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..

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

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.

cerrina Alessandria news

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.

KeepMoving

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!

funny-surprised-cat-face-paw

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!

download

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.

IMG_1469

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

 

 

 

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.

images

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.

sheffield2

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?’

Hymn

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.

Orangutans Laughing

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.

1

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.

3

mmmmm limoncello

Clean the ice lolly moulds and…

4

I wonder who has the sixth mould?

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

5

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.

6

Pan of pee limoncello

Pour the limoncello mixture into the lolly moulds.

7

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.

2016-04-21 11.14.27

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.

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

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

mankini

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

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

Summer Skiing

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

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

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

beach-tourist-pic

Let me hold your bag while you go for a swim

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

2016-03-18 09.02.02

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

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Rituals

Italian Rituals

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

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

Robert-Downey-Juni_1709242a

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

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

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

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A tartan bed sheet used as a scarf

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

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

Good bye 5

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

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

goodbye

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

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

kisskiss (2)

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

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

Good bye 1

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

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

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

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Maria Grazia Cucinotta kissing goodbye

The COSI Group

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

Sicily Inside And Out: Culture Shock In Sicily

Sex, Lies, and Nutella: Food Traditions

Surviving in Italy: Top 7 Weirdest Rituals in Italy

Girl in Florence: Strange wedding traditions

Treasure maps, Pee and Poo!

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

Loo

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

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

What have you flushed down the toilet?

Nothing!

Are you sure?

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

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

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

Pee and Poo!! oh and some toilet paper.

What else???

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

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

Plunger

I plunged and plunged

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

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

crime-scene-toilet-roll_f

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

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

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

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

1

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

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

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

Pirates map

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

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

grass

Somewhere under here is a septic tank

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

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My mate Bob

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

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

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

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

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

Bye for now I have packing to do. Uffa!

 

It has been one of those weeks…

It has been one of those weeks…

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

nose-picking-300x200

Mrs Sensible hates nose picking

 

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

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

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

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

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

Admin: Tell me!

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

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

Admin: è scaduto

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

ComputerSaysNo

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

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

She was not convinced that my UK passport proved anything.

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

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

Admin 2: You came yesterday didn’t you.

Me: What did she say?

Admin 2:

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

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

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

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

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

 

targa-system-auto2

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

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

Option 1

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

Option 2

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

Its a difficult one.

Thought process

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…

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

Englishmaninitaly.org

Even Batman goes shopping

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

Mrs Sensible's new toy

The Blipper, Mrs Sensible’s new toy

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

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

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

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

Did you put another packet of biscuits in the trolley?

Nope!

Are you sure?

Positive, I am only in charge of the trolley.

But we only paid for two packets!

Oops,

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

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

I could go  back and tell them.

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

I think they have security cameras.

Tricky… How about we just eat them?

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

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

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

Last night, out of the blue Mrs Sensible said

I know how to solve it.

Solve what?

The biscuits.

Uh Huh.

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

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

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

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pecora picked a peck of pickled peppers;

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example of a typical English tongue twister

Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers;

A peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked;

If Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers,

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

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

It is non other than Gli 

Gli

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

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

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

Many many thanks to my wonderful tutor….

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

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

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

Killer was left in charge of security

Killer was left in charge of security

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

Mishmash

Mishmash with one of her kittens

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

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

My Office

My Office They left footprints in the dust

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

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

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

The boys in Blue arrive

The boys in Blue arrived

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

Look Hastings, the carabinierie don't wear gloves

Look Hastings, the carabinierie are destroying the evidence

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

Mrs Marples (AKA Doterressa Paula)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corn Flakes and Wine Diet

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

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

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

Sausages with vegatables

Day two: Sausages with vegetables

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

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

FRUIT!!!

Fruit added to the diet

Day three: Fruit added to the diet

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

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

To celebrate I cooked a proper dinner,

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

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

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

Just please don’t tell Mrs Sensible

Furbizia

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

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

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

COSI Group

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

Honest! You can trust me.

Honest! We don’t earn much.

Unfortunately no one is safe from the Furbi.

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

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

Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

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

Pecora Nera

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

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

berlusconi-eyyy_1489087c

Berlesconi in office for 9 years

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

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

Tips for the intrepid tourist

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

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

Only pack essential items

Only pack essential items

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

How not to wear a man bag

How not to wear a man bag

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

Burp

At least he was wearing shorts with his flip flops

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

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

White bits

White bits

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

Be yourself

Be yourself

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

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

The penalties of not learning the language

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

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

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

Baby Sister

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

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

How authentic an Italian are you?

How authentic an Italian are you?

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

Driving

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

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

Pecora’s rating 10

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly

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

Fashion

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

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

Pecora’s rating -5

This is not me on holiday  Credit: Baroquesicily.com

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

Helping in the  home

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

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

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

Pecora’s rating a dismal minus 10

Man-in-marigolds-with-mop

Cards

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

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

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

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

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

Pecora’s rating 10+

scopa

Communicating

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

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

Pecora’s rating -10

The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

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

Drinking

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

* moderation. I had to google this word.

Pecora’s rating 6

schermata-10-2456940-alle-01.33.43

Grappa from pralapa.com

Queuing

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

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

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

Italian shopping trolley

Italian shopping trolley

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

 

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

 

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

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

    1. from our fabulous COSÌ group:

      from our new friends at Italy Blogger Roundtable:

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

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

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

They even took the kitchen sink

They even took the kitchen sink (Rustyduck.net)

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

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

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

House no 1 Rent 220.00 euros a month

A nice little house but

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

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

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

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs S: Just me and my Husband

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

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

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

CLICK

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

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

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler is fired with gasolio.

Me: Just say yes.

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

Me: OK, say yes.

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

Me: But it is fab, please say yes.

Mrs S: No

Me: Pleeeeaaaasssse.

The boiler was a littlw out of date

The central heating boiler was a little out of date

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: What did he say?

Mrs S: Wait!

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

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

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

Mrs S: You will have to wear pyjamas.

Me: I don’t wear pyjamas.

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

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

Mrs S: PN!!!

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

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

How to expand your house the italian way

How to expand your house the italian way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Let’s go home.

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

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

Owner: What did your husband say?

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

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

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

Link A little Summer House

Our house

Our house

DSC04251

Don’t hold your breath but…………

Mrs Sensible is full of very sensible advice, this advice normally goes in my right ear and exits out my left ear and unfortunately doesn’t spend much time in the space in-between my ears.

In one ear and out the other

Mrs Sensible’s advice normally has a huge impact on my behavior

Occasionally I am reminded of her wonderful advice, times like when I entered the house with an armful of logs for the fire wearing my flip flops, skidded across the floor, slid just past the steps to the cellar and ended up in an untidy heap, I am sure I could hear her say “put some shoes on when it is wet, don’t go out in your flip flops. But today I followed her advice and managed to surprise even myself!   On Friday morning, I was enjoying a scalding hot shower and as the steam slowly but surely filled the room, I could hear a voice somewhere in-between my ears say “please open the window when you shower or we will have mould” I decided to open the window, not because of the mould but because I couldn’t see where the soap, the towel or even the old naked man, whose reflection normally makes me think of restarting my diet, so I opened the window and as the steam rushed outside who should I see but Mr Telecom Italia in his little red van, stopped just outside our gate. Dun dun duuunnn!

Little red van

Proof that we have a telephone.

His paperwork obviously said number 2 not number 13 as stamped on the side of our house; (the address issue is too complicated to relate here so go read this). Mr technical Telecom man was looking at his piece of paper and at the number on our house, which didn’t match. I was desperately trying to find a towel in my mini steam room and shout to Mrs S  to run outside and grab him before he drove away.

Number 13 unlucky for some everybody

Number 13 unlucky for some everybody

We have waited 3 months for the technician to arrive at our house and evaluate if we can have fast internet access. After establishing that our house existed, he asked if our telephone worked, we said yes “good good good” he said you will have your connection in 20 days.

The highs and lows of dealing with Telecom Italia

The highs and lows of dealing with Telecom Italia

Of course this is 20 Italian days which in reality will means another 2 to 3 months, if we are lucky.

A pole and a phone

Somewhere in Italy there is a boat minus it’s mast. I know this for a fact, because there is a boat’s mast stuck in my garden. I was going to get a shovel and dig the mast out, but knowing my luck the rest of the boat is probably still attached to the mast. Over the past three months I have thought of several uses for our yachts mast (did you notice it now belonged to a yacht) I thought it might be useful for drying towels or maybe Mr’s Sensible’s knickers. (I might edit that bit out later, it will depend, if I can hide her wet wooden spoon)

 

No these aren't our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible's knickers

No these aren’t our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible’s knickers

As you know, Telecom Italia are driving me nuts, we still don’t have any internet connection and to be honest, by the time Telecom Italia arrange for their technical man to test our line, I will probably be retired and sat in an old people’s home drinking grappa and causing lots and lots of trouble for the nurses.

If they are armed with wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

If they are armed with a wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

At the moment the only way I can connect to the internet, is to sit in a café, drink copious quantities of coffee (in the morning) or lots of wine (in the afternoon) and use the cafés  internet.  Being an Englishman, as soon as the waitress removes my empty cup, I feel obliged to order another coffee, especially as I am taking up a table and using their internet.

Last week, I tried to vary the boredom of drinking cups of cappuccino by started with a caffé macchiato, I then moved onto a café marocchino, washed that down with a caffé doppio  and just for good measure, I  finished of the morning with a rather nice caffè corretto ( I then Jitterbugged to the Turkish toilet with big wide starring eyes. I suppose it is no wonder they think their resident Englishman is a bit mad.

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

If I am at home and I want to use the internet, I create a hotspot on my little crappy Huawei phone, I place the phone on a chair in the garden, run back upstairs to my office and hope and pray it picks up a good enough signal so that I can quickly download my e mails.  This drives me almost as crazy as jitterbugging around the café.

Yesterday I had an eureka moment; I knew there was a reason I hadn’t chopped down my flagpole. I suddenly realised it would make a fabulous internet mast. One plastic bag and a bit of string later, my mobile phone was hoisted 5 metres into the air and miracles of miracles, I had 3G, well maybe 1.5G but it did work and I managed to upload this post.

Flag

I told Mrs Sensible not to turn my flag into a cushion.

So if you decided to contact me, please, please, please use my contact form and don’t phone me, it is a nightmare when the phone rings. I have to run downstairs, play the last call on the bugle and lower the flag and all this takes time.

PS If you work for Telecom Italia or you know somebody who works for them, please tell them Pecora Nera is one of their dissatisfied customers.

dissatisfied

Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome.

Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome.

I have just found out our cuddly cats may be carriers of Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome a link  to the disease is here. This dreadful disease is very common in cats and may be dangerous if transmitted to a pregnant woman!!! Fortunately neither Mrs Sensible nor I are pregnant, well I hope not anyway.

 

Toxic Plastic Leg Syndome

Toxic Plastic Leg Syndrome

Last night Mrs Sensible aided and impeded by yours truly, attempted to force the cats to eat a selection of tablets to cure Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome, beri beri and the shits. The operation did not go well. As I tried to entice Mish Mash to eat his horse sized pills, I was amazed at how many legs a cat has, each tipped with a lot of sharp little claws, plus some pretty sharp teeth. In fact, I still have the scratch marks to prove how much the cats enjoyed the game and I will go to the hospital tomorrow for a little bit of first aid and a tetanus shot.

 

Mish Mash after I had tried to force feed him.

Mish Mash after I had tried to force feed him.

 

After I nearly lost the end of my index finger on my right hand, Mrs S shouted “I told you to crush the tablets and mix it with their food”

 

Boh!!

 

Our cats are now de-bugged, de-wormed and no longer suffer from diarrhea.  The cats are now ready for their next home. Which could be your home!!!!! Just complete the contact form and I will send you a cat via Fedex

 

Mr Hairy will be the first to go, because he is so handsome and cute, if he was an Italian man he would strut around wearing an Armani suit complete with a man bag and generally wow the women.

 

Mr Hairy

Mr Hairy the good looking cat.

Mrs S and I are still negotiating which cat/s we will keep here. Last week it was all five, that is until they managed to spread their number 2’s from one side of their room to the other. For an explanation of what a number 2 is go read this earlier post.

If Mr Hairy was a man, he would look like this

If Mr Hairy was a man, he would look like this

Ruth, formally called the Runt, will stay because although she is pretty ugly, she is the brightest and will cause us the least trouble and either Mish Mash, my choice because she is as mad as a hatter and chases anything that moves and has an amazing ability to climb up a trouser leg using only her claws. Mrs Sensible wants to keep  Ginger, because she likes him. Aren’t women sentimental.

 

The Runt

The Runt sometimes called Ruth or Butt-Ugly

We have found a woman, whose soul aim in life is to re house kittens and stray cats. She came here and inspected our cats, provided us with some valuable advice and cans of cat food, plus the miraculous horse tablets. She has officially been added to my Christmas card list.

Telecom Italia, you have just got to…..

Telecom Italia you have just got to love them hate them.

Boh!

Boh!

Yesterday I once again pestered Mrs Sensible to phone Telecom Italia. I waited until she was sat down and drinking her cup of tea before I started.

She had a another really interesting conversation with Telecom Italia about our unusual postal address (They agree with my version of our address, so I am starting to like them). They did ask Mrs S which of the two address they now have for our telephone line, we live at… 🙂 🙂 🙂

The latest update is they will test our line to see if I can have broadband, this will take place between now and the end of the month. It takes so long because they have a ‘specialist line tester’ !!!!

Telecom Italia or 2 cans and a bit of string.

Telecom Italia or 2 cans and a bit of string.

Welcome to my new office. You might notice it is full of old men drinking espresso, this is so I can sit here unnoticed and get some work done, well until I open my mouth and order another cappuccino and all heads swivel my way.

Some people in my office are even older than me.... incredible

Some people in my office are even older than me…. incredible

Why don’t I work from home? Two reasons, 1 It is full of scabby cats and 2, there is no internet connection. A week ago I asked Mrs Sensible to phone Telecom Italia and ask them to connect us to the internet, this should be very easy after all we already have 5 working phones scattered around the house.

Don't phone us and we won't phone you.

We value all our customers, even the dead ones.

So Mrs S picked up the phone and called a customer service representative woman at Telecom Italia. She gave them our address and explained that the previous owner of the house had died and we wanted to have the line reconnected (The phone line was working, it just wasn’t in our name) and to also have fast internet. Telecom told her, the contract is still in the dead man’s name and they required a relative of the dead man to write to them and prove he was dead so they can cancel his contract.  While this conversation was in progress I was hopping from foot to foot saying helpful things like “how soon, I need fast internet, tell them I also need a modem. The scowl from Mrs S shut me up.

Stay Connected with your loved ones

Stay Connected with your loved ones

I sent an E mail to the son of Telecom’s dead customer and asked him to prove his dead dad was in fact dead. He told me he had proved to Telecom that he was dead 2 years ago and to his knowledge, things had not changed.

Mrs S phoned Telecom and reached a different woman, she explained their customer was in fact still dead and they had been told he was dead 2 years ago. The  woman said “we know he is dead” Ah ha progress!! Mrs S again gave her details and requested an internet line and phone line. I knew I was allowed to hop from foot to foot but I had to keep silent. When Mrs S put the phone down, the phone that according to Telecom was already disconnected and as dead as their previous customer, she told me Telecom would call me in a couple of days to organise the fitting.  I was sooooo excited.

The best I could hope for

The best I can hope for.

Seven days passed and  no calls, so I harassed Mrs S to call them again.

The conversation went something like this,

Mrs S; You promised to phone Pecora Nera to organise his internet access, when are you going to do this because he is driving me mad.

Telecom: Please will you give me your address.

Mrs S: 2 Green Leaves Road in the middle of the countryside.

Telecom: That is why we didn’t call you, this phone is registered to 13 Old Mill Road in the middle of nowhere.

Mrs S; Can you please update your system as the address is wrong, the council say we live at number 2 Green Leaves, not number 13 Old Mill Road.

And so until Telecom arrive with my 2 tin cans and a long length of string I will have to share my office with 7 old men.

There is a post about our strange address here I will update you on Telecom Italia ASP (at some point)

 

 

 

 

 

Pecora Nera and Mrs Sensible now live at different addresses

We have now been living in our new house for just over 2 months, Mrs Sensible still can’t find many of the things that I packed! After a talking to by Mrs S, I have promised myself that I will be a good boy and be a little more organised, so I trotted of to the bank and gave them our new address, Mrs Sensible went to the gas and electric companies and did the same.

Poste Italian surprised us by finding the house and delivered 2 Electric Bills and a birthday present for Mrs Sensible all the way from England.

 

Poste Italia, as organised as anything can be in Italia

Poste Italia, as efficient as anything can be in Italia!

A week ago Mrs Sensible visited the local council offices to formally tell them, they now have a Black Sheep resident in their little village. When she returned home, she had a little surprise for me, the address we have given everybody is wrong, not wrong as in slightly wrong but wrong as in a completely different address. I suppose that is why Poste Italia managed to deliver our mail.

 

Pecora Nera in trouble

Our village now has a black sheep living there.

Our house has a number 13 nailed to the wall, and I believe the road name is Old Mill (translated) The council claim our house should have the number 2 nailed to the wall and the road is called Green Leaves (again translated). Mrs Sensible with her infinite wisdom is following the council’s advice and filling out all her official forms using the address 2 Green Leaves. I on the other hand prefer to use the address 13 Old Mill, not because I am a black sheep, but because Poste Italia thinks that is where I live.

 

The woman at our post office does not look like this

The woman at our post office does not look like this

 

To date no letters have arrived for Mrs Sensible at 2 Green Leaves, so either nobody is writing to her or……. She might be wrong!!!!!

 

Mrs Sensible was last proved wrong....

Mrs Sensible was last proved wrong….

It won’t be the first time she has been proved to be wrong, but I think Halley’s Comet was passing close by the last time I proved it.

Does this stuff really happen!!!

I received an e mail asking me, what inspires me to write my posts and does this stuff really happen or do I just have an over active imagination. So let me take this opportunity to put the record straight. Much to Mrs Sensible’s dismay, my blog is as it happens here. Mrs Sensible wouldn’t allow me to tell lies or exaggerate. If I did she would hit me with a wet wooden spoon.

Mrs Sensible is deadly with a wet wooden spoon.

Mrs Sensible is deadly with a wet wooden spoon.

How do I decide what to write about?  Well let me give you an example.

Two weeks ago my reading glasses were sitting on my face at a funny angle, so I took them off and tried to straighten them. I heard a little snap and ended up with two monocles, one for each eye.  Mrs Sensible just looked at me as my glasses fell apart in my hands. “What have you done now?” she asked. Nothing I replied as I tried to hide my glasses in my pocket.

A monocle for each eye.

A monocle for each eye.

Breaking my glasses is not a huge problem as I also wear contact lenses. Unfortunately I lost several boxes of contact lenses when we moved house. I can find my corkscrew and my bottles of wine. We have eventually found the kettle, but my lenses are still in a box…. Probably marked Christmas decorations!!

Are they in the box marked Christmas?

Are they in the box marked Christmas decorations?

Like everyone else I have two eyes, my right eye does all the work and my left eye… well it is there only for decoration, it is called a lazy eye. It looks normal but it just refuses to work. When I went for my eye examination for my Italian driving licence, the doctor gave me a paddle to cover my left eye as he tested my right eye. Everything was OK, however when he asked me to cover my right eye and read the letters on the wall, I was tempted to ask him “what wall?” I managed to get around this slight difficulty by removing the paddle and having a quick look at the letters before the doctor turned around and asked me what he had just pointed at.

What do you mean, where has the wall gone

What do you mean, where has the wall gone?

So what inspired me to write this post? Well last week we had the COSI on-line discussion and I was sat in a bar with a glass of wine, squinting at my laptop. I couldn’t find any more contact lenses, my reading glasses are broken so my solution was to wear my normal glasses and over the top of those I put on a pair of Mrs Sensible’s reading glasses, with the double magnification and providing I partially closed my left eye I could read my laptop almost perfectly.

With my multiple sets of glasses I looked quite sexy

With my multiple sets of glasses I looked quite sexy

After a couple of glasses of wine I forgot that I was wearing two sets of glasses. When the waitress who delivered my third glass of wine, looked at me funnily I immediately checked to make sure my fly was zipped up.

The COSI webcam was a bit chaotic, but I enjoyed it. I sat there with a glass of wine in one hand, an ear phone plugged into my right ear and my finger stuck into my left ear to block out the noise of the bar, oh and two sets of glasses on. I think ‘M’ from Married to Italy sent me a message and said Pecora “ your webcam is on we can see you” I didn’t worry too much until I realised what I must look like, after all I was already getting strange looks from the people in the bar.

So do I make this stuff up? No this is life as I know it in Italy

Ferragosto

According to my pocket Italian / English dictionary, the definition for Ferragosto is:-

Ferragosto takes place in Italy anywhere between the 1st and the 31th of August,  plumbers, electricians, butchers and anybody else that you need on a day to day basis or may need in a crisis, leave town and either head to the mountains or the seaside for 1 to 31 days. It is not uncommon for towns and villages to become temporary ghost towns.

 

Ferieagosto

Ferragosto

Last year on the 17th of August our boiler decided to go into meltdown. Mrs Sensible contacted our landlord and asked if she could organise a plumber. Ten minutes later, the landlady phoned back and told us the plumber was on holiday until the 28th of August, she added is Pecora Nera any good with boilers.

Mrs S asked me if I knew anything about boilers, I said, I understood they blow up if you don’t know what you are doing and poke around inside them. Mrs S then broke the news to me that we would be taking cold showers for the rest of the month; unless I knew how to fix the boiler. So armed with a screwdriver a large hammer and wearing some overalls I went to have a look at our boiler.

Boiler suit for messing with boilers

Safety overalls for use when messing with boilers

I stuck one finger in one ear and holding my screwdriver at arms length I poked and played with things I really didn’t have a clue about. After 30 minutes of cursing the boiler and the plumber who was sat on some beach drinking pina colada I gave up. Mrs S phoned the landlady and said I had failed miserably and was there any other plumbers in Italy? The landlady said she would send her husband. It was at this point that I decided I needed to be somewhere else, maybe at my favorite bar which I had calculated would be outside the blast range or maybe better still on a flight to England.

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

The landlady’s husband turned up with his own screwdriver and an even bigger hammer than the one I was holding. He poked about inside the boiler, he hit delicate bits of pipe with his hammer and explained to me what he thought was wrong with the boiler. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, not only because I don’t understand Italian but by this time I was stood with fingers in both of my ears just in case the boiler decided to go boom.

 

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

And then miraculously, the boiler hissed, farted and started working. We decided to celebrate by drinking a glass or two of grappa.

 

So if your boiler breaks down, or your cooker starts smoking during August drop me a line and I will send you the landlady’s husband.

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

I have been informed that our crazy group of expats bloggers (COSI Group), are having a Google Hangout Q&A session at 13:00 EST, 19:00 in Italy on Sunday the 3rd of August.  I haven’t a clue how to do this but I will try to be there with a glass of wine in my hand.

Please go to my COSI  page and follow the links to other bloggers from COSI who are uploading their thoughts on Ferragosto

 

 

Press the button

Press the button

It is amazing just what you can order, with the press of a button over the internet; when I need some bacon I go on line and press the button, if I require some English books I just press the button.

Close your eyes and press that button

Close your eyes and press that button

In May I pressed the button and ordered 2 workaways from the USA to help paint my new house. They arrived on time and in good condition. Normally the first thing I do when I receive something over the internet, is I remove its protective packaging and check it for faults and damage. I particularly like stuff that arrives in bubble wrap, I can get around 10 minutes fun popping the bubbles.

Mrs Sensible said it was not necessary this time to remove the protective packaging and added that if I attempted to remove any part of their protective packaging, something might break. I think she was hinting that I might damage my fingers or even my neck. Although I couldn’t understand how this might happen,  I decided to take her advice.

Workaway 1 checking the protective packaging is still in place

Workaway 1 checking that the protective packaging of workaway 2 is still in place

Throughout June our workaways wandered around our house and packed our stuff into boxes, they helped keep the house nice and clean and seemed to function incredibly well. The only thing we had to do was feed them and give them a corner to sleep in. When we transferred to the new house, we reprogrammed the workaways to unbox our belongings and set about painting the house. The reprogramming was very easy, with my Tomtom satnav I need to hook it up to my laptop, but with the workaways they had a very simple verbal interface.

Workaways 1 & 2 safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty during the night. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

Workaways One and  Two safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

The new house has a wine cellar, so one evening I took a drive to one of our local wine cantinas to buy some wine. I took the workaways with me to help carry the heavy boxes of wine. While we were there I let them taste a glass or two and the transformation was amazing. They really liked the wine, in fact when it was time to go they really didn’t want to leave.

Workaway 2 didn't want to leave

Workaway 2 didn’t want to leave

I don’t like reading the instructions that come with items I order over the internet and the manual wasn’t very clear. Instruction number 2 stated: Do not mix with alcohol.  Did it mean I shouldn’t drink alcohol when operating the workaways, or they shouldn’t drink the alcohol. I decided to ignore the warning; I couldn’t ask Mrs Sensible what she thought, because she had flown to Sicily to see her mother and left me in charge of our workaways.  Her instructions regarding what I could and could not do with the workaways was very simple, clear and specific, it also included what might happen if I disregarded any of her advice or attempted to remove the workaways protective packaging.

Two days later I decided to see if the workaways enjoyed burnt food, so I fired up the barbeque and burnt some chicken and some sausage. Workaway number 1 was despatched to the wine cellar to fetch some wine and workaway number 2 was ordered to begin the task of opening the wine.

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine


Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

What happened next was unbelievable, all the expensive programming just stopped working. They couldn’t follow simply instructions, when I suggested workaway 1 should go and mow the lawn she collapsed in giggles.

Workaway one just laughed when I asked her to mow the lawn

Workaway one just giggled when I asked her to mow the lawn

When I told workaway 2 to clear up the mess and start cleaning the kitchen she just laughed at me. It was a very disappointing evening.

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Yesterday I returned the workaways to America with a strongly written complaint and I have suggested they should improve their user manual. I have ordered another workaway for September, hopefully its programming will not be affected by a little alcohol.

Thanks to Mrs Sensible for tolerating me and a very Special thanks to Jessica and Liz for being so much fun and working so hard and thanks to the guy who invented workaway red wine.

Moving house, C.O.S.I and my apologies.

Seven days ago Mrs Sensible and I moved house, it was not the first time I have moved house, in fact I have moved house seven times, so you would think I would be organised and remember to write the contents on each box as I pack them. One would think that after seven moves I would remember to pack the kettle with its power cord and tie the screws for the wardrobe to one of the doors so that I could reassemble the wardrobe at the new house.

Where is the hairdryer

Where is my hairdryer?

 

Unfortunately our new house resembles an explosion at an Ikea warehouse. There are bits of wardrobe in one room and bits in another, the important screws are still missing. My office had to be quickly assembled in the garden so that I could earn some pennies. I even installed a light in case the moon didn’t come out.

 

office up and ready

office up and ready

And how is Mrs Sensible I hear you ask, well a tad stressed, her office kitchen cabinets currently share the floor in the dining room with the sofa and lots of boxes. The cooker won’t cook and the fridge won’t freeze. Mrs Sensible is creating some wonderful meals using a microwave, her ingenuity and some spoons that miraculously were packed in a box marked kitchen.

 

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

A week before we moved I received an invitation to join a group called C.O.S.I Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy. C.O.S.I  Someone who shall remain nameless put my name forward because he ‘sensibly’  realised he was too busy to participate in the group. I on the other hand have never been particularly sensible; as my long-suffering wife will tell you. On Friday I was supposed to upload a post regarding “trying to learn the Italian language”. Fridays’ dead line came and went; I think I was struggling up stairs with two suitcases of clothes at the time. Besides in the past seven years, I have never managed to learn more than a few Italian words, so I am probably not the best person to blog about this particular subject.

 

So here are my apologies.

To Cosi: sorry mates I will try harder next time.

To Mrs Sensible: sorry I lost the kettle lead, wardrobe screws, tooth-brush chargers, my underwear, your shoes, the washer hose and you are right I did only remember our wedding anniversary when I was at the supermarket checkout and that is why you only ended up with a scabby box of chocolates.

 

Links to the C.O.S.I group.

 

 

Starvation Diet

Mrs Sensible is being a really, really good girl, she went to the dietician at the hospital this week and was awarded 10 Brownie points and 2 gold stars for being a really good girl and losing another 4 kilos. I on the other hand have not been particularly good and didn’t receive anything.

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

For dinner today Mrs Sensible fed me and our two guestaways a very healthy salad with a little bit of cheese and a little bit of fresh salmon and two peppers stuffed with rice. For some reason I only received one pepper. At about 4.00 pm Mrs Sensible left the house and I went in search of food.

I found a very large packet of crisps and decided to wash it down with one or two glasses of wine. Just as I was relaxing and feeling mellow and contented one of our workaways appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a run. I very nearly asked if I could join her, but sanity kicked in and I took another sip of my wine and another handful of crisps.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

Twenty minutes later, during my second glass of wine, guestaway number 2 appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a quick run; maybe it was the wine talking but I found myself asking if I could join her…….

How far do you go?

Oh about 45 minutes

Ah ha; do you run the full 45 minutes or do you also walk a little?

I might walk up hills it depends.

So I put on my Booby Charlton running shorts, turned on the Run keeper app on my phone and followed her out the door.

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

As soon as we got outside she started to do stretching exercises, it was at this point that I started to feel a little worried. As she bent over to touch her toes, I bent over and managed to touch my knee caps. As she stretched and put her chin on her knee, I stretched and managed to see my knee caps which seemed a long way away. And then we started running.

Pull that stomach in

Pull that stomach in

I know she is only 19 and in the prime of her life but ‘spiders’ how is it possible that she can run up our road and hold a normally conversation.

So how far do you normally run?

Gasp, pant, gasp, not much! pant gasp wheeze.

There is a really nice breeze, this is nice weather to run in.

Wheeze, cough, wheeze, Yes, cough wheeze pant.

I managed to stay with her all the way up to the cowsheds and then my internal organs started to close down and I suffered severe cramp in my left big toe and had to stop.

“Go Go” I managed to utter as she disappeared up the hill.

Feeling a little ashamed and very old I slowly turned around and half ran and half hobbled home.

My runkeeper app didn’t help me either, I am sure I heard it say “Oye old man get running” and “do you want to change the setting from run to walk slowly”

Tomorrow I have committed myself to another run, I just need to find out if workaway number 1 runs slower than workaway number 2, maybe I will quiz them over a glass of wine.

Mrs Sensible has left me :(

The first thing you are going to ask is “has she taken Scooby Doo the cat with her?” Well the answer is no, she has left the scabby white cat here with me and no doubt we will both starve. Did I drive her mad and force her to leave me? Has she finally said “basta!” (enough is enough!) . All I can tell you is she has flown to Sicily to marry somebody. Before I tell you what has happened, go and pour yourself a glass of wine and then bring your chair closer to the computer screen while I explain what has happened.

Mrs Sensible leaving into the Sunset

Mrs Sensible leaving into the Sunset

Mrs Sensible flew to Sicily on Friday afternoon; no sooner had Mrs Sensible left these golden shores when Scooby Doo and I quickly made an inventory of the bacon in the fridge and the number of cans of cat food in the cupboard.  I think I will starve first because I only have 3 packs of bacon left and Scooby Doo has 6 cans of cat food, plus he is not willing to share his food with me.

The cat was well prepared

The cat was well prepared

While I was looking in the kitchen for the emergency stash of chocolates and crisps, I found the following note pinned on the kitchen cupboard.

To Do,

Paint the new house.

Keep this house tidy.

Make your bed.

Water the plants.

Feed Scooby Doo

Do Not,

Have a party.

Mess with the washing machine.

Order more wine.

Eat all the crisps.

Annoy Scooby Doo.

I have already started dropping hints with friends that I am Home Alone and may starve to death over the weekend and to-date,

Pecora Nera & Scooby Doo

Pecora Nera & Scooby Doo

I have had no dinner or lunch invitations. Friday night I ended up eating a kebab in a Turkish takeaway in a little village called Fubina.  Mustapha who served me said “it good you here, I practice English with you, I want live near Manchester United; Italy hot but no good. England land of Milk and Honey” This might not be exactly what he said, I was only half listening to him while I was eating my kebab whilst wondering if the scabby white cat had worked out how to use the can opener.

 

If only Scooby Doo had opposing thumbs

If only Scooby Doo had opposing thumbs

 

Tonight I flipped a coin, ‘heads’ I cook bacon sandwiches or ‘tales’ I go to dinner with a lithe sweet young thing and enjoy a romantic evening for two. It was tales and I had a nice pint of beer, a chilli con carne and a fabulous pack of Brown Bag Crisp whilst staring into the eyes of my guest.

I stared into her green eyes

My dates eyes were like puddles, bicycle peddles.

So why has Mrs Sensible left me and flown to Sicily, top up your glass with some more wine and I will tell you. Mrs Sensible has gone to marry someone. Not as in to marry someone, (one black sheep is quite enough for Mrs Sensible) but as in marry two people together. It would appear there has been a new law in Italy, anyone who is deemed Sensible enough by the local council can officiate and marry people and so Mrs Sensible has flown to Sicily to officiate and marry two of our friends together.

She gets to wear one of those Italian banners over her shoulder

She got to wear one of these green white and red things

She got to wear one of these green white and red things

and ask the new couple the important questions such as:-

Do you take this man to be you lawful wedding husband, and promise to keep the fridge stocked with beer and his slippers and his pipe next to the fire?

And

Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife and always remember to open her car door for her and forgive her when she is short tempered and a growly monster for 1 week in every 4.

So it is Saturday night, I am home alone with only a bottle of wine and my wordpress friends to keep me company. Mrs Sensible will be back on Monday morning, which gives me plenty of time to straighten up the house and hide all the evidence of chocolate wrappers and empty wine bottles.

How is Scooby Doo the scabby white cat I hear you asking, well last time I looked he had given up with the can opener  and eaten Gilder’s the short legged but incredible fat dog’s dinner.

 

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

Last year I introduced you to Mr Cretino; he was the wonderful character who exchanged my UK driving licence for an Italian one and it only took him 8 months!!! Not bad for Italy. I have forgiven and almost forgotten about him.

However, yesterday when I went into the local plumbers’ to buy a replacement part for the toilet in our new house, the horrors of the driving licence fiasco came flooding back and flooding is an appropriate word.

It would appear Mr Cretino has a son; we shall call him Mr Cretino Jr.

 

Englishmaninitaly.org

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

I met him when I drove down to the local plumbing merchants to buy a new plastic widget for the flush of the toilet. The beginning of my troubles started when I turned on the water at the new house and created a minor tsunami in the upstairs bathroom. Nobody panicked when it happened, mainly because Mrs Sensible wasn’t there to watch the water cascade down the staircase and I was in the cellar turning on the water main and deciding how much wine I could store down there and would Mrs Sensible bother venture down the cold, dark, damp staircase to keep a tally of my wine stash the bottles of wine I planned on keeping solely for when guests arrive.

There was just a bit more water than this

There was just a bit more water than this

Anyway, after running around the house like a headless chicken, and mopping the bathroom and stairs I drove down to the Plumbing merchants to buy a replacement widget. Had I known the assistant was the son of Mr Cretino, I would have simply stuck an out of order sign on the bathroom door and told Mrs Sensible it was beyond repair and she would have to use the other bathroom.

 

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

So using my bestest Italian, it went something like this:

PN: Ciao

Mr C Jr: Yeah yeah, wait a moment.

PN: Ok no problem.

Mr C Jr: What do you want?

PN: OK, That broken, erh, not function good, change for new please.

Mr C Jr: What?

PN: Look, No stop water. This broken!!! Change for new, please.

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretuno JR

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretino JR

Mr Cretino Jr, picked up my little plastic widget and turned it around in his hands, he made a lot of sighing noises and said “Nope sorry, we don’t sell these”

I was devastated, Casale is a small town and this was the biggest plumbing merchants in the town. They had shelves and shelves of taps, tools, bits of plastic, kitchen sinks and to be honest I am sure they had one of my widgets or at the very least a set of seals for my widget. So I tried again.

PN: OK, This black, you have? I said as I pointed to one of the little black seals.

 

Please tell me you have these little black seals... Please

Please tell me you have these little black seals… Please

Mr C Jr: Nope, we don’t sell them either.

It was at this point that I realised whom I was dealing with. It wasn’t that he looked like Mr Cretino; for a start Mr Cretino was bald and this guy not only had a full head of hair, he also had a beard, maybe he got his looks from his mother.

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

While Mr Cretino Jr watched me reassemble my widget, I was suddenly struck by a great idea.

PN: (Holding the little plastic widget up in front of Mr Cretino Jr’s nose) You have similar, but a bit different?

Mr Cretino Jr: Of course we do!

He walked off down the corridor of shelves and returned with a shiny metal widget.

When he handed me the widget, I was wondering whether to give Mr Cretino Jnr a gift of my old plastic widget, maybe not in his hand but somewhere that would require a gifted surgeon to remove it.

Nurse stop  sniggering.

Nurse stop sniggering.

Spectacular Failure #001

In an attempt to educate the taste buds of Italy, we booked a stall at the Conzano village fair. We packed 400 packs of crisps into my Mini, one large umbrella to protect us from the blazing Italian sun and five receipt books to help us to comply with the Italian bureaucracy.

My business partner and his daughter also had a full car; it contained one makeshift table and enough provisions to sustain us through the day. At five-thirty in the morning, I foolishly climbed out of bed, drank the tea that Mrs Sensible had made me while she ironed my shirt, had a bowl of soggy cornflakes and sleepwalked my way to my little mini. When I arrived at my partner’s house he was still enjoying a cup of tea and warm croissants for his breakfast.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

In convoy we finally set out for Conzano. The promotional leaflet we had been given advertised clowns, angels, sunshine and dancing girls with snakes. Unfortunately when we arrived, we were greeted by white vans, rain, unhappy looking stall holders and big wet looking puddles; oh, did I mention the wind and the driving rain that was arriving horizontally?

The leaflet promised Dancing girls

The leaflet promised clowns, angels and dancing girls with snakes.

We convened a management meeting underneath a semi-waterproof gazebo to discuss how we were going to erect our sun-proof umbrella. There were many helpful suggestions, including one or two suggestions that can’t be published.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team. This gazebo cost the owner 1,800 euros, but it didn’t look very high to me

At 7.30 am (I should mention that I ‘m normally still be in bed at this time) we decamped and ran through the rain to the nearest bar for a hot cappuccino and the chance to dry out.

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a mornings work

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a morning’s hard and demanding work.

When we returned to our rain battered umbrella, we had another short meeting with two other stall holders to discuss whether the weather would improve. While I was taking photos to record this farcical attempt at promoting our crisps, I saw arriving through the driving rain, or at least I am pretty positive that’s what I saw, an old man with a beard walking up the hill of Conzano carrying one hammer and several planks of wood; he was closely followed by two cats, two dogs, two ducks and two of every other kind of animal imaginable. Taking this as a sign, we decided to cut down our sun umbrella and head for home.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

To see if we are coming to a sunny festival near you, check out or web site and our facebook page.

Pecora Nera, What have you done with my hairdryer?

Erh! Packed it.

Mrs Sensible: We don’t move house for another 3 months…

Uh Huh,

Mrs Sensible: Go and unpack it.

But!

Mrs Sensible: Do it.

Mrs Sensible's hairdryer rescued from the box

Mrs Sensible’s hairdryer rescued from the box

I have been absent, once again from bloggoland because I am in the midst of a packing frenzy, plus other distractions that I will come to in a minute. We currently live in a house that was renovated by a man who had a fetish for light switches. Honest I am not kidding, in our lounge there are 12 switches on the wall and only one light bulb in the ceiling.  Over the past four years we have worked out that we can operate the kitchen, lounge, bathroom, hallway and outside lights from the bank of switches in the lounge.

A bank of 5 switches, we also have a bank of 3 on the other side of the settee and a bank of 4 on the other wall

A bank of 5 switches, we also have a bank of 3 on the other side of the settee and a bank of 4 on the other wall

In the hallway I have 2 lights in the ceiling and another 11 switches, you may be asking yourself what all the fuss is about; well let me enlighten you. In Northern Italy it gets pretty cold in the winter and when I get out of bed to visit the bathroom it can take 5 minutes to work out which switch will operate the light I need, while I am dancing on the cold floor growling at the light switches, Mrs Sensible is telling me off for walking on cold tilled floors in bare feet and all I needed was a wee…. not some sensible advice.

I am also positive that Luigina (the nice lady who lives next door)  is well aware that I am about to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, not because she can hear me cursing the light switches, but because she can see the exterior lights flash on and off followed by the kitchen light the lounge light one of the bedroom lights and finally if I am lucky the hall light.

Someone, anyone please switch on the light

Someone, anyone please switch on the light!!

 

Over the past 4 years Mrs Sensible has managed to work out which switch where, operates which light; there is however, one switch that even Mrs Sensible doesn’t know the function of. I think it controls the light in Luigina’s bathroom, and every so often I give it a little flick, but so far I haven’t heard her scream.

So we are on the move to our new house, I am very excited and have packed my books, pictures, pots and pans. I have also unpacked pots and pans the occasional hairdryer and one or two other things that Mrs Sensible thought that she had lost.

On top of the grand move to our new house, I have started a new business with an Italian friend. I firmly believe that any person who wants to open a business should be passionate about his product. Mrs Sensible vetoed the idea of importing Bacon Butties, she also vetoed skimpy underwear which left me with crisps.

Maria our garage attendant

Maria Grazia Cucinotta from the great Italian film  il postino. I am told she wears skimpy underwear.

So here is a shameless plug for my new business.

Brown Bag Crisps

Brown Bag Crisps

Please come and have a look at us at

www.brownbagcrisps.it  and join us at our facebook page

PS. I think I had better go and unpack that Scabby White Cat.

 

 

 

How much is that pussy in the window,♫♪♫ I do hope that pussys for sale♫♪♫

Scabby Scooby Doo, the Machiavellian pussy cat that has taken residency in my garage has been found alive, hungry and well. This is good news for Mrs Sensible, me  and all cat lovers of the world.

Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo

Scobby Doo the sweet,  loveablehandsome, scabby white cat who has been missing since Friday morning, has been found in Luigina’s upstairs bedroom. Yesterday as we were walking towards Luigina’s house, Mrs Sensible said “did you hear that” No, what was it? “Shhh!” she demanded “I just heard Scooby Doo meowing” Without another word Mrs Sensible warbled SCOOOOOBBBBYYYYY DOOOOOOOOOOO WHERE ARE YOOOUUUUUU?

Honest I am not kidding, she really shouted it. We then  heard a faint Meow, and Mrs S pointed at Luigina’s upstairs window and said look he is there. While Mrs Sensible went running down to Luigina’s vegetable patch (Luigina spends her life down there digging holes) I went running in search of my camera to catch the wonderful rescue for posterity.

CAT

Peek a Boo

It seems that Scooby Doo had given up trying to enter my house and decided to enter Luigina’s house and in the fine tradition of Goldilocks And The Three Little Bears, he had fallen asleep in one of the bedrooms. Luigina had then closed the bedroom door and locked the cat in. At sometime over the past 5 days, Scooby Doo  tried to escape from the room by breaking the window, he then climbed through the hole in the glass and found himself stuck between the window pane and the shutter. Don’t ask me how a cat can break a pane of glass, I really don’t know.

I have to add here, that Luagina was very ill during the winter and is sleeping in one of the downstairs rooms, she is also a little deaf so she didn’t hear Scooby smashing the window or meowing to be let out.

Gilda fat dog to the rescue

Gilda fat dog to the rescue

While I was taunting photographing the cat from outside, Mrs Sensible, Luigina and Gilda the incredibly fat but short-legged dog all ran upstairs to rescue Scooby Doo. Mrs Sensible said “Scooby had behaved himself whilst he was incarcerated in Luigina’s house” She said “Apart from breaking the window and peeing in the corner of the room, he hasn’t left any little or big parcels for Luagina to clean up.”

The first steps of freedom for Scooby Doo

The first steps of freedom for Scooby Doo

Despite being locked up for 5 days without food or water, Scooby Doo was reluctant to leave the house, I could hear Mrs Sensible ordering the cat to “go, out, out,  scat cat” I took the photo on speed mode and it is still a little blurred, so you can imagine how fast he finally exited the house.

Fish Pond

Thirsty Cat

After leaving the house, Scooby ran over to my little home-made fish pond (If you want one of these little ponds for your garden please send me your orders. The first order will be supplied with 5 fish and a white cat) and drank 2 liters of water. He then celebrated his release from captivity with a little victory roll.

Freedom Roll

Freedom Roll

At the moment Scooby Doo won’t leave us alone. He is permanently stuck to either my left ankle of Mrs Sensible’s right ankle. Four times we have had to remove him from the car, when we needed to go out.

Fresh Salmon and tinned cat food

First meal for our little prisoner, fresh salmon and tinned cat food

So alls well that ends well.

PS. This cat is still free to a good home or even a bad home. Although Mrs Sensible says he is staying.

Missing. Scabby White Cat

Scooby Doo where are you?

Scooby Doo was last seen on Friday morning, when he exited the garage to eat his breakfast. Since then we have not heard him meow once. I know I have offered on more than one occasion to post Scooby Doo to a good home (or even a bad home) but we are missing him and his crazy antics. We have called him and searched the vineyards, but he is nowhere to be seen.

Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo

Mrs Sensible is convinced he is no longer with us, as in maybe he has gone to the cat heaven. Luigina, the nice old lady who lives next door, suggested he may have moved house again, she pointed out to me that “Scooby Doo used to live across the road, maybe he is now living further up the road”

I told Mrs Sensible that Luigina thinks Scooby is still alive, but just living with someone else. Mrs Sensible said “maybe he has moved back home” “What across the road with the  Hounds from the Baskervilles!! highly unlikely I said.

Nice cuddly friendly cat loving dogs

Nice cuddly friendly cat loving dogs. AKA Hounds from the Baskervilles

Mrs Sensible is going to go and ask the neighbors across the street, if they have abducted seen their cat. I am sure it will be an interesting conversation, because at some point she is going to have to tell them, that their cat has been living in our garage for  around 4 months.

Gilda, the short legged but incredibly fat dog was also questioned. We know she has a habit of eating anything that is left lying around. She is the only dog I know that can eat a yard of grass and not barf afterwards.

His belly is not touching the floor

The only reason her stomach is not touching the floor, is because she breathed in when she saw the camera.

So, on a more serious note. Have you seen the cat that lives across the road our cat.

Best e-mail received☺

E Mail

If there is one thing I like better than reading the comments on my little blog of madness, it is receiving an e-mail from someone who has read my blog and taken the time to trawl through my speling spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Imagine my excitement when I opened and read the following E-Mail, from a lady asking for my advice and help. I was very excited because is not often I get asked to supply advice, normally I supply it whether it is wanted or not, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

I will call Antonella from London, Mrs X to preserve her identity.

On 13 January 2014 17:07, Antonella wrote:

Name: Mrs X
Email: Removed
Comment: Dear Pecora Nera,

What a brave man you are…leaving Uk for Italy, which let’s face it it’s not always sunny and cheerful!

I’m facing a dilemma and I could really do with your advise! My beloved English husband of 8 years keeps on putting learning Italian off. I’m trying my hardest not to take it personally, and while he can mumble the odd word and understand quite well, he says he really doesn’t like learning and he married me because of me and not because I’m Italian. That’s lovely, one’d say, but I can’t help getting frustrated ’cause a) everybody would love to learn Italian b) I’m tired of translating for him when we are in Italy..

My question to you is, do I give up and be happy with my amazing husband the way he is or do I keep on pushing ’till he gives in?  Somehow I sense that once we get to spend longer periods it’ll be easier for him to pick up the language…

I’m very sorry about my odd request, but I love your blog and I read that you too struggled with the language…

Warmest Regards,

Antonella

Dear Antonella,

Thank you for your lovely e mail, I am really glad you enjoy my little blog of madness. I have never done the “agony aunt” bit before, so I thought it would be useful to answer your E mail in 2 parts, I will give you my suggestions and then Mrs Sensible will give you hers.

Pecora Nera suggests.

You are fighting a lost cause. Love him lots, make him cups of tea, always make sure his favourite beer is in the fridge and his comfy slippers are next to the fire.

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

You might want to teach him the following key phrases,

1) Quanto Costa? (How much is it)

2) Dovè il bagno (Where is the bathroom)

2) Dovè è mia moglia (Where is my wife)

3) Non me piace seppia nera (I don’t like that gross squid cooked in black ink that looks ikky, so please stop making me eat it)

4) Mi piace il vino rosso, vino bianco, grappa etc. (I like red wine, white wine, grappa)

Other than the above, I find that if I speak slowly, a little louder and add a suitable vowel onto the end of an English word, the locals understand me. In the past 6 years my ability to mime has improved greatly. I am sure I could easily win any Christmas game of charades, with one hand tied behind my back.

John wasn't playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

John wasn’t playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

Mrs Sensible suggests.

I have found a wet wooden pasta spoon is a good way of motivating Pecora Nera.

Mrs Sensible's tools of motivation

Mrs Sensible’s tools of motivation

If your husband is like Pecora Nera and is either pigro (lazy) or  incapace, (incapable) simple stop translating for him. When I am fed up with translating, I just stop. Pecora will then stand next to me saying “what?, what?, tell me!, Sorry I missed that, what did he/she say?”

I can now hold a conversation with a friend and manage to blank out his voice. After a while it becomes easy, much easier than trying to force him to learn the language. I have tried to teach him Italian but he even forgets the Italian vowels. Pecora is like a mule, I cannot force him to learn, he picks up words and sentences because he has to.

Me, stubborn? I won't have it said.

Me, stubborn? I won’t have it said.

Obviously he quickly learnt how to order wine, grappa and corretto.

Make sure there is more grappa than espresso.

Corretto:  There should always be more grappa than espresso.

As a last resort, tell your husband he can’t come to Italy next summer unless he takes the language seriously.

Best regards

Mrs Sensible

I hope Mrs X found our advice useful and remember.

A person who can speak 3 languages is multi lingual

A Person who can speak two languages is bi lingual

A finally, someone who can only speak one language is an Englishman.

 

PS. I have had so much fun with this post, I have decided to become an agony aunt. So if you have any questions relating to living in Italy. Just send them via my contact form. 😉

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Marisa and Giorgio live a couple of villages away. They own the flower shop that I visit when I am in trouble with Mrs Sensible. I am therefore quiet a regular customer.

Here is a small collection of orchids I have bought to try to get back into Mrs Sensible’s good books.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don't suggest they need more water.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don’t suggest they need more water, or you will set Mrs Sensible off again.

I am such a regular visitor to their flower shop that we often get invited to their home to dine on pizza and grappa.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

During the summer of 2011 I was once again in trouble, so I went to Marisa’s shop to buy another orchid or a bunch of flowers, when I suddenly fell in love with a beautiful Christmas tree. So I bought it; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Marisa asked me how I was going to get it home, I was a little stumped, my basic Italian vocabulary does not extend to lengthy conversations, I usually get by with, va bene ( ok) mi piace ( I like it) and non lo so ( I don’t know). So I opted for non lo so.

Giorgio, who is a bit of a hero, offered to deliver the tree for me, he asked me when I needed it delivering. I pondered this for a moment, I was already in trouble for something and I didn’t think adding a Christmas tree to the house was going to help marital bliss, so I said non lo so.

Marisa said “due settimane?” (2 weeks?) This seemed perfectly acceptable, because Christmas was at least 5 months away, so there wasn’t any rush. In fact the longer they kept it; the more time I had to dream up a plausible excuse for buying a Christmas tree in the summer.

Two weeks later, Giorgio and Marisa arrived with my Christmas tree. I had completely forgotten all about the imminent arrival of yet more troubles. In fact I had forgotten to work on Mrs Sensible; I had forgotten my carefully laid out plan on how to convince Mrs Sensible that buying a Christmas tree in the summer, made perfect sense.

Christmas 2012, the tree sat outside in the snow, festooned with lights. Scooby Doo was still living with the big dogs across the road. Had he decided to move in during 2012 he could have spent his Christmas sheltering under the tree from the snow.

Finding out how large a box i will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

Finding out how large a box I will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

This year I decided to bring the tree inside the house and hang little baubles and lights on it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After carrying the tree up 17 steps, I had already regretted buying the heavy and prickly thing. Manoeuvring it through the front door I had to use one foot to keep the cat outside and the other foot to close the door.

The tree looked wonderful, it didn’t shed many pine leaves, mainly because it was still alive and carrying it up stairs I can testify that it was sat in at least 40 kilos of Piermonte clay.

A little Christmas tree
A little Christmas tree

Today Christmas is officially over. Befana has been and gone and I stripped the tree of all its pretty lights and baubles. Like the rest of us, the Christmas tree has put on some extra weight and it looks a little bigger.

It just fitted through the door.

It just fitted through the door.

I dragged it down the corridor and before attempting the 17 stairs I paused to get my breath. As I then started down the stairs, the plastic plate that the tree stood on, broke free and miraculously slid under my right foot that was just trying to find purchase on step number 4. All hell broke loose, the tree, Pecora Nera (Me) and the plastic plate disappeared down the stairs faster than you could say ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’

Stupid plastic plate

Stupid plastic plate

As the tree, me and the @#+??$% plastic plate collided through the front doors, Gilda who is not the best guard dog I have ever come across, decided to attack the strange howling and swearing mess of tree and the creature that was tangled up in it.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with  a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is an attack dog.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is a ferocious attack dog.

Next year when we start blogging about Christmas and decorating our houses, please please please remind me that it is not such a good idea to use real live still growing trees that weigh 50 kilos as an ornamental Christmas Tree.

New Year’s Resolution.

1)      To act more like a grown up

2)      Not to follow my own advice

3)      Not to use any more real and potentially life threatening trees at Christmas

Confess: We have ways of making you talk

Who did it? Was it YOU?

Who did it? Was it YOU?

I have been a Pecora Nera (Pecora Nera is a black sheep, for you non-Italian speakers Ha!) for as long as I can remember. I dreaded the days when my mum would angrily shout my brothers’ and sister’s name one after the other, until she finally got her act together and settle on my name. I have found myself in some sort of trouble for most of my 52 21 years.

A classic example was the Ritz Crackers episode.

Another food item I love

These crackers got me into a lot of trouble.

There was an unspoken rule in our house. No one was allowed to open a pack of biscuits or Ritz crackers unless my mum had either: a) said we could open them or b) she had already opened them. If the pack was already open, then to a certain extent we could grab a handful and hide in the bedroom eating them eat one or two of them, providing we left more than crumbs in the box. No one ever dared to finish a box of crackers, the consequences were quite severe. My mum would say “Peter, go and make me a cup of tea and fetch the Ritz Crackers”. She knew they had been scoffed, I knew I had scoffed them, we both knew I was in trouble.

One evening, when I went foraging for food, I found to my dismay, that the box of crackers was unopened. But as I moved it to see what delights were hidden behind it (maybe an opened packet of chocolate digestives),  I noticed that this particular box of Ritz Crackers didn’t feel very heavy. It should have weighed 225 grams but it felt as though it was missing two or three crackers.

I investigated further and to my horror, shock and amazement, the box had very cleverly been opened from the bottom. A quarter of the pack had been eaten and the box carefully resealed. I knew for sure my brothers and my sister were not stupid brave enough to pull a stunt like that, which left only my mum.

I vividly remember the evening, when my mum decided to eat the Ritz that she has secretly opened and there were only three and a half  crackers left and three innocent children plus one suspicious looking black sheep.

Ok so this post is really about one of you out there in bloggo land who needs to confess to a deed most foul. One of you filled out a form on the Italy Magazine. com and nominated my blog of madness for Best Living in Italy Blog.

Cool

Cool

I know it was one of you lot, because I have interrogate Mrs Sensible and she denies it. Scooby Doo is not ‘yet’ allowed in the house, (Mrs Sensible keeps dropping hints, and the hints will get big when the snow comes) so he is not guilty which leaves one of you.

Out in the cold and the rain

Out in the cold and the rain

It wasn’t me, I only found out because I am a stataholic and I followed a referrers link back to the awards.  Who ever did it,

THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Merry Christmas

Christmas truce Scooby Doo and Gilda Style.

Can a Machiavellian cat and an incredibly fat, but short-legged dog call a truce over Christmas?

Two months ago Scooby Doo adopted us and moved into my garage. At the moment he is in arrears with his rent, I sat down with Scooby Doo and discussed his lack of payment; the following day he left half a mouse. Obviously I was less than happy with the payment, so I gave him a stern talking too. The following day Scooby Doo left me a small brown slightly warm lump in the middle of my garage floor. I have left further payment discussions to Mrs Sensible.

I am patiently waiting for NHS Supplies to come and collect their cat

I am patiently waiting for NHS Supplies to come and collect their cat

I am not really a cat person, I like dogs, big dogs that can chase and fetch sticks. I have repeatedly suggested to Mrs Sensible that we should rescue / buy a big daft dog. Mrs Sensible always points out that we have Gilda.

Gilda is the incredible fat but short-legged dog that belongs to Luigina and lives next door.

Gilda in trouble yet again
Gilda in trouble yet again

Link to Gilda 

Gilda and Scooby Doo have a love hate relationship, Scooby Doo hates Gilda and Gilda loves to chase Scooby Doo. In November I posted the pictures of the great cat chase  between Gilda, Lila and Scooby Doo. Sadly earlier this month Lila passed away to doggy heaven.

The great cat chase

The great cat chase

Last week Mrs Sensible shouted me

Mrs S: PN!! Quickly come here.

PN: Nope I am busy. (I think I was catching up on blogs from fellow bloggers either that or I was chilling on the sofa)

Mrs S: You will never believe it, quick where is your camera?

PN: Uffa! It’s here, why?

Mrs S: Quick look out of the window.

And there it was, Scooby Doo and Gilda eating cat food from the same tray. I was not surprised that Gilda was eating cat food, Gilda eats anything, she is the only dog that eats grass because she is hungry and doesn’t barf afterwards.

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

I was so surprised, I had to check that it was Gilda, so I called her “Yo! fat dog you are supposed to chase the cat” Gilda looked suitably ashamed.

Yo! Fat dog, you are supposed to chase the cat

Yo! Fat dog, you are supposed to chase the cat

Now the real question is, have they called a truce because it is Christmas? Will the truce last till boxing day?

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

Merry Christmas from Mrs Sensible, myself, Scooby Doo who is in temporary residence and Gilda the incredible fat but short-legged dog.

Pecora Nera, Mrs Sensible and a nude selfie.

Selfie – “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one that is taken with a smart phone by stretching ones arm to the limit and then trying to press the camera button, the photo (that you will forever regret taking) is then uploaded to a social media website” – has been named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries editors, after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000% over the past 12 months.

One of the few completely dressed 'selfies' on google

One of the few completely dressed ‘selfies’ on google

Purely in the aid of research, I did a quick search on Google images for ‘selfie’ and I was astonished, amazed and even gobsmacked at the number of women who took selfies of themselves in their bra and knickers.

Not to be outdone I have decided that Mrs Sensible and I should  post our very own selfie. After searching through the selfies that Mrs Sensible and I have taken over the years, I have decided to push the boat out and post a nude selfie.

If this post is a success, we may consider a 2014 Pecora Nera and Mrs Sensible calendar after all it worked for Rylstone Women’s Institute.

Pecora Nera & Mrs Sensible in the nude

Pecora Nera & Mrs Sensible in the nude

What’s small pink and takes 8 months to arrive?

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

After 8 months of waiting, my Italian driving licence has finally arrived, it was a very simple process and only took.

1 medical
10 visits to Mr Cretino at the Italian office (they now have 10 photocopies of my passport, licence etc)
5 Emails to the Italian office
6 phones calls to DVLA
4 nice e mails to DVLA
2 snotty e mails to DVLA
1 letter to the Chief Exec of DVLA

and of course 120 Euros

Small pink and takes 8 months

Small pink and takes 8 months

After 8 months of shouting at Mr Cretino in Italian and the DVLA in English; I now consider myself to be a bit of an expert on converting driving licences, so I have written a book.

My new book, available from all good book shops

My new book, available from all good book shops

If you can’t find my book in your local book shop, have a quick read of the following.

Part one

Part two

Part three

The letter I e mailed to DVLA

I am working on my next book titled How to gain Italian Citizenship. It should be available in 5 years.

Mrs Sensible vs Ipercoop

Mrs Sensible was most unhappy

Mrs Sensible was most unhappy

Mrs Sensible had a little bit of a fall out with Ipercoop today. She was studying the cost of a bottle of fizzy water and found Levissima, a premium brand, was priced at €0.48 for a pack of 6 bottles and underneath was marked the price of €0.05 a litre. This was truly a bargain, it was almost as cheap as tap water, so much so I nearly ran out and fetched a couple more trolleys so that we could take 500 litres home. I was already dreaming of what a bath in fizzy water might be like.

Mrs Sensible asked a shelf stacker if they were really selling fizzy bottled water at 5 cents a litre; he looked at Mrs Sensible as though she was stupid and said “of course it was an error:  nobody would sell water at 5 cents a litre” Mrs Sensible was still talking to him, when he turned his back and walked away!!!

Now, Mrs Sensible is normally a calm and controlled person, but in circumstances like these she tends to quickly switch to teacher mode, so I was surprised that without commenting on the shelf stacker’s manners, she turned on her heel and wheeled her trolley off towards the entrance like a Formula One  1 racing driver.

The smell of burning rubber as Mrs Sensible accelerated down the grocery aisle was quite amazing

The smell of burning rubber as Mrs Sensible accelerated down the grocery aisle was quite amazing

Unaware of what was going on in her mind all I could do was to run after her trying to catch up. At the Punto Ascolto (Customer Care Desk) she explained to the supervisor, a tall and kind lady who looked a little German, that the shelf stacker had been very rude to her whilst Mrs Sensible was really only trying to do them a favour.

Mrs Sensible said she looked like a German woman. So I saw beer

A typical German woman

She explained that if they didn’t change the price tag quickly, a hundred people (because we would phone them all) would rush here and demand to buy fizzy water at €0.05 a litre given that under a European law, shops are bound to sell their merchandise at the marked price, despite any spurious pricing errors that might have occurred.

The German looking Customer Care lady tried to contact the head of the water department and said to Mrs Sensible “a shelf stacker has not the power to change price tags, but yeah, he shouldn’t have been rude, sorry….”

As the person in charge of the water department was nowhere to be found, the lady at the Punto Ascolto headed quickly towards the incriminated area, followed by Mrs Sensible and her trolley, followed by me, still a tad confused.

We followed Mrs Sensible in an orderly procession

We followed Mrs Sensible in an orderly procession

Together we examined the price tag and, yes it did say 9 Litres of water for € 0.43. The tall lady said “it is a big error and thank you for pointing it out, but only my colleague can change the tag, that is when she arrives from God knows where…” At that point a small woman who looked no more than 25 appeared panting and puffing: she had obviously just run from her office or just finished a marathon.  She started babbling something that sounded like a lot of nonsense to me.

The argument about the cost of a bottle of water once again escalated: the small woman tried to justify the mistake saying that the tags always show the price of one bottle, trying to convince Mrs Sensible that she was wrong and they were right and therefore it was no problem; Mrs Sensible, on the other hand, was pointing at the price tag arguing that it clearly showed 9 litres for € 0.43 and said € 0.05 a litre; the small woman was still trying to explain a simple maths equations to Mrs Sensible not knowing that my wife teaches maths.

Keep calm Mrs Sensible is a maths teacher....

Keep calm Mrs Sensible is a maths teacher….

As Mrs Sensible broke into teacher mode, the little woman was producing ma, però , ecco, (but, so, maybe) sounds whilst the helpful assistant kept repeating “Togli il cartello! TOGLI IL CARTELLO!” (Remove the price tag!) I was enjoying the tennis match between the three of them when suddenly I heard Mrs Sensible shout  “Cos’ha da guardare così in cagnesco?!?!” What are you glaring at me for? Now, it’s not often I hear her shout at people, so horrified and wide eyed I turned toward the direction of her words, where I saw the shelf stacker half hiding behind his boxes and glaring at Mrs Sensible.

He glared from behind the  tins of tuna

He glared from behind the tins of tuna

“Io vi sto facendo un favore!” I’m doing you a favour she shouted, before people realize they can demand to buy water at the marked price! He was bellowing back angrily when the small lady was struck by a bolt of pure inspiration and decided to remove the price tag  and the tall helpful lady yelled Grazie al cielo! Finalmente!

As we wandered off towards the meat counter I asked Mrs Sensible: “So how much was the water?”

I have quit the booze…

On Tuesday the 8th of October in the year of our Lord 2013 I supped my last glass of wine.

englishman in Italy

I have quit drinking this lovely stuff

I am yet to notice any significant health benefits. In fact my health took a downward turn last Friday when I complained of some sort of manflu. Mrs Sensible examined me and said it was probably a bad case of asthma. She promptly prescribed an antihistamine tablet, after a lot of protesting that they only send me to sleep, I dutiful took the offered pill and promptly fell asleep.  I slept from Friday evening  straight through to Saturday evening, only waking up long enough to take another pill and then immediately became comatose until some-time on Sunday.

I lost two days of my life to sleep

I lost two days of my life to sleep

You guys know I don’t trust or like doctors or dentists, but under threats of severe repercussions, if I didn’t do as I was told, I was finally persuaded by Mrs Sensible to go and see the local medicine man, mainly because my coughing at bedtime was worse than my snoring and was keeping both of us awake.

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

The doctor diagnosed that I was suffering from Brontosaurus or some other dreaded disease probably related to cervical. He prescribed an intense 5 day course of antibiotics, a little bottle of clear liquid to stop my coughing, pastels for my sore throat and not wanting to be left out, my good wife Mrs Sensible made me use an inhaler for people who are suffering from asthma. We agreed to disagree on the added benefits of using another antihistamine tablet.

I am sure my Italian doc  said I had brontosaurus

I am sure my Italian doc said I had brontosaurus

Last night, which was three days into my treatment, I suddenly suffered a coughing fit. Tears were rolling down my face and the only sound I could produce was whuu whuu whuuuu. My lungs finally decided to go on strike and as I staggered into the kitchen while trying to bang my back in a vain attempt to re-start my lungs; I heard Mrs Sensible drop her mobile phone and come running into the kitchen to help me: she immediately joined in the banging on my back; as she slowly bludgeoned me to the floor I could hear her friend continuing to talk on the phone through the loud speaker, totally ignorant to the fact that she was talking to herself and that my wife was trying to save my life.

My lungs decided they couldn’t withstand any more of the punishing Mrs Sensible was meeting out to them and with a loud gasp of air they started to work again. I managed to squeak “basta basta” enough enough to Mrs Sensible and she stopped her onslaught.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

As I slowly got back up to my feet, I cast a quick glance to make sure Mrs Sensible hadn’t taken too much pleasure from beating me to the floor, fortunately all I could see in her eyes was love and concern.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

OOOH! I have news from Mr Cretino allegedly he has my new Italian driving licence, I wonder which name it will be in. When I get my breath back I will fill you in and when I finish my antibiotics I will raise a glass or two of wine to you all.

Bye for now

Pecora Nera

An open letter to the Chief Executive DVLA

Dear Sir,

Re case no  XXXXXXXX licence no XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Please will you help me to convert my UK driving licence to an Italian driving licence. I have requested your help because the process is becoming a farce and would be worthy of any Italian opera.

Opera

Opera

During March 2013, I started the process of exchanging my UK driving licence for an Italian licence. I knew this would not be an easy process, because it involves Italians and their wonderful bureaucracy; however I was politely surprised when it only took four or five visits to their office and a medical to get the process started.

In May Dott: Giampierro Allegro from the Italian Ministry for Transport wrote to the DVLA (UK) requesting two pieces of information; he asked if the DVLA would confirm that my driving licence was authentic, and the second question was, is Pecora Nera (original name changed) born in Malta on the 3/11/1961 and Pecora Sensible-Nera (changed again) born in Malta on the 3/11/1961 the same person? The confusion has arisen because I adopted my wife’s surname when I married her and updated my UK driving licence. In Bella Italia changing ones name is unheard of.

Since then the process has halted,  DVLA (UK) denied receiving the letter, this may be true, because Poste Italia is exceptionally unreliable, you have more chance of a letter reaching its destination if you put it in a bottle and throw it from the Naples ferry into the sea.

Quicker than Poste Italia

Quicker than Poste Italia

Since July I have contacted DVLA on several occasions including, one letter, two e mails, made four telephone calls and filled in two DVLA web based complaints form.  Today I phoned Angelina at the DVLA call centre and was told they are still looking at the attachments that I sent during August!!!

Please will you ask someone to write to Dott: Giampierro Allegro at the Italian Ministry for Transport and confirm that my licence is authentic and that Pecora Nera and Pecora Sensible-Nera are the same person.

The ongoing saga

Part one

Part two

Part three

Please…..

Yours faithfully

Pecora Nera

Post updated because Mr Simon Tse is no longer the Chief Executive of DVLA, Oliver Morley becomes the new Chief Executive in November. I wonder if this will be sorted before then?