Ferragosto

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

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

 

Ferieagosto

Ferragosto

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

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

Boiler suit for messing with boilers

Safety overalls for use when messing with boilers

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

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Starvation Diet

Mrs Sensible is being a really, really good girl, she went to the dietician at the hospital this week and was awarded 10 Brownie points and 2 gold stars for being a really good girl and losing another 4 kilos. I on the other hand have not been particularly good and didn’t receive anything.

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

For dinner today Mrs Sensible fed me and our two guestaways a very healthy salad with a little bit of cheese and a little bit of fresh salmon and two peppers stuffed with rice. For some reason I only received one pepper. At about 4.00 pm Mrs Sensible left the house and I went in search of food.

I found a very large packet of crisps and decided to wash it down with one or two glasses of wine. Just as I was relaxing and feeling mellow and contented one of our workaways appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a run. I very nearly asked if I could join her, but sanity kicked in and I took another sip of my wine and another handful of crisps.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

Twenty minutes later, during my second glass of wine, guestaway number 2 appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a quick run; maybe it was the wine talking but I found myself asking if I could join her…….

How far do you go?

Oh about 45 minutes

Ah ha; do you run the full 45 minutes or do you also walk a little?

I might walk up hills it depends.

So I put on my Booby Charlton running shorts, turned on the Run keeper app on my phone and followed her out the door.

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

As soon as we got outside she started to do stretching exercises, it was at this point that I started to feel a little worried. As she bent over to touch her toes, I bent over and managed to touch my knee caps. As she stretched and put her chin on her knee, I stretched and managed to see my knee caps which seemed a long way away. And then we started running.

Pull that stomach in

Pull that stomach in

I know she is only 19 and in the prime of her life but ‘spiders’ how is it possible that she can run up our road and hold a normally conversation.

So how far do you normally run?

Gasp, pant, gasp, not much! pant gasp wheeze.

There is a really nice breeze, this is nice weather to run in.

Wheeze, cough, wheeze, Yes, cough wheeze pant.

I managed to stay with her all the way up to the cowsheds and then my internal organs started to close down and I suffered severe cramp in my left big toe and had to stop.

“Go Go” I managed to utter as she disappeared up the hill.

Feeling a little ashamed and very old I slowly turned around and half ran and half hobbled home.

My runkeeper app didn’t help me either, I am sure I heard it say “Oye old man get running” and “do you want to change the setting from run to walk slowly”

Tomorrow I have committed myself to another run, I just need to find out if workaway number 1 runs slower than workaway number 2, maybe I will quiz them over a glass of wine.

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.

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

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

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

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

and of course 120 Euros

Small pink and takes 8 months

Small pink and takes 8 months

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

My new book, available from all good book shops

My new book, available from all good book shops

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

Part one

Part two

Part three

The letter I e mailed to DVLA

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

Mrs Sensible vs Ipercoop

Mrs Sensible was most unhappy

Mrs Sensible was most unhappy

Mrs Sensible had a little bit of a fall out with Ipercoop today. She was studying the cost of a bottle of fizzy water and found Levissima, a premium brand, was priced at €0.48 for a pack of 6 bottles and underneath was marked the price of €0.05 a litre. This was truly a bargain, it was almost as cheap as tap water, so much so I nearly ran out and fetched a couple more trolleys so that we could take 500 litres home. I was already dreaming of what a bath in fizzy water might be like.

Mrs Sensible asked a shelf stacker if they were really selling fizzy bottled water at 5 cents a litre; he looked at Mrs Sensible as though she was stupid and said “of course it was an error:  nobody would sell water at 5 cents a litre” Mrs Sensible was still talking to him, when he turned his back and walked away!!!

Now, Mrs Sensible is normally a calm and controlled person, but in circumstances like these she tends to quickly switch to teacher mode, so I was surprised that without commenting on the shelf stacker’s manners, she turned on her heel and wheeled her trolley off towards the entrance like a Formula One  1 racing driver.

The smell of burning rubber as Mrs Sensible accelerated down the grocery aisle was quite amazing

The smell of burning rubber as Mrs Sensible accelerated down the grocery aisle was quite amazing

Unaware of what was going on in her mind all I could do was to run after her trying to catch up. At the Punto Ascolto (Customer Care Desk) she explained to the supervisor, a tall and kind lady who looked a little German, that the shelf stacker had been very rude to her whilst Mrs Sensible was really only trying to do them a favour.

