Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

26th -29th September 2017 After 14 months of pressing my case at work, 2 pints at lunch and an angrily written email, my boss agreed to let me visit our Madrid office. They didn’t exactly show me to the full business-trip treatment that, say, my boss gets when she (regularly) travels. Yes, flights, hotels and…

Franco-Italian Vignettes

28th – 31st August 2017 At the end of August, the côte d’azur was (as you might expect) rather hot. Too hot, in fact, to do very much of anything. Fortunately, I wasn’t on a sightseeing holiday. I was dropping in on my girlfriend mid-way through her summer adventures (I won’t allow her to have…

Ships Passing in the Night

A language lesson I learned from the Simpsons: envy is when you want what someone else has; jealousy is when you’re afraid of losing what you already have. Every time someone tells us of their latest holiday, or we see their delicious lunch and say we’re jealous, we’re making a mistake. A shocking thing to…

Little Europe

11th August 2017 I went out for dinner with a group of Italians living in London. Naturally for pizza. The Italians came from across their country: Lombardy, Puglia, Piemonte, Venice, Naples, Rome. It had me thinking about Italy’s regions, languages and peoples. Lombardy and Veneto recently voted for grater autonomy from Italy, adding to independence…

A Slower Pace

30th May 2017 When I stayed in Bologna, I was having a mini croissant and a coffee for breakfast, standing at the bar of Eataly. Their espresso machines were more modern than usual and the croissants were recognisably flaky, buttery croissants (unlike the filled brioches elsewhere). That tempted me in for my breakfast but Eataly…

A Wedding Feast

27th May 2017 Fresh from a first communion in Ireland, I headed for another catholic service. This time a wedding in Turin, northern Italy. My first catholic wedding. And my first wedding in general since my grandmother’s where I was a toddler page boy or ringbearer or something equally adorable. This time, my girlfriend was…

Bologna IV: Ciao, Ciao for Now

30th March – 1st April 2017 My last days in Bologna followed a similar trend: lots of food and lots of talking.  An older English woman in my class was growing increasingly frustrated with the school. She had lerned (and then taught) French in the old-school style of studying Latin and Ancient Greek; and although…

Bologna III: Getting my Hands Dirty

28th – 29th March 2017 Day two of my Italian course went smoothly. We were sudying direct and indirect peronal pronouns. Useful. Not much of a story there. I went for lunch with an Italian girl I’d met the night before. In the old market district, the streets still carry the names of the produce…

Bologna II: Styling it out

27th March 2017 An aunt of mine learnt German without studying or classes; but by spending a few months in the country. She learned “by ear”. I have nothing but envy for people like her. Others must study: grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation-through-phonetics. For them, languages are logical, rule-based and can be calculated. I don’t have enough…

Bologna I: New Worlds

2011 – 2012 Did I already mention I did a year abroad? in Paris? It gets worse. I drank wine on terraces while watching the world go past. And ate steak-frites. I walked through Montmartre. At night. In the rain (probably, at some point). I didn’t smoke gauloises. And I’ll forever regret it. I sat…

‘Happy’ Birthday

25th March 2017 The European project was begun in earnest 60 years ago today. But the festivities today will be rather muted. As we march through London today, I hope it will be seen as a pro-EU demonstration but cannot ignore its antipathy to out governments apparent negotiating strategy. Let’s suffice today with a brain…

Maintaining Momentum

31st December 2016 I spent New Year’s Eve with Italians in Cambridge. Our menu for the night included: Butternut squash risotto Grissini Smoked salmon Cured hams Two polenta dishes: one with cheese, one with sausages in a tomato sauce Pannetone And a freshly baked pear cake It was quite a feast. And enough to stave…