Saturday 12 November 2022

update -September and October

Influenza, Birthday and no pizza

My birthday was a complete wash out!

A few days before I had started to feel unwell and by my birthday,  I  had bad flu symptoms. I had caught it from Max who had had it the week before. He had had a few days off and didn’t seem too bad but had kindly decided to share his germs with me.

 The boys had arranged a surprise for me in the evening and it had to be cancelled. ( I still don’t know what it was !)

 I was looking forward to a take away pizza in the evening instead of my surprise, but the rain was so bad that the delivery had to be cancelled as the chap got stuck in the flood water. I ended up having toast for my “ special “ evening meal. 


In addition to this disastrous evening meal, I was not talking to any of the boys because at lunchtime they had gone out together, had  had panini and chips and hadn’t brought back any for me. Apparently, I hadn’t telepathically let them know that I would like some food bringing back!

I was not impressed with eating toast twice in one day nor being neglected as they went off enjoying themselves instead of sympathising with me! I managed to dose myself with enough tablets so that I could watch a film on the terrace in the evening. I was promised a pizza night when I was better. I am still waiting…


The following week Milo became ill and a few days later Andrew came down with it too. We spent a whole month between us not feeling well, it was a nightmare. 


Now, this was a problem as we had to plan an emergency trip to Sicily and we needed everyone fit and well.


Sicily -again!

When we had been in Sicily in June, we had looked at quite a few houses with the idea that if we found one that suited our criteria then we would put in an offer. This was because we had sold our house in Brinkhill. Our criteria list was quite long and detailed with fanciful ideas that we could buy a house with a sea view, land and a mountain view, two bathrooms 
( it is not fun sharing with teenagers), enough bedrooms and in a good enough condition that we could live in it or stop in it. Also, we wanted a house where we could watch an erupting volcano. 

We found some potential houses. One in a perfect condition, one that needed doing up and one that we could extend but still stop in it.

We put in an offer with one house while we were still in Sicily but, luckily, it came to nothing, as this wasn’t the house that was meant to be, it didn’t fit all of our criteria but we liked the windows as they were large.

The second house that we put in an offer for, was in a better position with a stunning view of the sea, a terraced garden and a view of the mountain from the back bedroom. It had 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

We had viewed it twice but the small traditional windows had put us off. When we had got back from Sicily, I realised that whatever I did, this little house would pop into my head like it was calling to me. I decided to scrutinise all our photos to either dismiss my obsessive thoughts or pursue them. As I was looking through our photographs, I realised that we had been so daft. This house was in an excellent position and it had all the things on our list, the windows were a small, insignificant issue. I put my case together and I had a “ business” talk with Andrew as we took Andy for a walk. Andrew, too realised, in a light bulb moment, that this was the house for us. Both the boys liked the house.

We decided to put in an offer.

In Italy, if your offer is accepted by the seller, then you are bound to carry on with the deal. You have to pay a deposit to show that you are serious and then there is no going back or you have to forfeit your deposit. 

 Our offer was accepted, we paid the deposit and a date was set for the final signing. We had to try and decide how we could do this from India.

The estate agent said to us that we could get a power of attorney for Inga, a colleague who worked with him, if we couldn’t get there ourselves.


 He was right but in India this would mean flying to Delhi to the Italian embassy, booking an appointment,  confirming the appointment, going to the appointment and actually getting through the appointment with no hitches. We have had several friends who have done this for different countries, only to arrive at the embassy to be told the appointment was cancelled and to come back another day(!), or to find they had been given the wrong information about the paperwork ( remember this is India) It is not the countries themselves who get it wrong! 

We know people who have had to fly twice to sort everything out. We really didn’t have enough time for anything to go wrong as we only had about a month so we double checked that the signing date was permanently fixed and booked our flights. All this was happening as we fought the flu!

 We decided that Max and Milo needed to go with us, of course, and wrote to school to say that they would be away for a few days.

Meanwhile, I researched as much information as I could about transferring money, rules on buying houses in Italy etc.


