Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Last night Mrs Sensible created a fabulous meal and I just thought I should share the recipe with you. I don’t normally post sensible things like recipes or which hotel to stay in, there are plenty of blogs that do that, however as I helped cook this meal and I didn’t burn it, I thought you might like to try it.

Ingredients.
100 grams of rice
300 grams of fresh peeled prawns
6 fresh king prawns
6 fresh asparagus
2 knobs of butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 glasses of white wine
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 small tomatoes
Pinch of parsley
Salt and pepper to season

Method
The very first thing you need to do is pour two glasses of white wine, Mrs Sensible used Arneis which is a fresh crisp dry wine from Marco Bellero’s cantina La Cà Nova

1

One glass is for drinking while you cook, the other gets wasted during the cooking.

Peel the king prawns, put the body of the prawns to one side and place the heads, legs and shells etc in a saucepan with half a litre of water, bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer. This will be your stock.

If a foam appears on the top of the stock, remove the foam.

1a

Heads, arms, legs, shells etc in a saucepan.

Chop up the asparagus.  Add the king prawns, garlic, asparagus and peeled prawns to a frying pan, then fry until the prawns change colour in the olive oil,

2a

By now the smell is irresistible.

When they are cooked, place them in a bowl.

3a

Search for the garlic cloves and throw them away.

Separate the king prawns and asparagus tips and place them in a different bowl, find the garlic cloves and throw them away.

3b

Asparagus tips and King Prawns

Chop an onion and fry it in the frying-pan with a knob of butter. Do not clean the pan you want the flavour of the prawns to stay in the pan.

4a

Onion and Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon

When the onion is soft and cooked, add the chopped tomato and continue to fry.

6

The dreaded wooden spoon.

Add the rice to the frying pan.

7

It was at this point that i asked if we had used enough rice, I would have thrown another two handfuls in. But Mrs Sensible said there was enough.

Pour in the glass of wine and gently stir.

8

I nearly cried when she threw my good wine in the pan.

Stir until the wine has been absorbed by the rice and evaporated off.

9

Start adding the stock, make sure the head, arms and shell stays in the saucepan.

Add a ladle of stock from the pan and keep stirring the rice and the onions, as the stock is absorbed add another ladle of stock. Keep adding the stock until it looks like this.

10

Add the stock little by little and keep stirring or it will end up a horrible mess.

Mrs Sensible used nearly the full half a litre of stock, the trick is to add the stock slowly. keep allowing the rice to absorb the stock. I asked Mrs S why she didn’t just throw all the stock in at once, she told me the rice would go like pudding rice.

11

Nearly ready

Add the bowl of asparagus and prawns to the frying pan and stir.

12

Don’t you just love this action photo

Pour the risotto into two dishes and decorate with the king prawns and asparagus tips.

13

Eat and enjoy

If you want to know what my part in this masterpiece was…. I took the photos and chopped the onion. Oh and drank the wine.

Buon appetito.

 

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Today is an important day, it is the Glorious Twelfth which I am sure you know is the official start of the mosquito hunting season, if you want to get involved, further information can be found here.  It is also the day when Italians start to realise that they might have gained a few pounds over the winter and should consider some sort of exercise or sport if they want to look their best on the beach.

mankini

You need the perfect body for the perfect swimming costume, he is obviously English look how white his legs are!!!

During the summer of 2013 I reported on the bizarre sport of Summer Skiing, I understand the sport originated in Finland and has becoming very popular in Italy, mainly due to the relatively few accidents and because you don’t have to pay for ski lifts and expensive clothes.

Summer Skiing

Summer Skiing, no need to pay for expensive boots and skis..

I know over the winter I have managed to lay down a little bit of winter Insulation fat but I wasn’t sure which sport would be most suitable for a man of my tender years. Please don’t get me wrong, I have not been idle during the winter, every morning I do at least two sit ups, one as I sit up to turn off the alarm clock and another as I roll out of bed. Sometimes I manage a third sit up especially if I hit the snooze button rather than the off button on the alarm clock.

Summer will be here soon and I know that if I take up summer skiing I wont lose my winter fat until maybe the summer of 2017 or even 2018 and the thoughts of walking onto the beach in Sicily and having to hold Mrs Sensible’s bag while she goes for a swim is depressing.

beach-tourist-pic

Let me hold your bag while you go for a swim

Drastic measures cause for drastic actions, I have taken up karate. I know you will want to know which hospital to send the get well soon cards to… at the moment all injuries have been self inflicted. The first three week I started training, Mrs Sensible had to help me in and out of bed, after each visit to the club it took me nearly three days to learn to walk unassisted.

2016-03-18 09.02.02

Pecora Nera is learning Karate, I thought he got his exercise from drinking wine !!!

At times it was so bad, I would not even consider trying to wobble over to open a bottle of wine and that’s saying something. And what is Mrs Sensible doing I hear you ask! Well Mrs S has decided to get fit by walking, she meets up with her teacher friends and they go walking after school. I did consider inviting her to join the karate club but, I don’t know, it just didn’t seem appropriate.

551967_105349182949426_628072208_n

Mrs Sensible is dangerous enough with her wet wooden spoon.

Besides there are already two very dangerous females at the club, I am petrified of them, I thought females were supposed to be the gentle sex . On Thursday we practice what we have learnt by fighting each other. We are supposed to partner up with someone with the same ability and skill, these two horrors keep picking on me. I really need to consider complaining to our instructor.

2016-04-12 19.24.55

If they don’t stop picking on me I will take up dominoes

La Bella Chaos.

You know I am normally upbeat and can usually see the funny side of attempting to live a normal life in La Bella Chaos. Today it very nearly beat me, I have spent a couple of hours gnashing my teeth, ripping my sack-cloths and growling at fellow human beings.

I weathered the storm and laughed when it took Snr Cretino eight months to organise my Italian driving licence, but today my insurance agent tried to baffle me with stupidity. Maybe today was just another normal day in Bella Italia and I was tired or maybe I just assumed renewing my car insurance would be easy.

Two years ago we decided to economise and put one of our cars into storage, Mrs Sensible and I tossed a coin and she lost the bet (double headed coins are very useful). Her very sensible and economic Peugeot was abandoned stored and my uneconomical but fun Mini was used by both of us.

englishman-in-italy

Mrs Sensible’s sensible diesel Peugeot.

 

Last night Mrs Sensible made a very valid case for blowing the dust off her car and bringing it out of storage. First she swapped to her schoolmarm voice and then suggested we should insure and tax her economic car and put my fun and gas guzzling mini in the shed or she would go off in search of her wet wooden spoon. I could not think of a suitable argument and she wasn’t going to fall for the double headed coin a second time.

I phoned my insurance company and told them to reinstate the Peugeot’s insurance and I set off in the Peugeot to find someone who would test the car for me. Now in the UK if a car does not have a MOT certificate it is possible to drive it on the road as long as  1) You have an appointment booked for a vehicle test 2) You are driving to the test center. I have no idea what the rules are in Italy, but I doubt they are so straight forward.

Typical stop and search

Typical Carabinieri  stop and search. IMPORTANT: It is not true that the red stripes on their trousers are so they don’t put them on inside out, nor is it true that they wear wellies because they don’t know how to tie their shoe laces.

In Italy the local Carabinieri are not regarded as the brightest of people,  I hasten to add I think they are really, really nice people and I don’t believe a word of the stories nor do I laugh at the Carabinieri jokes. I know I was a little less than impressed when they investigated the burglary at my house…. and I do think it is impressive that they always choose the same places to set up their ‘stop and search’. After all consistency is a good thing. It also means if you are in a rush and don’t have time to say hello to them it is possible to cut across the countryside.

A little scenic drive

This morning I was in a little rush.

Mrs Sensible’s car passed it’s test first time. I was incredibly relieved and managed to uncross my fingers. When I arrived at the insurance office to pick up the new insurance documents, the man tried to give me the insurance paper for my lovely soon to be stored Mini.

Ciao Snr Pecora Nera.

Ciao! I go here take paper insurance for wife car.

These are the new documents for your Mini.

No! Wrong not Mini, wife car.. Peugeot! 

Ahhh! You want to insure Mrs Sensible’s car. Let me work out a price for you.

Italy runs on paperwork. Households save till receipts and  proof of payments forever. In every house there will be a box with a mass of yellowing receipts going all the way back to the receipt for the wedding dress. My father in law told me, he once had to prove he had paid his car tax, a bill he had paid four years previously!

2016-04-06 16.44.29

Every Italian house needs a Tin of Denial

Snr Pecora Nera, your wife’s car will cost € 460.00 to insure.

What? My 1.6 petrol Mini  € 420.00. Peugeot  1.4 diesel. Look again! 

Pointing at his computer screen he said, But your wife’s car has not been insured for four years. She is now a high insurance risk.

It took me a minute before I understand what he was trying to tell me. I delved into my cardboard box and produced the insurance document for 2013 – 2014. I gave him the paper and explained it could be risky to suggest Mrs Sensible was a high insurance risk. Although paying over the top to insure Mrs Sensible’s Peugeot and explaining to  Mrs S that Italy considers me a better driver might have been fun.  

My insurance agent suggested I should go to the bar for a cappuccino while he sorted out the mistake on his computer. Halfway into a nice brioche and cappuccino. He phoned me.

Snr Pecora Nera, I have sorted it all out.

Grazie, On the way I am.

The agent then explained that the car is owned not only by Mrs Sensible, but her father’s name is also on the car’s documents. This meant because her father lives in Sicily, the car will be at a bigger risk of having an accident and the insurance cost will be €530.

I tried my best to explain that her father wouldn’t be driving the car and can’t we just remove his name from the document….. I have some Tipp-ex here and after all this is Italy

tippex

Tipp-Ex perfect for correcting blog posts

The insurance agent said I would need to either transfer the ownership of the Peugeot to either me or Mrs Sensible’s. This will cost around €400 – €500 euros.

So for the moment Mrs Sensible’s car is still in storage and my little Mini is drinking it’s way through a fortune in petrol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limoncello Recipe

Limoncello Recipe

During the summer of 2014 Mrs Sensible and I had two Workaways Guestaways staying with us, while they were here we had another visitor, an engineer from one of my customers was allowed to fly from the UK for a product training course.

One evening the four of us were playing cards and drinking wine and probably grappa and maybe even a glass or two of limoncello. At about one thirty in the morning, I decided I had better go to bed, I left the three of them with an ample supply of wine and a half full bottle of limoncello.

workaway-1-fetching-the-wine

The two workaways during the infamous barbeque. see the post Press the button

During the early hours of the morning while I was snoring in bed, they managed to not only finish the wine and the limoncello, but they drew lots to see who would go down into the cellar in search of more limoncello. I was told with complete sincerity that they believed that I would not want them to go thirsty and therefore they felt obliged to source another bottle ……. and drink it.

In six weeks time the two girls are visiting us again, and knowing how much they enjoyed my limoncello I have made them a small batch.

So here is my recipe.

Ten organic and non-waxed lemons

One litre of 95% proof alcohol

One litre of water

800 grams of sugar

2016-03-23 17.32.08

I managed to smuggle these in Mrs Sensible’s shopping

The first stage is to wash and dry the lemons. Then very carefully peel the lemons making sure you do not include any of the white pith because it will make the limoncello bitter.

2016-03-24 13.48.25

Yours truly peeling the lemons

Place all the lemon peel into a clean plastic bucket and pour in the 95% alcohol. Cover the bucket and leave it in a dark place for three weeks. Once a week give the mixture a stir.

2016-04-05 12.20.09

After 3 weeks the flavour and colour will have leached out of the peel into the alcohol.

After three weeks the mixture will look yellow and the lemon peel should look almost white.

At this stage it is very important that you are not tempted to taste or to breath in a lungful of the aroma coming from the bucket. I can vouch that it takes at least five weeks for the hairs in your nose to grow back and I vaguely remember it was at least an hour before I could talk or breath properly after I decided to lick the wooden spoon I had just stirred it with.

2016-04-05 12.19.16

Try not to burn the spoon or the water, believe me it is possible.

Pour one litre of clean water into a deep pan and bring it to the boil, while the water is boiling, slowly add the sugar and stir it until the sugar has completely dissolved. While your water and sugar mixture is cooling remove the lemon peel from the alcohol and allow them to strain, each drop of alcohol that drains is one more sip on a hot summers day.

2016-04-05 12.32.19

The peel should look pale yellow, almost white.

When the sugar / water solution is tepid, pour it into the bucket. Cover it and put it back into a dark place for a week.

2016-04-05 12.35.59

Limoncello and one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons.

After one week give the mixture a stir and bottle it.

2016-04-05 17.10.42

Unfortunately I needed to drink the last glass of grappa so that I could use the bottle

With the above ingredients you will create about three litres of limoncello. Because the alcohol content is so high (much to the disapproval of Mrs Sensible) the limoncello won’t freeze when it is stored in a freezer. And on a hot summers day there is nothing better than an ice cold glass of limoncello.

Mrs Sensible is very keen on being environmentally friendly and we tend to compost anything that is compostable. We were living next door to Luigina the last time I made limoncello and I dutifully threw the alcohol infused lemon peel in our vegetable waste bucket and then threw it to the hens……. When I realised the hens were fighting over the lemon peel I spent a very worried night wondering if the hens would survive their pub crawl.

2016-03-24 13.57.41

If anyone has a recipe for peeled lemons I am all ears, especially if it contains alcohol

This recipe was taught to me by Mario Masia, Mario owned the restaurant in Sheffield where I met Mrs Sensible. If you are ever in Sheffield UK go to his new restaurant called Akentannos at 270 Sharrow Vale Road Sheffield and tell them his crazy English friend sent you.

