The Limbo

Being (sort of) bilingual, there’s a question that anguishes me whenever I commute between my two homes: when are you supposed to switch? On the plane? At the Italian airport? Right when you step outside your London flat, because in the end you are Italian living with Italians and travelling to Italy, duh! The thing is, every time I feel differently about this conundrum and I have to assess each journey as the first one.

Is my seat neighbour Italian? If he reeks of ancient ashtray, probably!
Should I give a signal, like talking with a very thick accent or eat a homemade panino col prosciutto as a plane snack?

And what if they’re Brits? Do I want to keep my hard-fought English fluency as a badge of honour or do I feel like showing off, we are going to my country, I’m speaking Italian while you are just sad and clueless?
What about the queuing etiquette? Do I sneakily jump in front of as many people as possible or do I line up with the civilised and shoot judgemental looks at the barbarians that clump instead of queuing?

So many questions! Usually, a good place to let go of my Italian-in-London self is after passport control: the officer deserves a smile and a loud Arrivederci! And off I go to the cab station, as quickly as possible and you better get out of my way or I’ll make you trip on my wheelie bag, there’s prosciutto waiting for me at home!

And what happens when you travel from London to a different country, say Portugal? What culture should you conform too? Keep the English cool that you absorbed for the past five years, or let out your Mediterranean-ness in all its friendly and loud glory?

As I said, so many questions and, even after all these years, so few answers.

Funnily enough, Milano’s flag is the same as the English one, the Cross of St. George

Five Years

It is again the time of the year when I go through my life decisions and the milestones I accomplished in life: my London anniversary! This year I reach the gloriously round number of five, and as a five-year-old Londoner I can:

  • Remember my address and phone number. In fact, I still remember all the four east London addresses I’ve changed in these five years, all their flatmates and their mould spots (the addresses’, not the flatmates’).
  • Name at least four colours. I could name eleven, and I’d use them to indicate the tube lines, except I’ve been living here for five years, I’m over that phase.
  • Purposefully make an effort to please and be liked by my friends. Most of the times I make tea for my colleagues and I even learned how to carry more than one cup per hand. Sometimes, though, I’m cranky and cannot be bothered to do the jugglery show and I make coffee just for myself and it’s mine, you can’t have it!
  • Understand the basic concept of time. Basically, everything in London is forty-five minutes away; unless you want to take the bus, in that case don’t forget to pack a toy.
  • Understand what household objects are used for, such as money, food, or appliances: unfortunately, the money is never enough, with these extortionate London rents, but the food is generally good, despite its reputation. I also learned to use appliances such as the iron and the diffuser, because I’m a big girl now!

Next year will be even more exciting, because I turn London-six. If Brexit interferes, at least I’ll be able to say I’ve never fallen into the trap of growing up!

London skyline
One happy evening, when everything looked pretty and even the Thames looked less toxic!

Caffeinism pt II: An Italian Tries Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’ve been living in a Starbucks-ised country for four years now and yet I waited until last weekend to try a Pumpkin Spice Latte. As I have explained before, we Italians are reactionaries when it comes to coffee, which is a very valid excuse for taking so long! From what I know, the PSL mania originally comes from Starbucks, but because their coffee is frankly quite bad (I have non-Italians backing this up, too!) I also wanted to explore some other, independent and possibly better tasting, options.

That’s how I ended up at Blighty Coffee, in Finsbury Park, which got me hooked with the promise of a Baileys Pumpkin Spice Latte. Need I say more? I entered this cute coffee shop quite sceptical because I like my coffee to taste like coffee, but then, surprisingly, it was love at first sip! This special concoction was delicious, the perfect drink to enjoy on a crisp autumnal stroll, so perfect in fact, that I had to play the part of the basic white girl at my best and take pictures of my paper cup on a bed of fallen leaves. It has to be said, though, that it tasted of many delicious flavours, but coffee wasn’t one of them, so really, this is an autumnal alternative to hot chocolate!

Surprised and satisfied, I approached the Starbucks PSL with much more openness and oh, how naïve I was!

