Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

During September I decided I needed to lose some of the winter fat I had accumulated to keep me warm during the harsh Italian winters. Yes I know, I also thought Italy was a sunny place where bronzed people drank prosecco while sitting in the sun.

Admittedly, I did think about losing weight during September, but it took me until February before I laced a pair of trainers onto my feet. I actually considered the act of reaching down and lacing my trainers as two separate exercises that I could mark off my list.

Horse

I tried invisible horse riding, but I couldn’t find my horse 

Over the past three months I have lost 8 kilos, that is 17.5 pounds in real money.   I would like to take all the credit for this achievement, but tell me, what else is there to do during the Corona virus lockdown other than running through the vineyards, Netflix binge watching or sighing at the latest conspiracy theory.

Despite it raining, today started off as a wonderful day and just before dinner time it unfortunately just before lunchtime it imploded into one of those days you only discuss with friends over a glass of whisky. It took me thirty minutes to convince myself  that running through the vineyards was a good idea, a way to clear my head and dissipate my anger. It is amazing how anger can help you run up a muddy wet hill,

What anger can’t help you with is running back down the other side. I already had a kilo of clay stuck to each of my trainers, I had about as much control over my legs and the direction I was going in, as one of those shopping carts with a dodgy wheel, and then I realised I was not going to be able to stop or even slow down until I reached the bottom of the muddy track.

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The shopping cart and I more or less had the same control

Sliding sideways  and screaming like a girl, with my arms windmilling in an attempt to control my balance,  I executed a beautiful back flip followed by a near perfect swallow dive into the mud of the vineyard. As I sat there counting my bones and checking for internal injuries, the woman from the Couch to 5K app whispered into my ear, “you are doing great, if you feel ok you may want to increase your pace”. Ok so I swore a little bit.

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Mud does not equal fun.

So here is my take on the day. I have come to the conclusion that A) This morning I shouldn’t have got out of  my warm bed and B) mud wrestling is neither sexy or erotic, mud is cold horrible stuff, especially when you have to run two kilometres to return home, with mud caked up your legs, back and a light drizzle of rain to remind you that you are a little damp. As of today Mud Wrestling has been deleted from my list of fantasies.

 

 

 

Mishmash the crazy cat

Mishmash the crazy cat

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

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Such a tranquil little kitty

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

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My choice of dog.

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

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Mishmash basking on top of her old house.

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

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Run pussy run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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English lesson for 10 year old Italian children.

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

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

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A smile from Mishmash

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

Good night from me and of course also from Mishmash

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

Cabin Fever and the Corona Virus

The last three weeks have been a little strange to say the least, to be allowed to leave the house I need to print a self certification explaining why leaving my house is so important, which wouldn’t be such a problem if my printer had not run out of ink and if I could think of a good enough reason to go out. It seems replenishing my stock of wine or buying crisps is not important enough.

Printing press

If only I had kept my printing press

The government has shut all the shops excluding supermarkets and Chemists, I was due to have my hair cut last week as it is getting a little long, hopefully they will reopen sometime next month, by which time I will have either taken a pair of scissors to it or I will start to look a little like Cousin It

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It is actually pretty serious, I am down to my last bottle of wine oh and a bag in the box of cooking wine, which might have to be considered drinking wine. Keeping the British stiff upper lip, I am putting together an escape committee.

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The plan is really quite simple, we dig a tunnel to the closest bar which is  The Osteria della Luna. I know the layout of the bar pretty well as it is one of my regular haunts, if the plan and my calculations work perfectly, our tunnel should exit just behind the bar, where I know there is an ample supply of  fine wine, whisky and crisps. We won’t be detected until the bar is allowed to reopen sometime in April.

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Tell Pecora Nera we missed the pub and got the beer garden

What else, oh my Italian Citizenship ceremony is on hold until they lift the movement restrictions,  I am a little cross over this, I went to the trouble of ordering a bow tie and getting my suit cleaned and pressed.

Bow tie

My new Bow Tie

I kid you not, I wore my new bow tie to school and the kids went crazy, so when this is all over and the schools reopen, (although the latest rumour circulating is they won’t bother reopening the schools before summer…) I will buy a few funky bow ties for the kids to laugh at.

I want the schools to open soon as I really miss working with my little munchkins. Especially Class 2 who have decided I am Peter Pan and one morning pleaded with me to fly around the classroom for them and even little Cecilia who sometimes forgets herself and decides that licking her school desk is much more interesting than my English Lesson.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you well.

Pecora Nera

President of the Escape Committee

Château Lafeet 👣

Château Lafeet 👣

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

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

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

Get out off bed.

Erh why, it’s Saturday?

Because YOU promised to help Tracey with her grape harvest.

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

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

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We don’t wear bells!

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

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

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Miss Jessica, a little wet but good fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My friend the amazing dottoresse Paula

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

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

Best picture of the hunter

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

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

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

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

Me: Your dogs going my garden fetch now!!

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat waiting for the all clear.

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

As he left us I asked.

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

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

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

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

So why have we named this years wine Château LaFeet?

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The lovely Alyssa and Des

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

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

Bomb the House

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

Alternatively go bite Pecora Nera

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

These things were ankle biters.

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

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

It didn’t work

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

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

4 should do it

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

Me: I need bomb house for beasts.

Shop Assistant: Pardon?

Me: Look leg

Shop Assistant: oooohh! How big is your house?

Me: This big, pointing to his warehouse

Shop Assistant: You need 3 bombs

Me: I buy 4

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

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

Flea bitten Scabby Cat

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

Your in trouble when Mrs Sensible returns

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

Run Pecora Nera Run!

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

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

I only had 1 or 2

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

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

Happy Days

A Mini Adventure

Some friends and I went to watch two local villages play a game of Tamburello.

The rules of the game seem simple enough, when the ball comes towards you, you hit it back as hard as you can using your tambourine.

The main road is transmogrified into a court

Any finesse, such as hitting the ball so your opponents can’t return it, appears to be frowned on.

One of the younger ball boys in action

The scoring is similar to tennis, the main difference is Tamburello ball boys are a little older than their Wimbledon counterparts and the highlight of the game is when the players miss the ball and have a mini hissy fit.

While we watched Grazzano give Montechiato a complete thrashing, I received a message that our local village team was playing a home game, so we rushed to our cars and in all the excitement, I drove my little Mini into a drainage ditch.

I think I might have uttered a naughty word

Unfortunately neither of the right hand wheels were touching the bottom of the drainage ditch.

It became apparent that Mr America, his girlfriend and I were truly stuck. The other half of our little international supporters association, Miss Canadian and Miss Italy/Usa (I’m not sure which part of her is Italian) had already set off in their car while I was driving my car into a ditch.

We phoned them and suggested they return with a long tow rope.

Mr America let go of his girlfriends hand long enough to walk around my Mini and declare it wasn’t going anywhere. We did try to drive the car out, but the wheel just turned in mid air.

I left Mr America and his girlfriend (holding hands) guarding the car, while I went off in search of a tractor.

All I found was a lot of Italians who seemed very interested in how I managed to drive my little Mini into the ditch in the first place.

Miss Italy/Usa and a gaggle of Italians

One even suggested it was because I was used to driving on the wrong side of the road.

Another suggested, five big strong men could lift my little blue Mini out of the ditch and place it on the road.

Upon hearing his suggestion, the Italians lost interest in my predicament and decided it was time for tea and spaghetti.

Right Lads, I think it is dinnertime

Despite Mrs Sensible being on holiday in Sicily, I phoned her and managed to persuade her to relay a message to our local mechanic asking him to come with ropes, wood and anything else that might be of use.

I don’t think she was best pleased.

And then a man with a big land rover appeared with lots of rope, I am not sure who called him, but thank you

Ta daa! A hero in a Land Rover

He tied my Mini to his Land Rover.

A granny knot should do it

And dragged it out of the ditch. I forgot to take some pictures because I was so happy.

All that was left to do in our Mini Adventure was to phone Mrs Sensible and ask her to cancel our local mechanic who was hurrying over the hills of Monferrato in an attempt to rescue us.

Hmm..

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

In the interest of blogging, I decided to book myself in for a little operation. Nothing too drastic but fun enough for my little blog. On hindsight I should have gone river rafting.

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Medico Competente! I wonder where the incompetent doctors are?

The conversation with the consultant went something like this:

I will make an incision from here to here.

I really don’t want to know.

I will then insert this piece of mesh.

Please don’t tell me anymore.

Then I will stitch you here, here and ….

At that point he produced some coloured markers and drew lines and little dots for the stitches on my tummy.

Doctor, you really don’t need to tell me, because I will be asleep through the operation and I don’t do pain or enjoy hearing about the pain you are going to inflict on me.

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This picture was hung in the hospital reception.

The day of the operation arrived quicker than I had hoped, a mere four weeks after the consultant had drawn squiggly lines on my tummy, I found myself  sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with a hospital gown made of tissue paper and not a single nurse who looked like Jennifer Androne from the publicity photo. If I wasn’t so scared I might have complained.

Fourteen years ago in the UK I had an operation on my nose and throat in a vain attempt to stop me snoring (I still snore) In that hospital they knocked me out before I entered the operating theatre, very civilised.  This time they wheeled me into the actual theatre while I was still awake, the anaesthetist started ripping the tissue gown so he could attached wires and tubes to me, my heart rate went up another notch or two. Pretty soon I was nude and all I could do was helplessly watch nurses and orderlies waltz in and out and stare at the naked scared Englishman.

Pecora Nera, your heart rate is a little high. Hmm so would yours be if you were me.

My consultant walked in and asked me to sit on the side of the bed and lower my chin to my chest whilst pretending to hug a woman. I will admit it took me a couple of minutes to translate and understand his bizarre request.

Sorry doctor but why?

Because I need to give you an epidural.

WHAT!!!!

No, I must be asleep.

You can sleep if you wish.

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As easy as ABC. I love the good advice to relax

Had I not been naked and attached by wires to various machines I would have walked out. Seriously, I did contemplate walking back to the ward. Meanwhile the  heart rate monitor was peaking off the charts.

I actually didn’t feel the epidural, and as I laid down it was really strange, my legs felt really heavy and I couldn’t move my toes.

