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!!!

Image

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.

Wine, whine, wine.

I am not a hoarder or a collector of clutter, ok I lie I hate throwing anything away. I have also been known to save items that other people would consider to be junk. For example I brought to Italy my dad’s spanners and old tools even though they are imperial and not much use to man nor beast, especially in Italy where everything is metric. But I still have them.

I also have 18 wine bottles that I salvaged from the local recycling bottle bank. I don’t normally collect wine bottles but these looked interesting. My wife was a little confused when I returned home from the bottle bank  with 18 dirty, manky wine bottles, when I had been sent there to dispose of 7 wine bottles and 2 jam jars. When I struggled through the doorway under the watchful gaze of Mrs Sensible with a huge plastic bag full of bottles I was once again transformed back into a little boy again, trying to explain to my mother why I thought it was ok to bring an old bees nest home. Mrs Sensible was watching me as I cleaned them in the yard, I promised her that I would either recycle them back were they came from or if they were as interesting as I thought, I would keep them.

I sent a number of photos to the Sheffield Museum to see if they could give me some idea to the age of my bottles. A lovely lady called Clara Morgan sent me an e-mail confirming my wine bottles were hand-blown, and she said they dated from 1750 – 1800, nice.

The next question that I asked myself and in fact the question that Mrs Sensible kept asking me was “now that you have spent an afternoon cleaning them what are you going to do with them and are they worth anything?” I decided to store them in the attic while I pondered the question.

Drilling a hole in the base of each wine bottle and turning them into lamps was a sacrilege; besides when we had guests over for dinner they were a great talking point. That is until Mrs Sensible became tired of dusting around the bottle that I had strategically left on top of the bookshelf.

In my humble opinion Marco Bellero produces the best wine in Piemonte, he will also deliver wine to my doorstep just like Ernie the milkman in the UK used to do, until the supermarkets pushed him out of business. All I have to do is phone Marco and say 6 Barberra, 3 Grignolino and 2 San Pietro please. And the next morning the wine will be waiting on my doorstep.

One morning I showed Marco my antique bottles and asked him if he could fill them with his famous Barone di San Pietro especially as earlier that week I had tasted the wine while it was still in the oak casks. Marco thought it was a great idea and he agreed.

Eighteen bottles of fine Barone di San Pietro turned up on my doorstep complete with labels but no plastic caps. The bottle necks are too big for my caps he said apologetically. We haggled over the price and he kept saying no no e regalo, e regalo. My wife later told me the 18 bottles some 150+ euros was a gift or regalo.

Marco asked me when I was going to open the first bottle. On my birthday which this year falls on November 3rd and I will open another bottle every birthday so I have enough wine to last me to the ripe old age of 69.

It’s great to look forward to something on your birthday.

This may hurt a little.

 

This is a long post but it is for Jennifer at  http://laavventura.wordpress.com who is yet to visit an Italian dentist. The follow is an extract from a book I am attempting to write, please excuse the grammar.

I have suffered with intermittent toothache since arriving in Italy. This is partly because of the bureaucracy and the necessary completion of various forms and to be honest my aversion to pain. I don’t even want the state to pay; well it would be nice if they offered but it is highly unlikely. I needed with the help of my wife Mrs Sensible to work through loads of forms just to enable me to visit a private dentist.

When I first arrived in Italy Mrs Sensible and I went to see a dentist recommended by Angela our landlady. “Go see Dottor Roberto” she told Mrs Sensible, “he is cheap and good; you can’t miss his surgery it is based in the old folks home in Giarole.” If you are reading this book while sat in an old folks home in England or are waiting to be admitted to one put the book down and go and request a transfer to an old folks home in Italy because they don’t smell of wee and old people.

As we entered the reception area of the old folks home we found the door to the surgery situated on the right hand side of the reception area. But before we could enter the surgery we had to walk past a group of old people sat outside the surgery door on chairs and in wheelchairs. Their highlight of the day was to say ciao and come stai? to all the unfortunate patients of Dottor Roberto.

After I had reluctantly sat in the dentist chair my wife explained in Italian to Dottor Roberto why we were there. To involve myself in the conversation I helpfully pointed to the tooth that was throbbing away. After I had shown Dottor Roberto the molar which was hurting he proceeded to poke and then tap each of my teeth in turn with a small metal bar to satisfy himself that I wasn’t kidding.

He started from the right and slowly worked his way down my teeth as a musician might on a glockenspiel. As he got close to the painful tooth I started to become a little stressed. He gave the painful tooth a whack and I yelped; Dottor Roberto smiled with satisfaction. “Ecco!” he said.

