She sits on the 30-year-old stool in front of the piano. Its 5.05 a.m. She thinks she’s crazy for a second. Then she realizes she actually is: she’s crazy in love with life at the moment. She smiles to herself: “There it is, getting senile at such young age!”
And she starts playing this beautiful old piano she found at a Sunday market. Best money she’s ever spent, she thought. Ludovico Einaudi – Una mattina, her obsession for the last few weeks. Then another song and another one and 20 minutes later she finds herself back to the bed she’s always wanted which is just a king-sized mattress on the floor, in the middle of the room. She wraps herself in the fresh white cotton sheets and the scent of the soul next to her. She kisses her shoulder softly, trying not to wake her up. “Morning person” was definitely not invented for her.
They’ve been living together for 2 years now in a decent sized studio in Mona Vale and even though they’ve always thought they’d kill each other within a couple of days, things have turned out better than expected. The room is filled with stacks of books and home magazines, there’s 2 bikes hung on one of the walls, a huge dvd rack, a little table with a typing machine, a laptop and lots of wild flowers and lavender in a ceramic pot next to it. There are a couple of empty cans of beer next to the mattress and some popcorn left in a huge bowl, probably from the film, last night.
She wakes up again, this time too late for a Saturday, with the smell of fresh croissants and coffee and the image of a beautiful naked body under an oversized checked shirt, tip-toeing around the room, setting up the small table in the balcony over-looking the ocean.
-You’ve overslept. Again. You might need a jumper for this; it’s bloody windy out there. But you wanted breakfast on the balcony at least once a week, so you must suffer the consequences now.
Confused and sleepy, she covers herself in the white bed throw and goes on the balcony. A small table with elderflower lemonade, coffee, croissants and fruits were all waiting for her. They both sat down in quiet, not knowing what to start with. Sipping from the large mug of black coffee she stares at the two big brown eyes in front of her and without a word she tells her “I love you!”
-I know. Now tell me, what person in their right mind plays piano at 5 o’clock in the morning?
The memories that you sometimes want to forget, the stupid giggles, the ugly crying, the disappointments, the 3 a.m. calls, the heavy breathing after making love, the long drives after sunrise, listening to cheesy songs and holding hands, looking at each other and thinking how fucking lucky you are to be living something like this, the moment you find out those lips kissed that new special “her” after they’ve just whispered “I love you!” in your ear. Good or bad, these are few of the million pieces that put together a beautiful, but insanely complicated puzzle: YOU. And some amazing stories end, but they all stay part of that puzzle, turning into strength. And some will begin soon after you let go. Learning to do that is difficult and frustrating and tiring. But once you start, you know that’s what you should have done a long time ago.
And then, there you are! You let go of bad memories, arguments and pain. You let go of people who belittle you and tell you that “life sucks!” and that people are horrible in one way or another, people that make fun of your happy self, thinking it’s stupid and pointless to be happy all the time. You give up pleasing everybody and you start living for yourself, not your mother, not other relatives, not your friends. You stop apologizing for being lame or believing in good people and true love. You let them laugh while you go to sleep smiling that today was a good day and tomorrow’s going to be an even better one. You let go of unimportant things and focus on having an extraordinary life. And the moment you will do all this, you will decide involuntarily the path you want to follow further on. That’s called growing up.
It all began that Monday morning that she’ll never forget. It was only 6.30 am and she was sat naked on her living room floor having her daily smoothie that she secretly hated, reading The Chronicles of Narnia (she has decided a while back that she wants to read all those books she had in the unpacked boxes stood in the corner of the room for months- it was her idea of doing something useful with her life). She knew she has to get going as she started work at 8 and she needed to avoid the traffic. She was used waking up quite early and doing something nice just for herself: her nails, read a book, cook a proper lunch or even watch porn and please herself. She could finally walk around the house naked, sing and dance and eat ice cream and have a cheeky glass of wine at 7 am in the morning, just because she wanted to.She finally felt happy and free and she didn’t need to hide from anyone. It was her very own little heaven. She put on her sophisticated grey suit and the very same simple make-up she’s been using for years and left the house.
In the car, listening to The Pogues (again) and munching on some Skittles which she
thought of as part of her super-hero breakfast, Nora was enjoying the morning sunshine which was very rare in Dublin. She felt like that day was going to be great, but then again she had the same feeling every morning. Suddenly her phone rang while she was driving her little old polo she had since she was about 20, but she decided to just ignore it. It was her mother. She was hoping it was nothing bad, but she promised herself she’ll give her a ring once she gets to work which she quickly arrived to after 10 minutes. She was working as an estate agent, something she would have never thought of after getting that bloody master degree in English a while back. It’s been 2 years and many things have happened since.