Italian Rituals

Italian Rituals

I have had at least a  month to ponder and write a post about Italian weird rituals for the April C.O.S.I post, it is now the 5th and I am still struggling.  Maybe it is because after living here for nearly nine years Italia no longer seems so strange and weird. Or maybe it’s because I am pigro.

We are coming up to the start of the mosquito hunting season and I did consider telling you how Italians can hold a very serious conversation whilst standing on one leg and attempting to either splatter a mosquito that has landed on their leg or soothe the bite mark by giving it a quick rub.

Robert-Downey-Juni_1709242a

Robert Downey Jnr attempting to kill the mosquito that is biting his leg

The second possibility for a post, was the annual ritual of sending your winter coats and heavy blankets to the dry cleaners, packing away all the winter clothes and getting the summer clothes ready for summer. This has always bemused me and I refuse to co-operate with Mrs Sensible. I maintain that I can’t pack away my jumpers and winter coats because if I fly to the UK in August I will probably need them…. and an umbrella.

Besides, I am yet to meet an Italian that doesn’t wear a scarf in summer to protect them from cervicale.

1428596332_ScarfSummerShutterstock_172322060

A tartan bed sheet used as a scarf

On Sunday we were having a bring and share with a group of friends from church, Mrs Sensible turned to me and said ok we are going now. Under normal circumstances this means get your hat and coat we are off, but in Italy this means we are nearly ready to go, we just need to start the ritual of saying goodbye to everybody. So I wandered off in search of another glass of wine and a slice of chocolate cake.

While I was savoring a very nice glass of Barbera, Mrs S was chanting ciao, arrivederci,  ci verdiamo, arrivederla, a presto, a domani etc. As I stood next to the table with the cakes I started to wonder how I could put a post together.

Good bye 5

The correct way to say goodbye in Italia. Notice the perfect peck on the cheek and the way he is making sure he has a firm grip… on the bottle of wine.

Mrs S had got around to the kissing on the cheeks and had actually managed to make some headway in the general direction of the door, when someone held her hand (so she couldn’t escape) and started another conversation. I swirled the wine in my glass, admired the colour and took another drink. I knew I had at least another twenty minutes before I needed to start looking for my coat.

goodbye

This is not the way to kiss cheeks… she is in danger of gaining stretch marks and the kiss kiss noise she makes will be deafening

Mrs S looked over towards me, so I casually replaced the glass on the table and pretended to walk towards her, as she rejoined the conversation I picked up a piece of torta di mele and replenished my glass of wine.

kisskiss (2)

This is maybe a little to over the top, we can see she isn’t wearing a wedding ring, but that is no excuse for taking the kiss goodbye too far.

It was at this point that I wondered if I could put together a post on the ritual of drinking wine in Italy, after all it is something I have a passion for, I could also ask the permission of Mrs S if I could maybe, you know, visit a couple of wine cantinas to further my research.

Good bye 1

yep, in Italy even men kiss each other. Please note that they are also shaking hands, this is to prevent accusations that they are more than just friends

So here I am, it is the 5th and I still don’t know what to write about. I could tell you about my first day teaching English to a class of seventeen 6 year olds! That was fun, or maybe the first time I tried to sing a hymn in Italian and scared the three rows of people in front of me!

So while I ponder what to write for the C.O.S.I post on Italian Rituals let me leave you with Maria Cucinotta who starred in Il Postino to kiss you goodbye.

mariagrazia25

Maria Grazia Cucinotta kissing goodbye

The COSI Group

Rick’s Rome: Ridiculous Rituals In Italy/Under The Puglia Sun

Sicily Inside And Out: Culture Shock In Sicily

Sex, Lies, and Nutella: Food Traditions

Surviving in Italy: Top 7 Weirdest Rituals in Italy

Girl in Florence: Strange wedding traditions

Spring is in the air

Spring is in the air

The C.O.S.I Group or to use their full title Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy have decided to blog about spring or festivals at Easter. The dead line date for publishing the post was yesterday. At the moment I am having an ENEL week, absolutely nothing is getting done on time. I’ll explain about ENEL later.

So what does springtime in Italy mean to me? First it means I can legally start to wear my flip flops outside, well providing Mrs Sensible isn’t clothing monitor for the day.The old ladies will put their fur coats away for another year, however springtime does not mean scarfs are put away. In Italy they are worn throughout the year, this is to prevent the onslaught of cervicale which can strike any Italian at any time.

Springtime also means builders start to work on houses. We have the builders digging holes around the house and tying the walls together with long metal rods in a vain attempt to stop the house from subsiding and moving, next week they will start digging up the garden while they search for our elusive poo hole.

2016-03-04 14.24.35

You won’t find the septic tank up there

Can you see the little orange light on the wall? It means our house is officially catagorised as a emergency recovery vehicle, this allows us to park the house anywhere which is just as well as it might be parked somewhere down among the vineyards if it keeps sliding in a southerly direction.

One of the builders used a impressive looking jackhammer to dig up the concrete path, I managed to bribe him with grappa and espresso to help me to remove the damaged safe in my office. You may remember during August last year a couple of ‘not very bright’ burglars broke into my house and ruined a perfectly good but empty safe. Well one of the nice builders excavated around the safe and removed it.

2016-03-04 13.44.39

I now have a rather large hole in the wall

At the moment springtime is about cleaning, because we have the builders digging holes and drilling in the walls,  the whole house is covered in dust, I did remember to close the office door while he used the jackhammer to dig the safe out, but the dust is everywhere. Mrs Sensible has been very chilled and laid back about the mess and the various holes around the house, to be honest I am a little worried about her calmness, this could be the calm before the storm.

Spring also means my local bar has run out of decent tea, this morning they served up something called Liptons, it was insipid and tasteless. I mentioned to the owner that I might bring my own tea bags in future.. But I think he might not have understood my fantastic Italian. By the way what is Italian for bags of tea? I bet it isn’t borsa di tè

2016-03-04 08.32.57

Would you like lemon or milk in your dishwater?

Springtime also means I should now take my car to the garage and have the winter tyres removed and normal tyres put back on. Unfortunately last October I had another ENEL moment and completely forgot to have my winter tyres put on the car. They are still sat next to Mrs Sensibles Peugeot which is in storage in the outside shed.

One good thing about spring cleaning, is you find things you have lost for example when I was cleaning the bookcase in my office I found the plug adapters that no Italian house can function without or Italian grammar books, nice but not much use to me.

DSC04336

Its amazing how useful things such as glasses and electrical adapters can migrate next to useless things such as Italian Grammar books

I have to get back to cleaning the house, but I promise I will write a post about the very scary kids at my karate club, and why if you live in Italy the chances are you will have two or three jobs…..

Please go and say hi to the other C.O.S.I group member, they managed to get their posts up yesterday..

Surviving in Italy Spring Break Italy

Rick’s Rome: Favorite Spring Destinations in Italy

Girl in Florence: http://girlinflorence.com/?p=12562

Sicily Inside & Out: An Early Easter in Sicily

Sex, Lies, And Nutella: Food Traditions That Win Easter

 

 

 

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

Following last weeks debacle at the ASL office (Italian health office) I casually mention I was going to start the process to obtain Italian citizenship. The ink had not even dried on my little post when Sal from sarsaparillasal.blogspot.com suggested we should have a little race to see who will be the first to obtain their Italian citizenship.

Sarsaparillasal.blogspot.it

Sally from sarsaparillasal

Mrs Sensible thinks I am crazy to even contemplate trying to obtain Italian citizenship, she might be right but being crazy has never hindered me in the past, Lady of the Cakes asked me if my quest was in anticipation of the Brexit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I couldn’t find a picture of Lady of the Cakes but I did steal this image from her blog, it’s probably a good likeness.

To be honest I don’t think the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will make much difference to me when it comes to dealing with Italian officials. Most of the officials I have been unfortunate to come into contact with, either think the UK is not part of Europe, or maybe just not part of the European Economic Area. Even the Italian Police who frequently stop me to check my driving licence think the UK is a country sandwiched somewhere in between Poland and Russia and goes by the name of the Ukraine!

Here is a nice photo of the Italian police with their shiny new Lamborghini police car.

Lamborghini Gallardo Police Car Hard Crash In Italy - 04.jpg

Happy Smiley Faces

And here is another picture of their shiny new Lamborghini police car.

ATT00010

Oops our gallant boys in blue with their shiny new toys.

Ok, so back to Sally and her suggestion that we should have a race to see who can cut through the Italian red tape and be the first to obtain Italian citizenship.

I, Pecora Nera hereby throw down the gauntlet to publicly challenge Sally to the race, may the best friend win.

20140508104624650

Sorry Sally I couldn’t find a nice gauntlet to angrily throw on the floor.

So let the challenge begin… dun dun duuuuurrrr.

PS I have had a snoop at her blog and she is fluent in Italian and has lived here longer than me and….. I’m doomed to lose.

 

 

Treasure maps, Pee and Poo!

I heard a shout from the downstairs toilet! I immediately suspected Mrs Sensible had run out of toilet paper. Understanding this wasn’t a life of death event, I causally sauntered through the lounge, out to the utility room to be greeted by Mrs Sensible sat on the loo with 25mm (1 inch in real money)  of water sloshing across the toilet floor.

Loo

This is not a picture of Mrs Sensible, she refused to let me take a photo

Mrs Sensible did not look too pleased and it was obviously someones fault that she was stuck in this predicament. As she sat there with her feet raised above the water she demanded.

What have you flushed down the toilet?

Nothing!

Are you sure?

Mrs S, this is your toilet, I use the one on the next floor, therefore you must have blocked it.

The look on Mrs Sensible’s face, said she thought my suggestion was highly improbable.

PN ! What have you flushed down the toilet, to block it?

Pee and Poo!! oh and some toilet paper.

What else???

Well, I once threaten to flush Mishmash down the loo, if that counts.

After three hours of mopping, plunging and cleaning the toilet, it was once more clean enough for Mrs Sensible to grace it with her presence

Plunger

I plunged and plunged

The following day Mrs Sensible flooded the toilet for a second time. I hasten to add it was not her fault…. and nor was it mine, honest! However Mrs Sensible was banned from using the downstairs toilet. She was ordered kindly asked to use the bathroom on the first floor or even the guest bathroom on the second floor.

Apart from Mrs Sensible needing to climb the stairs every time she wanted to spend a penny (British expression for needing to go for a pee) life returned to normal. The downstairs toilet was off limits.

crime-scene-toilet-roll_f

Off limits to Mrs Sensible and anyone else who might block the loo (not that it was her fault)

One month later the toilet flooded, not only the downstairs bathroom but also the utility room. To be frank, this time there was a slightly pungent aroma to the water that was flooding everywhere. I was less than impressed as I mopped and plunged the toilet.

I realised I needed to solve the issue of the  flooding toilet, banning Mrs Sensible from using it was not solving the problem. Many Italian houses are not connected to the main sewers, they tend to have a septic tank which collects the waste and occasionally needs emptying, especially if you are a Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) and have flushed baby wipes down the loo. I learnt this four years ago when I blocked our last septic tank, the cleaning charge of €300 taught me not to do it again.

Yesterday I went in search of our septic tank to see how full/blocked it was, unfortunately it appeared to be missing. There is normally a small round inspection hatch, maybe in the driveway or in the garden and the curious can inspect the depth of their poo. I found four square inspection hatches with various water valves, but no septic tank.

1

Ok this picture of a woman searching for a septic tank is just gratuitous

After a long search I contacted my landlord and explained to him that whenever anyone takes a bath, shower or uses one of the toilets, water floods out of the downstairs toilet and my inability to find our septic tank.

The landlord told me, there is a folder and there should be a map of the house and it will show me where the septic tank is.

Pirates map

Arrrr! avast me hearties, tis a treasure map of the secret poo chambers!!!!

The map showed not only one, but two poo holes  septic tanks, both of them are invisible to the naked eye. All I could see was grass. Lots and lots of grass.

grass

Somewhere under here is a septic tank

So I called Bob my friendly builder. Bob arrived to explain a) where my septic tanks where and b) the problem of why my loo back flushes water through the house.

download

My mate Bob

Bob looked at the treasure map and after carefully positioning himself between the house, garage, me and the big old fig tree he declared……. The poo tank is under my feet. All I could see was grass. He assured me that if I dug down one metre or so, I would find the septic tank. In his opinion either the tube was broken or the septic tank was broken because it shouldn’t flow backwards.

Hmmm! I thought it was time to call the landlord again, Bob kindly talked to my landlord and discussed his findings. My landlord explained that it was not his responsibility, but it was my responsibility to repair the sewage system. Bob thinks the septic tank will need digging out and a proper one installing, I have to agree with Bob because the last owner was a bit of a do it yourself freak and looking at the assorted switches and the strange heating system he installed I think I agree with Bob…. our septic tank will just be a hole in the ground.

While Mrs Sensible ponders this problem, I have decided to start packing my books etc into boxes, because I have a strong suspicious Mrs Sensible is going to put her school marm voice on and tell our landlord we are moving out.

Bob suggested, until we move I could periodically dig out the poo and paper from the tube and dump it down the garden……. I pointed out that I refused to dig out and clean the cats litter tray, so I am not about to start digging out poo every day.

So despite how much I like living in the middle of nowhere, I think it is time to change houses.

Bye for now I have packing to do. Uffa!

 

A stressed Englishman

A stressed Englishman

At the moment I am fighting the Italian bureaucracy, earlier this year a pen pusher unceremoniously deleted me from the Italian health system, I can no longer book an appointment at the hospital and I am probably violating some law by visiting the local doctor. I am a firm believer in fighting on two fronts, as in if you are biting their ears it is also wise to kick their shins, so here we go, not only am I trying to get reinstated, I have also starting the process for Italian citizenship.

