Day 18 – Hair

Day 18 – Hair

There’s a thing going around social media; In three weeks we’ll know everyones true hair colour.

I feel a bit smug about this, as I made the decision to embrace my silver last year when I had two frozen shoulders for 12 months. This meant I could only lift my arms to Frankenstein level. I couldn’t put on my own coat, bras were a struggle and brushing my hair was a challenge. I didn’t touch the top of my head for a full year. I come from a family of early greys and started dying my greys from the time I was 26.

I had played with the idea of going grey several times through the years. I always had an uneasy feeling about piling a load of chemicals on my head every six weeks. And an article I had read years ago, in one of these ‘really, really, true story’ magazines, about a woman who suddenly developed a reaction to hair dye and had a stroke (not a good thing to read while you are sitting in a hair dressers getting your hair dyed) was always in the back of my mind during a dye job.

I started to self-dye when I came to Italy, as my reddish tone wouldn’t have been easy to match and I found the perfect one in a home dye. I’d stockpile two or three each time I went back to Ireland.

When my Frankenstein episode hit, I got my husband to dye my hair. It was not one of those moments where you say, ‘aw you missed your calling, you should have been a hairdresser.’ Far from it. There was more dye on my face, shoulders, neck, dog, than on my hair. I took a photo and sent it to a friend. She nearly called an ambulance. I looked like someone had tried to scalp and skin me alive.

After cleaning up the crime scene and as I scrubbed my skin I began to think, ‘why am I doing this?’

Why are we (women especially),  so afraid of letting ourselves go grey? I had six weeks to think about it.

I ran it past my niece, “Maybe in a few years, it might make you look really old. Like 45 or something”.

I’m 47.

I ran it past an Italian friend, “What? NOOOO! You look so young with your hair dyed, you look 32 or 34.”

“But I’m 47. I have a 23 year old daughter, why do I want to look 32? If people thought I looked 32 then they would think I had her when I was nine, which would be weirder than me having my natural hair colour don’t you think?”

She didn’t answer.

“Why can’t I look 47? ”

She thought for a moment;

“But Italian men love red hair!”

“I’m married 24 years, we’re still doing okay. I’m not looking for an Italian man.”

“Ah but why limit yourself to one man?”

She’s so Italian.

By 47 most of us have been through quite a few life learning episodes. I do feel a hell of a lot wiser then what I was 10 or 20 years ago. I am lucky to get to this age, some friends and family didn’t, so why can’t we all be proud of the age we achieve rather than trying to look a younger form of ourselves? My greys are like my badge of honour for surviving this long.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to let my hair colour grow out. So I am six months into my non-dyed hair phase. And I’m loving my silver! My dyed hair would get frizzy and dry a week or two before it needed to be redone. my silver is silky soft and smooth. There’s a weird sense of new self-confidence and empowerment that has come with it which I haven’t got my head around yet. Not giving a damn what others think of me? Being content with myself rather than doing something for other people approval perhaps?  I’m looking forward to it being completely grey but for now I have a weird, reverse, ombre hairdo going on.

My 17-year-old son was in need of a haircut before the quarantine and has decided to let his hair grow long for the hell of it to see what happens. We’ve discovered he has mad curly hair, not something he had when he was young.

Hopefully we’ll all be out of quarantine before I am fully grey and my son has a full 70s afro.

Day 17 – It’s the Hammock’s Fault

Day 17 – It’s the Hammock’s Fault

“Is that nuclear fallout?” said my husband the other day, opening the bedroom shutters in his Eeyore ‘Nothing would surprise me at this stage’ voice. He yawns.

Is that a usual response from someone who sees nuclear fallout?  I look from the bed, I’m less pessimistic “Noooo it’s… cherry blossom being blown around.” Then we’re both at the window to look closer.

“It’s a blizzard, it’s fucking snowing!”

The cold snap of weather has forced me inside rather than lolling around on the terrace, so I’ve started to do housekeeping activities.

I’ve become a master at fridge revolving. I wake in the morning and think about the meals we will have that day.  Over my morning cuppa, I strategically move items around the fridge like chess pieces, categorised by their best before dates. The veggie drawer is checked. A lentil vegetable stew was made yesterday for dinner with enough to freeze for two other days. Today we’ll do chicken with a cream sauce as they need to be used. Tomorrow we’ll have roasted vegetables and tuna pasta, my chickpea curry the next and the frozen stew again the following day.

