Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

Mud Wrestling or running in the vineyard?

During September I decided I needed to lose some of the winter fat I had accumulated to keep me warm during the harsh Italian winters. Yes I know, I also thought Italy was a sunny place where bronzed people drank prosecco while sitting in the sun.

Admittedly, I did think about losing weight during September, but it took me until February before I laced a pair of trainers onto my feet. I actually considered the act of reaching down and lacing my trainers as two separate exercises that I could mark off my list.

Horse

I tried invisible horse riding, but I couldn’t find my horse 

Over the past three months I have lost 8 kilos, that is 17.5 pounds in real money.   I would like to take all the credit for this achievement, but tell me, what else is there to do during the Corona virus lockdown other than running through the vineyards, Netflix binge watching or sighing at the latest conspiracy theory.

Despite it raining, today started off as a wonderful day and just before dinner time it unfortunately just before lunchtime it imploded into one of those days you only discuss with friends over a glass of whisky. It took me thirty minutes to convince myself  that running through the vineyards was a good idea, a way to clear my head and dissipate my anger. It is amazing how anger can help you run up a muddy wet hill,

What anger can’t help you with is running back down the other side. I already had a kilo of clay stuck to each of my trainers, I had about as much control over my legs and the direction I was going in, as one of those shopping carts with a dodgy wheel, and then I realised I was not going to be able to stop or even slow down until I reached the bottom of the muddy track.

cart-in-wetlands-2

The shopping cart and I more or less had the same control

Sliding sideways  and screaming like a girl, with my arms windmilling in an attempt to control my balance,  I executed a beautiful back flip followed by a near perfect swallow dive into the mud of the vineyard. As I sat there counting my bones and checking for internal injuries, the woman from the Couch to 5K app whispered into my ear, “you are doing great, if you feel ok you may want to increase your pace”. Ok so I swore a little bit.

muddy1

Mud does not equal fun.

So here is my take on the day. I have come to the conclusion that A) This morning I shouldn’t have got out of  my warm bed and B) mud wrestling is neither sexy or erotic, mud is cold horrible stuff, especially when you have to run two kilometres to return home, with mud caked up your legs, back and a light drizzle of rain to remind you that you are a little damp. As of today Mud Wrestling has been deleted from my list of fantasies.

 

 

 

Château Lafeet 👣

Château Lafeet 👣

Today started off much like any other Saturday morning at Casa Pecora Nera.

I was gently snoring as Mrs Sensible deposited a mug of English tea next to our bed and said get up.

Englishman In Italy

The two most important things in life, English tea and mosquito spray

Get out off bed.

Erh why, it’s Saturday?

Because YOU promised to help Tracey with her grape harvest.

While Mrs S went upstairs to have a bath, I naturally went back to sleep.

I was rudely awaken by the sound of those big bells they tie around the neck of goats, sheep and even cows.

englishman in italy

We don’t wear bells!

As I lay there listening to the sheep bells in the lane outside our house, I wondered whether to invite the shepherd and his sheep into our garden, because I think the last time the grass was cut was sometime in June.

Miss Jessica did a great job cutting the grass in June, even if I did distract her by accidentally spraying her with the hosepipe.

Englishman in italy

Miss Jessica, a little wet but good fun

I was just about to get out of bed, when the sound of the bells was suddenly coming from our garden. Problem solved, no invite needed.

When I looked out of the window, I was amazed to see, not sheep and goats but three scabby dogs running around my garden, complete with bells around their necks. All the cats had mysteriously disappeared, even Mishmash.

Two of the dogs shared an amazing resemblance to Gilder, the incredibly fat but short legged dog.

Englishman in italy

Gilda always had trouble running because her tummy scraped along the floor

I am sure you remember Gilder’s escapades with Scooby Doo the Machiavellian cat.

Quickly I ran outside and heard Dottoressa Paula telling the hunter off. It seems she was also annoyed that the hunter had no control over his dogs.

Englishman in italy

My friend the amazing dottoresse Paula

Dottoressa Paula is famous for rallying the local policeman’s car in the vineyard.

While Dottoressa Paula remonstrated with the hunter and told him to unload his rifle while she was shouting at him.

Best picture of the hunter

I used some of my newly acquired italian to also shout at him.

Dott Paula: (In perfect Italian) If you can’t control your dogs, they should be on a leash!

Me: ( My version of Italian) My cat now on roof, you going him fetch?

Dott Paula: Unload your gun, while you are talking to me.

Me: Your dogs going my garden fetch now!!

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat waiting for the all clear.

Our little tag team went on for a good five minutes until the hunter decided to shuffle off down the lane, with five assorted dogs following him.

As he left us I asked.

Do you know word I’m sorry? Yes or No?

He stood there looking confused, maybe he was trying to understand my question or what the word sorry means.

After a quick espresso with the kind but formidable Dottoressa I went off to pick grapes at Tracey’s

Tracey runs a bed and breakfast near me, her website is http://laroccaitalia.com and each year I help her and her friends to pick the grapes and ultimately drink some of the wine.

So why have we named this years wine Château LaFeet?

Englishman in italy

The lovely Alyssa and Des

Because it is traditional for the girls to tread the grapes before we send them off to be fermented into wonderful wine.

I raise a glass of Château LaFeet to all my friends in bloggo land.

Summer Fruit Recipe

If you have recently walked down your garden, you are probably wondering what to do with all the fruit hanging off the trees. If you live in England the problem may be all the fruit the wife keeps buying from ASDA or Tesco.

I phoned Mrs Sensible and she suggested I turn it into jam. Obviously I instantly dismissed her sensible idea and decided to turn it into a Rumtopf, or to be more precise a Grappatopf.

First you either have to pick the fruit from the garden or pinch the stuff the wife has bought.

Only use soft fruit ie strawberries, plums. Apples, pears etc don’t absorb the alcohol very well.

Englishman in Italy

No they are not cherry tomatoes, they are little plums

Wash and cut the fruit into bite size pieces, if they have stones take them out. I left the stones in the little plums, because if I had removed the stones there would be nothing left.

Preserve it in alcohol

Try to make sure the fruit is relatively dry or the water dilutes the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that would we. Add the fruit to your jar.

Englishman in Italy Rumtopf

My little jar

When the fruit is in the jar add sugar. The ratio of fruit to sugar is 1 kilo of fruit and half a kilo of sugar.

Add a suitable spirit to completely cover the fruit and sugar. The Germans use rum, but it makes the mixture a dirty brown colour. I prefer a nice rosy red colour so I use either grappa, gin or bacardi,

12 year old grappa 

Keep layering fruit, sugar and grappa until the jar is full. This can be done over several months, personally I prefer to do it all at once for example when Mrs Sensible is unlikely to catch me or when she is in Sicily.

The fruit, sugar and alcohol create an incredible liqueur and the fruit is wonderful with ice cream or on its own. Each mouthful is an explosion of fruit and alcohol.

It takes about four months before it is ready, I normally check it every couple of weeks, give it a little stir and taste it, adding a bit more grappa if it has evaporated Hic!

VERY IMPORTANT

To avoid any chance of discovery.

1) Thoroughly clean the kitchen.

2) Dispose of the empty spirit bottles.

3) Find a suitable cool dark place to hide the Grappatopf. I chose the cellar because in 13 years I think Mr Sensible has only ventured down there once.

Englishman in italy

Remember to hide it

At the moment I have lots of skinned lemons in the fridge, because I have made some Limoncello and all the lemons are good for is squeezing and adding to gin and tonic.

If you are going to make a gin and tonic, do it right

There is a nice recipe for limocello lollies Here

If you have any other ideas how to use the peaches, plums figs etc please let me know…. as long as it isn’t jam.

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

Italian Health Care or How to Pee in a Parrot

In the interest of blogging, I decided to book myself in for a little operation. Nothing too drastic but fun enough for my little blog. On hindsight I should have gone river rafting.

IMG_0155

Medico Competente! I wonder where the incompetent doctors are?

The conversation with the consultant went something like this:

I will make an incision from here to here.

I really don’t want to know.

I will then insert this piece of mesh.

Please don’t tell me anymore.

Then I will stitch you here, here and ….

At that point he produced some coloured markers and drew lines and little dots for the stitches on my tummy.

Doctor, you really don’t need to tell me, because I will be asleep through the operation and I don’t do pain or enjoy hearing about the pain you are going to inflict on me.

IMG_9760

This picture was hung in the hospital reception.

The day of the operation arrived quicker than I had hoped, a mere four weeks after the consultant had drawn squiggly lines on my tummy, I found myself  sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with a hospital gown made of tissue paper and not a single nurse who looked like Jennifer Androne from the publicity photo. If I wasn’t so scared I might have complained.

Fourteen years ago in the UK I had an operation on my nose and throat in a vain attempt to stop me snoring (I still snore) In that hospital they knocked me out before I entered the operating theatre, very civilised.  This time they wheeled me into the actual theatre while I was still awake, the anaesthetist started ripping the tissue gown so he could attached wires and tubes to me, my heart rate went up another notch or two. Pretty soon I was nude and all I could do was helplessly watch nurses and orderlies waltz in and out and stare at the naked scared Englishman.

Pecora Nera, your heart rate is a little high. Hmm so would yours be if you were me.

My consultant walked in and asked me to sit on the side of the bed and lower my chin to my chest whilst pretending to hug a woman. I will admit it took me a couple of minutes to translate and understand his bizarre request.

Sorry doctor but why?

Because I need to give you an epidural.

WHAT!!!!

No, I must be asleep.

You can sleep if you wish.

epidural.jpg

As easy as ABC. I love the good advice to relax

Had I not been naked and attached by wires to various machines I would have walked out. Seriously, I did contemplate walking back to the ward. Meanwhile the  heart rate monitor was peaking off the charts.

I actually didn’t feel the epidural, and as I laid down it was really strange, my legs felt really heavy and I couldn’t move my toes.

TMI-1203

I felt like I was on a Texas execution table as they strapped my arms down.

He stuck a pin in my toe, can you feel this?

No

Good. He then pinched my leg. Can you feel this?

No doctor I can’t, but you are not operating on my feet or legs, I pinched my tummy, you are operating here and I sure as hell can feel this.

That was the  last thing I remember, apparently they decided it was far easier to just gas me and get it over with, either that or I fainted.

I came round just as he was knotting the stitches and admiring his work.

Frankenstien

Finally  the Englishman has stopped complaining.

Mrs Sensible was waiting for me on the ward. She helped me pee in a bottle and I decided I had had enough of life and went to sleep.

Later that evening I asked one of the dragons nurses how I was supposed to visit the toilet, (I was attached to a drip which unfortunately didn’t contain grappa)

She said and I quote. “fai pipi nel pappagallo”

Pee in the parrot!!

download

Meet Joey the bedpan

Everyone knows pipi is pee and I know pappagallo is parrot because I teach animal vocabulary in the schools.

I repeated “pipi in pappagallo??

She produced a bed pan, PIPI IN PAPPAGALLO!!

Who knew parrots were also bedpans!

At about two in the morning, I had the urgent desire to pee in a parrot. It took me 10 minutes to pull myself into a sitting position on the side of the bed and another 5 minutes to find and grab the parrot by its neck. Just as I was ready, I watched in horror as my pants slipped down to my ankles and as I tried to save them they slid onto the floor. Well good bye pants….

Laying back down was really hard, whatever I attempted hurt. I did consider just sitting where I was until the nice orderly came on duty. But I was not sure the sight of a naked man perched on the side of the bed, holding a parrot by its neck would impress her.

Why didn’t I ring for the night nurse? I didn’t want to disturb her reading.

Big book of torture

The night nurse’s book.

Italy is renown for its exquisite food, let me tell you, their hospitals are not.

IMG_0186.jpg

Italian hospital food, brodo and mashed potatoes.

Day one they gave me a small bowl of brodo, which is minestrone without any vegetables or bits floating in it.

Day two they produced brodo and a side dish of mashed potatoes.

I understand the reason for this diet, patients are always very keen to go home to a slice of pizza.

So thank you for the E-mail asking what I thought of Italian hospitals. Does anyone have any other bright ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riso Amaro or The dreaded Lurgy

Seventeen days ago during a barbeque with Mr H, I was viciously attacked by either mosquitoes or papadachi. Whatever they were they had a little feast on my legs and feet. Seven of the bites turned into lovely big blisters, the others just itched like mad.

