would wear a mask when using liver of sulphur for oxidation.
Hopefully, the masks will still be there, as I am trying to avoid having to go to a pharmacy specifically to buy masks. Yesterday, I wore my husband’s motorcycle snood (a remnant of his wild youth!) and I looked very strange on the street (not that I cared at that point!).
A curious fact – did you know that a sea lion can hold its breath up to 20 mins underwater. They do this very weird thing like snapping their nostrils shut and off they go diving and having fun. Lucky whatsits!
The evening is now shiveringly cold outside.
Friday – 27th March 2020
The day starts with my putting the Moka on the stove.
A Moka Express is a traditional Italian cafetiere that since 1933 has been faithfully serving Italy’s needs of strong home-made coffee.
My husband gave me a two-cup Moka for my birthday a few years ago and while before all this started we would use it every weekend nowadays the Moka is on the stove every morning.
While I wait for the water inside it to boil and start percolating through the coffee grounds, I lean against the balcony door and look outside. It’s Friday and it’s very, very quiet.
The street is deserted, the sky is blue with a shade of grey, two pigeons are chasing each other (ah, young love!) above the rooftop of the house across from us. I see a curtain twitch in another house across from us and the daughter of our neighbour peaks from behind it – mobile phone clasped to her ear – and then retreats back from the window. The curtain falls into place.
Coffee is ready! Mmmm… Very nice!
With all the printing that I am doing at present, we are running very low on paper. We are trying to order some off Amazon but they can only deliver on 15th April! I send a message to all the mothers that I know asking them if they know of a stationery shop in town that although closed for walk-in business still does home deliveries. One of them kindly recommends a shop while the others are lamenting that Amazon really seems to have started to give delivery dates that are two or three weeks from now.
Obviously, we can simply drive to one of the large supermarkets but is buying a ream or two of paper really a good enough reason to go out of the house?! Also, I would need to ask my husband to do it, because, yes, I can’t drive. I never learned (it was never a necessity in my life up to now). But my husband is super busy at work and has spent the last few days anchored in front of the computer.
I will try to decipher the stationery’s shop’s website. Italian websites often throw me off. I hasten to add I am quite well versed with computers from a customer experience point of view. I used to localise software for living which means that through the years I translated, edited, and tested hundreds of software programmes and apps making sure that they were ready for a local user to use without a hitch. I even trained and oversaw translation teams on the art and craft of localisation.
Yet, Italian websites can be a bit of a minefield – either very outdated or missing important bits of information or with too many frills and thrills or not really intuitive. Sorry, guys! I know this comes across a bit harsh espesh as my own blog is a bit of a mess.
In any case, I can always call the shop a bit later and see if they can deliver some paper to us.
OK! So, I managed to order six reams of paper with surprising ease. Just a button or two could have been slightly closer to their respective options to make it visually clearer what they were referring to. Otherwise, a great site to use and order from. So, I am taking back what I said above about all of the Italian sites!
Then, pleased as a punch with myself, I told my husband that I had ordered paper only for him to reply that last night he had ordered five reams, too.
Oh, well! Let’s see whose order is going to arrive first.
How many years do you think it will take us to go through eleven reams of paper?!
The Moka is on the stove again. The afternoon stretches around me. Each one of the three of us is absorbed by his or her own tasks. I reply to a few urgent emails.
It hits me what yesterday’s announcement of the Italian Ministry of Education truly means. The schools are not going to reopen on 3rd April – the original date on which things were supposed to go back to normal or normal-ish, at least.
Without a fixed date to look forward to, I need to concentrate on something else. Looking deeply inside myself, I realise that I have lots of hope left that things will be OK in the end, I just don’t have any expectations as to when this is going to happen.
At dinner last night we listen to music. My child requests something happy and with lyrics (it’s a clear warning to us not to put on classical music). We listen to Pharrel’s Happy – the perfect song to lift one’s mood. Maybe even to bust a move or two over one’s sausage, chips, and steamed veggies.
I request Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now – ideal to make you realise that all we have is right here at this very moment in time. Everything else is plans that can change at any minute and memories that can be easily forgotten.
So, yep, let’s focus on the present. Seize the moment. Carpe Diem! The Ancients knew what they were talking about.
P.S. Do you think Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now will be considered an anthem of the Ancients two thousand years from now?!
