Just another average day in Italy

On Monday I received a nice letter warning me that I had forgoten to pay the car tax on my little mini. I think the tax was for 2011 – 2012.  The letter gave me 60 days to pay the tax or I would be charged an additional €7.00 😱 Mrs Sensible gave me 2 days to pay it or face more dire consequences than a mere €7.00

 Every morning she has reminded me once or thrice that the bill is still OVERDUE… 

So this morning I called in at the local post office in Occimiano and tried to pay it, the really helpful woman (NOT), behind the counter told me I needed to fill in the ‘Casuale’, 


Normally you write the bill/invoice  number in Casuale but there wasn’t a bill number so I asked the unhelpful woman if I should write Soris , or Regione Piemonte or car tax? 

She shook her head, and continued to talk to her mother on the phone.

“ok cosa scrivere? ” I probably missed a few words out but I think I said, What should I write? 

She shrugged her shoulders. Of course, I had forgot there is no such thing as customer service in Italy

Google search: Italian Customer Service


With a smile I thanked her for her help and walked out.

Finding a helpful Poste Italiane worker is like finding hens teeth,  for every helpful worker there are at least 23 unhelpful workers. Mind you there are millions of post offices in Italy to choose from.

I decided to try the post office in Terrugia, and the guy was amazing, he filled out the form and took my €270.36. Which means my car is now legally taxed for the year 2011 – 2012. I not sure if I have paid  this years road tax, mind you, it has taken them 5 years to write to me. Maybe I will receive another letter in the year 2022

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Red stripes and shoe laces

I was spending a pleasant afternoon helping some friends taste and bottle  some red wine, when I received an urgent phone call from Mrs Sensible.

The gang of wine bottlers


Mrs S was putting together a powerpoint presentation when horrors upon horrors the program wouldn’t do what she wanted it to do. I didn’t realise there were others like me, who wouldn’t do as she commanded.

I put  my glass of wine down and bade farewell to my friends, and set off rather quickly on my mission of mercy.

Hurtling down the road in my little Mini I spotted a member of our esteemed  carabinieri standing in the middle of the road waving a red ping pong bat.

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Anyone for tennis.


Using the hand brake,  going down the gears and jumping on the brakes, I managed to stop the car before I ran him over, did I mention I was rushing?

I believe you should always be extra polite to policemen, especially if you have just nearly run them over. I bade him good morning (it was about four in the afternoon) and he asked me if I was a tourist !!!!

Sorry! Why do you think I am a tourist?


Why no kind sir, I live here.

He proceeded to check my documents and when he checked my vehicle log, his demeanor changed,… This is very bad he told me, your car should have had its vehicle check 3 months ago.. 

It took me a couple of seconds to translate his Italian to English and then register the grave problem I was in. I took the document from his hand and read with horror, my car should have had its check at the end of April, we are now in June

The story of my life


I used one of the few Italian words in my vocabulary, mi dispiace, I’m sorry.

He looked at his machine gun wielding partner and gave me my documents back, Today we haven’t seen you, but tomorrow we will….

Did you see him? No, me neither

Thankfully he mimed some of the words to make sure i understood his meaning.

So here I am spending €67 and waiting to see if my little car is still road worthy. 

A nightmare

When the engineer shouted it had passed the emissions test, I did a Mexican wave, he tut tutted a couple of time because one of the exhaust brackets is currently on holiday and one of the tyres is wearing unevenly (I have no idea which) and something about something needing cleaning or changing!! I just nodded and thought I can worry about whatever he is on about another day.

It has passed the emission test


I can’t express how happy I am that my little car has passed it’s test. I do have a small niggling problem, I know two carabiniere are watching out for my car to see if I have had the check done…. 

So I can’t drive wearing my flip flops for a week or two and I promise not to tell anyone that Carabiniere wear boots because they don’t know how to tie laces or that they have red stripes on their trousers so they don’t put them on inside out.

I will leave you with one of my favourite pictures, a carabinieri providing an excellent example of how to dismount from his horse with the aid of a tent.

Utilising a tent to dismount

A Freudian Slip

It is a cold Sunday Morning and I have no intention of getting out of bed, well not yet anyway. Mrs Sensible has already ventured downstairs and prepared mugs of tea and slices of buttered toast. 

As I drink my tea, I flick through the news and come across the following article, Rome bans gladiators and rickshaws (again) The article

A collection of gladiators


Pecora Nera

Did you know, that the gladiators and centurions in Rome earn around €12,000 a month standing around charging tourists for photos!

Mrs Sensible 

€12,000 a month! You could do that, you look like a radiato…. erh gladiator

A collection of radiators


I quickly looked at her, RADIATOR!!!, was that a Freudian slip?

Mrs Sensible (grinning)

No, no, I meant gladiator, really.

