On Leading a Double Life

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.
Home in England
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.
Home in Italy
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!

English Kathleen
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!
Italian Catalina
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. 


  1. How terrible to be torn between two places.
    How difficult to enjoy the best of both without being overwhelmed by it all.
    All the best in finding a simpler life!

  2. I recently read and posted on Patrick Kavanagh's "The Great Hunger", it is a truly beautiful work. Kavanagh is truly in need of a first rate biography

  3. Thanks Al - yes, a simpler life is what I'm craving. How's yours going? I'm just waiting to see the finished house!

    Mel - PK's poem is wonderful, and I agree about the biography. I'm not volunteering though - I have enough problems with the existing one!


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