Living in Giovinazzo
First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


23-29 November

Sammy and his little "sister"

At the circus

All the food we've been given.

3 wheeler truck in Toritto

Being bought sweets after shopping in the market

Finn in his new coat

caption competion?




23 November

Have started to read Lord of the Rings to Eli and am still feeling under the weather. I go back to bed once the early risers are sorted for play and food and read to him until Mike arrives and continue after that as Mike needs a nap. Later I get Mike to take the kids out for a while as I need to do some sorting and washing and need a bit of a break from 24hr children. I start with a load of clothes and then sort my own stuff into a nice writing desk in the apartment that I would love to spend some time at writing, maybe when our routine settles a bit more. At the moment everyday feels like a Sunday, slow to get started and lazy in the afternoons.

The door bell goes, and when I lean out of the balcony to check who's there I am surprised to see our friendly ice cream shopkeeper. He has stopped by with some reduced price circus tickets he was given but won't be using. I thank him and we chat for a minute. He has no children but is married to a Swiss girl who is currently in Switzerland for a vague time period. I express a wish to meet her and he says she has said the same when he told her about us. I go down to let Cal out and get some things from the van and realize what a nice afternoon it is. Its only four thirty but it feels like about eight or nine on a still summers evenings at home. I walk to the main town Piazza, its a huge paved area with a massive fountain of fish, clams and figures, hoping to meet the guys on their way back and sure enough they are there and give me a great greeting running to meet me. It amazing what a short break from one another does. We continue to walk together down a pier. Its a really lovely evening with men in the little coloured fishing boats motoring or rowing in to harbour across a totally calm aqua sea.
When we arrive back to the apartment Francesa calls me down to meet her cousin a tailor. He has arrived with more clothes for us, including two cashmere coats and checking my shoe size gives me a pair of leather high heeled boots. She invites me into her own apartment to see them. I have a tired Finn with me, and Rosa who both get chocolate biscuits and lots of attention from Franseca's cousin and grandchildren. We have a hilarious halting conversation and a younger cousin arrives to help with smatterings of English, but it all mainly consists of how Franscesa and the professori are "like that" and that she gives from her heart etc etc. My protests are met with absolute resistance and dismissed. Sammy arrives, he must have smelled the biscuits, and then Mike, to check where he went. At this point they ask us why on earth we don't live in America. It seems to be desired by many and lots of their relatives are there or in Australia. They also ask Mike how old he is, and there is much disbelief when we tell them. Franseca says she thinks he looks fifteen. As we leave another older male relative arrives with another two bags of groceries. We are quite perplexed as to whether there is anything we can do to resist. Noami a grandchild aged 11, currently living with Francesca, her Nonni, comes up to play with Rosa, and Mike gets invited by two of the younger men for a coffee. We both feel really good after today's warm experiences with the Italians we are meeting. We decide to go to the farm for the night with Mike early tomorrow morning as no one is coming until eight at the earliest.

24 November

We get up early and load enough into the van for one night and boy does Newbie feel light to drive after the previous journeying. The sun is up enough to be warm when we reach the farm and the children and I relax outside all morning while Mike does some Newbie maintenance. In the afternoon the weather begins to change but we take a short walk around the farm. It is very interesting to explore with lots of old walled gardens and buildings full of little and big oaks, almonds and olive trees as well as cactus plants that have eatable fruit (prickly pear?) on them. We even find a passion fruit tree with ripe fruit. We walk across some of the fields mostly olive with one small vineyard too. Dominico has promised us some of their own wine. They make a small amount of red and white wine. A while after we get back Pasquali, one of the farm workers and a lad, arrive with a tractor laden with their own olives to collect some sacks of almond to take to the shelling place. They won't let Mike help as they seem to have a method of getting the heavy sacks onto one another's backs that may be hard to co-ordinate with out Italian. After they leave, and Eli has finished a long over due shower, we settle down in front of the paraffin heater for another session with Lord of the Rings. We have a bit of a creative diner as I had planned to make macaroni cheese but forgot the flour, so I make a sort of bread sauce and add the cheese to that. Its gobbled up anyway, must have been the fresh air. We plan too have an early night, but both little boys have had naps so I sit up and paint a bit until they are tired.

