9 Things My Mother Taught Me (And That I Wish I’d Listened To)

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1) Don’t worry what people think (the people who matter don’t mind, the people who mind don’t matter, etc. etc. etc.)

2) Drink hot water and lemon before bed….no, its not the same as a fab cuppa Yorkshire but…

Apparently lemon clears skin – the vitamin C component flattens out wrinkles and blemishes (not that we have the latter or the former ever) and rejuvenates skin from inside the body. Lemon also has antibacterial, antiviral immune-boosting powers, it is also a liver-cleanser (undoing those Proseccos hurrah! and is a general digestive aid, ie: you don’t scoff during the day.

 

3) Don’t brush curly hair. Just don’t. Unless you want to look like you are wearing an old, backcombed wig that has been trussed up in a plastic bag then put on your head.

4) Save up and buy something you really, really like that is made of nice stuff.

5) Not to make plans unless you are absolutely sure you won’t regret it later. That goes for generic dinner plans and date plans.

6) Be discerning, always.

7) If in an awkward situation/doubt anything in any way, smile and be polite then make a mental note not to agree to see this person/go to said event again.

8) Be aware of everything and never assume (a wise man told me assumption is the mother of all mistakes).

9) Know that most things are always “exciting” (I quote my mother) and if you look at the world this way, I can promise you it will never go grey.

 

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Wintry Snippets of Home/English Countryside – Nostalgic Already

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Why Love Actually Is Actually The Best Christmas Film

Billed as the “ultimate romantic comedy”, Love Actually is one of the films we watch intentionally or unintentionally with popcorn/mulled wine/hot chocolate around Christmas. At the very least it will be on in the background once this festive season, I bet my baubles.

Ponderings/reasons we love it…

  • We’ve all experienced that opening airport moment where the feeling of joy/sadness/belonging soars above and beyond most normal moment
  • Prompts you to wonder, a) what is Martine McCutcheon up to now?
  • b) how the little lovesick boy got so tall and how he ended up on Game of Thrones?
  • A moping Liam Neeson in cosy, long, sleeve GAP tops
  • Why does Darcy get cheated on by a fluey, half-naked wife-vixen?
  • Where do Emma Thompson & Liam Neeson find those beautiful, homely, food and flower-filled London homes?
  • Colin Firth makes running away from reality/your problems to a foreign country OK
  • When Colin Firth is in France and the lady who welcomes him says:

“She cannot speak French, just like you” – Erasmus Flashback

  • Haven’t we all accidentally done the awkward double-palm, grin wave that Hugh Grant bestows upon inconvenient colleague crush Martine in an effort to flirt?
  • When Liam Neeson casually meets Claudia Schiffer in the school corridor after the Nativity play – make mental note to be yummy mummy

HAPPY WATCHING

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10 Reasons You Know You Live With An Italian

As you may have heard, I’m back from Italy but have not completely banished all things Italian from my life. Living with an Italian, I wanted to voice a few things that make me chuckle, that would just not happen if that person wasn’t from outta town.

 

1) He/she will make you do a double take when they ask:

 

“What is?”

 

     and lean in curiously to listen when you explain it’s one of the below:

 

a) toast and butter

 

b) poached egg

 

c) eating a mince pie

 

2) When he/she informs you that said poached egg in Italian is translated as

 

‘egg in a white shirt’

 

3) Making a cup of tea means for most of us, well, making a cup of tea. But for some people it means popping a tea bag into a pan of tepid water and just waiting what happens.

 

I know.

 

4) You will learn you can never eat enough Nutella. On, everything that will allow a knife near it.

 

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5) You will learn delightful and moreover, useful new words in Italian, such as:

 

‘mullet’, (caschetto)

 

6) London is and will forever be a foreign land, which means that most visits near Camden result in picking up either

 

a) a laminated picture of a red bus

 

b) a laminated picture of a red telephone box

 

c) a laminated picture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road, you know the one

 

7) Fish fingers from Iceland are a special treat

 

8) Having to explain what the word ‘treat’ means

 

9) Prefers to watch football with a bucket of popcorn rather than a beer

 

10) Instant coffee is unheard of, the most unheard of, and is cast away from the kitchen faster than you can say when is your Dolmio day?

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How To Save A Life – You Heard Me

“Imagine yourself strolling by the River Tiber…”

There is a moment in every person’s life when they save the life of another. That time came somewhat prematurely for me one morning whilst living in Rome. You’d think dogs were the easy part of the whole au-pairing deal but you may want to think again.

