Wills Family Update Spring 2011
Long time no update – for which many apologies. Facebook seems the main communication mode... and the WebSite Builder is on George's PC...
Everyone in the house has a PC now. The kids used their earnings from last summer to get themselves into the tech world.
Steedley got her first film role when the funding came through for Il Piccolo Rick. Granny looked after her in Sardinia for a week while Mum and Dad did the Pollyglot camp.
It was a chaotic time as Hamish spent 3 weeks in Milan filming “Sei Piu Bravo Che Un Ragazzo Dalla 5a” - “Are you smarter than a 10 year old” (or 5th grader in the USA) for Sky TV. So the helpers we got for the English camp took it in turns to sit in a TV studio.
George helped us at the camp and got paid for it.
We drove to the UK in the late summer, via Claire and Imogen in Geneva.
We had to go to London for the day to change Hamish's passport and Steedley had an appointment with Floris where the CEO explained about perfume making. A fascinating time, we were very privileged.
But most of the time was in "sunny" Southwold where, as expected the weather was 'variable'. Still the occassional outbreak of sunshine had us enjoying Granny's Expensive 3rd Shed.
Dad enjoyed the chance to nip out for quiet sets of 9 holes in the early morning and we all caught up on English culture!
We only got to see half the people we wanted to in the UK but luckily got to upset the Graham family, who took us off to West Wittering for some south coast beach where the kids all had great fun 'dune jumping'.
The trip back across Europe took us back to France, a couple of days in Brussels, Luxembourg, France, Germany - where we stayed with Cristoph, Juanita and Jasmine - Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and back into Italy..
New term, new school. We decided on Leonardo Da Vinci Scuola Media (Middle School) in Fermo because there a 3 separate classes. This means individual friends, more personal responsibility (remembering homework, books, gym kit, etc.), so individual development. The downside is 90 minutes in the car each day, but we get to talk on the journey at least and Dad tries to combine this with English teaching in some for or another. The school bus would leave at 06:50, which is way too early. The other shocker was the cost of school books which came in at over €500. The next shocker was that we can reclaim these costs if we have our (low) family income registered but of course the Comune failed to tell us this so we are stuffed for 2010. I am on their case for 2011.
We spent the New Year with Amy, Stefano and Tyler in Germany, which was a treat, though finding a way of eating German, instead of the preferred Italian, was a challenge! Gina made Tyler a birthday cake and the kids all had great fun at Tyler's skating birthday party. As well as skiing lessons from Stefano.
We even got snow back and the kids had to suffer almost a week at home, snowed in. The dogs didn't care, they just blanded in.
In addition to FAAM and Pollyglot, Gina is also a Professor for the Universita di Macerata, founded 1290 (for the Master Est and Beni Culturale - Art History) and Universita Marche (for the Engineering Faculty in Fermo), she also organised the Fermo Chamber of Commerce, who took 5 local businesses to La Dolce Vita in London this March. It was an exhausting 6 days. While we were away Anna stayed at the house looking after the kids and her husband Nando drove them to school and their activities. It was our longest time apart.
Tim keeps the evening classes in Porto San Giorgio going and translates for various companies including Nuova Simonelli, where he trained their after sales service team in English and multi-cultural communication. They wanted to improve their social and business skills as they go all around the world. A wonderful team of people and a pleasure to help. Now I check out the coffee machines in each bar to see who has Nuova Simonelli! Along the way there is the usual spring rush to learn English so I am now Professor at the Universita di Urbino, founded 1506, Biotechnology Faculty in Fano and the Science Faculty in Sogesta, Urbino (together they involve 7 hours of teaching and 4 hours of driving on Tuesdays), the Universita di Macerata, Economics Faculty and the Universita Marche (as Gina's assistant). For all of these The Economist is a wonderful way to expand their minds, though I also have to check out Science and Nature magazines.
Of course the next struggle is to get paid for these activities. Sometimes it seems people spend their time finding excuses to mess around and not pay, which is very frustrating.
Steedley really loves her swimming twice a week and is getting very good. She has not sung in public recently, but was in a school theatre production at the gorgeous Teatro Aquila in Fermo. She is now getting down to doing her homework properly, which makes for less meetings at school and happiness all round.
Hamish is the goalie for the 5-a-side team at school. They play on Friday afternoons. He has made a bunch of friends at school, though being out in the country it is not always easy for them to come over. He is also getting into his studies more intensively.
