Our made up wedding

IMG_4202When Nigel and I decided to get married, in my mind I knew exactly what I wanted: a beautiful summer day, lovely little church in my dad’s village, service with meaningful words in both english and italian, family and friends from all over the worlds gathered around us, music, good food…simple and effective!

Of course in those pre-internet days organising intercontinental weddings had its challenges and my dream wedding was perhaps less simple then I expected.

I decided to overcome the first obstacle by choosing to have the reception at my parents farm and letting my mother organise the perfect wedding lunch, involving all the cooks in the village, all somehow related to our family! It was going to be a small affair so I knew it shouldn’t have been too stressful and I trusted her with food!

My task was to find a way to organise the ceremony and this, as it happens, was not very straightforward.

Getting married in a garden, a boat, a beach was a concept totally foreign to me, until I arrived in Melbourne, where all this was possible! The option of having a celebrant to marry you wherever you like was wonderful and, before I knew it, I started fantasising!I I had in mind the lovely little church in the country but somewhere dear to me was going to be just as magic. Vallecrosia’s Comune was not that place and I new it.

IMG_4203But Nigel is jewish and the idea of the little church soon became obsolete.

In the absence of emails I had to resort to the good, old phone. I called the priest from my parents’ parish. I explained in very few words (in those days talking to Italy cost 1 dollar per minute, I had to be brief!) our situation and Don Agostino was almost as excited as I was, he loved the idea of performing an interfaith marriage! He told me that, to be married in a church Nigel would need to sign a form declaring he would bring up his children as catholic. No signature, no church! Don Agostino reassured me that it was just a formality and our children could have been brought up however we wanted. I am sure the bishop wouldn’t have approved but his relaxed approach worked for me and I knew instantly that he was the right person for the job!

Nigel, on the other hand, was outraged by the priest’s lack of integrity and he adamantly refused to sign any such declaration. A different cultural approach: Italian completely relaxed, and even a little thrilled, about breaking the rules, Australian shocked by such suggestion!

On my second call I told the priest that Nigel would not sign and he congratulated me for having chosen such a righteous man.

Nothing could dishearten us and we went on to the second option: somewhere just as magic!

We decided that we could have the ceremony in my parents farm, where we were going to have the wedding reception. Don Agostino loved the idea, at this stage he was really getting into the groove, and he told me that, as a formality (another one!)he had to speak to the bishop but he was sure it wouldn’t have been a problem.

IMG_4181This time it was the bishop to be outraged by such proposal! Don Agostino and I were not discouraged and he came up with an idea: he would perform the wedding wherever we wanted, we could write our own service and we could go to the local town hall to sign the papers.

And this is what we did. My mum organised the food, my auntie the flowers, my cousin the music and my uncle the photographs. A true family affair! Don Agostino ran the service and he promised he would not mention Jesus! He was true to his word, even though the jewish part of the family did not speak italian. We wrote our own vows and our friends and family read meaningful poems and psalms, in italian and english. At the end of the ceremony we stepped on a glass, like in all good jewish wedding. And we were married!

In fact we weren’t. We ate delicious food, spent time with people we love, cried and laughed, danced all night. A truly perfect wedding day but at the end of it we weren’t really married. For that we had to wait a few more days when, with a couple of witnesses, we went up to the soulless Comune di Vallecrosia where we signed our papers.

It might not have been that simple, but it certainly was effective! It was a special day and, most of all, it was completely our. IMG_4204

 

 

 

 

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Quando in Australia si andava in nave – Storie di donne migranti

Un paio d’anni fa’ ho trovato un annuncio sul giornale locale: cercasi persona interessata a leggere in italiano ai residenti di una casa di riposo. 

Dopo aver letto per anni libri italiani alle mie bambine, temevo davvero che la mia carriera di lettrice “a voce alta” fosse finita. Invece no! Ogni lunedì ci ritroviamo nel nostro salottino/biblioteca, comodamente sedute, con scialletti e copertine e ci abbandoniamo a storie di guerra e tradimento, amori e passioni, drammi e tragedie!

