The great poo adventure or when all great plans go wrong.

The great poo adventure or when all great plans go wrong.

On Friday morning our downstairs toilet started leaking water into the bathroom. Initially the water appeared to be clean, but by Saturday morning it had a faint whiff to it. If we flushed the toilet upstairs or emptied the bath, water mysteriously appeared in the ground floor bathroom.

Two years ago we had the same problem, (see Treasure maps, pee and poo) so using my best Italian, I called the poo man to come and clear the blockage.

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Mr Poo Man to the rescue

Hi, I Pecora Nera, me toilet blocking, you come here yesterday now.

Poo Man: Hi Pecora Nera, How are you, I will come and fix the problem on Monday.

Fantastic. Where, erh When?

Poo Man: In the afternoon.

I told Mrs Sensible that the Poo Man was coming on Monday afternoon and everything would soon be back to normal, or at least as normal as our house gets. I cancelled my afternoon lessons and waited and waited and waited.

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Waiting for the Poo Man is not fun

Not only didn’t the Poo Man turn up, but he wouldn’t answer any of my messages or telephone calls. Very late on Tuesday he sent me a message asking if he could come on Thursday morning. I knew by Thursday morning we would be swimming in poo. I sent a terse message back asking him where he was on Monday and could he please please come on Wednesday. I haven’t heard from him since…

When all else fails there is always Facebook, so I posted a message in one of the Facebook groups and a nice lady called Jill said she normally fixes her septic tank blockages with a garden hose pipe.

Hmm! All it takes is a hose pipe. I unscrewed the toilet and peered into the hole underneath it.

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There appears to be a rather lot of poo down there..

I slowly fed the hose pipe down the hole and metre by metre it disappeared, after thirty minutes of pushing and pulling, the hose pipe finally stopped. I estimate the end of the hose pipe was some 20 metres down the hole. No matter how hard I pushed or twisted the hose pipe it wasn’t going any further.

And so I sat down and had a little think.

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Just a little think.

And then I had a wonderful idea, if I suddenly turned the hose pipe on, the force of the water would blast the blockage of poo out of the way. I could then go out for a glass of wine.

And without a second though, I twisted the tap and fired the water down the hose pipe, the result was not quite as I had anticipated. The majority of the poo remained firmly in place some 20 metres down the pipe. But a rather large amount returned back up the pipe and created a rather spectacular fountain of poo, toilet paper and water in the middle of the bathroom.

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I heard it, I smelt it but I didn’t really want to see it.

I will be honest, it was not  the result I had wanted. It took me nearly 2 hours to mop the floor, walls and sink and I still had a blocked pipe. I decided I should give the Poo Man a quick call. I am not sure he will ever fully understand the message I left him, but I think he realised I was a little dissatisfied with him.

I sat down and had another little think.

If I could seal the space between my hose pipe and the hole, it might be possible to stop the water and poo escaping into the bathroom, it might actually force the poo into the septic tank where it belongs. And so I started to ram and stuff old sheets and cloth in the hole and around the hose pipe. I then added my weight by firmly standing on top of the cloth sealed hole and asked my assistant….. Mrs Sensible to turn the tap on.

Rabbit 2

I suddenly realised I might not have thought of everything.

As the water fired down the hose pipe for a second time, I realised I might have made a few miscalculations. There was the possibility that the pressure might actually force a thin but powerful jet of poo and water up past my makeshift seal and hit anyone stupid enough to be stood on top of the seal. Or worse still it might force the poo, toilet paper and a substantial amount of water in another direction altogether and exit out the kitchen sink, or the bidet that was currently right next to my left elbow.

bidet

It was a distinct possibility

The hose pipe shuddered in my hands and I pushed it deeper into the hole to seal it and it moved, about 20 centimetres, so I shoved it again and again. I silently prayed that the kitchen was not being turned into a disaster area and the poo was really going in the direction I wanted it to go.

