Monday, 2 November 2015


I've discovered a new species of mum at Isabel's roller skating class. The sound of clinking jewellery and stink of privilege in the changing room is almost overpowering. It's only one postcode away from our (very respectable) neighbourhood, but another planet where the mums spend their days organizing exotic holidays and ordering an army of underpaid foreign staff to peel organic kumquats for their delightful (a-hem) and inevitably tousle-haired offspring.

They emanate a sense of belonging and manicured self-entitlement that I probably only managed to pull off once in my life: the Market Square in Alton, circa 1996, AKA my teenage prime. Everything's been a bit shaky and uncertain since then to be honest. Never since have I felt such an unshakeable feeling of belonging and righteousness. Thank goodness.

Being a masochist and uncontrollable chatterbox, I can't help myself but start up conversations with these women - which is not easy because when they are near me, I seem to develop the magical superpower of complete invisibility. They chat amongst themselves of course, but that's because they recognize their own species at 100 paces. I think it might be something to do with the Lovely Hair and Rather Special Shoes. They even have their own dialect, which for the purposes of this post, we might call 'Lake Speak', ie:
'Are you off to the Lake house this weekend, darling?'
'Yes, even though I don't know how we're going to manage since they stopped stocking Beluga caviar and Kopi Luwak coffee at the local deli. And the poor children are going to have to make do with just the two tennis courts as we're having the other one turned into an infinity pool.'

Still, I chat away, despite the gulf (jet) between us. There's not much common ground - they don't even get wet in the rain apparently. I was telling one about my journey to the class that week, with Jack on the back of my bike and Isabel riding hers, all of us in rain capes, waterproof trousers, snorkels etc, and she simply looked at me, eyes wide and said, 'What a frightful life, darling'.

I know. I sound jealous and spiteful (I am, both). I'm sure they have their own very real problems simmering beneath that glossy/matte surface. Actually though, I'm not jealous at all of a lifestyle that allows for NO EXCEPTIONS: in this tribe there's only one way of behaving, talking, eating, holidaying and probably even pooping. It's a trap that's got them caught as tight as the clasp on a brand new Louis Vuitton clutch (which, in any case, is definitely too small to fit a pair of roller skates - which might explain why they have to bring the nanny to class: to lug the €200 skates).

The daftest thing of all though is that while I'm busy bitching about them, they sit around bitching about the mums from San Carlo (Milan's most expensive private school).


But that definitely means that there are people somewhere bitching about me...

Opps. Forget everything I just said.

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Just sayin'

Do you ever worry that your child may grown up to be a serial killer? Me either.

Random Isabel:
'Voglio ammazzare un piccione!' ('I want to slaughter a pigeon!')

Cinderella Isabel: (this came after seeing the latest film, which is impossibly romantic and more sugar-coated than a ball of candy floss dipped in treacle and hundreds and thousands):
'But mummy, if I was Cinderella, I would have called Giovanni and Jonatan [apparently the toughest boys from her class] and got them to cut the sisters' heads off.'

And then sometimes I worry that she's actually far too mature for her years.

Adult Isabel:
'Mummy, I'm a big girl now and so sometimes I have to do things that I don't like.' She was four at the time.

Mummy Isabel:
'Jack, I'm going to count to three and then I'm going to get cross.'
No answer.
'Jack, do you understand?'

Contemplating the future Isabel:
'But mummy, when I have a baby will they cut my tummy open? I don't want that because lots of blood will come out.'
'No', I replied. Then, wading into even deeper waters, 'most mummies don't have to have their tummies cut open. The baby comes out of your do-dee'.
Silence. She hasn't brought the subject up since.

Merchandising Isabel:
In the supermarket. 'Come on let's get round the frozen section and then we're done'.
Eyes light up. 'Mummy, is there a Frozen section?! Brilliant! Let it go, let it go...'

And of course Jack may only be three, but he's already coming out with some corkers.

Jack discovers there's stuff going on right under his new favourite hobby:
'Mummy, what does this do?' shortly followed by 'it's all wrinkly!'

Fantasy Jack:
'Mummy, do you know, my friend Cesare has a space rocket and one day he went to the moon.'
Nods hard. 'Yeah, really mummy.'

