Press the button

Press the button

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

Close your eyes and press that button

Close your eyes and press that button

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

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

Workaway 1 checking the protective packaging is still in place

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

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

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

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

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

Workaway 2 didn't want to leave

Workaway 2 didn’t want to leave

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

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

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine


Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

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

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

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

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

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

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

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

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.

Pecora Nera, What have you done with my hairdryer?

Erh! Packed it.

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

Uh Huh,

Mrs Sensible: Go and unpack it.

But!

Mrs Sensible: Do it.

Mrs Sensible's hairdryer rescued from the box

Mrs Sensible’s hairdryer rescued from the box

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

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

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

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

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

Someone, anyone please switch on the light

Someone, anyone please switch on the light!!

 

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

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

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

Maria our garage attendant

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

So here is a shameless plug for my new business.

Brown Bag Crisps

Brown Bag Crisps

Please come and have a look at us at

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

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

 

 

 

Missing. Scabby White Cat

Scooby Doo where are you?

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

Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo

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

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

Nice cuddly friendly cat loving dogs

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

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

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

His belly is not touching the floor

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

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

Christmas truce Scooby Doo and Gilda Style.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilda in trouble yet again
Gilda in trouble yet again

Link to Gilda 

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

The great cat chase

The great cat chase

Last week Mrs Sensible shouted me

Mrs S: PN!! Quickly come here.

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

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

PN: Uffa! It’s here, why?

Mrs S: Quick look out of the window.

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

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

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

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

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

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

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

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

Forced to eat vegetables.

Cabbage, it is green its healthy and good for you. Uh huh

Cabbage, it is green, it’s healthy and good for you. Uh huh

9.30 pm Sunday 20th October 2013

PN : I am hungry.

Mrs S. You’re hungry? It’s a bit late.

PN: uh huh.

Mrs S: There’s some cabbage in the fridge go and nuke it.

PN: It’s ok I’m not that hungry.

Mrs S: You’re like a child, you eat with your eyes and your ears.

PN: Where are you going?

Mrs S: To nuke the cabbage.

PN: NO, REALLY IT IS OK. I AM NOT HUNGRY

3 mins later……. PING

munch munch munch

PN: How come this cabbage is so nice, what did you do to it?

Mrs S. I cooked it in some of your red wine.

PN: Is there any more?

Mrs S: See? You should listen to me more often, you are like a child.

PN: Uh huh.

Mrs Sensible's Cabbage

Mrs Sensible’s Cabbage, cooked in my best Barbera with onion, carrots and love.

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

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

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

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

and of course 120 Euros

Small pink and takes 8 months

Small pink and takes 8 months

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

My new book, available from all good book shops

My new book, available from all good book shops

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

Part one

Part two

Part three

The letter I e mailed to DVLA

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

An open letter to the Chief Executive DVLA

Dear Sir,

Re case no  XXXXXXXX licence no XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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

Opera

Opera

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

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

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

Quicker than Poste Italia

Quicker than Poste Italia

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

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

The ongoing saga

Part one

Part two

Part three

Please…..

Yours faithfully

Pecora Nera

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

As easy as ABC

Are you the type of person that burns a boiled egg? Then have no fear, you are in good company.

As easy as ABC

As easy as ABC

Mrs Sensible decided that today was my cookday and I was to cook spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino. My cookday? “It is easy” she said, “there are only 4 ingredients. Olive oil, garlic, chilli peppers and spaghetti”. This is fine, but I cook bacon, eggs, mushrooms and fried bread, that is when I have supplies of Bacon from the UK in the freezer. I don’t do Italian, even my Sicilian aunty turned her nose up at my tuna and pasta spaghetti concoction, and she loves me to bits, plus I laced it with wine. 

“Okay” I said to Mrs Sensible, “how do I cook it?” “Pan fry a little garlic in the small frying pan and a little chilli pepper. While you are doing this, cook some spaghetti when it is done add the spaghetti to the frying pan add a bit of water from the spaghetti, fry until it is done and serve.” she said as she watched her latest Inspector Morse DVD.

Easy peesy lemon squeezie!! What could go wrong?

Lots

I know that before putting any ingredient into a pan, it is important to open a bottle of wine. I chose a fine bottle of Sovrana from the cantina of Marco Bellero.

Sovrana

Sovrana by Marco Bellero

“How much spaghetti?”

“200 grams”

How much oil should I use?

Enough to cover the pan bottom, don’t burn the garlic !!

Uh huh!

Where is the spaghetti?

Bottom cupboard.

No it is not.

yes it is, I will come and get it for you.

Thanks!

The Spaghetti is here and you have burnt the garlic!!

Do I bin it?

Deep sigh, “Yes start again”.

So I started again, I fried a little garlic in a bit of olive oil and started to boil the spaghetti. When I thought the spaghetti was cooked, I wandered into the lounge with a bit of spaghetti hanging from a fork. Just as I waved it under  Mrs Sensible’s nose and said “Is this cooked? Inspector Morse shouted “You have killed her, you were his doctor”

“No” she said.

So I wandered back into the kitchen. The garlic looked a little too brown so I took it off the flame.

Mrs Sensible shouted from the lounge “Have you grated the cheese for the spaghetti”

Erh! No

So she came in to rescue me and the spaghetti.

As she chased the garlic around the pan she said “I have never seen garlic so well-burnt”

“Uh huh” I replied

She threw the spaghetti into the frying pan, added some water, fried it and served it into two plates.

What can I say… the wine was very good, however Mrs Sensible declared that she had eaten better pasta.

So here is the recipe if you want to try your hand.

Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino

Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli pepper (and a glass of wine)

Difficulty

Allegedly very easy

Preparation time

2 minutes

Cooking time

15 minutes

Serves

2

Ingredients:
200 grams of spaghetti
1 small red chilli pepper – seeded & chopped
2 medium cloves of fresh garlic (squashed but unpeeled)
2 -3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to season the pasta and to throw over your left shoulder for good luck.

1 bottle of good wine to drink while you cook.

Specialist Equipment

A large frying pan

A deep pan

Sharp knife

A good cook

A glass for the wine

How to cook:

1) Discard the seeds from the chilli pepper and chop the pepper into small pieces.

2) Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions and season with salt. If there are no instructions, E mail Mrs Sensible.

3) In a shallow pan, place 4 tbsp of olive oil and heat until hot, then add the garlic and chilli pepper. Cook over a low to medium heat until the garlic starts to turn golden (do not allow to burn)

4) When the pasta is ready, drain & transfer pasta into the shallow pan with the oil, garlic and chilli. Toss together and allow to heat through for approx 2-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

If you try this and it works, let me know. If you try this and you fail, please do not feel bad it is a very difficult dish.

Yoo hoo I am back

I have been away from bloggoland for almost a month and I have to say I miss you guys. I enjoy writing about the crazy stuff that happens to me in Italy, but more importantly I love the comments and interaction between other bloggers. So, normal service has now resumed or as normal as it is ever likely to get.

Over the past month, we have had an assortment of Mrs Sensible’s family arrive and depart, I have eaten too much fine Italian food and gained nearly all the weight that I had earlier lost. I have also played countless games of Scoponi, see here for instructions. My Zia gave me a new nickname ‘Furbo’, I think it means ‘he who wins every game of Scoponi.’

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

 Last week I flew to the UK to watch my daughter’s passing out parade, we celebrated with copious quantities of beer as only an Englishman can. The following day I was Godparent to one of my nieces and once again we celebrated with gallons of beer at the local rugby club.

Proud, so very proud of her. She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in the troop.

Proud, so very proud of her.
She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in her troop.

Feeling slightly hung-over and very tired I arrived at East Midlands airport at 5.30 am Sunday morning. Still wearing the clothes I had partied in four hours earlier. I consider myself a seasoned traveller; I know not to wear boots with large metal eyelets. I understand that if you don’t remove your watch and belt before passing through security, the guards become upset and will give you a quick pat down to make sure you aren’t trying to smuggle a pen knife through security. Some people do you know, even innocent mother in laws.. see here.

I passed through the metal detector without a problem, as I started to rethread my belt and scoop up my loose change I noticed that there seemed to be a bit of excitement over someone’s hand luggage. Three security men were pointing at the monitor. It was at this point that my hand baggage emerged from the x ray machine. As I waited for it to trundle down to me, (I was still struggling to loop my belt through my pants,) a female security guard picked it up, turned it on its side and pushed it back into the machine.

Stranger and stranger I thought, as my case disappeared into the machine, the guards again started pointing at the monitor. This time I took a long stare at the monitor, they were pointing at a dark grey square that looked like a big block of plasticine. Ah ha I thought, my two kilos of hermetically sealed bacon does kind of resemble a slab of semtex, or maybe even, the better quality C4 much used by the professionals.

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

As my case exited the machine for the second time, the female security guard asked in a very loud and authoritarian voice. “Whose case is this?” I sheepishly held up my hand and frantically started to worry, if it was illegal to transport parts of dead pigs across European borders. “Did you pack it yourself… sir?” she asked.

Breathing a fair quantity of the previous evening’s alcohol in her general direction, I said I had packed it. “Can I look inside” she asked. Now, I have always, always wanted to say “No bog off”, but ever so politely I said of course.  As she started to rummage through my clothes, I tried to breathe the alcohol fumes out the side of my mouth, “it’s full of dirty clothes” I said, as a pair of boxers rose to the top of the case. Ah ha, mmm hum, she muttered. She moved my camera case, that contained my Semtex Plastacine C4  hermetically sealed middle back bacon and grabbed a box of Yorkshire T bags. “Erm” I said raising a finger in the air. “Two minutes” she said as she waltzed of down the conveyor with my precious cargo of T bags.

My two favourite drinks.

My two favourite drinks. Yorkshire tea and Barone di San Pietro

When she returned, she gave me back my T Bags and said “they looked strange on the monitor, but you can pack your bag and go” I nearly, ever so nearly said you made a mistake, what you saw on the monitor that looked like a block of Semtex was my bacon. It was only because I was trying to breathe out of the left hand side of my mouth, thereby not intoxicating her with alcohol fumes that I literally… kept my mouth shut.

So the moral of this story is, if you want to smuggle Semtex bacon in your hand luggage, hide it in your camera case and drink enough alcohol the night before, so you remember not to open your mouth and incriminate yourself.

A black sheep on a motorbike.

Bikers

Bikers


I received a phone call from Franco last week; well to be honest Mrs Sensible received the call, I just stood next to her saying, what does he want? Did he set up the meeting? Is he coming over? Very reminiscent of my childhood. The days when my mum would answer the phone, and then decide if I could go out to play, or stay overnight at a friend’s house.

Franco asked Mrs Sensible if I was allowed to go out to play on Saturday. Franco and four of his friends, were going to the mountains on their motor bikes and I had been invited. Mrs Sensible said I could go. I was told to wear a heavy jacket, big boots and bring some spending money.

Proper bikers boots

Proper bikers boots


I understood the bit about the spending money; but the big boots and heavy coat seemed a bit of an overkill. We had just swapped Italian winter for Italian Summer with 10 days of spring squashed in-between. The temperature was forecast for 27°c.

Saturday arrived and at 6.00 am I jumped out of bed crawled out of bed and threw into the back of my mini two heavy coats and put on a thick pair of walking socks and my big hiking boots. I then set of for Franco’s house.

His bike is a Moto Guzzi California EV 1100cc, a really great looking bike, as I arrived, Franco was cleaning little bits of dust from the gleaming paintwork. Bits of dust that was invisible to the naked eye. The day was already starting to become hot, so I asked Franco, why the big boots and heavy coat? In case you fall off!!!

Franco/s Moto Guzzi

Franco/s Moto Guzzi

So complete with my safety boots, gloves and coat, we climbed aboard his bike and set off Tto meet up with his mates in Torino. Driving Racing down the country roads, I began to notice how every time, I leaned in sync with Franco, or when he braked and then accelerated away, my stomach muscles pulled. I decided this would be excellent exercise and by the time we reached Cresole Reale in the Alps, I would have a stomach like a six pack.

A six pack

A six pack

In Torino we met up with his friends and set off at break neck speed for the mountains. It was great fun, when Franco leaned to the left I leaned with him, when he cornered right I leaned to the right. I have to add I was hanging on for dear life. After 30 mins of chasing through villages and country roads, I managed to relax a little. I was just admiring the river that was running alongside the road when Franco dropped the bike over to his left and went haring around a corner, I was still sat bolt upright and the bike gave a little wobble as Franco tried to control it. I say a little wobble, but we were racing along at 120 kph. I decided not to watch the scenery, but in future to just watch the road.

As we climbed up into the mountings, I developed an itch on my left nostril, just a little itch. But the more I tried to ignore it, the more it itched. In fact the itch started to include part of my cheek. My helmet was a full face helmet that belonged to Franco’s wife, it was a tad too small, and I couldn’t work out how to raise the visor. I was hampered by a thick pair of gloves, ignorance on how to open it and the fear of falling off Franco’s bike.

I tried sticking a finger in between the helmet and my neck, moving the helmet with the hope of catching my nose on the internal padding and as a last resort I tried to see if my tongue was long enough to reach my nose. After all, lizards can lick their own eyeball, surely I could reach my nose. Please bear in mind, I was still whacking along at 120 kph and trying to remember to lean with Franco.

