Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Mrs Sensible’s asparagus and king prawn risotto.

Last night Mrs Sensible created a fabulous meal and I just thought I should share the recipe with you. I don’t normally post sensible things like recipes or which hotel to stay in, there are plenty of blogs that do that, however as I helped cook this meal and I didn’t burn it, I thought you might like to try it.

Ingredients.
100 grams of rice
300 grams of fresh peeled prawns
6 fresh king prawns
6 fresh asparagus
2 knobs of butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 glasses of white wine
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 small tomatoes
Pinch of parsley
Salt and pepper to season

Method
The very first thing you need to do is pour two glasses of white wine, Mrs Sensible used Arneis which is a fresh crisp dry wine from Marco Bellero’s cantina La Cà Nova

1

One glass is for drinking while you cook, the other gets wasted during the cooking.

Peel the king prawns, put the body of the prawns to one side and place the heads, legs and shells etc in a saucepan with half a litre of water, bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer. This will be your stock.

If a foam appears on the top of the stock, remove the foam.

1a

Heads, arms, legs, shells etc in a saucepan.

Chop up the asparagus.  Add the king prawns, garlic, asparagus and peeled prawns to a frying pan, then fry until the prawns change colour in the olive oil,

2a

By now the smell is irresistible.

When they are cooked, place them in a bowl.

3a

Search for the garlic cloves and throw them away.

Separate the king prawns and asparagus tips and place them in a different bowl, find the garlic cloves and throw them away.

3b

Asparagus tips and King Prawns

Chop an onion and fry it in the frying-pan with a knob of butter. Do not clean the pan you want the flavour of the prawns to stay in the pan.

4a

Onion and Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon

When the onion is soft and cooked, add the chopped tomato and continue to fry.

6

The dreaded wooden spoon.

Add the rice to the frying pan.

7

It was at this point that i asked if we had used enough rice, I would have thrown another two handfuls in. But Mrs Sensible said there was enough.

Pour in the glass of wine and gently stir.

8

I nearly cried when she threw my good wine in the pan.

Stir until the wine has been absorbed by the rice and evaporated off.

9

Start adding the stock, make sure the head, arms and shell stays in the saucepan.

Add a ladle of stock from the pan and keep stirring the rice and the onions, as the stock is absorbed add another ladle of stock. Keep adding the stock until it looks like this.

10

Add the stock little by little and keep stirring or it will end up a horrible mess.

Mrs Sensible used nearly the full half a litre of stock, the trick is to add the stock slowly. keep allowing the rice to absorb the stock. I asked Mrs S why she didn’t just throw all the stock in at once, she told me the rice would go like pudding rice.

11

Nearly ready

Add the bowl of asparagus and prawns to the frying pan and stir.

12

Don’t you just love this action photo

Pour the risotto into two dishes and decorate with the king prawns and asparagus tips.

13

Eat and enjoy

If you want to know what my part in this masterpiece was…. I took the photos and chopped the onion. Oh and drank the wine.

Buon appetito.

 

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

Get fit…… summer is on the way.

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

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

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

Summer Skiing

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

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

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

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Let me hold your bag while you go for a swim

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

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

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

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Mrs Sensible is dangerous enough with her wet wooden spoon.

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

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

La Bella Chaos.

You know I am normally upbeat and can usually see the funny side of attempting to live a normal life in La Bella Chaos. Today it very nearly beat me, I have spent a couple of hours gnashing my teeth, ripping my sack-cloths and growling at fellow human beings.

I weathered the storm and laughed when it took Snr Cretino eight months to organise my Italian driving licence, but today my insurance agent tried to baffle me with stupidity. Maybe today was just another normal day in Bella Italia and I was tired or maybe I just assumed renewing my car insurance would be easy.

Two years ago we decided to economise and put one of our cars into storage, Mrs Sensible and I tossed a coin and she lost the bet (double headed coins are very useful). Her very sensible and economic Peugeot was abandoned stored and my uneconomical but fun Mini was used by both of us.

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Mrs Sensible’s sensible diesel Peugeot.

