The Badante

I am writing this post from the safety of my mother in laws bathroom, the length of this post will be determined by how soon they notice I am missing.

Yup, I am in hiding

First a little background, every year in June I send Mrs Sensible south on Easyjet to her mothers and I drive down during August.

We stay with her mum and dad and use their small bedroom as a basecamp, a place for our bags, laptops and anything we purchase to bring home.

Cheese Wine Olive oil Wine

Mrs Sensible’s mum is not very well, so Mrs S has spent most of the holiday caring for her. Earlier this year the family employed a badante (care giver) to help care for my mother in law and to help clean the house.

Yesterday while we were changing in the little bedroom, Mrs Sensible was huffing and sighing. She told me our little bedroom was untidy and we should straighten it up.

Has your dad complained?

I will tell you later, she whispered to me.

Very quickly I collected up various phone chargers, put my laptop away etc etc and we went down to the village for granita and brioche.

Mmmm chocolate cakes

Mrs Sensible told me the badante had mentioned our little bedroom (base camp) was a little untidy.

I nearly choked on my cappuccino.

What did you say to her?

Nothing.

Hmm! wait till I see her.

I was given strict instructions not to mention anything to her, especially using my wonderful self taught Italian. Actually self taught is not strictly true, the little children I teach in the schools, have been helping me improve my Italian.

As soon as I returned to the house I obviously made sure the little bedroom looked like five children had just finished playing in the room.

I scattered phone chargers and books everywhere

Each morning the badante also moves things around the house, it is really weird.

The tea pot on the dresser is sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right, it is like sharing the house with a poltergeist.

Spooky

For the past 14 years the dining table has only had a simple cloth and maybe a vase on it.

How it should look

Now it looks like chaos.

Chaos

Even a container of pencils have been added to give it a homey touch.

I asked Mrs Sensible why she was keeping quiet about the antics of the badante, after all I am yet to find someone Mrs Sensible is scared of, even if the badante does look like Mrs Trunchbull.

The Badante

I was informed the woman was leaving at the end of the week.

Hopefully the poltergeist will go with her and I won’t have to move a giraffe, tube of pencils and three ornaments every time I want to use the table to play Scopa with my father in law.

Summer Fruit Recipe

If you have recently walked down your garden, you are probably wondering what to do with all the fruit hanging off the trees. If you live in England the problem may be all the fruit the wife keeps buying from ASDA or Tesco.

I phoned Mrs Sensible and she suggested I turn it into jam. Obviously I instantly dismissed her sensible idea and decided to turn it into a Rumtopf, or to be more precise a Grappatopf.

First you either have to pick the fruit from the garden or pinch the stuff the wife has bought.

Only use soft fruit ie strawberries, plums. Apples, pears etc don’t absorb the alcohol very well.

Englishman in Italy

No they are not cherry tomatoes, they are little plums

Wash and cut the fruit into bite size pieces, if they have stones take them out. I left the stones in the little plums, because if I had removed the stones there would be nothing left.

Preserve it in alcohol

Try to make sure the fruit is relatively dry or the water dilutes the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that would we. Add the fruit to your jar.

Englishman in Italy Rumtopf

My little jar

When the fruit is in the jar add sugar. The ratio of fruit to sugar is 1 kilo of fruit and half a kilo of sugar.

Add a suitable spirit to completely cover the fruit and sugar. The Germans use rum, but it makes the mixture a dirty brown colour. I prefer a nice rosy red colour so I use either grappa, gin or bacardi,

12 year old grappa 

Keep layering fruit, sugar and grappa until the jar is full. This can be done over several months, personally I prefer to do it all at once for example when Mrs Sensible is unlikely to catch me or when she is in Sicily.

The fruit, sugar and alcohol create an incredible liqueur and the fruit is wonderful with ice cream or on its own. Each mouthful is an explosion of fruit and alcohol.

It takes about four months before it is ready, I normally check it every couple of weeks, give it a little stir and taste it, adding a bit more grappa if it has evaporated Hic!

