Fräulein meets the locals (and me trying to learn German)

Fräulein meets the locals (and me trying to learn German)

It is Friday afternoon, Fräulein and I have gone down to the local bar for a cappuccino and brioche. We both know cappuccino should only be drank in the morning, but we are both stranieri in bell’italia. Like an idiot I suggest Fräulein should start to teach me some of her German language. She readily agrees so I went into the bar and asked for some paper, pen and a big glass of red wine…. The most important thing was the red wine. Knowing my proficiency at learning Italian over the past fifteen years, wine was going to be an important learning aid.




One to ten in German, plus some other words..

After I had struggled through trying to learn number 1 to 10 and we had drank the cappuccino plus the red wine (Rotwein = red wine in German! who would have known) and had eaten some chocolates that I won at the bar. I am sure Fräulein thinks she won them, not that it matters as I ate most of them when she was trying to teach me numbers 1 to 10. We decided to leave the bar.

On the way to the car, an old Italian man greeted us….

Old Man: Salve. (Hello)

We both responded back in perfect Italian ‘Ciao’ (Fräulein’s Italian is better than mine)

He looked at Fräulein and said “You are stupendous, you are beautiful, so tall, Magnificent.”

I asked him his name and he replied You are so lucky very fortunate, she is so beautiful”

Ok thank you, but what is your name?

He completely ignored my question and said, “but you are shorter than me and she is so tall and beautiful and stupendous”

OK. I understand she is 10 cm taller than me and it is me who has to stand on tip toes for a kiss, but.

She will never need to stand on tip toes to kiss me, unless I am stood on two boxes

While this conversation is going on, Fräulein is giggling like a schoolgirl. The old man told us he was 82 years old and followed this up with “Fräulein is wonderful and beautiful”…. Although I asked him four or five times for his name, he was so entranced with the beauty of Fräulein, he never got around to telling me his name…

So at the moment I am still trying to learn Italian so I can laugh and talk to the locals and now I am trying hard to learn some German. Why? I am not sure, Fräulein’s English is near perfect, her Italian is much better than mine, for example, she said I don’t use conditional tenses when speaking Italian, whatever that means.

This picture doesn’t do Fräulein any justice, in reality her legs are much longer

Maybe with her help, I might manage to learn enough German to get by when we go to Germany in the New Year.

Not to self, important German phrases to learn.

I like red wine.

Yes please, another glass.

Where is the toilet?

She is paying.

Where is Fräulein?

Bye from Pecora Nera and Miss Stupendous, marvellous tall Fräulein.

Ze Germans are Coming!!

Ze Germans are Coming!!

From time to time I have workaways at Casa Pecora Nera (My House). Workaways are people who want to travel the world on a budget, stay with hosts in exchange for some work that needs doing. A couple of years ago I wrote about this simple concept when I Pressed the button and ordered two from the internet.

Two weeks ago Fräulein arrived form Germany, in a huge black truck. We only just managed to get it down the little streets of my village, streets which were originally designed for donkeys and old people.

Fräulein’s little car.

Fräulein appears to have an even crazier sense of humour than I have. Last Saturday there was a knock on the back door, it couldn’t be Fräulein because she had gone for a run and she has a key to the front door. Obviously it wasn’t a delivery, because they come to the front door and I hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon. I opened the door and a smiling Fräulein was stood there, barefooted and with her trainers in her hand. She beckoned me out of the house, gave me her dirty trainers then slipped past me. I heard the door click shut and her laughter as she disappeared into the house..




Fräulein isn’t in this picture but I couldn’t resist posting it.

I was left outside my house, with her dirty trainers in my hand wondering how long I had agreed for her to stay.

Now I am not a morning person, normally I shuffle downstairs half awake and make myself a cup of tea and contemplate if I really need to go to school and teach my sticky kids. One morning very bleary eyed I opened the cupboard and was shocked to find only three plates, no mugs and only one glass! Either my workaway had stolen the crockery, broke it or was using it in her bedroom to have midnight feasts! Nothing as simple as that, she has decided to rearrange my cupboards. The plates and glasses are now in a different cupboard. However I have decided to forgive her because for the past week I have staggered downstairs to find a mug of hot tea, some biscuits and my bottle filled with water.

I might forgive her and let her stay

So Fräulein is a bit of a prankster and is trying to keep me on my toes well we all know, revenge is a dish best served cold. So watch this space, because as sure as God made little apples, she will remember her stay at Casa Pecora Nera

A Blacksheep goes a Glamping.

A Blacksheep goes a Glamping.

A damsel in distress phoned me and asked if I could come to her rescue. Ok I might be over exaggerating a little bit. I supposed what really happened was Jill said, “want to come to my gaff and help me put up a pergola in the garden, come for a couple of days and try out the new Gypsy Caravan” Sure why not, will I have to share the Gypsy Caravan with a gypsy who has wild hair and bells on her ankles and plays the tambourine?

Jill and Millie’s New Gypsy Caravan. I don’t see any bells on their ankles…

Unfortunately and much to my disappointment, there wasn’t a wild gypsy in sight.

Jill and her daughter Millie built this Gypsy Caravan from scratch during the pandemic lockdown. And Glamping, well it is Glamorous-Camping. On Jill’s Glamping site, she also has a Beautiful Hobbit House, I have stayed there a couple of times before the pandemic.

So back to the damsel in distress, I managed to start the chain saw and we cut and screwed the pergola together, often arguing as to who got to climb the ladder and be in charge of the electric screwdriver, I only nearly fell off the ladder once.

The scabby dog wouldn’t move.

And then we settled down to the serious job of drinking a nice bottle of prosecco, followed by a nice pizza in the local village, another bottle of red and then I think another couple of glasses back at the house. Fortunately, there are solar powered lights hanging in the trees and along the path to the Gypsy Caravan so I managed to stagger down to my bed, did I mention we also tasted a little Brandy as we laughed and put the world to rights…

Jill and Millie building the Gypsy Caravan

Day two, I tried to start the chain saw so we could cut down a couple of small trees to finish the pergola, despite me cursing the machine and threatening to bury it down the garden, it wouldn’t start. Jill even had a go at trying to start it, I will be honest, I was silently praying under my breath that she didn’t manage to start it.

So armed with a little handsaw and wearing flip-flops we went out into the wilds of her land in search of a couple of thin straight trees we could cut down.

Sorry Jill, but I like this picture.

I got prickled to death and I complained bitterly about it. Jill promised me I could use the wonderful bath they have on site. As I was cutting down the trees and trying to find my lost flip-flop I was imagining relaxing under the stars with a glass of wine after a the hard days work, but some how we forgot (I think we opened some more wine) and so you now get to see Jill in the bath and not me, which I am sure is better.

Miss Jill having a bath

To finish here are a couple of photos of the Hobbit House.

The wonderful Hobbit House
Inside the Hobbit House

I am not sure which is my most favourite place to sleep, the Hobbit House is wonderful, however if by chance there had been a Gypsy in the Caravan, it would probably have tipped it for me. If you want to spend a relaxing time in the hills of Emilia-Romagna contact Jill, she will also cook some divine food for you, if you ask nicely.

How to find Jill Link

Air BnB Hobbit House Link

Air BnB Gypsy Wagon Link

Thanks to Jill for a couple of days of pure fun and next time sort out a wild gypsy woman for me.

English Summer Camp

I don’t normally use my blog to advertise anything, however. I have decided to organise a summer camp this June. Our first camp was in 2016, it was a modest but fun camp with two massive tents lent to me by the local civil protection.

We are in the Army now!
Stand by your beds

24 hours before our 2018 camp, the local civil protection decided that they had forgotten about our camp. Strange as I had reminded them at the beginning of the month and a week before our camp. Mind you this is Italy and one expects the unexpected.

After a sleepless night, I chased around Decathlon buying up their stock of tents.

We managed to erect the tents, without too much swearing.
Tent Captains

We make our camp a fun and safe environment where the children can not only learn English, but also learn lots of other skills, such as team building, how to screen print a T-Shirt or how to build a rocket propelled by vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

Each child screen printed their own T-Shirt
Houston, We have a problem

And sometimes a trip to the bird sanctuary, which was absolutely amazing.

2018 Camp

We are based in Asti in Italy camp dates 4th to 9th July, I am also helping to organise a camp in Bologna in June. So send your children to my camp and go and have a romantic week away with your loved one.

Camp details at English Summer Camp

I need a holiday.

I have just finished two hours of teaching my little munchkins (insert here, little horrors) to be honest I love them all, especially the mischievous ones. I guess because I was and still am a little mischievous. At the moment I am trying to relax in the local restaurant and trying to ready myself for this afternoons lessons. Unfortunately, someone has allowed the tattooed waitress to choose the music… Pasta and Trance music, just what I wanted.

Please not trance music, I need an hour of chill time.

Today Paula, aged five showed me her new hairstyle, self administrated at home with a pair of her mum’s scissors. Halfway through today’s lesson I turned to Paula and with my fluent Italian, ok my poor Italian… I asked her, with a stern face and voice if she could be good for me. With eyes sparkling full of mischief she replied NO! I managed not to smile or crack up laughing..

This is not Paula, but you get the idea.

Because of the Covid pandemic, the teachers are paranoid of sticky little fingers and exploding noses, can someone please tell me why children have such a fascination with their noses and their friends noses?

My day normally goes something like. Mario, take your finger out of your nose, Mario, take your finger out of Maria’s nose. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE DON’T EAT IT!!!!

Pick one for me!

I will be honest, this is probably one of my children, if not this year then next year.

For sure this child will be in next years class

While I finish my pasta while listening to trance music, I will leave you with this photo. Because the little girl on the right, is the type of child I love to teach.

Bye for now.

Italian Signs

Obviously I have a quirky sense of humour, and if I find something amusing, I either take a photo or make a quick note of it. Last night Apple informed me that I had used up my I cloud storage, either I paid them some more money or.. well they didn’t give me another option. I decided to delete some of my photos. Here are a couple that are destined to the trash bin.