891ea95cda44f6590dd1ab0528bd3177--bug-mosquitoes

I went to see my doctor, who oohed and ahhhhhed  and gave me some antibiotics, don’t worry Pecora Nera the blisters will go in 3 to 4 days. When I went to buy the antibiotics, the chemist suggested I should also try some antihistamine tablets. I politely declined them explaining that they send me to sleep. He gave me some cream which I paid for.

I don’t remember  much of the following two days, I spent the time sleeping, it would appear antihistamine cream also sends me to sleep.

cat-sleep

I spent two days in a semi-comatosed state.

Fast forward 10 days, to my trip to Sicily to visit The Family and a collection of other Chemists who have prescribed lots of ooohs and special creams. I still have two wonderful boils one on the top of each foot.

Mrs Sensible said I should go to the Pronto Soccorso at the Ragusa Hospital (Emergency Dept). We sat in the waiting room with lots of other people who didn’t appear to have any medical emergencies.

'It's out new method for determining who we should treat first. We take people in order of how loud they scream.'

The triage doctor looked at my poor feet and downgraded my emergency to code white, looking down at my poor feet I thought I should be at least a code red or at the very least a code orange.

Mrs Sensible explained that code white means you are really wasting their time and you will have to pay for the hospital visit. At this point I would like to say I did suggest visiting the local doctor in the village, but Mrs Sensible said she didn’t think the local doctor was very good.

witch_doctor

I didn’t ask why their doctor wasn’t very good.

We wandered around the hospital in search of the waiting room for patients designated as not really very ill.

White

Codici Bianchi (Code White, not code Red)

As doctor number 2 peered over his computer monitor, Mrs Sensible explained that either mosquitoes or papdachi had bitten my poor feet and legs. I don’t think he believed her. She pressed on with, in Piemonte we have lots of mosquitoes and Pecora Nera sometimes has an allergic reaction to the bites.

gorrila

I was concentrating hard to understand the conversation.

I was listening very attentively to Mrs Sensible and Doctor number 2 discussing my poor feet, and then when Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes, I was momently distracted and lost the rest of the conversation. Mrs Sensible told me we were off to see yet another doctor……

Ok, what did he say when you rolled your eyes?

He asked if you have been working with bare feet in the rice fields!!! I told him you are an English Teacher.

Stifling a laugh I asked if Mrs Sensible had told him we now have tractors in the north and no longer pick the rice by hand?

riso-amaro-locandina copy

Pecora Nera starring in Riso Amaro

Anyway, where are we going now?

To the ward for infectious diseases!

What, are you serious?

Of course, the doctor thinks you have contracted an infectious disease from one of the other workers in the rice field.

I don’t work in a rice field!!!!

IMG_9797

Infections Ward

I really didn’t want to enter the ward without wearing a bio hazard suit, there was no knowing what infectious disease I could catch in there, probably something far worse than a couple of boils on my feet.

Actually my feet were feeling much better, we could go home and visit the witch doctor.

IMG_9795

Mrs Sensible’s bag and assorted protection gear

Doctor number 3 examined my feet and gave me flea powder some antibiotic powder and some pills. Your feet will be back to normal in 3 to 4 days. He was so convincing I almost believed him. However at the time of writing this little post I am 3 days into the treatment and the boils are still large as life. The doctor also upgraded my emergency to Green, which meant we didn’t have to pay for the treatment.

I have precisely 31 days  to cure (or pop) these blisters, why? Because each year I enter the Canelli Wine run and I will run it with or without the blisters. Not that they will impede my slow trot around the course.

This video is last years trot around the course, with my crazy friend Mr H, prizes if you can spot Mr H and me.

 

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

A Windy Day & Turkish Delight 😜

Let me start by saying I have just finished a second course of antibiotics to try and kick a chest infection.  I still have the cough and now thanks to the antibiotics I have a really bad case of wind. 

Nobody was safe from the wind

As we walked to the office of the prefecture I was not only worried about my application for Italian citizenship, but also my precarious medical condition.  I am not sure if my interpreter knew I kept randomly exploding, if she did, she never said anything.

The Office of Sig.ra helpful

The meeting went really well, Sig.na Helpful ( the women in the office) decided I could write a self certificate declaring that when I was a baby in Malta I wasn’t a   Cereal Killer or criminal.

The milk had better be warm today


Sig.na Helpful asked if she could see my original documents, I whispered to Mrs Interpreter that my original documents are languishing in some office in the U.K. and hopefully they will receive the apostille stamp and be back here in ten days.

Sig.na Helpful asked me to sign another self certificate declaring that the photocopies of  my original documents were original photocopies !!! I know I am still trying to work that one out. maybe I lost something in the translation.

I was then asked for the marca da bollo, this is a little stamp that cost me €16. It’s at home I said! 

Marca da bollo

Don’t worry Sig.na Helpful said you can bring it in next week, or nip out and buy another one.  I couldn’t believe my luck, I had been sitting there with my stomach making curious noises and I knew there was an imminent explosion due.

I’ll be right back I said as I ran out of her office, I managed to exit the building before the wind struck.

I drove my interpreter back to her house and then headed off to Cerrina to give an English Lesson.

Because I had an hour to spare I stopped off in a bar for a coffee and a brioche. The bar looked clean and I thought it might be ok to use their toilet.

Turkish Toilet

The hole in the floor

I have lived here ten years and today was the first time I have had to balance above a Turkish Toilet  I think if you have a dress it must be easier, all the women need to do is bunch their dress up under their armpits.

If you are wearing trousers there are a multitude of problems, 1. With your trousers around your ankles it is really difficult to open your feet far enough to squat safely above the hole, 2. Attempting to maintain balance with one hand trying to hold your trousers out of danger while squatting is a nightmare.

Just as I managed to get my balance and my thigh muscles stopped shaking, I heard a click and  the fricking light went out, I was immediately plunged into darkness.

Stupid Light Sensor

Some energy conscious Italian had installed an automatic light switch!!!

Because this is a family rated blog, I can’t tell you the thoughts that ran through my mind or the words that spilled out of my mouth as I nearly tumbled down the hole.

What I will say is, trying to turn the light back on by waving with one hand in the air, whilst  trying to keep your trousers safe and maintain balance, is as easy as riding a unicycle while playing the bagpipes

A talented man

Today my thoughts are with the inventor of the Turkish Toilet and the man who set the light switch to 20 seconds, both of you have a better sense of humour than I will ever have.

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer

I have to tell you I am crying into my glass of wine, I have just received two E mails from the Prefettura in Alessandria, allegedly they are processing my application for Italian citizenship.

The first E mail I successfully translated with the help of Google, it went something like this.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please come to our office on the second floor,  on the 9th November at 10.30. Bring originals of the documents you submitted on line.

I was so happy I nearly kissed the cat.

Susie Stupid Pussy Cat didn’t want a kiss

And then I opened the second E mail and as Google translated the document, I nearly kicked the cat.

Dear Pecora Nera,

Please apostille stamp your documents and it is necessary to provide your police certificate.

If I kicked Mishmash, she would retaliate by taking a dump in my shoe

After talking to the prefettura (I used my neighbour for this) we found out the police certificate she wanted, should be issued by Malta. Did I mention I was born in Malta and moved to the UK when I was 8 months old?

Pecora Nera the Cereal Killer


Obviously this is going to delay my application. I hope the Maltese authorities are not aware of my juvenile crime spree and will certify I was a good boy for the 8 months that I lived there.

Digging through my mother’s photo album, I found a couple more photos of my time in Malta

Me getting ready for the midwifes visit. She always had cold hands

Taken shortly after I held up the milkman

Another successful raid on the baby food factory


Today I have sent my documents issued by the UK government back to them with a request that they validate them with a rubber stamp.

I have also E mailed Malta to ask if they provide criminal certificates for 8 month old babies.

Citizenship part 1
Citizenship part 2
I am sure there will be a part 3 & 4

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

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.

englishmaninitaly.org

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,

img_3250

Please let Mrs Sensible cook next time

And Marco said

img_3252

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

 

 

img_3247

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!

FullSizeRender

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.

snip

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.

loudmouth-shorts-union-jack-2

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,

images

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.

DCIM100GOPRO

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.

12744679_10208811392066420_1900332495020652839_n

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.

cerrina Alessandria news

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.

IMG_2039

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.

KeepMoving

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!

funny-surprised-cat-face-paw

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!

download

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.

images

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.

sheffield2

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?’

Hymn

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.

2016-04-18 12.18.40

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.

Orangutans Laughing

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.

 

 

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

Pecora Nera’s Homemade Limoncello Lollies

This afternoon I was at a loose end, I checked the cupboards and there wasn’t any chocolate or crisps in sight, I checked my E-mail, Facebook, Whatsapp and then checked them again. A second trip around the kitchen didn’t reveal any biscuits or any hidden food that I could binge on…… but I did find these.

1

Five lolly moulds, not six just five.

They had been sitting at the back of the cupboard since last September, Mrs Sensible bought them because they were on special offer and because I had pestered her for some lolly moulds. I was suddenly hit with a cunning plan, which is much better than being hit with one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons. 

Maybe, just maybe I could make five (not six) limoncello lollies. I understand limoncello and especially my limoncello won’t freeze because of the alcohol content.  I did a quick search on the internet and discovered if I add a simple syrup to the mixture the alcohol will freeze. I checked my watch to make sure I had enough time to make a mess and tidy it up before Mrs S got back and then I set to work.

My recipe goes something like this.

Remove one bottle of limoncello from the freezer.

3

mmmmm limoncello

Clean the ice lolly moulds and…

4

I wonder who has the sixth mould?

Fill three of the moulds with water, one with limoncello and one with sugar.

5

Moneta pans are pretty good…. they are really difficult to burn

To make the simple syrup mix pour the water and sugar into the pan and stir it until the sugar has dissolved. Taddda!!!

When it has cooled down a little, add the limoncello and give it a good stir.

6

Pan of pee limoncello

Pour the limoncello mixture into the lolly moulds.

7

In it goes

Replace the lids or put lolly sticks in and hide at the very back of the freezer. This is very important, because when Mrs S finds them, I can say “oh them! I made them ages ago and how has your day been?” Thereby deflecting the question and quickly changing the subject,

2016-04-20 15.57.18

Sealed and ready for the freezer

The other important thing to remember is to wash the pan and wooden spoon, wipe down the sides and in this way nobody knows you have been getting into mischief.

How do they taste?

Fantastic, so good I forgot to take a picture of the finished lolly. I knew you would be disappointed so I went and fetched lolly number two. I took a quick picture of lolly number 2 and sat in the sunshine licking the lolly and admiring my creation.

2016-04-21 11.14.27

If you still think it is out of focus, I can get another

When I opened the photo on my computer it was ever so slightly out of focus. So I fetched lolly number 3.

I took my time and tried to take a nice photo of lolly number three, the taste appeared to be slightly more lemony than lolly number 1 or 2, I decided to try lolly number 4 and then I went and had a little lie down.

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.

mankini

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.

beach-tourist-pic

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.

2016-03-18 09.02.02

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.

551967_105349182949426_628072208_n

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.

2016-04-12 19.24.55

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.

englishman-in-italy

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!

2016-04-06 16.44.29

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Sarsaparillasal.blogspot.it

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Lamborghini Gallardo Police Car Hard Crash In Italy - 04.jpg

Happy Smiley Faces

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

ATT00010

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.

20140508104624650

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.

crime-scene-toilet-roll_f

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.

1

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.

grass

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.

download

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!

 

A stressed Englishman

A stressed Englishman

At the moment I am fighting the Italian bureaucracy, earlier this year a pen pusher unceremoniously deleted me from the Italian health system, I can no longer book an appointment at the hospital and I am probably violating some law by visiting the local doctor. I am a firm believer in fighting on two fronts, as in if you are biting their ears it is also wise to kick their shins, so here we go, not only am I trying to get reinstated, I have also starting the process for Italian citizenship.

I can see a stressed time ahead

I can see a stressed time ahead

All advice is welcome, please provide useful or inappropriate comments below. I asked Mrs Sensible for her thoughts on obtaining Italian citizenship, she said I was crazy.