VERY IMPORTANT

To avoid any chance of discovery.

1) Thoroughly clean the kitchen.

2) Dispose of the empty spirit bottles.

3) Find a suitable cool dark place to hide the Grappatopf. I chose the cellar because in 13 years I think Mr Sensible has only ventured down there once.

Englishman in italy

Remember to hide it

At the moment I have lots of skinned lemons in the fridge, because I have made some Limoncello and all the lemons are good for is squeezing and adding to gin and tonic.

If you are going to make a gin and tonic, do it right

There is a nice recipe for limocello lollies Here

If you have any other ideas how to use the peaches, plums figs etc please let me know…. as long as it isn’t jam.

Halley’s Comet must be due

Halley’s Comet must be due

If you have been following my little blog of madness, you will know Mrs Sensible rarely makes mistakes, her most notable mistake was marrying me the episode of The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…  To this day Mrs Sensible still claims I added the extra packet of biscuits to the shopping trolley hence causing the following mayhem.

Mrs Sensible is currently on holiday in Sicily so I feel relatively safe recounting her little mistake. I may have to delete this post before she returns and this is on a need to know basis, so please don’t go sharing this on facebook where Mrs Sensible or her friends might see it…..

A couple of weeks ago while Mrs S was cooking up some pasta, I noticed an official yellow piece of paper on the coffee table.

What is this?

It’s a parking ticket.

YOU got a parking ticket, how is that possible?

The policeman was not happy with where I had parked my car.

The tone of Mrs Sensible’s voice hinted that it was probably safer not to continue this line of questioning, so I replaced the piece of paper back on the coffee table.

Interrogation

You tell me about the parking ticket and I will tell you who added the third packet of biscuits

A couple of days went by before Mrs Sensible asked me if I would go online and pay the ticket. Although I was very curious how she managed to get a parking ticket, I really didn’t think it was a good time to enquire what she had done to upset one of our policemen so much they had resorted to issuing a parking ticket.

Car 1

It really is almost impossible to receive a parking ticket in Italy

I quickly read how to pay the fine on-line and using google translate I tried to decipher the Italian on the ticket, to see which nefarious parking offence Mrs Sensible had committed.

Pecora Nera trying to understand Italian

We only have 48 hours to solve this, or we will never know what she did!

Anyway, I paid the fine and forgot all about the incident, until I noticed in our postbox an official looking letter addressed to Mrs Sensible with the stamp of the local police all over it.

Hmm, could it be possible Mrs Sensible went on a crime spree and maybe has yet another parking fine or even a speeding ticket, for sure this was a sure sign Halley’s Comet was due to pass close to the earth.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it depends on how you look at it Mrs Sensible hadn’t committed another crime. It appears I had only paid €18.20 ( a lesser parking offence) and I should have paid €29.40 ( a much more serious parking offence) and the official looking letter was a formal demand for an extra €18.00

Obviously I wont mention the parking offence ever again, because if I do, Mrs Sensible might just find out I paid the wrong amount and cost us an additional €6.80 in additional administration costs.

Bomb the House

Last night I managed three hours sleep and five hours searching the bedroom and the internet trying to find out what was biting my feet and ankles.

Alternatively go bite Pecora Nera

For sure it wasn’t a mosquito, I know what a mosquito bite looks like. I have plenty of them on my arms.

These things were ankle biters.

My google search narrowed it down to black fly, papatacci, or … cat fleas 😱

I used a complete bottle of mosquito repellent on me the bed and the floor and tried to go back to sleep.

It didn’t work

At 4:30 I awoke to another three bites and an interesting article on how to bomb your house to eradicate fleas.

I was hooked, there was also several articles on why you should not bomb your house… but I was in no mood to read them.

4 should do it

This morning at my local shop, using my fabulous Italian I asked for information.

Me: I need bomb house for beasts.

Shop Assistant: Pardon?

Me: Look leg

Shop Assistant: oooohh! How big is your house?

