I asked YoungB if he’d please post more photos so I’d have something to show Nonna. That was his response. Nonna will love it – she has a good sense of humour – but it wasn’t entirely what I had in mind!
We Skyped with YoungB for about 30 of them last night, catching up with the news of his first week at Recanati. It seems there’s a smallish class of mixed nationalities – Chinese (but Cantonese speakers, so bang goes the idea that YoungB could maybe brush up on his Mandarin), Belgian and Mexican – and that they do thorough work. It’s clear from what he said that they are going over stuff he’s already learnt but that’s all to the good because reinforcement aids retention. He said the cultural activities have been very enjoyable and often don’t finish till quite late – the one scheduled for later in his day would have seen him back in his lodgings around 11 pm – so it’s no wonder he’s looking tired.
Dr B has spent many anxious minutes with Nonna. She was fitted with new hearing aids one day last week and the following day had already lost one of them! I’m pleased to say it has been found but you’ll understand that he was somewhat stressed – actually, make that very stressed – about all of that. On a more positive note, he’s had quite a lot of minutes being pummelled by a physio and is feeling the benefits: looser muscles leading to ease of movement and a reduction in the pain and discomfort that have lingered from his minor motorbike accident some weeks ago.
I have felt overwhelmed by different sorts of minutes this same week – leading me to think that the smartest investment I could make in my own sanity would be to attend this workshop – because it’s one of those times of year where four official meetings come pell mell on top of one another. Taking minutes is easy. Redacting them? Not so much! It’s also the time of year where the AGM and annual report loom large as projects that have to be dealt with, and I’m the one who has to drive them, in among more minutes (and too few, perhaps, of the first sort of minutes in which to deal with all of those). So we’ve all been busy and now it’s the weekend, for which we are heaving heartfelt sighs of relief.
I hope your minutes have all been wonderfully productive but that you’re able to relax for quite a lot of them over the weekend. :)
YoungB is on the train, en route to the next part of his overseas adventure. Along the journey from one side of the country to the other, he will travel through the village where Dr B and I lived in the 80s. If the train is a locale – the picturesque, slow trip, stopping at every station – he will even stop there for a short while. If it’s an express train, he’ll probably have the opportunity to see the castle as the train approaches the village, then in a moment he’ll be whisked on his way as the train climbs into another tunnel.
The cousins have looked after YoungB extremely well and he has, I think, felt very spoilt by them. The next four weeks will be a different sort of adventure where he’ll be much more on his own. However, he’ll be surrounded by other foreign students, I assume, who are also there trying to hone their language skills. The academic institution prides itself on having a good social aspect to its offerings and I imagine all those students are going to have a wonderful time. Who knows? YoungB might meet up with some Chinese students and perhaps have the opportunity to improve his Mandarin as well. Wouldn’t that be a fun extra?
You know how I was unemployed for quite a while and doing some work from home to help with the bills (I couldn’t say it actually paid any of them)? And that I was genuinely looking for work, all the while in the sincere expectation that I would never again work full-time and probably not even part-time, what with being so old and everything? Yeah, I know. How wrong can you be? When I attended that job interview the other week, I was the youngest in the room which made me optimistic; and, given my background, I thought I was in with a very good chance of matching the ethos of the organisation. And, yippee, they thought so too.
So now that I’ve been there for four weeks I can honestly admit that there have been many days when I’ve been so overwhelmed by technology problems and the feeling of having bitten off far more than I could ever possibly chew that I’ve wanted to say, “I give up. It’s all too hard.” But I’m not like that. And besides, nobody expects someone coming into an organisation from such a diverse background to hit the boards running and have everything learnt and dealt with in the first week or even the first month. I’ve been mightily relieved to discover that my predecessor floundered for a while, too. I’ve cracked some of the codes earlier than she did but I suspect her organisational skills were way ahead of mine!
My boss told me today at our weekly debrief, this one the end of a hideously busy few days where we’ve had a series of meetings and been working hard to meet reporting deadlines, that I could hardly have chosen a more frantic time to start with the organisation. I’d anticipated that it would be a busy job and I was right. But today we all downed tools and had a sit-down, civilised morning tea to congratulate some newlyweds and welcome a couple of new employees. There were speeches and laughter and nobody rushing us back to work. The only caveat was that we had to remember to change our status on the “what you’re doing” screen to “busy”!
I’d planned to knit on my long bus trips but that’s not happening. The second bus services a busy school route. It’s jam-packed in a way that’s reminiscent of sardines but actually pales into insignificance against memories of London tubes or even Roman buses, and there have been days where I’ve been one of the upright sardines: no knitting possible. Some of the other grown-ups complain about the kids. I suppose it’s because my own kid is not long past that stage that I don’t mind it. They’re kids and often clearly as tired and sleepy as I am. Also, the benefit to me (at least during term) is that, if I were to forget to ring the bell for my stop, it wouldn’t matter, because I get off at the same stop as all the kids.