We have enough meals for another five days to avoid going out the gate again. As it’s day 17, it marks the day, that if we were carrying the virus when we started quarantine it would have shown by now, this makes us feel cocooned and not want to go outside our gate at all. We don’t want to take any chances.

As we run out of items, they are noted on a shopping list stuck to the front of the fridge. Meal plans are now being done nearly two weeks in advance so we know exactly what we need to buy on that one precarious trip to the supermarket. As a result we’re spending a lot less on groceries and there is a lot less food waste.

I’ve begun to dig deep into the back of the freezer also, something I’ve been meaning to do but put on the long finger – the cats are being fed fish I have had there for about five months, I would’t fancy it for human consumption, but they think it’s Christmas and we’re saving money on cat food. Although, it will probably cost me more in the long run when they refuse to go back to eating tinned food and expect to be fed shrimp and salmon everyday.

While organising the fridge this morning I realised why this cold spell was happening. Of course, it was because we took out the hammock last week when it was 20 degrees. I joked at the time, “It always rains when we take out the hammock, but the way 2020 is going, it will probably snow!”

So I’d just like to apologise to Italy for taking out my hammock and thus causing it to snow. I’m sorry I broke the weather.

Day 16 – Free Falling

Day 16 – Free Falling

Well this is an iconic day for me. Something has happened to me that hasn’t happened in 20 years.

It’s a strange feeling.  A feeling of being wanted and not wanted all at the same time. It involves my box. For 20 years I’ve been at it, but no amount of hours I put in satisfied it. There was a constant demand. Sometimes 60-80 times a day. My finger muscles would be so sore but I’d keep at it trying to get the desired level of satisfaction but in all my years as a working woman I never achieved it. Weekends, holidays, it didn’t make a difference, if I took a break, it just made it worse.

But this morning I got up early and it happened. Yes… my inbox is empty!  I have answered all my emails, filed them and for a full hour it remained empty. It’s astonishing, a sight to behold!

As a self employed wedding planner, normally this time of year would be crazy busy with couples coming to view venues for 2021, this year’s clients coming to do menu tastings and finalise details. I’d be busy working on schedules, organising vendor payments, working on guest transport planning, creating song lists and table plans. It wasn’t unusual to be dealing with 60-80 emails per day.  But two weeks ago my workload ground to a halt. Last Tuesday I had one email to send, it took me two days to get around to it. Why? I don’t know! Procrastination struck big time. Maybe my mind was saying, “Careful now, if you send that email, you have no more work to do, what will you do with me then? We might have to relax, and I don’t know if I can do that, it’s been a long time. I might like it too much and never start again.”

I haven’t taken a proper holiday in years. I am not complaining, I created a business so that I could live in the beautiful place others spend a lifetime waiting to visit, so I never feel like I need to go anywhere on holiday, Italy is not somewhere I want to get away from. Not even now.

But I never take proper time off, my emails are always with me. My laptop is always with me. I do practice some self discipline and delete the mail app from my phone during winter months so that I am only available during work hours and not tempted to check emails in the middle of the night, but this current quietness is a completely new experience for me. And I think I might like it.

I haven’t let my head go to the place of what is going to happen when this is all over. There’s no point. All my work in the last two weeks has involved postponing weddings to later in the year or to 2021, some have had to cancel unfortunately. It’s going to be a quiet summer.

As a born planner, I like to know deadlines, dates, timeframes, but this quarantine has challenged that. I found the unknown timescale scary for the first few days – it was like falling down a dark hole and not knowing how far the bottom was. It is still like that, but I’m getting more comfortable with the feeling of free falling, I’m breathing more deeply, starting to sleep better, I’m learning to enjoy the fresh breeze it is creating and living in the moment again. Hopefully, we’ll all land on a soft bed of feathers and come out all the better for the experience.

Day 15  – Sheep and Leaders

Day 15 – Sheep and Leaders

It’s like we are living in a weird Sci-Fi war movie. In ‘normal’ war situations it is the young adults and accomplished soldiers who go off to fight, with a supporting medical team in the wings, while the old stay at home and grieve the dead. In the Covid War we have the elderly generation and medics in the front trenches with the army playing the support role while the young stay at home and grieve for their brave elders.

Future descendants of the doctors and nurses of these times, will talk of their grandparents bravery and resilience, the same way we talk of our grandparents today who fought in WW1 and 2;  “She was a medic in Lombardy during Covid-19.”  People will nod knowing what that meant, what they endured.

