Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

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

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

Horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

muddy1

Mud does not equal fun.

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

 

 

 

Mishmash the crazy cat

Mishmash the crazy cat

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

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Such a tranquil little kitty

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

airedale-2

My choice of dog.

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

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Mishmash basking on top of her old house.

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

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Run pussy run

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

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

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

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

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

mrs-marples

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

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

School

English lesson for 10 year old Italian children.

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

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

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A smile from Mishmash

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

Good night from me and of course also from Mishmash

Translating Fun.

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

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

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

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

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Edo, Cocktail maker, friend and a brilliant chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure, tell me?

Ask him why he has moved here.

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

Monkey

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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

I am not like that.

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

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

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

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Sorry I had to use this one

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

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

Pecora Nera!!!!! Be good.

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

 

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

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

Printing press

If only I had kept my printing press

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

it

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

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

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

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

Bow tie

My new Bow Tie

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

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

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

Pecora Nera

President of the Escape Committee

Major Catastrophe Averted

The day started off much like any other.

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

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

Yup, A little poorly

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

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

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

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

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

Just a little scared

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

Having the water disconnected created two very significant problems

1) Mrs Sensible would probably kill me

2) Mrs Sensible would probably kill me

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

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

I remember these, vaguely

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

Italy at its worse

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

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

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

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

A little 3 hour snack

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

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

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

10 minutes they stood there chatting, I timed them.

Mega Stress

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

Tell me.

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

Have you taken a ticket she asked?

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

Ticket?

Yes the machine outside the office!

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

I was as nice as nice could be

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

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

Any it doesn’t matter.

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

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

As much use as a chocolate fireguard

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

Both!

Ahhhhh!

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

She looked at the bill,

Who is Mrs Sensible?

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

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

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

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

I nodded, I didn’t trust my voice.

We only take payments in the morning!

Doomed

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

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

Help me, please

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

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

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

Saved

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

Ate you organising a surprise for her?

Erh, not quite.

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

Ahhhhggghhh!

Pleaseeeee!

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

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

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

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

When your dreams finally came true…

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

pool

My first attempt at a garden swimming pool

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

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

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

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Ha blacksheep, I have wisdom for you.

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

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

Disaster

The leaking valve

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

Followed by a couple of unprintable words.

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

Two days later the garden swimming pool was installed

Garden pond

A little pool

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

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

River

Once upon a time there was grass and top soil here

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

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

Yes you guessed.

Canteena

Ok, why not lets have an underground swimming pool

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

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

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

Happy days

Italian the language of poets.

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

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

Spumante! at 9 O’clock in the morning!

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

Spumante!!!

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

Better than orange juice

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

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

It was still a good way to start a day.

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

Yes moo moo half a kilo of moo moo

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

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

Uova treading or is it uva?

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

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

Oh let me finish off with my all time favourite.

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

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

It’s official, I’m getting old

It started with a trip to the local supermarket.

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

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

Do I have my pensioner discount card?

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

Never too old for flip flops

And then today I received this delightful E mail

Don’t need you for another 40+ years

I send them a very polite E mail.

Dear sir,

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

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

Kind regards

Pecora (feeling remarkably healthy) Nera

I wonder if they will reply.

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

Château Lafeet 👣

Château Lafeet 👣

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

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

Englishman In Italy

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

Get out off bed.

Erh why, it’s Saturday?

Because YOU promised to help Tracey with her grape harvest.

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

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

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We don’t wear bells!

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

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

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Miss Jessica, a little wet but good fun

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

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

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

Englishman in italy

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

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

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

Englishman in italy

My friend the amazing dottoresse Paula

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

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

Best picture of the hunter

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

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

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

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

Me: Your dogs going my garden fetch now!!

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat waiting for the all clear.

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

As he left us I asked.

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

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

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

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

So why have we named this years wine Château LaFeet?

Englishman in italy

The lovely Alyssa and Des

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

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

Please put your teeth in.

