Mishmash the crazy cat

Mishmash the crazy cat

I guess it is about time I introduced you to my crazy cat, obviously no cat of mine is going to be normal is it? Six years ago when I moved into this house I found half a dozen cats under the wood pile. The kitten that managed to claw me half to death as I tried to captured it was Mishmash.

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Such a tranquil little kitty

So I kept her. I am not a cat person, I always wanted a big stupid dog something like an Airedale, instead I ended up with a crazy cat.

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My choice of dog.

To look at Mishmash, she seems a calm pussycat. Happy to laze around on her box or occasionally return with a mouse or rabbit. She once dragged a rabbit home that was bigger then her. I am not sure she understands she is a cat. Let me give you an example.

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Mishmash basking on top of her old house.

The house next to mine is the country house of a guy who lives in Milan. During spring and autumn he spends the weekends here along with his wife and his dog. I always thought dogs chased cats, apparently this is not true.

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Run pussy run

My cat enjoys tormenting next doors dog. A  while ago I was looking out of my bedroom window and watched Mishmash creep across our garden and then into the neighbours garden where she disappear into a bush.  I waited and expected her to return with a mouse. She waited twenty minutes for her prey to arrive, Jotto, next doors poor dog  wandered down its garden and just as it was in striking distance a blur of orange and brown fur launched itself through the leaves of the bush.

I was shocked, I wasn’t as shocked as poor Jotto who wasn’t sure what had attacked him or which way to run. Jotto yelped and headed back up the garden with my cat chasing him, boy did he make a noise as he tried to escape.

Last week when confronted by Mishmash, Jotto made the mistake of running down the garden away from the house. The poor dog was pinned in the corner while Mishmash laid down and hissed at him every time he flinched or moved a muscle.

You might remember the retired doctor who lives down our lane, she once asked me to keep Mishmash in the house at night or at least lock her in the boiler room. I explained she is a working cat, she is here to keep the rodent population in check and she does this at night. I asked her what the problem was.

The doctors bedroom has an exterior glass door and it seems, when Mishmash gets bored around four o’clock in the morning, she wanders down the lane to the doctors house and bangs on the glass door to catch the attention of the doctors two very large dobermans. When the dogs hear her, they quite rightly go ballistic, frantically running around in circles and barking. This has a side effect of waking the doctoressa. I have been told it is not a huge problem because she only visits once a month.

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I am sure you remember the dottoressa from The Boys in Blue

I told Mishmash I was going to include her in my little blog of madness, she was non plussed with the idea. She knows she is already famous with the children in the schools I teach in. She somehow becomes involved in creative lessons such as how to write a letter to father Christmas in English or how to describing your pet.

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English lesson for 10 year old Italian children.

The reference to the tie, is because I normally wear a suit or a jacket and a Disney tie to school, the kids favourite tie is my Tigger tie.

After a lot of explaining and begging Mishmash agreed to have a picture taken for you. She even put on her best smile.

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A smile from Mishmash

It is around one O’clock in the morning and I can hear Jotto barking, which can only mean Mishmash has gone over to play with him.

Good night from me and of course also from Mishmash

Château Lafeet 👣

Château Lafeet 👣

Today started off much like any other Saturday morning at Casa Pecora Nera.

I was gently snoring as Mrs Sensible deposited a mug of English tea next to our bed and said get up.

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The two most important things in life, English tea and mosquito spray

Get out off bed.

Erh why, it’s Saturday?

Because YOU promised to help Tracey with her grape harvest.

While Mrs S went upstairs to have a bath, I naturally went back to sleep.

I was rudely awaken by the sound of those big bells they tie around the neck of goats, sheep and even cows.

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We don’t wear bells!

As I lay there listening to the sheep bells in the lane outside our house, I wondered whether to invite the shepherd and his sheep into our garden, because I think the last time the grass was cut was sometime in June.

Miss Jessica did a great job cutting the grass in June, even if I did distract her by accidentally spraying her with the hosepipe.

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Miss Jessica, a little wet but good fun

I was just about to get out of bed, when the sound of the bells was suddenly coming from our garden. Problem solved, no invite needed.

When I looked out of the window, I was amazed to see, not sheep and goats but three scabby dogs running around my garden, complete with bells around their necks. All the cats had mysteriously disappeared, even Mishmash.

Two of the dogs shared an amazing resemblance to Gilder, the incredibly fat but short legged dog.

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Gilda always had trouble running because her tummy scraped along the floor

I am sure you remember Gilder’s escapades with Scooby Doo the Machiavellian cat.