Imagine yourself strolling by the River Tiber, which chases its way through the city. The late September air is cool and the colours are spicy in the morning, an early sun pouring like honey over the water. It is a pretty abandoned and quiet place down by the river. If it wasn’t for the light and peace it is possibly Rome’s ugliest secret. Additionally, the long and looming Tiber is apparently rat and chemical-infested.

I know.

However, I might mention at night it is a glowing beacon of romance: lovers stroll down the bicycle path lanes, weaved into each other’s arms. It is a place to fall in love, fall out of love, or in my case, fall in the river.

It all happened incredibly fast, as horrific moments do. One minute the dog and I are walking companions. The next, the lead had whipped out of my hand and I spotted a golden head bobbing in the middle of the spinning, grey current. The drowning thing was being relentlessly pushed down stream. I bolted parallel to the river, bumping into a balding, old man. The dog disappeared from view, I asked him if he had seen a floating dog and he said something about the presence of rats creating an underworld of disease on the riverbed.

“The beauty of Rome was peeling away”

Thanking him for his useless response, I sprinted further, noticing buildings around me become more gritty and skeletal. The beauty of Rome was peeling away. As would, I thought, the familial affection the family had for me when I returned with a soaking, dead dog in my arms.

“It all happened incredibly fast, as horrific moments do”

After what felt like a hundred years, I caught sight of the helpless animal, now a yellow smudge in the water. I clambered down the banking of the river and fought down through the steep shrubbery to come level with her. Far down from the pedestrian path, I grated away my voice box screaming her name and, like some bizarre force guiding her over, she reached me.

At that point, I was balancing on a small, godforsaken stretch of ground, slippery from damp. Grabbing the dog as she crawled towards me, I remember laughing, digging my nails into her damp fur in anger, utterly exhausted. The foolish creature looked at me, ears pitched forwards, large brown eyes incredibly soft.
It took a few minutes to realize that not only was I several feet from dry land, but apart from the stupid, sodden dog and gushing river, I was completely alone.

Perhaps night would fall and someone, a week later, would come across a white, frozen corpse with a dead dog clasped in her arms.

My only choice was to yell repeatedly “C’è qualcuno?-Is there anyone there?” at the top of my voice, until some unsuspecting stranger came to rescue me.

Quite to my delight, this unsuspecting stranger came in the form of a rather handsome student who was crossing the bridges. An unshaved, well-dressed figure stared down and gave me a careful and puzzling wave. After seeing the dog collapsed at my side, I think he realized the situation and not that I was just chilling out down there. He waved a phone in my direction and, still a little uncertain as to his heroic plans, I acknowledged him and waited. We talked a bit actually and were we face to face, and I a little less blackened with mud and resembling Mowgli from The Jungle Book, I may have been in the state of mind to flirt – visions of chilled wine in a hazy piazza.

 “Were we face to face, and I a little less… .resembling Mowgli from The Jungle Book, I may have been in the state of mind to flirt – visions of chilled wine in a hazy piazza…”

Fast forward twenty minutes, I heard an “Oi!” coming from the river. A large dinghy full of large, bearded men was bobbing towards me. I waved to make sure they absolutely saw me and didn’t diverge off towards other potentially marooned dog walkers. Before I knew it, I was beside them, dog in tow and grateful that my chiseled saviour had been intelligent enough to call the fire-brigade.
We lumbered off the dinghy at a remote building and following behind I wondered whether to hug them? Gather them round the family’s dining table so we could all celebrate the rescue with prosecco and pizza? Honestly though, I wanted to mutter a quick thanks and leave.
The dog and I were treated to a rather harsh (I thought) spray down with a hose (wasn’t I soaking and humiliated enough?) They thought I had, in my insanity, jumped into Rat River. To top it all off, rather cruelly, I was made to trundle the couple of miles home, damp and weary.

 “Rather cruelly, I was made to trundle the couple of miles home, damp and weary…”

The following morning, the children’s father called me into the kitchen waving several newspapers, telling me about a girl leaping in the Tiber to save her Labrador. With the details of my name and age wrong though, it could have been anybody.

How Not To Get A Date

I had a treat yesterday afternoon as I took the dog for a walk. I’d left the house shortly after dropping the children home and noticed, after about ten minutes of walking towards the bridges near the house, that a smartly dressed man was following me. When I stopped for a moment he swooped over:

(In Italian)
“Do you know by any chance where Largo Argentina is please?”

“Oh…” I started to point in the correct direction (he knew where it was).

“Sorry – ” he interrupted, “I only wanted to speak to you.”