Mrs Sensible said she looked like a German woman. So I saw beer

A typical German woman

She explained that if they didn’t change the price tag quickly, a hundred people (because we would phone them all) would rush here and demand to buy fizzy water at €0.05 a litre given that under a European law, shops are bound to sell their merchandise at the marked price, despite any spurious pricing errors that might have occurred.

The German looking Customer Care lady tried to contact the head of the water department and said to Mrs Sensible “a shelf stacker has not the power to change price tags, but yeah, he shouldn’t have been rude, sorry….”

As the person in charge of the water department was nowhere to be found, the lady at the Punto Ascolto headed quickly towards the incriminated area, followed by Mrs Sensible and her trolley, followed by me, still a tad confused.

We followed Mrs Sensible in an orderly procession

We followed Mrs Sensible in an orderly procession

Together we examined the price tag and, yes it did say 9 Litres of water for € 0.43. The tall lady said “it is a big error and thank you for pointing it out, but only my colleague can change the tag, that is when she arrives from God knows where…” At that point a small woman who looked no more than 25 appeared panting and puffing: she had obviously just run from her office or just finished a marathon.  She started babbling something that sounded like a lot of nonsense to me.

The argument about the cost of a bottle of water once again escalated: the small woman tried to justify the mistake saying that the tags always show the price of one bottle, trying to convince Mrs Sensible that she was wrong and they were right and therefore it was no problem; Mrs Sensible, on the other hand, was pointing at the price tag arguing that it clearly showed 9 litres for € 0.43 and said € 0.05 a litre; the small woman was still trying to explain a simple maths equations to Mrs Sensible not knowing that my wife teaches maths.

Keep calm Mrs Sensible is a maths teacher....

Keep calm Mrs Sensible is a maths teacher….

As Mrs Sensible broke into teacher mode, the little woman was producing ma, però , ecco, (but, so, maybe) sounds whilst the helpful assistant kept repeating “Togli il cartello! TOGLI IL CARTELLO!” (Remove the price tag!) I was enjoying the tennis match between the three of them when suddenly I heard Mrs Sensible shout  “Cos’ha da guardare così in cagnesco?!?!” What are you glaring at me for? Now, it’s not often I hear her shout at people, so horrified and wide eyed I turned toward the direction of her words, where I saw the shelf stacker half hiding behind his boxes and glaring at Mrs Sensible.

He glared from behind the  tins of tuna

He glared from behind the tins of tuna

“Io vi sto facendo un favore!” I’m doing you a favour she shouted, before people realize they can demand to buy water at the marked price! He was bellowing back angrily when the small lady was struck by a bolt of pure inspiration and decided to remove the price tag  and the tall helpful lady yelled Grazie al cielo! Finalmente!

As we wandered off towards the meat counter I asked Mrs Sensible: “So how much was the water?”

I have quit the booze…

On Tuesday the 8th of October in the year of our Lord 2013 I supped my last glass of wine.

englishman in Italy

I have quit drinking this lovely stuff

I am yet to notice any significant health benefits. In fact my health took a downward turn last Friday when I complained of some sort of manflu. Mrs Sensible examined me and said it was probably a bad case of asthma. She promptly prescribed an antihistamine tablet, after a lot of protesting that they only send me to sleep, I dutiful took the offered pill and promptly fell asleep.  I slept from Friday evening  straight through to Saturday evening, only waking up long enough to take another pill and then immediately became comatose until some-time on Sunday.

I lost two days of my life to sleep

I lost two days of my life to sleep

You guys know I don’t trust or like doctors or dentists, but under threats of severe repercussions, if I didn’t do as I was told, I was finally persuaded by Mrs Sensible to go and see the local medicine man, mainly because my coughing at bedtime was worse than my snoring and was keeping both of us awake.

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

The doctor diagnosed that I was suffering from Brontosaurus or some other dreaded disease probably related to cervical. He prescribed an intense 5 day course of antibiotics, a little bottle of clear liquid to stop my coughing, pastels for my sore throat and not wanting to be left out, my good wife Mrs Sensible made me use an inhaler for people who are suffering from asthma. We agreed to disagree on the added benefits of using another antihistamine tablet.

