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.

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

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible passed all her exams and qualified to be a teacher many years ago. Unfortunately so did many other people. Each year Mrs Sensible is given a ten month contract, working in one of the state schools. She is then laid off during the summer and we have to watch our pennies as she doesn’t qualify for holiday pay. We then pray that Mrs Sensible will be given another contract for the following year.

The Italian government has decided to change this nonsense and employ full time teachers for the 11,892 positions that are normally handed out on short term contracts. The problem is there are 172,248 eligible teachers who all want and need a job.  Snr Profumo, some geezer in the government decided that what Italy needed was a competition, and so the Concorso Insegnanti 2012/13 is running.

Teachers in Turin

Teachers in Turin waiting to enter the school for the 2012 School Contest

In December the first stage of the concorso (competition) took place. 50 multiple answer questions, were laid before the 172 thousand teachers. Only 33.6% passed, Mrs Sensible passed and was quiet annoyed with herself for only scoring 46.5 out of 50. She needed 35 to pass.

I have no idea how she managed to pass the first stage, since some of the questions were supposed to be based on logic but even Spock would have considered them illogical, and the maths questions… well let me give you an example.

ilogical Captain

Illogical Captain

5 trains leave different stations. Train A arrives before Train B, Train C was driving faster than train D. Train B arrived before train D. What did the driver of train C have for breakfast? Mrs Sensible knew the answer.

I like to think my lack of Italian played a small part in helping Mrs Sensible pass the exam. She is forced to use English if she wants any sensible answers from me, and so the English Questions that made up 25% of the marks was a piece of cake for the talented Bi Lingual Mrs Sensible.

Anyway at the beginning of this month she went to Torino to sit the written exam. I booked us in a nice hotel and went along for the ride. As I took a couple of photos a little lady whose name translates to Mrs Drinkwater asked me if I was a journalist. No no, my wife is a teacher I said, pointing at the mass of people who were trying to enter the building.

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

“Come and have breakfast with me” she said. I often wonder if I have a note stapled to my back with the following printed on it STRANGE PEOPLE PLEASE APPLY HERE. On the way to breakfast Mrs Drinkwater acquired another friend who just happened to be standing near us. After breakfast and as we left the café I gave my excuses and said I needed to put some money in the car parking meter. Oh that’s ok we will come with you. Ahhuh… As the three of us approached my car Mrs Drinkwater, who by now had taken on the position of tour director, said There is a lovely church just past your car, would you like to see it?

Well I had 3 hours to kill, so stupidly I said yes. It was a lovely church and I wasn’t too put out as Mrs Drinkwater and our friend dropped to their knees to pray for their children who were at the moment trying to pass the concorso. I wandered off down the church to look at various paintings and sculptures. As I wandered back to the silently praying twosome, a priest entered the church and everybody stood up. Come on let’s go to the front, said Mrs Drinkwater. Aaahhhhh!!!

I know I shouldn't have taken this picture. But would you have believed me.

I know I shouldn’t have taken this picture. But would you have believed me?

We went to the front of the church, and I sat behind an old lady in a fur coat. The two priests took mass and communion, they said their Hail Marys and left the church. With Mrs Drinkwater in the lead we set off back to the school where Mrs Sensible was working hard.

Mrs Drinkwater stopped once or thrice to answer her mobile, she would have a loud conversation with someone called Giuseppe, and then set off walking again. We didn’t stop at the school, Mrs Drinkwater marched straight pass it, across the road to the University for physical education. Just before she entered the University she once more phoned Giuseppe. I naturally assumed that Giuseppe was waiting for us inside, we would be given cake and tea and take the load off our feet for a couple of mins. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We took a tour of the University trying various locked classroom doors, it was when she rattled the third door that I became a little suspicious that maybe Giuseppe wasn’t in the University and was more than likely sitting in Messina, Sicily, phoning his mum to make sure she wasn’t getting into any trouble.

We wandered down a long dark corridor, and I kept expecting to see a security guard who would shout at us and physically throw us out, or maybe something worse.  At the end of the corridor was a gymnasium. Girls in leotards were engaged in some pretty physical jumping up and down and waving their arms around. Mrs Drinkwater put her shopping bags on the floor and decided to join in. Now finding myself caught up in a catholic mass on a Friday morning is one thing, and I am no stranger to surprises and strange circumstances but this was becoming a little too surreal even for me.

