So my grasp of Italian is such that I’m not entirely sure I haven’t been using just fabric softener to wash my clothes the entire time. But living in a place, as opposed to just breezing through as I normally do, puts a whole new spin on Being Foreign.
I think I’ve always been a good traveller because I’m generally confused by most things in the world that others seem to tackle with nonchalance. I generally feel the odd one out or awkward or oversized or silly in some respect, so at my grand age am now comfortable with that. But what of being permanently thus? Well I’m glad I’m in a place where people are generally extremely kind, chatty, and community-minded! Here are some thoughts.
The length of one’s day It breaks down like this:
Brekky starts at a normal time with a 30-second espresso (see below) and a pastry, then zoom to the office/school until about 1pm, when every shop clangs shut until after 3-ish.
Queues start at the gelateria at about 3:30, increase about 4:30, keep steady through till 8pm, then all shops close with a clang at 10-11pm.
The hour of the aperitif goes from 6:30-8:30pm, with a free buffet, which is what you do before dinner. One does not go out after work with one’s colleagues in general. Dinner can be around 9pm on, although the other night after fencing I was asked to dinner at about 11pm.
During Sunday Lunch we observed ladies kicking off with Spritzes at 11:30am and families winding down at about 4:30pm.
I’ve always been very good at drawing. I don’t even remember when I started. It’s something I’ve always done. This is why I always took this skill for granted, and so 10 years ago I chucked it all away.
Since the lead-up to Italy, I’ve been unraveling this mystery. Whether a quick sketch from a photo, 2 hours on a detailed pen and ink sketch, or a full day gawking at gargoyles, curlicues and rooflines, drawing now happens every day.
Overseas, nothing is where you think it oughta be. Light switches disappear. Bench heights rise and fall. Window latches are weird. You look left, and a car skids in from the right. You’re always in the way; slightly off-kilter.
This is why you travel. To be shocked out of the regular. All of a sudden you hate your routine and conclude that everything in Melbourne is horrific and gauche.
Europe is a reminder of all the things we’ve left behind. Reading paperbacks in public. Taking your time. Second hand bookstores instead of phone retailers. Buying one individual thing from one individual shop. Cobblestones. Tiny, classy billboards. Going home for lunch. Dogs with balls. Bread and fruit that goes off within ½ a day. Cold drinking water flowing from bull’s head fountains. No TV, just music. Continue reading →
The Panopticon (2012) by Jenni Fagan 6/10 A teenage offender is sent to a secure unit after she’s found covered in blood and a police officer is in a coma. She breaks out, she goes on adventures, she describes her outfits in detail. I mistakenly thought this was sci-fi, but there was some fun to be had nonetheless.
When I was 20 I would have been thrilled to read this book: drugs, Gaelic slang, nights out, aimless violence, a central female character who doesn’t give a shit. These days it makes me feel all sorts of ancient and jaded.