TMI-1203

I felt like I was on a Texas execution table as they strapped my arms down.

He stuck a pin in my toe, can you feel this?

No

Good. He then pinched my leg. Can you feel this?

No doctor I can’t, but you are not operating on my feet or legs, I pinched my tummy, you are operating here and I sure as hell can feel this.

That was the  last thing I remember, apparently they decided it was far easier to just gas me and get it over with, either that or I fainted.

I came round just as he was knotting the stitches and admiring his work.

Frankenstien

Finally  the Englishman has stopped complaining.

Mrs Sensible was waiting for me on the ward. She helped me pee in a bottle and I decided I had had enough of life and went to sleep.

Later that evening I asked one of the dragons nurses how I was supposed to visit the toilet, (I was attached to a drip which unfortunately didn’t contain grappa)

She said and I quote. “fai pipi nel pappagallo”

Pee in the parrot!!

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Meet Joey the bedpan

Everyone knows pipi is pee and I know pappagallo is parrot because I teach animal vocabulary in the schools.

I repeated “pipi in pappagallo??

She produced a bed pan, PIPI IN PAPPAGALLO!!

Who knew parrots were also bedpans!

At about two in the morning, I had the urgent desire to pee in a parrot. It took me 10 minutes to pull myself into a sitting position on the side of the bed and another 5 minutes to find and grab the parrot by its neck. Just as I was ready, I watched in horror as my pants slipped down to my ankles and as I tried to save them they slid onto the floor. Well good bye pants….

Laying back down was really hard, whatever I attempted hurt. I did consider just sitting where I was until the nice orderly came on duty. But I was not sure the sight of a naked man perched on the side of the bed, holding a parrot by its neck would impress her.

Why didn’t I ring for the night nurse? I didn’t want to disturb her reading.

Big book of torture

The night nurse’s book.

Italy is renown for its exquisite food, let me tell you, their hospitals are not.

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Italian hospital food, brodo and mashed potatoes.

Day one they gave me a small bowl of brodo, which is minestrone without any vegetables or bits floating in it.

Day two they produced brodo and a side dish of mashed potatoes.

I understand the reason for this diet, patients are always very keen to go home to a slice of pizza.

So thank you for the E-mail asking what I thought of Italian hospitals. Does anyone have any other bright ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi è l’ultimo? Who is Last?

It seems I may have an unusual lurgy. Certainly the doctor at the hospital was most excited about it and invited a nurse, two other doctors and I swear a patient that had been sitting in the corridor waiting to be examined, to have a look at my leg and foot.

Anyway, I might tell you more about my new illness / disease later, I suppose it will depends on how interesting my lurgy  is. Anyway, the doctor sent me to my local hospital for a series of blood tests. You might well be wondering why I didn’t go to my local hospital first, rather than travel half an hour to another town, hmm I have heard people who enter our local hospital sometimes come out far worse than when they entered. I was taking no chances.

After my blood tests, the hospital handed me an invoice with a long line of €3.50 and €4,30 and a couple of €9.00s I was astounded when I added them all up and they came to an enormous  total of €290.50

I decided to pay immediately before I faint from the shock and have to pay an additional charge for a stretcher and hospital bed. I wandered down to the payment machine and watched how an old dear payed her bill.

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This one is out of service. Not too unusual in Italy

The machine wouldn’t accept the piece of paper I was valiantly trying to stuff into it. After three or four tries I gave up and went in search of help.

The woman behind the counter told me I couldn’t pay the invoice until the 3rd of December, because the hospital might not deem all the blood tests necessary, even if my doctor did.

Yesterday Mrs Sensible called into the hospital to collect the blood test results and pay the bill. The machine was broken.  She phoned me and declared we I would have to pay the bill on line and I would also be able to download the results. To say I was a little sceptical would be a bit of an understatement. Yes I managed to pay on line using my credit card, but I had to go to the hospital to sign up for a special password to download anything!

Which leads me to today. Today I pottered off to the hospital to collect my results with my proof of payment in my hand. I actually only had to pay €130.00 some of the blood tests were obviously not deemed necessary.

The hospital has a fifty space carpark, with three immigrants carrying bags of socks, lighters and tissues and other stuff patrolling it. As soon as they spot an empty space they marshal your car into it and then demand you buy a pair of socks or something from them. I ended up with a pair of grey socks, a pack of tissues, and a cigarette lighter, despite the fact I didn’t need any of them and I don’t smoke.

This is the sight that greeted me when I entered the hospital waiting room.

Italians queuing in a hospital

Who is last? Looks like a typical British betting shop.

Installed in front of them is a machine that dispenses tickets, it is there because Italians don’t know how to queue. Normally when Italians enter a doctors or a hospital they shout Chi è l’ultimo? Who is Last? 

If someone in the line throws a paddy and decides to go home, everyone else is lost in confusion. I have seen a doctors surgery drop into near anarchy as the patients  argue who comes after who.

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This is a photo I took in 2012. It still amazes me

To understand how it works, go and read Hospital Bingo

You want to know why they are all  huddled around the machine? It is on a timer and won’t start printing tickets until 10:30 At the moment they are all playing Chi è il primo? Who is first.

I normally have a huge problem understanding which ticket / button I need to press. This poor guy next to me was Italian and even he decided to take two different tickets.

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Not sure which ticket you need to take? Take two or three and play hospital bingo

When my number comes up on the board,  I want to jump up and shout house, or I have number H014 whilst waving it above my head.

After collecting my results, I used google translate and a couple of medical websites to deciphered my blood test results. I immediately said a prayer and promised to stop eating red meat and drinking alcohol.  Feeling a little worried I dropped into my local doctors to let him have a look. He said they look pretty good for a man of my age. Good God! How old does he think I am??

Tomorrow the specialist at the hospital far far away will have a look at them and will probably send me back to our local hospital for all the tests they decided not to do.

Moral of the story. Google translate and medical websites are bad for your health, I suggest you relax with a glass of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Riso Amaro or The dreaded Lurgy

Seventeen days ago during a barbeque with Mr H, I was viciously attacked by either mosquitoes or papadachi. Whatever they were they had a little feast on my legs and feet. Seven of the bites turned into lovely big blisters, the others just itched like mad.

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I went to see my doctor, who oohed and ahhhhhed  and gave me some antibiotics, don’t worry Pecora Nera the blisters will go in 3 to 4 days. When I went to buy the antibiotics, the chemist suggested I should also try some antihistamine tablets. I politely declined them explaining that they send me to sleep. He gave me some cream which I paid for.

I don’t remember  much of the following two days, I spent the time sleeping, it would appear antihistamine cream also sends me to sleep.

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I spent two days in a semi-comatosed state.

Fast forward 10 days, to my trip to Sicily to visit The Family and a collection of other Chemists who have prescribed lots of ooohs and special creams. I still have two wonderful boils one on the top of each foot.

Mrs Sensible said I should go to the Pronto Soccorso at the Ragusa Hospital (Emergency Dept). We sat in the waiting room with lots of other people who didn’t appear to have any medical emergencies.

'It's out new method for determining who we should treat first. We take people in order of how loud they scream.'

The triage doctor looked at my poor feet and downgraded my emergency to code white, looking down at my poor feet I thought I should be at least a code red or at the very least a code orange.

Mrs Sensible explained that code white means you are really wasting their time and you will have to pay for the hospital visit. At this point I would like to say I did suggest visiting the local doctor in the village, but Mrs Sensible said she didn’t think the local doctor was very good.

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I didn’t ask why their doctor wasn’t very good.

We wandered around the hospital in search of the waiting room for patients designated as not really very ill.

White

Codici Bianchi (Code White, not code Red)

As doctor number 2 peered over his computer monitor, Mrs Sensible explained that either mosquitoes or papdachi had bitten my poor feet and legs. I don’t think he believed her. She pressed on with, in Piemonte we have lots of mosquitoes and Pecora Nera sometimes has an allergic reaction to the bites.

gorrila

I was concentrating hard to understand the conversation.

I was listening very attentively to Mrs Sensible and Doctor number 2 discussing my poor feet, and then when Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes, I was momently distracted and lost the rest of the conversation. Mrs Sensible told me we were off to see yet another doctor……

Ok, what did he say when you rolled your eyes?

He asked if you have been working with bare feet in the rice fields!!! I told him you are an English Teacher.

Stifling a laugh I asked if Mrs Sensible had told him we now have tractors in the north and no longer pick the rice by hand?

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Pecora Nera starring in Riso Amaro

Anyway, where are we going now?

To the ward for infectious diseases!

What, are you serious?

Of course, the doctor thinks you have contracted an infectious disease from one of the other workers in the rice field.

I don’t work in a rice field!!!!

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Infections Ward

I really didn’t want to enter the ward without wearing a bio hazard suit, there was no knowing what infectious disease I could catch in there, probably something far worse than a couple of boils on my feet.

Actually my feet were feeling much better, we could go home and visit the witch doctor.

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Mrs Sensible’s bag and assorted protection gear

Doctor number 3 examined my feet and gave me flea powder some antibiotic powder and some pills. Your feet will be back to normal in 3 to 4 days. He was so convincing I almost believed him. However at the time of writing this little post I am 3 days into the treatment and the boils are still large as life. The doctor also upgraded my emergency to Green, which meant we didn’t have to pay for the treatment.

I have precisely 31 days  to cure (or pop) these blisters, why? Because each year I enter the Canelli Wine run and I will run it with or without the blisters. Not that they will impede my slow trot around the course.

This video is last years trot around the course, with my crazy friend Mr H, prizes if you can spot Mr H and me.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

In the 10 years that I have lived in Italy, I have learnt a few things. These include my inability to learn Italian and the Italians inability to learn anything about customer service.

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Italian Customer Service

In 2013 I cried into my cappuccino with the Fedex Farce.  and of course you know about the fun and games with Mr Cretino and my driving licence.

I hate to tell you but TNT Express are as bad if not worse than Fedex. Mind you I have just found out they are now part of the same organisation run by David Binks their CEO. I did write to Mr Binks, but he didn’t reply to me nor did his organisation answer my questions.

So here we go… a little story book for you.

