Confusing identity

Welcome to 2015, the first song playing on my iPod as I recount my first tale of the year here is Bitter, from the This Mortal Coil album, Blood, and for those back in the UK who think it’s all sunshine and red wine here, I’ll post you a photo of the snow we had earlier this month – needless to say it’s now gone and we’re back to red wine and sunshine.

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So for my first post of 2015 I thought I’d tell you about a conversation that occurred a few days ago. I was shopping and spotted an English acquaintance, we passed the time of day and as we did so a woman in the queue at the till kept looking over at us.

My friend left and I took up my position in the till queue, which here in Italy usually means a long wait, I put my proposed purchases onto the floor at my feet, and am waiting when the woman who had been looking over turns and says to me, “ You speak very good English for a foreigner.”

“Thanks,” I replied a tad confused but too engrossed in the sign advertising a 20% discount on bucatini: I’m not tempted as its probably the only pasta that I dislike .  

“Was it hard to learn?” I look up at her confused and reply with, “Not really, it sort of came naturally.”

She’s now at the front of the queue, her shopping is being scanned and tossed down to the bagging area to be retrieved and bagged by her friend, who has a look about her that reminds me of a spaniel that’s lost all of its toys. Before she pays, she turns and looks at me again and says, “Good for you, I’d have thought it was tricky, what with you being German.”

I look at my friend who is on the till, she mouths, ‘tedesco?’  meaning German? I shake my head and mouth back, ‘stupida’.

I don’t mind, but the woman in question had an accent that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Birds of a Feather.

No! I Am Not

Now I know I stand out when I’m out and about in town. It’s not the colourful clothing I choose to wear or the fact that despite my advancing years, I’m sporting a cockscomb hairstyle, (blame the punk era)better suited to a twenty-something that singles me out.  it’s the fact that I’m naturally blonde (now more a greyish white) and blue eyed. This leads to lots of staring by the swarthy, olive skinned, raven haired locals. Some older members in the village look at me with suspicion and mutter behind their hands. This happened yesterday, doing my best to maintain my standing as a local I dropped into the local bar again for a coffee. The pretty young girl behind the counter recognised me, scoring me another, Barry’s a local point. I ordered my coffee and standing at the bar noticed two elderly signorina’s staring at me, one muttered something to her companion, who dipped her eyes as I smiled and wished her good morning. Then the question came, “Lei Tedesco?” (Are you German?”) I replied letting them know I was English and not German, suddenly their demeanour changed and they both smiled and wished me a good morning. It really is a case of, don’t mention the war.

I then went with Fabrice to purchase cement, we arrived at the builder’s yard and I went into the office to get the paper-order to hand to the young man on the fork-lift truck to collect for us. As I entered the chatter stopped instantly and the two ladies in the office looked at me; rather like rabbits in headlights. I said hello and one of them relaxed slightly, and then asked me, if I was Swedish. “No,” I told her, “but I am partial to a little bit of ABBA.” The sarcasm was wasted on her. “Sono Inglese,” I then said, in an attempt to raise the temperature in the room. “Ahhh,” they both said in unison. “Inglese. Birmingham, London?” Shaking my head I replied, “No, abito qui.” (I live here). Just then as my order was being scribbled into the order book an man came into the room, he looked at me and scowled, seeing this the older of the two women said to him, “He’s English,” the man asked, “Are you sure he’s not a Russian?” The younger woman handed me the slip of paper and then said to the man, “No he’s not Russian or Swedish.”

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I took my order out into the yard muttering that I wasn’t a fan of the musical Mama Mia either, the lad on the fork-lift truck took the order from me and then said, “Are you a German?”

I just rolled my eyes, waited for my cement and wondered how much hair dye would cost.

And to add insult to injury, on the drive back the iPod shuffled and Abba kicked off with, Knowing Me, Knowing You.