As well as the itchy nose, I discovered the visor would suddenly steam up, and no I didn’t decide to lick it clean. But you will be pleased to know, that even though I had an itch, couldn’t see for toffee, and the helmet that was a bit too small and was giving me brain crush. I didn’t fall off.

Helmets that don't steam up

Helmets that don’t steam up


Climbing up the mountain we came across a sign and barrier that said road closed due to heavy snow. The Italians looked at each other, shrugged and in true Italian fashion, ignored the warning and drove around the barrier.
Finally we had arrived; it had taken two bum numbing hours. My six pack now felt like a crushed coke can, my bum hurt and my arms ached from hanging on.

No chance of a six pack

No chance of a six pack


After a couple of photos and a bit of graffiti, we decided to drive back to the nearest village for a beer.

Pecora Nera

Pecora Nera

The snow plough had cleared the road

The snow plough had cleared the road

While we were sat drinking and discussing how I had nearly ended up as a smudge along the road and the episode of the itch. They asked if I wanted to join them in October, for a little ride to Munich for the Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest.


If I am a good boy and Mrs Sensible says yes, I will go and buy a helmet and jacket for a bit of serious beer drinking.

The bikes and the bikers, thanks guys.

A great set of Guys

A great set of Guys


1

2

3

4

Weekly photo challenge: the sign says

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

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

One way only.

One way only ?

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t it is a no entry”

It doesn’t matter I am a resident

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

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

Don't use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

Don’t use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

This photo was taken in Calabria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because he is English!

This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Blackberry: A lesson in customer service. (Italians please pay attention)

A while ago I wrote a post about the Fedex fiasco , I was trying to point out, that even a well oiled machine like Fedex grinds to a halt as soon as it crosses over the border into Bella Italia. Last week, the camera on my Blackberry Playbook ceased to work, I thought another fiasco was about to begin….

 For my birthday, my children bought me a Blackberry Playbook. It is a wonderful device. I use it to read English books, watch films, and to monitor the fat I am losing  I have lost two and a half kilos in the past 2 weeks. When I travel I use the playbook to keep track of my business expenses, price lists, quotations, e mails, gosh the list goes on. To be honest, Mrs Sensible tends to get a tad annoyed with me and the Playbook, because it is normally glued to my hand, as I read yet another book.

Playbook Pecora Nera

Disaster stuck on the 14th May 2013, the Playbook camera stopped working. I was devastated, I could still read books and all the other functions worked, but without the camera I couldn’t annoy Mrs Sensible, by filming her while she paints her toe nails or capture her admitting to one of the few mistakes that she makes.

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

My children bought the Blackberry Playbook in Meadowhall UK, the receipt is nowhere to be seen. I spent two days deciding whether to contact Blackberry, to see if they could fix it under warranty. The main stumbling points were A) I had lost my receipt, B) would my Playbook get lost in the Italian postal system and finally, C) Would my playbook be sent to Giuseppe Garybaldy in some repair clinic in Naples, never to be seen again.

I decided to phone Blackberry; I ignored the Italian helpline and instead phoned the UK helpline. Paula, one of Blackberry’s technical support staff, answered the phone. She asked me what the problem was. I began by explaining the camera fault; I then started to tell her how I had tried to fix the fault myself. I went into great detail, telling her I had researched the playbook forums and I had tried all the fixes, including holding down various buttons and forcing the playbook to reboot. I don’t think she was too impressed. I promised, I would never again  try to fix my playbook myself.

Paula told me she needed my Playbook to send her a report. She explained how to do this and promised to call me back in twenty minutes. What a nice woman!

Twenty minutes later, Paula phoned me and said it was a hardware problem, she said I needed to send my Playbook to their service centre. I could just visualise good ole Giuseppe Garybaldy with his screw driver and hammer, plus the next six months of asking “have you found my Playbook.”  I told Paula, that I had reservation about sending my playbook to any site within Bella Italia. I think I told her about my driving licence fiasco, and various other problems I have had with Italy. I even offered to pay the carriage, if she would let me send the Playbook to a UK repair centre.

Paula laughed, she said the Playbook needed to go to Germany. Ah the Germans!! I remember them from the sauna  Now that is a different story, the Germans are more efficient than the English. In fact, they make the English look like Italians when it comes to efficiency.  Paula said, she would send me a box with instructions, I was to put my Playbook in the box, complete the form and ask DHL to collect the box. There was nothing to pay; what a nice lady!

Honest I did a google search for German efficiency and this came up

Honest I did a google search for German efficiency and this came up.

The following day, Paula E mailed me and asked “have you got the box?” I had a quick scout around my office and reception, I couldn’t see it.

I asked the accounts lady “I search box, this big, you see?”

COSA? (WHAT?)

I asked the company secretary “box, like this, DHL, errhh you see?”

She gave me a ten minute explanation, which I didn’t understand, but I nodded my head as though everything was as clear as mud day.

I e-mailed Paula to say, sorry but the box has not arrived. As I pressed the E mail send button, I wandered of to the coffee machine, and there on a shelf was my box. Of course it was there, I work in an Italian office and of course, I should expect my box to be hidden.  This is why Italy grinds to a stop; no one knows who moved what or why.

I watch movies while I cook, Please note, the playbook stand in use is not a Blackberry authorised stand.

I watch movies while I cook, Please note, the playbook stand in use is not a Blackberry authorised stand.

I placed my playbook in the box and sent it back to Blackberry. I was wondering, how I was going to cope without my playbook; would the DT’s set in? Would I have to watch Italian television? 24 hours later, DHL delivered a brand new Blackberry Playbook.

Paula phoned me and asked if it had received my brand spanking new Playbook, she asked if she could phone me on Monday to make sure the Playbook was working and to make sure I was happy. What an incredibly nice woman!!

I am not sure where Paula is based, but I sent her, a link to the Fedex Fiasco. After lunch I checked my stats, lots of hits on the Fedex Fiasco and 72 visitors from Portugal. Now if I was a betting man, I would say the lovely lady from Blackberry is based in Portugal.

Read, help and criticise…

Englishman in Italy

Ok girls and boys, I have been invited to submit a post (under 1000 words) to a newspaper and after a long think, bearing in mind I can’t use lots of pictures, this is the one I will send. Unless you have a better idea.

I would love any feedback, you can be critical and I won’t be offended. I might just un-follow you  🙂

Grazie PN

Today is back to school day for most of the children in Italy. My Italian wife, Mrs Sensible is a primary school teacher. This year the Italian education authority thought it would be a good idea for her to teach English, mathematics and music in a school five villages away and English and Italian in a school six villages away. My wife seems to spend half her life driving from one school to another.

While I sit here typing this blog Mrs Sensible is colouring in posters for her new classrooms. The little quip I made about, I hope you have finished all your work before you started colouring in your pictures was almost met with physical violence.

I too have to go to school; Mrs Sensible has forced me to go to the local evening class to learn Italian. I suppose forced is maybe a bit hard, my mum forced me to school by threatening me with the slipper, Mrs Sensible used the “If you want to stay in Italy you need to learn the language or maybe we should just go back to the UK” threat.

I have never found my lack of Italian to be a huge problem, I can order wine and grappa. I can also request the cost of items at the local shops. In fact my lack of Italian has been quite useful, Scusi, io inglese, mi dispiace non capsico, (Sorry, I am English I don’t understand)  has saved me from buying expensive items or helped me escape from street traders trying to sell me bags and belts.

So, as my good wife had become exasperated with being my interpreter, she enrolled me in a basic Italian night class run by the local municipal for stranieri (immigrants). The teacher Maestra Piera is in her late 50s. Her eyes glitter with excitement as she explained to my wife that if I want to learn Italian, all I have to do is listen to everything she says. Oh and importantly attend her class regularly. This seems far removed from the way I was taught in school. I seem to remember it took the threat of the cane and detention for me to apply myself to the lessons.

On my first lesson, I was determined not to draw attention to myself. I quietly entered the classroom and walked to a desk at the back of the room.  As I started to sit down, Maestra Piera pointed at me and announced to the class “Lui e’ Inglese, si chiama Peter.” (He is English, his name is Peter) She then pointed to a desk at the front of the class and shouted “Vieni Peter, vieni qui.”  (Come Peter, come here) The horrors of my former school life quickly returned as I slowly dragged myself to the front of the class and sat down in the desk that is normally reserved for the naughty boy. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to produce a sick note signed by my wife when I decided to skip a lesson.

The classroom is the same as any schoolroom that I have sat or stood in the corner of. The only difference is the desks are scored with graffiti in Italian, Giuseppe Ti Amo Loradana. (Giuseppe loves Loradana) As I sat waiting for the lesson to begin I started to thumb through my new Italian – English dictionary, wondering if my homework would include backing it in brown paper. As I sat there wishing I was somewhere else I become aware of all the different languages that were being spoken in the room Russian, Ukrainian and a lot of French but no English.

We started the first lesson with a simple subject. How to change a singular noun into a plural noun, while remembering to change the article at the same time. We also needed to remember that the rules are different for male and female gender nouns. Not only is it mind-boggling, but all the explanations the teacher gave were in Italian. Logarithms without a table or calculator would have been easier. It wasn’t until I showed Mrs Sensible my notes later that night, that I became aware of what I had been listening to for the previous two and a half hours.

At one point during the lesson Maestra Pierra looked at me and said with a huge smile and a nod. “Peter hai Capito?”  (Peter you understand?) I slowly shook my head no. Huge mistake! She walked to my desk smiled at me, leaned in close and raising her voice to a shout proceeded to give me the exact same explanation, once again in Italian. “Oh ok ok io capisco” (Oh ok ok I understand) I said. I never made that mistake again.

In the early lessons I think Maestra Piera thought I was her perfect student. I never asked her to repeat anything twice and I wrote down almost everything she said. It was only later that she understood how badly I was progressing in her lessons. One of the problems with the lessons, was I didn’t understand Italian therefore I didn’t understand the teacher. The second problem was the class had a massive mix of abilities. There were the French, Spanish and Romanians who with their Latin based language could argue with the teacher over the correct structure of a sentence and then there was me who needed pictures of cats and dogs with gatto and cane (cat and dog) printed beneath them.

I struggled through two years of classes with Maestro Piera and I know it was as much a struggle for her as it was for me. The symbolic certificate she gave me saying I had attained level 2 in Italian was presented more for my dogged attendance and also to make sure I didn’t re apply for a third year.

 

**Thanks for the suggestions, I have updated the post. So if the comments below don’t make any sense, it is my fault.

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

Englishman in Italy

Englishman in Italy

Quick update to part 1 and part 2

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

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

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

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

An update is sure to follow tomorrow.

 

P.N

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is Monday morning and I really need a bacon butty.

Red Cross Parcel

Red Cross Parcel

It is Monday morning in Italy, it is raining, I am sat in my office sulking and I need a bacon butty (bacon sandwich).

Don’t tell Mrs Sensible, but from time to time I do miss bits of England, bits like crisps, real beer or a bacon butty.

During the summer two of my children came to visit me, “Dad, do you need anything bringing” they asked. The above photo shows the goodies they managed to fit in their suitcase. I think the only clothes Lucy managed to fit in her suitcase, were a pair of jeans and a bikini. We spent the rest of the holiday buying her summer dresses. On hindsight it might have been cheaper, to have air freighted my emergency provisions over and let Lucy fill her case with her own clothes.

Back to rainy Monday and life in my office, I have 25 industrial water pumps in Taiwan that should be sat in my stores, money sat in my customers banks that should be sat in my bank and I really, really need a bacon butty.

I really need a bacon butty

I really need a bacon butty

If I was still sat in my old office in England, it would still be Monday morning, it would still be raining and I would be dreaming of life in Italy. But, and it is only a small but. The sarni shop (sandwich shop) down the hill made fantastic bacon buttys.

I could order a pizza from the local pizzeria, if someone was here to phone them for me, last time I tried it was a total disaster. I never realised how difficult it was to mime down a phone line.

Io bisogno una pizza (I need a pizza)

Cosa? (What)

Mi scusi, Io bisogno una pizza Diavola,  mio indirizzo è strada industriale… (Sorry, I need a Diavola pizza, my address is industrial road…)

Cosa, non capisco?

ARGGGHH! IO SONO INGLESE, IO FAME; IO BISOGNO UNA PIZZA, PLEASE. ( I am English, I am hungry, I need a pizza Please)

CLICK Brrrrrrrr

As I stared at the phone that was still brrrrr ing in my ear, Manzo the nice delivery man from Bartolini, arrived with a parcel. He understood that I was hungry and he phoned the pizzaria on my behalf.

Pizza Diavola

This is a Pizza Diavola. Purchased during the summer from a local pizzeria.

The pizza, complete with a bottle of beer arrived. It was very nice, but I really wanted a bacon butty.

UPDATE….

I have just bust my glasses.

EnglishmaninItaly.org

Just bust my glasses

As if the day was not bad enough, I have just bust my glasses.

Summer Skiing in Italy

Driving home at lunch time, I spotted two old dears running down the road, whilst madly waving a pair of ski poles around. Now I have lived in Italy for the past 6 years and so nothing surprises me. But I must say, these two old dears in their stretch running pants piqued my interest.  (Photo will be uploaded later)

So in the interest of science, I have done a little research.

Summer Skiing

Summer skiing. Very safe unless you trip over each other.

