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..

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:

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?

You have visitors coming? Ok, then I will huff and puff and blow your garden to bits.

Today started as any Monday morning… with a groan. I rolled out of bed, wandered into the kitchen and started to boil the kettle for a nice cup of tea. Just as I plugged the kettle in, a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder shot across the sky. Mmm that was close, I told Mrs Sensible.

As I wandered into the bathroom, two more bolts of lightning lit up the bathroom and then the winds came. There is a Latin name for the winds that suddenly appear in Piedmont  something like bigggusti flatulantisti windusti. A strange howling sound came from the chimney, it sounded like a Scotsman struggling with a very bad set of bagpipes, Mrs Sensible and I looked at each other with horror, as we watched the lounge ceiling start to vibrate. As we stood watching, the ceiling cracked where it was supposed to be glued to the wall and lifted about 10 centimetres. That’s about 4 inches in real money.

As designed by Isabel

As designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and redesigned by a bit of wind. For you dedicated gardeners, can you spot my lemon tree?

We both, in a very calm British stiff upper lip way, decided that we should vacate the lounge and close the windows. The conversation and actions went something like this.

“What is the noise?”

“Don’t know”

“The roof is moving”

“What?”

“Look, it is moving.”

“Move, run, now”

“The windows”

“Close them, oh Dio!”

We calmly walked ran around the house like headless chickens, shutting the windows as the wind blew and the mad Scotsman in the chimney played his bagpipes.

A strange sound came from the chimney

A strange sound came from the chimney. Was it Father Christmas, a mouse or a strange Scotsman with his bagpipes.

The crazy man who converted, what should have been a lovely 1800’s barn conversion into a modern American style office building house, installed swinging windows that are 1.5 metres square (Five feet in English). When the wind grabs them then can spin 180 degrees and smash into little pieces.

This photo does NOT do these stupid windows justice.

This photo does NOT do these stupid windows justice.

In Italy, we have a small problem that blights the country; now some of you will be thinking of the mafia and some of you might be thinking of the glorious Italian bureaucracy, however the real problem is the blasted mosquitoes. A ‘proper’ Italian house, designed and built by anyone with an IQ above 25 makes sure that it is easy to install anti mosquito nets. Unfortunately because a moron designed this house, it took me 12 months to devise a way of attaching nets to our huge, swinging windows. The end result took over 80 metres of gaffa tape (for you non-English blog readers, gaffa tape is like sellotape, but wide and very sticky, it has the remarkable property of sticking eyebrows to lips and fingers to windows) 10 packs of netting and a lot of swearing. The end result is mosquito nets, which hang from the windows, the same way my old grannies knickers used to hang from the washing line.

Big and baggy, just like grannies knickers

Big and baggy, just like grannies knickers

They nets do stop 97.5 % of all known mosquitoes, the remaining 2.5% still manage to get in and bite me at around two o’ clock in the morning;  but because of the masses of gaffa tape needed to secure the mesh, the windows no longer close properly. Now this is not normally a problem, except the wind was blowing a hooley and the rain was raining horizontally!! We stood and watched as the rooms slowly flooded. I ran around in circles while my wife ran for the mop and some mats to soak up the water.

When the wind and the rain stopped, we surveyed the devastation. Apart from the three new ponds in the bedrooms, the destroyed shed, various roofs that had detached themselves from the chicken shed etc.; what most upset Mrs Sensible was she and to a lesser extent I, had spent the previous couple of days cleaning and tidying the house ready for our visitors.

I will huff and puff and blow your shed away.

I will huff and puff and blow your shed away.

We checked to make sure Luagina, our neighbour had survived the storm and then we started the clean up operation, so that we would be ready for our visitors arriving from the UK. Hopefully bearing gifts like piccalilli and HP brown sauce.

Weekly photo challenge: the sign says

Share a picture of a SIGN and explain why you chose that picture!

I don’t normally do the photo challenges, however here are two photos from Italy.

One way only.

One way only ?

Italians see road signs and traffic lights, as advisory rather than obligatory.

To give you a couple of examples, I stopped at a red traffic light while we were driving in Catania Sicily. The guy in the car behind me, started honking his horn and waving his hand at me. I looked at Mrs Sensible and said, “what’s his problem, the light is still red!”

Mrs Sensible explained, “the light may be red, but there are no cars crossing the junction so it is safe to go”

It is said that the drivers in Northern Italy are better than the drivers in the south but:-

I was  driving a friend home one night, she was directing me through the traffic, as we approached her apartment, she said “turn left here”

“I can’t it is a no entry”

It doesn’t matter I am a resident

But it doesn’t say, no entry except residents, it is a one way street!!

Pecora, it doesn’t matter, my apartment is just up the street. I have lived here 15 years and I always turn left up here.

Don't use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

Don’t use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

This photo was taken in Calabria.

When you come to Italy on your holiday, please do not use the zebra crossings when you want to cross the street. There are a number of reasons.

1) You will annoy the car drivers who use them to park there cars.

2) They are very dangerous, no really they are. As you start to cross the road, you will be thinking  you are safe and the car will stop for you. I am here to tell you, it is not so. The driver is thinking, mmm pizza today, I had better phone my mum and make sure she has put the beer in the fridge. He will not have even noticed you, not unless you have long legs and a short skirt. And even then he will still run you over.

When I moved here, I drove Mrs Sensible’s car from the UK to Italy, I took the scenic route and drove through, Belgium, Switzerland a bit of Germany… I didn’t have one near miss or accident.

Two weeks after arriving here, I stopped at a zebra crossing in Alessandria, to let an old guy cross the road. The old guy never moved he just stood there and watched the Ford Transit Van redesign my boot and bumper.

While we were exchanging insurance details, the van driver asked Mrs Sensible “Why did he stop?”

Because he is English!

This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Part 3: How to swap a UK driving licence to an Italian one in 340 difficult steps

Englishman in Italy

Englishman in Italy

Quick update to part 1 and part 2

So I have just received a telephone call from Mr Cretino, the man who is supposed to be transferring my UK driving licence to an Italian one. To be honest I do not receive many calls on my Italian mobile, normally the caller is Mrs Sensible asking what sort of trouble I am about to or are in. Sometimes Vodafone or one of the other networks call to try and get me to swap carriers, but they give up as soon as they here…. Io sono inglese!!

This afternoon Mr Cretino called, so I asked Luagina the secretary at work to talk to him. The long and short of it is, when I married Mrs Sensible we hyphenated our surnames. It was all my fault I wanted to add her Italian surname to mine.

I am the proud owned of a mix of official documents, some in my birth surname and some in my adopted Italian hyphenated surname name. Mr Cretino is more than a little confused, as is his office.

As I type this, Mrs Sensible is trying to resolve the situation. I somehow have to prove I am both the pazzo inglese with the hyphenated name and also the pazzo inglese with the birth surname.

An update is sure to follow tomorrow.

 

P.N

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 4