Quickly I ran outside and heard Dottoressa Paula telling the hunter off. It seems she was also annoyed that the hunter had no control over his dogs.

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My friend the amazing dottoresse Paula

Dottoressa Paula is famous for rallying the local policeman’s car in the vineyard.

While Dottoressa Paula remonstrated with the hunter and told him to unload his rifle while she was shouting at him.

Best picture of the hunter

I used some of my newly acquired italian to also shout at him.

Dott Paula: (In perfect Italian) If you can’t control your dogs, they should be on a leash!

Me: ( My version of Italian) My cat now on roof, you going him fetch?

Dott Paula: Unload your gun, while you are talking to me.

Me: Your dogs going my garden fetch now!!

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat waiting for the all clear.

Our little tag team went on for a good five minutes until the hunter decided to shuffle off down the lane, with five assorted dogs following him.

As he left us I asked.

Do you know word I’m sorry? Yes or No?

He stood there looking confused, maybe he was trying to understand my question or what the word sorry means.

After a quick espresso with the kind but formidable Dottoressa I went off to pick grapes at Tracey’s

Tracey runs a bed and breakfast near me, her website is http://laroccaitalia.com and each year I help her and her friends to pick the grapes and ultimately drink some of the wine.

So why have we named this years wine Château LaFeet?

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The lovely Alyssa and Des

Because it is traditional for the girls to tread the grapes before we send them off to be fermented into wonderful wine.

I raise a glass of Château LaFeet to all my friends in bloggo land.

Summer Fruit Recipe

If you have recently walked down your garden, you are probably wondering what to do with all the fruit hanging off the trees. If you live in England the problem may be all the fruit the wife keeps buying from ASDA or Tesco.

I phoned Mrs Sensible and she suggested I turn it into jam. Obviously I instantly dismissed her sensible idea and decided to turn it into a Rumtopf, or to be more precise a Grappatopf.

First you either have to pick the fruit from the garden or pinch the stuff the wife has bought.

Only use soft fruit ie strawberries, plums. Apples, pears etc don’t absorb the alcohol very well.

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No they are not cherry tomatoes, they are little plums

Wash and cut the fruit into bite size pieces, if they have stones take them out. I left the stones in the little plums, because if I had removed the stones there would be nothing left.

Preserve it in alcohol

Try to make sure the fruit is relatively dry or the water dilutes the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that would we. Add the fruit to your jar.

Englishman in Italy Rumtopf

My little jar

When the fruit is in the jar add sugar. The ratio of fruit to sugar is 1 kilo of fruit and half a kilo of sugar.

Add a suitable spirit to completely cover the fruit and sugar. The Germans use rum, but it makes the mixture a dirty brown colour. I prefer a nice rosy red colour so I use either grappa, gin or bacardi,

12 year old grappa 

Keep layering fruit, sugar and grappa until the jar is full. This can be done over several months, personally I prefer to do it all at once for example when Mrs Sensible is unlikely to catch me or when she is in Sicily.

The fruit, sugar and alcohol create an incredible liqueur and the fruit is wonderful with ice cream or on its own. Each mouthful is an explosion of fruit and alcohol.

It takes about four months before it is ready, I normally check it every couple of weeks, give it a little stir and taste it, adding a bit more grappa if it has evaporated Hic!

VERY IMPORTANT

To avoid any chance of discovery.

1) Thoroughly clean the kitchen.

2) Dispose of the empty spirit bottles.

3) Find a suitable cool dark place to hide the Grappatopf. I chose the cellar because in 13 years I think Mr Sensible has only ventured down there once.

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Remember to hide it

At the moment I have lots of skinned lemons in the fridge, because I have made some Limoncello and all the lemons are good for is squeezing and adding to gin and tonic.

If you are going to make a gin and tonic, do it right

There is a nice recipe for limocello lollies Here

If you have any other ideas how to use the peaches, plums figs etc please let me know…. as long as it isn’t jam.

Halley’s Comet must be due

Halley’s Comet must be due

If you have been following my little blog of madness, you will know Mrs Sensible rarely makes mistakes, her most notable mistake was marrying me the episode of The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…  To this day Mrs Sensible still claims I added the extra packet of biscuits to the shopping trolley hence causing the following mayhem.

Mrs Sensible is currently on holiday in Sicily so I feel relatively safe recounting her little mistake. I may have to delete this post before she returns and this is on a need to know basis, so please don’t go sharing this on facebook where Mrs Sensible or her friends might see it…..

A couple of weeks ago while Mrs S was cooking up some pasta, I noticed an official yellow piece of paper on the coffee table.

What is this?

It’s a parking ticket.

