The Storm Before the Calm

I felt like scarpering back to London on more than one occasion in my first 24 hours of being in Tuscany, but things have definitely improved!

I was filled with trepidation before we even left London, as a thousand panicked thoughts had been swimming around my mind for months. When I finally arrived the family were mysteriously absent, having decided to stay another night on their yacht, and left the help to settle me in. As soon as I was told this on arriving at the villa I asked my taxi driver to wait, dumped my bags, and headed straight back to the nearby town where Tom was staying for a few days. Discovering that I would unexpectedly have to share a room with the nanny… well, let’s just say that absolute panic would be an understatement (I’m an only child! I haven’t shared a room with anyone, ever, except my fiancé!), so poor Tom had to spend the evening placating me.

We had a lovely meal, at a restaurant located in the medieval part of the town. It was set in a tiny walled courtyard, lined with terracotta pots full of rosemary and lavender. After a couple of glasses of red wine I started to calm down, and noticed the way the evening light turned all the stonework to amber, honey, copper and gold, and the gentle breeze that whispered away the heat. I got a taxi back to the villa as late as I was allowed to, promising to see Tom as soon as the first day’s lessons had concluded.

The trouble with placements like this is that you don’t know the rules. Every family have their own code they follow, their own habits and unspoken agreements. Every nationality differs, every religion; and we tutors are generally expected to work it out for ourselves. The next morning the chef made me breakfast (I’m just going to throw that in there and leave it, like I think it’s perfectly normal having a chef preparing all my meals for me). Nobody seemed to know when the family were due to return (though nobody really speaks English here, so this conversation was problematic in itself.) I then received an email explaining that they would return in about four hours so, having already prepared my lessons for that day in advance, I grabbed my book and selected a sun lounger by the pool in clear sight in case I was wanted. Lunch came and went, and a few more hours passed.

I was enjoying the warmth and the sunshine, and the murmur and trickle of water from the pool, but I was on edge all day waiting to do my job (I like my job, I understand it, and that gives me strength and confidence). 5pm came and went but then, just as I was about to get ready to go and meet Tom, I was summoned! It was lovely of them, really, but it was not at all what I needed: I got a phone call from the family inviting me to spend the evening with them on their yacht, so we could meet and get to know each other a bit better before lessons started. It was a kind and thoughtful idea, but the last thing I wanted at that moment. Apart from being instructed that I would need a swimming costume, all I was told was that they would collect the two year old and myself from their private beach shortly. I’m not good at not knowing what’s going on. It panics me.

The nanny showed me the way and brought the two year old (let’s call him Fred), and I followed as nonchalantly as I could. We wandered along the shoreline past sunbathing adults and children splashing and laughing in the shallows. I still had no idea what was going on, but then a rather large yacht ploughed towards us, and stopped about a hundred metres off shore. It nosed to the left a bit, then to the right, then seemed to stop as if confused. A small speedboat detached itself, and came closer. At this point it all got a bit mad. The nanny took all her clothes off (little ‘Fred’ was already naked but she had a bikini on, don’t worry), ditched her phone, and WADED INTO THE OCEAN carrying a child now bawling in panic.

“Er.. are we… we go in the sea? Now?” I asked. “Yes, come”. Was the only reply. The speedboat was still a good twenty metres from shore, and I had a BAG with a phone and STUFF in it. I contemplated for a second whether I should leave the bag behind as we were clearly swimming to the bloody boat, then reasoned that the nanny was a little old for such crazy shenanigans and Fred too young, so my possessions should be safe held about my head. Right. Luckily I’d put a bikini on under my clothes, as I had to strip, wade into the sea up to my chest, then clamber aboard the boat. Fred was placed into the arms of his older brother (we’ll call him Rupert) but continued to scream (because he was being kidnapped by strangely-familiar pirates, obviously), and the captain remarked wryly to me “well, that was exciting”. I think I replied with something witty like “ha, yeah”. Cool.

View from the top deck. Trying not to give anything private away whilst still showing you a shot of amazingness.

Seconds later we stepped on-board the yacht. It was huge, and beautiful, and the crew did absolutely everything possible to ensure everyone had anything they wanted at every moment. It would have been a delightful evening if I hadn’t been desperate to get back in time to see Tom (taxis don’t work after 10pm here it seem) and miserable at the prospect of not being able to. As it turned out though luxury only travels at ten knots per hour, and we didn’t get back until 9.30pm, so I had to give up on my Tom-visiting-hours. Luckily I’d been provided with a 1000mg paracetamol on the yacht to stave off a headache, so before my lip even quivered when I was finally alone, I passed out.

The next day I finally began teaching and, back in my comfort zone, my mood lifted immeasurably. It’s also quite impossible to be anything less than happy when the sun never stops shining, you spend your days in beautiful surroundings, all your meals are delicious and freshly prepared for you, and the people you are with are thoughtful, sweet, and welcoming! Here’s a photo I took of the pool, just to give you a taster. More details to follow very soon, I promise.

Has anyone else ever been on a working holiday? How did you find it?

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6 thoughts on “The Storm Before the Calm

    • I’ve had a few sulks and one ‘I’m not coming out of the pool for my lesson, ha ha!’ from the eight year old (well, I’d better pretend to phone your Mum then…), but luckily she’s otherwise adorable, and her siblings very well behaved! I have a technique of ‘blaming’ the parents of my students for their having to have lessons, so that the children perceive that we’re on the same side rather than just viewing me as their torturer. Jx

  1. Pingback: Tuscany Teaching Update: Making Animal Noises and A-Level Economics | Cocktails and Country Tales

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