This photo was taken eight years ago on a trip to the hospital, my ex had decided she was overweight and wanted to see a dietitian and out of the goodness of her heart she had also booked me in at the same time. For the price of €75 the dietitian told me what I already knew. We eat too much, I eat at the wrong time and reducing my wine intake would help me to lose weight, oh and laughing and scratching is not considered exercise . This particular photo was on the wall of the corridor giving directions to various departments.

Now my question is, which way do you go to find an incompetent medic?

The next sign I saw in a local shop, this lady has references and is offering her services as someone to help around the home, looking after old people or as a baby sister. I still wonder if she managed to become someones baby sister.

This is probably one of my favourites, originally I thought it was just a prank, but I have seen the sign on a couple of roads that are undergoing maintenance.

Road Closed for maintenance. From Thursday 25th March until the end of the work.

The road was actually closed for three weeks, but the road workers were taking no chances at estimating how long it would take them.

I stole this road sign from google images, however I have seen the same sign in a town near me.

You can turn left or right to reach any direction.

Just the type of help you need when you are lost and your partner is assessing your navigational skills.

I love this sign found in the window of my local chemist.

For the chemist, don’t make a queue.

First I need to explain something, Italians don’t queue, it is not in their nature. I was not the only person outside the chemist who seemed amused by the notice. There were ten of us outside the chemist pretending not to queue. And no one knew whose turn it was to enter the chemist…

And finally.

Saturday I went for my Covid booster injection. My arm still hurts (a little bit) and I am still feeling sorry for myself (a lot) However, Sometimes I write about how inefficient and disorganised Italy is, however, when it comes to organising and providing vaccines to get us out of this pandemic, the Italians are impressive. Well done Italy.

Open finger surgery

You may remember that Santa left me 1 and a 1/2 tons of wet wood instead of a sexy woman or even a nice bottle of whisky. Amazingly wet wood burns, but you need to mix some dry wood with it to get it up to temperature.

Unfortunately, while I was carrying this wonderful wet wood into my house, I managed to get a wood splinter stuck deep into my finger. I tried the usual home remedies, such as sucking my finger, swearing under my breath and cursing the man who delivered the wet wood, all to no avail.

IKEA, Firewood that you don’t need to glue together

What I really wanted was a sexy nurse to nurse me back to health, splinter or no splinter.

Nurse Ratched. One Flew over the cuckoos nest

Preferably not nurse Ratched.

My nurse arrived in the form of a friend from Turin who was coming over to drink some wine and eat my special shepherds pie. Armed with a safety pin, I couldn’t find a needle! She started open finger surgery. I closed my eyes and kept them closed even after she laughed at me. I am not very good at pain.

Ouch!!

First she used a set of tweezers to try and find the offending splinter, I opened my eyes long enough to take this photo. The splinter was very deep so she attacked it with the safety pin.

My poor finger

Miss Irish, cause she is Irish, managed to dig out the dastardly splinter and post op, we drank several bottles of wine to kill the pain and trauma of the operation.

To finish, I have bought some gardening gloves to protect my fingers while I handle this wet wood that Santa left me, I need to try to pack away my Christmas lights so they are not tangled should there be a Christmas next year and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Dear Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas, what on earth went wrong this year? You are normally a pretty cool dude and I love the presents you normally leave under my Christmas tree. Admittedly some of the cooler presents arrived when I was younger. For example, the guns with the suckers was an excellent present.

One of my best presents.

Even if I only managed to play with them for a brief 30 seconds before they were confiscated and hidden in some dark cupboard or put in the loft for when I was older. However the look on my older sister’s face was priceless when the first and only shot from the pistol hit her on the forehead and stuck. The image still brings a smile to my face. My mum never gave me the pistols back, obviously she was waiting for me to become responsible enough to have them returned and I never reached that level of maturity. I bet they are still in my mum’s loft, with the purple clackers that were also confiscated.

My beloved Clackers.

I don’t normally write you letters, I usually rely on your discretion and hope you bring me something nice, like a nice malt whisky, of a crate of wine. You know I don’t need or want socks or scarfs or jumpers that I wouldn’t be seen dead in.

Ok, I would accept this jumper if the lovely lady comes with it.

This year I wrote you a really nice letter, I told you I had been good, more or less. I even made promises that are going to be difficult to keep, (some I have already broken) and I asked for something specific to be left under my Christmas tree. I only wanted a wild woman, someone with a sense of humour, who liked wine and could tolerate this black sheep, and what did you leave me? one and a half tons of wet wood! How on earth did you mix up wild woman with wet wood?

Wet Wood

Somewhere there is a man who was expecting, a load of wood and is frantically trying to explain to his wife, why there is a woman sitting under his Christmas tree drinking all the wine.

So please do me a favour and sort this little mistake out.

Best regards

Pecora (waiting for a wild woman) Nera

Merry Christmas.

Christmas was going according to plan, school has finished and I thought, why not get out the decorations and make the house festive. On hindsight, I should have just opened a bottle of wine and watched a good movie.

Over an hour ago, I carefully carried my little box of Christmas decorations into my house, I gently removed the lights and laid them on the floor, they are still on the floor in a multitude of knots.

January 2020 I packed the lights away and I remember taking my time, so how come they were and still are tangled together? Are they annoyed that last year I gave up on Christmas and didn’t put them on my tree? And decided to spend 12 months tying themselves in knots!

A knotty problem

Last year was a hard year and I didn’t feel very festive, so I dragged my little lemon tree into the apartment I was renting and stuck a few baubles on it. If last year, I had found the lights in knots, I would have thrown them out, this year I am a little more patient. (A little)

Difficult to see, but the tree decided to flower during Christmas.

Will someone please explain to me how I should pack the lights away so they don’t tie themselves up, and please, how do I untangle them without breaking the bulbs or going crazy.

I have done a quick search on the internet and discovered I am not the only one who has this problem.

A good solution

Speaking about Christmas light fails, there is a town in Germany that might want to rethink their Christmas lights, unless of course they had been sponsored by Victoria’s Secret..

Knickers I hear you say.

I am going to wish you a safe and happy Christmas and after I have finished this glass of wine, I will have another go at untangling my Christmas lights or as a last resort, I might once again bring the lemon tree into the house and stick a few baubles onto it.

Merry Christmas

Skool is nearly closed for Christmas.

Last week, I realised my six year old students are much better at drawing than I am, it is a sad state of affairs when I am beaten by a class of six year olds. I love teaching Munchkins (little people) they are like sponges, they absorb everything and they behave impeccably for me. We were learning basic vocabulary for toys. As I drew each toy, the kids were making several guesses at to what I was attempting to draw..

Maria: It is a Teddy Bear.

Sara: Nah, It is scary

Mario: Could it be a doll.

Kids: Nah!

What a job I have, I get to draw with chalk every day.

As you can see, my little students drawings are far superior.

Maria is a budding artist

During December I launch the ‘Design My Christmas Card Competition’. The competition is open to all the children from Class 5 (age 10) across the schools I work with. Normally I sit down with a glass of wine and with a couple of friends, we judge the cards and choose a winner, or this year, two winners. The winning cards are currently on display at my local bar. 200 of each have been printed so that I can give them to my friends and students in the schools.

If you look carefully, you can see Alessia (the barmaid) trying to hide behind the bar.

This year I agreed to work with two nursery schools, to all nursery teachers.. how do you manage to keep your sanity and keep the munchkins engaged? I am only working with the nurseries until February and then I will need a long holiday..

Ok, I admit it, I love working with the little ones.

Unfortunately, one of the schools I work with has closed due to a Covid outbreak. The nursery that stayed open asked me to take a Covid test before this weeks lesson. Argh

Covid Test

I really hate Covid tests, and not only did they shove the swab so far up my nose that my ear started to itch, but I had to sit outside in the cold (minus 3 degrees) while they processed my test. Fortunatly I was negative.

Testing station

Comfy chairs socially distanced in the cold…

I will leave you with my Snowman, as you can see my sculpturing prowess is about as good as my skill at drawing.

Slush the Snowman

To Badante or not to Badante

Last Wednesday was my birthday. It was an important birthday, because I have decided I am now officially old.

My Birthday Cake

You can’t tell how old I am, because I have removed the candles. However, it is sufficient to say I am now old. Following my birthday I sat down with a glass of whisky and reviewed my life…

The conclusion I came too was, I am now old enough to have a badante (care giver).

Hello is there anyone at home.

In Italy it is almost a tradition to organise a badante for your parents. It is also much better than putting them in an old peoples home, which is also more expensive.

So now the search is on for a suitable badante,

Jim and his Badante

Fortunately I am not as old as Jim, and like him, I want a badante who not only makes sure I am presentable in the morning, but I also have some euros in my top pocket for my glass of ‘medicinal’ wine at lunch time.

One of my friends has just informed me, that if I get a good lawyer, he will put a good case forward and the Italian state will pay for my badante. Happy Days

So while you in Bloggo Land and worrying about Brexit and Christmas, I am going to hot foot it down to the lawyers office and see what is possible.

Incredible Exploding kids

It is that time of year again, the local schools have decided they need an English teacher. The concept of organising courses and teachers during June, ready for the start of the academic year in September, doesn’t happen in Bella Italia. Instead the Italians use the modern British manufacturing method of JIT ( Just In Time) or if we translate this back into Italian, it becomes NVO (Not very Organised).

Seven years ago I somehow found myself teaching rudimentary English to a class of nursery age children… Colours, numbers, animals etc. The one hour on a Friday morning scarred me so much that I swore I would never again agree to teach children under five.

In my experience, children do not look this angelic during one of my lessons.

A typical lesson at a nursery school starts with the teacher saying, “Buon Giorno” and then she quickly beats a hasty retreat to the biscuit cupboard and leaves me with a dozen sticky kids.

Me holding a yellow pen: Yellow

Sticky Child 1: Giallo

Me: Yellow

Sticky Child: Lellow

Me: YELLOW!

Sticky Child 2: RED!!!

ME: Riccardo, please take your finger out of your nose.

In my experience, all naughty boys are called either Riccardo or Edoardo. Honest!