YOU got a parking ticket, how is that possible?

The policeman was not happy with where I had parked my car.

The tone of Mrs Sensible’s voice hinted that it was probably safer not to continue this line of questioning, so I replaced the piece of paper back on the coffee table.

Interrogation

You tell me about the parking ticket and I will tell you who added the third packet of biscuits

A couple of days went by before Mrs Sensible asked me if I would go online and pay the ticket. Although I was very curious how she managed to get a parking ticket, I really didn’t think it was a good time to enquire what she had done to upset one of our policemen so much they had resorted to issuing a parking ticket.

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It really is almost impossible to receive a parking ticket in Italy

I quickly read how to pay the fine on-line and using google translate I tried to decipher the Italian on the ticket, to see which nefarious parking offence Mrs Sensible had committed.

Pecora Nera trying to understand Italian

We only have 48 hours to solve this, or we will never know what she did!

Anyway, I paid the fine and forgot all about the incident, until I noticed in our postbox an official looking letter addressed to Mrs Sensible with the stamp of the local police all over it.

Hmm, could it be possible Mrs Sensible went on a crime spree and maybe has yet another parking fine or even a speeding ticket, for sure this was a sure sign Halley’s Comet was due to pass close to the earth.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it depends on how you look at it Mrs Sensible hadn’t committed another crime. It appears I had only paid €18.20 ( a lesser parking offence) and I should have paid €29.40 ( a much more serious parking offence) and the official looking letter was a formal demand for an extra €18.00

Obviously I wont mention the parking offence ever again, because if I do, Mrs Sensible might just find out I paid the wrong amount and cost us an additional €6.80 in additional administration costs.

Bomb the House

Last night I managed three hours sleep and five hours searching the bedroom and the internet trying to find out what was biting my feet and ankles.

Alternatively go bite Pecora Nera

For sure it wasn’t a mosquito, I know what a mosquito bite looks like. I have plenty of them on my arms.

These things were ankle biters.

My google search narrowed it down to black fly, papatacci, or … cat fleas 😱

I used a complete bottle of mosquito repellent on me the bed and the floor and tried to go back to sleep.

It didn’t work

At 4:30 I awoke to another three bites and an interesting article on how to bomb your house to eradicate fleas.

I was hooked, there was also several articles on why you should not bomb your house… but I was in no mood to read them.

4 should do it

This morning at my local shop, using my fabulous Italian I asked for information.

Me: I need bomb house for beasts.

Shop Assistant: Pardon?

Me: Look leg

Shop Assistant: oooohh! How big is your house?

Me: This big, pointing to his warehouse

Shop Assistant: You need 3 bombs

Me: I buy 4

Shop Assistant: Remove all your pets from the house before using the bombs

Me: Really! No possible leaving cats in house, solve 2 problems?

Flea bitten Scabby Cat

I tried to persuade MishMash to enter the house and watch the bombs going off, but she said she would tell Mrs Sensible what I was up to.

Your in trouble when Mrs Sensible returns

Mrs Sensible is currently visiting ‘the family’ in Sicily and MishMash knows she might have some reservations about me bombing the house.

Run Pecora Nera Run!

I detonated the bombs starting at the top of the house and quickly exited through the front door.

Currently I am sat in a bar drinking Gin and Tonic and waiting for the dust to settle.

I only had 1 or 2

Oh! if you want to know the name of the bars where they don’t measure the gin, message me and I will send you a list.

To date I don’t know if the bombing worked, but I do know I have time for another Gin and Tonic

Happy Days

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.

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.

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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

1

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.

13

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

Can I have a comb over please?

Can I have a comb over please?

Don’t you just love having your hair cut, and choosing which style to opt for? As I creep into middle age the number of styles I can choose from are slowly dwindling. Up until I was fourteen my dad tackled the problem of cutting my hair with a shaver he had brought back from Hong Kong. I was sixteen before I realised I could go to the barbers and he wouldn’t be offended, well not too offended.

I also remember waking up one morning with a  dreadful hangover and a full blown Michael Jackson Afro after I foolishly invited a hairstylist to attend one of my parties. The memories of Christmas 1981 when I was forced to attended several Christmas and New Year parties with the Afro has scarred me for life. My dad suggested I blow dry my hair flat, or he could cut it all off with his shaver. I tried the blow dry technique as I didn’t think the bald look would suit me.  If Joy is out there, I have forgiven you.

I woke up looking like this

I woke up looking like this

In search of a decent hairstylist I spotted the following  sign as I was driving through Cuccaro,  Earlier that morning Mrs Sensible had pointed out that with my flip flops and my hair I could almost pass for a mountain man. I wondered what Mrs S would say if I came home looking like the man in the poster.