“Mum, hello! I literally have 5 minutes before I start work. What’s happened?”
“Nora, darling, nothing bad. I’m the happiest mother today. Your sister Cara is pregnant!! I’m going to be a grandmother; my very first grandchild.”
“Oh, wow! Well, congrats, I suppose! Woo..” She knew what’s coming.
“Nora, darling, now that your sister is having a baby, maybe you want to try settling too. You’re the older one, you know, you should be having someone at least and plan your future together. The clock is ticking, tick-tock, tick-tock”, she said with a laugh which Nora knew it was as fake as her workmate’s boobs. She stopped listening to her mum and quickly cut her off with a work “excuse”.
“Well THAT ruined my day, thank you very much”, she thought. Not the fact that her sister was going to have a sprog, but that her mum kept reminding her how alone she is. She felt sick for a bit while her entire past for the last 5 years came back to her head: the great memories, the amazing plans on a festival type wedding in her very own garden and having a family, the traveling they had planned and which they have never gotten around to actually do, the disappointment, the tears. She needed to go away for a while and be happy on her own without relying on anyone or without listening to her family asking her on and on and on if she’s depressed or if she’s a lesbian.
She was impatient now and her job felt today like a prison. After what seemed like ages, it was time to go home. She needed to make a decision about her life. She couldn’t settle now just for the sake of it. She knew there’s many, many things to explore and too many adventures to go on. Her little brain came up with what felt like the craziest idea she has ever had and for a moment she knew it will never happen. She needed a change though so she decided to go for it. She was going to sell her flat which was left as present from her grandparents, her poor little Polo and pretty much all her belongings and she will go away for a while. She didn’t know where and how the hell she will manage not to freak out the moment she’ll sat her sexy bum in a plane, but she was going to do it. That night she had a restless sleep, her heart was beating so fast she thought she’s gonna wet herself of so much excitement. She hasn’t thought how she’d break the news to her family yet, but that was the last one of her worries in the ocean of adventures she was throwing herself into.
Three weeks have gone past and there she was, right where she never dreamed to be at 25: driving the green camper van she always wished for, with her whole life packed in an old red suitcase, on her way to France. She was going to visit her best friend Ave, her person. Ave was having the time of her life in France after having traveled pretty much everywhere and Nora needed her and her non-soppy personality. Ave will fix her.
SOME -> People lie. People are mean. People are selfish. People use you for their own needs and with the “You deserve better” line, leave you. People are careless. People are rude. People are obsessed with money. People have no morals. People get angry for no reason. People expect good things without working for them. People make others feel small and insignificant. People replace easily stuff that can be fixed. People are lazy. People cheat. People steal – money or time that you can never get back. People can’t be bothered. People are greedy. People are ignorant. People are cruel. People are superficial. People are too stubborn. People are afraid to show love and compassion. People are impatient. People judge too much and enjoy life too little. People are making too many excuses. People are unkind. People are ungrateful. People are too hateful. People criticize just to make others feel little. People don’t smile enough. People are materialistic. People are aggressive. People are arrogant. People don’t remember their loved ones’s birthday. People are intolerant. People don’t have goals. People are narrow-minded. People don’t give second chances. People are resentful. People are vulgar. People hurt others – physically or morally. People take everything without giving back at least half as much. People don’t communicate. People are too attached to their phones. People don’t accept constructive criticism. People work too much for money that they enjoy alone. People are vengeful. People don’t apologize for hurting others, but apologize for wanting to be happy. People are thoughtless. People buy presents just for the sake of it. People are trying to impress too much the people who don’t even care about them. People don’t read. People don’t make that extra effort.
Last night, someone dear to me has given me the reality check I needed a long time ago: “Once you accept people are not always nice and that things will go wrong from time to time, you’ll finally grow up and become stronger.” I knew this myself down deep inside, but I grew up refusing to accept these people exist and now it’s quite difficult to brake this perfect little world I’m living in. I needed to put this down to be able to see it more often and finally stop being so naive (yes, people who have always called me that, you were right!)
Having said that, I’ll never stop believing in better. Yes, I need to grow stronger and more realistic, but good, genuine people do exist.
SOME – > People are great. People make surprises. People hug. People are honest. People open doors for others. People are polite. People are grateful. People are kind. People go that extra mile for their loved ones. People are playful. People are not ashamed to show their feelings. People enjoy more time with their loved ones, than watching tv and playing on their Iphones. People make others laugh. People care. People are compassionate. People stop thinking about themselves for a sec, in order to help others. People enjoy nature. People would rather collect experiences than material things. People keep in touch with their dear ones. People don’t mind making a full of themselves as long as they don’t hurt anyone. People are understanding. People remember their roots. People go for walks rather than listening to dramas on tv. People help older ones in difficulty cross the street. People buy an extra sandwich or a coffee to give to a homeless person. People leave their past behind, but learn from it. People have fun playing cards and board games too and not only getting stupid drunk. People are humble. People who are strong help grow the weak ones. People accept their faults and work to improve. People don’t complain about their situation, but look to find a solution straight away. People cook for each other (or at least try to). People open their minds to new ideas, new experiences, new places. People are brave. People are not scared to ask for help when in need. People have goals and work towards them. People have integrity. People are funny. Some people hold hands until the end. People have common sense. People don’t put others down when they’re already sad and miserable. People are confident, but not cocky. People are generous. People help others without waiting for something in return. People are self-aware. People buy their loved ones chocolate to make them smile 😀 People go on adventures. People are spontaneous. People embrace change. People are determined. People are forgiving. People are reliable. People are grateful for what they have instead of moaning all the time that they don’t have enough. People dare to dream. People keep learning new things. People dare to avoid pessimists. People like making others feel special. People genuinely love people. People are happy.
Ever since we moved in together in September, Larisa and I are trying our best to organize our finances well, splitting the money between rent, bills, girls stuff and FOOD (going out money and new clothes being a luxury). We’re not doing bad at all with the rent and bills part, however when it comes to food, we’re entering a tricky zone. We’re both gourmands and even though it’s not noticeable (muahahahahah) we eat quite a lot. People might say we’re well lucky. Our wallet doesn’t really think the same. We’re not healthy food freaks, but we do try to cook very often and avoid the instant noodles and the ready meals. Sometimes we fail miserably and end up getting the usual curry takeaway or Dominos (Yum), but this year we’ve decided to improve our lifestyle and eating better on a tight budget is one of the main things we’ll focus on. We’re Romanian village girls, for god’s sake, our grandmothers taught us well!
Having crazy schedules, long shifts and living with another 8 people doesn’t help much with cooking at a reasonable hour so we are planning to cook more food and freeze it in batches for emergencies. That will also help with saving up money as buying in bulk always ends up cheaper. Another issue we’re trying to work on is the fact that Larisa is not a big fan of no-meat meals so this is one of the biggest challenges. As we would like to avoid having only rice, pasta, noodles, pizza and spending money on takeaways and fast-food, inspired by our Romanian lifestyle, my year abroad and our last years in England, I put together a list of food ideas that we cook, but we could never be bothered to do it more often due to time, money or just plain laziness. This is to help everyone who gets stuck with eating pasta every day for a week.
– Home made pizza (make more dough and freeze the rest. when you fancy pizza just defrost it and add your favorite toppings)
– Spaghetti alla carbonara
– Bolognese – make more bolognese sauce and freeze the rest in 2 servings plastic containers
– Cabbage soup with pork – it’s a Romanian dish we always used to have at home
– Chicken fajitas
– Egg fried rice with vegetables and bacon – our number 1 dinner when we’re getting back late from work
– Lasagna – make plenty of it and freeze the rest in servings
– Chicken curry – you can cook the sauce from scratch if you have time or cheat with the ready made sauce in jars
– Fried chicken thighs with mashed potatoes ( add some tomato paste, herbs and some water to the chicken and get a great gravy for the mash)
– Baked beans – make it the Romanian way and serve it with pickles, pickled cabbage/tomatoes/watermelons and you’ve got heaven’s favorite food
– Tagliatelle with spinach and bacon
– Carrot soup + croutons
– French onion soup
– Olivier salad – in Romania, we call it salata de beouf and it’s always made around Christmas and New Year’s time
– Romanian sarmale – a mix of vegetables, rice and minced meat in a wine leaf. Served with sour cream and mamaliga/polenta
– Bacon and vegetables risotto
– Mushroom and chicken risotto
– Home made chips, fried eggs and a whole lot of cheese (preferably feta cheese) + mamaliga (back home, we used to eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s legendary 😀
– Sheppard’s pie/ cottage pie – my favorite English dishes after the full English breakfast
– Roasted chicken/sausages with vegetables
– Vanilla rice pudding – served with jam or not
– Lapte cu faina – some sort of sweet pudding made with milk, flour and sugar that my great-grandmother used to make very often for all the kids (Ce ne mai adunam pe prispa cu totii si mancam lapte cu faina pana ne durea burta. Mamaia batrana ne certa “stati cu curul pe tolic, ca-i rece betonu’ cela si-o sa raciti”)
– Doughnuts – our Romanian doughnuts are nothing like the famous ring doughnut, they start as a circle, but when frying, they end up shapeless and covered in vanilla sugar are the best thing ever.