Sticky Child 2: Yellow

Me: Riccardo, please take your finger out of Maria’s nose.

Me holding a Purple pen and turning to sticky child number 3: What colour is it?

Sticky Child 3: PURPLE!

And that is the moment when I realise why I love teaching children. (excluding children aged between three and five and any child named Riccardo or Edoardo)

As I glow in my own self satisfaction, I glance at Riccardo and as my bubble bursts, I quickly beg him not to eat what is currently on the end of his sticky finger.

Riccardos and Edoardos out for a walk

Since 2014 I have been teaching in the same six junior schools. I will admit, it is the most enjoyable job I have ever had, with the exclusion of teaching nursery kids and ……Riccardos.

Following COVID I lost all my teaching as we went into a long lockdown, had I not managed to sell my house in the UK and used the proceeds to feed myself and clothe myself, I would have been in a pickle, and so after almost two years of unemployment imposed holiday, I accepted four hours a week at a nursery, teaching sticky 3 to 5 year olds, I know, I never learn from my mistakes and thank God! two junior schools, with the possibility of another.

On Tuesday in a little hill top school, I had a group of three and four year olds singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, we were stood in a circle going through the actions and accompanied by a little three year old who would stop crying long enough to shout MAMA DIA.

MAMA DIA !!!!

Mama Dia was her abbreviation for, Mum, please come and pick me up, I hate English, I hate this stupid Englishman and I want to go home. In all honesty, it reminded me of my own school days, when I screamed the same things in between floods of tears.

Today is Wednesday, the hardest day of my week. It started with a class of twenty four 10 year olds. This was my second lesson with them and they now understand that we can have fun if they behave. Last week I gave them some homework that I said was not obligatory, they could do it, if they wanted. All but three children produced some work. I read out their work and made the necessary noises of approval.

During the two hours of nursery school (I have to admit it is the most tiring job possible and should be well paid) A little girl of four looked up at me and said in a tiny voice, “voglio un fazzoletto” as my little tired brain translated this into I want a tissue, she basically exploded, or at least the snot and bogies exploded from her nose. I still have no idea how her little nose could produce so much mess in such a small time.

If Covid is spread by nasal mucus, I am doomed to die, Green Pass and vaccination or not….. I think it was harder to clean up the table, me and four kids than the Exxon Valdez disaster.

My School Uniform: Anti Snot Protection

Tomorrow is Thursday and I have a relatively easy day, A couple of private English lessons in the morning and a couple in the afternoon. Friday, I have the joy of teaching one of my favourite students, even if her dog has on one occasion sank its teeth into my bum. Something that is worth a blog post all on its own…

A final thought, children are our future and the only way to get inspirational teachers into the classroom is to pay them a decent salary. And that starts with nursery teachers…

For the love of Mildred

For the love of Mildred

Mildred my poor little Mini is not long for this world. After 299,800 km she has finally decided she has more or less, had enough. The main problem with Mildred is, (apart from the exhaust being held in place with a strong wire) she keeps overheating and throwing huge clouds of steam up in the air., much like an Italian waving their hands in the air. Personally I think Mildred is just attention seeking, because I can drive 60km or further and the car behaves, however sometimes when I stop the car, Mildred vomits her coolant all over the floor and throws clouds of steam into the air.

Mildred needs a good wash.

Mildred is pretty good at choosing the right time to make an exhibition of herself. Last month I stopped at the toll booth on the motorway near Turin, just as I handed the money to the man in his little box… Mildred decided to show off. Plumes and I mean plumes of smoke cascaded from under her bonnet. The guy in the box looked a little worried and quickly raised the barrier. I hit the accelerator and with a scream of the fan belt (wet from the steam) Mildred pulled away. I watched as the temperature gauge slowly dropped back to its normal position.

With a line of cars behind her, Mildred knew she had an audience.

This month, Mildred saved me from close scrutiny by the Carabinieri (military police), I was on my way home when the Carabinieri stopped me to do a document check. This is quite normal, I get stopped every month or so. If I am in a good mood I give them my Italian ID card, if not, I hand over my UK passport and let them figure out the information. This particular day I was happy, until I saw the men with their red lollypop sticks.

Yup! I took their photo as they checked my documents (Photo of our local police not the Carabinieri)

This time it was the Carabinieri (military police) who had decided to stop me I had just handed over my UK passport when Mildred, coughed, farted and vomited her coolant all over the road, followed by the inevitable plumes of steam. The police were understandably concerned, I smiled, accepted my passport back and said “è normale, non preoccuparti” (Its normal don’t be worried) and drove away. Wisely the Carabinieri had decided not to do a full document check.

So unfortunately, MIldred is to be pensioned off, she will probably go to the great car breakers in the sky. A good friend of mine, Miss Cinders, (so named because she has to be home before ten o’clock in the evening, thanks to the Italian Covid regulations) is not impressed that I am giving up on Mildred, she keeps hinting that Mildred is a lovely car and I should keep her. Hmm!

Mildred Sulking after I ‘parked her’ in a ditch. Look how high the rear wheel is off the ground!!!

Dear readers, please don’t tell Mildred her days are numbered, or she might decided to barf her coolant out when I am in the middle of nowhere and please don’t tell Miss Cinders I am considering keeping Mildred and restoring her to her former glory, because Miss Cinders might decide I have to spend my summer stripping the engine down, replacing the exhaust, interior head-liner and God knows what else needs changing and to be honest I would much rather be sitting by the pool drinking martini cocktails than working under a car during the summer, no matter how much I love Mildred.

2020 and the Tinder experiment.

I blog when I am in a happy mood or when something crazy happens to me. I haven’t written anything for a while, because life has been 2020.

Today I was drinking coffee with the Frenchwoman, ah! You don’t know about her do you! Well I am renting an apartment from her, the apartment comes with an outdoor swimming pool and the use of the indoor swimming pool. Anyway, the Frenchwoman and I were discussing life and the problem of me being young, old, free and single again. Yes unfortunately Mrs Sensible and I took the decision to go our separate ways. As I said, a 2020 year.

The Frenchwoman brought up the subject of Tinder. Allegedly Tinder is an app that connects you with beautiful people who live close by and who would like to meet up for a coffee. What can go wrong I ask you?

A quick search on the old tinternet, produced the following photo, I was pleasantly surprised.

I was impressed and suddenly interested

Ten minutes later, I was on-line and my photo was on Tinder. I ignored the Frenchwoman’s offer of help, something about, let me take your photo, you need to do this right. Ha! let the fun begin…

I think I need to write a strong worded letter of complaint to Tinder because the first ‘match’ was rather disappointing. I know I am no longer a spring chicken, but I think Tinder is having a laugh.

Let me introduce you to Maria Conzano.

Maria enjoys eating and gardening.

I will be honest, things did not improve, after steadying my nerves with a glass of wine I tried to remove the image from my phone by swiping right, this I have learnt has sent a message to Maria that I like her, I am not sure what happens when she gets a like, perhaps someone can enlighten me. I now know I should have swiped left. Maybe I should have waited for the Frenchwoman to help me.

I was not the only person out there who needed some help with Tinder, Giuseppina’s daughter was also helping her mother, in fact, she decided to get in on the act. Here is their profile picture. I am pretty sure they own the old farm house further down our road.

Here is my mum, there is still some love and life in her.

I remembered to swipe left this time. I haven’t told the Frenchwoman about ‘how it is going’. I think the problem might be Tinder searches people close by and I live in a very small Italian village. Living here are twelve men, eleven women, a donkey and one black sheep. When there is a birth in the village, the papers describe it as a population explosion.

Speaking of the donkey.

Even the donkey has a Tinder profile. So as we count down to the end of the disastrous 2020, I can only hope 2021 brings some happiness and love into everyones life, especially into this poor black sheep. So I will wish you a merry Christmas.

My Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.

Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

During September I decided I needed to lose some of the winter fat I had accumulated to keep me warm during the harsh Italian winters. Yes I know, I also thought Italy was a sunny place where bronzed people drank prosecco while sitting in the sun.

Admittedly, I did think about losing weight during September, but it took me until February before I laced a pair of trainers onto my feet. I actually considered the act of reaching down and lacing my trainers as two separate exercises that I could mark off my list.

Horse

I tried invisible horse riding, but I couldn’t find my horse 

Over the past three months I have lost 8 kilos, that is 17.5 pounds in real money.   I would like to take all the credit for this achievement, but tell me, what else is there to do during the Corona virus lockdown other than running through the vineyards, Netflix binge watching or sighing at the latest conspiracy theory.

Despite it raining, today started off as a wonderful day and just before dinner time it unfortunately   imploded into one of those days you only discuss with friends over a glass of whisky. It took me thirty minutes to convince myself  that running through the vineyards was a good idea, a way to clear my head and dissipate my anger. It is amazing how anger can help you run up a muddy wet hill,

What anger can’t help you with is running back down the other side. I already had a kilo of clay stuck to each of my trainers, I had about as much control over my legs and the direction I was going in, as one of those shopping carts with a dodgy wheel, and then I realised I was not going to be able to stop or even slow down until I reached the bottom of the muddy track.

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The shopping cart and I more or less had the same control

Sliding sideways  and screaming like a girl, with my arms windmilling in an attempt to control my balance,  I executed a beautiful back flip followed by a near perfect swallow dive into the mud of the vineyard. As I sat there counting my bones and checking for internal injuries, the woman from the Couch to 5K app whispered into my ear, “you are doing great, if you feel ok you may want to increase your pace”. Ok so I swore a little bit.

muddy1

Mud does not equal fun.

So here is my take on the day. I have come to the conclusion that A) This morning I shouldn’t have got out of  my warm bed and B) mud wrestling is neither sexy or erotic, mud is cold horrible stuff, especially when you have to run two kilometres to return home, with mud caked up your legs, back and a light drizzle of rain to remind you that you are a little damp. As of today Mud Wrestling has been deleted from my list of fantasies.