Beard

Beard and Boris Johnson hair

My hair was long enough for the hairstyle but I might need a year or two to perfect the beard. I went in search of the X-Men in Fubine and pondered which style I could get away with, without sending Mrs S in search of her wet wooden spoon.

Should I maybe choose the mid-life comb over?

The middle aged comb over

I just love that tie and comb-over

Or maybe the mullet

The Mullet

Earl and his Mullet

I was saved from asking for a either, because my Italian only stretched as far as tagliare mio capelli per favore. Please cut my hair.

And so they set to work, the lovely assistant washed and towel dried my hair and Gotta styled my hair. They did such a good job that Mrs Sensible has told me that I should continue to go there.

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hairstylists can be found at Via Pietro Longo 13, Fubina (AL) or at his Face Book Page

Finally a picture of Pecora Nera ☺

Mrs Sensible and I are a little shy, we haven’t posted any pictures of ourselves, well apart from that nude selfie that caused a little bit of a stir a year or two ago. The link can be found here for those perverts that missed it. It has taken over a year for Mrs Sensible to forgive me for posting our nude selfie.

On Tuesday afternoons, I visit a local primary school and spend a couple of hours with some fabulous chilblains children, helping them with their English. My motivation for helping at the school is completely selfish, I go because I get paid in smiles, little letters and drawings.

So for you entertainment here are a couple of pictures drawn by the children.

Aren't I a handsome fellow

Aren’t I a handsome fellow

As you can see there is not an inch of fat on my muscular body, the artist even managed to capture my designed stubble.

Black and white

Black and white

This artist is trying to minimalist the drawing to capture my radiant smile.

Slim

His name is Pecora Nera, he has got short brown hair and maybe he over did it with the diet.

As you can see, I smile a lot. I am also tall, slim and incredibly handsome. That diet paid off

This girl is very clever

This little girl was given A+++ for her accurate description.

What more can I add? I am tall, thin and very very beautiful.

Here is the teacher

Here is Anna the teacher

Here is a picture of Anna who is their teacher, this picture was obviously drawn at 9.00 am on a Monday morning, just look how calm and in control she is.

Anna On Friday

Anna On Friday

This picture was drawn at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon, can you see the way the artist has captured her slightly manic grin. If you look closely, you can see under the grin the artist had drawn a un-smiley face and then thought it was safer to give Anna a smiley face.

No children were hurt in the making of this post.

A Catastrophic Error

Mrs Sensible has a Shakespearean dilemma – ‘To spit or not to spit?’

image

The nice lady at Secret Sicily invited me to write a guest post for her blog. If you want to read about when Mrs Sensible was a Miss and made a Catastrophic error please go to Secret Sicily

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Last week Mrs Sensible and I were doing the weekly shop. We are very organised when it comes to shopping, I add all the necessary groceries for our well being, for example biscuits, chocolates and beer and Mrs Sensible adds mundane things like toilet rolls, food and at the same time removes some of the items I have added.

As we walked down the aisle (I tried to hide some biscuits under the toilet rolls) Mrs S asked me if I preferred meat or fish for dinner. Obviously I suggested meat, fish never seems appealing to me as they lay on the counter staring at me with glassy eyes. We bought some meat to keep me happy and then we headed to the dreaded fish counter.

Mrs Sensible spotted some fish on special offer it was priced at 66 cents a kilo or in real money £0.48 a kilo !!!!!!  To me it looked like a fish head and some scraps, Mrs S said it will be perfect for our manky cats. I relaxed a little and went back in search of more useful things like wine.

For the cats

For the cats

On Fridays Mrs Sensible and I both finish work at midday, I phoned Mrs S and asked her if I could prepare a quick lunch for us…..

Mrs S: Sure make a quick sauce and use the fish that is in the fridge, make it the way you make a tuna pasta but use the fish.

Me: Fish? Which Fish?

Mrs S: We bought it yesterday.

Me: The fish we bought for the manky cats?

Mrs S: See how much fish is on the bone, there will be enough for a pasta dish.

Me: (less than enthusiastically) uhhuh

Me: Do I take it off the bone before it goes in the sauce?

Mrs S Pecora! you need to steam the fish and then take it off the bone, look I am on the way home just chop some onions.

Me: Ok, chop onions, I can do that 🙂

I can chop onions

I can chop onions

So I chopped the onions and put the fish in the steamer. There is a knack to frying onions, the heat has to be just right or the onions go crispy and burn. If you check the photo you can see there are only a few black and crispy onions.

