Monday, February 28, 2011

Blessed be this house

Well the selection narrowed us down to three choices. Number one on the list didn't answer the phone to us (her loss, we decided) so the winner was contestant number two, Brazilian Paulo. I hope he turns out alright, he was heavily pushed by me as he gave off a strong aura of 'boy next door' niceness and had a whiff of geek about him. I do love me a good geek. My housemate Cristina was a little disappointed that we appear to have the only non-stunningly attractive Brazilian man in Brazil coming to live with us, but I think after the initial shock (ok I'll admit it, I was half-hoping for a bronzed god too) she came round to the idea.

I reckon Paulo will be happy here though seeing as our house was blessed this evening. Yes, for the bargain price of three euros (voluntary offering but I wouldn't suggest not giving, you wouldn't want to risk it) the priest came and said a prayer in our dingy hallway and waved a silver baton around at us. I'm not a catholic so am not familiar with these routines, but luckily Cristina was on hand to intervene when I answered the door to the local priest and just sort of stood there looking confused and gormless while he explained that he was here to do an 'easter blessing' on the house. Then my other housemate (the German one who's leaving) joined us, and there were two of us looking gormless while the priest and Cristina went about doing signs of the cross and waving batons. She then left me to practice my conversational skills and ran off to collect some change, placing it in the don's hand before thanking him profusely and gently ushering him out the door. She closed the door, rolled her eyes almost imperceptibly but otherwise didn't bat an eyelid, and went to return what she had been doing, only explaining after I physically stopped her and demanded to know just what exactly had just happened. All in a day's work for an Italian.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"The selection"

Well the weekend passed uneventfully and my cold passed of its own accord without the need for antibiotics I'm happy to say. I have a couple of days off before heading to England for 5 days and since the bf is in the middle of exams and is often physically and almost always mentally unavailable I have been left to my own devices. This is probably a good thing however as my diplomatic skills are needed at home where we are 'selecting' a new housemate (this is a rigorous and strictly observed process and you need to have gone through at least 2 Italian houseshares to fully comprehend how to do it).

As well as an advanced degree in housemate selection, diplomacy is needed because my housemates have inexplicably fallen out over the course of the last 6 months (while I've been at work they've been at home studying and getting themselves worked up over all sorts of imagined slights that I've then had to hear about on my return from work). Result is I'm acting as intermediary in the organisation and selection process. So far we've had one guy who made the comment "so, we can organise that I cook and you two clean seeing as you're girls". Err, no thanks buddy. We've had another guy who keeps phoning with random questions about the wardrobe dimensions or similar but won't confirm that he's interested or even that he wants a second look around. We've had three no-shows. And today we had a nice French girl who we hope beyond all hope will call back with a yes. We're sort of desperate; there are only 7 days until the room has to be occupied by a new housemate. And the UN representative (me) is leaving the day after tomorrow. Therefore tomorrow evening is decision time. Let's see if the selection has been effective or if we're left chasing the fish we rejected and threw back into the sea.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Buona vacanza, maestra"

So, another school holiday, another stonking great cold. All through term time no matter how many noses running with luminous green toxic-looking stuff I wipe, no matter how many times during lunch hour some kid sneezes directly into my plate of pasta, I resist. As soon as I wave the kids off for the hols I'm snuffling like a pig and losing my voice.

Yesterday was the last day of school and most of the children will now be setting off on their 'settimana bianca', a skiing week up in the North of Italy. The mums turned up to collect the children already dresssed for the holidays, with furs and buoncy blow-drys, trilling 'buona vacanza maestra' as they waltzed out the door. The nannies, on the other hand looked glum and didn't wish anyone a happy holiday, grimly anticipating the week of hard work ahead.

I told my boyfriend on the phone last night that I couldn't see him becasue I'd got a bad cold and didn't fancy going out. This morning on his way to meet a friend he turns up at my house with a worried expression clutching orange juice and chocolate. Ah, gotta love the Italian hypochondria. "It's only a cold, I'm not bedridden!" I told him (but obviously took the goodies anyway). Oh, and the other thing he brought round? Antibiotics. Prescribed to him. He made me promise I'd take them. Think I might do what my cheeky grandma used to do and chuck them down the toilet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Syringe-Wielding Sisters

I work in a religious school. Very religious. So religious my colleaugue calls it 'the kingdom of the nuns'. And as I have found out nuns are good at trying their hand at a lot of things. If you need to sign your contract there's Sister Gloria, if you need to make an enquiry about your playslip, go and ask Sister Assunta.