Mishmash the crazy cat

Mishmash the crazy cat

I guess it is about time I introduced you to my crazy cat, obviously no cat of mine is going to be normal is it? Six years ago when I moved into this house I found half a dozen cats under the wood pile. The kitten that managed to claw me half to death as I tried to captured it was Mishmash.

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Such a tranquil little kitty

So I kept her. I am not a cat person, I always wanted a big stupid dog something like an Airedale, instead I ended up with a crazy cat.

airedale-2

My choice of dog.

To look at Mishmash, she seems a calm pussycat. Happy to laze around on her box or occasionally return with a mouse or rabbit. She once dragged a rabbit home that was bigger then her. I am not sure she understands she is a cat. Let me give you an example.

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Mishmash basking on top of her old house.

The house next to mine is the country house of a guy who lives in Milan. During spring and autumn he spends the weekends here along with his wife and his dog. I always thought dogs chased cats, apparently this is not true.

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Run pussy run

My cat enjoys tormenting next doors dog. A  while ago I was looking out of my bedroom window and watched Mishmash creep across our garden and then into the neighbours garden where she disappear into a bush.  I waited and expected her to return with a mouse. She waited twenty minutes for her prey to arrive, Jotto, next doors poor dog  wandered down its garden and just as it was in striking distance a blur of orange and brown fur launched itself through the leaves of the bush.

I was shocked, I wasn’t as shocked as poor Jotto who wasn’t sure what had attacked him or which way to run. Jotto yelped and headed back up the garden with my cat chasing him, boy did he make a noise as he tried to escape.

Last week when confronted by Mishmash, Jotto made the mistake of running down the garden away from the house. The poor dog was pinned in the corner while Mishmash laid down and hissed at him every time he flinched or moved a muscle.

You might remember the retired doctor who lives down our lane, she once asked me to keep Mishmash in the house at night or at least lock her in the boiler room. I explained she is a working cat, she is here to keep the rodent population in check and she does this at night. I asked her what the problem was.

The doctors bedroom has an exterior glass door and it seems, when Mishmash gets bored around four o’clock in the morning, she wanders down the lane to the doctors house and bangs on the glass door to catch the attention of the doctors two very large dobermans. When the dogs hear her, they quite rightly go ballistic, frantically running around in circles and barking. This has a side effect of waking the doctoressa. I have been told it is not a huge problem because she only visits once a month.

mrs-marples

I am sure you remember the dottoressa from The Boys in Blue

I told Mishmash I was going to include her in my little blog of madness, she was non plussed with the idea. She knows she is already famous with the children in the schools I teach in. She somehow becomes involved in creative lessons such as how to write a letter to father Christmas in English or how to describing your pet.

School

English lesson for 10 year old Italian children.

The reference to the tie, is because I normally wear a suit or a jacket and a Disney tie to school, the kids favourite tie is my Tigger tie.

After a lot of explaining and begging Mishmash agreed to have a picture taken for you. She even put on her best smile.

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A smile from Mishmash

It is around one O’clock in the morning and I can hear Jotto barking, which can only mean Mishmash has gone over to play with him.

Good night from me and of course also from Mishmash

Translating Fun.

By now you know my sense of humour isn’t exactly, normal.  I have no idea why this is. Grab a drink tea, coffee or preferably wine and come a little closer and I will tell you when I was asked to translate a conversation for a friend.

Now you guys know my Italian language skills are pretty dismal. But under the right conditions, maybe a couple of glasses of wine,  I can sometimes even surprise myself. It was eight o’ clock in the evening and I had just finished giving an English lesson to a group of friends. As I drove away in my little blue Mini, I received a voice message from the wife.

I am going to bed, your dinner is in the dog oven.

I turned my car around and headed back up the hill to La Chance, one of my favourite wine bars owned by Edo, who is a bit of a character and his selection of wine is fantastic.

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Edo, Cocktail maker, friend and a brilliant chef

I was just about to order food, when Edo invited me to stay and eat with the staff, so I settled down with my wine and started to laugh and have fun with the staff there was also an Irishman who was in Gabbiano looking for work!  Which is strange because Gabbiano is a little hill town, most people leave Gabbiano to find work.

The cook who works at La Chance is a big fellow and to be honest a little scary looking, I always think he looks like a huge KGB hitman, on the plus side he is a talented chef.

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He may be nice, but he is really scary looking.

The chef, believe it or not, is twice as scary as the photo I pinched from the net.

It is now two-thirty in the morning and we are just finishing the deserts and I have a nice glass of Spanish wine in front of me, who would have guessed Spanish wine could be so good.

I have spent the evening laughing and joking with these guys and suddenly the chef leans across the table and catches me like a deer caught in a cars headlights and then he asks “Pecora Nera, can you translate for me, I want to ask the Irishman a question?”

Now I know, I should have laughed and declined, or called Edo over who was in the kitchen, but, well I was drinking wine and….

Sure, tell me?

Ask him why he has moved here.

So as the chef cast his stare on the Irish man. I turned to my new friend and said, The Chef says you have really nice legs.

Monkey

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Irishman was struck dumb for a few seconds, he managed to tear his eyes away from the chef, who incidentally was watching him quite intently, he turned to me and said.

I am not like that.

How I didn’t snort my wine all over the table I will never know, I shrugged my shoulders and told the chef he is here for work.

The chef looked at me, and said, tell him there is no work here.

My translation, from Italian to English went something like , The Chef says he can teach you.

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Sorry I had to use this one

The look on the irishman’s face was priceless, the chef followed up his previous question, by looking at the waitress and asking if she knew of any jobs.

This was obviously translated into, The chef says your legs are almost as nice as the waitresses, and then Edo leaned over and refilled my glass. His English is pretty good and he caught my latest bit of translation.

Pecora Nera!!!!! Be good.

The Irishman looked at me, and then I lost it, I collapsed into laughter, I had to put my glass down before I spilled it. Fortunately, when I came clean and explained my little error in translating, both the the chef and Irishman thought it was funny. Although I haven’t seen the Irishman around in a long time.

 

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

The last three weeks have been a little strange to say the least, to be allowed to leave the house I need to print a self certification explaining why leaving my house is so important, which wouldn’t be such a problem if my printer had not run out of ink and if I could think of a good enough reason to go out. It seems replenishing my stock of wine or buying crisps is not important enough.

Printing press

If only I had kept my printing press

The government has shut all the shops excluding supermarkets and Chemists, I was due to have my hair cut last week as it is getting a little long, hopefully they will reopen sometime next month, by which time I will have either taken a pair of scissors to it or I will start to look a little like Cousin It

it

It is actually pretty serious, I am down to my last bottle of wine oh and a bag in the box of cooking wine, which might have to be considered drinking wine. Keeping the British stiff upper lip, I am putting together an escape committee.

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The plan is really quite simple, we dig a tunnel to the closest bar which is  The Osteria della Luna. I know the layout of the bar pretty well as it is one of my regular haunts, if the plan and my calculations work perfectly, our tunnel should exit just behind the bar, where I know there is an ample supply of  fine wine, whisky and crisps. We won’t be detected until the bar is allowed to reopen sometime in April.

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Tell Pecora Nera we missed the pub and got the beer garden

What else, oh my Italian Citizenship ceremony is on hold until they lift the movement restrictions,  I am a little cross over this, I went to the trouble of ordering a bow tie and getting my suit cleaned and pressed.

Bow tie

My new Bow Tie

I kid you not, I wore my new bow tie to school and the kids went crazy, so when this is all over and the schools reopen, (although the latest rumour circulating is they won’t bother reopening the schools before summer…) I will buy a few funky bow ties for the kids to laugh at.

I want the schools to open soon as I really miss working with my little munchkins. Especially Class 2 who have decided I am Peter Pan and one morning pleaded with me to fly around the classroom for them and even little Cecilia who sometimes forgets herself and decides that licking her school desk is much more interesting than my English Lesson.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you well.

Pecora Nera

President of the Escape Committee

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. 

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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 of 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.

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.

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-04 at 8.41.41 PM

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The incident of the police car in the bush.

The incident of the police car in the bush.

Last night, when we arrived home Mrs Sensible said she could smell a strange odour, she thought somebody was burning rubbish and then I heard the sound of squealing tyres. I went off in hot pursuit to find out which idiot was squealing his tyres along our little dirt track of a road.

There hiding in the bushes was a little green and white police car. The driver had managed to wedge the little car pretty deeply in my garden hedge.

Englishman in Italy

Hiding in the bushes was a little green and white police car.

The gravel track he had slid down doesn’t look too steep, but his police car wasn’t going anywhere, except deeper into the bushes.

Policeman: “Hello, I am stuck I was trying to find my way to the village.”

Me: “Yes, Road closed, go roundabout first right,  turn right next…. Erh place where dead people are.”

The policeman looked at me a little strangely. “Dead people??”

Me: (scratching my head and trying to remember the correct word)… cemetery. turn right near cemetery.

And then his phone rang and he looked even more unhappy.

Police phone

Yes, I won’t be long, just sorting out a little problem

When he put his phone away, He asked me to drive his little police car while he tried pushing it. This was a complete and utter failure, however it was fun driving my first police car, even if I only managed to slide it further into the bushes. We then swapped places and I was relegated to car pusher and again we slid sideways into my hedge.

I decided to give him some valuable advice. “Stay here” not that he was going anywhere!

I walked home and returned with some bits of wood.

English man in Italy

We pushed and we pulled, but the little car wasn’t going anywhere.

In every situation like this, there is always somebody who states the obvious.

Me: “We need a tractor” For just one second the policeman looked excited.

Policeman “Do you have one”

Me “No”

I took out my phone and called Dottoressa Paula. I did this for two reasons, one she knows a man with a tractor and two I thought she would be upset if she missed out on all the fun.

The good Dottoressa quickly arrived, mainly because her house is next to mine and the car was stuck outside her front gate. She phoned the man with the tractor, but alas he was not at home.

The policeman came up with a good idea, after wedging my wood under his car tyres, he suggested Dr Paula should drive his car and we would push the car, and just to make sure we would be successful, he stuck some wood under the rear wheels. Hmm!

