10 Top Stories – Quick 2014 Round-Up

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1) Hair cut and a telling off here

2) Eavesdropping, Spanish Steps Style here

3) Overheard amusing conversation on the London tube here

4) 10 reasons you know you live with an Italian here

5) Magazine moment and inspiration ladies here

6) The date, nutella-dilemma and ivy embellished bars here 

aka “Why American boy when you are in Italia?

7) Jazz moment: here

8) Paris, Paris, Paris

9) New years resolutions of 2014 – being flawless isn’t always necessary or all that exciting here

10) Roman Insults, Yoga & a Revelation here

 

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How To Be The MOST Christmas

9 ways to show your fellow commuters & colleagues you are ready for Christmas

1) Sellotape tinsel to your face for instant Christmas effect

2) Have a wear of a Rudolf Christmas onesie, perhaps in between meetings at work, to make other colleagues smile and know you are the most ready for Christmas

3) Sew a traditional Christmas chipolata down your face so that people will think you are the most Christmas when they are having a look at your face

4) When someone next to you on the tube is reading or listening to music, remove headphones/take book and sing instead to fellow commuter who is ready to enjoy your Christmas carolling

5) Manoeuvre via elvin twirls as you make your way from the bus to the tube station/office instead of dull walking

6) Perhaps there is a delay and you are surrounded by fed up commuters who look a) angry b) tired c) grumpy d) anxious. What better way to lift their spirits and remind them of Christmas than scattering fake snow on the bus/tube floor, where bits may even settle on said commuters hair or, even better, eyelashes causing Christmas cheer

7) Wear a plastic red nose and (cover the elastic band with your hair) to show you are the most Christmas

8) Produce hand-painted crackers to fellow commuters for them to take to work and know Christmas is coming

9) Put flour in your hair and a red Christmas hat on your chin so that from upside down people will think you are Father Christmas

How have you been the most Christmas?

Good luck!

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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

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?)

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?

 

Search For Sophistication Disguised As A Hair Cut

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The other morning, I decided it was time to get my hair cut. Not only did my hair feel limp and unhealthy, after a certain point I realised this makes you feel gloomy too. A messy lop of hair following you around, like a sad, wild cat limping about the dustbins.

You can understand why I felt I needed to take action.

I went to a cute salon just off the Spanish Steps, where a bouncy, Bulgarian woman removed my coat and scarf with a flick of her wrist, and had me bound to a chair, forcing me to stare rigidly into the mirror at my sleepy face and dark hair that I’d bundled up quickly in a ponytail.

“I went to a cute salon just off the Spanish Steps, where a bouncy, Bulgarian woman removed my coat and scarf with a flick of her wrist…had me bound to a chair, forcing me to stare rigidly into the mirror at my sleepy face…”

My first dilemma: are you meant to dress up fabulously for a trip to the hairdressers?

Technically you are being pampered, and want to look and feel twice as fabulous after – it seems rude allowing someone to diligently touch, cut and buff your hair, without even making the effort to wash it and make it look a little bit nice? I would, at the least, suggest minimal eye-make-up and lip gloss so when staring in said mirror you don’t feel hideous.

During the vigorous shampoo massage, the whole world will sit patiently by your feet, letting you enjoy the humming water wash warmly past your ears. He/She will then quiz you about your head.

 “During the vigorous shampoo massage, the whole world will sit patiently by your feet while you enjoy the humming water wash warmly past your ears…”

It is a thrilling moment, where a complete stranger knows your hair so utterly and immediately. Before you even start to talk, the hairdresser has, at James Bond speed and precision, already mustered what you want. Whilst your hand bats around your scalp, motioning in gibberish what you think you want, and describing how you saw someone’s hair somewhere that you think you like – the hairdresser will humour you, nodding and pointing at the right moment. You are inextricably united by a common thought: you KNOW she already knows what you SHOULD have, and you know she knows.