At the bar Jack:
'Do you want a brioche Jack? They've got brioche mignon with jam'
'Minions mummy? YEAH MINIONS!' Looks around. 'Where mummy?'

Bi-lingual Jack:
'Mummy, in Italian it's ambulanza but in English it's nee-naa.'

Curious Jack: (eyeing the Mr Muscle spray in the bathroom)
'Mummy, do you know that man?'

Love 'em.
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Friday, 2 October 2015

On keeping calm and carrying on. And doing it with a smile.

Let's get personal. Let's tell it how it is.

We've got problems. Genuine, real life, First World problems, mind.

We've got problems like: the only way we can afford to regularly buy the raspberries and blueberries that the kids love to smear around the house is if I cut out my morning coffee habit. And that ain't happening.

We've got problems like: I've got a voucher to go to a day spa, but no time to go because I'm always translating, sorting laundry, preparing lessons and freaking out about my new job that has to fit somewhere in the middle of all the other stuff (hi there, new boss in your über modern, über intimidating, open-plan office space. I'm so going to über puke on my first morning).

You see what I mean.

So, we're pretty lucky. We've got luxury problems. Top-of-the-range problems. If our problems were on sale in the supermarket they'd be in the Tesco Finest* range (or Waitrose Essentials, depending on your demographic status).

Did I mention that I'm also two episodes behind watching The Great British Bake Off? If I miss the patisserie one because it gets taken off iPlayer...

I'm writing this as a kind of therapy because I get swept away with these and a million other situations that add up to make each day seem like a harried non-stop life-or-death egg-and-spoon race. I end up feeling like a shabby, knackered one-man-band, cleaning the bathroom with one hand, tapping away at the pc with the other and using my feet to find the last Hello Kitty plaster to put on an injury which is actually invisible to the naked eye. We've run out of milk, a tiger came and drank all the water from the tap, Isabel has to go to school WITH UNBRUSHED HAIR. The shame, the shame!

Calm. The. F*#k. Down.


My resolutions for this September (AKA Italian New Year) were:

1) Be thankful

2) REALLY be thankful

3) Don't judge or measure myself against others - who knows what shit is going on in their lives. It's not a competition. Run your own race (thank you Helen Jennings for the excellent video about this).

4) Ok is good enough (nobody is checking how clean it is under the sofa - mainly because I don't invite the kids of those mums over to play)

5) Deal with ACTUAL problems (did I mention hypothyroidism? Well, I'm getting on top of it)

6) Volunteer to help people with ACTUAL problems

7) Be thankful some more

8) Laugh, see friends, drink tea, eat Kit Kats, wallow in Eastenders and do other stuff I love. Without feeling guilty.

There you have it. No more panicking, no more worrying and no more shame. Let's make each day less of an egg-and-spoon race at knife point and more of an upbeat, light-footed and carefully coordinated relay. The end.

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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Isabel's Golden Nuggets

Philosophical: "I am me"

Rage-filled: "Mummy, you're NOT my friend!"

Pensive: "Old people are gonna be dead"
(shortly followed by)
Worried: "But those ones which are alive, they aren't dead ...?"

Soppy: "Mummy, I love you so much, I want to marry you"

(at the traffic lights)
Curious: "Why has the green man got no clothes on?"

(thankfully in English)
Scathing: "That girl has fat legs"

Mature: "I used to play with that/wear that/watch that when I was two!" (she's now three)

Italian: "I want tortellini for dinner"

Totally un-Italian: "I want tortellini for breakfast"

(This post was actually inspired by 22 month old little bro Jack who, this evening, said "moon mana". Loosely translated from toddler-speak, this means: "Look, the crescent moon is the same shape as a banana". This struck me as such a genius flight of imagination that it got me thinking of all the other odd stuff his big sister has come out with recently)

(It is also inspired by my dad, who consolidated his role as King of the One-Liners on a recent visit by coming out with the absolutely corking: "Are chickpeas called that because they're for girls?")

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Pass the bucket

Ah, the delights of the vomiting toddler. He was sick in his bed, on the floor, on three towels, on the sofa (not the one with the washable covers), in our bed, on my pyjamas, on my dressing gown, on my face and in my hair. At one point in the night, desperate and delirious, I mopped it up with the first thing to hand (one of G's t-shirts) and then collapsed asleep on a huge seeping damp patch. He's had two baths and several washes since then, and yet he still smells faintly of eau de puke (the toddler, not G - he just smells as pleasant as any fully-grown man who believes deodorant to be unnatural).

