The man who knows no foreign language, knows nothing of his mother.


Today was a big day. I finally met the family of my girlfriend Concetta and it was a disaster.

They came from a small town in South Italy.

Before they arrived Concetta was very agitated...

“Now remember, John, they come from a little town in the south of Italy and they have a different mentality to the people here in Milan.”

"How?" I asked.

“Well, they have old ideas, especially my grandmother. Don’t be surprised if she asks you a lot of... questions.”
I put on my best shirt and was determined to make a good impression. Concetta was very important to me.

At the table I was agitated but confident.

The first to speak to me was ‘zia Grazia.’ She said: “So how is the Queen? Is she well?”

“I have no idea” I answered honestly.

“I like her son, what’s his name?”

“Carlo?” I answered... remembering that ‘Carlo’ was how Prince Charles was known in Italy.

“No, no, not the one with the big ears; the other one, the beautiful one.” “Andrea?”

“Exactly;” then she looked at the others and said: “See? It may be the English royal family but they all have Italian names!”

I didn’t comment.

You can say what you want about the southern Italians, but they cook very well.

The grandmother ‘nonna Pia’ arrived with a big herring on a plate. I was happy about this because I love fish, but the sauce interested me more, because it was blue.

“What’s this?” I asked... and immediately zia Grazia said “It’s a fish! Don’t you have them in England?”

After some very animated eating, talking and shouting, zia Grazia decided to victimise me again.

“I like the English!” She smiled. Well, this was positive. “And do you know who my favourite Englishman is?”

“I don’t know,” I said “Hugh Grant? David Beckham? Mr Bean?” “No... Sean Connery”

I don’t know how but I stayed calm.

“Zia Grazia... Sean Connery isn’t English, he’s Scottish!”

“Oh it’s the same thing” she said.

I exploded “No! IT’s NOT THE SAME THING! He is from Scotland in the north!, I am from England in the south... he is not English, he’s Scottish! You know, big hairy men in mini-skirts... SCOTLAND!”

There was a terrible silence. Everybody was looking at me, thinking I was crazy.

“Well, I like Sean Connery anyway” said zia Grazia, defensively. After a little wine the grappa arrived. After the grappa nonna Pia started to talk a lot about old traditions of South Italy and how a woman should be with her man.

“So when are you going to marry? she asked us.

“It’s a little early nonna” said Concetta, her face red.

“Well, don’t forget...” said nonna Pia “you be a good wife Concetta... when your man returns from work you must have his dinner ready on the table...”

I couldn’t believe this!

This evening I decided that nonna Pia was right. I am the man and I should be a man, a ‘south Italy style’ man, so when I returned home I said to Concetta “I want to eat now, woman!”

I’m now writing this from a place called ‘Pronto Soccorso.’ The doctor says that my nose is broken in two places and I was fortunate that I still had all my own teeth.


Where does Conci’s family come from?

Have people from the south of Italy got the same mentality as in Milan?

Which one of the Queen’s sons does zia Grazia like?

Do the southern Italians cook well?

What’s the grandmother’s name?

What colour is the sauce?

Is Sean Connery English?

What does everybody drink after the wine?

For nonna Pia, what is ready on the table every day for the man?

What happened to John’s nose?

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