mercoledì 10 settembre 2014

A fairy tale ending....?

As we drove past Milan’s impressive Medieval-style cemetery a few days ago, Sophie (being obsessed with all things Princess) shouted out “Look mummy, that’s the castle where the princess lives with the dragon!”. “Oh yes, so it is” was my reply. To which she responded “but then the prince comes and kills the dragon and the princess says thank you prince!”. Obviously, this old gem is nothing to be alarmed about, but since it’s 2014, girl-power has been around for a while, and so I thought it was worth offering an alternative ending to this slightly tired version. “OR”, I suggest, “the princess could just kill the dragon HERSELF and then she wouldn’t need the prince. What do you think?”. Sophie considers this for a minute, and concludes “OR…… she could just call the prince.” OK, I see that, at the tender age of three and a half, those classic clichéd fairytale endings are already deep ingrained, and as we go through the various stages of Cinderella and Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast, Barbie and Ken….there will probably be little I can do to suggest that these little ladies are just as interesting and capable without their male companions ….. This got me thinking about something (perhaps quite controversial) which has been playing on my mind a lot lately, as we go back to work and school and re-haul the family budget for the nth time this year. I went to an all-girls grammar school which was what you might call “high flying” (yes, I know – I’m not a perfect representation of its usual turnout!), and where the mantra that was drummed into us on a daily basis was “you can be who you want to be, do what you want to you…”. The school motto was “wisdom giveth life”, but it might as well have been “girl power!” given the sheer amount of conviction that we were the future, the world was ours, and nobody could take that away from us. Now, I admit that many of my school peers have gone on to be doctors, lawyers and so on, and obviously these professions bring with them a certain prestige and – not to be underestimated – economic security. BUT, what bothers me is the extent to which the lifestyle, finances and social standing of every woman I know - here in Milan at least - is influenced by their husbands / boyfriends / significant others. I have a real-life example (because this blog is serious so scientific proof is obviously required!). Take the girls that work in my office. We are all around the same age, from similar backgrounds, with very similar educations and do the same job in the same place for roughly the same salary. This, however, is where the similarities end and the ENORMOUS lifestyle gaps open up. D’s husband is a company CEO. They live in a penthouse in Monza, have a cleaner and a nanny, take several holidays per year and own a second home on the Tuscan coast. K’s boyfriend is a manager in the fashion industry. They own a detached house with a big garden outside the city and spend a fortune on clothes and eating out with friends. They also spend lots of weekends away at spas or similar and so are permanently tanned and relaxed. V’s boyfriend does a fairly ordinary office job in a small-ish company. They have a two year-old and manage to make ends meet by making lots of sacrifices. The family holiday is an option only in the case that they both get their full annual bonuses, otherwise they stay at home. Finally there’s G. Her husband lost his job a few months ago and is having trouble finding something permanent to replace it. They also have a child, and G is worried that they are soon going to have trouble paying the rent and fees for their son’s nursery. It would appear that they have less than nothing left at the end of the month. So there we have it – 4 girlfriends who started the race lined up together but who appear to get ahead or fall behind as a result of the earning power of their other halves. I used to think of my friends who put “someone with money” high up on their list of requirements for a potential partner as shallow and gold-digging. Now I’m starting to think that they were definitely onto something, and that alongside “wisdom giveth life”, perhaps my girls’ grammar school should also have taught us that “husband giveth money and husband taketh away”. Or maybe I should start teaching Sophie that it’s fine to call the Prince to slay the dragon, but make sure you do a credit check on him first……

