Major Catastrophe Averted

The day started off much like any other.

I went to the bar for a cappuccino and sat down with my laptop to catch up with some work.

Midway through my second cappuccino I received a message from one of my favourite students, cancelling her lesson because she was sick, and just so I believed her, she had included a photo of her thermometer.

Yup, A little poorly

The day was turning out to be a nice relaxing day.

Just after midday I returned home to get my study ready for a couple of students.

As I drove in my drive, I noticed an envelope in the mail box. Not many people write to me, so I didn’t pay it much attention.

After opening the house, I decided to empty the kitchen rubbish into the outside bin, which is located close to the mail box.

Just out of curiosity, I peeked into the mailbox and saw a strange yellow letter. Hmm! The hairs on my neck had already started to stand up, even before I had fully translated this little innocuous letter of doom. In fact as I read and understood the word ‘disconnected’, I could smell the smell of fear.

Just a little scared

It appears I had ignored the water bill for far too long (and so had Mrs Sensible, but I won’t mention that).

Having the water disconnected created two very significant problems

1) Mrs Sensible would probably kill me

2) Mrs Sensible would probably kill me

There were very unclear instructions on how to pay the bill.

By Bacs and then fax a copy of the payment to the office. Sorry Fax!!!! Do people really still use fax machines??

I remember these, vaguely

Paying the bill at the local post office, Ha ha ha ha! NO!

Italy at its worse

Paying the bill in person at the head office. Hmm, maybe while I was at the office I could charm them into reconnecting me before Mrs Sensible returns from school and tries to kill me.

My lazy, relaxed Wednesday had suddenly turned into a race against time.

I had precisely two and a half hours to not only drive to Moncalvo (30 minutes away) convince them to reconnect me before Mrs Sensible returned home from school.

Remember this is Italy, the land of three hour lunch breaks and  then get home (another 30 minutes) and start hiding the kitchen knives.

A little 3 hour snack

I parked in the main square and ran to the office, a good heart stopping 8 minutes away.

As I entered the office, which was fortunately empty of customers. I spotted two office type workers chatting.

Now I wanted to be super polite, remember, I needed these women to agree to try and reconnect the water before Mrs S returned home.

10 minutes they stood there chatting, I timed them.

Mega Stress

Finally it started, a women in high fashion jeans and wearing more jewellery than the Great Hatton Garden Heist jewel thieves escaped with, turned to me and said:

Tell me.

Please, I pay this money or this money. I said pointing at two different amounts on the snotty letter of demand.

Have you taken a ticket she asked?

Let me explain, because Italians are incapable of queuing, there are little machines where you can take a ticket.

Ticket?

Yes the machine outside the office!

I was just about to point out how futile it was to take a ticket from outside, especially as I was the only customer in the office! When I remembered, I had to be very charming if I had any hope of reconnecting the water before Mrs S returned home.

I was as nice as nice could be

The ticket machine had numerous options and I very nearly took one of each, I use this technique at the local hospital.

Sticking my head back in the office, I asked which colour!

Any it doesn’t matter.

Maybe, just maybe, she glimpsed my thoughts as I looked at her a second too long.

I returned with a random ticket, which she ignored when I tried to give it her,

As much use as a chocolate fireguard

I once again asked her which amount on the letter I needed to pay.

Both!

Ahhhhh!

I removed several hundred euros from my wallet and tried to passed them through to her.

She looked at the bill,

Who is Mrs Sensible?

I rubbed the bridge of my nose, I was thinking, should I say, you will read about her in the papers after she has killed me?

Instead I said my wife, and in English I added, and at this rate probably not for much longer.

And this is your address?She asked pointing to my address.

No it’s a strangers I thought, I like paying other peoples bills.

I nodded, I didn’t trust my voice.

We only take payments in the morning!

Doomed

Sometimes, I even manage to amaze myself with how calm I can be when I really want to throttle somebody.

A very nice and normal woman, who had been filing other people’s snotty letters, looked at me and must have felt pity for me.

Help me, please

Come here, she said, I will deal with it.

I think my sigh of relief could be heard three offices away.