 

Last night Mrs Sensible made a very valid case for blowing the dust off her car and bringing it out of storage. First she swapped to her schoolmarm voice and then suggested we should insure and tax her economic car and put my fun and gas guzzling mini in the shed or she would go off in search of her wet wooden spoon. I could not think of a suitable argument and she wasn’t going to fall for the double headed coin a second time.

I phoned my insurance company and told them to reinstate the Peugeot’s insurance and I set off in the Peugeot to find someone who would test the car for me. Now in the UK if a car does not have a MOT certificate it is possible to drive it on the road as long as  1) You have an appointment booked for a vehicle test 2) You are driving to the test center. I have no idea what the rules are in Italy, but I doubt they are so straight forward.

Typical stop and search

Typical Carabinieri  stop and search. IMPORTANT: It is not true that the red stripes on their trousers are so they don’t put them on inside out, nor is it true that they wear wellies because they don’t know how to tie their shoe laces.

In Italy the local Carabinieri are not regarded as the brightest of people,  I hasten to add I think they are really, really nice people and I don’t believe a word of the stories nor do I laugh at the Carabinieri jokes. I know I was a little less than impressed when they investigated the burglary at my house…. and I do think it is impressive that they always choose the same places to set up their ‘stop and search’. After all consistency is a good thing. It also means if you are in a rush and don’t have time to say hello to them it is possible to cut across the countryside.

A little scenic drive

This morning I was in a little rush.

Mrs Sensible’s car passed it’s test first time. I was incredibly relieved and managed to uncross my fingers. When I arrived at the insurance office to pick up the new insurance documents, the man tried to give me the insurance paper for my lovely soon to be stored Mini.

Ciao Snr Pecora Nera.

Ciao! I go here take paper insurance for wife car.

These are the new documents for your Mini.

No! Wrong not Mini, wife car.. Peugeot! 

Ahhh! You want to insure Mrs Sensible’s car. Let me work out a price for you.

Italy runs on paperwork. Households save till receipts and  proof of payments forever. In every house there will be a box with a mass of yellowing receipts going all the way back to the receipt for the wedding dress. My father in law told me, he once had to prove he had paid his car tax, a bill he had paid four years previously!

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Every Italian house needs a Tin of Denial

Snr Pecora Nera, your wife’s car will cost € 460.00 to insure.

What? My 1.6 petrol Mini  € 420.00. Peugeot  1.4 diesel. Look again! 

Pointing at his computer screen he said, But your wife’s car has not been insured for four years. She is now a high insurance risk.

It took me a minute before I understand what he was trying to tell me. I delved into my cardboard box and produced the insurance document for 2013 – 2014. I gave him the paper and explained it could be risky to suggest Mrs Sensible was a high insurance risk. Although paying over the top to insure Mrs Sensible’s Peugeot and explaining to  Mrs S that Italy considers me a better driver might have been fun.  

My insurance agent suggested I should go to the bar for a cappuccino while he sorted out the mistake on his computer. Halfway into a nice brioche and cappuccino. He phoned me.

Snr Pecora Nera, I have sorted it all out.

Grazie, On the way I am.

The agent then explained that the car is owned not only by Mrs Sensible, but her father’s name is also on the car’s documents. This meant because her father lives in Sicily, the car will be at a bigger risk of having an accident and the insurance cost will be €530.

I tried my best to explain that her father wouldn’t be driving the car and can’t we just remove his name from the document….. I have some Tipp-ex here and after all this is Italy

tippex

Tipp-Ex perfect for correcting blog posts

The insurance agent said I would need to either transfer the ownership of the Peugeot to either me or Mrs Sensible’s. This will cost around €400 – €500 euros.

So for the moment Mrs Sensible’s car is still in storage and my little Mini is drinking it’s way through a fortune in petrol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Rituals

Italian Rituals

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

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

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

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

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

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A tartan bed sheet used as a scarf

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

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

Good bye 5

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

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

goodbye

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

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

kisskiss (2)

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

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

Good bye 1

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

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

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

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Maria Grazia Cucinotta kissing goodbye

The COSI Group

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

Sicily Inside And Out: Culture Shock In Sicily

Sex, Lies, and Nutella: Food Traditions

Surviving in Italy: Top 7 Weirdest Rituals in Italy

Girl in Florence: Strange wedding traditions

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

Tilting at windmills or trying to obtain Italian citizenship

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

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Sally from sarsaparillasal

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

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

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

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

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Happy Smiley Faces

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

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

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

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

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

So let the challenge begin… dun dun duuuuurrrr.

