Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Milan Summer Look

Dear all, it's high time for a fashion up date. I can't really believe I've spent so long (well, four months) living in the capital of fashion and failed so far to blog about it. Well, now's the time to reveal this season's trends since the sun's making an appearance more and more this past week and people are wearing their black coats less and less.

In fact it's been so warm, I regretted having a long sleeved top during Monday's fire drill, and then took the opportunity to sunbathe in a park between lessons. I even ate an icelolly, un ghiacciolo, (don't ask me to pronounce it, I'm constantly being corrected).

Unfortunately my wardrobe mainly consists of winter clothes, having moved to Italy at the end of September. This would be a great excuse to go shopping, but I'm trying to save money for a summer holiday, (Crete? Corsica? Suggestions on a post card please!), so it is with impatience that I wait for my parents to arrive for their weekend in Milan, hopefully bringing with them a suitcase of summer clothes and tea bags.

So what fashions will we be following this summer?

Well this morning illuminating the concrete jungle as I sat on my balcony in pink tracky Bs and a yellow strappy top I was imitating the Italian-Middle-Aged-Man. I.M.A.M (very unlike the model of the same name) gets to a certain age and then decides he is bored of the black suit he has been wearing most of his life and bursts out upon the world in red, orange and yellow trousers. To top off this summer look you will need to mismatch as much as possible, preferably with a velour brown jacket.

Or perhaps, as I did on Monday, you might want to imitate Poor-Extra-Communitaria-Woman fashion, which as in Russia with the elderly, involves heavy knit wear whatever the temperature. So don't worry, those cable knit sweaters you bought last winter were a great investment.

Your other option, a personal favourite, is One-Colour-Chic. This season ladies are working purple or white head to toe, and one young lady I saw on the tram was resplendent in gold jacket, trousers, belt and and bag. Extra points to her for matching her accessories. Of course this is too much for many Italians shedding their winter black and if it's too much for you, you may wish to stick to all over beige instead.

You can even his and hers. I saw the cutest geekiest couple on my way home who were perfectly matching, in beige pumps, demure knee length skirt and cardy for her and beige trousers and jacket for him.

Of course it depends who you are trying to blend in with, if you're heading to the Tibetan Buddhist Centre, as I did yesterday, you may wish to wear bright red to fit in with the monks.* However I wouldn't recommend red shoes. As I went to find my pair of red shoes at the end of the session, I was shocked to find that a large percentage of the audience were also wearing red shoes and relocating my footwear was not as simple as I had been expecting. Sometimes it's not so easy to stand out.

*Nobody actually did this.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Wounded Pride

A few weeks ago some of my youngest students refused to believe I was over the age of 18, only for the next week one of the boys to ask me if I had children and was I married. No and no.

But then, "Why not?" said he.

I was a little lost for words at this question. How do you reasonably satisfy a small child's curiosity about your life decisions without fobbing them off with a crap answer? I didn't know.

"Err, I'm too young!?"

Thinking that probably as far as history and the world at large goes I am probably one of the few women not to have children or a husband at 23 I wasn't sure if this was a good enough answer but it seemed to satisfy him, (on reflection, "my socio-cultural background makes it feel normal," would have been more accurate, but probably less satisfactory).

But then, this week, after starting to think I was getting grown up (especially after teasing A about it after his 27th birthday - he's going to be 28 next year!) I got brought straight back down to earth.

As I entered my high school the other day, like normal I wanted to use the bathroom before teaching. I was suddenly stopped by about six or seven cleaners shouting at me, "Where are you going?"

"I have English," I said, thinking I had been mistaken for a random stranger.

"No, where are you going?" They all shouted again.

"Err I need the toilet...."

"No!! No!! you can't use that toilet!!" They all shouted again and all said something very fast that I didn't understand because they were all shouting at once. (What is it with Italian cleaners and door people?!) Well I acquiesced assuming the toilet was broken and went and used the grim students toilets down the corridor.

It was only as I left afterwards that it struck me. There was nothing wrong with the normal toilets... Ladies and Gents, I had been mistaken for a naughty pupil trying to use the teachers' bathroom!

Oh the shame! My wounded vanity! It would seem I do not even look 17.

It's a ridiculous situation and it's probably going to take some time before people stop talking down to me when taking me at face value (ha ha - sorry.) No wonder teenagers find adults so irritating!

I'll just have to take comfort in the fact that it makes good blog material.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Being English

I was suffering from writers' block this week until I read my friend's blog 'English Barber or a Pissed off Patriot' so I'm taking his theme and expanding on it. Whilst he was bemoaning the lack of opportunities for feeling English in a politically correct way and looking forward to the World Cup, I'm not really suffering from the same problem. Yes I know, as Winston Churchill said, "An English man is never a foreigner. Even abroad he is surrounded by foreigners!" but when you are the ONLY English person around you do feel slightly differently.

Actually it's quite cosy. I'm snug in my little 'English person' identity. I don't need to worry what people think about me, I am an unpredictable eccentric foreigner with odd habits. And as for patriotism, well people would think you were a bit strange if you didn't love your homeland in one form or another.

After watching Crash, which by the way I wouldn't recommend watching if you were thinking about moving to California, A and I decided to lighten our moods with 'L'herba di Grace' which I assume translates as 'Grace's Grass'. A low budget properly English film set in Cornwall, widowed Grace raises money to pay for the mortgage by growing pot. The film finishes with naked police men and old ladies getting very high and dancing round the garden as the greenhouse catches fire. It's light hearted comedy England at its best.

But as A pointed out, what makes it feel really English to him is the amount of times someone is offered a cup of tea in the film. he was totally right! No Italian film maker would dream of putting that many nice-sit-downs-with-a-cup-of-tea in a film. It had completely passed me by.

What makes you truly English, it seems to me, isn't cultural symbols like red telephone boxes, but the little every day ceremonies that you never think about.

Of course being English doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. One of my primary students asked me this week, "Where are you from?" to which I replied, "England," and then to help them out with their blank looks, "Inghilterra."

Her eyes widened with a look of recognition. Then,

"Is that in Australia?"

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


The Easter feel certainly had hold of me on Wednesday as that evening I left to join the family in the traditional trip to Liguria, (how very obliging of them for them to go on holiday only two and a half hours by train from me).

Despite the delay and a slightly pungent train (smelling just like the old trains we used to get through my village where you had to lean out and undo them from the outside)I got to see the stunning views as we crossed Lombardy. Crossing the impeccably flat plains of the Po valley with the white white Alps to the right, and the lush Ligurian hills to the left; a very dramatic and implausible landscape indeed.

Of course by the time I got to Genoa it was dark as I had set off after work, which was a shame as I have a strange feeling of affinity for this town despite having never gone there in the light. Probably I should write because I have never gone there in the light, since A seems to think it would probably be a letdown. Mind you, how much of a letdown can one of the best aquariums in Europe complete with Penguins be, I ask you?

All in all my four and a half days in Liguria were excellent, lots of different types of weather complemented by lots of different types of foccaccia and icecream. The Cinque Terre are simply beautiful and I leave you with one of the best pics form the trip. What more need I say?!