What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted with quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.
Born in the 1930s, Rosemary grew up on a farm, and a single trip to Switzerland was the only escapade outside of the United Kingdom that she had embarked upon. Farm life was what she knew. That was, until the age of twenty-three, when she married Bill and six weeks later found herself on a journey that would see her living all around the world for the next few decades.
After a three-week honeymoon in Scotland Bill and Rosemary moved in to their first home as a couple. Then, on the first day back at work Bill came home and said they were moving to Sicily.
That was it. The next day they gave in their months’ notice to – I’m imagining – a rather shocked landlord. The following three weeks were spent travelling into London each day to attend language school and get to grips with the move. Each move was its own, and Rosemary didn’t know how long they would be there or where they would be going next. And she definitely didn’t know that the next thirty or forty years would be a time of constant change.
The day of the move came and Bill and Rosemary packed everything into the old Austin and drove off to Sicily. Driving through Switzerland and the big, beautiful Alps, Rosemary could not help but gaze out the window, fascinated at what was moving past and wondering as to the life she was driving toward.
January in Italy was cold and there was lots of snow, but that didn’t stop it from being an incredible drive. And to top it all off, on the night spent in Naples Rosemary had the opportunity to try her first ever pizza!
“I should never forget it. It was the most wonderful thing I thought I’d ever eaten.”
Wait, how old were you? I had to ask.
“I was twenty-three.”
“They had the old-fashioned oven in the wall for the pizza and this long-handled pan. It was heavenly food. We had never heard of pizza before and I didn’t know what to expect. And of course, there were no pizza places anywhere that we went other than in Italy.”
Because back then there wasn’t a pizza delivery place on every street corner. And if you grew up on a farm (more on that in the next instalment) there was no way you were ever eating pizza for dinner.
But I digress. After Italy came the boat journey to Palermo, Sicily. Their destination was a small town about thirty to forty miles out of the capital. By this point the wonder of the new had begun to give way to the worry of homesickness. This new world was one so strange to the farm girl, Rosemary.
As they drove down the rough, cobbled road, men lined the streets looking for work. Driving rain battered the car as Bill struggled to see where he was going. This was a true winters’ day in the small island off of southern Italy. A new home and a new language.
Arriving at their destination, a small hotel some way up the mountain, they got out and stumbled into their room. It housed an old iron bedstead and a mattress. Quickly they got a hot water bottle and laid it down on the bed. Steam came out. Rosemary, young and unfamiliar with the world, was worried.
Those first few days were tough, but eventually Bill and Rosemary moved into a little apartment that they could call their own. They could begin to settle down.
It was all very new, but they managed to survive and began slowly to settle in. When I asked if Rosemary wanted to move she responded with this:
“I didn’t know what I wanted. I had no clear thoughts. I knew what Bill’s work was and I suppose I knew deep down that it was going to be constantly moving. But when you are young you don’t think very much about things like moving. It was all very exciting to be married and I was living in a dream, probably, rather than thinking very much about things.”
Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. I chose to begin with the journey to Sicily because travelling played a major part in the life of Rosemary. There are also more stories from Sicily which might crop up. But these stories are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.