A little video to explain how Italian locals tell the time.
A little video to explain how Italian locals tell the time.
Last year I introduced you to Mr Cretino; he was the wonderful character who exchanged my UK driving licence for an Italian one and it only took him 8 months!!! Not bad for Italy. I have forgiven and almost forgotten about him.
However, yesterday when I went into the local plumbers’ to buy a replacement part for the toilet in our new house, the horrors of the driving licence fiasco came flooding back and flooding is an appropriate word.
It would appear Mr Cretino has a son; we shall call him Mr Cretino Jr.
I met him when I drove down to the local plumbing merchants to buy a new plastic widget for the flush of the toilet. The beginning of my troubles started when I turned on the water at the new house and created a minor tsunami in the upstairs bathroom. Nobody panicked when it happened, mainly because Mrs Sensible wasn’t there to watch the water cascade down the staircase and I was in the cellar turning on the water main and deciding how much wine I could store down there and would Mrs Sensible bother venture down the cold, dark, damp staircase to keep a tally of my wine stash the bottles of wine I planned on keeping solely for when guests arrive.
Anyway, after running around the house like a headless chicken, and mopping the bathroom and stairs I drove down to the Plumbing merchants to buy a replacement widget. Had I known the assistant was the son of Mr Cretino, I would have simply stuck an out of order sign on the bathroom door and told Mrs Sensible it was beyond repair and she would have to use the other bathroom.
So using my bestest Italian, it went something like this:
Mr C Jr: Yeah yeah, wait a moment.
PN: Ok no problem.
Mr C Jr: What do you want?
PN: OK, That broken, erh, not function good, change for new please.
Mr C Jr: What?
PN: Look, No stop water. This broken!!! Change for new, please.
Mr Cretino Jr, picked up my little plastic widget and turned it around in his hands, he made a lot of sighing noises and said “Nope sorry, we don’t sell these”
I was devastated, Casale is a small town and this was the biggest plumbing merchants in the town. They had shelves and shelves of taps, tools, bits of plastic, kitchen sinks and to be honest I am sure they had one of my widgets or at the very least a set of seals for my widget. So I tried again.
PN: OK, This black, you have? I said as I pointed to one of the little black seals.
Mr C Jr: Nope, we don’t sell them either.
It was at this point that I realised whom I was dealing with. It wasn’t that he looked like Mr Cretino; for a start Mr Cretino was bald and this guy not only had a full head of hair, he also had a beard, maybe he got his looks from his mother.
While Mr Cretino Jr watched me reassemble my widget, I was suddenly struck by a great idea.
PN: (Holding the little plastic widget up in front of Mr Cretino Jr’s nose) You have similar, but a bit different?
Mr Cretino Jr: Of course we do!
He walked off down the corridor of shelves and returned with a shiny metal widget.
When he handed me the widget, I was wondering whether to give Mr Cretino Jnr a gift of my old plastic widget, maybe not in his hand but somewhere that would require a gifted surgeon to remove it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?”
On Tuesday the 8th of October in the year of our Lord 2013 I supped my last glass of wine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 🙂
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
The pizza, complete with a bottle of beer arrived. It was very nice, but I really wanted a bacon butty.
I have just bust my glasses.
As if the day was not bad enough, I have just bust my glasses.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.