Luckily, we realised in time that we had to transfer all the money for the house and the notary at least a week before the signing. We sent the money and crossed our fingers.


Getting there

Living in India means it is quite a trek to get somewhere other than India. There are not that many straightforward routes to get to Catania. The best one was to fly to Dubai, stop overnight, get on the early morning flight to Catania and to do the same in reverse. So, two days travelling each way. We were limited to our time in Sicily as Andrew needed to get back to work and Max was going on his annual school camping trip.

Max and Milo were more excited that we would be stopping in Dubai again as they had visited a great restaurant that served wonderful burgers. It seemed their only aim in life, when we said about Dubai, was to go there!


On the 1st October we set off. We were so excited at the prospect that we might finally buy house while the boys were excited that they could eat a decent burger!


Both flights were good. The one to Sicily was fascinating because we flew over the Suez canal and Egypt. The view from the plane was so clear, we could see a lot of detail and buildings.


We had landed in Catania by lunchtime and were eating fantastic Sicilian food by 2pm at Avril’s house.


The final signing


The next day ( Monday 3rd October ) we had to go to Acireale at 4pm. It is about 30 minutes away. We had to go to the notary’s office to complete the final signing for the house. Before that, earlier in the day, we had managed to go and get SIM cards for our phones so that we had Italian numbers. The boys thought it was great. It also meant we could communicate.

Milo was feeling unwell as he had a slight sniffle so we had left him at Avril’s house. Meanwhile, Andrew had started to cough so I kept giving him sweets to shut him up when we were in the office. Max came with us but spent most of the time on his phone oblivious to his surroundings.


The signing for the house was very interesting. We had to sign a lot papers along with the estate agent and Inga ( who could now do the power of attorney as she was in front of us and then we didn’t need to pay for an interpreter. Having an interpreter takes twice as long and the notary wanted to get on. Although, Fabrizio did a running translation anyway, so we knew exactly what was going on. I also understand enough Italian to follow it too) The owner’s brother was there and he had to sign all the papers too. 


He had a mysterious blue carrier bag with him that was plonked on the table.


At a given moment near the end of the proceedings, the notary went into a frenzied signing of all the papers, then he said  “it is done” and the blue carrier bag was passed to us and everyone clapped.


 It contained all the keys to our new house. 


Yay! We were now the owners of a villa in Sicily.


Andrew had a good coughing fit in celebration and Max looked up from his phone.


We said good bye to everyone and walked past an enormous queue of people waiting to see the notary -that was why he was going so fast. We excitedly set off to go and fetch Milo so we could go to the house.




 The house at sunrise



Our new house


Avril had a lesson so she couldn’t come with us and it was getting rather late ( 7:30 pm) so we knew that we wouldn’t be stopping the night there yet. We had last seen the house in June and we were really beginning to wonder what we had done.

Unfortunately, Milo seemed unwell with cold symptoms but he wanted to see the house.

The previous owner had had a custodian to look after the house as he lived in the UK and this guy was waiting to show us around the house and to hand over his keys. 

His name is Fabio. A lovely chap, and he said that if we wanted, he would stay on as custodian, if we wanted to think about it.


The house was even better than we had remembered, and we spent some time walking around and switching the lights on and off and exploring. 

We decided that we would go back to Avril’s, have a celebratory pizza and then get up early to go back to the house. 


Bless her, Avril had set the table and got some champagne, but both Andrew and Milo were not well and both went to bed. It was not looking good on the health front.

Avril, Max and I sat outside on her balcony, munching on yummy pizza while Andrew and Milo slept. We put the champagne back in the fridge for another time.


Just before I went to bed, I decided to check on Milo and it was just as well I did. He had his sweatshirt and a woolly hat on in bed as he felt cold but he was dripping with sweat. He was like a mini furnace. Avril and I got the fans blowing on him, his extra layers removed and medicine given.