Saturday – 28th March 2020
I think Saturdays is when it hits me the hardest. Waking up and remembering that we don’t have anywhere to go and above all, we can’t go anywhere. A trip to the front yard to exercise is our one luxury the same way that before a trip to Venice or a trip to the Maldives or the Caribbean would be a trip of a lifetime for some people.
I read about British people honouring the NHS and all that it does to stem the pandemic by clapping from their windows, doors, and balconies. It sounds wonderful until I watch a video of a paramedic being applauded by her whole street. People are out in groups on the street and she is so overcome by emotion that she starts crying and wiping her tears with her hands.
‘Don’t touch your face!’, I think. ‘Don’t touch your face! And why is everyone outside on the street?!’
I’ve lost it. I am not touched by grand gestures anymore. I am just holding onto the Rules in the hope that they will help us make the high jump back into the future of what was once normal to us.
A high jump that has an arched curve and the peak of which we still have not seen. The Numbers in Italy yesterday – nearly one thousand people – were heartbreaking and, yet, the Italian authorities tell us that we haven’t reached the peak. We are still hanging up somewhere in the air flying higher and higher waiting to hit the high spot. Are we flying though or are we digging down?!
Someone I used to know in real life posts a coarse status on Facebook. It’s designed to offend and denigrate. It questions the cleanliness of a nation and speculates is this why the pandemic is so devastating there.
I hit the Unfriend button after a few agonising minutes. Socially speaking unfriending someone on social media is seen as the utmost personal affront you can commit these days. Yet, I can’t put up with such an attitude. At a time when we are all equal in front of the virus, how does it help one to put another down?! Why such vitriol is practiced for social clout?! Why a person can consider it normal to feel above someone else just because the virus hasn’t hit him yet?! Many hours after I hit Unfriend I still feel disgusted.
The school has sent to the children a poem by Maria Ruggi called Il Virus Misterioso – it describes simply what coronavirus is, how people react to it, and what we can do to be safe. We read it at home in our faltering Italian. Bravo, maestra! It’s a great poem and, apparently, it has reached two million people in Italy already.
We have breakfast so late that calling it a brunch will be a misnomer. Outside it’s a beautiful day. Sunny and warm! The balcony door is open and it feels so good. The sun rays streaming into the kitchen, a ball bouncing off in a yard somewhere near us. A young man walking down the main street walking his dogs, both of which are so cute and fluffy!
At one point during breakfast, my plate is swimming in oil from my fried egg with liquid yolk and a fantasia di funghi (basically a selection of mushrooms preserved in sunflower oil that they sell in local supermarkets). I mop it all with a piece or two of toast greedily letting them drench all the glistening droplets.
In my head, an orchestra bursts into the famous tune from ‘Oliver Twist with lyrics adapted to the situation:
Oil, glorious oil! Egg, toast, and mushrooms…’
For dessert, we tuck into the leftovers of the apple crumble that we made last night. We have been making and baking lots of things this week with a pan-fried garlic bread and said apple crumble being the highlights.
‘Shall we consider this lunch then?!’, asks my husband.
‘Sure!’, I say, ‘In any case, I am ready for my second coffee!’
At 5 pm today sparks fly at home.
‘Is this something you wear to go outside?!’, I point accusingly at my husband’s jacket which is hanging off the wardrobe’s handle. ‘You know we can’t bring into the flat anything that we wear outside!’
I am tense, on the way to becoming angry and I keep pointing to the jacket with a wagging finger: ‘Take it out!’
He sighs, picks his jacket off the handle and says ‘It’s not necessary!’.
And puts it in a cupboard with his other outdoor clothes.
Dominance asserted (in my head, at least) I retreat to the kitchen.
When you are cooped up inside for long periods of time, often the smallest things can become the floodgate that releases the tsunami.
We are incredibly easy-going at home, we don’t lead battles for control, we met up later in life with fully formed habits and after an interesting first two years of dating, we settled into a relationship where I sulk if I don’t get it my way the first time round and then we talk about it, laugh a bit and continue forward.
It was a beautiful day outside today, but I stayed firmly put in front of my computer. I am trying to finalise a blog post that I have been working on for over a week now with constant interruptions, and I just want it out of the way. So, I am a bit tetchy.
Tomorrow, I will definitely go to the front yard as even ten minutes of exercise in the open air makes a huge difference to how I feel inside.
At 7 pm today I realised that my imagination is my strongest asset.
I was sitting at the kitchen table colouring a paper snail as part of our art and craft time. In my head, I am far away, in London, where I run a very successful greetings card company. It’s been a dream of mine for quite a while now, I have to admit. There is something so lovely in the British people’s habit to give a card for every occasion. So, it’s been my fantasy for over ten years to have a greetings card company with photos of lovely places, wishing future travellers great adventures abroad.
I see my greetings cards stocked in London’s best shops and, snap, I am now seeing my first book, freshly published, and very successful. Snap, and I am dreaming of my blog becoming very, very successful with people falling over themselves to read my sparkling travel writing. I can do with a million pageviews a month, I generously think in my imagination and… Snap…
I am coming to my senses as my child is dragging a long ribbon over my arm while singsonging ‘I’m a slippery snake! I’m a slippery snake!’.
I’m still so full of dreams and visions, I hardly register the word ‘snake’. So full I am of warm, uplifting dreams.
I’m telling you – imagination’s the word!
Especially in times of isolation…
Sunday – 29th March 2020
On Saturday night we stay up super late to watch 101 Dalmatians. I find it OK up to the middle point and then quickly sliding into boring from that point onwards. It doesn’t matter though as I am not its target audience, after all.
This leads to all of us happily oversleeping on Sunday. ‘Ah, this is what Sundays are made for!’, I exclaim in my head. ‘To sleep in and take it easy. Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn to try to squeeze in as many things to see and do on a day trip to remember.’
I potter around the house. I wash half of the dishes and then lose inspiration for the other half. ‘They can wait!’, I think. ‘They are also stuck here with us, hee-hee-hee. In their sink!’
Time to post on Facebook. I love posting on my blog’s Facebook page daily. I often think long and hard what to post about there. Sometimes I get an inspiration for a long a detailed status message, more like a mini blog post and, other times, a line or two suffice to express how I am feeling inside.
Not much is happening today!
The afternoon is warm and mellow. We colour Easter papercrafts on the kitchen table for a while. I have become quite a dab hand at filling outlines with felt-tip pens. Anything to keep our child occupied and happy during the lockdown!
I know my husband has had enough of all the isolation when he says:
‘It’s such a nice day! Anything would be better than sitting inside. Even visiting a villa!’
Which makes me laugh. He dislikes visiting villas with a passion. The Venetian villas are akin to small palaces. Dotted around the Veneto’s countryside, there are hundreds of them. Some were designed by famous architects like Andrea Palladio (the most influential architect in the Western World for the past 500 years!). Inside, the Venetian villas are covered with frescoes by the likes of Veronese and Tiepolo. Plus, they have gorgeous furnishings and an air of luxury.
I love visiting the Venetian villas, ticking them off one by one from a never-ending bucket list that I constantly update in my head.
My husband has no interest in Venetian villas. I have dragged him to about ten of them already and he has no patience left for the other 100 I have in mind. He much prefers hikes, sights of natural beauty, waterfalls, medieval walled towns, and science museums.
Hearing now that he would be happier to be at a Venetian villa than staying in is a sign that we all are starting to get a bit tired of the walls of the house.
I check the start date of the lockdown period in Wuhan. 23rd January 2020. It’s just about being lifted now. Two months and one week. We are on our third week of Italy’s full lockdown (not counting the weeks we spent before that with the schools closed and daily life slowly but surely coming to a standstill).
I read the articles about Britain potentially staying locked down till June. Where about in this timeframe our own lockdown is going to start being slowly lifted up? I don’t know. But I quickly put a Venetian villa on the list of places we will be running to as soon as this becomes physically allowed.
Monday, 30th March 2020
The day starts with me browsing expat groups on Facebook. Covid-19 seems to dominate the topics of conversation. People agonise over life-changing decisions like should they pack what they can and leave their current place of residence to return to their country of origin. Or should they stay put and ride it out.
It’s an equation with too many unknowns. So many things can work either way or in a way that you completely didn’t expect them to develop. Human behaviours, cultural traditions, medical facilities, the lack of familial support nearby, the prospect of being separated from your partner and/or even children for an indeterminate amount of time.
Situations like this may either completely block your thought process or spur you into action. Flee or freeze. No matter which takes over you, you will still need to fight on so many fronts. Above all on the front of ‘keeping it all together’.
I think this is what I have been concentrating on subconsciously over the past few days. Just keeping it all together. No matter what! If I start feeling too deeply about the impossible choices that people all over the world are facing (and some expats at least have a choice), I may not be able to function on a day to day basis. And functioning at present is of utmost importance. Moving forward, one day at a time.