Only a few crispy ones 10%

Only a few crispy ones

Having managed 2 tasks I decided it was time to phone Mrs S and ask for further instructions.

Me: Hi honey, the garlic and onions are done the fish looks a nice white colour so I think it is ready, what next?

Hurburt the fish in the steamer

Huburt the fish in the steamer

Mrs S Fetch the radicchio from the fridge and chop it into little pieces, then quickly fry it with the onions.

Me: Radicchio?

Mrs S: (with only a noticeable sigh) it looks like red cabbage. Use a large one because I have invited Paula to lunch.

Me: You have invited Paula!!! I am cooking Fish Head Pasta and you invite friends!!!!

Mrs S: (slightly more noticeable sigh) PN I will be home soon….

It was at this point that I decided that Fish Head Pasta needed an additional ingredient. So I went off in search of a cork screw and a bottle of wine.

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

The wine relaxed me a little and I proceeded to chop the red cabbage radicchio and throw it in the pan. Just as I opened the lid of the steamer to check on Hubert the fish, Mrs S arrived and I was suddenly reduced from the rank of Head Chef all the way down to Minion.

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

Mrs S (all at the same time) de-boned the fish, boiled some pasta, added the fish to the onions (that I had cooked) and  found some plates to serve the meal on. meanwhile I set the table and drank another glass of wine.

capers

capers

Fish Head Pasta on a plate, what does it taste like? Delicious. We produced 3 meals for less than €2.50 The wine that I was slowly quaffing cost me €12.50 but it was worth every penny.

Fish Head Pasta

Fish Head Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thighs have it.

You are no doubt asking yourself what Tatiana Kashirina the Olympic weightlifting has to do with Italy, well let me tell you, it’s her thighs. Now before you all start jumping up and down and sending messages to Mrs Sensible about her errant husband, let me explain.

Tatiana Kashirina

Tatiana Kashirina

Before I moved to here, I thought living in Italy would be very similar to living in Great Britain, just without the rain and a decent bacon sandwich, but I was in for a huge culture shock. To start with they don’t go to the bathroom the same way we do.  I promise you it is true, so stop giggling. In England we sit on the loo, ponder life for a bit, clean up using a bit of Andrex toilet paper and then as our mothers taught us, we wash our hands. Nice and simple, in Italy nothing is simple, including going to the loo.

Andrex Puppy and loo roll

Andrex Puppy and loo roll

To start with we have an additional piece of pottery in our bathrooms, it is called a BIDET, it is like a toilet but it has taps on it and no it is not for washing your feet ….. its for washing your , well your bits in.  You see the Italians have decided cleaning your bum after a number 2 with toilet paper, even using expensive soft stuff like Andrex is not good enough (number 1 is a wee and number 2 is, well a number 2), so all good Italians use a bidet to wash their bits after a number 2 or even a number 1.

A bidet is not for washing your feet in.

A bidet is not for washing your feet in.  www.emiliehope.wordpress.com

 

When Mrs Sensible lived in the UK she was astonished and horrified to learn that most homes didn’t have a bidet fitted and the people who did have a bidet fitted, used it for anything but washing their bums. I am not going to go into how to use a bidet, there is a useful link here for those of you who are interested, but I will add just one word of warning, make sure you get the temperature of the water just right or it will bring tears to your eyes.

Our UK house didn't have a Bidet so Mrs Sensible had to improvise.

Our UK house didn’t have a Bidet so Mrs Sensible had to improvise.

Before you ask, Tatiana Kashirina has absolutely nothing to do with Bidets. But she has everything to do with the Italians fascination with Turkish toilets. A Turkish toilet is as close in design to an English toilet as a pizza is, to a big juicy bacon sandwich with egg, mushrooms and if you are lucky a dollop of tomatoes thrown on. A Turkish toilet is a toilet without any super structure, it how a minalist would design a  toilet if he was asked. Basically it is a hole that you squat over and this is where  Tatiana Kashirina thighs come into play, because if you don’t have well developed thighs you are likely to collapse and fall down the hole.

A Turkish Toilet

A Turkish Toilet

While I was writing this I got to thinking why the Turkish toilet never caught on in the UK and you are free to disagree with me here, but I think there are two main reasons. 1) It would be impossible to read a book or the Sunday Paper whilst trying to balance over the hole and 2) The English like to go drinking in pubs in the evening and alcohol and good balance rarely go hand in hand.

I stole this from Gingerfightback so go and have a look at his site

I stole this from Gingerfightback so go and have a look at his site http://www.gingerfightback.com

Now before you go off in search of humorous pictures of bidets or Turkish toilets please spare a thought to how you would manage, if you needed to spend a penny* when you had your best evening frock on, or even a pair of dungarees.

If you slip whilst using a Turkish Toilet you will get wet. (Maria Grazia Cucinotta star of Il Postino)

If you slip whilst using a Turkish Toilet you will get wet. (Maria Grazia Cucinotta star of Il Postino)

To spend a penny is a polite English expression to say you need to go and pee.

 

Please go and have a look at what the other COSI group members think about the loo 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

 

 

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.

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

8 things about a Black Sheep

I have been tasked with telling you nice people, 8 things you need to know about Pecora Nera.  I could keep my mishaps to myself, but then I would have to decline the award that the nice lady at Sandcastles in Portugal gave me.

Ok, here we go.

Number 1

When I was 13 I was asked to be a cox for the Sheffield Rowing Club. It was great fun, I used to sit at the back of the boat and tell a crew of men or women what to do. I loved it! We raced all over the country and the two crews I raced with were very successful, we even won a Gold Medal at the Vesta International Championships.

One weekend it was peeing it down raining rather heavily. On that fateful day we arrived late at Nottingham Regatta. By the time we had  rowed to the starting position, my boat was a quarter full of water. We asked the umpire if we could empty the water out of our boat. The umpire told us that we were late and if we didn’t come to the start position immediately, he would disqualify us. I wonder if he is related to Mr Cretino?

So we started the race with enough water in the boat to take a bath in. As the oarsmen took their first stroke, all the water in the boat was forced down the boat and into my lap. As I frantically bailed the water out with my little hat, the crew slid forward to take the second stroke and all the water rushed down to the bow of the boat (the bow is the pointy bit at the front). I was just trying to work out why all the water had disappeared, when two of the crew at the pointy end stopped rowing. So I shouted at them, I told them to join back in as soon as they could. Ronnie, a huge tall Irishman, shouted back: ” We are f&%$ing sinking!!”  There was no Kate Winslet to hold my hand as my boat slowly but surely disappeared below the waves.

Pecora Nera sinks at Nottingham Regatta

Pecora Nera sinks at the Nottingham Regatta

 Number 2 (can things get worse)

When I was nineteen, I decided to host a Christmas party in my little flat. I invited my friends from the local pub including Sarah and Julie (I think those were their names). Both of them declined my party invitation, because Joy (I am 100% sure I have her name correct) was due to perm their hair on the night of my party. While I was drinking my pint of beer, I suddenly had an incredible idea. I would invite Joy and she could perm and set the two girls hair while we all partying: easy peasie lemon sqeezy. Joy and the girls agreed.

My hair needed cutting, as it was getting just a bit too long. So Joy suggested she could perm it for me (remember these were  the 70’s). Obviously I promptly declined the offer; you see… I can be sensible at times, just like my wife. However, after 2 or 6 drinks it actually did seem like a bit of a wheeze to have my hair permed.  So, having being asked again, this time I agreed.

Joy, who was no longer the Sensible hairdresser that I knew from the pub, giggled while she poured the solution on my head. We all got another drink and sat down and gossiped danced the night away. All of a sudden, Joy let out a shriek we all turned to her, and she said ” oh my gosh, you still have the perm solution on your head!”  I then looked at Sarah and Julie who were suddenly collapsing in a giggling heap. I personally didn’t understand what the problem was, even after Joy dragged me into the kitchen to wash the solution out of my hair.

Never get your hair cut at a party.

Never get your hair cut at a party.

I don’t remember much more of the party, I vaguely remember dancing to We are family and Le’ Freak.  I remember waking up the following morning with an enormous hangover; as I rubbed my poorly head, my fingers felt a mass and I mean a mass of tight frizzy curly hair, not unlike the picture above.

Number 3

When I was seven and unable to swim, my older brother took me boating in Stamford Park in Manchester. All of a sudden the heavens opened and it started to rain, which is not unexpected in rainy Manchester; knowing that I couldn’t swim, David took the decision to head for the island in the middle of the lake rather than the safety of the landing stage, where the boat owner was waving to us. As we reached the island, David said: “Quick, get out and I will steady the boat”.   I really believed him… duh! With one foot in the boat and one foot on the island, the little boat slowly drifted away. It is amazing how quickly one learns how to swim.

My very first swimming lesson

My very first swimming lesson

Number 4 (Are you still with me?)

Whereas I was slightly inebriated when I had my perm ‘done’ I was stone cold sober, when it seemed like a good idea to have a tattoo printed on my body. My younger brother had a mermaid winding itself down his leg, whereas I (mainly because I was sober and I thank the Lord I was) decided to have a discrete tattoo done. I wanted Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) printing somewhere about my body; and to this day it is still there. Mrs Sensible has obviously seen it, and the Germans at the sauna saw it.

Painful

Painful

Number 5: I ate at the same restaurant 36 times in a three month period.

Three times a week for three months,  I went to Maso Restaurant and indulged in their fine food,  in a vain attempt to persuade Miss Sensible to go out for a meal / drink with me.  She kept turning me down with excuses such as: she needed to wash her hair… she was too tired or had a much more sensible thing to do than going for a drink with a crazy Englishman. Not one to take a hint, I would simply rebook another meal.

Ah! I am sorry Miss Sensible isn't working tonight, try again tomorrow

Ah! I am sorry Miss Sensible isn’t working tonight, try again tomorrow

Number 6: I have been a pilot taa raaa.

My elder brother is stinking rich; I am poor as a …. well poor. My brother has his own plane, it even has a go faster stripe down the side. One weekend he offered to take me flying. As we flew over Lincolnshire he let me take the controls of the plane and asked: “Have you ever gone cloud hopping”, “cloud hopping?” I asked.

“Yes: you head for a cloud and pretend you are a battle of Britain pilot”. So David and I went cloud hopping, neeeeeooowwww; the plane went as we shot down through the clouds. As we burst out of the cloud into the sun we shouted Rat tat tat tat tat and pretended to blast the imaginary German Luftwaffe. We were having a great time until the local air controller asked in a very British clipped voice “could you please confirm your direction. Ooops! Once a Pecora Nera always a Pecora Nera.

Fortunately I didn't decide to fly for an airline.

Fortunately I didn’t decide to fly for an airline.

Number 7

I am a dog man. I like pussy cats, but I prefer dogs. I want a big daft dog that will chase sticks; however, at the moment I have a cat that sleeps in our garage and he isn’t really our cat. I had to dissuade Mrs Sensible from putting a collar on him yesterday. We feed him twice a day, he has been deflead and has thanked us by peeing on the stairs and leaving a little parcel for me in the garage. Mrs Sensible said he does it because he knows I won’t let him into the house.

Scooby Doo lives in a box in the garage. Although he is not completely happy with this arrangement.

Scooby Doo lives in a box in the garage. Although he is not completely happy with this arrangement. PS dear NHS supplies if you want your box back, you may come and fetch it.

8) I have been awarded The Woman’ Skirt Award, hence the 8 facts about me.

Woman's Skirt Award

Woman’s Skirt Award

And 8 other people who deserve this award? Very difficult to pick only 8

http://livinginthelanghe.wordpress.com/ Mrs Sensible and I went and visited them a week ago, Mrs Living in the Langhe was wonderful, their little dog Otto was fab, I can’t remember much about Mr Living in the Langhe.

http://ilghepardo.wordpress.com/ This lady is not scared of trees.

http://ytaba36.wordpress.com/ Yvonne from Ytaba. Maybe I will invite Mrs Sensible and I to her part of the world.

http://lifeisbutalabyrinth.wordpress.com/ He makes me laugh even on a Monday. The man has more blogs than I have fingers..

http://bluefishway.com/ Ralf is as mad as me.

http://ididnthavemyglasseson.com/ A really nice blog.

http://1writeway.com/ A great blog for all you budding writers.

And last but not least ANDY, who comments on my blog. Andy, now you have an award, go and start a blog.

You 8 now have to write a post, include 8 things about yourself and nominate 8 other blogs. To read the proper rules go and visit HERE

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?”

Just another Tuesday

Well… I am not sure what to write about today. I flicked a Euro in the air to help me decide and it rolled under the chair, never to be seen again. So, today I will only give you a little flavour of a day in the life of an Englishman living in Italy.

Bring back Sterling

Bring back Sterling

Mrs Sensible left the house in a happy mood this morning. She had just learnt that she had been awarded the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by 1write way.wordpress. Personally, I am gob-smacked. I am not sure why she won the award, because this is my blog. Mrs Sensible is the cook and the woman that keeps me out of trouble, she doesn’t put ink to paper. A couple of months ago during a glass of fine wine, I did suggest to Mrs Sensible that she should start her own blog. She thought it was a good idea and started to discuss the possibilities of “Living with an Englishman” and “Living with the man who burns Pasta”. Fortunately, I managed to steer the conversation onto more pressing matters and away from a blog discussing her life with me.

Mrs Sensible's blog award

Mrs Sensible’s blog award.