It seems that Summer Skiing is considered to be a safe sport. It is highly unlikely that you will fly home from your Skiing trip complete with a plaster cast. Whereas in winter skiing, a plaster cast is considered by many drinking companions, to be adequate proof that you actually did go winter skiing in the Alps.

2 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

Skiing in wellies is perfectly acceptable.

The cost of the clothing is also quite reasonable. You do not have to spend the kids inheritance on fashionable ski attire. It is quiet acceptable to go summer skiing in wellies, jeans and a silly hat.

3 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

Learners on a nursery slope.

But with all sports, it is very important to find the best summer ski instructor. Here you can see three beginners getting to grips with this demanding sport.

4 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

These are not English Summer Skiers, because there is not a knotted hanky or beer belly in sight.

Although I do not condone summer skiing on a beach, in my opinion beaches are for relaxing, and sunbathing, not running around waving dangerous ski poles. It is advisable to check with your  local authorities for restrictions.

5 Summer skiing Englishman in Italy

Summer Skiing in your garden

Your own garden is a very good place to practise Summer Skiing. After all, if you are worried about falling down and getting tangled up with your ski poles, it is better to do so in your own garden, rather than out on the road where someone might have a handy camera.

Summer skiiing Englishman in Italy

Summer Skiing is also an indoor sport.

For those rainy days, and here I am thinking of the people who still live in England, Summer Skiing can take place in the comfort of your own home. A word of warning, cornering around the coffee table should only be undertaken by experienced Summer Skiers. And please mind the dog.

Summer skiing englishman in italy

No special footwear is necessary.

So to recap. Apart from the cost of two sticks ski poles, the cost of this sport is very low. No ski lift passes, no expensive medical bills and you don’t have to freeze to death.

A mother in law, a pen knife and the airport police.

I was going to do a post about the Easter bunny and how he gave Mrs Sensible a dishwasher rather than a chocolate egg, but the stupid rabbit bunny forgot to give me anything. So instead here is a post about Mrs Sensible’s mum, Gatwick Airport and a police caution.

In 2007 Mrs Sensible and I were still living in rainy England. From time to time visitors from Italy would arrive and the language in our house, quickly changed from English to beautiful Italian, except mine of course. Despite the amazing collection of Italian grammar books and dictionaries I had acquired, I soon found mime was easier to learn and much more universal.

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau the master of languages

One of my favourite visitors to our house was my mother in law. One evening while Marta was staying, we were invited to dinner by our friends Gary and Joan. Joan created a delicious meal and during the meal Gary gave my mother in law a beautiful bone handle penknife for her husband. Gary said, he had carved the handle himself, he also strongly suggested that we place the knife in our main luggage when Marta flew home. This was duly translated by Mrs Sensible.

Penknife

The penknife was a little bit like this.

When I booked Marta’s return flight to Sicily, I was amazed at how low the cost was, and so I also booked a seat for me. I told Mrs Sensible that her mum shouldn’t carry her suitcase by herself, so I would go with her have a 10 day holiday and would be back in the UK quicker than she could say “questa è una cosa molto egoista da fare. Ho bisogno di una vacanza così”

The security at Gatwick Airport was on high alert following various terrorist incidents, so we had to remove our shoes and pass them with our bags and coats through the X ray machine. I didn’t mind the increased precautions, because 1) I didn’t really want to get on a plane that might have a bomb on it and 2) I had left all my dangerous items, such as my battery razor and tooth paste at home. As I walked pass the security guard and reached down to pick up my holdall. A female security guard pointed to Marta’s hand bag and said “Is that yours sir?”

My Hand bag?

My Hand bag?

Mine!! A handbag! Was she mad? “It belongs to Marta” I said pointing at my mother in law. “Can we look in it please?” she asked.

I shrugged and turning to Marta I mimed, have you got any face cream, bottles or perfume in your bag. Marta smiled at me and shook her head. The security guard was definitely onto something, she was excitedly rummaging through Marta’s bag; the way a sniffer dog might, if it had just sniffed 4 kilos of cocaine in burst bags.

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag the sniffer dog

With a flourish the guard produced Gary’s penknife. As she opened the knife and waved it under our noses there was an audible AAHHH from the other travellers in the queue. I looked at Marta in amazement, this didn’t look like the innocent pen knife Gary had given her, it looked like a Samurai sword, and if the guard didn’t stop waving it about, someone was going to lose an arm.

Policeman with the penknife

Policeman with the penknife

I started to apologise, I explained that Marta was Italian, not used to travelling, not a spring chicken, not a terrorist, blah blah blah.  I asked if she would kindly dispose of the knife and we would be on our way.

Fifteen minutes later, we were still stood in the naughty corner waiting for the police to come and tell us off. When PC Plod and his sergeant eventually arrived, I again apologised and explained that our flight was due to leave in 15 minutes.  I calmly explained the dinner and the gift, it was at the point where I mentioned Marta’s lack of English, that the Policeman asked if we needed an interpreter. It might take an hour or two for the interpreter to arrive, but we need to fill out some forms and your mother in law will need to accept a caution .  We don’t need an interpreter; I am bi lingual I said.

I am bi lingual

Of course I speak fluent Italian

I translated all the questions the policeman asked. Some questions were easy, for example; what is her name or what is her address. But when the policeman asked me to translate, please ask her if she will accept a formal caution or would she prefer to make a statement at the local police station. I resorted to total gobbledygook. I strung as many Italian words that I knew together and kept adding stai zitta (shut up) every time Marta opened her mouth. I am not really sure what Marta thought as I started to say in very very bad Italian “stai zitta, where bathroom? I like kitchen no like knife, no stai zitta, please si si si I said, as I nodded my head.

Marta whose eyes were as wide as saucers, nodded her head. The policeman then gave my mother in law an official police caution. She was warned that if she ever gets into trouble again, this police caution may be taken into account.

Any more trouble from you and...

Any more trouble from you and…

My mother in law and I ran through the airport to the departure gate, while I tried to explain on the mobile to Mrs Sensible why we hadn’t called her and no I wouldn’t go back and ask the policeman if we could keep the penknife and yes I realised it was a gift for her dad.

Part 2: How to swap a UK driving licence to an Italian one in 340 difficult steps

Yesterday was my third visit to the motorizzazione, in my ongoing saga to convert my UK driving licence to an Italian Driving licence. At 5.30 I arrived at the office with Mrs Sensible in tow, she wouldn’t let me bring my sharpened fork.

Signore Cretino once again asked if he could take a photo copy of my driving licence, Italian identity card and my codice fiscale. Just for fun I also handed him my British Passport. This is the third set of copies he has taken. He must be building up an impressive file.

An Englishman in Italy

Pecora Nera Driving Licence

 The first problem we hit was the name on my UK driving licence didn’t match the name on my British Passport or my Italian Identity card.  Mrs Sensible explained, that in England it is possible to combine the surnames of the husband and wife when they marry. He wasn’t very impressed; I have to take my hat off to Mrs Sensible because she calmly explained that she was right and he would just have to accept the situation.

The next step was my medical. I had to visit the doctor who had an office next door,  but way up on the fourth floor. By the time we had climbed the steps, I nearly needed a doctor to resuscitate me. We passed an old lady on the way up who was slowly climbing the stairs for her medical. She looked about 80 years old. When she finally entered the waiting room she looked 85 years old.

It is impossible for 20 Italians to sit in a waiting room and either sit quietly or to whisper to their partners. It took them about 3 nanoseconds to realise I was English.

Old Lady: “Your husband is English, Does he understand Italian?”

Mrs Sensible: “Yes he is English and no he doesn’t understand much”

Pecora Nera “I speaks Italian small small”

Old Lady “Ah! His Italian is very Good”

Mrs Sensible looked to heaven and I gave a huge grin.

Mrs Sensible then showed everyone in the doctors waiting room, my new driving licence photo. She used the following words as she handed my photo around e’ Brutto, e’ schifo.

The old lady laughed and showed her photo. A second lady who was sat across from us produced her driving licence. I would estimate her age somewhere between 65 and 70. Her photo showed a woman of 26 with a 1960s hairstyle.

Her photo was something like this

Her photo was something like this

Pecora Nera “ That doesn’t look like her, how can the police identify her? I mean she looks like her daughter or even her daughter’s daughter; but with a 1960s hairstyle”

Mrs Sensible “In Italy we don’t need to update our photo”

Pecora Nera “Madness, so you can be 85 and use a photo taken when you were 18?”

Doctor “Next”

Pecora Nera “ I English I speaks Italian small small”

Doctor  “Ok we speaks English, I speaks English little”

Pecora Nera “ Oh your English is so good, thank heavens you understand English”

I passed the medical and we went back to see Signore Cretino at the motorizzazione.

As we entered the office, the following conversation was taking place between a young man and Mr Cretino. Mrs Sensible quietly translated it for me, while I laughed into my hanky.

Young man: My driving licence was suspended by the Carabinieri. When the suspension was over I went back to the office to collect my licence. The Carabinieri in the office had lost it!! So I asked them what they intended to do about it.

The outstanding Carabinieri

The outstanding Carabinieri

Signore Certino: And?

Young man: The Carabinieri said “We won’t do anything, it is your problem. You need to sort it.”

So I asked how do I sort it, what do I need to do? The Carabinieri told me to come here and apply for a brand new driving licence. He said “take your documents and two photos.” I asked him if the photos will need authenticating, he said no, so here I am with the documents and the two photos.

Signore Cretino: You need to authenticate one of those photos; you need to go either to the Carabinieri or to the council.

Young man: But I have just come from the Carabinieri and they said it wasn’t necessary.

Mr Cretino: Well, they could have authenticated them, but they didn’t,  so now you will have to go back to them and come back here tomorrow.

As regards to my driving licence, I am now in possession of a piece of paper with a sticker on it. This wonderful bit of paper is valid for 30 days and only valid in Italy.

3 steps forward and 5 steps backwards.

 

P.s Multifarious Meanderings is trying to get a French licence in France, go and read.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Who am I? Expat, Immigrant or Zingero

Following on from my post Solipsism, I have decided to discover who I really am. A few people who left comments on the post suggested that I really don’t exist. So who am I?

I would love to be an Expat, I even belong to the British Expat Forum.  Although the moderators in their infinite wisdom, banned me, back in 2008 and I had to secretly reapply using a different name and e-mail address. But as a committed black-sheep (Pecora Nera) I was not surprised.   Apart from being ceremoniously booted off the Expats website, there are also two other reasons why I don’t think, I fall into the category of Expat. The first one is, I was born in Malta and I am not sure if ‘us’ Maltese can be Expats, the second and fundamental reason is, I can’t afford to pay a Punka Walla, also Mrs Sensible draws the line at me sitting all day in the sunshine drinking gin and tonic.

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Photo credit to Neither use nor ornament

This leaves me with either option two an immigrant or option three Zingero. I love the sound of Zingero, it is one of the few Italian words that I can pronounce. It also kind of fits in with the black-sheep image.  Zingero is a derogatory term used to describe immigrants from Eastern Europe.  However I think Mrs Sensible would throw a No 8 wobbly if I started filling forms in with Pecora Nera, a Zingero.

So I am left with being an immigrant. I have just read in the news that David Cameron our beloved leader is clamping down on immigrants entering the UK. Does this mean he won’t let me back into the UK when I need to stock up on Bacon and T bags? Life is so complicated. On Friday night, I discussed, who am I? with Marco over a couple of glasses of beer. We batted the question and answer back and forth as we shared a plate of chips. After much deliberation Marco gave his considered opinion. You are a stupid Englishman.

So now I know!!! When I fill out my application for my Italian Driving Licence I need to write Stupido Inglese.

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

An Englishman in Italy

Pecora Nera Driving Licence

I have created a new page for this post because I know this is going to be a long and painful saga. I will update this as I jump, dodge and get blown up by the Italian minefield of bureaucracy.

20/03/2013

Last summer I noticed that my driving licence would expire in May 2013. I searched on the internet whether, I could renew my licence with DVLC. Unfortunately this is not ‘legally possible’  because I do not live in the UK. I do have a house in the UK but someone is living in it. Further research seemed to imply that exchanging my UK licence for an Italian licence was easy. I would only need two photos, some money and a completed form. I should have known better, after all this is Italy, a country where I have been stopped for driving with a European UK driving licence.

The carabinieri who stopped me was not the brightest man alive, he tried to explain to Mrs Sensible that I, an Englishman was not allowed to drive in Italy with a Ukrainian driving licence. Mrs Sensible went straight into teacher mode and asked the poor carabinieri, (who was now asking himself why he had stupidly stopped me)  when did the Ukraine joined the EU? Still pointing at the European flag on my licence, Mrs Sensible then explained to him, again in teacher style language, that the UK on my licence actually stood for United Kingdom, and no it did not need to have GB for Grand Britannia on it.

So here, we are fifty-eight days from my driving licence melting down; and I decide enough is enough. I asked Mrs Sensible to phone the local office that deals with driving licences and find out what documents I will need to take to the office and how much it take to change my licence.

OFFICE: Why does your husband want an Italian Driving Licence?

MRS SENSIBLE: Because his UK licence expires in May.

OFFICE: UK licences do not expire. Italy is going to change to licences like the UK one.

MRS SENSIBLE: My husbands licence expires on the 17th May 2013. it is clearly stated on the licence.

