Wednesday, 1 December 2010


The first trimester was completely a completely unexpected experience for me. I'd heard about morning sickness, mood swings, feelings of general yuckiness.
But I thought I'd be over the moon to feel all that because it would mean there is a baby coming. But it wasn't like that. It was a three month long bad feeling with no evening glasses of red wine in the bath.

Occasional sighs of relief when we heard a heartbeat, or saw an ultrasound. But there was no belly, and even though she was already growing inside of me, I didn't know her yet... I'd never seen her face in my meditative garden.* I couldn't even imagine her wriggling in a towel after a bath and then slipping around in those pyjamas that babies wear.. those ones that have feet sewn in them.

We were in Italy then too, which had lots of advantages. My brother was with us then. There was lots of fresh air, our paradise house. There was the option to just go and eat at Salva's Mum's place, which was lucky because my desire to cook was very low. Swims from the rocks in the crystal water in July, before the August crowds. Fried fish cooked fresh from inside a caravan and served at plastic tables on the shore.

Then there was the immense amount of work to be done. The jewelry selling on the hot beaches that left me about ready to faint, daily. Then the tour with AzzBand that meant leaving for performances every day for 8 days at 5pm, and returning at 4am. The desperation of trying to find something edible at strange hours in strange Pugliese cities to try to ward off the nausea. (read: prevent projectile vomiting) The lack of art supplies, and my books, studio, paints and paper stuff. I wasn't feeling very inspired but I probably really needed more than ever to be making.

That is actually what all this writing is supposed to be about. I feel like I've got it back. The inspiration that is. The need to paint and make, and do. I'm happy when I get something done. Anything.

So I wrote this post just to get it written down here, that way, the next time I feel so sluggish I'll know it isn't forever.

*My prenatal yoga sessions include a meditation on the baby, where I'm guided to transport myself to the garden in my soul and find myself there with my new family... Strangely this meditation always transports me from the meditation room to... another meditation room. It's a glass studio added to a converted warehouse we saw in the countryside just out of Dublin (which is where S took the above photo, incidentally...) That is my soul's garden....

Friday, 26 November 2010


Aside from all things stretch and grow, there is a recent recurring theme in my life.

Watching this documentary recently changed our eating habits drastically, and, I think, permanently. It would be nice to keep buying chicken from the supermarket, and I'm sure there are many people who would prefer we continued to do so, but it's probably not worth it. Especially now.

Another example is the art school that wants to keep my 600 Euro deposit for a masters degree I can't complete because of my pregnancy. 600 euros is a lot for me, not far off a month's wages, but it's not HEAPS of money. I mean, it's not 1000 euros... and they do say the money won't be returned under any circumstances on their website. I suppose they'd prefer I just not be bothered to go to Spanish consumer affairs and check if they can keep a deposit when there was no contract signed, my inability to follow the course is due to their own discrimination, and quite simply, I'm not recieving the service I paid for.

The fashion school that AzzBAnd performed for in May this year, (the show that we arranged 3 songs and composed another especially for) should have paid us in July. They were obviously hoping we'd forget about it. Or be too lazy/embarassed to ask about it later.

There's a lot here about money, but it's especially important. I need it now, right? So many prams, disposable nappies and packets of formula to buy. Even if I go the earth mother route, still a whole heap to spend in organic slings, butt cream and breast-feeding apparel. Things that I need to buy (new), apparently, in order to be a good mother.

If my pregnancy has had one thing to teach me, it is that there is freedom in knowledge. That might be why so many pregnant women become experts in anatomy. The more you know, the less you can be controlled. That is the theory behind censorship. That is why so many infamous leaders held book burning parties in their capital cities.

That is what I feel the Spanish public healthcare system wants to do. I feel that they would like to go through all the books on childbirth and cross out the words that fit in anymore. I feel like they would like to smash the antique ceramic birthing stool my midwife showed me into a thousand pieces, and with it the beautiful ritual women have been performing since the beginning of time. They have convinced great-grandmothers, who once knew better, that pregnancy and birth is a scary, dangerous game.