And what’s my kid up to? He’s having a wonderful time in Rome with his rellies. The cousin who hasn’t seen him since he was a little, blond baby – 12 months and a couple of weeks, to be reasonably accurate; and in the photo, they’re admiring the gardens at one of the local educational institutions – said she’s finding it difficult to accept that he’s grown into this tall, dark-haired young man. She was quite emotional about it. Even so, she and her family have been showing YoungB all the Roman sites from the viewpoint of a local and that, to be sure, is something very special that I’m sure he’ll reflect on in years to come.
You might remember that, prior to YoungB’s leaving the country, I had to replace a zipper in a pencil-case I’d made for his new digital recorder because the one I’d originally used had been too flimsy and broken on the first day. The case sat on the sewing table with the zipper and sat a bit longer and then sat a bit more. For various reasons, I couldn’t get to the sewing machine. I could barely get to the sewing room! But eventually, the day before YoungB was due to leave the country, I managed to clear a big enough space to do the necessary. And that’s it there below. Done. Useful and necessary but, you know, I can’t wear it or anything, so how useful is it, really?
The suitcase still wasn’t packed and there were problems finding the electrical adaptors and the sleeping bag was forgotten and we had a lovely, long lunch with Nonna who accepts the idea that YoungB is going to be away for a year without too many qualms and we hope she’ll be here to share his tales when he returns and then after lunch we struggled a bit more with the suitcase and at the eleventh hour were thinning the ranks of the clothing in order to fit critical bits of technology and finally we said that what was done was it: we were ready to leave for the airport. Which we did. And nobody cried at all (though I can tell you that it is now remarkably QUIET in these parts). And lots of YoungB’s mates from school (with some of whom he’s now sharing university studies) came to wave him goodbye and they had the sense to give him a collective gift of a neck pillow because they said he couldn’t possibly endure such a long flight without one and I think that’s probably right.
As you can see from Dr C’s photo above, Life is pretty good! YoungB has seen a few of the sights from a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and cycled hither and yon with Dr C and managed to enjoy a run with her the evening he arrived and coped well with London’s rail and underground systems and met up with friends new and old and had lunches and a lovely holiday in a city that, at its summer best, can be quite beautiful. Now he’s off to Paris for a couple of days, for what will be almost the last of the holiday before the intensive language course begins. Paris will be beautiful, too, but entirely different. And then Rome will be beautiful but different again. And you know why I like that photo, apart from the fading light and the warm, late-in-the-day colours? That’s my baby in London (gasp!) and, guess what? He’s wearing a shirt that once belonged to my Dad. I’m hoping that YoungB has had a beer or two at the very least, if not a Guinness (can’t help it; that’s the Irish side of the family, right?), and toasted his grandpa’s memory. That would be perfectly appropriate, don’t you think?
YoungB is allergic to some nuts. I think I’m allergic to how nuts it’s been here for for the past few weeks (and it’s not over yet).
Amidst all the chaos of the family lunch – no photos; I’m having trouble with the camera – and YoungB’s final fortnight in the country, I’ve been trying to settle back into the workforce because, yes, I have a new job. That’s good. It will bring in some income and keep me occupied and off the streets while YoungB is away (if it doesn’t kill me first, having to use my brain again after more than a year of unemployment). The timing could hardly be worse; but what the heck? There are other bad things about the job. It’s on the other side of town and, realistically, in order to ensure that I’ll be there for a 9 o’clock start, I’m having to leave home about an hour earlier than I used to leave to ensure getting to town by that time because I have to change buses. Some days I get good connections, other days I don’t; and standing about in the cold, wet weather we’ve been having is most unpleasant. The shortest bus route would require three buses and take more time, though it’s an option I might consider for when the weather is kinder because it involves a steady bit of walking at the end and I’m missing my exercise routines. Sitting at a desk all day in a ridiculously chilly airconditioned office is ruinous for your blood pressure and waistline.
There aren’t any good coffee shops or cafes or friendly eateries near my – otherwise salubriously located – new workplace, at least not within lunch-break walking distance. There’s a Hit and Run store (as Dr B once wrongly called it and I’m sure you’ll appreciate why the name stuck), not far away and the coffee there is acceptable; but there’s nowhere to sit down. I’m told there’s a wonderful organic coffee shop “up the road” but it’s too far up the road to be useful because it’s too far to walk at lunchtime (see previous comment). You’d think that must mean I’ll save money? I’m not so sure. I’m also not sure about whether it’s good or bad or even more nuts that there’s this fabric shop just a few doors away!