How to apply for permanent residency

It is undeniable that the political events of the past few months have put a dark light on the future of Europeans living across the UK, no matter how long ago they arrived.

My husband had been considering applying for citizenship much before all of this happened, he even passed the ‘life in the UK’ test in August 2014. But because our daughter was a baby at the time and we did not get much sleep at night, we kept on pushing back filling out all the forms for him to apply for British nationality, providing the traveling diary requested which was the longest job to put together with all the papers requested.

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14 years of loneliness in great company today

I care for my husband. Even on the days I feel miles away from him.

On the days I cannot forgive him for having once again forgotten to take down the compost bin the only time I mentioned I might not have a chance to do it myself, hoping one of us will remember this week as I always do. Or for having forgotten to help with our daughter’s potty training or our son’s homework, for wasting the left overs in the fridge as always even if  we said we will finish the following day, for often missing to tell me about a work engagement that forces me into babysitting duty last minute. Even on the days I feel so disconnected to him, to the point I don’t want him to look at me or touch me because I feel uncomfortable with myself and I might not even know why.

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Lots of ideas for a birthday party…

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When you become a parent one of the tricky things that starts appearing into your life planner once a year is the dilemma of your child’s birthday party.

You want them to have a great time to remember and celebrate something they like a lot as children, growing up (!), but at the same time you may feel overwhelmed to invite and entertain 20 kids in your tiny flat or be concerned they will destroy your house or garden!

Here are a few local ideas I used for my kids. They were born in the spring but weather is always a question mark in the UK so I used lots of indoor options as well 🙂

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When you finally have a real choice

Last Sunday I had the most amazing 5 hours in Camden in a long time! Did I go to the zoo? Did I have a stroll on the canal or in Regent’s Park? Did I shop in the market? I went for a workshop at London Meditation.
The location was the perfect environment for this kind of ‘retreat’: a 3rd floor flat full of light, with big windows on beautiful roof views and 2 big balconies, spotless cosy main room with the perfect temperature, comfortable rug, chairs, pillows and blankets, well studied in every single practical detail (like the kitchen and a second room if in need of privacy for a moment).
The topic I had chosen to attend that day was self compassion mindfulness as too many times I catch myself being extremely judgemental towards my limits and poor choices, totally ignoring all the good things I achieve on a daily basis.

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48 hours on the Amalfi Coast

If you like the seaside, good food and hiking as much as I do, then the Amalfi Coast is definitively the place to visit! The mountains called Monti Lattari which are part of a natural reserve arrive straight on the sea in this beautiful land with spectacular little towns built on the sides of those cliffs. I discovered Amalfi for the first time in September this year. I had planned to go to Salerno to see a gig of my favorite band when I was a teenager. Since it was on my 34th birthday and I find that beautiful places heal my soul and help me to cope with the family routine of washing up / dropping kids at school / going to work / ordering the grocery / ecc, I decided to give myself a mini break of 2 days and visit the area before going to the concert on the Friday night. It turned out that the trip to Amalfi itself was even more worth it than the gig! Here are my suggestions when you visit the area.

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Unusual protest

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For those who have walked for a decade from Brixton Hill into Brixton Water Lane on their way to Hootananny or Brockwell park, the meaning of this graffiti is much deeper than just some vandalism… If you want to understand more about it, read my previous post about Reclaiming Brixton.

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Miracles happen (with a little help from yourself: to believe)

A year has passed since the amazing unplanned home delivery that gave life to my daughter and I struggle to believe that this fearless, brave, hard working woman that gave birth to her that way was actually me. I wish I would remember every day I am capable of showing such strength and determination. I usually feel insecure deep down and wonder if I am a good enough mother, a competent employee, a present wife, a loving friend… I always doubt about myself, I tend to self sabotage my actions. But if I look back at that night of labor completely relaxed on my own, I believe I probably managed for once in my life to finally tune into my body and listen to what was happening, not fighting the pain, not even letting the fear take me to the core, at the bottom of my stomach. That was probably the first time I learned to let go: I knew what was coming and accepted that contractions would get stronger and stronger and by doing so, funny enough, they felt less painful. I also know now that her safe arrival in such an empowering way was actually a miracle of the God of my understanding, one of the many he performs in my daily life, the one and only that looks after me so well. My higher power helped me by raising my determination to make things different in my life in general, and more specifically in my second delivery. In fact, after the birth of my son 3 years beforehand, I was extremely anxious at how things would go with the delivery of my second baby. I remember having panic attacks in the last few weeks that brought to her safe arrival, thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong, as first time around… A nightmare period of my life! Luckily I had booked myself in early April for a whole day workshop at Active Birth Centre with Alice Charlwood, which I strongly believe made the absolute difference, together with my determination not to repeat the past and my Higher power’s plans for me.