Then there’s the Zombie Apocalypse movie element, where you find yourself having conversations behind the locked doors you need to stay behind to be safe; “There’s no cases in our town yet, but across the river I’ve heard there are 23 more today. The north is still being hammered”. In the evening you sit and wait to watch curves, hear the death toll, the number of new cases and the number cured. You calculate, compare and hope.

Throughout this movie that we are all actors in, there’s the strong plot line running of how society is made up of sheep and leaders.

The sheep are not bad people, they are just unable to make a decision for themselves and that makes them dangerous. They are the ones who stockpiled toilet roll and other goods because everyone else was doing it. They are the ones who after stockpiling the toilet roll, they went out for drinks or a meal with their friends incase THEY (the government) closed down the pubs and restaurants and told them to stay indoors. They’ll stay home once told to but until then they are not affected it seems. Their main topic of conversation is the dodgy fear mongering reports they read from dubious underworld sources. They are the ones that when they do find out they have it, they will focus on who could have given it to them, rather than thinking of the hundreds they infected by going to the crowded supermarket, being in that pub, meeting those friends for a harmless coffee. And all the sheep people they infected will be thinking the same, who from China or Italy did they know that could have given it to them? Rather than blaming themselves for being in the crowded supermarket, packed pub or that cafe with their friend.

In the opening scenes of this strange movie, the english speaking media flash horrifying pictures from China and Italy, they follow the progress and demise 24/7 to the point of saturated exhaustion, rallying so much fear that no one wants a Chinese or Italian person near them. When it arrives on their doorstep, the media suddenly changes it’s strategy, no more scary stories – it’s recommended to get some fresh air and just social distance. They show people out walking, groups exercising on a road together but a few feet apart, ‘Aren’t we all great at socialising but with social distancing’ seems to be the jolly theme. Enough of this BOLLOXOLOGY. Go to your house, lock your gate and stay home. If you do it now we will be over the worst of it in four weeks.

In the movie we see a gowing number of individuals who read the news, looked at what was happening in other countries and quietly made a decisive decision for themselves, their families and their communities, to stay home and self-isolate before it was mandatory. They don’t play games with ‘social distancing’ by making allowances. They do not wait to be told what to do by some elected representative.

Then there are the Districts, like on the Hunger Games.

You have Britian saying ‘Tally ho, let’s be a herd and allow natural selection to take it’s course and keep the economy going as money is the important thing here’. You have the Russians doing a very effective one liner; ‘Stay home for 14 days or in prison for 5 years’. The Italians, the romance element, their love for each other spread it quickly and their love for each other will get them through it quicker than anyone else.

We have the US spouting out hugh random cash aid amounts like Dr Evil on Austin Powers, and raising false hope talking of cures that don’t exist, rather than giving decisive direction for people to simply stay home.

The Chinese, who just got on with it, building a massive hospital in 10 days, fought it and lived to tell the tale to others how to deal with it, but no one listened. They become the super heroes and send missions to help others.

In another scene, over a delicious pork roast dinner, a group of people blame the Chinese for starting this by eating bats and such animals that civilised people wouldn’t dream of eating. Let’s keep in mind pork is pig and piggies are as intelligent as your pet dog. Bats aren’t. I’d recommend not eating either.

And then there are short clips of elected leaders. There’s a governor in Texas saying that old people should be ready to die to save the economy and an Irish Green TD saying people with south facing windows should grow lettuce incase there are food shortages. There are State of the Nation speeches full of sentiment, fluffy words and tired social media quotes such as ‘not all superheroes wear capes’,  but they give no decisive action or direction.

The moral of the movie is that the ‘leaders’ were not the ones in suits. It emerges the leaders are the ones who stayed at home without having to be told, they looked after their families and in so doing, looked after their community and medical teams. And that’s how the war was won.

It turns out the elected leaders, needed to give the sheep no choice, as they can’t make a decision for themselves. Once the elected leaders stopped using the vague notion of social distancing, and told the sheep to ‘Go home, close your door, stay with only those who live in the same house, no one else, for two weeks and then we will reassess’, the sheep did it, and the world healed.

The movie ends with people dancing to Italian music in a square, while the hero medics and old people who survived walk by the cheering crowds.

Day 14 – The Quarantine Gurus

Day 14 – The Quarantine Gurus

We’re now entering week three of Quarantine in Italy. In other parts of the world governments are just starting to introduce similar measures. We’ve seen the toilet roll shortages and the last-order parties at pubs, but we now need to be prepared for a new wave of stupidness. The Quarantine Gurus.