Cue rolling the eyes moment. Ladies, it happens a lot. If you have two breasts and a face, it is more than likely these men will find cunning ways of intervening into your life in the most light-hearted and annoying ways.

He then asked where I lived, how long was I staying, clearly – from the moment I began to answer his pitiful question – he knew I wasn’t Italian.

Before leaving he said:

“Will I see you again?”

I wasn’t sure what I’d slipped in that would suggest this. I then noticed, as the fateful Gollum did upon meeting Frodo that he was wearing a ring. A WEDDING RING.

He must have thought I was born yesterday.

The Signorina rolls her eyes

The Date, Nutella-Dilemma & Ivy-Embellished Bars

You are probably wondering (nosy) what happened to Mr American Pilot who I met the other day and I’ve been meaning to describe the date. This was a Saturday a few weeks ago now and what with Paris and the demands of au-pair life I’ve not written anything yet. Here we are then:

“I’m still getting used to the joy of real, homemade fresh pesto and the children turn up their noses as if it’s bloody beans on toast – ungrateful if you ask me…”

The hardest part of the date was actually leaving the house as the children decided that they didn’t want delicious fresh pesto pasta which is a) quick and easy b) quick and easy especially as I needed to get ready and go out for a date later. Seriously, I am still getting used to the joy of real, homemade fresh pesto and the children turn up their noses as if it’s bloody beans on toast – ungrateful if you ask me.

Frilly fusilli with pesto was swiftly served and greedily eaten despite the fuss and the children’s parents returned later than planned meaning I had about twelve minutes to make myself look vaguely respectable for my first date in a LONG time.

When was my last one? Of course I’m not telling you.

(Ahem.)

“I had about twelve minutes to make myself look vaguely respectable for my first date in a LONG time”

As you can imagine I was really nervous, but didn’t think it appropriate to have a small glass of wine over dinner as the children were on the juice (why do I never just think of myself?) Of course as soon as I put a SMALL bit of make up on Tesesa bounded over to me in the bathroom and demanded to know where I was going. I lied (I don’t know why I lied but she was annoying me) and said I was seeing friends from my language school to plan for the upcoming trip to Paris (see recent photos). That threw her off the scent so I manged to pull on my All Saints puffy, black jacket over my jeans and silky top and close the door gently behind me once I heard the father turn on the TV.
Note to self – when getting date-ready, apply make-up en-route to said-date, for fear of incessant interrogation in shape of bouncy-blond-Italian-bambina. Seriously – children are SO nosy. If I was that nosy as a wee girl I would have earned myself a flick or two on the nose.

“Seriously – children are SO nosy. If I was that nosy as a wee girl I would have earned myself a flick or two on the nose”

Anyway, I was late with half-face full of make up and pesto hair. I think what needs to apply hear is ‘what happens at work, stays at work.’ The whole ‘leave your troubles at the door scenario’ and not worry about anything. By that point I’m reluctant to say I wished I was only going to meet my friends.

Anyway, as agreed, Mr Pilot was waiting by the monument in Campo de’ Fiori and was looking dashing and taller than I remember in a light blue shirt and jeans. It was a warmish night and my coat was too heavy, the piazza starting to stir with the hustle and bustle of loud locals merging with quiet tourists drinking in the bars scattered outside. My Pilot had one of those very, white American smiles and probably twenty-twenty vision (a pilot-must-have – as you can see I did my research for this date.)

“Mr Pilot was waiting by the monument in Campo de’ Fiori and was looking dashing and taller than I remember in a light blue shirt and jeans”

I’d quite forgotten how American he was in the sense that he had a loud, Southern drawl that transferred to his vaguely-learnt Italian. So the foreign words he’d learnt were even more stretched out and funny sounding. My mind was going a bit silly so instead of thinking about that strangeness I decided it would be better for both if I listen to what he was saying. We had Prosecco, (good choice) and then another glass (they were quite small) and he told me all about why he was in Rome and his early experiences as a pilot. (Turns out he is a bit older than I thought but I decided not to point that out.)

I told him about what I was doing in Rome and felt quite open to talking about the disastrous homesickness of my earlier days here, the search for actual friends and the genuine relief when things in my life started to fall into place and I didn’t constantly Skype family and mope like a big girl’s blouse.

We left the piazza and he decided he wanted a Crepe. I thought two thoughts:

1) “I definitely want a Crepe because I am hungry and he will probably offer it to me”

2) “I am never allowed to eat Nutella in public ever because I get it all over my face. Friends and family have investigated why it goes quite so all over the place but after numerous findings and detailed analysis no ultimate nor successful conclusions were drawn.”