I can see a stressed time ahead

I can see a stressed time ahead

All advice is welcome, please provide useful or inappropriate comments below. I asked Mrs Sensible for her thoughts on obtaining Italian citizenship, she said I was crazy.

Not everyone thinks I am crazy. Mishmash my cat thinks I am fabulous, well except when I throw her out into the rain or chase her around the house with a water pistol shouting at her for climbing onto the kitchen side or sneaking into one of the bedrooms for a crafty sleep.

Training Mishmash with the water aversion therapy became when she was a kitten

Training Mishmash with the water aversion therapy started when she was a kitten

The teachers from the little school in Mombello don’t think I am too crazy, Once again they have asked me if I can spare a couple of hours a week to help their chilblains with their English Studies.

Before setting of for my lesson, I once again visited the lunatics at the local ASL office (health office) with my latest documents and they then sent me to the local comune (council) to obtain a document granting me the permission to stay in Italy permanently. The man in the comune gave me a temporary permanent right to stay!!!!! I quizzed him whether it was possible to have a temporary – permanent right to stay, but he just shrugged his shoulders and I lost the gist of the conversation after his fourth word.

The little school in Monbello

The little school in Mombello

I got in my little car, which smells of cat pee thanks to the attentions the hairy gigalo of a tom cat is paying it, and set off to the little school in Mombello, for my first English lesson with the chilblains. I was a little stressed when I arrived in Mombello, what with the staff at the ASL office trying to convince me that the United Kingdom is not part of the European Economic Area (I think they believe this because we don’t use Monopoly money (Euro) and have proper money (Sterling) and also because I was trying to decide if my neighbor would notice if I kidnapped his cat and paid the local vet to deball it.

I had a good life, the local cats loved me. One day I was kidnapped, I remember the car I had peed on it often and then with a cruel snip

I once had a good life, the local cats loved me. One night I was kidnapped, I remember the car I had peed on it often and I will never forget the vet and his scissors.

I managed in my little stressed state to drive past the school and park twenty-foot further down the road. As I closed the car door a pungent whiff of cat pee assaulted my nose and as I went to open the car boot to retrieve my bag, a huge smell of cat pee hung in the air.. my little Mini had taken at least two hits on the drivers door and three on the rear bumper. That cat will disappear one night and reappear a couple of days later minus a bit of furry baggage.

It look like the right place to me

It looked like the right place to me…. I blame the mistake on stress

Outside the little yellow house that looked remarkably like the school I pressed the doorbell and was rewarded with a…

Chi e? (Who is it?)

Sono Io (It is I)

Normally this is all it takes to gain admittance to the school.

Allora? (So)

Huh! (maybe said a little petulantly) Allora!! Sono Io, per bambini! (SO!!! Its me for the children)

As I turned around in frustration, I realised the school was twenty-foot further up the road and I had disturbed some old Italian woman who had been preparing  spaghetti bolognase for her husband and children.

Another Italian language flash card for your collection

Another Italian language flash card for your collection

The lesson with the kids was great fun, I am impressed with their knowledge of the English Language, it is far superior to my knowledge of the Italian Language, and I have been living here way before some of these children were born. Which is a scary thought and not one I should pass onto Mrs Sensible.

If there is anybody out there who has successfully applied and obtained Italian citizenship…. I am all ears.

 

 

It has been one of those weeks…

It has been one of those weeks…

Last week Mrs Sensible phoned the local hospital to book me in for a check up, and before you start leaving sarky comments it was not the psychiatric clinic nor was it a follow up appointment with the dietitian. When Mrs S finally got through to the department, they said “we only book appointments in the morning, call between 9 and 11”  which is fabulous because Mrs Sensible is normally in her classroom between 9 and 11 teaching her chilblains how to sit still and not pick their noses.

nose-picking-300x200

Mrs Sensible hates nose picking

 

The following morning she again calling the hospital and was told “Pecora Nera!! nope he is not on the system, we have recently upgraded the computer and he might have been deleted”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pecora Nera… let’s delete him mwaha ha ha!

I have been deleted!!!! How is that possible? Mrs Sensible said she would phone the administrators and try to find out. She talked to a woman for three minutes and then hung up. Pecora, you need to go down to the main office and fill out some forms.

Now I know what Italy is like, so on Wednesday I went armed with my passport, identity card, proof of residence and one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons. It only took a 10 minute search to find the correct office.

Me: Hello I English, please excuse my bad Italian.

Admin: Tell me!

Me: I need hospital appointment, but my name has been deleted, here is my identity card.

She turned to her computer and started clicking buttons and occasionally glancing at me.

Admin: è scaduto

Me: I have expired!!! I am still here.

ComputerSaysNo

She looked at my passport and my other documents, and told me to go to the local council offices and ask them for.

  1. Proof that I am an European citizen.
  2. Proof that I am a resident of my little village.
  3. Proof that I have paid my taxes.

She was not convinced that my UK passport proved anything.

Later that evening I went on my facebook page and ranted about the crazy bureaucracy in Italy. A very good friend of mine messaged me and offered to accompany me to the office to see if she could untangle the mess.

Yesterday we both went back to the office with my little bundle of papers and discussed the problem with a different administrator.

Admin 2: You came yesterday didn’t you.

Me: What did she say?

Admin 2:

The Englishman needs to go to the local council office and ask for:-

  1. Proof that he is resident of his village, the document he has is just a copy of his request to be a resident.
  2. A copy of his wife’s identity card
  3. His identity card
  4. His codice fiscale (national insurance number)
  5. Certificate that his company is registered in Italy.

At the moment I am wondering if it is easier to just fly to the UK and see my old doctor. I did however drive to the council offices and managed to get most of the documents, my accountant is sending over the work related documents hopefully I might be back on the system ASP (at some point)

Oh I nearly forgot, I need your advice with something…..

When I arrived home, the postwoman gave me a very sinister brown envelope, inside it contained a speeding fine!!! I must be very unlucky because I don’t know anyone else in Italy who has ever received one.

 

targa-system-auto2

You may remember I changed my UK driving licence to an Italian licence, because it was too difficult to convince the Italian police it was not a Ukranian driving licence.

The speeding fine doesn’t say who was driving, they assume it was me because it is my car. I now have two options.

Option 1

Is to quickly pay the fine and burn all the evidence, before Mrs Sensible finds out. Otherwise I will endure a lifetime of reminders about my speeding ticket.

Option 2

Prove or convince Mrs Sensible that she was driving the car and then never ever mention her mistake again…… except when we are in the company of friends.

Its a difficult one.

Thought process

Typical thought process of Pecora Nera when dealing with Mrs Sensible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to light a boiler

I have an irrational rational fear of thinks that go bang or could potentially explode. This fear is not limited to Mrs Sensible exploding when she realises I have failed to pay the electric bill on time and ENEL have automatically reduced our available power down to zip, or maybe just enough electricity to power two 60 watt light bulbs. By the way how can they do that? This is Italy it is way too technical for ENEL and besides nothing functions that fast.

oops!

Occasionally I forget to pay the bill before they reduce our power, fortunately Mrs Sensible is only aware of one of these mistakes. 

 

This rational fear of things that may spontaneously explode, dates back to a very traumatic life event during my young formative years. My mother had one of those long tube vacuum cleaners, the ones that mothers drag around behind them. From what I have been told, I decided to sit astride the hoover and pretend I was riding a horse. Everything was fun, until somebody who had a really strange sense of humour decided to find out what would happen if they pressed the big red button and switched it on whilst I was playing my little game.

 

Taught a lesson

A typical Sunday afternoon when I was a child.

From an early age it would appear that I had learnt how to multi-task, I managed to fill a clean nappy, get off the hoover and run screaming from the room quicker that you can shout BOO! I don’t want to thank the person who pressed the red button, but the traumatic experience has in the past, saved me from many injuries. To explain how quickly I can move when startled, let me give you this example: A lunatic of a neighbor who disliked my elder brother, once decided to bang on the roof of my brothers van with a rather large stick. Before my brother had got out of the van to hit him, I had already left the van and sprinted 40 metres up the road and was in a defensive crouch waiting for the (what I thought was exploding van) bits of van to fly overhead. I was 15 at the time.

Back to this morning, Mrs Sensible suggested that we start using the central heating for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. Using the heating for only 4 hours a day might seem frugal or penny-pinching to you, but in reality  it will save us hundreds of Euros. The first winter we lived in Italy we heated the house the same way we did in the UK and our ENEL  November / December gas bill was for over nine hundred euros! and that was a little efficient combi-boiler not the monstrous beast we have in this house.

Look at the size of it

To give you an idea of its size, look at the stack of garden chairs next to it.

We think this boiler was either army surplus of was previously used to heat the Casale Monferrato hospital and the ambulance station next door to it. When the boiler starts, it sounds like a jet engine ready for take off, I cry as I can hear hundreds of euros of gas being sucked into it. Now this boiler has sat dormant for the past eight months and this morning I attempted to light it.

The new and improved system

The new and improved system

Last year the electrical control panel for the boiler was upgraded, previously it had lots of bakelite switches and levers that looked like Frankenstein’s life support system. This morning I flipped the main electrical switch and turned on the pump controls, set the clock to on and waited. It normally takes 15 seconds to ignite and start burning my Euros; nothing it didn’t even fart. I then remembered I needed to go outside and turn on the big gas valve.

I repeated the process and after 15 seconds it hummed, whooshed and burst into action, Whoo hoo! I was just sending Mrs S a whatsapp message when it shut down. So I rang Francois our boiler expert and left him a garbled message. Something like “I Englishman, please boiler kaput fix today?” As I hung up and wondered if I could have phrased my request any better, I decided to try a little DIY.

Modern radiator in my bathroom

Modern radiator in my bathroom, notice the condensation on the OUTSIDE of the window…. So cold

I swiveled the weird divertor valve, unscrewed pumps 2 & 3 then remembered to turn off the gas and electric. Both pumps had seized, so I gave them a technical tap with my hammer, swore at them, reassembled and turned on the gas and electric. The pumps started turning, so I lite the boiler and retreated to a safe place. It whooshed farted and stopped.

So I phoned François again and left him another totally bizarre message. He probably plays my messages to his friends while they are getting drunk on grappa.

Press here if you dare

Press here if you dare

I then remembered the special reset button at the front of the boiler, so I pressed it for 10 seconds and quickly retreated outside my persevered blast radius. It hummed, farted once again and burst into life. I carefully replaced the cover, I have to be honest I don’t like or trust this ancient machine and my natural flight response was screaming in my head. RUN! It still might go BANG.

 

bubbled

 

Happy December to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter is nearly here!

Wood situation

The wood situation is critical

This morning on Facebook I noticed that MM from Multifarious Meanderings has just had her winter wood supply delivered. We on the other hand have been burning the wood that Mario the woodman delivered since the beginning of October. This is a little worrying as winter doesn’t officially start in Italy until the 21st of December and it is doubtful that our current stock of wood will last us through the winter. After all we only bought 26 quintali (just over two and a half tons of wood!!)

The red arrow will become clear later.

The reason for the red arrow will become apparent later.

When the wood arrives you need to stack it somewhere dry and in such a way that it won’t fall over. When I ordered our wood I gave Mario clear and simple instructions, I asked for dry wood that would fit my little wood burning heater. I also asked him to cut the logs the same size so that a girl in a frock or even an Englishman could stack it.

The fun way to stack wood

A girl in a frock stacking wood.

Either Mario didn’t understand my version of Italian or he has a great sense of humour, because amongst the pile of wood he dumped on my lawn were twigs, sticks and several bits of wood that looked like the hind leg of a donkey.

Thanks Mario

Thanks Mario

Mario realised that I was English and had probably never before attempted to stack two and a half tons of wood. To be honest he was almost correct, last year when we needed wood I simply wandered down the garden with my chainsaw and cut a tree down.

The previous two year, I had the wood dropped into the garage and just left it in a big pile. When we lived in Borgo San Martino, we only had a little courtyard and I (with the help of Mrs Sensible) stacked 10 quintale (one ton). I know a wife shouldn’t really help with the stacking of wood, but the delivery man had dropped the wood in the middle of the road completely blocking it to traffic.

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Good old Mario showed me how to stack the wood by laying the first four pieces. As he drove away in his tractor I went off in search of a glass of wine.

It took me two exhausting and pain filled days to stack the wood thankfully it didn’t rain on me. I would like at this stage to show you a picture of my wood stacking. This will be valuable information for MM, unless of course she is just going to leave the wood in a heap or dump it in her garage.

Interlocked

Interlocked to perfection

 

MM, look how the wood is all interlocked. It is absolutely amazing!! You will notice that I chose a very small area of my wood pile as an example of my fine Italian wood stacking. This is because the rest of the wood pile is a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And please notice how I managed to incorporate an object d art.

A very important box

A very important box

I know all of you think I am just a little eccentric as every Englishman should be, or maybe bordering on madness.  But may I remind you about the red arrow in the second photograph? It points to a hole in the wall where the scabby cats enter their little house. Yes our cats live outside in a little three by three apartment.

My wonderful wood pile was going to close off their doorway so I inserted a wooden box and a secret tunnel for the cats.

Here is one of our cats, the terrible Headache.

Headache a beautiful looking cat, superb mouser but has a couple of strange idiosyncrasies….

As you can see, it didn’t take long for Headache to find the new entrance to his house. If anyone want’s to adopt Headache please leave me a message below and we will send him via Fedex anywhere in the world.

The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…

Last weekend Mrs Sensible dragged me kicking and screaming to the local supermarket. I hate shopping and pushing a trolley around the aisles saying useful things like, uh huh and not sure and even, wow look two toilet rolls  for the price of one! A couple of months ago I used to be able to have a bit of fun hiding a bottle of limoncello or a bar of chocolate under the shopping for it to appear when Mrs S loaded our shopping onto the check out conveyor. Mrs Sensible doesn’t normally like making a fuss in front of people, occasionally she would give me her teacher stare but normally my acquisitions are, blipped, paid for and put in the plastic bags.