Keeping the house cleaned. Making sure we keep physically active at home and in good spirits. Our plans for the future otherwise are in a bit of disarray but we will get to them when the time comes. What else can we do at present?! We have thought about plan A and B, and C, and Z. Yet, we won’t know which one or which combination of which ones is going to happen for a while now.
In the meantime and to keep myself sane, I just focus on things one at a time and one day at a time. As humans, we can’t predict the future. We can shape it through our actions. Not always though. So, at present, at least I can try to keep my thoughts in check and just take it easy, take it slow and see what’s going to happen in the end.
First task for the day is completed – I have printed all the materials that the school has sent for the distance learning this week. Well-done! I pat myself on the back. Small things, small steps. The important thing is to continue forward.
Now, onto breakfast.
We work out why we woke up so late yesterday.
Apparently, the clocks went an hour forward over the weekend to European Summer Time!
Earlier this afternoon I do 25 rope skips in the front yard and I am very pleased with my sporting achievement. However, almost immediately my shin starts to hurt like mad again. Is it shin splits?!
Soon I am to be found limping around the kitchen. I wonder if I should call my GP and see what he has to say over the phone or just leave it to heal by itself.
I prepare lunch, read a bit of news, put a nature documentary on for my child to watch, and surreptitiously eat a piece of chocolate. We are trying to stay active and eat well. I make it through with the occasional help of a piece or two of chocolate.
We have joined all sorts of free trial periods. Apps, magazines, streaming services, educational websites are very kindly and generously offering full access to their services without any fees for a week or month or two. We are giving a few a try.
After a morning of successful distance learning and 45 mins of exercising in the front yard, I have rewarded my child (and myself) with some screen time. We have just joined for a free initial week the Disney Plus streaming service so we are trying to see if this is something we would want to pay for in the future. Yet, we are not very much into Disney princesses in this house.
So, we opt for Perri the Squirrel – a nature documentary shot in 1957. I watch it until Daddy Squirrel is killed while protecting the baby squirrels (it all happened behind a bush, it looked a bit like he was playing with the animal that attacked him so it was sensitively handled) and then I leave the room to calm myself with my surreptitious piece of chocolate.
With a piece of chocolate in my hand, things can only get better!
Unfortunately, not for poor Daddy Squirrel…
Earlier tonight we find out that Italy’s lockdown has been officially extended to the 12th April. Two weeks from now!
Although many things can change many times in two weeks, the new date gives me some more hope for a return to normalcy.
Tuesday, 31st March 2020
It’s strange this feeling of having nowhere to go.
When your body is restricted, mentally, you can go in so many different directions. After the euphoria of the first few days when being organised, feeling productive, and keeping my feelings in check were paramount, now I feel I am sliding into the dangerous territory of ‘Who cares?’.
As in ‘Who cares if I don’t do this particular thing right now?! It can wait for a bit anyway!’ or ‘Who cares if I just sit here and look through the window for a bit. It’s not like I have anywhere to go.’
If I keep feeding this type of thoughts I know that before I know it I will be stuck in the middle of it all, doing just the bare minimum and watching the days pass by while being a passive witness of events.
It’s not a good place to be!
So, I am trying to reword the question in my mind. It doesn’t matter who cares. It matters if I care. We are being raised on the idea that everything we do should garner social approval and support. This is why social likes matter so much in our society. And when we don’t get them, it’s only too easy to give up. Ah, who cares?!
Fed on a diet of films, TV shows, and books telling the stories of everyday heroes, of changing the world, of achieving the impossible, and of having a dream/passion and making it happen, it’s very easy to feel paralysed inside when you realise you are just a normal person. And whatever you do, most likely, will never lead to the approval and the support of others.
Hey, we are lucky if our own parents supported us while we were growing up. Now, thinking of that (I have spent lots of time over the years analysing it in my head), I don’t think I got the support of my parents as a child. I got requirements and expectations. I was expected to achieve certain results at school, to go to University, to have a good job. It was all pre-planned for me and it was designed to make my parents feel like they were doing a good job as parents and members of society.
So, obviously, I rebelled. I did go to University and then had a good job and then dropped it all and moved to England where I worked in a pub, and in a shop, and at one point I ran my own jewellery stall at Camden Market – all things beneath my education as my parents would have told you.
But, it’s too early in the day to go into a makeshift therapy session.
