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

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

Where is the hairdryer

Where is my hairdryer?

 

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

 

office up and ready

office up and ready

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

 

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

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

 

So here are my apologies.

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

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

 

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

 

 

Best e-mail received☺

E Mail

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

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

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

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

On 13 January 2014 17:07, Antonella wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

Warmest Regards,

Antonella

Dear Antonella,

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

Pecora Nera suggests.

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

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

You might want to teach him the following key phrases,

1) Quanto Costa? (How much is it)

2) Dovè il bagno (Where is the bathroom)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Sensible suggests.

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

Mrs Sensible's tools of motivation

Mrs Sensible’s tools of motivation

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

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

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

Me, stubborn? I won’t have it said.

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

Make sure there is more grappa than espresso.

Corretto:  There should always be more grappa than espresso.

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

Best regards

Mrs Sensible

I hope Mrs X found our advice useful and remember.

A person who can speak 3 languages is multi lingual

A Person who can speak two languages is bi lingual

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

 

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

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

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

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

Playbook Pecora Nera

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

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COSA? (WHAT?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read, help and criticise…

Englishman in Italy

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

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

Grazie PN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Englishman in Italy

Englishman in Italy

Quick update to part 1 and part 2

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

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

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

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

An update is sure to follow tomorrow.

 

P.N

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Red Cross Parcel

Red Cross Parcel

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

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

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

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

I really need a bacon butty

I really need a bacon butty

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

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

Io bisogno una pizza (I need a pizza)

Cosa? (What)

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

Cosa, non capisco?

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

CLICK Brrrrrrrr

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

Pizza Diavola

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

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

UPDATE….

I have just bust my glasses.

EnglishmaninItaly.org

Just bust my glasses

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

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.