Tonight, my Italian friend (= l'Italiana) who lives in London was supposed to visit me. I'd been looking forward to a weekend with her for months and now she can't make it. She had to cancel because of a business trip from which she will return too late to catch the plane to Bratislava. Comfort to the career-challenged: We might have a Mickey Mouse job and earn peanuts but at least there's no danger of short-notice trips to mess up our weekend plans...
Although I love having visitors in general, l'Italiana is special. I met her 12 years ago when we were both studying at UCD. She was in the same tutorial as the other Erasmus-student from Vienna and that's how we met. It was basically love at first sight. Here, I have to add, that I either instantly like someone or decide there's something suspicious or annoying about them only to then change my mind and make them my best friends. Or my boyfriend, even. Some of my friends whom I used to tell about "this weird Turkish guy" love to remind me of my rash judgements. Weird guy and I have been together for more than 10 years now. It was the same in the case of the second Austrian girl who had a scholarship for Dublin. I wasn't particularly thrilled when it turned out I'd have to spend my year abroad more or less together with her. I only knew her from sight and in fact had no desire to get to know her better as I'd already labelled her "annoying, domineering, talks incessantly". Exactly, sounds just like ME which is probably why I didn't take to her at the beginning. Opposites attract, similarities don't. In the course of our year abroad, I discovered that she was the most wonderful and loyal friend you could wish for. She still is and therefore will be named "Amica" as she is the quintessential good (best!) friend, and also because her real name also sounds Latin/Italian.
Back to l'Italiana. While Amica and I were only too eager to adapt to the Irish student-lifestyle and look (Doc Marten boots, long skirts and old jumpers were obligatory anno 1993 ) and were in a year-long competition over who got more compliments for her recently acquired "Oirish" accent, l'Italiana was the real thing. She was not just in Dublin for a year, she had moved there aged 18 ("because I was a U2-fan") and decided to study English and German at UCD. Unlike us, who lived on campus with Irish flatmates (and loved it), l'Italiana resided downtown in a a tiny apartment in an elegant house complete with Georgian door
with another Italian girl. The four of us used to spend lazy Sunday afternoons, hopping from one café (aaaah, Bewleys
which has long since closed all its cafés in Dublin) to another, stopping at our favourite bookstores on Dawson Street (open on Sunday! Revolutionary concept for Austrians) to browse for ages and buy at least 3 books each. We all passionately loved Dublin and everything Irish but it was interesting to find out that we found the same intrinsically Irish traits very odd indeed (such as not rinsing your dishes but leaving them to dry with the washing-up-liquid-bubbles still on them. Result: sticky plates, never mind ingesting all those chemicals) and tended to hide our shopping from our Irish friends (this was pre-celtic tiger
and Irish students DID.NOT.SPEND.MONEY.ON.ANYTHING) who could not get over the fact that we seriously preferred buying books to borrowing them from the college library.
L'Italiana is one of those charismatic people whom you could listen to for hours on end. Her English is perfect, her accent British after having lived in London for years now but her intonation remains Italian so whenever she says something like "Girls, what do you want to do now?", what I hear is "Ragazze, che facciamo?".
L'Italiana's name begins with the same 2 syllables as mine. Our hair is the same colour (an amber-ish brunette/dark blonde), our birthdays are on the same day. She's a year older than me, though and therefore my "elder twin sister". She's also at least ten times prettier than me, and I could never understand why she remained single throughout her undergraduate years. She then fell in love with an American from her MA course. I never met the guy but they were together for several years and she almost ended up marrying him but then decided she could not spend the rest of her life together with someone who – among other things – was obsessed with being politically correct and cringed when she committed the mortal sin of ordering"black coffee". That's my girl!
She's also much more brave and spontaneous than me. A couple of years ago, she quit her well-paid job to go on a year-long trip to Asia with a friend. She returned to London, realised she was homesick for Thailand, moved to a small Thai island to rent a bar and run it successfully for half a year or so. It was of course love which ruined her island paradise and so she's back in London.
Like all Italians I know, she's a useless correspondent, but whenever we meet, no matter how many years we haven't seen each other, it's just like old times. I visited her in London this May for a magic girly weekend of shopping, exhibition visits, after-shopping mojitos and a relaxed Sunday lunch at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant
(for the record, we did not have a reservation and it was moderately priced by London standards).
I'd so been looking forward to a wintery re-enactment (hot chocolate instead of mojitos) this weekend and had mentally devised a list of places to go and things to do. Well, I suppose Vienna's nice in spring, too. Or summer.
Ski goggles from Tchibo
, paper napkins in the perfect shade of pink to match the table-cloth I intend to use for tomorrow's dinner party (don't laugh, these things are of vital importance), ingredients for the dishes I will conjure up tomorrow night.