Police read wheel

His shoes were perfect for pushing the car, he only slipped over three times

_130

I was pushing so this is the best picture I could find

Shoulder to shoulder the policeman and I , pushed and heaved and Dottoressa Paula revved the engine, slipped the clutch and disappeared up the hill and down our gravel road.

After I had ran down our lane and caught up with Dr Paula, I took a quick photo, unfortunately it is not as good as I would have liked. There is a much better picture here, which was when the carabinieri arrived a couple of years ago

Police 6

Not the best picture of Dr Paula

The local policeman and I were suitably impressed with Dr Paula’s exceptional rallying skill, the policeman shook our hands two or three times.  I only hope the next time the police stop me, it is our friend who likes to park in my garden hedge.

 

Riso Amaro or The dreaded Lurgy

Seventeen days ago during a barbeque with Mr H, I was viciously attacked by either mosquitoes or papadachi. Whatever they were they had a little feast on my legs and feet. Seven of the bites turned into lovely big blisters, the others just itched like mad.

891ea95cda44f6590dd1ab0528bd3177--bug-mosquitoes

I went to see my doctor, who oohed and ahhhhhed  and gave me some antibiotics, don’t worry Pecora Nera the blisters will go in 3 to 4 days. When I went to buy the antibiotics, the chemist suggested I should also try some antihistamine tablets. I politely declined them explaining that they send me to sleep. He gave me some cream which I paid for.

I don’t remember  much of the following two days, I spent the time sleeping, it would appear antihistamine cream also sends me to sleep.

cat-sleep

I spent two days in a semi-comatosed state.

Fast forward 10 days, to my trip to Sicily to visit The Family and a collection of other Chemists who have prescribed lots of ooohs and special creams. I still have two wonderful boils one on the top of each foot.

Mrs Sensible said I should go to the Pronto Soccorso at the Ragusa Hospital (Emergency Dept). We sat in the waiting room with lots of other people who didn’t appear to have any medical emergencies.

'It's out new method for determining who we should treat first. We take people in order of how loud they scream.'

The triage doctor looked at my poor feet and downgraded my emergency to code white, looking down at my poor feet I thought I should be at least a code red or at the very least a code orange.

Mrs Sensible explained that code white means you are really wasting their time and you will have to pay for the hospital visit. At this point I would like to say I did suggest visiting the local doctor in the village, but Mrs Sensible said she didn’t think the local doctor was very good.

witch_doctor

I didn’t ask why their doctor wasn’t very good.

We wandered around the hospital in search of the waiting room for patients designated as not really very ill.

White

Codici Bianchi (Code White, not code Red)

As doctor number 2 peered over his computer monitor, Mrs Sensible explained that either mosquitoes or papdachi had bitten my poor feet and legs. I don’t think he believed her. She pressed on with, in Piemonte we have lots of mosquitoes and Pecora Nera sometimes has an allergic reaction to the bites.

gorrila

I was concentrating hard to understand the conversation.

I was listening very attentively to Mrs Sensible and Doctor number 2 discussing my poor feet, and then when Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes, I was momently distracted and lost the rest of the conversation. Mrs Sensible told me we were off to see yet another doctor……

Ok, what did he say when you rolled your eyes?

He asked if you have been working with bare feet in the rice fields!!! I told him you are an English Teacher.

Stifling a laugh I asked if Mrs Sensible had told him we now have tractors in the north and no longer pick the rice by hand?

riso-amaro-locandina copy

Pecora Nera starring in Riso Amaro

Anyway, where are we going now?

To the ward for infectious diseases!

What, are you serious?

Of course, the doctor thinks you have contracted an infectious disease from one of the other workers in the rice field.

I don’t work in a rice field!!!!

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Infections Ward

I really didn’t want to enter the ward without wearing a bio hazard suit, there was no knowing what infectious disease I could catch in there, probably something far worse than a couple of boils on my feet.

Actually my feet were feeling much better, we could go home and visit the witch doctor.

IMG_9795

Mrs Sensible’s bag and assorted protection gear

Doctor number 3 examined my feet and gave me flea powder some antibiotic powder and some pills. Your feet will be back to normal in 3 to 4 days. He was so convincing I almost believed him. However at the time of writing this little post I am 3 days into the treatment and the boils are still large as life. The doctor also upgraded my emergency to Green, which meant we didn’t have to pay for the treatment.

I have precisely 31 days  to cure (or pop) these blisters, why? Because each year I enter the Canelli Wine run and I will run it with or without the blisters. Not that they will impede my slow trot around the course.

This video is last years trot around the course, with my crazy friend Mr H, prizes if you can spot Mr H and me.

 

Small pink and needs renewing.

I teach little Italian children English, I may be allergic to the little blighters, but I do try and teach them. This year I taught at my usual schools and I was asked to teach a small group of 5 year olds, when I arrived for the first lesson the group consisted of 24 kids and their ages ranged from 3 to 5. Three of the children needed special needs teachers and one of the special needs teachers needed medicating or some sort of psychiatric help.

mrs-sensible-on-monday-morning

Anyway, I survived the school year and I received a text message notifying me that I could collect my wages from the Banca Popolare di Milano and it is next to the pizzaria. So I drove to the village and found the pizzaria, next to it was the CPA bank.

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Bank of Milan????

Hmm! I drove once more through the village, and then a second time. Finally I was just about to text the school and ask them if they had made a mistake when a man walked past my car.

Once again I tried to have a civilised conversation in Italian, using my limited vocabulary and dreadful grammar.

ME, Excuse me bad English, I look Bank Milano.

Man: It is there. (he was pointing at the Bank of CRA)

ME: There? No I need Bank Milano, no Bank CRA

Man: A while ago, the bank was bought out by the Bank of Milan and they haven’t changed the signs yet. We all know it is the Bank of Milan so it isn’t a problem.

The only part of the conversation I understood was, Bank Milano Problem…

ME: What?

Man: Bank Milano THERE!!!

Obviously I was asking directions from the village idiot. I thought I might have better luck from someone inside the bank.

Me: Good Morning (perfect Italian, but with a hint of an English accent)

Me: Where the Bank Milano Please.

Woman: Here.

It was at this point the earlier conversation with the ‘village idiot’ started to make sense.

I gave the woman my driving licence as proof of identity and told her I was there to collect payment from the local school.

Please don’t ask me why the school didn’t just transfer the money to my account. Because I have no idea. I did feel rich as the woman counted out my wages for the past six months and slid the small bundle across the counter.

To celebrate I called in at the Ristorante Italia and ordered a meal. Maurizio the owner, poured me a glass of red wine and sat at my table. Two plates appeared and then food and more food.

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This is carne crudo (raw meat seasoned with lemon) served with lots of black truffle.

After several courses and a couple of glasses of wine, the bank phoned me.

Mr Grey, your driving licence has expired, bye bye.

I took out my wallet and Maurizio and I examined my out of date licence. This was not good news, for the past 3 months I had been driving with an expired licence and been stopped twice by the Carabinieri (I don’t think the carabinieri can read and wouldn’t have spotted the error) . Also I would have to go and see Mr Cretino and ask him to renew the licence. I remember the pain of dealing with him when I swapped my UK licence to an Italian one.

I asked for the bill. Maurizio refused to provide one, the meal was on him. (One of the privileges of teaching English to the local Restauranteur) maybe today would be so bad.

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My old UK driving Licence

Forty minutes later I was standing in Mr Cretino’s office.

Mr Cretino: The doctor is in today, if you have your medical, we can give you your new licence in 10 minutes.

Hmm! More like 10 months… it took 9 month when he transfer my UK licence to an Italian one.

As I climbed the stairs to see the doctor, I remembered I was wearing contact lens and they are not as strong as my glasses, at the moment my glasses are at the bottom of a drawer after I dropped them and some twit stood on them. But hey ho the eye test only takes 3 minutes and I was sure I could pass it.

The big problem with Italian eye tests, is you need to not only be able to see the letters, you need to know them. For example an H is not an H it is cappa!!! Y doesn’t exist but when it does exist it is called ipsilon. And the vowels are a nightmare to remember.

  1. A—sounds like a in father
  2. E—has two sounds: short vowel like e in pen; long vowel, similar to ai in fair
  3. I—sounds like ea in tea
  4. O—has two sounds: like o in cozy
  5. U—sounds like u in rude

I becomes E, E becomes A and I become confused.

What I really needed was this type of eye test.

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My type of eye test

Although I have no idea what an acorn is in Italian, or what the spaceship thing in between the coat and the umbrella is. My right eye was pretty good, I was quite impressed with my sight and pronunciation of the letters. However my left eye might as well been with my glasses in the drawer at home.

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Blind as a bat

My first thought was, where has the chart gone, and slowly as I strained I managed to see some of the letters, notably the E which is an AE and the H which is cappa.

The doctor asked me if I wore glasses, I said yes but they are in the drawer, I am using, contact lens. I don’t think he understood me. He told me I MUST wear glasses and he was reducing my vehicles down to just a car. I would loose the ability to drive mini buses and trucks.

I said I would go and buy some new glasses and would return for a second exam, I don’t think he was over impresses with having to sit through another test with me.

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The dog wearing my new glasses

Mr Cretino didn’t take 10 minutes to create my new licence, he took 4 days. 4 days was pretty outstanding for Mr Cretino, and they must have decided it was to complicated to reduce the vehicles I can drive, because they didn’t eliminate any, in fact they added the motor bike onto my licence.  Maybe I should buy a motorbike. Beep Beep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The great poo adventure or when all great plans go wrong.

The great poo adventure or when all great plans go wrong.

On Friday morning our downstairs toilet started leaking water into the bathroom. Initially the water appeared to be clean, but by Saturday morning it had a faint whiff to it. If we flushed the toilet upstairs or emptied the bath, water mysteriously appeared in the ground floor bathroom.

Two years ago we had the same problem, (see Treasure maps, pee and poo) so using my best Italian, I called the poo man to come and clear the blockage.

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Mr Poo Man to the rescue

Hi, I Pecora Nera, me toilet blocking, you come here yesterday now.

Poo Man: Hi Pecora Nera, How are you, I will come and fix the problem on Monday.