OFFICE: Really! Tell your husband to pop into the office this afternoon and we will sort it all out.

MRS SENSIBLE: Pecora, if you go to the office now they will sort it out for you… go now… go.

PECORA NERA: He hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about has he…. ALL RIGHT I am going.

Standing in the office the idota stupido helpful man explained that, for a small sum of money he could stick a sticker on my UK driving licence that would make it valid for another 5 years.

Words failed me, both English and Italian words. I phoned Mrs Sensible and said ” I don’t need a sticker I need a new licence. Hertz car rental is not going to accept an Italian Sticker stuck on my driving licence as proof that it is now valid for another 5 years. Please explain this to this helpful  intelligent  cretino. After Mrs Sensible had had a short telephone conversation with the man, the phone was passed back to me and I was told “He will have it all sorted tomorrow. You will need to call back tomorrow around four in the afternoon.

Tomorrow I will update part 2 after I have driven back to the office and had another discussion with Signor Cretino. Right now I am going to have a glass of wine.

Part 2 

Part 3

Part 4

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Gilda in the dog house

Gilda in the dog house

I am sure you remember Gilder the short-legged but incredibly fat sausage dog who saved her owner from the snake attack last November. Well she is in disgrace at the moment. There is a wolf that lives across the road from us. It is a pleasant dog that although it is big, it only howls at night when it remembers that its mate has died. It very rarely barks. The only time it barks, and then it goes absolutely mental, is when Gilda decides to stroll down to the wolf, bark at him and generally wind him up. When the wolf is in a frenzy, and running up and down the garden fence searching for a way to get at the little fat dog; Gilda deciding her work is done for another day saunters back across the road up our driveway and across to Luiginas house. Her tail at full mast just to wind the wolf up a little more.

If you look carefully you can see the wolf across the road

If you look carefully you can see the wolf across the road

Now winding the wolf up is one thing, her punishment will surely come when the wolf realises it can jump the garden fence and outrun a dog that relies on legs that are only 3 inches long and needs to breathe in to make sure it’s belly doesn’t scrape along the ground. No, Gilda was incarcerated for joining up with Lila, Luigina’s other dog, which is known for being timid, and Diana a lovely soft Border Collie that lives up the road. The three of them caused a jogger to stop in mid stride.

The terrible threesome,  and Gilda was the ringleader decided to surround a jogger who was going about his business of jogging up our road, and bark at him every time he raised a foot, shouted for help or tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead. He was paralysed with fear. Mrs Sensible asked me who Gilda was barking at; I replied she was probably winding up the wolf. Go and have a look please she told asked me. I had a quick glance out of the bathroom window and spotted the jogger who was doing an excellent impersonation of a statue.

Credits to Michelangelo. I think he was Italian

Credits to Michelangelo. I think he was Italian

Armed with a sweeping brush, I gallantly went to the rescue. I didn’t really need the brush because the only danger from the three musketeers, would be a good licking. But as I had had to leave the comfort of my warm house, in my flip-flops, PJ bottoms and a coat, I was determined someone was going to suffer. Even if that someone turned out to be the jogger.

Having rescued said jogger, Mrs Sensible decided it was my fault, because I had left our automatic gate open. Please note the word automatic. We have the only automatic gate that is having hormonal problems and requires a good shove to get it to open or close.  Friday it was raining and I simply refused to get out of my car and push our automatic gate closed.

Automatic, don't make me laugh. they can't even spell it correctly.

Automatic, don’t make me laugh. they can’t even spell it correctly.

And that is why Gilda is in the dog house. A new motor for the gate will cost me around 400 euros (all donations to my paypal account please). The cost of keeping Gilda in Jail is significantly less. It’s a hard life when you are a jogger, wolf or a dog in jail.

Hospital Bingo

Mrs Sensible sent me on an errand this morning. On the way to work I had to drop off a sample of her wee at the local hospital.

Mrs Sensible gave me concise instructions, she explained which room I had to go to, and that I might have to sign or complete a form or two, a lazy smile grew on my face. Italian form filling is not one of my fortes. When Mrs Sensible saw my grin, she gave me a stern look, Pecora it is important…

So armed with the plastic container and the necessary paperwork I set of for work hospital. When I reached the hospital it took ten minutes of circling the car park before I found somewhere to abandon my little mini. As I walked to the hospital carrying THE SAMPLE two thoughts jumped into my mind, First, how on earth did Mrs Sensible produce so much wee in 24 hours and second how did she manage to pee into the container, I know there was no funnel in the bathroom yesterday. She must be a better shot than I thought.

When I entered the waiting room, I was greeted by this wonderful little ticket dispenser.

The wonderful ticket machine

The wonderful ticket machine

Press a button and it throws out a ticket, but which button should I press? I immediately dismissed button A. I spotted the word urgent, and although for me it was most urgent to get out of here and back into my Mini, I guess THE SAMPLE did not fall under the urgent category.

Closing my eyes, I played eeny meeny miny moe and randomly punching a button. The machine spat out ticket D, good choice I thought. I like the colour blue and I had spotted the word Biologici so I thought I was in with a good chance.

Settling down into a chair in the waiting room, I sat and watched the electronic display board. Lots of A, B E and F’s were called, but very few D’s. Eventually D08 blinked up on the score board, brilliant a wait of only fifteen minutes. Grabbing the container of wee I walked over to the cubicle with number DO8 flashing above it. I proudly laid THE SAMPLE and ticket DO8 on the counter and got ready to try and explain in Italian that this was not my wee but belonged to Mrs Sensible.

A little sample

Mrs Sensibles wee container looked a little like this. Ok  not quiet like this but it was big.

The nurse took one look at the container and my paperwork and shook her head. She took ticket number DO8 dropped it in her bin and said “è il biglietto sbagliato” What, what?? Wrong ticket! How can this be?

Feeling very dejected, miffed and unhappy I wandered back to the waiting room and the stupid ticket machine. I now had to choose another ticket, obviously not A or D. I thought about playing eenny meeny miny moe again or choosing my next favourite colour but there didn’t seem to be a red option. Punching every button I collected eight tickets, much to the bemusement of the little old lady who had been watching me puzzle over the machine and heard me muttering in English to myself.

As I sat down to play hospital bingo, ticket number D09 was called, uffa!! I screwed it up and shoved it into my pocket. F27 was next but I had F 35. Then wonders of wonders E24  as I checked my handful of tickets, I realised I was the holder of the golden ticket. Picking up Mrs Sensibles sample I walked over to yet another booth and silently praying, I handed over both the precious golden ticket and the sample.

Hospital Bingo

Hospital Bingo

The nurse and I commenced the form filling. There seemed to be a little problem with the sample, the nurse, I think was trying to tell me that the container was too big and Mrs Sensible should have used one like this.

Pee bottle

Mini wee bottle

I tried to explain that Mrs Sensible could fill twenty of those in one go and the doctor wanted a 24 hour collection, should Mrs Sensible have used 200 of those?

Huffing and puffing in Italian, the nurse stamped my paperwork and reluctantly took the gallon and a half of high-octane wee.

Later that evening Mrs Sensible asked me how it went, easy peasy lemon squeezy I said, but next time can you take your own pee to the hospital.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible passed all her exams and qualified to be a teacher many years ago. Unfortunately so did many other people. Each year Mrs Sensible is given a ten month contract, working in one of the state schools. She is then laid off during the summer and we have to watch our pennies as she doesn’t qualify for holiday pay. We then pray that Mrs Sensible will be given another contract for the following year.

The Italian government has decided to change this nonsense and employ full time teachers for the 11,892 positions that are normally handed out on short term contracts. The problem is there are 172,248 eligible teachers who all want and need a job.  Snr Profumo, some geezer in the government decided that what Italy needed was a competition, and so the Concorso Insegnanti 2012/13 is running.

Teachers in Turin

Teachers in Turin waiting to enter the school for the 2012 School Contest

In December the first stage of the concorso (competition) took place. 50 multiple answer questions, were laid before the 172 thousand teachers. Only 33.6% passed, Mrs Sensible passed and was quiet annoyed with herself for only scoring 46.5 out of 50. She needed 35 to pass.

I have no idea how she managed to pass the first stage, since some of the questions were supposed to be based on logic but even Spock would have considered them illogical, and the maths questions… well let me give you an example.

ilogical Captain

Illogical Captain

5 trains leave different stations. Train A arrives before Train B, Train C was driving faster than train D. Train B arrived before train D. What did the driver of train C have for breakfast? Mrs Sensible knew the answer.

I like to think my lack of Italian played a small part in helping Mrs Sensible pass the exam. She is forced to use English if she wants any sensible answers from me, and so the English Questions that made up 25% of the marks was a piece of cake for the talented Bi Lingual Mrs Sensible.

Anyway at the beginning of this month she went to Torino to sit the written exam. I booked us in a nice hotel and went along for the ride. As I took a couple of photos a little lady whose name translates to Mrs Drinkwater asked me if I was a journalist. No no, my wife is a teacher I said, pointing at the mass of people who were trying to enter the building.

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

“Come and have breakfast with me” she said. I often wonder if I have a note stapled to my back with the following printed on it STRANGE PEOPLE PLEASE APPLY HERE. On the way to breakfast Mrs Drinkwater acquired another friend who just happened to be standing near us. After breakfast and as we left the café I gave my excuses and said I needed to put some money in the car parking meter. Oh that’s ok we will come with you. Ahhuh… As the three of us approached my car Mrs Drinkwater, who by now had taken on the position of tour director, said There is a lovely church just past your car, would you like to see it?

Well I had 3 hours to kill, so stupidly I said yes. It was a lovely church and I wasn’t too put out as Mrs Drinkwater and our friend dropped to their knees to pray for their children who were at the moment trying to pass the concorso. I wandered off down the church to look at various paintings and sculptures. As I wandered back to the silently praying twosome, a priest entered the church and everybody stood up. Come on let’s go to the front, said Mrs Drinkwater. Aaahhhhh!!!

I know I shouldn't have taken this picture. But would you have believed me.

I know I shouldn’t have taken this picture. But would you have believed me?

We went to the front of the church, and I sat behind an old lady in a fur coat. The two priests took mass and communion, they said their Hail Marys and left the church. With Mrs Drinkwater in the lead we set off back to the school where Mrs Sensible was working hard.

Mrs Drinkwater stopped once or thrice to answer her mobile, she would have a loud conversation with someone called Giuseppe, and then set off walking again. We didn’t stop at the school, Mrs Drinkwater marched straight pass it, across the road to the University for physical education. Just before she entered the University she once more phoned Giuseppe. I naturally assumed that Giuseppe was waiting for us inside, we would be given cake and tea and take the load off our feet for a couple of mins. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We took a tour of the University trying various locked classroom doors, it was when she rattled the third door that I became a little suspicious that maybe Giuseppe wasn’t in the University and was more than likely sitting in Messina, Sicily, phoning his mum to make sure she wasn’t getting into any trouble.

We wandered down a long dark corridor, and I kept expecting to see a security guard who would shout at us and physically throw us out, or maybe something worse.  At the end of the corridor was a gymnasium. Girls in leotards were engaged in some pretty physical jumping up and down and waving their arms around. Mrs Drinkwater put her shopping bags on the floor and decided to join in. Now finding myself caught up in a catholic mass on a Friday morning is one thing, and I am no stranger to surprises and strange circumstances but this was becoming a little too surreal even for me.

Mrs Drinkwater

Mrs Drinkwater

The woman in charge of the aerobics class, pleasantly, if not a little sarcastically, asked if we would prefer to join her class rather than practising in the entrance. I made We need to go NOW signs with my hands and thought that if I started to leave the building Mrs Drinkwater and our friend would follow.

Safely waiting back outside the school for Mrs Sensible, the teachers started to emerge from the building. Some looked decidedly unhappy, one of them heard my dreadful Italian and she realised that I was English. She asked me to look at the answers she had given to the English questions. Now, I am not a teacher but the answers she had given were definitely incorrect. I shrugged. Mi dispiace, è sbagliato, I said as I shook my head. She looked stunned and wandered off. One or two others also asked me to mark their papers and I politely decline. I pointed at my wife and suggested they ask her. One girl bursting into tears was just too much for me.

There are two more exams to be sat before the 172 thousand teachers are weeded down to 11 thousand, I just hope and pray Mrs Sensible is not one of those that are weeded out.

A little Summer House

In 2009 I left Piemonte and went to Sicily in search of work. This cunning plan, was to find employment in a hotel, or maybe even at the USAF base at Signorella, I could then persuade Mrs Sensible, to move south to be closer to her family, the sun, sea and beaches.

Mrs Sensible thought this was utter madness, most of the Italians were trying to move north in search of work and her crazy English husband was moving south!! However she did see a positive benefit to the exercise. One, she would sleep better without me snoring in her ear and two, I would be forced to learn to speak Italian. Especially if I stayed with Zia E.

Zia E is a wonderful lady, she is the oldest sister of Mrs Sensible’s Dad, and we love her to bits. The only downside was she spoke very little English, maybe as much as hello, goodbye, one, two and three. Which in fairness matched my Italian.