Not everyone thinks I am crazy. Mishmash my cat thinks I am fabulous, well except when I throw her out into the rain or chase her around the house with a water pistol shouting at her for climbing onto the kitchen side or sneaking into one of the bedrooms for a crafty sleep.

Training Mishmash with the water aversion therapy became when she was a kitten

Training Mishmash with the water aversion therapy started when she was a kitten

The teachers from the little school in Mombello don’t think I am too crazy, Once again they have asked me if I can spare a couple of hours a week to help their chilblains with their English Studies.

Before setting of for my lesson, I once again visited the lunatics at the local ASL office (health office) with my latest documents and they then sent me to the local comune (council) to obtain a document granting me the permission to stay in Italy permanently. The man in the comune gave me a temporary permanent right to stay!!!!! I quizzed him whether it was possible to have a temporary – permanent right to stay, but he just shrugged his shoulders and I lost the gist of the conversation after his fourth word.

The little school in Monbello

The little school in Mombello

I got in my little car, which smells of cat pee thanks to the attentions the hairy gigalo of a tom cat is paying it, and set off to the little school in Mombello, for my first English lesson with the chilblains. I was a little stressed when I arrived in Mombello, what with the staff at the ASL office trying to convince me that the United Kingdom is not part of the European Economic Area (I think they believe this because we don’t use Monopoly money (Euro) and have proper money (Sterling) and also because I was trying to decide if my neighbor would notice if I kidnapped his cat and paid the local vet to deball it.

I had a good life, the local cats loved me. One day I was kidnapped, I remember the car I had peed on it often and then with a cruel snip

I once had a good life, the local cats loved me. One night I was kidnapped, I remember the car I had peed on it often and I will never forget the vet and his scissors.

I managed in my little stressed state to drive past the school and park twenty-foot further down the road. As I closed the car door a pungent whiff of cat pee assaulted my nose and as I went to open the car boot to retrieve my bag, a huge smell of cat pee hung in the air.. my little Mini had taken at least two hits on the drivers door and three on the rear bumper. That cat will disappear one night and reappear a couple of days later minus a bit of furry baggage.

It look like the right place to me

It looked like the right place to me…. I blame the mistake on stress

Outside the little yellow house that looked remarkably like the school I pressed the doorbell and was rewarded with a…

Chi e? (Who is it?)

Sono Io (It is I)

Normally this is all it takes to gain admittance to the school.

Allora? (So)

Huh! (maybe said a little petulantly) Allora!! Sono Io, per bambini! (SO!!! Its me for the children)

As I turned around in frustration, I realised the school was twenty-foot further up the road and I had disturbed some old Italian woman who had been preparing  spaghetti bolognase for her husband and children.

Another Italian language flash card for your collection

Another Italian language flash card for your collection

The lesson with the kids was great fun, I am impressed with their knowledge of the English Language, it is far superior to my knowledge of the Italian Language, and I have been living here way before some of these children were born. Which is a scary thought and not one I should pass onto Mrs Sensible.

If there is anybody out there who has successfully applied and obtained Italian citizenship…. I am all ears.

 

 

The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…

Last weekend Mrs Sensible dragged me kicking and screaming to the local supermarket. I hate shopping and pushing a trolley around the aisles saying useful things like, uh huh and not sure and even, wow look two toilet rolls  for the price of one! A couple of months ago I used to be able to have a bit of fun hiding a bottle of limoncello or a bar of chocolate under the shopping for it to appear when Mrs S loaded our shopping onto the check out conveyor. Mrs Sensible doesn’t normally like making a fuss in front of people, occasionally she would give me her teacher stare but normally my acquisitions are, blipped, paid for and put in the plastic bags.

Englishmaninitaly.org

Even Batman goes shopping

To make my visits to the supermarket even more unbearable, Ipercoop have introduced a new system, probably marketed as Blip as you go. Special people (like Mrs Sensible) are allowed to go around the store and blip their purchases as they shop, they are even allowed to put them into shopping bags and when they are ready to leave the store, they put the blipper in a special machine and finally pay for their purchases.

Mrs Sensible's new toy

The Blipper, Mrs Sensible’s new toy

For many reasons I do not like this system. First I can no longer hide bottles of limoncello as they need to be blipped by Mrs S before they enter the trolley that I am responsible for pushing. Second I am not happy with depriving a check out girl from her job and finally Ipercoop and Mrs Sensible wont let me play with one of the blippers.

Back to last week, Mrs S dragged me off to Ipercoop and we filled the trolley with useless things like bleach, pasta and bicarbonate of soda (We seem to use a lot of this stuff) . Mrs S was of course in charge of the blipper and my sole responsibility was to push the trolley and mutter, uh huh and are we nearly done now? But to my surprise we turned up the biscuit aisle. I say to my surprise because Mrs S and I seem to be on a 24/7, 346 days a year diet (excluding wine and grappa). I held my breath as Mrs S blipped two packets of biscuits and handed them to me, as I dropped them in the trolley; she then handed me a third packet and I duly dropped it in the trolley.

For at least one nanosecond I did wonder if Mrs S had remembered to blip the 3rd packet of biscuits, but as William K Shakespeare famously said “Theirs is not to reason why” and so I put the third packet in the trolley and didn’t mention Mrs Sensible’s possible oversight. When we returned home and staggered into the house with umpteen plastic bags of shopping, Mrs S picked up the till receipt and checked her purchases. Checking till receipts when you return home is a hereditary disorder, I have watched her father do the same receipt checking thing. I normally screw receipts up and stuff them in my back pocket.

Mrs Sensible, realised that we had three packets of biscuits……… but SHE had only blipped and paid for two. We then had the following conversation, you can work out for yourselves who said what.

Did you put another packet of biscuits in the trolley?

Nope!

Are you sure?

Positive, I am only in charge of the trolley.

But we only paid for two packets!

Oops,

Mrs S re-checked her till receipt to see if a third packet was itemised in between the bleach and the bicarbonate of soda, it wasn’t. Obviously I thought this was funny and Mrs S didn’t.

Ok so you have STOLEN A PACKET OF BISCUITS, what are you going to do about it?

I could go  back and tell them.

Uh huh you could, or next time you go shopping you could take them back and put them back on the shelf.

I think they have security cameras.

Tricky… How about we just eat them?

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

Over the past week the problem of the STOLEN PACKET OF BISCUITS has weighed heavily on the conscience of Mrs Sensible, I have done my best not to reminder Mrs S too much that she is now not only a sensible school teacher, but she is also a sensible shoplifter. On Friday I crunched my way through a packet of biscuits and casually remarked at how nice, tasty and crunchy they were. So far Mrs S has refused to join me in eating the evidence of her ill gotten gains.

Last night, out of the blue Mrs Sensible said

I know how to solve it.

Solve what?

The biscuits.

Uh Huh.

When we next go shopping I will blip two packets and only buy one packet.

Which gives me at least three days to find a way of foiling her scheme.

This isn’t the first time I have been caught up in illegal activity with Mrs Sensible’s sensible family. I do remember almost getting arrested at Gatwick Airport with Mrs Sensible’s mum and a rather large pen knife. LINK 

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi è l’ultima?

Chi è l’ultima?

Chi è l’ultima? (Who is last?)Our doctors doesn’t have a receptionist nor does it have any queue system, when you enter the waiting room you shout Chi è l’ultima?

Hopefully someone will reply Io! (me!) this system works providing you are not visiting the doctor for deafness, laryngitis or because you are an Englishman.

So here I am on a cold Monday morning sat in the doctors with 15 other ill people waiting for our doctor who is late as per normal.

This Chi è l’ultima system works perfectly for Italians in doctors surgeries throughout Italy, that is until somebody decides they have something more important to do than sit in the doctors.

Maria ( let’s call her Maria) has just thrown a mini tantrum waved her hands in the air complained that the doctor is still not here and walked out. All very interesting, now we are having a fab discussion as to who was before Maria and who is after who?

I am trying not to giggle, especially as I forgot to ask Chi è l’ultima when I came in and after sitting here for twenty minutes I have forgot who came in after me plus I keep hearing l’inglese..

Forty minutes later the doctor has turned up, on crutches! everybody is suitable impressed, amongst the waiting room of Italians the doctor on his crutches looks sicker than any of us.

Those that were complaining bitterly are now looking at their feet as the doctor drags himself his bag and crutches across the room

And just to put the icing on the cake Maria must have seen the doctor arrive because she has re-entered the waiting room and is trying to negotiate her position back in the queue. I of course helped her by calling io ultima!!!

Update…..

The doctor said I have to rest my leg, I know my Italian is not very good, but I am sure he said I was not to make any more cups of tea, clean the kitchen or any other house related jobs.. I will need to break this news to Mrs Sensible gently. Because I know she was worried

Bagna Cauda and Wine

The C.O.S.I group has chosen winter for this months joint post. Italy is full of great things to do and I am sure the C.O.S.I bloggers will have lots of useful information from visiting wonderful places in Florence to skiing in the Alps. I personally think skiing is far to dangerous for a mere black sheep (Pecora Nera)  So instead I will tell you about food, wine and dinning with good friends, which is much closer to my heart than skiing.

It is difficult to drink wine whilst skiing

It is difficult to drink wine whilst skiing

Mrs Sensible and I were invited to the 50th Bagna Cauda  evening in  Cortandone, by a wonderful couple (Mr & Mrs K) who we had met a few months ago. Mr K and I appear to have a couple of things in common, we both enjoy a laugh, we have Italian wives who are bilingual and neither of us have mastered the Italian language, allegedly Mr K knowledge of Italian  is a bit better than mine.

The festivities took place in a little village in Asti about 48 kilometers (about 30 Miles in real money) from where we live.

Bagna Cauda, according to the nice old guy who was sat at our table, is a traditional Piedmontese winter meal; the ingredients are remarkably simple and are guaranteed to your sinuses; they are garlic and anchovies cooked in olive oil. We took our seats and I was mildly impressed to see there was already a carafe of wine on the table.

While Mr K and I sampled the wine and tried to decided if it was Barbera or a Grignolino (we finally decided it was definitely a red) the waiter arrived and poured some of the mixture into our dishes. Now it is very hard to describe the texture and colour of the Bagna Cauda, it certainly smelt of anchovies and garlic, there was obviously a lot of olive oil mixed in the mixture with bits floating in it and it also looked a little bit like a primeval swamp.

Pro Loc

These guys in the red shirts volunteer to serve during the evening.

 

On the table there was a couple of platters of raw and cooked vegetables, including potatoes, radish, peppers and celery.  I even found a couple of large and fantastic spring onions to throw into my pot.  As you can see I was correct, it was red wine.

 

Bagna Caulda

Bagna Caulda complete with a little candle to keep it hot.

 

The following is not a very good picture, but I think it is important to show you the size of the spring onion I rescued from the vegetable platter and stuck in my pot… much to the dismay of Mrs Sensible.

Just a little spring onion, just in case the garlic and anchovies havent produced enough flavour

Just a little spring onion, just in case the garlic and anchovies haven’t produced enough flavour.

 

After a second refill of Bagna Cauda, the waiter arrived with some plates of pastina. Pastina is a light soup with very small pieces of pasta floating in it.

Pastina

Pastina with egg pasta

I very nearly got into trouble at this point because Mrs S asked me if I was enjoying the pastina, I said yes it is OK; but it tastes like soup with scrambled egg floating in it. I was informed by Mrs S that it was egg pasta!!! Which was why to me, it tasted of scrambled egg in soup…. Still it was very nice, a little unusual because I normally prefer my scrambled egg on toast.

After the scrambled egg in soup, a waiter arrived to ask if we wanted the meat dish. I always become a little worried when waiters (or my wife) tell me it is meat rather than pork or beef. The nice old mans wife asked if I like meat. I confidently answered.”Io mangio tutti” Mrs Sensible, said he means “tutto not tutti” Apparently with my limited grasp of the Italian language I had just informed the nice old lady that I eat everybody rather than everything. Oh well.

Then the meat arrived.

The Meat

The Meat

There were two items on the plate that I recognised and a couple of pieces that looked like maybe they had come from dubious origins.  While no one was watching too closely I  slide the strange-looking meat onto Mrs Sensible’s plate and kept what looked like a slice of beef. I know the round thing was cotechino and under normal circumstances I would have eaten it, but what with scrambled eggs in soup I wasn’t going to take any chances. Plus I had eaten salami at the start of the meal, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture.