Now the sickness has passed, leaving a tsunami of washing in its wake. Obviously it's 5°C and pouring with rain outside so you can be fairly sure that if you stand still enough in our house then I WILL drape a sheet on you to dry. I yearn for an airing cupboard.

No-one mentions the unbelievable quantity of washing you will have to do once you have children. Staying on top of the washing is, at best, a part-time job. And you will wash your own clothes only about once a year, your jeans never. Unless you actually get infant poo on them. Once, whilst having temporarily abandoned the slopes of Mount Laundry, I noticed a chocolaty stain on my jeans. Poo or chocolate? I thought. Only one way to find out. Oh poo, I thought. It still took me three days before I got round to washing them. And I carried on wearing them for the rest of the day. Motherhood has made me such a scummer.

Anyway, an innocent tummy bug has pushed us over the laundry tipping point and we're now wading in the stuff. It doesn't help that G seems to get through a minimum of three t-shirts and one shirt a day (not counting ones with vomit on them). I also can't get him to understand that by the end of the day, a damp towel left in a pile on the floor will smell just the same as that half-eaten slab of gorgonzola we're cultivating at the back of the fridge. On top of this, the kids seem to know that the big sofa has washable covers (no matter how much I yell at them) and treat it like a giant etch-a-sketch. I'm also trying to get Isabel out of nappies at night with only a 50/50 success rate.

Shall we talk about ironing? Most of the mums I know in Milan have armies of Filipino women working away in broom cupboards who take care of this steamy task. I like to do my own. By which I mean I don't do any. By which I mean I FOLD everything and squash it down and that seems to work quite fine. Having a scruffy husband is an utter blessing at times. I may not appreciate him picking at his toe nails all over the living room floor, or his terrible aim (I can't believe he is actually going to teach little Jack how to pee one day), but I can at least rest assured that he will never complain that the pillow cases aren't ironed* or the scatter cushions are asymmetrical.

So, as the washing mounts and the smell of disinfectant lingers, I quietly count my blessings. And try not to think about the lack of deodorant.

*this is apparently a deal-breaker for at least two friends' husbands. Maddness. Our household policy is never to iron something that someone will probably end up drooling on.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Charm offensive

Someone stole my shopping today. Two courgettes, pine nuts, walnuts and a packet of pasta. I was only in the Post Office for 10 minutes - which is a miracle and in itself worthy of an entire paragraph really. In my excitement at seeing there was only one other person there, I shot inside faster than you can say 'don't worry, I have my own pen', stupidly leaving my shopping in my bicycle basket outside. I suppose I should be grateful that they didn't cut the lock and take my bike too (wouldn't be the first time. Or the second).

The real story is that today, while some scallywag was sizing up my veg, I made the Post Office lady laugh. She actually chuckled at a joke I made. Of course, she doesn't realise that she is my arch-nemesis and that in my head the PO has come to represent everything that is rotten in the state of Italy and generally the reason that it will never become the truly great country it deserves to be.

She doesn't realise any of that because to her, I, customer, am lower and more insignificant than a speck of dust on that ink pad she wields so mightily. My envelopes are the wrong size. How dare I only have a €10 note - she's going to have to ask her colleague ONE WHOLE METRE AWAY for some change. Her computer has frozen at the very sight of me and she can't even sell a stamp now. She needs a coffee. It's all my fault. People keep asking her complicated questions. She can't understand my accent and I'm too NICE.

Being nice is, in a stolen walnut shell, part of the Great Cultural Divide encountered by many of us Anglos. We say lots of pleases and thank yous and sorrys and often (spoiler alert: I'm about to make an offensive sweeping generalisation based on a shallow national stereotype) this excessive politeness is taken as a sign of embarrassing weakness. That, or a sign of guilt - in which case, what do we all feel so guilty about? What have we done? (apart from interbreeding with the locals and infiltrating the supermarket with our baked beans and our sweet chilli sauce).

