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I always look forward to our visits back to the UK.  I love living in Italy but sometimes I do find myself feeling a little homesick and especially missing close family and longstanding friends.  This Christmas Kay, a special friend of ours, very kindly invited us to stay with her at her home in Barry in South Wales.

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Kay and Paul

Barry Island on a cold but bright December’s day …..

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Barry has once again become a popular destination, having gained notarity from the BBC’s very successful comedy series “Gavin and Stacey” – much of which was filmed in and around Barry and Barry Island.  It’s a tale of love between an “Essex boy” and a “Welsh girl”.  If you haven’t seen it I’d highly recommend it – it’s absolutely hilarious !!!  Nowadays you can even go on an organised tour of the area to visit many of the locations where the series was filmed, such as Marco’s Cafe.

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Recently Barry has taken on a new nickname, that of “Barrybados” !!! 

Here’s Paul sporting his new Barrybados T-shirt.

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We did a fair few miles driving around the UK during our visit.  First we drove to Bristol to visit Paul’s father.

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We then travelled down to Poole to visit Paul’s brother and family to meet the latest little “twiglet” on our Shapcott family tree – little Annabel.

Congratulations to Tim and Clare !!!

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Then up to North Wales to visit Emma and our youngest grandson Aneurin, who was allowed to open his present just before Christmas.

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We then drove back down to South Wales with Aneurin, who was able to spend a couple of days over Christmas with his daddy.

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Thanks to Kay for putting on a lovely Christmas lunch.  Kay and Paul worked well together in the kitchen.

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Ummmm – I think that perhaps Kay had one too many Prosecco’s !!!

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Then Boxing Day we went to Chepstow to visit Vicki and our older two Grandsons, Jamie and Tom.  I managed to snap a photo of our three grandsons all together.

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Jamie, Tom and their crazy but loveable dog “Bob”…..

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Then to Swindon where we had organised a gathering of our Italian family who now live in the UK (with family roots in Atina)

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After all that travelling around we felt that we could do with holiday !!!

But we loved every minute of it.

A big thank you to Kay in “Barrybados” for inviting us to stay and putting up with us over Christmas and New Year.

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Following our son’s accident back in February, I decided to stay on in the UK for a month or two to help out, as and when required, during his convalescence.  Our dear friend Kay very kindly offered me board and lodging at her house in Cardiff.

I have come to love the city of Cardiff,   I suppose it is because as well as being part Italian, I also have Welsh blood running through my veins – from my father’s side of the family.  Well, my maiden name Davies couldn’t really be more Welsh !!!

Cardiff became great during the grand age of Coal, when the Marquis of Bute built a large port and docks for the export of coal hewn from the Welsh Valleys.  Sadly a hundred years or so further down the line, the need for coal sharply diminished, causing the dockland areas of Cardiff to fall into a deep decline.

However a few decades ago an ambitious plan was drawn up to regenerate and transform the derelict areas which included the construction of a Barrage across the mouth of Cardiff Bay and the creation of a new waterfront area.  This area is now known as Mermaid Quay and has an array of inviting restaurants, cafés and bars.

This is the Pierhead Building ……

Nearby is the Wales Millennium Centre …..

The centre of the capital is bustling with several modern shopping centres. 

This is the new Library building.

More of Cardiff’s notable landmarks include  …… 

The City Hall and Museum

Cardiff Castle

Yet within the city there are many parks and green spaces such as Bute Park, Cathays Park and Roath Park with its Boating Lake.

All in all there is so much to explore in the vibrant, multicultural city of Cardiff.

During March was the 2012 6 Nations Rugby Tournament and I had the pleasure of being in Wales when the Welsh Team Won !!!

Bravo Wales !!!

My Rugby Mad Welsh “Daft Daffy” friends in their suitable attire !!!

This summer the Cardiff Millennium Stadium will yet again be in the forefront as it is hosting 11 Olympic football matches.

Cardiff, Wales – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” – “The Land of My Fathers”

Hope you enjoyed my photos, you can see more of them on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nonnalou/sets/72157626843279889/

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Our worst Nightmare – the words a mother always fears hearing ……

We received a disturbing phone call to say our son had been involved in an accident and that he was in hospital in intensive care with a serious head injury, having been struck  by a car.

My imagination and emotions began to run riot – those of shock, horror, fear and blind panic.

That week in Italy there had been freak heavy snowfalls in Rome, which had brought the capital city to a virtual halt. Up until that morning we in Itri had been spared any snowfalls, however this Sunday morning as we peered out of the window flurries of large snowfakes floated down from the grey sky. Why today of all days did this have to happen !!!

Feeling so helpless, being so far away I began to scour the internet to try and find a flight back to the UK. We were unsure whether Rome airport was even open, due to the weather situation. The next available flights were to Gatwick on the following day, and having secured tickets I began throwing clothes into a suitcase, trying to keep my mind busy.