I am sure my Italian doc  said I had brontosaurus

I am sure my Italian doc said I had brontosaurus

Last night, which was three days into my treatment, I suddenly suffered a coughing fit. Tears were rolling down my face and the only sound I could produce was whuu whuu whuuuu. My lungs finally decided to go on strike and as I staggered into the kitchen while trying to bang my back in a vain attempt to re-start my lungs; I heard Mrs Sensible drop her mobile phone and come running into the kitchen to help me: she immediately joined in the banging on my back; as she slowly bludgeoned me to the floor I could hear her friend continuing to talk on the phone through the loud speaker, totally ignorant to the fact that she was talking to herself and that my wife was trying to save my life.

My lungs decided they couldn’t withstand any more of the punishing Mrs Sensible was meeting out to them and with a loud gasp of air they started to work again. I managed to squeak “basta basta” enough enough to Mrs Sensible and she stopped her onslaught.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

As I slowly got back up to my feet, I cast a quick glance to make sure Mrs Sensible hadn’t taken too much pleasure from beating me to the floor, fortunately all I could see in her eyes was love and concern.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

OOOH! I have news from Mr Cretino allegedly he has my new Italian driving licence, I wonder which name it will be in. When I get my breath back I will fill you in and when I finish my antibiotics I will raise a glass or two of wine to you all.

Bye for now

Pecora Nera

This post will self destruct in 48 hours

If you read my posts, you may find that they change after a couple of days. They remain basically the same, but the grammar and spelling miraculusly, miraculastly, amazingly improves. This is because Mrs Sensible logs onto my blog, switches into skool marm mode and mutters and tuts her way through my spilling mistakes.

Because Mrs Sensible reads my posts, this post will self destruct in 48 hours if not sooner.

Pecora Nera in trouble

Pecora Nera in trouble

On Sunday I was in trouble. I don’t know why, I pondered everything I had done, not done, touched or not touched over the previous three days. I know I had been a bit lax with the old, unloading the dishwasher but it doesn’t normally cause frosty stares and monosyllable answers.

I asked if I was in trouble. I hasten to add this is not a good thing to do…..

In the end I sat down and had a proper Poo Bear think.

A really hard think

A really hard think

And then it came to me, like a bolt out of the blue, a sledge-hammer thought, straight to my left temple.

A day to remember

A day to remember

I HAD FORGOT MRS SENSIBLE’S BIRTHDAY

Panic struck… I tried to remember the exact date that I had forgotten. I checked my phones diary, my laptop for proof of her birthday and even her facebook page. I knew her birthday was around now, but had I just missed it, or was I really in trouble, by at least a week or more?  Was my life salvageable?

I checked her Italian ID Card.

220px-Carta_identita_italiana

With shaking hands the truth stared me in the face…. I had missed her birthday by several days. I was mortified, scared even. It was too late to rush out and buy a big chocolate cake with Mi Dispiace printed across it. I was doomed, my fate was sealed.

I quietly sat back down in the lounge and pondered my alternatives. They looked very bleak. How could I forget my loves birthday???? Should I broach the subject empty-handed? or wait it out until Monday and buy her lots of flowers, chocolate, new shoes etc, and endure another day of being in trouble…

And then I had another thought

A really hard think

Another really hard think

I couldn’t believe I had missed her birthday, so saying silent prayers I quietly tiptoed back to her handbag, dug out her purse and re checked her ID card. The date I had seen in my terror, was the date her card expired….. Her Birthday is in August, on the 12th to be exact.

So I am really really glad, I didn’t play honest Joe and tell her that I understand why she was mad at me and that I was sorry for forgetting her birthday, because I would have dug myself an even bigger hole than I was already in.

The problem is…. I still don’t know why I was in trouble…. and I don’t want Mrs Sensible to read this and realise that I forgot her birthday, so this post will self destruct in 48 hours.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Crop dusting

Mario the pazzodico crop duster

A point and press picture.

I have seven photos of this lunatic flying low over our house. Six of the photos I took, feature  either  the front  of the plane or just the tail of the plane, as he disappeared over the roof tops. Twice I nearly toppled over the veranda as I stood on tip toes trying to capture him.

