As we search, we discuss the pros and cons of this place, the possibilities of that, the maybes of another. We have discussed "going back" to the UK. There are things we miss: our family and friends, the way people are completely open-minded about food. Paperchase and White Stuff and Riverford veg boxes. Cheddar cheese, retail websites that don't look utterly pants. MINCE PIES and CRUMPETS. Countryside you can walk through, everywhere.
Britain is as close to "home" as is possible for two serial globetrotters to have, but would we go back? There are things that tell me we wouldn't:
Why must the ceilings be so low the lampshades are threatened with decapitation every time someone takes off a jumper in their vicinity? WHO thought it was a good idea to only construct taps that give you either freezing cold or SCALDING hot water? And why can I not get onto a train without having to sell off a kidney first?
Could somebody tell me who's brilliant idea it was to construct walls out of a material so flimsy I fear my toddler will fly through one on a particularly boisterous day? Oh and when did it become acceptable to charge £2.30 for a cup of hot brown water?
No matter how hard I try, I cannot make the numbers add up. Our combined salary here in Italy is significantly lower than what it was in the UK, and yet it still goes further. Despite us living in Italy's most expensive city. Despite the astronomical social security contributions and the myriad Silly Little Taxes we're subjected to. Despite food prices being much higher than they were when we arrived four years ago.
We arrived as a couple on a cheapskate adventure, we'd go back as a family of three. While I don't believe having children should mean breaking the bank, they're not exactly free, are they? In the UK we would pay four to five times as much for childcare as we do here. It probably wouldn't make financial sense for me to keep working, which I think is a hideous situation for a parent to be in. We wouldn't have a hope of owning our first home until we were at least 40.
It just doesn't add up.
Leave for long enough, and you come back a stranger in your own country. You open your mouth and sound like a local, but your brain is desperately trying to understand the cultural references to TV shows you haven't seen, celebrities you don't know, songs you haven't heard. Someone's built a road where your school used to be, and what do you mean I can't go to HMV any more?
Somewhere along the line, Mr P&P and I stopped drinking cappuccino after 11AM. We stick to monochrome in winter and join the masses to prance about with our toddler at 5PM on a Sunday. Ice cream in winter now seems, without doubt, like a very good idea.
It's hard to imagine, though, after nearly four years.