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.

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Underwear Underworld: Part 2

I have to add, the funniest thing about the Victoria’s Secret shop or indeed any underwear shop, is the GUYS. They look as if they’ve wandered into both a colourful ball pit for children, and a strip club, by accident, a bit late, wearing the wrong tie.

“GUYS….They look as if they’ve wondered into a mixture between a colourful ball pit for children, and a strip club, by accident, a bit late, wearing the wrong tie”

I suppose I would have that expression too if I didn’t know where to look or who to talk to whilst my girlfriend/wife/friend disappeared into a flurry of feather boas and glittery oil, leaving me disarmed, uncomfortable with no bean bag to sink away into, preferably into the floor.

BOYS: things to do when abandoned in said shop/when one wants to leave said shop:

1) Don’t catch anyone’s eye or touch anything

2) Look down mostly at shoes

3) Check i-Phone/emails/send text messages

4) Pretend someone very important has called and you must leave the shop immediately

5) Pretend to have spotted good friend outside the shop, pause and wave, stride out of said shop

All in all, the place is sewn together with shiny sophistication, a glamourous and adorned girly chamber of pants. The exciting thing is, you don’t need anything from it. Nothing is that necessary. Marks & Spencer’s squats on the high street for practical visits, with a modern thread of the naughty running through it, but Victoria’s Secret, is defiantly indulgent, a Narnia of sweet-scented excess complete with chandeliers tottering above your head and framed images of Godesses doing backwards, sultry yoga.

Marks & Spencer’s squats on the high street for practical visits, with a modern thread of the naughty running through it, but Victoria’s Secret, is defiantly indulgent… a Narnia of sweet-scented excess complete with chandeliers tottering above your head and palatial halls.

Fundamentally though, it’s a place where women treat themselves. This is the type of place where real, fluffy pillow-fights exist between fragranced-pink and bubble-clad women.

“All in all, the place is sewn together with grown-up, shiny sophistication, a glamourous and adorned, girly chamber of pants”

French hostess, Dimpled Ivan, After Class Chats

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This Friday morning, I went to the Dante Alighieri language school behind Piazza Navona, for one of my once a week lessons. After dropping off the children and taking the dog for a brisk walk down the river, I gathered my things and trotted off to school. By the end of the first lesson we had learnt the basics.

Our teacher is a jumpy, shrill woman with a dark bob, string of luxurious pearls that dance on her bosom, accompanied by 24 tottering layers of acrylic paint on her face. Unsurprisingly, she got everyone stirring into conversation. The class began with quiet, embarrassed murmurs, but by the end we were all bellowing “Ciao!” and “Where do you come from?” and in Italian: “Where can I find the tram/parking space/nearest post office?” as if our lives depended on it.

        “Our teacher is a jumpy, shrill woman with a dark bob, strings of luxurious pearls that danced on her bosom, accompanied by 24 tottering layers of acrylic paint  on her face…and got everyone stirring into conversation.”

Guess what? I made more friends!

Two sexy, French ladies: Selina and Anne-Sophie: Selina works as a hostess in a posh, French restaurant where she was told off for “not showing enough leg” and where I imagine the stiff, toothless pole of luxury panther hairs, half-meerkat/half Dracula Karl Lagerfeld is invited when in Rome on vital Chanel business: and Anne-Sophie, an enigmatic hippy with a gap in her teeth, who reluctantly came to Rome to get away from “nosy, over-protective parents”.

“She was told off for “not showing enough leg” and where I imagine the stiff, toothless pole of luxury panther hairs, half-meerkat/half Dracula Karl Lagerfeld is invited when in Rome on vital Chanel business…”

There is also George from Lebanon, dazzlingly different to any friends I’ve ever had: training to be a priest and bought all our coffees and pastries as he has lots of money because “I don’t believe in materialism”. Finally there is Ivan from Ecuador: dimpled, slightly too small and soft around the edges for a perfume ad, but charming and I felt like I was on Question Time for all his inquisitiveness, (I think he likes me). His father had moved here under the guise of a diplomat working at the Roman Embassy, so he’d school and country hopped because of this profession.

“…Ivan from Ecuador: dimpled, slightly too small and soft around the edges for a perfume ad, but charming…I felt like I was on Question Time for all his inquisitiveness, (I think he likes me)”

Opposite the school entrance, there is a café constantly buzzing with perky, fashionable students and loud, multilingual greetings and high-fives. We all mainly discussed Rome, our situation and why we were here, who is single or on the pull.

Anne-Sophie and Selina are both au-pairs and are both here for a year like me. George and I had an interesting conversation over our cappuccino about boyfriends and girlfriends. He asked me whether I was single. Apparently, in his culture, a girl would only belong to one boy. The Armenian culture (I learnt) is very strict and choice is often rigidly narrow.  It was very refreshing to be with someone unconcerned by the throes of life that would ordinarily trip me up on a daily basis. All in all, I left feeling heady with glee and fulfilled at the wonderful variety of people and conversation that life can spontaneously toss at you.

“All in all, I left feeling heady with glee and fulfilled at the wonderful variety of people and conversation that life can spontaneously toss at you”

The (Lack Of) Men In My Life

One thing that struck me fairly early on in my life in Italy is the lack of men. Now calm down, not in that way.

Well, maybe a little.

Anyway, what I mean is the lack of brothers, smiley, cheery father and fun friends of the opposite sex. Also intelligent guys to talk to that weren’t always checking on whether I was Eeenglish and not Italiana?

Like most things when you get off your rump in search of adventure and whatnot, you’ve got to make things happen. Well in these early days of November I fear the only men in my world are as follows:

  • Twelve year old italian laaaaad that loves to hate me but loves me really
  • Old, old pizza man who asks me out for a “little beer and maybe conversation?”
  • Street starers
  • Nosy, prying waiters of all shapes and sizes and varying levels of personal questions

Then when I started looking in unexpected places:

  • Bernini sculptures of men: Rippling, smooth, marble muscles and (silly) curly hair, big smooth hands and…noses
  • Wonderfully handsome student who saved my life (more later)

Well there it is for now.

Every cloud (or wispy suggestion of one in Rome) has a silver, perfectly polished lining. You will find you are too busy for anything more remarkable than that at the beginning.

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What To Do/Not To Do When Feeling Homesick

What not to do

  • Watch When Harry Met Sally alone in the house
  • Panic too much about dividing the living and working environment – it is odd being employed by those who want to be seen as your family. Just relax and let the pasta bubble – the fusion of employment and family life is as complicated as you make it
  • Mope about in the street – even children will look and wonder why you are so miserable
  • Try not to cry in public places – strange men will use it as an excuse to pop over and pet you

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What to do

  • Try doing/finding new things each day – for example, today I stumbled across a fragrant, little tea shop hidden in a rickety, cobbled street that I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to return to again. It had shelves lined with sarcophaguses of tea leaves. I chose a vanilla scented one and proudly put it in the kitchen cupboard
  • Get your mind racing – look for a school/some kind of class; whether it is learning italian, teaching, drawing, foreign exchange conversations (oh-er)
  • Leave the house as often as possible – the more you come back to the apartment, the more it becomes ‘home’
  • Appreciate the small things: children with chocolate around faces/said chocolate around own face
  • Talk with everyone, don’t worry about the broken, crunchy, awkward italian you may have initially pieced together
  • Drink water from the fun, old pumps in piazzas (the nearest one for me is in Piazza Campo de’ Fiori)
  • Buy that plump, fresh, round orange that looks at you as you pass it in the market