Back to School
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


Jan 2005 - School, Meet Shannon & Nico, Torre de Mare, Bari bag snatch



7th January (Fri)

Kids are back to school today.  We have a usual first-day-back type morning with fights over hair-brushing except this time it is Eli's!  Only Eli and Rosa are going as Sammy is still wheezy. (I wish he were old enough to really make use of the Buteyko breathing method that has been so successful helping managing Rosa's asthma drug free, but we will have to wait a bit longer to get him doing it properly.) 

After I drop the big guys I go so Sammy's school to let them know he's not coming and hopefully to catch Lorella. She is there and has had a nice trip to Budapest apparently it was full of Italians.  I forgot that she was to start back teaching after Christmas her eyes having completely recovered from her lazer surgery.  She says she feels like some of the little kids in Sammy's class who are looking weepy at being back in school.  Apparently the teenagers she teaches are difficult to motivate to learn, and she spends more time telling them to sit down and be quiet than teaching them English.  She says I am welcome to use the internet and her house even though she is not there so we go there and have time for  a quick cuppa before she has to leave. I stay there all morning looking up things on Irish legends to use with Dominico's sister-in-laws school group. Mike comes with Sammy and Finn who make themselves at home in front of the TV for a while. Sheck (Lorella's Somalian housekeeper - a very gentle middle aged to older man) gives them some biscotti.  I then take them with me and go to Chantelle's to say hi and collect washing. Toni is on his way out he is philosophical about yesterdays inspection and says the fine was supposed to be 4000euro so they got off light. He doubts Roberto's conspiracy theories, but he does say that it will be next to impossible to put up accurate ingredients lists. 

I collect Eli and Rosa who are tired and we go via Lorella's to collect Mike and drag him out of cyberspace.  Lorella is just arriving home and is pleased to have had a better day than she hoped.  We go home for lunch our usual pasta and let the kids relax after there first day back by looking at our CDrom encyclopedia. They all love the animals and animal noises.  I take Finn with me to Mimo's Snacks where they now recognise us. The guy who make the pizzas tells me he's off for a holiday to his brother in Brooklyn soon.  He makes faces with Finn and gives him a little face shaped potato croquette thing. Finn makes friends where ever he goes!  It has kept him awake anyway and we have a nice shabbat with chocolate deserts that Toni gave Eli the other day for helping him. 

Sat 8th January

It is hard to get used to unstructured time. Despite the school schedule starting again, Eli and Rosa went off again this morning, Mike and I find it a bit hard now that he is not working to know what to do with ourselves.  We have a lazy morning with the small boys. Sammy is much better, and enjoy our tea on the balcony.  We then walk towards Toni and Chantelles' apartment as Toni wants Mike to go with him to collect a large mirror.  We are bringing them a washing machine drum as we told Chantelle about how great they are as barbeques and patio heaters and Mike has taken one out of an old machine we passed. On our way Toni passes on his moped and takes Mike off with him. The boys are tickled pink to see him whizz off. Chantelle is delighted with her new barbeque and we stay for a chat. She suggests letting the boys have a bath and they are really enthusiastic.  Mike and Toni arrive back with a huge mirror in Newbie and it fits perfectly on the top of a sideboard. They got it for nothing. Chantelle is apparently a great scavenger. 

I go to get Eli and Rosa, and Mike brings the  boys back in Newbie.  It is a lovely afternoon so he brings them down to meet us beside the harbour where we sit for an hour while the kids make a boat with drift wood.  Then we go back for lunch. I have a snooze after lunch. (We were up late watching our grown up movie "Love Actually" after the kids had their shabbat movie.)

When I get up after my siesta everyone else is sleepy and I only manage to keep them awake until about 6ish; except Rosa who stays up with me and write to Clairey who she is missing lots.

I stay up at the computer again.

9th Jan Sun

Its great to lie in after only two day of school. Well its our version of a lie-in where Mike gets up for a bit with the wee guys and then comes back to bed when they've had breakfast. We all sit about in our enormous bed; we have five camp style beds in a row, and talk about our plans when we return to Ireland which turns into what kind of house we all want. The kids draw neat plans and we fancy several of their features, basements, spiral staircases, and balconies. We will have to see what happens on our return, renovate or move is definitely a decision we put off by heading away.  Eventually we get up and do a family clean up, and I arrange to go for a walk with Chantelle. Mike take the kids to the park and we all meet there when Chantelle and I have had a good long walk along the shore and we pass an inordinate amount of octopus bashing and rocking on the seaside.  The fishermen who catch large octopi spend ages either walloping them on the rocks or rocking them in buckets of sea water.  Apparently this tenderizes them. The fish markets have mechanized rockers.  Chantelle tells me that today we are seeing a lot of hobby fishers and she also tells me that fishing is closed in the summer to allow for breeding. This surprises me a bit although I was  wondering about over fishing, but it means that summer tourists don't benefit from all the fresh fish we have been eating. (I haven't had the nerve to try calamari of octopus yet.)  When we meet up with Mike, Chatelle invites us for lunch at hers.  She makes us lovely salad foods and pasta followed by skinney fried steak served with salt and lemon juice a surprising seasoning but its lovely. The kids catch a Sesame Street movie on TV we stay a while and have tea and almond biscotti.  As we are getting near leaving Maria Gracie texts to see if we are around to meet up so we find her on our way home. She is with her sister Anna and nephew Hosea.  I text William and we meet him at Toni's who is back at work. He didn't join us for lunch as he was too tired from working late and took a siesta instead.  We all stay and chat for a while. William is a big hit with the kids as he plays with them a lot like their big cousin's, uncles or cousin's husbands! We all head our seperate ways and we get the kids to bed early for more school tomorrow.