Mario was spraying the rice fields, to kill the mosquitoes that breed in the paddy fields. He didn’t do a very good job because they still ate me  alive.

I nearly killed my self installing the mosquito netting on the windows, I will up load the post when my hands stop shaking.

P.S I think this is the first post that doesn’t mention Mrs Sensible

 

 

This post is for the Weekly photo challenge: fleeting

No comment

Italian Customer Service

Italian Customer Service: Bang head on wall

My UK driving licence has finally expired. The grubby bit of paper the Italians gave me as a substitute, has also expired. My bicycle has a flat tyre.

I was told not to worry, that the temporary substitute licence had expired, as it is normal in Italy and the police will accept it is just another Italian cock up. The important thing, I was told, is to have with you the medical form, that proves you are fit to drive.

That kind of says everything there is to know about Italy.

Do you have a valid driving licence?  No

Do you have cervicale? mm maybe

Links to past driving licence fiasco

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Parts 4 to 349 will follow over the next 5 months, groan

 

 

84 Kilos and counting

I am going on a diet, there I have said it. It is now out in the open and I will probably regret telling you.

I have decided to lose some a lot of weight because, I have read:-

Cognitive reflection’s funny post about joining a fighting class, in the hope of losing some weight and nearly getting himself thumped.

Also Duffer’s thread on the British Expats forum, entitled Fat people I need some help.

And finally, because I caught a glance of myself, in the mirror as I left the shower. I managed to realise it was me, before I started shouting to Mrs Sensible, “Help help there’s a naked fat man running amok in the house”.

I apologise that this is not a very Italian themed post, and I will try not to get too graphic.

didn’t think it was possible for a simple bathroom fixture, for example a set of weighing scales, to induce a near heart attack. But they did. This morning I weighed myself at seven in the morning (84 kilo), ate a little breakfast and just before I cleaned my teeth I weighed myself again. One small bowl of cereal using low fat milk had increased my weight by two kilos. TWO KILOS!!!, as I stood in the bathroom thumping my chest trying to restart the heart rhythm, I kicked the scales and then stood on them again; the scales dropped from 86 Kilos down to 80 kilos. So the foul tasting low fat milk really works.

The bathroom weighing scales have been thrown in the bin.

I have now successfully completed 24 hours on my diet; no chocolate, wine, biscuits or beer have passed my lips.

My favourite biscuits and Chocolate. Did you know Fiesta bars are 8% alcohol?

My favourite biscuits and Chocolate. Did you know Fiesta bars are 8% alcohol?

Full of good intention this lunch, I went for a walk to the local café. I normally drive home and raid the fridge and drink a little wine. However while I was sat drinking my low calorie drink, Mrs Sensible called me with the “where are you and have you eaten the salad I left in the fridge for you?” Ooops, I tried to pacify her, by explaining about my 12 minute walk and that I wasn’t drinking a glass of wine. Needles to say she was not very impressed. I am glad I didn’t mention that it was so hot I was eating a Magnum to cool down.

Tasty but 15.5 grams of fat

Tasty but 15.5 grams of fat

I have also invested in a brand new set of weighing scales, not the old spring type that you can achieve your desired weight by leaning slightly to the left or the right, but electronic ones. They not only tell you how heavy you are, they also tell you how much of your body, is pure unadulterated fat. I am not sure if it distinguishes between fat and saturated fat, I know from the Magnum bar that there was 15.5g of fat and 11.2 grams of dreaded saturated fat, in that cooling delicious ice cream.

My scales are posh, but this is a better picture

My scales are posh, but this is a better picture

Because the new weighing scales are complicated and the instructions are in Italian, I have used google translate to understand the user instructions. The, input your height and age, so that it can work out my height to weight ratio so that it can work out how fat I am allowed to be was easy. I have thought about lying to it and imputing that I am six foot three, and then telling the truth after I have lost a bit of fat. But as a black sheep I know I will get caught. After the input instructions, the Google translate sounded a little strange, it started babbling on about standing on the scales buck naked so the scale can electrocute my feet by battery, to work out my fat and water content. I might have to ask Mrs Sensible about that one.

Apart from scratching and laughing the only exercise I do is walking to and from the car. Before you lot start shouting, I did spend the weekend digging the vegetable plot over, and then two days walking around like an old man, moaning every time I had to stand up.

So please use the comments for advice on how to lose weight.

Read, help and criticise…

Englishman in Italy

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

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

Grazie PN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Englishman in Italy

Englishman in Italy

Quick update to part 1 and part 2

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

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

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

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

An update is sure to follow tomorrow.

 

P.N

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Red Cross Parcel

Red Cross Parcel

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

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

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

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

I really need a bacon butty

I really need a bacon butty

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

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

Io bisogno una pizza (I need a pizza)

Cosa? (What)

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

Cosa, non capisco?

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

CLICK Brrrrrrrr

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

Pizza Diavola

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

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

UPDATE….

I have just bust my glasses.

EnglishmaninItaly.org

Just bust my glasses

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

Summer Skiing in Italy

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

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

Summer Skiing

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

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

2 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

Skiing in wellies is perfectly acceptable.

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

3 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

Learners on a nursery slope.

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

4 Summer Skiing Englishman in Italy

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

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

5 Summer skiing Englishman in Italy

Summer Skiing in your garden

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

Summer skiiing Englishman in Italy

Summer Skiing is also an indoor sport.

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

Summer skiing englishman in italy

No special footwear is necessary.

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

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

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

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

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau the master of languages

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

Penknife

The penknife was a little bit like this.

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

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

My Hand bag?

My Hand bag?

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

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

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag the sniffer dog

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

Policeman with the penknife

Policeman with the penknife

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

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

I am bi lingual

Of course I speak fluent Italian

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

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

Any more trouble from you and...

Any more trouble from you and…

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

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

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

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

An Englishman in Italy

Pecora Nera Driving Licence

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

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

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

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

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

Pecora Nera “I speaks Italian small small”

Old Lady “Ah! His Italian is very Good”

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

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

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

Her photo was something like this

Her photo was something like this

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

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

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

Doctor “Next”

Pecora Nera “ I English I speaks Italian small small”

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

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

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

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

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

The outstanding Carabinieri

The outstanding Carabinieri

Signore Certino: And?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 steps forward and 5 steps backwards.

 

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

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Who am I? Expat, Immigrant or Zingero

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

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

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Photo credit to Neither use nor ornament

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

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

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

Solipsism, or am I a figment of my own imagination.

This weekend was designated as a chocolate eating and a movie watching weekend. I ordered fresh supplies of chocolate and, armed with my trusty credit card, I purchased a selection of DVDs from Amazon.co.uk

Mrs Sensible likes British Costume Dramas

Mrs Sensible likes British Costume Dramas

Jewel in the crown

Another good film

The Good Life

This one was for me

Miss Jean Brodie

And just in case we ran out of movies I bought this one.

I thought I had prepared the weekend to the last detail. All the films were in stock and would be delivered on Friday afternoon. I now had an ample stock of dark chocolate for Mrs Sensible and an adequate stock of milk chocolate for me.

On Friday afternoon I left the office early and drove home. I waited and waited, occasionally I glanced out of the window in search of the delivery van. At 6.43 I received an e-mail from Amazon, explaining that SDA could not deliver my DVD’s because my address was incorrect. Now this is strange because SDA have delivered to my house before and the gas and electric bills always find me.

Everything became clearer when I tried to input the tracking number on the SDA website, because SDA is part of Poste Italia.  Poste Italia is the government-owned postal system that specialises in losing parcels and making grown men cry. I dropped a quick message to a blogging friend at Expat eye on Latvia and received the following.

useful advice

useful advice

I was quiet worried; just to make sure I wasn’t a figment of my own imagination,  I immediately pinched myself to see if I was real. I then ran outside to check that the house was still here and got a second opinion from Google maps.

My house exists

My house exists!!

They also found me.

So here I am, Saturday morning on a non Chocolate and film weekend. It has turned into a let’s clean the house weekend. Curse you SDA!!! Debbs at  Digging wiv Debb will be pleased because choosing between cleaning the house under the direct supervision of Mrs Sensible and planting some seeds in the vegetable plot I chose the latter. The race is now on, will the peas, lettuce and cucumber arrive before SDA find my house?