25th November

Mike had to get up very early to let Pasquali in. He dropped off the empty shells and got a few more sacks. We then wait for Dominico who phones to let us know he will be a bit later than expected (8.30am). We've discovered Italians work on Irish time. As it is 9.45 am, We go to the nearest town for supplies as I only brought enough to last us until after a light breakfast. The town Toritto is smaller than Giovinazzo. and has some interesting traffic layouts with tiny streets and difficult corners. The traffic itself is also entertaining we follow one of the tiny three wheel "ape" trucks (basically a moped with a truck around it) incredibly laden with house hold items, brushes, basins, etc, for sale. I pop into a green grocers and fill my basket with fruit and veg: grapes, huge peppers, beans, courgettes, pears, apples, bananas, and more, but it all only costs 10euro. The tiny supermarket with no bread at all is a bit more expensive. I buy some crackers, but delight the children because they turn out to be more like digestive biscuits. We head back to meet Dominico who shows Michael where the Olive harvest is finally to begin. I won't help just yet but hope to be involved some way if we can work out logistics.
We then drive back to Giovinazzo and get some lunch and sort ourselves out before making use of our circus tickets.
The circus turns out to be great, (I do have reservations and objections to put it mildly to the poor animals, especially in this case some very thin ponies but we went). Finn danced in his seat almost the entire time. There were numerous excellent acts of physical skill, juggling, unicycling, tight rope walking and acrobatics. Eli was very impressed and the an animal man brings out in succession, camels, emus, two 'trained' highland cows?, ostriches, a zebra, a lama, a giraffe, and then a fully grown hippo!! which he gets to open its enormous mouth by giving it a lettuce.
We head to the apartment with exhausted hungry kids, but are met on the street by one of Francesca's son-in-laws (also called Dominico Mimo for short) and ushered into her kitchen. For nearly a week now they have been giving us second hand clothes and groceries everyday, but what awaits beats all. Mimo' says the stacked bags and boxes of food are from his workmate in Bari. Among the clothes they've given us Sammy has acquired an Armani jacket and Mike a full length cashmere coat although its a bit big. Rosa and I have done well too. Mike and I try to object and explain that we can't accept and aren't deserving of all this. We try to correct any impression that we are destitute or haven't any money, but they insist this is just the Italian way of making us welcome and helping us settle here. Besides they keep telling us, (as far as we can understand) that the Prof. was good to Francesca's relatives from Australia letting them stay in the apartment and she and he are like that, and it is from the heart. Mike is helped bring it all upstairs while I am kept talking Francesca's daughters who I'm told are twins are going to take me to the market in the morning. They think the children should have long socks. The kids are getting desperate for food and suddenly they are taken off with Mimo' to get pizza at his cousins round the corner. I follow and we are handed four boxes and not charged. We head upstairs and laugh with amazement at the bags of pasta, sauce, tuna, grapes, pears, oranges and more and more that are on the table and floor. I head to bed between amusement and bemusement at our Italian life. Mike heads to the farm. He has an early start.

23 November

Up in the morning with the usual Yips. Its raining lightly and cold, I wonder will this delay the olive harvest even more - Domenico has said it won't be until next week, as it is. No sign of almond pick up, but as the same Cooperativa that shells the almonds also presses the olives , they are very busy now (many others have already harvested their olives) and it may be some time before they can get someone out here.

Later back in Giovinazzo, I talk to another Domenico (Mimo) about van, oil etc, he has no English. Later I get invited out for coffee with Frank and Mimo. Italians drink coffee very quickly and the socialising at the cafe is rushed in comparison to an Irish pub. The drinking part anyway is over is a minute or two, we spoke a bit longer because of language barriers, but Frank speaks reasonable English and helped us along. Then we went outside at the edge of the piazza principale, and spoke a bit more, about my work here, what they do for a living (Frank drives a bus and Domenico works in the tax office - Frank's comment included the word "bastardi", maybe to clarify that his work was TAX and not TAXI.

me frying little fish!

26 November

I get the children up and ready early as I was told 8.30 by the twins for going to the market, but of course we don't go then. When they do arrive they tell me to get into a tiny fiat. I'm not a bit happy as there are obviously not enough belts, but no matter how much I resist we end up in as many belts as I can find going slowly about a mile and a half out the road. Once at the market the twins go into action. I have no idea what story they spin the stall holders, but I can tell it is designed to engender sympathy. They kit Finn out in a new coat and the others in sweat suits and everybody in socks and surprise surprise ,won't take a penny. I try again to give them some money before we part, but again am completely dismissed. Over the course of the rest of the morning the bell goes a further three times. Each time a neighbour drops in second hand toys or clothes. Franscesca hands in sausages and steak and laughs at my attempts at asking her to please stop. She also sends in another bag full of mandarins. We already have two! In the afternoon the weather is really lovely so I take the children for a long walk by the sea. I get talking to a nice old couple in a mix of Italian and his remembered English, from 40 yrs back at university, and discover he has a sister in Edinburgh. Mike phones to say he is back at the apartment so we go to meet him. I take a break and go on for a longer walk finding my way to the other pier with some friendly fishermen, and really relish the peace of sunset over the harbour. I then gather some supplies for shabbat supper - running errands to a gas man (a little old guy who gives me a lift back with a bottle and climbs our steep stairs with it over his shoulder), table vino at 2.80euro for 2ltrs, and I manage to join a DVD shop (after some delay in the processing of my application), I use the DVD electronic dispenser outside the shop, and get a DVD of the newer Peter Pan movie. We pass a lovely shabbat feeling back in our own emigrant movie.