One evening Mrs Sensible phoned to ask me how the job hunting was going. Not bad I told her, Berlitz want me to teach English to Italian Businessmen.  Your joking she said,  you can’t spell for toffee and your grammar is appalling. It’s not a problem I said, I will teach them to spell fonetically phoneticallie phonetically. There was a long pause and then Mrs Sensible asked me, how was my Italian coming along? Cosi cosi I replied, I am working on it. But you should hear Zia, her English is improving in leaps and bounds. She can now count to 30 and can tell me it is too cold for flip-flops in English. Mrs Sensible let out another audible sigh.

I didn’t secure a job in Sicily, however I did hear this wonderful story.

When Zia’s husband was alive, they owned a summer-house near a little village out in the countryside. Every year Zia and her husband would take a holiday, and visit the summer-house on the same 3 weeks every year. Life was fine, until one year they decided to change the dates of their holiday.

They arrived at the little summer-house 2 weeks early to find the front door was unlocked.  As Zia and Zio entered the house, the aroma of fine Italian cooking  wafted through the air to their noses. When they entered the dinning room, Zia was stunned to see a family of 6 sat at her table eating a meal. Zia asked the woman, who was sat at the table tucking into meat balls or maybe even spaghetti bolognaise what she thought she was doing .

Spag bog or meat balls

Do you want to join us for dinner??  (Credit: Walt Disney Alice in Wonderland Brill film)

The woman stood up and said “we live here and are eating our meal. What does it look like; and who the hell are you?” (Obviously it was said in Italian, with a lot of hand waving) 

When Zia told them she owned the house, the woman said you don’t live here, you only come for 3 weeks, and when you do we move back to the village. Why are you here now??

I think it was at this point that Zia blew a fuse and threw them out. She also decided to sell her little summer-house.

I did wonder how the family managed to live in Zia E’ house without her knowing. Zia explained that on her visits, she sometimes noticed the odd cup missing and maybe a rug not quite in the right position, but she just put it down to her memory and age.

Poo Poohed

We are up to our necks in snow, well almost up to our necks, maybe a little over our ankles if the truth be told. The snow that fell on Sunday is the cold wet type that freezes quickly, makes your fingers cold and the roads in Italy even more dangerous than they normally are.

On Midday Sunday the weather man warned that it would snow, the competition that Italy is running to find out if teachers like Mrs Sensible can have a proper contract was cancelled due to the forecast of heavy snow. Luigina and I looked at the beautiful blue sky and poo poohed them. Mrs Sensible washed the rugs and I hung them outside, they are still hanging there.

Frozen rugs, pure rug no horse meat

Frozen rugs.

On Monday morning on the way to work, I managed to pirouet my little Mini on the roundabout, as the car slide and slewed  towards the barriers, I could hear Mrs Sensible, she was somewhere deep in my head saying “I told you, you need to put snow tyres on your Mini” As I simultaneously asked God to stop the car from crashing and cursed the idiota who was trying to overtake my spinning car. I promised myself that I would change the tyres, immediately if not sooner.

Mrs Sensibles Car

Mrs Sensible’s Car

God answered my little prayer, both my little Mini and I survived our little spin on the roundabout. At lunch time I changed the tyres on both my impractical, but fun Mini and Mrs Sensible’s small but practical and economic Peugeot.

It was still snowing on Monday night when I was driving home,

Snow

Snow and a little pic of my thumb

My house is on the right, if the council used our taxes to install street lights, you would be able to see it. Luiginas house is also on the right. On the left is the house where the bereaved  German Shepard howls at night. The dog started howling after its mate died. The only time the dog doesn’t howl, is when Gilda, Luigina’s short but incredible fat sausage dog wanders down the road to bark at it.

One of these days the German Shepard will jump over the little garden fence and we will see how fast Gilda can actually run.

The snow effects everybody, even my hens are not very impressed, I opened the gate to let them out and they just glared at me.

Hens

Two legged egg laying machines.

Even after I walked back to check on Mrs Sensible’s rugs the hens hadn’t moved.

Hens

Hens, not the brightest animal.

My little Mini was frozen solid. The doors wouldn’t open and the wipers were frozen to the windscreen.

Pecora Nera One

Pecora Nera One

Last picture,

This is what Italy should look like,

IMG_1451

OK, admittedly this was taken on the beach, but you get the general idea. Roll on Summer.

No Comment

No comment!

Lost your password? Silly boy

 This morning I received an e mail inviting me to make a 30% return on my investment. All I needed to do was click on a link and then enter both my e mail address and e mail password. Duh!!

The scary thing is; the e mail came from a friend (you know who you are 🙂 ) and therefore a trusted e mail address.

I bounced a message to my friend to let her know that her account might have been hacked; I then sat pondering how safe my accounts are.

Every so often I become paranoid regarding internet security and my passwords. I log onto my e mail accounts, bank accounts, amazon, facebook, wordpress oh the list goes on and on and change my passwords with some new and devious password made up of  upper-case letters sprinkled with a few numbers and the odd Ὧ©ⅎ. The passwords become utterly unbreakable, even by me.

I then spend the next 3 weeks filling out the “have you lost your password again, stupid boy,”  just so that I can log into my internet life.

Twit form

Twit form

I have used passwords centred around the names of my children, wife and next doors  extremely fat but short legged sausage dog. I have even tried dates of birth, marriage & birthdays, but boy did it get me into trouble when I  asked Mrs Sensible the date we married.

In the end I have decided to simplify this password nonsense. I have decided to use the same password and phrase on all my accounts , one I won’t forget in a hurry. New password: Yourintroubleagain21

Watch the Birdie

I have man flu, I have a sore throat, head ache combined with a really bad case of feeling sorry for myself. This drastic illness struck me down on Saturday. So I took to my bed and sulked as only a man can.

Mrs Sensible coped admirably with me, she force fed me food I really didn’t want to eat, she didn’t shout too loud when I shuffled into the lounge in search of chocolate. I could quite get used to breakfast, dinner and tea in bed. Lunch arrived on a tray, complete with a glass of water for more Italian medicine, and I noted with surprise there was no glass of wine. I decided not to comment on this omission, I thought it might be detrimental to my already failing health.

Sunday was a glorious sunny day and Mrs Sensible wanted to wash the bedding. We are in the depth of winter here in Sunny Italy, and there are only a few good days for drying bedding sheets etc. But first Mrs Sensible had to force encourage me out of bed. She dropped several hints and I managed to persuade her, it was a lost cause by occasionally moaning and requesting items like my laptop, cups of tea etc, with my sorrowful but husky voice. Isn’t it amazing a sore throat gives you a husky voice and when I need one, for example when I was courting Mrs Sensible it didn’t materialise.

All through the weekend my wonderful wife fetched and carried for me, she administered hugs when I demanded them and cups of tea around the clock.

On Monday morning, Mrs Sensible had to go to school to teach her delightful Chilblains, before she left she provided me with breakfast in bed (a tub of yoghurt  some dried prunes in a bowl and a glass of water to take my medicine) Later when Mrs Sensible came back into the bedroom to collect the tray she asked if I had managed to eat everything. Nope I have hidden the prunes under the bed they didn’t look appetising. She looked you know, does that say something about me?

So on Monday morning I was languished in my bed, occasionally checking my e mails for work and snoozing, at lunch time I realised that if I wanted a cup of tea…. I would have to get out of bed and make it myself, uffa! After a shower and  veggi burgers (I really need to pluck up courage and talk to Mrs Sensible about the food she buys, last week it was rabbit, now veggi burgers!!!)

As I was feeling a little better I thought I would pen a quick post for you lot. So here it is.

Last year I took Mrs Sensible to the hospital in Alessandria for a chest x ray. When Mrs Sensible went in to have her photo took, I sat in the corridor talking to a nice Italian lady, who had lived in Canada and therefore understood English. An x Ray is normally a very simple affair, you go in, stand perfectly still, watch the budgie and click all done. But of course this is Italy. For some reason, the guy whose job it was to take Mrs Sensibles portrait, came storming out of the room, followed a few minutes later by Mrs Sensible who had her schoolmarm look.

It transpires, that when Mrs Sensible asked where she was to change, and where was her gown (to cover her modesty) the man said “ I am a radiologist, I have seen lots of naked women, just get undressed and put your clothes on that chair” He may have seen many naked women, but this was the first time he had come face to face with Mrs Sensible.

Mrs Sensible told the radiologist that she had lived in the UK, where they give you a gown and a changing cubical, she also explained about patient’s privacy and I am sure one or two other items. The radiologist gave in and asked Mrs Sensible if she could do the ‘taking the bra off without removing the T shirt manoeuvre’ She obliged and he took her picture.

NHS GOWN

Hospital gown, better than nothing

The lady from Canada, who was listening to Mrs Sensibles latest adventure, agreed and said it was a disgrace that Italian hospitals were so bad. She went in for her X ray and about 30 seconds later the Radiologist exited the room shouting, swearing and waving his hands about. Mrs Canada had decided she wanted to do the bra shuffle as well.

I think we caused a bit of a fuss at the hospital, because the other women who were sat waiting for their turn were muttering revolutionary thoughts such as “ if she didn’t have to get naked, why should I” and “how do you do the bra shuffle, I think mine it too big to do it”

Enough of Mrs Sensible, I am still poorly but as a brave little soldier I have gone into work to see how many people I can infect with man flu.

Sicily, Malta, string and a little bit of sticky back plastic.

Mrs Sensibles mum and dad, live near Ragusa in Sicily. I have spent the past seven years dropping hints that it might be nice for us to live near them. It might save the 3000km road trip we take every summer and Christmas (not that I am complaining) So I was quite interested to read this article  in the Times of Malta.

It seems that Malta is going to connect its electricity to the grid in Italy via Sicily. I really think one or two people will go grey before this project is finished.

I think the boffins in Malta should have a quick read of this, and then either scrap the idea or run a longer cable to Spain.

I love Italy and especially Sicily, but trying to connect an electrical cable between Sicily and Malta (the place of my birth) and expect it to work is utter madness. They should try something easier; maybe build a bridge from Sicily to Malta or solve the European debt crises.

I did a little bit of research and I will send my findings to the boffins in Malta.

Here is the connector that Malta has proudly designed.

Malta's electrical cable

Malta Cable

And here is the connector that Sicily is working on.

Italian Connection

Sicily Cable

As you can see they are pretty close. I guess the boffins will have to go to Gatwick Airport and buy a travel adapter so that they can connect the two cables together.

I wish them luck.

Rabbit, pizza or starve..

Last night Mrs Sensible and I agreed to meet after work in the town centre. Neither of us wanted to cook, so we decided to blow the housekeeping on a well deserved meal out.

Our first stop was the Chinese restaurant near the hospital. I had promised not to order everything that appears on the menu. I tend to get a bit carried away in Chinese restaurants and order loads and loads. I then send Mrs Sensible completely batty, by complaining that I am too full and need to consider dieting.

Unfortunately it was only ten past six, and I am sure you are aware, Italians eat at strange times. The guy who was setting the tables said “Velly solly closed, open later…”

We tried Santa Lucia the Italian Pizzeria / Restaurant, which was also closed even though it stated on the door that it opened at 6.30 ….. I checked my watch and it was 6.50.

I said “ok lets go home and I will cook bangers and mash.”

Oh good Mrs Sensible said we have some nice sausages in the fridge.

“Really… I didn’t know”

Yes they are pork and ( I was waiting for the word apple) rabbit. RABBIT!!! Cuddly, fluffy rabbit.

Fluffy bunny

Fluffy bunny

Frustrated peeved and miffed, I steered Mrs Sensible down the main street. Mrs Sensible walked into a shop that sold SLABS of pizza. She bought 2 pieces. I declined, I refuse to eat food that doesn’t look appealing and I was sulking.

They didn't look as nice as this

They didn’t look as nice as this

As we walked back to the car, Mrs Sensible started to lecture me on why I did want any SLABS of pizza. She said I was behaving like a naughty spoilt child. I tried to defend myself by explaining that I won’t eat Mc Donalds or Burger King even if I am starving.

On the way back to the car park we passed Santa Lucia the restaurant. Lo and behold it was open.  Food I said as I dragged her in the restaurant . Ok  ok she said I will take the pizza SLABS to work for my dinner.

As Mrs Sensible disappeared to visit the little girl’s room I ordered a glass of red wine and for Mrs Sensible some fizzy water.

The food was great, and by the time we had finished the meal Mrs Sensible had forgiven me for sulking.

And the SLABS of pizza…. Mrs Sensible had put the plastic bag that held them on the floor next to her chair, and when we left the restaurant she forgot to pick them up….

It’s flipping cold

It’s flipping cold, actually it is warm by Piemonte standards. Last night it was just under minus 1°C. Last winter it reached a staggering minus 22°C. Which amazed me, as I thought you had to visit the Arctic Circle to experience such low temperatures; not sunny Italy.

Anyway after completing my third day back at work following my Christmas Holiday, I decided I wanted a hot shower and a proper mug of English tea. I didn’t need a shower, but the heating had been switched of all day and I had the choice of a) going back out to the warm car and waiting for the house to heat up, b) disappearing under the duvet in the bed or c) having a hot and very long shower. Option C won the day.

I flicked the halogen heater on in the lounge, which is where I had decided to towel myself dry and drink my tea, and of course the heater in the bathroom, which is contra to good sense and most health and safety laws. I then quickly got undressed and just as I was about to step into the shower I remembered the kettle.