Georgie plays soccer with the Lapedona team at Marina Palmense. He is doing well in school, which is wonderful. He got a 10/10 in Art, showing that his talent is appreciated (it is very rare to get over 8 in any subject at this school – which seems silly). We try to help them all by showing relevant films - so they get to see Troy and Ulysses for 'Epica', Natioanl Geographic and English culture with a variety from The Italian Job and Young Winston to Excalibur and The Battle of Britain.
From the US we get The Civil War and Beverly Hill Billies. Hey - culture's culture. At least they'll be well versed in diversity !
For more photos
We went to the US in the summer. The first time back therre for 5 years. It rained most of the time, but we got out enough. The kids got their Park Rangers badges for doing lots of tasks in the various State and National parks around St. Mary's. They went panning for gold in the river by Uncle Doug and Aunt Judy in Dahlonega, Georgia. They saw Stone Mountain, the centre of Atlanta, the University of Georgia and Cumberland Island.. We went to see the Wildcats, the local high school American Football team. Gina saw a lot of friends and did a lot of shopping and Tim played a bit of golf. We got a fun surprise when we saw Steedley on all the kids channels in an ad she did for Zubber (see photo).
Steedley also got a part in a film, Il Piccolo Nick, but the funding never turned up so she and Dad missed out on a week in Sardinia.
.Can't get the hang of the photo editing on FrontPage - so more photos will go on flickr or google.
Back in Italy we took to children out for special days on their own. Steedley went to the Sferistero opera, George to help with the dolphins at OltreMare and Hamish to watch Italy play Samoa at rugby. They are all doing well in school, despite hating homework! Steedley studies singing with Soeun Jean and occassionally performs. Hamish is progressing well at tennis and George does football twice a week. We put a lot of miles on the car, which we think we will have to replace soon. They all have Nintendo DSs now, which keeps them occupied. Hamish has taken a great interest in WWII, which gives Tim a good chance to rewatch old war movies - in the name of education of course.
Rosie comes to the house on Wednesday evening and we do yoga together, Steedley, Gina and Tim.
Gina continues at FAAM and Synergo. She is also English professor at universities in Fermo, Macerata and Jesi. Tim teaches English in Porto San Giorgio with the support of the local council. He is also assistant professor at Fermo (of course it was nepotism) and will soon start teaching English at the University of Urbino for their Biotechnology course. Odd jobs crop up, such as translations or helping people find finance and when they don't he stays busy on the house, building bookcases, landscaping, cooking and driving the kids around!
Gina took all the kids for an audition for a film being made locally. They were number 41 in line so only had to wait for 7 hours. It takes less time for us to drive to Roma, do an audition and drive home again!
The dogs are more tranquil. They were incredibly happy to see us when we got back from the US and seem to spend their time either with us or waiting at the end of the drive if we've all gone out.
Gracious it all goes so fast. Finally got some time and Ginas computer... so an update... The children are wonderful most of the time. Since Granny got them the Wii they do their homework, offer to help around the house and when that's done they start playing Wii. It does improve their coordination and certainly motivates them into helping (well apart form George whose loathing of work and homework is abating but slowly!).
They are all doing well at school and start their last year in the Elementary school in September. We will be interviewing middle schools over the year (which is highly unusual here). Steedley and George were fencing each week with varyign degrees of enthusiasm. Hamish really took to tennis though it has been hard to make it to all his lessons... and often Steedley and George just have to sit them out. We put a high number of kilometers on the clock because all the activities are at least 15 km away.
Gina works very hard and is exhausted at weekend so she does not get the time she wants with the family. Tim has been teaching in various places and often it is in the evenings, which means there is even less time to talk through things.
Granny came in early May and got us organised, while getting some sun for herself! We've had helpers with us since mid May. Mario and Diane (left) arrived while Granny was here and set about all sorts of decorating and repair jobs. Kenzie and Kayla overlapped a few days with Mario and Diane. They all got roped into a medieval parade in Monterubbiano. Kenzie and Kayla came to help us with the camps and were preparing crafts and lessons, a week later Georgia and Fay arrived and camp preparations went into overdrive. They were here for June and over lapped for a day with Ben and Louise who have got on with the never-ending list of things to do.
