Finally a picture of Pecora Nera ☺

Mrs Sensible and I are a little shy, we haven’t posted any pictures of ourselves, well apart from that nude selfie that caused a little bit of a stir a year or two ago. The link can be found here for those perverts that missed it. It has taken over a year for Mrs Sensible to forgive me for posting our nude selfie.

On Tuesday afternoons, I visit a local primary school and spend a couple of hours with some fabulous chilblains children, helping them with their English. My motivation for helping at the school is completely selfish, I go because I get paid in smiles, little letters and drawings.

So for you entertainment here are a couple of pictures drawn by the children.

Aren't I a handsome fellow

Aren’t I a handsome fellow

As you can see there is not an inch of fat on my muscular body, the artist even managed to capture my designed stubble.

Black and white

Black and white

This artist is trying to minimalist the drawing to capture my radiant smile.

Slim

His name is Pecora Nera, he has got short brown hair and maybe he over did it with the diet.

As you can see, I smile a lot. I am also tall, slim and incredibly handsome. That diet paid off

This girl is very clever

This little girl was given A+++ for her accurate description.

What more can I add? I am tall, thin and very very beautiful.

Here is the teacher

Here is Anna the teacher

Here is a picture of Anna who is their teacher, this picture was obviously drawn at 9.00 am on a Monday morning, just look how calm and in control she is.

Anna On Friday

Anna On Friday

This picture was drawn at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon, can you see the way the artist has captured her slightly manic grin. If you look closely, you can see under the grin the artist had drawn a un-smiley face and then thought it was safer to give Anna a smiley face.

No children were hurt in the making of this post.

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The penalties of not learning the language

I am always trying to improve my Italian language skills, every day week year I manage to add a couple of new words to my vocabulary. This summer we are going to spend a couple of months in Sicily with “The Family” this is the highlight of my year. Glorious sun, sea and two months of living in a house where the language effortlessly swaps between Italian and Sicilian dialect.

I can normally manage to impress my in-laws with my grasp of the Italian language by smiling at the correct moment and tutting when everybody else tuts. I have also found, that a lot of questions can be answered by shrugging my shoulders and saying cosi cosi (so so).

Because my language skills are so bad, I can empathise with anybody who is trying to learn or use a foreign language. So please excuse me for posting the following picture that I spotted in the local shop. The young woman was looking for work and tried to add a bit of English to her advert.

Baby Sister

Young woman with references searches for work as Help in the house, Looking after old people or as a baby sister

I suggested to Mrs Sensible that we should help this young women as I really could do with a young and beautiful niece  baby sister. The look I got told me that Mrs S didn’t think her references were good enough.

How authentic an Italian are you?

How authentic an Italian are you?

I asked Mrs Sensible if I could pass for an Italian, not a chance she said, you don’t dress like an Italian, you don’t think like an Italian and even the Italian words you know, sound funny when you use them. To prove her wrong I have put together the following test.

Driving

I know I could pass for an Italian when it comes to driving and parking. Driving on the wrong side of the road comes completely natural to me. In fact I have even managed to drive around the roundabout the wrong way; I would have got away with the mistake had Mrs S not been in the car at the time and decided to have a screaming fit. She made me do a three-point turn on the roundabout and go the correct way. The roundabout mistake has faded from my memory, Mrs S on the other hand still has the occasional nightmare.

I can also abandon  park a car just as competently as any Italian, I no longer feel any guilt if I park a car on a zebra crossing, pavement or block some poor souls exit.

Pecora’s rating 10

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly. As you can see I was parked on the other side of the pedestrian crossing, and you can see in my mirror a car park that is half empty

Fashion

Only an Italian can turn up to a business meeting wearing, a pair of jeans, sunglasses, and a jacket with a scarf wrapped around his neck and of course a man bag slung across his shoulder. The Germans and the English will wear business suits; however the Italian will always look smarter. I asked Mrs S how the Italians manage to look so smart in jeans. She said “the jeans they are wearing probably cost more than your suit, shirt, tie and shoes put together.” Boh!