One of two heaters to help warm the house

One of two heaters to help warm the house

We have amazingly big windows in our house, they are designed to let the heat escape during the winter and allow the sun to cook the house in the summer. As I streaked from the bathroom through the lounge to the kitchen I was praying that Luigina didn’t decide to walk past the house, the sight of so many wrinkles in full flight might have shocked her.

I filled the kettle, whilst hopping from one cold foot to another on the freezing kitchen floor and then flicked the kettle switch. After a quick streak back to the bathroom, I dived into the shower and stood in absolute bliss as the steam rose around me.  Mrs Sensible was still at work so I didn’t even have to open the bathroom window. As I soaped my hair, I was contemplating how wonderful a hot shower really is, when the bathroom light went out. Strange I thought, then the shower started to blast freezing cold water onto me and the luxury steam vanished.

Exiting a shower is a very simple process, you simply slide the door to the right or maybe it is to the left and then just step out. However add the fun of dancing around the shower cubical in the dark, whilst trying to avoid the jet of freezing cold water, plus a little soap in the eyes oh! And add scattering and kicking various potions, shower gels, shaving cans and hair shampoo bottles that are normally stood in the corner of the shower tray and you find exiting the shower in the dark is no longer quiet so easy. From the lights going out, to the first blast of cold water, and finally exiting the shower must in reality have taken a little over five second. I certainly didn’t have time to swear more than three times.

Grabbing a towel and putting on my trusty flip-flops and still dripping wet; I went to the fuse box near the front door. The little red LED that flashes on the fuse box was not flashing, and the trip switch was still in the up position. So I grabbed the nearest coat, one of Mrs Sensible’s and set off outside to reset the main trip switch on the fuse box which just happens to be not only outside, but through the gate and stuck in a box on the front of the house.

The switch had tripped, and as I was resetting it Luigina said “Ciao Peter, come stai” As Gilda  Luigina’s dog decided to lick my wet toes I answered “Fantastic, sempre bene, molti bene, e’ lei?” She looked at me as I stood there with shampoo in my hair, Mrs Sensible’s coat, flip-flops and bare legs; while her stupid dog was weighing up if my toes were edible or not. She smiled, handed me 6 fresh eggs from the hens, wished me goodnight, took one last look at me called the dog and walked back to her house.

Had Mrs Sensible been home when I decided to have a shower and make a cup of tea at the same time, things would have gone differently. First she would have made sure that the bathroom window was open so that the steam wouldn’t build up, second I wouldn’t have had to streak to the kitchen as she would have prepared the cup of tea for me and thirdly and most importantly, the electric would not have tripped out. Mrs Sensible knows to turn off the two heaters before attempting to boil a kettle.

If you have seen Electrickery  you will know I am not a supporter of Italian Electrics, and in our all singing and dancing Italian house there are 15 switches in the lounge that enables me to operate not only the SINGLE light in the lounge, but also the lights in the kitchen, bathroom, hall, front door light, outside security lights, and in all probability several lights in Luiginas house, but if I try to boil a kettle and run two heaters whilst having a hot relaxing shower the fuse box throws the trip.

Simple arithmetic

First Halogen Heater      1.2 KW

Second Halogen Heater    800 w (one bar is non functioning)

Kettle                                  2 KW

Light bulb            sweet fanny adams

Total                           4 kw (ish)

Maximum allowable kw into the house before the trip has a tizzy fit and trips, 3KW

I don’t know why it didn’t trip when I first switched the kettle on, maybe it is Machiavellian and thought it would be better and more fun to wait until I was in the shower and had soap in my hair. Who knows in Italy?

Spag Bog at Christmas

I am the only Englishman in our company, we have a lot of Italians, one Albanian and two savage cats. But only one Englishman.

Every year just before Christmas, everyone receives a large Panettone. This is very much like a cross between a soft bread and a fruit cake. And please don’t you Italians get your knickers in a twist over my description because I like them as much as the next Englishman Italian.

panettoneonnewyears2

Throughout the year, we play quite a lot of practical jokes on each other. Nobody has yet beat my lesson on English swear words. But they do try.

This morning we all received our Panettone, and I had a little gift prepared for them; ten 200 gram tins of  Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese (Spag Bog)

Spag bog

As I reverently, handed them out. I was greeted with amusement, bemusement and the odd remark of  “ma que skifo”  Marco wanted to know if the pasta in the can was dry and did he have to add water, while  Lorenzo discretely tried to abandon his can on the desk.

I tried really hard to convince them that this is how we prefer our Spaghetti Bolognese in England.

IMG_00000176

Merry Christmas to you all.

Pecora Nera

An English lesson on how to swear.

One of the engineers in our factory, asked me to teach him a few English words. Ok I said what do you want to know.

English swear words please.

I decided to help Lorenzo out, because I am that kind of guy. So while we were stood by the coffee machine I started his first English lesson.

swear-wordLorenzo the first and most important swear word you will need and use in the factory is… nasty. In England we use this word all the time. For example, when a car driver cuts you up, we shout out of the window “you are nasty” and if someone spills wine on you, you may call them nasty. “Is it like stupido he asked” oh no much worse, it is very vulgar.

I then leaned closed to Lorenzo, making sure I didn’t spill my coffee on him and conspiritally whispered, “There is a really bad English swear word but if I tell you it, you must never use it, when Mrs Sensible is in the office or I will be in big trouble.”

Lorenzo’s eyes lit up. And I whispered “naughty” or if you want to be really rude say “you are very naughty”  With a straight face, I spent a good ten minutes making sure Lorenzo had mastered how to pronounce these two swear words and then I walked back to my office.

Later during the morning, I wandered back through the factory to the drinks machine. I fancied another coffee,  I seem to live on them while I am at work. As I took a sip of the coffee, I heard Davide shout “Sei nauoooty”  and Lorenzo reply non è vero. It seems the new swear words were working their way around the factory. I am sure, the infatuation with my new English swear words will die out on Thursday. Because on Thursday Marco will be back at the factory and his English is pretty good, and besides I taught him a whole list of proper swear words one evening over a beer.

But for the moment I can’t walk down the factory without grinning as the engineers call each other nauoooty and nasty.

Self Medicating

A couple of days ago Mrs Sensible went to the doctors. I am not sure why she went, I prefer not to discuss dentists or doctors, as there is always some pain involved, and the pain is normally my pain. However Mrs Sensible returned with a hypodermic syringe that was sporting a rather long and dangerous looking needle.

Big pointy needle

Big pointy needle

What is that for, and where did you get it I asked, while silently praying it wasn’t for me. My wife takes great care of my health by monitoring my crisps and alcohol consumption.

From the doctor Mrs Sensible calmly told me. It is my anti flu jab, do you think you can give me the injection? Me!  Give my wife an injection and be responsible for the pain it will involve. I refuse to even hurt spiders, ants or even daddy longlegs. The only beast I will kill or hurt is the blood sucking mosquito.

No sorry, can’t do it. No way I blustered. Why didn’t the doctor give it to you? He is the doctor after all.

Mrs Sensible explained that the doctor gave her the prescription and by the time she had cashed in the prescription for the lethal pointy looking syringe the doctor had gone home. And besides in Italy it is not uncommon for members of the family or maybe a friend to be a dab hand with the syringe. Mrs Sensible’s mum would do it if she was here.

I am your typical Englishman I frown on pain and syringes. Apart from our scary dentist, the last time I received a needle, was some thirty-one years ago when I had my last and hopefully only tetanus jab. We English take aspirin and a glass of lucozade when we have the flu I tried to explain.

All an Englishman needs when he is ill.

All an Englishman needs when he is ill.

It is now three days later, the needle is nowhere to be seen and Mrs Sensible has not gone down with flu, so maybe she asked our neighbour Luigina to give it. After all Luigina is Italian, she is a dab hand with a pick axe in the garden and has written many books on Italy. I would think a simple injection would be a piece of cake for her.

On a footnote I have looked at our medicine tin that used to contain nothing scarier than a pair of nail scissors and a pack of plasters. Under the control of Mrs Sensible, it has grown to a medicine draw and looking at it we could probably survive a nuclear war.

A Sensible Post

Mrs Sensible read my blog at the weekend and told suggested to me that I write something useful. Something that would help anyone who decides to travel to Italy. So here is my price comparison post.

Mrs Sensible is responsible for making sure I eat properly and she therefore buys the groceries. I don’t really take much notice of the cost of mundane things, such as bread, milk, cheese and butter my interest, is in the cost of wine and grappa. However in the interest of blogging I have made an effort.

Benzina or petrol as the English call it, is rising at an incredible rate. I was amazed to find out why the Italian government justify some of the taxes on a litre of Benzina.

Here are some of the taxes that make up the cost of petrol.

0.00103 euro for the War of Ethiopia 1935 – 1936 (yep, Mussolini started the trend)
0.00723 euro for the Suez crisis of 1956
0.00516 euro for the Vajont dam burst of 1963
0.00516 euro for the Florence floods of 1966
0.00516 euro for the Belice earthquake of 1968
0.0511 euro for the Friuli earthquake of 1976
0.0387 euro for the Irpinia earthquake of 1980
0.106 euro for the Lebanon war of 1983
0.0114 euro for the intervention in Bosnia/Herzegovina 1996
0.020 euro for renewal of transport workers (autoferrotranvieri) contract 2004
0.0073 euro for conservation and maintenance of ‘beni culturali’
0.040 euro to finance influx of immigrants due to Libya crisis 2011
0.0089 euro Liguria/Tuscany floods autumn 2011
0.082 euro Save Italy decree 2012 (Not sure it has worked)

Near my house there are two petrol stations. Tamoil charges €1.82 a litre for petrol and TE who are less than 100 metres away charges €1.69 a litre for petrol.  Now you will be wondering why there is such a big difference in the price. Let me enlighten you.

Mrs Sensible uses TE,

Mrs Sensible's Garage TE. €1.69 a litre

Mrs Sensible’s Garage TE. €1.69 a litre

This is an unmanned garage.

Mrs Sensible can't buy important things like chocolates, sweets or drinks because no one works here.

Mrs Sensible can’t buy important things like chocolates, sweets or drinks because no one works here.

Mrs Sensible has to pay for her fuel using the little machine.

The garage attendant

The garage attendant

She then has to don protective clothing and fill her own car up.

Protective Clothes. PS This is not Mrs Sensible.

When this is done she walks back to the machine and collects her receipt. It may even be raining, it does sometimes.

Mrs Sensible's receipt

Mrs Sensible’s receipt

I on the other hand prefer to use Tamoil

My Garage, as you can see sometimes it is not sunny in Italy

My Garage, as you can see sometimes it is not sunny in Italy

At this garage I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my warm car. Maria will fill up my car, clean my windshield take my money and return with my receipt. I once discussed the benefits of both garages with Mrs Sensible but she has this strange fixation with the difference of 13 cents a litre.

My receipt a little less fuel for my €20.00

I once asked Maria why her petrol was so much more expensive than the garage down the road and she shrugged her shoulders shook out her hair and said “non lo so”

Maria our garage attendant

Maria my garage attendant

Vicious snake attacks defenseless women in Italy

I know I have just done a post about dogs but Gilda the extremely fat but short legged sausage dog yesterday saved the life of our neighbour Luigina. I know I hinted that Gilda was a good for nothing fat little eating machine but yesterday at about twelve minutes past two in the afternoon she saved her owner’s life.

Luigina who is a spritely 87 years old was brutally stalked and then attacked by a very long snake as she walked across the garden on the way to feed the chickens.The beast of a snake was slithering through the grass with the intentions of impaling its fangs into Luigina’s heel. Fortunately Luigina saw the snake and realising she was in mortal danger she let out a piercing scream and clutched her hands to her breast, OK my imagination is running away a bit but she did shout bestia and wave her hands about a little.  (A picture of Luigina can be seen here L’orto and the Fairies)

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

Gilda who heard her mistress’s distress came running to her rescue. Her tail was in the full mast attack position and her belly was clear of the ground by at least 2.5 centimetres. Gilda pounced on the snake and pinning it down with her front paws, she sunk her teeth into the middle of the snake and gave it a really good shake.

Donna our guestaway who is not scared of snakes dead or alive estimated the snake to be about this big.

Upon further inspection by our resident expert (again Donna) the snake was deemed to be a Natrix  Natrix or to the uneducated who don’t speak Latin the common grass snake, but as Luigina pointed out it could have been a   Vipera Aspis  (viper).

I couldn't find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

I couldn’t find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

Luigina is full of praise for Gilda and the snake is still on show for anyone who wants to come and have a look. This coming Saturday Luigina will bury the snake with full military honours near the black fig tree behind the chicken run. Attendees are expected to wear black or full military dress uniform.

The mother of Mrs Sensibles discussing the graveside military honours include firing a volley over the grave

Truffles & Dogs

Black Truffles

I have put my foot down and told Mrs Sensible that I am buying a puppy, well maybe I haven’t told her but I have dropped enough hints. One of our neighbours has a dog and they go truffle hunting, the pair of them run up and down the trees at the bottom of the vineyard making lots of noise digging around in the trees for truffles. It looks great fun.

One morning as I stood watching them I asked Mrs Sensible who our neighbour sells the truffles to and does he make much money. Restaurant pay a lot of money for truffles she told me and with one of her school marm looks she asked me why.

Just wondering I answered.

A while ago I broached the subject of buying a puppy and Mrs Sensible pointed out that we already have two dogs. “Really?” I answered more than a little puzzled. “Of course we do. we share Luigina’s dogs”.

