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.

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Mrs Sensible is dangerous enough with her wet wooden spoon.

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

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

Winter is nearly here!

Wood situation

The wood situation is critical

This morning on Facebook I noticed that MM from Multifarious Meanderings has just had her winter wood supply delivered. We on the other hand have been burning the wood that Mario the woodman delivered since the beginning of October. This is a little worrying as winter doesn’t officially start in Italy until the 21st of December and it is doubtful that our current stock of wood will last us through the winter. After all we only bought 26 quintali (just over two and a half tons of wood!!)

The red arrow will become clear later.

The reason for the red arrow will become apparent later.

When the wood arrives you need to stack it somewhere dry and in such a way that it won’t fall over. When I ordered our wood I gave Mario clear and simple instructions, I asked for dry wood that would fit my little wood burning heater. I also asked him to cut the logs the same size so that a girl in a frock or even an Englishman could stack it.

The fun way to stack wood

A girl in a frock stacking wood.

Either Mario didn’t understand my version of Italian or he has a great sense of humour, because amongst the pile of wood he dumped on my lawn were twigs, sticks and several bits of wood that looked like the hind leg of a donkey.

Thanks Mario

Thanks Mario

Mario realised that I was English and had probably never before attempted to stack two and a half tons of wood. To be honest he was almost correct, last year when we needed wood I simply wandered down the garden with my chainsaw and cut a tree down.

The previous two year, I had the wood dropped into the garage and just left it in a big pile. When we lived in Borgo San Martino, we only had a little courtyard and I (with the help of Mrs Sensible) stacked 10 quintale (one ton). I know a wife shouldn’t really help with the stacking of wood, but the delivery man had dropped the wood in the middle of the road completely blocking it to traffic.

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Good old Mario showed me how to stack the wood by laying the first four pieces. As he drove away in his tractor I went off in search of a glass of wine.

It took me two exhausting and pain filled days to stack the wood thankfully it didn’t rain on me. I would like at this stage to show you a picture of my wood stacking. This will be valuable information for MM, unless of course she is just going to leave the wood in a heap or dump it in her garage.

Interlocked

Interlocked to perfection

 

MM, look how the wood is all interlocked. It is absolutely amazing!! You will notice that I chose a very small area of my wood pile as an example of my fine Italian wood stacking. This is because the rest of the wood pile is a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And please notice how I managed to incorporate an object d art.

A very important box

A very important box

I know all of you think I am just a little eccentric as every Englishman should be, or maybe bordering on madness.  But may I remind you about the red arrow in the second photograph? It points to a hole in the wall where the scabby cats enter their little house. Yes our cats live outside in a little three by three apartment.

My wonderful wood pile was going to close off their doorway so I inserted a wooden box and a secret tunnel for the cats.

Here is one of our cats, the terrible Headache.

Headache a beautiful looking cat, superb mouser but has a couple of strange idiosyncrasies….

As you can see, it didn’t take long for Headache to find the new entrance to his house. If anyone want’s to adopt Headache please leave me a message below and we will send him via Fedex anywhere in the world.

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

Telecom Italia, you have just got to…..

Telecom Italia you have just got to love them hate them.

Boh!

Boh!

Yesterday I once again pestered Mrs Sensible to phone Telecom Italia. I waited until she was sat down and drinking her cup of tea before I started.

She had a another really interesting conversation with Telecom Italia about our unusual postal address (They agree with my version of our address, so I am starting to like them). They did ask Mrs S which of the two address they now have for our telephone line, we live at… 🙂 🙂 🙂

The latest update is they will test our line to see if I can have broadband, this will take place between now and the end of the month. It takes so long because they have a ‘specialist line tester’ !!!!

Moving house, C.O.S.I and my apologies.

Seven days ago Mrs Sensible and I moved house, it was not the first time I have moved house, in fact I have moved house seven times, so you would think I would be organised and remember to write the contents on each box as I pack them. One would think that after seven moves I would remember to pack the kettle with its power cord and tie the screws for the wardrobe to one of the doors so that I could reassemble the wardrobe at the new house.

Where is the hairdryer

Where is my hairdryer?

 

Unfortunately our new house resembles an explosion at an Ikea warehouse. There are bits of wardrobe in one room and bits in another, the important screws are still missing. My office had to be quickly assembled in the garden so that I could earn some pennies. I even installed a light in case the moon didn’t come out.

 

office up and ready

office up and ready

And how is Mrs Sensible I hear you ask, well a tad stressed, her office kitchen cabinets currently share the floor in the dining room with the sofa and lots of boxes. The cooker won’t cook and the fridge won’t freeze. Mrs Sensible is creating some wonderful meals using a microwave, her ingenuity and some spoons that miraculously were packed in a box marked kitchen.

