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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.