That's the theme. It's not a paranoid conspiracy theory or anything. Just a weird feeling that ignorance and laziness allows us to be completely controlled by individuals, society, and multi-national corporations. I want to refuse to be controlled by fear or ignorance.

My yoga teacher says that everyone's views are the right views. Because everyone speaks from their own knowledge centre. But what if their knowledge centre is narrower than yours? My goal for the next few months is to expand my knowledge centre as far as possible.

Another quote that resonated recently is "Never ask a barber if you need a haircut" So I'm going to learn to look in the mirror and assess exactly who I am and what I need, just so I can take that advice.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

To-Do not Done.

To Do.
1. Book midwife appointment.

2.Book doctor's appointment for medical (read proof of pregnancy) certificate, begin legal process against school who will not refund pre-enrollment fees due to pregnancy and subsequent inability to attend art-therapy master in Barcelona.

3. Begin new translation job, work on website.

4. Organise obtaining business tax-number from some European country (see #3 and #10)

5. Borrow/Buy remaining baby-care tools. (Bath, Mattress, Cloth Nappies. I'm sure there's more...)

6. Organise baby space. (gently remind S of his undertaking to make the cot, perhaps with a calender or a daily automatic email headed "Days left to make cot" Granted, they are many, but we are talking gestation time, which is scientifically proven to run both painfully slow and excruciatingly fast at the same time...)

7.Band practice with Yurlak for concert on Friday night. (Find something to wear for said concert. Or buy something. Don't cut tags, Keep receipt....)

8. Band practice with AzzBand for concert on 2nd December.

9. Update portfolio with images from Red Paintings exhibition.

10. Finish writing children's art workshop plans, translate them.

I'm sure there's more.

This is what you want. A weekend where you don't really leave the house, but that is good. First in-house yoga session in about 8 years. Meditation. Cups of rooibos. Falling asleep at the beginning of excellent films. Hearing about them later.
Porcini mushroom risotto, not actually attacking the to-do list, but making one.

On Saturday morning I woke up, laid a mat on the floor and breathed for 15 minutes, moved into various yoga postures for another 15, and spent the rest of the day wondering why I don't do that every day. (I also tried and failed with #9, as there wasn't really great light for photography, but not even the frustration from spending an hour without one decent shot was going to get me down...)

This morning I woke up, drank a coffee, put on some music, sat on the floor and cut scraps of fabric into triangles, sewed them together and completed the first project with my sewing machine that is not square or cushion-filled. I made a risotto from the dried porcini we brought back from Italy, then more music, more sewing.
Unless you consider #6 at a stretch, (those vintagey triangle shaped prayer flags looking things aren't exactly vital for the baby's corner) it was a project that wasn't on the list.

But it was just nice to complete something, and today was Sunday, so..

Tomorrow I'll get to the list.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Sometimes, when I'm walking home at night, I pass the glass of an enourmous shop window exhibiting colourful imported rugs and hand-painted cabinents, and I think about money. How I sometimes wish I could just have an unlimited supply whenever I saw something beautiful.
I would like to arrange this with someone, make some kind of bargain that I wouldn't really live any differently. I wouldn't buy an expensive car, or real estate, or shares. I would just like the money to buy beautiful dresses, meters of bright fabric and goat's cheese when the urge arises.

I would suprise Salva with vintage instruments tied up with red ribbon, and send cases of Ribera to my parents.

I wouldn't even worry about the vaccuum cleaner, new hot water system, storage furniture, and baby apparel that we need. Yesterday there was a double bed on that list and today it is sorted.

Those things always work themselves out, the indian rugs never do.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Autumn is back. The days are getting crisp, and slightly shorter. The mornings are glorious.
The smell in the air is motivation. It happens to me every year. Something about the chill in the air reminds me to be busy.