Queste meravigliose signore, oltre ad essere splendide ed attente ascoltatrici, hanno valigie si storie da raccontare e, puntualmente, riesco a strappare qualche ricordo. Ed e’ da qui che sorge l’idea di raccogliere questi ricordi e trascriverli. Ne parlo con la mia amica Claudia, fondatrice di Expatclic, e mi propone di scrivere un articolo per il sito.

Le mie signore sono subito entusiaste di partecipare al mio progetto ed ecco qui il risultato: QUANDO IN AUSTRALIA SI ANDAVA IN NAVE – STORIE DI DONNE MIGRANTI

Buona lettura!

 

A lot more then grief – losing someone special when you are far

A year ago we were getting ready to go home for Christmas and plans for lunch, dinner and other celebrations were well on their way. I spent hours discussing menus and logistic with my mum and my auntie Anna and I enjoyed the dynamics and little squabbles between the two of them. This is certainly one of the best aspects of living on the other side of the world, things that would be annoying if you were there all the time, become quite endearing!

My Auntie Anna is my dad younger sister and she was only 18 when I was born, the first baby in the family. I immediately became her little doll. We have always had a special bond, she lived very close to us and I spent a lot of time with her while I was growing up. When I was six my cousin was born and perhaps I was a little bit jealous of his intrusion, but she had a lot of love to give and she never made me feel like I was missing out. In fact I embraced my new role as the older cousin and, consequently, Luca and I are incredibly close.

My mum is an only child and my auntie became the sister she never had. Although incredibly different, they shared everything and helped and supported each others throughout the years.

We were due to fly on the 28th of November and I was excited.

On the morning of the 26th I woke up early and I felt uneasy. I am always nervous before a flight and I can’t help becoming extremely tragic minded! I looked at my phone and saw a message from my mum. I couldn’t read properly and I searched around for my glasses but I knew something was wrong. My mum does not send me messages at night, she has mastered the time difference beautifully! It only took a second to get my glasses but I had already started to shake and Nigel woke up to my sobs. My auntie had had a stroke and died.

Ever since I moved here I have been waiting for that call. In my dark moments I picture different scenarios and circumstances. What would I do? How would I feel? It was 6 am on the 26th of November and it was happening. I had lost one of the most important persons in my life and I was on the other side of the world.

It took me only a few minutes to accept that it was real and that I had to act quickly. I called home and someone, I only realise now that I don’t even know who I spoke to, told me that she went for her evening walk and died, looking at the sunset, without even noticing. She just kneeled down and she was gone. She was 67 years old.

I knew I had to be there for the funeral, to say goodbye, and my family knew it too. Although in Italy funerals are often held the day after the death, they promised me they would wait for me. I changed my flight and Sofia told me she had to come with me. I will always be grateful to her for being with me all the way. We flew in the evening and we arrived the morning of the funeral.

In all my conjectures I had never envisioned that there could be something positive coming out of the tragedy. Although I still feel her loss, what happened in the days that followed my auntie sudden departure has left me with a lot more then just grief.

It took only moments for Nigel to step into action and call the airlines to change our tickets, I felt confident he was in control and I did not need to worry about anything. The flight was easy and I cherished the time spent with Sofia. I am not sure why I was surprised that she chose to come with me, I’ve always known how much she loved her Zia Anna but at the time it felt like the biggest present she could give me. When we arrived my brother and my cousin’s son, Lorenzo, where waiting for us at the airport. I had never felt happier to be home, even though it was for such a sad occasion. We all felt the same, we were sharing the same pain and it made me feel lighter.

I had told Sofia about italian funerals, how, unlike in Australia, we go and see the person to say goodbye and it was probably going to be very heavy, dark, sad and emotional. I was quite worried myself. But as soon as I got to the hospital all my worries disappeared. It was sad and emotional but there was no heaviness or darkness. There were hugs and tears, kisses and smiles. The sun was shining and I felt like everyone one there was somehow part of our lives. And there was my beautiful zia Anna sleeping serene, surrounded by love, lots and lots of love. Sofia arrived soon after with Lorenzo and it looked like she belonged there. She was completely at ease, with death, with love, with family.

