Tuesday, 31 March 2009

He's a Good Fork

My other-half is himself split into two halves, English and Italian. Half cold, damp drizzle and orderly queues, and half fiery Ferrari and wild hand gestures. People often ask me if he’s more English or Italian. This blog posting is dedicated to him.

He drives like a lunatic and likes his steak still moo-ing (Italian), but takes milk in his tea and says ‘whoops-a-daisy’ when he drops something (English). He says that he can’t multi-task like women can, but will cross three lanes of traffic at eighty km per hour, swear down the phone and light a cigarette at the same time (Italian).

He generally has the table manners of a badly-trained monkey (Italian, sorry) and twice as much body hair (Italian again). His hair is brown, although he insists it is ‘blond’ (English for the colour and Italian for insisting it’s blond), and he has size 46 feet which are even uglier than mine (English). The other day I came home to find him waiting to show me his big toe nail which had rotted off, again (this is the rogue Yeti gene coming out, the one I hope won’t be transmitted to our children). The other morning he was reading and asked me,
‘What’s a ‘bassoon?’
‘I think it’s a large wind instrument,’ I replied. ‘A bit like you.’(English)
He didn’t think this was as funny as I did (Italian).
He thinks it’s normal to have a blocked kitchen drain for six months and to have to tip the washing-up water down the toilet. It gives our house a kind of campsite atmosphere which appeals to his puritan side (English). One of his biggest heroes is Magnum, who he could rival for chest hair (Italian) and dress sense (English). Two Christmases ago he bought me a oven dish from Lidl wrapped in newspaper (English). He has no clue where the iron lives (does any man?).

He whisked me to New York to propose, which he did on one knee at midnight in Washington Square Garden (Italian). He secretly asked my dad for my hand in marriage first (English). He will take me out for dinner to celebrate the tiniest triumph at work (Italian) and will make me a hot water bottle and cup of tea, just how I like it, if I’m feeling poorly (English). He spontaneously offers massages that last forever and asks for nothing in return (I don’t know where this comes from, I just hope it never changes). He gets excited about baked beans (English) despite being a buona forchetta, or ‘good fork’, meaning someone who loves great food (Italian).He likes to keep magazines in the bidet (English – it’s true, us English rarely use the bidet for it’s original purpose).
Every morning in the shower, he sings made-up songs about me (Italian) and then tries to make me dance with him in his bathrobe and slippers in the hallway (eccentric English). He tells me how beautiful I am ten times a day (Italian - this one outweighs almost everything else), and says he really fancies me in my new reading glasses (English). Finally, he regularly whispers two of my favourite phrases into my ear:
‘I love you, baby’ (Italian) and then, ‘Shall I put the kettle on?’ (English).

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Thursday, 26 March 2009

WAX (for female readers only, no men - especially not my brother or dad - you have been warned)

This week has been all about exploring uncharted territory. Firstly, there's the bottom of the dirty washing basket, which I haven't seen for over a year. Very satisfying to find all those odd socks. Secondly, I've got to know the inside of my local beauty salon. Thirdly, my new friend Valentina, the beautician, has got to know an awful lot of me.

Like every Spring, I decided to start getting my legs waxed, ready for Summer. Unlike every other Spring, I actually phoned and booked an appointment to have it done. Having my legs waxed is part of the Great Italianisation Of Self project: in my head, it's up there with getting Italian citizenship and knowing when the asparagus season is. Chic Italian women do not fumble around in the shower with a blunt Bic razor every morning and if there's one thing I want, it's to be mistaken for a chic Italian woman.

It's not the fist time I've had my legs waxed. My mum treated me to a leg wax when I was sixteen and I was so traumatised (thanks mum) that I didn't make any further forays into the world of grown-up depilation until I was twenty-one and decided to wax my own bikini line. I bought the strips and read the instructions which suggested doing the waxing in a warm, relaxing environment. My flatmate was out so I commandeered the living room, put the TV on and turned the gas fire on full blast. Half naked, sweating and nearly fainting from the fumes, I stuck one strip on and then took twenty minutes to find the courage to pull it off. I think they heard my screams in France. I couldn't face repeating the kind of agony that I hadn't expected to encounter till childbirth, so I went around lopsided for a few weeks.