“You are inextricably united by a common thought: you KNOW she already knows what you SHOULD have, and you know she knows”

The extraordinary magic of a hairdresser is that they kindly interpret your hair-womble-blabbing for pure conviction of what you want: after you’ve finished a couple of sentences about ‘trim’ and ‘bouncability’, you will be shut up by them promptly yielding what look like torture devices.

Is it me, or, when said-hairdresser brings out a shiny pair of angular ‘scissors’, a thought darts into your head:

“They look like normal, kitchen scissors?”

“Oh these?” She/He replies – “These are not scissors.”

“Oh? My mistake, I thought-”

“These are Taylors Eye Witness Moulded Handle Hairdressing Cockade Scissors.”

Silence:

“So – still scissors, would you say?”

You ask about the comb that is thrusted through the scalp: (you thought you had one similar, but it does something altogether so different from that half-snapped stick at home, that it must be from a different ‘comb’ family altogether.)

Should you question where it is from:

“Ah, this isn’t actually a comb.”

“No?”

“They are utensils made from high-end heat-resistant materials with handcrafted, rounded teeth. There are, of course, ionic properties within it, and it is clearly rigid, made from 100% natural rubber with an ergonomical rounded comb spine.”

“So, before it’s combing days, it was a small, recycled car?”

She didn’t like my joke.

I only asked because I wanted to understand how some of this luxury can be brought to my bed-side table, without spending away my next trip home to see my family.

As the episode drew on, I kept my head buried in a magazine, worried I’d annoy her with questions and ignorant comments.

Every glance the lady and I exchanged, hummed with the sentiment:

“I know you better than you know yourself. So just shut up will you and stop moving your head?”

Then there is the moment when, even though you’ve been asked nicely to lower your forehead, revealing the delicate hairline, you want to peek at what is going on. Just to check. In case. You know. It is your head. Then comes a ferocious yank where the lady has had it up to here with you. The yank makes you feel three-foot small, and a child. Eyes lowered, you are forced again to stare at falling waves of dark hair tumbling to the floor in slow motion, reaching a silent and doomed end on the sticky, beige floor.

You are almost there: but you can’t go until several buckets of products are poured on your crown, narrowly missing your face and burning your eyes. I paid what felt like a small fortune. However, when I got out into the sunlight, which glanced off my curls and shine, I got several head turns in the street AND a compliment from the Italian mamma.

So, I felt as smug as if I’d just won Head of the Year 2014.

“When I got out into the sunlight, which glanced off my curls and shine, I got several head turns in the street…”

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”

Roman Insults, Yoga & A Revelation

I returned to Rome yesterday. Italy is looking as lovely as ever, I think it missed me. The terracotta palazzos beamed in the bright blue, afternoon sky and the market near my apartment was bursting with life, as if the rickety, stalls opulent with colour, had been set up as a home-coming especially for me.

“Buongiorno signorina!”

Giovanni, a small man of about sixty who owns a fruit stall I’d been going to at least twice a week, waved cheerily at me. His head and hand poked out of an enormous row of bobbing pineapples – it took me a second to register him amongst the spiky, nobbly faces.

“…terracotta palazzos beamed in the bright blue, afternoon sky and the market near my apartment was bursting with life, as if the rickety, stalls opulent with colour, had been set up as a home-coming especially for me”

I was looking forward to seeing the family. I hoped they’d missed me. Felt my absence at least a little. The boy showed his welcome, warmly as usual, by grunting at me – we’ve moved on from the silent treatment I see.

I’m not going to lie, the first few hours in the house yesterday felt terribly quiet, and I was unbelievably homesick. The really nostalgic kind. The kind where you wonder what it’s all for, why you forced yourself to leave roaring log fires, mugs of Yorkshire tea, smiles made of homemade trifle and hugs, that know and love you, Cumberland sausage and scenic English villages where men tip their hats at you. (Well, the last bit is a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist.) Then I told myself to get a grip, grow up and get on with it. I was in Rome, for God’s sake! There were definitely worse places I could be. (A drizzly, night bus in Peckham, or Scunthorpe.)

