Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year's Eve with a difference

We learned this morning that the Consular office in Rome had processed Clare's documents, but that they cannot be couriered to Sicily for use before Thursday morning, because of the capod'anno holiday. That meant changing our flight home. The first sensible possibility is EasyJet from Palermo on Saturday afternoon. This will allow a couple of days slack just in case the courier doesn't deliver on schedule. Changing both our flights cost about £240. Getting to Palermo airport from Taormina will cost us another £45, and take four hours travel time before the two and three quarter hour flight. The bus to get us home will land us in Cardiff at 3.15am on Sunday. Changing the bus ticket cost a fiver. Not much change out of three hundred quid to get us home.

Clare phoned AGEUK with whom she took out a travel insurance policy to notify them of a situation in which she needs to claim for re-patriation because of the theft. She was informed that the policy sold to her did not cover a missed flight despite the circumstances. She had no idea of this when she bought the policy and was not warned of this. As ever we were told, it's all in the small print - that which older people with weakening eyesight and diminishing patience with lengthy convoluted documents are often less reluctant to read, relying rather on what the salesperson tells them. 

The older we get the more we need to feel sure that the risks entailed in travel are acceptable and tolerable.  AGEUK will be hearing from us very publicy when we return. They are supposed to be in the business of helping older people live their lives in as satisfactory a manner as possible. Not having the risk pointed out before purchase is tantamount to mis-selling insurance. Now what was the name of the insurance industry watchdog? .... No, I'll have to look it up when I have a proper internet connexion again.

Being so late home means I won't be able to fulfil my Sunday Mass duty in Abercanaid, so I emailed my friend Robert the area Dean and had an auto reply to say he won't be checking emails until next Monday, so I had to email the Archdeacon a warning instead. By evening I had a nice reply from both of them. Robert's been hiding away, but not off-line, so the problem will be sorted.

Making arrangements to get home also meant making arrangements to stay on. My locum successor arrives on Wednesday on the flight we were due to take back to Gatwick so we have to make way for him. We went to the Convent to ask Suore Sylvana the community's Guardiana if we could take up her gracious offer of accommodation for the three nights we have to wait before taking our flight. What an offer! One corner of the Convent grounds overlooks the Guardiola and the Gulf of Naxos. There's a house on the edge of an orchard garden and it has eight rooms equipped with beds for guests. One of the community's remarkable quiet ministries is providing hospitality for people supporting and caring for people hospitalised in this area. Some families may come from too far away to commute and are unable to afford hotels. This week there's nobody staying there, so we have an amazing choice of rooms with views!

Shopping for supper took up the end of the afternoon, and as the sun set two bagpipers magnificent in Sicilian costume patrolled the Corso playing out the old year. Tonight I let the others cook and went to Vespers. It was longer than usual with prayer for peace and readings taken from Pope Benedict's letter for the day of prayer for world peace, which is New Year's Day. 

We whiled away New Year's Eve banqueting on fresh tuna and roasted vegetables washed down with Sicilian red wine and pastries from one of the local pasticceria. At eleven thirty, we strolled up a very crowded Corso Umberto to join the countdown street party in piazza Sant' Agostino, hosted by a local deejay. There was lots of exuberance, no violence and no drunken excess. It was mild for a winter's night and no rain to dampen the fireworks. No Auld Lang Syne. Such a refreshing and welcome change from a British Hogmanay.

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