02 Mar Reinventing oneself to survive
Tony’s parents were Italian born but settled in the UK when they were teenagers. They meet in Preston and married in Coventry and had children. Tony and I met by chance when I was 16 and have been together for 29 years. Our twin daughters were born in April 2000. Tony worked regular nights in a factory, I worked a couple of afternoons a week in a call centre; we were permanently exhausted and hardly spent time together. When we became parents our main aim was to spend as much time with our daughters as possible, but couldn’t. Both of us wanted to try something different and give our girls a different life. Because of Tony’s heritage we decided to move to Italy. We didn’t have any idea of what we would do but we wanted to do something while our daughters were young enough not to be disrupted during the schooling years. So we sold our home and went house hunting, we found a two bedroom townhouse that needed renovating in a small village. Within 4 months we moved out of our home, packed what we wanted to take, left our jobs and waited, we had sent our belongings to our house, booked our flights and tried to celebrate Christmas. On the 29 December 2002 with our 2 ½ year old daughters and a couple of bags we said our tearful goodbyes and flew to Italy. We arrived in our mouse infested house, full of boxes, no working kitchen, no food, milk, or any means to cook and had two hungry children. We knew nobody and didn’t know what we would do for money or work. However, that didn’t stop us.
Over the past 15 years we have had to reinvent ourselves to survive. Within the 1st year of living in Italy and not knowing many people, Tony and I decorated our house and Tony found work or people found him odd jobs to do. Odd jobs then became his job, come rain, shine or snow, he would take any job available, from painting a castle, helping an eccentric couple move house, airport pickups, cutting backgrounds, which went on for several months, during the winter and spring.
Learning New Skills
Then the proprietor of the Estate Agent we had purchased our house from started finding Tony work. Then one owner wanted Tony to do his snagging list at his 6 bedroom villa. Tony learnt a lot: cleaning pools, organising deliveries, repairs and general gardening. Life was good: regular work in the summer but there wasn’t much work in the winter.
The following year the Estate agent introduced Tony to a builder who took him on full time as his lackey, the money wasn’t fantastic but it was regular. Tony started working in January, five days a week and I stayed home and our daughters, who had started nursery. I would do housework, practice my Italian, spend time with the girls. I got a part-time job working in a vineyard, preparing the vines, but my friend stopped going because she suffered badly with hayfever, so I stopped going because it’s a boring job on your own.
August arrived and the builder closed up for the month. After a worrying period without much work, some of Tony’s previous clients asked him to do more work, so the decision was made for him to start a business of property maintenance. He registered his business and started advertising. He felt he could offer a varied service.
After several months and no phone calls, Tony was approached by an English house owner to help with managing his renovations because the builder had a tendency to disappear regularly, so now Tony kept an eye on him, the carpenter and the electrician and updated the owner. Plus being bilingual he also did translations for the owner when they had meetings. Slowly word got around and Tony started looking after another two houses. During the summer I was looking after our daughters, teaching them English, and occasionally I would give Tony a hand with changeovers for some holiday rentals.
On several occasions we have been involved in planning weddings and parties. Each time we’ve had to help more and more. The first wedding we arranged the minibuses, collected the vicar and kept him company! The next wedding we had to arrange the transport, flowers and anything that needed to be done face to face when the bride wasn’t able to deal with it. In 2015 we arranged a 60th birthday party for 30 people and the party was a great success. While we were organising this we were also arranging my brother’s wedding with 60 guests, there was a lot more to arrange, we needed translations doing for the paperwork, for the ceremony, food, flowers, the vicar, accommodation, transport, stag & hen nights, the list was endless. Everything went smoothly, everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. However, through dealing with these two events, Tony and I agreed that this wasn’t a career path for us.
I also do the behind the scenes jobs, emails, paperwork, research, prepare information for the holiday homes guest books, promotions, general housework and parenting. I have been offered a few jobs to teach children in language schools but declined because they wanted me to give them priority over my children, which would never happen. We don’t have a family network, so have nobody to help if I was working and if the girls get sick or any other problems arise. I have needed to stay flexible and close to home. I completed a TEFL course and tried teaching English from home, but found I have even that didn’t work out. I have even written a few children’s storybooks, but haven’t had them published.
Over the past few years we have noticed that our clients are finding it more difficult getting holiday bookings, which we think is down to the high volume of properties now available in the area and very little individual promotions from the agents. So we set up our website Rest Assured Rentals where we promote holiday homes and other businesses via social media. It is still in the early stages but the owners have had an increased interest in bookings.
A Healthy Future
Unfortunately, 10 years ago Tony’s mother died unexpectedly. While we were in the UK waiting for the funeral, we didn’t eat well and on our return home, Tony noticed how overweight he had become, so he started exercising. After a few weeks he started to get fitter and lose some weight, so I joined in and we worked out separately, a few days a week, which then became daily. Then two years ago we saw an intense workout programme advertised, so we challenged ourselves to do the 60 day programme together, this way we could motivate each other. We successfully finished and enjoyed the concept and we have continued with different workout programmes, which are on demand. Now Tony is an independent support coach for Team Beachbody. We enjoy helping others and share our journey to fitness and a healthier lifestyle. Our plans are to expand on this, Tony is studying to be a fitness trainer and I am studying in nutrition and then we hope to help people on an individual basis. You can find our journey on Facebook as Camerota Fitness.
At the end of the day we have been fortunate to be able to spend so much time with our daughters, we’ve watched them grow into wonderful, kind and respectful young ladies and still spend quality time with them. Yes, we’ve struggled, but it has been worth it.