Me: This big, pointing to his warehouse

Shop Assistant: You need 3 bombs

Me: I buy 4

Shop Assistant: Remove all your pets from the house before using the bombs

Me: Really! No possible leaving cats in house, solve 2 problems?

Flea bitten Scabby Cat

I tried to persuade MishMash to enter the house and watch the bombs going off, but she said she would tell Mrs Sensible what I was up to.

Your in trouble when Mrs Sensible returns

Mrs Sensible is currently visiting ‘the family’ in Sicily and MishMash knows she might have some reservations about me bombing the house.

Run Pecora Nera Run!

I detonated the bombs starting at the top of the house and quickly exited through the front door.

Currently I am sat in a bar drinking Gin and Tonic and waiting for the dust to settle.

I only had 1 or 2

Oh! if you want to know the name of the bars where they don’t measure the gin, message me and I will send you a list.

To date I don’t know if the bombing worked, but I do know I have time for another Gin and Tonic

Happy Days

A Mini Adventure

Some friends and I went to watch two local villages play a game of Tamburello.

The rules of the game seem simple enough, when the ball comes towards you, you hit it back as hard as you can using your tambourine.

The main road is transmogrified into a court

Any finesse, such as hitting the ball so your opponents can’t return it, appears to be frowned on.

One of the younger ball boys in action

The scoring is similar to tennis, the main difference is Tamburello ball boys are a little older than their Wimbledon counterparts and the highlight of the game is when the players miss the ball and have a mini hissy fit.

While we watched Grazzano give Montechiato a complete thrashing, I received a message that our local village team was playing a home game, so we rushed to our cars and in all the excitement, I drove my little Mini into a drainage ditch.

I think I might have uttered a naughty word

Unfortunately neither of the right hand wheels were touching the bottom of the drainage ditch.

It became apparent that Mr America, his girlfriend and I were truly stuck. The other half of our little international supporters association, Miss Canadian and Miss Italy/Usa (I’m not sure which part of her is Italian) had already set off in their car while I was driving my car into a ditch.

We phoned them and suggested they return with a long tow rope.

Mr America let go of his girlfriends hand long enough to walk around my Mini and declare it wasn’t going anywhere. We did try to drive the car out, but the wheel just turned in mid air.

I left Mr America and his girlfriend (holding hands) guarding the car, while I went off in search of a tractor.

All I found was a lot of Italians who seemed very interested in how I managed to drive my little Mini into the ditch in the first place.

Miss Italy/Usa and a gaggle of Italians

One even suggested it was because I was used to driving on the wrong side of the road.

Another suggested, five big strong men could lift my little blue Mini out of the ditch and place it on the road.

Upon hearing his suggestion, the Italians lost interest in my predicament and decided it was time for tea and spaghetti.

Right Lads, I think it is dinnertime

Despite Mrs Sensible being on holiday in Sicily, I phoned her and managed to persuade her to relay a message to our local mechanic asking him to come with ropes, wood and anything else that might be of use.

I don’t think she was best pleased.

And then a man with a big land rover appeared with lots of rope, I am not sure who called him, but thank you

Ta daa! A hero in a Land Rover

He tied my Mini to his Land Rover.

A granny knot should do it

And dragged it out of the ditch. I forgot to take some pictures because I was so happy.

All that was left to do in our Mini Adventure was to phone Mrs Sensible and ask her to cancel our local mechanic who was hurrying over the hills of Monferrato in an attempt to rescue us.

Hmm..

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

In the interest of blogging, I decided to book myself in for a little operation. Nothing too drastic but fun enough for my little blog. On hindsight I should have gone river rafting.

IMG_0155

Medico Competente! I wonder where the incompetent doctors are?

The conversation with the consultant went something like this:

I will make an incision from here to here.

I really don’t want to know.

I will then insert this piece of mesh.

Please don’t tell me anymore.

Then I will stitch you here, here and ….