martedì 2 settembre 2014

Back to my (our) roots

They say that as you get older, you tend to search more and more for your roots and go back to what you know. Whilst it's true that, as a mum to a three year-old, my dancing-on-tables-in-dodgy-nightclub days appear to be all but over (never say never!), at 34 I don't yet consider myself totally past it. I do nonetheless find myself increasingly drawn to all things English, little reminders of my childhood, and I feel an increasing need to keep in touch and stay up to date with current affairs in the UK. Much more so than ever before in the 10 years that I have lived full-time in Italy. Perhaps it's because I'm aware that my child is growing up in a country which is very different from my country of origin, and as such her only (invisible) link with British culture and history is, well, me. Before Sophie was born, I was quite happy to immerse myself 100% in Italian life, watch the local news, eat classic Mediterranean dishes, and speak only Italian at all times. It felt like some sort of personal achievement - a lifelong goal to make my way in the world in a language and culture which I had learned from scratch and about which I knew nothing prior to my 16th birthday. Now that I have Sophie and have been here long enough for the place to no longer feel even slightly "foreign", it's like I am trying to go back on myself and regain some of that lost ground. Back in the day, being able to hold my own at the butchers or make a phone call to the gas company gave me a sense of satisfaction - a sort of "aren't I clever" reaction, which has now been replaced by the desire to ensure that Sophie knows the names of the things on our shopping list in both languages, and doesn’t forget that while things might be done a certain way in Italy, they are done a different way in the UK. I have become almost fanatical about her bilingualism, to the point where, despite having been born here and going to an Italian nursery every day, her English is now way ahead of her Italian (#smugmummy)… This summer didn’t involve the classic family holiday to foreign climes, as Luca had to keep the restaurant open and I needed to make up time at the office. As a result, Sophie spent most of August with her English grandparents, some time in the UK and some time at the beach here in Italy for the few days that we did all manage to get away together. She ate Cornish pasties on a chilly town quay surrounded by seagulls, had gelato at midnight in a balmy piazza, watched The Sound of Music approximately 10 times while the rain beat at the windows, and played happily on the beach, chatting incessantly with the other Italian children at the Mini Club. That’s the thing about having two cultures and two languages to call your own – it’s easy to fall into the classic “no man’s land” expat syndrome, where your home country feels increasingly “foreign” and your adoptive country will always see you to some extent as an outsider. What I truly hope for Sophie is that, having both Italian and English blood, being completely bilingual, and living as much of both cultures as possible, she will grow up safe in the knowledge that her roots are firmly planted in both places and that she can choose between pasties or pasta, fish and chips or gelato, rock pools or swaying palms – and none of it will feel even slightly “foreign”...

mercoledì 13 agosto 2014

Life, Lavoro, Luca..... and Sophie

Is two and a half years too long? Can a person really FORGET they have a blog, stumble across it by mistake whilst searching the web, and spend an entire afternoon devouring accounts of their previous life history? The answer is yes, because this is what I have just done. Wow, I was whiney back then! So, what to say? Since I last updated this blog, Sophie has grown into a wonderful, funny, talkative (mamma mia she can ramble on!) three and a half year-old who is 100% bi-lingual and not afraid to show it! Luca has taken on a new business (a Baita close to Lake Como), which I, in turn am likely to ramble on about in future posts (so that's where Sophie gets it!), and we have moved house again. Maybe twice. I really can't remember.... I am still in the same job (slightly embarassing) but can't complain as I really enjoy the working atmosphere and have made some friends-for-life in what, to the outside world, can seem a fairly dog-eats-dog industry. As I write this from the office during the usual August slow-down, my parents are back at my apartment taking care of Sophie before we jet off tomorrow to spend 8 days at their house in England. Cornwall to be exact, which just happens to be one of my favourite places in the world, so it's All Good. We will miss Luca (the restaurant has to stay open all month) but will certainly enjoy a change of scenery. The view from my city outskirts office block during one of the worst summers on record is starting to look a little tired and I'm keen for Sophie to get some nice Atlantic air into her lungs! Despite having completely left my own blog in tatters, I have recently become a bit of a fan of a couple of UK-based mummy blogs (the sarcastic kind, not the "we like doing arts and crafts and baking" kind...), which might just provide me with inspiration to get back in the saddle. So, if there is anybody out there at all, maybe tune in again - and you might just find that I am enjoying life a lot more than in previous episodes. I may even manage to be whine-free, who knows??

martedì 24 gennaio 2012

Back in action, I stumbled on my own poor, neglected blog whilst looking for something else and since by some miracle I even remembered my password... Well, here I am!