What in the beginning tasted like a watery version of the mighty Blighty beverage, soon turned into an odd combo of extremely sugary first taste, followed by a slightly bitter aftertaste. I drank the whole thing and I paid with a tummy ache that put me off my lunch and PSL in general.

You can extract two morals out of this modern fable: if you fancy an actual coffee, you might wanna stick to coffee-tasting coffee. If you crave a dessert in a cup, do try PSL but, for the love of the coffee bean, do it at Blighty coffee, not Starbucks!

A very cinnamon-y PSL
It doesn’t get any more basic!


The Many Things You Can Do on a London Bus

The red double decker bus: a London trademark and almost my second home.

If I can avoid the tube I will, for a number of reasons including me being slightly claustrophobic and the tube being just horrible. I just prefer buses. To be fair, buses can be horrible too, especially when they make you wait forever in the cold London nights or when “the destination of this bus has changed, please listen for further announcements”.

Once you are on it, though, you are quite likely to get a seat and you’ll have an average of forty-five minutes all to yourself. I invite you to enjoy the ride with some of the activities listed below!

  • First, my favourite one: read a book. I don’t work in publishing for nothing! I am almost happy when the bus gets stuck in traffic, because I can finish the chapter!
  • Do your make up. This has been a stable part of my morning routine since the early days. Why would I waste fifteen minutes of sleep when I still have fifty minutes to spend idly on the bus? I call this “efficient time management”.
  • In case you are not a make-up person, just sit next to one of us make-up artists in action and marvel at the transformation happening!
  • Take a nap. A ten minutes snooze on your commute back from work will get you to after work drinks fully recharged!
  • Write a blog post. Yep, if you’re wondering, this post was first drafted on a bus ride!
  • Just look outside! My Inner Tourist loves watching the different areas of London unfurling in front of her very eyes and the city changing drastically. Some of my favourite panoramic routes include the 76, especially the bit from pretty residential De Beauvoir Town to trendy Old Street and through to magnificent St. Paul’s, and the 38, that goes from semi-rough, semi-hipster Clapton down to very sexy Angel and Farringdon, trudging through the touristy hell that is Piccadilly Circus and over to the West.

That being said, if you are in a rush, please do take the tube!

selfie, bus, London
Oh, go on then, take a selfie!

An Italian in Canada: the Cottage

Four days of my Canadian holiday were spent in a cottage on Shadow Lake with my two friends, Z and R, respectively British and Canadian. Despite the fact that it was the perfect setting for a horror movie and my mind is very impressionable (too many Criminal Minds episodes) I loved every single moment of this very Canadian summer experience.

Summer in a cottage means spending most of your time in shorts and bikini top, reading on the deck with a cup of coffee or swinging on a hammock, blinking in the sunrays peeking through the foliage. The commute between bed, screened porch and deck is much more pleasant than my usual Haggerston-London Bridge journey.

When in a cottage you learn that almost everything can be cooked on a barbecue or campfire and that it usually tastes better! I learned that when the wind blows the smoke in your direction you have to scream “White rabbit!” while you wave it away. There must be some scientific Canadian study that proves this! I finally tried s’mores, i.e. a roasted marshmallow sandwiched between two Graham Crackers together with a piece of chocolate: it’s probably the best treat you could ever taste!

Our nights were spent around the campfire, sipping beer, chatting and stargazing: I spotted one shooting star, admired the most stunning night sky, recognised the Big Dipper and learned that that’s its English name, not Major Bear!

We also had close encounters with wildlife: cute chipmunks paid us a welcome visit on our first morning; a horrible couple of giant spiders reclaimed the deck as their own territory and we had to sip our evening aperitivo on the edge, ready to jump in the lake, had they tried to attack; an unknown creature was spotted crossing the lake and we like to think it was an otter!

Canadian cottage deck
The spider’s realm

What we did not encounter was a bear, which we would not have feared at all because we were prepared: as a Canadian granny teaches, you have to scare bears by making noise. A high pitched “shooo” will do.