Vignale Monferrato / A Brick Fetish

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Citizenship quest (part 2)

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

Pecora Nera cats

Three wise cats, Micha, Headache and Liquorice.

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

Maybe just one or two skeletons.

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple choice questions

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

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

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

Flood the Italian ministry with applications

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

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

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

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Bean Wine Run???

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

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

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

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

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

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Unfortunately they are not available in Spandex

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

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

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The hat

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

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

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

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Mr H with our support staff.

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

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Mr H is strong enough to carry me

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

 

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

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

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

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Ah the bliss of school.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Five lolly moulds, not six just five.

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

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

My recipe goes something like this.

Remove one bottle of limoncello from the freezer.

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mmmmm limoncello

Clean the ice lolly moulds and…

4

I wonder who has the sixth mould?

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

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

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

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

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Pan of pee limoncello

Pour the limoncello mixture into the lolly moulds.

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In it goes

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

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Sealed and ready for the freezer

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

How do they taste?

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

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

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

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

Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Last night Mrs Sensible created a fabulous meal and I just thought I should share the recipe with you. I don’t normally post sensible things like recipes or which hotel to stay in, there are plenty of blogs that do that, however as I helped cook this meal and I didn’t burn it, I thought you might like to try it.

Ingredients.
100 grams of rice
300 grams of fresh peeled prawns
6 fresh king prawns
6 fresh asparagus
2 knobs of butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 glasses of white wine
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 small tomatoes
Pinch of parsley
Salt and pepper to season

Method
The very first thing you need to do is pour two glasses of white wine, Mrs Sensible used Arneis which is a fresh crisp dry wine from Marco Bellero’s cantina La Cà Nova

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One glass is for drinking while you cook, the other gets wasted during the cooking.

Peel the king prawns, put the body of the prawns to one side and place the heads, legs and shells etc in a saucepan with half a litre of water, bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer. This will be your stock.

If a foam appears on the top of the stock, remove the foam.

1a

Heads, arms, legs, shells etc in a saucepan.

Chop up the asparagus.  Add the king prawns, garlic, asparagus and peeled prawns to a frying pan, then fry until the prawns change colour in the olive oil,

2a

By now the smell is irresistible.

When they are cooked, place them in a bowl.

3a

Search for the garlic cloves and throw them away.

Separate the king prawns and asparagus tips and place them in a different bowl, find the garlic cloves and throw them away.

3b

Asparagus tips and King Prawns

Chop an onion and fry it in the frying-pan with a knob of butter. Do not clean the pan you want the flavour of the prawns to stay in the pan.

4a

Onion and Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon

When the onion is soft and cooked, add the chopped tomato and continue to fry.

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The dreaded wooden spoon.

Add the rice to the frying pan.

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It was at this point that i asked if we had used enough rice, I would have thrown another two handfuls in. But Mrs Sensible said there was enough.

Pour in the glass of wine and gently stir.

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I nearly cried when she threw my good wine in the pan.

Stir until the wine has been absorbed by the rice and evaporated off.

9

Start adding the stock, make sure the head, arms and shell stays in the saucepan.

Add a ladle of stock from the pan and keep stirring the rice and the onions, as the stock is absorbed add another ladle of stock. Keep adding the stock until it looks like this.

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Add the stock little by little and keep stirring or it will end up a horrible mess.

Mrs Sensible used nearly the full half a litre of stock, the trick is to add the stock slowly. keep allowing the rice to absorb the stock. I asked Mrs S why she didn’t just throw all the stock in at once, she told me the rice would go like pudding rice.

11

Nearly ready

Add the bowl of asparagus and prawns to the frying pan and stir.

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Don’t you just love this action photo

Pour the risotto into two dishes and decorate with the king prawns and asparagus tips.

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Eat and enjoy

If you want to know what my part in this masterpiece was…. I took the photos and chopped the onion. Oh and drank the wine.

Buon appetito.

 

What Makes Expats Grumpy?

In May I received a message from my contact page from a really nice lady called Rossi Thompson. She said she was writing an article for the Daily Telegraph on What makes Ex Pats Grumpy, she asked me if I would like to contribute..

Would I like to contribute!!!! I immediately reached for my muse (a glass of vino rosso).

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

As I sipped my glass of wine, I pondered what is it that makes me grumpy. I didn’t think not being able to find my flip flops would be earth shattering news, Nor would her readers be interested that being asked to cook the evening meal made me grumpy (I tried to get out of cooking by cremating everything, unfortunately Mrs Sensible soon cottoned on)

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce.

With the deadline looming I asked Mrs S, what makes me grumpy. If you are married you will realise this is not a question you should ever ask your spouse. Out of the 487 items she listed before I suddenly switched off and went deaf I chose three items and if you want to read what they are please click this link.

I would like to thank Rossi for asking me to contribute and I would also like to thank the editor for not deleting my submission,.

Rossi Writes http://www.rossiwrites.com/

Rossi’s Facebook page

Telegraph Article