LONDON – week 1 (English) – August 11, 2009

The following is the translation to the first post I wrote on August 11, 2009. When reading it, please try to consider of what was happening in the UK at that time (the Swine Flu) and that I had just arrived from Rome, thus I was much more typically Italian-behaved than I’m now.

London, August 11, 2009

First week came and went quite quickly, I have to say, probably because of the intensive training I’m going through. The London office looks like the Big Brother’s house: open spaces everywhere, glass walls in every room (not in the lavatories though), even the walls facing the street, so it’s like working in a shop window. Even better, perhaps I will get over the habit of picking at my nose and stick the things under my desk (I’m just kidding, obviously!)

The room where the training was being held was about 6 or 7 square metres wide and after 30 minutes in there I notice the penguins sliding along the ice slopes that is forming against the walls, which makes me consider that perhaps it isn’t just my impression, perhaps it is actually a bit too cold in the room. Without attracting the attention, I stand up and go to check the AC display on the wall. I managed to refrain my surprise to come out from my mouth as an Italian ‘Cazzo!’ when I read 19° Celsius (about 68 Fahrenheit). Are you all rincoglioniti, I would like to yell, but unfortunately just then and there I can’t translate the word into English, probably because of the Arctic temperature. I could make them all notice that we are in London, the cloudy city par excellence, and considering the dangerous effects of global warming the air conditioning is just a waste of energy. Thing is, I didn’t want to kick up a fuss just a couple of hours after my brilliant career in the UK started, so I just drop it. During the rest of the week, temperature is stable between 22 and 23° C (71 and 73 Fahrenheit). On Wednesday I start to feel the sickness coming. But let’s go “degree by degree”…

On Tuesday we have team activities night on the agenda. I have no idea whether my team won, but now I know that:

– August in London means a huge temperature range between day and night, never ever go out without a jacket
– I know where Bram Stoker lived
– I know where Oscar Wilde lived
– I know where King Henry VIII lived before becoming King Henry VIII
– I know why all these people and many other footballers and singers decided to live in Chelsea
– I know why with all probabilities I never will.

On Wednesday I start the aspirin and paracetamol-based cure, as the cold and sored throat keep gaining ground (AC temperature stable). It seems impossible to find a thermometer in the London pharmacies because of the  swine-flu panic of the last few weeks, consequently I can just hope there is not temperature. I’d rather not speak about this in the office to avoid being put in quarantine, although I’m following to the letter the instructions from the NHS and it seems I don’t have the symptoms of the flu. Moreover I bought a train ticket to Paris, where  I had planned to spend the weekend with Alessandro, so I can’t really risk being locked up in a decompression chamber!

Thursday. I carry on with aspirins. To avoid any further risks, I stop dressing as one of those guys in the D&G commercials and I wear a T-shirt under my white shirt. The training in the goldfish-tank continues. After lunch, our trainer whose name I still haven’t memorized brings the temperature down to 22°C. “Isn’t it too low”, say I, using my most irresistible smile. “That’s just to keep you guys awake” she answers. Well, then why don’t you stick needles under our nails, so just to keep us awake, I’m about to say back, but I refrain myself. The thing is, one of my goal in this adventure across the Channel is to give a true lesson of Italian style to these people as the only Italian style they seem to know is the “Berlusconi style”. So I just smile back to her and then bring the temperature back when no one is looking (cheekily Italian, I know). The same evening, on my way back home, in few seconds it starts poring down torrentially, as though we are in New Orleans during Katrina. In Rome, in the same situation, a horde of pedlar would pour in the streets, ready to sell an umbrella to every passer-by, either with or without an umbrella of their own. In London such things don’t happen. Is that because they have better immigration laws? No, simply because everybody carries an umbrella, at all times. Everybody but me.

Friday. I’m not feeling at all in shape, but Victor from HR gives me my medical insurance card which makes me feel safer. I’m so eager to go to Paris so I go to the office with my bag for the weekend and at the end of the training I run to St Pancreas station to catch the 16.40 Eurostar. On the train journey toward south I get the chance to see some of the English countryside and crossing the Tunnel is not as bad as they told me. When I finally get in Gare du Nord and I stand up, a tsunami-like wave crosses my head and I almost trip over. I must have some lines of temperature, I think. When I arrive at Alessandro’s, I can finally measure it (he’s got a thermometer!): 38°C (101° F). The weekend proceeds with lots of bone ache, headache, throat ache (not sure the latter exists) and Alessandro who forces me into swallowing medicines with francophone names. But I’m sure, it’s not the swine flu! I’m regularly checking both the NHS and the French Ministry of Health website. I reach the edge on Sunday, when my temperature gets to 39° C (103° F) and I consider that I shouldn’t probably get on a train for the journey back to London as planned. On the following day I call sick and from the office they ask me to let them know in case it’s the flu (I scratch my balls for good luck, according to the Italian belief). The French doctor says it’s not the flu but he prescribes me an endless list of medicines and tablets and rest till Wednesday.

So, here I am, still in Paris, with some temperature, a painful soared throat and bones that ache for every single movement I attempt to make. I’m not just being an Italian drama-queen, it’s true! One week in London and I have already defeated the Swine flu (it was the flu, I’m sure) and taken three days of sick-leave. Well done Paolo.

Tomorrow I will be heading back to London. Next goal: finding a flat!

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