Andrew was no better ……




Our house is in the village of Vena, near Piedimonte Etneo. Vena is an old village dating from the 8th century. A group of monks were said to be travelling with a donkey. On the donkey’s back was a statue of the Virgin Mary. As the monks and the donkey were climbing up the mountainside, they stopped to rest. The donkey managed to kick at a mud wall and out popped some spring water. The monks said it was a miracle as there was a vein ( Vena) of water. They set up a sanctuary to the Madonna where the water had sprouted from the mountainside. It is still there today but as a beautiful church. This constant flow of water is still running today outside the church and, in fact, we went several times to fill some bottles of water to drink, as it is pure enough to drink.


Day 1 at the house.


We left Milo in bed to sleep while we got ready but Andrew seemed better ( after lots of paracetamol)

We got together cleaning mops and buckets, cloths and anything we could think of and got ready to leave. Milo woke up and said he was ok, so off we went.


We stopped at the village (Presa) the one before our village, for a coffee and a pastry and then we went to the house.

 This is Presa the village below Vena


We arrived and were all very excited and set about cleaning.

It didn’t take very long as It was not too dirty, just a bit dusty from being left for a while.


In the house there were 4 decent sized beds, four wardrobes, two sofas, a fridge freezer, a table and chairs and a few sticks of furniture that would tide us over to start with.


Avril had lessons in the afternoon so she had to go and we decided that we needed a trip to IKEA in Catania to buy some bedding and basic things. It takes about 50 minutes when we drop down from the village to the motorway.





IKEA did rather well out of us on that day.

We managed to buy quite a lot. We spent a couple of hours in a buying frenzy before Andrew and Milo started to feel unwell again.

We managed to get all the stuff in the car. We were worried that we may have to leave a child or two behind, but we managed to all squeeze in. We set off on our journey back to the house. 

We were enjoying our freedom so much where we could just jump into a car and go where we wanted. Also, the fact that we didn’t have to sit in slow queued traffic was blissful too. There were none of the bumpy roads, pot holes or loud beeping traffic. Some people think that Sicilians are mad drivers but not compared to Bangalore. Everything seemed less stressful and calm. We were calm and relaxed.

After peeling out of the car when we got back, we managed to unload the car, make the beds and we spent the first night in our new home.



Influenza again 

The next day, Andrew and Milo continued to feel ill with both of them feeling cold, feverish and looking really grey ( to the point that I considered offering them some foundation make up) 

Before they had become worse, I had decided that I was taking no risks and I had resorted to wearing my mask full time ( even in bed, a bit extreme but what they had seemed really nasty) I think this was a good idea as I managed to avoid the flu.

Max and I wandered around the house or sat on the terrace. Then, he started to feel unwell and, soon enough, they were all out of action and either in bed or lying on the sofas. 

Andrew would have an hour where he would feel better but for at least 7 days we didn’t go to a restaurant or eat out, it was awful. The fact that there were restaurants without spicy food nearby and I could not go, was maddening. Andrew managed to stay up long enough one day to go and buy a TV  so at least we could watch something. Andrew had bought a firestick from India so we could use the hotspots on our phones to log on as we didn’t have time to sort any internet out. It is the first time in ages that we had watched a lot of TV.


Derek and Christine arrive.


As Sicily is so much easier to get to than India ( and there’s no visa problem – I‘ll explain about that later .) then Andrew’s mum and dad can fly to see us. 

This was late on Saturday night. Andrew was feeling well enough now to drive to the airport to fetch them. He had a long sleep in the afternoon to boost his energy levels. Max had said he would go to act as the map reader but he couldn’t even get out of bed to get a drink. Milo fell asleep early ( a rare occurrence as he is like the Duracell bunny on those TV adverts) so he was obviously still unwell.

 I was promoted and appointed chief map reader and assistant instead.

The road to the airport has lots of diversions at the moment and it is tricky to find. I did manage to make one mistake and we ended up driving alongside the runway at the airport ( there was a fence, we weren’t literally next to the runway!). It was quite a good detour though, as we got a good view of the planes. 


We waited at the arrivals hall and it seemed as if all of the UK’s retired people had got off the plane at once. Sicily is obviously becoming more popular. The airport was packed and it was gone midnight. We saw Derek and Christine appear and got them loaded into the car.

