We’ve had a busy day visiting Ravello (Italy) in the mountains near Amalfi, because action-man Simon refuses to ‘sit around by the pool all day doing nothing’. But he is finally winding down and does want an early night. I, however, do not. I want to go out for dinner and a few drinks, okay lots of drinks and a bit of ballare. We only have four nights and five days and need to get our money’s worth. For me just being in the sunshine, with Italian food and men is like a shot in the arm of meth-amphetamine, but Si is dog tired from working so hard and all that bloody cycling. (I know I say he’s does sweet f*** all at Army Staff College in Wiltshire in the week, whilst I have the kids, alone, but my holiday-self will admit that he is actually being thrashed by General Jeremy Smith who pulling out all the stops to break him and his promising career.
At dinner at a small family restaurant, Le Tre Sorelle, near our hotel in Positano, he tells me the extent of the General’s vendetta and, well, it seems it’s a little bit my fault. Not totally though, Si assures me. Ever since I stormed Salisbury Plain to retrieve the children’s favourite toys, The General has been trying to have Si court-marshaled, but Si has been gathering evidence on him too and what he’s found is weighing heavily on him. Si looks at me, holding my hands across the table. I love this romantic version of him: he’s softer, kinder and more attractive. Maybe the light’s different in Italy? Everything, including me – with the help of fake tan and spanx, looks better. Why is that?
Si: “What I’ve uncovered is…”
A Italian band of musicians suddenly materializes and starts playing ‘O Sole Mio’ at full blast by our table. The violinist winks at me and I blush. God I LOVE this country. It’s the first time I’ve been winked at since having kids and it makes me feel 18. I wink back and I expect Si to give me a death stare or threaten to ‘bang him out’ but he smiles, wearily but contented.
They stop playing, the diners clap and Si continues his story….
Si: “What I have uncovered…”
The waiters rush to the table and start banging down plates. “Il pesce del giorno, per la signora.” (I miss being a signorina) “E linguine vongole, questo.”
Si: “Grazie. So this goes all the way to the top….”
Waiter: “Black pepper?”
The band start up a gentle number as they promenade around the al fresco tables. Waiter: “Bouno appetito.”
Si: “With a bit of help from an old mate in MI5…”
Si: “You really can’t tell anyone about this.”
Si: “We’ve found…..”
A trumpet sounds loudly behind my left ear and the band cranks up the tempo, playing Le Macarena. I want to hear Si’s revelation but this cheesy number is really making me want to dance and down cocktails but I look at Si’s exhausted face and realise I need to take him back to the hotel and soon. The Energiser Bunny has hit a wall and for the first time in ages I am worried about him.
As we climb the 200 steps back up to our boutique hotel, I ask Si about what this MI5 guy knows but he deftly changes the subject to an amusing stories of our girls, Vita (8months) and Sienna (2.5). (The latter named after the Tuscan city for entirely inappropriate reasons but that’s for another time)
When we unlock the door of our high ceiling Baroque-style room, the Limoncello has gone to my head and I am feeling amorous. I also need the loo and one of the best things about going on holiday without a baby and a toddler is going to the loo ALONE. In fact doing everything alone showering, shaving my bush and not having to explain why I have a hairy bottom in the first place, changing a tampon – Mummy a mouse! I saw it’s tail.) Whilst on my Italian throne alone, a place of great plans, I decide we should throw off our English prudishness about my unfortunate ‘time of the month’ – I will slip on a silky negligee and seduce my husband.
I flush the loo and return to the bedroom full of sexy plans to discover Si is passed out on the bed, fully-clothed and snoring. FFS. I go to wake him but he looks so tired I decide not to, however, I am now very awake without anyone to play with.
I start to read a book – I haven’t read a whole book in over three years – but I can’t settle. I look in the minibar, then at the price list and my brain bleeds. I go out on to the balcony and gaze out over twinkling lights of Positano – I want to be out there, drinking a crisp white, practicing my Italian and breathing in MS cigarettes.