Visiting my doctor always fills me with joy,

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

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

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

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

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

Please put your gnashers in

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

It took three attempts before I understood.

My question was.

Is the doctor here today?

And his response was.

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

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

Lord help me to understand him

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

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

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

Underlined in pink, orange and green

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t work!

My wife does!

But she isn’t here.

Obviously she isn’t here, because I am.

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

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

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

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

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

The Badante

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

Yup, I am in hiding

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

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

Cheese Wine Olive oil Wine

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

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

Has your dad complained?

I will tell you later, she whispered to me.

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

Mmmm chocolate cakes

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

I nearly choked on my cappuccino.

What did you say to her?

Nothing.

Hmm! wait till I see her.

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

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

I scattered phone chargers and books everywhere

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

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

Spooky

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

How it should look

Now it looks like chaos.

Chaos

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

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

The Badante

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

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

Summer Fruit Recipe

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

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

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

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

Englishman in Italy

No they are not cherry tomatoes, they are little plums

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

Preserve it in alcohol

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

Englishman in Italy Rumtopf

My little jar

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

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

12 year old grappa 

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

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

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

VERY IMPORTANT

To avoid any chance of discovery.

1) Thoroughly clean the kitchen.

2) Dispose of the empty spirit bottles.

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

Englishman in italy

Remember to hide it

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

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

There is a nice recipe for limocello lollies Here

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

Bomb the House

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

Alternatively go bite Pecora Nera

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

These things were ankle biters.

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

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

It didn’t work

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

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

4 should do it

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

Me: I need bomb house for beasts.

Shop Assistant: Pardon?

Me: Look leg

Shop Assistant: oooohh! How big is your house?

Me: This big, pointing to his warehouse

Shop Assistant: You need 3 bombs

Me: I buy 4

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

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

Flea bitten Scabby Cat

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

Your in trouble when Mrs Sensible returns

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

Run Pecora Nera Run!

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

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

I only had 1 or 2

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

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

Happy Days

A Mini Adventure

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

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

The main road is transmogrified into a court

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

One of the younger ball boys in action

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

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

I think I might have uttered a naughty word

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Italy/Usa and a gaggle of Italians

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

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

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

Right Lads, I think it is dinnertime

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

I don’t think she was best pleased.

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

Ta daa! A hero in a Land Rover

He tied my Mini to his Land Rover.

A granny knot should do it

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

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

Hmm..

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

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

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Medico Competente! I wonder where the incompetent doctors are?

The conversation with the consultant went something like this:

I will make an incision from here to here.

I really don’t want to know.

I will then insert this piece of mesh.

Please don’t tell me anymore.

Then I will stitch you here, here and ….

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

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

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This picture was hung in the hospital reception.

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

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

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

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

Sorry doctor but why?

Because I need to give you an epidural.

WHAT!!!!

No, I must be asleep.

You can sleep if you wish.

epidural.jpg

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

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

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

TMI-1203

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

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

No

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

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

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

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

Frankenstien

Finally  the Englishman has stopped complaining.

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

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

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

Pee in the parrot!!

download

Meet Joey the bedpan

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

I repeated “pipi in pappagallo??

She produced a bed pan, PIPI IN PAPPAGALLO!!

Who knew parrots were also bedpans!

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

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

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

Big book of torture

The night nurse’s book.

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

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Italian hospital food, brodo and mashed potatoes.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi è l’ultimo? Who is Last?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italians queuing in a hospital

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

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

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

Hospital Bingo.jpg

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

To understand how it works, go and read Hospital Bingo

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

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

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-04 at 8.41.41 PM

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The incident of the police car in the bush.

The incident of the police car in the bush.

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

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

Englishman in Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police phone

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

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

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

I walked home and returned with some bits of wood.