I love my flip-flops, from April till October I keep a spare pair in the car, so that I can put them on after Mrs Sensible has checked that I am leaving the house suitable dressed, so I score very badly.

Pecora’s rating -5

This is not me on holiday  Credit: Baroquesicily.com

It’s a man bag so he must be Italian NB: This is not me on holiday Credit: Baroquesicily.com

Helping in the  home

I would like to get a -10 rating for helping in the home, unfortunately Mrs S is very English in this respect and I am expected to help out in the house. Italians however, are trained from an early age that mamma will fetch, clean and carry for them. When I pick up Mrs S from her school, I am always amazed to watch children run down the street while their mamma or nonna struggle behind, carrying heavy school bags and possibly even the bicycle they brought with them in case young Mario wanted to cycle home.

To put this in perspective, on a visit to Sicily I went into the kitchen to help Mrs S wash the dishes. All of a sudden a huge argument erupted in the lounge, I asked Mrs Sensible what all the fuss was about, with a smile on her face she said “I will tell you later, just keep drying the plates” I later found out that my brother in-laws were getting shouted at by their respective Sicilian wives, because they don’t do anything in their houses. Much to the delight of Mrs S

Wiki help file on how to get your husband to help around the house LINK

Pecora’s rating a dismal minus 10

Man-in-marigolds-with-mop

Cards

I have “grande culo*” when it comes to playing scopa, scopone  or even briscola*. I win, not because I am skilful but because I am lucky. Mrs Sensible is good at playing scopa, but to make sure we stay married and that I am allowed to sleep in the bed and not on the sofa, we rarely play against each other.

Marco, who is a cousin and a great scopone player, was having a game with friends.  When Mrs S and I arrived, he asked me if I wanted a game and if I knew how to play. I replied that I knew the rules but he might have to help me. Ok, I will partner with the Englishman and give him some help, he told his friends.

We wiped the floor with them, is was so funny. What Marco’s friends didn’t know was I had been taught by Sicilian experts and had played countless games with Marco.

* Grande culo literally translates to big arse, but it is used to describe somebody who is very lucky.

* If you go over to http://www.siciliangodmother.com you can buy a brilliant book all about Sicilian games of cards Link

Pecora’s rating 10+

scopa

Communicating

Ok, I am ashamed to say I rate poorly here, I have mastered the waving of the hands, I know enough Italian to buy wine and other alcoholic drinks and that is about it. I do know quite a few Italian swear words for when I am driving. Honestly it is not because I am pigro*, it is because the gene that controls language development was never turned on.

* pigro. Italian for lazy, I know this word because I have heard Mrs S use it.

Pecora’s rating -10

The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

I communicate with mime The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

Drinking

I thought I would score high here, but Italians don’t really drink much. They like their wine and a cool beer but in moderation* I on the other hand, love grappa, white wine, red wine, beer, limoncello, masala. In fact I like any drink that contains alcoholic, although I do draw the line at methylated spirits and rubbing alcohol . I also score low because I will drink a cappuccino after midday, which is a complete no no in Italy

* moderation. I had to google this word.

Pecora’s rating 6

schermata-10-2456940-alle-01.33.43

Grappa from pralapa.com

Queuing

Just before the winter, Mrs Sensible and I were stuck in a queue at the local supermarket. There were about eight shoppers in front of us. Fortunately I spotted a shop assistant getting ready to open the till next to ours, so I grabbed Mrs Sensible by the arm and dragged her over to the now open till. This is normal practice in Italy, you need to be fast on your feet and be able to make strategic use of your shopping trolley to inhibit other shoppers. There is none of this, excuse me I think they are opening a new till and you are before me…. oh no, we just run.

As we reached the till, I heard in perfect English “darling, they were behind us and now they are in front of us!!!” I was amazed, an English couple in our village during the winter!!! and just when I decide to behave like an Italian!! Mrs S was not impressed with me. I spent the next 10 minutes apologising to the English shoppers who were obviously lost and to Mrs S for my behaviour.

