I planned our winter holiday in July last year. My daughter Sofia, my boyfriend John and I would be spending Christmas at my parents’ house in Italy. “Booked!” I screamed once I read the notification that my payment for the flight tickets had gone through.
In September, we started the countdown.
In November, I spent a week in Italy to deal with errands that would be difficult to do over Christmas, like seeing my accountant, my consultant at the bank and so on. I had the chance to spend time alone with my parents and catch up with a few friends. After over a year abroad, the warm embrace of my folks overwhelmed my heart. Plus I’d be back in only a month’s time, just before Christmas. Maybe I could even celebrate my 50th birthday there.
On 20th December, I checked my messages and emails just before the taxi driver arrived at 6 am. Nothing from EasyJet, but a piece of news caught my eye. Gatwick airport had been closed the night before and flights suspended because of drones sighted flying over the airport. My legs trembled. I inhaled deeply, and shook off that awful sensation. The article referred to the night before, surely the situation now was under control.
At 8.45 am, we were at Gatwick airport, queuing up to drop off our bags. We were excited at the thought of what we’d do that afternoon and the following days in Italy, what we’d eat, who we’d see, but above all we were excited about spending Christmas with granny, grandad, Sofia’s cousins and the rest of our family, for the first time after 6 years.
However, it was not meant to be. The check-in procedures stopped when it was almost our turn: the airport had just been closed, and all flights due to depart before 2 pm (ours included) had been cancelled.
In the hope to find another flight from another airport, and that the airline would arrange the transport, we patiently waited for four hours to talk to an EasyJet customer service representative.
“We have no flights available to Italy until the 26th December. I’m very sorry. You may try with another airline. We’ll refund you the fare.”
In a state of trance, we checked flights online with British Airways from Gatwick for later in the afternoon or for the following day. Every time we wanted to book them, the flights disappeared. Therefore, we took the shuttle to the South Terminal to go and book the tickets in person, if that was at all possible. During the short ride, a few passengers near me shouted, “Look at the drone! Over there!” but I couldn’t see it. One thing was obvious though: the airport would stay shut in the afternoon too. It was already 1.30 pm. The chances to fly out from Gatwick that day were non-existent.
At the South Terminal, there were passengers everywhere, making it difficult to move around with our suitcases. We gave up the idea of reaching British Airways and went to Costa’s for a bite to eat instead. The tears that had been welling in the sockets of my eyes flooded my face. I felt I had failed my parents and my daughter, and John. Our 10-days holiday would be reduced to three days if I didn’t find another way to get to Venice before Christmas. Three days! Was it worth it? I felt like giving up, cancel the return journey and go home.
Nevertheless, three days were better than nothing, and the more we waited the less chances we had to leave even on the 26th. Sniffling, I went online and accepted the flight offered to us, at 8.30 pm on 26th December.
The following days we did our best to enjoy the Christmas holidays and at last, we flew out to Venice.
In those three days, we fitted in everything we could, however, a visit to Vicenza had to be cut short because of the unseasonable bitter cold and the heavy fog, it was far too cold to go to Venice so Verona had no competition; Padua was magical; and my improvised birthday party was a success.
After a month, the question, “Who forced Gatwick to suspend all flights for 36 hours?” is still unanswered. Actually, it seems that, “Some of the drone sightings which kept Gatwick Airport on lockdown for 36 hours may have been reports of Sussex Police's own aircraft, the force's highest-ranking officer admitted yesterday. “ (The Telegraph, 29 December 2018)
Yes, you read it correctly. Police’s equipment. A few days ago, the same happened at Heathrow but just for an hour on 8th January.
Anyway, who can profit from this drone hysteria?
I think there are two possibilities:
What do you think about it, dear Seeker? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Save the date: my next blog post will go live on 21st February.
Today I'm thrilled to host an interview with author Jo Linsdell, not only because we've been collaborating for a while (remember the August bookish blog hops and the Christmas one?) but also because she's a Brit living in Italy and I'm an Italian living in the UK.
For how long have you been living in Italy, Jo?
I came here for 3 days back in June 2001, and I'm still here ;) Crazy to think it's been that long.
