Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Of Citizenship and Shrinks

It has turned out to be a rather productive summer in the end. My contract was ended on the last day of school and although they still made me come in to work a few days afterwards I ended up with a lot of free time, once I had taken my Italian exam.

Or at least I thought it was going to be free time but the citizenship process and going to see a shrink took care of that quite quickly.

Like this but with a mouldy ceiling to look at.

What I really wanted was some counselling as they have in the UK, as I had had some at university once and found it very helpful, which involves chatting to a person over a glass of water or a cup of tea where they help you address your problems in an unbiased manner. Events in my life had left me feeling completely overwhelmed so when a doctor suggested I see a psychologist I was curious.

In the end it was a very funny experience. I think I did about seven 90 minute sessions (at considerable expense) composed of me lying on a sofa talking to the air while the mysterious signora sat on a chair behind me and took notes, very occasionally asking me to go into more detail on certain matters. It felt like one of those Woody Allen type films set in New York several decades ago.  Whilst it was awkward having to talk continuously about myself at first I got quite good at it and at the end of the seven sessions certainly felt somewhat clearer mentally.

So imagine my surprise when on the final day the psychologist announced that I had made great progress but should definitely come back to do more work, especially since I work with children. I thought this was a neat way to make me feel crazy and guilty at the same time, but unless the parents are prepared to pay for endless therapy, and until the psychologist sorts out the terrible damp problem in the office the children will just have to put up with me as I am!

Time to learn the National Anthem?

I also set to work on the citizenship process almost immediately as I could just imagine how long it was going to take and I didn't want to get caught out in the event of a quick Brexit (which does now seem rather unlikely but hey-ho). The list of necessary documents for citizenship via marriage was very short - only about 5 points long which was reassuring, but quickly revealed itself to be the tip of the iceberg as obtaining each document required many other documents.

It seems you do not need a) an Italian language certificate or b) your marriage certificate which was a surprise, but instead you need a criminal record certificate from your country of origin (translated and notarised twice) along with your birth certificate (translated and notarised twice) a couple of postal order payments and all your addresses since the age of 14. This was a bit of a nightmare as I had no records of my addresses at uni and had to trawl years of photos and google street view to piece together my many moves.

I thought I also needed a proof of long term residency certificate from the comune too, but then when I finally got myself logged into the Ministry's citizenship website (yes even in Italy things are modernising!) I could not find it mentioned anywhere. This felt like a shame as I had made 3 different trips to get this and spent money on it so I uploaded it anyway.

In the end I sent it all off with a mere click and got a PDF document receipt and my request is now somewhere out there in the ether waiting for an official to notice it. I gather it could take up to 18 months to get a reply so fingers crossed.

In any case I do have some very good news and that is that I passed my C2 CILS exam. My terror of the written paper (I had very little prior experience of writing in Italian) meant that I practised all the past papers I could get my hands on and in the end I got full marks for it. I turned out to be slightly too relaxed about the speaking exam and did only a few simulations and ended up scraping a pass which is very funny with hindsight as that was the one exam I thought I could ace.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Of Wine-tasting and Brexit

On Thursday night I went to bed well after midnight and the Italian news were talking about a Remain vote as an almost certainty, so it was a bit of shock to be informed by my husband upon waking that the result was Leave. Friday was tough, as I had to be at work and all I could think was WHAT WILL BECOME OF US?! so it was almost impossible to get anything done. 

Today I am feeling a lot better as it seems the people responsible seem to have little interest in pulling out of Europe after all, or are at least in no hurry to, and the Leave campaigners are quickly backtracking on all their promises about immigration and ending the freedom of movement, so who knows maybe one day I will be able to move back to the UK, or what's left of it, with my husband. 

Although, increasingly the question is, will we want to?

As the pound sterling nose-dived, we headed back to the Monferrato region of Piedmont, where we got married two years ago to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

If ever there is a region that could make me feel like spending the rest of my days in Italy this is surely it. I love the hills, they remind me of home, and I love the food and wine. 

We stopped for lunch in Costigliole d'Asti and were pleased to see the comune had spent our 700 euro wedding fee well and repainted the interior of the castle. What's more they had opened a cookery school with a restaurant run by it's students so we even got to have lunch there. The service was slow, but we weren't in a hurry and everything was very tasty and beautifully presented. 

We went to the Marchesi Alfieri winemakers in San Martino Alfieri near Govone and tried their lovely Barberas and less well known but no less delightful Grignolino. 

In the cellars of Marchesi Alfieri
We had dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I was a bit dubious about the price to taste ratio, but actually the food was an original take on Piedmontese classics and really beautifully presented, so it was worth the experience. If only I had felt a little better, and been less worried about Brexit I might have enjoyed it properly.

The Vineyards of the Monferrato
 On the way back to the Bed and Breakfast we had the luck of seeing the fireflies dancing under the trees where I saw them the night before the wedding. It felt like a good omen then, and it was reassuring to see them again.

Millions of bottles of spumante in the 'cathedrals' of the Contratto winemakers in Canelli
On Sunday we headed to Canelli and the wine 'cathedrals' built into the rock where it is always a very pleasant 13c to escape the heat. I'm not a massive spumante fan but it was very interesting to learn about these ancient traditions and a lot of fun to taste the wine and bread sticks. Our guide was, of course British, so there was no avoiding Brexit even there, but all in all it was a lovely weekend and just what I needed.

Fingers crossed I passed my Italian CILS exam and let the citizenship bureaucracy begin!

Monday, 20 June 2016

High Above Lake Como at Rifugio Menaggio

The Brexit referendum looms on Thursday and I have given myself a media ban until Friday, as I have spent far too much time reading articles of all different newspapers and fretting over my future in Italy as an extra-communitaria. My emergency plan is applying for Italian citizenship, which gives me funny feelings. A. said after eating my pasta pomodoro of Monday night that I've already passed HIS Italian citizenship test. If only it was so easy!

Today I read two posts from expats who are giving up on life in Italy. I can't say it has never crossed my mind, but I'm trying to stay focussed on the positives, because moving back to Bristol seems a whole lot harder than we expected. 

My parents came over to visit me and my Dad was well enough to do the hike far faster than me up Monte Grona, which is one of the Alps running along Lake Como's Western shore. We may have disagreed on the EU but we certainly could all agree on the beauty of the views and the delights of eating polenta in a mountain refuge. 

Details of the walk below if anyone is interested.

It looked like it might rain.

But the clouds kept swirling around us and giving glimpses into Switzerland.

Destination: Pizzo Coppa (very funny to google image) and WHAT A VIEW
 Drive to Breglia and take the small steep road signposted for Rifugio Menaggio and Plesio. The road is mostly asphalt so don't let the unasphalted bits put you off. At the end of the road there is a car park.  (When visiting the alps in the summer it is generally a good idea to arrive before 10.30 if you want to find parking).

Starting point:  The car park above Plesio at about 996m. Follow the trail for Rifugio Menaggio. It climbs through the woods and then levels off, offering stunning views of the lake and Refuge. 

When you get up to the Refuge (1383m) about 45 mins later you have several options. We did the short version which is going along the fairly narrow path to view point Pizzo Coppa (1420m), admiring the view and then heading back for lunch at the Refuge

From Pizzo Coppa you can take the Direttissima (difficulty: Experienced Excursionist) up to the top of the mountain, or you can go up to the top of Monte Grona (1736m) a slightly less alarming way - if like me you are afraid of heights - via the Via Normale which takes about 90 minutes.

The views from the top are EPIC, but you need to be physically up to it because the second part of the walk is strenuous.

More info from the Walking Englishman HERE.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Thinking of becoming a TEFL teacher in Italy? part 2

So if I didn't put you off too much with my last post here's part two with the juicy cultural stuff. The majority of this is about the Italian school system but I believe knowing all this helps even with adult classes because if you know the students' cultural conditioning in the learning environment it makes everything 10 times easier.

The Nuns

6. Most schools start at about 8am and go on until 13-14.00 when students go home for lunch. Many schools go on until 16.30 however, so nearly all your evening classes will start at 17.00 for kids. Thats a VERY long day. Go easy on your students in the evenings, especially the little ones who are understandably frazzled. They don't get much in the way of outside playtime, so you might want to include some action in the lesson plan to allow them to let off steam.

7. Primary school starts aged 6 although that last year of nursery school is mandatory but some of your students might be anticipati so they might be a year or so younger. They won't know how to read or write or even do numbers until half way through that first year so if you've got that age group (la prima) you'll have to reinvent the course book.

Here is how the grades work out with the school years in the UK.
nursery school: students use the teachers first name with the prefix Maestro/a (Maestra Paola) and use the informal tu.
ages 3-5 (year R and 1)

primary school:
prima - year 2 (6-7)
seconda - year 3 (7-8)
terza - year 4 (8-9)
quarta - year 5 (9-10)
quinta - year 6 (10-11)

lower secondary (middle) school: students must start formally adressing the teacher with Lei and say Professore or 'Prof' with surnames (Professoressa Rossi).
prima media - year 7 (11-12)
seconda media - year 8 (12-13)
terza media - year 9 (13-14) and the year students do the end of middle school exams.

upper secondary (high) school:
prima liceo: year 10 (14-15)
seconda liceo: year 11 (15-16)
terza liceo: year 12 (16-17)
quarta liceo: year 13 (17-18)
quinta liceo: age 18-19 and the year students do the exams for their highschool diploma.

Busy Hands

8. By the time you get to teenage classes then some of your students may have been bocciati and been made to repeat a year, so they will be older than the rest of the class. This happens when their grades fall below a certain average or they fail too many subjects or they are too badly behaved. This can be especially odd by the time you get to secondary school which people typically finish aged 19 but obviously can end up finishing at 20-21.

That said, working in a private school, I have yet to actually see this happen.

9. In terms of discipline, things are very different from the UK. No detentions or other traditional punishments are envisaged apart from suspension and exclusion. I used to make my students write lines until an Italian colleague told me that she was certain it was a form of abuse and I risked going prison. Personally, I think she was overreacting but the Italian students certainly aren't used to doing them. The traditional form of punishment is the note home, or even worse a note home AND a note on the class register. Too many notes home and the student's behaviour grade will be lowered on the end of semester report card and maybe even suspension. There's not much middle ground there to work with, but the biggest problem with this is that nowadays over half of parents believe whatever their kids tell them and so it's fairly ineffective as a method. This means you will have to rule by force of personality, especially in middle school. Time to start strengthening the vocal chords maybe.

10.  In Italian schools the pagella (report card) is extremely important and it is given to the students at the end of semester 1 in February and at the end of semester 2 in June. There are no written comments, only numbers from 1-10 for each subject and one for behaviour.  6 is a pass and 10 is superstardom, while typically teachers won't go lower than 4 so as to give the students the chance to get their average back up. The exceptions are at primary school where anything lower than a 7 is considered harsh and at all levels getting a 6 for behaviour means you've been close to criminal.

11. That grade will be the average of assignments and tests etc done during the semester. Italian students are CONSTANTLY tested. Teachers favour interrogazioni where they ask the student questions in front of the whole class who must listen. This seems almost cruel to me but apparently it's to stop a teacher from giving a low grade out of spite.

12.  The consequence of this is that students are very grade orientated and see little reason to put effort into work that won't go towards the average. Fa media? is a question I get whenever I set an assignment. You can tell them that learning is important regardless, you can refuse to tell them what is graded and what is not, or you can do it the Italian way and test them a lot.

13. Unsurpisingly perhaps then, Italy loves the Cambridge ESOL exams which are created and run by Cambridge University. If you aren't familiar with them now you soon will need to be as they go from kids (Starters, Movers, Flyers) to adults (FCE, CAE...) and students from 7 upwards will be working towards them.

14. Your business students will be late. Often very late. This does not mean however that they won't notice if YOU are late.

15. Your students, of all ages, will expect a course book and a tests of some kind, otherwise they won't consider you a proper teacher or it a proper course.

School Corridor

16. Dress appropriately. Dress codes in schools are more relaxed - teachers wear jeans and trainers often but for men no shorts, T-shirts, sandals and definitely no flip flops. For women remember that, especially in religious schools, skirts above the knee and strappy tops or bare shoulders are a no-no along with cleavage of any kind.

17. Typically you will start work in a school (unless it's a big international one) with no training or explanations as to registers, or school rules etc. So remember to ask on your first day if you can find someone who looks like they know their stuff:

- what are the rules about toilet breaks and break time for the students
- how to sign the register
- what the students are supposed to be doing after your lesson and if you have to accompany them anywhere
- if there are any students in your class with health problems or learning difficulties.
- where the teacher's toilets are
- who to contact if someone is unwell

Good Luck!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Thinking of becoming a TEFL teacher in Italy? Part 1

As May closes, so does my seventh year of teaching in Italy. This makes me feel unnecessarily old but that's another story. So I thought I would celebrate with a list of things I wish I had known before becoming a teacher in Italy. I hope that someone else, at least, can profit from my hard-earned experience.

For part 1 I'm going to start with the drier but no less important stuff. THE CASH.