Luigina has two dogs, a short fat dachshund called Gilda or sometimes called streger (witch) or even stregona whose only claim to fame is she will eat anything she can catch and despite her short legs and fat body the incredible ability to outrun and outpace anything that tries to catch her, this includes the huge German Shepherd that lives up the road and Luigina armed with a brush.

Her other dog is a one hundred percent pure breed mongrel named Lela or gamba lungo. Lela is a very timid dog that can jump over every fence on the land including the chicken run fence, which she does once or twice a week when she decides she wants an egg.

Lila & Gilda

Lila & Gilda.. the photo doesn’t do justice to Gilda’s belly

Neither of these two dogs are good material for truffle hunting. Lela is impossible to train, she even dares to ignore Mrs Sensible, even I don’t do that. As for Gilda I know she would make a great truffle dog, with her short legs her nose is already dragging along the ground. The problem is any truffle Gilda found would disappear into her belly before I could shout Oye.

So I have decided to get a small sensible house trainable truffle hunting dog.

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag

Now I have heard that it is easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission so I am going dog hunting and later hopefully truffle hunting.

Italian Customer Service

Peach

Uttering the words Italian and customer service in one breath is as bad as using King Herod and child care in the same sentence they just don’t go together, except in the case of our local macellaio. Mario knows this particular pazzo Inglese can be forced to buy his wonderful homemade sausages, fillets of steak and other tasty produce, all Mario has to do is point at them and say ancora? And I will nod happily and say si si.

I also receive incredible service from the local corner shop. Maria who serves behind the counter always serves me before anyone else in the shop. It doesn’t matter who is waiting to be served or how many people are queuing to pay she always says prego prego as she gestures me to the front of the queue. No no io sono bene. I will reply. But the other women who are either gossiping about local village life or queuing to pay soon join in prego prego they chant.

So I am forced to go to the front of the queue and using my appalling Italian start purchase my shopping. When Maria and the women first started to invite me to queue jump I initially thought it was due to the respect Mrs Sensible holds as the local school teacher; she is not called Mrs Sensible in the village but Maestra. It took the episode of the peaches for me to realise why they always let me go to the front of the queue.

Mrs Sensible sent me to the shop one afternoon to purchase five peaches, now I know you normally buy fruit by the weight but I am aware of my limitations when it comes to ordering in Italian so I began with Io Bisogno cinque pesche per favore, (I understand that I should us “vorrei” and not bisogno but it never sounds right when I say it) Maria gave me one of those looks that are saved for the village idiot, I hadn’t noticed at this point that one or two of the women were already giggling and snorting into their handkerchiefs, I just thought there was a cold going around.

Maria disappeared into the back of the shop where the freezers are kept. I thought this was really odd as the peaches were in baskets just to the right of me. Stupid old bat I thought. Maria returned with one box of fish fingers, one frozen fillet of fish in a box and what looked like a piece of old shoe leather that might or might not have been dried fish.

Fish Fingers

Fish Fingers

Erh no no!! I said, pesche I repeated pointing at the basket of peaches cinque pesche. Maria grinned and said pesca Peter pesca.

The women behind me were dabbing their eyes and thinking the pazzo inglese never fails to let us down this time he ordered five fish instead of five peaches. With as much dignity as I could muster I worked my way through the rest of my shopping and thankfully left the shop.

Sauna German Style

Sauna German Style

Last time I was in Germany I visited a spa and sauna centre, and after the swim I decided to try my first ever sauna so wrapping my towel around my waist I went in search of the sauna rooms.

The first wooden door had a sign with DAME and although my German is limited to words learnt while watching war films, I thought it was prudent not to enter that particular door. The following door had Finnish printed on it, so very slowly I peeked inside. Four huge male Germans were sat on the wooden benches buck naked. It was only as I entered the sauna that I realised that although they were naked, under my towel I still had my trunks on. I am not sure which would be more embarrassing, caught wearing trunks in a German sauna or sitting there naked with a bunch of Germans.

I decided that they were men after all and we are all made the same, just slightly different in places, so I excused myself and retreated back to the changing room to ditch the trunks. Knowing you are nude under a towel as you walk through the swimming pool area while everyone else has a costume on is a very nerve-racking experience, once or twice I nearly chickened out and went back for my costume.

Swimming Trunks

When I returned to the sauna the four Germans were still sat cooking away, so ditching my protective towel I sat down on one of the benches as far away from them as I could. It was hot and I mean really hot; after walking out of the sauna once I knew I would have to stay at least 5 minutes or if I was lucky I might manage to leave when the Germans had had enough.  As I sat watching beads of sweat miraculously appear on my arm I decided that protocol or no protocol, I desperately needed to leave the sauna. It was just as I started to stand up that the door opened and three pretty women walked in. One lay down on the bench and the other two sat across from me.

No one uttered a word; none of the Germans said the girl’s sauna is down the corridor. I couldn’t say anything, my German was limited to halt, ausfart and bitte and all I could think was they are naked, nude, no clothes and oh lord so am I.  I was already cooked to a crisp and wanted to leave the sauna, but now I would have to stand up in front of these women, and no way was I about to wander out with nothing to cover my modesty. My hands had moved from my knees and were now strategically covered myself, which wasn’t really necessary because it is amazing what heat and fright does to a man.

As I sat there pondering what my options were, the sauna door opened and one of the attendants appeared. I immediately thought he had come to shoo the girls out and send them back to the girly sauna, but with quick clever flicks of a towel he forced some of the heat out of the sauna and into the corridor. I thought I could therefore manage a couple more minutes in the reduced temperature.

The attendant then closed the sauna door and tried to cool the room down by splashing water onto the bricks in the corner, lots of steam filled the room and to be honest it didn’t seem to get any cooler in fact I got the impression that  the room was getting hotter. Grabbing his towel the attendant started to wave it in the air above the girls, I glanced across at this spectacle but it wasn’t erotic. To be honest I was too busy trying to work out my exit plan to be worried over erotic thoughts.

The guy then moved around the room to the Germans I waited with bated breath for him to reach me so that I could receive some cool air. When it was finally my turn he started to wave the towel above and in front of me. This guy was either a sadist or stupid what was he trying to do kill me? I had to take a look at his towel to make sure it wasn’t a heat gun; I swear I was receiving third degree burns.

Third Degree Burns

When he had finished his little act everyone clapped, I have decided that the Germans are mad.

I left the sauna as soon as the attendant opened the door and showed the girls a clean pair of heals as I escaped down the corridor. In the corridor with my towel securely fastened around my waist I realised that it hadn’t been as bad as I thought, no one whistled or laughed as I exited, I am sure they would have in England, it was all just so .. normal maybe a bit surreal. I wandered down the corridor and came across two old dears both very old, very naked and very wrinkled who were chatting away sat on their towels next to the biggest Jacuzzi I have ever seen. There were already ten people in it and space for at least another fourteen.  So I made up number eleven and ditching my towel I entered the Jacuzzi.

As I sat amongst the bubbles feeling very relaxed my mind drifted to my wife Mrs Sensible who would be ironing or cooking parmigiana. I am sure she would love to sit in a sauna and relax in a Jacuzzi, but I know there is no way she would do it nude. It is just not done in Italy or for the matter in the UK.

Thanks to Pixby Shumbles for inspiring my post. I did write a post about swimming in the spa but it has disappeared.

Hey Ho the snow is on it’s way

Snow Chains

Snow Chains

Now is the time of year when Italians dig out their snow chains and put them in the boot of their car. Snow chains are a fiendish device; they were invented in 1904 by Harry D. Weed in New York. See I have done my research this time and even added a link to the Wiki page.

We have two sets of chains, Mrs Sensible has some in the boot of her car and I have a set in the boot of my Mini. Despite the fact that last year we had snow up to our armpits, I have never successfully managed to fit a set of chains to either car. Under careful supervision I once managed to fit one chain onto the spare wheel while Giorgio my instructor helped to pull and stretch the chains into position. But it is important to note that the spare wheel was not connected to the car, nor was it cold and wet, nor was I up to my armpits in snow and there were two of us unhindered by wheel arches slush and passing motorists.

Last February under protest I did get out of bed at 6.00 am to fit a set of chains to Mrs Sensible’s Peugeot. When she had finished her breakfast and entered our garage at 7.30 am to drive the car away I was still sat amid twisted chains cursing both the car, Mr Harry De Weed and the beautiful snow that carpeted our garden.

I suggested she took my mini as it was great fun pretty good in the snow. Fifteen minutes later I received a tearful phone call from Mrs Sensible who had embedded my Mini in a snow drift and successfully blocked the main junction at Rosignano. Half of the villages of Rosignano were in their cars stuck behind her and the other half were stuck in front of her.

It took me 35 minutes to walk to her through the snow. By the time I had arrived some thoughtful but angry residents had dug my Mini out and pushed it away from the junction. It was not Mrs Sensible’s fault as she is a good driver, and it wasn’t my fault for not fitting the chains on the car it was Mr Harry D Weeds fault for inventing something so stupid.

Although this morning to comply with Italian law, I have put a set of chains in the boot of both cars I have made a solemn promise to Mrs Sensible that I will buy her a set of winter tyres at the weekend.

The snow chains pictured are not mine, I never intend to see mine again. I have pinched the picture from another WordPress blogger called Salish Sea who it seems has managed the art of fitting snow chains.

Marmite Challenge

I have stupidly accepted a challenge from  Adventure in Croatia at stake is  a lot of money, one thousand lira. All I have to do is find one Italian who likes Marmite.

I personally don’t think it will be very difficult, I mean come on Italians eat all sorts of things, squid octopus, asino, cavallo ( I have used the Italian of donkey and horse so as not to upset the more squeamish among you)

I will update you as soon as I have won my one thousand lira.

Red Cross Parcel

I get asked what do I miss about the UK. I normally respond nothing just my children who still live in the UK oh and perhaps Fish and Chips and a decent beer.

I don’t miss the rain or the non arrival of summer, I even enjoy the manic Italian driving. Mrs Sensible prefers English roads and drivers. To be honest Mrs Sensible is more British than I am in attitude, I think I have easily slid into the Italian style of life.

I miss everything that is in the picture but my poor suffering children and friends are forced to bring me supplies in their suitcases when they come visiting. Lucy managed to fit all the above in one suitcase and her clothes in her hand luggage. It did cost me a small fortune in Italian summer dresses for her while she was here but it was well worth it.

Veggie Man

It is nearly November and my little vegetable plot is still providing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and aubergines for the kitchen plus eggs from the hens.

Earlier this year I found a great way to keep my cauliflower, broccoli and potatoes pest free. Spray them once a month with the DIY organic pesticide. I found the following recipe on the internet, and at first I was a bit dubious but it works for me. I have added an ingredient because it is important to tweak a recipe and make it your own.

Recipe

Four chilli peppers.

One clove of garlic.

Half a pint of water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 to 2 glasses of red wine.

Method

Step one

Chop up the chilli peppers and place them in an old jam jar or honey jar, we have plenty because for some reason Mrs Sensible washes jars and stores them in the cupboard. I think she is a secret hoarder.

Step two

Take a sip of the red wine, this is a very important part of the recipe and it is important to get it right, if you are not sure you have done this properly take another sip to be sure.

Step three

Chop up the garlic and place them in the jar with the chilli peppers.

Step four

Repeat step two but this time really savour the wine. It is impossible to add too much wine at this stage.

Step five

Add the olive oil and fill the jar with water. Leave for one week.

Final step

If you have used up all the wine well done, maybe you might want to add just a little bit more to the glass so that you can stand back and admire your jar of organic pesticide with a contented glow. If you did not use all the wine you really ought to change your wine supplier. I would recommend Marco Bellero.

Application

Strain the liquid into a spray bottle, be very careful not to spill any of the liquid on your hands or the work surface because you will stink of garlic and peppers for days.

This is the first year that I have attempted to grow vegetables. I love wandering down to the L’orto to see if there are any strawberries hiding under the leaves. I have been very lucky and everything I planted has grown. So much so that I have decided to go into  wine production.

Planting my first wine tree

Never travel without your Tom Tom

I survived my five days in Serbia as the translator for Franco our engineer. We flew with the Serbian national airways JAT and we were treated not only to a sandwich but a glass of pop and a cup of tea. I also noted that the airhostesses didn’t spend the flight trying to sell me lottery tickets, bus tickets and smoke free cigarettes. It was a pleasant change from Ryanair the company that I normally use to move around Europe.

We rented a little Chrysler Spark  from Unirent at the Airport, Alexsandar charged me 10,500 Dinar for the 5 days, it sounded like an enormous amount of money until I converted it to euros a paltry €90. Alexsandar said he would only charge me for 4 days because today is nearly over. It was only 8pm!!

Alexandar, Franco and I walked around the slightly battered car adding scratches and dints onto the rental form, there were so many I nearly just coloured the form in. When we reached the bonnet I pointed out a whole host of dents that did not appear on the form. Alexsandar raised his eyes to heaven and said “why should be on form, it is stone chip no? how stone chip be fault of driver?” Even so I coloured them in.

Sitting in our 90 euro hire car I tried to find the hotel on our Tom Tom, despite various searches it, failed to find the road I then tried the address of the factory which is the largest building in the city and only 2 kilometres from our hotel, again Tom Tom couldn’t locate the road.  After twenty minutes of fiddling with the Tom Tom I walked back to Alexsandar in the airport to see if he could help.