Anyway, back in the apartment I am. To the familiar mahogany smell and the sun creeping through the linen curtains. Elena (the glamourous mother of the children) came back from her Milan trip earlier today. She burst through the door in a sleek trouser suit and puckered lips then collapsed dramatically on the sofa. She is the epitome of yummy-mummy, but extremely busy and important. Which makes her – well – brilliant.

We have a nice relationship – not quite sisters, but we have an enormous, I like to think, sophisticated respect for each other. She gave me a tight hug. Unfortunately, rather than brimming with designer freebies, Chanel blazers trailing behind her, or questions about my family and post-Christmas glee, she looked me severely UP AND DOWN.

“Mi sembri….You look,” she leaned in and touched my shoulder, “I forget my Eeenglish! You look… beeeeg.”

I nearly dropped the plates I was holding.

“I want to say, healthy and…beeeegger.” I’m not sure if she was aware I’d heard her the first time. And equally offended the second time.

“Oh no, I understand!” I said. My ‘Eeeenglishness’ covering up the embarrassing moment kicking in.  I was worried she would say it again.

“Christmas,” I waved my hand, “you know what it can get like.” I wanted to cry.

Moments later, two yoga mats were slapped on the floor in the living room, the chairs and table scrambled away. Oh God. All sound, light and children barricaded from the room. Silence. Then the familiar singing of a million, dancing dolphins in togas, that I’d heard every so often murmuring through the doors whilst reading to Teresa.

Yoga.

It isn’t that bad! I hear you throw your hands up.

It is an intense kind Elena had picked up from some kind of American Boot Camp for fat kids. Something Jennifer Aniston does twelve times a day, in a heated-pressure sauna, in between her roasted, stick-insect salad with cinnamon.

“…moments later, two yoga mats were slapped on the floor in the living room, the chairs and table scrambled away..Yoga…an intense kind…Jennifer Aniston does twelve times a day…in between her roasted, stick-insect salad with cinnamon..strictly no talking or whimpering”

I tried to concentrate. Strictly no talking or whimpering. I admired Elena’s vigilance to my health needs, ushering me into a rigorous regime after looking at post-Christmas-me for a mere ten seconds.

Did I really look that dreadful?

I’d like to say I didn’t feel like friendly, warthog Pumba being forced to align with nimble, lithe Simba during a gazelle-hunt, but I can’t. The breathing started slow, where of course all you can do is listen embarrassingly to the heaving of your own chest.

The trick is ignoring it, like with a lot of sports. Just get on with it or you will have cheeks and thighs like the discarded slabs of dough not even good enough to make pizza with. That is absolutely what Tracy Anderson and co. are thinking as she breezes “Keep going! You really can, and you really must!”

The thing with yoga is to just move swiftly, don’t think too much, isolate your limbs and ultimately feel a “union with the divine.” It is, when done correctly, the quest for ‘permanent peace’, as opposed to permanent pizza (my mind was elsewhere). Don’t get me wrong, I often practise yoga, and even, horrifically, around men with teeny-tiny speedos, otherwise known as ‘ladybird handkerchiefs’. I found myself lucky that I had, as a trainer for want of a better word, a long, limbed, Latino mamma, looping her legs up and all over the place.

The more I followed the steps, the more I relaxed into each movement. At the end, Elena and I flopped on the sofa with Pellegrino at hand.

“Mi sento molto piu’ libera – grazie per avermi incoraggiato di farlo!”

“I think I feel more liberated – thanks for making me do this!” I told her.

“You are welcome! It is nice to have you back.”

I thought she’d never say it.

“You know, I really think you need to find other ways to feel more…liberated…mmm?” She winked at me, in between gulps of fizzy water. Then smiling cunningly, a slight sheen on her honey-coloured forehead she raised her eyebrows. “Sai cosa voglio dire, tesoro? Do you know what I mean, honey?”

“I know what you mean – please, say no more.” I sighed.

She didn’t. She just winked again.

Enough comments for one day.

” ‘You know, I really think you need to find other ways to feel more…liberated… mmm?’ She winked.”