The rOME cHRONICLES: …It was almost a ballroom twirl…

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Moving to a new country always has it’s fair share of settling in dilemmas and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ can impact on the way you fit in. Most of the time things are new and exciting and other times just plain daunting…Fitting in is the key to enjoying your new life…

Claudia always had perfectly peroxided hair and bright red lips; so much so that the red would seep into the creviced lines around her mouth. Years of smoking had taken it’s toll…
She slipped me the party invite as we passed each other on the stairs. Both of us rushing to be somewhere.

An invite to her daughter Angelica’s fifth birthday, to be held this Saturday afternoon in their apartment on the second floor.

My little girl would be delighted to learn that she had been invited. I probably wasn’t as excited. I knew how these Italian parties went. All the pomp and pageantry of a ball would be executed and the guests would diligently rise to the occasion in their finest attire. I knew I would have to rush out and buy my little one a gorgeous smocked dress with a velvet collar and sleeves so that she would blend in. It would set me back a few thousand lira (no such thing as ebay) but it would be money well spent so that she would ‘fit in’ and not ‘stand out’.

Saturday arrived quickly, Angelica answered the door in her black velvet dress with it’s ballooned sleeves and lace trim. She had a head band to match and so did my little girl.

Coordinated headbands were a must in Rome!

Angelica beamed as she embraced our arrival and welcomed us inside. My little girl handed over the cumbersome present with the crimson bow. Claudia was close behind in a full length red taffeta skirt. I remember the long full skirt matching her lipstick not her headband… Everything looked beautiful… Claudia had excelled herself; she must have worked into the wee hours of the morning to have managed it.

The apartment was brimming with children and parents. I noticed that highly polished silver adorned the white table clothed tables. Silver teapots, silver trays, silver cake tiers and silver cutlery; it shone elegantly as the light through the windows caught it’s attention.

The children were ushered into a separate room to be entertained by a clown. Laughing and clapping could be heard from outside the closed door as the clown wooed a tireless audience.

A maid dressed in her perfectly ironed maid’s uniform approached me and asked whether I would like a coffee or a tea. She gestured to the overflowing table and it’s wealth of foods. The detail to the miniature cupcakes was incredible! Shortly, a butler approached offering champagne glasses filled with the glorious bubbly stuff.

Finally, Erica, one of the mother’s I knew from school arrived. After having completed the ritual kiss to each cheek and formal hellos we both took a glass of champagne. My nerves began to settle as I relaxed into the cordiality of the child’s party.

Claudia flittered from guest to guest, I imagined she might do a twirl soon as her red taffeta skirt would definitely allow it, but no, interrupted by the chain of giggling children emanating from the bedroom I guessed the clown’s antics were over, which left no time for ballroom twirls. Claudia automatically switched to her motherly expertise, pouring drinks and filling party plates.

I sipped on my bubbles and surveyed my surroundings. My little one in her smocked dress and velvet sleeves and not to mention the matching headband had fit in and not stood out.

‘Mission accomplished’, I thought to myself as she turned to look at me grinning from ear to ear,silver cup in one hand and miniature cupcake in the other…

Needless to say, we were invited to many more parties on the second floor for grown-ups too.
Oh and Angelica and my little girl became bosom buddies…

The rOME cHRONICLES: From the Mouths of Babes in Pompeii

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‘Do you think that’s what he reeeeally looked like Mamma?’ My little girl asked quizzically peering through the cage-like wall separating us from the stone clad creatures inside.
‘Well, I think, before the volcano erupted, they were normal people going about their daily lives, looking relatively normal and…’ She stopped me before I could continue, ‘but they look so small’. She pushed her face into the cage so as to see more.
‘…there were children too in those days darling; they’re the small ones’. I pointed to the small cemented figure lying near what appeared to be it’s mother. ‘See, his or her hands are cupped up over it’s mouth and nose’.

She pulled a sad face. ‘Gosh, I feel really bad for them, it’s so horrible’. Her voice trembled a little as if she was going to cry. ‘Do you think they were watching TV when this all happened?’ She frowned as she proposed her innocent question.

A man standing behind us chuckled. ‘Only a kid would ask something like that’, his strong English accent echoed in the confines of our small prison.

‘Yes, from the mouths of babes’, I said as I hugged my little girl’s shoulders. She looked up at me waiting for a response to her very serious question. ‘How about you and I go and find daddy and we’ll talk about it on the way?’ I nudged her in the direction of the exit. The man smiled as he stepped out of our way.

Outside, the air was thick with dust. Pompeii was a huge dust pit with eroded buildings. It was beautiful. When I was in high school I’d studied Latin and had always wondered where Caecilius and his clan had come from. Standing before a frigadarium all of the questions I had asked in class were present in the 40 degree Celsius heat. Answers, answers written in every alfresco, piece of pottery, cracked tile or solidified figure.

Tourists love this place, backpacks strapped on, water bottles in hand. Hours spent happily trudging from one tumbled-down ruin to another. It was hard to imagine that this was once a bustling and thriving city and that a volcanic eruption would destroy it forever. How many lives were destroyed that day? History books quote numbers of deaths but what about the lives of those who knew the deceased, who lived in nearby towns? Many of their lives were destroyed too. Maybe there were families in different towns, fiancées and men working away from Pompeii.
I contemplated the ripple effect and wondered…

My little girl wondered about the TV and I wondered about the spread of loss.

Two girls, different generations and different ages with two different thoughts happening in the same place…Pompeii.

She still remembers it you know…

‘Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings’.
-Jane Austen

Could I be so bold as to tack on to the end of this blog my sheer excitement that Jane Austen has been decided upon as the first female to grace the ten pound note in Great Britain. It couldn’t have happened to a more audacious and outstanding woman. A long time coming…

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Tale time: the rain beats down

imagesCA9E3W39imagesCAHQVTHMI love short stories with impact, with enthrall and with suspense.Don’t you?

How many stories offer the thrill of riveting suspense?
How many women live for their children and their husband?
How many live each day waiting? Waiting for what in essence?

“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

‘The phone rings, it is pouring with rain outside and the kids are screaming. ‘Hello, Burton household’, she chirps, faking happiness.
‘I’m um..blank..call..ing..to..off..er’.
‘Listen, you are breaking up, hang on’. She mutes the phone with a cuffed hand. ‘For goodness sake, will you shut up , you noisy kids, I’m on a phone call’.
She uncuffs the phone. Muffled screams and taunts continue through the walls to the kitchen.
‘Sorry, what were you saying?’ She continues through the crackles, puffing on her now half lit cigarette.
‘I call from..Sc…on..doo..Maam..’
‘I can’t understand a word you are saying’, frustrated now her words mixed with fury, ‘the line is crackling’. A murderous scream drowns out her fragmented conversation.
‘Awwwww, that hurt, I’m bleeding’. Her phone call ends as she rushes to the adjoining room.
Terror marks the faces of her two frightened children as one lies motionless on the floor.’