A year has past and I am about to fly home again. I will be there for a special anniversary, to spend some time with friends and family, to pick up Sofia and possibly to visit some museums and churches! Of course I am still worried about getting that call or that text but I am also confident that I am not alone and I will be there when I need to be there.

Link alla versione italiana Perdere una persona cara quando si e’ lontani 

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Once a country girl, always a country girl!

Although I escaped from my small, l provincial town as soon as I could, in the past few years I have become nostalgic for all those country town things I ran away from! I blame it on middle age and I have decided that it’s easier to embrace it, then deny it. I convinced my reluctant family to buy a holiday house in a small country town and three years ago we

Friends and music

Friends and music

became the owner of a cute, little miners cottage in Maldon. The day we took possession of our cottage the neighbours came to say hello over the fence. I immediately liked them. Two lovely ladies, Sandy and Leslie, retired school teachers, who welcomed us and filled us in with some local knowledge. While I was talking to them my friend Susan, who leaves only 30 minutes away, came to visit and when Sandy and Leslie saw her they recognised her immediately, they used to be Susan’s high school teachers! I knew instantly that this was my kind of town. Connections, networking, people who knows other people business and yes, a bit of healthy gossip as well!!

A few weeks ago, with Sofia away and Julia old enough (and very willing!) to be left alone, Nigel and I went to the house, him for the week-end and me for the week. A blissful week of country life!

My china cups and plates

My china cups and plates

In my bucolic dreams, I see our little cottage filled with friends dropping in and out, endless cups of tea (I only drink tea in Maldon, I have my beautiful china cups bought on ebay and lots of cute tea pots!), evenings by the fire and meals shared in our cosy kitchen. I see myself becoming part of the community, people saying hello in the street, neighbours stopping by and endless hours spent to potter and watch dvds of tv series I missed out on.

I am happy to say that my week in Maldon was exactly like my dream! When Nigel left on sunday my friend Carol arrived. We live on different sides of the city and we rarely see each other so having three days to spend with her was a real treat. Being English, Carol appreciates the importance of “oldness” and we both immersed ourselves in the old world charm of the town and the house. We read our books in the garden, chatted, sewed (well, Carol did shorten some jeans for me and she taught me how to use the machine so, when she left, I made a cushion’s cover!) and, of IMG_2206course, drank tea from my lovely cups! In order to follow my dream about being part of the community we attended a yoga class at the Maldon Neighbourhood Centre. The class was in an old church and there were only five other women. When we walked out we started chatting and I found out that one of the women was an Italian teacher at the community centre! A lovely australian lady with a passion for Italy and the italian language. We exchanged phone numbers and she dropped in a few days later for a chat and…a cup of tea! We talked about the possibility of me going to some of her classes and about organising italian movie nights and spaghettate with her more advanced students!

Yoga class

Yoga class

I caught up with Susan in a nearby town and had lunch in a cafe’ I had heard it was owned by an italian man. And so I met Luca, from Biella, not far from where I am from. We talked and talked like I can only do when I meet a fellow italian! Fast and loud, sharing personal details of our lives in a far away country, becoming instant friends and, promising, of course, to meet for dinner soon!

My network is growing very fast, I feel more and more part of this community and I love every minute of it! When Carol leaves, my neighbour Leslie calls me over our shared fence and she invites me for dinner that evening. And so I find myself eating a beautiful meal of asian fish and old fashion Eton mess, hearing all about life Maldon, a life I feel like I can relate to, a country life.

Eton Mess

On thursday I wake up realising I still haven’t finished watching the first series of Offspring and I only have a day to go! Where is the time gone? So I have breakfast in front of the tv and leave a couple of episodes for my last night. Then I wander into town for a massage, after all this is my dream week and I always have a massage in my dreams! My other neighbour, Maree, knocks at my door before dinner, she has bought an old piece of material in France, to make a curtain but the piece does not fit any of her windows, would I like to have it? An old piece of linen from France can certainly find a place on one of our windows, or door.