English man in Italy

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

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

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

Policeman “Do you have one”

Me “No”

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

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

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

Police read wheel

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

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

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

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

Police 6

Not the best picture of Dr Paula

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

 

Riso Amaro or The dreaded Lurgy

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

891ea95cda44f6590dd1ab0528bd3177--bug-mosquitoes

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

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

cat-sleep

I spent two days in a semi-comatosed state.

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

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

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

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

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

witch_doctor

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

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

White

Codici Bianchi (Code White, not code Red)

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

gorrila

I was concentrating hard to understand the conversation.

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

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

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

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

riso-amaro-locandina copy

Pecora Nera starring in Riso Amaro

Anyway, where are we going now?

To the ward for infectious diseases!

What, are you serious?

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

I don’t work in a rice field!!!!

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Infections Ward

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

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

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Mrs Sensible’s bag and assorted protection gear

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

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

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

 

Small pink and needs renewing.

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

mrs-sensible-on-monday-morning

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

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Bank of Milan????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME: What?

Man: Bank Milano THERE!!!

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

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

Me: Where the Bank Milano Please.

Woman: Here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My old UK driving Licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I really needed was this type of eye test.

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My type of eye test

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

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Blind as a bat

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

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

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

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The dog wearing my new glasses

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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Mr Poo Man to the rescue

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

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

Fantastic. Where, erh When?

Poo Man: In the afternoon.

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

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Waiting for the Poo Man is not fun

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

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

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

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

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

And so I sat down and had a little think.

Winnie_the_Pooh_Hmm_Think_Think_Think

Just a little think.

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

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

Winnie_the_Pooh_and_Rabbit_have_their_Eyes_Closed

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

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

I sat down and had another little think.

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

Rabbit 2

I suddenly realised I might not have thought of everything.

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

bidet

It was a distinct possibility

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

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Happy days

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shh and Sit down!

Mario, please take your finger out of your nose.

Eduardo, please sit down.

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

Eduardo, please sit down!

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

Eduardo, Sit Down!

Mario!!!! Please don’t eat it….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully this year the kids will have as much fun.

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

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

Nobody was safe from the wind

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

The Office of Sig.ra helpful

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

The milk had better be warm today


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

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

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

Marca da bollo

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

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

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

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

Turkish Toilet

The hole in the floor

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

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

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

Stupid Light Sensor

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

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

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

A talented man

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

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

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

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

Dear Pecora Nera,

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

I was so happy I nearly kissed the cat.

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat didn’t want a kiss

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

Dear Pecora Nera,

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

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

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

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer


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

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

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

Taken shortly after I held up the milkman

Another successful raid on the baby food factory


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

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

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

Just another average day in Italy

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Google search: Italian Customer Service


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

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

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

Ouch ! 🆘😢

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

Susie Pussy Cat, very beautiful, very stupid


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

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

Last one to sting him buys the beers

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

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

Wasp nest split in half


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

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

The best pool in miles


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

Boys and their Toys 🚜

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

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

My son mowing the bottom grass

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

Giorgio did the digging


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

Cecil, one of the vegetables I grew

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

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

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

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

Owner: You must have a digger licence.

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

The owner sucked his teath and shrugged.

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

At seven a clock I received a phone call.

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

Me: What! Please you speak me slowly.

Pier: Digger will arrive at 9

Me: FANTASTIC

My new toy

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

I need a swimming pool

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

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

Pier and his broken leg


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

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

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


Have a fab summer

Pecora Nera

Red stripes and shoe laces

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

The gang of wine bottlers


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

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

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

englishmaninitaly.org

Anyone for tennis.


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

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

Sorry! Why do you think I am a tourist?


Why no kind sir, I live here.

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

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

The story of my life


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

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

Did you see him? No, me neither

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

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

A nightmare

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

It has passed the emission test


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

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

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

Utilising a tent to dismount

Life Imploding

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

A life imploding

A life imploding


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

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

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

They are still good


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

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

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

Really! I said,

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

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

Mishmash, one cool cat


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

No comment

Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

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

So let us begin with clothing.