10th Jan Mon

Eli and Rosa are back into the swing of things but when I take Sammy back, he is not so happy.  I don't want to push it and know its partly that his favorite teacher isn't there until later.   In the end I stay for ages go home for and hour and go back early.  He was very happy when Giovana (Lorella's sister) arrived at school, but I'm not sure how it will go tomorrow. When I collect Sammy he asks to go see Chantelle, so we go visit for a short while before its time to get Eli, and Rosa. As usual we pass by Toni's on the way home to say hi. Then its back for lunch. We laze until its time for the shops to open and go to meet a guy Eli bumped into a Toni's a few days ago.  He has a little supermarket and used to live in Brooklyn and is called Mike.  We are very amused to here him call out "How you doing" when he sees Eli.  We have a nice chat and then go to do some economic shopping at a discount shop. The chicken hotdogs are 35cents for four and you can get pasta for 29cents so we won't starve.  Again when we get home the boy fall asleep early.  Mike and I get a chance to chat but we are both a bit low.  So are most other folk we know.  Back to routine after Christmas is hard even in South Italy.  We are delighted that both our parent plan to make visits, and we are also planning a few excursions further afield before we leave Italy. We spend some time making out a more structured routine that will allow me some creative outlets, writing and painting and Mike time to work on Newbie. He has also been asked by Dominico to build a tree house at the farm for his boys.  We think this will get us through any January blues.

11th Jan Tues

Sammy seems a bit wheezy again this morning and since it may be the stress of school I decide to keep him out the rest of the week as next week it will be Giovanna in the mornings.  He is in great form so it seems like the right decision and Mike's pancakes help too. The big guys are pleased to get them before school.  The go off and Mike and I have a good morning writing e-mails and playing with the little guys -dragon games with Sammy's Christmas dragons.  They come down with me when Nicko the fish man wheels his cart into the Piazza.  They are excited by the trays and trays of live fish he has today all flexing their tails in and out.  I am not keen on seeing them or all the small and large Calamari and Octopi, but I enjoy going down when he is there as the interactions are great fun to watch. Francesca is always there. as are most of the usual neighbours. Today there is a man who lived in Canada and has some English. He tells me is married to a Canadian and they live in Giovinazzo. Meanwhile Francesca is calling up to the older people on their balconies prices and produce their today.  She sends things up in baskets to some.  Franscesca has known Nicko, who is quite a character and messes all the time, since he was a boy.  She has lots of banter over the quality and price of the fish, but before he goes she always brings him out a shot of alcohol.

Later I make some brown bread and go over to Toni's to bake it and send the mail.  When I get back William and Jane drop in with one of the other teachers, Alice Rose from Glasgow and we sample my bread. They are all delighted with it as like us they have missed brown bread.  Mike runs and gets the big guys and Rosa is thrilled to see William, but they don't stay too long as they haven't had lunch.  William is also trying to do some writing and we agree to help each other out. He has some good suggestions for some travel writing mags.  I have some stuff ready to submit to publication in Ireland so fingers crossed.  Mike does some Newbie work in the afternoon and I do some home schooling in the afternoon before having fresh fish on the barbeque for diner with no fuss from Sammy he must be getting used to it.  We manage to keep the boys up a bit later so perhaps they won't be up so early tomorrow.  Mike and I are much more upbeat today funny how a more  activity and things accomplished makes such a difference.  Plus for me the socializing is important as I do miss friends and family back home.

12th Jan Wed

I am begining to wonder each time I sit down to write whether I have anything to say as our days are becoming more ordinary and routine here.  I want to keep it up for ourselves and perhaps we'll get feedback about whether it is interesting to others or not.  Of course readers can skip over bits as they wish.  Today Mike took the kids to school and we had a quiet morning on his return.  I went out early to get a few bits before collecting them again. I had wondered should I call into William and Jane or Chantelle. Toni's place is shut on Wednesdays now that Christmas is over. I walked up town and bumped into William and Jane and a few minutes later while we walked together, Toni drove up on his scooter and then Chantelle and Toni's mother arrived. It was very funny and I could introduce those that hadn't met.  We proposed meeting up later and said we'd arrange it this p.m.  We then all headed off in different directions although I ran into Toni and Chantelle buzzing about on their moped a few more times around town.  When I had walked Eli and Rosa home, organized a bit more home schooling and then went out. Mike took the kids to the park and I went to have tea with Lorella. She had invited me over but had to do a run with Adriana so I did some e-mailing until her return. While we sat and had our tea and chat, Mike and the kids showed up. They hurried off to the play room although Finn and Sammy were soon back for their favourite treat at Lorella's - biscotti dipped in milk.  Eli was thrilled to get to use the playstation. We stayed until diner time which luckily I had left ready.  William phoned and we decided to go out in shifts as Mike was tired and didn't think it was worth hiring a babysitter for him.  Me out met patrick german guy.