Englishmaninitaly.org

Even Batman goes shopping

To make my visits to the supermarket even more unbearable, Ipercoop have introduced a new system, probably marketed as Blip as you go. Special people (like Mrs Sensible) are allowed to go around the store and blip their purchases as they shop, they are even allowed to put them into shopping bags and when they are ready to leave the store, they put the blipper in a special machine and finally pay for their purchases.

Mrs Sensible's new toy

The Blipper, Mrs Sensible’s new toy

For many reasons I do not like this system. First I can no longer hide bottles of limoncello as they need to be blipped by Mrs S before they enter the trolley that I am responsible for pushing. Second I am not happy with depriving a check out girl from her job and finally Ipercoop and Mrs Sensible wont let me play with one of the blippers.

Back to last week, Mrs S dragged me off to Ipercoop and we filled the trolley with useless things like bleach, pasta and bicarbonate of soda (We seem to use a lot of this stuff) . Mrs S was of course in charge of the blipper and my sole responsibility was to push the trolley and mutter, uh huh and are we nearly done now? But to my surprise we turned up the biscuit aisle. I say to my surprise because Mrs S and I seem to be on a 24/7, 346 days a year diet (excluding wine and grappa). I held my breath as Mrs S blipped two packets of biscuits and handed them to me, as I dropped them in the trolley; she then handed me a third packet and I duly dropped it in the trolley.

For at least one nanosecond I did wonder if Mrs S had remembered to blip the 3rd packet of biscuits, but as William K Shakespeare famously said “Theirs is not to reason why” and so I put the third packet in the trolley and didn’t mention Mrs Sensible’s possible oversight. When we returned home and staggered into the house with umpteen plastic bags of shopping, Mrs S picked up the till receipt and checked her purchases. Checking till receipts when you return home is a hereditary disorder, I have watched her father do the same receipt checking thing. I normally screw receipts up and stuff them in my back pocket.

Mrs Sensible, realised that we had three packets of biscuits……… but SHE had only blipped and paid for two. We then had the following conversation, you can work out for yourselves who said what.

Did you put another packet of biscuits in the trolley?

Nope!

Are you sure?

Positive, I am only in charge of the trolley.

But we only paid for two packets!

Oops,

Mrs S re-checked her till receipt to see if a third packet was itemised in between the bleach and the bicarbonate of soda, it wasn’t. Obviously I thought this was funny and Mrs S didn’t.

Ok so you have STOLEN A PACKET OF BISCUITS, what are you going to do about it?

I could go  back and tell them.

Uh huh you could, or next time you go shopping you could take them back and put them back on the shelf.

I think they have security cameras.

Tricky… How about we just eat them?

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

Over the past week the problem of the STOLEN PACKET OF BISCUITS has weighed heavily on the conscience of Mrs Sensible, I have done my best not to reminder Mrs S too much that she is now not only a sensible school teacher, but she is also a sensible shoplifter. On Friday I crunched my way through a packet of biscuits and casually remarked at how nice, tasty and crunchy they were. So far Mrs S has refused to join me in eating the evidence of her ill gotten gains.

Last night, out of the blue Mrs Sensible said

I know how to solve it.

Solve what?

The biscuits.

Uh Huh.

When we next go shopping I will blip two packets and only buy one packet.

Which gives me at least three days to find a way of foiling her scheme.

This isn’t the first time I have been caught up in illegal activity with Mrs Sensible’s sensible family. I do remember almost getting arrested at Gatwick Airport with Mrs Sensible’s mum and a rather large pen knife. LINK 

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi è l’ultima?

Chi è l’ultima?

Chi è l’ultima? (Who is last?)Our doctors doesn’t have a receptionist nor does it have any queue system, when you enter the waiting room you shout Chi è l’ultima?

Hopefully someone will reply Io! (me!) this system works providing you are not visiting the doctor for deafness, laryngitis or because you are an Englishman.

So here I am on a cold Monday morning sat in the doctors with 15 other ill people waiting for our doctor who is late as per normal.

This Chi è l’ultima system works perfectly for Italians in doctors surgeries throughout Italy, that is until somebody decides they have something more important to do than sit in the doctors.

Maria ( let’s call her Maria) has just thrown a mini tantrum waved her hands in the air complained that the doctor is still not here and walked out. All very interesting, now we are having a fab discussion as to who was before Maria and who is after who?

I am trying not to giggle, especially as I forgot to ask Chi è l’ultima when I came in and after sitting here for twenty minutes I have forgot who came in after me plus I keep hearing l’inglese..

Forty minutes later the doctor has turned up, on crutches! everybody is suitable impressed, amongst the waiting room of Italians the doctor on his crutches looks sicker than any of us.

Those that were complaining bitterly are now looking at their feet as the doctor drags himself his bag and crutches across the room

And just to put the icing on the cake Maria must have seen the doctor arrive because she has re-entered the waiting room and is trying to negotiate her position back in the queue. I of course helped her by calling io ultima!!!

Update…..

The doctor said I have to rest my leg, I know my Italian is not very good, but I am sure he said I was not to make any more cups of tea, clean the kitchen or any other house related jobs.. I will need to break this news to Mrs Sensible gently. Because I know she was worried

A War of Words: The Pen and the Kalashnikov.

Following the terrorist attack in France, MM has put pen to paper and created a brilliant post. Please read it and share it.

Multifarious meanderings

Bleu, France, Rouge. Mr and Mrs Playmo were very emotional. Bleu, France, Rouge. Mr and Mrs Playmo were very emotional.

On Sunday morning, I awoke in beautiful, permissive, perverted France. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and went down to the kitchen. I prepared the filter coffee, and put a couple of butter croissants in the oven to warm. Because this is France.

After breakfast, I pulled on my inappropriately tight and short running attire, and went outside to do whatever I pleased, wherever I wished, dressed as I deemed fit, and whether or not my husband agreed. I ran through the vineyards that year after year offer up hectolitres of delicious and ludicrously cheap wine for the “perverted” people who commit the ultimate sin of enjoying the privilege of being alive. I reveled in life, ‘The Eagles of Death Metal’ resonating in my ears and determination coursing though my sinful veins. I appreciated my liberty…

View original post 1,205 more words

Bagna Cauda and Wine

The C.O.S.I group has chosen winter for this months joint post. Italy is full of great things to do and I am sure the C.O.S.I bloggers will have lots of useful information from visiting wonderful places in Florence to skiing in the Alps. I personally think skiing is far to dangerous for a mere black sheep (Pecora Nera)  So instead I will tell you about food, wine and dinning with good friends, which is much closer to my heart than skiing.

It is difficult to drink wine whilst skiing

It is difficult to drink wine whilst skiing

Mrs Sensible and I were invited to the 50th Bagna Cauda  evening in  Cortandone, by a wonderful couple (Mr & Mrs K) who we had met a few months ago. Mr K and I appear to have a couple of things in common, we both enjoy a laugh, we have Italian wives who are bilingual and neither of us have mastered the Italian language, allegedly Mr K knowledge of Italian  is a bit better than mine.

The festivities took place in a little village in Asti about 48 kilometers (about 30 Miles in real money) from where we live.

Bagna Cauda, according to the nice old guy who was sat at our table, is a traditional Piedmontese winter meal; the ingredients are remarkably simple and are guaranteed to your sinuses; they are garlic and anchovies cooked in olive oil. We took our seats and I was mildly impressed to see there was already a carafe of wine on the table.

While Mr K and I sampled the wine and tried to decided if it was Barbera or a Grignolino (we finally decided it was definitely a red) the waiter arrived and poured some of the mixture into our dishes. Now it is very hard to describe the texture and colour of the Bagna Cauda, it certainly smelt of anchovies and garlic, there was obviously a lot of olive oil mixed in the mixture with bits floating in it and it also looked a little bit like a primeval swamp.

Pro Loc

These guys in the red shirts volunteer to serve during the evening.

 

On the table there was a couple of platters of raw and cooked vegetables, including potatoes, radish, peppers and celery.  I even found a couple of large and fantastic spring onions to throw into my pot.  As you can see I was correct, it was red wine.

 

Bagna Caulda

Bagna Caulda complete with a little candle to keep it hot.

 

The following is not a very good picture, but I think it is important to show you the size of the spring onion I rescued from the vegetable platter and stuck in my pot… much to the dismay of Mrs Sensible.

Just a little spring onion, just in case the garlic and anchovies havent produced enough flavour

Just a little spring onion, just in case the garlic and anchovies haven’t produced enough flavour.

 

After a second refill of Bagna Cauda, the waiter arrived with some plates of pastina. Pastina is a light soup with very small pieces of pasta floating in it.

Pastina

Pastina with egg pasta

I very nearly got into trouble at this point because Mrs S asked me if I was enjoying the pastina, I said yes it is OK; but it tastes like soup with scrambled egg floating in it. I was informed by Mrs S that it was egg pasta!!! Which was why to me, it tasted of scrambled egg in soup…. Still it was very nice, a little unusual because I normally prefer my scrambled egg on toast.

After the scrambled egg in soup, a waiter arrived to ask if we wanted the meat dish. I always become a little worried when waiters (or my wife) tell me it is meat rather than pork or beef. The nice old mans wife asked if I like meat. I confidently answered.”Io mangio tutti” Mrs Sensible, said he means “tutto not tutti” Apparently with my limited grasp of the Italian language I had just informed the nice old lady that I eat everybody rather than everything. Oh well.

Then the meat arrived.

The Meat

The Meat

There were two items on the plate that I recognised and a couple of pieces that looked like maybe they had come from dubious origins.  While no one was watching too closely I  slide the strange-looking meat onto Mrs Sensible’s plate and kept what looked like a slice of beef. I know the round thing was cotechino and under normal circumstances I would have eaten it, but what with scrambled eggs in soup I wasn’t going to take any chances. Plus I had eaten salami at the start of the meal, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture.

We had a quick raffle, I failed miserably, I didn’t even win a cuddly toy.

 

No winners here

No winners here

 

And then the sweet arrived and the waiter kindly brought another carafe of wine.

sweet

Fantastic apple strudel and moose mousse.

I won’t say Roberto was the highlight of the evening; but he came very close to it. He arrived at out table with a bottle of grappa in one hand and a bottle of limoncello in the other.

Roberto, the hero of the night

Roberto, the hero of the night

Which would you like? Roberto asked. “Yes please” I answered. As Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes to heaven he poured me a large measure of grappa and a glass of limoncello. Roberto then turned to my friend and asked if he would like a glass of both. I am not sure his wife approved and I think Mr K tried to say it was my fault, that I was a bad influence.

This morning I awoke to find the bedroom windows had been mysteriously opened by Mrs S in the middle of the night. I think the smell of garlic, anchovies, spring onions, wine, limoncello and grappa had become too much for her sensitive nose.

 

Verdict on the evening.

Brilliant, The food was great and it is always a pleasure to spend time with good friends.

 

Georgette (Girl in Florence): What to expect when you visit Florence in winter
Andrea (Sex lies and Nutella): Surviving the Italian winter
Gina (The Florence Diaries): A foreigner’s guide to surviving winter in Italy
Rochelle (Unwilling Expat):Without winter there would be no summer
Misty (Surviving in Italy): Italy in the winter: Baby, it’s cold outside
Maria (Married to Italy)
Rick (Rick’s Rome): How to enjoy winter in Italy

 

 

Vodka Jelly, Grappa Cakes and Tequila Surprise 

  To all my blogger friends, I am having a little party tonight to celebrate another birthday milestone. You are all invited either in Italy or here in bloggo land.
PS Mrs Playmo is down in the cellar checking if there is enough wine…. or at least that is what she should be doing

Baci tutti

Italian Language Flash Cards

Italian Language Flash Cards

I have just finished my third Italian lesson, whoop whoop whoop!! Driving home I considered either uploading the recording as I struggled to read the latest passage which was full of ‘gli’ and ‘gn’ words or uploading the amazingly long list of verbs I have been instructed to learn.

However.

I know some of you read my little blog, because it contains very sensible information on Italy, for example my post on the cost of living in Italy  (Link) …. which I have to add is rising.

For those who are desperately trying to learn the language and are struggling just like me, here are some flash cards I have produced to help you.

Italian Flash Card Wine

Italian Language Flash Card

Flash Card Italian

Flash Card Italian Language

Police Italian Flash Card

Have a great weekend…. PN   Ohhhh PS. I nearly forgot to put a link to my KickStart project click here

Ooops I have gone and done it…

At 3 pm on Sunday the 18th October,  I pressed the button and launched my little book project on the  Kickstart website, Taa Raaa, I shouted as it went live. I then realised the enormity of what I had done. Not only had I offered a weekend stay at our house, complete with a wine tasting at my favourite cantina, as part of the rewards but the realisation, that I might not receive any backers suddenly hit home……  I would have to change my name from Pecora Nera to Billy No Mates!!!

Pecora Nera changes his name to Billy No Mates

Pecora Nera changes his name to Billy No Mates

Driving through Asti later that evening my phone blipped… I received the following message Hooray! Susan Fischer just backed your project.   followed almost immediately by Hooray! Jo Ellen Prutz just backed your project. To say I am excited is an understatement, there are three questions that need answering. 1) Will Mrs Sensible be able to put up with my current elevated level of excitement? 2) Will the project reach its goal? 3) Will I have to tell Mrs Sensible about the ‘Spend a weekend at our house reward?’