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

Englishmaninitaly.org

The art of naturally blending in with the locals

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

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

Englishman in Italy

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

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

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

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

IMG_4371

Note the lack of Flip Flops

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

Moving swiftly onto food

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

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

Spaghetti_Bolognese_Image_Prod

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

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

pineapple and ham pizza

I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

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

Flowers

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

Carnations

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

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

Travelling

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

Driving

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

rollercoaster

A quiet Sunday drive

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

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

 

Vignale Monferrato / A Brick Fetish

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Citizenship quest (part 2)

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

Pecora Nera cats

Three wise cats, Micha, Headache and Liquorice.

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

Maybe just one or two skeletons.

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple choice questions

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

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

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

Flood the Italian ministry with applications

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

Nonnas are an important family member.

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

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

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I have translated the cover for you.

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

 I have a cunning plan. 

 I have a cunning plan. 

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

Wine and chocolate food aids the brain cells


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

Maybe I could run an English Summer Camp

Camping English Style


Obviously I can’t guarantee the traditional English weather. 

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

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

Marco the nose picker

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

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

My only excuse is the wine motivated me.

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

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

I think I need a grappa. 

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

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

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Italian Customer Service

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

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

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

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

All the best Pecora Nera

 

Man Flu and the Injection

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

No picking your nose in Mrs Sensibles classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You like I give needle to Mrs Sensible”

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

“Today!”

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

“Sorry I no understand, talk again”

“Next week”

“Oh, Ok”

The weapon of mass destruction

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

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

I think I would make a great doctor

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

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

To be honest, Italy never ceases to amaze me.

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

A Freudian Slip

It is a cold Sunday Morning and I have no intention of getting out of bed, well not yet anyway. Mrs Sensible has already ventured downstairs and prepared mugs of tea and slices of buttered toast. 

As I drink my tea, I flick through the news and come across the following article, Rome bans gladiators and rickshaws (again) The article

A collection of gladiators


Pecora Nera

Did you know, that the gladiators and centurions in Rome earn around €12,000 a month standing around charging tourists for photos!

Mrs Sensible 

€12,000 a month! You could do that, you look like a radiato…. erh gladiator

A collection of radiators


I quickly looked at her, RADIATOR!!!, was that a Freudian slip?

Mrs Sensible (grinning)

No, no, I meant gladiator, really.

Pecora Nera

I’m going back to sleep.
Happy cold December Sunday to you all.

Citizenship quest (part 1)

I have officially started my quest for Italian Citizenship, the first step in what will no doubt be A Titanic Success, you might have noticed I have stole that particular phrase from Boris The Foreign Secretary, who regularly opens his mouth, to change feet.

The first step on my quest, was to write to Disclosure Scotland and request a copy of my criminal record. To be honest I am a little surprised at what they managed to drag up.But at least they earned their £25.00

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I wonder if Sal has started her application? We were going to race each other.

Next Step, finding things like marriage certificates and birth certificates….

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

I know a couple of you follow this blog in the hope of reading one of Mrs Sensible’s authentic Sicilian recipes,  not wanting to disappoint you I have decided to create the Pecora Nera Home Cooking Channel. 

Before you try the recipe I did try it on little Mario to see what he thought and his initial thoughts were,

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Please let Mrs Sensible cook next time

And Marco said

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I’m sure he didn’t follow the recipe properly

So here is a link to my latest video from Pecora Nera’s home cooking channel.

For Christmas I will upload ‘ How to prepare a traditional Christmas Lunch

 

 

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Christmas Lunch in a can

I was going to upload a picture of a whole Chicken in a Can, but it made me feel a little queezy and I don’t want to put you off my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

Mr H sent me a WhatsApp message suggesting we should both sign up for a 5 Kilometer fun run, my initial reaction was to quickly delete the message, however just before I pressed the delete button, I spotted the word WINE!

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Bean Wine Run???