Alexsandra greeted me with a smile and “ah! you still here” I explained our predicament and he replied “Tom Tom no good in Serbia, only has big road on it” So our carful preplanning in the office and the €30 euro we paid to add the Serbian map onto the sat nav was a total waste of time. In the end we in-putted the city of Kragujevac and decided to just head for the centre and by a map.

Driving down a dual carriageway, miles from any civilisation and surrounded by very dark countryside my fantastic Tom Tom suddenly announced “you have reached your destination” Franco looked at me shrugged his shoulders and started to fire off a load of questions. Scusi non capisco I answered. Not really a good start to my week as his personal translator.

The following morning we tried once again to locate the factory with my beloved Tom Tom and failed miserably so we asked the nice lady in the hotel reception to arrange a taxi for us. Five minutes later we climbed into a Taxi that was even tattier than our hire car and set off in search of the Factory. Our driver was obviously practising for the Le Mans as he raced off through the chaotic streets. I don’t scare easily but I did whisper the odd prayer. The taxi cost a staggering 230 dinar, not only that but we had arrived at the wrong factory gate.

A second Taxi arrived and I flagged him down and shouted TAXI. The driver got out of his car and walked over to me and in pretty good English he said “where you go” I really couldn’t concentrate on a suitable answer I  just stood there staring at him with my mouth open while his taxi slowly but surely rolled away down the road without him. His previous passenger was still in the car and didn’t even bat an eyelid, maybe it is a common occurrence in Serbia. Franco broke the spell by pointing at the departing Taxi and shouting attenzione, attenzione.

While I suggested to Franco that taking this Taxi was not a good idea the driver set off running down the road after his Taxi. We did eventually arrive at the factory gates in one piece and another 81.20 Dinarios out-of-pocket.

Two taxis one heart attack total cost 2 euros 68 cents.

A little prayer

Oh Lord please help. I have been a good boy today so why did I have to receive a phone call from Mrs Sensible at 13.50 today to remind me that I have to visit Roberto our friendly  dentist. Lord I am sure you remember the pain and suffering he put me through before. If you can’t remember please plug in your laptop and read this This might hurt a little.

Why Lord did you help my wife to remember the dentist appointment? Did I not pray hard enough on the way to work asking you to make her forget.

Lord if I have to go tonight please either make Roberto too ill to be there or let him decide we need to wait a day or six.

I promise I will be a good boy for the rest of the week.

P.S

Just in case you can’t make Roberto ill and he does decided to drill and fool around with my teeth I am going to take some pain killers before I go. I know I promised I wouldn’t. But these are hard times.

God bless everyone except dentists.

Electrickery

It is getting cold and at the moment and we don’t want to use the central heating, because our gas does not come from the mains, it is delivered by a tanker and it costs a fortune. The first year we lived in Italy we received a 998.00 euro gas bill for two winter months. We are now pretty frugal and stay warm with jumpers and shivering. So last night on the way home from work I purchased an electric heater for the bathroom (don’t mention electricity and bathrooms as that is the least of my problems) Purchasing this one item started a argument   discussion  with Mrs Sensible on ‘why does Italy have to be so complicated’. I tried to use the difference between Italian and English plugs as an example to no avail.

In the UK we have 2 plugs. The standard fused plug.

For any Italians reading this we have a fuse in the plug for safety and we don’t use sellotape to join the wires together.

The two pin shaver plug.

UK Shaver plug

UK Two pin shaver plug

We also have a simple adapter should you want to use the shaver in a standard plug socket.

UK Adapter

All very nice and easy. It is because we have an organisation in the UK called the British Standards Institution (BSI) based in Chiswick London who try to keep things orderly and simple. Don’t misunderstand me the Italians also have an organisation it is probably based in Napoli and will go by the initials UGC or the longer form Uno Grande Casino (a big mess). In the office of UGC Giuseppe will scratch his ear with his chewed pencil and try to work out how to make life more complicated for the average Italian. If he isn’t devising a new law that requires new electrical heaters to be fitted with non standard plugs he will be drafting new laws that contradict existing laws.

Back to the plugs.

In Italy they have standardised on lots of plugs. They have the two pin plug that is very similar to the UK shaver plug. Don’t try to use it in an English shaver socket as it won’t fit unless you modify it with a pair of pliers by bending the pins.

Small two pin plug

 The small three pin plug that is found on laptops, hoovers and small heaters

Small three pin plug

And the large three pin plug that is also found on computers, hoovers and small heaters

Large three pin plug

The strange and very stupid appliance plug that is found on washing machines, dish washers and cookers.

Appliance plug

Our house should be fitted with these elongated plug sockets
so that at least two of the plugs will fit. Unfortunately the house was refurbished by an Italian and we have some rooms with large sockets and some with small sockets and nowhere is there a  socket to accommodate the appliance plug. What we do have is an assortment of adaptors that enable us to fit a large plug into a small socket or a small plug into a large socket.

We also have adapters so that we can fit the appliance plug into small or large sockets. But they are always hard to find. I can buy 3 of each and two weeks later they have vanished.

To make life even more interesting we have a toaster, kettle, hoover and various lights that still have UK plugs fitted. Four years ago I did consider removing the UK plugs and change them for Italian plugs. I was dissuaded as soon as I realised that Italian plugs do not contain fuses and I couldn’t choose between large or small Italian plugs.

To plug my reading lamp that has a UK plug on it,  into my bedroom socket I need to use a European UK/Italian adapter.

I also need to use a  large to small Italian adapter and a three-way adapter so that I can use my laptop at the same time.

Utter madness!!!

One evening after pondering the plug problem over a glass of grappa I devised the perfect solution, I would standardise all our sockets and plugs, we would use one size only. In fact we would swap to the English Standard. I would order from Amazon 30 UK sockets and a bag full of UK plugs. Mrs Sensible said no.

I tried to negotiate, I pleaded, I cried, and I gnashed my teeth but still she said no. So I am stuck with the Italian system, I think my wife was worried that I was trying to create a little bit of England in Italy, something I could show to my Italian friends when they came around to our house for shepherd’s pie and brown ale.

And the little heater I bought, which plug did it have? Of course an appliance plug.

DIY

English weather in Italy

It has taken me four months to get around to fixing the curtain rail and Sunday afternoon seemed like the ideal time. One reason was it was pouring down with rain so there was no hope of pottering in the garden and the second reason was my wife has started to use a peg to close the curtains at night. Not any old peg, a big red plastic peg. Mrs Sensible is big on hints.

I personally don’t see the need for curtains in the bedroom. The only person who overlooks the house lives one kilometre away on the other side of the valley and I like the curtains open so that I can watch the sunset in the evening. I don’t know how good the sunrise in the morning is because unlike my wife who allegedly has seen it nearly every day. I am never awake in time to experience this profound and moving spectacle.

Sunset from the bedroom window

Back to the problem of the curtain runner. The curtain runner is very simple device, two little plastic pulleys, lots of plastic hoops with wheels on, one technical piece of cord and two plastic thingamajigs that should whizz along the runner enabling the curtain to open for the sunrise and close and shut out the wonderful Italian sunsets.

I laid the contraption on the floor of the living room and slowly started to disassemble it. Quiet straight forward to be honest, no screws just pull the plastic ends and it miraculously falls apart into lots of little plastic runners and assorted bits. While Mrs Sensible was in the kitchen baking apple pie and biscuits I sat pondering how this simple device that contained two pulleys and one technical piece of string worked. It is in fact quiet ingenious and totally baffled me. I could see the hole in the plastic thingamajigs where the technical piece of cord should be attached. But once re assembled it still didn’t operate.

I kind of thought it couldn’t be that simple, after all it is Sunday afternoon, it is raining when it should be sunny and I had forgotten to include all the little plastic hoops that the curtain hangs from. I think subconsciously I left the little plastic bits out because I knew from bitter experience that nothing ever works first time.

From the kitchen my wife heard me struggling and also the new names I was now using for the technical piece of cord. She suggested I strip down the one from the guest bedroom and see how a good curtain runner works. It sounded like a great idea. After all that is all the Chinese do isn’t it. “Please to send curtain rail, we make copy, cheaper and quicker.”

So I did as my darling wife suggested. I took the step ladders into the guest bedroom and started to remove the curtains and then the curtain rail. There was a split second as I unscrewed the curtain rail when I asked myself how this simple ten minute DIY job of rethreading a piece of cord was suddenly becoming so complicated and time consuming. Maybe I would need to call in an expert or allow my wife to continue to use the red peg to close the curtains.

I placed the good curtain runner from the spare bedroom next the devastated curtain runner on the lounge floor and slowly I took it to pieces. I made sure that I kept the plastic parts separate. I examined how the technical piece of cord was attached to the runners and how it looped around the two pulleys, I handled it as one might handle an unexploded bomb, and very slowly I reassembled it making sure I included all the little plastic hoops and bits. Testing it by pulling the technical cord I was not at all surprised that I now had two curtain runners that didn’t operate.

As I sat glaring at the assorted plastic parts scattered in various piles around the lounge and wondering if Eunice had another red peg available for the Guest bedroom, my darling wife was quick to point out that she had also suggested that I should have just swopped the curtain onto the spare curtain rail in the bedroom and not had to mess at all.

You see we have two curtain rails on each window. One for the curtains and a second inner curtain rail to hang heavy curtains to keep out the winter cold, the cold winters of Italy has been quite a shock to me I thought I was escaping the UK to the land of sun. It was a shock when the first winter reached minus twenty degrees centigrade. I refuse to hang the heavy winter curtains; they are ugly and have a peculiar smell. I also did not want to use the heavy curtain rail as I initially wanted that feel good feeling every man receives when he completes a successful Sunday DIY job.

Looking at the two broken curtain rails I decided I would have a better chance of fixing the guest bedroom curtain rail because I hadn’t really tampered too much with it. So again I slowly stripped it back down to its basic components. As I reached the plastic thingamajig I spotted that the technical piece of cord was trapped between the runner and the aluminium rail thereby causing a massive component failure. I think I remember studying about component failure during a sigma six course whilst working for Vickers Pneumatics.

I slowly reassembled the curtain rail making sure that the technical cord was not twisted and was able to run smoothly in the pulleys. As I pulled the cord I was pleased no not pleased I was overjoyed that the plastic thingamajigs not only whizzed closed but also whizzed open. Fuelled by this success and by my mounting confidence in my ability as a DIY expert I successfully reassembled the other curtain rail.

As I eat Eunice’s wonderful apple pie and type this post I am sure there is a moral to this story but I am stuffed if I can figure it out.

Fingersssssss!!!!!

Image

Winter is not too far around the corner and we have been warned it will be as bad as last year. It is already becoming difficult to dry the clothes outside. In our old house we had a wood burning oven (stufa) in the lounge in an attempt to warm the house while keeping the gas bills to a minimum. I had devised a wonderful method of balancing the metal clotheshorse  on the stufa in an attempt to dry our clothes.

Image

As with all great ideas it was unfortunately fraught with problems not just scorched bed linen but the odd accident.

One evening as I removed the fully loaded clotheshorse from the top of the stufa I turned to my right to stand it on the floor. With amazing speed the stupid thing managed to concertina in on itself crushing four of my fingers between the metal legs. I looked at my fingers which were now securely trapped as if in a giant mouse trap. Then the pain moved from my fingers up my arm and finally started to registered in my brain. I looked at Mrs Sensible and shouted “ah ah ah ah!”

She looked back at me still holding some wet washing in her hands and replied “What what what what” I was desperately trying to prise the clotheshorse legs apart with my elbow and left leg but every time I moved my body the maiden managed to close a bit more. Grimacing and looking to see if there were any of my fingers on the floor I managed to shout “FINGERS FINGERS AHHW  AHWW  FINGEERRRRRS”

Finally she got the message and understood that I was in some kind of pain she dropped the washing on the chair and grabbing  the legs of the clotheshorse she tried to prise them apart.   Finger finger argh I shouted. She was pulling them in the wrong direction and was helping the maiden to remove my fingers.

Quickly swapping direction she managed to prise the legs apart enough for me to pull out my mangled and twisted fingers. I immediately shoved them in the safest place I could think of, under my right armpit.. Mrs Sensible ran into the kitchen and came back with an ice pack. “Let me see” She said. “Ok but no touching.”

“Which finger have you hurt? “This one” She asked pointing to my little finger that was already starting to turn black. “No” I managed to reply “Is it this one” she asked pointing at yet another red and crushed finger, “Nope”. “Which one of them then.” “All of them” I whined. “Why are you grinning if it hurts so much.” She asked “Because I am wondering  how this will sound in my book.”

Helppppp!!!

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Quick post

I am going to Serbia for 5 days to act as a translator for one of our Italian engineers,

All week I have tried to point out the full extent of my Italian. ie

Grappa,
Si,
No,
Destra a sinistra,
Scusi, io sono inglese,
Dov’è il bagno? / dove è mia moglie?
Mi piace / non mi piace,
Tsk, no, ho capito niente (with a shake of the head)

and various swear words that I have picked up along the way.

I thought the office was winding me up, but no today I have just received the flight and hotel booking.

It has reinforced my opinion that Italians are Pazzo. Oh need to add Pazzo to the above list.