She not only dealt with the payment but while I was using google translate to create a nice thank you for her, using words like courtesy, life saver and you might have helped me to live to drink another glass of wine, she phoned the local engineer to reconnect the water!!!!

Saved

Racing home I phoned a good friend of mine, listen I need a big favour, Mrs S finishes work in 30 mins. Please invite her over for a coffee.

Ate you organising a surprise for her?

Erh, not quite.

I would love to help, but I am not at home until later.

Ahhhhggghhh!

Pleaseeeee!

Unbelievably a little man was already in my garden playing with his tools. and water was once more gurgling through my house.

Mrs S arrived some two and a half hours after the engineer had left, she was late home and so far she is non the wiser

Tonight I will check to see if we have an overdue gas or electric bill.

But first I need a glass of wine to steady my nerves.

When your dreams finally came true…

Many years ago I visited a friends house and he had an indoor pool! It wasn’t a big pool, but it was still a pool. I have always dreamt of having a pool in the house or in the garden. Obviously garden swimming pools are a bit useless in the UK, probably there are only 20 days when the water would be warm enough so you don’t die of hyperthermia. And those 20 days would be spread over 5 or 6 years.

pool

My first attempt at a garden swimming pool

Two years ago a friend and his little daughter came for a barbecue, he brought a kids paddling pool with him. It was a little small, but it was still a pool in my garden. I was so impressed I posted the picture on my facebook page. Sorry about my white legs, even after years of living here, my legs remain white, in fact they are so white, they have a blueish tinge.

The other thing I thought would be nice in my garden was a little garden stream, a brook gurgling pleasantly down the garden. with some minnows and maybe even a frog or two. We can but dream can’t we.

There is an old Chinese proverb, Be careful what you wish for lest it comes true. 

633-01715907

Ha blacksheep, I have wisdom for you.

This week two of my wishes came true, first a indoor swimming pool was installed and three days later not only did I have a funky shaped swimming pool in my garden, but a little gurgling stream. You may think life is looking up, Ol’e Pecora Nera has come into money!!!

Not quite. First it rained for 15 solid days. It was so bad, the cats wouldn’t cross the garden from their little house to mine, maybe cats aren’t very good at swimming. Ok Susie Stupid Pussy Cat sat out in the rain, but then she is one peculiar cat.

Disaster

The leaking valve

This is the leaking valve that kindly installed the indoor swimming pool in my bathroom, Mrs Sensible’s bathroom is bone dry. Getting out of bed I headed for the bathroom, bleary eyed I open the bathroom door and nearly had to complete a swallow dive followed by a single back flip as I skidded across the bathroom..   Uttering a single yyyyeeeeoooooowwwwwlll.

Followed by a couple of unprintable words.

I spent ages mopping the floor, there were some more unprintable words when I skidded, artistically across the floor with the mop in one hand and knocked the bucket over. I have written to the Olympic committee to suggest mop dancing should be added to the 2020 Tokyo games.

Two days later the garden swimming pool was installed

Garden pond

A little pool

Do not be deceived, it is deeper than it looks. The surrounding mud is a treacherous bog. When we can’t find one of the cats, I go searching in the mud and and newly installed pool with a long stick.

Near the garden pool there is a cute stream. No minnows no frogs, I think they were swept away with the grass and some of the top soil, maybe if I go down to the bottom of the garden I might find them with a slightly damp stray Tom Cat that was  trying to woo Mishmash earlier this week.

River

Once upon a time there was grass and top soil here

The roaring torrent of a river has gone and so has the grass and top soil. Now you think this post is over don’t you, it almost is.

When I went down into the cantina to switch off the water, so that I could change the faulty valve in the bathroom, guess what I found?

Yes you guessed.

Canteena

Ok, why not lets have an underground swimming pool

The cellar was slowly filling up with water. The water is leaking through the walls!!!

Admittedly it doesn’t look too bad yet. But at the time of writing this, it is rising. Without the little pump, we could have a big problem.

So there we go, I wished for a swimming pool and received three ,complete with a little river.

Happy days

Italian the language of poets.

Once again I have completely mangled the beautiful but difficult Italian language.

This morning I stopped at a bar with Mrs Sensible, I ordered a spumante and received a frosty look from Mrs S.

