I saw this picture today over at Short Story Slam and my mind was immediately taken back to the time my friend Rosey met up with Sue and me in our local Italian restaurant. It was just before Christmas and she was wearing a stunning bright red dress very much like the one in the painting.
The first thing I remember of that evening was Rosey trying to attract the attention of a waiter. “Scusi calamari” she called. I pointed out to her that she’d just tried to catch the eye of a squid. Anyway, the waiter looked in our direction and I seized the chance to use the only bit of Italian I've ever mastered. "Scusi cameriere" I said “Una birra per favour” Like most seasoned travellers, I know how to request a beer in every country I’ve ever visited. So, he came across to our table to deliver some menus, take our drinks order and introduced himself as Adriano.
I’m told by those who know that particular trattoria, that he’s not really Italian at all. Apparently he’s Adrian from Aldershot, but he does pull the deception off pretty well. He took one look at us and starting singing the Italian national anthem. Seeing our bemused looks, he pointed out that Rosey was in 'rosso', Sue was wearing 'bianco' and I had on my rather fetching (though I say it myself) bright 'verde' pullover. ”Bandiera d’Italia” he chuckled as he pointed at us. We still looked a little confused. "Red white 'n green" he chuckled "You lot look like the flag of I’aly ”, his new accent confirming our suspicions as to his real nationality.
Sue and I ordered a couple of those wonderful Peronni beers and Rosey requested a Lemoncelo. “Would you like ice Signora?” he asked returning to his faux Italian accent. “Yes please” said Rosey “but good ice, none of that frozen rubbish” We all laughed at Rosey’s joke and Adriano gave us a dismissive look as if to say “I maka d’ joka round 'ere”.
It has to be said that Rosey looked stunning in her red dress. All she needed was a white beard and she would have been a really popular Santa Claus with the local dads. She told us that she was wearing it the other day when she went shopping. It clearly had quite an effect on one particular shop manager who gave her more than her usual share of attention. It seems they got chatting, and as it was close to his morning break he invited her to partake of a cappuccino with him. She told us that his name was Brian Bull . Sue suggested that it was a red rag to a bull situation . I asked if he worked in a china shop and when we stopped laughing at our own jokes she said that yes he did. What’s more, when he first noticed her he bumped into a shelf displaying teetering towers of teacups and they took on something of a worrying wobble. As you know dear reader, if there’s ever a chance for Rosey to cause mayhem, she usually obliges. However, this time the tremor subsided and there were no nasty aftershocks. She hasn’t seen him since. She made corny quips like not wanting to be Bull-dozed into anything and that she had ‘bitten the Bull-et’. We weren’t sure what she meant by the last one and didn’t bother to enquire.
And so, we had our meal . Rosey had a pizza with extra buffalo mozzarella, and we settled for good old ‘spag bol’. To follow, we all had some luscious desserts. Sue said that when she was a child, she thought tiramisu was named after her. It was years before she discovered that it was an actual Italian dish and not something her mother had made especially for her. Adriano looked after us very well feeding us not just food but the occasional witty gem like “What’s an innuendo? An Italian suppository!” and “How do you stop an Italian talking? Tie his hands behind his back” As we left he once again burst into song ; Lady in Red.