So I'm back in the studio after many months. I'm cooking amazing meals, and freezing some. Tomorrow I'm going to my first pre-natal yoga class. And this week I taught 8 English classes. I was so good in about 4. I was like, a fantastic English teacher, and my students just couldn't believe it.

I'm alone, for the first time in many months. It's a glass of red wine in the bath kind of moment, but I don't know about the wine. I wonder if the baby would notice?

How I love this baby. My sources tell me it is the length of a banana this week. If that is true, then I'd like to know what it did with the rest of my organs.

If she is a girl, she has a name, and her photograph is imprinted in some part of my left brain, where everytime I imagine her, she comes up looking exactly the same.
If he's a boy, then he remains a complete mystery. But I do love boys.
Either way I'm going to make a mobile and some bedding from vintage sheets. Salva is going to make a bassinet. We're going to go to IKEA and take some measurements, steal some scandinavian design.

I met a woman yesterday named Purificación. Now that is an out-there name. She shortens it to Puri. I don't know if I would do that. Perhaps I'd claim a name like that.

Speaking of being back in Spain (after almost 3 months in Italy) I think we are happy. That might have something to do with the near 20 kgs of Italian products we brought home with us in the car. If we can have sun-dried tomatoes and real Parmesan while NOT living in Italy, well that's just grand. And things are calming down. Every day there is something less to organise, a few more minutes to reflect.

And reflecting I am. I told myself I wasn't going to buy any parenting books, maybe ever. But we got one, big one. Actually it's three books in one. It's by Carlos Gonzales, who is the (muffled?) Spanish voice on breastfeeding and attatchment parenting. Most of it is pretty convincing. Salva liked having the book until I started talking about it too earnestly, just last night.
Let's just see how it goes.
I suppose that's wisest.

Friday, 1 October 2010

After 5 months

Writing and self-publishing was such a good excercise for me. I don't know why I stopped. I think it happened when I was made suddenly aware (by a psychologist, interviewing me for a place in a master of art therapy) that googling my name brought up a page that may not be filled with my innermost thoughts, but certainly contains alot of information about my personal life.

I suppose that was obvious... and it doesn't matter I suppose.

I need to write, now more than ever.

Because I live in a foreign country, no, make that 2 foreign countries. And that can be difficult, funny and always interesting. Need to soak it up. Documenting these experiences is almost a responsibility.

Because Salva and I have a place for dreaming, to call our very own.

and then there is that fact that enters into our every single conversation.

Yes, approaching 20 weeks of pregnancy, we are starting to act as though we are the first people ever to reproduce.
His words today: "I'm so excited, do you think everyone feels this way?"

If I can start writing again, perhaps I can make some space in my head for some other possible topics of conversation.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


The flight from Europe to Australia is a long one.. usually broken into a long leg of around 12 hours, a few hours in Asia or the Middle East, then another leg of 8 to 10 hours. The Asian airports are surreal. extremely interesting, yet so so boring. It is in Singapore that the reality of what I am doing hits home to me, whether I'm going away, or coming home. There is a moment when, after 20 months of hearing other languages in public places, somebody screams at their kid in Aussie, and the accent sounds bizarre, and you realise that you speak like that too, and you cringe inside.

Then, on the way back, the same thing happens in reverse. Somebody says something inane or ignorant in Italian or Spanish (usually Italian) and you cringe again, and you ask yourself where you belong... then you chide yourself for being such a wanker.

This is one aspect of travel that I love. I always do this trip alone. When you are high above the rest of the world, for such a long period of time you are alone with your semi-delirious thoughts. No-one expects you to answer your phone, your emails, or smell nice. How can they when you are so helplessly high. You are in limbo, in no particular place at all. What laws apply up there? -All of them, it would seem, if you listen to the QANTAS staff, but it seems kind of hard to believe doesn't it?