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

 

 

Treasure maps, Pee and Poo!

I heard a shout from the downstairs toilet! I immediately suspected Mrs Sensible had run out of toilet paper. Understanding this wasn’t a life of death event, I causally sauntered through the lounge, out to the utility room to be greeted by Mrs Sensible sat on the loo with 25mm (1 inch in real money)  of water sloshing across the toilet floor.

Loo

This is not a picture of Mrs Sensible, she refused to let me take a photo

Mrs Sensible did not look too pleased and it was obviously someones fault that she was stuck in this predicament. As she sat there with her feet raised above the water she demanded.

What have you flushed down the toilet?

Nothing!

Are you sure?

Mrs S, this is your toilet, I use the one on the next floor, therefore you must have blocked it.

The look on Mrs Sensible’s face, said she thought my suggestion was highly improbable.

PN ! What have you flushed down the toilet, to block it?

Pee and Poo!! oh and some toilet paper.

What else???

Well, I once threaten to flush Mishmash down the loo, if that counts.

After three hours of mopping, plunging and cleaning the toilet, it was once more clean enough for Mrs Sensible to grace it with her presence

Plunger

I plunged and plunged

The following day Mrs Sensible flooded the toilet for a second time. I hasten to add it was not her fault…. and nor was it mine, honest! However Mrs Sensible was banned from using the downstairs toilet. She was ordered kindly asked to use the bathroom on the first floor or even the guest bathroom on the second floor.

Apart from Mrs Sensible needing to climb the stairs every time she wanted to spend a penny (British expression for needing to go for a pee) life returned to normal. The downstairs toilet was off limits.

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Off limits to Mrs Sensible and anyone else who might block the loo (not that it was her fault)

One month later the toilet flooded, not only the downstairs bathroom but also the utility room. To be frank, this time there was a slightly pungent aroma to the water that was flooding everywhere. I was less than impressed as I mopped and plunged the toilet.

I realised I needed to solve the issue of the  flooding toilet, banning Mrs Sensible from using it was not solving the problem. Many Italian houses are not connected to the main sewers, they tend to have a septic tank which collects the waste and occasionally needs emptying, especially if you are a Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) and have flushed baby wipes down the loo. I learnt this four years ago when I blocked our last septic tank, the cleaning charge of €300 taught me not to do it again.

Yesterday I went in search of our septic tank to see how full/blocked it was, unfortunately it appeared to be missing. There is normally a small round inspection hatch, maybe in the driveway or in the garden and the curious can inspect the depth of their poo. I found four square inspection hatches with various water valves, but no septic tank.

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Ok this picture of a woman searching for a septic tank is just gratuitous

After a long search I contacted my landlord and explained to him that whenever anyone takes a bath, shower or uses one of the toilets, water floods out of the downstairs toilet and my inability to find our septic tank.

The landlord told me, there is a folder and there should be a map of the house and it will show me where the septic tank is.

Pirates map

Arrrr! avast me hearties, tis a treasure map of the secret poo chambers!!!!

The map showed not only one, but two poo holes  septic tanks, both of them are invisible to the naked eye. All I could see was grass. Lots and lots of grass.

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Somewhere under here is a septic tank

So I called Bob my friendly builder. Bob arrived to explain a) where my septic tanks where and b) the problem of why my loo back flushes water through the house.

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My mate Bob

Bob looked at the treasure map and after carefully positioning himself between the house, garage, me and the big old fig tree he declared……. The poo tank is under my feet. All I could see was grass. He assured me that if I dug down one metre or so, I would find the septic tank. In his opinion either the tube was broken or the septic tank was broken because it shouldn’t flow backwards.