13th Thurs

Mike got kids out again, sammy and me reading winnie the pooh, back he worked on newbies horn, and other bits I took wee guys out for walk called to chantelle but not there back to school met another woman who'd lived in new york has neices there, got big guys hi to toni sammy gave him leaves for chantelle, home lunch mike continued newbie in pm. didn't go to park home schooling, me out rosa and finn got eggs tea bed

14th Frid Jan

big kids school, to lorella's for internet, me long walk by sea, as Toni tells me about weather coming from fishermen, collect guys lunch me took them to park mike nap, met alice rose then swapped and mike saw her too. me nap, went to chantelles laundry chat and back mike asleep out pm maria grazie babysitting michela trombone guy but moved on to pomodore pizza place big crowd fello vw nut came here when kid. more advice re volcanos

15th Sat

Eli and Rosa are delighted when we oversleep and decide to let them off school today.  I do get up though as Lorella has invited me over for a cuppa. I am able to do some computer stuff too.  It is really cold as the a chill wind is blowing and we realize mid-morning that her heating isn't working.  The ski is clear and after I eventually leave, I am reluctant as we are having a nice kiddie free chat, I go and join Mike who has brought the kids to the playground.  The park, or villa as it is known, is inland and sheltered and most days if the sun is on it, it is reasonably warm.  We go home for a late lunch. The wind is really strong and we spend the rest of the afternoon indoors and the kids start a great game where they make a dude shop and then all buy hats and sunglasses and turn into dudes. Its very funny.  Later I ring Chantelle and ask if I can use her bath for the boys. Actually Rosa comes too and they all have a lovely time with lots of hot water and bubbles. Chantelle insists I have one too, and I am not hard to persuade. The guys watch tv but Sammy and Rosa fall asleep so Mike comes over to drive us home as its very stormy now. Toni's info. from the fishermen was accurate.

16th Sunday

It not rainy but it has been stormy all night.  We take a long pjamama morning reading and Mike has to fix a pain of glass that has been slipping in the balcony doors and is now letting the gale through.  Everyone is happy when he does. I fancy a walk but Finn is the only taker so we walk down the shore to William and Jane's to see if they have been successful procuring peanut butter for Sammy in the big supermarket yesterday.  The sun is out but it is blustery and the sea is still fierce.  It has turned olive green near the shore and the rocky coast causes the waves to break in massive crashes and over the rails onto the path in places.  They retreat leaving bath foam bubbles over the rock slabs below.  Finn enjoys the walk but hangs on tight to my hand in the wind.  We arrive and my glasses steam up when we enter the warm apartment.  William and Jane live in a studio apartment with a dividing wall between the bedroom an main area.  The only window is in the door. They have one of the smallest shower trays I ever seen in a tiny bathroom, but it is very cosy and, they tell me, always warm.  They are just getting organised for a walk and so join us on our return home. I get a DVD of Starsky and Hutch for later. After tea we go to say goodbye to Toni as he is off with Chantelle to Switzerland for a holiday and too an ice-cream expo on the way back. He tells us they will have to try out lots of ice cream there, poor things!  Finn and Sammy fall asleep so it is only the big guys and us who watch the movie.  We have a hard time explaining the 70's to the kids they find it very funny, but not in all the intended places. 

17th Jan (Mon)

I have decided to try Sammy in school only when Giovana is there.  Mike and I bring him and on our way through the old city a old woman coming out of a church notices Cal and tells us that is a Saint who loved animal's day today and their will be a special service to bless animals tonight at 7p.m. At school Sammy is more relaxed as Giovana is there, but he isn't keen for me to leave. She has an new basketball hoop she wants setting up so I stay and figure it out and then line up Sammy's class to take turns. They are hilarious and cheer each other on loudly to get a good shot.  They are very kind to each other and as expressive as their elders.  Sammy lets me leave and I head home have a nice cuppa with Mike on the balcony again as the weather is better, and then finish preparing my lecture on Irish legends for this afternoon.  I was asked to give one by Clara, Dominico's sister-in-law, to students at her highschool in Altamura. A group there is involved in a European project to visit Ireland in March.  I need to print stuff and William offered to let me use his printer so I pop round.  He also goes over an article I am hoping to submit back home and gives me some great tips. He is writing something while he is here.  When I get back it is time to go straigh to Altamura. I am a bit nervous about driving there alone but it goes very smoothly and I find the school without any trouble. I am introduced to the students and an English woman Judith who has been working on the project. They then leave me too it. I talk about history using a timeline I found on the internet and mix in some of the legends and their geographic locations. Its amazing what you have to learn about your own country when you are abroad and the internet is a great resource.  I finish by reading them a simplified version of Tir na N'og  in Irish and English with no one there who can comment on my pronunciation. I chat to them a bit about modern Ireland, there trip and the documentary they have to make as part of the project. They are top students and an impressive group.  I go for a welcome cup of tea with Clara and she buys me some yummy little pastries and on our way back some Altamura bread and Foccia.  The drive home is less relaxing on the now busy and dark roads but I make good time, as I drive into the our piazza he is on his way to the dog blessing.  We find the small elaborately ornate church and see one dog at the rear so go in and listen to mass.  It is the same short priest we saw at Christmas and he is similarly informal occasionally asking questions of his congregation as he preaches on the life of the Saint. We think its St Antonio. We have been told there are further celebration for him next week.  Just as the kids are getting restless, more dogs start arriving and soon the back of the church is filled with little restless dogs, one wearing a posh coat, a very terrified looking cat climbing up her owner, two canaries and a gerbil. Mass is over and the priest comes outside where we pray and he sprinkles holy water on the menagerie each in turn.  We go home to Eli who was too tired to come out, and he is already in bed asleep.

