Day 12 – Food Glorious Food

Day 12 – Food Glorious Food

I’ve gone up 2kg I think, or it might be four, I don’t want to look close enough at the scales to see if the little dashes stand for one or 2kg each.

While standing there on the scales, I got a premonition of my future grandkids looking through a family photo album:

“This is my great, great, great, grandma Nancy, she lived through the Irish Famine. She became the mother of 11 children who did great things throughout the world.”

“This is my great, great, grandfather, Jim – he lived through World War 1. He became a soldier and won medals.”

“This is my grandmother Rosie – she lived through the Corona Virus Pandemic … She became obese.”

I’m not sleeping well either. It’s not because of the worries about the world, yes, I’m anxious about my elderly parents in Ireland, our daughter in London and my brother in New York, but that is not what is keeping me awake, it’s indigestion. I’ve never suffered from this before, but since going on lockdown, our fridge and cupboards are well stocked with all the good stuff we like. And since we are not working as normal, we are having time to make nice meals for both lunch and dinner.

The Italians do this all the time – a proper sit down lunch and a cooked dinner. It took me two years of living here to discover the secret of why they were not all obese with the amount of food they ate. The secret seems to be that they keep the carbs for lunchtime – the pasta and risotto’s and then for dinner they have fish or meat with vegetables. So the carbs get burnt off during the day. They also don’t really do breakfast – just an espresso for most, so maybe they are unknowingly doing the 16:8 fasting thing that we all hear is so good for us?

So it’s time for me to turn the clothes horse back into the glorious thread mill it once was, and get my son to show me how to use his weights. I can’t say I am going to end up with a Cosmo beach ready body but at least my knees won’t give way by the end of quarantine.

Day 11 – How To Homeschool

Day 11 – How To Homeschool

It’s Friday, the end of the first week of ‘home schooling’ for a lot of people. On Monday I saw posts of white boards of timetables with sticky notes, proclamations of how parents were structuring their kids work schedule, kids smiling at dining tables and home offices as they and their parents embarked on the new adventure.

How’s that going for you now? As a parent who homeschooled her kids for years, can I laugh now or should I wait until the end of next week?

Here’s what probably happened:

Day 1: It went wonderfully. You flew through the workbooks and assigned work in two hours, you think your kid is a super genius and that you lost your calling, you should have been a teacher.

Day 2: Mrs Murphy, your kid’s teacher, is playing a blinder, she has sent lots of assignments that you are finding really interesting. If only school had of been as good as this when you were going hey? You are so distracted by the history lesson about Egypt, that you haven’t noticed the kids have been playing out in the garden for the last half hour.

Day 3: There’s a new chapter in Math that you are asked to work through. You’re showing your kid how to do it the way you learnt, but “teacher does it different”, there’s a new way of doing it.

You find yourself saying ‘In my day we did it this way…’ and suddenly you feel as ancient as the pharaohs you were reading about yesterday. Your kid is now mixing both methods and getting completely confused. You decide to skip that chapter. The wi-fi is slow, so you call off lessons early and let the kids play a video game instead as a once off treat.

Day 4: Mrs Murphy has scheduled a ‘live’ lesson for all pupils to log into at 9am. She too is enthusiastic with this new way of teaching. She expects you to get your kid up for a 9am lesson when you don’t have to get up to go to work? Is she crazy? So you decide you can skip that one, so do half the other parents so you don’t feel too bad.

When you do get up, you have 15 emails from Mrs Murphy and the other teachers, with different subject assignments to get through with your kids. You have work to do yourself for your own job, you leave it to the kids to sort through themselves.

Day 5: The novelty of being a teacher is starting to wear off. You’re now way behind all of the assigned work and it keeps coming. The kids have wiped the schedule off the whiteboard and drawn cartoon pictures of you and the dog, and they are building a miniature shopping mall with lego. You can’t find a pen. There are crumbs and stickiness all over your computer keyboard and you spend half the day searching for an important work file that little Freddy may have deleted from your computer while doing his english project.

Does that sound somewhat familiar?

Don’t feel bad, we planned to homeschool and it went ass ways, whereas it has been forced upon you guys, so don’t be too hard on yourselves, you weren’t prepared and you didn’t ask for it.

When we started homeschooling years ago, we too tried to stick with a school curriculum for a while and failed. Then we discovered the joys of un-schooling. Basically this is when you let the kids decide what they want to study/learn about and you facilitate them. Kids naturally want to learn, curiosity is a basic instinct.