During the day our elder son kept us up to speed with regular updates as to progress.  We learned that by some stroke of luck an ambulance had been passing the scene at the time of the accident, which meant paramedics were able to quickly intervene, taking immediate action and rushing our son to the Heath, the large teaching hospital in Cardiff.

The medics then put our son into a drug induced coma and onto a ventilator while they carried out numerous tests and CT scans which revealed a bleed on the brain. However the doctors informed us that his condition was, for now, stable – but that anything could change.

The next morning friends kindly gave us a lift to the station where we caught a train to Rome Termini. From here we took the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino airport, however the journey took much longer than normal due to delays caused by ice on the tracks.  On checking in at Fiumicino we were informed that our flight would be delayed by several hours due to snow problems  at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. It was indeed a long wait and I found myself struggling to contain my emotions. On, at long last, arriving at Gatwick we then registered for a hire car and finally set of on the four hour drive. We finally arrived in Cardiff at midnight.

Meanwhile we had received news that the doctors planned to rouse our son from his deep sleep to see how he reacted. As he began to wake the doctors continued to monitor him continuously. They talked to him and asked questions to judge his response. Although disorientated and confused  our son managed to reply with a thumbs up sign, much to everyone’s great relief. A very positive sign.

The following morning we made our way to the hospital. I was bracing myself for what I would find.  By this time our son had been moved out of Intensive Care into a High Dependency room where he was still being monitored continuously. His face was badly bruised and swollen, he had received several fractures to the skull including a fractured cheek bone and eye socket, and he had also sustained  a broken elbow, however miraculously he suffered no other broken bones. He was still somewhat confused as to what had happened to him.  However day by day he got a little stronger.  We all took it in turns to be by his bedside over the next week or so. When his condition was judged to be stable he was eventually moved to the Neurology ward where he underwent surgery to repair the damage to his cheek and eye socket, before finally being discharged to continue his convalescence at home.

We are so very pleased to say, that after three months, our son has made an almost complete recovery from this near fatal accident. How thankful and fortunate we are that he suffered no long or short term memory loss, loss in brain function or paralysis.  His miraculous recovery has astounded both doctors and family.

It is frightening though, how in just a split second, a life or several people’s lives could be changed irrevocably.

Just how precious life is !!!

An experience like this certainly puts things into perspective. How trivial are our silly gripes and moans about small insignificant things. We must strive to make the most of each and every day and be so very thankful for what we have.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the family members who were constantly at our son’s bedside during the early days, especially our elder son who was absolutely amazing, and to Emma, and to Ben’s father for being there when he needed them.

Another huge Thank you to all the staff at the Heath Hospital in Cardiff for their wonderful work and support during this stressful time.

And finally we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the rest of our family and friends around the world, for their concern, all their goodwill messages and prayers  for Ben’s recovery.  Words are not enough to express our deepest appreciation. 

Sending our love to you all

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The highlight of our trip back to the UK was to meet,

get to know and have cuddles with

our new little grandson,”Little Prince” Aneurin

who was born to Ben and Emma in November 2010

Aneurin

and to catch up with our other two very special grandsons …..

Jamie (9)

Tommy (7)

 We love you all dearly   xxx

It was also a delight to catch with all the branches of our family, including the Shapcotts, the Welsh Davies clan and the Anglo/Italian’s with family roots in Atina, Italy.

During our two month stay in the UK we also managed to visit and many dear friends on our travels around the UK.

Thank you all for your kind hospitality !!!

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At the end of August we were delighted to have our younger son Ben, his “other half” Emma and “Baby Bump” to stay.  They are expecting a little arrival at the end of November and were both much in need of a relaxing holiday.  This was to be Emma’s first trip to Italy.

Although their stay here was all too brief, Ben and Emma managed to fit in ….. a couple of days at the beach …..

some local sight-seeing (Sperlonga) …..

and a day in Rome.

We were all kindly invited to our friends, Luca and Loredana’s home, for a special meal to celebrate Luca’s 50th Birthday.  Buon Compleanno Luca !!!

By the way -such a landmark birthday is shortly looming for

Paul this October !!!

One day we were also invited to San Donato and Atina in the Val di Comino and enjoyed another delicious meal with our Italian cousins.

Emma is a very passionate and creative cook and during her stay, delighted in preparing some srumptious food for us all.

Local tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala Drizzled With "Tre Cancelle" Olive Oil

Breakfast - Emma's Tasty Potato Cakes

Please come back soon Emma !!!

“Papa Woods” and Emma are about to move into their new home together in Cardiff, in time to get settled before the little addition to their family arrives.

We wish them all lots of love and all the very best  in their new home.

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some local sight-seeing

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