The run suddenly looked like fun, on the website I read they will have a refreshment table for the thirsty runners every kilometer. Not water but glasses of wine and proper food!!! Without asking Mrs Sensible, I immediately registered for the run it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Proof that there might be a bit of madness in my family

After registering for the event I mentioned the Wine Fun Run to Mrs Sensible. She then sent a WhatsApp message to the wife of Mr H mentioning the Fun Run, this was a shame because Mr H hadn’t managed to find the courage to ask / tell his wife that he was going on a wine fun run with me. I quickly dispatched a warning message to him.

While various messages  were being sent from one phone to another, I decided I needed to invest in some proper running kit. Obviously I will need some running shorts and a hat to keep the sun from my eyes.

While I was looking for a nice set of spandex running shorts….. I came across these.

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Unfortunately they are not available in Spandex

I can’t decide on which T shirt to buy. Because this is a special occasion, a once in a life time run, I may even print some Team Pecora Nera T Shirts….

I did find a suitable hat to keep the sun from my eyes,

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The hat

I am a little disappointed, the hat only holds two glasses, the picture is not clear enough to see if it is possible to insert two bottles.

Mr H said his wife has agreed to allow him to join me on the run. He has also started his preparation for the run, which includes sit ups, press ups and running. ( I had to google these strange terms). I told Mr H we should have a support vehicle and staff, maybe a sommelier, cardio specialist and an ambulance.. you never know.

I am also taking this run very seriously, the first week will be used for organising and the preparation of my kit, the second week will include choosing which wine to take and  trying to run whilst balancing the two glasses on my head. In the final week I may try a little stretching and an occasional sedentary walk.

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Mr H with our support staff.

Mrs Sensible told me the local red cross will be at the run and I wasn’t to worry, I was really only concerned on behalf of Mr H. Because someone may have to carry me.

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Mr H is strong enough to carry me

The run is on the 3rd of September, so please come and support us, and I mean support us in the literal sense.

 

BREXIT

BREXIT

Brexit

The European Union has just announced that despite Brexit an agreement has been reached whereby English will continue to be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations,  the European Union  decided that English spelling had some room for improvement and has recommended a 5- year phase-in plan that will become known as ‘Euro-English’.

In the first year, ‘s’ will replace the soft ‘c’. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ‘c’ will be dropped in favour of ‘k’. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome ‘ph’ will be replaced with ‘f’. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent ‘e’ in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as

replasing ‘th’ with ‘z’ and ‘w’ with ‘v’.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary ‘o’ kan be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’ and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter 20ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

 

One finger one thumb keep moving.

One finger one thumb keep moving.

Today millions of children will be driving their mums and grandparents potty until the schools re-open sometime in September. I join the ranks of adults who are sad the children are now on their three month holiday. Not because I have any school age children who will say “I’m bored, are we going out today”, I am sad because I miss my school pals from Cerrina School.

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Some of the fabulous children (Allessandria News)

During January Mrs Sensible received a phone call asking if her errant husband would like a part time job teaching English to three classes of primary school children. Initially I declined because I was busy with other work. Two weeks later the school phoned again and Mrs Sensible asked when they wanted me to start.

While Mrs Sensible gave me a pep talk on how to teach and control a class of eight year old’s I was preoccupied pondered which of my many ties I should wear.

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Tigger or Simpsons, mmmm a difficult decision.

For the past couple of years I have helped Mombello School and found the experience great fun, for some unexplained reason 9 year olds accept me as one of their own……  but a class of six year old’s would be a new experience. Mrs S suggested I teach them a song, I was a little worried about this idea as on occasions my singing has frightened little children!

Monday morning as I stood at the front of the class watching little Mario pick his nose with his finger, I pointed at my bogey free finger and shouted FINGER! The kids looked at me slightly alarmed but one or two shouted back finger! I then pointed at my thumb and shouted THUMB and the kids shouted back TUM!

It took a couple of tries before the class were shouting back thumb. Over  a period of 20 minutes we worked our way through hand, arm, leg and head. When I was satisfied that they understood the words, I coaxed them into joining me, singing my rendition of One finger one thumb keep moving.

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There is always one little boy who who doesn’t know the words (credit Macaronisoup)

For the first two weeks the lessons with the six year old’s went brilliantly. The kids loved the song and I was excited with their progress. One evening while I was eating my pizza, Mrs Sensible asked me how my lessons were going and which song i was teaching them, One Finger One Thumb I said. It goes like this….. I put my pizza to one side, stood up and pointed at my finger and then my thumb, I sang One finger one thumb  keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving we’ll all be merry and bright.Mrs Sensible was transfixed.

As I sang I watched Mrs Sensible screw her eyes up as I hit one or three bad notes, Mrs S gamely sat through my song until I reached the bit that goes… One finger, one thumb, one hand one arm and as I patted my arm Mrs Sensible very nearly choked on her piece of pizza. Noooo she said, please tell me you haven’t taught a class of 6 year olds this song!

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Even the cat looked surprised

Erh! yes, its a good song, they are learning parts of their body and….

You taught them the movements?

Oh for sure, I have the kids stood up tapping their fingers, thumbs arms and singing their little hearts out, they love it.

Oh I bet they do!

Why! Oh I bet they do?

Pecora… Just do the arm bit again, don’t bother with the singing, just the motions.

I tapped my arm and sang (ever so slightly out of tune) one finger, one thumb, one hand, one arm we’ll all be merry and bright.

Mrs S shouted, In Italy tapping your arm and raising it like that is a swear word!

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Beppe Grillo singing my song

In my defense, I didn’t clench my fist, nor did I raise my arm quite as high, ok maybe high enough so that Maria at the back of the class could see me, and in my naivety I didn’t see how tapping my arm could be construed as a swear word.

Mrs Sensible was mortified. She said the chilblains would be going home and singing my song to their parents, even I had to admit it was a little bit of a problem.

It took three weeks to reeducate my class of six year olds that it was not necessary to tap and raise ones arm, it was sufficient to simply point at it. All except Mario the nose picker who much preferred the original version.

Evoking Grace

Two and a half years ago I received an E mail asking for advice, now everybody knows you should never ask advice from a Black Sheep; especially this Black Sheep. I did try my best to help her and if you are interested here is a link to the advice I gave.

Despite my help Antonia and I now keep in touch via Facebook; although we talk often I have never had enough courage to ask her how useful my wonderful advice was.

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Antonia is a Holistic Life Coach so I was a little surprised when she asked me if I would agree to answer some more questions, for her website Evoking Grace

Even if you don’t want to read my interview, please go over and have a look at her fabulous website or her facebook page.

Evoking Grace Website

Evoking Grace Facebook Page

 

 

 

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s manky cat is the only cat I know, who can purr contentedly whilst glaring at me. The cat loves Mrs Sensible to distraction and it hates me in an equal measure.

Mrs Sensible's manky cat

Look at the eyes on that cat, From day one I knew it was either a cyborg or evil.

Two months ago things came to a head when the manky ginger cat decided it would be great fun to pee on my beloved Mini. Every day it sauntered pass my car and peed on it. I googled cat pees on my car and found the ideal solution…. take the cat to the vet and have it neutered, in layman’s terms this means taking the cat to the vet and having his nadgers removed… I thought this was an ideal solution.  Oh! I didn’t tell you the manky cats name did I, Mrs Sensible calls it Toby (I think after her screen heart throb Toby Stephens) Before the cat visited the vets, I called it Ginger or that Bl%$dy Cat. Now I am happy to call it Pussy No Balls.

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I had just explained to the cat why he was going to the vets.

Mrs Sensible’s cat has spent the past month fighting with a rather large feral cat, so far he has come home with part of his ear badly chewed, various bits of fur missing and a tail that looked like it had been snapped in half and then passed through a mangler.