Fantastic. Where, erh When?

Poo Man: In the afternoon.

I told Mrs Sensible that the Poo Man was coming on Monday afternoon and everything would soon be back to normal, or at least as normal as our house gets. I cancelled my afternoon lessons and waited and waited and waited.

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Waiting for the Poo Man is not fun

Not only didn’t the Poo Man turn up, but he wouldn’t answer any of my messages or telephone calls. Very late on Tuesday he sent me a message asking if he could come on Thursday morning. I knew by Thursday morning we would be swimming in poo. I sent a terse message back asking him where he was on Monday and could he please please come on Wednesday. I haven’t heard from him since…

When all else fails there is always Facebook, so I posted a message in one of the Facebook groups and a nice lady called Jill said she normally fixes her septic tank blockages with a garden hose pipe.

Hmm! All it takes is a hose pipe. I unscrewed the toilet and peered into the hole underneath it.

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There appears to be a rather lot of poo down there..

I slowly fed the hose pipe down the hole and metre by metre it disappeared, after thirty minutes of pushing and pulling, the hose pipe finally stopped. I estimate the end of the hose pipe was some 20 metres down the hole. No matter how hard I pushed or twisted the hose pipe it wasn’t going any further.

And so I sat down and had a little think.

Winnie_the_Pooh_Hmm_Think_Think_Think

Just a little think.

And then I had a wonderful idea, if I suddenly turned the hose pipe on, the force of the water would blast the blockage of poo out of the way. I could then go out for a glass of wine.

And without a second though, I twisted the tap and fired the water down the hose pipe, the result was not quite as I had anticipated. The majority of the poo remained firmly in place some 20 metres down the pipe. But a rather large amount returned back up the pipe and created a rather spectacular fountain of poo, toilet paper and water in the middle of the bathroom.

Winnie_the_Pooh_and_Rabbit_have_their_Eyes_Closed

I heard it, I smelt it but I didn’t really want to see it.

I will be honest, it was not  the result I had wanted. It took me nearly 2 hours to mop the floor, walls and sink and I still had a blocked pipe. I decided I should give the Poo Man a quick call. I am not sure he will ever fully understand the message I left him, but I think he realised I was a little dissatisfied with him.

I sat down and had another little think.

If I could seal the space between my hose pipe and the hole, it might be possible to stop the water and poo escaping into the bathroom, it might actually force the poo into the septic tank where it belongs. And so I started to ram and stuff old sheets and cloth in the hole and around the hose pipe. I then added my weight by firmly standing on top of the cloth sealed hole and asked my assistant….. Mrs Sensible to turn the tap on.

Rabbit 2

I suddenly realised I might not have thought of everything.

As the water fired down the hose pipe for a second time, I realised I might have made a few miscalculations. There was the possibility that the pressure might actually force a thin but powerful jet of poo and water up past my makeshift seal and hit anyone stupid enough to be stood on top of the seal. Or worse still it might force the poo, toilet paper and a substantial amount of water in another direction altogether and exit out the kitchen sink, or the bidet that was currently right next to my left elbow.

bidet

It was a distinct possibility

The hose pipe shuddered in my hands and I pushed it deeper into the hole to seal it and it moved, about 20 centimetres, so I shoved it again and again. I silently prayed that the kitchen was not being turned into a disaster area and the poo was really going in the direction I wanted it to go.

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Happy days

I am sure you are pleased that there is an happy ending to this post. When Mrs Sensible turned off the water, the pipe was completely clear. The Pecora Nera house is now back to normal, or as normal as it ever is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shh and Sit down!

Mario, please take your finger out of your nose.

Eduardo, please sit down.

Mario, take your finger out of Giuseppe’s nose.

Eduardo, please sit down!

Maria, stop kissing Daniele, I don’t think he really likes it.

Eduardo, Sit Down!

Mario!!!! Please don’t eat it….

And so began my first lesson teaching a class of seventeen 4 & 5 year olds.

After one hour I was utterly exhausted and needed a stiff grappa to get me through the rest of the day.

I regularly teach English to children aged between 8 and 12, and it is normally great fun, I even have two classes of 6 year olds but the difference between a 6 year old and a 5 year old is astonishing.

In two seconds flat they can close their eyes and fall into a deep slumber right before my eyes….

Claudia, count to ten. 1… 2 …. 3 ….5……6 …..Zzzzzz

Teaching children has certainly changed since I was a chilblain, I vividly remember how adept my teacher was with the use of the ruler on a set of knuckles or how Mr Fearn could silence a class for the whole year by simply slippering one child on the first day of term.

I get a real buzz from teaching children (with the exclusion of children who eat their own bogies).

A couple of weeks ago I was writing a sentence on the blackboard, as I took a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure the kids were behaving I managed to catch a little six year old girl licking the top of her desk!!!

My tummy flipped twice, I looked at her and wagged my finger, she stared at me with big blue eyes and her tongue still hanging out… Bless her

At the moment I am gearing up for our English Summer Camp. Over a period of two weeks 46 children will descend on our house and sleep in two massive tents that have been provided by the local civil protection service.

Last year was our first year and we started off with 29 children over the two weeks…

Hopefully this year the kids will have as much fun.

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

Let me start by saying I have just finished a second course of antibiotics to try and kick a chest infection.  I still have the cough and now thanks to the antibiotics I have a really bad case of wind. 

Nobody was safe from the wind

 

As we walked to the office of the prefecture I was not only worried about my application for Italian citizenship, but also my precarious medical condition.  I am not sure if my interpreter knew I kept randomly exploding, if she did, she never said anything.

The Office of Sig.ra helpful

 

The meeting went really well, Sig.na Helpful ( the women in the office) decided I could write a self certificate declaring that when I was a baby in Malta I wasn’t a   Cereal Killer or criminal.

The milk had better be warm today


Sig.na Helpful asked if she could see my original documents, I whispered to Mrs Interpreter that my original documents are languishing in some office in the U.K. and hopefully they will receive the apostille stamp and be back here in ten days.

Sig.na Helpful asked me to sign another self certificate declaring that the photocopies of  my original documents were original photocopies !!! I know I am still trying to work that one out. maybe I lost something in the translation.

I was then asked for the marca da bollo, this is a little stamp that cost me €16. It’s at home I said! 

Marca da bollo

 

Don’t worry Sig.na Helpful said you can bring it in next week, or nip out and buy another one.  I couldn’t believe my luck, I had been sitting there with my stomach making curious noises and I knew there was an imminent explosion due.

I’ll be right back I said as I ran out of her office, I managed to exit the building before the wind struck.

I drove my interpreter back to her house and then headed off to Cerrina to give an English Lesson.

Because I had an hour to spare I stopped off in a bar for a coffee and a brioche. The bar looked clean and I thought it might be ok to use their toilet.

Turkish Toilet

The hole in the floor

 

I have lived here ten years and today was the first time I have had to balance above a Turkish Toilet  I think if you have a dress it must be easier, all the women need to do is bunch their dress up under their armpits.

If you are wearing trousers there are a multitude of problems, 1. With your trousers around your ankles it is really difficult to open your feet far enough to squat safely above the hole, 2. Attempting to maintain balance with one hand trying to hold your trousers out of danger while squatting is a nightmare.

Just as I managed to get my balance and my thigh muscles stopped shaking, I heard a click and  the fricking light went out, I was immediately plunged into darkness.

Stupid Light Sensor

 

Some energy conscious Italian had installed an automatic light switch!!!

Because this is a family rated blog, I can’t tell you the thoughts that ran through my mind or the words that spilled out of my mouth as I nearly tumbled down the hole.

What I will say is, trying to turn the light back on by waving with one hand in the air, whilst  trying to keep your trousers safe and maintain balance, is as easy as riding a unicycle while playing the bagpipes

A talented man

Today my thoughts are with the inventor of the Turkish Toilet and the man who set the light switch to 20 seconds, both of you have a better sense of humour than I will ever have.

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

I have to tell you I am crying into my glass of wine, I have just received two E mails from the Prefettura in Alessandria, allegedly they are processing my application for Italian citizenship.

The first E mail I successfully translated with the help of Google, it went something like this.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please come to our office on the second floor,  on the 9th November at 10.30. Bring originals of the documents you submitted on line.

I was so happy I nearly kissed the cat.

 

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat didn’t want a kiss

And then I opened the second E mail and as Google translated the document, I nearly kicked the cat.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please apostille stamp your documents and it is necessary to provide your police certificate.

If I kicked Mishmash, she would retaliate by taking a dump in my shoe

 

After talking to the prefettura (I used my neighbour for this) we found out the police certificate she wanted, should be issued by Malta. Did I mention I was born in Malta and moved to the UK when I was 8 months old?

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer


Obviously this is going to delay my application. I hope the Maltese authorities are not aware of my juvenile crime spree and will certify I was a good boy for the 8 months that I lived there.

Digging through my mother’s photo album, I found a couple more photos of my time in Malta

Me getting ready for the midwifes visit. She always had cold hands

Taken shortly after I held up the milkman

Another successful raid on the baby food factory


Today I have sent my documents issued by the UK government back to them with a request that they validate them with a rubber stamp.

I have also E mailed Malta to ask if they provide criminal certificates for 8 month old babies.

Citizenship part 1
Citizenship part 2
I am sure there will be a part 3 & 4

Just another average day in Italy

On Monday I received a nice letter warning me that I had forgoten to pay the car tax on my little mini. I think the tax was for 2011 – 2012.  The letter gave me 60 days to pay the tax or I would be charged an additional €7.00 😱 Mrs Sensible gave me 2 days to pay it or face more dire consequences than a mere €7.00

 Every morning she has reminded me once or thrice that the bill is still OVERDUE… 

So this morning I called in at the local post office in Occimiano and tried to pay it, the really helpful woman (NOT), behind the counter told me I needed to fill in the ‘Casuale’, 


Normally you write the bill/invoice  number in Casuale but there wasn’t a bill number so I asked the unhelpful woman if I should write Soris , or Regione Piemonte or car tax? 