After explaining to Mrs Sensible the treatment I needed and after filling out more forms he said he would drill and fill my tooth with a temporary filling. Sitting up in the chair and getting ready to leave I was quite shocked that Dottor Roberto was intending to start the treatment straight away. I protested that there were other patients sat in the waiting room and I even tried pleading with Mrs Sensible that we had only come to have it checked and to see how much it would cost but to no avail.

Doctor Roberto administrated one and then after much pleading a second injection of anaesthetic. He then set about drilling my tooth and putting in a temporary filling.

Charging me eighty Euros for the temporary filling Dottor Roberto then quoted a further 230 Euros to finish the treatment. He explained that I had to be registered with the local health department for him to finish the treatment but not to worry as the temporary filling was ok for two months which should give us enough time to register with the local health authority and to fill out more forms.

The following day my wife and I went to the main administrative building for health in the centre of Casale Monferrato. We asked the woman in charge if we could have the necessary forms so that I could continue my dental treatment. The woman asked to see my medical card. I produced with a flourish the battered cardboard card the UK National Health Service had issued to me many years ago. She took one look at it and shook her head. “It needs to have the European blue flag on with all the stars, like this one” she said producing from her purse her own plastic medical card. I muttered to my wife “that my card had been issued before we got dragged into the European Union by Maggie Thatcher.

Leaving the building without any forms I was still muttering as we got into our car. “I will get my dad to organise a medical card for holiday makers abroad. We are after all in the European Union and then we can wave that under the nose of that stupid woman.” My wife said something about it was me that wanted to live in Italy and so I should stop complaining.

Thinking that 230 Euros sounded a bit steep for a filling and as I was due to visit Sicily where everything is cheaper I managed to delay the treatment even longer.

In Sicily I received a second opinion from my father in laws dentist in the little village of Giarratana. Following a quotation of 120.00 Euros the dentist told Nuccio that he needed more x rays of my tooth before he could continue. Nuccio turned to me and said “Come on we have to go to the mayor to get an x-ray of your tooth.” It sounded a bit strange to have to go to the mayor for an x-ray but this is Sicily after all. When we had located the Mayor I found out that he also doubled up as the local radiologist.

This dentist with his good looks and black wavy hair that is only obtainable from the best Vidal Sassoon hair stylist looked, more like a rich playboy than a dentist. He quickly looked at the x-ray and said to Nuccio “Ha bisogno di una canalizzazione.” As the dentist shoved his syringe and gloved hand into my mouth Nuccio calmly informed me that the dentist said I needed root canal treatment.

As he started to drill my tooth I immediately noticed the absence of any dental assistant. Normally there is a pretty female assistant to take my mind off the pain the dentist is trying to inflict on me. She normally sits there smiling and handing over the tools and operating the various suction pipes. Maybe the playboy dentist was going to involve my father in law who was stood watching. I am pretty sure Nuccio would have jumped at the chance of helping as he stood gazing into my mouth. I also noticed the almost total absence of anaesthetic even my lip wasn’t tingling.

I am of the opinion that a dentist should not be allowed anywhere near me with their drills and other instruments of torture, until my lips are all rubbery and I have lost total sensation in at least one of my ears. So it was with no surprise that I jumped as he broke through the temporary filling and hit the nerve. My reaction did the trick; the dentist declined to complete the treatment claiming the nerve must have an infection. As this was translated to me, I told Nuccio to tell him I will be ok if he uses some anaesthetic.

After hastily inserting another temporary filling the dentist told me to come back in three weeks after the infection had gone. Mr Playboy then handed me his card and said if the tooth gives me any problems I was not to hesitate to call him, although this weekend he was going to Monaco to watch some racing.

So here we are another 6 months later back at the old folk’s home with Dottor Roberto who is no playboy. Indeed I may be mistaken but he looks as though he may have gained a few pounds around the waist but it has been a while since he inserted the temporary filling that was only supposed to last me 2 months.  Dottor Roberto asked me which tooth was hurting. I replied “The one with the white temporary filling.”

Just to make sure he tapped each tooth in turn with his little steel rod. I don’t flinch or jump as he gave the bad tooth a whack. This was because I had taken precautions. I had dosed myself up with the best anti-inflammatory and pain killers I could find prior to leaving the house.

When Dottor Roberto found out about the pain killers he was not very impressed. After giving me a lecture on painkillers and the protocol for visiting the dentist which Mrs Sensible dutifully translated for me, (my wife hadn’t known about the pain killers either) she was giving me that you’re in trouble when you get home look; the dentist continued to explain that it is important that he can tell which tooth is hurting. Now I have always believed there has to be a streak of sadism in every dentist and this episode only goes to prove it.

My wife explained in mitigation that I have a very low pain threshold and he could see that I was looking a little worried so he obliged me by using enough anaesthetic to kill all the feeling on the left side of my face even my eyebrow was a little dead it seemed to be stuck up at an angle like one of Sean Connery eye brows. That coupled with the assorted pain killers I had taken before leaving the house I thought I would be ok.