Any day now, we’ll start seeing ads on Facebook by self-proclaimed isolation experts, who, after 24 hours of quarantine will have already written a manual and created a course you can buy. Be ready for titles such as;

  • Make Government Enforced Quarantine the Best Days of YOUR Life
  • How to Live Your Best Life in Self-Isolation
  • Beat the Corona Blues with these Hot Tips (Only $199 while the Corona Virus lasts! Buy Now!)
  • The Lockdown Lifestyle Guide – by self proclaimed Hinduism expert Todd Richardsmum (who spent a full week in India last year).

I’ve already seen a few articles with recommendations, written by people before they have even started quarantine. Here are  a few examples and my opinion:

1. Guru: Take this time to declutter your shelves and wardrobe. Clear out all those clothes that you haven’t worn in a year. Get rid of all those books you have never read.

Rosie:  This is the worst time to declutter. All the charity shops are closed, you can’t have a garage sale and there’s no point in trying to advertise items online as no one can come to your house, so where are you going to put all the stuff that you are going to bag and box?  If you feel you have to do a clear out, maybe learn to make patchwork or rag rugs out of your wardrobe clutter, or just plan to re-wear them instead of buying new stuff? And don’t get rid of those books, you will be glad of them if the quarantine continues.

2. Guru: Catch up on all those DIY projects you have been putting off.

Rosie:  DO NOT DO this. Do you want to add to your local hospital’s burden when you fall off a ladder and break your ribs or need stitches after using that saw you bought in Lidl three years ago which you have lost the instruction manual for? Stick to things that are not in anyway risky… like patchwork or rag rug making.

3. Guru: Turn Your Garage into a Home Gym

Rosie: Your garage is probably full of clutter. See number 1.

4. Guru: Categorise Your Digital Photos

Rosie: Yes I like this idea! I have photos dating back to 2012 I’ve never looked at since downloading them from my phone… I  just need to figure out how to access iCloud or find the mystery folder is that photos seem to be sent to when I download them from my phone.

5. Guru: Journal Your Corona Quarantine Experience

Rosie: This I agree with. The days can blend into one, so keeping a diary, or journaling, helps put things into context as time goes on and it is a great form of self therapy.

However, I’ve seen some gurus suggest that your kids should journal about it. I’m not so sure about this. Do you really want to look back and read;

‘We played Monopoly AGAIN. I still can’t see my friends and Mam is loosing it as all her wine is gone. Dad is staring at the wall as there is no sport on the TV.’

Best not to remember all the details, just recap the nice ones when this is all over.

Day 13 – What’s Cooking?

Day 13 – What’s Cooking?

There are great suggestions going around about what to do to pass the time in self-isolation and learning to cook is one that is very popular.

The thing is, you’ll probably discover you don’t have at least three of the ingredients needed. Are you going to risk your health and the health of those around you to nip to the store for Sweet Paprika when you have Smoked Paprika on the shelf? No, you won’t, because you are a responsible citizen and you will substitute ingredients instead. So I think every ‘recipe giver’ should include alternative ingredients that can be used as substitutes.

To help start this idea, I have shared a link at the end of this post to one of my favourite recipes. It’s Chickpea Curry and it’s a quick, easy, vegetarian recipe that is very tasty created by a couple of Irish chefs called the Happy Pear.

As I said, you probably won’t have all the ingredients, so here’s my substitute ingredient suggestions:

If you don’t have chickpeas you could use cannellini beans (white beans).

Coconut milk is also required – I find this difficult to get in Italy so it’s probably not something you have in your cupboard, so you could use cream instead.

If you don’t make curries regularly you may not have curry powder you can just leave that out, and if you don’t have paprika you could leave that out as well.

If you don’t have a lime you could use a lemon.

Coriander is not a thing in Italy, I can’t find it anywhere, I’m growing my own now, but in the meantime I use flat leaf parsley instead.

So there you have it. Follow the instructions on the link below, whip this up, using the substitutes and you have my favourite dish Chickpea Curry … without chickpeas or curry … actually what you have made is White Beans in A Creamy, Parsley, Lemony Sauce which will probably look very bland and taste like crap.

But hey, keep a note of the substitutes you use for all the recipes you try, and you never know you may have your own recipe book ready to print by the end of quarantine 🙂

Here’s the link to my favourite recipe: