I am delighted to welcome Richmond Mummy to Grenglish. Richmond Mummy and I were randomly selected to guest post on each other’s blogs in the first BritMums Guest post matchup. We found it quite hilarious to have been matched together, out of all the bloggers out there who probably entered, as we already know each other!
So with no further ado, let me pass you over to the lady herself…
Half ‘n’ half…
As someone with an English (of Irish descent) mother and Italian father (from Fiuggi, in between Rome and Naples, seeing as you asked), I grew up telling people I was “half ‘n’ half”. It’s funny, even though I was born and brought up in the UK, and certainly to my Italian family – who all still live in Italy and rarely venture to foreign shores (“well, the food isn’t as good anywhere else is it?!”) – I am l’inglese, I always felt a stronger connection to my Italian identity than my British one. There’s no particular reason why, none that I can really put my finger on anyway, but I think it may have been in part due to the passion displayed by my Dad at all times at being Italian. He made it feel cool to be Italian and still to this day I see him puff out his chest if anyone asks him where he’s from, “I am Italian!” he will say, with a smile and sense of pride that you rarely see in a Brit. Plus, he’s never lost the accent, so generally anything he says sounds cool.
Before I became Richmond Mummy, aka Bianca Cox, I was Bianca Incocciati. Yes, Incocciati. That’s 10 letters, count ‘em. All 10 of ‘em. Pronounced In-co-chart-e, in my opinion, it’s a truly brilliant surname, one that always made me feel different, exciting, intriguing (maybe all in my head, but none-the-less, it was real to me!). You can imagine my sadness at having to replace it with Cox. Sigh. But, I’m a traditionalist. And Incocciati-Cox just wasn’t going to work.
Back in the day, simply introducing myself by my full name opened up conversations with people. True it was a bit of a nightmare giving my name at the dry cleaners or booking a table at a restaurant (unless of course it was an Italian), but I loved it. Loved having that overtly Italian moniker, no matter how many times I had to spell it out and loved it even if most people stuttered and stammered over it and I was called things like Bianca In-crotch-art-e and In-cocky-art-e at school presentations. Sigh. Still, often it was just amusing to see and hear people trying desperately to get it right.
My name could, it turned out, be misleading at times. I once had a university lecturer tell me that she thought I had “a good grasp of the English language for a non-native speaker”. When I questioned this, in person, she said – “oh sorry, I just saw your name on your paper and thought…” Moron. I’d been actively participating in her seminars for the previous 6-months. Still, she did wear dresses that looked suspiciously like curtains, so maybe she wasn’t entirely all there.
I grew up truly believing, and this is entirely attributable to my Dad, that the Italians invented everything, that Italy is the best country on earth and that Italians are some kind of super race who excel in all things (well all things that are important anyway). The best food? Italian. Breathtaking architecture and art? Italian. The most beautiful, fashionable clothes? Italian. The fastest, sexiest cars? Italian. The most gorgeous, glamorous people? Italian. The most intelligent football? Italian….
Actually, let’s talk about the football for a moment. I am in NO way interested in any kind of sport, not remotely, not one little bit. Sorry, it bores me to tears, can’t get into it at all, no way, no how. BUT, something weird happens to me when it comes to the World Cup. It’s like this weird compulsion takes over me, I HAVE TO SUPPORT ITALY. I genuinely feel sick when they play (and in latter years frequently seem to lose). I worry for them, I watch the TV through my fingers in fear. I shout “Forza Azzuri” at the screen and wave my hands around a lot during penalties. This is completely out of character behaviour. But, it’s like I’ve been conditioned over the years and this is the natural reflex that kicks in. I can’t explain it. And even though I grew up in this country, I couldn’t even consider supporting England when it comes to football. I remember once, as a teenager, I felt sick and nervous about going in to school the day after Italy got knocked out of the World Cup back in the 90s I think it was. I just knew that everyone would give me a hard time about it and why? – because I’d bigged them up so much the day of the match, telling everyone how unbeatable they were and that they were the best in the world. Because that’s what I truly believed. Because that’s what my Dad told me. Because that’s what I am conditioned to still believe. Even now, though these days they are more than a bit rubbish, I’m blind to it. When that joyous national anthem starts, I too puff out my chest and am filled with hope: I do however stop short of beating my fist against my heart. That would just be a bit weird. A bit godfather. A bit dramatic. And after all, I am half Brit. So sometimes I down-play the drama. Not often mind you, but sometimes.
I am proud of being British, don’t get me wrong. This country has educated me, taken care of my health, given me great opportunities and god, I wouldn’t actually ACTUALLY want to LIVE in Italy! Tried it once, logistical nightmare. You can’t get anything done between the hours of 12 – 4pm and it’s far too chaotic for someone like me who is self-diagnosed as borderline OCD.
It’s just being Italian, well, it’s something different, or rather it’s intrinsically something that makes me feel different, a heritage that I am really proud of and feel privileged to have. I want to make sure that I pass that on to my own daughter, which is one of the reasons we’ve given her an Italian name. And I want to make sure that she learns Italian, maybe not necessarily fluently, but enough to be able to talk a little at least with her Italian family and to maintain that connection. I feel that my life has been richer for the Italian-ness in it and I want her to also feel that, although perhaps not be quite so fanatical about the football.
Dad and Nonna: my two favourite Italians! (and for the record, she is 90 years old in this picture!)
To read more about Bianca’s life from Bump to Beyond, follow her on Twitter @richmondmummy or visit her fab blog Richmond Mummy
My guest post on Richmond Mummy is a first glimpse of our potty training future and is published today.