18th Tues Jan

Sammy is happy to go to school this morning, once over the getting dressed part and I only stay with him a short while. I get back and meet Frank our friendly tailor at the door with bread and cake. We have our tea on the balcony. The wind is completely gone the sea is calm again and there is warmth in the sun.  We watch our neighbours hanging out their washing and chatting. One conversation between a mother and daughter across a balcony this morning, starts with a gesture.  The mother seems to immediately understand what is meant and away they go. We are getting familiar with daily routines and rituals. Depending on the day they collect post, or vegetables or fish in their buckets and give the posty, or the fishmonger or whoever grieve about something or other, but its all just banter.  Frank comes through his passageway everyday. He seems to shop for an old lady in the corner and they exchange the same sort of arguments about the price and quality of the tomatoes and other things I don't understand.  All the  altercations end in laughter or occasionally a shrug.  Cars come and go parking in all manner of arrangements and there are frequent arguments when someone can't get by and the owner shows up. Often someone just guide them through.  There is one apartment being renovated and the builders have been there since we arrived. The hoist all the materials up to the balcony by pulley and we have seen huge quantities of stone come out and cement and plaster go in.  One man is an accomplished whistler and his tunes and occasionally singing are a now familiar sound in the Piazza. Others include their banging, and drilling, of course with similar sounds coming from the harbour where the fishermen are carrying out repairs and refurbishments to boats. 

Mike decides to wash the sheets by hand to take advantage of the day. We are using sleeping bags still so the really just need a rinse out and airing.  Just  as I am sitting down to write up the journal the door bell rings. Two women are their, one with a baby and they greet me by name with American accents.  It turns out Mike met one of them yesterday. They come in for tea.  Shannon is living here with her Italian husband and Kim is visiting from Australia where she lives.  They are from Seattle but grew up in a farm in Oregon 40 miles from the nearest town.  For a lot of their childhood they had sparse living conditions but think our camping lifestyle is great for the kids.  When they leave I go along as it is time to get Sammy and Shannon show me where she lives.  Kim is going home to Australia but I am invited to call soon.  I collect a much happier Sammy with red paint on his hands and go home to try once again at the computer.  Mikes on tidy up duty and offers to wash the sheets by hand so we can get them dry on such a nice day. When he's done its time to get the others so he goes and takes them to the park on the way home.  I finish up on the tidying.

19th Wed. Jan

Normal morning getting everyone out. These days Mike gets up with the early risers and gets the big guys ready. I get to lie in until  7.30 or so until he brings me a cup of tea.  (Finn has of course been awake in the night every night since the last cold, so I naturally think I've earned my extra hour in bed.)  Mike takes the big guys and then we go together with Sammy who is doing fine now.  We then go to use the computer at Lorella's.  Mike really needs his internet fix and me  my e-mail connections with folk.  I leave him to it and take Finn for a while and before we know it.  It is time to get Sammy who is playing with his best friend at school, Marco.  He is a really Italian little fella and uses lots of gestures in his play.  We go home and get lunch ready for everyone and Mike brings the big guys home. Life is very ordinary in some ways and we are unsure sometimes how to structure our time. As the weather is not so nice today, rainy like home, we stay in and while the kids do projects and homework I get lost in a book.  (Iris Murdock's The Black Prince if your interested a good, if dense read.) 

