Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year 2002

Happy New Year! Our worryingly dry and warm winter continues into the new year. Dazzling sunshine, with a slight chilly breeze and whisps of mist among the snow-naked mountains. 

Ten years ago, New Year 2002. Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization. In Argentina, Eduardo Duhalde was chosen to be president, the fifth in less than two weeks. In New York, Michael Bloomberg succeeded Rudy Giuliani as mayor. Had they been alive, J.D. Salinger, J. Edgar Hoover, E.M. Forster, Joe Orton and Paul Revere would have celebrated their birthdays, and Kiri Te Kanawa and Nigel Mansell probably did. In twelve European countries, millions of people woke up to a new currency. 

In Carmine Superiore, in the bright winter sunshine, two young-ish people paced the tiny piazza, heads together in muttered debate. From time to time, their gaze fell speculatively on one another, then strayed out to the vast expanse of the lake with the mountains beyond. Finally, they smiled, shook hands and embraced. For ten years ago, on 1 January 2002, M. and I took the decision to buy the ruin that fate had dropped into our laps. Come what may.

That decision changed everything. As you might imagine it would. But Carmine Superiore is a mite unusual, and so this was not simply a change of place. It was a change of life, and a change that changed us. In 10 years, Carmine Superiore has knocked me - for I can speak only for myself - into a different shape. The list of things I can now do - don't think twice about doing - that I couldn't do on 1 January 2002 is for me ever-surprising. I can chop a tree down, split the wood and light a fire. I can raise chicks out of eggs generation on generation, and I know how to subdue a rambunctious cockerel. I'm also pretty hot with the coop-maintenance wire-cutters. I can drive a car. On the wrong side of the road. I can speak enough Italian to give birth to two Euro-sproglets, and get them into the school system. I can pilot a boat and manage a knuckle-headed gun-dog, even though sometimes it seems he is managing me. I can raise abandoned kittens and home flightless baby seagulls. I can build vegetable patches and grow produce for Africa. And I can circle them with dry-stone walls of my own creation. 

And please, let's not forget what it takes to conquer The Hill, through the pregnancy days, the toddling days, the tantrum days, the carry-me days and the asthma days. The thigh-deep snow days, the supermarket days, the wine-buying days and the helicopter days. And, of course, the happy day my book collection started to arrive. Forget the gymn. This was body-sculpting Carmine-style. The me of today, admittedly ten years older and very much greyer, is a far-cry from the me that sat day-in day-out at a screen with a view of the Thames. While these days my back may buckle under the weight of two cases of wine, in general I've never been so fit.

Any fear of creepy-crawlies and all things yuk that may unaccountably have survived six months in Africa in the 90s melted away entirely in those magical ten years. Bedroom-sharing scorpions, spiders, beetles and slugs. Cat-kill rats, disembowelled mice and downed birds. And snakes. And let's not forget the things that go bump in the dark. The many nights I've spent entirely alone in a broken-down ruined house in an ancient village with no road, with ghosts medieval and modern trailing their woes around the walls, with the howling wind battering at the shutters and the unimagineable calling from the shadows... That little scared-of-the-dark girl of 40 years ago would stare unbelieving at the middle-aged woman stalking unthinkingly through the woods on a moonless night. 

The decision to take on our Carmine ruin brought with it, of course, the commitment to live among the Italians. I guess being an expat in any country where one is required to live daily life in a different language brings with it its own challenges. In ten years, I have had my fair share of incomprehensible conversations - most notably in the labour room, in radiology, in paediatrics and in gynaecology, with the avvocato, with the maresciallo and with the notaio. Involuntarily, and rather surprisingly, though, I've found myself an expert in the short, sharp denuncia, if in no other skill. While I've suffered regular ritual humiliation on the part of more than one under-educated shop assistant, health worker or common-or-garden racist, I've benefited immeasurably from the patience and understanding of the vast majority of Italians I know. I've ditched my English reserve in favour of communication at all costs, and found that a rueful smile and a talent for pantomime go a long way.

In these ten years I've had occasion to discover the self-destructive power of envy, the ultimate futility of pride and the absolute necessity for patience in all things. I've become intimately acquainted with the wee small solitary hours in which the great Sasso Carmine squatted like a troll in the darkness while I nursed a sleepless baby. Nights when I've reached deep down inside for a reserve of energy I didn't know I had. I've passed many sleepless nights in dark imaginings and many glorious sunny days in simple contentment. 

Who would have thought that a great old house, window frames hanging off their hinges, nest-stuffed chimneys, doors held closed with piles of rocks, and a sieve-style roof...a colony of dung-beetles keeping the entrance-hall clean, a pride of felines making it dirty, and a tribe of dormice scrabbling in the eaves... who would have thought that this great old house would have the power to bring about so much change? 

"Not I", said the cat...

9 comments:

V. said...

Happy new year, sweetie. Ten years is a long time to be on holiday. When you coming home?

chrysalis said...

Written with your usual style, brilliance and humour - wonderful!!

Karin said...

A decade of drudgery, delight and discoveries - sounds like!! God bless you for 10 more!

jane ward said...

Louise, your life sounds so full of natural wonder and beauty thank you for sharing, I so enjoy reading your blog

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

This is my all-time favorite of your posts. It gives a wonderful perspective on your experiences and how they have shaped you, physically and otherwise! Clearly you are a strong woman with an adventuresome spirit!

Carol said...

Wonderful post!! I'm glad that you found the house and that the house found you.

Happy New Year

C x

Warren Baldwin said...

Cool story! Ten years. Sounds like you've done a marvelous job with it.

Have a great new year!

ladyfi said...

What an amazing decade you've had.. so much adventure - and renovation!