Anyway, somehow, I made her laugh and for a second she was on my side for once. All was well with the world. But then my nuts were nicked and I had to go back to the supermarket feeling totally daft.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What they don't tell you about living in Italy

1 You will, sooner or later, become trapped inside a building because you can't find the switch that opens the front door to let you out.

2 Nobody is scared of eating seafood. And nobody has heard of salmonella.

3 Everybody is scared of the rain. And everybody knows the fatal powers of a cold draft.

4 You will feel fat

5 You don't have the right hair. Or shoes. Or bag. If you live here for a hundred years, you will still look foreign. People will tell you this.

6 The Post Office doesn't sell stamps, or indeed provide any kind of service beyond selling those brightly coloured kids' books with padded covers and being a cosy warm place for elderly people to gather in winter.

7 Your children will be the only ones in the park allowed to play with sticks and dirt.

8 Italian women clean their houses EVERYDAY. Your house is filthy. A bit like your children.

10 If you drink a really cold drink on a really hot day, something dreadful will happen.

11 Good customer service is as easy to come across as Hawaiian pizza.

12 If you (female) dare to eat out by yourself (say, to spend some time updating your blog or something) then women will stare at you like you have some kind of disease and men will stare at you like they want to give you some kind of disease.

13 People will tell you that you're beautiful. You will bask in this. Even when it's that creepy mechanic guy or the ancient barman up the road. This will make up for no.s 4 & 5 above.

14 Strangers will literally swoon and gush at your children. They will stop other complete strangers to point out the beauty of your off-spring. You will bask in this A LOT. Then they will tell you that your children are under-dressed.

15 The concept of an over-dressed child doesn't exist in the Italian psyche.

16 There's no Hawaiian pizza. The food is better than you can possibly imagine. Especially the seafood.

17 In the winter, the weather is shit.

18 Your family doctor will refer you to a specialist. You will never have a simple cough again: you will have bronchitis.

19 There's nowhere to park.

20 Despite, and indeed because of, all of the above, it is the very best place to live.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Park rules

It's midnight, but I can't sleep because I'm contemplating stealing a scooter from the playground. It used to be that I couldn't sleep simply because my children had made a secret pact that the sun should never set on the Morozzo family. I can now happily say that we've come a monstrously long way since my last blog post and I'm now the mother to a three year old and an 18 month old who sometimes both (both!) sleep right through the night. Of course, I'm not used to being able to actually sleep at night so there's nothing left for me to do in the wee small hours but browse vacuum cleaners online and figure out the best moment to nab that scooter.

I came home from a blissful two months in the UK this summer to a broken hoover, which is, on the plus side, proof that G did actually attempt to clean the floor at least once in my absence. The scooter situation is a bit more complicated. Let's just say that someone nabbed Isabel's fab yellow scooter and left their own crap, broken and generally forlorn-looking yellow scooter for us take home. I have identified the thief with the cunning use of those eyes in the back of my head (they must put them in at the hospital while you're still a bit zoned out from giving birth). I've also noticed that the thief's mother doesn't even have eyes in her - well - eyes, as she's only scraped off one of Isabel's name labels, before hastily scribbling her own child's name on the handle bars. I should have grabbed it, but Jack suddenly set off on a high speed trundle to the gate and I missed my chance. I haven't been this mad about something since I caught Isabel dragging a gurgling newborn Jack by his legs into the bathroom - to do what I dread to think.

The scooter theft just represents a horrible lack of respect for park rules. If someone accidentally takes our €3 Disney princess ball home, I'll shrug my shoulders and be all peace and love about it*. However, take my €75 scooter, positively laden with a year and a half of sentimental value (not to mention name labels) and I'm swapping my Birkenstocks for steel toe capped boots.

Anyway, here's hoping that all the other mad mums/frazzled mums/going-a-bit-loopy mums/haven't-washed-up -the-dinner-things-yet mums out there get some sleep tonight eventually. Except the scooter thief mum, of course.

*although, to be honest, we wouldn't mind it back sometime. Thank you.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Isabel's drinking bath water from a little pink plastic watering can, Jack's ignoring all the fun bath toys and is chewing on a ratty old shampoo bottle and I've just realised that I've left the pyjamas in the bedroom.

Me: 'Oh, sugar ..'
Isabel: 'Oh, fuck it.'
Me: (Quick, what would Super Nanny do? Decide to ignore it, just like the bath water drinking - despite the fact that at least one of them has more than likely done a pee in the bath)
Isabel: Mummy, fuck it! Fuck it!' (laughing)
Me: (distract, distract, distract) 'Izzy can you be a big girl and wash your tummy?'
Isabel: 'Mummy?'
Me: 'Yes Izzy?'
Isabel: 'I got willy.' (points downstairs)
Me: (Quick, what would Super Nanny do? Call Social Services probably. Forget Super Nanny.) 'Have you? I don't think so sweetheart. You're a girl, not a boy.'
Isabel: 'Yes, got willy,' (quite determined now) 'inside. I got willy inside.' (more laughing)

Oh Lord.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

You'll never walk alone

I'm so freaking tired that the other day I forgot I live in Italy. I was walking down the street and was surprised to hear a woman talking on the phone in Italian. Seriously. I thought I was in England. Of course, I say I was 'walking down the street' and you imagine me strolling down a sunny Corso Vercelli, perhaps pausing to admire some simple yet glamorous scarf in a shop window. Think again. The last time I 'just' walked down the street was over two years ago. I'm usually lugging/pushing/cajoling/dragging a combination of baby, toddler, push chair, shopping bags, nappy bag, toys, dirty tissues etc etc and not quite managing to simultaneously hang on to a few remaining grains of sanity. I'm loaded up like a mummy mule and usually either chasing Isabel as she flies round the corner on her scooter or yelling that no, she cannot lay down in the middle of the pavement outside the supermarket and pretend to go to sleep. It's not big, not clever and probably won't be funny for at least another 15 years. So no, I never 'just' walk down the street. In fact, I popped out to get takeaway pizza for G and I a few nights ago when both kids were in bed and realised that I no longer know how to walk without a pushchair to hang onto. I stumbled all the way there and back like Bambi with concussion. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, like I was going to just float up into the sky with nothing to keep me anchored. It was a relief to have to carry two large, awkward pizza boxes back home.

Of course, this is utterly irrelevant because I AM NEVER WITHOUT THE CHILDREN. Until you are a mother, you can't comprehend the concept of never being alone. This brings to mind a text conversation I had with my mum when I was pregnant with Isabel. G and I were in a restaurant but he had stepped out to make a phone call and left me by myself so, instead of looking like a lonely abandoned pregnant lady, I texted my mum.
Me: Hi, the scan went well, all's ok. We're out for dinner. You alright?
Mum: Great news. We're fine. What are you eating?
Me: Ribollita [yum]. G's just outside on the phone, left me on my own - typical!
Mum: You're pregnant, you'll never be on your own again!
Me: Ha - lovely :)
Now, three years and two babies later, I can't believe how sweet I thought that sounded.

Last weekend I actually managed to convince G to look after both children (both!) for a couple of hours so I could get my hair cut. It was as if I'd asked him for a kidney transplant. I had to 'book' him a week in advance and then send daily reminders. On the day itself I had to get both children up, fed, dressed and the nappy bag restocked while he sauntered around in his boxer shorts munching on an apple - all of which left me exactly 15 minutes to shower and dress myself, have breakfast and literally run to the hairdressers.
It goes without saying that he doesn't really like my haircut.
'It's very short,' he said 'but as long as you like it, that's all that counts.' (he should enter the diplomatic service)
'Do you know what?' I replied 'I've given my body and my sanity for this family, the least you can do is leave me my hair.'

I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding for THREE years. My pre-children jeans and tops look like doll's clothes. Even my feet have got bigger. When the kids go to bed I sort the laundry and I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep for over six months. My hair is quite possibly the only thing I still exert any control over. The least he can do is leave me my hair.

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Friday, 5 October 2012

The Playground Wars

I've absolutely had it with the other mums at the park. Today my daughter tried to join a group of kids doodling on the ground and they instinctively closed ranks, snatching up their measly little stubs of chalk to stop her from joining in. Apparently, this kind of cliquey behavior extends well beyond the age of five. Some mums are in and some of us would definitely be the last ones chosen for the rounders team.