Hmmm! I thought it was time to call the landlord again, Bob kindly talked to my landlord and discussed his findings. My landlord explained that it was not his responsibility, but it was my responsibility to repair the sewage system. Bob thinks the septic tank will need digging out and a proper one installing, I have to agree with Bob because the last owner was a bit of a do it yourself freak and looking at the assorted switches and the strange heating system he installed I think I agree with Bob…. our septic tank will just be a hole in the ground.

While Mrs Sensible ponders this problem, I have decided to start packing my books etc into boxes, because I have a strong suspicious Mrs Sensible is going to put her school marm voice on and tell our landlord we are moving out.

Bob suggested, until we move I could periodically dig out the poo and paper from the tube and dump it down the garden……. I pointed out that I refused to dig out and clean the cats litter tray, so I am not about to start digging out poo every day.

So despite how much I like living in the middle of nowhere, I think it is time to change houses.

Bye for now I have packing to do. Uffa!

 

It has been one of those weeks…

It has been one of those weeks…

Last week Mrs Sensible phoned the local hospital to book me in for a check up, and before you start leaving sarky comments it was not the psychiatric clinic nor was it a follow up appointment with the dietitian. When Mrs S finally got through to the department, they said “we only book appointments in the morning, call between 9 and 11”  which is fabulous because Mrs Sensible is normally in her classroom between 9 and 11 teaching her chilblains how to sit still and not pick their noses.

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Mrs Sensible hates nose picking

 

The following morning she again calling the hospital and was told “Pecora Nera!! nope he is not on the system, we have recently upgraded the computer and he might have been deleted”

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Pecora Nera… let’s delete him mwaha ha ha!

I have been deleted!!!! How is that possible? Mrs Sensible said she would phone the administrators and try to find out. She talked to a woman for three minutes and then hung up. Pecora, you need to go down to the main office and fill out some forms.

Now I know what Italy is like, so on Wednesday I went armed with my passport, identity card, proof of residence and one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons. It only took a 10 minute search to find the correct office.

Me: Hello I English, please excuse my bad Italian.

Admin: Tell me!

Me: I need hospital appointment, but my name has been deleted, here is my identity card.

She turned to her computer and started clicking buttons and occasionally glancing at me.

Admin: è scaduto

Me: I have expired!!! I am still here.

ComputerSaysNo

She looked at my passport and my other documents, and told me to go to the local council offices and ask them for.

  1. Proof that I am an European citizen.
  2. Proof that I am a resident of my little village.
  3. Proof that I have paid my taxes.

She was not convinced that my UK passport proved anything.

Later that evening I went on my facebook page and ranted about the crazy bureaucracy in Italy. A very good friend of mine messaged me and offered to accompany me to the office to see if she could untangle the mess.

Yesterday we both went back to the office with my little bundle of papers and discussed the problem with a different administrator.

Admin 2: You came yesterday didn’t you.

Me: What did she say?

Admin 2:

The Englishman needs to go to the local council office and ask for:-

  1. Proof that he is resident of his village, the document he has is just a copy of his request to be a resident.
  2. A copy of his wife’s identity card
  3. His identity card
  4. His codice fiscale (national insurance number)
  5. Certificate that his company is registered in Italy.

At the moment I am wondering if it is easier to just fly to the UK and see my old doctor. I did however drive to the council offices and managed to get most of the documents, my accountant is sending over the work related documents hopefully I might be back on the system ASP (at some point)

Oh I nearly forgot, I need your advice with something…..

When I arrived home, the postwoman gave me a very sinister brown envelope, inside it contained a speeding fine!!! I must be very unlucky because I don’t know anyone else in Italy who has ever received one.

 

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You may remember I changed my UK driving licence to an Italian licence, because it was too difficult to convince the Italian police it was not a Ukranian driving licence.

The speeding fine doesn’t say who was driving, they assume it was me because it is my car. I now have two options.

Option 1

Is to quickly pay the fine and burn all the evidence, before Mrs Sensible finds out. Otherwise I will endure a lifetime of reminders about my speeding ticket.

Option 2

Prove or convince Mrs Sensible that she was driving the car and then never ever mention her mistake again…… except when we are in the company of friends.

Its a difficult one.

Thought process

Typical thought process of Pecora Nera when dealing with Mrs Sensible.