Derek had had a heavy cold before he set off  but was feeling better. As they landed, Christine was feeling unwell. I was still in my mask! 


Sunday lunch

In Presa, there is a little shop/ café, a pharmacist, a wine bar and a pizza restaurant. The night before we had had a take away pizza from there and it was really good. We had asked if they did Sunday lunch and they replied yes, what do you want?

Not knowing what we might like the lady had said they would prepare a Sicilian typical lunch.  

After Derek and Christine had come to see the house with Avril (for the first time) we went to the restaurant after being inside for the best part of the week. It was wonderful. 

We had anti -pasta to start with, which is mixture of fresh cheeses, olives, pickles  and cooked salami/ ham.

Then we had macaroni cooked with braised beef. 

We were stuffed by this point but there was another course to come.

Roast potatoes and Sicilian sausages. ( we had to have a doggy bag for Max and Milo as they couldn’t eat any more due to their blocked noses and not feeling well again )

For sweet, there was panna cotta .


And, of course, we had wine that was so drinkable. 


We rolled back to the house. Max went back to bed and we left him to sleep. Avril sat and admired the view and stayed in case Max wanted anything and the rest of us decided to go for a walk.

 As our house is in a beautiful setting for walking and as everyone had been too ill, we hadn’t yet gone for a walk. Having consulted Google earth, I knew the way from our house down to the water fountain in Vena. There was a path that the monks had taken all those years ago through the wooded area.


It was a lovely walk but extremely steep, it pulled on our legs and we were going downhill. Christine was coughing quite a bit and we said that we could turn around and go back. But she decided to carry on. We found the water fountain and all had a drink. We looked around the village square and had a breather looking at the sea view.

 Christine doing a spot of gardening 


Christine decided that she couldn’t really walk back as her chest was hurting so we called Avril to the rescue. Derek, Andrew and Milo said that they would walk back.

Avril arrived and we quickly went back to the house and got ready to make a cup of tea for everyone. We had been given our smuggled quota of English teabags and we were very happy.

Then, Christine looked alarmed as she patted her cardigan pockets. She realised that she had lost her mobile phone! 

Avril and Christine jumped back in the car and headed back to the village square where they found the phone in the area where we had had a sit down admiring the view.




Waiting to sign the contract

 We have a carport and a garage

The view from one of the terraces at sunrise

where the donkey kicked the wall and the water appeared

The local pizzeria in Presa. There is pizzeria down our actual lane but we didn't get to try it as it is only open at the weekends. We will be able to walk there from the house

Gas delivery

Presa again

on our walk down the hill from Vena to Presa

The view from the main terrace at night

 Vena from lower down

 At night with the lights on

Emergency over, we had a cup of tea and admired the sea view on our terrace.



The rest of the week was spent doing fiddly things like going to see the bank manager ( he is very nice) and getting the security cameras working. We also decided that keeping Fabio on as the custodian would be a good idea until we knew more about the house and what we were going to do.


We asked him to come to the house and he came with his girlfriend, Rosella. Both of them are lovely and keen to help. Fabio travels with an enormous toolkit in the boot of his car as he is an electrician/ handy man. As he showed us the house, he realised that we needed more water delivering as the previous owner’s brother had been in the house before we arrived and Fabio had been on holiday.

There is a big water tank that needs filling down by the gate. A pump sends the water up to another tank in the house. There is also a well ( and a huge underground storage tank for rainwater from the house roof)

It was getting late when they had arrived but Fabio rang his mate, Pepe the water man, and after some convincing he came quickly to fill the tank.


While we were doing that, we checked the gas tank and decided to arrange that too before the prices went up.


Time was going quickly and soon Friday had arrived and we needed to return to India. 

Milo was miffed that he hadn’t had time to go walking on the top of Etna, mountain biking or adventuring in the Etna park on the specialist climbing equipment. He had not been to his favourite restaurant, beach or to Taormina. He had not been on the train to Catania or on the ferry over to Italy. We had not seen any of our Sicilian friends. 