I am thinking there will be nothing much for the journal when the phone goes and gives us a wee bit more.  William needs our help to rescue Jane and Alice Rose who've run out of petrol on the way back from Bari.  Poor Jane only just started to drive here a few days ago having no had the nerve.  Mike stays at the computer and I go with William. We get a can full and eventually locate them on the busy highway with a very narrow hard shoulder. I put out my warning triangle but it makes very little difference to the speed and proximity of drivers.  We waste no time getting them on their way. They are late for work. They were going there direct from shopping.  So William comes back with me and joins us for a cuppa and chat.  He is working at the English school part time in order to write so we talk about the trials of trying to take writing to a more serious level in our lives.  He has done a course in writing for journal and magazines and has already helped me edit an article I'm sending off soon to a publication in Ireland.  The journal gives me plenty of material but it needs a good bit of re-working and editing each time. It would be great to boost the budget with some writing income as we don't really want to dip into reserves at home, but if we are to visit a volcano it will be hard to stick to what we have left for the next two months in Italy. (Christmas was responsible as always for our overspending and blowing the budget a bit.)  William goes home to get some more work done and we have diner and go to bead early.

20th Thurs Jan.

Usual stuff except we all walk to the schools together and meet Lorella and the boys both get a ride in her smart car just round the corner but are very pleases. Giovana wants me to draw some large drawings of a pirate and a clown for the children to colour in on friday. I take the big sheet home with me and then realise that Mike has taken our only set of house keys shopping with him. Luckily it is not raining blue sky is on its way back, and Finn and I can wait in the main Piazza.  On our way home we meet Frank who tell us he has some food for us. Francesca also calls me in to give me another coat for Mike and some jumpers for the kids.  For the most part they slowed down and we get on with our lives more as a part of the Piazza like they do but they are still looking after us like this from time to time.  I go back for Sammy and later Mike collects some laundry from William (at least now I feel we were of help to them yesterday because with Chantelle away we are relying on them completely for washing.) Then Mike gets the big guys.  We have another open day the lack of structure is back to deal with and we don't know how.  We take a walk to the main piazza and leave Eli on the computer. We do love have the space that we had hoped for to talk about what we may do back in Ireland. It has turned out to be true that you can look at your life much easier when you are not in the thick of it and holidays are often too short or full for this.  So for the first time in a very very long time we are not mad busy and in lots of ways this is great.  I have to resist the effort to fill the space and just get on with the chats, the other things we always say we will do when we have time: tai chi, buteyko, write, paint, help Eli learn the uni-cycle, get the kids to do more of their diaries and keep up the home-schooling, projects etc, etc, etc.  And perhaps if we don't we'll let some of the goals go and just accept it.  We have our diner early and get a visit from a friend of Frank's who brought us chocolate for the kids last time.  They are thrilled to see she has more.  We hardly know her and yet she is so generous and warm, telling us goodbye with ciao cara (dear one) and to the kids and that she will come again before we leave.  All this from a near stranger.  We are still amazed by south Italians.

21st Friday Jan.

Just when I thought I was in the clear with Sammy he is hesitant again today.  I think he is just tired at the end of a week but he refuses to stay no matter what Givanna and I try.  I know that next week it is the other teacher and that there is no way he will go then and that after a weeks break it will be up hill all over again, so I break it to Giovanna that we will call it quits.  She understands but says how much she will miss Sammy and wants us to visit her in Bari soon.  I bring him home and we have a nice morning.  I collect the big guys and as the weather is nice we go to the park.  We stay a while thinking Mike will bring the little guys but when he doesn't appear we head home and of course meet him at the big piazza.  He brings the boys off again and Rosa and I go for a walk in the old town but change direction after William phones and offers to help me with an article.  Rosa is thrilled has she has developed quite an admiration for W.  and they have paper to draw.  We stay a bit too long enjoying the peace and are late for shabbat. Finn is already asleep and misses out on pizza. William lent us  the Simsons for our shabbat movie. Strange to watch it here but we have seen it in Italian on tv and that is even stranger as many voices seem to have similar qualities.