What to say? Where to start?

Maybe with the fact that Sophie will be a year old on the 18th of February and life is no longer even vaguely similar to what it was the last time I contributed to this blog! Nothing and nobody can really prepare you for the joy, fear, happiness and horror that is being a parent and you can't imagine the way in which your entire outlook on life changes overmight when a new little person comes into your life.
She is stupendous. Beautiful and intelligent and funny and curious and naughty and extremely hard work and all the other cliches. I am also typically exhausted (back at work almost full time - eek!) but I have to say it's Luca who has made the biggest change. He's completely obsessed. They say there's nothing like the relationship between a daddy and daughter and mamma mia are they spot on!

So here we are - back in the city and enjoying the challenges that life throws at us. I can't remember the last time I was even anywhere near my bed after 6:30am, the house is a complete mess and we both fall asleep on the sofa by 10 o'clock every night but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. If I can manage it, I might even add "updating blog" to my looong list of post-work activities and not disappear into the milano smog like the last time!

venerdì 29 ottobre 2010


The other blog is newly updated, but just in case you are feeling extra lazy and can't be bothered to go over, the big news is that we're expecting a girl! Very excited, very busy and very fat is the best description I can give of myself at the moment!
A presto!!

martedì 21 settembre 2010

Shameless advertising

Having spent the best part of 5 years holidaying in Sardinia in their own little apartment, my mum and dad have decided to invest in something closer to me (now that they have a grandchild on the way!) and so are selling the place. If anyone is interested or knows anyone who might be, message me and I'll put you in touch! It's a private sale so there would be no agency fees - just the cost of the notary and the legal part of the process...

I'm having link trouble, so copy and paste the address below into your browser to have a look!!

giovedì 2 settembre 2010

Time for an update….. and some big news…

Well, here we are again folks – fading tan, 3 extra kilos and even less desire to return to work than money in the bank! Yep, it’s the “grande rientro”, otherwise known as “back to work after the holidays”….. and, mamma mia, it’s tough!
The holiday went without a hitch – we spent 20 days on the following schedule almost without exception: Beach – lunch – nap – beach – dinner – bed. Bliss!!! Sardinia was as beautiful as I remembered from when I lived there many moons ago (well, almost four years ago now!) and the sheer unadulterated laziness of doing absolutely nothing day after day was…. well, I think much deserved! And to be honest I’m exaggerating the horror of the rientro – for sure it was great to do nothing but eat, sleep, read and relax, but I have to say my brain did start to feel a bit mushy towards the end of the holiday. Maybe it’s better to be back in the overly-cerebral world of purchasing, if only not to forget how to work one’s PC and what a pivot chart is….
The best part of coming home though is the rather ginormous lifestyle change that awaits when we welcome our first child into the world, sometime around March 1st if all goes to plan! Yep, I’m joining the ever-expanding “mummy club”, not to mention the ever-expanding waistline club and ever-expanding bra size club!! It really is amazing how, with a foetus the size of a pack of cigarettes (not the best comparison I realize but the only dimension that comes to mind…), it is so easy to suddenly find 4 kilos of weight that weren’t there before! And by before I mean just last week….. uffa …
Obviously we’re super happy. Luca is like an 8 year old the night before Christmas, knowing that his parents got him a train set! And, since it was all hush hush until recently (I’m in my 15th week), if anyone’s interested in following, I already started a super secret pregnancy blog over at
Apologies if I repeat myself or make no sense over the next few months, but “pregnancy brain” seems to have well and truly got me – the gynecologist in Sardinia asked for my home address and I couldn’t remember it! Did I mention I have a new blog?