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Happy days

I am sure you are pleased that there is an happy ending to this post. When Mrs Sensible turned off the water, the pipe was completely clear. The Pecora Nera house is now back to normal, or as normal as it ever is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

Let me start by saying I have just finished a second course of antibiotics to try and kick a chest infection.  I still have the cough and now thanks to the antibiotics I have a really bad case of wind. 

Nobody was safe from the wind

As we walked to the office of the prefecture I was not only worried about my application for Italian citizenship, but also my precarious medical condition.  I am not sure if my interpreter knew I kept randomly exploding, if she did, she never said anything.

The Office of Sig.ra helpful

The meeting went really well, Sig.na Helpful ( the women in the office) decided I could write a self certificate declaring that when I was a baby in Malta I wasn’t a   Cereal Killer or criminal.

The milk had better be warm today


Sig.na Helpful asked if she could see my original documents, I whispered to Mrs Interpreter that my original documents are languishing in some office in the U.K. and hopefully they will receive the apostille stamp and be back here in ten days.

Sig.na Helpful asked me to sign another self certificate declaring that the photocopies of  my original documents were original photocopies !!! I know I am still trying to work that one out. maybe I lost something in the translation.

I was then asked for the marca da bollo, this is a little stamp that cost me €16. It’s at home I said! 

Marca da bollo

Don’t worry Sig.na Helpful said you can bring it in next week, or nip out and buy another one.  I couldn’t believe my luck, I had been sitting there with my stomach making curious noises and I knew there was an imminent explosion due.

I’ll be right back I said as I ran out of her office, I managed to exit the building before the wind struck.

I drove my interpreter back to her house and then headed off to Cerrina to give an English Lesson.

Because I had an hour to spare I stopped off in a bar for a coffee and a brioche. The bar looked clean and I thought it might be ok to use their toilet.

Turkish Toilet

The hole in the floor

I have lived here ten years and today was the first time I have had to balance above a Turkish Toilet  I think if you have a dress it must be easier, all the women need to do is bunch their dress up under their armpits.

If you are wearing trousers there are a multitude of problems, 1. With your trousers around your ankles it is really difficult to open your feet far enough to squat safely above the hole, 2. Attempting to maintain balance with one hand trying to hold your trousers out of danger while squatting is a nightmare.

Just as I managed to get my balance and my thigh muscles stopped shaking, I heard a click and  the fricking light went out, I was immediately plunged into darkness.

Stupid Light Sensor

Some energy conscious Italian had installed an automatic light switch!!!

Because this is a family rated blog, I can’t tell you the thoughts that ran through my mind or the words that spilled out of my mouth as I nearly tumbled down the hole.

What I will say is, trying to turn the light back on by waving with one hand in the air, whilst  trying to keep your trousers safe and maintain balance, is as easy as riding a unicycle while playing the bagpipes

A talented man

Today my thoughts are with the inventor of the Turkish Toilet and the man who set the light switch to 20 seconds, both of you have a better sense of humour than I will ever have.

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

I have to tell you I am crying into my glass of wine, I have just received two E mails from the Prefettura in Alessandria, allegedly they are processing my application for Italian citizenship.

The first E mail I successfully translated with the help of Google, it went something like this.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please come to our office on the second floor,  on the 9th November at 10.30. Bring originals of the documents you submitted on line.

I was so happy I nearly kissed the cat.

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat didn’t want a kiss

And then I opened the second E mail and as Google translated the document, I nearly kicked the cat.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please apostille stamp your documents and it is necessary to provide your police certificate.

If I kicked Mishmash, she would retaliate by taking a dump in my shoe

After talking to the prefettura (I used my neighbour for this) we found out the police certificate she wanted, should be issued by Malta. Did I mention I was born in Malta and moved to the UK when I was 8 months old?

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer


Obviously this is going to delay my application. I hope the Maltese authorities are not aware of my juvenile crime spree and will certify I was a good boy for the 8 months that I lived there.

Digging through my mother’s photo album, I found a couple more photos of my time in Malta

Me getting ready for the midwifes visit. She always had cold hands

Taken shortly after I held up the milkman

Another successful raid on the baby food factory


Today I have sent my documents issued by the UK government back to them with a request that they validate them with a rubber stamp.