Mrs Sensible said enough was enough and something needed to be done to protect her beloved cat from the monster that was attacking it. I tried to explain to Mrs S that her manky cat was probably starting the fights and deserved the kicking he was receiving.

To be honest at least once or even one hundred and sixteen times I have wanted to kick Mrs Sensible’s beloved cat ….. and I like cats, with the exception of Toby aka Ginger aka Pussy No Balls.

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If Ginger was a human. “My Toby wouldn’t hurt a fly he is so sweet” says Mrs Sensible

We took Ginger and his mangled tail to the vet, the cat received two injections (that should have been more painful) and I received a bill for €20 and a rather large cage to catch the wild cat. The vet said if we manage to catch the wild cat he would drive the cat 20 miles away and release it so it could torment some other cats in another village.

Adding big game hunter to my other list of achievements was an exciting prospect, I donned my pith helmet, armed myself with the cage and set off to catch the wild and terrible cat.

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I told my neighbor about my latest adventure

I baited the trap with very expensive cat food and set it in the front garden, I then retired to bed. At precisely three o clock in the morning I was awoken by a terrible commotion. Mrs Sensible said “quick it will be the Gattoni, the trap has caught it!!!” I noticed she didn’t say YOU have caught it..I tried to roll over back into my dreams by suggesting it was probably just my stupid cat Mishmash in the trap.

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The terrible, wild and to be honest angry Gattoni

I looked out the window and it wasn’t Mishmash, it was the Gattoni who was caught in the trap. The trap appeared to be walking across the garden as the cat tried to escape. To subdue the animal I covered the trap in a blanket.

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Mishmash  and Ruthie inspecting the cage and captured cat

Now that I had captured the cat, the decision was whether I should drive the cat 20 miles away and release it, or take it to the vet who promised to release it on our behalf. I had a little nagging doubt whether the vet would take the cat for a drive or if he would give it a little injection and send it to sleep.

After debating the problem with my friends over a beer, I decided my son and I would take the cat for a scenic drive through the countryside.

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Famous last words

Driving back from the vineyard my son told me about a film he had watched called Homeward Bound, it is a soppy film about two dogs and one cat that traveled halfway across America. I think he was trying to tell me 20 miles was not far enough. I pointed out that movies are one thing, real life is something different.

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The cat returned

Now either somebody has a great sense of humour and has  brought the cat back to my garden or the cat has found his way home. He either wants to finish his fight with the Ginger cat or his love for Mishmash has not been satisfied yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

There are two things I am pretty rubbish at, one is learning the Italian language and the second is singing. I always thought my singing was, well quite wonderful really, however Mrs Sensible says I am tone deaf.

In my defense, it must be said, I have sung at some pretty auspicious places, I sang with Craig at the Welsh National Stadium and  I even once sang with the school choir, you notice I said once.

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Ah the bliss of school.

Craig a friend of mine from Sheffield introduced me to the delights of singing at the top of my voice while standing in the rain with a meat & potato pie in one hand and a cup of bovril in the other. I learnt the words to The Greasy Chip Butty song and sang it as Sheffield United played football.

Craig was a keen supporter of Sheffield United and his enthusiasm wasn’t diminished for his team, when during the match he jumped in the air and landed badly on his foot. He turned to me and calmly said “I think I have just broken my ankle” he then turned back to the football match and shouted “COME ON YOUUUUUU REEDDDDSSSSSSS”. After the match we walked to the pub to celebrate, (admittedly Craig was limping a bit) and the following morning the local hospital confirmed he had indeed broken his leg so they stuck a pot on it.

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The lyrics to the Greasy Chip Butty Song (search on You tube for it)

During 2005 Mrs Sensible took me to her church in Sicily, she introduced me to her friends and then walked off with three of them and left me standing with Giuseppe or maybe it was Marco, anyway I noticed people were starting to sit down. As I went in search of Mrs S, I noticed that all the chairs around her were full! I ended up sitting five pews back and on the other side of the church.