Wow. And since you moved to Italy, have you always lived in Rome?
No. Although we've mainly lived in the capital, we also spent some time living in Tivoli. It's a small town near Rome and definitely worth a day trip for those coming here on holiday. It's home to some beautiful villas and waterfalls.
I had the chance to visit Tivoli in my youth and I agree, it's well worth a day trip. How do you like living in Rome?
I've moved around a lot over the years and Rome is the place I feel most at home. As a city it's changed a lot since I've been here, and not all in a good way, but there's still so much to love about living here. There's so much to see and do too. I love history and art, and both are in abundance here.
Agreed. Rome is the perfect city for art and history lovers! I went several times and look forward to taking my daughter there. However, you must miss the UK. Can you tell us what you miss the most?
Mostly little things, like proper bacon. Italian bacon is different from the big cut we have in the UK. It's just not the same. Another thing I miss are the houses. Since moving to Rome I've lived in apartments. I miss having a house with a garden. I'd have to move out of the centre to have something like that here though.
I think the thing I miss most though is hearing my own language. When I go to the UK to visit I like that everyone is speaking English. I know that sounds odd. I'm bilingual and have no trouble speaking and understanding Italian now, but I miss hearing my own language. It's nice to go for a walk and just absorb the Englishness.
And I miss the Italianess. So, did you get married in Italy?
Yes. Here in Rome.
What inspired you to write A Guide to Weddings in Italy?
I'm married to an Italian, and thought others might benefit from the research I had to do to get married here. As with anything bureaucratic, working out what documents were needed, where we needed to go, and when, was a long process. Having gone through it all I figured others might find the information useful.
Was it easy for you to learn Italian? Is it why you decided to write Italian for Tourists?
When I first came to Italy I only planned on staying for 3 days and so didn't study the language beforehand. I learnt Italian by living here. It was hard in the beginning but I think the hardest part was getting out of my own way. I was afraid of making mistakes. Self doubt plays a big role in slowing down progress. Once I just threw myself into it and allowed myself to get things wrong it was actually much easier.
A lot of people told me I should write Italian for Tourists. I used to work with tourists and it would often come up in conversation. I used my own experience and the things that tourists wanted to know how to say to create a language guide specifically for them. One of most common comments about other phrasebooks was that there was too much information in them that wasn't relevant for tourists. Stuff like how to buy a house. Tourists don't need to know that, and it just gets in the way of finding the information they do need. Italian for Tourists is a bare bones phrasebook created specifically with tourists in mind.
Do you speak English to your children?
Yes. They both speak Italian and English.
They're very lucky. Changing subject: where is your current favourite place to write, and if you could pick any place in the world where would be your ideal place to write?
I have an office area in the corner of my bedroom with a desk, but rarely use it. I prefer to be comfy in my recliner armchair in the lounge. I don't really have an ideal place as such, but I find I can't concentrate if I'm out and about so would need to be at home, with some peace and quiet.
Your CV is impressive: you’ve written fiction and non-fiction books, you run your own website, you are the founder and CEO of Writers and Authors and Promo Day, have won several awards in your career, were named the Who's Who in the writing industry in 2009, and you are an illustrator too. If you had to pick the thing that you like to do the most that is writing related, what would you pick and why?
Now that is a hard question. It's like picking which of my kids I love the most. Impossible. I enjoy all aspects of my work. As long as I'm being creative I'm happy.
What are you currently working on?
I have several projects in the works at the moment. My new book 365 Days of Quotes for Writers is due for release on 17th January 2018 and so I'm busy with tasks related to the launch.
I'm also finishing writing the KOSMOS series and getting the last episodes ready for publication over the coming months, and working on edits for my novel Do You LIKE Me?
Is there a question you would have liked to answer but was never asked in an interview?
I've answered all sorts of questions over the years. Nothing springs to mind. Obviously the question I like most is "Where can we buy your work?" As I do a lot of different work the easiest answer to that one is my website, www.JoLinsdell.com. It has information and links for all my projects.
Thank you Jo, and best of luck in all your endeavours.