I have also E mailed Malta to ask if they provide criminal certificates for 8 month old babies.

Citizenship part 1
Citizenship part 2
I am sure there will be a part 3 & 4

Just another average day in Italy

On Monday I received a nice letter warning me that I had forgoten to pay the car tax on my little mini. I think the tax was for 2011 – 2012.  The letter gave me 60 days to pay the tax or I would be charged an additional €7.00 😱 Mrs Sensible gave me 2 days to pay it or face more dire consequences than a mere €7.00

 Every morning she has reminded me once or thrice that the bill is still OVERDUE… 

So this morning I called in at the local post office in Occimiano and tried to pay it, the really helpful woman (NOT), behind the counter told me I needed to fill in the ‘Casuale’, 


Normally you write the bill/invoice  number in Casuale but there wasn’t a bill number so I asked the unhelpful woman if I should write Soris , or Regione Piemonte or car tax? 

She shook her head, and continued to talk to her mother on the phone.

“ok cosa scrivere? ” I probably missed a few words out but I think I said, What should I write? 

She shrugged her shoulders. Of course, I had forgot there is no such thing as customer service in Italy

Google search: Italian Customer Service


With a smile I thanked her for her help and walked out.

Finding a helpful Poste Italiane worker is like finding hens teeth,  for every helpful worker there are at least 23 unhelpful workers. Mind you there are millions of post offices in Italy to choose from.

I decided to try the post office in Terrugia, and the guy was amazing, he filled out the form and took my €270.36. Which means my car is now legally taxed for the year 2011 – 2012. I not sure if I have paid  this years road tax, mind you, it has taken them 5 years to write to me. Maybe I will receive another letter in the year 2022

Red stripes and shoe laces

I was spending a pleasant afternoon helping some friends taste and bottle  some red wine, when I received an urgent phone call from Mrs Sensible.

The gang of wine bottlers


Mrs S was putting together a powerpoint presentation when horrors upon horrors the program wouldn’t do what she wanted it to do. I didn’t realise there were others like me, who wouldn’t do as she commanded.

I put  my glass of wine down and bade farewell to my friends, and set off rather quickly on my mission of mercy.

Hurtling down the road in my little Mini I spotted a member of our esteemed  carabinieri standing in the middle of the road waving a red ping pong bat.

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Anyone for tennis.


Using the hand brake,  going down the gears and jumping on the brakes, I managed to stop the car before I ran him over, did I mention I was rushing?

I believe you should always be extra polite to policemen, especially if you have just nearly run them over. I bade him good morning (it was about four in the afternoon) and he asked me if I was a tourist !!!!

Sorry! Why do you think I am a tourist?


Why no kind sir, I live here.

He proceeded to check my documents and when he checked my vehicle log, his demeanor changed,… This is very bad he told me, your car should have had its vehicle check 3 months ago.. 

It took me a couple of seconds to translate his Italian to English and then register the grave problem I was in. I took the document from his hand and read with horror, my car should have had its check at the end of April, we are now in June

The story of my life


I used one of the few Italian words in my vocabulary, mi dispiace, I’m sorry.

He looked at his machine gun wielding partner and gave me my documents back, Today we haven’t seen you, but tomorrow we will….

Did you see him? No, me neither

Thankfully he mimed some of the words to make sure i understood his meaning.

So here I am spending €67 and waiting to see if my little car is still road worthy. 

A nightmare

When the engineer shouted it had passed the emissions test, I did a Mexican wave, he tut tutted a couple of time because one of the exhaust brackets is currently on holiday and one of the tyres is wearing unevenly (I have no idea which) and something about something needing cleaning or changing!! I just nodded and thought I can worry about whatever he is on about another day.

It has passed the emission test


I can’t express how happy I am that my little car has passed it’s test. I do have a small niggling problem, I know two carabiniere are watching out for my car to see if I have had the check done…. 

