Saturday, June 29, 2013


 was my adjective of choice regarding the jellyfish in my lovely little cove. It appears the one I saw was simply the first to shore of a swarm, blown in by the wind. I really couldn't have picked a more inaccurate adjective had I tried! Alas the beaches this side of the island are now fundamentally unsuitable for swimming. They're not dangerous jellyfish, in that they aren't so poisonous that you're likely to die from a sting, but they do sting. Well, that is a bit presumptuous of me, but given even the children wouldn't go in the water, instead preferring to snag jellys with sticks from the rocks, I infer they aren't great company up close.

I am not without things to do here though. Aside from a few errands that I have to run, I would also like to go to some other places on the island, and see what there is to see. I've already been to most of them last year, but I had only an hour or two in Porto Azzuro and Capoliveri, both of which I recall being quite striking and beautiful. I could also go to Portoferrario, which is significantly bigger than any of the other towns on the island, where I might be able to get a couple of things I've been wanting to get my hands on, but are not available in Rio Marina (really out-there stuff like coconut oil and cranberry juice). Doing so would mean making use of the uh, extensive and regular bus services Elba has to offer, which could be interesting. I have obtained a bus timetable from the tourist info office in Rio Marina, so it is within the realms of possibility.

Should the jellyfish still be bothersome after that, then I also have my camera, and an island full of beautiful just waiting for me. Potentially that could keep me entertained for quite an extensive period, although it would be in competition with lazing about reading, and half-hearted attempts at extending my non-existent Italian.

And there's still the matter of the bells to figure out, which I revise my opinion on about a dozen times a day.

A slightly more reality-based note, for any of you who still read this to see what I'm doing with my life (other than lazing about on some island or another).

I've left my old job based in London, and have since accepted a temp contract in Germany, starting the middle of July. I've been doing all sorts of odd bits and pieces work-wise, updating my first aid cert, doing a short course, interviews here and there, and my driving licence. I've decided to move towards a free-lance sort of version of my current job, taking temp contract here and there, working with newborns. It's more flexible and, to me, a bit more interesting. It is self-employed, which ought to be an interesting aspect (at least for a while), with all of the obvious upsides as well as the various downsides.

So, when am I coming home? Well, how long is a piece of string really. It is a matter of timing with work and finances now. Permanent plans are still something I don't really deal in, (case in point: just ditched a stable(ish) job for self-employed freelance work, the very definition of unstable employment), but one of the up-sides of this new work is that I have control of my own timetable, so I can book in holidays when they suit. Watch this space.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Italian adventures

I could happily live in Italy. It's just that little bit random and haphazard, nothing quite makes sense, but it's okay, because nobody expects it to, it just is. Everything just is. It's quite wonderful.

I'm back on Elba, the beautiful island I discovered last year, although this time I am on a different part, Rio Marina, on the Eastern side of the island, facing towards the mainland. It's a nice little town, not much more than a village really, although it does have a port where the ferry from Piombino calls several times per day. The houses are set on the hillsides, sloping steeply down towards the port where the shops and restaurants are concentrated. There is just one small supermarket, a handful of panetterias and a few restaurants. I suspect the restaurants, gelaterias and coffee bars are somewhat less numerous in the off season, now it feels like a town just waking up for the summer, like a household of people getting ready for work and school.

I love the sleepy feel of The Rock, it may be a gorgeous island in the Mediterranean, relying largely on tourism, but it doesn't have the glamour of Sardinia, it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's laid back and relaxed, more than a little bit sleepy, and it feels precisely like what it is; a large rock, isolated from the mainland by a few kilometres of beautiful clear blue water. My perception of time here is utterly lost, I haven't the faintest idea what day it is, and only due to the particularly enthusiastic symphony of bells just passed am I aware that it is around midday. The bells are a particular peculiarity which will leave me forever checking my watch for the time! From where we are on the hill, we can hear two bells. There is the simple chiming of the clocktower above the beach, which marks out the quarter, half and three-quarter hours by 1,2 or 3 chimes, and on the hour it strikes out how many hours. The other clock, which I am yet to discover the location of, but I believe to be inland somewhere, is a little more comprehensive. It strikes out the hour in a nice, deep tone, followed by the 1, 2 or 3 strikes for the quarters past the hour in a slightly higher pitch, and provides a definitive notification of midday. There are two complicating factors to this system of telling the time. The first is that I rarely observe when the bells start, and so cannot count the chimes accurately, meaning I often get the hour wrong (although I usually manage to catch up in time to find out how much past the hour it is). The second complication lies not with my ability, but with the bells. The deeper, inland bell is quite accurate, it marks the hour right on the hour, within a few seconds of my watch and phone. The belltower by the beach, however, seems to struggle. I believe that it simply loses time, because today it seems to be almost accurate, while the last few days I had observed a discrepancy between the two clocks of almost five minutes. A final confusing factor, which I have just observed, is that they do not both always mark the quarter hours. The 12.15pm bell was simply two chimes, and just now (12.26pm) there was one solitary chime, but I could not have said for certain which tower it was. I should find out soon, because hopefully the second will chime properly.

Luckily there is no fear of me being late to anything here, for there is nothing to be on time for! However it is quite fascinating observing the bells.

Hmm. Perhaps the inland bell only chimes the hour and half hour, but not the quarter hour. It was perfectly punctual for that time.

Other than observing the bell-ringing & timekeeping, I have also been enjoying the beaches. Rio Marina itself has two small beaches either side of the port, neither of which I could really recommend, although one of them does have a set of fresh-water showers, which I thoroughly approve of. To compensate for the small, tourist-filled shores by the sea in Rio Marina, there is a simply stunning little beach nearby, only ten minutes walk from the beach with showers. It is a lovely little cove, quite enclosed, with steep rocky sides coming down to it. The beach is pebbles, spreading outwards to the sea and becoming larger smooth, round stones. The water is absolutely crystal-clear, with little fishes swimming around, a few sea-urchins to make sure you don't put your feet down, and the very occasional colourful jellyfish to keep you in touch with reality. It is, without a doubt, the nicest beach I have found outside of New Zealand. It doesn't have have waves, that is true, but for a rocky beach that is a good thing. It is just beautiful. Hopefully I can rouse myself to taking pictures one of these days...