We had a quick raffle, I failed miserably, I didn’t even win a cuddly toy.

 

No winners here

No winners here

 

And then the sweet arrived and the waiter kindly brought another carafe of wine.

sweet

Fantastic apple strudel and moose mousse.

I won’t say Roberto was the highlight of the evening; but he came very close to it. He arrived at out table with a bottle of grappa in one hand and a bottle of limoncello in the other.

Roberto, the hero of the night

Roberto, the hero of the night

Which would you like? Roberto asked. “Yes please” I answered. As Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes to heaven he poured me a large measure of grappa and a glass of limoncello. Roberto then turned to my friend and asked if he would like a glass of both. I am not sure his wife approved and I think Mr K tried to say it was my fault, that I was a bad influence.

This morning I awoke to find the bedroom windows had been mysteriously opened by Mrs S in the middle of the night. I think the smell of garlic, anchovies, spring onions, wine, limoncello and grappa had become too much for her sensitive nose.

 

Verdict on the evening.

Brilliant, The food was great and it is always a pleasure to spend time with good friends.

 

Georgette (Girl in Florence): What to expect when you visit Florence in winter
Andrea (Sex lies and Nutella): Surviving the Italian winter
Gina (The Florence Diaries): A foreigner’s guide to surviving winter in Italy
Rochelle (Unwilling Expat):Without winter there would be no summer
Misty (Surviving in Italy): Italy in the winter: Baby, it’s cold outside
Maria (Married to Italy)
Rick (Rick’s Rome): How to enjoy winter in Italy

 

 

Ooops I have gone and done it…

At 3 pm on Sunday the 18th October,  I pressed the button and launched my little book project on the  Kickstart website, Taa Raaa, I shouted as it went live. I then realised the enormity of what I had done. Not only had I offered a weekend stay at our house, complete with a wine tasting at my favourite cantina, as part of the rewards but the realisation, that I might not receive any backers suddenly hit home……  I would have to change my name from Pecora Nera to Billy No Mates!!!

Pecora Nera changes his name to Billy No Mates

Pecora Nera changes his name to Billy No Mates

Driving through Asti later that evening my phone blipped… I received the following message Hooray! Susan Fischer just backed your project.   followed almost immediately by Hooray! Jo Ellen Prutz just backed your project. To say I am excited is an understatement, there are three questions that need answering. 1) Will Mrs Sensible be able to put up with my current elevated level of excitement? 2) Will the project reach its goal? 3) Will I have to tell Mrs Sensible about the ‘Spend a weekend at our house reward?’

The wonderful Kickstart Backers are:-

Susan Fischer  one very cool lady

Jo Ellen Prutz who is beautiful and obviously also generous

Danie Cutter known for being utterly amazing

Wonderful Kickstart Buddies Page

Please feel free to go over to my kickstart page, one of the rewards available is a signed book or just back me with thrupence or even just make me happy by spreading this around Facebook and other social media etc.

Ohhh and ASP (at some point) I might have to tell Mrs Sensible about the weekend invite reward

Sending you all virtual hugs

Pecora Nera

Pecora picked a peck of pickled peppers;

For the past seven years I have managed to avoid private lessons. My self-taught Italian has fared me well when ordering wine, grappa and pizza, but even a Black Sheep (Pecora Nera) such as I, realises that I need to try to learn more than the 20 words and 3 phrases that are currently in my vocabulary.

Last night I completed my first Italian lesson with a real live tutor.My tutor has excellent qualifications and experience to tutor me. During the day she teaches the Italian language to 7 to 10 year olds at a primary school and is therefore qualified enough to teach to my standard and level of intelligence.  Obviously I checked her credentials and found that she has the patience of a saint and to date she hasn’t gaffa taped any of her pupils to the chair when they misbehaved.

As long as I behave she wont gaffa tape me to the chair

As long as I behave she won’t gaffa tape me to the wall

The English help students to articulate correctly by teaching them tongue twisters, these are little rhymes that become increasingly more difficult to say  as the volume of alcohol is increased. You didn’t know this famous English drinking game?

Here is an example of a typical English tongue twister

Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers;

A peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked;

If Pecora Nera picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Pecora Nera picked?

The Italians have gone one better, they have included a tongue twister as part of their daily language, it is a word that I am going to try my best to avoid. What is this fabulous word I hear you cry.

It is non other than Gli 

Gli

I hope this chart explains what gli is please feel free to enlighten me

Here is a clip I found of a young boy pronouncing gli

As you can see It is not difficult, unless of course you are an Englishman, here is my pitiful attempt.

Many many thanks to my wonderful tutor….

And so it starts…

Mrs Sensible has finally put her foot down. Yesterday she informed me that she was resigning  from  her position as my personal translator.

I was a little shocked because when I appointed her to this important position, I thought she understood it was not a temporary position, it was a job she could keep for life.

Over the past few years, I have even allowed Mrs S additional responsibilities, these included translating my e mails and completing forms sent by the local council. 

I consider myself to be pretty good when it comes to staff moral and identifying when staff are, shall we say less than happy. However I seemed to have missed the signs that Mrs S was less than happy with her position. Over the past couple of weeks she has on occasions failed to keep me included in conversations with friends!! 

I thought Mrs S might be suffering from partial deafness because last week in a pizzeria she didn’t appear to hear my request, when I asked her to keep me up to speed with the conversation between 4 of our friends. When I suggested a trip to the doctors to investigate her apparent deafness, I was treated to a most peculiar look.

I hope Mrs S will realise the error of her decision and request to be reinstated, if she does I will of course be magnanimous and I won’t  make her plead.

However, I have taken steps to limit the damage of losing my translator. I have signed up for Italian lessons, I just hope my teacher has enough flash cards and the patience of a saint.

  

RIP Ariston

Dear Friends and Bloggers,

It is with deep sorrow and pain that I inform you of the demise of Ariston. Over the past twelve months Mrs Sensible has cared for Ariston on a daily basis. She made sure he was clean and his needs were met.

Unfortunately Ariston passed away during the early hours this morning. Mrs Sensible discovered Ariston demise, when she went to make some toast for my breakfast and realised that the bread had defrosted.

I was called to the scene and although his light had not gone out, it was apparent that Ariston was indeed dead. All attempts to revive him failed.

We believe the lightning strike that frazzled the internet modem also mortally wounded Ariston.

This evening there will be a wake in memory of Ariston, on the menu will be recently defrosted sausages, fish-fingers and chicken wings.

And so it is with a heavy heart we say goodbye Ariston.

P.S If anyone can suggest a decent replacement for Ariston, Mrs Sensible and I would be grateful. We are considering either a Hotpoint or a Beko RIP

Monday morning with Mrs Sensible

On Monday morning Mrs Sensible went back to work, the children have another week of holiday before they return to the classroom. I am not sure what Mrs S does in an empty school, allegedly she is attending meetings and organising the new school term, but I think she sits at her desk sharpening her pencils and practicing telling the chilblains to sit down, be quiet, do your work…….

Mrs Sensible on Monday Morning

Mrs Sensible on Monday Morning

I phoned Sicily this morning and asked my father in law for a quick update on life, he told me he has made 300 liters of home-made wine. He said it should be ready for December, so guess where we will be spending the Christmas Holidays, he also told me the mysterious case of the missing pig has been solved!!!

Little Black Pig

Little Black Pig

I know you guys have been worried about the little black pig, but fear not my father in law told me Davide found the pig sat outside his pen making little grunting noises. Probably pig talk for I have been on my holidays and I am now  hungry and thirsty. So all’s well that ends well.

Christmas dinner with red wine

Piggy back from his walkabout

So as one holiday ends I can now start planing my next trip to Sicily, I understand the pig has been invited to Christmas dinner although he may find himself on the table rather than sat at it.

Poor Piggy

The mysterious case of the missing pig.

Following the bungled burglary attempt at my house I decided to pay Mrs Sensible a surprised visit. She is spending the summer with her family in Sicily whilst I languish at home surviving on Corn Flakes and Wine.  

I filled my trusty Mini up with Petrol, waved goodbye to my scabby cats and set off on a 1500 Km drive in search of Mrs S and some decent food. To say she was surprised to see me is an understatement (note to self, do this more often).

  

Scabby cat waving goodbye (3 of Mishmash’s kittens)

 Earlier today Davide (the local carabinieri) who is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger came running down the driveway shouting ” Nuccio, Nuccio Where is Nuccio?

Mrs Sensible told him her father was out. Davide threw his hands in the air and lamented, my pig is missing.

 

Christmas dinner on four trotters


Davide keeps a herd of sheep, 2 horses and a little black pig in a field behind Nuccios land. Well, he used to have a little black pig.
Pigs are rather quite intelligent and this little black pig realised it had been invited to Davide’s Christmas lunch and made a break for freedom. 

Just before midday, a slightly stressed Davide reappeared with a friend of his. He told us the pig had managed to dig around and under the gate and finally pushed the gate open. They had spotted the pig down by the river but failed to catch it.

The local Carabinieri are trying to track the pig, so the little black pig will be safe for a while.

 

The carabinieri said the pig is definitely black

 
So if you are in Sicily and you hear a squeeeel or see a little black pig wandering around, can you please ask the pig to go home or send me a message. 

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

The Boys in Blue Arrive.

On Monday morning my internet connection with Tooway died, the modem just decided to stop working, none of the little blue lights were blinking. I think it has decided to go on holiday just like the rest of Italy, after all it is August and as we all know Italy closes for August.

I locked the house and left Killer in charge, with strict instructions not to let the big dog next door into the garden and to keep strangers away. I told Killer I would only be gone for an hour while I went to office no 2 in Fubine and send a message asking Tooway to send me a replacement modem . You may remember, I spent nearly 12 month drinking copious quantities of coffee while I used the cafes internet connection.

Killer was left in charge of security

Killer was left in charge of security

When I returned Mishmash my stupid cat was sat in the lounge making herself comfy on the settee, for a moment I was a little puzzled. I didn’t remember leaving a set of keys with Mishmash and besides I knew Killer wouldn’t have let Mishmash in the house.

Mishmash

Mishmash with one of her kittens

And then the smell struck me!! I knew I recognised the smell, but I couldn’t quite place it, a very acrid smell. My first reaction was to make sure I hadn’t left the gas on, but who needs gas when you are surviving on Corn Flakes and wine? The smell was drifting down the staircase and then I realised what the smell was, it was the smell when someone cuts metal with a grinder.

I ran up the stairs, very slowly and cautiously. In my haste to confront the burglars I had forgotten to pick up my baseball bat that is in the dinning-room or even Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon that was still hanging in the kitchen. Bravely I shouted “release the hounds” and shouted BARK BARK BARK WOOF WOOF in a feeble attempt to scare off any intruders that were still in the house.

My Office

My Office They left footprints in the dust

The nasty horrible robbers, (I haven’t used any swear words because Mrs Sensible wouldn’t approve) had left a mess in my office, they had used a grinder to break into my wall safe. Which was a bit stupid really because the key was on the shelf and the only thing in the wall safe were some out of date credit cards and my passport.

The jewellery, that had been in my family for  the past 14 years, the items I had intended to hand down to my son, were carefully hidden in my bedside cabinet. I rushed through and saw that my bedroom had been ransacked, Yes they had stolen my gold plated cuff-links, our wedding rings, my broken watch and a gold chain. (Sorry son).

On our little lane are three houses, one is used as a weekend retreat and the other is owned by Miss Marples (Dottoressa Paula) so I walked down to her house and asked her if she could call the police for me.

The boys in Blue arrive

The boys in Blue arrived

In my wonderful Italian, I explain in great detail that I hadn’t touched anything, To preserve any evidence I hadn’t entered the crime scene. I was therefore a little astonished when the two Carabinieri, walked straight over to the safe and completely destroyed the footprints that had been left in the grinder dust by the villains. Hercule Poirot would be furious.

