Friday, 24 June 2011

A nice day with friends

An old school friend of mine, N, who moved to France with her family some years ago, has started a blog which makes all sorts of comparisons between her new life in France and that in the UK. She came to the conclusion that for the children lots of things were much better in France. I wanted to do the same and thought I’d start by listing all of the things that I liked about living in Italy.
The list started like this
a)      The weather is nice.
b)      The food is OK.
c)      The scenery is incredible
d)     And then I got a bit stuck….

I decided to ask my husband who, being Italian was sure would have a much longer list. ‘It’s very beautiful,’ he said. ‘The food is great. The weather’s nice too…’ Yeah OK, I’m sure given a few beers he would have got a bit deeper. So, today during a very nice lunch with of some of my best friends, I decided to interview them for my blog. …I ought to explain that thanks to Saint John the Baptist who, due to a series of coincidences too long to go into right here and now, is celebrated on 24th June and who is also the patron Saint of Genoa, we were all on holiday today. (Most towns adopt a patron saint whose feast day falls in the middle of the summer which I’m sure is so they can have an extra day at the beach).

So, the interview:
M, is originally from Genoa but for the past 10 years has lived between Holland and Germany. She says, “In Italy the food’s nice, it’s very sunny and beautiful…” OK so what does she like about living in Germany compared to Italy? Here the answer was a bit more original. “If you have a problem and you complain about it you know that it will be taken seriously and someone will do their best to resolve that problem. Things work and if they don’t people will make sure they soon do. In Italy you always feel that someone’s trying to rip you off.”
It’s true. People don’t trust each other here and it sometimes makes you doubt the authenticity of their Italian Charm School diploma. They often scowl if you say good morning, are suspicious if you open the door for them and look the other way if you smiled so as to avoid having to smile back. It’s almost as if it costs money to be civil and in these times of economic crisis it’s not hard to understand why…

Then I asked F, who is M’s brother. “What do you like about living in Italy?” He shuffled around on his sun filled garden bench and replied with “Anyone want a coffee?”
“Come on, Vicky asked you a question. It’s for her blog.”
“Coffee no? Grappa then?” We had the distinct impression that F didn’t want to answer the question. If he reads this he can write it in the comments section :)

J (M’s husband) comes from Mexico, is a frequent visitor to Italy but also currently lives in Germany. “J cosa ti piace della vita italiana?” He told us that he finds life in Germany very ‘individualista’. You have to be independent and solve your problems by yourself. You need to understand how things work and get them done. I wonder what Germans would do if they had problems here?!

After this, it was very hot and so me and M had a water fight with the children in the garden. I was winning as I had an enormous glass bottle which I kept filling from the tap. They only had silly little plastic cups and weren’t very good at throwing anyway. It wasn’t until my best shot with the glass bottle passed a little too close to poor little Eve’s forehead and cracked it open that I realised it was probably time to stop drinking grappa, start acting like a responsible parent and just go to the beach. It was after all San Giovanni Battista and if you can’t go to the beach then when on earth can you??

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Poor old George!

Stop press. Stop press. It is apparently official, if any of you happened to be interested, George Clooney and his Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, have split up. I’ve just seen it on the news. The summer news!
After June 21st (real summer) TV stops functioning as it does usually with the assumption that nobody is interested in anything serious any more. The normal line up of evening programmes is replaced with moonlit fashion shows on historic monuments, beauty contests, circuses full of naked trapeze artists and variety show rehashes of 1980s comedy in which men dressed as women and thought it was funny (Remember Dick Emery? That sort of thing)
Italy is not known for its great TV.  It does lots of afternoon chat shows with flamboyant politicians and priests as guests who have to talk about the latest family murder or recipe and answer the probing questions posed to them by the scantily clad women who are conducting the shows. I suppose Italy really can’t be faulted on its scantily clad women.
Picture the scene: You’ve just arrived in your Italian holiday destination. Your hotel is lovely, it’s late and you’re tired. Before attempting to unpack, you flop onto the big double bed and switch on the TV. It’s always fun to watch programmes you recognise in foreign languages. Et voilĂ : Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Phone a friend, 50-50, it’s all there… but then a young semi clad blonde arrives and pulls herself across the young male contestant. He blushes and his girlfriend is shown smiling encouragingly from the audience. Another blonde and then a brunette follow suit. All dressed in the same, bunny girl costumes from the 70s seaside shows. All with exactly the same high cheekbones, swollen lips, long, long hair which curls perfectly at the end. We don’t need to mention the breasts as you can see what they’re like for yourselves, very evidently in view with absolutely no attempt at modesty at all. What time is it? Well it’s still quite early. Is it OK for the children to watch? ‘Don’t worry about the children,’ says Dad, we’ll watch this to see who wins and then switch it off.
But then let’s face it we all want to know the summer gossip and find out which flavor ice-cream is fashionable this season (bet you didn’t know that in Italy even your ice cream has to be the right flavor!!) I wasn’t working today and so had the chance to watch lunch time news and pick up some really useful tit bits. This year you should buy your bikini one size too small, so that you show off as much of yourself as possible. You shouldn’t do your own nails (very vulgar) but get those lovely big plastic ones put on by a professional (large price range but it’s worth paying for the best you can afford because you notice the difference) Your ice-cream by the way should be absolutely sorbetto not chocolate or nut and (important summer advice) if you have an old granny to look after make sure she drinks plenty of water if it gets very hot, which it is already. Don’t let her go out between the hours of 11 and 16.00 and make sure she has lots of fresh fruit to eat.
The news lasts half an hour and after wasting five minutes skimming over such problems as the Italian government which is on the brink of collapse, Greece on the brink of economic collapse and Lybia on the brink of lots of horrible things it was nice to see George Clooney. Let’s hope he can find himself a nice girl and settle down.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Left, right or centre??