 

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

Mrs Sensible can cook all this with just her microwave

A week before we moved I received an invitation to join a group called C.O.S.I Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy. C.O.S.I  Someone who shall remain nameless put my name forward because he ‘sensibly’  realised he was too busy to participate in the group. I on the other hand have never been particularly sensible; as my long-suffering wife will tell you. On Friday I was supposed to upload a post regarding “trying to learn the Italian language”. Fridays’ dead line came and went; I think I was struggling up stairs with two suitcases of clothes at the time. Besides in the past seven years, I have never managed to learn more than a few Italian words, so I am probably not the best person to blog about this particular subject.

 

So here are my apologies.

To Cosi: sorry mates I will try harder next time.

To Mrs Sensible: sorry I lost the kettle lead, wardrobe screws, tooth-brush chargers, my underwear, your shoes, the washer hose and you are right I did only remember our wedding anniversary when I was at the supermarket checkout and that is why you only ended up with a scabby box of chocolates.

 

Links to the C.O.S.I group.

 

 

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

Last year I introduced you to Mr Cretino; he was the wonderful character who exchanged my UK driving licence for an Italian one and it only took him 8 months!!! Not bad for Italy. I have forgiven and almost forgotten about him.

However, yesterday when I went into the local plumbers’ to buy a replacement part for the toilet in our new house, the horrors of the driving licence fiasco came flooding back and flooding is an appropriate word.

It would appear Mr Cretino has a son; we shall call him Mr Cretino Jr.

 

Englishmaninitaly.org

Mr Cretino’s Family Tree

I met him when I drove down to the local plumbing merchants to buy a new plastic widget for the flush of the toilet. The beginning of my troubles started when I turned on the water at the new house and created a minor tsunami in the upstairs bathroom. Nobody panicked when it happened, mainly because Mrs Sensible wasn’t there to watch the water cascade down the staircase and I was in the cellar turning on the water main and deciding how much wine I could store down there and would Mrs Sensible bother venture down the cold, dark, damp staircase to keep a tally of my wine stash the bottles of wine I planned on keeping solely for when guests arrive.

There was just a bit more water than this

There was just a bit more water than this

Anyway, after running around the house like a headless chicken, and mopping the bathroom and stairs I drove down to the Plumbing merchants to buy a replacement widget. Had I known the assistant was the son of Mr Cretino, I would have simply stuck an out of order sign on the bathroom door and told Mrs Sensible it was beyond repair and she would have to use the other bathroom.

 

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

Do not enter, minor flooding possible.

So using my bestest Italian, it went something like this:

PN: Ciao

Mr C Jr: Yeah yeah, wait a moment.

PN: Ok no problem.

Mr C Jr: What do you want?

PN: OK, That broken, erh, not function good, change for new please.

Mr C Jr: What?

PN: Look, No stop water. This broken!!! Change for new, please.

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretuno JR

Without this plastic widget, I would never have met the wonderful Mr Cretino JR

Mr Cretino Jr, picked up my little plastic widget and turned it around in his hands, he made a lot of sighing noises and said “Nope sorry, we don’t sell these”

I was devastated, Casale is a small town and this was the biggest plumbing merchants in the town. They had shelves and shelves of taps, tools, bits of plastic, kitchen sinks and to be honest I am sure they had one of my widgets or at the very least a set of seals for my widget. So I tried again.

PN: OK, This black, you have? I said as I pointed to one of the little black seals.

 

Please tell me you have these little black seals... Please

Please tell me you have these little black seals… Please

Mr C Jr: Nope, we don’t sell them either.

It was at this point that I realised whom I was dealing with. It wasn’t that he looked like Mr Cretino; for a start Mr Cretino was bald and this guy not only had a full head of hair, he also had a beard, maybe he got his looks from his mother.

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

Did Mr Cretino Jr get his looks from his mum?

While Mr Cretino Jr watched me reassemble my widget, I was suddenly struck by a great idea.

PN: (Holding the little plastic widget up in front of Mr Cretino Jr’s nose) You have similar, but a bit different?

Mr Cretino Jr: Of course we do!

He walked off down the corridor of shelves and returned with a shiny metal widget.

When he handed me the widget, I was wondering whether to give Mr Cretino Jnr a gift of my old plastic widget, maybe not in his hand but somewhere that would require a gifted surgeon to remove it.

Nurse stop  sniggering.

Nurse stop sniggering.