I get a lie in until after 8am and then go to collect email and see Lorella.  We have a nice chat and later Mike arrives with the little guys. The weather is changing and he has been caught in a shower.   Later we get a call from Dominico inviting us to an international whistle festival with whistles made in the shape of anything and everything apparently.  It is south of Bari. We agree and decide to go that direction straight after lunch and look about some places on the way. We stop in a small seaside town Torre de Mare, and decide to try a walk but the sun rapidly dissapears as we walk along a small marina.  Rain threatens so we head back to the van passing a great statue of a nude man spearing a huge octopus, all are amused by it, but we have to dash for the car. We decide to cancel with Dominico and go back to the mall in Bari. Then we get a text from Lorella Sabino has invited us for a Barese diner of orricitti pasta. We stay in the mall for a good while as diner isn't until eight and we take ages going through centre-city traffic in Bari.  The little guys are starting to get very fed up. The day isn't working out too well and as we fight over a parking space we wonder what else  can go wrong. We are early for Sabino as we have recieved another text telling us 9pm would be better, so we decide to go get the kids pizza as they are hungry and we know diner will be even later. As we enter the old city a moped passes me and I feel a tug, at first I think something has gotten caught too late I realise they are robbing my bag. They've cut the strap and I yell to Mike to run after them.  Of course they shoot round a corner and baring Eli the kids all burst into tears saying, Mummy's bag.  Mike returns and I am amazed when here tells me that there was a police car parked right in the middle of the narrow street but the lads slipped passed anyway.  We are all very upset and everyone around exclaims over us, "Madonna quatro bambini blah blah blah." We understand they are very upset for us.  The children are brought cups of water and the police, one of whom speaks good English, want us to come to the police station to fill out a report.  I have lost a credit card, bankcard, some money and two phones.  I feel very stupid to as I knew it was a city like any other, and I would usually put my bag under my coat, but was distracted keeping tired kids going.  We ask if I can bring the kids to Sabino's first and Mike go after that.  When we arrive and tell our story the assembled company all of whom we have met before are upset and appalled for us. Sabino practically cries and they tell us we have no idea how this feels for them.  Our kids are relaxed and having a great time with the older kids there after a minute.  Lorella and Luigi follow Mike to the police station, while I start canceling cards.  While I am doing so Sabino goes out, he returns in fifteen minutes with a plastic bag. He hands it too me and I think he has bought me a new bag, but inside is my own bag. I assume it is empty found discarded but no- everything except the money and phones is inside even the sim cards!! He goes back outside and while I talk to our bank I stand by the window and see Sabino talking to an older man with three moped and lads nearby. I am pretty sure one lot are the thieves.  I ask the others how has Sabino done this and they joke that he is a mafia boss. When Lorella returns after Mike has filled out lots of useless forms, she tells me that Sabino (Il Doctori) is very well know and respected in the community and when he went out they had seen what happened and discovering we were his friends word reached those in charge and it was sorted.  We are stunned an amused as well as relieved to have almost everything back.  For the kids in particular it is great.  Even Finn was saying "Boys give Mummy's bag back?" We actually have a lovely evening after this with a hilarious explanation of Italian hand signals by Sabino that I am going to try to animate some how. We return home late and exhausted.


Thankfully it is sunday and we have a very long morning lazing in bed reading to the kids.  Its a nice day and we are able to tackle the job of washing a large floor rug.  Mike takes it to the tap in the Piazza and rinses it there with Finn and they enjoy greeting our neighbours all out and about. Later he takes the kids to the park and leave me doing a sort of weekly version of a spring clean. As a lot of paint and plaster is coming off the aging walls I have to pull out all the beds regularly to sweep and the amount of dust is incredible but I open the large back window and balcony doors and let the fresh air blow through.  The apartment is really nice like this and reminds me of romantic scenes from movies.  When the guys get back (we continue to take it easy with them after yesterday we think they need a bit of spoiling) so they watch a movie have a late lunch followed by nutella on biscotti mmmm. 

Later it is time to go out for the fiesta happening all over the region today. It is for St Antonia Abot? A saint who helped people during plague times.  It is lovely.  All over the town in the piazzas there are huge fires lit. The main piazza has a really really huge one with a stack of immense logs piled up.  Its roasting and sends up puffs of sparks into the night sky that delight the kids.  There are tents giving out plates of flave bean and olives and cups of wine. Some of the fires have earthen-ware pots sitting on the edge of the fire boiling the bean.  All the food is free except at the scout stand where they are doing a bit extra with a small puppet show and folk songs and are taking donations for the Tsunami victims.   The kids can't last Eli goes back to bed followed by the rest shortly after.  I stay out because we are supposed to meet up with Dominico and family. They are late but I bump into Patrick (another English teacher -although he is more than half German) and we find Jane, William and Alice Rose. Eventually Dominico arrives all are introduced and we chat briefly. Dominico tells us it is to be -10 degrees on Wednesday a something is on its way from the Balkans. We seperate and I walk with Dominico and Emilia for a bit longer around the fires in the old town with the crowds. I go home to check on everyone but as they are asleep -Mike too - I go and join the guys W,J, P and A R in the pub for a glass of wine after their meal.  Its a nice way to end a much more relaxing day than yesterday.


This morning its wet and nasty and both the kids and Mike and I are still wrecked so we decide not to take them to school. We have a day inside and home school and use the computer. I only go out to give Cal a quick run and our only visiter is William who calls get our laundry on the way past.  We even go to bed early.


Eli and Rosa are happy to go back to school today and I do the usual stuff, clean up, shower and even manage a little tai chi- before going shopping.  I have learnt where to get all the best priced things which helps the still tight buget.-Jane and William bring back laundry later.  We are so grateful for all their help with this it is a major change of fortune where I am concerned.  After school Mike spends the afternoon making animations using a feature on our digital video camera. We all have a go its great fun.  We love having the time to do these things with the kids and they are having a lot of creative outlets here as a result. Quiet evening.



