Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cappucino no-nos and other stories

I am sipping molten boiled sweet. It was sold as “lemon tea” but I cannot taste caffeine. Like everything else in the vending machine, it comes “dolce” (sweet). As far as I can tell, there is no way to alter this. I expect to have more fillings than teeth by Christmas.

Lemon “tea” is one of only three vending machine options besides 11 varieties of coffee. For the record, the other two are hot chocolate and what appears to be hot milk (me neither).

Coffee, obviously, is something the Italians do well, cheap powdered versions aside. Already my days are punctuated by cappuccinos and macchiatos. For some reason, cappuccinos are drunk only in the mornings here unless you want to be thought a slack jawed buffoon. It is not unknown for barristas to refuse to serve those who try to buy one after midday.

Cultural quirks aside, there are plenty of positives to swanning off to live abroad. In this, my first blog written from Italy (confession – I wrote the last one just before I left England), I will focus on two examples.

Exhibit A – weather 

The view from the Duomo roof

Milan has mostly been blissfully sunny and blue-skied since I arrived in April, despite being in northern Italy. I forgot to take my sunglasses to work for the first couple of days and had to squint my way to and from the office. This is the kind of problem I have now.

Occasionally, though, it rains. And when it rains, it doesn’t chuff about. Water invades like bomber command (an unfortunate simile in a city that was flattened during WW2). It assaults shop awnings and attacks the eaves of apartments. Puddles grow, gutters overflow and insects drown. It is brutal, overwhelming, merciless.

And then, as quickly as it came, it disappears. The skies become blue again, the sun returns and warmth fills the air. I eat dinner outside in my T-shirt. Reflect on that, ye who dwell in England.

Exhibit B – gestures

I will devote a full blog to these bad boys when my understanding of them is improved. The basic concept, though, is to throw your arms in the air like you just do care. Need to add colour, emphasis or cadence to a sentence? Do it with your hands.

At the moment, my vocabulary of gestures is limited, but I particularly enjoy putting my forefingers and thumb together and waving my hand up and down to express frustration (1.23 in the video below).

Over the next few months, I will be trying to communicate a lot more with my hands during conversation.

For now, cappuccino is calling me. In my next blog, I’ll address the thorny issue of what kettles, mansize tissues and bacon have in common. And plugs. Don’t get me started on bloody plugs.

Ciao ciao

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  1. I'm surprised on the coffee front? I was under the impression milky coffees like cappuccino and the like were an american invention and Italians only drunk normal coffee and espressos?? maybe they have converted as well!

  2. Capuccinos are fine (pre midday), but are a lot smaller than UK ones, as are machiattos. The typical way to have a coffee here is an espresso standing up at the bar, but cos I'm Johnny Foreigner, I drink sitting down.