Look Hastings, the carabinierie don't wear gloves

Look Hastings, the carabinierie are destroying the evidence

While we were in the bedroom, Mrs Marples made an amazing discovery. She said the villains had entered through my bedroom window, she showed me the broken mosquito netting and the scrapes on the outside wall where they had climbed up the wall.  I looked at her in amazement, even the Carabinieri were suitably impressed, as the policeman reached to open the window, I implored him not to destroy the fingerprints on the window, he shrugged and said “they are Furbo they will have worn gloves” and with that he grasped the window handle and destroyed the fingerprints. I decided I needed to either fetch Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoon or fetch a glass of grappa.

Mrs Marples (AKA Doterressa Paula)

Mrs Marples (AKA Dottoressa Paula) Showing me her grandfathers sword, villains beware.

On the way to the police station we phoned Mrs Sensible and broke the news to her. Mrs S gave me a list of her jewelry which we added to the list. When Mrs Marples and I arrived at  the police station we made a complete statement. I told the policeman they were big men, I explained about the big footprints in the grey dust. Are they still there he asked excitedly. Unfortunately not, but there are lots of Carabinieri footprints.

There is some good news, I found Mrs Sensible’s gold chain that she was given on her 18th birthday and her broach. It was in a box that had  never been unpacked when we moved house.

Last but not least, Free to a good home, One cat trained to guard houses.

The Corn Flake and wine diet and the Expat blog of the month !!

On the 24th of July I devised a new diet plan, it was called the Corn Flakes and Wine Diet, over seven days I managed to lose nearly 3 kilos in weight. Everything was going wonderfully, until somebody who had read about my diet on Facebook, sent a message to Mrs Sensible and pointed out the Corn Flakes and Wine Diet didn’t appear to include any vegetables.

Corn Flakes and Wine Diet

Day one:  all you need is a nice bottle of wine and a box of Corn Flakes

Mrs Sensible is currently in Sicily, spending some quality time with her family, while I cook and fend for myself. I received  a quick phone call where Mrs S  pointed out I needed to add vegetables to my diet, or I would be in trouble.

This posed a significant problem. When I went shopping I bought only the essentials that I thought I would need, the shopping list included sausages and toilet roll but did not include vegetables.  So I hightailed it down to the local shop and bought some mushrooms and potatoes.

Sausages with vegatables

Day two: Sausages with vegetables

That following night I received another phone call from Mrs Sensible inquiring if I had included vegetables in my diet. I sent her the above photo and pointed out that not only had I included potatoes but I had also included mushrooms!!!!!

We then had a little debate to discuss if chips could be classified as vegetables and if they were healthy. I thought I was winning the argument debate until Mrs Sensible asked if I had eaten any fruit in the past couple of days.

FRUIT!!!

Fruit added to the diet

Day three: Fruit added to the diet

Under instruction from Mrs S I added an apple to my diet. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry because I snacked during the day on some Corn Flakes.

During the fourth day of surviving alone, I received an e mail from the nice people at the Expat-Blog web site, they said they had decided to make my little blog of madness their August blog of the month!!! They asked for a photo that reflected Italy and would I answer a few questions. I was genuinely surprised when they not only printed the photo I submitted, but also included my interview.

To celebrate I cooked a proper dinner,

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

Spaghetti, wine and the Godfather DVD

This dish not only included tomatoes and mushrooms, there was also some prosciutto cotto and some salami chopped up and added, nicely washed down with a nice bottle of Marco Belleros wine which reminds me I need to tell you about Marco inviting me to help present his wine at the  London Tasting Seminar in May.

But back to the food, as I type this I have a chicken curry cooking on the hob, actually I checked it a minute ago and the juice has all boiled away, I have just added some more water from the kettle, but it looks a bit sad, so I might not upload a photo of it and I might be tempted to have Corn Flakes and wine tonight.

Just please don’t tell Mrs Sensible

What Makes Expats Grumpy?

In May I received a message from my contact page from a really nice lady called Rossi Thompson. She said she was writing an article for the Daily Telegraph on What makes Ex Pats Grumpy, she asked me if I would like to contribute..

Would I like to contribute!!!! I immediately reached for my muse (a glass of vino rosso).

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

An Englishman in Italy is in the news

As I sipped my glass of wine, I pondered what is it that makes me grumpy. I didn’t think not being able to find my flip flops would be earth shattering news, Nor would her readers be interested that being asked to cook the evening meal made me grumpy (I tried to get out of cooking by cremating everything, unfortunately Mrs Sensible soon cottoned on)

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce

Chicken marinated in a light tomato sauce.

With the deadline looming I asked Mrs S, what makes me grumpy. If you are married you will realise this is not a question you should ever ask your spouse. Out of the 487 items she listed before I suddenly switched off and went deaf I chose three items and if you want to read what they are please click this link.

I would like to thank Rossi for asking me to contribute and I would also like to thank the editor for not deleting my submission,.

Rossi Writes http://www.rossiwrites.com/

Rossi’s Facebook page

Telegraph Article

Furbizia

Furbizia. From furbo (“sly”) +‎ -izia (“-ness”) cunning, cleverness, sly, cheat. A barman who can give the wrong change and convince you that €20 minus €6 = €4

This Englishman loves living in Italy, but if Mrs Sensible had her way, we would be on a Ryanair British Airways plane back to the UK. I try not to complain too loudly about Italy, because I am afraid Mrs S will drag me kicking and screaming back home to England.

So why do I dare complain about Italian Furbi? Because over the past couple of weeks the C.O.S.I group have been swapping E-mails about a certain Florence apartment company who asked one of the C.O.S.I bloggers to promote their business and then welched on the deal. Not only didn’t they pay the fees, but they made the mistake of contacting another member of the C.O.S.I group to help promote their business!!!!

COSI Group

So why are Italians Furbi? I would like to blame the Italian taxation system which is pazzo.  Many Italian citizens, find ingenious ways to avoid paying their taxes. As more citizens avoid paying the taxes the higher the state raises the level of  tax. I am not condoning non payment of taxes, (I pay mine because if I didn’t Mrs Sensible would beat me with her wet wooden spoon) but when you look at the way the state uses our taxes and the huge salaries of Italian members of parliament or directors of state owned business, you kind of understand why some people try to avoid paying them.

Honest! You can trust me.

Honest! We don’t earn much.

Unfortunately no one is safe from the Furbi.

Gambrinus in Pisa managed to cheat Mrs S and I, when I took her on a romantic trip to Pisa, well it would have been romantic if I had listened to her advice and booked a hotel before we left home, instead we drove around the ring road for 2 & 1/2 hours looking for a place to stay.

After we found a grotty little B&B we walked hand in hand in pitch darkness to admire the leaning tower of Pisa, on the way back to our B&B we called into a bar to buy a bottle of water. With my much improved Italian I announced “I need bottle of water” the barman handed over a bottle and I turned to Mrs S and said “that has just cost me €4.00”, as I counted my change Mrs S realised the till receipt was illegal. As she started to explode with anger, I pushed her out the door to discuss the little problem on the street. Walking back to the B&B, this time not hand in hand Mrs S took out her mobile and phoned the finance police, which started a hilarious chain of events. (Chapter 27 of my book that I promise will be out this summer)

Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

Nearer home one of our local bars mistook me for a tourist after noticing I was wearing flip-flops with jeans and hearing my outrageous Italian accent.  Me a tourist, I have been here 7 years!!!!! The barman decided to take this golden opportunity to short change, even I was almost convinced that a brioche and cappuccino should cost €6.00 (normally €2.20 and the change from a €20.00 note should be €4.00 As I used my fingers and toes to work out how much change I was entitled to, the manager came over and asked me why I was still counting my pennies. Needless to say I don’t use the bar in the Cittadella Casale Monferato anymore.

Pecora Nera

Some Italian businesses try not to issue receipts, in this way the transaction does not appear in their accounts, and they pay less tax. Under Mrs S instruction I requested a receipt from the local garage, who promptly wrote €100 on a grubby post it note!! I refused to go back a second time even with the threats of Mrs Sensible ringing in my ears. Is there a moral to this story?

Yes, I think there is; if the statesmen of Italy acted in a responsible way and treat their citizens as adults instead of naughty children, the citizens might behave as adults.

berlusconi-eyyy_1489087c

Berlesconi in office for 9 years

The problem is Furbizia is as ingrained in the Italian culture, as fishing is in England and it is almost a national past time and will take a generations if ever to change the behaviour.

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

Can I have a comb over please?

Can I have a comb over please?

Don’t you just love having your hair cut, and choosing which style to opt for? As I creep into middle age the number of styles I can choose from are slowly dwindling. Up until I was fourteen my dad tackled the problem of cutting my hair with a shaver he had brought back from Hong Kong. I was sixteen before I realised I could go to the barbers and he wouldn’t be offended, well not too offended.

I also remember waking up one morning with a  dreadful hangover and a full blown Michael Jackson Afro after I foolishly invited a hairstylist to attend one of my parties. The memories of Christmas 1981 when I was forced to attended several Christmas and New Year parties with the Afro has scarred me for life. My dad suggested I blow dry my hair flat, or he could cut it all off with his shaver. I tried the blow dry technique as I didn’t think the bald look would suit me.  If Joy is out there, I have forgiven you.

I woke up looking like this

I woke up looking like this

In search of a decent hairstylist I spotted the following  sign as I was driving through Cuccaro,  Earlier that morning Mrs Sensible had pointed out that with my flip flops and my hair I could almost pass for a mountain man. I wondered what Mrs S would say if I came home looking like the man in the poster.

Beard

Beard and Boris Johnson hair

My hair was long enough for the hairstyle but I might need a year or two to perfect the beard. I went in search of the X-Men in Fubine and pondered which style I could get away with, without sending Mrs S in search of her wet wooden spoon.

Should I maybe choose the mid-life comb over?

The middle aged comb over

I just love that tie and comb-over

Or maybe the mullet

The Mullet

Earl and his Mullet

I was saved from asking for a either, because my Italian only stretched as far as tagliare mio capelli per favore. Please cut my hair.

And so they set to work, the lovely assistant washed and towel dried my hair and Gotta styled my hair. They did such a good job that Mrs Sensible has told me that I should continue to go there.

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hair stylists

The coolest of hairstylists can be found at Via Pietro Longo 13, Fubina (AL) or at his Face Book Page

Tips for the intrepid tourist

The Cosi Group are a pretty impressive group of sensible bloggers. I am still amazed that they invited this Pecora Nera (black sheep) to join them.  Their recent posts on travel tips for tourists visiting Italy was awesome. Here are my travel tips for the intrepid traveler to Italy.

There is an art to packing a suitcase, you will need to find space for your swimsuit (unless you are visiting Cinque Terre where there is a nudist beach) your summer frock for when you are visiting the pizzeria and of course if you are visiting me you will need to pack 2 family packs of Walkers crisps, a jar of Branston Pickle and some books.

Only pack essential items

Only pack essential items

You have probably used a couple of weeks of your holiday entitlement and spent part of your savings to visit Italy, and there is plenty in Italy to see, so on the run up to your holiday get as much rest as possible so that when you start your holiday you will have plenty of energy to enjoy the excitement of flying with Sleazyjet EasyJet.

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet

Mrs Smedhurst of Bridlington fainted with the excitement of flying with Easy Jet (Don’t worry she woke up when my camera went CLICK)

I am often asked if I use the low cost airlines for my trips to and from the UK and what are the differences between them. On Saturday I flew to Gatwick with Sleazyjet Easyjet and returned from East Midlands with Crying Air Ryanair. The big difference between the two airlines is, one uses orange planes and the other uses blue ones.

When flying with one of the low budget airlines, you must remember you will be sat cheek to jowl with  others who can’t afford British Airways who enjoy flying budget airlines. Space is very limited and so make sure you make yourself as comfortable as you can.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can, even if it makes others barf. (sorry for the blurred photo but I was giggling at the time)

When you land you will be ushered into the nearest cattle bus to transport you from the plane to the airport, please remember personal hygiene is a must. I have never considered Old-spice or Brut cologne to be nice, however there are times it smells 100 times better than 60 people who have just flown in a cramped airplane and are now crammed into a bus waiting in 35° heat on the airport tarmac.

Help

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture the woman who was suffocating in her winter coat.

When you finally arrive in Italy, please remember to sample the traditional local food. Don’t go wandering around looking for a fish and chip shop, there isn’t one. I know this because I have spent the past seven years trying to find one. Last weekend when I visited England I had a perfect opportunity to sample the delights of traditional English food.