The wonderful Kickstart Backers are:-

Susan Fischer  one very cool lady

Jo Ellen Prutz who is beautiful and obviously also generous

Danie Cutter known for being utterly amazing

Wonderful Kickstart Buddies Page

Please feel free to go over to my kickstart page, one of the rewards available is a signed book or just back me with thrupence or even just make me happy by spreading this around Facebook and other social media etc.

Ohhh and ASP (at some point) I might have to tell Mrs Sensible about the weekend invite reward

Sending you all virtual hugs

Pecora Nera

Pecora picked a peck of pickled peppers;

For the past seven years I have managed to avoid private lessons. My self-taught Italian has fared me well when ordering wine, grappa and pizza, but even a Black Sheep (Pecora Nera) such as I, realises that I need to try to learn more than the 20 words and 3 phrases that are currently in my vocabulary.

Last night I completed my first Italian lesson with a real live tutor.My tutor has excellent qualifications and experience to tutor me. During the day she teaches the Italian language to 7 to 10 year olds at a primary school and is therefore qualified enough to teach to my standard and level of intelligence.  Obviously I checked her credentials and found that she has the patience of a saint and to date she hasn’t gaffa taped any of her pupils to the chair when they misbehaved.

As long as I behave she wont gaffa tape me to the chair

As long as I behave she won’t gaffa tape me to the wall

The English help students to articulate correctly by teaching them tongue twisters, these are little rhymes that become increasingly more difficult to say  as the volume of alcohol is increased. You didn’t know this famous English drinking game?

Here is an example of a typical English tongue twister

Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers;

A peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked;

If Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked?

The Italians have gone one better, they have included a tongue twister as part of their daily language, it is a word that I am going to try my best to avoid. What is this fabulous word I hear you cry.

It is non other than Gli 

Gli

I hope this chart explains what gli is please feel free to enlighten me

Here is a clip I found of a young boy pronouncing gli

As you can see It is not difficult, unless of course you are an Englishman, here is my pitiful attempt.

Many many thanks to my wonderful tutor….

Mario the woodman

Last winter, we saved € 280.00 by not ordering any firewood from the local woodman; instead I invested € 120.00 in a very scary looking chainsaw and proceeded to cut down the trees in our garden. With a loud cry of timber, down went 2 huge walnut trees, 5 hazelnut trees an apple tree and I think an old pear tree. Mrs Sensible called a stop to my tree felling activities when she pointed out that the orchard was beginning to look more like a cricket field with tree stumps than the lovely orchard that someone had taken the time to plant.

My orchard was rapidly becoming to resemble a cricket field

My orchard was rapidly resembling a cricket field

On Monday I drove to the local woodman and asked him if he would deliver 20 quintale of wood (2,000 kilo) Mario the woodman agreed and said the price was €14 / quintale and he would phone me tomorrow to organise when he would deliver it.

Tuesday at around 4pm Mario called me.

Mario: Are you in?

Me: Yes here now! (In very bad Italian)

Mario: Ok I am on my way. (He also said some other things that I didn’t quite understand, mainly because he didn’t use the key words that I understand. IE: wine, grappa, food and can I buy you a drink)

I checked my wallet and counted out my money, and by stealing some money from Mrs Sensible I managed to raise €160.00 a short fall of €120.00. I jumped into my little Mini and went haring off to raid the money machine.

On the way back to the house I received another phone call from Mario.  

Mario: I can’t find your house!

Me: Ok, waiting please at Gullivers Supermarket, you me I find.

Mario couldn’t find my house because my house has two completely different addresses, (see link) this problem has managed to confuse Telecom Italian, The Gas Man and DHL. Mrs Sensible and I have had one or two discussions as to which address we should use. Personal I use both; I think it’s cool to live at two different addresses at the same time.

Mario was patently waiting in the car park of Gullivers Supermarket. As I drove up to his big shiny tractor I was immediately shocked to see it wasn’t towing a trailer stacked with wood.

Me: Hello where wood is?

Mario: I will bring you the wood tomorrow; I just want to see where you live.

Me: Please speak you slowly, I understand.

Mario. TOMORROW WOOD !!

Me: OK

Mario arrived the following day with his big grey tractor and an enormous trailer filled overflowing with wood.  The Italian words I used as he tipped the wood onto my garden are not printable here, besides I am not sure I could spell them properly.

Jenga, the wooden puzzle that will give you hours or even days of fun

Jenga, the wooden puzzle that will give you hours or even days of fun

Mario: It is difficult to calculate how much wood is in a trailer until I have weighed it on the weighbridge, so you don’t have 20 quintale, you have 26 quintale.

Me: Who erh! What?

Mario: 26 Quintale not 20 Quintale.

Me: F€##%@, &#%!@?!

Me: How cost much?

Mario: €364.00

Me: &#%!@?!, F€##K

While I was searching in my pockets and my wallet for the extra money, Mario tried to reassure me that the wood was worth every penny of the €364.00 that he was demanding.

Mario: (holding a piece of wood in his hand) This piece of wood is called Rovere.

Me: OK

Mario: What do you call this wood in England?

Me: Hardwood

Mario: Ardvood ?

Me: Yes Ardvood

Mario: (Picking up a different piece of wood) This wood is very good it is called Quercia, what do you call this in England.

Me: I was very nearly tempted to say Ardvood, instead I said Heavy Wood

Mario: Evy Vood?

Me: Yes Evy Vood

While Mario was searching in the enormous wood pile to find another piece of wood to show me, I was crying inside as I realised all this vood, erh wood would need stacking by me, helped by myself and I

Mario: Ah now this lovely piece of wood is called Bujer, look at the yellow core of the wood.

I was slightly miffed, when I realised that not only did I have to stack 2,600 kilos of wood but the money I was going to use to restock my wine cellar had vanished into Mario’s pocket.

Mario: And what do you call this piece of wood in England

Me: Cost a lot

Mario: Costalott?

Me: Perfect, yes Costalott!

Mario: Thank you, for telling me the English names for the different wood, next week I am delivering some wood to another English customer and now I will be able to tell him exactly what wood he is buying.

I’m in a book!

Linda from Expat eye on Germany has written the following post titled I’m in a book! This is a charity book that a number of crazy bloggers have got involved in, I hope you will go over and read her post and more importantly buy the book when it comes out.

Expat Eye on Germany

Or, at least, I’m going to be.

It all started one evening when I was working hard arsing around on Facebook, and Veronica from The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife popped up for a chat. We engaged in some very important discussions about life, love and the universe – or maybe I talked about my cup of tea – and then she told me about an idea that she and Pete, of Black Sheep fame, had come up with.

The idea was dangerously simple: invite funny expat bloggers from all over Europe to contribute to a comedy anthology, publish it on Amazon in time for Christmas and donate the proceeds to charity. They’d had the idea around nine months ago, but hadn’t really got around to doing anything about it.

While Irish Linda was lazily formulating the thought, “Ah sure, it’s grand. Eight months is no time at all, at…

View original post 566 more words

And so it starts…

Mrs Sensible has finally put her foot down. Yesterday she informed me that she was resigning  from  her position as my personal translator.

I was a little shocked because when I appointed her to this important position, I thought she understood it was not a temporary position, it was a job she could keep for life.

Over the past few years, I have even allowed Mrs S additional responsibilities, these included translating my e mails and completing forms sent by the local council. 

I consider myself to be pretty good when it comes to staff moral and identifying when staff are, shall we say less than happy. However I seemed to have missed the signs that Mrs S was less than happy with her position. Over the past couple of weeks she has on occasions failed to keep me included in conversations with friends!! 

I thought Mrs S might be suffering from partial deafness because last week in a pizzeria she didn’t appear to hear my request, when I asked her to keep me up to speed with the conversation between 4 of our friends. When I suggested a trip to the doctors to investigate her apparent deafness, I was treated to a most peculiar look.

I hope Mrs S will realise the error of her decision and request to be reinstated, if she does I will of course be magnanimous and I won’t  make her plead.

However, I have taken steps to limit the damage of losing my translator. I have signed up for Italian lessons, I just hope my teacher has enough flash cards and the patience of a saint.

  

Pecora Nera the intrepid investigative journalist!!

Mrs Sensible and I drove over to meet up and interview Richard and Allegra who have converted a Langhe farmhouse into a beautiful self contained holiday home for 10 to 12 people. see their blog Living in the Langhe. Richard and I have a lot in common, we both enjoy a glass of wine and neither of us has yet mastered the tricky Italian language. Mrs S was keen to view their newly renovated house and their delightful daughter and I was keen to sit down with Richard and drink his stash of wine.

So here is our first interview.

Why did you decide to move to Italy and open a holiday rental?

We were living in Bristol at the time, which is a lovely city, if a bit rainy, and both working in fairly regular jobs. We had hit a bit of a juncture though… we were spending all our time commuting just so we could pay for a house we were never in and put petrol in the cars that took us to work. There just didn’t seem to be much point in it all. So, we wracked our brains and came up with this. We did a few wildly inaccurate sums and worked out we could afford it (we couldn’t…) and from that point on realised that we had to give it a go otherwise we would always regret it.

The farm house

The farm house

Who initially thought up the idea and have they now been forgiven?

At this moment in time, we’re saying it was a joint decision. However, if it doesn’t work out, it was all my wife’s idea! What we did definitely decide together though was that we should create a big house, somewhere for families or groups to holiday. There are so many nice little apartments around so we wanted to do something a bit different, a house for up to 12 people, with its own private pool, kitchen, living room and garden. Our research tells us there’s a market for it, but if there isn’t, it was definitely my wife’s idea.

Why did you choose Barolo, did you consider anywhere else?

We looked all over Italy but in the end this region just had the perfect combination of everything we wanted. It’s near to the mountains for skiing in the winter, it’s near to the sea, it’s well-placed for reaching the rest of Europe, but most importantly it’s ridiculously beautiful in every season. After two years, I still find myself stopping to take photos every time we go out. We also thought, business-wise, it was a good area for us. It’s easily as beautiful here as better-known places like Tuscany and Umbria, but there are far fewer tourists so you can get a much more “Italian” experience. Also, thanks to the grape harvest in the autumn and white truffles, which are typically found from about November, the tourist season here is really long. And did I mention how good the food and wine is?

Dinning Room

Dinning Room

What was your biggest culture shock?

Plastic wood. Always plastic wood. I was expecting all the stereotypical ‘living with your parents until you’re 40’, sexist, lazy, long lunch stuff, but if I got a Euro every time somebody tried to persuade me to get something in “finto legno” (plastic made to look like wood) rather than actual wood I’d be able to single-handedly bail out Greece. Wood moves you see, and it cracks, and Italians seem to hate it. Most of the builders who came out to quote wanted to build our roof in manufactured wood, we were offered front doors in this wood-grained plastic nastiness, tiles that look like wood (they’re actually quite good to be fair), lights covered in poo-brown wood grain and my personal favourite was this plastic stuff we were offered to go around the swimming pool. Looking at it actually made me throw up in my mouth just a little bit.

Lounge

Have you learnt the language or have you mastered the art of mime?

Erm, both, I think. I can gesticulate with the best of them now, and I also do a very good line in nodding and smiling while letting my wife do the talking, particularly if somebody has done something wrong. I am getting good with my building and architectural terms though. The renovation has actually been very good at dragging me kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone. There’s something about hearing someone threatening your wife on the telephone that makes you want to grab the phone and give them a piece of your mind. I still don’t know if he understood a word I said but he knew I was angry with him and that’s really all that matters (if anyone wants to know what Piemontese kitchen supplier not to use just send me an email…).

Kitchen

Kitchen

Tell me the biggest disaster that sent you in search of a glass of wine

Where to begin… We’ve had a huge concrete wall that supports the entire house turn out to be mud and stones with a thin concrete façade, we’ve been kicked out of a rental house three days after moving in, we had to fill the pool up three times because the water kept coming out rusty (I know, first world problems, but it was frustrating and expensive at the time!), we’ve had leaks, breakages, injuries, spillages, even dog attacks… it’s been an eventful time. Honestly, reaching the end of a day with all my appendages still intact (being a bit clumsy and using lots of big, dangerous tools is not a good mix) is usually enough to warrant a celebratory glass of wine, but as for disasters turning me to wine? If it’s bad enough to need alcohol I’ll usually jump straight to the grappa!

pool

What was the highlight of this adventure?

That’s an easy one…  the birth of our daughter, and the fact that what we’re doing allows me to spend as much time as I want with her. Had she been born in the UK I would barely get to see her, but here I get to play with her whenever I want, feed her, cuddle her and teach her how to swear at people in English!

Richard and Bee

Richard and Bee

Any advice for anyone who is sat in rainy England and considering renovating a property in Italy?

Firstly, do it. But secondly, be prepared. It is hard work, physically and mentally. We work every minute of every day, be it sanding and painting, meeting with suppliers, making decisions, writing endless lists or more sanding and painting. The only time it stops is when we fall asleep, but then our dreams are filled with people not turning up when they’re supposed to or putting things in the wrong place. We’ve learnt a lot, we’ve cried a lot, we’ve certainly spent a lot, but I wouldn’t change it. We love this weird little lifestyle we’ve created for ourselves and you could never persuade me to swap it for the daily commute on the M4.

Bedroom

Bedroom

And finally when will you be open.

We have a few tester groups this summer putting the place through its paces and from this autumn, so harvest and white truffle season (which is the most beautiful time of year here) we will be properly open. The website is still a work in progress so for now if anybody is interested in coming to stay, they can contact us through our facebook page or blog

RIP Ariston

Dear Friends and Bloggers,

It is with deep sorrow and pain that I inform you of the demise of Ariston. Over the past twelve months Mrs Sensible has cared for Ariston on a daily basis. She made sure he was clean and his needs were met.

