Back To London: Face Lift Friday!

No! Not a real one. Just a bloggy one. Less exciting and life changing but still important if you ask me. If I ever do have one I will certainly turn it into life-changing literature, which I’m sure it would be. There is a … Continue reading

Eavesdropping, Spanish Steps Style

Busy cafe near Piazza di Spagna (named after the Embassy of Spain). Picture high palms and warm yellow, ochre and rust houses that proudly gaze over the steps. The steps were actually a gift from the French King Louise XV to Rome (should probably be called the French steps in the King’s honour but the Spanish Embassy got there in the nick of time.)

I had time to kill before picking up the piccola Teresa from school and settled in the Piazza with my book and a cappuccino (standard.)

I couldn’t help but notice a bouncy conversation three men in shiny suits on the table next to me started bellowing. Here is a rough translation of their brisk conversation:

Man 1, 2 and 3, let’s call them Riccardo, Luigi and Leonardo.

Riccardo: Ciao! Apologies for the delay – I got caught on a call

Luigi: That’s no problem – I just called you actually

Riccardo: Ah! was on the other line –

Luigi: Yes I gathered, no problem.

Riccardo: And Leonardo?

Luigi: He just called, he’s on his way

Riccardo: Great – did you read the email I sent you this morning?

Luigi: Haven’t had a chance yet

Riccardo: Ah I see – I was going to call after you’d read it to see what you thought before we met this morning

Luigi: I’ll read it after this meeting if that is alright, then I’ll let you know?

Riccardo: That is a good idea – here is Leonardo now

Leonardo: Ecco mi! Here I am!

Riccardo: Ciao!

Luigi: Ciao!

Leonardo: Tutto bene? Everything ok?

Luigi: Everything is fine

Riccardo: Glad you could make it

Leonardo: What a great sun today!

Luigi: Are you going back to your parents this weekend?

Leonardo: That is the plan! If I can get out of that meeting at 4pm. Come to think of it, I could attend via conference call. Or can catch up with the discussion after

Riccardo: We could go though now what we are going to propose?

Luigi: Now?

Riccardo: Why not? We are all hear apart from Filippo but he will be on the call later

Leonardo: I thought we intended to discuss the items for next week’s press release?

Luigi: I agree – that is more urgent

Riccardo gets up: Some caffe’ first guys?

Leonardo: Please – Let me offer you both one

Riccardo: So kind! Thank you

Luigi: I will have a caffe ristretto with pleasure, thanks

Folders shuffled, pens clicked, blackberrys on the table, I-Phone’s buzzing, Luigi answers and speaks for a moment. He frowns and leaves the table. After a moment or so, he returns, despondent 

Luigi: It is with great regret I think I must leave – it appears Mario has had a run in with the Profilo clients

Riccardo: What a clown! He should be able to manage that account

Luigi: I don’t trust the man sometimes

Leonardo returns.

Leonardo: Everything alright?

Luigi: Its the Banca Profilo clients – they have some problems [drinks his coffee with a flick of his wrist]. Thank you for that

Leonardo: My pleasure

Luigi: I don’t know what to do – I think it might be best if we get together in a few days. I am sorry, guys

Riccardo: We might have no choice [drinks coffee and lights a cigarette]

Leonardo: I may be away at the end of this week and early next – for a long weekend

Luigi: Ah I see

Riccardo: We could simplifly the situation and do this by a conference call?

Luigi: Not a bad idea

Leonardo: That’s settled then

Riccardo: I can email across the details

Luigi: Ok, perfect. Get in touch if you need anything in the meantime

Riccardo: Let’s get in touch later today then

Leonardo: Thanks guys, see you soon!

Riccardo: I’ll be in touch later today

Luigi: See you next time!

Business meeting adjourned. Five minutes of chair scraping, cigarette exchanging and texting.

I went back to my book, worried that after all that, nothing much was achieved but confused as to the original aim of said meeting. (I can hear you say, was it my business at all? Essentially not, no but one can’t help but overhear – besides how else can one successfully pick up the language?)

June Joys & Cappuccino Confrontation

First of all, apologies for the recent silence – dilemmas summoned me homeward bound and so I’ve been absent from the keyboard. I’m back now and, if I may say so myself, in full force. Friday morning, I took Teresa … 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?

 

Pilates-Inspired Romance & Teeny-Tiny Muscles

My friend and I went to a Pilates class the other afternoon. After my dabble with yoga with the Italian mamma Elena, I decided the release was an addictive, enjoyable thing to do with forty-five minutes of my week. I slept better after, started to eat better and have generally become a nicer person.

When it comes to being an au-pair, it is important to make the children think they are always right, whilst in fact proving later they are wrong: this applies to timings, homework, brushing hair, brushing teeth, TV times etc. But to apply this kind of command, you need a calm collectiveness that I’ve discovered can be  found and maintained by yoga (or Pilates, or by the time I’ve written this three more vaguely similar workout techniques will have appeared all over adverts).

“After my dabble with yoga with the Italian mamma Elena, I decided the release was an addictive, enjoyable thing to do with forty-five minutes of my week”

So my french friend Anne-Sophie and I got our Sweaty-Betty’s (sweatpants for women who don’t ‘sweat’ ever, but maintain a glowy, doe-like sheen before, during and after a work out). This is as much not me as I wish it was.

So, there ended up being four of us in the class.  Only four, I was quite embarassed. No room for hiding or shirking any yoga responsibility. The class was made up of my friend, the instructor, another lady and myself. The instructor was French, but spoke fluent Italian. He was quite small, but very well built, with slightly crooked teeth. Anne-Sophie liked him immediately (don’t ask.)

The lights dimmed and a hush fell upon the room as a reedy, whispering sound came from the instructor’s iPod, which he took out what looked like a bag made of bamboo leaves. The music was entitled: The moon song of the winds that graze over the grasses of Mount Kilimanjaro, in the springtime, on horseback, serenely. I

The main focus of the class was to relax, wake up and tense your tiny, vital stomach muscles near the pelvic bone, (the ones you never use and may not know exist but are really, really important). The instructor helped show us where they were by pressing down on our stomach muscles, and I don’t remember thinking I’d signed anything for that yoga-related intimacy to be ok. I was very uncoordinated at first, then got more into it as the song merged from Grass Grazing to River Wallowing. The music was calming at least and I couldn’t even hear any noise from the street. There was a little window that poured sunlight into the studio, so that was nice and probably a bit of a prop too.

“Main focus…was to relax, wake up and tense your tiny, vital stomach muscles near the pelvic bone, (the ones you never use and may not know exist but are really, really important…)”

In the end Anne-Sophie got a date of it, (and probably a couple more free sessions if you know what I mean) and my teeny-tiny stomach muscles that had probably woken up with a jerk felt a little bit firmer than they ever had, so I left feeling like the cat who got the (non-fat, no dairy) cream.

“In the end Anne-Sophie got a date of it…and my teeny-tiny stomach muscles that had probably woken up with a jerk felt a little bit firmer…so I left feeling like the cat who got the (non-fat, no dairy) cream”

The Stroll

The Stroll

Introduction/ How Not to Sob Into a Cappuccino

It has now been over a month since I moved to Rome.

I want to take this opportunity to take you aside and mention that I did not know anybody before moving here: no family, no friends, not a single sod. As you can guess, the language is unfamiliar and off key to the French and Russian I learnt at school, the city vast and beautiful, ancient and lonely.

“I did not know anybody… not a single sod

This morning, I woke up early, feeling for the first time, at home in the apartment block in Via di Nazario. Our flat is near the top and the kitchen windows look out over the back of the building, to a long, drop down into a tiled hall. Looking up there is a handkerchief of blue sky. The tall apartment was one of many that lined the narrow street, and it was a stones throw away from Piazza Farnese, that breaks out into Campo di Fiori, a very pretty and multicoloured market square.

“Looking up there is a handkerchief of blue sky”

Early in the morning men and women of all shapes and sizes set up stalls of fruit, vegetables, trinkets, treasures, books and oils. The bars brim with boisterous conversation, espresso and freshly baked cornettos. It is here I pass through with the children on our way to school every morning.

“The bars brim with boisterous conversation, espresso and freshly baked cornettos

It is the weekend and I feel relieved. Weekends always have a different rhythm. There is no routine, and although I am expected to still be around for the children I am often free to do what I choose. As wonderful as that sounds, I still had no friends. Nobody I could talk to outside of the immediate family. It is a strange, unnerving feeling and as I rummaged around my room getting ready for the day, I thought how odd it would be if my friends could see me now. Lonely, old me.

This morning Benjamin, the father whom I live with and work for, prepared coffee in a small mocha pot, and the strong perfume filtered through the house. The day was bright and blue, which in Rome was terribly normal. For me though, a born and bred English girl, the day felt full of possibility and fresh.

The house is full of minimal luxuries, my favourite of which are the enormous, white linen curtains that waft about the living room, waving cheerful to passers-by outside. A lady comes to help every day with the cooking and cleaning leaving the place spotless. It often makes me feel inadequate, but I was not there to be the cleaner or the cook. I was the au-pair and taught English to the children who begrudgingly accepted lessons.

I could hear Teresa in the bathroom, and popped my head around the door.

“Good morning, sweetie.”

Teresa was intelligent and angelic. She had long, blond hair that she was exceptionally proud of. Someone had taught her to brush it many, many times to keep it shiny and the bathroom always occupied.

She danced into the hall after breakfast where there was a large table with colouring paper and pens. I was drinking my creamy coffee, and once I started drawing Teresa plopped herself on the chair next to me and followed suit. Anna, Teresa’s mother had already left for work, and Teresa was to meet her at four.

There are a few things I like to do when I am alone in the foreign house– namely, make sure I get in touch with those who love me. This is a small window of time where I make sure I catch up with people back home and touch base with those I miss to ensure that they know I am thinking of them and am still alive. (My mother has a wild imagination). You are probably wondering what happened to the first few weeks, and why this doesn’t start at the beginning. One word for you: homesick. So desperately and surprisingly homesick. Nothing lasts for long, adaption changes everything. I have blubbered over frothy cappuccino, overlooking the view of the golden Colosseum, while waiters hover close by wondering if there is a problem with the coffee? That seems a silly, rather embarrassing memory. Now there is routine, I know where I am with the family, who have been nothing but kind – (well, the boy often looks at me as if he is plotting murder.)

“Nothing lasts for long, adaption changes everything”

It is now beginning to get colder, more autumnal. The sprinkling of tan I had gained upon arrival is being ripped off by chillier weather that only makes the city appear more unique and crisp.

I don’t know if you have ever lived far from home, but if you are english and nodding then one phrase for you when craving comfort: A cup of Yorkshire tea, love? Have a sit down, chat with your granny, and everything will be alright. My own granny has had to listen to some blubbering down the phone more than once since I got here. Not a delicate tear, but full on sobbing that forces me to hide in the bathroom and talk, feigning a normal, chatty voice. Come on! We’ve all done it.

My advice to a lonely soul getting chubby on pasta and feeling sad: allocate time to talk to, write and catch up with home and those far away faces that love you. Other than that, throw yourself into where you are otherwise you will miss it. You will simply miss out on all of it. And that is pretty sad.