THERE are many people we briefly meet in life and never have reason to think of again.
The guy who once washed your windows before his round was taken over by someone else; the girl who used to serve your coffee in Starbucks but then no longer seemed to work there; a taxi driver you exchanged views with on the pros and cons of speed bumps. People flit in and out of our existence without leaving an imprint on our minds, though if you were asked directly a vague memory could perhaps be dredged from the brain littered with our lives’ ephemera.
Then there are those who, for whatever reason and however briefly you met, seem to stick. Perhaps it’s what they say in the short space of time when you interact, perhaps it’s just one of those indefinable “feelings”, but they make an impact.
That’s what it was like meeting Theresa Riggi and her three children. It was the briefest of encounters, taking place on New Year’s Eve 2009, but we spoke about them for weeks afterwards – long before the tragic events of August 2010 unfolded when we spoke about them in a very different way.
We met in the mock Italian-American surroundings of Frankie & Benny’s in South Queensferry. As a family we were in the chaotic midst of a third baby, maternity leave meant money was tight, and yet it was Hogmanay: we wanted to do something.
It was the opposite of glamorous, and we knew a venture out would be fraught with flying pureed food and the wearing of clothes still stained with irremovable milk sick. Despite it all, we went forth for dinner. Two kids were pinioned into the seating booth by myself and my husband – when they weren’t attempting to crawl under the table and swap places – our third and newest harnessed into a high chair at the end of the table from where he promptly threw every toy, spoon, piece of food, to the floor.
It was this which attracted the attention of Cecilia Riggi, who we soon learned was five. Dressed almost like a Victorian doll in an ankle-length lace dress, her hair perfectly curled, she would constantly pick up our son’s toys and hand them back to him. He thought it a great game.
The Riggis – mum and three kids – were seated in the booth opposite us. Theresa couldn’t have looked more together, more polished, more coiffed, more . . . out of place there. I felt a pang of envy as she smiled across at us, she was elegant, glamorous, her two boys Austin and Luke were also perfectly dressed in matching shirts and ties, not a hair out of place.
We knew from their accents they were American and speculated that they were staying at the nearby Dakota hotel. The children were very polite, mannerly, friendly, introducing themselves to us, attracted to our table by the antics of our baby son. Theresa herself didn’t give her name, but when we asked if they were “here on holiday”, agreed. They were, she said, heading on to a Hogmanay party. She obviously doted on them.
And that was it. Perhaps in all, as they finished their meal and we began ours we had spent 15 minutes talking to each other. But they stuck. It was their perfectness that set them apart. Jehovah’s Witnesses we wondered? Certainly the boys looked like they could deliver Watchtower magazine when they were older. There was definitely a bit of the Osmonds about them.
There was nothing untoward, yet when I heard the news in August 2010 of an explosion at Slateford Road and the discovery of three children who had been stabbed, the American mother attempting to blow the place up to kill herself, it was Theresa Riggi who flew into my mind. Who knows why? Maybe we did sense something off-kilter, that’s why they had intrigued us so much. But never would we have considered the terrible tragedy that unfolded.
Now she is dead. She is at peace. Her former husband Pasquale will still be tormented by the loss of his children at the hands of his wife, her family left to grieve for a woman whose mental state was obviously at total odds with her physical appearance.
The pen’s not mighthier than planners
WOW. Has there ever been a more esteemed list of literary and artistic names attached to one letter complaining about a new development in Edinburgh?
Alexander McCall Smith, AL Kennedy, John Byrne and Irvine Welsh, all want the Caltongate development to be scrapped declaring it, quite rightly, to be a “massive stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete”. Quite why they’re making their beautifully crafted objections so late in the day when the Old Town campaigners could have used their support a long time ago, I’ve no idea.
Sadly I’m sure their views will have as much traction as those held by people without a million book sales to their name, and their pleas will be completely ignored.
BEAMER ME UP . .
So it takes one BMW driver to park badly to halt the tram. Let’s be thankful it wasn’t a blue Beamer, as studies suggest drivers of those are the most aggressive on the road. This guy was apparently more “sheepish”.