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I am sorry this is not as funny as my usual posts, but I am still a tad disappointed with TNT

All the best Pecora Nera

 

Citizenship quest (part 1)

I have officially started my quest for Italian Citizenship, the first step in what will no doubt be A Titanic Success, you might have noticed I have stole that particular phrase from Boris The Foreign Secretary, who regularly opens his mouth, to change feet.

The first step on my quest, was to write to Disclosure Scotland and request a copy of my criminal record. To be honest I am a little surprised at what they managed to drag up.But at least they earned their £25.00

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I wonder if Sal has started her application? We were going to race each other.

Next Step, finding things like marriage certificates and birth certificates….

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

I know a couple of you follow this blog in the hope of reading one of Mrs Sensible’s authentic Sicilian recipes,  not wanting to disappoint you I have decided to create the Pecora Nera Home Cooking Channel. 

Before you try the recipe I did try it on little Mario to see what he thought and his initial thoughts were,

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Please let Mrs Sensible cook next time

And Marco said

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I’m sure he didn’t follow the recipe properly

So here is a link to my latest video from Pecora Nera’s home cooking channel.

For Christmas I will upload ‘ How to prepare a traditional Christmas Lunch

 

 

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Christmas Lunch in a can

I was going to upload a picture of a whole Chicken in a Can, but it made me feel a little queezy and I don’t want to put you off my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

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

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Bean Wine Run???

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

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

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

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

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

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Unfortunately they are not available in Spandex

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

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

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The hat

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

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

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

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Mr H with our support staff.

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

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Mr H is strong enough to carry me

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

 

Funny kind of week

It’s been a funny kind of week, I made another batch of limoncello lollies and to be honest, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but they were to die for.

I also tried to make some lollies using some cherries that had spent the last 12 months soaking in neat grappa, unfortunately the alcohol content was too great and they didn’t freeze, however they made great alcoholic slush puppies and the third batch did freeze. 

Mrs Sensible is less than impressed with my hobby of turning alcohol into fantastic lollies, to placate Mrs S I made some lollies using some apricots from the garden, Mrs S liked them but in my humble opinion they lacked something, namely a good shot of liqueur.

Also I came across an interesting article on the tinternet about a woman who hadn’t washed her golden tresses for 5 months….. allegedly she stopped using shampoo because it was expensive, not eco friendly and damaged her hair.

I have no idea how much shampoo costs, Mrs S is in charge of the shopping, but in the interests of science and because it has been a funny kind of week I decided to try going shampoo free.

Following the instructions on the tree hugger website, I put one tablespoon or was it one desert spoon of bicarbonate of soda in a bottle and added a cup of water. This was to be my eco friendly shampoo. I then took a bath and washed my hair.

The results were less than successful, my hair stood up on its own and I resembled Beaker from the Muppets show.

I will try the no shampoo experiment for another couple or days / weeks and I will  let you know how it goes.

BREXIT

BREXIT

Brexit

The European Union has just announced that despite Brexit an agreement has been reached whereby English will continue to be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations,  the European Union  decided that English spelling had some room for improvement and has recommended a 5- year phase-in plan that will become known as ‘Euro-English’.

In the first year, ‘s’ will replace the soft ‘c’. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ‘c’ will be dropped in favour of ‘k’. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome ‘ph’ will be replaced with ‘f’. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent ‘e’ in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as

replasing ‘th’ with ‘z’ and ‘w’ with ‘v’.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary ‘o’ kan be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’ and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter 20ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

 

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s Manky Cat

Mrs Sensible’s manky cat is the only cat I know, who can purr contentedly whilst glaring at me. The cat loves Mrs Sensible to distraction and it hates me in an equal measure.

Mrs Sensible's manky cat

Look at the eyes on that cat, From day one I knew it was either a cyborg or evil.

Two months ago things came to a head when the manky ginger cat decided it would be great fun to pee on my beloved Mini. Every day it sauntered pass my car and peed on it. I googled cat pees on my car and found the ideal solution…. take the cat to the vet and have it neutered, in layman’s terms this means taking the cat to the vet and having his nadgers removed… I thought this was an ideal solution.  Oh! I didn’t tell you the manky cats name did I, Mrs Sensible calls it Toby (I think after her screen heart throb Toby Stephens) Before the cat visited the vets, I called it Ginger or that Bl%$dy Cat. Now I am happy to call it Pussy No Balls.

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I had just explained to the cat why he was going to the vets.

Mrs Sensible’s cat has spent the past month fighting with a rather large feral cat, so far he has come home with part of his ear badly chewed, various bits of fur missing and a tail that looked like it had been snapped in half and then passed through a mangler.

Mrs Sensible said enough was enough and something needed to be done to protect her beloved cat from the monster that was attacking it. I tried to explain to Mrs S that her manky cat was probably starting the fights and deserved the kicking he was receiving.

To be honest at least once or even one hundred and sixteen times I have wanted to kick Mrs Sensible’s beloved cat ….. and I like cats, with the exception of Toby aka Ginger aka Pussy No Balls.

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If Ginger was a human. “My Toby wouldn’t hurt a fly he is so sweet” says Mrs Sensible

We took Ginger and his mangled tail to the vet, the cat received two injections (that should have been more painful) and I received a bill for €20 and a rather large cage to catch the wild cat. The vet said if we manage to catch the wild cat he would drive the cat 20 miles away and release it so it could torment some other cats in another village.

Adding big game hunter to my other list of achievements was an exciting prospect, I donned my pith helmet, armed myself with the cage and set off to catch the wild and terrible cat.

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I told my neighbor about my latest adventure

I baited the trap with very expensive cat food and set it in the front garden, I then retired to bed. At precisely three o clock in the morning I was awoken by a terrible commotion. Mrs Sensible said “quick it will be the Gattoni, the trap has caught it!!!” I noticed she didn’t say YOU have caught it..I tried to roll over back into my dreams by suggesting it was probably just my stupid cat Mishmash in the trap.

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The terrible, wild and to be honest angry Gattoni

I looked out the window and it wasn’t Mishmash, it was the Gattoni who was caught in the trap. The trap appeared to be walking across the garden as the cat tried to escape. To subdue the animal I covered the trap in a blanket.

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Mishmash  and Ruthie inspecting the cage and captured cat

Now that I had captured the cat, the decision was whether I should drive the cat 20 miles away and release it, or take it to the vet who promised to release it on our behalf. I had a little nagging doubt whether the vet would take the cat for a drive or if he would give it a little injection and send it to sleep.

After debating the problem with my friends over a beer, I decided my son and I would take the cat for a scenic drive through the countryside.

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Famous last words

Driving back from the vineyard my son told me about a film he had watched called Homeward Bound, it is a soppy film about two dogs and one cat that traveled halfway across America. I think he was trying to tell me 20 miles was not far enough. I pointed out that movies are one thing, real life is something different.

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The cat returned

Now either somebody has a great sense of humour and has  brought the cat back to my garden or the cat has found his way home. He either wants to finish his fight with the Ginger cat or his love for Mishmash has not been satisfied yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

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

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

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Ah the bliss of school.

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

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

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

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

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

Hymn

I knew the tune, just not the words

So I just stood there and listened. I think they were singing the second verse when I felt a little nudge in the small of my back. I thought it was a little strange to be nudged whilst standing in church, so I ignored it. And then I was nudged again. I turned to see a little Sicilian man holding an open hymn book for me, and his wife was smiling and kindly nodding. I took the hymn book, smiled and turned around. Taking a deep breath I joined them.

Pecora Nera Singing

I sang with gusto

I didn’t just mumble my way through the hymn, I sang with gusto, with fortitude and with absolutely no idea what the words meant or how to pronounce them.

I felt at one with the congregation and my maker, well until I looked down and saw a very small and worried looking boy staring at me from behind his mothers legs.

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Please make him stop!!

I smiled at him and gave him a wave, he quickly disappeared from sight. After the hymn had finished I turned and handed the book back to the man and thanked him. I think the moment must have been too much for  his wife, because she was dabbing the corners of her eyes with a lace hanky.

After the exertion of singing I sat down and listened but understood nothing the preacher was saying, it is a problem that still besets me. And then they stood and started singing another hymn and I felt the familiar nudge in my back.

Orangutans Laughing

Give him the Hymn book again

After the service, Mrs Sensible told me I was welcome to visit the church whenever I was in Sicily, at least somebody must have appreciated my singing.

 

 

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

This afternoon I was at a loose end, I checked the cupboards and there wasn’t any chocolate or crisps in sight, I checked my E-mail, Facebook, Whatsapp and then checked them again. A second trip around the kitchen didn’t reveal any biscuits or any hidden food that I could binge on…… but I did find these.

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Five lolly moulds, not six just five.

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

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

My recipe goes something like this.

Remove one bottle of limoncello from the freezer.

3

mmmmm limoncello

Clean the ice lolly moulds and…

4

I wonder who has the sixth mould?

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

5

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

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

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

6

Pan of pee limoncello

Pour the limoncello mixture into the lolly moulds.

7

In it goes

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

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Sealed and ready for the freezer

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

How do they taste?

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

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

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

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

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Today is an important day, it is the Glorious Twelfth which I am sure you know is the official start of the mosquito hunting season, if you want to get involved, further information can be found here.  It is also the day when Italians start to realise that they might have gained a few pounds over the winter and should consider some sort of exercise or sport if they want to look their best on the beach.

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You need the perfect body for the perfect swimming costume, he is obviously English look how white his legs are!!!

During the summer of 2013 I reported on the bizarre sport of Summer Skiing, I understand the sport originated in Finland and has becoming very popular in Italy, mainly due to the relatively few accidents and because you don’t have to pay for ski lifts and expensive clothes.

Summer Skiing

Summer Skiing, no need to pay for expensive boots and skis..

I know over the winter I have managed to lay down a little bit of winter Insulation fat but I wasn’t sure which sport would be most suitable for a man of my tender years. Please don’t get me wrong, I have not been idle during the winter, every morning I do at least two sit ups, one as I sit up to turn off the alarm clock and another as I roll out of bed. Sometimes I manage a third sit up especially if I hit the snooze button rather than the off button on the alarm clock.

Summer will be here soon and I know that if I take up summer skiing I wont lose my winter fat until maybe the summer of 2017 or even 2018 and the thoughts of walking onto the beach in Sicily and having to hold Mrs Sensible’s bag while she goes for a swim is depressing.

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Let me hold your bag while you go for a swim

Drastic measures cause for drastic actions, I have taken up karate. I know you will want to know which hospital to send the get well soon cards to… at the moment all injuries have been self inflicted. The first three week I started training, Mrs Sensible had to help me in and out of bed, after each visit to the club it took me nearly three days to learn to walk unassisted.

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Pecora Nera is learning Karate, I thought he got his exercise from drinking wine !!!

At times it was so bad, I would not even consider trying to wobble over to open a bottle of wine and that’s saying something. And what is Mrs Sensible doing I hear you ask! Well Mrs S has decided to get fit by walking, she meets up with her teacher friends and they go walking after school. I did consider inviting her to join the karate club but, I don’t know, it just didn’t seem appropriate.

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Mrs Sensible is dangerous enough with her wet wooden spoon.

Besides there are already two very dangerous females at the club, I am petrified of them, I thought females were supposed to be the gentle sex . On Thursday we practice what we have learnt by fighting each other. We are supposed to partner up with someone with the same ability and skill, these two horrors keep picking on me. I really need to consider complaining to our instructor.

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If they don’t stop picking on me I will take up dominoes

Italian Rituals

Italian Rituals

I have had at least a  month to ponder and write a post about Italian weird rituals for the April C.O.S.I post, it is now the 5th and I am still struggling.  Maybe it is because after living here for nearly nine years Italia no longer seems so strange and weird. Or maybe it’s because I am pigro.

We are coming up to the start of the mosquito hunting season and I did consider telling you how Italians can hold a very serious conversation whilst standing on one leg and attempting to either splatter a mosquito that has landed on their leg or soothe the bite mark by giving it a quick rub.

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Robert Downey Jnr attempting to kill the mosquito that is biting his leg

The second possibility for a post, was the annual ritual of sending your winter coats and heavy blankets to the dry cleaners, packing away all the winter clothes and getting the summer clothes ready for summer. This has always bemused me and I refuse to co-operate with Mrs Sensible. I maintain that I can’t pack away my jumpers and winter coats because if I fly to the UK in August I will probably need them…. and an umbrella.

Besides, I am yet to meet an Italian that doesn’t wear a scarf in summer to protect them from cervicale.

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A tartan bed sheet used as a scarf

On Sunday we were having a bring and share with a group of friends from church, Mrs Sensible turned to me and said ok we are going now. Under normal circumstances this means get your hat and coat we are off, but in Italy this means we are nearly ready to go, we just need to start the ritual of saying goodbye to everybody. So I wandered off in search of another glass of wine and a slice of chocolate cake.

While I was savoring a very nice glass of Barbera, Mrs S was chanting ciao, arrivederci,  ci verdiamo, arrivederla, a presto, a domani etc. As I stood next to the table with the cakes I started to wonder how I could put a post together.

Good bye 5

The correct way to say goodbye in Italia. Notice the perfect peck on the cheek and the way he is making sure he has a firm grip… on the bottle of wine.

Mrs S had got around to the kissing on the cheeks and had actually managed to make some headway in the general direction of the door, when someone held her hand (so she couldn’t escape) and started another conversation. I swirled the wine in my glass, admired the colour and took another drink. I knew I had at least another twenty minutes before I needed to start looking for my coat.

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This is not the way to kiss cheeks… she is in danger of gaining stretch marks and the kiss kiss noise she makes will be deafening

Mrs S looked over towards me, so I casually replaced the glass on the table and pretended to walk towards her, as she rejoined the conversation I picked up a piece of torta di mele and replenished my glass of wine.

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This is maybe a little to over the top, we can see she isn’t wearing a wedding ring, but that is no excuse for taking the kiss goodbye too far.

It was at this point that I wondered if I could put together a post on the ritual of drinking wine in Italy, after all it is something I have a passion for, I could also ask the permission of Mrs S if I could maybe, you know, visit a couple of wine cantinas to further my research.

Good bye 1

yep, in Italy even men kiss each other. Please note that they are also shaking hands, this is to prevent accusations that they are more than just friends

So here I am, it is the 5th and I still don’t know what to write about. I could tell you about my first day teaching English to a class of seventeen 6 year olds! That was fun, or maybe the first time I tried to sing a hymn in Italian and scared the three rows of people in front of me!

So while I ponder what to write for the C.O.S.I post on Italian Rituals let me leave you with Maria Cucinotta who starred in Il Postino to kiss you goodbye.

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Maria Grazia Cucinotta kissing goodbye

The COSI Group

Rick’s Rome: Ridiculous Rituals In Italy/Under The Puglia Sun

Sicily Inside And Out: Culture Shock In Sicily

Sex, Lies, and Nutella: Food Traditions

Surviving in Italy: Top 7 Weirdest Rituals in Italy

Girl in Florence: Strange wedding traditions

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

Following last weeks debacle at the ASL office (Italian health office) I casually mention I was going to start the process to obtain Italian citizenship. The ink had not even dried on my little post when Sal from sarsaparillasal.blogspot.com suggested we should have a little race to see who will be the first to obtain their Italian citizenship.

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Sally from sarsaparillasal

Mrs Sensible thinks I am crazy to even contemplate trying to obtain Italian citizenship, she might be right but being crazy has never hindered me in the past, Lady of the Cakes asked me if my quest was in anticipation of the Brexit.

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I couldn’t find a picture of Lady of the Cakes but I did steal this image from her blog, it’s probably a good likeness.

To be honest I don’t think the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will make much difference to me when it comes to dealing with Italian officials. Most of the officials I have been unfortunate to come into contact with, either think the UK is not part of Europe, or maybe just not part of the European Economic Area. Even the Italian Police who frequently stop me to check my driving licence think the UK is a country sandwiched somewhere in between Poland and Russia and goes by the name of the Ukraine!

Here is a nice photo of the Italian police with their shiny new Lamborghini police car.

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Happy Smiley Faces

And here is another picture of their shiny new Lamborghini police car.

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Oops our gallant boys in blue with their shiny new toys.

Ok, so back to Sally and her suggestion that we should have a race to see who can cut through the Italian red tape and be the first to obtain Italian citizenship.

I, Pecora Nera hereby throw down the gauntlet to publicly challenge Sally to the race, may the best friend win.

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Sorry Sally I couldn’t find a nice gauntlet to angrily throw on the floor.

So let the challenge begin… dun dun duuuuurrrr.

PS I have had a snoop at her blog and she is fluent in Italian and has lived here longer than me and….. I’m doomed to lose.

 

 

The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…

Last weekend Mrs Sensible dragged me kicking and screaming to the local supermarket. I hate shopping and pushing a trolley around the aisles saying useful things like, uh huh and not sure and even, wow look two toilet rolls  for the price of one! A couple of months ago I used to be able to have a bit of fun hiding a bottle of limoncello or a bar of chocolate under the shopping for it to appear when Mrs S loaded our shopping onto the check out conveyor. Mrs Sensible doesn’t normally like making a fuss in front of people, occasionally she would give me her teacher stare but normally my acquisitions are, blipped, paid for and put in the plastic bags.

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Even Batman goes shopping

To make my visits to the supermarket even more unbearable, Ipercoop have introduced a new system, probably marketed as Blip as you go. Special people (like Mrs Sensible) are allowed to go around the store and blip their purchases as they shop, they are even allowed to put them into shopping bags and when they are ready to leave the store, they put the blipper in a special machine and finally pay for their purchases.

Mrs Sensible's new toy

The Blipper, Mrs Sensible’s new toy

For many reasons I do not like this system. First I can no longer hide bottles of limoncello as they need to be blipped by Mrs S before they enter the trolley that I am responsible for pushing. Second I am not happy with depriving a check out girl from her job and finally Ipercoop and Mrs Sensible wont let me play with one of the blippers.

Back to last week, Mrs S dragged me off to Ipercoop and we filled the trolley with useless things like bleach, pasta and bicarbonate of soda (We seem to use a lot of this stuff) . Mrs S was of course in charge of the blipper and my sole responsibility was to push the trolley and mutter, uh huh and are we nearly done now? But to my surprise we turned up the biscuit aisle. I say to my surprise because Mrs S and I seem to be on a 24/7, 346 days a year diet (excluding wine and grappa). I held my breath as Mrs S blipped two packets of biscuits and handed them to me, as I dropped them in the trolley; she then handed me a third packet and I duly dropped it in the trolley.

For at least one nanosecond I did wonder if Mrs S had remembered to blip the 3rd packet of biscuits, but as William K Shakespeare famously said “Theirs is not to reason why” and so I put the third packet in the trolley and didn’t mention Mrs Sensible’s possible oversight. When we returned home and staggered into the house with umpteen plastic bags of shopping, Mrs S picked up the till receipt and checked her purchases. Checking till receipts when you return home is a hereditary disorder, I have watched her father do the same receipt checking thing. I normally screw receipts up and stuff them in my back pocket.

Mrs Sensible, realised that we had three packets of biscuits……… but SHE had only blipped and paid for two. We then had the following conversation, you can work out for yourselves who said what.

Did you put another packet of biscuits in the trolley?

Nope!

Are you sure?

Positive, I am only in charge of the trolley.

But we only paid for two packets!

Oops,

Mrs S re-checked her till receipt to see if a third packet was itemised in between the bleach and the bicarbonate of soda, it wasn’t. Obviously I thought this was funny and Mrs S didn’t.

Ok so you have STOLEN A PACKET OF BISCUITS, what are you going to do about it?

I could go  back and tell them.

Uh huh you could, or next time you go shopping you could take them back and put them back on the shelf.

I think they have security cameras.

Tricky… How about we just eat them?

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

Over the past week the problem of the STOLEN PACKET OF BISCUITS has weighed heavily on the conscience of Mrs Sensible, I have done my best not to reminder Mrs S too much that she is now not only a sensible school teacher, but she is also a sensible shoplifter. On Friday I crunched my way through a packet of biscuits and casually remarked at how nice, tasty and crunchy they were. So far Mrs S has refused to join me in eating the evidence of her ill gotten gains.

Last night, out of the blue Mrs Sensible said

I know how to solve it.

Solve what?

The biscuits.

Uh Huh.

When we next go shopping I will blip two packets and only buy one packet.

Which gives me at least three days to find a way of foiling her scheme.

This isn’t the first time I have been caught up in illegal activity with Mrs Sensible’s sensible family. I do remember almost getting arrested at Gatwick Airport with Mrs Sensible’s mum and a rather large pen knife. LINK 

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pecora picked a peck of pickled peppers;

For the past seven years I have managed to avoid private lessons. My self-taught Italian has fared me well when ordering wine, grappa and pizza, but even a Black Sheep (Pecora Nera) such as I, realises that I need to try to learn more than the 20 words and 3 phrases that are currently in my vocabulary.

Last night I completed my first Italian lesson with a real live tutor.My tutor has excellent qualifications and experience to tutor me. During the day she teaches the Italian language to 7 to 10 year olds at a primary school and is therefore qualified enough to teach to my standard and level of intelligence.  Obviously I checked her credentials and found that she has the patience of a saint and to date she hasn’t gaffa taped any of her pupils to the chair when they misbehaved.

As long as I behave she wont gaffa tape me to the chair

As long as I behave she won’t gaffa tape me to the wall

The English help students to articulate correctly by teaching them tongue twisters, these are little rhymes that become increasingly more difficult to say  as the volume of alcohol is increased. You didn’t know this famous English drinking game?

Here is an example of a typical English tongue twister

Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers;

A peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked;

If Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked?

The Italians have gone one better, they have included a tongue twister as part of their daily language, it is a word that I am going to try my best to avoid. What is this fabulous word I hear you cry.

It is non other than Gli 

Gli

I hope this chart explains what gli is please feel free to enlighten me

Here is a clip I found of a young boy pronouncing gli

As you can see It is not difficult, unless of course you are an Englishman, here is my pitiful attempt.

Many many thanks to my wonderful tutor….

RIP Ariston

Dear Friends and Bloggers,

It is with deep sorrow and pain that I inform you of the demise of Ariston. Over the past twelve months Mrs Sensible has cared for Ariston on a daily basis. She made sure he was clean and his needs were met.

Unfortunately Ariston passed away during the early hours this morning. Mrs Sensible discovered Ariston demise, when she went to make some toast for my breakfast and realised that the bread had defrosted.

I was called to the scene and although his light had not gone out, it was apparent that Ariston was indeed dead. All attempts to revive him failed.

We believe the lightning strike that frazzled the internet modem also mortally wounded Ariston.

This evening there will be a wake in memory of Ariston, on the menu will be recently defrosted sausages, fish-fingers and chicken wings.

And so it is with a heavy heart we say goodbye Ariston.

P.S If anyone can suggest a decent replacement for Ariston, Mrs Sensible and I would be grateful. We are considering either a Hotpoint or a Beko RIP

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

They even took the kitchen sink!!!

Your dream has finally come true. After many years of dreaming and persuading your partner that moving to Italy is a good idea you finally arrive. With satisfaction you remember handing in your notice to your old boss and laughing when he said “you’ll be back”. Finally you are here, in Belle Italia. Hopefully the Italian subsidiary of your freight company has only misplaced your furniture and hopefully it will turn up in a couple of weeks.

Do you remember your last visit to Italy, the time you were walking around the house that you and your partner decided to rent / buy? Can you remember how the sun shone in through the kitchen window and made the shiny taps and stainless steel sink sparkle? I bet it was a shock when you finally entered the house and realised that not only had they removed all the door handles and light switches but the beautiful kitchen cupboards and sink are also missing. If only they had left a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom you could wipe the tear from your eye.

They even took the kitchen sink

They even took the kitchen sink (Rustyduck.net)

I really am not exaggerating, Italians view their kitchen cupboards and sink the same way they view their leather sofa or their bed. When they move house, they will take it all with them. What you are buying / renting is a house, this means something that has four walls, a roof, windows and a door. But don’t worry they will leave you the bidet although the chances are you will use it for washing your feet and not your bum.

Last week I was talking with Georgette from Girl in Florence and we decided to write about our experiences of renting houses in Italy so please go and read her post, it is full of sensible advice.

Mrs Sensible and I have lived in Italy for seven years and in that time we have moved house three times, we have viewed quite a few houses in our search, so here are a few of our experiences.

House no 1 Rent 220.00 euros a month

A nice little house but

A nice little house but it had a funky smelling bathroom. You can see the entrance and the bedroom at the rear.

Mrs Sensible chose to rent this furnished house, she took this decision without my input, because she was tired of living in a nunnery with a collection of nuns, whilst I enjoyed eating bacon sandwiches and drinking pints of beer in the UK. Honest, the nuns rented her a cell room for 2 months while I was still in the UK

This first house had one bedroom, a kitchen sink and a little problem with rising damp. The bathroom had been built over the septic tank, which meant the bathroom always had a funky smell to it, regardless of the number of times we scrubbed it with bleach. We loved the little house, for Mrs Sensible is was a short walk to her school and I didn’t have far to walk to the bar. There were two reasons why we moved house, the first was the funky smelling bathroom and the second reason, was the embarrassment of asking friends who had flown over from the UK if they minding sleeping in the lounge on a blow-up bed next to the table..

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

Lots of visitors from the UK camped in our lounge

One afternoon when we were driving in the countryside I suddenly stopped the car and pointed to a house that had the sign AFFITTO nailed to the wall. I demanded that Mrs S phone the woman and ask her for some information.

Mrs S: Hello, we have just seen your house with the for rent sign, can you tell me a little about it.

Crazy Women: It has a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and a bedroom.

Mrs S: So it doesn’t have a second bedroom?

Crazy Woman: How many will be living in my house?

Mrs S: Just me and my Husband

Crazy Woman: So why do you need a guest room?

Mrs S: In case my parents want to visit or if we have friends from the UK to visit.

Crazy Woman: Oh I don’t think I am happy about guests staying.

CLICK

I dragged Mrs Sensible to look at a beautiful villa in Conzano overlooking the valley, the rent was 550.00 a month which was over the budget we had set ourselves. It was furnished with Sicilian antiques; there were 4 bedrooms, a study, lots of balconies, a large private garden; I was in love. We both walked around the house and discussed if the rent was affordable, I was like a child in a sweet shop, almost skipping with joy. Every time I passed Mrs S I whispered into her ear just tell them yes.

Mrs S started to discuss something with the owners, I knew there was bad news coming, I just felt the atmosphere change.

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler is fired with gasolio.

Me: Just say yes.

Mrs S: The boiler heats air and then blows it around the house through those air ducts.

Me: OK, say yes.

Mrs S: It will cost a fortune to heat this house; this is really a house only to be used as a summer house.

Me: But it is fab, please say yes.

Mrs S: No

Me: Pleeeeaaaasssse.

The boiler was a littlw out of date

The central heating boiler was a little out of date

One afternoon Mrs S took me to look at a house that she had found in Terruggia. Terrugia is a rather nice village and the rent for the house was €500.00 euros a month. The house had been split up into 2 apartments, one on each floor and the owner kept a private studio on the top floor. The apartment we looked at was on the second floor. As we climbed the communal staircase (I was still thinking about the dream villa) we were shown into the apartment. It was spectacular, the dinning-room and lounge were open plan and furnished with leather sofas, there was a nice kitchen and a small but adequate bathroom. While Mrs S wandered around the kitchen I suddenly realised the absence of anything that looked like a bedroom.

There was a very impressive wooden wardrobe in the lounge and I opened the door to see if the bedroom door had been cleverly disguised. Nothing, it was just an empty wardrobe. I walked over to Mrs S and said “I don’t want to appear stupid, but where will we sleep, I can’t find any bedrooms.

I wasn't sure what I would find when I opened the wardrobe, maybe a bedroom or maybe a lion and a witch

I wasn’t sure what I would find when I opened the wardrobe, maybe a bedroom or maybe a lion and a witch

Mrs Sensible: My husband has just asked were the bedrooms are.

Owner: Ahh! You are in the day side of the house; let me show you the night side of the house.

Me: What did he say?

Mrs S: Wait!

The owner walked to the front door and opened it; he walked across the communal staircase and unlocked another door.

Owner: The night side of the house is through here, look there are 2 bedrooms and a shower room.

Me: You are kidding me! So when I want a glass of water in the middle of the night, I have to go in search of the keys to open 2 doors and walk naked across a communal staircase to get to the kitchen!!!

Mrs S: You will have to wear pyjamas.

Me: I don’t wear pyjamas.

Mrs S: You will have to put on your dressing gown.

Me: And if I forget and the neighbour sees me streaking across the staircase?

Mrs S: PN!!!

I think part of my dislike for the house (a really small part) was because I wanted the magnificent villa with the Sicilian furniture and diesel fired central heating.

The third house we looked at was frankly just amazing. We were made to stand outside in the rain while the owner showed some other viewers his house. While the rain ran down my neck I asked Mrs S how much the rent on the house was. €600 a month she told me. Wow it must be fantastic.

How to expand your house the italian way

How to expand your house the italian way

We entered the house and walked down a hallway, there was a sofa in the hallway that we had to navigate around. The hallway opened into a good sized dining room complete with a very large table. There was a very, very small kitchen through a door. As we stood in the kitchen I showed Mrs Sensible how I could touch all four walls without moving my feet.  Stop it she told me, there will be another kitchen elsewhere maybe upstairs.

I walked back to the hallway and sat on the sofa.

Owner: (in Italian) Ah you have found the lounge.

Me: Sorry I don’t understand, I am English.

Mrs Sensible: She said you are sitting in the lounge.

Me: (hysterically) ask her where the kitchen is.

Mrs S: Can you please tell me where the kitchen is.

Owner: It is small but it is through that door….

Me: Let’s go home.

We went upstairs and viewed a large bathroom, down a corridor there was a door that led to bedroom number 1, on the other side of the bedroom was another door that led into bedroom number 2, and if you walked through that room there was yet another door leading to bedroom number 3.

Me: This is bizarre, if we have guests in bedroom number 3, they will have to walk through two bedrooms if they need to visit the bathroom. This house is just a mass of corridors with no proper rooms.

Owner: What did your husband say?

Mrs S: He said you have a very nice house.

To this day I am not sure how they fitted three large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and only a corridor and a dining-room downstairs.

To end this post I want to direct you to one of my earlier posts on the hazards of owning a summer house in Italy.

Link A little Summer House

Our house

Our house

DSC04251

A pole and a phone

Somewhere in Italy there is a boat minus it’s mast. I know this for a fact, because there is a boat’s mast stuck in my garden. I was going to get a shovel and dig the mast out, but knowing my luck the rest of the boat is probably still attached to the mast. Over the past three months I have thought of several uses for our yachts mast (did you notice it now belonged to a yacht) I thought it might be useful for drying towels or maybe Mr’s Sensible’s knickers. (I might edit that bit out later, it will depend, if I can hide her wet wooden spoon)

 

No these aren't our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible's knickers

No these aren’t our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible’s knickers

As you know, Telecom Italia are driving me nuts, we still don’t have any internet connection and to be honest, by the time Telecom Italia arrange for their technical man to test our line, I will probably be retired and sat in an old people’s home drinking grappa and causing lots and lots of trouble for the nurses.

If they are armed with wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

If they are armed with a wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

At the moment the only way I can connect to the internet, is to sit in a café, drink copious quantities of coffee (in the morning) or lots of wine (in the afternoon) and use the cafés  internet.  Being an Englishman, as soon as the waitress removes my empty cup, I feel obliged to order another coffee, especially as I am taking up a table and using their internet.

Last week, I tried to vary the boredom of drinking cups of cappuccino by started with a caffé macchiato, I then moved onto a café marocchino, washed that down with a caffé doppio  and just for good measure, I  finished of the morning with a rather nice caffè corretto ( I then Jitterbugged to the Turkish toilet with big wide starring eyes. I suppose it is no wonder they think their resident Englishman is a bit mad.

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

If I am at home and I want to use the internet, I create a hotspot on my little crappy Huawei phone, I place the phone on a chair in the garden, run back upstairs to my office and hope and pray it picks up a good enough signal so that I can quickly download my e mails.  This drives me almost as crazy as jitterbugging around the café.

Yesterday I had an eureka moment; I knew there was a reason I hadn’t chopped down my flagpole. I suddenly realised it would make a fabulous internet mast. One plastic bag and a bit of string later, my mobile phone was hoisted 5 metres into the air and miracles of miracles, I had 3G, well maybe 1.5G but it did work and I managed to upload this post.

Flag

I told Mrs Sensible not to turn my flag into a cushion.

So if you decided to contact me, please, please, please use my contact form and don’t phone me, it is a nightmare when the phone rings. I have to run downstairs, play the last call on the bugle and lower the flag and all this takes time.

PS If you work for Telecom Italia or you know somebody who works for them, please tell them Pecora Nera is one of their dissatisfied customers.

dissatisfied

Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome.

Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome.

I have just found out our cuddly cats may be carriers of Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome a link  to the disease is here. This dreadful disease is very common in cats and may be dangerous if transmitted to a pregnant woman!!! Fortunately neither Mrs Sensible nor I are pregnant, well I hope not anyway.

 

Toxic Plastic Leg Syndome

Toxic Plastic Leg Syndrome

Last night Mrs Sensible aided and impeded by yours truly, attempted to force the cats to eat a selection of tablets to cure Toxic Plastic Legs Syndrome, beri beri and the shits. The operation did not go well. As I tried to entice Mish Mash to eat his horse sized pills, I was amazed at how many legs a cat has, each tipped with a lot of sharp little claws, plus some pretty sharp teeth. In fact, I still have the scratch marks to prove how much the cats enjoyed the game and I will go to the hospital tomorrow for a little bit of first aid and a tetanus shot.

 

Mish Mash after I had tried to force feed him.

Mish Mash after I had tried to force feed him.

 

After I nearly lost the end of my index finger on my right hand, Mrs S shouted “I told you to crush the tablets and mix it with their food”

 

Boh!!

 

Our cats are now de-bugged, de-wormed and no longer suffer from diarrhea.  The cats are now ready for their next home. Which could be your home!!!!! Just complete the contact form and I will send you a cat via Fedex

 

Mr Hairy will be the first to go, because he is so handsome and cute, if he was an Italian man he would strut around wearing an Armani suit complete with a man bag and generally wow the women.

 

Mr Hairy

Mr Hairy the good looking cat.

Mrs S and I are still negotiating which cat/s we will keep here. Last week it was all five, that is until they managed to spread their number 2’s from one side of their room to the other. For an explanation of what a number 2 is go read this earlier post.

If Mr Hairy was a man, he would look like this

If Mr Hairy was a man, he would look like this

Ruth, formally called the Runt, will stay because although she is pretty ugly, she is the brightest and will cause us the least trouble and either Mish Mash, my choice because she is as mad as a hatter and chases anything that moves and has an amazing ability to climb up a trouser leg using only her claws. Mrs Sensible wants to keep  Ginger, because she likes him. Aren’t women sentimental.

 

The Runt

The Runt sometimes called Ruth or Butt-Ugly

We have found a woman, whose soul aim in life is to re house kittens and stray cats. She came here and inspected our cats, provided us with some valuable advice and cans of cat food, plus the miraculous horse tablets. She has officially been added to my Christmas card list.

Telecom Italia, you have just got to…..

Telecom Italia you have just got to love them hate them.

Boh!

Boh!

Yesterday I once again pestered Mrs Sensible to phone Telecom Italia. I waited until she was sat down and drinking her cup of tea before I started.

She had a another really interesting conversation with Telecom Italia about our unusual postal address (They agree with my version of our address, so I am starting to like them). They did ask Mrs S which of the two address they now have for our telephone line, we live at… 🙂 🙂 🙂

The latest update is they will test our line to see if I can have broadband, this will take place between now and the end of the month. It takes so long because they have a ‘specialist line tester’ !!!!

Telecom Italia or 2 cans and a bit of string.

Telecom Italia or 2 cans and a bit of string.

Welcome to my new office. You might notice it is full of old men drinking espresso, this is so I can sit here unnoticed and get some work done, well until I open my mouth and order another cappuccino and all heads swivel my way.

Some people in my office are even older than me.... incredible

Some people in my office are even older than me…. incredible

Why don’t I work from home? Two reasons, 1 It is full of scabby cats and 2, there is no internet connection. A week ago I asked Mrs Sensible to phone Telecom Italia and ask them to connect us to the internet, this should be very easy after all we already have 5 working phones scattered around the house.

Don't phone us and we won't phone you.

We value all our customers, even the dead ones.

So Mrs S picked up the phone and called a customer service representative woman at Telecom Italia. She gave them our address and explained that the previous owner of the house had died and we wanted to have the line reconnected (The phone line was working, it just wasn’t in our name) and to also have fast internet. Telecom told her, the contract is still in the dead man’s name and they required a relative of the dead man to write to them and prove he was dead so they can cancel his contract.  While this conversation was in progress I was hopping from foot to foot saying helpful things like “how soon, I need fast internet, tell them I also need a modem. The scowl from Mrs S shut me up.

Stay Connected with your loved ones

Stay Connected with your loved ones

I sent an E mail to the son of Telecom’s dead customer and asked him to prove his dead dad was in fact dead. He told me he had proved to Telecom that he was dead 2 years ago and to his knowledge, things had not changed.

Mrs S phoned Telecom and reached a different woman, she explained their customer was in fact still dead and they had been told he was dead 2 years ago. The  woman said “we know he is dead” Ah ha progress!! Mrs S again gave her details and requested an internet line and phone line. I knew I was allowed to hop from foot to foot but I had to keep silent. When Mrs S put the phone down, the phone that according to Telecom was already disconnected and as dead as their previous customer, she told me Telecom would call me in a couple of days to organise the fitting.  I was sooooo excited.

The best I could hope for

The best I can hope for.

Seven days passed and  no calls, so I harassed Mrs S to call them again.

The conversation went something like this,

Mrs S; You promised to phone Pecora Nera to organise his internet access, when are you going to do this because he is driving me mad.

Telecom: Please will you give me your address.

Mrs S: 2 Green Leaves Road in the middle of the countryside.

Telecom: That is why we didn’t call you, this phone is registered to 13 Old Mill Road in the middle of nowhere.

Mrs S; Can you please update your system as the address is wrong, the council say we live at number 2 Green Leaves, not number 13 Old Mill Road.

And so until Telecom arrive with my 2 tin cans and a long length of string I will have to share my office with 7 old men.

There is a post about our strange address here I will update you on Telecom Italia ASP (at some point)

 

 

 

 

 

Ferragosto

According to my pocket Italian / English dictionary, the definition for Ferragosto is:-

Ferragosto takes place in Italy anywhere between the 1st and the 31th of August,  plumbers, electricians, butchers and anybody else that you need on a day to day basis or may need in a crisis, leave town and either head to the mountains or the seaside for 1 to 31 days. It is not uncommon for towns and villages to become temporary ghost towns.

 

Ferieagosto

Ferragosto

Last year on the 17th of August our boiler decided to go into meltdown. Mrs Sensible contacted our landlord and asked if she could organise a plumber. Ten minutes later, the landlady phoned back and told us the plumber was on holiday until the 28th of August, she added is Pecora Nera any good with boilers.

Mrs S asked me if I knew anything about boilers, I said, I understood they blow up if you don’t know what you are doing and poke around inside them. Mrs S then broke the news to me that we would be taking cold showers for the rest of the month; unless I knew how to fix the boiler. So armed with a screwdriver a large hammer and wearing some overalls I went to have a look at our boiler.

Boiler suit for messing with boilers

Safety overalls for use when messing with boilers

I stuck one finger in one ear and holding my screwdriver at arms length I poked and played with things I really didn’t have a clue about. After 30 minutes of cursing the boiler and the plumber who was sat on some beach drinking pina colada I gave up. Mrs S phoned the landlady and said I had failed miserably and was there any other plumbers in Italy? The landlady said she would send her husband. It was at this point that I decided I needed to be somewhere else, maybe at my favorite bar which I had calculated would be outside the blast range or maybe better still on a flight to England.

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

The landlady’s husband turned up with his own screwdriver and an even bigger hammer than the one I was holding. He poked about inside the boiler, he hit delicate bits of pipe with his hammer and explained to me what he thought was wrong with the boiler. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, not only because I don’t understand Italian but by this time I was stood with fingers in both of my ears just in case the boiler decided to go boom.

 

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

And then miraculously, the boiler hissed, farted and started working. We decided to celebrate by drinking a glass or two of grappa.

 

So if your boiler breaks down, or your cooker starts smoking during August drop me a line and I will send you the landlady’s husband.

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

I have been informed that our crazy group of expats bloggers (COSI Group), are having a Google Hangout Q&A session at 13:00 EST, 19:00 in Italy on Sunday the 3rd of August.  I haven’t a clue how to do this but I will try to be there with a glass of wine in my hand.

Please go to my COSI  page and follow the links to other bloggers from COSI who are uploading their thoughts on Ferragosto

 

 

Moving house, C.O.S.I and my apologies.

Seven days ago Mrs Sensible and I moved house, it was not the first time I have moved house, in fact I have moved house seven times, so you would think I would be organised and remember to write the contents on each box as I pack them. One would think that after seven moves I would remember to pack the kettle with its power cord and tie the screws for the wardrobe to one of the doors so that I could reassemble the wardrobe at the new house.

Where is the hairdryer

Where is my hairdryer?

 

Unfortunately our new house resembles an explosion at an Ikea warehouse. There are bits of wardrobe in one room and bits in another, the important screws are still missing. My office had to be quickly assembled in the garden so that I could earn some pennies. I even installed a light in case the moon didn’t come out.

 

office up and ready

office up and ready

And how is Mrs Sensible I hear you ask, well a tad stressed, her office kitchen cabinets currently share the floor in the dining room with the sofa and lots of boxes. The cooker won’t cook and the fridge won’t freeze. Mrs Sensible is creating some wonderful meals using a microwave, her ingenuity and some spoons that miraculously were packed in a box marked kitchen.

 

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

A week before we moved I received an invitation to join a group called C.O.S.I Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy. C.O.S.I  Someone who shall remain nameless put my name forward because he ‘sensibly’  realised he was too busy to participate in the group. I on the other hand have never been particularly sensible; as my long-suffering wife will tell you. On Friday I was supposed to upload a post regarding “trying to learn the Italian language”. Fridays’ dead line came and went; I think I was struggling up stairs with two suitcases of clothes at the time. Besides in the past seven years, I have never managed to learn more than a few Italian words, so I am probably not the best person to blog about this particular subject.

 

So here are my apologies.

To Cosi: sorry mates I will try harder next time.

To Mrs Sensible: sorry I lost the kettle lead, wardrobe screws, tooth-brush chargers, my underwear, your shoes, the washer hose and you are right I did only remember our wedding anniversary when I was at the supermarket checkout and that is why you only ended up with a scabby box of chocolates.

 

Links to the C.O.S.I group.

 

 

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.

Mrs Sensible has left me :(

The first thing you are going to ask is “has she taken Scooby Doo the cat with her?” Well the answer is no, she has left the scabby white cat here with me and no doubt we will both starve. Did I drive her mad and force her to leave me? Has she finally said “basta!” (enough is enough!) . All I can tell you is she has flown to Sicily to marry somebody. Before I tell you what has happened, go and pour yourself a glass of wine and then bring your chair closer to the computer screen while I explain what has happened.

Mrs Sensible leaving into the Sunset

Mrs Sensible leaving into the Sunset

Mrs Sensible flew to Sicily on Friday afternoon; no sooner had Mrs Sensible left these golden shores when Scooby Doo and I quickly made an inventory of the bacon in the fridge and the number of cans of cat food in the cupboard.  I think I will starve first because I only have 3 packs of bacon left and Scooby Doo has 6 cans of cat food, plus he is not willing to share his food with me.

The cat was well prepared

The cat was well prepared

While I was looking in the kitchen for the emergency stash of chocolates and crisps, I found the following note pinned on the kitchen cupboard.

To Do,

Paint the new house.

Keep this house tidy.

Make your bed.

Water the plants.

Feed Scooby Doo

Do Not,

Have a party.

Mess with the washing machine.

Order more wine.

Eat all the crisps.

Annoy Scooby Doo.

I have already started dropping hints with friends that I am Home Alone and may starve to death over the weekend and to-date,

Pecora Nera & Scooby Doo

Pecora Nera & Scooby Doo

I have had no dinner or lunch invitations. Friday night I ended up eating a kebab in a Turkish takeaway in a little village called Fubina.  Mustapha who served me said “it good you here, I practice English with you, I want live near Manchester United; Italy hot but no good. England land of Milk and Honey” This might not be exactly what he said, I was only half listening to him while I was eating my kebab whilst wondering if the scabby white cat had worked out how to use the can opener.

 

If only Scooby Doo had opposing thumbs

If only Scooby Doo had opposing thumbs

 

Tonight I flipped a coin, ‘heads’ I cook bacon sandwiches or ‘tales’ I go to dinner with a lithe sweet young thing and enjoy a romantic evening for two. It was tales and I had a nice pint of beer, a chilli con carne and a fabulous pack of Brown Bag Crisp whilst staring into the eyes of my guest.

I stared into her green eyes

My dates eyes were like puddles, bicycle peddles.

So why has Mrs Sensible left me and flown to Sicily, top up your glass with some more wine and I will tell you. Mrs Sensible has gone to marry someone. Not as in to marry someone, (one black sheep is quite enough for Mrs Sensible) but as in marry two people together. It would appear there has been a new law in Italy, anyone who is deemed Sensible enough by the local council can officiate and marry people and so Mrs Sensible has flown to Sicily to officiate and marry two of our friends together.

She gets to wear one of those Italian banners over her shoulder

She got to wear one of these green white and red things

She got to wear one of these green white and red things

and ask the new couple the important questions such as:-

Do you take this man to be you lawful wedding husband, and promise to keep the fridge stocked with beer and his slippers and his pipe next to the fire?

And

Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife and always remember to open her car door for her and forgive her when she is short tempered and a growly monster for 1 week in every 4.

So it is Saturday night, I am home alone with only a bottle of wine and my wordpress friends to keep me company. Mrs Sensible will be back on Monday morning, which gives me plenty of time to straighten up the house and hide all the evidence of chocolate wrappers and empty wine bottles.

How is Scooby Doo the scabby white cat I hear you asking, well last time I looked he had given up with the can opener  and eaten Gilder’s the short legged but incredible fat dog’s dinner.

 

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

Last year I introduced you to Mr Cretino; he was the wonderful character who exchanged my UK driving licence for an Italian one and it only took him 8 months!!! Not bad for Italy. I have forgiven and almost forgotten about him.

However, yesterday when I went into the local plumbers’ to buy a replacement part for the toilet in our new house, the horrors of the driving licence fiasco came flooding back and flooding is an appropriate word.

It would appear Mr Cretino has a son; we shall call him Mr Cretino Jr.

 

Englishmaninitaly.org

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

I met him when I drove down to the local plumbing merchants to buy a new plastic widget for the flush of the toilet. The beginning of my troubles started when I turned on the water at the new house and created a minor tsunami in the upstairs bathroom. Nobody panicked when it happened, mainly because Mrs Sensible wasn’t there to watch the water cascade down the staircase and I was in the cellar turning on the water main and deciding how much wine I could store down there and would Mrs Sensible bother venture down the cold, dark, damp staircase to keep a tally of my wine stash the bottles of wine I planned on keeping solely for when guests arrive.

There was just a bit more water than this

There was just a bit more water than this

Anyway, after running around the house like a headless chicken, and mopping the bathroom and stairs I drove down to the Plumbing merchants to buy a replacement widget. Had I known the assistant was the son of Mr Cretino, I would have simply stuck an out of order sign on the bathroom door and told Mrs Sensible it was beyond repair and she would have to use the other bathroom.

 

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

So using my bestest Italian, it went something like this:

PN: Ciao

Mr C Jr: Yeah yeah, wait a moment.

PN: Ok no problem.

Mr C Jr: What do you want?

PN: OK, That broken, erh, not function good, change for new please.

Mr C Jr: What?

PN: Look, No stop water. This broken!!! Change for new, please.

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretuno JR

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretino JR

Mr Cretino Jr, picked up my little plastic widget and turned it around in his hands, he made a lot of sighing noises and said “Nope sorry, we don’t sell these”

I was devastated, Casale is a small town and this was the biggest plumbing merchants in the town. They had shelves and shelves of taps, tools, bits of plastic, kitchen sinks and to be honest I am sure they had one of my widgets or at the very least a set of seals for my widget. So I tried again.

PN: OK, This black, you have? I said as I pointed to one of the little black seals.

 

Please tell me you have these little black seals... Please

Please tell me you have these little black seals… Please

Mr C Jr: Nope, we don’t sell them either.

It was at this point that I realised whom I was dealing with. It wasn’t that he looked like Mr Cretino; for a start Mr Cretino was bald and this guy not only had a full head of hair, he also had a beard, maybe he got his looks from his mother.

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

While Mr Cretino Jr watched me reassemble my widget, I was suddenly struck by a great idea.

PN: (Holding the little plastic widget up in front of Mr Cretino Jr’s nose) You have similar, but a bit different?

Mr Cretino Jr: Of course we do!

He walked off down the corridor of shelves and returned with a shiny metal widget.

When he handed me the widget, I was wondering whether to give Mr Cretino Jnr a gift of my old plastic widget, maybe not in his hand but somewhere that would require a gifted surgeon to remove it.

Nurse stop  sniggering.

Nurse stop sniggering.

Spectacular Failure #001

In an attempt to educate the taste buds of Italy, we booked a stall at the Conzano village fair. We packed 400 packs of crisps into my Mini, one large umbrella to protect us from the blazing Italian sun and five receipt books to help us to comply with the Italian bureaucracy.

My business partner and his daughter also had a full car; it contained one makeshift table and enough provisions to sustain us through the day. At five-thirty in the morning, I foolishly climbed out of bed, drank the tea that Mrs Sensible had made me while she ironed my shirt, had a bowl of soggy cornflakes and sleepwalked my way to my little mini. When I arrived at my partner’s house he was still enjoying a cup of tea and warm croissants for his breakfast.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

In convoy we finally set out for Conzano. The promotional leaflet we had been given advertised clowns, angels, sunshine and dancing girls with snakes. Unfortunately when we arrived, we were greeted by white vans, rain, unhappy looking stall holders and big wet looking puddles; oh, did I mention the wind and the driving rain that was arriving horizontally?

The leaflet promised Dancing girls

The leaflet promised clowns, angels and dancing girls with snakes.

We convened a management meeting underneath a semi-waterproof gazebo to discuss how we were going to erect our sun-proof umbrella. There were many helpful suggestions, including one or two suggestions that can’t be published.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team. This gazebo cost the owner 1,800 euros, but it didn’t look very high to me

At 7.30 am (I should mention that I ‘m normally still be in bed at this time) we decamped and ran through the rain to the nearest bar for a hot cappuccino and the chance to dry out.

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a mornings work

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a morning’s hard and demanding work.

When we returned to our rain battered umbrella, we had another short meeting with two other stall holders to discuss whether the weather would improve. While I was taking photos to record this farcical attempt at promoting our crisps, I saw arriving through the driving rain, or at least I am pretty positive that’s what I saw, an old man with a beard walking up the hill of Conzano carrying one hammer and several planks of wood; he was closely followed by two cats, two dogs, two ducks and two of every other kind of animal imaginable. Taking this as a sign, we decided to cut down our sun umbrella and head for home.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

To see if we are coming to a sunny festival near you, check out or web site and our facebook page.

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.

Best e-mail received☺

E Mail

If there is one thing I like better than reading the comments on my little blog of madness, it is receiving an e-mail from someone who has read my blog and taken the time to trawl through my speling spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Imagine my excitement when I opened and read the following E-Mail, from a lady asking for my advice and help. I was very excited because is not often I get asked to supply advice, normally I supply it whether it is wanted or not, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

I will call Antonella from London, Mrs X to preserve her identity.

On 13 January 2014 17:07, Antonella wrote:

Name: Mrs X
Email: Removed
Comment: Dear Pecora Nera,

What a brave man you are…leaving Uk for Italy, which let’s face it it’s not always sunny and cheerful!

I’m facing a dilemma and I could really do with your advise! My beloved English husband of 8 years keeps on putting learning Italian off. I’m trying my hardest not to take it personally, and while he can mumble the odd word and understand quite well, he says he really doesn’t like learning and he married me because of me and not because I’m Italian. That’s lovely, one’d say, but I can’t help getting frustrated ’cause a) everybody would love to learn Italian b) I’m tired of translating for him when we are in Italy..

My question to you is, do I give up and be happy with my amazing husband the way he is or do I keep on pushing ’till he gives in?  Somehow I sense that once we get to spend longer periods it’ll be easier for him to pick up the language…

I’m very sorry about my odd request, but I love your blog and I read that you too struggled with the language…

Warmest Regards,

Antonella

Dear Antonella,

Thank you for your lovely e mail, I am really glad you enjoy my little blog of madness. I have never done the “agony aunt” bit before, so I thought it would be useful to answer your E mail in 2 parts, I will give you my suggestions and then Mrs Sensible will give you hers.

Pecora Nera suggests.

You are fighting a lost cause. Love him lots, make him cups of tea, always make sure his favourite beer is in the fridge and his comfy slippers are next to the fire.

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

You might want to teach him the following key phrases,

1) Quanto Costa? (How much is it)

2) Dovè il bagno (Where is the bathroom)

2) Dovè è mia moglia (Where is my wife)

3) Non me piace seppia nera (I don’t like that gross squid cooked in black ink that looks ikky, so please stop making me eat it)

4) Mi piace il vino rosso, vino bianco, grappa etc. (I like red wine, white wine, grappa)

Other than the above, I find that if I speak slowly, a little louder and add a suitable vowel onto the end of an English word, the locals understand me. In the past 6 years my ability to mime has improved greatly. I am sure I could easily win any Christmas game of charades, with one hand tied behind my back.

John wasn't playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

John wasn’t playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

Mrs Sensible suggests.

I have found a wet wooden pasta spoon is a good way of motivating Pecora Nera.

Mrs Sensible's tools of motivation

Mrs Sensible’s tools of motivation

If your husband is like Pecora Nera and is either pigro (lazy) or  incapace, (incapable) simple stop translating for him. When I am fed up with translating, I just stop. Pecora will then stand next to me saying “what?, what?, tell me!, Sorry I missed that, what did he/she say?”

I can now hold a conversation with a friend and manage to blank out his voice. After a while it becomes easy, much easier than trying to force him to learn the language. I have tried to teach him Italian but he even forgets the Italian vowels. Pecora is like a mule, I cannot force him to learn, he picks up words and sentences because he has to.

Me, stubborn? I won't have it said.

Me, stubborn? I won’t have it said.

Obviously he quickly learnt how to order wine, grappa and corretto.

Make sure there is more grappa than espresso.

Corretto:  There should always be more grappa than espresso.

As a last resort, tell your husband he can’t come to Italy next summer unless he takes the language seriously.

Best regards

Mrs Sensible

I hope Mrs X found our advice useful and remember.

A person who can speak 3 languages is multi lingual

A Person who can speak two languages is bi lingual

A finally, someone who can only speak one language is an Englishman.

 

PS. I have had so much fun with this post, I have decided to become an agony aunt. So if you have any questions relating to living in Italy. Just send them via my contact form. 😉

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Marisa and Giorgio live a couple of villages away. They own the flower shop that I visit when I am in trouble with Mrs Sensible. I am therefore quiet a regular customer.

Here is a small collection of orchids I have bought to try to get back into Mrs Sensible’s good books.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don't suggest they need more water.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don’t suggest they need more water, or you will set Mrs Sensible off again.

I am such a regular visitor to their flower shop that we often get invited to their home to dine on pizza and grappa.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

During the summer of 2011 I was once again in trouble, so I went to Marisa’s shop to buy another orchid or a bunch of flowers, when I suddenly fell in love with a beautiful Christmas tree. So I bought it; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Marisa asked me how I was going to get it home, I was a little stumped, my basic Italian vocabulary does not extend to lengthy conversations, I usually get by with, va bene ( ok) mi piace ( I like it) and non lo so ( I don’t know). So I opted for non lo so.

Giorgio, who is a bit of a hero, offered to deliver the tree for me, he asked me when I needed it delivering. I pondered this for a moment, I was already in trouble for something and I didn’t think adding a Christmas tree to the house was going to help marital bliss, so I said non lo so.

Marisa said “due settimane?” (2 weeks?) This seemed perfectly acceptable, because Christmas was at least 5 months away, so there wasn’t any rush. In fact the longer they kept it; the more time I had to dream up a plausible excuse for buying a Christmas tree in the summer.

Two weeks later, Giorgio and Marisa arrived with my Christmas tree. I had completely forgotten all about the imminent arrival of yet more troubles. In fact I had forgotten to work on Mrs Sensible; I had forgotten my carefully laid out plan on how to convince Mrs Sensible that buying a Christmas tree in the summer, made perfect sense.

Christmas 2012, the tree sat outside in the snow, festooned with lights. Scooby Doo was still living with the big dogs across the road. Had he decided to move in during 2012 he could have spent his Christmas sheltering under the tree from the snow.

Finding out how large a box i will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

Finding out how large a box I will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

This year I decided to bring the tree inside the house and hang little baubles and lights on it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After carrying the tree up 17 steps, I had already regretted buying the heavy and prickly thing. Manoeuvring it through the front door I had to use one foot to keep the cat outside and the other foot to close the door.

The tree looked wonderful, it didn’t shed many pine leaves, mainly because it was still alive and carrying it up stairs I can testify that it was sat in at least 40 kilos of Piermonte clay.

A little Christmas tree
A little Christmas tree

Today Christmas is officially over. Befana has been and gone and I stripped the tree of all its pretty lights and baubles. Like the rest of us, the Christmas tree has put on some extra weight and it looks a little bigger.

It just fitted through the door.

It just fitted through the door.

I dragged it down the corridor and before attempting the 17 stairs I paused to get my breath. As I then started down the stairs, the plastic plate that the tree stood on, broke free and miraculously slid under my right foot that was just trying to find purchase on step number 4. All hell broke loose, the tree, Pecora Nera (Me) and the plastic plate disappeared down the stairs faster than you could say ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’

Stupid plastic plate

Stupid plastic plate

As the tree, me and the @#+??$% plastic plate collided through the front doors, Gilda who is not the best guard dog I have ever come across, decided to attack the strange howling and swearing mess of tree and the creature that was tangled up in it.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with  a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is an attack dog.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is a ferocious attack dog.

Next year when we start blogging about Christmas and decorating our houses, please please please remind me that it is not such a good idea to use real live still growing trees that weigh 50 kilos as an ornamental Christmas Tree.

New Year’s Resolution.

1)      To act more like a grown up

2)      Not to follow my own advice

3)      Not to use any more real and potentially life threatening trees at Christmas

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.

Pecora Nera, Mrs Sensible and a nude selfie.

Selfie – “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one that is taken with a smart phone by stretching ones arm to the limit and then trying to press the camera button, the photo (that you will forever regret taking) is then uploaded to a social media website” – has been named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries editors, after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000% over the past 12 months.

One of the few completely dressed 'selfies' on google

One of the few completely dressed ‘selfies’ on google

Purely in the aid of research, I did a quick search on Google images for ‘selfie’ and I was astonished, amazed and even gobsmacked at the number of women who took selfies of themselves in their bra and knickers.

Not to be outdone I have decided that Mrs Sensible and I should  post our very own selfie. After searching through the selfies that Mrs Sensible and I have taken over the years, I have decided to push the boat out and post a nude selfie.

If this post is a success, we may consider a 2014 Pecora Nera and Mrs Sensible calendar after all it worked for Rylstone Women’s Institute.

Pecora Nera & Mrs Sensible in the nude

Pecora Nera & Mrs Sensible in the nude