Mrs Drinkwater

Mrs Drinkwater

The woman in charge of the aerobics class, pleasantly, if not a little sarcastically, asked if we would prefer to join her class rather than practising in the entrance. I made We need to go NOW signs with my hands and thought that if I started to leave the building Mrs Drinkwater and our friend would follow.

Safely waiting back outside the school for Mrs Sensible, the teachers started to emerge from the building. Some looked decidedly unhappy, one of them heard my dreadful Italian and she realised that I was English. She asked me to look at the answers she had given to the English questions. Now, I am not a teacher but the answers she had given were definitely incorrect. I shrugged. Mi dispiace, è sbagliato, I said as I shook my head. She looked stunned and wandered off. One or two others also asked me to mark their papers and I politely decline. I pointed at my wife and suggested they ask her. One girl bursting into tears was just too much for me.

There are two more exams to be sat before the 172 thousand teachers are weeded down to 11 thousand, I just hope and pray Mrs Sensible is not one of those that are weeded out.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Driving in Italy

Driving on Italian roads is just like participating in a grand Nintendo game but with only one life.  The object of the game “Guida” is to try to overtake the car in front, regardless of his speed or the road conditions, while preventing the car behind from gaining points by overtaking you. Points are deducted for the use of indicators or if you are caught driving within the speed limit; however points are gained if you manically flash your headlights while tailgating the car in front. Bonus points are awarded while tailgating if you know it is impossible for the car in front to pull over to let you past. Guida is played throughout Italy although at different levels depending on how far North or South of Florence you are. I mention Florence because the Fiorentini are prohibited from playing Guida mainly because there are an awful lot of autovelox and the local police fine drivers for speeding, which is not really very sporting or Italian.

Toll Booths on an Italian Autostrada

Italian toll booths, two lanes open up to 10 lanes for the toll booths and back to 2 lanes to join the autostrada. Always an excellent opportunity to practise your 0 to 60 acceleration and dodging / weaving skills.

Palermo and Catania play this game on their roads with a slight difference, points are awarded for the use of exaggerated hand signals and for vocal instructions to other gamers, bonus points if the local dialect is used. With regards to Naples the Neapolitans don’t play Guida at all, it is far too easy for them, they play a game that is a derivation of Rollaball and only experts should consider participating. On a recent trip to Germany I found out that Guida is not permitted in either Switzerland or Germany, their police take a dim view of this Italian pastime, and will fine anyone caught attempting to play the game. Perhaps one day it will be allowed because the Swiss and Germans take great delight in joining the game of Guida as soon as they cross into Italy.

On Thursday I was visited a couple of clients in Germany, and I stayed at a great hotel the food was fantastic and the room was clean and orderly, although to my disappointment they had taken the precaution of emptying the mini bar before I had arrived. Over a drink with the hotelier, I can’t remember her name but she was probably called Greta we discussing the differences between Germany and Italy, her comment was “Yes Germany is well organised but Italy has nice wine and pasta, and they seem to enjoy life more in Italy, we are sometimes too serious in Germany”. So it is not just the English that think the Germans have no sense of Humour.

Greta or maybe she was called Hilda asked me if I had tried the local spa, she informed me that if I wanted to go swimming I could rent a towel and purchase some trunks at the spa. After a 6 hour drive through Europe and a days work it sounded like a really good way of relaxing and easing the knots in my back. So I set off for a relaxing swim.

At the swimming pool there was an orderly queue of people waiting to pay for the entrance to the swimming pool. As I reached the head of the queue the receptionist said “bitte” .  Erh do you speak English? I asked. Of course.

Of course!! I forgot it is only the English that only speak one language. I was once told that someone who can converse in three languages is tri lingual, someone who can speak in two languages is bi lingual and someone who can only understand one language is English. Anyway I asked how much to use the swimming pool, 8 euros and 12 if I wanted to use the sauna after. I have never used a sauna but a deal is a deal and I decided to go for the full package.

I changed into my trunks and headed towards the swimming pool. As I entered the warm pool and swam briskly to the centre I was amazed to see that the only person swimming was me, all the other swimmers were standing around the edge of the pool, watching me. There is nothing like the rabbit in the car headlight moment to bring you to your senses and evaluate what faux pas you have just committed. As I swam around in circles I noticed that there was an orderly queue waiting to enter the pool, in my excitement to go swimming I had somehow missed it, but as I stood contemplated getting out of the pool and joining the queue I heard a buzzer and to my amazement everyone standing in the pool took a step to their right and one of the Germans that had patiently queued on the steps entered the water as one women left the pool.