All I am trying to say is that when the expectations and the requirements are lifted/nullified/don’t matter anymore, what are you left with?! And what happens if you haven’t developed the skill to mentally support yourself no matter what, to always be on your side, to be gentle with yourself, to do things not because someone expects them from you but because you know that they would be good for you in the long run even though they feel meaningless in this very moment in time.
So, yep. Staying put at home for long periods of time leads to some strange feelings and questions. The only way forward for me is to stop asking so many questions in my head and above all the main and most destructive one of them: ‘Who cares?’
Who cares who cares?! It’s time to wash the dishes. Small steps forward!
Dinner last night was garlicky chicken.
We have always been partial to garlic in this house but currently, we are totally overdoing it. There was more garlic than chicken in that casserole and it tasted so good.
My husband left it all to roast for over an hour in the oven to the point where the garlic cloves became soft as butter and beautifully golden on all sides.
I don’t know about Covid-19 but we are definitely ready for the vampire apocalypse here.
My husband heads out to the supermarket.
The reams of printing paper that we ordered a few days ago haven’t arrived yet and we are down to our last sheet. Plus, there are several things we need to buy again. Food and notebooks with particular lines, wet wipes, and other such items.
Who knew people need so much stuff nowadays?! It’s crazy to think about how we are surrounded by oodles of things that only a few generations ago would sound plucked straight out of a fantasy novel.
Take baking paper!
A few years ago I would have been perfectly happy to simply oil and flour the bottom of the baking pan. Nowadays, I can’t bake without baking paper. It’s so much cleaner and easier to detach, plus then I don’t have to spend time scrubbing like mad the baking trays and pans when I am washing the dishes. The baking paper simply peels off not leaving any debris behind. A quick wash then is all it takes!
Good things spoil us quickly.
Yet, gosh, we – as consumers – are so incredibly spoiled nowadays.
I have a quick look at the news. They are talking about reopening the schools in Italy in May. It would be amazing if it happens as it would still give children a sense of completing the school year as well as an opportunity to spend some time in the physical presence of friends. Online playdates simply are not the same!
My husband sends me a message that the gas station round the corner is working (great! I had completely forgotten about the potential strike of the gas station workers all over Italy) and that he had managed to fill the car.
It’s so nice and sunny outside and I am so used to staying at home that I begin to forget about the reason why. It has become my new normal. I truly hope this new normal doesn’t last long.
Wednesday, 1st April 2020
The one good thing that came out of this home confinement is that it gave me time to think about the things I want to do in the future.
And while only a few short weeks ago I was hell-bent on going back to University to do a two-year course on the history of art, I realised that this actually is not something I really want to do. Although I have a deep-seated interest in the Italian Renaissance, I just don’t feel the same about other branches of art and spending years on learning about artists and artistic aspirations that simply don’t talk to me sounds like the type of boring task that at my age I simply can’t commit to.
I would rather continue with my self-learning process about the Renaissance taking a short course here and there, reading as many books as I can, and actually visiting the places most connected to it.
Documentary photography is my other deep-seated interest. I am still in two minds about doing a two-year postgraduate course. It suits me well as it is completely online. On the other hand, the technical side of photography scares me a bit. I can just about find my way on the crossroads of ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, and focus point. Anything else and I feel this delicate balance will be destroyed and I will feel like I am failing.
The one thing that re-surfaced during this period of constant (and somehow forced) introspection though is that I really, really want to write a book. At least one, better still – several. In fact, I am one-third into one, one page into another and have the outline of a third in my head.
Sitting at home all day long and repeatedly questioning myself what will I regret the most if tomorrow it all comes to an end, makes wonders for achieving personal clarity.
So, here it is to my re-newed goals and to finding the strength to actually achieve them.
My physical world has shrunk so much.
It stops at the farthest point that my eyes can see which is not that far at all considering Italy’s propensity for blocks of flats as the most widely used form of residential buildings.
Sitting at my computer, I can see to the end of our street and a tiny piece of the main street that runs perpendicular to us. I have taken looking through the window as a new favourite pastime.
I count the cars that pass – less than ten an hour on a very busy day. I notice when a neighbour comes out on their balcony to put some clothes to dry in the sun or to sit and have a coffee. I know that the pomegranate tree just across the road from me is about to bloom in earnest in about two weeks. And I observe with interest the daily walks of a local moggie whom I have christened the Hooligan Cat.