Please place your bets below.

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

An Englishman in Italy

Pecora Nera Driving Licence

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

20/03/2013

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

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

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

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

MRS SENSIBLE: Because his UK licence expires in May.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 

Part 3

Part 4

Hospital Bingo

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

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

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

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

The wonderful ticket machine

The wonderful ticket machine

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

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

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

A little sample

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

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

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

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

Hospital Bingo

Hospital Bingo

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

Pee bottle

Mini wee bottle

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

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

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

A little Summer House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spag bog or meat balls

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

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

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

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

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

Pancake day

Mrs Sensible is a wonderful cook, she makes a mean Indian Curry and of course thousands of Italian dishes. Unfortunately the odd dish includes bunnies or octopus. But last night she cooked PANCAKES. And pretty impressive they were.

Mrs Sensible

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the pancakes were divine, after all Mrs Sensible has mastered the perfect Yorkshire pudding. The above half eaten pancake was savoury, inside it was filled with mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese and the bacon that I smuggled on-board my last Ryanair flight from the UK.

At last a picture of Mrs Sensible

At last a picture of Mrs Sensible

 

I have been asked to post a picture of Mrs Sensible. Here you go.

And where did Mrs Sensible get her recipe for the wonderful, marvellous, fantastic pancakes?

1956 BE-RO Home recipes

1956 BE-RO Home recipes

 

From our 1956 BE-RO Home Recipe book

 

The following is taken from page 3 of the book.

The woman who can cook well and bake well has every reason and every right to be proud of her cooking. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred she has a happy home, because good cooking means good food, and good food means good health.

I love politically correct statements.

So you lot out there, are you a BE-RO cook or do you throw a Findus horse beef lasagne pie in the oven. 🙂

 

Poo Poohed

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

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

Frozen rugs, pure rug no horse meat

Frozen rugs.

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

Mrs Sensibles Car

Mrs Sensible’s Car

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

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

Snow

Snow and a little pic of my thumb

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

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

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

Hens

Two legged egg laying machines.

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

Hens

Hens, not the brightest animal.

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

Pecora Nera One

Pecora Nera One

Last picture,

This is what Italy should look like,

IMG_1451

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

No Comment

No comment!

weekly photo challenge: unique

This post was inspired by a fellow blogger called “I used to be indecisive” who posted this post.

I normally blog about Italy and humour, but a change is as good as a rest, so here are a few unique photos of Italy.

Mr TreeEnglishman in Italy

Mr Tree 

Nearly everyday I drive past this tree. I wonder how many children have nightmares because of Mr Tree, or are told behave or Mr Tree will get you.

Balloon Car

Balloon Car

I spotted this car in  Catania, Sicily. I love it.

Lucy

Lucy

This is Lucy, one of my daughters. She is completely unique and very special.

Veronica a Unique little girl

Veronica a unique little girl

And finally, Veronica a very special and unique little girl. Here she is in Milan walking with the help of her papa. Despite her disabilities (she has cerebral palsy) she is always smiling. Veronica was born one month before Mrs Sensible and I married. It was in her papas restaurant (sadly now closed), that I met Mrs Sensible.

If there is anyone out there in cyberland who has a huge heart, and wants to make a difference to a unique and special girl, or for those of you in Italy, who can give 5% per thousand of their tax to a worthy charity. Please spare 5 minutes to have a look at Veronicas web site. Then open your wallet and spread a little happiness.

Normal humour will return next week.

Lost your password? Silly boy

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

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

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

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

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

Twit form

Twit form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the connector that Malta has proudly designed.

Malta's electrical cable

Malta Cable

And here is the connector that Sicily is working on.

Italian Connection

Sicily Cable

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

I wish them luck.

Rabbit, pizza or starve..

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really… I didn’t know”

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

Fluffy bunny

Fluffy bunny

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

They didn't look as nice as this

They didn’t look as nice as this

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

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

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

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

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

Crying into my Cappuccino

Fedex

Fedex

Even a well oiled organisation like Fedex grinds to a halt, when it crosses into Italian territory. I am not surprised but it doesn’t stop me from crying into my cappuccino.

I ordered two small parts from Taiwan to be delivered by Fedex.  It is interesting to see how efficient Fedex is.