– Pancakes or crepes – served with everything: jam, sugar, chocolate spread, maple syrup, golden syrup , bacon (freaks) , strawberry, bananas etc.
– Sweet cheese. Whenever I would visit, my other grandmother, Lipica (dad’s mum, I call her by name, everyone does) always made for me this sweet desert. Just add sugar to fresh cow cheese and I could eat half a kilo in one go. In England is quite difficult to find fresh cheese, unless you’re making it yourself at home (another thing I’d like to try this year coming)
– Potato borsch
– Chiftele (with sauce or without) – mini burgers made of mince meat, egg, onion, garlic, carrot and herbs, fried in a lot of oil or grilled.
– Spanish tortilla
– Garlic soup – pretty amazing in the winter or when you have a cold.
– Aletria – Portuguese pudding made from thin pasta, eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
– Biscuit salami – probably the easiest and tastiest desert when on budget and pressured by time
– Aubergine salad
– Romanian meatball soup/ ciorba de perisoare
– Stuffed peppers – using the same stuffing from sarmale
– Chicken schnitzel with roasted potatoes (+ dill = love)
I will probably be adding many more ideas in time, but that’s pretty much all the meals I can think of at the moment that are easy to make, don’t cost a fortune and are DE-LI-CIOUS and healthy-ish too. I would love to learn to make a lot of Romanian pies (apple/ cheese/ pumpkin/ apple + wallnut/ sweet cabbage), tripe soup, cozonac and many more cakes, but I’m taking it easy, step by step.
I would like to thank Larisa, Chef Dino, Jacek, Arek, Karolina and the master chefs – Mum, both grandmothers, Mamaia and Alina for teaching me to cook all these.
What are your ideas of an easy, cheap and tasty meal?
You know how everyone says it’s a really bad idea to talk to your exes? They’re right. DON’T DO IT! However once in a lifetime, this can make you realize how much you’ve changed and how happy you are with the choices you’ve made over the years. And you end up listening to songs that remind you of all the amazing times you had with every one of those who said good-bye at a certain point in your life. And you are grateful you had the chance to live that and you smile, wishing they’d feel the same and that one day you’ll meet them again and you’ll remember together all the drama, the dances in the middle of the night, the Port wine and the tuberculosis, the stolen garlic bread and the walks around an old town holding hands, the tripping, the embarrassing farts, the photo albums, the laughs, the bad jokes, the happy times.
I’ve realized tonight I’m a fucking lucky girl though I have no idea where I’m heading with my life. I’m finishing university in a couple of months and for some unknown reason I’m not scared of what’s next. I’ve stopped searching for perfection and I couldn’t be happier. I have no work experience in my area, though my last jobs and my past experiences have turned my world around. I’ve been cleaning people’s houses, babysitting, ironing and for the past 2 years, I’ve been working in an outdoor shop. Have I enjoyed them all? I’ve met the most amazing people through these jobs, I got to look after the brothers and sisters I never had (and be annoyed by them at the same time), I learned that ruining someone else’s shirt is not the end of the world (though I’m sure that’s the reason they never asked me to iron their clothes again) and I get to listen to people’s traveling plans when coming to the shop to buy shoes. Do I want a good job related to my degree? Of course I do. Will I be depressed and go all crazy if I won’t get one? Hell no! There’s always coffee to make and houses to clean.
I managed to stop criticizing my every wrong move and accept the fact that I’ll make mistakes and the others around me will do the same. I stopped apologizing for my big dreams, my silly drama-queen moments, my lame posts on a blog, my wish to be happy. And I finally found a survival plan when the zombie apocalypse happens. I think I’m pretty sorted.
Cheesy, lame, pathetic, naive. I’ve been called this and many more when talking about romance/love/etc. Truth is I probably am all this. Do I have any regrets? Not even one. I love being in-love. I love romantic scenes, holding hands and just spending a quiet night in, watching a good film with the person that makes me smile without even doing anything special. True love or not, every story has its own magic and you keep all the good memories from the first look to the first kiss, from the first ‘I love you!’ to ‘Take care, M!’
And there are many who think showing people what you feel, love, affection, true friendship, compassion are all silly things and are not worth the hassle as sooner or later you get disappointed. You might do, but boy, does it feel amazing when you feel you’re loved!