As the first hymn started, I noticed two things, of course everyone was singing in Italian and second, none of the words I knew were included in the hymn. Mind you how many hymns start with the words , ‘hello, I like red white and where is my wife?’

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I knew the tune, just not the words

So I just stood there and listened. I think they were singing the second verse when I felt a little nudge in the small of my back. I thought it was a little strange to be nudged whilst standing in church, so I ignored it. And then I was nudged again. I turned to see a little Sicilian man holding an open hymn book for me, and his wife was smiling and kindly nodding. I took the hymn book, smiled and turned around. Taking a deep breath I joined them.

Pecora Nera Singing

I sang with gusto

I didn’t just mumble my way through the hymn, I sang with gusto, with fortitude and with absolutely no idea what the words meant or how to pronounce them.

I felt at one with the congregation and my maker, well until I looked down and saw a very small and worried looking boy staring at me from behind his mothers legs.

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Please make him stop!!

I smiled at him and gave him a wave, he quickly disappeared from sight. After the hymn had finished I turned and handed the book back to the man and thanked him. I think the moment must have been too much for  his wife, because she was dabbing the corners of her eyes with a lace hanky.

After the exertion of singing I sat down and listened but understood nothing the preacher was saying, it is a problem that still besets me. And then they stood and started singing another hymn and I felt the familiar nudge in my back.

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Give him the Hymn book again

After the service, Mrs Sensible told me I was welcome to visit the church whenever I was in Sicily, at least somebody must have appreciated my singing.

 

 

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

This afternoon I was at a loose end, I checked the cupboards and there wasn’t any chocolate or crisps in sight, I checked my E-mail, Facebook, Whatsapp and then checked them again. A second trip around the kitchen didn’t reveal any biscuits or any hidden food that I could binge on…… but I did find these.

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Five lolly moulds, not six just five.

They had been sitting at the back of the cupboard since last September, Mrs Sensible bought them because they were on special offer and because I had pestered her for some lolly moulds. I was suddenly hit with a cunning plan, which is much better than being hit with one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons. 

Maybe, just maybe I could make five (not six) limoncello lollies. I understand limoncello and especially my limoncello won’t freeze because of the alcohol content.  I did a quick search on the internet and discovered if I add a simple syrup to the mixture the alcohol will freeze. I checked my watch to make sure I had enough time to make a mess and tidy it up before Mrs S got back and then I set to work.

My recipe goes something like this.

Remove one bottle of limoncello from the freezer.

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mmmmm limoncello

Clean the ice lolly moulds and…

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I wonder who has the sixth mould?

Fill three of the moulds with water, one with limoncello and one with sugar.

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Moneta pans are pretty good…. they are really difficult to burn

To make the simple syrup mix pour the water and sugar into the pan and stir it until the sugar has dissolved. Taddda!!!

When it has cooled down a little, add the limoncello and give it a good stir.

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Pan of pee limoncello

Pour the limoncello mixture into the lolly moulds.

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In it goes

Replace the lids or put lolly sticks in and hide at the very back of the freezer. This is very important, because when Mrs S finds them, I can say “oh them! I made them ages ago and how has your day been?” Thereby deflecting the question and quickly changing the subject,

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Sealed and ready for the freezer

The other important thing to remember is to wash the pan and wooden spoon, wipe down the sides and in this way nobody knows you have been getting into mischief.

How do they taste?

Fantastic, so good I forgot to take a picture of the finished lolly. I knew you would be disappointed so I went and fetched lolly number two. I took a quick picture of lolly number 2 and sat in the sunshine licking the lolly and admiring my creation.

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If you still think it is out of focus, I can get another

When I opened the photo on my computer it was ever so slightly out of focus. So I fetched lolly number 3.

I took my time and tried to take a nice photo of lolly number three, the taste appeared to be slightly more lemony than lolly number 1 or 2, I decided to try lolly number 4 and then I went and had a little lie down.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Limoncello and one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons.

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

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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.

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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.