After a break, when none of her guests inspired her to write, in Zara G.'s next diary entry, a lady from Turin is not quite what was expected...
Somehow since the last entry, not one of my lodgers has managed to move me sufficiently to want to make the time to sit down and write about them. Then came a call asking if I could provide lodgings for a mature lady from Turin. Of course I said yes and looked forward to having someone in the house with whom I could possibly have more in common. How wrong can one be? We had absolutely nothing in common!
In anticipation of welcoming this not so young lodger, and particularly as she was from Italy which is famous for its simple but delicious food, I went out of my way and bought a variety of good cheeses, organic honey, jams etc. Believing that she would have a higher expectation of breakfast, I did not want to disappoint her.
After an exchange of emails between us prior to her arrival, from which I deduced her English was near enough perfect, I waited for the front door bell to ring on the day and time she was due. When the doorbell finally rang I was relieved, as I absolutely abhor waiting. Upon opening the door with genuine gusto and anticipation, the thing that struck me was the excruciatingly outdated attire; electric metallic blue eye shadow which had been carelessly ladled on; a cardigan to match and a bouffant hairdo like a steel helmet, colour co-ordinated to go with the outfit. Yes, we have all been told that the Italians do have a flair for colour. My mistake had been to expect haute couture simply because she was Italian.
She was toting the tiniest suitcase, which was a relief. I say relief because of less wear and tear of the handsome and lovingly restored staircase, as the light-weight case would not come into contact with the treads being dragged to the first floor, as happens with most of the others.
Normally I do not have breakfast at the same as the lodgers as their timetables for classes often vary, but in this case I decided it would be nice to have our first breakfast together. In uncomfortable situations, I have what my daughters call a diaphanous face; that morning I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall to have witnessed the expression on my face when she proceeded to have her breakfast. Shock and horror is what I felt.
Before I go any further, the sight and sound of her whilst sitting on the chair with all her weight (not much to be fair) stubbornly on it, she dragged the chair to adjust the position, was most painful to witness. You can visualise the damage been wreaked on the painstakingly restored floorboards which had been painted white at great expense. She left a week ago but I still cannot bear to make eye contact with the damage done to the floor; this is a case of burying my head in sand because I simply cannot bear to get my builder back to repair the damage. However, more importantly, it is I suppose having to admit and agree that he was right that painting the floorboards white would be a definite mistake.
To get back to the partaking of the breakfast, wait for it. After saying she liked her coffee black, she noticed that I was putting goat’s milk in my tea, so she asked if she could taste it. What a mistake! After tasting it and smacking her hardly visible mouth, she announced that she loved the taste and could she have it every morning. The carton was emptied and buying more milk was added to my shopping list – shopping is a tedious chore that I try and put off as long as I can. Things got worse and rapidly so, she took a teaspoon and ladled in 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar. 4 more were added to the second cup of coffee. A case of having sugar with tea.
As if that was not enough (the intake of sugar must do all kinds of indescribable damage to her insides), she infuriated me further by dipping the knife she had been using in the jam jar. Breakfast consisted mostly of her licking forks, knives, anything else and exceedingly noisily, to my chagrin ignoring the teaspoon left carefully alongside the jam. Half the jam jar was devoured in one breakfast.
To push me even further over the edge, she seemed to derive a smug sort of satisfaction from walking around in the scantiest of underwear up and down the stairs almost saying under her breath – ‘see not an ounce of spare flesh on me - aren’t I a lucky woman'.
As you can very well imagine, after her last breakfast, I could not wait for her to leave the house. I emptied all the half used jars of marmalade and conserves straight into the green food caddies that Brent has provided us residents with.
The moral of the story is do not believe everything you read or are told. Not all Italians are blessed with sartorial elegance! The faded memory of the lady from Turin conjures the phrase ‘stuck in a time warp’ aptly.