Writers always lead double lives - they may be present in body, but their minds are elsewhere! But, for a couple of years now, I’ve been leading a double-double life. There’s the writing me - working on one book, mulling another, scribbling and thinking - while also being the family me - sociable, having friends round for a meal, having drinks in the bar, spending time with my children, playing with my grandchildren.
But now there are two other lives as well - ever since Neil decided that he wanted to be based in Italy for his sculpture (the only sensible decision!) I’ve become completely divided. I have an Italian life and an English life and I swap between them every couple of weeks, going from Catalina to Kathleen and back again. Different languages, different clothes, different food - it’s as though I’ve become two different people and it’s proving very stressful.
I have to keep going back to England because there’s research to be done for books, people I have to talk to, writers’ events at festivals and in bookshops. So much of my writers’ life is in England. And then there’s the garden to salvage and a house to keep intact. In Italy I'm without most of my reference books, my cds, bits and pieces of personal stuff I sometimes need. Whatever I want always seems to be in the other country!
In Italy I miss my children and grandchildren, English friends, my cat Heathcliff; in England I miss the sunshine and the Italian way of life - all the friends I’ve met here - and most of all Neil, who has taken root in the marble mountains. In England I slot back into familiar routines, know how things work - how to get about. In Italy I’m always an alien, stumbling over verbs and unfamiliar phrases, getting things wrong because I don’t know enough. Living in another country is tough! And how do you deal with that strange sense of belonging - what the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh called ‘the Great Hunger’ - feeling rooted, part of the history of a place, getting your identity from it. Perhaps I’m just doomed to be a nomad!
I love my eccentric English home and I love my little rented house in the olive grove. Which to choose? I suppose the crunch will come next year when our 3 year tenancy is up. In the meantime, I’ll just carry on commuting between one life and another.
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|Home in Italy|