I live in a little village called Fontanegli. It’s part of Genova but if you Google it you’ll see that it’s basically in the middle of nowhere, ‘nel culo dei lupi’ as they say here…‘up the wolves’ arse’… on top of a hill and only gettable to along steep, narrow hairpin bends. Every weekday morning I drive Eve to school. 12 minutes, 11 if the wind’s behind me. It’s a pretty ride, you can watch the seasons changing, practice your driving skills and listen to all Eve’s favourites on the CD player (currently Winnie the Pooh stories that came free with a Sunday supplement the other summer, The Winx ‘Magica Musica’, Godspell 2000 and John Denver …her father’s influence unfortunately) There are a couple of mad old men who do nothing but walk the hills all day. Separately, starting from different directions. Whatever the weather or the time of day they are to be seen walking, walking along the country road that I take to and from school. They hate traffic and both of them glare and wave their knobby fists as cars drive past. One even seems to have a glass eye and looks like the Ancient Mariner… the Ancient Hill Walker, we call him.

This morning I was a bit late. A bit sleepy. Eve was having an adolescent turn and I might not have been in the best of moods as I got into the car. This however does not explain or justify what was to come. As if by magic, or by some sort of decree on the Italian Highway Code, I seemed to meet all the cars coming towards me on the wrong side of the road. Had they decided over night to change sides? OK, I’m English and learnt to drive on the left but I’m pretty good on the right now too. I know the roads are not the safest and do my best to keep to my side of the road especially on the really curvy narrow bits. This morning I was the only one. Everyone seemed to be driving towards me straight down the middle or on my side.
After a few very near misses I got really angry and shouted something along the lines of ‘Hey, nasty man. Do you mind keeping to your own side of the road!’ at an old man in an even older Fiat Panda.

‘Brutta comunista di merda!!’ he snarled from his open car window before speeding off.

I hadn’t really expected him to apologise… but  he could’ve done better than brutta comunista di merda. The biggest insult he could find was political. No wonder he was confused between his left, right and centre… or maybe it was me. Tomorrow’s the last day of school which is probably just as well .The mad old walkers will no doubt be out there but from Friday, me and Eve will be heading down to the beach…. And that’s another road altogether.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Land of Take What You Want

I’ve just finished reading Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood with Eve. Anyone remember that tricky trio, Jo, Bessie and Fanny and their Faraway Tree friends: Moonface, Old Saucepan Man, Angry Pixie et al.

Eve loved it and has now started saying things like, ‘Goodness me, I’m in rather a fix Mother.’ And ‘What a queer little man!’ !!
After adventures in all sorts of different magical places the tree swings round to the Land of Take What you Want. The children, as EB children were wont to do, filled with Great British altruism, got a goat, some chickens and a spade for their dad to do the gardening as they were very poor and needed to grow vegetables and have eggs and milk. Silky the fairy got a walking clock and Moonface, who didn’t really need anything, sat and guarded the entrance just in case the land started to swing off again. Can you believe it!

The Land of Take What you Want!!! Imagine… everything you needed… whatever you wanted you just needed to take!! What do you think would happen?
Answers please to ‘Tales From the Harem…’ It's a serious question.

PS The champagne was cracked open, B’s candidate came in with more than 10% less than the other in Milan.Whilst in Naples B’s got 35% and  ours, the terribly heroic Luigi De Magistris, 65%. 
Now we await the resignation of Berluska himself.