The camps were fine this year. It was a real struggle with the Comune getting permission and they had changed lots of local regulations but not told us. The local papers were unhappy with the mayor, so the sponsorship worked against us getting articles in the paper, then there were the elections. Fermo is now a new Province in Italy so it was a huge kerfuffle in the run-up to those elections. Despite the lack of help, the "crisis" (which is a great excuse for doing what you want rather than what you should!) and Jean being in the UK with her new baby we got through it all without any major disaster, though with fewer kids.
The children have all been to more auditions. The boys are starting to want to get jobs, rather than enjoying the excuse of a trip to Rome or Milan. It was hard (and expensive) taking all 3 to Milan for the day, but a great time as we played games on the train. Since Gina and I had hardly seen the kids while the camps were on it was a lovely day with just Dad and them. Gina was straight back to slogging away at FAAM.
Tomorrow Steedley and I go to Florence where she has a job, for a TV advert. We will also due in Sardinia for a week in September were she has a part in a film.
I still can't get the photo gallery going on this version of FrontPage so this will have to do.
Snow came, as it seems to do, in the middle of Feb. Two days of no school/clearing the drive/smiling children throwing snowballs/cold wet children/confused dogs and all the other delights of late winter. We just about ran out of gas but the tanker got through last Thursday.
Gina is negotiating her contract as her old one ran out at the end of January. But there has only been 4 months to get this one sorted out so far but, being Italy nothing happened till the old one had actually run out. She is preparing International Law modules for her visiting professorship at Macerata. She had a week in Rome on a full immersion Italian course then a week in London visiting clients with her boss which was exhausting but went well.
Tim is changing focus. He got a TEFL English Teaching Qualification and now has 2 companies as clients as well as three classes organised with the help of the Comune of Porto San Giorgio. It seems local people are finally realising that they have to actually get out and go to class to learn English. (Somehow there is a comparison with buying language course CD's and buying fitness machines - there's more success when a class is involved.)
The children are wonderful. New photos are on the flickr site. I haven't figured the photo gallery on the Italian version of Front Page Web Editing.
We just learned that at school the other kids are asking them for all the naughty English words. So of course our three are teaching them - with a twist. All the local kids are now going round saying "pig off" and "cooking". What bright sparks we have!
We went skiing yesterday. It costs a lot but it seems to be fun once we have got through the pain of getting the children ready and onto the slope. We set off at 7:30 and were on skis at 9:30. It would have been faster but ski hire took a while and while Mummy and Daddy were getting fitted out our wonderful bright children had wandered off into deep snow to mess around, which would have been fine at the end of the day but they had their ski boots open and trousers not tucked in (=snow down the boots, etc...). So we had a clothing change before we could start.
Daddy was just ready for a break after a couple of successful but slow runs when Mummy asked him to accompany hewr. She went to the top of the blue run and talked about getting season's ski passes and coming every weekend. Daddy's long term plan was getting down the slope for a Cappuccio. Then Mummy saw the ski run and decided it was all too frightening. As soon as she got up any speed she looked for somewhere to fall over, then majestically did just that.
She spent so long blocking the run that the Carabinieri sent one of their finest ("He was very good looking with a dark blue ski suit that said Carabinieri"). Gina readily accepted his offer of a "scilitter" thinking he was going to come back with a snowmobile. The local Polizia skied down but Gina sent him off packing - something about the uniform not being good enough - she was waiting for her Carabinieri. Daddy was looking after the kids at the bottom of the slope while these interactions were going on.
Soon two brave and fearless guys from the Red Cross arrived with a stretcher and brought Gina "protesting" down the slope. I was a little late getting camera from the car otherwise YouTube would have it all. Mummy stayed on the bunny slope after that with George. Daddy Hamish and Steedley went part way up the blue run and skied that a few times, chunks of it were off piste as we had to get from the button lift where the kids fell off to the ski run!
Quick update Christmas 08 - just got the editor working will try to add pictures etc soon
Late Summer 08
Its all going at a pace... Steedley got a 'job'. She and Daddy had a day in Milan where she did a photo shoot for Giorgio Armani. With any luck the fee will cover the train fares. At least she has started a c.v.
The camps went much better than last year. The obligatory crisis happened just as they started and we ended up without help in the garden and at home, but the teachers and helpers at the camp were wonderful and the children had lots of fun. Note for next year: Buy a sound system for the final show. Kids can't compete with an Italian audience (who always chat) and a railway alongside the stage!
