sabato 26 gennaio 2008

Carpe Diem

My new year's resolution for Saturdays is this: no cleaning, organising, supermarket, or errands. No matter how messy my house is, how empty the cupboards, or how desperately I need to get to the post office, I refuse. Luca works, so I get to spend the day shopping, hanging out with friends, and generally doing what the hell I want - bliss!!
Today was a typical example- lunch with the girls, followed by a wander around the shops, which included the discovery of my new favourite shop in Milan. It's like an Aladdin's Cave of cute gifts, unusual designs and quirky bits & pieces. If you've ever seen the French film "The Wonderful World of Amèlie", this shop is it. We spent at least half an hour browsing, and I must have done 10 laps of the store, each time finding something new to "ooh" and "ahh" over. Amusingly, my only purchase was a toothpick dispenser in the shape of a little man that pops up and holds out one toothpick at a time - if nothing else, it'll make Luca laugh!
If you're ever in the area and fancy having a look, it's called Carpe Diem, on Viale Tunisia, right before Corso Buenos Aires. The website also lists some (but not all) of their products.

martedì 22 gennaio 2008

Busy busy busy

Dammit I just can't seem to find the time to do anything at the moment!! What with leaving the office at stupid-o'clock every evening (cioè around 19:30 - late no?!!), sticking to my promise to frequent the gym at least twice a week, catching up with friends, going to the supermarket, hanging out with Luca's family, plus the usual everyday cooking / cleaning / watching back-to-back episodes of Ugly Betty on DVD..... well, it's been hectic. I am determined to find something interesting to blog about AS SOON AS!!!!
Actually, one thing practically leaps to mind. Someone gave up their seat for me on the tram on Saturday. I am neither elderly, nor pregnant (and couldn't be mistaken for it, thank you very much(!), nor disabled... yet a young South American guy actually stood up and gave me his seat! It was so confusing that I didn't get it, and thought he was getting off the tram, so I didn't even thank him. He must have thought I was a really ungrateful cow! It was only when he just stood there for another 6 stops that I realised what had happened. Not sure whether to take the feminist high ground and suggest that it's chauvanistic to suggest that a perfectly healthy young woman is any less capable of standing on a tram than a young guy... Or marvel at the old-fashioned gentile gesture which is so rare these days.... And there I go sounding like my mother AGAIN!
Talking of chauvanism, there's a new guy at work who I might just have to kill if he calls me "Bellezza" or "Bellissima" or "Carissima" one more time. It's the office equivalent of the building site mating call of "Awright darlin!!!"....

mercoledì 16 gennaio 2008

Rock 'n' Roll

We're watching Grand Designs dubbed into Italian. We do this pretty much every evening after dinner and before washing the dishes - it's yet another sign that, with each day that goes by, Luca and I are gradually turning into my parents. Or at least leading a lifestyle that they agree with. As I approach my 28th birthday, the days of maxing out my credit card with no idea as to how I would cope with the bills, and downing cocktails in one go, become more and more distant. At the office coffee machine earlier today, a colleague asked me what I wanted, and I said "a B52 please". "You don't look like a B52 drinker!" was his response. I didn't think to ask what I did look like, but it kind of suggested that my party girl days are well and truly over. The really strange thing is that I'd rather be watching Grand Designs than ordering my sixth cocktail (six was my perfect number back in the day), and a night at home with Luca, a pizza and a DVD is a million times more tempting than paying 30 euros to get into an impossibly pretentious nightclub, where the drinks are 10 euros each, and the toilets are permanently occupied by groups of 18 year-old stick insects doing as much coke as daddy's allowance will permit them to purchase.
A big indicator of this 'new era' is that my close friends have started having babies. That's when you know you're a proper grown-up!
So, Grand Designs is over, Luca's in the shower and I'm about to wash the dishes - it's a rock 'n' roll life here in Milan...