To say I was bemused is a bit of an understatement, I turned a full circle in fact I turned around twice just to see if I could graciously leave the pool by another exit. Unfortunately there was only one  exit and there were 32 Germans watching me, I know because I had counted them. As the buzzer once again sounded the static swimmers once again took a step to their right, one more German entered the pool and another left. It was at this point that I nearly drowned; all I could think was the Germans are so organised and disciplined that they even swim by numbers. A woman left her position by the side of the pool and swam to the exit. I decided I had better take her place until I work out if I was allowed to swim or if I also had to move around the pool as regimented as a soldier.

As I backed into the vacant space that she had created, a blast of water hit my left buttock and very nearly knocked me of my feet. As I grabbed the side of the pool I noticed a silver disc stuck to the side with the number seven printed on it. As I stabilised myself and experimented with the water jet the buzzer sounded again, I was quiet reluctant to move away from station seven but the man to my right at station eight had moved and the huge woman to my left was looking at me as though I was a sandwich short of a picnic, even a man who was patiently waiting to enter the pool looked at me as he realised it was I who was holding up his swimming. So I took a step to the right. It was at this point that the giggles hit me and another water blast from the side of the pool buffered the small of my back. I don’t normally suffer from the giggles but it was all too much for me, here I was in a swimming pool being watched by a bunch of very serious Germans waiting for the next buzzer while thinking of the song The Time Warp  from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. ♫It’s just a jump to the left  and then a step to the right .♫  Too much, much too much. The more I tried not to giggle the worse it got. I managed to get to station 10 a water jet to the back of the knees, before I gave up and left the pool. I walked back to my locker and wrapping the towel around my waist I went in search of the sauna and jacuzzi. Which I may or may not blog about.

Back to Skool

Today is back to school day for most of the children in Italy. Mrs Sensible is a teacher in scuola primaria. This year she is tasked with teaching the little blighters angels English, maths and music in one school and in the other English and Italian. 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 was first forced to attend school some forty-five years ago and I don’t believe it has fundamentally changed in the last forty-five years for either the children or the teachers. I can say this from bitter experience because Mrs Sensible 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, I am tired of translating for you maybe we should go back to the UK”

I have never found my lack of Italian to be a huge problem I can order wine, grappa and food and request the cost of items. In fact my lack of Italian has been quiet useful, Scusi io sono inglese mi dispiace non capsico, 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 on a Thursday night for immigrants run by the local municipale. The lessons were held in a senior school in Casale Monferrato. The teacher Maestra Piera was in her late 50s. Her eyes glitter with excitement as she explained to my wife that all I would have to do to learn Italian was to listen to everything she said. Oh and importantly attend her class regularly. This seemed 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.

During the first lesson I was determined not to draw attention to myself. As I entered the classroom I calmly walked to the back of the room and chose a desk in the corner.  As I started to sit down, Maestra Piera pointed at me and announced to the class “Lui e’ Inglese si chiama Peter.” She then pointed to a desk at the front of the class and shouted “Vieni Peter, vieni qui.” My cover blown I slowly walked to the front of the class and sat down at the desk right in front of the blackboard. The horrors of my former school life quickly returned. 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 was the same as any schoolroom that I have sat or stood in the corner of. The only difference was the desks were scored with graffiti in Italian, Giuseppe Ti Amo Loradana. As I sat waiting for the lesson to begin I started to thumb through my new Italian – English dictionary wondering if I would have to back it in brown paper for homework.

As I sat there wishing I was somewhere else I become aware of all the different languages that were being spoken in the room. Near the door was a group who were either Russian or Ukrainian. Behind me near the back of the classroom I could hear French and in the middle of the room another language which I later found out belonged to the Albanians who outnumbered all of us.

I started my first lesson with a simply 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?” 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 that she had given the class less than 5 seconds ago, again in Italian. “Oh ok ok io capisco” 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 cottoned on to 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 Rumanians 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 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.

This summer during July, we bumped into Maestra Piera while we were shopping. I did try to follow the conversation between my old teacher and my wife. I smiled and nodded in the right places and shook my head as they shook theirs. I also got the distinct and mortifying feeling that my wife was organizing year three of my Italian education. I caught phrases like dovra’ cominciare al  livello uno and in Settembre. To date Mrs Sensible has not mentioned my date for going back to school so I am hoping against all hope that she has forgotten our meeting with Maesta Piera, unfortunately I doubt she has because she has an incredible memory and is probably waiting for the perfect opportunity to spring my new term date on me.