Pecora’s rating a cool 10+ (minus 8 for getting caught)

Italian shopping trolley

Italian shopping trolley

I hope this guide to living as a true Italian has been helpful to you, and I hope you score higher than I did.

 

* The brilliant photo of the hunk in the pink budgie smugglers and orange man bag was taken by Jann Huizenga from www.baroquesicily.com please visit the site for some excellent photos of Sicily

 

Thanks to the COSI group for suggesting the post title and if you go to the COSI page you can catch up on their posts or follow the links

So here are the rest of the posts from the alliance of expat in Italy bloggers:

    1. from our fabulous COSÌ group:

      from our new friends at Italy Blogger Roundtable:

A Catastrophic Error

Mrs Sensible has a Shakespearean dilemma – ‘To spit or not to spit?’

image

The nice lady at Secret Sicily invited me to write a guest post for her blog. If you want to read about when Mrs Sensible was a Miss and made a Catastrophic error please go to Secret Sicily

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

Your dream has finally come true. After many years of dreaming and persuading your partner that moving to Italy is a good idea you finally arrive. With satisfaction you remember handing in your notice to your old boss and laughing when he said “you’ll be back”. Finally you are here, in Belle Italia. Hopefully the Italian subsidiary of your freight company has only misplaced your furniture and hopefully it will turn up in a couple of weeks.

Do you remember your last visit to Italy, the time you were walking around the house that you and your partner decided to rent / buy? Can you remember how the sun shone in through the kitchen window and made the shiny taps and stainless steel sink sparkle? I bet it was a shock when you finally entered the house and realised that not only had they removed all the door handles and light switches but the beautiful kitchen cupboards and sink are also missing. If only they had left a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom you could wipe the tear from your eye.

They even took the kitchen sink

They even took the kitchen sink (Rustyduck.net)

I really am not exaggerating, Italians view their kitchen cupboards and sink the same way they view their leather sofa or their bed. When they move house, they will take it all with them. What you are buying / renting is a house, this means something that has four walls, a roof, windows and a door. But don’t worry they will leave you the bidet although the chances are you will use it for washing your feet and not your bum.

Last week I was talking with Georgette from Girl in Florence and we decided to write about our experiences of renting houses in Italy so please go and read her post, it is full of sensible advice.

Mrs Sensible and I have lived in Italy for seven years and in that time we have moved house three times, we have viewed quite a few houses in our search, so here are a few of our experiences.

House no 1 Rent 220.00 euros a month

A nice little house but

A nice little house but it had a funky smelling bathroom. You can see the entrance and the bedroom at the rear.

Mrs Sensible chose to rent this furnished house, she took this decision without my input, because she was tired of living in a nunnery with a collection of nuns, whilst I enjoyed eating bacon sandwiches and drinking pints of beer in the UK. Honest, the nuns rented her a cell room for 2 months while I was still in the UK

This first house had one bedroom, a kitchen sink and a little problem with rising damp. The bathroom had been built over the septic tank, which meant the bathroom always had a funky smell to it, regardless of the number of times we scrubbed it with bleach. We loved the little house, for Mrs Sensible is was a short walk to her school and I didn’t have far to walk to the bar. There were two reasons why we moved house, the first was the funky smelling bathroom and the second reason, was the embarrassment of asking friends who had flown over from the UK if they minding sleeping in the lounge on a blow-up bed next to the table..

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

One afternoon when we were driving in the countryside I suddenly stopped the car and pointed to a house that had the sign AFFITTO nailed to the wall. I demanded that Mrs S phone the woman and ask her for some information.

Mrs S: Hello, we have just seen your house with the for rent sign, can you tell me a little about it.

Crazy Women: It has a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and a bedroom.

Mrs S: So it doesn’t have a second bedroom?

Crazy Woman: How many will be living in my house?

Mrs S: Just me and my Husband

Crazy Woman: So why do you need a guest room?

Mrs S: In case my parents want to visit or if we have friends from the UK to visit.

Crazy Woman: Oh I don’t think I am happy about guests staying.

