I’ve been following Richard’s renovating stories of an old farmhouse in the relatively unknown, yet beautiful area of Italy called the Langhe, for over a year now on his blog aptly called Living in the Langhe.
Today, the house and all the rooms are beautifully done and finished. But before we mention more about the house, let’s find out that other if not, more important part of his life right now… What its like to be a dad.
Tell us something about yourself and your little one.
I’m a renovating, writing, photographing father of a 20-month-old Italian called Bee. My wife and I moved from Bristol to Barolo, in north-west Italy, about three years ago and not long after that our little bundle of energy was born. Despite strictly being just a quarter Italian, she is by far the most Italian of all of us; she can destroy a plate of pasta in seconds, is already a hugely irresponsible driver (she crashes her wheelie toys into everything) and she is forever waving her hands around while shouting incomprehensibly. We speak English to her but everyone else speaks to her in Italian, which seems to have resulted in her speaking a kind of Japanese-Italian hybrid language.
What was your little one’s birth story like?
It was an exciting time… I probably wouldn’t have had much of an idea what was going on had it been happening in the UK, but in Italy I was completely lost and of no use at all. My lasting memory of the whole experience is standing in the delivery room filling out form after form while my wife lay on the other side of the room screaming. You’ve got to love Italian bureaucracy!
What you wish you knew about being a Dad before becoming one?
I wish I’d known quite how many forms I’d have to fill in. Seriously, at one-day old, does she really need a tax number?
How do you balance your time between work and fatherhood?
I don’t have to balance work and fatherhood in a traditional sense as we’re living a slightly strange life right now. We’ve just finished renovating a large farmhouse in the vineyards and we’re now starting to rent it out as a holiday villa. There were times during the renovation where I hardly saw her, but I always knew that it was only for a short time as we were working to a deadline, trying to get it ready for this summer. Also, if I really wanted to, I could just down tools, walk next door and hang out with her. That said, it was great sometimes to be able to say I was really busy and sneak away to leave my wife dealing with the fallout of some huge disaster like the entire banana being finished.
These days, I’m still working on the house a bit and also starting on marketing. I’m always at home though, which means I get to spend as much time with her as I want.
How do you manage child-free time with your wife? Do you have date-nights?
Living away from family in a country where babysitters don’t really exist (they do exist but they don’t work evenings, weekends or any other times when you might actually need them), date nights are tricky. They usually consist of takeaway pizza and a film while Bee sleeps upstairs. That said, I was never that good at dates pre-Bee either so maybe she just provides me with a great excuse to be lazy.
Any favourite anecdotes of your little one?
We have a dog, Otto. He and Bee have something of a love-hate relationship… she loves him to bits, she’s forever chasing him around trying to cuddle and kiss him. He hates her. Unless of course, she’s holding food, in which case the love is briefly reciprocated, at least until he manages to make of with her food. Her love isn’t limited to Otto though, whenever she see’s another dog in the street, she shouts “puppy!” (which sounds a lot like the Italian for ‘daddy’) and sprints towards it, arms out wide, ready for a cuddle. We get some very strange looks.
If there is anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?
I used to really dread the birthday parties, mainly because I struggle to make small-talk in Italian. Lately though I’ve started to love them… there’s always a few nice bottles of local wine on the go, usually some pizza too, and I’ve discovered that a large proportion of Italian men just want to know as much as possible about English football.
If you were given the chance to be a stay-at-home-Dad would you take it?
I’ve done the stay-at-home-dad thing and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I would have hated not being around to see Bee growing, watch her take her first steps, hear her first words and clean her up when she triumphantly smeared poo all over her face like war paint. Obviously, it’s not possible for everyone, but we decided early on that if we were going to have a child that was how we were going to do it, and I’m so glad we did.
Best Advice you’ve ever received about Fatherhood?
I’m pretty sure someone once told me not to move country, renovate a house and have a child all at the same time.
If you can give yourself advice before becoming a Dad, what would it be?
Don’t move country, renovate a house and have a child all at the same time.
Thank you so much Richard!
So if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in this part of North-West Italy, look no more. You’ve just found your place! This 5 bedroom farmhouse sits among the vines of Barolo and can easily house 10-12 people. Perfect for large families! It has its own private pool and of course your very own view of excellent Italian scenery.
If you’ve missed last month’s Chat with a Mum, have a read here.
Or you can also click here to catch up with the other chats with past Mums and Dads as well.