The girls have a perfectly normal, completely unhealthy obsession with poo, wee, and bums. The prominence of these topics in the conversation highlighted by the hysterical, over exaggerated laughter to spur each other on. Admittedly it’s hard to frown and act disapproving - not because the jokes are quality, but because it’s so hilarious to see your kids laughing their brains out over something so juvenile.
On the way to Lake Garda I was explaining to the girls that the apartment I booked was really nice and I had convinced the lady to let us stay despite her listing stating that kids were not allowed. So I coached the girls with how to impress her when we arrived; wave, smile, answer questions, use every Italian word you know. I then trigger a recount to check their comprehension; recently the girls seem incapable of understanding any word that comes out of my mouth. In fact, I probably should have schooled them in the opposite of all of this in order to elicit anything remotely like that behaviour. “So,” I ask, “what are you going to do when you meet the lady?” Elspeth responds with an alarming amount of conviction, “I’m going to wipe poo all over her.” And queue the hysterics. Intensely from Matisse, through an attempted straight face from Imogen, not at all concealed from Karl, and through silent tears I manage to stacatto the words, “That’s. really. bad.” Quality reprimanding. 10/10.
There was an unprecedented level of discussion about poo, bums and wee during the first two days of this trip, so we made a rule that these things were not to be discussed anymore. Fifteen minutes later as we leave the house, Karl starts telling me about a pile of cat poo in the corner of the patio. He doesn’t get to make whatever point he was making because I burrowed my eyebrows deeply into my eyes, noting that both girls were listening with a keen interest.
We drove half way around the lake to catch a gondola up the mountain. The village at the base was bursting with shops selling snow gear. “Maybe it’s cold up there?” I mused. “No higher than where we were yesterday,” Karl remarked. I audibly questioned my decision to dress the girls and I in cotton summer clothes and sandals.
As they got tickets I dashed to a coffee shop. I presume the guy spoke Italian and asked me what I wanted. I am yet to even master the basics of this language, so I took a stab in the dark, trying to find some familiar words in this empty chamber of my brain. “Americano con lago?” I ventured apprehensively. The entire bar of people roar with laughter. “Americano with milk?” asked the dude. Yes. I said, vowing to start my Italian lessons immediately. When I returned to the brains trust, we pooled our Italian language skills to deduce that “lago” is lake - a word I have personally used to excess in the last few days. So my ordering of a black coffee with a lake on the side was, if nothing else, a testament to how desperately I needed that coffee. At the very least, I have overridden my instincts to say “terimakasih” instead of “grazie.” In other language learnings, macchiato doppio, is also not “with milk” but a double shot. Why learn the language when you can fuck up in these kind of creative and caffeinated ways.
We caught two gondolas up the mountain. As we disembarked at the first station, and continued the ascent to 1800m, as high as Australia’s highest mountain, and where the air was so thin the vegetation ceased to exist, I asked Karl if we really were at that altitude yesterday. He reconsidered. Luckily there was alpacas at the top of the mountain. And some local euntrepreneurs had taken the liberty to shear, dye and weave some authentic scarves that we could purchase in desperation to keep us warm. The other thing these alpacas were good for was leaving their shit all over the ground, stretching the patience of our “no talking about poo” rule. It was one kind of freezing on the top of the mountain; 4-17 degrees. The sun came out at least three times for a cumulative total of 10 minutes in the few hours we were up there.
It was otherworldly. Amongst the general spectacle of our time there, we got up close and personal with a flock of sheep feasting on mountain grass - not in the way that New Zealanders do. Then Imogen noticed that one wasn’t moving because it had a baby lamb in tow; the lines began to blur as she started to move in on the vulnerable mother. But no sooner than she make the observation did it trot off, the baby lamb scampering to keep up. It managed to career right into its mother back end, just in time to receive a massive dump of shit on its head, which it promptly started eating. So. Who is the biggest piece of shit? Mother Nature. Thanks for stitching me up.
I have now devoted 80% of this blog to poo.
Imogen and Karl designed the days itinerary whilst I was drinking tea on the roof. I said I was happy to do whatever they wanted. Then we started to do it, and I had some strong views on it being 3pm and not having eaten pizza yet. Also, I questioned driving 2 hours to a castle, given there was one on every bend. They assured me it was worth it. Imogen proved this by taking 3 pictures of the castle and about 20 of me frolicking in the ocean.
We indulged in gelato scoops as big as our head, served up by the grumpiest bitch to ever work in a gelato store in the middle of a castle. Her eye rolling at me for trying to reduce the kids scoops was first class. I would throw heaps bigger stones at her if Matisse hadn’t upstaged her behaviour ten seconds later when Karl saved her ice cream from toppling off, by licking the opposite side. Apparently Matisse doesn’t like licking things other people have licked. We discovered this after a lengthy episode of screaming, hitting herself in the face, flailing all over the ancient cobblestone pavement, hooking her hair on a rusty nail that appeared from nowhere as she threw herself into a wall. Good times. I particularly loved having an audience that grew in size, muscled in as close as humanly possible, and even followed me down the road as I reprimanded by child. So I made a point of adding a comment to this effect at the end of my lesson. They walked away. I ate my ice cream and reflected on the fact I would be a better mother if I found these things concerning rather than a source of unparalleled entertainment.
On the way home Karl took on the freeway in the dark. Trucks barrelled down on us at 200km an hour every time we merged, or drove under 150km/h. At some point, Imogen noticed that the headlights weren’t on, which may have contributed to the problem. Later, Karl attempted to drive off the bitumen and into a vineyard rather then use the instructed, well signed exit from the roundabout. Spending a week with four females can have that effect on a man. Three sleeps until you can go to Oktoberfest Karl.... count them down.