Let’s face it, schools will probably not be back before the summer break and so the curriculum is out the window. By summertime, hopefully this crisis will have passed, and your kids will be able to play with their friends again, but for now in lockdown, it’s time for them to explore the things that excite them. Let them decide what they want to do – making cakes teaches weights and measures, designing a bedroom makeover teaches area and parameter.

If they like dinosaurs, literature, history, computer science, whatever, there are free interactive online courses by the top universities in the world. My kids did lots of these (check out and Sometimes my children lost interest half way through, but that’s okay, they gained some knowledge from it and moved on to something else.

If your kid wants to be a doctor, nurse or something in the science field, (note: if your kid wants to be, not if you want your kid to be) what better time to start researching and making notes now of what is happening in the world, it will add to a bloody interesting thesis for their masters someday.

If they want to work in TV or the movies then let them watch movies, if they want to design computer games then let them play computer games, if they want to work in the music industry let them play music. If they don’t know what they want to do in the future then just let them enjoy the present; listening to music, painting a picture, writing, reading, texting, sitting staring into space (the best solutions to world problems and the most creative works of art have come from people staring into space from time to time).

Also remember boredom is a great source of creativity. Don’t try and fill your kid’s day full of activities to stop them getting bored. Let them chill, let them get bored, let them solve their own boredom and let them make the odd mess. Do you remember the joys of creating a blanket fort behind the sofa, or a secret den under the stairs, a train from cardboard boxes or a go kart from scrap wood in the shed?

This has started out as a very scary time and a voyage into the unknown for us all, but you can turn it into a time your kids will remember as one of the best times of their lives, that time when all the family had to stay home together.

Day 10 – Finding a Positive

Day 10 – Finding a Positive

I try to find at least one new positive per day that is coming out of this experience. Here’s my top four as of today:

1. There’s less chance of an airline disaster – less planes in the sky means less chance of this happening.

2. Greta Thunberg will be less stressed – come on, admit it, we all want this to happen! Every time her little face comes on the TV I prepare to be sad. Less planes in the air, less cruise ship pollution, less cars on the road, factories closed, all lead to less crap in the air and in our water systems. It’s Spring, so birds, bees, fish etc., are breeding without human interference. Noise pollution is down. Nature is having a chance to recover. Greta must be feeling a little bit more happy now?

3. Mass Shooters are out of business – think of it, schools are shut, churches are shut, concerts are cancelled so they have no where to go. AND they may now have time to do that online anger management course they were meaning to do.

However, I did see reports that there are two hour queues outside gun shops in some American states which was a little concerning. What’s that all about? After buying their 100kg of pasta and 850 toilet rolls they stop off at the gun shop so that they can protect the said pasta and toilet rolls from their neighbours, who have also bought 100kg of pasta and 850 toilet rolls? So incase the neighbours run out of pasta and toilet roll before they do in the next four weeks, they are ready to defend?

Let me tell you something, I bought a 5kg bag of pasta here in Italy last September. It was on sale for only €2.40 and I thought – well, I’ll get it incase of an emergency ie. we get a sudden craving, that only a good ragu would satisfy. At the time of buying, I wasn’t expecting that an actual worldwide pandemic would hit us.

After six months we still have 4 kg of the bag of pasta left. These guys have watched way too many zombie apocalypse movies. Seriously, if you get through that much dried pasta in the next four weeks you will be throwing the remainder at your neighbours because you will be so sick of it.

4. We’ve got food (other than dried pasta), water, Netflix, Skype and What’s App – how lucky are we compared to people in previous world disasters?

5. The world is slowing down – We have all got too used to being available 24/7, having instant access to everything, working 60 hour weeks away from our families. This crisis is forcing a lot of people back into their homes, the first days may be filled with anxiety and stress but after a week, they may start enjoying having precious family time or the time alone they have been craving. We’ll have time for proper rest, take deeper breaths, to cook meals from scratch and realise what is important again. We are learning patience.

What other positives can you think of? Please leave your ideas in the comments below. The more bizarre the better.

Pic: My 5kg bag of pasta which is still going strong since last September, some yellow tulips to make you smile … and a toilet roll to make some of you jealous.

Day 9  – My Invisible Friend

Day 9 – My Invisible Friend

I think I must be the only woman in Italy who hasn’t cleaned her house from attic to cantina 10 times already. I haven’t cleaned it once. My brain has gone through several stages during quarantine, sort of like Worzel Gummidge with his head changes. It started in Party Mode, then Slob Mode now it’s in Lazy Bitch mode. Well that is not exactly true, I have never been a fan of cleaning. I was going to save cleaning until week three when we could all possibly be so bored that we’d find cleaning interesting, but I don’t think I can wait that long. It needs to be done today.