*Takes gloves off*

Brief Peace

1. Let's talk money. The net pay will be low unless you work in nero (for cash in hand). Your residency permit will need proof of employment so working informally is not for you. So lets be clear we aren't getting into this job for the money. We do it for the glory!

Pay really varies from region to region - my first job in Veneto was 23 teaching hours a week for 720 euros a month. In Milan I got a job at a large private language school for about 1200 euros a month doing 27-30 hours (sometimes as many as 40) a week. In school I now get about 750 euros a month for 12 hours of teaching since my pay-cut expired. None of this is enough to enable you to pay rent for a flat by yourself but there are worse paying jobs in Italy as there is no minimum wage. What's more there are often 13 months in an Italian financial year (yippee!) but...

2. The contracts will be short and your summers will be on seeking unemployment benefits or working at summer camps. If you are relying on yourself alone this will be tough (especially because unemployment benefits don't come through until months later). Many TEFL teachers are unable to do the job long term because of this. Although technically after 3 or 4 academic years they are obliged to hire you properly, the law is always changing and they can always drive you away if they really want to. If you get pregnant, there is no way your contract is getting renewed as the employers have to pay maternity leave out of their own pockets.

Old School Technology

3. You might be thinking that working 12 hours for 750 euros sounds great, but remember those are the actual teaching hours. Meetings with parents (one hour a week), meetings at school (one afternoon a week), covering break times, school trips etc, timetable gaps, training courses etc... actually see me at that particular school 3 days of the week.

Working in state secondary schools will give you the best pay to hours ratio. However you will need to be fully qualified (to work at a middle school for example you will need a masters degree in your subject as well as a PGCE or equivalent!) and be prepared to get your paperwork in order to prove that. Italian teachers are constantly jumping through hoops to do this as the government keeps moving the goalposts. Right now most of my colleagues have just taken part in a farce of a competitive exam to see if they can get a place in a (higher-paying) state school after having shelled out 3,000 on a university course a year ago to do the same thing.

Becoming a conversatore or conversatrice is a good option if you haven't got a degree in education but you are a native English speaker. This involves giving "conversation" lessons to anything from small groups to large classes, with or without the presence of the class teacher.

You can also work at private schools as long as they aren't paritaria (following the state school regulations) because they can hire who they want. Ironically meaning private schools often have the least qualified staff around.

Global Warming
4. British Council and International House etc are also big employers, but they will work you hard for your money. Saturdays, evenings, drinks with friends after work will all be a fond memory as you will be too busy travelling around or giving lessons. In Milan, the British Council has the reputation for paying the best but you need quite a lot of experience and to have residency status before they will consider you.

Useful advice I was given when I was starting out was to be very suspicious of a contract asking for anything over 25 teaching hours per week. I personally find that every extra hour over that number feels like three. Of course a two hour lesson is less work than two one hour lessons and if you don't have to travel between lessons that makes everything much more manageable. Smaller schools will give you extra responsibilities like being in the office to answer the phone or locking up the premises after everyone else has left which also need to be factored into your decision making process.

5. Always read your contract very thoroughly (check that net/gross bit very carefully) and don't get pressured into signing. If it's in Italian get someone you can trust to read it for you. I've been caught out in the several times by employers I thought were trustworthy. If it's a trade union contract then it'll be 100 pages long and non-negotiable on the details, so you might as well as sign the damn thing after checking the obvious (pay/dates).

The School Fish

I hope that didn't put you off too much. It's a great job to take while you're young and wanting to travel in any case. If you are looking to settle down and make a decent living I hear legal translations are where it's at for the Native English Speaker.

Still with me? Then onwards to part 2!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Eurovision 2016

Aaaand it's that time of year again. The Eurovision song contest final is on tomorrow evening and I can't wait.

This year's entries are all pretty fair - nothing outrageously bad or good, which is disappointing, but at the same time I don't really watch Eurovision for the music. I've trawelled through about half the videos and not realy found anything funny either but the voting is always mystifying and wonderful.
So I'm excited but not THAT excited. That said -


...So what are the main things to know about Eurovision this year?
  1. Russia vs Ukraine
This year's got a bit political. The Ukranian song is about the singer's grandparents' experiences as Crimean Tartars. Last year Ukraine was in too much turmoil to participate. the bookies have it in third place, while the Russian entry is number 1. The Russian entry is OK, but a bit wearing after a while. However the bookies generally have more success at picking a winer than I do.


Ukraine (of the two I prefer this one)

            2.  Sweden risk winning again.

This year's affair is already more sober as it costs a lot to host the event and they are heading in the direction of beating the Irish record. If they win this year as well it will be time to find the Swedish equivalent of Jedward to keep the votes at bay.
Sweden - I liked this one.