I am sometimes reserved, but mostly social and friendly in person. But on an international flight I don't want to speak to anyone really, because I don't want to break that no-expectations moment. It's a moment where being in-between is literal and right. So let's not talk about where I'm at when standing on the earth. I'll face that again when I touch down.

Now that I'm back I've had a big look at it. I'm waiting for responses from some masters programs. They might not accept me. One has already knocked me right back.

When S. got home, we spent a day wrapping ourselves up in huge sigh of relief. Then he started twitching, because I imagine the Buenos Aires/Valladolid transition was like someone interrupting the drum solo in Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick with Enya. I felt like I was the one who had changed the cd.

I spent a few days not knowing quite what to do with myself either. Then we left for Barcelona, now we(I) are(am) in love with the idea of living there. But I just feel like I'm waiting....

My horoscope says this:

You feel temporarily blocked now. Resistance and challenges from others or from outside situations suggest this is not a good time to try to force your will and desires onto the world, as friction is the only likely result.

So I'll keep waiting...

Thursday, 25 March 2010


7am is alright. So why does it feel so wrong? What time is it in Australia? No, that is not good maths to do. I should think about time in SPAIN, because that is where I am. Hmmm.
40 hours is a short time for say, a weekend in Paris, but a very LONG time to spend in aeroplanes, airports and buses.
40 hours is also a long time to wait, finally in the quiet peacefulness of your house for the person who makes it home. Longer when it's already been 6 weeks of waiting.
A month is not much time to spend in your home country with the family you came from after 20 months of emails and phone calls. It sure is a long time to stay away from your fun-loving, music-playing soul friend.
9 months is quite long to wait for family joking and perhaps a second round of trivial pursuit, but perhaps not quite enough time to study all the questions in the latest edition.

It's a tough one.

I will put photos up soon, I don't know how long that will take, only that it will be a long time.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


1. The sound of the ocean all through the night, through the day, whenever you start listening.
2. Walks with Dad over the headland. Glimpses of water so big that you almost have to look away...Because not only is it too beautiful, but just too big.
3. Short and sweet phonecalls with Salva. Hearing the bustle of Buenos Aires from the calm of Coffs Harbour. When I hang up the phone I can hear the contrasting, exaggerated silence.
4. Lots of laughs with my little brother.
5. Trivial Pursuit with all 4 family members. I get the easiest questions wrong and provoke incredulous laughter. My brother gets everything right. If he doesn't know the answer he makes an educated guess based on other knowledge. He won two games. I continue to imagine Salva playing with us and the fun we'd have if he were here.
6. Going through family photos for the first time ever. Not baby albums, but a suitcase filled with rolls and rolls of film developed, with their negatives. There are photos of me as a baby. Good ones, that look like me, except as a baby. There are some black and white portraits of my parents taken in 1984. Dad asked me to take a 26-years-later shot in black and white today. The differences aren't as dramatic as he thinks, which was nice.
7. Reading The Slap which took me back to Melbourne for an overdue immaginary visit.
8. The best chocolate biscuits money can buy.
9. The temporary relaxation of my low-caffeine policy.
10. Lots of sleep, for most of the sunless hours.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


A week ago I was alone, curled up in the fetal position on my bed in Valladolid, scribbling a story onto sheets of brown paper. It was one of those sunny wintry days that doesn't bring me much joy by the end of February, when I'm dreaming about the sensation of air on uncovered skin.

Today I am alone in my parent's house in Coffs Harbour, it's been raining pretty much since I got here, but the temperature is in the mid 20's and each breath of air is like a long drink of water.The humidity. My hair is like fairy floss in a messy bun. I'm still thinking about the same story, and trying to get around to editing it.

This is not any of the rural settings I grew up in. It's the realisation of my Mother's dream: a beachfront town house. Really clean and simple, white on white.

Me and my brother don't live here and you can tell, but it's not like an empty nest. They were never going to suffer from that kind of syndrome, probably because we've never stayed still long enough to get attached to any particular place, or associate any particular walls with the togetherness of this family. That's something that just happens wherever, whenever possible now. It's good.