Pecora Nera

I’m going back to sleep.
Happy cold December Sunday to you all.

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

How to cook spaghetti bolognese

I know a couple of you follow this blog in the hope of reading one of Mrs Sensible’s authentic Sicilian recipes,  not wanting to disappoint you I have decided to create the Pecora Nera Home Cooking Channel. 

Before you try the recipe I did try it on little Mario to see what he thought and his initial thoughts were,

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Please let Mrs Sensible cook next time

And Marco said

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I’m sure he didn’t follow the recipe properly

So here is a link to my latest video from Pecora Nera’s home cooking channel.

For Christmas I will upload ‘ How to prepare a traditional Christmas Lunch

 

 

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Christmas Lunch in a can

I was going to upload a picture of a whole Chicken in a Can, but it made me feel a little queezy and I don’t want to put you off my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

5 Kilometers! You are kidding, right?

Mr H sent me a WhatsApp message suggesting we should both sign up for a 5 Kilometer fun run, my initial reaction was to quickly delete the message, however just before I pressed the delete button, I spotted the word WINE!

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Bean Wine Run???

The run suddenly looked like fun, on the website I read they will have a refreshment table for the thirsty runners every kilometer. Not water but glasses of wine and proper food!!! Without asking Mrs Sensible, I immediately registered for the run it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Proof that there might be a bit of madness in my family

After registering for the event I mentioned the Wine Fun Run to Mrs Sensible. She then sent a WhatsApp message to the wife of Mr H mentioning the Fun Run, this was a shame because Mr H hadn’t managed to find the courage to ask / tell his wife that he was going on a wine fun run with me. I quickly dispatched a warning message to him.

While various messages  were being sent from one phone to another, I decided I needed to invest in some proper running kit. Obviously I will need some running shorts and a hat to keep the sun from my eyes.

While I was looking for a nice set of spandex running shorts….. I came across these.

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Unfortunately they are not available in Spandex

I can’t decide on which T shirt to buy. Because this is a special occasion, a once in a life time run, I may even print some Team Pecora Nera T Shirts….

I did find a suitable hat to keep the sun from my eyes,

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The hat

I am a little disappointed, the hat only holds two glasses, the picture is not clear enough to see if it is possible to insert two bottles.

Mr H said his wife has agreed to allow him to join me on the run. He has also started his preparation for the run, which includes sit ups, press ups and running. ( I had to google these strange terms). I told Mr H we should have a support vehicle and staff, maybe a sommelier, cardio specialist and an ambulance.. you never know.

I am also taking this run very seriously, the first week will be used for organising and the preparation of my kit, the second week will include choosing which wine to take and  trying to run whilst balancing the two glasses on my head. In the final week I may try a little stretching and an occasional sedentary walk.

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Mr H with our support staff.

Mrs Sensible told me the local red cross will be at the run and I wasn’t to worry, I was really only concerned on behalf of Mr H. Because someone may have to carry me.

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Mr H is strong enough to carry me

The run is on the 3rd of September, so please come and support us, and I mean support us in the literal sense.

 

One finger one thumb keep moving.

One finger one thumb keep moving.

Today millions of children will be driving their mums and grandparents potty until the schools re-open sometime in September. I join the ranks of adults who are sad the children are now on their three month holiday. Not because I have any school age children who will say “I’m bored, are we going out today”, I am sad because I miss my school pals from Cerrina School.

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Some of the fabulous children (Allessandria News)

During January Mrs Sensible received a phone call asking if her errant husband would like a part time job teaching English to three classes of primary school children. Initially I declined because I was busy with other work. Two weeks later the school phoned again and Mrs Sensible asked when they wanted me to start.

While Mrs Sensible gave me a pep talk on how to teach and control a class of eight year old’s I was preoccupied pondered which of my many ties I should wear.

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Tigger or Simpsons, mmmm a difficult decision.

For the past couple of years I have helped Mombello School and found the experience great fun, for some unexplained reason 9 year olds accept me as one of their own……  but a class of six year old’s would be a new experience. Mrs S suggested I teach them a song, I was a little worried about this idea as on occasions my singing has frightened little children!

Monday morning as I stood at the front of the class watching little Mario pick his nose with his finger, I pointed at my bogey free finger and shouted FINGER! The kids looked at me slightly alarmed but one or two shouted back finger! I then pointed at my thumb and shouted THUMB and the kids shouted back TUM!

It took a couple of tries before the class were shouting back thumb. Over  a period of 20 minutes we worked our way through hand, arm, leg and head. When I was satisfied that they understood the words, I coaxed them into joining me, singing my rendition of One finger one thumb keep moving.