 

To avoid Nutella-over-face dilemma, I suggested we wonder into the Baroque Piazza Navona as it is beautiful and quiet at night. Then I worried he thought I might be cornering him but at that point I decided my brain needed to just shut up. We wondered amongst the marble benches and majestic Bernini sculptures (Fountains of the Rivers is one of them) and laughed at a man sitting on a bench with an icecream in one hand and an impatient dog in the other.

“To avoid Nutella-over-face dilemma, I suggested we wonder into the Baroque Piazza Navona as it is beautiful and quiet at night…”

Behind the piazza was a hidden bar with the entrance disguised in draping green Ivy like an emerald cloak.

“Table for two please” we gestured and ordered a colourful cocktail each. There was even live guitar music! By this point I was relaxed and enjoying the sophisticated company of the Pilot. He was charming and funny and to be honest, I liked very much speaking in my mother-tongue English finally. The conversation flowed perfectly and I felt a little disappointed when he said he couldn’t stay too late as he had to travel the following morning. He said he would like to see me again and asked if he could walk me home. I said it wasn’t necessary (I don’t know why as it definitely was – I blame brain that was in sleep-mode as had told it earlier to shut up.) So outside the bar amongst the cobbles, floppy ivy and acoustic guitar music he gave me a light kiss and said “I’ll be in touch,” as in the films. I forgot to use any words and so waved, then wondered home.

When I arrived back in the apartment, Elena (the mother) was in the sitting room reading a magazine and drinking herbal tea. She asked where I had been and after I explained all she said was:

“Why American boy when you are in Italia?”

She had a point.

Lovers of Ile-de-France – Pont de l’Archeveche

Lovers of Ile-de-France – Pont de l’Archeveche

Of course this type of thing is in Paris! What surprised me is that almost everything you could put a padlock on, has a padlock on it. I’m serious – a twist of metal, a free rung, a handle in … Continue reading

A Date, DVD Bonding & Blue Skies

I think it always happens when you least expect it. Popping up, out of the blue, you don’t feel you look your best. Handsome and leathery, taut and sexy – you absolutely must touch it…we all get like that around…a new hand-bag purchase!

What did you think I was talking about?

Cheeky.

But seriously. I have a date! Let me set the scene. I arrived back in Rome after a few ‘touch-in’ days at home. Long, country days and indulging in mum’s bath. Teresa, bless her, was delighted to see me and gave me a big hug. The father was too and gave me some books to read and a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea (from a packet I brought back, I’ve never seen someone’s eyes light up so much). Elena was in Milan with work, doing Milan things. The boy was out at a friend’s house.

“HSM1, HSM2…I would rather tear out my hair with pliers then eat it with charcoal spaghetti…”

The other night Teresa and I celebrated my return (she said she’d missed me) by going for hot chocolate and renting High School Musical 3. Why not number 1 I hear you cry? Well we’d both already seen HSM1 and HSM2, together, twice over, and I thought I would rather tear out my hair with pliers then eat it with charcoal spaghetti than sit through them both again. With all due respect Vanessa Hudgens.

Anyway, there is this funny, nifty ‘DVD vending-machine’ curled up in a terracotta cave at the end of our street. It’s dark and small and I’ve never seen anything like it. Like a lonely, rejected cousin of Blockbuster. I came across it the other day, by noticing a man nip in the side of the road then disappear. I was rather baffled and so followed him (I had some time). It turns out you shove five euros in the Doctor Who machine and a DVD pops out. It was one of those spectacular days so it took my eyes a while to adjust to the shadows, blue, blue sky that looks like Michelangelo accidentally kicked over his lapis lazuli paint pot in a scramble to catch X-Factor, dribbling blue liquid over his chalky floor.

“…blue, blue sky that looks like Michelangelo accidentally kicked over his lapis lazuli paint pot…”

I digress.

There Teresa and I were, lured in by the mysteriousness of it all. I thought a bit of Zac Efron, the life-size bottle of golden syrup, Colgate and sticky hair-gel, would be nice viewing and I could probably temp the father to give us some Euros for a nice wedge of pizza.

 “…Zac Efron, the life-size bottle of golden syrup, Colgate and sticky hair-gel…”

Whilst my eyes were adjusting, a tall, figure loomed over the entrance on his way out and nearly trod on poor Teresa. He apologised and was definitely American. He reminded me of a lankier Tom Cruise, (not difficult) and had piercing blue eyes and nice hair. No gel in sight! (I am not sure why some boys insist on dressing like a French student in the 1970’s. That question should probably be put to Stephen Fry and his trend analysis team).