            3. Italy vs UK

Italy and the UK are battling it out for 8th and 9th place according to the bookies, although we've got the edge as we are at the end, whereas the Italy is on at the beginning. (Yes, that's right they actually think the UK have a half decent chance this year!)

Kudos to the Italians for singing in their native language.

UK - some good live performances as pushed them higher up the favourites table.

                4. France

People rate them this year. A French win really would be a turn up for the books (they're not going to win).

Kudos to the French for singing partialy in English


Oh I nearly forgot to mention....

Don't be surprised by an Australian win this year because they're back and they've got a much better song than last time. 

An Autstralian win is just what Eurovision needs this year!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Milan vs Rome


The New York Times has recently published an article on the fall of Rome and the ascent of Milan. It's an old debate that recently Milan seems to be winning. I'm not surprised. Living in Milan is a far cry from the majority of expat lives I read about in the blogs I follow, and I think it's spoiling me for life in other parts of Italy. 

There's something to be said for clean streets, good public transport and recycling... even if we haven't got the colosseum. 

All hail the new Italian capital!

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Carbonara Debacle

Here's the video, which according to the Italian press, has infuriated the web. It's a French made video showing the viewer how to make a one-pot-carbonara.

A is very upset by this video. Firstly because he maintains that if miners could make carbonara underground on their lunch break with two pots, then people at home have no excuse for boiling their pasta in the sauce. Secondly he is upset by the presence of cream, but above all he is upset about the inclusion of onions.

The Guardian, bless their socks, tried to step in and set everyone straight but only succeeded in angering their Italian readers further (Why nutmeg...?).

I can understand the uproar. It does look disgusting, but then you read in other news that people were queuing for two hours in the new shopping centre on the outskirts Milan to get some free KFC (incidentally the same weekend as a referendum nobody managed to get out and vote on).




Maybe we should be taking the Italians' outrage with a pinch of... nutmeg.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Red, the Fat and the Learned

My C2 Italian preparation hasn't got off to the best of starts. Last Thursday I got admitted to hospital for an emergency operation, and although I was back home on Saturday because the surgeons did a good job but I'm still out of it from the general anaesthtic. Today I managed a shower so I think I can just about manage to post some pictures from our trip to Bologna last weekend.

I had wanted to visit Bologna for some time because I had heard of it's culinary fame and was eager to try it first hand, so when our friend gave us a three course meal for two for Christmas, Bologna was the obvious choice of destination.

It was not for the faint of heart.

For first course we had a mix of
  • Lasagne with ragu
  • Tagliatelle with cream and beef mince
  • Tagliatelle with ragu
Followed by a Bolognese cotoletta which is similar to a Milanese cotoletta, but it is fried in lard, wrapped in ham and melted cheese and then covered in cream.  I managed about half of it. It is too much even for A.'s foody dad who eats everything.

It was all washed down with the local Lambrusco wine, which is one of my favourites as I am a total cheap date.

For dessert A. had the chocolate cake with marscapone. There was about four times as much Marscapone as cake on the plate.

In short, it was not hard to see why Bologna has the nickname Bologna La Grassa - Bologna the Fat.

Bologna is also known as the city of learning (Bologna la dotta - the learned) as it is home to the world's first university and it is also known for its red colour and its "red" politics (Bologna la rossa - the red).

We had a lot of fun hunting down all three nicknames in photo form.

The Universtity District

Bologna la Rossa

Bologna the red
The Learned

Bologna la grassa
Bologna the fat

A good choice of fruit for an orange-coloured city
If you ever get the chance do go. It's only an hour on the train from Milan so it makes the perfect day trip.

Taken by A as I couldn'tbring myself to  look down.
Although maybe don't climb the 90m torre dei asinelli  right after lunch.

It made me rather queasy!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Italy or England?

So I've been thinking lately, especially after my father got ill, about going to live in the UK again. It's been six and a half years now that I've been living in Italy (it doesn't seem possible!) and in many respects Italy is my home and I'm comfortable here, but in other ways I still miss England.

It's very hard to be objective about life in another country, so I googled "comparing Italy and the UK" which led me to a site called Ifitweremyhome.com. This site allows you to compare countries from the list by selecting two of them. I liked it so much I then did it in class.