My wife is as always the interpreter, she explained that if I feel any pain I was to raise my left hand. If I feel any pain he would know before I had had time to raise my left hand that’s for sure.

The Dentist with the help of his young assistant placed a piece of latex across my mouth and securing it in place with little rods that somehow must have been secured in and around my teeth. He then used what looked like a mini pastry cutter to cut a hole around my bad tooth and pushing it in place secured the latex. It was great, no debris from the drilling would drop into my mouth and the dentist wouldn’t have to stare at my tonsils. Although he needn’t have bothered as my tonsils had been removed twelve months previous when my nose was re-bored to stop me snoring like a pig. I have also for many years had trouble breathing just through my nose hence the nostril re-bore.

The latex had effectively shut off the air supply to my mouth and as I still have trouble breathing through my nose, every time I inhaled and exhaled the air that was forced in and out past the latex  made a sound not unlike a whoopee cushion. After a little adjustment both the dentist and I were a little happier. Dottor Roberto held out a hand mirror so that I can watch him drill my tooth. But with a shake of my head I refused it. I like to keep my eyes tightly closed as I grip my hands together in my lap in a difficult effort to control the panic and my natural response to leave the surgery.

As he started to drill I knew that if I relaxed everything would be ok but my nerves were straining; waiting for the inevitable pain. Meanwhile my wife is entertaining him with the tale of where, when and how we met and why we are now living in Italy. I lay there in the chair with my mouth wide open and a corner of the latex tickling my nose every time I breathed in or out, wondering if the dentist could concentrate on my teeth while chatting to my good wife.

The assistant had noticed that I had opened my eyes and that I did not look entirely relaxed and happy. She asked my wife “Lui va bene?” My wife said “Are you ok?” I managed to reply through the latex “Urrrmppph!” At that moment a mobile phone started to ring, it wasn’t mine or my wife’s as just before we entered the surgery we had switched them both off. The dental assistant calmly picked up the offending mobile and passed it to Dottor Roberto… “Pronto, ciao Alberto, come stai. si ok dove si va bene…..”

I was gob smacked; truly astounded not only was my dentist talking on his mobile, he was still drilling my tooth. I tried to signal to my wife with my eyes that I was not pleased and the panic I had managed to hold just under the surface was close to escaping.

After what seemed like an eternity the assistant spotted that I was a little stressed and that my eyeballs appeared to be popping out of my head. She calmly ushered the dentist who was still talking on his phone out of the room.

Italian phone calls are never short and end with lots of goodbyes ciao baci arrivederci si domani ok capisco ciao ciao.

I was still in the chair with the tube sucking away in my mouth the latex burping away happily as the doctor reappeared to frosty scowls from both the assistant and me.

The good news is I survived the procedure. The bad news is I had another appointment in ten days time for him to finish reconstructing the tooth. As I left the surgery I promised the dottor that I wouldn’t dose myself with pain killers next time if he promised not to answer his phone while he was drilling my teeth

In Sickness and in Health

I am as sick as a dog today, I really want to be left alone to lie in my bed and sulk, I don’t want lots of hugs and sympathy from Mrs Sensible, and I don’t want strange Italian medicines or to visit the doctors to make sure it is not terminal. It is not necessary to take blood, urine or any other sample to establish that I have a bad case of man flu.

When Mrs Sensible is ill she requires 24 hour around the clock loving and affection, someone to fetch, carry and generally be there to hold her hand. It is a huge and basic difference between us and more importantly how our mothers dealt with illness. Her Sicilian mother (who is just wonderful and has adopted me) would sit with my wife and make her sweet honey tea, feed her little bits of food to keep up her strength and generally love her better. On the other hand my mum would banish me to my bedroom with a bottle of lucozade and an aspirin. And as soon as I was well enough to sit downstairs in front of the telly, I was well enough to go back to school.

I don’t think the way Mrs Sensible and I deal with illness is just conditioned by our mothers but because she is Italian and I am English. Before I moved to Italy I had never heard of the many illnesses that befall Italians. The Italian illness that immediately springs to mind is cervicale (stiff neck), the slightest wind even in high summer can trigger it. Leaving the house with damp hair will not only get you into trouble with mama and nona but you will certainly contract cervicale. Prevention is the best cure hence all Italians wear scarves even in the summer.