So I can’t drive wearing my flip flops for a week or two and I promise not to tell anyone that Carabiniere wear boots because they don’t know how to tie laces or that they have red stripes on their trousers so they don’t put them on inside out.

I will leave you with one of my favourite pictures, a carabinieri providing an excellent example of how to dismount from his horse with the aid of a tent.

Utilising a tent to dismount

Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

I will try to make this a serious post, I haven’t managed it in the past so please don’t hold your breath; summer is on the way and you will be wondering how you can fit in with the local and not stand out like a tourist.

So let us begin with clothing.

No matter how much you love your own country, it is not a very good idea to go shopping in the local Italian market dressed in an ensemble of your countries flag… Leave the flag at home….. the locals will know you are an american without wearing the stars and stripes on your hat, shirt shorts and probably your knickers!!!

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The art of naturally blending in with the locals

I snapped this photo while Mrs Sensible was buying some clothes and I was attempting to look interested in life.

I am adding the following clothing rule, although I fundamentally disagree with it.  FLIP FLOPS are for the beach, I know this because every time I attempt to leave the house in my flip flops the fashion police (aka Mrs Sensible) stops me. It has got so bad I keep a spare set in the boot of my car.

Englishman in Italy

I know, this is just an excuse to feature two girls wearing bikinis

If you scroll down you can read about the Brick Fetish of Vignale Monferrato and here is a wonderful picture of a pair of Brick Flip Flops, probably originating from Vignale.

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

Here is an Italian man walking through the shopping area of Casale Monferrato, it was a hot sunny day in May, of course I was wearing jeans, T-shirt and flip flops.

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Note the lack of Flip Flops

He will have paid more for his shoes than I paid for my best suit, pay close attention to his scarf, the scarf is really a medical apparel, its purpose is to prevent Cervicale. So don’t worry about the weather, bring your overcoat and look like an Italian.

Moving swiftly onto food

When you are sat in the pizzeria or restaurant, sipping a glorious glass of wine, please remember not to ask for your favourite Italian food that you normally eat at Toni’s Restaurant, near your house…

Because Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist, bolognese sauce is only ever served with torellini, tagliatelle, or gnocchi, amazingly Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese has not yet reached our supermarkets.

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The first Italian food I ever tasted came out of a can like this.

And if you ask for Pineapple and Ham pizza, they might just ask you to leave the restaurant.

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I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

Also, if you want to make the restaurant owner laugh, ask for a cappuccino after the meal. Italians only drink cappuccino before 10:30 in the morning, after that you have to grit your teeth and drink an espresso, or if you must have milk in your coffee ask for  a Macchiato, or better still a have a glass of grappa.

Flowers

How can anybody make a mistake with flowers? Just imagine, you meet the love of your life, a very pretty signorina, you remember not to offer her a cappuccino, because it is after 10:30, the evening goes wonderfully and the next day you arrive to meet her with a bunch of flowers in your hand. Unfortunately you chose a bunch of carnations.

Carnations

I know its a can, but I couldn’t find a bunch of flowers

She scowls and tells you, today she has to wash her hair and is too busy. You are left stood on the doorstep with a can of a bunch of white carnations in your hand. Why? Because we give carnations at funerals.

Travelling

I really didn’t want to upset you over the trains in Italy and I don’t want to over complicate the problem because, well it is complicated enough. In fact, I will write a separate post detailing the fun and games of booking a train ticket.

Driving

Remember to drive on the left, or is it the right? I can only remember when I get in the car and notice the steering wheel is not where it should be. In the ten years that I have been here, I have only driven on the wrong side of the road once, erh! and tried to go around a roundabout the wrong way. Mrs S had forgiven me and only occasionally has nightmares about it.

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A quiet Sunday drive

It wasn’t really my fault, the car-park opened up straight onto the roundabout, and I asked which way we needed to go and she said left, she did mean around the roundabout, but I just turned left.

I will try to upload a guide to Italian Trains later this week.

 

Vignale Monferrato / A Brick Fetish

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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