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A Room in Rome #2: getting paid to hit the beach

25th April 2012

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October in Rome dawns in the midst of an unseasonable European heatwave, and after a messy (and loud) breakfast of bread, cheese and croissants (I know, I know) I squash into the back seat of Enrico’s car with a twin on each side and we set off for the beach at Ostia.

Yes. I am being paid to go to the beach.

The twins have decorated the back of their father’s car with stickers. There is a Barbie on each window, as well as a large assortment of flowers, and Twin Uno observes me for a moment before making sure I have seen her window artwork. ‘Barbie,’ she says, pointing out the sticker. ‘Barbie!’ she says again, with increasing excitement, pointing at me.

Twin Due meanwhile is playing with a massive stuffed raccoon. I turn my attention to her and enquire as to the raccoon’s name. She looks at me like I am crazy, and then shouts ‘RACCOON!’ Fair enough. Twin Uno has also brought an animal for the drive. ‘What’s your dog called?’ I ask her. Her expression matches that of her sister. ‘Dog!’ she yells.

I think something has been lost in translation here.

I spend the rest of the drive pointing out various things to see if they know the English vocab. Mainly, they do. Twin Due falls asleep, simultaneously burbling along to the song that is playing on the radio, and I discover that Twin Uno is aware of stars, sky, trees, and cars, but not of signposts, cafes or post offices.

At Ostia Enrico drops us off and goes to park, and we pick up Uno and Dues’ toys from a locked chalet and position ourselves on sunbeds by the sea. Because it’s October the beach isn’t too crowded, and it isn’t too hot either. Uno and Due immediately run into the sea, where Due starts jumping around and flipping over under the water, and Uno begins to make a collection of shells, which quickly becomes a selection of rocks. My attempts to acquaint myself with the freezing water teach them a new English word – ‘splash’.

Later, Enrico arrives with the pizza for lunch. So much pizza. I have literally never seen so much pizza in my life. Veg pizza, margarita, extra cheese. Crispy bread. Five slices of each wrapped in chip shop paper. Two bundles of paper. FORTY pieces of pizza between FIVE people, two of whom are very small people. It is traditionally Roman, crispy and delish. But still. When I only let myself have three pieces my lack of eating is questioned.

After lunch Uno drags me off to the storage room, where she locks herself inside (cue moment of panic) before emerging with a giant inflatable aeroplane. In the sea she climbs aboard to pilot her aeroplane, whilst Due hangs off the front. ‘Run!’ they demand. ‘RUN!’ I spend a few minutes dragging them around in the water, thinking of the pizza and how much of this running-in-water it would take to burn it off. Possibly a lot. Possibly any attempt to burn of the pizza/ icecream will be futile.

When they eventually get bored of ‘flying’ and get out to play in the sand instead, I decide that I deserve a break. Settle down on the sunbed to read. Remain in this position for a good amount of time, until Due appears and decides that it will be amusing to hide underneath my sunbed whilst laughing uncontrollably and pretending that she isn’t there. It is pretty amusing, and a game of peek-a-boo entertains her sufficiently for a while. After a while Uno appears, drags me onto the sand and practices doing headstands with my back as her support. Like you do.

And then, of course, it’s icecream time again. This time I go for two scoops –as if multiple slices of pizza hadn’t filled me up enough. Chocolate orange vs. apple and cinnamon. It’s as good as it sounds, but as we sit on a wall to eat it Allegra points out that, because they are used to Fassi’s, the oldest icecream parlour in Rome, cleverly situated right next to their flat, this gelato ‘tastes like medicine’. Well. Clearly there is an education in icecream that I haven’t been in Italy long enough to understand. Due manages to get melted gelato all over her legs, which is an achievement. Then she draws faces in it.

Uno is tired and nearly falls asleep on my shoulder as I carry her back to the car. They both drop off as soon as they hit their seats, and as we drive back I am informed that tomorrow we are going ‘lunch at a restaurant on the beach and then to a party in a park’. Is this the best job ever?

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