#17: buon compleanno - a proper slap-up 'do' for a 90 year old

Barbara’s dad has hit 90 and, to celebrate, the whole family are going for a proper slap-up meal at one of the fancier restaurants in town. I am one of the chosen 20. 

I might have mentioned, it’s been raining an awful lot here. In an attempt to stave off watching any more Big, Fat, Gypsy Weddings in Italian, I let G do my makeup (il trucco), which cheers her up immensely. She gives me red nails and paints white splodges all over them, puts gold eyeshadow on me and covers my face with gold sparkles. I look like an alien. 

As soon as M gets back a couple of hours later we need to evacuate immediately because its already nine o’clock. I forget about my strange gold makeup, even though M gives me a bit of a funny look. 

G and I are the first to arrive at the restaurant, because M is looking for a parking space. We both lurk about the table awkwardly, conscious that we shouldn't make bad seat choice, particularly since I haven't met three-quarters of the table. 

An old man arrives at the restaurant with Nonna, who I met last week, and I wish him 'Happy Birthday' but he just puts up his hand. Wrong old man apparently.

I can now say I know exactly how it feels to be unpopular. As most of the family can’t speak English and they know they’re probably in for a night of talk about the weather and what I did yesterday (I’m onto the past tense now), I’m fobbed around the table in a big charade of musical chairs, and me and my gold shiny face are pushed into the corner with M’s eighty nine year old father. 

M’s father is a corker of a man, a proper little Italian who winks all the time and says a lot of things to wind everybody up. His wife scolds everything he says and no one else can be bothered to speak to him because his sole mission is to irritate.  I love him because he chats to me, a particular welcome gesture since G is pretending she cant speak English.

I'm also introduced to G's twenty five year old cousin, who I haven't yet met, despite having been to every water polo match he’s played since I got here. I suddenly feel like a creepy cheerleader and am very aware of sparkly face. I want to clarify to him that its not out of choice or because of some strange perversion that I come and watch the matches but, alas, I haven't covered anything like that on DuoLingo yet, so reside myself to poor reputation. 

The meal is incredible, courses of grilled fish and seafood are passed around the table, we eat black squid ink linguine and anchovies with lemon, washing it all down with glasses of wine and spumante (fizzy wine). The boys keep making the ‘you’re going to be drunk’ symbol (looks like thumb on chin) to me and I wish I could say, ‘listen loves, I’m from the UK. Binge drinking is what we do best'.

It turns out M’s father is very conscious about his health. He read an article when he was 50 about the perils of consuming too much salt and has refused to touch the stuff ever since, and he now has a self-induced sodium deficiency, which means his wife has to sneak salt into his water. He even goes into the kitchen to force the chef to boil the fish, instead of grilling it, for fear they’ll use salt. 

He pulls out an article he’s photocopied on how to live a longer life and tells me that he only eats turkey and fish, no chicken or red meat, and certainly no cigarettes. He walks for two hours a day, up at least 300 steps, but halfway through this lengthy conversation, he pauses and says ‘come si chiama’, and we go through the whole rigmarole of introductions again. 

After the meal they bring out a whopper of a cake, all cream and chocolate, and we sing happy birthday to Barbara’s father in Italian. I take a big spoon and burn everything inside my mouth - apparently birthday cakes in Italy are very, very frozen. 

At around midnight the birthday boy opens all of his presents, which is essentially the unwrapping of many, many shirts. Apparently once you hit ninety, all anyone thinks you need is a cotton shirt. 

All in all it’s a blinder of an evening, but I cant help thinking that it would be a lot more fun if I could join in with all the shouting and gesticulating. The hardest thing about living in another language is that you are essentially void of any personality. I feel guilty because I am essentially  confirming what most foreign people think of the British, by being very boring.

Feel like standing on table, waving arms about like Shirley Bassey and belting out ‘I’m coming out’.