Another tidy us this a.m. as Dominico is coming to bring Mike off for the day.  He is a bit late and after they leave I have a lovely morning with the wee boys before its time to collect the big guys.  I work on some home school stuff and really push to help them keep up their diaries. Of course Mike is delayed coming home as he goes to Dominco's for lunch.  I don't mind at all and when he comes in he is in very good form due to food and hours spent in bricocasa (translate homedepo, woodies, big DIY place) and at a lumber suppliers.  He is to start a tree house soon.  He also had a phone call from the US with some nice family news.  He got back around 5 and Rosa, Finn and I went to check e-mails and visit Lorellas, while Sammy got a bath in the big blue washtub.  Poor Lorella has a cold and she's wound up due to a visit tomorrow arranged her mother-in-law of 40 ladies from her mother association to her former house.  After making the arrangements with Lorella for tiny snacks organised by a wedding planner and which glasses to use, she has also caught cold and won't be coming. The ladies are touring Giovinazzo and will be dropping in for only 20 mins but still all the fuss.  I go home as it is getting late and am surprised Sammy is still awake. We get everyone to bed and then sparked by a property supliment dad sent us, we sit up for ages talking about possible house plans when we return to Ireland, sell our house, add to it, build one, town country, land businesses etc etc.

Thurs 27th Jan

I take some kiddy free time in the morning dropping into William and Jane for laundry and chat and take a walk by the sea. There is still a nip in the air but the sun is up and its all looking lovely again along the coast and in the harbour.   I decide to visit Shannon the American we met. He husband Nicola is home too. As I come in he is hanging up laundry and they joke that he is one of the four men in South Italian who help at home. We have a lovely chat and play with their new daughter Katerine, 2 1/2 months old. I then get the big kids. Eli tells me he has spent the morning worrying about the additions website story we worked on last night.  He tells me that some passages in books, like when the reader knows what has happened but the characters don't, make him so uncomfortable he has to stop reading them and he does want that to happen in his book.  We talk about his total power to change his literary creations as much as he likes.  After lunch William and Jane deliver laundry and since they both write Eli consults them. 

Later Dominico arrives with his boys who stay while they take Newbie to collect the wood.  The kids have a great afternoon playing swords and dragons and board games. I get a message from Mike saying they have been caught in a snow storm so will be lare.  I give the kids a movie in English and make them chips and they drink some coke we were given. They seem to be delighted shouting "FRiteS when they see the chips. My wee boys collapse and the big kids draw and play cards until Dominico arrives. He says it is like they had a party.  He goes and Mike has a hot wine, a local cold remedy and goes to bed early while I tackle the journal which it is hard to remember if I leave it too long.


Frid 28th Jan  -

 me nice round of shops in am to have stuff in for r&v enjoyed mike out in pm bit late back itbig shabbat diner more frites, chicken, pizza

Sat 29th Jan

Lorellas but she went out internet stuff left to -- kids some clean up for Baba .......

10th Jan (Mon)

Got up at 6am and went for a walk with Eli and Finn, who were already up.  As we walked along the shore we heard regular whacking sounds:  it was the fisherman beating their catch of octopus against the rocks.  Eli made up a song about whacking octopi.  We learn later that this tenderizes the meat.  Haven't eaten octopus since we arrived and this doesn't really stimulate the desire to do so!  A nice walk but less relaxing having to be vigilant with Finn along the railings.

Later I managed to get some time tuning Newbie.  I hadn't checked the valves since I tightened the cut off solenoid on the carb, so I was hoping to discover they were no longer getting tight immediately.  Turns out they were almost perfect, I loosened two of them slightly but basically they were fine.  I then static timed the engine and it ran terribly, so I did it by ear and seemed better.

12 Jan (Wed)

Out late to "pub" in old city with English-speakers.  Rather than get a babysitter, I went on the early shift, then I came back and Suzie went out.  Instead of going to bed then and getting much needed sleep, I stayed up and watched Matrix 3 on the laptop, again.  

13 Jan (Thu)

Very pleased that I finally got enough time to address Newbie's horn.  I rigged up a little tester and the horn circuit tested okay.  Then I removed the horn, cleaned it off and hooked it directly to the battery, with no result.  There is supposed to be an adjusting screw on the back of the horn to be used "as a last resort" (Haynes) because it can screw up the horn completely.  Well mine didn't have one, but it did have ablack rubber plug.  I dug out the plug piece by piece, and hidden underneath was the screw.  I turned it a tiny bit and tested it and it worked, so got it back on the car and we have a horn again!  Good thing, considering how Italians drive. 

I need to address Newbie's rust, but first I had to clean him off to see it.  So I spent an hour lugging buckets of water from the piazza fountain to the van, and washing the whole vehicle.  Camper vans are a lot bigger than cars.

The flashy roof rack we got from JustKampers also began rusting a short time after we bought it.  Happily they refunded us (best customer service I've ever dealt with) and asked us to "dispose of it" appropriately.  I thought the most appropriate and environmentally friendly place was to keep it where it was, and it's served us pretty well, despite the increasing surface rust.  So today's job was to clean it off so it can get the anti-rust treatment and hopefully arrest its self destruction.

14 Jan (Fri)

Maria Grazie babysat for us today as we planned to see Mikele, the musician, where his band was playing in a local bar.  It was supposed to start at 10:00 pm; we showed up around 10:30 and the place was half full and music was getting around to starting.  We had a chance to say hi to Mikele.  Despite the free spots we were advised to stand as those sitting were going to eat.  In the space of 15 minutes it was packed, and we discovered that the few people (William, Jane, Alice Rose, Chantelle) we thought we were meeting had grown much bigger, and they did want to eat.  With not enough table space for us all someone took the decision to go elsewhere.  We shared cars and drove to the other end of Giovinazzo to a restaurant called Pomidoro; there was a long table already set for us. 