But I must admit that nuns didn't enter my mind when Sister Eileen came to tell me that I was required by the school to arrive early one morning last week without having eaten breakfast to do a blood test. I have very reluctant veins that require a lot of two-fingered arm slapping and aborted attempts with needles to be drawn from, so I was a little concerened, but all the same I was confident in the assumed capability of the doctor who my very reputable and prestigious school would no doubt procure to do my check up.

So I arrived apprehensive and hungry at 7.20 a.m. only to be presented with, you guessed it, a sister with a syringe. Okay, I told myself, don't make any hasty judgements. Just because she's wearing a habit doesn't mean she isn't qualified and capable.

There commenced quarter of an hour of the traditional arm slapping and punctured veins. I was getting more and more agitated and sister wasn't helping with her running commentary. "Let's try again, it won't hurt much. Okay I'm doing it near the hand so it'll probably hurt more than in the arm" . Then, when she finally started to draw blood "oh dear, I'm making a bit of a mess here. Oops, got some on the table there. Oh no, there goes some more".

My head started to spin and I broke out in a sweat. "Err, I don't feel all that well" I pleaded Sister. "It'll pass" she said airily as she mopped up drops of my blood from the desk and towel "let's just cover this stain up shall we, so that the next person who comes in doesn't get a shock".

"No really sister, I feel lightheaded, what should I do?"

"Here!" she shoved half a glass of water towards me, stirred in a packet of sugar and told me to drink it. "Okay? Better? Right then, let's call in the next teacher".

One may cast doubt on their dubious training and non-traditional techniques, but these no-nonsense nuns definitely get the job done! What a wake-up call!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Calling

September is a time for new starts, and I always feel this rule applies more here in Italy than elsewhere because during the summer things wind down to a crawl. Here in Rome it can take up until mid-September for the city to creak to its feet, shake off the last of that summer dust kicked up by motorinos cruising along dry roads and get things up and running again.

In its annual state of sweaty lethargy was how I found Rome when I came back from England a month ago. Then I started a new job and things got very hectic. I've therefore only just noticed that life, in the meantime, has rediscovered its old rhythms. The traffic along my road is constant instead of trickling, small shops on side streets have reopened their shutters with a vengance, and there's the definite, delicious hint of a chill in the air early in the morning.

Raising my head above the parapet for the first time after three tiring weeks in my new job (more about that another time) I realise that while I have been spending my weekends in a daze of exhaustion I have been missing out on the lasts of the summer. Last visit to the lake or beach, last good peaches, last really, really cold beer, last chance to wear that cute red sundress. And worse still, it's last-chance saloon at the gelaterias, who are going down to weekend-only opening.

But that's ok, because autumn in Italy brings other joys. When you leave the house it means the sun warming your cockles instead of frying your brains. Autumn means the grape harvest and all its associated pleasures. It means being able to stay inside reading a book without feeling guilty that you should be doing something becasue it's such a beautiful evening. On the other hand it means strolls in the park, visiting museums, going on trips, and all those things you haven't been able to do during daytime hours for 3 months because the sun would have melted the soles of your shoes. It means starting to eat yummy soups again, and afterwards maybe allowing yourself the odd pudding or two, because, after all, that flesh'll be covered up soon.

How are you settling into autumn where you are?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You know you're getting older when....

Ah, flatsharing. You either hate it or, well, you hate it (or maybe I'm just a misery guts).

I remember when I was still living at home and about 18. I had an older boyfriend Dan who lived with his student friends, which seemed ever so exciting and glamorous until I realised staying over meant getting into a grimy damp-spotted shower in the morning and fighting my way through the pizza boxes to try and find some milk for my tea before leaving for work. And then there was the moaning. I swore to myself I would never rant boringly like him on the topic of whose turn it was to buy the toilet roll (don't moan at me, moan at THEM I wanted to shout but obviously, being British, he couldn't).