We have told him that when we return next year, we can do all of these things as the house is ours and we can go for the whole summer next year or go whenever we want.




Renting the house out


We have had lots of people asking if they can go and stop in the house. At the moment, we can’t really let anyone stay until we get the rules sorted out. Brexit, visas, local taxes, turning it round (and the fact that we are rather possessive about the house as we love it so much) are amongst the problems. We are thinking what we want to do.




E- visas


Visas are a problem, for Italy for us, if we want to live there after India( I’m researching) and for people coming from the UK to India. My step -mother, Diane was supposed to come to India for Milo’s birthday but everything went pear shaped when the visas did not arrive in time and the flights had to be cancelled. To rebook the flights within the next following of weeks of that date meant paying at least £2,000 more for the same flights. We were all so disappointed and Milo was devastated as he considered his Granny coming on his birthday his treat. Diane was beside herself. 


People from the UK used to be able to book e -visas and it was quick and easy but now India and the UK are having a bit of a sulk with  each other over visas. People from the UK need a paper visa. To get one means getting an appointment (hard to get) at a visa centre and then having to travel to the centre.  We know of people having to go long distances and then having to queue for hours. The wait after the application can be long too. I think people from India are having similar problems getting visas for the UK.


When Rishi Sunak was elected, India was very proud thinking that he would sort it all quickly. They seem to be coming round to the fact that he is actually British. The visa situation may take some time… 



Max plays the guitar.


Max is enjoying entertaining people with his guitar and he did another concert with some young people from Palm Meadows.

They played at the clubhouse. 

Both Max and Milo will be joining in with a concert at the local school in December.



The Newspapers.


In the Times of India, stories often appear that you might think are made up but usually there are grisly photos to back up these stories. They usually include the death of a large of group of people all in one go ( 12 were electrocuted recently when the metal float they were on touched a live wire, luckily the other 30 had walked away from the float to avoid a large puddle and so were not touching the float) or sad cases that really are unbelievable.


There was a recent case where a woman had been murdered in a “hotel“, where gentlemen like to visit ladies when they are not working. The hotel owner and her boyfriend decided to dispose of the body in the local lake. They didn’t have a car so they propped the dead body in between them on their motorbike, to make it look like the person was still alive ( really?)  The lake was quite a long way away and the journey was caught on CCTV cameras. The chap was driving too quickly when he drove over a speed bump and all three fell off the bike. Local people rushed to help and, of course, discovered that one of the people had “died”. The couple tried to say “leave us alone” and to put the dead person back on the bike but the body was taken to the hospital where the doctors realised that the person had been dead for some time.

The excuse that the couple made was that they didn’t realise that the person was dead when they set off and it was nothing to do with them.


Another sad case was where a young ten -year- old boy had drowned in the local lake. The villagers had heard a rumour that if a body is covered in salt and enough prayers are said, the person will come back to life. So, they ordered an enormous amount of salt and put it all around the boy, his face still showing so that he could breathe when he was brought back to life with the magic powers of the salt. It was reported that after a few days nothing had happened and it didn’t work. The shocking words that accompanied the report was that at least the villagers had plenty of salt! 


Sometimes when a tragic death is reported, the first and major thing that is said is not how much the person will be missed but that it is a shame that the person is the only wage earner in the family and what will they do now for money ? It is like the person is only valued as to how much they earn. It may be the way they report things here.


There have also been a few deaths recently of young children in schools through neglect or abuse from adults within the school. The reports are there and sensationalised but then there no follow ups of what has happened and there seems to be no reported horror at what has happened. This could be due to something being covered up, lack of interest or the papers have moved on to the next unbelievable horror. Today there is a report where a young girl thought that the teacher had  humiliated her in front of the class and she committed suicide. Her family took her body to the school to stage a protest. 



There have been several tiger and leopard eating people recently too. The tigers and leopards having come out of the forests looking for food. Usually, they will catch these straying ‘big cats’ and set them free in more protected forest areas. The families of the people will be paid a sum of money from the government as compensation.