Elvis in Taiwan (yes that is his real name, and he is alive and kicking) despatched the parcel Friday 5.58 pm January 18th 2013

Fedex Taiwan

Fedex Taiwan all good so far

The little parcel winged it’s way to China and arrived the very next day, Saturday 1.23 am January 19th 2013.

Fedex China

Fedex China

Leaving China behind my little but very urgent parts flew to Germany and arrived the same day at 3.08 PM January 2013

Germany Fedex

Fedex Germany (very efficient)

The Germans didn’t mess around they grabbed the little parcel and with German efficiency they stuck it on a plane to France. Where it arrived later that day 11.30pm January 19th 2013.

Fedex France

Fedex France (No time to stop for onions or garlic)

The French, looked at the parcel, realising that it was of no value agreed to send it to Italy where it arrived the following day at 8.54am January 20th 2013

And then unfortunately the Italians got involved.

Fedex Italy

Fedex Italy (All the time in the world – Italy mini tour)

As you can see Fedex Italy like my parcel, they are running it around Italy and showing it to everyone. Franco sent the parcel to Vito in Alessandria (which is half an hour from me) and Vito decided to send it back to Franco because Marco and Maria hadn’t seen it.

Franco then sent the parcel back to Vito in Alessandria (Which I hasten to point out is very close to me) but the bu&%er won’t answer his phone.

My little but very urgent parcel has spent more time in Italy than it spent travelling the world. But “ma” this is Italy.

Maybe it might turn up tomorrow, or more probable, Vito in his infinite wisdom will send it back to Elvis.

It’s flipping cold

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

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

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

One of two heaters to help warm the house

One of two heaters to help warm the house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple arithmetic

First Halogen Heater      1.2 KW

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

Kettle                                  2 KW

Light bulb            sweet fanny adams

Total                           4 kw (ish)

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

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

Spag Bog at Christmas

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

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

panettoneonnewyears2

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

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

Spag bog

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

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

IMG_00000176

Merry Christmas to you all.

Pecora Nera

An English lesson on how to swear.

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

English swear words please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Medicating

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

Big pointy needle

Big pointy needle

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

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

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

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

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

All an Englishman needs when he is ill.

All an Englishman needs when he is ill.

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

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

A Sensible Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Sensible uses TE,

Mrs Sensible's Garage TE. €1.69 a litre

Mrs Sensible’s Garage TE. €1.69 a litre

This is an unmanned garage.

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

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

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

The garage attendant

The garage attendant

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

Protective Clothes. PS This is not Mrs Sensible.

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

Mrs Sensible's receipt

Mrs Sensible’s receipt

I on the other hand prefer to use Tamoil

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

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

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

My receipt a little less fuel for my €20.00

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

Maria our garage attendant

Maria my garage attendant

Vicious snake attacks defenseless women in Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truffles & Dogs

Black Truffles

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

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

Just wondering I answered.

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

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

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

Lila & Gilda

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

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

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

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag

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

Italian Customer Service

Peach

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Fingers

Fish Fingers

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

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

Sauna German Style

Sauna German Style

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

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

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

Swimming Trunks

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

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

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

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

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

Third Degree Burns

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

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

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

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

Hey Ho the snow is on it’s way

Snow Chains

Snow Chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Cross Parcel

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

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

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

Veggie Man

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

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

Recipe

Four chilli peppers.

One clove of garlic.

Half a pint of water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 to 2 glasses of red wine.

Method

Step one

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

Step two

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

Step three

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

Step four

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

Step five

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

Final step

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

Application

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

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

Planting my first wine tree

Never travel without your Tom Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little prayer

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

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

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

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

P.S

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

God bless everyone except dentists.

Electrickery

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

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

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

The two pin shaver plug.

UK Shaver plug

UK Two pin shaver plug

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

UK Adapter

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

Back to the plugs.

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

Small two pin plug

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

Small three pin plug

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

Large three pin plug

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

Appliance plug

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

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

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

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

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

Utter madness!!!

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

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

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

DIY

English weather in Italy

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

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

Sunset from the bedroom window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingersssssss!!!!!

Image

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

Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helppppp!!!

Image

Quick post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine, whine, wine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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