CLICK

I dragged Mrs Sensible to look at a beautiful villa in Conzano overlooking the valley, the rent was 550.00 a month which was over the budget we had set ourselves. It was furnished with Sicilian antiques; there were 4 bedrooms, a study, lots of balconies, a large private garden; I was in love. We both walked around the house and discussed if the rent was affordable, I was like a child in a sweet shop, almost skipping with joy. Every time I passed Mrs S I whispered into her ear just tell them yes.

Mrs S started to discuss something with the owners, I knew there was bad news coming, I just felt the atmosphere change.

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler is fired with gasolio.

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler heats air and then blows it around the house through those air ducts.

Me: OK, say yes.

Mrs S: It will cost a fortune to heat this house; this is really a house only to be used as a summer house.

Me: But it is fab, please say yes.

Mrs S: No

Me: Pleeeeaaaasssse.

The boiler was a littlw out of date

The central heating boiler was a little out of date

One afternoon Mrs S took me to look at a house that she had found in Terruggia. Terrugia is a rather nice village and the rent for the house was €500.00 euros a month. The house had been split up into 2 apartments, one on each floor and the owner kept a private studio on the top floor. The apartment we looked at was on the second floor. As we climbed the communal staircase (I was still thinking about the dream villa) we were shown into the apartment. It was spectacular, the dinning-room and lounge were open plan and furnished with leather sofas, there was a nice kitchen and a small but adequate bathroom. While Mrs S wandered around the kitchen I suddenly realised the absence of anything that looked like a bedroom.

There was a very impressive wooden wardrobe in the lounge and I opened the door to see if the bedroom door had been cleverly disguised. Nothing, it was just an empty wardrobe. I walked over to Mrs S and said “I don’t want to appear stupid, but where will we sleep, I can’t find any bedrooms.

I wasn't sure what I would find when I opened the wardrobe, maybe a bedroom or maybe a lion and a witch

I wasn’t sure what I would find when I opened the wardrobe, maybe a bedroom or maybe a lion and a witch

Mrs Sensible: My husband has just asked were the bedrooms are.

Owner: Ahh! You are in the day side of the house; let me show you the night side of the house.

Me: What did he say?

Mrs S: Wait!

The owner walked to the front door and opened it; he walked across the communal staircase and unlocked another door.

Owner: The night side of the house is through here, look there are 2 bedrooms and a shower room.

Me: You are kidding me! So when I want a glass of water in the middle of the night, I have to go in search of the keys to open 2 doors and walk naked across a communal staircase to get to the kitchen!!!

Mrs S: You will have to wear pyjamas.

Me: I don’t wear pyjamas.

Mrs S: You will have to put on your dressing gown.

Me: And if I forget and the neighbour sees me streaking across the staircase?

Mrs S: PN!!!

I think part of my dislike for the house (a really small part) was because I wanted the magnificent villa with the Sicilian furniture and diesel fired central heating.

The third house we looked at was frankly just amazing. We were made to stand outside in the rain while the owner showed some other viewers his house. While the rain ran down my neck I asked Mrs S how much the rent on the house was. €600 a month she told me. Wow it must be fantastic.

How to expand your house the italian way

How to expand your house the italian way

We entered the house and walked down a hallway, there was a sofa in the hallway that we had to navigate around. The hallway opened into a good sized dining room complete with a very large table. There was a very, very small kitchen through a door. As we stood in the kitchen I showed Mrs Sensible how I could touch all four walls without moving my feet.  Stop it she told me, there will be another kitchen elsewhere maybe upstairs.

I walked back to the hallway and sat on the sofa.

Owner: (in Italian) Ah you have found the lounge.

Me: Sorry I don’t understand, I am English.

Mrs Sensible: She said you are sitting in the lounge.

Me: (hysterically) ask her where the kitchen is.

Mrs S: Can you please tell me where the kitchen is.

Owner: It is small but it is through that door….

Me: Let’s go home.