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The political illiterate

The reason why I always find time to follow a bit of politics, even local movements and events, is contained in this smartly touching quote by Bertold Brech.

The worst illiterate is the political illiterate.
He doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events.
He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions.
The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics.
The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.

Good parenting: common opinion VS personal experience

What makes us good parents? Some people would easily fall into the cliché that the excellent parent is the one whose kids never have tantrums: they always do as they are told and are polite in public. This would apparently represents the proof that manners and hierarchy were well passed on to the new generation.

Actually, I would deeply suspect of those situations because if children are too compliant, it may not be a sign of good parenting: the risk is to simply erase their personality, asking them not to ever disagree or have uncomfortable feelings so that you as parents are always in a good place and don’t have to fight to get your mission accomplished (getting ready to go home, having a meal sitting down in a quiet restaurant and so on…).

The truth is we actually measure ourselves as good parents in those difficult times, when we manage to teach our children how to deal with their own emotions and why despite they want to do something one way, they will have to accept the frustration of doing it a different way due to the circumstances.

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Returning to work after your maternity leave… or not?

It may seem yesterday that your tiny little baby entered your life changing it forever in all the amazing ways they do (and all the hard working, depressing and exhausting ways too, to be very honest 🙂 ). Therefore, the end of your maternity leave feels so far ahead you have not even considered your options. But as a matter of fact, even when you take the maximum time allowed in the UK (the entire year from when you stopped working, not from when your baby was born), it goes faster than you think and one day all of the sudden you may have 2 or 3 months left to decide what to do and inform your employer as well. It is a very important decision you are taking, that will strongly influence your child’s life and yours as well for the years to come.When you evaluate what is the best solution for your situation, there are a few factors to take into account. Here is a guide of what I personally experienced first and second time around (having a 3 years gap in between my two children).

Financial affordability.

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3 nights program in Cinque Terre

If you have never had a chance to visit this beautiful part of Italy, here is a handy 3 days program to make the most of the 5 villages included in the Cinque Terre, with its seaside and its surrounding nature.

Fly into Genova in the morning and take the train to your booked accommodation (around 2 hours journey). We personally stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the southern of the 5 ‘lands’, and it felt the most alive at night time, with plenty of bars and restaurants open until late despite being a tiny town.

Even if its main attraction ‘La Via dell’amore’ (a beautiful seaside terraced pathway between Riomaggiore and Manarola) has been closed for a few years now due to an important landslide (they are hoping to restore it in a couple of years), there is another beautiful walk starting from the center of the village and going up on top of its little castle to then walk down a pathway not far from the train station with enchanting views on the sea that leads you back down to its picturesque harbor, followed by its beach.

RIOMAGGIORE

 

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The following day we purchased a 24 hour Cinque Terre card for ÂŁ16 which includes all trains between the 5 towns at any time (hop on, hop off), all buses within the little towns and the tickets to access 2 beautiful hiking pathways who have an admission fee to preserve its nature. This card is also available for 48h or 3 days but to budget at best we used trains and pathways all on the same day.

In fact we took the train from Riomaggiore to Corniglia. There we waited for the bus from the train station to avoid going up the over 300 stairs to get to the main village (Corniglia is the only one which has no harbor as it is on a higher level than the sea). From there we started walking on this breathtaking pathway between Corniglia and Vernazza (90 minutes hiking on average – Normal charge €7). If you are wearing appropriate shoes and are in good shape, it is quite accessible. The pathway then continues from Vernazza di Monterosso for another 120 minutes roughly, where without the Cinque terre card you would have to pay a new admission fee of €7 (for a total of €14 without the convenience of this special ticket).

TREKKING VIEWS BETWEEN CORNIGLIA AND MONTEROSSO

 

We arrived in Vernazza for lunch time and discovered probably our preferred village among the 5 (even if Manarola is a good competitor lol). Vernazza is really charming as you get a beautiful view on its 2 old towers when you arrive by hiking from Corniglia. Yet, the other side with its small main square, its’ harbor, it’s tiny beach and its castle is a real wonder as well!

VERNAZZA

 

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We walked around, relaxed and had an ice cream until the hottest hours of the day were over and around 4pm we resumed our hiking towards Monterosso. We met a very unusually funny lemonade and Limoncello seller half way through the 2 villages (the typically cheeky Italian style ‘businessman’!). We arrived in Monterosso around 6.30pm and run straight to the beach to have a bath in the sea to refresh ourselves (Monterosso is the only town with sandy beaches). Then we had a DELICIOUS dinner at Il Piccolo Diavolo restaurant with excellent seafood! We finally caught the train home around 10.30pm (it feels very safe to travel in between the villages even at night time and there are trains every 20 minutes – In fact they call it the ‘Cinque Terre Tube’!).

MONTEROSSO

 

The following day we decided to see everything from the sea, as a boat trip was really a must to discover the area in a different way. We had also been advised if we had spare time to visit Portovenere which is located further south from Riomaggiore and despite is not part of the denomination ‘Cinque Terre” is really a must. It cannot be reached by train but only by bus from La Spezia or by boat from La Spezia or Riomaggiore. So around 10am we caught a morning train from Riomaggiore back to Monterosso, the northern of the 5 ‘lands’ and there we bought a ferry ticket Monterosso – Portovenere for €18. It was so beautiful to see all the villages from the sea, a completely different prospective!

Ferry boat views

In Portovenere we arrived around lunch time (it takes 80 minutes to get from Monterosso by ferry) where we relaxed and even took a dip in the sea just in front of the famous Byron Grotto! If you have more time at disposal there are lots of things to see in the area as just in front of Portovenere there are several islands, a bit like Bournemouth and Poole with the Isle of Wight, so there are lots of  boat trips to go around those islands and see them closer or some people just go on the other side to relax on its beaches. But beware, the last ferry back towards Cinque terre is unfortunately at 5pm and no later. For £13 you get back to Riomaggiore o Manarola. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in Manarola as it was the only town (with Corniglia) we had not visited yet.

PORTOVENERE

 

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Manarola turned out to be such a charming little town! Less alive then Riomaggiore as the upper part only has houses and nearly any bar or restaurant (they are mainly concentrated around its harbour), but much more countryside, surrounded by beautiful vineyards all around the side of the mountains where it is located, with such a relaxing vibe as if we had stepped into a painting!

MANAROLA

 

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The following morning we only had half day left before returning home, so we took a train from Riomaggiore to Manarola, had a little wander in its vyneyards and then took a bus to Volastra a small town located further up between Manarola and Corniglia, from where there is a free hiking pathway to get to Corniglia (it took us 2 hours due to the heath). There is a free track between Manarola to Volastra, as well but it’s tougher to do and we did not have enough time so we cut it short with the bus service. We really enjoyed the trekking there as well and arrived in Corniglia around lunch time. We walked around enjoying the sea views from a higher level, even if we felt it was the most touristic of the 5 lands.

CORNIGLIA

 

 

As usual I hope you will enjoy this program from my personal travel guide for the budgeting ideas and the precious local information I am sharing here with you!

When Mother’sDay becomes more of a personal turmoil that makes you grow out of difficulty

E ancora una volta il mio feed di Facebook si intasa di status relativi alla festa della mamma, leggo di come le mie coetanee trentenni apprezzino il sostegno e la comprensione delle loro madri, di come non saprebbero fare a meno di loro…