I leave on friday afternoon and, as always, I am already planning my next trip. As I drive home I think of my week and all the weeks to come and I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have the ongoing opportunity to be a country girl again.

Time to travel solo!

Sofia, like her sister before her, started her intercontinental travelling very early in her life. The first time she flew to Italy she was three months old and since then she has always been an excellent flyer but a reluctant traveller.

Giochi con il cuginetto

Giochi con il cuginetto

Unlike the rest of her family, she is not interested in visiting new places, she likes Melbourne and Vallecrosia. Home. Over the years she has been happy to stay at my parents’ house while we explored bits of Europe. During our last beach holiday in Queensland she never came to the beach, a beautiful tropical paradise, because it was not Bordighera’s beach, the only beach she likes!

Sof has always known what she wanted and has never been shy to express it! From the moment she could talk she made it clear that she had two homes, her one in Melbourne and her nonni’s in Italy so it didn’t come as a surprise when, at age 12, she announced that at 15 she would go to Vallecrosia with her friend Abby, for a month of the summer holiday. We barely acknowledged her statement, expecting that in three years time she would have changed her mind but we should have known better. Last year, at not quite 15, her and Abby went to spend a month at my parents’ house and had a wonderful time.

Fare i pelati con la nonna

Fare i pelati con la nonna

On Monday Sofia left for Italy again. This time she will be there for three months. This time she went by herself. She is going to school and spending time with her  italian family.

In the weeks before her departure I went through a lot of emotions and different thoughts came to my mind. I have felt incredibly happy that she has such a strong sense of belonging to my home town and my family. When asked what was her favourite thing about going to Italy she said it was her family and spending time with them. Although I have a small family we are very close. I grew up with my beloved auntie just down the street, my grandparents an everlasting presence in the first years of my life, my brother and cousin always available for a new game or a fight. We lived in a small town and were in and out of each others houses all the time. I took all this for granted but Sofia doesn’t. Her childhood in Melbourne has been very different from mine and she certainly has enjoyed every minute of growing up in a big city, with all the opportunity that this has given her. But at the same time she has been able to grow up experiencing a different lifestyle and gaining a different perspective.

Coccole con zio Bigi

Coccole con zio Bigi

While I acknowledge that my childhood in Vallecrosia was pretty idillic, I struggle to see the positives about been a teenager there and I guess this is why I left as soon as I could! But Sofia, at 15, seems to love all the things I wanted to escape from! She loves the saturday night disco, the same disco my mum used to go and I managed to avoid, looking for more “alternative” entertainment! She loves the passion the youths have for trends and brand names printed on t-shirts, making everyone look boringly similar. I was a hippy in the ’80…no wonder I had to leave! She loves the stylish boys, all charm and  good looks who can’t have a conversation that doesn’t involve calcio. Needless to say, I never managed to charm any of those young, beautiful boys and this is why I still resent them and blame them of shallowness! I admit it, Sofia is right when she says I didn’t fit in because I was a loser and I guess I should be grateful she didn’t inherit my wallflower skills!

Shopping a Milano

Beside dancing and picking up boys, Sofia will have to do some learning as well. She will be going to school three days a week to practice her spoken italian and for a few hours a week she will work with a private teacher to master the mysteries of the italian grammar. As next year she will start her VCE (final exams) and she has chosen italian and french as two of her subjects, she is having some french tutoring as well. France is just around the corner after all!

On monday night we took Sofia to the airport and handed her over to the Qantas hostess who would take her across to her plane. There were no tears and, strangely enough, it felt very natural. I remember when the girls were little and we used to talk about the time they would go to Italy by themselves. When I packed huge bags with every possible snack and change of clothes before undertake that never ending flight, I felt like that time will never come. Little did I know, that moment was just around the corner. I don’t miss those interminable flights with toddlers in tow and when I said goodbye to Sofia I felt just a tinge of apprehension about the long flight ahead (well, perhaps a bit more then “a tinge”!).