Unfortunately Ariston passed away during the early hours this morning. Mrs Sensible discovered Ariston demise, when she went to make some toast for my breakfast and realised that the bread had defrosted.

I was called to the scene and although his light had not gone out, it was apparent that Ariston was indeed dead. All attempts to revive him failed.

We believe the lightning strike that frazzled the internet modem also mortally wounded Ariston.

This evening there will be a wake in memory of Ariston, on the menu will be recently defrosted sausages, fish-fingers and chicken wings.

And so it is with a heavy heart we say goodbye Ariston.

P.S If anyone can suggest a decent replacement for Ariston, Mrs Sensible and I would be grateful. We are considering either a Hotpoint or a Beko RIP

Monday morning with Mrs Sensible

On Monday morning Mrs Sensible went back to work, the children have another week of holiday before they return to the classroom. I am not sure what Mrs S does in an empty school, allegedly she is attending meetings and organising the new school term, but I think she sits at her desk sharpening her pencils and practicing telling the chilblains to sit down, be quiet, do your work…….

Mrs Sensible on Monday Morning

Mrs Sensible on Monday Morning

I phoned Sicily this morning and asked my father in law for a quick update on life, he told me he has made 300 liters of home-made wine. He said it should be ready for December, so guess where we will be spending the Christmas Holidays, he also told me the mysterious case of the missing pig has been solved!!!

Little Black Pig

Little Black Pig

I know you guys have been worried about the little black pig, but fear not my father in law told me Davide found the pig sat outside his pen making little grunting noises. Probably pig talk for I have been on my holidays and I am now  hungry and thirsty. So all’s well that ends well.

Christmas dinner with red wine

Piggy back from his walkabout

So as one holiday ends I can now start planing my next trip to Sicily, I understand the pig has been invited to Christmas dinner although he may find himself on the table rather than sat at it.

Poor Piggy

The mysterious case of the missing pig.

Following the bungled burglary attempt at my house I decided to pay Mrs Sensible a surprised visit. She is spending the summer with her family in Sicily whilst I languish at home surviving on Corn Flakes and Wine.  

I filled my trusty Mini up with Petrol, waved goodbye to my scabby cats and set off on a 1500 Km drive in search of Mrs S and some decent food. To say she was surprised to see me is an understatement (note to self, do this more often).

  

Scabby cat waving goodbye (3 of Mishmash’s kittens)

 Earlier today Davide (the local carabinieri) who is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger came running down the driveway shouting ” Nuccio, Nuccio Where is Nuccio?

Mrs Sensible told him her father was out. Davide threw his hands in the air and lamented, my pig is missing.

 

Christmas dinner on four trotters


Davide keeps a herd of sheep, 2 horses and a little black pig in a field behind Nuccios land. Well, he used to have a little black pig.
Pigs are rather quite intelligent and this little black pig realised it had been invited to Davide’s Christmas lunch and made a break for freedom. 

Just before midday, a slightly stressed Davide reappeared with a friend of his. He told us the pig had managed to dig around and under the gate and finally pushed the gate open. They had spotted the pig down by the river but failed to catch it.

The local Carabinieri are trying to track the pig, so the little black pig will be safe for a while.

 

The carabinieri said the pig is definitely black

 
So if you are in Sicily and you hear a squeeeel or see a little black pig wandering around, can you please ask the pig to go home or send me a message. 

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

On Monday morning my internet connection with Tooway died, the modem just decided to stop working, none of the little blue lights were blinking. I think it has decided to go on holiday just like the rest of Italy, after all it is August and as we all know Italy closes for August.

I locked the house and left Killer in charge, with strict instructions not to let the big dog next door into the garden and to keep strangers away. I told Killer I would only be gone for an hour while I went to office no 2 in Fubine and send a message asking Tooway to send me a replacement modem . You may remember, I spent nearly 12 month drinking copious quantities of coffee while I used the cafes internet connection.

Killer was left in charge of security

Killer was left in charge of security

When I returned Mishmash my stupid cat was sat in the lounge making herself comfy on the settee, for a moment I was a little puzzled. I didn’t remember leaving a set of keys with Mishmash and besides I knew Killer wouldn’t have let Mishmash in the house.

Mishmash

Mishmash with one of her kittens

And then the smell struck me!! I knew I recognised the smell, but I couldn’t quite place it, a very acrid smell. My first reaction was to make sure I hadn’t left the gas on, but who needs gas when you are surviving on Corn Flakes and wine? The smell was drifting down the staircase and then I realised what the smell was, it was the smell when someone cuts metal with a grinder.

I ran up the stairs, very slowly and cautiously. In my haste to confront the burglars I had forgotten to pick up my baseball bat that is in the dinning-room or even Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon that was still hanging in the kitchen. Bravely I shouted “release the hounds” and shouted BARK BARK BARK WOOF WOOF in a feeble attempt to scare off any intruders that were still in the house.

My Office

My Office They left footprints in the dust

The nasty horrible robbers, (I haven’t used any swear words because Mrs Sensible wouldn’t approve) had left a mess in my office, they had used a grinder to break into my wall safe. Which was a bit stupid really because the key was on the shelf and the only thing in the wall safe were some out of date credit cards and my passport.

The jewellery, that had been in my family for  the past 14 years, the items I had intended to hand down to my son, were carefully hidden in my bedside cabinet. I rushed through and saw that my bedroom had been ransacked, Yes they had stolen my gold plated cuff-links, our wedding rings, my broken watch and a gold chain. (Sorry son).

On our little lane are three houses, one is used as a weekend retreat and the other is owned by Miss Marples (Dottoressa Paula) so I walked down to her house and asked her if she could call the police for me.

The boys in Blue arrive

The boys in Blue arrived

In my wonderful Italian, I explain in great detail that I hadn’t touched anything, To preserve any evidence I hadn’t entered the crime scene. I was therefore a little astonished when the two Carabinieri, walked straight over to the safe and completely destroyed the footprints that had been left in the grinder dust by the villains. Hercule Poirot would be furious.

Look Hastings, the carabinierie don't wear gloves

Look Hastings, the carabinierie are destroying the evidence

While we were in the bedroom, Mrs Marples made an amazing discovery. She said the villains had entered through my bedroom window, she showed me the broken mosquito netting and the scrapes on the outside wall where they had climbed up the wall.  I looked at her in amazement, even the Carabinieri were suitably impressed, as the policeman reached to open the window, I implored him not to destroy the fingerprints on the window, he shrugged and said “they are Furbo they will have worn gloves” and with that he grasped the window handle and destroyed the fingerprints. I decided I needed to either fetch Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon or fetch a glass of grappa.

Mrs Marples (AKA Doterressa Paula)

Mrs Marples (AKA Dottoressa Paula) Showing me her grandfathers sword, villains beware.

On the way to the police station we phoned Mrs Sensible and broke the news to her. Mrs S gave me a list of her jewelry which we added to the list. When Mrs Marples and I arrived at  the police station we made a complete statement. I told the policeman they were big men, I explained about the big footprints in the grey dust. Are they still there he asked excitedly. Unfortunately not, but there are lots of Carabinieri footprints.

There is some good news, I found Mrs Sensible’s gold chain that she was given on her 18th birthday and her broach. It was in a box that had  never been unpacked when we moved house.

Last but not least, Free to a good home, One cat trained to guard houses.

The Corn Flake and wine diet and the Expat blog of the month !!

On the 24th of July I devised a new diet plan, it was called the Corn Flakes and Wine Diet, over seven days I managed to lose nearly 3 kilos in weight. Everything was going wonderfully, until somebody who had read about my diet on Facebook, sent a message to Mrs Sensible and pointed out the Corn Flakes and Wine Diet didn’t appear to include any vegetables.

Corn Flakes and Wine Diet

Day one:  all you need is a nice bottle of wine and a box of Corn Flakes

Mrs Sensible is currently in Sicily, spending some quality time with her family, while I cook and fend for myself. I received  a quick phone call where Mrs S  pointed out I needed to add vegetables to my diet, or I would be in trouble.

This posed a significant problem. When I went shopping I bought only the essentials that I thought I would need, the shopping list included sausages and toilet roll but did not include vegetables.  So I hightailed it down to the local shop and bought some mushrooms and potatoes.

Sausages with vegatables

Day two: Sausages with vegetables

That following night I received another phone call from Mrs Sensible inquiring if I had included vegetables in my diet. I sent her the above photo and pointed out that not only had I included potatoes but I had also included mushrooms!!!!!

We then had a little debate to discuss if chips could be classified as vegetables and if they were healthy. I thought I was winning the argument debate until Mrs Sensible asked if I had eaten any fruit in the past couple of days.

FRUIT!!!

Fruit added to the diet

Day three: Fruit added to the diet

Under instruction from Mrs S I added an apple to my diet. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry because I snacked during the day on some Corn Flakes.

During the fourth day of surviving alone, I received an e mail from the nice people at the Expat-Blog web site, they said they had decided to make my little blog of madness their August blog of the month!!! They asked for a photo that reflected Italy and would I answer a few questions. I was genuinely surprised when they not only printed the photo I submitted, but also included my interview.

To celebrate I cooked a proper dinner,

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

This dish not only included tomatoes and mushrooms, there was also some prosciutto cotto and some salami chopped up and added, nicely washed down with a nice bottle of Marco Belleros wine which reminds me I need to tell you about Marco inviting me to help present his wine at the  London Tasting Seminar in May.

But back to the food, as I type this I have a chicken curry cooking on the hob, actually I checked it a minute ago and the juice has all boiled away, I have just added some more water from the kettle, but it looks a bit sad, so I might not upload a photo of it and I might be tempted to have Corn Flakes and wine tonight.

Just please don’t tell Mrs Sensible

Going To An Italian Wedding In Italy

One of our crazy C.O.S.I group attends an Italian wedding.

Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

Last week Francesco and I attended a friends wedding near Cassino, Italy in Frosinone. I’ve never been particularly fond of weddings, or at least I didn’t used to be, mostly because a lot of weddings involve bored guests who stare absently into the abyss throughout the short reception, praying for it to end so they can get wasted and take off their damn ties and high heels. I love weddings where the guests just go nuts, celebrate, and have a wonderful time by sloppily flailing themselves around a dance floor or giving embarrassing speeches about the brides history of contracting crabs or the grooms decade as a gigilo… You know, fun weddings. After all, weddings are about celebrating love, and two people fusing their lives together despite their sordid past or addiction to fruity tootsie rolls. It should be fun, right? Luckily for me weddings in the south of…

View original post 1,016 more words

A new novel by Veronica Di Grigoli – ‘The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife’

A new novel by Veronica Di Grigoli – ‘The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife’

A new novel from one of my favourite bloggers. A must read for all lovers of Italy and humour

The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife

Have you wondered exactly how I met Hubby and spent my first year in Sicily? I learned to iron white vests, I became a champion dodgem-car driver, I had a gigantic baby, and I even had my teapot torched by a gangster. This book is like the 100 funniest blog posts you haven’t read yet…

AN ENGLISH WOMAN TAKES ON PARENTHOOD, THE MAFIA AND A SICILIAN MOTHER-IN-LAW, ALL AT ONCE

Available on all Amazon websites worldwide, in paperback (and soon on Kindle too)

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

front cover

What happens when a London business consultant becomes a Sicilian housewife? 

Veronica has just dumped the world’s worst boyfriend and plans to become a career spinster. But when she flies to Sicily for a friend’s wedding, she accidentally falls in love with one of the groom’s three-hundred cousins.

She plucks up the courage to leave her family, friends, job, house, car and collection of seventies disco albums, and moves…

View original post 185 more words

A cautionary tale about waxing

During February Mrs Sensible was invited to go to a sauna in Liguria. I was not invited because it was an outing for her girlie school teacher friends. I protested about sex discrimination and Mrs S protested that the last time I visited a sauna I went Al naturali. It appears Italians wear swimming costumes in hot steamy saunas.

While Mrs S was deciding which swimsuit to wear, she also decided she required a bikini wax. When she suggested I help her, I pointed out my aversion to pain and suffering and declined to get involved in any way.

Laugh! I could have cried

It is sometimes quite difficult to refuse to help Mrs Sensible. In the past I have under protest, had to hang the washing, wash the car and even fold and put away my socks. So in February I found myself gritting my teeth and holding Mrs Sensible’s skin taut as she quickly applied and expertly  ripped away wax strips. Mrs S is made of stern stuff and she never flinched, it did however bring tears to my eyes.
So let’s now roll forward to yesterday. Mrs S announced we had been invited to the beach by her sister. She also told me she wanted a bikini wax and as the local beautician was fully booked I was once again drafted in as her waxing assistant. I took the opportunity to wander off to the bedroom and take a quick afternoon nap, in the hope the waxing was completed by the time I woke up.

I was rudely woken to the sound of Mrs S warming a waxing strip between her hands in the bedroom. This particular waxing strip didn’t look like the one we used last time, it looked more like something you might use to seal a puncture in a car tyre or maybe wrap around a leaking pipe.

Mrs Sensible’s waxing strips

As I held her skin taut Mrs S applied the waxing strip to her inner thigh. To make sure it was secure I gave it a little pat. It was at this point that I suddenly started to have doubts whether we would be able to remove it. Mrs S grabbed the corner of the waxing strip and gave it a tentative tug, it didn’t budge. So she gave it another pull and a small corner lifted off her skin. Grasping the corner and pulling she managed to slowly remove the strip, leaving all the wax and offending hair still well and truly stuck to her leg.
With a lot of tact I asked Mrs S where she had bought the waxing strip that was currently stuck firmly to three of my fingers and the little hairs on the back of my hand. I found it at the bottom of my make-up bag she told me, I think it might be out of date. As I stood, looked and pondered the problem of green wax stuck to Mrs Sensible’s leg, I realised I had seen less wax stuck around a Chianti bottle than was currently stuck to the top of Mrs S leg.