We went upstairs and viewed a large bathroom, down a corridor there was a door that led to bedroom number 1, on the other side of the bedroom was another door that led into bedroom number 2, and if you walked through that room there was yet another door leading to bedroom number 3.

Me: This is bizarre, if we have guests in bedroom number 3, they will have to walk through two bedrooms if they need to visit the bathroom. This house is just a mass of corridors with no proper rooms.

Owner: What did your husband say?

Mrs S: He said you have a very nice house.

To this day I am not sure how they fitted three large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and only a corridor and a dining-room downstairs.

To end this post I want to direct you to one of my earlier posts on the hazards of owning a summer house in Italy.

Link A little Summer House

Our house

Our house

DSC04251

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Last week Mrs Sensible and I were doing the weekly shop. We are very organised when it comes to shopping, I add all the necessary groceries for our well being, for example biscuits, chocolates and beer and Mrs Sensible adds mundane things like toilet rolls, food and at the same time removes some of the items I have added.

As we walked down the aisle (I tried to hide some biscuits under the toilet rolls) Mrs S asked me if I preferred meat or fish for dinner. Obviously I suggested meat, fish never seems appealing to me as they lay on the counter staring at me with glassy eyes. We bought some meat to keep me happy and then we headed to the dreaded fish counter.

Mrs Sensible spotted some fish on special offer it was priced at 66 cents a kilo or in real money £0.48 a kilo !!!!!!  To me it looked like a fish head and some scraps, Mrs S said it will be perfect for our manky cats. I relaxed a little and went back in search of more useful things like wine.

For the cats

For the cats

On Fridays Mrs Sensible and I both finish work at midday, I phoned Mrs S and asked her if I could prepare a quick lunch for us…..

Mrs S: Sure make a quick sauce and use the fish that is in the fridge, make it the way you make a tuna pasta but use the fish.

Me: Fish? Which Fish?

Mrs S: We bought it yesterday.

Me: The fish we bought for the manky cats?

Mrs S: See how much fish is on the bone, there will be enough for a pasta dish.

Me: (less than enthusiastically) uhhuh

Me: Do I take it off the bone before it goes in the sauce?

Mrs S Pecora! you need to steam the fish and then take it off the bone, look I am on the way home just chop some onions.

Me: Ok, chop onions, I can do that 🙂

I can chop onions

I can chop onions

So I chopped the onions and put the fish in the steamer. There is a knack to frying onions, the heat has to be just right or the onions go crispy and burn. If you check the photo you can see there are only a few black and crispy onions.

Only a few crispy ones 10%

Only a few crispy ones

Having managed 2 tasks I decided it was time to phone Mrs S and ask for further instructions.

Me: Hi honey, the garlic and onions are done the fish looks a nice white colour so I think it is ready, what next?

Hurburt the fish in the steamer

Huburt the fish in the steamer

Mrs S Fetch the radicchio from the fridge and chop it into little pieces, then quickly fry it with the onions.

Me: Radicchio?

Mrs S: (with only a noticeable sigh) it looks like red cabbage. Use a large one because I have invited Paula to lunch.

Me: You have invited Paula!!! I am cooking Fish Head Pasta and you invite friends!!!!

Mrs S: (slightly more noticeable sigh) PN I will be home soon….

It was at this point that I decided that Fish Head Pasta needed an additional ingredient. So I went off in search of a cork screw and a bottle of wine.

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

The wine relaxed me a little and I proceeded to chop the red cabbage radicchio and throw it in the pan. Just as I opened the lid of the steamer to check on Hubert the fish, Mrs S arrived and I was suddenly reduced from the rank of Head Chef all the way down to Minion.

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

Mrs S (all at the same time) de-boned the fish, boiled some pasta, added the fish to the onions (that I had cooked) and  found some plates to serve the meal on. meanwhile I set the table and drank another glass of wine.

capers

capers

Fish Head Pasta on a plate, what does it taste like? Delicious. We produced 3 meals for less than €2.50 The wine that I was slowly quaffing cost me €12.50 but it was worth every penny.

Fish Head Pasta

Fish Head Pasta