At that point he produced some coloured markers and drew lines and little dots for the stitches on my tummy.

Doctor, you really don’t need to tell me, because I will be asleep through the operation and I don’t do pain or enjoy hearing about the pain you are going to inflict on me.

IMG_9760

This picture was hung in the hospital reception.

The day of the operation arrived quicker than I had hoped, a mere four weeks after the consultant had drawn squiggly lines on my tummy, I found myself  sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with a hospital gown made of tissue paper and not a single nurse who looked like Jennifer Androne from the publicity photo. If I wasn’t so scared I might have complained.

Fourteen years ago in the UK I had an operation on my nose and throat in a vain attempt to stop me snoring (I still snore) In that hospital they knocked me out before I entered the operating theatre, very civilised.  This time they wheeled me into the actual theatre while I was still awake, the anaesthetist started ripping the tissue gown so he could attached wires and tubes to me, my heart rate went up another notch or two. Pretty soon I was nude and all I could do was helplessly watch nurses and orderlies waltz in and out and stare at the naked scared Englishman.

Pecora Nera, your heart rate is a little high. Hmm so would yours be if you were me.

My consultant walked in and asked me to sit on the side of the bed and lower my chin to my chest whilst pretending to hug a woman. I will admit it took me a couple of minutes to translate and understand his bizarre request.

Sorry doctor but why?

Because I need to give you an epidural.

WHAT!!!!

No, I must be asleep.

You can sleep if you wish.

epidural.jpg

As easy as ABC. I love the good advice to relax

Had I not been naked and attached by wires to various machines I would have walked out. Seriously, I did contemplate walking back to the ward. Meanwhile the  heart rate monitor was peaking off the charts.

I actually didn’t feel the epidural, and as I laid down it was really strange, my legs felt really heavy and I couldn’t move my toes.

TMI-1203

I felt like I was on a Texas execution table as they strapped my arms down.

He stuck a pin in my toe, can you feel this?

No

Good. He then pinched my leg. Can you feel this?

No doctor I can’t, but you are not operating on my feet or legs, I pinched my tummy, you are operating here and I sure as hell can feel this.

That was the  last thing I remember, apparently they decided it was far easier to just gas me and get it over with, either that or I fainted.

I came round just as he was knotting the stitches and admiring his work.

Frankenstien

Finally  the Englishman has stopped complaining.

Mrs Sensible was waiting for me on the ward. She helped me pee in a bottle and I decided I had had enough of life and went to sleep.

Later that evening I asked one of the dragons nurses how I was supposed to visit the toilet, (I was attached to a drip which unfortunately didn’t contain grappa)

She said and I quote. “fai pipi nel pappagallo”

Pee in the parrot!!

download

Meet Joey the bedpan

Everyone knows pipi is pee and I know pappagallo is parrot because I teach animal vocabulary in the schools.

I repeated “pipi in pappagallo??

She produced a bed pan, PIPI IN PAPPAGALLO!!

Who knew parrots were also bedpans!

At about two in the morning, I had the urgent desire to pee in a parrot. It took me 10 minutes to pull myself into a sitting position on the side of the bed and another 5 minutes to find and grab the parrot by its neck. Just as I was ready, I watched in horror as my pants slipped down to my ankles and as I tried to save them they slid onto the floor. Well good bye pants….

Laying back down was really hard, whatever I attempted hurt. I did consider just sitting where I was until the nice orderly came on duty. But I was not sure the sight of a naked man perched on the side of the bed, holding a parrot by its neck would impress her.

Why didn’t I ring for the night nurse? I didn’t want to disturb her reading.

Big book of torture

The night nurse’s book.

Italy is renown for its exquisite food, let me tell you, their hospitals are not.

IMG_0186.jpg

Italian hospital food, brodo and mashed potatoes.

Day one they gave me a small bowl of brodo, which is minestrone without any vegetables or bits floating in it.

Day two they produced brodo and a side dish of mashed potatoes.

I understand the reason for this diet, patients are always very keen to go home to a slice of pizza.

