People say that you make one, maybe two, big moves throughout your entire life.
By ‘big’ I refer to transplanting your whole life: belongings, relationships and occupation to a new place.
As human beings we crave order and routine. It’s not something that we necessarily like to hear – but it is the truth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of spontaneity as much as the next person. But there is something wholly comforting in knowing that your existence is planned from morning to night.
That’s how I was living before I made my last big change.
A retired teacher of 40 years, I’d paid my dues, done my time and had earned my right to retirement at the age of 65. I’d lived a healthy, if rather humdrum life up until that point. The trials and tribulations of the school term was more than enough excitement for me.
During the 6 weeks of holiday I was given each year, I would visit old friends spotted around the blissful Mediterranean and sail with the local dinghy racing club, where I also took a role as Treasurer, out of duty more than anything else.
Problem kids would grow up and mature. Young lovers would fall in and out of each other’s graces. Teachers would grow through their own stages of life. When you’re so deeply involved with so many people on a day-to-day basis, a simple home life can fee like bliss.
My sanctuary, a semi-detached 3 bedroom house that I had no plans of filling. It was here that I could indulge in my one true vice: cooking. A large majority of my pay packet would be frittered away on new utensils, imported ingredients and the sharpest of knives. All in pursuit of eating the best meals I could every day, something I had little opportunity to do in my youth.
Growing up during the 50s and 60s, my parents were children of the Lost Generation who knew little of culinary experimentation. Their meals were subtle variations on the Victorian meals that their parents had fed them. Meat and two veg. Fish and chips on a Friday. Pie and Mash on a Wednesday. Roast on a Sunday. Leftovers in between.
My Mother had never left England.
My Father had left just once – to go to War. When he returned, the one thing he longed for was routine and a sense of truly English peace and quiet. He wanted to know that his country was better for the sacrifice him and his friends had made.
It can be so easy to forget about yourself, when you’ve spent the majority of your life looking out for others. But that’s what happened to me. My 65th birthday crept up on me with such speed and stealth, that I was honestly surprised when I was presented with my card and cake in a school assembly.
My time had come to leave.
Suddenly, the gaping yawn of retirement seemed more like an interminable sentence rather than the endless holiday it’s often presented as.
Now that I no longer had the unpredictable nature of school life to keep me entertained, life soon became humdrum. The dinghy races lost their sense of escapism when I could go out and sail whenever I wanted to. The naughty mid-week pints no longer tasted as sweet, once I knew that I could get up whenever I wanted to.
Worst of all, my food was starting to taste bland. I needed a change.
Barely a year into retirement, I knew I had to go. The house – once my inner sanctum of peace – was becoming my tomb.
So I packed my little teacher’s car with some essential belongings. My favourite cooking tools. A few treasured photographs. My entire Summer wardrobe. I called my friends in Italy and told them to make up a bed.
I was driving to Italy and I would be there in 2 days.