Less wax than on Mrs Sensible’s leg

Mrs S walked into the lounge (still with half a kilo of green wax stuck to her inner thigh) and sat down to phone her sister to tell her that we have a small crisis and might be a little delayed. When Mrs S put her phone down I suggested she should soak in a hot soapy bath and try to remove the wax. As she stood up she encountered another small problem, maybe even another small crisis. The wax had completely glued her thighs together.

There are times no matter how difficult it is, that it is important not to laugh at someone else’s misfortune no matter how funny it might seem, and I am alive today because I managed not to laugh or even grin as she waddled like a penguin in the general direction of the bathroom

Mrs S waddled to the bathroom

As we drove to her sisters, just a little later than we had planned. Mrs S turned to me and said “what are you thinking about” nothing I replied. You are she said I know you too well. Don’t for one minute think you are going to turn this into one of your blog posts.

As if!

What Makes Expats Grumpy?

In May I received a message from my contact page from a really nice lady called Rossi Thompson. She said she was writing an article for the Daily Telegraph on What makes Ex Pats Grumpy, she asked me if I would like to contribute..

Would I like to contribute!!!! I immediately reached for my muse (a glass of vino rosso).

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

As I sipped my glass of wine, I pondered what is it that makes me grumpy. I didn’t think not being able to find my flip flops would be earth shattering news, Nor would her readers be interested that being asked to cook the evening meal made me grumpy (I tried to get out of cooking by cremating everything, unfortunately Mrs Sensible soon cottoned on)

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce.

With the deadline looming I asked Mrs S, what makes me grumpy. If you are married you will realise this is not a question you should ever ask your spouse. Out of the 487 items she listed before I suddenly switched off and went deaf I chose three items and if you want to read what they are please click this link.

I would like to thank Rossi for asking me to contribute and I would also like to thank the editor for not deleting my submission,.

Rossi Writes http://www.rossiwrites.com/

Rossi’s Facebook page

Telegraph Article

Furbizia

Furbizia. From furbo (“sly”) +‎ -izia (“-ness”) cunning, cleverness, sly, cheat. A barman who can give the wrong change and convince you that €20 minus €6 = €4

This Englishman loves living in Italy, but if Mrs Sensible had her way, we would be on a Ryanair British Airways plane back to the UK. I try not to complain too loudly about Italy, because I am afraid Mrs S will drag me kicking and screaming back home to England.

So why do I dare complain about Italian Furbi? Because over the past couple of weeks the C.O.S.I group have been swapping E-mails about a certain Florence apartment company who asked one of the C.O.S.I bloggers to promote their business and then welched on the deal. Not only didn’t they pay the fees, but they made the mistake of contacting another member of the C.O.S.I group to help promote their business!!!!

COSI Group

So why are Italians Furbi? I would like to blame the Italian taxation system which is pazzo.  Many Italian citizens, find ingenious ways to avoid paying their taxes. As more citizens avoid paying the taxes the higher the state raises the level of  tax. I am not condoning non payment of taxes, (I pay mine because if I didn’t Mrs Sensible would beat me with her wet wooden spoon) but when you look at the way the state uses our taxes and the huge salaries of Italian members of parliament or directors of state owned business, you kind of understand why some people try to avoid paying them.

Honest! You can trust me.

Honest! We don’t earn much.

Unfortunately no one is safe from the Furbi.

Gambrinus in Pisa managed to cheat Mrs S and I, when I took her on a romantic trip to Pisa, well it would have been romantic if I had listened to her advice and booked a hotel before we left home, instead we drove around the ring road for 2 & 1/2 hours looking for a place to stay.

After we found a grotty little B&B we walked hand in hand in pitch darkness to admire the leaning tower of Pisa, on the way back to our B&B we called into a bar to buy a bottle of water. With my much improved Italian I announced “I need bottle of water” the barman handed over a bottle and I turned to Mrs S and said “that has just cost me €4.00”, as I counted my change Mrs S realised the till receipt was illegal. As she started to explode with anger, I pushed her out the door to discuss the little problem on the street. Walking back to the B&B, this time not hand in hand Mrs S took out her mobile and phoned the finance police, which started a hilarious chain of events. (Chapter 27 of my book that I promise will be out this summer)

Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

Nearer home one of our local bars mistook me for a tourist after noticing I was wearing flip-flops with jeans and hearing my outrageous Italian accent.  Me a tourist, I have been here 7 years!!!!! The barman decided to take this golden opportunity to short change, even I was almost convinced that a brioche and cappuccino should cost €6.00 (normally €2.20 and the change from a €20.00 note should be €4.00 As I used my fingers and toes to work out how much change I was entitled to, the manager came over and asked me why I was still counting my pennies. Needless to say I don’t use the bar in the Cittadella Casale Monferato anymore.

Pecora Nera

Some Italian businesses try not to issue receipts, in this way the transaction does not appear in their accounts, and they pay less tax. Under Mrs S instruction I requested a receipt from the local garage, who promptly wrote €100 on a grubby post it note!! I refused to go back a second time even with the threats of Mrs Sensible ringing in my ears. Is there a moral to this story?

Yes, I think there is; if the statesmen of Italy acted in a responsible way and treat their citizens as adults instead of naughty children, the citizens might behave as adults.

berlusconi-eyyy_1489087c

Berlesconi in office for 9 years

The problem is Furbizia is as ingrained in the Italian culture, as fishing is in England and it is almost a national past time and will take a generations if ever to change the behaviour.

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

Can I have a comb over please?

Can I have a comb over please?

Don’t you just love having your hair cut, and choosing which style to opt for? As I creep into middle age the number of styles I can choose from are slowly dwindling. Up until I was fourteen my dad tackled the problem of cutting my hair with a shaver he had brought back from Hong Kong. I was sixteen before I realised I could go to the barbers and he wouldn’t be offended, well not too offended.

I also remember waking up one morning with a  dreadful hangover and a full blown Michael Jackson Afro after I foolishly invited a hairstylist to attend one of my parties. The memories of Christmas 1981 when I was forced to attended several Christmas and New Year parties with the Afro has scarred me for life. My dad suggested I blow dry my hair flat, or he could cut it all off with his shaver. I tried the blow dry technique as I didn’t think the bald look would suit me.  If Joy is out there, I have forgiven you.

I woke up looking like this

I woke up looking like this

In search of a decent hairstylist I spotted the following  sign as I was driving through Cuccaro,  Earlier that morning Mrs Sensible had pointed out that with my flip flops and my hair I could almost pass for a mountain man. I wondered what Mrs S would say if I came home looking like the man in the poster.

Beard

Beard and Boris Johnson hair

My hair was long enough for the hairstyle but I might need a year or two to perfect the beard. I went in search of the X-Men in Fubine and pondered which style I could get away with, without sending Mrs S in search of her wet wooden spoon.

Should I maybe choose the mid-life comb over?

The middle aged comb over

I just love that tie and comb-over

Or maybe the mullet

The Mullet

Earl and his Mullet

I was saved from asking for a either, because my Italian only stretched as far as tagliare mio capelli per favore. Please cut my hair.

And so they set to work, the lovely assistant washed and towel dried my hair and Gotta styled my hair. They did such a good job that Mrs Sensible has told me that I should continue to go there.

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hairstylists can be found at Via Pietro Longo 13, Fubina (AL) or at his Face Book Page

Tips for the intrepid tourist

The Cosi Group are a pretty impressive group of sensible bloggers. I am still amazed that they invited this Pecora Nera (black sheep) to join them.  Their recent posts on travel tips for tourists visiting Italy was awesome. Here are my travel tips for the intrepid traveler to Italy.

There is an art to packing a suitcase, you will need to find space for your swimsuit (unless you are visiting Cinque Terre where there is a nudist beach) your summer frock for when you are visiting the pizzeria and of course if you are visiting me you will need to pack 2 family packs of Walkers crisps, a jar of Branston Pickle and some books.

Only pack essential items

Only pack essential items

You have probably used a couple of weeks of your holiday entitlement and spent part of your savings to visit Italy, and there is plenty in Italy to see, so on the run up to your holiday get as much rest as possible so that when you start your holiday you will have plenty of energy to enjoy the excitement of flying with Sleazyjet EasyJet.

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet (Don’t worry she woke up when my camera went CLICK)

I am often asked if I use the low cost airlines for my trips to and from the UK and what are the differences between them. On Saturday I flew to Gatwick with Sleazyjet Easyjet and returned from East Midlands with Crying Air Ryanair. The big difference between the two airlines is, one uses orange planes and the other uses blue ones.

When flying with one of the low budget airlines, you must remember you will be sat cheek to jowl with  others who can’t afford British Airways who enjoy flying budget airlines. Space is very limited and so make sure you make yourself as comfortable as you can.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf. (sorry for the blurred photo but I was giggling at the time)

When you land you will be ushered into the nearest cattle bus to transport you from the plane to the airport, please remember personal hygiene is a must. I have never considered Old-spice or Brut cologne to be nice, however there are times it smells 100 times better than 60 people who have just flown in a cramped airplane and are now crammed into a bus waiting in 35° heat on the airport tarmac.

Help

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture the woman who was suffocating in her winter coat.

When you finally arrive in Italy, please remember to sample the traditional local food. Don’t go wandering around looking for a fish and chip shop, there isn’t one. I know this because I have spent the past seven years trying to find one. Last weekend when I visited England I had a perfect opportunity to sample the delights of traditional English food.

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food, KFC, Tandori Chicken and this fine Chicken curry and rice

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food. KFC, tandori chicken and this fine chicken curry and rice

You will have read that Italy is the fashion capital of the world. We take fashion very seriously, whenever I leave the house in my flip-flops Mrs Sensible goes crazy and demands that I either wear proper shoes, change my jeans for shorts or stay at home. According to Mrs S, flip flops are suitable footwear for the beach or if you are wearing shorts. Wearing jeans and flip flops is a no-no. Obviously you can completely ignore this advice. (I do)

And man-bags are worn by lots of men, so if you want to get in touch with your feminine side, now is your chance. Obviously you need to be careful or you might end up featuring on somebodies blog as this poor man has.

How not to wear a man bag

How not to wear a man bag

As we have already pointed out, you have spent your hard earned cash to come to Italy and you expect to have a good time. In England wine, beer and cider are normally associated with having a good time, please try to get to the hotel room before you start celebrating your holiday.

Burp

At least he was wearing shorts with his flip flops

In Italy we can normally spot an English tourist because they are as white as freshly fallen snow, which then goes to a nice rosy red. Some of you may have used the local sun beds and will be a nice orange colour.  We have wall to wall sunshine, please use lots of suntan lotion or you will burn.

The following is a good example of before and after effects of suntanning.

White bits

White bits

And finally feel free to wear the clothes you are most comfortable in, after all it is your holiday

Be yourself

Be yourself

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

And finally the first COSI Video…. I was too shy to add my old wrinkled face.

A quiet Easter Sunday in the home of Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

RUTHIE: I’m bored; I have spent the entire Easter chasing a walnut around the floor.

Mishmash: you’re bored! It’s your fault that we are grounded and not allowed out. If you had stuck to chasing walnuts and purring like a nice pussy cat we would be outside, but oh no you have to go, pruur pruur pruurring and try to shag the rug.

Ruthie: It’s not my fault, it’s my hormones.  One minute I want to hump the rug and as the fog of love clears, I find Ginger is all over me like a bad rash.

Ginger: You can leave me out of this, I’m stuck in here and I’m not even a girlie and besides you have been playing the hussy, sauntering
around pruur pruur pruurring with your tail in the air for the past three days.

Ruthie: Have you checked all the doors and windows?

Ginger: Yes, I even tried to make a bolt for it when Pecora Nera was carrying some wood in, if I hadn’t been laughing at the way he yelped and nearly fell over, I would be free.

Mishmash: I have an idea.

Ginger: Not another!

Mishmash: Ruthie!!! Leave the rug alone and come over here!!

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

Ginger: So what’s the big idea?

Mishmash: One of us drops a squidgy one under the table and when they open the window we make a run for it.

Ginger: Im looking at a dead cat!

Ruthie: You will never get away with it. As soon as you start to squat, Mrs Sensible will have you by the scruff and fire you into the smelly tray. And Pecora Nera will probably spray you with his blasted water pistol just for the fun of it.

Mishmash: Hang on! I never said I would do the squidgy thing!!! I thought up the plan, one of you will have to do the squidgy.

Ginger: Count me out, I’ve just been.

Mishmash: Looks like it’s you then Ruthie.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur

Mishmash: Oh for heaven’s sake! Ginger, go and distract Mrs S while I sneak into the kitchen and do the magic.

Ginger: And what about PN? You can’t trust Ruthie to help; she is humping the rug again. Ok on three. One two ….

Mishmash: Wait, I can’t just poop to order. Give me a minute.

Ginger: Now! Go! This is the big chance, Mrs S is on her phone and I can distract Pecora Nera.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

A couple of minutes pass.

Ruthie: Phew, there’s a bit of a pong from the kitchen.

Mishmash: Oh you’re back in the land of the living. Had a fall out with the rug have we?

Pecora Nera: Your cat has just wandered into the kitchen.

Mrs Sensible: Ruuuutthhiiee vieniiii.

Mishmash: You are one daft cat.

A couple of minutes pass..
.

Mrs Sensible: Can you smell that?

Pecora Nera: Smell what?

Mrs Sensible: You can’t smell it? I can smell poo!!

Pecora Nera: One of the cats will have farted… Mishmash where are you?

Mrs Sensible: Go and check the kitchen.

Pecora Nera: Oh my Lord!

Mrs Sensible: It’s your cat that did that.

