Sunday, 22 February 2015

Hospital Food

2015 hasn't started well for me although I'm pleased to report the family, friends and students are now recovering or have turned out not to be as ill as at first thought. I caught the flu and had to have a week off work. Then I got a nasty cold and terrible back aches and spent the next week in and out of A&E after work. It only took 3-4 hours to be in and out each time but it was quite draining. It culminated in me being admitted to hospital on Tuesday after yet another trip to the emergency room. I've now started treatment which hopefully will prove effective and they've let me back home. What a relief!

I couldn't have taken another minestrina and mash meal!

So bland. So very very bland.

A is doing is best to bring my appetite back with homecooked food and treats and so far it's working although the thought or smell of mash brings on nausea still.

To be fair, it's probably the drug's fault as it has been playing with my stomach. The mash was probably pretty edible. For the patients not on a restricted diet, there was a first and second course and fresh salad and fruit.

I might have been a little petrified when they told me I had to stay in, in case I needed an emergency operation that night, and it might have showed on my face because the A&E doctor came to find me three times during my stay to check up on me and the nurse spent a few minutes rubbing my arm until I managed to pull myself together.  But all the doctors and nurses were very nice and professional and clearly knew their stuff. 

I spent the first night and day on the maternity ward as they didn't have enough beds, which was... interesting. It's quite hard to rest with a woman going into labour next you! Then they moved me onto the proper ward and it got a little better. Nobody was asking me when I was going to give birth anymore! There was still no TV or anything in our 2 bed room (thank god I got a phone with internet for Christmas! - I was able to amuse myself on instagram) but breakfast, lunch and dinner were served communally which meant I got to have a little chat with my fellow patients and met another young woman with the same problem as me which was helpful psycologically.

Today I'm feeling a little better (I'm writing this!) and I'm really hoping I don't have to go back. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I hope this is reassuring to any other expats who were worried about Italian hospitals. I imagine that there could be quite a few regional differences around Italy, but the ward I stayed on here was extremely similar to the ward I stayed on in England. It might not have had a personal entertainment centre above the bed but it made up for it by giving a lot more privacy and quiet.

Monday, 9 February 2015

10 reasons you need to marry an Italian man and 7 reasons you don't

Right. Before we begin I'd like to state for the record that you might not actually need an Italian husband. I am obviously HEAVILY BIASED. Switch on your sense of humour, please! Also if you find my reasons convincing, I would strongly urge you to continue reading just to be safe....

The top 10 perks of having an Italian husband.

They scrub up pretty nicely.

1. If you marry an Italian you will be tied to Italy forever, whether you live abroad or in Italy. If you love Italy,  Italian food, Italian culture and Italian style then that is probably a very good thing.

2. You're Italian will be amazing... Well alright, pretty decent. Much better than it will be if you don't.

3. If you have kids they could be biligual which sounds fun, although I'm not sure that actually works out as a benefit, or even it's a very good reason for marrying an Italian, since pretty much anyone who speaks another language would do. However this seems to be the number one reason everyone will think you should have kids.

4. You think Italian men are very good looking. Let's face it, it doesn't hurt to marry someone who's pleasing to your eye.

5. Italian husbands are frequently terrible mammoni who never grow up but just as often incurable romantics. In my experience they (I haven't had plural husbands - I'm just thinking about the ones I know) are largely capable of remembering anniversaries, noticing hair cuts and showering you with gifts and compliments unaided. No, really.

6. He will most likely have a strong appreciation for food. If you follow my advice from day one you can make this work for you. The first time you invite him over pull all sorts of random ingredients together, like popcorn with pickle and some peas. He will be amused by your hopeless foreign ways and insist on taking you out to dinner often or cooking himself for your education (and if he marries you after this, he marries you with open eyes as to your unsuitability of being a mummy replacement!).

If you love cooking then even better, you have just married someone who will unceasingly appreciate your favourite past time.

7. If you want honest opinions about your appearance you will get them. It is quite useful having a human mirror who can confirm if your mix of patterns is stylish or just OTT. Plus he married you, didn't he? He's whole-heartedly convinced you are bellissima and he's going to expect you take compliments with the poise of Monica Bellucci.