My Italian friends have told me women here use cleaning as a way to de-stress. Their houses must be sparkling by now. It’s a pity there is a lockdown, otherwise I could do a lot for the women in my community and help ease their stress levels for at least a week by letting them rip on my house.

I live in a house with two lads – my husband and our 17-year-old son. Cleaning is not really a priority for them either. We keep on top of the laundry, dishes and son keeps his room in sparkling order, but to get the rest tidied we need a motive. Our motivation is usually when we know family is coming to stay or a friend is coming over for lunch or dinner. As soon as we know someone’s coming, we go into superdrive, and the place looks amazing within two hours.

Sometimes when I notice the housework is getting a bit out of hand, and don’t want to just do the cleaning by myself, I’ll say, ‘Oh I got a text from Lizzie, she’s going to be passing here around lunchtime and is going to drop by’. Or ‘Lizzie might drop in to borrow the strimmer tomorrow so we’ll all get up early and give the place a good clean, yeah?.’ The house gets sparkled. 

For the last two years Lizzie always cancels, probably because Lizzie doesn’t exist. I use her sparingly, only in emergencies. Neither of my menfolk have realised Lizzie has never actually been to our house. Both of them think they have met Lizzie at different times when they were out with me alone. Once with my son, I stopped in the supermarket to talk with someone I know through my business and once with my husband when I greeted  a friend of a friend on the street. Both times they asked “Was that Lizzie?” Me off guard, but casually, “Yeah”.

So one thinks Lizzie is a tall woman in her 30s with an English accent and they other thinks Lizzie is a short Italian in her 60s.

So I’m going to have to think of a different motivational strategy now in this unusual time that we are living when family can’t come to stay and friends can’t call by, not even invisible friends like Lizzie. I miss her.

Day 8  – The Police Arrive

Day 8 – The Police Arrive

I was sitting outside with my teenage son, I was making a Daisy Angel (like a snow angel but in a patch of daisies). While lying in the grass looking up at the blue sky, I saw a plane, and our conversation was about where it was going and where it could have come from – this would never have been a topic of interest before.

We hear noise in the distance coming up the road. So we stand and wait for it to come into view. It’s a van driving slowly from house to house, stopping outside each for a moment. Behind it is a car, no wait it’s more than that, it’s a police car with lights flashing and a mega phone. Now, even if I hear a megaphone announcement in my own language I find it hard to understand. Megaphone, plus Italian, plus distance, made it very hard to understand.

“What are they saying? Are they dropping stuff off at houses or is it like the ‘Bring out your dead’ scene on Monty Python’s Holy Grail?”

It got to the house next door. The van slowed, police announcement made and the van moved on. Next they are at our house. But they don’t just slow up at our gate, they stop and buzz to get in!

“Oh my God they want us! They are looking for us! WTF?! Why our house? What have we done?!”

Our driveway is about 20 metres long and we have solid electric gates which we can’t see through and they can only be opened from inside the house.  When someone buzzes to get in, the dogs go nuts, so a whole co-ordination thing has to take place – someone needs to run up the stairs into the house to open the gate, someone else needs to head to the gate, and we have to either get the dogs into the house or hold onto them so they don’t run out onto the road and scare the crap out of whoever is there. So I’m shouting at son to go into the house to open the gate, the dogs are going nuts and drowning out the police car announcement. I stop halfway down the driveway while holding the collar of mad dog and watch suspiciously as the gate slowly opens.

There’s the van, ready to drive in but has stopped. He has already got out of the van and has his back doors open. The police car has stopped behind him; “Stay in your house!”  they bellow at me in Italian.

“Okay” I’m thinking, “so they want me to go back into my house?”

I can’t make out what else they said. I just stay still. Meanwhile, the van guy has appeared from behind the van with a large cardboard box. He’s a smily chap. “I’ll leave it here”, he says in Italian looking at my worried face, and places it inside the gate and then backs away into the van. The gates start to close, the police car moves on. My son and I stare at the box.

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know Mam but they only dropped a box at our house, no one else’s.”

I carry it up the drive, it’s very light. we get a knife and open it carefully.

We’re still listing things it might be.

Protective gear?


Decorations for the bloody big street party we should have when this is all over?

It’s a light shade.

I ordered it two months ago for our new house and completely forgot about it.

