Monday, 2 November 2015


I've discovered a new species of mum at Isabel's roller skating class. The sound of clinking jewellery and stink of privilege in the changing room is almost overpowering. It's only one postcode away from our (very respectable) neighbourhood, but another planet where the mums spend their days organizing exotic holidays and ordering an army of underpaid foreign staff to peel organic kumquats for their delightful (a-hem) and inevitably tousle-haired offspring.

They emanate a sense of belonging and manicured self-entitlement that I probably only managed to pull off once in my life: the Market Square in Alton, circa 1996, AKA my teenage prime. Everything's been a bit shaky and uncertain since then to be honest. Never since have I felt such an unshakeable feeling of belonging and righteousness. Thank goodness.

Being a masochist and uncontrollable chatterbox, I can't help myself but start up conversations with these women - which is not easy because when they are near me, I seem to develop the magical superpower of complete invisibility. They chat amongst themselves of course, but that's because they recognize their own species at 100 paces. I think it might be something to do with the Lovely Hair and Rather Special Shoes. They even have their own dialect, which for the purposes of this post, we might call 'Lake Speak', ie:
'Are you off to the Lake house this weekend, darling?'
'Yes, even though I don't know how we're going to manage since they stopped stocking Beluga caviar and Kopi Luwak coffee at the local deli. And the poor children are going to have to make do with just the two tennis courts as we're having the other one turned into an infinity pool.'

Still, I chat away, despite the gulf (jet) between us. There's not much common ground - they don't even get wet in the rain apparently. I was telling one about my journey to the class that week, with Jack on the back of my bike and Isabel riding hers, all of us in rain capes, waterproof trousers, snorkels etc, and she simply looked at me, eyes wide and said, 'What a frightful life, darling'.

I know. I sound jealous and spiteful (I am, both). I'm sure they have their own very real problems simmering beneath that glossy/matte surface. Actually though, I'm not jealous at all of a lifestyle that allows for NO EXCEPTIONS: in this tribe there's only one way of behaving, talking, eating, holidaying and probably even pooping. It's a trap that's got them caught as tight as the clasp on a brand new Louis Vuitton clutch (which, in any case, is definitely too small to fit a pair of roller skates - which might explain why they have to bring the nanny to class: to lug the €200 skates).

The daftest thing of all though is that while I'm busy bitching about them, they sit around bitching about the mums from San Carlo (Milan's most expensive private school).


But that definitely means that there are people somewhere bitching about me...

Opps. Forget everything I just said.

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Just sayin'

Do you ever worry that your child may grown up to be a serial killer? Me either.

Random Isabel:
'Voglio ammazzare un piccione!' ('I want to slaughter a pigeon!')

Cinderella Isabel: (this came after seeing the latest film, which is impossibly romantic and more sugar-coated than a ball of candy floss dipped in treacle and hundreds and thousands):
'But mummy, if I was Cinderella, I would have called Giovanni and Jonatan [apparently the toughest boys from her class] and got them to cut the sisters' heads off.'

And then sometimes I worry that she's actually far too mature for her years.

Adult Isabel:
'Mummy, I'm a big girl now and so sometimes I have to do things that I don't like.' She was four at the time.

Mummy Isabel:
'Jack, I'm going to count to three and then I'm going to get cross.'
No answer.
'Jack, do you understand?'

Contemplating the future Isabel:
'But mummy, when I have a baby will they cut my tummy open? I don't want that because lots of blood will come out.'
'No', I replied. Then, wading into even deeper waters, 'most mummies don't have to have their tummies cut open. The baby comes out of your do-dee'.
Silence. She hasn't brought the subject up since.

Merchandising Isabel:
In the supermarket. 'Come on let's get round the frozen section and then we're done'.
Eyes light up. 'Mummy, is there a Frozen section?! Brilliant! Let it go, let it go...'

And of course Jack may only be three, but he's already coming out with some corkers.

Jack discovers there's stuff going on right under his new favourite hobby:
'Mummy, what does this do?' shortly followed by 'it's all wrinkly!'

Fantasy Jack:
'Mummy, do you know, my friend Cesare has a space rocket and one day he went to the moon.'
Nods hard. 'Yeah, really mummy.'

At the bar Jack:
'Do you want a brioche Jack? They've got brioche mignon with jam'
'Minions mummy? YEAH MINIONS!' Looks around. 'Where mummy?'

Bi-lingual Jack:
'Mummy, in Italian it's ambulanza but in English it's nee-naa.'

Curious Jack: (eyeing the Mr Muscle spray in the bathroom)
'Mummy, do you know that man?'

Love 'em.
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Friday, 2 October 2015

On keeping calm and carrying on. And doing it with a smile.

Let's get personal. Let's tell it how it is.

We've got problems. Genuine, real life, First World problems, mind.

We've got problems like: the only way we can afford to regularly buy the raspberries and blueberries that the kids love to smear around the house is if I cut out my morning coffee habit. And that ain't happening.

We've got problems like: I've got a voucher to go to a day spa, but no time to go because I'm always translating, sorting laundry, preparing lessons and freaking out about my new job that has to fit somewhere in the middle of all the other stuff (hi there, new boss in your über modern, über intimidating, open-plan office space. I'm so going to über puke on my first morning).

You see what I mean.

So, we're pretty lucky. We've got luxury problems. Top-of-the-range problems. If our problems were on sale in the supermarket they'd be in the Tesco Finest* range (or Waitrose Essentials, depending on your demographic status).

Did I mention that I'm also two episodes behind watching The Great British Bake Off? If I miss the patisserie one because it gets taken off iPlayer...

I'm writing this as a kind of therapy because I get swept away with these and a million other situations that add up to make each day seem like a harried non-stop life-or-death egg-and-spoon race. I end up feeling like a shabby, knackered one-man-band, cleaning the bathroom with one hand, tapping away at the pc with the other and using my feet to find the last Hello Kitty plaster to put on an injury which is actually invisible to the naked eye. We've run out of milk, a tiger came and drank all the water from the tap, Isabel has to go to school WITH UNBRUSHED HAIR. The shame, the shame!

Calm. The. F*#k. Down.


My resolutions for this September (AKA Italian New Year) were:

1) Be thankful

2) REALLY be thankful

3) Don't judge or measure myself against others - who knows what shit is going on in their lives. It's not a competition. Run your own race (thank you Helen Jennings for the excellent video about this).

4) Ok is good enough (nobody is checking how clean it is under the sofa - mainly because I don't invite the kids of those mums over to play)

5) Deal with ACTUAL problems (did I mention hypothyroidism? Well, I'm getting on top of it)

6) Volunteer to help people with ACTUAL problems

7) Be thankful some more

8) Laugh, see friends, drink tea, eat Kit Kats, wallow in Eastenders and do other stuff I love. Without feeling guilty.

There you have it. No more panicking, no more worrying and no more shame. Let's make each day less of an egg-and-spoon race at knife point and more of an upbeat, light-footed and carefully coordinated relay. The end.

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