Anyway, he is American. A pilot. Can I just say that again: A PILOT. I had to ask him to repeat himself. Perhaps it’s me but I always imagine a pilot should not be right in front of you, casually chatting. Surely, he always has somewhere to be, in a pressed, crisp uniform, looking concerned, no time to chat, let alone flirt. (I should be shot for my stereotypes!)

 “A pilot…Surely, he always has somewhere to be, in a pressed, crisp uniform, looking concerned, no time to chat, let alone flirt…

But chat and flirt he did! There is a bar in Campo de’ Fiori. He has some friends and time. I have an evening free (tomorrow night!) No Teresa you can’t come.

Did I mention I haven’t had a date since before Christmas? Don’t give me that look, I’ve been busy!

(I’m not usually crazy about Americans but it was nice to speak to someone in my own language to be honest.) And apparently being English and having an ‘Oxford’ accent is exotic and ‘sexy’. First hint that maybe he doesn’t spend much time on land?

 

Back To School, Catch Up Avec Les Filles & Nano-Romances

Back to Rome means back to Language School. I must admit, it is an indulgent, less-productive-than-it-sounds way to spend the morning. I head to Piazza Firenze after dropping off the kids at school, Teresa, and her brother Fran-I-Don’t-Need-Anyone-To-Take-Me-Esco.

I am really enjoying my course. I should probably write these in Italian! (Show off) but seriously, I’m getting good. The other day, someone American asked me for directions, attempting a whiny Italian – at least I look Italian, and that’s a start if ever I saw one ! (We ended up chatting about Ilinois, his hometown, but that is by-the-by.)

Our teacher today was someone new. A bulging chest wig, complete with a magnificent gold, chain necklace, that I wonder if he wore it especially, or if he had a Medallion Shining Conference to attend after the lesson. He perched dangerously on our desks, bellowing out the Uses of the Subjunctive, causing us to lean a notch back. He spat too, and I decided it was a terrible mistake to sit near the front. He was like all senses rolled into one pastry of ear-hair and ‘shimmying’ trousers . My friends Selina and Anne-Sophie performed fantastic imitations of him after – I think they deserve their own show.

“…our teacher today was someone new. A bulging chest wig, complete with a magnificent gold, chain necklace, that I wonder if he wore it especially, or if he had a Medallion Shining Conference to attend to after…”

Again, Rome was showing off weather-wise, bearing its clear, blue eyes from morning till five-thirty ish. Anne-Sophie, Selina and I decided to get a welcome-back cappuccino in a bar in Piazza Navona. I know – a tourist haven for the weary, sock-sandeled and beige flocks of nomadic, old people. Normally, I never go there as an unassuming cappuccino turns immediately into a small fortune, that you may prefer to spend on a small pony or gold-threaded slippers, or indeed a night in one of the lavish surrounding hotels with Ryan Gosling doing DIY in Dolce undies.

“…never go there as an unassuming cappuccino turns immediately into a small fortune, that you may prefer to spend on a small pony or gold-threaded slippers, or…a night in one of the lavish, surrounding hotels with Ryan Gosling doing DIY in Dolce undies”

 Anyway, there we were catching up about Christmas, which seems like a long way away already. The two of them went back to France (one Montpellier and the other, Tour.) Like me, they were happy to be back (and I didn’t mention my drippy homesick episode, nor the weeping in the shower.) However, much as Granny Question Time and Poking-Nose-About-(non-existent)Boyfriend Q&A’s are delightful, it is hard not to miss the wobbly cobbles whilst navigating night’s-out in heels, or the freshest croissants known to man, (you can still smell the doughy baker’s fingertips, or the baker’s doughy fingertips) or the omniscient looming, stunning architecture. I find the whole, ancient city inspiring and breathtaking, and that is at the worst of times.

Both friends have had the odd ‘nano-romance’ since living here. I asked what that was, and they shrugged in a way only French women can do with bags of sass and nonchalance.

“Eet ees, mmm, a leettle of this, a leettle of that,”. I nodded and wanted more gossip – but they said that perhaps this was more a conversation for cocktails and not ‘middle-of-the-day moosh moosh.’

I left it at ‘moosh-moosh’. I need to know them better to pry.

We didn’t stay too long out and about, but we have a night out planned for ASAP. They were full of fluttering pecks on my cheek before dashing off on their separate ways: one to prepare lunch for the children and the other to a hair appointment.

I left to walk the dog – my own and only source of ‘nano-romance’ at the moment.

“Both friends have had the odd ‘nano-romance’ since living here… the dog – my own and only source of ‘nano-romance’ at the moment”