Mum is at uni. She is a uni student, and I am not, right now. There is something strange about that.

My Dad has a new office in a new side of town. We've been walking over the headland together of a morning, and he goes to work later now.

There are 3 health shops in a 200m radius in Coffs' cbd. They have every type of essential oil you could want, and they don't even have to order them in. They just have them there in the shop. The supermarkets are also really, really full, of every ingredient ever cited in a cookbook. I can't remember if I ever used to cook the same thing 2 days in a row when I lived in Australia.

People are warm and relaxed. They talk to me and ask me where I live, if it comes up. People smile widely and say "That's great!" Although they probably usually havn't been there. They just think it's great that I don't live here. So do I, I suppose. Though it sure is nice to visit.

Monday, 15 February 2010


In my blog.
In my house.
In my heart.
Lots of quiet here lately.

I was temporarily abandoned in the name of sunnier climates and field research about a week ago. I'm leaving too (for somewhere else) in about a week, which will be so overdue and really nice. But in the meantime... All I can think of is this :(
A Colon and an open bracket are summing me up right now.

When he left the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. And we didn't have many degrees to play around with, I'm telling you.

I keep complaining about the cold to excuse myself for feeling so sad, because it doesn't feel right to just feel sad because he is working away for 6 weeks.

But maybe it is... He is my bestest friend in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

More on Masters.

When I was at Uni I would dread every semester thinking that it was all going to be so hard... and that this was the semester that everyone would see through me, and I would endure harsh punishment, humiliation and just general public criticism for not dedicating 10 hours per week per subject.

Once I'd get into the swing of things, however, everything usually panned out more than ok. I got really good results for most of my subjects, but I still don't know how much I deserved them.

My degree was in Linguistics and Italian Studies. The first comes so freakishly naturally to me it's not funny, and I'm not bragging, because being gifted in Linguistics gives you little to talk about with anyone.

Most people don't quite understand what it is. They say "What languages?" and then you need to explain what applied linguistics is, and you are usually left standing alone in a room at the dinner party, with one or two bored polite people if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, you find a fellow enthusiast, and we are similar to trekkies or those people who learn elvish which is the language Tolkein invented for fictional purposes. Not that there is anything wrong with these people, we all have our interests. It's just that it's isolating, you know?

Another problem with a degree in the way we use words is that it never leaves you. The observations are endless. Odds are, if you know someone who's a bit weird, but you just can't put your finger on it, I can tell you what the problem is. Then it'll annoy you too.

The second major was taught in a language I learnt onsite while still a teenager, so I feel like a bit of a cheat.

Now I'm looking into masters. In fine arts this time, and there is no hiding behind anything there. I'm determined to find my place in all of this.. but I have to say, I'm feeling quite vulnerable and out of my depth about it. Don't know how I'm going to fudge my way through this one, even if someone does accept me, somewhere...

Friday, 29 January 2010

A single mixed-media painting on 20 A4 pieces of recycled paper, to be hung together on a large wall in 20 separate recycled certificate frames.

Just imagine.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Fatalism for the Five-Year-Old

Now I know what the blog is all about. Sometimes, when someone is a bitch to you, you just need someone to agree with you about it. I'm feeling better about the last post.

I had an English class with some 5 year-old Spaniards today. I was naming an object on a colouring-in sheet, and telling them what colour it was. There were 4 students, and 2, maximum 3 of each coloured crayon. (You can see how the game has a competitive, musical chairs kind of feel to it...)

So I would call things out. "Strawberry......RED!" "Flower....BLUE!"

Then I got a bit distracted (the game is not that stimulating for me).
"Sock....RED! oh no, sorry... Sock.....GREEN!"

The two initial winners of the red crayons stared at me in disbelief, and down at their half red-coloured sock in dismay. The slower two seized the opportunity to grab the green crayons, and begin colouring their un-marked sock with chattery glee.

