A few short weeks after moving into our new place, The Italian and I discovered that our apartment complex was riddled with short-stay accommodation (discovered after some snooping on a little-known website for such dwellings). The distinct sound of tired luggage being slowly dragged across pavement became too common not to notice, as well as an increasing number of wanderers asking where ‘Apartment 13’ was. Apparently there were sights to see in the inner-west … we just didn’t known them yet.
Before these happenings, only a week after signing our lease, we were also served with a notice informing us that large-scale reconstruction of the outdoor area would be taking place for several months. We went along to the barbecue held for all of the owners and tenants, The Italian unperturbed and laughing at my hard questioning of the builders about their seemingly optimistic completion date. In spite of my quiet concern, we made the best of our new digs and fell in love with the area. We were also thrilled with the close proximity to the hospital for the eventual arrival of il bambino.
As the months progressed, however, the transients and tradies began to chip away at our firm resolve to be happy in our new abode. Schlepping up five flights of stairs to reach home (‘It will be great exercise!’, we had once said), shivering away on the couch on cold days (because the stupid heater was on the lower level of what led up to a huge cathedral ceiling) and having the searing sun blind us on hot ones, started to feel a tad wrong. And I began to question why in the name of all the prophets I had decided this apartment was a good idea.
The Italian was now engaging in daily fights with the tradies. House parties abounded on weekends. The soggy winter meant the outside area became flooded for weeks at a time (the builders had failed to provide the water drainage and safe access promised to residents at their warm and fuzzy barbecue) and ensured daily fresh mud covered our apartment. In one exchange, a hi vis-vested gentlemen told The Italian that he should buy appropriate footwear to properly navigate the river that led to our building. Unimpressed by this suggestion and dressed in his finest polyester track pants over leopard-print PJ bottoms, and with Dog by his side looking extra scruffy, The Italian told Hi-Vis Man of the ‘lawyer on his payroll who would sue for damages to his Louboutins’, as well as to other shoes he owned.
Such were the encounters reported to me by The Italian, as he ‘worked from home’ and watched keenly through the blinds of the soon-to-be baby room the comings and goings of the tradies. By the summer, two months beyond the supposed finish date, we were done. The Italian declared that we would move as soon as something came up, but before we did, there would be sweet revenge. We would have a party to end all parties.
We sweltered through the summer with our newborn and our buzzer was dismantled after one-too-many transients ringing it at all hours. I fought with the agent about the works, the heat, the giant crane that materialised in front of the door downstairs, blocking access to our apartment. About being told to walk on flower-bed ledges with the baby.
And then, one miraculous day, I received a message from a dear friend with news of an available townhouse 200 metres down the road. Fortunately it became ours. As we hauled our possessions down the stairs and across the street to la nueva casa each day, sometimes with dog and Baby G in tow, we plotted our revenge party. It would take place on Eurovision weekend. We would dress up, eat ‘Euroschnaken’ (European snacks) and terrorise the neighbourhood with the sweet sounds of a post-Eurovision DJ set, brought to our guests by DJ Violenza of Milan. The Italian resurrected this tragic alter ego from the ruins of his adolescence; ‘music’ fashioned in his mother’s apartment with co-creator ‘Dr Lobo’ and recorded so that many years later some poor Australian woman (me) would have the pleasure of listening to it.
Unfortunately, the only thing we achieved with our party was to disturb the neighbours directly underneath – the only people who were decent in that godforsaken building. Having said that, we were quietly proud of ourselves for hosting a party with a baby sleeping in the other room. (Baby G did scream his head off for the first hour after being dressed up in baby Eurotrash and fed his dinner by a man who was once his papa, and now sported a blue wig and metallic blue suit). My only cooking contribution given the near-empty kitchen was the cake I decided to make at the last minute. This Euro kuchen materialised from the sad ingredients I had left. The Marsala is not so Deutsche, given this is typically a German cake … rum can be used instead for a more authentic version. As for Eurovision, it was Slavko who stole my heart!
150 g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Marsala
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line with baking paper, then grease over the top. Beat the butter and sugar until thick and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the almond extract and milk. Add the flour and salt, and mix until ingredients are combined and smooth. Spoon out half of the mixture into a separate bowl and add the cocoa and Marsala to this half. Spoon out blobs of the vanilla batter into the prepared tin in a checker-board style, placing blobs of the chocolate batter in the gaps. Use a skewer or knife to create figure-of-eight swirls in the batter, to achieve a pattern you like. Shake the tin to even out the mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean