Sunday 16 February 2014

The Diary of a Single Parent Abroad by Jill Pennington

When Jill and her family moved to Italy she expected life to change but she had no idea how massive that change would be. 
Shortly after the move, she discovered her husband had been having an affair and had no intentions of staying in Italy. Despite being in a foreign country with no income, limited language skills, a house that needed rebuilding and three young children to care for, she never once considered returning to the UK. 
With strength and determination she accepted any challenge, dismantling a derelict house to ground level, digging out a three metre deep well with her hands to get free water and overcoming her fear of the chainsaw to cut the winter wood. When there was very little money for food she made risotto with nettles collected from the roadside. She overcame many problems learned new skills and discovered that money is not important, and the only things in life that matters are health, happiness and her children. 
Jill's story is delivered with an ever present hint of humour, because, she says, "Without laughter life wouldn't be funny!"

The Diary of a Single Parent Abroard by Jill Pennington was published in June 2013.  I have enjoyed this tale of an adventure that turned out very differently from the initial plan.   When Jill and her husband decided to move to Italy, almost on the spur of the moment, with their three children, they had big dreams.  They would buy an old run-down house and renovate it so that it would become their dream home.  Their children would be brought up in the sunshine, allowed more freedom than in the UK and eating fresh food, grown on their own land.

It soon became clear to Jill, after leaving everything behind in England, that she and her husband had very different dreams.  He intended to carry on the affair that he had been having for some time, and his long-term plans did not include an idyllic life in rural Italy with his family.

Faced with such a shock, many of us would have taken the first flight back home.  Back to our family, back to the place where we speak the language and where our friends could support us.  Not Jill.  With a steely determination and a strength of character that is at times unbelievable, she was determined that she would stay, and that her children would have the life that she longed for them.

Jill's diary takes the reader on her journey.  It's a tough journey, and things are never easy for Jill.  The language is a barrier, the paperwork, the attitude of Italian builders, and most of all the appalling treatment dished out by her soon-to-be ex husband.   Despite all of these hurdles, Jill continued to believe, she continued to get her hands dirty and create the life that she wanted.

The book is written very simply, and from the heart.  It's an easy, often funny tale that is honest and straight talking.  There are parts of the diary that could do with a re-edit, but this is still an engaging and fascinating look at what it's really like to start over in a new country, with no money, but masses of self-belief.

Image of Jill Pennington

Jill Pennington was born in West Yorkshire. She now lives in Italy on a small farm in the Apennine mountains with her three children.

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