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food, KFC, Tandori Chicken and this fine Chicken curry and rice

I spent the weekend eating enjoying traditional English food. KFC, tandori chicken and this fine chicken curry and rice

You will have read that Italy is the fashion capital of the world. We take fashion very seriously, whenever I leave the house in my flip-flops Mrs Sensible goes crazy and demands that I either wear proper shoes, change my jeans for shorts or stay at home. According to Mrs S, flip flops are suitable footwear for the beach or if you are wearing shorts. Wearing jeans and flip flops is a no-no. Obviously you can completely ignore this advice. (I do)

And man-bags are worn by lots of men, so if you want to get in touch with your feminine side, now is your chance. Obviously you need to be careful or you might end up featuring on somebodies blog as this poor man has.

How not to wear a man bag

How not to wear a man bag

As we have already pointed out, you have spent your hard earned cash to come to Italy and you expect to have a good time. In England wine, beer and cider are normally associated with having a good time, please try to get to the hotel room before you start celebrating your holiday.

Burp

At least he was wearing shorts with his flip flops

In Italy we can normally spot an English tourist because they are as white as freshly fallen snow, which then goes to a nice rosy red. Some of you may have used the local sun beds and will be a nice orange colour.  We have wall to wall sunshine, please use lots of suntan lotion or you will burn.

The following is a good example of before and after effects of suntanning.

White bits

White bits

And finally feel free to wear the clothes you are most comfortable in, after all it is your holiday

Be yourself

Be yourself

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

And finally the first COSI Video…. I was too shy to add my old wrinkled face.

A quiet Easter Sunday in the home of Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

RUTHIE: I’m bored; I have spent the entire Easter chasing a walnut around the floor.

Mishmash: you’re bored! It’s your fault that we are grounded and not allowed out. If you had stuck to chasing walnuts and purring like a nice pussy cat we would be outside, but oh no you have to go, pruur pruur pruurring and try to shag the rug.

Ruthie: It’s not my fault, it’s my hormones.  One minute I want to hump the rug and as the fog of love clears, I find Ginger is all over me like a bad rash.

Ginger: You can leave me out of this, I’m stuck in here and I’m not even a girlie and besides you have been playing the hussy, sauntering
around pruur pruur pruurring with your tail in the air for the past three days.

Ruthie: Have you checked all the doors and windows?

Ginger: Yes, I even tried to make a bolt for it when Pecora Nera was carrying some wood in, if I hadn’t been laughing at the way he yelped and nearly fell over, I would be free.

Mishmash: I have an idea.

Ginger: Not another!

Mishmash: Ruthie!!! Leave the rug alone and come over here!!

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

Ginger: So what’s the big idea?

Mishmash: One of us drops a squidgy one under the table and when they open the window we make a run for it.

Ginger: Im looking at a dead cat!

Ruthie: You will never get away with it. As soon as you start to squat, Mrs Sensible will have you by the scruff and fire you into the smelly tray. And Pecora Nera will probably spray you with his blasted water pistol just for the fun of it.

Mishmash: Hang on! I never said I would do the squidgy thing!!! I thought up the plan, one of you will have to do the squidgy.

Ginger: Count me out, I’ve just been.

Mishmash: Looks like it’s you then Ruthie.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur

Mishmash: Oh for heaven’s sake! Ginger, go and distract Mrs S while I sneak into the kitchen and do the magic.

Ginger: And what about PN? You can’t trust Ruthie to help; she is humping the rug again. Ok on three. One two ….

Mishmash: Wait, I can’t just poop to order. Give me a minute.

Ginger: Now! Go! This is the big chance, Mrs S is on her phone and I can distract Pecora Nera.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

A couple of minutes pass.

Ruthie: Phew, there’s a bit of a pong from the kitchen.

Mishmash: Oh you’re back in the land of the living. Had a fall out with the rug have we?

Pecora Nera: Your cat has just wandered into the kitchen.

Mrs Sensible: Ruuuutthhiiee vieniiii.

Mishmash: You are one daft cat.

A couple of minutes pass..
.

Mrs Sensible: Can you smell that?

Pecora Nera: Smell what?

Mrs Sensible: You can’t smell it? I can smell poo!!

Pecora Nera: One of the cats will have farted… Mishmash where are you?

Mrs Sensible: Go and check the kitchen.

Pecora Nera: Oh my Lord!

Mrs Sensible: It’s your cat that did that.

Pecora Nera: No way, it was Ruthie. YOU called her from the kitchen, remember!

Mrs Sensible: Just open the window, while I clean it up.

Mishmash: Ready, steady… go

Ginger: Wait for me; hey, where are you two going?

Mishmash: Shagfest, up the lane with the big hairy tomcat
I have heard he is a bit of an Italian Stallion.

Ruthie: Pruur pruur pruur.

Pecora Nera: It was definitely your cat.

Mra Sensible: it was Mishmash, only your cat drops squidgy ones. By the way, where are they?

The Glorious Twelfth

The Glorious Twelfth

The glorious twelfth is a term used usually to refer to the 12th of April, the start of the hunting season in Italy for the common mosquito (Bitius Leggius) and to a lesser extent the tiger mosquito (aggressive-bitius).

Mosquito

Mosquito Latin name Bitius Leggius

Experienced mosquito hunters will have a preferred weapon of choice; from the low tech ‘attempting to hit them with the flat of the hand’ to the high tech use of modified squash rackets which release a thousand volt current when applied to a poor unsuspecting mosquito.

Midnight hunt for mosquitoes

Here we have an advanced mosquito hunter using the racket, note the clever use of a netting to catch a mosquito Credit www.oshonews.com

Hunting is not restricted to woodlands and gardens. Many households incorporate a number of ingenious devices to trap mosquitoes inside the house so that the family can hunt the mosquitoes at their leisure. They may include netting over the windows and doors or netting over a bed.

Hunting mosquitoes can also take place at night. To an Italian the pure joy of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the whining noise of a mosquito trapped in a bedroom can only be equaled to Italy winning the Six Nations Rugby Championship, which to date they have failed to do.

Look lads, this time next year we will win.

Look lads, this time next year we will win.

To ensure that there are sufficient mosquitoes to last from the Glorious Twelfth through to the 3rd of November;  which is not only the end of the hunting season but also my birthday, farmers are encouraged to flood low lying fields to provide adequate water for the mosquitoes to breed. A by-product of flooding the fields during the summer is the production of rice for risotto, which the farmers sell to supplement their income. Vercelli in Piemonte is the centre of mosquito and rice production.

Mosquito farmer checking the mosquitos will be ready for the start of the season

Mosquito farmer checking the mosquitoes will be ready for the Glorious Twelfth : Credit Thestar.com.my

In America hunters wear high visibility clothing to identify themselves to other hunters. In Italy we are a little more fashion conscience, Italian hunters therefore identify themselves by spraying their bodies with liberal doses of noxious smelling sprays. The most common odour is citronella.

David with Sprayer

David with his industrial sprayer: Credit Mosquito Squad

The monferrato area of Italy is world renown for not only the quality of its mosquitoes but also their quantity and size.

Mrs Sensible and I will be running residential courses through 2015 on:-

Safety whilst Hunting

First aid for mosquito bites

Taxidermy, the lost art of mounting a mosquito head

Wine and grappa will be served as refreshments. For more information please use our contact form

Finally a picture of Pecora Nera ☺

Mrs Sensible and I are a little shy, we haven’t posted any pictures of ourselves, well apart from that nude selfie that caused a little bit of a stir a year or two ago. The link can be found here for those perverts that missed it. It has taken over a year for Mrs Sensible to forgive me for posting our nude selfie.

On Tuesday afternoons, I visit a local primary school and spend a couple of hours with some fabulous chilblains children, helping them with their English. My motivation for helping at the school is completely selfish, I go because I get paid in smiles, little letters and drawings.

So for you entertainment here are a couple of pictures drawn by the children.

Aren't I a handsome fellow

Aren’t I a handsome fellow

As you can see there is not an inch of fat on my muscular body, the artist even managed to capture my designed stubble.

Black and white

Black and white

This artist is trying to minimalist the drawing to capture my radiant smile.

Slim

His name is Pecora Nera, he has got short brown hair and maybe he over did it with the diet.

As you can see, I smile a lot. I am also tall, slim and incredibly handsome. That diet paid off

This girl is very clever

This little girl was given A+++ for her accurate description.

What more can I add? I am tall, thin and very very beautiful.

Here is the teacher

Here is Anna the teacher

Here is a picture of Anna who is their teacher, this picture was obviously drawn at 9.00 am on a Monday morning, just look how calm and in control she is.

Anna On Friday

Anna On Friday

This picture was drawn at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon, can you see the way the artist has captured her slightly manic grin. If you look closely, you can see under the grin the artist had drawn a un-smiley face and then thought it was safer to give Anna a smiley face.

No children were hurt in the making of this post.

The penalties of not learning the language

I am always trying to improve my Italian language skills, every day week year I manage to add a couple of new words to my vocabulary. This summer we are going to spend a couple of months in Sicily with “The Family” this is the highlight of my year. Glorious sun, sea and two months of living in a house where the language effortlessly swaps between Italian and Sicilian dialect.

I can normally manage to impress my in-laws with my grasp of the Italian language by smiling at the correct moment and tutting when everybody else tuts. I have also found, that a lot of questions can be answered by shrugging my shoulders and saying cosi cosi (so so).

Because my language skills are so bad, I can empathise with anybody who is trying to learn or use a foreign language. So please excuse me for posting the following picture that I spotted in the local shop. The young woman was looking for work and tried to add a bit of English to her advert.

Baby Sister

Young woman with references searches for work as Help in the house, Looking after old people or as a baby sister

I suggested to Mrs Sensible that we should help this young women as I really could do with a young and beautiful niece  baby sister. The look I got told me that Mrs S didn’t think her references were good enough.

How authentic an Italian are you?

How authentic an Italian are you?

I asked Mrs Sensible if I could pass for an Italian, not a chance she said, you don’t dress like an Italian, you don’t think like an Italian and even the Italian words you know, sound funny when you use them. To prove her wrong I have put together the following test.

Driving

I know I could pass for an Italian when it comes to driving and parking. Driving on the wrong side of the road comes completely natural to me. In fact I have even managed to drive around the roundabout the wrong way; I would have got away with the mistake had Mrs S not been in the car at the time and decided to have a screaming fit. She made me do a three-point turn on the roundabout and go the correct way. The roundabout mistake has faded from my memory, Mrs S on the other hand still has the occasional nightmare.

I can also abandon  park a car just as competently as any Italian, I no longer feel any guilt if I park a car on a zebra crossing, pavement or block some poor souls exit.

Pecora’s rating 10

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly

Photo taken yesterday by yours truly. As you can see I was parked on the other side of the pedestrian crossing, and you can see in my mirror a car park that is half empty

Fashion

Only an Italian can turn up to a business meeting wearing, a pair of jeans, sunglasses, and a jacket with a scarf wrapped around his neck and of course a man bag slung across his shoulder. The Germans and the English will wear business suits; however the Italian will always look smarter. I asked Mrs S how the Italians manage to look so smart in jeans. She said “the jeans they are wearing probably cost more than your suit, shirt, tie and shoes put together.” Boh!

I love my flip-flops, from April till October I keep a spare pair in the car, so that I can put them on after Mrs Sensible has checked that I am leaving the house suitable dressed, so I score very badly.

Pecora’s rating -5

This is not me on holiday  Credit: Baroquesicily.com

It’s a man bag so he must be Italian NB: This is not me on holiday Credit: Baroquesicily.com

Helping in the  home

I would like to get a -10 rating for helping in the home, unfortunately Mrs S is very English in this respect and I am expected to help out in the house. Italians however, are trained from an early age that mamma will fetch, clean and carry for them. When I pick up Mrs S from her school, I am always amazed to watch children run down the street while their mamma or nonna struggle behind, carrying heavy school bags and possibly even the bicycle they brought with them in case young Mario wanted to cycle home.