During July a small spider bit my leg and I think I developed a small allergic reaction to the bite, similar to the reaction I develop to tiger mosquito bites. My leg swelled and a little boil appeared. The boil kept popping and growing a little bit. Mrs Sensible told me I needed to go to the hospital emergency department. I laughed and declined, I explained that you only go to the emergency department if a paramedic has just cut you out of a car crash or if you sever a tendon in your hand while cutting gollywog tokens from Robinsons jam jars, something my dad did in 1984.c

Later that week a colleague at work noticed I was limping a little, and after looking at my leg and tutting she told me to andare a pronto soccorso ospedale.  So I went and the doctor and nurse who saw me did not mutter about time-wasting but quickly and efficiently cleaned my leg they then took numerous blood samples, gave me a course of antibiotics and told me to return to the emergency department the following day!!!

On my return to the hospital I received my blood results and once again my leg was cleaned disinfected and re bandaged. The doctor gave me a copy of the blood results and an invoice for 25 euros. Not bad really. It seems Italians will have a blood test every three to five years whether they need one or not, very much like the English renewing their tetanus jab.

Every summer we go to Sicily to stay with the family, which is just great because they just love me to bits. My new-found family will take my side in an argument and will scold my wife even though they haven’t a clue what we are arguing about. The slight downside with staying with the family in Sicily is although the temperatures reaches above 40°C Mrs Sensibles mum and dad will still try to persuade me to wear a vest under my tee-shirt and to always wear slippers in the house. Wearing a vest I am told will protect me from colpo d’aria or roughly translated a puff of air. It seems even if the air is hot colpo d’aria will bring on a bad case of cervicale the ailment most Italians suffer from.

Hello world!

Ramblings from An Englishman in Italy.

Ok plan B We will rent out our house and I will take any job in Italy.

Eunice calmly and slowly pointed out my inability to understand or construct even the most basic sentence in Italian.

“You are married to an Italian.

Your two best friends are Italian.

And so far the only words you have learnt are:-

ciao, si, non, cosi cosi (so so)

and non e’ vero (not true).”

 

“Non e’ vero” I replied.

In 2005 I married Eunice an Italian who had emigrated to the UK to try and escape the problems, confusion, poor driving and in her words corruption in Italy.  After two years of married life and against her better judgement I managed to persuade her that we could make a life in Sunny Italy. I think the constant English rain helped me to convince her that it might work.

I suggested to Eunice that if she finds a job in Italy as a teacher, she can support me while I turn our new Italian home into a bed and breakfast . This was plan A, which was well and totally scuppered by the collapse of several banks in the UK and of course the housing market.  My wife had played her part, she had found the teachers job and was sat in Italy waiting for yours truly. I on the other hand was sat in rainy Sheffield with a house we couldn’t sell.

Plan B didn’t really work either, I spent 2 years doing manual labour, gardening, builders labourer and fetch and carry for a landscape gardener. Despite my poor spelling and grammar I even considered teaching English, the traditional fall back position for any self respecting English Expat.

My first teaching assignment organised by my wife, was conversation with an Italian businessman. This was ideal because I didn’t need to spell anything. Marco and I met at the local cafe for our first lesson and my first piece of conversation was are we drinking wine or beer?  After several bottles of Peroni (we kept asking the cafe owner to clear the table in case my wife turned up) Marco suggested we start a business importing and marketing a range of liquid pumps, he must have realised I was not cut out to be a teacher.

Do I love Italy?

Yes, it is a great place but it shouldn’t be run by the Italians.

Do I hate Italy?

Yes there is a lot wrong with the country, as my wife tells me  “life is hard in Italy”

When I have to deal with anything to do with paperwork, the Italian post office or when the education department  fails to pay Eunice for 3 months I do think that I should have listened to my wife when she said “life in Italy is hard”. But all the problems of Italy disappear when I have a glass of  fine wine in my hand and I am sat in the glorious sunshine outside one of the many cafe’s in the villages hidden in the Monferrato hills.

Do I miss the UK? I don’t miss the weather, or the traffic and speed cameras, I do miss Bacon, Walkers Crisps and a decent cup of   tea and of course English humour.  At times I  miss standing in a real pub, having a couple of drinks with friends and laughing out loud. In Italy only drunkards drink beer without a plate of food in front of them, even if it is only a couple of slices of salami, olives and a chunk of cheese.

I have tried to find other English people who have escaped to La Dolce Vita, but in the large part in vain.

According to the latest data released by the Institute for Public Policy Research, there are 29 thousand British people who are registered as residents of Italy. If  this is true and you are out there, where are you??

Lord knows where they are all hiding because in the past 5 years I have bumped into a grand total of 18 of them. Starved of English humour I even took a train from the north of Italy to meet up for an Expats lunch in Florence. Two British turned up the rest were from the USA, New Zealand and one Italian man. I am not sure why Daniele was there perhaps he was from the south of Italy and considered himself an Expat in his own country.

So 5 years on, am I fluent in the language, am I living the Dolce Vita, do I have regrets?  No, Cosi cosi, si. You see I do speak the lingo.