The Converse trainers + Armani bag mums are totally in. They're the kind who are rolling in dosh, but who like to keep their footwear casual to show how young and 'street' they really are. Except, that is, for the €200 designer wellies they wear when it's wet. Their children are all obviously made of sugar as - despite the wellies - they all disappear as soon there's the merest hint of the possibility of a sniff of rain. I've seen the whole playground empty in approx. 33 seconds, mums and tots tearing at their hair and wailing 'it's raining, it's raining!' before I've felt even one drop. Not since the Wicked Witch of the West has anyone been so utterly terrified of water. Curiously, these mums often let their sons' hair grow really long which causes me to mistake them for girls and which may be the actual reason why I'm not allowed in their gang. Other potential reasons include:

1) I spend too much time hurtling round the playground yelling 'Isabel, get down from there NOW/Isabel stop that NOW/Isabel come back here NOW' etc etc for anyone to have a chance to make friends.
2) it's a foreigner thing. Too much hard work to get to know a foreigner. Foreigners also steal our men and don't use the bidet. Shudder.
3) I'm not friendly enough. (I just put that one to show how fair and unbiased this post is. Actually, I do have some friends at the park, they just happen to be nearly all other non-Italians).
4) their conversation is sooooo boring that they're embarrassed to let me join in.
5) they're just bitches.

I mean, come on. We all go to the same playground every afternoon, see the same faces, we're all suffering from the same sleepless nights and terrible twos and flippin' awful fives etc. A little mummy-solidarity, per favore. I'm forever smiling and saying 'hello' and 'how are you?' and 'hasn't she grown! I mean he, of course I meant to say he..'. You'd think I was asking them to donate a kidney, not pick their brains about bikes with stabilizers versus bikes with no pedals and other such burning childcare issues.

I may follow in Isabel's size five and half Tesco's plimsoll footsteps. After being snubbed by that group of children, she sauntered off and stole some kid's tricycle. Then, when she got bored with that (about two minutes) she casually got her own massive chunky chalks out and made the others really jealous.

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

An ordinary afternoon

Little Man is a film star at the tender age of 4.5 months! The other day I took both kids on A Big Adventure to the centre of town (more of which later..) where G was filming a promo video for the Milan Bicycle Film Festival. I'm officially a Bicycle Film Festival widow, by the way. Thanks to the BFF, G and I have spent approx 7.5 mins together since Little Man was born. The BFF is responsible for G almost MISSING the birth altogether. I love the BFF. Not. Anyway, in a kind of Mohammed/mountain way, G had this great idea to involve the whole family in the festival by filming a teaser video featuring a super cool guy doing scary BMX tricks while carrying Little Man in the baby sling.

Just kidding. He actually had a fake baby on his back and just carried him for real in the last shot where he cycles away from the camera, Little Man chewing on one of his blond dreadlocks
'It probably tastes of camomile,' he cooed afterwards, tickling Little Man under the chin, 'I use camomile shampoo for blond hair.'

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one afternoon, I then had to ride the tram back home before both kids turned into pumpkins. This is Italy, so about 10 people helped me get on the tram. Terrible Toddler looked aghast when smart man at the tram stop put down his briefcase and lifted her and her scooter up the steps. I was thrilled. The tram was also wonderfully empty - I must have accumulated some good Mummy karma, I thought. Half way home, the karma ran out.
'Mummy, wee-wee.'
Oh no.
'Do you really, really, really, need a wee-wee?'
'Can you wait?'
'Yes Izzy?'
'Wee-wee. Now wee-wee. Wee-wee here?' (points to the floor of the tram)
'Noooooooooooooo - we're getting off!'

And that is how I found myself crouched in the road between two cars, in front of Milan's poshest private school, with the tram thundering past, holding Terrible Toddler's legs out of the way - Little Man lolling precariously from the baby carrier and the scooter slowing rolling away - while she did an enormous wee in the gutter.

And it was in that moment that it occurred to me that I've never seen an Italian mum dangling a toddler awkwardly over a drain. Do Italians have some amazing potty training secret? Do they just keep their offspring in the house till they're 100% watertight? God knows there's only about three public loos between here and North Africa. It's a mystery.

So there you have it. Film stars and weeing in the gutter: just another ordinary afternoon in the Morozzo household.

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