Now, aged thirty, I decided it was time to try again. I called my local beauty salon and stuttered something about 'legs' and 'wax'.
'Do you also want your inguine done?' the beautician, Valentina, asked. I hesitated, no idea what inguine meant but not wanting to fail this first test of my Italian-ness.
'Yes', I replied firmly, I hung up and then immediately went on Google to find out what inguine meant. Maybe it means 'big toe', I thought (I have the feet of a Yeti, another stumbling block to Italian-style grooming). Unfortunately, I had heard her say linguine which is a kind of pasta and not something you'd want to apply melting wax to. I fiddled around with the spelling and eventually got the horrifying translation of 'groin'. Images of me writhing in agony on my living room floor in front of Eastenders nine years before flashed before my eyes. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound of hot wax.

Well, I can safely report that I survived - although there are parts of my body which may never forgive me. I knew it would be tough when I walked in and Valentina told me to take off my trousers and put on the most pointless paper thong I have ever seen. She has now seen more of me than my gynacologist and I could barely look her in the face as I stumbled out with my eyes watering an hour later.

This was one week ago and thankfully my other half doesn't mind the freshly-plucked-poultry look (now starting to fade and become a lot of ingrown hairs that hurt when I get goose bumps). Apparently, I have two to three weeks until I have to repeat the experience.

Unfortunately, I don't feel very Italian yet, just a bit itchy.

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Saturday, 14 March 2009

White Week (white face, weak knees)

So it turns out that I can do the splits. Both ways. I just got back from a white week* skiing in the Dolomites where I wowed everyone with my stylish snow plough and creative ways of crashing to the ground, despite not ever exceeding 2 miles per hour. To have an idea of what I looked like, imagine an ostrich on skis wearing someone else's badly-fitting clothes.

We were staying just outside Cortina. For me, Cortina is an old school Essex-boy car, maybe with fluffy dice and probably with 'Sharon&Darren Foreva' written across the windscreen. However, Cortina is also a very chi-chi ski resort in North-East Italy. It's the kind of place where B-list celebrities get photographed sipping champagne in leopard print dresses at parties thrown by aging playboys. If Ford Cortinas are tacky kitch, then Cortina the ski resort is rich kitch. If you don't have the right diamante sun glasses, blond hair extensions and D&G ski gloves then forget it. (Remember that as a rule in Italy, the concept of kitch doesn't exist - mothers take their kids to school wearing the kind of leather boots that you usually only see in S&M porn. This is, after all, the country that gave birth to Roberto Cavalli.) On the slopes, this means that the ten-year-olds whizzing past me were not only laughing at my potruding bottom but also at my ancient borrowed ski trousers, rain coat and €3 woolly hat from the market. It was like being the geeky kid at school all over again.

Surprisingly, by the end of the week and with the help of Alfonso, my fantastic ski instructor, I could make it down the blue slopes without posing too much of a threat to myself or those around me. Of course, I managed to end up with the only instructor over the age of 65 - I suspect my other half had a hand in making sure that was the case. Chain smoking Alfonso saw me through a couple of days of skiing in a snow storm too, which is a bit like skiing with a white sheet over your head. He even got me doing the fabled parallel turns and after that I was unstoppable (almost literally). The worst injury I got all week was when I nearly cut the top of my thumb off while chopping vegetables for soup one evening, so that's a result too.

After a week at home my knees still feel like a couple of rusty hinges and my calf muscles have only just lost that feeling of being filled with concrete, but I find myself missing my time on the slopes. I'm planning next year's trip already which I'm sure will be even more successful because (a) I know I can survive the ski lift as long as I don't get cocky and start rummaging in my pockets and (b)I now know how to casually walk in ski boots without looking like a total twit.

*Literal translation from Italian. A week spent in the mountains using muscles you didn't know you had and humiliating yourself in front of people you pray you'll never meet again is called a 'settimana bianca'.

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