Saturday, 15 January 2022

Between England and Italy

 Yes, it was a bit hectic both before and after Christmas. I had some deadlines for my writing and for my paintings that I wished to complete before going on holiday. I managed to write a few commissioned reviews of poetry collections and paint some watercolours of theBasingstoke canal for a charity auction to raise money to replace the Kitty. I also produced some Christmas cards and watercolours of roses I gave as a present to friends and family. On top of that, I applied for jobs as a teaching assistant in secondary schools in my area and had three interviews in two weeks just before the break. The whole thing was engaging and interesting but a big commitment too. Eventually I got a job, full time at The Park School in Woking, just 15 minutes’ drive from my home. I am very happy about the role. I worked as an academic
mentor in universities during my PhD course and found the job rewarding. Supporting students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and seeing them achieve their targets is a great satisfaction. The experience is invaluable and enriching not only on a human level but also in terms of understanding different ways of looking at the world. I have just completed two weeks and am very happy about the ethos and theorganisation of the school. The students I am supporting are sweet, funny and vulnerable in their own way but also unique. I believe they have a great opportunity to learn and grow at The Park. The lessons are interesting and fun at the same time and they can follow a curriculum, learn life skills and socialise in a safe environment. My colleagues are helpful and welcoming, which is an extra bonus. I feel at ease and still have time to carry on with my reading, writing, crochet and my paintings as I do not have extra work to do at home, such as preparing lessons or marking papers.

Before leaving for Italy, I was very worried about the omicron variant and all the rules and restrictions that were added at the last minute. The situation was a bit confusing in England as the cases increased but the celebrations were not cancelled though they said we all needed to be careful about social gatherings. After two years of postponing our visit to Italy, we eventually decided not to cancel our trip this time and take the risk. My daughter did all the research for the Covid checks and sorted out the tests and the papers to print. We needed three doses to have the ‘super green pass’ that allowed us to take public transports, access restaurants, museums, cinemas, gyms, pools etc., plus a certified test to board the flight. The checks were very strict both at airport and in Italy. The bar code was regularly scanned and there was no way to enter a place without the third dose. Face masks were compulsory as well even in the open air, preferably the FPP2 type. On the airplane only the FPP2 type was accepted and on the flight we had to wear our coats or tuck them under the seats.

Now the rules are getting even stricter than when I was in Italy at Christmas. Vaccination is compulsory for over 50s or you get fined and you can’t go to work but have to stay at home unpaid if you don’t have at least two doses. These rules are now laws that will be fully implemented by the middle of February. Children are going to be vaccinated too. I heard about an Anglo-Italian family who travelled from Kent to Lombardy to have their child vaccinated against Covid. Other European countries had lockdown or partial lockdown such as Austria, The Netherlands and Germany. The mantra seems to be ‘get the jab’ or you will be cut out from work and social life. The news both in Italy and in the UK emphasised the fact that the antivaxxers often end up in hospital and put at risk the life of other people spreading the virus and delaying health procedures because of the burden on the intensive care system in particular. On TV I saw some no-vax rallies in Italy where people were quite aggressive and claimed not to trust the government. They believe it is all a lie and that behind the ‘Covid scam’ there are drug companies whose only purpose is to make money. Antivaxxers also believe that doctors inject a micro chip in your body with the vaccine to control your movements and thoughts. They think that behind the pandemic there is a conspiracy to make people injected with a vaccine that will eventually kill them to achieve a global depopulation. Some people are also afraid of the side effects, as they say that the reasons why a number of people who had problems or even died after the vaccination are not clear. A doctor from Padova, an immunologist who is pro-vaccine, received a threatening letter with a bullet inside that said to stop campaigning for children’s vaccinations or they would shoot her. Even getting tested was hard during Christmas time. There were long queues at hospitals and pharmacies and at a certain point they ran out of the molecular tests, only rapid tests were available.

Before leaving I followed Strictly Come Dancing and enjoyed it until the last minute.

Though my favourite couple was Rose and Giovanni, who eventually won, I must confess this year it was hard to choose. The final seemed less competitive without AJ Odudu, though the last two couples were both fantastic. I think the prize should have been split this time just to be fair. I also had a bad experience in late November selling kimono, haori (short kimono) and obi (sashes) at a vintage auction. I brought them from Japan when I visited my daughter before the pandemic. I sold some of them on Facebook marketplace and then decided to try selling them at auction. They sold well but the percentage (commissions plus VAT) the auctioneers took at the end was so high that we received in our pockets less than half the price that the whole lot was sold for. I promised myself to never repeat this experience again.

We visited my autistic daughter Valentina before leaving. We spent a whole day with her and had great fun helping her decorate her place. She loved the food I cooked for her and was overjoyed with the presents. Now her apartment is refurbished; the walls are lined in hard white plastic so she cannot scratch them. She also has a new floor and a new sofa. Videos and TV programs are projected on the wall through a camera from a computer, so she has no chance to hit and break the TV screen. When we came back we could not see her for two weeks as she got Covid, though she had no symptoms because she was vaccinated. Now her place is in lockdown to protect the staff. We skype with her every week and she seems happy. This pandemic seems never-ending, but what can we do against it? Take precautions and get jabbed seem the only alternatives we have. And hope it will weaken and be over soon.

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