Spumante! at 9 O’clock in the morning!

Yes I love one in the morning, it’s full of vitamins.

Spumante!!!

Just as I started to go through my mental dictionary of Italian words and phrases, this normally doesn’t take too long. A glass of prosecco arrived in front of me and my wife raised an eyebrow.

Better than orange juice

But I ordered freshly squeezed orange juice, didn’t I?

No you ordered Spumante (Prosecco) not Spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice)

It was still a good way to start a day.

Do I need to tell you about ordering Minced dog (Cane) instead of minced meat (Carne) at the local butcher? The poor woman stood there looking at me with big round eyes and her mouth hanging open, until her husband stepped in and solved the problem by mooing and barking.

Yes moo moo half a kilo of moo moo

I still have to stop and think when I want to say egg or grape, one is uova and the other is uva. At the moment I can’t remember which is which.

But try asking for six grapes at the corner shop, or try explain how you spent the morning collecting eggs so your friend could make some wine.

Uova treading or is it uva?

Speaking of the corner shop, I once asked for five fish pesche instead of five peaches pesce, Maria came back with fish fingers, dried fish, frozen fish and asked me which I wanted, I was a little perplexed we both thought each other was related to the village idiot, while I was stood pointing at some peaches in the corner of the shop with the sign don’t touch!

Another word to be especially careful of is year (anno) it must be pronounced with a double sounding n. Just to be sure, I normally add a couple more n’s for example: annnnnno, otherwise it might come out sounding as ano. How can I politely explain what ano is on my blog? Hmm, may I suggest you go over to google translate and tap ano in. 🤪

Oh let me finish off with my all time favourite.

One Christmas I asked for una bottiglia di prosciutto. Prosciutto is ham and prosecco is fizzy plonk.

I’m sure you guys also know words that have caused you problems, feel free to add them in the comments

It’s official, I’m getting old

It started with a trip to the local supermarket.

After the young girl blipped my wine, cheese and crisps. She asked me if I had my pensioner discount card.

I politely asked her to repeat her question. It sometimes takes two or three attempts for me to translate Italian to English and even then I can make some fantastic mistakes and misunderstandings and confusion follow.

Do I have my pensioner discount card?

I quickly looked over my shoulder to see which old man she was talking to.

Never too old for flip flops

And then today I received this delightful E mail

Don’t need you for another 40+ years

I send them a very polite E mail.

Dear sir,

Thank you for your kind E mail, however the cost of my funeral will be the least of my worries when I die.

May I suggest you contact my wife, Mrs Sensible. She is the worrier in our family.

Kind regards

Pecora (feeling remarkably healthy) Nera

I wonder if they will reply.

On a happier note, at my birthday party last week, we had a barbecue, drank lots of wine, sang and generally had a good time.

Château Lafeet 👣

Château Lafeet 👣

Today started off much like any other Saturday morning at Casa Pecora Nera.

I was gently snoring as Mrs Sensible deposited a mug of English tea next to our bed and said get up.

Englishman In Italy

The two most important things in life, English tea and mosquito spray

Get out off bed.

Erh why, it’s Saturday?

Because YOU promised to help Tracey with her grape harvest.

While Mrs S went upstairs to have a bath, I naturally went back to sleep.

I was rudely awaken by the sound of those big bells they tie around the neck of goats, sheep and even cows.

englishman in italy

We don’t wear bells!

As I lay there listening to the sheep bells in the lane outside our house, I wondered whether to invite the shepherd and his sheep into our garden, because I think the last time the grass was cut was sometime in June.

Miss Jessica did a great job cutting the grass in June, even if I did distract her by accidentally spraying her with the hosepipe.

Englishman in italy

Miss Jessica, a little wet but good fun

I was just about to get out of bed, when the sound of the bells was suddenly coming from our garden. Problem solved, no invite needed.

When I looked out of the window, I was amazed to see, not sheep and goats but three scabby dogs running around my garden, complete with bells around their necks. All the cats had mysteriously disappeared, even Mishmash.

Two of the dogs shared an amazing resemblance to Gilder, the incredibly fat but short legged dog.