"Your sock is ruined. It's coloured half-red because Hayley played a trick on us. (not true) I'm glad I didn't win just then, because I would have wrecked my work",proclaimed one of them.

The guilt of having stuffed-up was outweighed by the feeling of having contributed to this valuble life-lesson kind of moment. So I didn't even offer the "winners" another photocopy...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lavender, Carrot Seed and Patchouli

I was supposed to be leaving for Argentina in a few weeks, but I'm not. My flight was booked with Air Comet, you know, the company that no longer exists?
Salva will be going on his own.

My Mum is a fan of the "everything happens for a reason" philosphic doctrine (more commonly referred to in academic circles as fatalism) Sometimes I think I've jumped on that bandwagon just because it's easier to stay positive that way. Easier to think that I was just not supposed to land in Buenos Aires now.

I recieved a really bitchy response from someone from a uni in Antwerp, Belgium where I applied to do a masters.

Of course Linguistics has nothing to do with Fine Arts, you'll need to sit an exam and enter at bachelor level.

Why did she have to say of course? It hurt my feelings.
I wrote back:

Thanks, I'm not interested in doing another bachelor degree. Are there any other universities in Antwerp that offer a master of Fine Arts?

It will all be the same. You won't get in
. -Replied the Belgian.

Now, I know it's not true, because I have a good chance of being accepted in Brussels and various Dutch places... where I've also applied, but I felt quite crushed when she wrote that. I didn't want to write anything back to her. So I thought I'd document the situation here.

Was that a bit nasty? Or is it just me?

I am all kinds of teary and bloated. The type of hormones that make you feel as though your blood were about 10 degrees warmer than usual, your breathing quite dangerously shallow. My voice box is Pandora's box. It should never be opened because it's full of exasperation. Shrill exasperation.

I need someone to slap me around a bit, because despite these little things which have been rocking my apparently fragile world, (and not in a positive way, like the way Led Zeppelin rocks my world...) there is absolutely. nothing. wrong here.

Life is a nearly silent evening, alone in my living room with a glass of red wine and generous wedge of French cheese, brought by a little french fairy who is staying with us for a while, and who knows all about the power of good energy.

I'm looking to aromatherapy to pull me out tonight. Hopefully I'll wake up grateful and serene.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Colour Therapy, Mixed-Media on Paper.

This piece is about cheering up.

I've been out of sorts for the last few days. I think I'm a little bit hormonal, I feel busy, and a little bit rushed. Not enough hours in these short winter days. I probably drink too much coffee.

I am disorganised, and I can't run a house.
I am demanding. Much more than I used to be. and exasperated.

This morning I caught myself planning to impose a rule about the washing- S doesn't touch it. Ever, until it has been washed and folded and placed in the appropriate drawer. This is not because I'm a control freak. It's because I'm so incapable of order that involving someone else in my master plan is just not an option. I can't afford to leave my drawer contents declaration open to artistic interpretation...

-Because winter is an endless search for missing socks. Neither he nor I ever wear matching ones, and when we visited his mother at Christmas, a comment was made, an eyebrow was raised in my direction, and my heart was broken. Just a little bit. Because I'm trying so hard.

I have a complex about my housekeeping skills, and it might be deduced from the previous sentence, I might be just a little bit over-sensitive about it. I feel like people who run a functioning house in a relaxed cycle of washing things and putting them away are the grown-ups, and I am a grotty teenager despite the best and most earnest of efforts.

When I saw him taking socks from the line this morning, (unmatched, because of course I didn't wash both socks in the pair in the same load...) and the shriek "Step away from the socks" was manipulated into a strangled sounding "are those socks matching?" , I relised I may have taken it too far.

I may have turned into some kind of moody, nagger... which isn't as fun for anyone.