To put this in perspective, on a visit to Sicily I went into the kitchen to help Mrs S wash the dishes. All of a sudden a huge argument erupted in the lounge, I asked Mrs Sensible what all the fuss was about, with a smile on her face she said “I will tell you later, just keep drying the plates” I later found out that my brother in-laws were getting shouted at by their respective Sicilian wives, because they don’t do anything in their houses. Much to the delight of Mrs S

Wiki help file on how to get your husband to help around the house LINK

Pecora’s rating a dismal minus 10

Man-in-marigolds-with-mop

Cards

I have “grande culo*” when it comes to playing scopa, scopone  or even briscola*. I win, not because I am skilful but because I am lucky. Mrs Sensible is good at playing scopa, but to make sure we stay married and that I am allowed to sleep in the bed and not on the sofa, we rarely play against each other.

Marco, who is a cousin and a great scopone player, was having a game with friends.  When Mrs S and I arrived, he asked me if I wanted a game and if I knew how to play. I replied that I knew the rules but he might have to help me. Ok, I will partner with the Englishman and give him some help, he told his friends.

We wiped the floor with them, is was so funny. What Marco’s friends didn’t know was I had been taught by Sicilian experts and had played countless games with Marco.

* Grande culo literally translates to big arse, but it is used to describe somebody who is very lucky.

* If you go over to http://www.siciliangodmother.com you can buy a brilliant book all about Sicilian games of cards Link

Pecora’s rating 10+

scopa

Communicating

Ok, I am ashamed to say I rate poorly here, I have mastered the waving of the hands, I know enough Italian to buy wine and other alcoholic drinks and that is about it. I do know quite a few Italian swear words for when I am driving. Honestly it is not because I am pigro*, it is because the gene that controls language development was never turned on.

* pigro. Italian for lazy, I know this word because I have heard Mrs S use it.

Pecora’s rating -10

The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

I communicate with mime The great Marcel Marceau credit: Telegraph news

Drinking

I thought I would score high here, but Italians don’t really drink much. They like their wine and a cool beer but in moderation* I on the other hand, love grappa, white wine, red wine, beer, limoncello, masala. In fact I like any drink that contains alcoholic, although I do draw the line at methylated spirits and rubbing alcohol . I also score low because I will drink a cappuccino after midday, which is a complete no no in Italy

* moderation. I had to google this word.

Pecora’s rating 6

schermata-10-2456940-alle-01.33.43

Grappa from pralapa.com

Queuing

Just before the winter, Mrs Sensible and I were stuck in a queue at the local supermarket. There were about eight shoppers in front of us. Fortunately I spotted a shop assistant getting ready to open the till next to ours, so I grabbed Mrs Sensible by the arm and dragged her over to the now open till. This is normal practice in Italy, you need to be fast on your feet and be able to make strategic use of your shopping trolley to inhibit other shoppers. There is none of this, excuse me I think they are opening a new till and you are before me…. oh no, we just run.

As we reached the till, I heard in perfect English “darling, they were behind us and now they are in front of us!!!” I was amazed, an English couple in our village during the winter!!! and just when I decide to behave like an Italian!! Mrs S was not impressed with me. I spent the next 10 minutes apologising to the English shoppers who were obviously lost and to Mrs S for my behaviour.

Pecora’s rating a cool 10+ (minus 8 for getting caught)

Italian shopping trolley

Italian shopping trolley

I hope this guide to living as a true Italian has been helpful to you, and I hope you score higher than I did.

 

* The brilliant photo of the hunk in the pink budgie smugglers and orange man bag was taken by Jann Huizenga from www.baroquesicily.com please visit the site for some excellent photos of Sicily

 

Thanks to the COSI group for suggesting the post title and if you go to the COSI page you can catch up on their posts or follow the links

So here are the rest of the posts from the alliance of expat in Italy bloggers:

    1. from our fabulous COSÌ group:

      from our new friends at Italy Blogger Roundtable:

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Special Offer Fish 48p a Kilo!!!

Last week Mrs Sensible and I were doing the weekly shop. We are very organised when it comes to shopping, I add all the necessary groceries for our well being, for example biscuits, chocolates and beer and Mrs Sensible adds mundane things like toilet rolls, food and at the same time removes some of the items I have added.

As we walked down the aisle (I tried to hide some biscuits under the toilet rolls) Mrs S asked me if I preferred meat or fish for dinner. Obviously I suggested meat, fish never seems appealing to me as they lay on the counter staring at me with glassy eyes. We bought some meat to keep me happy and then we headed to the dreaded fish counter.

Mrs Sensible spotted some fish on special offer it was priced at 66 cents a kilo or in real money £0.48 a kilo !!!!!!  To me it looked like a fish head and some scraps, Mrs S said it will be perfect for our manky cats. I relaxed a little and went back in search of more useful things like wine.

For the cats

For the cats

On Fridays Mrs Sensible and I both finish work at midday, I phoned Mrs S and asked her if I could prepare a quick lunch for us…..

Mrs S: Sure make a quick sauce and use the fish that is in the fridge, make it the way you make a tuna pasta but use the fish.

Me: Fish? Which Fish?

Mrs S: We bought it yesterday.

Me: The fish we bought for the manky cats?

Mrs S: See how much fish is on the bone, there will be enough for a pasta dish.

Me: (less than enthusiastically) uhhuh

Me: Do I take it off the bone before it goes in the sauce?

Mrs S Pecora! you need to steam the fish and then take it off the bone, look I am on the way home just chop some onions.

Me: Ok, chop onions, I can do that 🙂

I can chop onions

I can chop onions

So I chopped the onions and put the fish in the steamer. There is a knack to frying onions, the heat has to be just right or the onions go crispy and burn. If you check the photo you can see there are only a few black and crispy onions.

Only a few crispy ones 10%

Only a few crispy ones

Having managed 2 tasks I decided it was time to phone Mrs S and ask for further instructions.

Me: Hi honey, the garlic and onions are done the fish looks a nice white colour so I think it is ready, what next?

Hurburt the fish in the steamer

Huburt the fish in the steamer

Mrs S Fetch the radicchio from the fridge and chop it into little pieces, then quickly fry it with the onions.

Me: Radicchio?

Mrs S: (with only a noticeable sigh) it looks like red cabbage. Use a large one because I have invited Paula to lunch.

Me: You have invited Paula!!! I am cooking Fish Head Pasta and you invite friends!!!!

Mrs S: (slightly more noticeable sigh) PN I will be home soon….

It was at this point that I decided that Fish Head Pasta needed an additional ingredient. So I went off in search of a cork screw and a bottle of wine.

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

Red stuff chopped and wine within reach

The wine relaxed me a little and I proceeded to chop the red cabbage radicchio and throw it in the pan. Just as I opened the lid of the steamer to check on Hubert the fish, Mrs S arrived and I was suddenly reduced from the rank of Head Chef all the way down to Minion.

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

I may be a minion, but I can cook fish head pasta

Mrs S (all at the same time) de-boned the fish, boiled some pasta, added the fish to the onions (that I had cooked) and  found some plates to serve the meal on. meanwhile I set the table and drank another glass of wine.

capers

capers

Fish Head Pasta on a plate, what does it taste like? Delicious. We produced 3 meals for less than €2.50 The wine that I was slowly quaffing cost me €12.50 but it was worth every penny.

Fish Head Pasta

Fish Head Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Sensible, Peggy Sue and Billy Brown

My singing has the ability to make Mrs Sensible weep; she becomes very emotional as I attempt to sing in tune, my spectacular warbling ability and the way I drift from one note to another has often left her in tears of anguish.

This morning I awoke to a glorious sunny day rainy overcast day, as I stepped into the shower, the hit song Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly just floated into my mind and I started to sing, not just sing but with amazing gusto.

Peggy Sue image Wiki

Peggy Sue  image Wiki

Meanwhile Mrs S was in the bathroom on the top floor probably crying into her face cloth and trying to drown out my singing. I don’t know if you remember Peggy Sue, but the lyrics go something like this.

♪, ♫ Peggy Sue Peggy Sue, Peggy Peggy Peggy Peggy Peggy Sue ♪, ♫

Oooh hooo Peggy, ♪, ♫ my Peggy Sue  ooo hoo hoo ooooo.♪, ♫

This above is repeated as many times as you like, however it is advisable to stop when Mrs S starts to brandish her wet wooden spoon.

Let’s quickly back track to ten years ago, when  Mrs Sensible took me to her church in Sicily. While I was finding a parking space for her car, she had found a space in the front pew with her friends, as she told them her news from England, I was left to find a place to sit by myself further back in the church. Part way through the service the congregation stood to sing a hymn, I naturally stood with them and as they started to sing I hummed along with them. It was at this point that a kind gentleman, who was stood behind me, passed me his Italian hymn book.

I have been known to empty churches with my singing

I have been known to empty churches with my singing

Now please try to picture the scene, I am completely tone-deaf and at that point in my life, my Italian language skills had reached the dizzying heights of Si, Non, Grazie and Ciao. But in for a penny in for a pound, I sang with Gusto. I felt completely uplifted and at one with the rest of the congregation.  It was only when three young girls who were sitting in the pew in front, turned around with looks of complete astonishment and amusement that I realised that I had completely murdered the hymn. However I gamely sang on, swapping to the English version of the hymn when I knew I had no chance at pronouncing the words in the Hymn book. It is a lucky thing that forgiveness plays a large part of the Christian faith.

I knew from the look of shock

I knew from the look of shock, that my singing needed a little improvement.

Back to this morning, as I drove Mrs S to work, once again the song Peggy Sue entered my mind and there is nothing more satisfying than driving down winding Italian country roads, singing your favourite song with the love of your life sat next to you, even if she does have her fingers in her ears.

Mrs Sensible told me, that while she was in the bathroom, my singing had reminded her of another song, but by the Beatles, alas she couldn’t remember how the song went.  I immediately burst into an impromptu melody of Beatles songs and even added a verse or two from Oh Billy Brown by Mika. None of this helped to stir Mrs Sensible’s memory.

After dropping Mrs Sensible at her school where she is teaching her chilblains English and how not to pick their noses while in her class,  I drove off to  my office situated at the Bar in Fubine, After I booted my laptop I quickly googled Peggy and Beatles, amazingly Paul Mc Cartney did a cover version of Peggy Sue. This surely must be the song Mrs S was thinking about. As I drink my cappuccino I can only wonder why my cover version of Peggy Sue didn’t jog her memory.

If you too can’t hold a tune, this link may help you

On the 13th of this month I will upload a valentines post, Entitled Mrs Sensible and the Pizza oven, this is part of the joint blogging posts with the C.O.S.I group and if I get time I will also upload the latest installment on the Telecom Italia fiasco.

Don’t hold your breath but…………

Mrs Sensible is full of very sensible advice, this advice normally goes in my right ear and exits out my left ear and unfortunately doesn’t spend much time in the space in-between my ears.

In one ear and out the other

Mrs Sensible’s advice normally has a huge impact on my behavior

Occasionally I am reminded of her wonderful advice, times like when I entered the house with an armful of logs for the fire wearing my flip flops, skidded across the floor, slid just past the steps to the cellar and ended up in an untidy heap, I am sure I could hear her say “put some shoes on when it is wet, don’t go out in your flip flops. But today I followed her advice and managed to surprise even myself!   On Friday morning, I was enjoying a scalding hot shower and as the steam slowly but surely filled the room, I could hear a voice somewhere in-between my ears say “please open the window when you shower or we will have mould” I decided to open the window, not because of the mould but because I couldn’t see where the soap, the towel or even the old naked man, whose reflection normally makes me think of restarting my diet, so I opened the window and as the steam rushed outside who should I see but Mr Telecom Italia in his little red van, stopped just outside our gate. Dun dun duuunnn!

Little red van

Proof that we have a telephone.

His paperwork obviously said number 2 not number 13 as stamped on the side of our house; (the address issue is too complicated to relate here so go read this). Mr technical Telecom man was looking at his piece of paper and at the number on our house, which didn’t match. I was desperately trying to find a towel in my mini steam room and shout to Mrs S  to run outside and grab him before he drove away.

Number 13 unlucky for some everybody

Number 13 unlucky for some everybody

We have waited 3 months for the technician to arrive at our house and evaluate if we can have fast internet access. After establishing that our house existed, he asked if our telephone worked, we said yes “good good good” he said you will have your connection in 20 days.

The highs and lows of dealing with Telecom Italia

The highs and lows of dealing with Telecom Italia

Of course this is 20 Italian days which in reality will means another 2 to 3 months, if we are lucky.