Pecora Nera: No way, it was Ruthie. YOU called her from the kitchen, remember!

Mrs Sensible: Just open the window, while I clean it up.

Mishmash: Ready, steady… go

Ginger: Wait for me; hey, where are you two going?

Mishmash: Shagfest, up the lane with the big hairy tomcat
I have heard he is a bit of an Italian Stallion.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

Pecora Nera: It was definitely your cat.

Mra Sensible: it was Mishmash, only your cat drops squidgy ones. By the way, where are they?

The Glorious Twelfth

The Glorious Twelfth

The glorious twelfth is a term used usually to refer to the 12th of April, the start of the hunting season in Italy for the common mosquito (Bitius Leggius) and to a lesser extent the tiger mosquito (aggressive-bitius).

Mosquito

Mosquito Latin name Bitius Leggius

Experienced mosquito hunters will have a preferred weapon of choice; from the low tech ‘attempting to hit them with the flat of the hand’ to the high tech use of modified squash rackets which release a thousand volt current when applied to a poor unsuspecting mosquito.

Midnight hunt for mosquitoes

Here we have an advanced mosquito hunter using the racket, note the clever use of a netting to catch a mosquito Credit www.oshonews.com

Hunting is not restricted to woodlands and gardens. Many households incorporate a number of ingenious devices to trap mosquitoes inside the house so that the family can hunt the mosquitoes at their leisure. They may include netting over the windows and doors or netting over a bed.

Hunting mosquitoes can also take place at night. To an Italian the pure joy of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the whining noise of a mosquito trapped in a bedroom can only be equaled to Italy winning the Six Nations Rugby Championship, which to date they have failed to do.

Look lads, this time next year we will win.

Look lads, this time next year we will win.

To ensure that there are sufficient mosquitoes to last from the Glorious Twelfth through to the 3rd of November;  which is not only the end of the hunting season but also my birthday, farmers are encouraged to flood low lying fields to provide adequate water for the mosquitoes to breed. A by-product of flooding the fields during the summer is the production of rice for risotto, which the farmers sell to supplement their income. Vercelli in Piemonte is the centre of mosquito and rice production.

Mosquito farmer checking the mosquitos will be ready for the start of the season

Mosquito farmer checking the mosquitoes will be ready for the Glorious Twelfth : Credit Thestar.com.my

In America hunters wear high visibility clothing to identify themselves to other hunters. In Italy we are a little more fashion conscience, Italian hunters therefore identify themselves by spraying their bodies with liberal doses of noxious smelling sprays. The most common odour is citronella.

David with Sprayer

David with his industrial sprayer: Credit Mosquito Squad

The monferrato area of Italy is world renown for not only the quality of its mosquitoes but also their quantity and size.

Mrs Sensible and I will be running residential courses through 2015 on:-

Safety whilst Hunting

First aid for mosquito bites

Taxidermy, the lost art of mounting a mosquito head

Wine and grappa will be served as refreshments. For more information please use our contact form

Finally a picture of Pecora Nera ☺

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

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

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

Aren't I a handsome fellow

Aren’t I a handsome fellow

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

Black and white

Black and white

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

Slim

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

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

This girl is very clever

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

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

Here is the teacher

Here is Anna the teacher

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

Anna On Friday

Anna On Friday

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

No children were hurt in the making of this post.

The penalties of not learning the language

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

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

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

Baby Sister

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

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

How authentic an Italian are you?

How authentic an Italian are you?

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

Driving

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

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

Pecora’s rating 10

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly

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

Fashion

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

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

Pecora’s rating -5

This is not me on holiday  Credit: Baroquesicily.com

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

Helping in the  home

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

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

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

Pecora’s rating a dismal minus 10

Man-in-marigolds-with-mop

Cards

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

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

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

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

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

Pecora’s rating 10+

scopa

Communicating

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

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

Pecora’s rating -10

The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

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

Drinking

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

* moderation. I had to google this word.

Pecora’s rating 6

schermata-10-2456940-alle-01.33.43

Grappa from pralapa.com

Queuing

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

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

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

Italian shopping trolley

Italian shopping trolley

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

 

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

 

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

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

    1. from our fabulous COSÌ group:

      from our new friends at Italy Blogger Roundtable:

A Catastrophic Error

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

image

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

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

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

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

They even took the kitchen sink

They even took the kitchen sink (Rustyduck.net)

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

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

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

House no 1 Rent 220.00 euros a month

A nice little house but

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

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

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

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs S: Just me and my Husband

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

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

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

CLICK

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

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

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler is fired with gasolio.

Me: Just say yes.

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

Me: OK, say yes.

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

Me: But it is fab, please say yes.

Mrs S: No

Me: Pleeeeaaaasssse.

The boiler was a littlw out of date

The central heating boiler was a little out of date

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: What did he say?

Mrs S: Wait!

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

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

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

Mrs S: You will have to wear pyjamas.

Me: I don’t wear pyjamas.

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

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

Mrs S: PN!!!

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

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

How to expand your house the italian way

How to expand your house the italian way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Let’s go home.

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

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

Owner: What did your husband say?

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

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

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

Link A little Summer House

Our house

Our house

DSC04251

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

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

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

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

For the cats

For the cats

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

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

Me: Fish? Which Fish?

Mrs S: We bought it yesterday.

Me: The fish we bought for the manky cats?

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

Me: (less than enthusiastically) uhhuh

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

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

Me: Ok, chop onions, I can do that 🙂

I can chop onions

I can chop onions

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

Only a few crispy ones 10%

Only a few crispy ones

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

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

Hurburt the fish in the steamer

Huburt the fish in the steamer

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

Me: Radicchio?

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

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

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

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

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

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

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

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

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

capers

capers

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

Fish Head Pasta

Fish Head Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Pecora Nera wooed Mrs Sensible or a Valentines Post ♥ ♥♥

Mrs Sensible is often asked why she married me, this normally happens when her friends notice I am wearing my beloved flip-flops, instead of some very expensive designed shoes. Today I will tell you how I met Mrs Sensible.

Nice but I l prefer my flip flops

Nice but I l prefer my flip flops

On Monday 17th February 2003 * I walked into Maso Italian Restaurant in Sheffield and guess who our waitress was, none other than the beautiful Mrs Sensible. I was dinning with friends from work and so I was on my best behavior.  The food was great, but I hardly noticed the grilled salmon with king prawns, followed by pana cotta or the glass of tobato that accompanied the meal, because I infatuated with our waitress.

So infatuated, that I returned the following day to the restaurant and ordered peppered steak with a side salad of greens, gelato for desert and of course a glass of tobato. The delightful Mrs Sensible was once again my waitress. As I dreamily gazed across the restaurant and watched Mrs Sensible clear a table or serve somebody else, I decided to ask her out on a date, maybe not tonight but definitely as soon as I had plucked up enough courage. … The following night was a complete disaster, the food as always was wonderful, the wine was great and the owner introduced me to the pleasure of Grappa, but  Mrs Sensible was nowhere to be seen, it was her day off .

Sorry Pecora Nera, Mrs Sensible is washing her hair.

Pecora Nera is devastated that Mrs S in not working

Over the following three weeks I managed to accomplish a number of things, 1) I had eaten every possible combination of dishes from the menu. 2) I had worked out the staff rota and booked a table only when I knew Mrs sensible was working. 3) I almost plucked up enough courage to ask her out.

Eventually I asked Mrs S out on a date, as I waited with bated breath for her reply, she told me it wasn’t possible as she needed to wash her hair.

Mrs Sensible at home washing her hair

Mrs Sensible at home washing her hair

Later that week I tried again and asked her to come for a meal with some friends of mine, she didn’t know that I had asked my friend to arrange the meal with the sole purpose of inviting Mrs S. The meal was great, the wine was fantastic and as I sat talking with my friends, Mrs S was sat at her house, once again washing her hair……   I knew this situation could not continue. Eating at Maso Restaurant 3 to 4 times a week was playing havoc with my bank balance and my waist line.

One evening Mrs S told me she was flying back to Sicily, nice I said, when are you going and more importantly when will you return? She told me she was leaving at the end of the month and she didn’t think she would return…….. I had less than thirty days to woo Mrs Sensible and the clock was ticking.

Pecora Nera had 30 days to woo Mrs Sensible

Pecora Nera had 27 days to woo Mrs Sensible

When Mrs S brought me my glass of grappa, I once again asked her to go out for a meal with me, I explained that she was leaving in less than 27 days and taking her for a meal was just my way of saying goodbye. Amazingly Mrs S agreed, she told me she missed pizza cooked in a wood fired oven, if I could find a pizzeria that has a wood fired oven she would eat there with me.

A proper pizza oven

A proper pizza oven

Over the next 24 hours I phoned every pizzeria in Sheffield and Rotherham. Everyone said, no we use gas / electric but our pizza is great. I widened my search to include Leeds, Chesterfield, Barnsley, York, Hull and Grimsby all to no avail. In desperation I drove to Maso and told Mario about my quest. He laughed and laughed and laughed some more.  As we shared a bottle of Ichnusa (one of the finest bottled beers) he explained that wood burning pizza ovens are illegal in the UK and Mrs Sensible knew!

I wore out many

Have you any idea, how many Pizzerias there are in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Linconshire, that don’t have wood burning ovens?

Appealing to Mrs Sensible’s better nature, I declared the quest null and void and told her she had cheated. Eventually with 25 days before she flew home, I managed to convinced Mrs S to have a meal with me at a fantastic traditional Italian restaurant. I explained that all the staff were Italian and although the ovens were gas-fired, the food was wonderful.

Finally after three months of wooing Mrs Sensible we were finally on our first date, as Mrs Sensible talked to the waiter in Italian, I ask my dad to pass the wine. I caught the tail end of the waiters conversation with Mrs S, it went something like this “ no no I am Spaniard, the owner is Spanish, we are all Spanish, the food is Italian but we are all Spaniards.

Did I forget to mention that Mrs Sensible brought a chaperon to the restaurant and I had to phone my dad to see if he would make up a foursome……

* Mrs Sensible told me the date.

This is a C.O.S.I post, each month the COSI group choose a subject to write about. Please follow the links and check out their marvelous posts.

If you want to join in the fun, use our hashtag #COSItaly

Mrs Sensible, Peggy Sue and Billy Brown

My singing has the ability to make Mrs Sensible weep; she becomes very emotional as I attempt to sing in tune, my spectacular warbling ability and the way I drift from one note to another has often left her in tears of anguish.

This morning I awoke to a glorious sunny day rainy overcast day, as I stepped into the shower, the hit song Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly just floated into my mind and I started to sing, not just sing but with amazing gusto.

Peggy Sue image Wiki

Peggy Sue  image Wiki

Meanwhile Mrs S was in the bathroom on the top floor probably crying into her face cloth and trying to drown out my singing. I don’t know if you remember Peggy Sue, but the lyrics go something like this.

♪, ♫ Peggy Sue Peggy Sue, Peggy Peggy Peggy Peggy Peggy Sue ♪, ♫

Oooh hooo Peggy, ♪, ♫ my Peggy Sue  ooo hoo hoo ooooo.♪, ♫

This above is repeated as many times as you like, however it is advisable to stop when Mrs S starts to brandish her wet wooden spoon.

Let’s quickly back track to ten years ago, when  Mrs Sensible took me to her church in Sicily. While I was finding a parking space for her car, she had found a space in the front pew with her friends, as she told them her news from England, I was left to find a place to sit by myself further back in the church. Part way through the service the congregation stood to sing a hymn, I naturally stood with them and as they started to sing I hummed along with them. It was at this point that a kind gentleman, who was stood behind me, passed me his Italian hymn book.

I have been known to empty churches with my singing

I have been known to empty churches with my singing

Now please try to picture the scene, I am completely tone-deaf and at that point in my life, my Italian language skills had reached the dizzying heights of Si, Non, Grazie and Ciao. But in for a penny in for a pound, I sang with Gusto. I felt completely uplifted and at one with the rest of the congregation.  It was only when three young girls who were sitting in the pew in front, turned around with looks of complete astonishment and amusement that I realised that I had completely murdered the hymn. However I gamely sang on, swapping to the English version of the hymn when I knew I had no chance at pronouncing the words in the Hymn book. It is a lucky thing that forgiveness plays a large part of the Christian faith.

I knew from the look of shock

I knew from the look of shock, that my singing needed a little improvement.

Back to this morning, as I drove Mrs S to work, once again the song Peggy Sue entered my mind and there is nothing more satisfying than driving down winding Italian country roads, singing your favourite song with the love of your life sat next to you, even if she does have her fingers in her ears.

Mrs Sensible told me, that while she was in the bathroom, my singing had reminded her of another song, but by the Beatles, alas she couldn’t remember how the song went.  I immediately burst into an impromptu melody of Beatles songs and even added a verse or two from Oh Billy Brown by Mika. None of this helped to stir Mrs Sensible’s memory.

After dropping Mrs Sensible at her school where she is teaching her chilblains English and how not to pick their noses while in her class,  I drove off to  my office situated at the Bar in Fubine, After I booted my laptop I quickly googled Peggy and Beatles, amazingly Paul Mc Cartney did a cover version of Peggy Sue. This surely must be the song Mrs S was thinking about. As I drink my cappuccino I can only wonder why my cover version of Peggy Sue didn’t jog her memory.

If you too can’t hold a tune, this link may help you

On the 13th of this month I will upload a valentines post, Entitled Mrs Sensible and the Pizza oven, this is part of the joint blogging posts with the C.O.S.I group and if I get time I will also upload the latest installment on the Telecom Italia fiasco.

Je Suis Charlie

Drawing one of these cartoons will get you killed.

Charlie

2

Jesus

cartoon0902

charlie-hebdo-shooting-tribute-illustrators-cartoonists-11

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.