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There is always one little boy who who doesn’t know the words (credit Macaronisoup)

For the first two weeks the lessons with the six year old’s went brilliantly. The kids loved the song and I was excited with their progress. One evening while I was eating my pizza, Mrs Sensible asked me how my lessons were going and which song i was teaching them, One Finger One Thumb I said. It goes like this….. I put my pizza to one side, stood up and pointed at my finger and then my thumb, I sang One finger one thumb  keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving we’ll all be merry and bright.Mrs Sensible was transfixed.

As I sang I watched Mrs Sensible screw her eyes up as I hit one or three bad notes, Mrs S gamely sat through my song until I reached the bit that goes… One finger, one thumb, one hand one arm and as I patted my arm Mrs Sensible very nearly choked on her piece of pizza. Noooo she said, please tell me you haven’t taught a class of 6 year olds this song!

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Even the cat looked surprised

Erh! yes, its a good song, they are learning parts of their body and….

You taught them the movements?

Oh for sure, I have the kids stood up tapping their fingers, thumbs arms and singing their little hearts out, they love it.

Oh I bet they do!

Why! Oh I bet they do?

Pecora… Just do the arm bit again, don’t bother with the singing, just the motions.

I tapped my arm and sang (ever so slightly out of tune) one finger, one thumb, one hand, one arm we’ll all be merry and bright.

Mrs S shouted, In Italy tapping your arm and raising it like that is a swear word!

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Beppe Grillo singing my song

In my defense, I didn’t clench my fist, nor did I raise my arm quite as high, ok maybe high enough so that Maria at the back of the class could see me, and in my naivety I didn’t see how tapping my arm could be construed as a swear word.

Mrs Sensible was mortified. She said the chilblains would be going home and singing my song to their parents, even I had to admit it was a little bit of a problem.

It took three weeks to reeducate my class of six year olds that it was not necessary to tap and raise ones arm, it was sufficient to simply point at it. All except Mario the nose picker who much preferred the original version.

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

I can make grown women cry, with my singing.

There are two things I am pretty rubbish at, one is learning the Italian language and the second is singing. I always thought my singing was, well quite wonderful really, however Mrs Sensible says I am tone deaf.

In my defense, it must be said, I have sung at some pretty auspicious places, I sang with Craig at the Welsh National Stadium and  I even once sang with the school choir, you notice I said once.

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Ah the bliss of school.

Craig a friend of mine from Sheffield introduced me to the delights of singing at the top of my voice while standing in the rain with a meat & potato pie in one hand and a cup of bovril in the other. I learnt the words to The Greasy Chip Butty song and sang it as Sheffield United played football.

Craig was a keen supporter of Sheffield United and his enthusiasm wasn’t diminished for his team, when during the match he jumped in the air and landed badly on his foot. He turned to me and calmly said “I think I have just broken my ankle” he then turned back to the football match and shouted “COME ON YOUUUUUU REEDDDDSSSSSSS”. After the match we walked to the pub to celebrate, (admittedly Craig was limping a bit) and the following morning the local hospital confirmed he had indeed broken his leg so they stuck a pot on it.

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The lyrics to the Greasy Chip Butty Song (search on You tube for it)

During 2005 Mrs Sensible took me to her church in Sicily, she introduced me to her friends and then walked off with three of them and left me standing with Giuseppe or maybe it was Marco, anyway I noticed people were starting to sit down. As I went in search of Mrs S, I noticed that all the chairs around her were full! I ended up sitting five pews back and on the other side of the church.

As the first hymn started, I noticed two things, of course everyone was singing in Italian and second, none of the words I knew were included in the hymn. Mind you how many hymns start with the words , ‘hello, I like red white and where is my wife?’

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I knew the tune, just not the words

So I just stood there and listened. I think they were singing the second verse when I felt a little nudge in the small of my back. I thought it was a little strange to be nudged whilst standing in church, so I ignored it. And then I was nudged again. I turned to see a little Sicilian man holding an open hymn book for me, and his wife was smiling and kindly nodding. I took the hymn book, smiled and turned around. Taking a deep breath I joined them.

Pecora Nera Singing

I sang with gusto

I didn’t just mumble my way through the hymn, I sang with gusto, with fortitude and with absolutely no idea what the words meant or how to pronounce them.

I felt at one with the congregation and my maker, well until I looked down and saw a very small and worried looking boy staring at me from behind his mothers legs.

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Please make him stop!!

I smiled at him and gave him a wave, he quickly disappeared from sight. After the hymn had finished I turned and handed the book back to the man and thanked him. I think the moment must have been too much for  his wife, because she was dabbing the corners of her eyes with a lace hanky.

After the exertion of singing I sat down and listened but understood nothing the preacher was saying, it is a problem that still besets me. And then they stood and started singing another hymn and I felt the familiar nudge in my back.

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Give him the Hymn book again

After the service, Mrs Sensible told me I was welcome to visit the church whenever I was in Sicily, at least somebody must have appreciated my singing.