She shook her head, and continued to talk to her mother on the phone.

“ok cosa scrivere? ” I probably missed a few words out but I think I said, What should I write? 

She shrugged her shoulders. Of course, I had forgot there is no such thing as customer service in Italy

Google search: Italian Customer Service


With a smile I thanked her for her help and walked out.

Finding a helpful Poste Italiane worker is like finding hens teeth,  for every helpful worker there are at least 23 unhelpful workers. Mind you there are millions of post offices in Italy to choose from.

I decided to try the post office in Terrugia, and the guy was amazing, he filled out the form and took my €270.36. Which means my car is now legally taxed for the year 2011 – 2012. I not sure if I have paid  this years road tax, mind you, it has taken them 5 years to write to me. Maybe I will receive another letter in the year 2022

Ouch ! 🆘😢

Yesterday was a little cooler than normal, the cats were lazing in different parts of the garden and I decided I would find the old hosepipe so I could water my bit of mud that would soon be grass.

Susie Pussy Cat, very beautiful, very stupid


I searched in the garage and behind some boxes and then I remembered it might be in the boiler room.

I tugged the door open and as I reached for the hosepipe, I felt a sharp pain on my cheek, nowadays my reactions are not quiet as fast as they used to be, there was a time I could outrun a wasp. These little blighters managed to sting me once more on my back before I managed to run to the sanctuary of my house.

Last one to sting him buys the beers

 

As the cats all ran in the other direction, Mrs Sensible heard the commotion and thought at the very least I had amputated my left leg or maybe I had fallen out of the upstairs window.

As she tended my wounds, I pointed out I had only shouted ouch twice, and I had not come screaming into the house, like a cat with its tail on fire.

Wasp nest split in half


I extracted immediate vengeance on the nest with a powerful bug spray. And as you can see, they were extremely annoyed because when I opened the door I managed to split their nest into two pieces.

My neighbour came around (probably because she heard me shout ouch and ouch) and suggested I should recoperate in her swimming pool.

The best pool in miles


Which I did, although I am still sulking with  the wasps

Boys and their Toys 🚜

I had a brilliant idea, I would hire a little digger and flatten part of the garden that has been driving me mad.

When I mow the grass, it normally takes 2 to 3 hours, if the mosquitos attack me while I am cutting the grass, it can take 2 to 3 weeks and I only persevere when it becomes apparent that the cats can’t find their way home through the jungle.

My son mowing the bottom grass

 

One year I dug over a piece of the garden, to plant tomatoes and vegetables, ok I didn’t actually do the digging Giorgio arrived with his big tractor and dug it over for me, but I did plant the seeds and water them.

Giorgio did the digging


As you can see, the garden had a little slope and it also had holes where I had dug up various vegetables, this made mowing the grass a little dangerous, if one of the mowers wheels fell in a hole… I was doomed.

Cecil, one of the vegetables I grew

 

On Friday night I wandered down to the local digger hire and enquiried about hiring a little digger.

Me: I need machine one day, how much? (as you can see my Italian is improving)

Owner: Mmm, 100 Euros,  do you have a digger licence?

Me: Ha, you very funny man. I car/truck licence.

Owner: You must have a digger licence.

Me: I dig me garden, not road!!!

The owner sucked his teath and shrugged.

Fealing a little disappointed I drove home, I didn’t really blame the man for not wanting to rent one of his lovely diggers to a crazy Englishman who was wearing flip-flops and had the language ability of a five year old.

At seven a clock I received a phone call.

Hi Peter, how are you? Luigi told me, you want to hire one of his machines, I have told him I know you and he will deliver it to you at 9pm tonight, is that ok.

Me: What! Please you speak me slowly.

Pier: Digger will arrive at 9

Me: FANTASTIC

My new toy

 

I was so excited when the digger arrived, as I thanked the man, my mind started to wander, I started to wonder how feasible it would be to dig a swimming pool and could I do it before Mrs Sensible realised what I was doing.

I need a swimming pool

I set my alarm for 7:30am and at 8 o’clock I was tentatively driving my new toy down the garden, just as I started to enjoy myself, Pier turned up and shouted “più potenza” (you can use google translate).

He then decided to show me how to dig and flatten my garden properly, I have to admit I had mixed emotions, yes he was doing a fabulous job and he obviously knew how to operate the digger, but I was sat on the side just watching… maybe even sulking a little bit.

Pier and his broken leg


I shouted “Ok, I can see how you do it” and “Ok, let me have a go” and finally ” That hard work can’t be good for your broken leg”

Pier was having none of it, he just smiled at me and waved away my concerns.

I now have a perfectly flat piece of land for the children’s tents next year. Did I tell you about the English Summer Camp I ran last week? I might in my next post, that is if I am not digging a swimming pool.


Have a fab summer

Pecora Nera

Red stripes and shoe laces

I was spending a pleasant afternoon helping some friends taste and bottle  some red wine, when I received an urgent phone call from Mrs Sensible.

The gang of wine bottlers


Mrs S was putting together a powerpoint presentation when horrors upon horrors the program wouldn’t do what she wanted it to do. I didn’t realise there were others like me, who wouldn’t do as she commanded.

I put  my glass of wine down and bade farewell to my friends, and set off rather quickly on my mission of mercy.

Hurtling down the road in my little Mini I spotted a member of our esteemed  carabinieri standing in the middle of the road waving a red ping pong bat.

englishmaninitaly.org

Anyone for tennis.


Using the hand brake,  going down the gears and jumping on the brakes, I managed to stop the car before I ran him over, did I mention I was rushing?

I believe you should always be extra polite to policemen, especially if you have just nearly run them over. I bade him good morning (it was about four in the afternoon) and he asked me if I was a tourist !!!!

Sorry! Why do you think I am a tourist?


Why no kind sir, I live here.

He proceeded to check my documents and when he checked my vehicle log, his demeanor changed,… This is very bad he told me, your car should have had its vehicle check 3 months ago.. 

It took me a couple of seconds to translate his Italian to English and then register the grave problem I was in. I took the document from his hand and read with horror, my car should have had its check at the end of April, we are now in June

The story of my life


I used one of the few Italian words in my vocabulary, mi dispiace, I’m sorry.

He looked at his machine gun wielding partner and gave me my documents back, Today we haven’t seen you, but tomorrow we will….

Did you see him? No, me neither

Thankfully he mimed some of the words to make sure i understood his meaning.

So here I am spending €67 and waiting to see if my little car is still road worthy. 

A nightmare

 

When the engineer shouted it had passed the emissions test, I did a Mexican wave, he tut tutted a couple of time because one of the exhaust brackets is currently on holiday and one of the tyres is wearing unevenly (I have no idea which) and something about something needing cleaning or changing!! I just nodded and thought I can worry about whatever he is on about another day.

It has passed the emission test


I can’t express how happy I am that my little car has passed it’s test. I do have a small niggling problem, I know two carabiniere are watching out for my car to see if I have had the check done…. 

So I can’t drive wearing my flip flops for a week or two and I promise not to tell anyone that Carabiniere wear boots because they don’t know how to tie laces or that they have red stripes on their trousers so they don’t put them on inside out.

I will leave you with one of my favourite pictures, a carabinieri providing an excellent example of how to dismount from his horse with the aid of a tent.

Utilising a tent to dismount

Life Imploding

I don’t normally whine, but today I am going to make an exception. This little blacksheep’s life started to implode last week.

A life imploding

A life imploding


It all started when I dropped my glasses in the car park of a customers and proceded to drive home wearing my reading glasses.

My mistake became apparent  as the Italian cars looked a little more blurred as they screamed past me going in the opposite direction.

I called the company and they said they had found my glasses, but they appeared to have been stood on…. a couple of times.

They are still good


I always have a back up plan, so I started to wear my contact lenses daily. I normally only use them when I am at the karate class or when I want to wear sunglasses.

The second meltdown came when my right eye started to water, I looked like I had just sat through a sad girly movie and worse still my lens floated around my eye and occasionally   centred itself so I could see.

Mrs Sensible diagnosed me as suffering from either allergy or conjunctivitis, she said she had some cream that would cure the problems with my eye.

Really! I said,

Yes she replied, I bought it for the cat, but it will work on you…..

The third meltdown came when our washing machine decided to self destruct during a spin cycle. Even Mishmash decided to vacate the house, and she isn’t scared of anything, including next doors dog.

Mishmash, one cool cat


After suffering silently, I let Mrs S administer the eye ointment. So far my eye is the same but I have developed a very strange desire to lick myself , I hope I don’t start coughing up hair balls….

No comment

Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

I will try to make this a serious post, I haven’t managed it in the past so please don’t hold your breath; summer is on the way and you will be wondering how you can fit in with the local and not stand out like a tourist.

So let us begin with clothing.

No matter how much you love your own country, it is not a very good idea to go shopping in the local Italian market dressed in an ensemble of your countries flag… Leave the flag at home….. the locals will know you are an american without wearing the stars and stripes on your hat, shirt shorts and probably your knickers!!!

Englishmaninitaly.org

The art of naturally blending in with the locals

I snapped this photo while Mrs Sensible was buying some clothes and I was attempting to look interested in life.

I am adding the following clothing rule, although I fundamentally disagree with it.  FLIP FLOPS are for the beach, I know this because every time I attempt to leave the house in my flip flops the fashion police (aka Mrs Sensible) stops me. It has got so bad I keep a spare set in the boot of my car.

Englishman in Italy

I know, this is just an excuse to feature two girls wearing bikinis

If you scroll down you can read about the Brick Fetish of Vignale Monferrato and here is a wonderful picture of a pair of Brick Flip Flops, probably originating from Vignale.

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

Here is an Italian man walking through the shopping area of Casale Monferrato, it was a hot sunny day in May, of course I was wearing jeans, T-shirt and flip flops.

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Note the lack of Flip Flops

He will have paid more for his shoes than I paid for my best suit, pay close attention to his scarf, the scarf is really a medical apparel, its purpose is to prevent Cervicale. So don’t worry about the weather, bring your overcoat and look like an Italian.