We had Vivvi helping us for July. She arrived the same day as Granny Seaside and they both quickly got into days at the beach with the children. Granny made picnic lunches and used the wonderful picnic rucksack she gave us a couple of years ago. Granny was here a week. Vivvi waded through a chunk of an English course we got for the kids for their English Summer Work. We gave up when they were onto paragraphs and journalistic stories. Maybe we go back to it in late Autumn.
We have been to the beach so often the children beg for a day at home. They have nearly finished their Italian homework - weights and measures, centimetres and metres, kilograms and decalitres, celsius and cents.
I had my 50th actually on the 12th. Of the 60 people who accepted only 100 turned up! Luckily we have learnt from experience so we ask people to bring a dish instead of presents. It was a good excuse to load up on wine and we got through 25 litres of local organic Chardonnay and Rosso Piceno. I went for the good stuff so had to fork out €1.40 a litre. Well it was worth a splurge. It seems it was a fun evening, though Gina and I worked like dogs the whole night and finished putting the mountain of leftovers away sometime around 1 a.m. The cleaning waited for a day or so!
We had fun 2 days ago when there was a big fire in our neighbours wood. We ended up having the helicopter swooping over the house as it carried huge buckets of water to stop the fire spreading. Maybe I can get that on You Tube and post a link.
Steedley, George and Hamish have their birthday party tomorrow (Saturday). They have all decided on different cakes and Gina is busy baking. Daddy made that task harder by leaving the door open this morning, so the dogs got to George's cake. Luckily it was not yet iced (though I nearly was!).
Gina is getting big into Facebook. I found 30 people called Tim Wills on there, so formed a Tim Wills Group. What a strange bunch we are!
Photos to follow or try
new photos on flickr.
Gracious me what a lot to do. Luckily school has just broken up as well, so a mere 100 days of holiday for the kids. They are ecstatic, we are ordering English courses! Well we want them to keep up with their English and the hard part of working is finding them something to do beyond fighting and DVD's. We have a few people lined up via helpx.net who we hope will have some fun and teach the kids new things from around the world. The children are wonderful and growing up so fast. It is so much easier now they are happy to help around the house. I keep insisting it is part of a long term plan to ratchet up the duties at home so by the time they are 18 they will be looking for an excuse to set up on their own (and be trained enough in cooking and cleaning to do it!). This of course is anti-constitutional in Italy where 'my poor little baby' often refers to a 30+ year old, who is still living at home.
Work continues apace, between English lessons, lecturing, batteries, the bank and the summer camps comes a new idea for Gina and I to market ourselves as International Consultants - for local firms looking to do business abroad - contracts, finance, marketing, that sort of thing. We think we would be rather good, we only have to hope that local companies think so as well.
I am off to the bank's head office in Milan on Tuesday to develop international bank accounts. It is really impressive how the banking centre has someone on each team who can talk English. I am trying to help people who have problems with banking or payments here in Italy by getting involved with the Italy forums; ItalyMag and Italian Fever. I now have quite a few English speaking customers with Agriturismi as it is cheaper and easier for them to run their accounts with us. There are some horror stories about how people have been charged a lot for minimal service and am hoping to help people before they get ripped off, rather than after. (The bad ones include people being charged for putting money into their accounts!) Any news of other forums gratefully received.
All 3 children can cycle, at last! We have even made it up to Moresco (2 miles and 350 feet uphill). We go on walks with the dogs and the kids take their bikes. It is fun as we mess around and sometimes find fruit trees and herbs in abandoned houses. The sun and rain this year mean that nature is running riot. The grass is head high and the roses are huge.
All three children have also been to auditions for ads and TV, we are waiting for the call! Steedley will be in a couple of singing competitions this summer.
With any luck we can finish the immediate needs of the house this year, the last bit of gutting and plastering under the terrace outside. Then all we have to worry about will be the next few hundred 'urgencies' that come up as we go along.
More importantly here's some photos of the kids:
We now have two laptops so the photos are on the wrong one for editing the site - hence new photos on flickr.
Now we have broadband we are on Skype - "timwills".
An article on Italy. published in Mensa
More photos on: http://community.webshots.com/user/timwills1
for our sister's company Bushes Brew