Prior to arriving in Italy, I was holidaying in the south of France, I met my Italian boyfriend ‘colpo di fulmine’, lovestruck, I decided to stay with him instead of returning home with my school friends, I was 17 years old ! My father sent Interpol to find me, he came looking for me too. Eventually in October 1971 I was deported from France and sent back to UK, my boyfriend was not allowed into UK as my father wouldn’t guarantee for him, so, as soon as I got my passport back from Interpol, I got on the 1st train back to France and joined my boyfriend. In hindsight I regret causing so much distress to my parents.
I arrived in Grottaglie winter 1971, a very young and naive young girl who had fallen in love with an Italian boy from Puglia. For a year I lived with my mother in law who earned a living giving injections to the sick, everyone called her a ‘nurse’, she would spend a few hours at the doctors surgery every afternoon then every morning she would be out and about (walking miles) around Grottaglie (Taranto) , visiting the sick who had been recommended a course of injections by their Doctor. I very rarely accompanied her, she said it distracted her clients and prolonged her day as they were curious to know who I was, where I came from, was I going to marry her son etc? That year I made a concerted effort to learn Italian, both written and spoken. I spent hours translating magazines and writing love letters to my boyfriend who had left to do his compulsory military service. Italy had mandatory military service, for men only, until 31 December 2004.
Not many women worked in Puglia back in the 80’s if they did they were teachers, nurses or part of a family business. My in-laws wouldn’t allow me to go out on my own, so I would go out with my sister in law. You’re probably wondering why on earth did I remain there? I wanted to return to the vibrant city of London where my family and friends were, but my Italian boyfriend said “if you leave me then don’t come back”, on the other hand my father said “once you return to UK you are NOT going back to Italy” in between a rock and a hard place my heart ruled my head and I stayed in Puglia, eventually getting married June 1972. My father and 4 brothers did not come to the wedding and obviously didn’t approve.
Life in Puglia was the opposite to the life I had in London. In UK we lived in a huge house with central heating (I mention this as there wasn’t any heating at my MIL’s place) enjoyed horse riding, ice skating, tennis and my own bedroom. My mother drove a car and I had lots of friends, I appreciate I’d had a privileged upbringing. Thinking back to those years I believe I stayed in Puglia because my father was adamant I shouldn’t…I was at an age when being ‘ordered to return home’ was not what I wanted to hear.
To be continued…..