Englishman in italy

Gilda always had trouble running because her tummy scraped along the floor

I am sure you remember Gilder’s escapades with Scooby Doo the Machiavellian cat.

Quickly I ran outside and heard Dottoressa Paula telling the hunter off. It seems she was also annoyed that the hunter had no control over his dogs.

Englishman in italy

My friend the amazing dottoresse Paula

Dottoressa Paula is famous for rallying the local policeman’s car in the vineyard.

While Dottoressa Paula remonstrated with the hunter and told him to unload his rifle while she was shouting at him.

Best picture of the hunter

I used some of my newly acquired italian to also shout at him.

Dott Paula: (In perfect Italian) If you can’t control your dogs, they should be on a leash!

Me: ( My version of Italian) My cat now on roof, you going him fetch?

Dott Paula: Unload your gun, while you are talking to me.

Me: Your dogs going my garden fetch now!!

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat waiting for the all clear.

Our little tag team went on for a good five minutes until the hunter decided to shuffle off down the lane, with five assorted dogs following him.

As he left us I asked.

Do you know word I’m sorry? Yes or No?

He stood there looking confused, maybe he was trying to understand my question or what the word sorry means.

After a quick espresso with the kind but formidable Dottoressa I went off to pick grapes at Tracey’s

Tracey runs a bed and breakfast near me, her website is http://laroccaitalia.com and each year I help her and her friends to pick the grapes and ultimately drink some of the wine.

So why have we named this years wine Château LaFeet?

Englishman in italy

The lovely Alyssa and Des

Because it is traditional for the girls to tread the grapes before we send them off to be fermented into wonderful wine.

I raise a glass of Château LaFeet to all my friends in bloggo land.

Please put your teeth in.

Visiting my doctor always fills me with joy,

Today there is a new notice on the door for me to try to translate.

Quickly I ran through the days of the week and worked out today is Giovedì, wonderful the good doctor has yet again changed his surgery days.

Just as I was about to leave I decided to ask an old guy if the doctor was coming this morning.

Although my Italian is not progressing as fast as Mrs Sensible would like, I can normally have a simple conversation with the natives. If we are discussing wine, all the better.

Today’s conversation was a little more challenging, the man in the waiting room was not wearing his gnashers!

Please put your gnashers in

He gummed his way through a sentence and I squinted and furrowed my brow in a pitiful attempt to understand him.

It took three attempts before I understood.

My question was.

Is the doctor here today?

And his response was.

You used to live in our village, why don’t you change doctors, or isn’t there a doctor in your new village?

I tried to explain that changing doctors is way too complicated and we like our doctor.

Lord help me to understand him

And then a woman appeared and joined in our conversation, as you can see, she was also struggling to understand my new friend.

Between us, we worked out the new sign wasn’t important and the doctor would arrive at 10:30 The time now is 9:00.

As I have some time to kill, let me share one of our doctors favourite notices.

Underlined in pink, orange and green

Twenty minutes before the surgery is due to close, the doctor counts how many patients he needs to see and then he locks the front door to stop any more patients from entering the waiting room.

This normally works, unless the person outside has a friend inside who will quickly and quietly unlock the door and let him in.

The next time the doctor enters the waiting room there will be a sea of innocent faces and one new patient who appears to be studying his shoes. To date I have never seen our doctor confront the new patient or complain, he just sighs and re locks the door.

Thursday evenings surgery is only for people who work and can’t visit during during normal surgery hours.

A couple of months ago there was a little dispute between the patients when on a Thursday evening a non worker was sat with us workers.

You don’t work!

My wife does!

But she isn’t here.

Obviously she isn’t here, because I am.

But you don’t work, why don’t you come in the morning, Thursday evening is for people who have to go to work.

Because I want a new prescription for my wife and she does work so I am here.

There was a little logic in his reasoning, nobody was happy about a non worker sharing the surgery with us, even if his wife did work.

Oh, on a final note a friend of mine has started going to night school to improve her Italian and she has hinted once or twice ‘normally when Mrs Sensible is within earshot’, that I should also go.

So far I have managed to avoid joining the night class, but I think it is only a matter of time before I end up sitting at the back of the class waiting for the lesson to finish.

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.