The rains have increased the cobra dispersal and they are biting more people. Added to the people fatality list, there have been a few cases where children have been killed due to roaming packs of dogs.


I can’t begin to report how many child murders and attacks are in the papers each week. Gang attacks of young girls seems to be on the increase ( maybe, maybe not, but there are an awful lot in the papers at the moment ) or this could be due to the fact they are now being reported more.

Sometimes there will be several incidents reported on the same page, the other day there were 6.

On a lighter note, at the factory the other day the power kept going off. Andrew asked someone to ring the electricity company to see what was going on. The reply, there appears to be a monkey jumping up and down on the wires and he won’t come down. Andrew asked if they could try to get a photo for the papers…



New clothes


We finally gave in and bought some super smart Indian clothes as we were invited on an evening out and it was suggested that it would be nice if we all wore ethnic clothes. I bought a beautiful new sari but didn’t have enough time to get it sewn into a skirt that is easier to put on. Andrew bought a traditional outfit too. The week before I tried to do the Sari myself and watched lots of step- by- step videos but it was no good. I was worried that it might come loose and I would be left standing and showing everyone what I had bought from Marks and Spencer’s on my last trip. Petra sent her maid on the night we were going out and she dressed me. By the time I left the house, I had so many pins in that sari that it was going nowhere. It stayed on all night and I had no problems. 

The restaurant we went to was a Rajasthani Vegan restaurant. The food was lovely ( according to Andrew as it had an NFC rating -Not For Carla) Usually, when we go out and mill amongst people, I can hide the fact that I don’t eat the food when it is too spicy. But this time we were sat a huge table with lots of waiters. I was sat in the middle and it was obvious that I was not eating. We explained our NFC coding and the other people when they tasted the food were saying NFC, NFC ! There were some hardened spice eaters and they found some dishes spicy. ( but delicious) The owner realised that I was struggling and told me not to eat anything( there were about 6 courses) as it was all medium spice. She very kindly got the chef to make me a mushroom risotto. It was just perfect with no spice! 

This restaurant was in a beautiful setting and the ethics behind it were well thought through.




Another event was the Oktoberfest at the famous Bangalore Club in the city centre. A band was visiting from Munich and the atmosphere was wonderful. We had these huge beer carafes with an ice compartment inside that kept the beer cold. 

We could have German sausages and German food. Getting the food was fun as we had to buy food coupons first, in small amounts of 10, 20 and 50 rupees. This caused major problems as it meant doing a  long calculation before you set off for the food tent that you wanted, to make sure you had enough “ money”. We had a wonderful day though.




Nightclubbing on a school night


A new restaurant/club was opening and we were invited to it. It had a beautiful waterfall and open area. As the night wore on, the local famous DJ appeared (with his minders) and they turned the music up. It was very good. A chap got talking to Andrew and our group while I was sipping on my drink. I can’t hear what anyone says when there is loud music, I’m really deaf. After a while, this chap came and said “ do you like dancing ?” 

“yes,” I said. So, he grabbed my hand and took me to dance. 

After a couple of loud songs, he leaned forward and said,” Do you know Andrew?” 

So, I replied that I was married to him. This poor bloke stopped still and looked so shocked. He put his head in his hands.

“But I didn’t ask his permission,” he said looking really worried, over towards Andrew. 

“You don’t need permission,” I said. “I can make my own decisions and dance with anyone I like. He is not bothered. Look!” Andrew, of course, was not watching and was chatting with the rest of the group.

“ I am so honoured to be able to dance with you, I feel so emotional,” the chap said.

Poor bloke! We had a great time on the dance floor and joined in with some others as in India everyone dances together. 


It was now gone midnight and it was Thursday, now Friday. Andrew had to be at work early, up at 5 , so we thought that we should go. Usually, it takes about 30 minutes from where we were but there were night roadworks and so it took much longer. We got in about 1:30 -2 am


We have decided that staying out late on a “school “ night when you have to get up early is not a good idea any more.


















Update ! April 2024

  20 people sharing 2 menus! When we go to a restaurant, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to keep a straight face so that we do not ups...