Second Chance Summer was a BBC six part series on the life of ten people living in Tuscany for six weeks. The programme was on TV here in the UK and has just finished airing. It’s not often I write a review on TV programmes but this one had such an impact on me that I thought I would write about it.
Basically the series is about ten strangers ( male and female) from the UK who are all at a crossroads in their life, for one reason or another. They all travel to Tuscany in Italy to take over the running of a farm, which includes a vineyard, olive groves and a Bed & Breakfast. The idea behind this programme is to see if any of the group will enjoy the Tuscan life so much that they eventually start a new life there.
The group are based at a farm called La Banditaccia in the foothills of Mount Amiata in the stunning Tuscan countryside. The group must not only learn the ropes of running a Tuscan farm, but they must also learn to live with each other in communal living for six weeks. Given that none of the group had any experience in running a working Italian farm, I can only imagine that the challenges they faced must have been overwhelming to start with.
Over the six weeks we learn more about each individual and their reasons for seeking out a new direction in their life. We met Andy who was recovering from a heart attack after a long, stressful career in the police force with Scotland Yard working as a murder / anti slavery detective. Picking olives and guarding the farm from wild boar must have been a welcome relief from his previous job. Listening to Andy talk about his dream to change his life and live at a slower pace really made me think about my own life and my husbands life, and now we are in our 50’s where do we go from here ? My husband has a very stressful, high pressured job and I really think it is time for him to slow down ( easier said than done !)
Rob, another participant on the programme was the youngest of the group at 38, but following the death of his parents, he seemed the most determined of the group to change his life and start a new life in Tuscany. Rob seemed to fit straight into the Tuscan way of life quicker than the others and I guessed quite early on that he would definitely be serious about starting a new life in Italy.
Gavin another participant who hailed from Yorkshire, quickly buddied up with Andy and together they worked hard on the farm learning new skills along the way. They were a great partnership and had a great friendship, both driven by their need to find a new direction in their life. Gavin said some very profound things about life and especially about family, that really made me thoughtful and even a little emotional in the last episode.
Tracy was a bubbly lady from Wales who also seemed to embrace the Tuscan way of life very easily. As well as helping harvest the grapes Tracy and the other female participants concentrated on running the B & B, opening up the farm as a restaurant and even hosting a traditional Italian wedding. It was quite funny at times seeing them struggle with the language and the Italian traditions but they worked hard, muddled through and everything worked out in the end. It was good to see this, as sometimes women in their mid life can suffer with a lack of confidence, but the ladies on the programme showed us that even with limited experience and especially limited knowledge of the Italian language, anything is possible.
Also on the programme were a number of Italian locals who had helped the participants ranging from the owner of the farm to other locals including the local priest, Father Gianni. Father Gianni spoke so eloquently and really reached my heart and my inner thoughts. It would take too long to write about it so you have to watch the programme to understand what I mean. He spoke of things that really meant something to me and judging by social media comments I think he did the same for a lot of people. Father Gianni should have his own TV programme !
It would take too long to write up about the other participants who also played a huge part in the success of this programme. I obviously had to restrict the length of this post but I would highly recommend that you watch the series to have a full understanding of each participant and how they coped living in Tuscany.
So why have I written about these particular four participants ? Yes, you guessed it ! These are the four members of the group who in some way are changing their lives because of their experience in Tuscany. Since filming finished last November, Rob has sold up his life in the UK and has moved out to Tuscany to start a wine business there. Gavin and Andy have invested in an olive grove and are now producing their first batch of high quality Tuscan Olive Oil this autumn ( of which I have ordered some !) and Tracy is planning to return to Tuscany with her son and teach out there.
So why did this programme affect me so much ? I think it made me stop and look at my own life. I am in my 50’s and as my last child has flown the nest just two weeks ago, I am finding that I am more reflective on my life and my future. It is very easy to get stuck in a rut with life until it is too late to change it. The programme made me realise how much of a fast paced life we mostly lead in the UK and also how complicated it can be. Life in Tuscany seemed so simple and laid back without the material pressures that we seem to have here. I work from home but I still seem to spend my life rushing round, living my life to the pressures of the clock.
Because of the programme I have also been thinking about ‘stuff ‘! Do we really need so much ‘stuff’? Would it be better for us to lead a simpler life, free of all the issues that tie us down and make us feel claustrophobic ? Sometimes I get so caught up in the pressures of life that I forget to stop and take in my surroundings and what is really important. And then another year goes by and I am a year older. And THAT is scary !
I think most of us must get to a stage in our life when we start to question what we are doing and where we are going. I guess this will happen for people at different times in their life, whether its brought on by bereavement, children leaving home, illness, redundancy or just reaching a certain milestone age as it did for the participants in Second Chance Summer. I would imagine a lot of people get to this stage and just ignore the questions and carry on living the same life, but deep down knowing they are not truly happy. It takes a lot of courage and guts to make a dramatic change in one’s life as some of the participants did in this programme. It’s scary stepping into the unknown but is that better than staying in one spot for the rest of your life ?
So for me I aim to start looking at my life and seeing what direction I want to go in. Of course I am restricted as my husband still works and we can’t just up root and go live in Spain or Italy just yet. But I am going to look at simplifying my life as it just feels too overwhelming as it is. I think it is also time for my husband and I to sit down and talk about the future ( heck, that sounds serious !) But basically for us to look at what we do in the time leading up to his retirement to make our life more about relaxation and less about stress and work. You only get one shot at life and you should grab it with both hands and do what you can to live the life you want. Carpe Diem ( seize the day ) was a phrase used in the programme ( cant remember by who ) and they are absolutely right. Life is wonderful and we should do all we can to make it the best life for us.
So my conclusions of Second Chance Summer. In one word. BRILLIANT. Please go watch it if you haven’t seen it. The content, the lovely people, the food, the amazing scenery, the music and the thought provoking words of Father Gianni make it one of the best programmes on TV I have seen for a long time. Its available on BBC I Player. I recorded the whole thing on my TV and will be watching it again.
If you want to support the participants from the programme that have gone on to all things Tuscan then please have a look at what they are doing now.
For Gavin and Andy’s business venture into olive oil please visit their website at http://www.valeriaoliveoil.com Its also worth following them on social media as they regularly update on their progress. Their Twitter name is Valeria Olive Oil.
For Rob’s wine business please visit his website at http://www.jacksonandseddon.com Rob’s Twitter page is also full of useful and interesting updates. His Twitter name is Jackson & Seddon.
As for me, I will be writing more about my journey into simplifying my life over the next few months and what plans we have for our future. It will be a learning curve for me but I hope you will stick with me, especially if you too are at a crossroads in your life and unsure where you are going. Perhaps we can help each other through this stage in our life. I would love to hear from anyone who has changed their life especially if you have attained a more simple way of living. It would be great to share stories and swap experiences. I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Until next time dear friends