The delivery van had nothing to do with the police car, it was just a co-incidence they were driving slowing up the road at the same time. The reason why he was slowing was to try to find our house number.

I still don’t know the full message that the police were bellowing, but I know whenever someone admires the lamp in our new house I will probably say, “Top up your glass, I have a story to tell you of how that arrived…”

Day 7 – 10 Tips About the First Week

Day 7 – 10 Tips About the First Week

After a week of self-isolation here in Italy, I thought it would be good to give some guidelines of what to expect to those who are in the UK, USA and Ireland who are just starting out on this journey of self-isolation. 

1. Be Wary of Click Bate Headlines

Journalism has gone to the dogs. Every media outlet is trying to come up with the next eye catching sensationalist headline. Last night I read a headline ; Italy hit by Earthquake as it battles with Coronavirus. 

There were prayers, OMGs, etc in the comments. On reading the article it states it was in the Tyrrhennian Sea and some people in Sicily felt a vibration. The picture showed a red rings in the centre of Italy. All contrived for clicks and reaction. Italy has literally thousands of earthquakes per year which go unnoticed (there were 2,384 of Mag. 2+ from March 2018 to March 2019. Source: Statista).

If a headline includes; ‘If’, ‘May’, ‘Could’, ‘Might’ it’s hearsay or opinion. What they are writing about hasn’t happened and may never happen. Read between the lines of the article and if they haven’t quoted official sources, don’t take the information on board and move on.

And read articles before you share them, otherwise you could be just adding to the hysteria.

2. Limit your media time. Use a reputable media outlet as your source of information, listen to it once or twice per day at the most and then get on with your day. Do not spend hours scrolling through social media reading scare mongering headlines – you just need to know three things. 1.Self isolate, 2. Wash your hands and 3. We’ll get through this.

3. Don’t stay in your PJs all day. It’s tempting I know, it’s okay for the first day or two but then try to establish a routine for yourself and your family to include some fresh air time and activity.

4. Don’t drink your monthly wine supply in the first three days.

5. Day three seems to be the worst for a lot of people I have spoken to. It seems to be the day reality hits, and we realise this is something serious that we have to deal with. Watch out for each other’s mental wellbeing. It gets better as the days go on – there’s actually a certain calmness or peace that comes after a week of isolation. (I’ll let you know what it’s like after two weeks next week, I may have changed my opinion!).

6. Be gentle with each other. Don’t sweat the small stuff, do your best to avoid arguments over minor things. And remember, if you have little people in the house this can all appear very scary, so be careful of your discussions and the news you listen to.

7. Stop stock piling food. Grocery shops and pharmacies stay open even during the most strict lockdowns. Italy’s shops remain fully stocked because people are acting reasonable and there has never been a shortage of toilet roll. Seriously what is the toilet roll stock buying all about?

8. Respect the quarantine. Don’t ‘cheat’ your self-isolation, by having friends over, dinner parties, play dates. Commit to do it, stay at home and only go out for the essentials once or twice per week and keep your distance from others. The quicker we deal with this like adults the quicker we will be out the other side of it. Familiarise yourself and family elsewhere of how to use Skype and Whats App and stay in touch.

9. Keep risky DIY jobs and rough or boisterous play with kids at a minimum – the last thing you need is to be going to the hospital for a cast to be fitted or something to be stitched when the staff are dealing with this.

10. There is a very high possibility that, at some point, you will think that you, or a member of your family has the virus. It’s the time of year for snuffles – and you’ll become super aware of every sneeze or cough. For me this fear usually grips me in the middle of the night after I have indulged in Number 4 and then broken Number 2 and read scary headlines just before bed. Several times I have semi woken up in the middle of the night, with a sudden urge to reach out and gently feel my husband’s forehead. But because I am half asleep and feeling somewhat panicked, my co-ordination is off and I end up whacking my hand on his face in the dark and then grope my way to his forehead. He’s very understanding, but I think he’s getting a bit tired of it now.

Both he and my son know that I can pounce at any time during the day with the palm of my hand smacked onto their forehead. To be honest, unless they had a raging fever, I wouldn’t know an ‘off’ temperature if I felt it. But whacking them on the forehead gives me a sense of being motherly. If you really do think you have it, be comforted to know that 80 percent of the people that do contract Corona need no medical assistance, you just stay at home and take paracetamol.

And last but not least, use this time for enjoying your family. Relax about the school work a little, do something fun each day, make this a happy memorable time for you and your family. It’s not often we get to spend so much quality time with the ones we love.