(There will be a post about the award later…..) Massimo, the builder who had come to look at our roof and gutters, following the tornado that wandered through my garden, nearly fell off his ladder this morning. We, me and him, propped a rather large ladder against the side of the house and while I did the technical bit of putting my left foot against the bottom rung of the ladder, Massimo climbed to the top.

A rather long ladder

A rather long ladder

My conversation with Elsa (the landlady and daughter of Luigina) was abruptly interrupted by Massimo shouting a lot of rude words and waving both of his hands in the air. Damn fool I thought, he is supposed to be using one of his hands to hold on to the ladder. “Vespa!! Aiuto!! Porca miseria” he shouted as he waved his hands about. I calmly suggested that maybe he should descend the ladder before he fell off and squashed my pot plants. He took my advice and came to ground zero, sporting a few rather nice wasp stings to the side of his face.

I forgot to give him the can of Zig Zag until it was too late

I forgot to give him the can of Zig Zag until it was too late. The ammoniaca was for the stings

Oh!! I nearly forgot, earlier this year Mrs Sensible entered a national competition organised by the Italian government, (I wrote about this in March). The competition was to organise who would get full-time contracts within the Italian School system and who would continue on temporary contracts. The Government has decided that their competition is far  too complicated and they can’t add up who has won, so they will now announce the winners in September 2014. Fortunately Mrs Sensible has found a place for this year at the same school she taught at last year, so we will make it through another year. PS. I made lunch today,

Dog meat pasta

Dog meat pasta

I used onions from my vegetable patch, some cans of meat that resembled dog meat, but I am assured it is the Italian equivalent to corn beef (as I said dog meat) a clove of garlic, a bottle of wine (I always cook better with a glass in my hand) and some tomatoes. Through gritted teeth, Mrs Sensible said she enjoyed it. If you are lucky I might upload the menu.

Click oops!!

One of our neurotic hens woke me at 6 this morning, it was laying a remarkably large egg and decided to shout about it; this started Gilda, the remarkable fat, but short-legged dog barking. Between the two of them it became impossible to sleep. So I gave up all hopes of a Saturday morning snooze and spent 10 mins trawling my wordpress reader.

If it wakes me up again at the weekend we will have a talk over Sunday dinner

If it wakes me up again at the weekend we will have a talk over Sunday dinner

And I found a great photo titled The eye’s (or rather eye) have it By  THE NUMPTY WITH A CAMERA AND A LAPTOP  for the latest wordpress Photo Challenge.

I have a nice camera, in fact two years ago I bought myself a Canon 1000D. I carefully wrapped the prezzie in Christmas paper and added a tag with the words : Love from Mrs Sensible, thereby giving both of us a surprise on Christmas morning.

Unfortunately none of my photos are ever likely to match one of Steve Currry’s who is the master of photography.

However, today I have entered the wordpress photo challenge with the following photo, and after careful deliberation I have titled the photo Click oops!

Click, oops

Click, oops

Because, I was leaving the house with the camera in my hand, when the damn thing when off, nearly blinding me with the flash.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/weekly-photo-challenge-focus/

A dedicated follower of fashion

I have lived in Italy for the past six years, or maybe it is seven years, I forget dates much like I forget birthdays and anniversaries. But one thing that is hard to forget, is I am living in the fashion capital of the world.

Canali Spring Summer 2013

Canali Spring Summer 2013

Even old biddies on bicycles, get in on the act. They make sure they have their best fur coat on and sometimes they feel it is necessary to carry two hand bags; one to match the clothes and one to match the bike.

Old biddie on bike

(I am not normally very good at acknowledging where my pics come from, but please take a trip to Italian Confetti the snapper of this pic)

I have squeezed the following fashion picture in for all you women bloggers. Ladies, note the six packs, following my diet and my ride to Germany on the back of Franco’s bike I hope to obtain one of these. P.S I have lost 4 kilos somewhere, so a small round of applause please.

Hunky men with six packs, for the female bloggers

Hunky men with six packs, for the female bloggers

So where was I? Oh yes, we have a delegation from Mrs Sensible’s family staying for a couple of weeks. So last Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday, I drove to Milan airport to meet them and snapped the following picture.

High fashion at Milan airport

High fashion at Milan airport

By now, you regulars will already know where I am heading with this post. I am a dedicated follower of fashion. I always make sure my flip flops match my cut off jeans and t shirt, that is  providing, Mrs Sensible doesn’t tell me to go back to the bedroom and change into trousers and a nice linen shirt.  However, I do occasionally need to wear a business suit and following the example of the lady at the airport I think I have found one.

My next business suit

My next business suit