All over non-matching socks, and an untimely raised eyebrow.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

24 Today.

My childhood storybooks are still with me (not physically, unfortunately). One of them is especially relevent today: The Choosing Day. The story is about a little girl who wakes up on her birthday and is granted her every choice of activity and the full attention of her Mother. It’s just great. She does the best stuff. She chooses cake for breakfast (which was written like it was a big deal, so she mustn’t have been a continental European where that is quite normal..). Then she chooses the day’s outfits for her and her Mum. A long pink dress for her, pearls and silver sparkly shoes. The Mum wears her wedding dress.

I can’t remember exactly what they do then... I know they go to the park and meet some friends, (but no Sangria) meet the Daddy of the family and have some icecream, before falling asleep in the dress and pearls.

I’m 24 today, which has got me feeling old and young at the same time. I feel old because my birthday, unfortunately, isn’t that special anymore.

I feel young because most of the people around me are older than me, and because I still walk around today wondering if people can tell it’s my birthday just by looking at me, and wanting to tell them proudly if they can’t. Then I feel old again because if they asked how old I am I wouldn’t be able to show them with my fingers.

Anyway. My birthday has a bit of bad Karma about it usually, but today has so far been the best one I’ve had in a while.

We had breakfast out, which we hadn’t done for a while. I had a glass of Verdejo with lunch, and bought myself some lacey undergarments, which, when worn under clothes, make one feel more dressed.

Now I’m going out to dinner with Salva, and plan to accompany this next meal with another glass of wine.

It’s not the perfect day that Lou Reed sang about, (due to sub-zero temperatures) but those days are gifts that can’t be planned. I’m happy enough as it is with today, slow, sweet and normal.

I’m off to consider myself at 24.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Dos and Don'ts of Christmas Travel.

It is so good to be home. To sleep in my own bed, eat my own cooking, do work and be productive, or not.
So good.

It was a draining trip. Too much food, family and organisation. I got to thinking that it's a pity how Christmas often turns out like that, but then I realised that most of our trips to Italy are not without their trials. So I thought I'd try to pinpoint some mistakes I made, and some I'm glad I didn't make. I'm sharing these reminders here in this public space in the name of extending some traveler's wisdom (or lack thereof).

Do spend time finding inexpensive, thoughtful presents for your extended family members. Watching this little one grin and flap with his yellow rubber duckie nearly had me sobbing.

Don't leave important administrative details (like an international money transfer for the house you are purchasing) to the morning of departure.

Do read weather reports prior to embarking on the 3 hour drive to the airport.

Don't necessarily believe them.

Do offload the joint that the flautist in your partner's band left in your car on the hippy that lives downstairs when you see him passing by, before leaving for the airport, remembering that "I'm just holding it for my friend" however true it may be, does not cut it with most law officials.

Don't expect any increased sociality from said hippy upon your return.

Do research the wherabouts of your airport terminal before leaving home

Don't ever, EVER park in airport carparks, no matter how late you are, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Do avoid rail travel in Italy at all costs, especially at Christmas, especially on southbound lines, and ESPECIALLY on night services.

Don't be too proud to beg conductors to be allowed to sit in first class because you're tired, because it's Christmas, and because you are not from around here.

Do wake up well before your stop the following morning.

Don't exit the train in a flurry of thrown luggage, strewn clothing and a spectacular flying leap over somebody's suitcase in the aisle, especially if you are carrying your partner's new laptop, and have the kind of bum that just can't hold a pair of jeans over it.

Do enjoy the culinary aspect of the festive season.

Don't eat every course a Southern Italian family serves you, or attend every meal they invite you to unless you are a subject in a scientific experiment.

Do propose your own personal preparation of a dish for a family meal to your Southern Italian Mother-in Law.

Don't expect her to take you up on the offer.

Do keep calm and sweet natured throughout the whole ordeal, and remember that you do love everybody present and that it is all worth it.

Don't think about your own funny little uncomplicated family too much.

Do try to relax, take some portraits, and talk regularly with said family.

Don't worry. The next one is a year away.

Photos are of Salva and Emanuele, Christmas Lunch, and Gabriella.

New Beginnings