The results were interesting if not very decisive. Earn more money in the UK but spend less on healthcare and live longer in Italy. Be less likely to be unemployed or get HIV in the UK but be 25% more likely to be murdered. My students were divided on which country was better but most opted for staying in Italy and living longer. Admittedly they are only teenagers so they haven't yet contemplated long term unemployment.

Since there was no mention of things like food, weather and education I've decided to write my own list. Perhaps you can help me add to it in the comments?

*Not all reasons are created equal*

Reasons to move to the UK
  1. earn higher wages
  2. a more dynamic job market and economy
  3. a more modern education system
  4. be nearer my family and friends
  5. cool summers with no need for mosquito nets
  6. walking in the English countryside with its footpaths and bridalways.
  7. driving on the left, and less scary motorways
  8. cheddar cheese, peanut butter, oat cakes, yorkshire puddings, gravy, proper tea, fish and chips
  9. cheaper medecines and beauty products
  10. not being told I'm so pale/I've put on weight/lost weight all the time
  11. cleaner air (at least with respect to Milan)
  12. seeing birds and wildlife in towns and villages. 
Reasons to stay in Italy
  1. easier and cheaper not to attempt to move house internationally 
  2. food is fresher and tastier.
  3. less rain
  4. be nearer A.'s family and our friends
  5. being able to choose or change your doctor easily, and getting more attention when you do go (in my experience).
  6. The Alps, the lakes, the riviera... all within a couple of hours drive.
  7. No longer be able to use the 'crazy foreigner' excuse
  8. Public transport costs less here
  9. Have to find myself a new career if I go back to England.
  10. Hairdressers are more talented at cutting curls in Italy 
  11. Houses cost less. Rents cost less.
  12. Ugh... London. 
In the meantime I'm going to study hard and see if I can pass my C2 Italian exam in June. It will be quite a challenge so wish me luck!

Friday, 12 February 2016

One of Milan's Best Kept Secrets

Brown trout
I'm in bed with a (pretty poor excuse for a) fever,  - you know you've been in Italy too long when you stop saying temperature and start saying fever - so it seems like a good oportunity to share some photos with you from my latest discovery - L'acquario Civico di Milano.

The dreamy half light is very relaxing
You can find the acquarium in a corner of Parco Sempione in a pretty building with fish mosaics and a hippo fountain. It's pretty small. You can see it all in 30 mins (although I spent an hour going round it because I was taking pictures).  It doesn't have dolphins or sharks or anything dramatic, but it's got a selection of fresh water and salt water tanks.

Tropical Fish at the Aquarium of Milan

Go with low expectations on a rainy day and you will not regret it!

Fishy eyed

What is more its free from 16.30 until closing time at 17.30 and if you go during the day it's still only 5 euros.

If you've been or if you go I'd love to hear whether you enjoyed it or not.


Acquario Civile di Milano


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses and the 365 Project

Day 157

So, I logged in today after an embarrassingly long time (7 months) to discover my post on marrying Italians has become quite popular - over 2000 hits! Being used to having a very low profile blog I am almost freaked out by this, but also pleased to know that something I wrote was of actual interest. I even recieved my first spam comment...

I haven't been blogging at all for most of 2015 because firstly, I didn't feel I could write about my life in any way which was meaningful because my head was full of things which very much needed to  and need to remain private. Health problems... I know, it's a bit of a downer.

Day 13

On the other more positive hand, the other excuse is that I started a photography course in May, with a school called Bottega Immagine if anyone's interested, which had plenty of homework and an inspiring teacher. It really came at the right moment and has helped me no end psycologically and creatively. I completed the advanced course at the end of December and I've been very busy working on the project for the exhibition that was supposed to be today but has now been postponed.

Not only that, but I also started the 365 project, which involves taking a photo every day for one year. I've promised myself no pictures of my coffee, lunch, feet, plane wings, or other people's art to make sure I'm being creative. I'm on day 161 today so it's going well and I've learnt so much already despite using only the camera on my phone. You can find it on Flickr (I'm lcbrandon365) if you're really interested. I have hardly any followers and I'm pretty happy to keep it that way.

Day 150
 My final excuse is that I got a smart phone, so I'm not as often online on my computer as I was which means I wasn't checking the blog. I got myself a nice little instagram addiction when I was in and out of hospital and that also takes up more of my time than I should let it.

Day 100
I've been tempted to close down the blog but it seems a shame. I intend to get back to writing the blog for a bit before doing any thing drasic. If not once a week, I very much hope once a month. 

I leave you with some more pictures of Milan taken for my 365.

Day 94
Day 101

Day 52

Day 17