Ok, I accept that that particular house offered an authentic student house experience, and I happily spent three studenty years afterwards wallowing in a similar kind of grotty pigsty with likeminded people. Of course there were moans about things, there were always the moans, but there was a kind of unspoken pact that we would live in a godforsaken mess and no-one would care. It seemed almost expected of us.

The real problems started afterwards when the houseshares with 'real' people started. I didn't particularly want to share a house, and neither, I imagine, did they. There were no pally 'house dinners', no boozing the night away then bonding in the kitchen over burnt toast at 2am. 'Grown up' housemates weren't particularly looking for friends, they would have much preferred having their own place, thank you very much. They were also too used to sharing houses and weren't shy about telling you what they expected as good 'housemate behaviour'.

Maybe I've just had some bad experiences in the last few years,, but I really hope my time in houseshares is almost over. Friends my age have reported similar yearnings; one, after discovering that there were mice scratching away behind her bedroom wall sighed "aren't I too old for this now?". Another lives with a married couple who can't afford their own place, and frequently feels like a third wheel in his own home.

Sorry if this itself feels like a big old moan. Maybe I have finally ended up like poor old Dan. I've just moved house, so here's hoping the new year (September is like new year in Italy with everyone back from their month-long break) brings tolerable housemates and a non hair-clogged plughole...oh and plenty of riches so I can start saving for that deposit on a hosue!

On a side note, the last I heard from Dan he was an extremely successful management consultant being flown around the world to do management consultant-y type things. I imagine he doesn't have reason to moan about the loo roll any more.

Above: Past housesharing memories.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Disjointed Return

Hello? Anybody out there? I know I deserve to have NOBODY read this blog after my exceptionally haphazard approach to updating, but I hope there might be one or two who have kept the faith.

I'm just back from a damp but enjoyable few weeks in England seeing friends, doing daughterly chores and trying to make inroads into a teriffically dull online teaching course (example question: "Is there a best seating arrangement for a class? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various seating plans." No really, I'm serious).

Yesterday evening, after a suspiciously incident-free journey I disembarked and waited at the luggage carousel, getting to the front and adopting an aggressive wide-legged stance in the midst of all those pushy Italians. On seeing my blue suitcase with the cheery polka dot ribbon tied round the handle I edged forward and prepared myself to lift the heifer off the belt. One, two, three, heeeave....and the handle came off in my hand. Cue friendly Englishman chasing it down the carousel and hauling down the case amid cascading bits of splintered plastic, the remains of my handle contraption. Despite the man's best efforts to help me fix it back on it was beyond repair so I set off slowly for the station, alternately attempting to carry the 20kg weight and folding myself in half and wheeling it along by holding the actual body of the case. Tragic. Twenty minutes later, having managed to get to the station, sweating in my English jeans and jumper, I pondered what to do. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for a while over calling the ex, worried that if he accompanied me home I might have to spend the rest of the evening with him being awkward. In the end I called him and he didn't pick up, which was probably better for all concerned. I hopped on the train (or, more accurately lugged myself and the sorry, bits-dropping-off excuse for a suitcase onto the nearest compartment) and decided to get off a couple of stops before mine where there's a taxi rank and take a taxi home. I managed to get off the train and luckily a kind boy saw me struggling and offered to take the case. I'd stuck the deficient handle into the front pocket and the look of comedy surprise on his face when he pulled on it and his arm, attached to the handle flew straight into the air, was hilarious). He deposited me in a taxi and looked like he was going to do something embarassing like ask me for a coffee, so I steadfastly ignored him, willing the driver to leave. The driver, not sure what the situation was ("er, maybe he wants a tip?"), stayed put while the guy waved, tapped on windows and mimed telephoning to try to get my attention. In the end we managed to establish through a crack in the window that I wasn't interested, but thanks for the help anyway and off we went. I tipped the driver enough at the other end to get the case as near to my door as possible. Finally inside the house I breathed a sigh of relief and got on with making a well-deserved plate of pasta. Ah, it's good to be home.

ps, This is my second suitcase broken in a couple of years when going through Fiumicino airport. Has anyone had a similar experience? Are the luggage handlers particularly "enthusiastic" there or buoyed up on one too many coffees?