Moving swiftly onto food

When you are sat in the pizzeria or restaurant, sipping a glorious glass of wine, please remember not to ask for your favourite Italian food that you normally eat at Toni’s Restaurant, near your house…

Because Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist, bolognese sauce is only ever served with torellini, tagliatelle, or gnocchi, amazingly Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese has not yet reached our supermarkets.

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The first Italian food I ever tasted came out of a can like this.

And if you ask for Pineapple and Ham pizza, they might just ask you to leave the restaurant.

pineapple and ham pizza

I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

Also, if you want to make the restaurant owner laugh, ask for a cappuccino after the meal. Italians only drink cappuccino before 10:30 in the morning, after that you have to grit your teeth and drink an espresso, or if you must have milk in your coffee ask for  a Macchiato, or better still a have a glass of grappa.

Flowers

How can anybody make a mistake with flowers? Just imagine, you meet the love of your life, a very pretty signorina, you remember not to offer her a cappuccino, because it is after 10:30, the evening goes wonderfully and the next day you arrive to meet her with a bunch of flowers in your hand. Unfortunately you chose a bunch of carnations.

Carnations

I know its a can, but I couldn’t find a bunch of flowers

She scowls and tells you, today she has to wash her hair and is too busy. You are left stood on the doorstep with a can of a bunch of white carnations in your hand. Why? Because we give carnations at funerals.

Travelling

I really didn’t want to upset you over the trains in Italy and I don’t want to over complicate the problem because, well it is complicated enough. In fact, I will write a separate post detailing the fun and games of booking a train ticket.

Driving

Remember to drive on the left, or is it the right? I can only remember when I get in the car and notice the steering wheel is not where it should be. In the ten years that I have been here, I have only driven on the wrong side of the road once, erh! and tried to go around a roundabout the wrong way. Mrs S had forgiven me and only occasionally has nightmares about it.

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A quiet Sunday drive

It wasn’t really my fault, the car-park opened up straight onto the roundabout, and I asked which way we needed to go and she said left, she did mean around the roundabout, but I just turned left.

I will try to upload a guide to Italian Trains later this week.

 

Vignale Monferrato / A Brick Fetish

Vignale is famous for its dance festival, the crazy Englishman who lives there and it’s obsession  with bricks.

Everywhere you look there are bricks, let me give you a quick example. This beautiful red bench was carfully positioned, in such a way that two bricks could be incorporated.


Some of you will be thinking that I have photoshopped the picture or I put the bricks there, let me assure you, this time I am not guilty.

So have a look at this next picture, you can clearly see the road repairers had to tarmac around the bench. They obviously couldn’t obtain permission to move the bench and disturb the bricks.


By now you will begin to see this is no little obsession, but a full blown brick fetish.

I don’t know when the fetish for bricks started, it is not as though Vignale makes bricks and has an excess of them, However a stroll down the main road and you can find strategically placed bricks under benches, just waiting for someone to put them to good use.

In a week or so, when enough bricks have been left under the bench, the brick fairy will stick them under one or more of the legs of the bench.

Did I mention the village it build on a steep hill…… ok it is. In fact if you spend any time stood sideways, for example looking into a shop window, one of your legs will start to ache. The clever residences have solved the problem


It is called A PorterBrick. With this ingenious  little device it is possible to stand  sideways on the hill without your legs hurting.

I think the local council give every new resident a brick when they move to the village and I think visitors can hire a brick, but it is important not to lose it.


Here is a brick that has been worn down by excessive use and has been left next to the rubbish bin waiting to be recycled.

So next time you are passing through Monferrato come and have a look at the village with the brick fetish and who knows, you might see me sat in the bar working hard on my computer.

Citizenship quest (part 2)

I have finally pressed the button and applied for my Italian Citizenship. Now all I have to do, is sit back with a glass of wine and wait to see if they reject my application.

Pecora Nera cats

Three wise cats, Micha, Headache and Liquorice.

My quest started in November 2016 when I applied for my criminal record check, I was a little worried how many misdemeanours and skeletons they might discover.

Maybe just one or two skeletons.

However they obviously didn’t dig too deep, for example they never uncovered the incident of the little girl who somehow lost a chunk of her ponytail during class, maybe they couldn’t prove the fingerprints on the craft scissors were mine.

Ok, so it wasn’t quite as bad as this, well maybe

With this minor hurdle over I procrastinated for just over five months, it was only when I realised the criminal record  certificate was due to expire, that I decided I needed to gather my documents and officially apply.

Applying on line means uploading copies of my birth certificate, residency document, criminal record and something called Richiesta di Iscrizione anagrafica. I will be honest, I didn’t know I had one of these and I still don’t know what it is or when I got it.

I also had to answer 30 pages of multiple choice questions, ok some of the pages only had 5 questions, but they were all written in Italian…

Multiple choice questions

To say I was a little stressed when I was finished is an understatement. I rechecked my answers and then pressed the button.

The Italian ministry now has 730 days to either decline or accept my application. If they don’t reply in time, I am granted citizenship by default.

Over a glass of wine, I suddenly had a cunning idea, if all the brits suddenly flooded the Italian ministry with citizenship applications….. they will be overloaded and won’t be able to cope!

Flood the Italian ministry with applications

and if they can’t cope, maybe my application will be overlooked and I will gain citizenship after 730 days by default.
So please help this black sheep by applying now

Nonnas are an important family member.

Every Italian house will have a Nonna, they are an invaluable member of the family, few decisions that affect the family will be made, without the approval of Nonna.

They are so important, that you can now buy a magazine to fully understand how to use them.

nonna

I have translated the cover for you.

There used to be a sister magazine called 3 Uses of a Mother in Law. But it didn’t sell very well so it was discontinued.

 I have a cunning plan. 

 I have a cunning plan. 

While I was quaffing a rather nice glass of  red wine at the local bar, I spotted a leaflet advertising an English Summer Camp, the experience of losing their kids for one week cost the parents  the princely sum of €550.

Wine and chocolate food aids the brain cells


I will be honest, the summer camp leaflet and time table didn’t inspire me. As the smooth red wine stimulated my brain cells, I suddenly had a cunning plan. 

Maybe I could run an English Summer Camp

Camping English Style


Obviously I can’t guarantee the traditional English weather. 

I have an American friend who was an English teacher and more importantly she owns a vineyard, who better to team up with?

Over a cappuccino (I know it should have been a glass of wine) I told her about my cunning plan, I explained that I teach seven classes of kids ranging from six to eleven years of age. And if we talk to the parent we should have enough kids to fill the camp. I also mentioned the kids we could veto, for example the class clown in year 3 and little Marco who always has his finger buried up his nose to his first knuckle.

Marco the nose picker

My American friend disagreed, she said these are precisely the kids we should invite…

In the interest of research I sent a message to Linda Von Grady at Expat Eye on Germany to ask her opinion and she replied “Ha, why do you do these things to your self?” 

My only excuse is the wine motivated me.

So in a little over three and a half months, twenty two Italian nose picking kids will descend on a vineyard for 6 days and 6 nights in a hope to improve their English and have a great and spiffing time. 

And if we survive the encounter, another twenty two kids will arrive the following week.

I think I need a grappa. 

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

In the 10 years that I have lived in Italy, I have learnt a few things. These include my inability to learn Italian and the Italians inability to learn anything about customer service.

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Italian Customer Service

In 2013 I cried into my cappuccino with the Fedex Farce.  and of course you know about the fun and games with Mr Cretino and my driving licence.

I hate to tell you but TNT Express are as bad if not worse than Fedex. Mind you I have just found out they are now part of the same organisation run by David Binks their CEO. I did write to Mr Binks, but he didn’t reply to me nor did his organisation answer my questions.

So here we go… a little story book for you.

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I am sorry this is not as funny as my usual posts, but I am still a tad disappointed with TNT

All the best Pecora Nera

 

Man Flu and the Injection

A couple of months back, Mrs Sensible was poorly sick and dying and horrors upon horrors, she phoned the school and told them she would not be teaching the little chilblains how to tie their shoelaces and how not to pick their noses.

No picking your nose in Mrs Sensibles classroom

 

I was immediately despatched to the doctors to pick up a sick note and deliver it to the school admin. I tried to protest by saying “it can wait until you are better” and “it’s flipping cold outside”.

Mrs S was having none of it, She explained that by law a teacher must submit a sick note on her first day of sickness. I was of course scoffing, tutting and raising my eyes to heaven. What if you are really really sick and your husband isn’t at home? What then, eh! Eh!

My doctors English language skills are about as good as my Italian. We can say hello, goodbye and the rest we get by with miming and a mixture of English and Italian words. 

If I wasn’t so good at miming, I might have to learn the language.

 

The doctor wrote out the sick note and then produced a fully functioning needle and syringe, I winced as he mimed how to give the injection into the upper arm. He showed me it should be injected at a 90 deg angle, not a 45 deg or even 30 deg. 

The first thing I did was made sure I was not the intended recipient of the object of torture, once I realised it was for Mrs S I started to relax. 

“You like I give needle to Mrs Sensible”

“It’s not difficult, just make sure you get the angle correct”

“Today!”

“No, it is to protect her against influenza, give it to her when her cold has cleared up”

“Sorry I no understand, talk again”

“Next week”

“Oh, Ok”

The weapon of mass destruction

 

When I arrived home I explained to Mrs S about the syringe, I said she had to drop her knickers and bend over so I could give her the injection. 

It took her a full 2.5 milliseconds to realise my bedside manner was not fully kosher, she looked at me in her school marm way and asked what the doctor really said. 

I think I would make a great doctor

 

So I told her what the doc said, or at least what I thought he had said and then added that there was no way I was going to stab her with the needle, I don’t like receiving injections and I am not going to start giving them…

It has since been explained to me that there is always somebody in the family who is a dab hand at giving injections.

To be honest, Italy never ceases to amaze me.

PS, Why am I writing this now and not when it happened? Because I have man flu and the syringe is still sat in our fridge, waiting for an aunt or needle friendly neighbour to turn up for a coffee and DIY hospital treatment.