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Congratulations on your decade at Carmine Superiore Louise, a story beautifully told. Thanks for sharing.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year 2002

Happy New Year! Our worryingly dry and warm winter continues into the new year. Dazzling sunshine, with a slight chilly breeze and whisps of mist among the snow-naked mountains. 

Ten years ago, New Year 2002. Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization. In Argentina, Eduardo Duhalde was chosen to be president, the fifth in less than two weeks. In New York, Michael Bloomberg succeeded Rudy Giuliani as mayor. Had they been alive, J.D. Salinger, J. Edgar Hoover, E.M. Forster, Joe Orton and Paul Revere would have celebrated their birthdays, and Kiri Te Kanawa and Nigel Mansell probably did. In twelve European countries, millions of people woke up to a new currency. 

In Carmine Superiore, in the bright winter sunshine, two young-ish people paced the tiny piazza, heads together in muttered debate. From time to time, their gaze fell speculatively on one another, then strayed out to the vast expanse of the lake with the mountains beyond. Finally, they smiled, shook hands and embraced. For ten years ago, on 1 January 2002, M. and I took the decision to buy the ruin that fate had dropped into our laps. Come what may.

That decision changed everything. As you might imagine it would. But Carmine Superiore is a mite unusual, and so this was not simply a change of place. It was a change of life, and a change that changed us. In 10 years, Carmine Superiore has knocked me - for I can speak only for myself - into a different shape. The list of things I can now do - don't think twice about doing - that I couldn't do on 1 January 2002 is for me ever-surprising. I can chop a tree down, split the wood and light a fire. I can raise chicks out of eggs generation on generation, and I know how to subdue a rambunctious cockerel. I'm also pretty hot with the coop-maintenance wire-cutters. I can drive a car. On the wrong side of the road. I can speak enough Italian to give birth to two Euro-sproglets, and get them into the school system. I can pilot a boat and manage a knuckle-headed gun-dog, even though sometimes it seems he is managing me. I can raise abandoned kittens and home flightless baby seagulls. I can build vegetable patches and grow produce for Africa. And I can circle them with dry-stone walls of my own creation. 

And please, let's not forget what it takes to conquer The Hill, through the pregnancy days, the toddling days, the tantrum days, the carry-me days and the asthma days. The thigh-deep snow days, the supermarket days, the wine-buying days and the helicopter days. And, of course, the happy day my book collection started to arrive. Forget the gymn. This was body-sculpting Carmine-style. The me of today, admittedly ten years older and very much greyer, is a far-cry from the me that sat day-in day-out at a screen with a view of the Thames. While these days my back may buckle under the weight of two cases of wine, in general I've never been so fit.

Any fear of creepy-crawlies and all things yuk that may unaccountably have survived six months in Africa in the 90s melted away entirely in those magical ten years. Bedroom-sharing scorpions, spiders, beetles and slugs. Cat-kill rats, disembowelled mice and downed birds. And snakes. And let's not forget the things that go bump in the dark. The many nights I've spent entirely alone in a broken-down ruined house in an ancient village with no road, with ghosts medieval and modern trailing their woes around the walls, with the howling wind battering at the shutters and the unimagineable calling from the shadows... That little scared-of-the-dark girl of 40 years ago would stare unbelieving at the middle-aged woman stalking unthinkingly through the woods on a moonless night. 

The decision to take on our Carmine ruin brought with it, of course, the commitment to live among the Italians. I guess being an expat in any country where one is required to live daily life in a different language brings with it its own challenges. In ten years, I have had my fair share of incomprehensible conversations - most notably in the labour room, in radiology, in paediatrics and in gynaecology, with the avvocato, with the maresciallo and with the notaio. Involuntarily, and rather surprisingly, though, I've found myself an expert in the short, sharp denuncia, if in no other skill. While I've suffered regular ritual humiliation on the part of more than one under-educated shop assistant, health worker or common-or-garden racist, I've benefited immeasurably from the patience and understanding of the vast majority of Italians I know. I've ditched my English reserve in favour of communication at all costs, and found that a rueful smile and a talent for pantomime go a long way.

In these ten years I've had occasion to discover the self-destructive power of envy, the ultimate futility of pride and the absolute necessity for patience in all things. I've become intimately acquainted with the wee small solitary hours in which the great Sasso Carmine squatted like a troll in the darkness while I nursed a sleepless baby. Nights when I've reached deep down inside for a reserve of energy I didn't know I had. I've passed many sleepless nights in dark imaginings and many glorious sunny days in simple contentment. 

Who would have thought that a great old house, window frames hanging off their hinges, nest-stuffed chimneys, doors held closed with piles of rocks, and a sieve-style roof...a colony of dung-beetles keeping the entrance-hall clean, a pride of felines making it dirty, and a tribe of dormice scrabbling in the eaves... who would have thought that this great old house would have the power to bring about so much change? 

"Not I", said the cat...

9 comments:

V. said...

Happy new year, sweetie. Ten years is a long time to be on holiday. When you coming home?

chrysalis said...

Written with your usual style, brilliance and humour - wonderful!!

Karin said...

A decade of drudgery, delight and discoveries - sounds like!! God bless you for 10 more!

jane ward said...

Louise, your life sounds so full of natural wonder and beauty thank you for sharing, I so enjoy reading your blog

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

This is my all-time favorite of your posts. It gives a wonderful perspective on your experiences and how they have shaped you, physically and otherwise! Clearly you are a strong woman with an adventuresome spirit!

Carol said...

Wonderful post!! I'm glad that you found the house and that the house found you.

Happy New Year

C x

Warren Baldwin said...

Cool story! Ten years. Sounds like you've done a marvelous job with it.

Have a great new year!

ladyfi said...

What an amazing decade you've had.. so much adventure - and renovation!

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Congratulations on your decade at Carmine Superiore Louise, a story beautifully told. Thanks for sharing.