mercoledì 9 gennaio 2008

Cultural oddities

Despite having lived in Italy for a few years now, I am nonetheless surprised by things I see or hear on an almost daily basis. Many of these ‘cultural oddities’ are just that - cultural oddities, which I realise I just have to accept as something that is different to the way in which I was brought up - like the way many Italians drive, or the lack of respect for a queue, or the fact that no one drinks cappuccino after 11am. On occasions, however these 'cultural oddities' become huge, smack-in-the-face / what the hell / I can't believe what I'm seeing issues, noteworthy enough to be written down. This is one such example.
Last night, I was watching the main evening news on Canale 5. They were talking about the refuse emergency in Naples. For those who aren’t familiar with the situation, Naples is currently buried under 200,000 tonnes of household waste, which has remained on the streets for weeks, following the mafia’s blocking of new landfill sites. These sites would effectively see them lose their grip on the area’s refuse collection and disposal – a move which has led to the government introducing emergency powers and the army being sent in . Another day, another political / environmental /social mess - on this occasion, literally. Anyway, the news item showed Gianfranco Fini - one of the leaders of one of Italy’s many opposition parties, Alleanza Nazionale – as he toured the area to assess the extent of the problem. The images were fairly brief – around 5 seconds – but what struck me was the fact that he was smoking a cigarette, and was shown flicking his ash on the top of the pile, as he picked his way through the chaos and spoke to concerned local residents. Is it just me, or is this weird? I can’t for the life of me imagine a British politician visiting an emergency, and not only smoking on the job, but being shown on the news adding to the problem! It may seem insignificant, but for me this is all part of a serious issue, whereby good examples are not set by those in authority - whether it be in flicking your fag ash on a mountain of rubbish piled up outside a primary school, or being accused of big-time tax evasion (no names mentioned Berlusconi) – it all makes a difference. The most worrying thing for me is that I often feel I am the only one who finds certain situations unacceptable, and end up being forced to helplessly write them off as ‘cultural oddities’, when realistically there’s nothing ‘cultural’ about them.

giovedì 3 gennaio 2008

Start as you mean to go on

I finally did it! Following some not-so-gentle persuasion from Luca, I dragged my increasingly-expansive ass to the gym last night, and to be honest, it wasn't nearly as traumatic as I had expected it to be. The worst part was the day before yesterday, when I stopped by to make sure that a) I'm still a member, and b) the gym is still a gym and not a Chinese restaurant. Feeling slightly disappointed that it was still a gym, I walked in with my head held high and innocently asked the stick insect behind the desk if she could confirm when my membership was due to expire. "We haven't seen you for a while, have we?" was her response. Er, no. "About six months it appears" she said, looking into her evil computer. At this point, she was joined by stick insect number two, standing behind, who obviously saw an opportunity and jumped in with "Six months?! Honey, you have to come and see us more often!", complete with fake smile. It should have been enough to make me run a mile (might do me some good!), but actually these shock tactics really gave me some impetus to get in shape - if only so I can kick their stick insect asses at some point in the near future. And so, I returned yesterday.

The thing about me is I'm an all-or-nothing person. Either I go to the gym religiously every night for a month and spend two hours practically killing myself on the cross-trainer, or I don't go at all for six months. Having forced myself back onto the wagon, I started to remember all the reasons why it's actually a good idea to work out. Apart from the obvious health and weight loss benefits, you get to spend an hour in your own head, with no phone (I choose to lock mine away), no email and no TV (unless you count the sports channel on the big screen, which I don't). I planned the weekend, decided what to make for dinner, made a mental list of what to buy in the sales, listened to people gossiping around me, and tried to remember what happened in the last episode of Desperate Housewives, which together with a glass of red, became my post-gym reward. I even spent about 10 minutes while I was stretching not thinking about anything at all - bliss! So, not only will I be fully equipped to kick stick insects' asses, but with a little bit of effort over the next few months, I hope to be organised, have a carefully thought-out wardrobe, be fully informed about who's doing what with whom at the gym, and be onto series 4. I reckon it's a pretty good start.

Happy New Baby!

My friend Maria finally gave birth to long-awaited (she seemed to be pregnant forever!) baby Rossella yesterday. I'm so happy for her and her husband - can't wait to get over to the hospital and meet the new arrival!! AUGURI Maria & Pietro!!!!!!

mercoledì 2 gennaio 2008

Most depressing day

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA

Last year, a scientist at Cardiff university came up with the above formula to establish the most depressing day of the year as January 24th. The key is: W=weather, D=debt, d=money due in January pay, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failed attempt at quitting something for the new year, M=general motivational levels, NA=the need to take action.
Personally I would take these factors and combine them with the fact that today is officially my last day off work, a pile of washing and ironing still to do from the holiday, the fact that I weighed myself this morning, and the introduction of a congestion charge to drive in central Milan = January 2nd: most depressing day!!!!

Happy New Year everyone!!