27 November (Sat)

Mike has gone off very early so I don't rush to get up. When I get the children organised with a late breakfast I tuck into chores mainly tackling some more washing and clean up the apartment. Rosa is very keep to see Noami again but when we ask, we discover that Italian children go to school on sat. Mike gets back and is pretty tired so we all take it easy together. I have a chat later with neighbours and Francescas niece (Tsmai's mother called Anna) offers to do washing for me in her machine. I could kiss her.

28th November (Sun)

When we are up and moving Mike takes the kids off to the park while I do some more sorting. I am still dealing with all the stuff we have been given. I end up with stuffed drawers and four large bags over plus a stack of coats we can't use. I could set up a shop. The doorbell goes. It is Dom Fransceca's son-in-law. He tries to explain something to me about Michael and the colleague from work, but I don't understand. Anna comes over and helps. (I find the women easier to understand than the men.) It turns out that the colleague is coming and wants to meet the family. He has me call Mike and tell him to get back. We find people tell us what to do here a lot, but not in a bad way. When Mike arrives he shows me Finn's nose which had bled from a fall in the playground. (I think we'll give the place a miss for a while). Apparently when he fell Mike was surrounded by helpful people one of whom got him ice. The colleague arrives. We assume we will just thank her for the clothes and food she sent, but in fact she has brought more. We do our usual protests but are dismissed.

The piazza fills up with children, lots of them. We have never seen so many. They have all come back from mass and hang out playing and especially talking, just like their elders. Rosa is delighted to see Noami. She is 11yrs old and really looks after Rosa bringing her off with her little group. Eli hangs back until I persuade him to bring out his unicycle. (At first he said he'd be too embarrassed - we really have a near teen on our hands.) He is soon surrounded with lads having a try. Sammy sneaks off and crosses a small road while Mike is distracted by the huge gang of kids, boys and girls admiring Finn. I spot him as I am upstairs, from the balcony, and run down, but by the time I get there he has been cornered by some young teenage lads who are giving him a lecture in pigeon English about being banged by cars. They tell me how cute he is. Several of the old ladies in the square saw his run and communicate to me their horror at his "escape." (It really was just across the end of the piazza where cars go, but slowly and not that often.) Sammy finds a friend by producing his spider men and a little boy spots them and says "ah spiderman" and they play happily. Then at midday the square swiftly clears by some magically signal as they head indoors for lunch. We do too and after our quicker lunch I take Rosa, Sammy and Finn crab fishing at the port in lovely sunshine. Italian crabs must be clever as Rosa is convinced the prescutti is being nibbled but we see no crabs. On our way back we see our neighbours barbequing another course - fresh fish outside on the path on a small barbeque. We get a couple more movies and relax. Mike makes diner. He cooks a stir fry and rice. It makes a nice change from pasta. Many of our days here whenever Mike is around feel like perpetual Sundays or holidays but today has been a real Italian one.

29th November (Mon)

It looks like I have the kids sorted for school. Toni the ice cream man took us first to the school, but the principal was somewhere else. We were going to head there when a friend of his fathers suggested that he bring us to a woman in the Mayor's office who is in charge of schools. She tells us it will be no problem, but they will have to go full time that's mon-sat 8-1 plus tues pm!! Rosa is thrilled Eli nervous and not too sure about Saturdays. The school is very near and looks nice with small classes. Sammy will go to a kindergarten nearby. We'll see how it all goes and since there are only a few weeks until Christmas it should be fine. I can always say they are sick when I feel like it. Mike was back picking today. He is sleeping at the farm in order to be up early. We will go help out for a tomorrow before they get back to me on when school starts. The weather was really lovely today. The sun was very warm at 2pm. Its like summer just at different parts of the day like early morning or late day. My neighbours are still giving us stuff they've moved on to shampoo and deodorant. Its amazing. Mike gets back and he cooks olives to Dominico's recipe but I don't like them. Perhaps he left something out. We pack up bedding etc to go to the farm. Our neighbours see us off, worrying about whether we have enough blankets or not. I am getting to know the route out of Giovenazzo over the rail road track where we have had to wait 15-20mins for the gates to open. Tonight we are lucky and the gate is up. Then it is on through Bitonto, the name always makes me think of The Lone Ranger. Like all the towns it has incredibly narrow streets and people beep their horns constantly. It seems for all sorts of reasons mostly impatience including in a queue of car at a red lights, but also as  greetings. There are several incredible intersections that defy any attempt to figure out what to do as cars take turns playing chicken and curving round each other in creative and variable ways. We continue on past Paulo de Colle and in turn in land on a medium sized busy road towards Altamura. We turn off for Toritto and then its pitch dark and we see no more cars as we weave our way through the olive groves on narrow lanes. When we arrive at the farm we say that it is like arriving in Glengree (a isolated youth hostel in Wicklow that we go to often). Everything is locked up, dark and cold, but we add that one vital thing is missing, our friends greeting us and helping liven things up. We cook some pasta before bed, but have an early night Mike has to be up early.

26 November

For Mike's description of these days, see the Picking Olives page

Teenager in training

Still a sweetie



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This site was last updated 03/26/05