Buon viaggio, tesoro!

Sofia has arrived safely and she is home. For the next few months I won’t have to pick up her mess around the house and wash her clothes, I will be able to see her and talk to her on Skype but not have to put up with her grumpy moods. I will miss her cuddles and smile in the morning (well…her “good” mornings!) but  I know that she is with people who love her and will look after her just as well as I would. 

I look forward to hear her stories and, perhaps, learn a few tricks about fitting in better. Who knows, I might even join her on the dance floor one day, but she doesn’t have to know this quite yet!

Getting closer, when you are far

When I first left home and Italy I was 20 years old. A friend and I decided to go and spend some time in Paris. My mum was supportive of my decision but, like me, I don’t think she realised I would never come back to live home again. I think she thought I was going on an extended holiday, a little bit of adventure before settling down. In those first few years of my living abroad we didn’t speak or see each other much. I called her regularly but our lives were so different if was very hard to find something to say.

My mum at her happiest, in her garden, with her precious nipotine

My mum at her happiest, in her garden, with her precious nipotine

My mum hates to travel, she loves her home, her garden and her cooking. It must have been very hard for her to accept that her only daughter had no intention of settling down. On the contrary I kept travelling from place to place, living in grotty flats, doing all sort of casual jobs and having absolutely no plans for her future.

When I introduced her to Nigel she had been so worried that I was never going to find anyone who would marry me, that she loved him at first sight! Even if he was a tall, Jewish, Australian boy, wearing thai farmers’ pants and did not speak a word of Italian! I guess she knew by then that I would never go back to live in Italy and the idea that at least I would not move around so much appealed to her. Even if I was going to live in Australia.

Although she does not like to travel she has come to Melbourne many times over the years. She complains about the long trip (but who doesn’t!) and the life style here but she has made the effort and I do appreciate it as it hasn’t been easy for her.

We have had our ups and downs and she wasn’t always accepting of my decision to move and, for years, she found ways of making me feel guilty about having “abandoned” her and I resented her for doing that.

But at the moment our relationship is flourishing and I am thanking Skype for that! It took a while to convince my parents that there was a way to talk and see each other on the computer. They don’t like changes and technology scares them. But once they understood how Skype worked they never looked back.

Selfie!

Selfie con mamma!

My mum and I speak at least twice a week. Often it’s just a quick exchange, a little bit of gossip that she knows I would like to hear or something about the girls. She shows me the beautiful mushrooms she picked in the woods and I show her my bread just out of the oven. Skype has brought a new dimension to our conversations, now is almost like a “dropping in”. I can see what she is wearing and understand immediately how the weather is in Vallecrosia. She can see my new haircut and notice if I have a new top. She can comment on the girls too long hair and too short skirts and, although she is on the other side of the world, they can still experience this delightful aspect of an italian nonna!

I know it won’t always be this easy, my parents are still young and at the moment chatting on Skype is a wonderful way to feel part of their life but once their health will start to deteriorate it will not be enough. For now though, I enjoy this new found closeness with my mum, our laughs and our gossiping on line have become a pleasant part of our week and I am sure we are both cherishing our time together. I often wonder if we could have been this close if I lived next door to her but this, I guess, I will never know!

 

In Australia, at last!

Moving on

Moving on

At the beginning of the year I started visiting the guests of a nursing home. They are all italians and I go there once a week to read to them and chat.

For the first few months the residents lived in a small home where the staff was mostly italian and the food was only italian. Whenever I walked in I was enveloped by a comforting smell and it was like walking into my grandmother’s house. It wasn’t a fancy place, the furniture was old fashioned and all the tables had tablecloths on. The home was in a quite pocket of an inner city suburb, not far from where I live.