November is Birthday Month

In November, I was supposed to write a foodie post for the C.O.S.I group; unfortunately I have been much too busy celebrating my birthday. I am not sure how I manage to get away with it, but much to Mrs Sensibles dismay, I manage to squeeze 2 or 3 birthday parties into the month and a couple of celebrationary meals with friends.

So to keep everybody happy, I will start with a brief foodie post on traditional Piedmontese food.

Bagna Cauda

November is cold and wet in Piedmonte, so to stay warm and cosy your average Piedmontese sits down to a bowl of Bagna Cauda.

Bagna Caulda

Bagna Caulda; a sauce made from garlic, anchovies, more  garlic a bit of  olive oil and more anchovies.

Bagna Caulda is a hot dip, made from anchovies, lots of garlic and olive oil. It is served with a selection of raw vegetables, peppers, potatoes, carrots etc. The object of the meal is to dip the raw vegetables into your sauce and cook them. The conversation around the table normally goes something like this.

P N: So I dip the potato in here?

Mrs Sensible: yes but be careful the sauce is hot.

PN: Is the potato supposed to stay crunchy?

Mrs S: Tsk! leave it a bit longer.

PN: Can you pass the red wine down this way.

PN: Oww!!!

Miss Sensible: I told you it was hot!!

PN: Quick more wine.

An added bonus of enjoying the delicious  dish of bagna caulda, is you never have to explain to your friends or colleagues what you had for tea the night before…. they will smell the aroma of anchovies and garlic as you walk across the carpark.

OK back to my birthday.

One of my birthday dinners was an impromptu meal with some friends, as usual we started with the swapping of the presents and the opening of a couple of bottles of wine. We then moved onto a fine selection of cheeses and salami.

Our hosts trying to open the bottle of wine I brought

Our hosts trying to open the bottle of wine I brought. (amazing what fun you can have with a bit of superglue)

Mrs S asked me if I would like a little more salami; of course I nodded and said I prefer the darker salami. She promptly added 3 more slices of meat and added “mmm the asino is tasty”

Some of you will know what asino is, for the rest of you let me enlighten you.

Asino is another Piedmontese delicacy.

Sagra d' donkey

Sagra d’ donkey !!

We have sagra’s dedicated to the humble donkey, it is available as meatballs, agnolotti and of course salami. It has taken me 7 years to remove the image of the Blackpool Donkey from my mind when a slice of asino is added to my plate.

Blackpool donkeys, I don't think I know these young ladies

Blackpool donkeys, I don’t think I know these young ladies

For many years I refused to eat Asino, occasionally I would unknowingly eat it, only realising after I was asked “did you enjoy the meat”

To finish with

1) If you want to search for Bagna Caulda on the internet, please spell it correctly, my first attempt was bagno caldo and google provided lots of pictures of women in the bath

2) Where are all my presents and birthday cards?

3) If you are a donkey, Italy is probably not a good holiday destination.

Fancy a holiday in Italy?

Fancy a holiday in Italy?

 

Normal food posts by the C.O.S.I group

 

 

 

A pole and a phone

Somewhere in Italy there is a boat minus it’s mast. I know this for a fact, because there is a boat’s mast stuck in my garden. I was going to get a shovel and dig the mast out, but knowing my luck the rest of the boat is probably still attached to the mast. Over the past three months I have thought of several uses for our yachts mast (did you notice it now belonged to a yacht) I thought it might be useful for drying towels or maybe Mr’s Sensible’s knickers. (I might edit that bit out later, it will depend, if I can hide her wet wooden spoon)

 

No these aren't our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible's knickers

No these aren’t our scabby cats nor are they Mrs Sensible’s knickers

As you know, Telecom Italia are driving me nuts, we still don’t have any internet connection and to be honest, by the time Telecom Italia arrange for their technical man to test our line, I will probably be retired and sat in an old people’s home drinking grappa and causing lots and lots of trouble for the nurses.

If they are armed with wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

If they are armed with a wet wooden spoons and needles, I might behave

At the moment the only way I can connect to the internet, is to sit in a café, drink copious quantities of coffee (in the morning) or lots of wine (in the afternoon) and use the cafés  internet.  Being an Englishman, as soon as the waitress removes my empty cup, I feel obliged to order another coffee, especially as I am taking up a table and using their internet.

Last week, I tried to vary the boredom of drinking cups of cappuccino by started with a caffé macchiato, I then moved onto a café marocchino, washed that down with a caffé doppio  and just for good measure, I  finished of the morning with a rather nice caffè corretto ( I then Jitterbugged to the Turkish toilet with big wide starring eyes. I suppose it is no wonder they think their resident Englishman is a bit mad.

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

Pecora Nera colides with the waitress as he jitterbugs to the loo

If I am at home and I want to use the internet, I create a hotspot on my little crappy Huawei phone, I place the phone on a chair in the garden, run back upstairs to my office and hope and pray it picks up a good enough signal so that I can quickly download my e mails.  This drives me almost as crazy as jitterbugging around the café.

Yesterday I had an eureka moment; I knew there was a reason I hadn’t chopped down my flagpole. I suddenly realised it would make a fabulous internet mast. One plastic bag and a bit of string later, my mobile phone was hoisted 5 metres into the air and miracles of miracles, I had 3G, well maybe 1.5G but it did work and I managed to upload this post.

Flag

I told Mrs Sensible not to turn my flag into a cushion.

So if you decided to contact me, please, please, please use my contact form and don’t phone me, it is a nightmare when the phone rings. I have to run downstairs, play the last call on the bugle and lower the flag and all this takes time.

PS If you work for Telecom Italia or you know somebody who works for them, please tell them Pecora Nera is one of their dissatisfied customers.

dissatisfied

How to find work in Italy or a warning to other foolhardy immigrants.

Whilst I was living in the UK I begged and pleaded suggested to Mrs Sensible that we should consider living in Italy. I explained my grand plan which included,  drinking copious quantities of Italian wine and sunbathing learning Italian and opening a bed and breakfast.

An Englishman

My dream was an Italian Bed and Breakfast.

We didn’t manage to open a bed and breakfast, unfortunately the bottom dropped out of the UK housing market whilst I was repainting the kitchen wall and it soon became apparent that after selling our house, we would receive about £5.00 and a burst balloon and Italians don’t accept burst balloons as down payments on houses.  Following this unfortunate news we didn’t scrap my fantastic grand plan our plans. First, Mrs S had found a teaching job in Italy and was living with some nuns in a nunnery and second; I am an optimist. I knew I would find a job. (If Mrs Sensible is reading this, she will now be gnashing her teeth and pulling her hair out)   So here is my Italian CV or how I found work in Italy.   Horticultural Executive One morning a market for flowers and hand-made objects was set up near our little house, Mrs S and I decided to have a little look. One of the stalls The English Cottage Garden was run by two women, their stall was selling typical plants found in a UK garden.  I managed to impress them with my horticultural knowledge by exclaiming, “That’s a nice white rose and my mum has one of those purple flowers in her garden.” I was instantly offered the position of Chief Hole Digger and Lawnmower Operative.

I became quite proficient at digging holes

I became quite proficient at digging holes

I worked 5 hours a day digging holes mowing the lawn and removing weeds from the garden. I understood weeds were anything green that didn’t have a flower at the top. One day Stephania decided we would prune the roses, Adriana and I were summoned to help. Stephania would spend 5 minutes looking at a branch and eventually she would clip a piece, this was then handed to Adriana who looked at it and then passed the piece of rose cutting to me, my job was to place it in the wheelbarrow.   Assistant Building Contractor Our landlord was a builder and one evening he was complaining that he had to replace a leaking water-pipe and his assistant was ill. Bravely and without a second thought I offered my services. Mrs S told him that I knew one end of a screwdriver from the other and I was duly appointed, Executive Sweeper Upper. I spent 3 weeks removing old concrete, mixing new concrete, carrying concrete and complaining to Mrs S that I may never ever be able to stand up straight again.

Builders Bum an English tradition

Builders Bum an English tradition

Landscape Gardener At another gardening market, I was stood watching a karate exhibition. As one poor guy was kicked and dropped to the floor I muttered, ouch! A man called Georgio who was stood next to me, said “you English?” Georgio and I then spent 10 minutes chatting to one another, Georgio using his poor English and me with my appalling Italian. We occasionally winced as the poor guys kicked and punch each other to death.

we are training our cats in Karate

we are training our cats in Karate

I asked Giorgio if he was considering joining the karate club, he told me he didn’t have the time, at the moment he had too much work on. I immediately offered my services, after all, I now knew how to drop rose cuttings into a wheel barrow. Amazingly I was offered the part time job of Exterior Carpet Fitter Temporary Garden Lawn Layer.

Company car

Following his course on turf laying, Pecora Nera no longer needed to wash Mrs Sensible’s car.

I discovered laying a garden lawn is very similar to laying a carpet in a house, the main difference in laying a lawn, is there are no door frames or fireplaces to cut around, plus if you make a mistake when you cut a piece of turf, you just cut a small piece to fill in the hole you made and stamp on it. Despite  helping Georgio lay several lawns and other gardening duties, we are still the best of friends and my knees have recovered.   English Teacher In my quest to live in Sicily, I applied for a job as an English teacher with the Berlitz Language School in Catania. I relocated to Zia Ester’s apartment in Sicily and left Mrs S in Piedmonte. Having used but not necessarily studied English, I easily passed the interview and was appointed Commercial and Business English Tutor. Berlitz told me they would e mail me some training literature and a start date. That was 5 years ago and I am still waiting for the training literature and my start date, so Berlitz please pull your finger out.

5 years

5 years and still waiting, but this is Italy so there is still some hope!

Private English Tutor Mrs Sensible told me that a local business man needed some English lessons and she had organised for me to meet the man in a local café. After plying him with lots of bottles of beer (I haven’t yet found an Italian that can drink an Englishman under the table) he offered me a job as an Industrial Pump Salesman. I know it is not the job I was after and I knew less about industrial pumps than I did about weeding gardens or teaching English. For three years I sold Industrial pumps for the man. Our friendship and my services ceased when he decided to alter how he paid me, basically my wages just didn’t arrive and if you read this you little git, send me my money or I will spill the beans about the English pub, the transsexual and a very drunk Italian.

She knew she was a he, I knew she was a he, the question is.. did my drunken friend know she was a he!!

She knew she was a he, I knew she was a he, the question is.. did my drunken Italian friend know she was a he!!

Private English Tutor I decided to advertise as a private English tutor and within a fortnight, I managed to secure a group of eleven friends who wanted to practise English conversation. I also found an engineer who was relocating to France (please don’t ask me why he wanted English and not French) and a local manager who needed English for work.   During a lesson with the eleven friends, I suggested we should have an English lesson based around something I love. They agreed so I organised a combined English lesson and wine tasting, it was so much fun we now open a bottle of wine at the start of every lesson.

The incredible Thursday Group.

The incredible Thursday Group at our English murder mystery night.

English Crisps Because Mrs Sensible was only on a yearly contract with the schools, she didn’t receive any salary during the long summer holidays and my teaching money was just not enough for us to survive on. So we decided to look for a smaller house to rent. A friend of ours offered us an apartment that was attached to his house. While we were explaining why we needed a smaller house, he suggested we could work together and find products we both could sell, we looked at importing crisps into Italy and contacting my old pump customers to see if we could supply them with a new range of pumps.   And that is how Tough Guy Europe was born, it is early days and the Italian bureaucracy is crazy but we have some good customers and another 2 pallets of pumps on the way. And in the immortally words of Del Boy said “this time next year we will be millionaires”   So here are a couple of thoughts for anyone who wants to find a job in Italy.

  • In my experience jobs are given to friends and family.
  • If you are here and looking for a job, tell everyone, even strangers that you need work.
  • I have registered with Manpower and four or five other agencies, in my opinion it was a waste of time.
  • Berlitz is a waste of time.
  • I have registered with online job agencies and I still receive their spam mail.
  • If you are not fluent in the language of your chosen country you will struggle.
  • Without the support of Mrs Sensible I would be starving or back living in the UK.

C.O:S:I are a group of friends from different parts of Italy, once a month we pick a subject to blog about, if you go to my C.O:S:I link and then read their blogs, they will no doubt have some useful information on how to find a job in Italy.