8. If your in-laws approve, like mine, his family will be very generous. You can expect to eat many delicious meals and tasty presents and they will happily let you stay in their holiday homes, pass on old clothes, etc... In return you can provide them with an endless source of entertainment by doing crazy things like reading a book on the beach, not understanding jokes, drinking tea all the time, or dressing really 'English'. You've always wanted to be funny. Embrace it.

9. Your in-laws will have all sorts of advice for you, because poverina you can't help not being Italian, but also because they genuinely want to help. Set some boundaries, if such a thing is possible, but you can use this to your advantage if you are living in Italy. Your husband will likely not know how to do many things, like change doctors or where to go to buy random things like dice and whistles. MIL will be only too happy to help.

When they have advice for you that you don't intend to follow, just nod and then later do what you want. They will be powerless in the face of polite affirmatives.

10. Last but not at all least, Italian men, despite their reputation, are not very macho. They are not ashamed of holding your handbag while you try on shoes, taking you out for ice cream, PDA or generally appearing a devoted family man or husband. You won't have any trouble in persuading them to spend time with you on the weekends.

One woman I know went on a first date with an Italian man and freaked out because he took her window shopping for shirts.

And here are some provvisos...

Rice stings a lot more than confetti.

1. Do you like Italy? Do you really like Italy? Some people think they like Italy and then live here and decide actually they don't like Italy at all. Even if you aren't living in Italy you'll find you have to spend your holidays here anyway. I hope you didn't have too many other places you wanted to see.

2. You remember the bit about the mammone? Yeah, well, it's a stereotype but it has it's basis on truth. Spending his adolescence living with only his father, A has had to learn to shift for himself, so I got lucky but the phenomenon exists. If your boyfriend seems to need his mother's permission for things don't imagine this will stop if you get married. If you can persuade a mammone to marry you that is.

3. If you want kids they might be cute and bilingual, but you will have to raise them in one country or the other and one of the parents will find the other's educational/health care system sadly lacking. A for example, found navigating the NHS extremely frustrating while I currently rage at the obsession with rote learning and testing in Italian schools FROM THE AGE OF 6!

Did you want to raise your kids Catholic? Take them out around town til past midnight? Dress them like they are going on an arctic expedition when it's less than 25°c? The sources of potential conflict will be many and varied and utterly unpredictable. What do you mean our child is not allowed to drink cold water?! (All taken from real life).

4. Have you ever been woken up to someone telling you you have got a massive spot on your chin? No? This is the downside of the 'only trying to help' honesty you can expect. If you can't muster the dignity of Sofia Loren on these occasions it will be a source of many an argument.

5. If you did as I said earlier then there is no food related down side. Unless you don't really like eating and talking about eating. If you don't like eating then you will find all social arrangements, and your husband's expectation that weekends revolve around mealtimes, stressful. Maybe better not move to Italy.

6. The wedding. Unless you really wanted an enormous, formal and expensive wedding with a Catholic ceremony and a 14 course lunch you will not have fun planning an Italian wedding. Plan the kind of wedding you actually want and it could be a political minefield.

7. Now we come to the in-laws. They're at number seven because it's a lucky number. You could be really lucky like me or really really unlucky (or somewhere in between). If you are really unlucky and they don't take to your foreigness, it could topple your mariage. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE IN-LAWS. Of the horror stories I have heard and witnessed the divorcee has always celebrated getting rid of the in-laws more than the husband. Italians spend a lot of time with family and if you live in the same small town you could be seeing them MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK.

Don't try and be less foreign. It'll never be enough. The real test here is your potential husband. If he sticks up for you you're good to go. If he leaves you to cope on your own, he is not a keeper and you must not marry him unless you live several time zones away from his family.

Also, how good are you at taking criticism? Italians have a standard of house proud I've found in few other places. They might find it concerning that you don't iron your underwear or trim the dead leaves off your plants or use table mats or stock the right medecines or ....

Once I got a bottle of vagina cleaning soap as a present. I didn't really know what to make of that. I've since decided that it was just considered a small useful gift.

In a cross-cultural marriage the relationships with in-laws are always going to that little bit more interesting.

Whatever you decide do don't do what this muppet does and marry a Tony from Milano.