It was a relief to be able to communicate without even having to be conscious of the language.  Despite being mostly non-Italians, the conversation included a lot about food.  One Englishman quizzed me on what we were doing here, and just didn't get it.  He kept saying I could make a better living teaching English, ignoring me when I said that wasn't the point of us being here.  The same man also dismissed Switzerland to Chantelle from his single experience in San Maritz!

15 Jan (Sat)

We let the kids stay home from school today, having been out late ourselves and feeling that they needed the break too.

Suzie went off to Lorella's in the morning, and after enough fighting and screaming I decided the kids needed out.  We went to the park, where a demonstration by ARCI was going on.  Saw some of the people we knew and they told me it was related to the local high school, which some of them had attended.  They were making their displeasure known about something but I didn't get an explanation as to what.  I noticed a large number of carbinieri for the size of the small peaceful demo; but they didn't seem too vigilent.  It looked like they were there because that was what they were supposed to do, not because they had any real concerns.  A couple of them came over to Eli and Rosa on the swings and asked them in Italian to get off a moment while they investigated the new hinges that had been put in.  Rosa was pleased with herself that she understood their request.  Suzie came along some time later and we went back home.

In the late afternoon, Suzie  took Rosa Finn and Sammy to Chantelle's to give them baths, and Eli and I stayed in the apartment, doing some more sophisticated Flash animation. 

Weather took a bad turn and we got some rain, hail and cold winds, so we had to drive around and pick the kids up.  We first went to Tony's shop to send some emails and were given some more panicotti he had made that hadn't set enough for the restaurant.  We then got in the camper, making an attempt at saving our parking space with chairs, as Chantelle had suggested.  Got everyone and came back but found that the chairs had been moved and the space taken.

16 Jan (Sun)

A do-nothing day, starting with pancakes and moving on to reading books and playing.  I had needed to get milk for the pancakes but nothing was open at 8:30am when I went out, apart from a few bars and Tony's gelateria, so I bought a litre off Roberto. 

The weather remained windy and cold, and while trying to secure the balcony windows the glass pane that had been slipping down, slipped a lot more, so I got roused to do a little DIY.

17 Jan (Mon)

Blessing of animals

18 Jan (Tue)

Got up early with Eli and had our 6am passegiata.

Handwashing sheets.  There's a lot of work behind those two words!

Collect kids from school and go to playground for an hour and a half.  Sammy and I are talking about germs and anitbodies, he says G-d can't get sick.  I agree, saying that He is in charge of germs, in fact in charge of everything.  Sammy immediately objects, "He's not in charge of Tony's ice cream."

Back at the apartment, I continue reading Tom Sawyer aloud to Eli; he has some difficulty understanding the language, but we both break up laughing at the scene where he feeds the cat the spicy remedy his aunt was feeding him.

22 Jan (Sat)

Octopus, Bari, Suzie's bag stolen:  After running after the scooter screaming all the curses I knew, I gave up as they exited, ironically next to the church of San Nicole (St Nicholas).  A man asked me was I French and I thought, no, but pardon my French!  The kids were upset and everyone around was offering us water and empathising.  The police, whose car the scooter had shot alongside, had me go to the station and fill out forms in quintuplicate.  Lorella and Luigi came with me to the station, and while we were waiting there, I learned the bag had been returned.  Later I got the whole story (see Suzie's writeup) but at the time I was amazed to open the bag and see everything except the phones and cash, even the SIM cards had been returned.

Lorella told me later she wasn;t impressed with the police intelligence:  when she arrived at the station the policeman asked her why she was there: 

"My friend's bag was stolen."


"He speaks English"

"The robber speaks English?"

26 Jan (Wed)

To Altamura with Domenico to order wood, then to big DIY shop.

Domenico tells me some unwritten rules between police and criminals - don't pick up children (that would include the young men on the scooter), documents returned (normally unpaid posted back!), don't shoot smugglers.

27 Jan (Thu)

To Altamura with Domenico to get wood.  Snow.

Employment/education - small factories (50) family run, don't like applicants to have too much education because (1) they might want to move up too fast which they cant in a family firm and (2) the people in the firm don't have education.  This is because boys/men go into the business right out of school while the women often get further education.  Dom says many of his post grad classes are 70% women.  But difficult to get much work that needs degrees, and people don't go off to N Italy or Europe because (1) afraid no job when back and (2) cost of living higher.  So they stay with parents, often until 30's.  So people marry later and have fewer kids.  Italy has lowest birth rate in world!

28 Jan (Fri)

Up later than usual due to my cold, Suz gets kids off to school.  I discover my log entries for the past month are missing from the computer, so you may notice they have been pretty sparse from mid-January onwards.  Luckily after our recent brush with crime, I was motivated to back up the whole laptop, so I am able to get back some of it anyway. 


This site was last updated 04/13/05