So thank you for the E-mail asking what I thought of Italian hospitals. Does anyone have any other bright ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi è l’ultimo? Who is Last?

It seems I may have an unusual lurgy. Certainly the doctor at the hospital was most excited about it and invited a nurse, two other doctors and I swear a patient that had been sitting in the corridor waiting to be examined, to have a look at my leg and foot.

Anyway, I might tell you more about my new illness / disease later, I suppose it will depends on how interesting my lurgy  is. Anyway, the doctor sent me to my local hospital for a series of blood tests. You might well be wondering why I didn’t go to my local hospital first, rather than travel half an hour to another town, hmm I have heard people who enter our local hospital sometimes come out far worse than when they entered. I was taking no chances.

After my blood tests, the hospital handed me an invoice with a long line of €3.50 and €4,30 and a couple of €9.00s I was astounded when I added them all up and they came to an enormous  total of €290.50

I decided to pay immediately before I faint from the shock and have to pay an additional charge for a stretcher and hospital bed. I wandered down to the payment machine and watched how an old dear payed her bill.

Riparate-il-punto-giallo-sono-mesi-che-non-funziona-594a974b642a01

This one is out of service. Not too unusual in Italy

The machine wouldn’t accept the piece of paper I was valiantly trying to stuff into it. After three or four tries I gave up and went in search of help.

The woman behind the counter told me I couldn’t pay the invoice until the 3rd of December, because the hospital might not deem all the blood tests necessary, even if my doctor did.

Yesterday Mrs Sensible called into the hospital to collect the blood test results and pay the bill. The machine was broken.  She phoned me and declared we I would have to pay the bill on line and I would also be able to download the results. To say I was a little sceptical would be a bit of an understatement. Yes I managed to pay on line using my credit card, but I had to go to the hospital to sign up for a special password to download anything!

Which leads me to today. Today I pottered off to the hospital to collect my results with my proof of payment in my hand. I actually only had to pay €130.00 some of the blood tests were obviously not deemed necessary.

The hospital has a fifty space carpark, with three immigrants carrying bags of socks, lighters and tissues and other stuff patrolling it. As soon as they spot an empty space they marshal your car into it and then demand you buy a pair of socks or something from them. I ended up with a pair of grey socks, a pack of tissues, and a cigarette lighter, despite the fact I didn’t need any of them and I don’t smoke.

This is the sight that greeted me when I entered the hospital waiting room.

Italians queuing in a hospital

Who is last? Looks like a typical British betting shop.

Installed in front of them is a machine that dispenses tickets, it is there because Italians don’t know how to queue. Normally when Italians enter a doctors or a hospital they shout Chi è l’ultimo? Who is Last? 

If someone in the line throws a paddy and decides to go home, everyone else is lost in confusion. I have seen a doctors surgery drop into near anarchy as the patients  argue who comes after who.

Hospital Bingo.jpg

This is a photo I took in 2012. It still amazes me

To understand how it works, go and read Hospital Bingo

You want to know why they are all  huddled around the machine? It is on a timer and won’t start printing tickets until 10:30 At the moment they are all playing Chi è il primo? Who is first.

I normally have a huge problem understanding which ticket / button I need to press. This poor guy next to me was Italian and even he decided to take two different tickets.

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Not sure which ticket you need to take? Take two or three and play hospital bingo

When my number comes up on the board,  I want to jump up and shout house, or I have number H014 whilst waving it above my head.

After collecting my results, I used google translate and a couple of medical websites to deciphered my blood test results. I immediately said a prayer and promised to stop eating red meat and drinking alcohol.  Feeling a little worried I dropped into my local doctors to let him have a look. He said they look pretty good for a man of my age. Good God! How old does he think I am??

Tomorrow the specialist at the hospital far far away will have a look at them and will probably send me back to our local hospital for all the tests they decided not to do.

Moral of the story. Google translate and medical websites are bad for your health, I suggest you relax with a glass of wine.