Most of the residents came to Australia after the war. They travelled by boat, some of them with their families, others by themselves, many are women who did the long trip with their small children. They all left loved ones, familiar places and everything they knew to come to the other side of the world. They didn’t know anything about the country that would be their home but they were brave and adventurous and when they tell me the story of their trip they laugh and make it sound easy, as if it wasn’t a big deal.

I can’t even imagine what they must have felt. Most of them had never been outside their home town, most of them had never even thought there was a world outside their home town. They arrived and started their new life, settled in their new houses, had children, met the neighbours, found a job. They created a community where they were comfortable and they could spend the rest of their life in.

A few years ago they moved to the nursing home. One last move, they thought. It was scary but they soon felt at home, their families are nearby and they drop in all the time, they made new friends and decorated their rooms with the memories of a life time.

Then the news came that the home was closing down. The residents would be moved to a new place. A brand new building, five storey high, not far but on a busy road.

The weeks before the move were very hard. The atmosphere had changed, often I met with only a handful of residents as the rest preferred to sit in their rooms, thinking, praying, crying. There was a lot of sadness and fear of the unknown. The biggest worries were to do with food. Not enough, not good enough, not italian enough!

But the day came and their new adventure began.

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With some of my nonnini

This time the home was not an “all italian” place and they were not happy. And, as predicted, the food was a big big problem. Sandwiches for lunch??? No oil or salt on the vegetables?? Tasteless meat drowned in salty gravy?? This was all too hard to digest!

Of course they took it all in their stride. They are such resilient, wonderful people, they couldn’t let another change get in their way. We  laugh a lot about australians and their cuisine, or lack of. It has become our favourite pastime, forget about the news of the world!

They are adjusting to life in their new home and, after 50 years, they are finally in Australia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet friendships

A couple of months ago I watched a movie (Trust) about a young girl who was seduced and raped by an older man she met on the internet. He pretended to be young and slowly made his way into her life, by the time the girl met him in person and realised that he was middle aged, she was too dependent on him to do anything about it.

From Hawaii, Torino and Melbourne we meet in Riccione, with Claudia and Maura.

From Hawaii, Torino and Melbourne we meet in Riccione, with Claudia and Maura.

Of course I felt compelled to talk to Sofia about the dangers of meeting people on the internet. Again! Sof looked at me with a disgruntled look and told me: the only one in this family who meets strangers on the internet is you. You need to be careful!

I dare say she is right. Since my arrival on the big wide web I have met a lot of people and with a few of them I have become good friends. I have been very lucky so far and none of the one I met in real life has turned out to be some kind of creep and after a few emails, sitting and chatting in front of a coffee has felt as natural as if we had always known each other.

It all started when the girls were little and I felt the need to compare my experiences as a mother here, with italian mothers .  I had a solid support network in Melbourne, lots of friends with small children to share the day to day progress of our offsprings and the joy and sorrows of motherhood. So it wasn’t loneliness that pushed me to look on the internet. By joying parenting forum and reading how women in Italy lived such an important time of their life, I found a deeper way to stay connected and keep a stronger sense of belonging. I soon found out that big community weren’t for me and I began one on one correspondence with those women I felt closer to. Needles to say, we found a lot more to talk about then dirty nappies and sleepless nights!

With Carmela, after months of intense correspondence we finally meet!

With Carmela, after months of intense correspondence we finally meet!

I met Carmela who, being married to a muslim man, provided a great opportunity to discuss the relationship with our husbands’s different religious beliefs (Nigel being jewish). Claudia, who was at the time living in Hawaii and had two boys almost the same age as my girls, it was with her that I “chatted” for the first time and I remember spending a New Year’s Eve with her and Angela, in Canada, on icq, well before Skype existed! I met Maura, whom with her five children always finds time to come and see me whenever I am in Italy and Luisa, on the other side of the Ocean, in California, which I know I will meet one day.

These friendships developed through long emails, before Facebook and Skype allowed that instant contact that now we take for granted, and I believe that what we shared in those first few years, in our respective countries, has provided us with memories just as powerful as if we lived in the same town. Whenever our paths cross, virtually or physically, I am filled with the joy and recollection that I get when I meet old friends and I treasure their presence in my life.

Sometimes we cross that bridge, with Elena in Melbourne

Sometimes we cross that bridge, with Elena in Melbourne

Over the years I have kept meeting Italian people on the internet, depending on what phase I am going through in my life. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a few years ago, I found enormous value in reading blogs of Italian women who where experiencing the same and recently I have had the pleasure of meeting Claudia, who supported me with her professional coaching when I needed a little direction.

Elena is one of my closest friends in Melbourne. We live on different sides of “the bridge” which is almost like living in different countries and we catch up regularly on Skype. We met online a few years ago and after a couple of emails and text messages we decided to have lunch (or was it coffee?) in the city. Sofia was not happy about my unnecessary risk taking. How did I know that Elena was who she said she was? I promised her I would meet her in a public place and I would run if she tried anything untoward. Luckily Elena turned out to be quite harmless and, as Sofia had the chance to experience over the years, a lovely person.

I am aware that I have taken some risks and the internet can be a dangerous and treacherous place but I am also grateful that it has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful women which I hope will be in my life for ever.

 

Long distance friendship across time

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Shopping in Freemantle

I met Fiona in 1990 in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. I walked into Mummy’s Youth Hostel, tired after a night bus trip, and there she was. I think we became friends the moment we introduced each other because from that very moment my life has never been without her.

Fiona worked at the hostel in exchange for bed and board, I was just passing through, not really sure of where I was going. We spent about a week together in Kota Bharu, eating at night’s markets and laughing a lot, then we went our separate ways.

I was looking for a photo of the two of us at that time but I could not find one. I was a bit surprised but then I remembered that in those days (yes, I am one of those “vintage” traveller, I have to accept the fact!) taking photos was not that easy. You actually had to carry a big, chunky camera with you and then, once you took your photos, you had to find a cheap place to have them developed and you had no idea of what you were going to get! No previews and no deleting the duds, sometimes you even had to wait for a few days and then you got your precious little parcel of memories.

I like to think that we knew we would have plenty of opportunities to take hundreds of photos of us over the years. And we did indeed!

Fiona and I have never lived in the same city but for a few months we both lived in Europe, her in France and me in Italy. This was as close as we ever were. It was then that we decided we should try and meet in different places, explore new parts of the world while we caught up. And we did. We met in Paris and London, in Bali and Perth, Singapore and Melbourne and we explored lots of different places together.

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Posing in Singapore

Over the years of our friendship Fiona lived in different countries and I met Nigel and moved to Melbourne. We often didn’t see each other for years but we wrote long letters, with pen and paper and stamps. Our stories were travelling around the world in white envelopes or aerograms (does anyone remember those?) occasionally we even sent tapes and I still remember the excitement at every delivery.

Then we moved from letters to faxes. I remember the day Nigel came home from work with Fiona’s first fax. She only wrote it the night before, almost instant, almost magic! But the problem with faxes was that the print would faint after a few years, I never really warmed to the idea that Fiona’s precious words would disappear. Luckily faxes were soon replaced by emails. Now this was a true step forward and it was instant and certainly magic!

In the last years our communication has evolved yet again and we don’t have to write anymore. We can Skype and Viber, new words meaning we can talk and even see each other while we have our coffee in our different countries.

Fiona is living in Singapore now, only seven hours flight from here and only two or three hours time difference. We are on the same side of the world and it is wonderful to have her so close.

When we meet we talk and talk, usually non stop, jumping from one story to the next without really making much sense. Our days together have always been joyful and our separation never sad.

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Singing in Melbourne

As a romantic teenager I read Illusions by Richard Bach and, although I am usually terribly at remembering quotes, one line of this book got stuck in my head: “Can miles truly separate you from your friends? If you want to be with someone you love aren’t you already there?”. My friendship with Fiona is summed up in this one quote. I never really miss her, because she is never really gone.