Quest’anno per la prima volta voglio anche io scrivere qualcosa in quest’occasione speciale… Non che possa scrivere come tutte le donne della mia generazione di quanto mia madre sia un appoggio cruciale e una forza della natura o che non so davvero come farei senza di lei… No, a noi non è toccato in sorte questo tipo di rapporto: piuttosto sono io quella decisa che sa sempre come prendere in mano la mia vita, mentre lei di solito ascolta ispirata ed entusiasta; di rado la chiamo spontaneamente, piuttosto le telefono prima che mi faccia il terzo grado perchĂ© non ha mie notizie, perchĂ© lei ha bisogno di sentire la mia voce e non viceversa o reciprocamente; sono io che le do consigli e la scuoto un po’ quando entra nel suo letargo emotivo… Non che gliene faccia una colpa, ma se ho un problema personale invece, trovo il sostegno pratico o umano di cui ho bisogno in altre persone, come lo trovavo in sua sorella, la zia che ho perso quasi due anni fa ma che sentivo piĂą come una madre che mia madre stessa… 
Però anche la mia mamma ha dato qualcosa a me, cose diverse dalle altre madri immagino: una seconda nazionalitĂ  con tutto quello che comporta essere francesi (chauvinisti e che ci si lamenta sempre fino ad ottenere il meglio per se stessi); mi ha sempre detto quanto sono bella e intelligente, così tante volte che ci credo davvero tutt’oggi, anche quando insicura lo diceva anche per sentirsi fiera che fosse sangue suo, perchĂ© lei non pensa affatto lo stessa cosa di se stessa; la sensibilitĂ  di acquisire mano a mano la compassione, partendo da quella nei suoi confronti per tutte le cose che non è riuscita a darmi, imparando da sola piano piano che ha comunque fatto del suo meglio e che da qui in poi posso continuare da sola… 
Non ho neanche una foto da sola insieme a lei da pubblicare qui su Facebook, perchĂ© non ci saranno mai momenti da immortalare tipo uno scambio di vestiti, un piccolo viaggio, dello shopping insieme, un pomeriggio a prendere il tè, oltretutto odia essere fotografata… Ma posso prendere quello che c’è di meglio da questa relazione, invece di continuare a rimpiangere tutto quello che non è stato, e posso sfruttare al meglio la seconda occasione che mi è stata data il 1 Maggio di 3 anni fa con l’arrivo di mia figlia per colmare tutto ciò dell’idea di un rapporto madre-figlia che non posso soddisfare dall’alto. 
Buona festa delle mamme a tutte quante dunque, a me, a lei, a mia figlia per la madre che sarĂ  se vorrĂ  avere dei figli di scelta sua, a quelle che ignorano di essere eroine della quotidianitĂ  e anche per tutte quelle che sanno di essere un po’ meno capaci o portate o all’altezza di questo ruolo così impegnativo.

Why boarding schools should be abolished

My son and I are currently reading together ‘The Midnight gang’ by David Walliams. I found the book in Tesco the other day for ÂŁ5 only and since at the moment he is loving ‘The World’s worst children’ by the same author and I can see how this encourages him to read on his own if he wants to continue the story when I leave his bedroom at night, I had no hesitation to add it in my shopping basket even if at first I had had no intention to buy him a new book that day. The strawberries and bread I had purchased that day would make him stronger and taller but there is nothing like a good book to feed a soul!

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You can never buy too many books to your kids

I just realized how many books we have in our home, books for the grown ups, books for the little ones… And of course the kids books are on lower levels so they can help themselves any time.
I recently bought two amazing ones, one for my 6 years old son, one for my 3 years old girl. There is nothing more to say about those, just looking at them it’s clear how great purchases they are.

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A special space to fight nightmares

Despite my kids both generally sleep through the night since they were around 7 months old, they have had periods when they had regular really frightening nightmares and have been waking up in the middle of the night, absolutely unable to fall back asleep as terrified to remain alone in their rooms.
Unfortunately we have the smallest double bed size in our room, a queen size, and my husband is quite big. We found in the past that letting them sleep with us was simply another nightmare for us, as not only there was definitively not enough space for 3 of us (let alone 4 when they had a nightmare during the same night at different times) but also because they move a lot in their sleep.
In the past we tried to lie next to their bed to comfort them so they could fall asleep again but they often cannot let go completely as they know that we will go back to our bed as soon as we think they are asleep again: that’s when they open their eyes wide open and they start crying terrified as we were about to leave the room…!

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When terrorists obtain the opposite of their cause, the spreading of love

We are brainwashed about horror every day on TV, social media, newspapers. A bomb killing hundreds of civilians does not make any more effect on us, chemical weapons used on kids don’t mean anything to our lives, we don’t interrupt our routine if gay people are tortured and killed in mass not far from our borders. Even when we get the odd terrorist attack on our lands, we have plenty of sharing to do on Facebook about our indignation or the immense sadness that is a young child being killed at a concert, but the ugly truth is that deep down we don’t really care about that either…

It is only when we know of the details, it’s when we realize we knew one of the victims very well, someone who lead the same existence as we do to the point it could have been us instead of them in those tragic circumstances, that we finally get properly the proportion of the facts we are hearing. The real terror, the nightmares, the incommensurate sense of each and everyone life’s meaning suddenly kicks into our flash, not only within our cold logical thinking as it’s been doing until now. At least that’s what happened to me in the last 24 hours.

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Brittany in my childhood memories

I know Brittany very well. My mum was born and raised over there and I spent every single summer holidays in the area until I was 18. I remember my grandparents country house with that huge garden where I could play for hours (ironically sold in the late 90s to an English man and his wife who I am in contact with twice a year by Xmas wishes and birthday pictures of my kids). And I know by hear the streets of the little main town (Quimper) where my mother grew up and returned to once a year to be closer to her parents and siblings since she lived in a foreign country for her (Italy, where my father is from and I was born and raised).

 

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