She comes and goes as she pleases. A couple of times when the Hooligan Cat has been late to return home, I’ve seen her owner stand on the balcony hitting a spoon against a tin of cat food as a makeshift call to get her cat’s attention.
The way I have taken to observing my neighbours, I am sure they observe me, too. With not many things to focus on and with the news making for grim reading, paying close attention to the movements of the other humans in our immediate vicinity becomes second nature. It’s like watching a documentary. Or a reality TV show, if you like. So far, however, there is not much drama, (un)fortunately.
Over lunch earlier today – a lovely soup of lentils, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes in chicken stock (I personally made it and I am accepting compliments, thank you very much) – my husband tells me about a British person who has just been interviewed by the media about the four years he had spent in solitary captivity.
I need to read or watch his interview, too. I wonder where the human mind goes to when the body can’t quite move around. I remember The House of the Spirits – the amazing book by Isabel Allende a film based on which was made twenty or so years ago featuring Wynona Ryders and Antonio Banderas.
In the book, when confined in a tiny place, one of the leading characters seeks refuge in her head and starts writing using her memories. Not writing as in with a pencil and paper. But writing in her head, recounting the family history as though she was committing it to paper.
Obviously, we are no-where near such extreme confinements. We have our houses and our internet connections, and our gardens (if we are lucky). And we can even go to the shops. And many people continue going to work and having to drop their children with the grandparents on a daily basis as how else to make it all work considering the circumstances?!
In other news, it is a lovely day outside. Sunny and with some pretty white clouds over the blue sky. There is a cold thread in the air that you don’t feel if you maneuver yourself to a sunny spot. Just like the Hooligan Cat – currently on her own balcony – likes to do.
Thursday, 2nd April 2020
I wake up late again. I am tired of waking up late and make a decision in my mind to make an effort at night to fall asleep at 10.30 or 11.00 pm at the latest.
Early morning hours are my most productive time and I feel like I am not doing enough, not being productive enough at present. I don’t know who I am competing with (myself, most probably!) and what do I have to prove to anyone (again to myself, most probably!) but I feel like I can do more.
I spend a few minutes browsing through the forums of online groups. People all over the world share their worries online, discuss the measures taken at each one’s place of residence, the fines imposed for breaking the Rules, and then they focus on the Numbers. We all are hanging all our hopes on the Numbers – how many each day, is it more or slightly less than yesterday, how many are the cured ones and above all, how many fatalities?!
And every 1 in these worldwide Numbers is a person who had (fatality) or is still having (cured) his own life and dreams. Yet, it seems, thinking about it all in terms of Numbers makes it all so much easier for our minds to grasp and process.
Is the Number of fatalities greater than the Number of the cured ones?! Or is it vice-versa?! The Number of the infected has grown again?!
Hopes rise and fall every day, every hour.
I read and re-read the lists with symptoms that the media keeps posting and updating. I keep fretting if I cough once. Sometimes, I suddenly develop the skill of a thermometer in my right hand and I start placing it over our foreheads worried that one of us may be getting a bit of a temperature. Then I breathe a sigh of relief when the real thermometer proves me wrong.
Lately, I am worried about the loss of sense of smell and taste which media outlets are telling us is a strong predictor that one has got it.
Can I taste my coffee? Can I smell my perfume? Can I smell what’s cooking for dinner?
The other day, in the front yard I walked around, my nose in the air, trying to smell things and panicking that I couldn’t. Finally, I almost buried my face in the branches of a scraggly pine shrub, the needles scratching my skin, and I breathed in the unmistakable aroma of fresh pine needles. My worries melted and I remembered yet again that stress doesn’t help my body, it doesn’t help my immune system.
Yet, the world that we live in has conditioned us to worry. Being stressed all the time is like our second nature, for some is even a sign that they are doing well at work. Many of us fall into the trap of stressing over everything and anything, developing life-long anxieties. Then, we wear them as a badge of honour, we identify with them.
So, maybe now it’s the time to face up to them, to start taking care of myself a bit better by sleeping more and waking up early, by not staring at my mobile phone so much and clearing a bit of headspace. It remains to be seen if it will happen for I worry that we all are so used to worrying that it often becomes our whole lives’ backbone.
On the other hand, how are you? What are you doing? Are you quarantined? Are you worried? How do you face these worries?
To Be Continued!
Thank you for reading! Please, leave me a comment, pin the image below or use the buttons right at the top and at the end of this blog post to share it on social media.