I remember when my childhood best friend and I hit Italy aged 18 – we had the most epic two weeks of our lives, breaking the heart of a concierge, a carabinieri and a hot, but toothless, stone mason called Massimo, whilst crashing a moped into a lorry, being arrested at a rave and hitch-hiking back across Tuscany with two octagenarians. Those were the days. The old, unmarried me would have run back into town and by the end of the evening had a whole host of new Italian friends. I resist my old wild urges, pick up the phone and order an Aperol Spritz instead. I will listen to Basement Jaxx, look out over the moonlit bay and recall the wonderful memories of my scandalous past until it’s time to sleep.
It takes another two Aperols.
And by now I am dancing in my silky red negligee on the balcony to the electronic soundtrack of my youth. “Whenever I’m down I call on you my friend,” I sing and swaying my pelvis, quietly enough not bother our neighbours, but provocatively enough to court the attention of the Manager who is watching me from the poolside. He bows and blows a kiss up to me; I bow and dart inside. It’s time for bed.
I climb under the sheet next to Si, still sleeping on his back with his mouth open. It is the most relaxed I have seen him, given he usually slumbers on his elbows ready for action. I turn the light off, stretch, yawn and hear the high-pitched zzzz of a mosquito. I switch on the light and jump up. FFS.
I need to get this mosquito because I have already been bitten five times the night before and the bites are itching like crazy. I search the white-washed walls like a special forces operative. “I will find you,” I say picking up the book I couldn’t be arsed to read. By the time I have looked at every nook and cranny, and searched the bathroom, I give up. However, I am unarmed against another attack, having no bug spray. I look at the balcony and close the doors. I don’t need this SOB inviting his friends to have an all-you-can-eat buffet on my arse as I sleep.
I turn the light off. Zzzz. I switch them on again and grab a shoe. It will die, it will die, it will die! And now I can hear it flying away, but I can’t see it. There’s not enough light in this f***ing room so I turn on the main lights; Si sleeps on. I need to get this f***er, that is my mission. After another 10 minutes I have failed and go back to bed.
I stay alert for what seems ages, but I am now slowly crossing no-mans land to the valley of sleep when zzzz. I jump into action, switch on all the lights and I see the mother-f***er just floating up to the corner of the ceiling on Si’s side of the room and I know I can kill it, I know I can make the leap so I jump up, carried by rage and Scottish warrior genes and I f***ing spatter the disease-spreading critter over the wall, along with my A+ blood.
And then Newton’s theory takes over and I land hard on Si’s face and he jolts like he’s being defibrillated from the mains, shouting, “argh” and is suddenly up on his feet in a karate stance, arms and eyes ready for a fight.
Si: “Where is he? Where is he?!”
Si: “The scrambag who planted the bomb?”
And from the middle of Afghan plains of trauma, he suddenly awakes behind his open eyes and says, “What the f**k?”
And I say triumphantly pointing at the blood-spattered wall: “Look! I got it!”
Si is unable to return to sleep and I, after many grovelling apologies and attempts to soothe his ragged nerves, pass out cold in 10 minutes flat, snoring hard to add insult to injury.
At breakfast I apologize again to a now very pale Simon and I suggest we sleep and relax by the pool today but he isn’t very good at staying put, particularly now I have triggered some kind of serious stress response.
The Manager bids us buongiorno and dangles some keys above our heads. “As the owner of the hotel (who knew) I would like to give you the keys of my vintage Citroen 2CV for the day. He then says to me in Italian. “Your dancing last night was spectacular, your husband is a lucky man.”
Si: “What did he say?”
Me: “He said you are a very lucky man.”
Si: “After having a mosquito-killing Aperol Spritz lunatic, jump on my face at 1am, yeah, lucky me.”
Me: “And because of my lovely balcony dancing he has given us the keys to his Citroen.”
Si takes off his glasses to reveal a black eye. “What could possibly go wrong?”