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

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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….

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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.