Spectacular Failure #001

In an attempt to educate the taste buds of Italy, we booked a stall at the Conzano village fair. We packed 400 packs of crisps into my Mini, one large umbrella to protect us from the blazing Italian sun and five receipt books to help us to comply with the Italian bureaucracy.

My business partner and his daughter also had a full car; it contained one makeshift table and enough provisions to sustain us through the day. At five-thirty in the morning, I foolishly climbed out of bed, drank the tea that Mrs Sensible had made me while she ironed my shirt, had a bowl of soggy cornflakes and sleepwalked my way to my little mini. When I arrived at my partner’s house he was still enjoying a cup of tea and warm croissants for his breakfast.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

Not only was it raining, but some fool was trying to drive down the road as we were driving up it.

In convoy we finally set out for Conzano. The promotional leaflet we had been given advertised clowns, angels, sunshine and dancing girls with snakes. Unfortunately when we arrived, we were greeted by white vans, rain, unhappy looking stall holders and big wet looking puddles; oh, did I mention the wind and the driving rain that was arriving horizontally?

The leaflet promised Dancing girls

The leaflet promised clowns, angels and dancing girls with snakes.

We convened a management meeting underneath a semi-waterproof gazebo to discuss how we were going to erect our sun-proof umbrella. There were many helpful suggestions, including one or two suggestions that can’t be published.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team.

Brown Bag Crisps Management team. This gazebo cost the owner 1,800 euros, but it didn’t look very high to me

At 7.30 am (I should mention that I ‘m normally still be in bed at this time) we decamped and ran through the rain to the nearest bar for a hot cappuccino and the chance to dry out.

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a mornings work

A well deserved hot cappuccino after a morning’s hard and demanding work.

When we returned to our rain battered umbrella, we had another short meeting with two other stall holders to discuss whether the weather would improve. While I was taking photos to record this farcical attempt at promoting our crisps, I saw arriving through the driving rain, or at least I am pretty positive that’s what I saw, an old man with a beard walking up the hill of Conzano carrying one hammer and several planks of wood; he was closely followed by two cats, two dogs, two ducks and two of every other kind of animal imaginable. Taking this as a sign, we decided to cut down our sun umbrella and head for home.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

You can cut this picture out and colour it in on a rainy day.

To see if we are coming to a sunny festival near you, check out or web site and our facebook page.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Marisa and Giorgio live a couple of villages away. They own the flower shop that I visit when I am in trouble with Mrs Sensible. I am therefore quiet a regular customer.

Here is a small collection of orchids I have bought to try to get back into Mrs Sensible’s good books.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don't suggest they need more water.

They are not dead, they are due to flower and please don’t suggest they need more water, or you will set Mrs Sensible off again.

I am such a regular visitor to their flower shop that we often get invited to their home to dine on pizza and grappa.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

Marisa outside her flower shop. Courtesy Google maps.

During the summer of 2011 I was once again in trouble, so I went to Marisa’s shop to buy another orchid or a bunch of flowers, when I suddenly fell in love with a beautiful Christmas tree. So I bought it; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Marisa asked me how I was going to get it home, I was a little stumped, my basic Italian vocabulary does not extend to lengthy conversations, I usually get by with, va bene ( ok) mi piace ( I like it) and non lo so ( I don’t know). So I opted for non lo so.

Giorgio, who is a bit of a hero, offered to deliver the tree for me, he asked me when I needed it delivering. I pondered this for a moment, I was already in trouble for something and I didn’t think adding a Christmas tree to the house was going to help marital bliss, so I said non lo so.

Marisa said “due settimane?” (2 weeks?) This seemed perfectly acceptable, because Christmas was at least 5 months away, so there wasn’t any rush. In fact the longer they kept it; the more time I had to dream up a plausible excuse for buying a Christmas tree in the summer.

Two weeks later, Giorgio and Marisa arrived with my Christmas tree. I had completely forgotten all about the imminent arrival of yet more troubles. In fact I had forgotten to work on Mrs Sensible; I had forgotten my carefully laid out plan on how to convince Mrs Sensible that buying a Christmas tree in the summer, made perfect sense.

Christmas 2012, the tree sat outside in the snow, festooned with lights. Scooby Doo was still living with the big dogs across the road. Had he decided to move in during 2012 he could have spent his Christmas sheltering under the tree from the snow.

Finding out how large a box i will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

Finding out how large a box I will need to post Scooby Doo to a willing Blogging friend

This year I decided to bring the tree inside the house and hang little baubles and lights on it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After carrying the tree up 17 steps, I had already regretted buying the heavy and prickly thing. Manoeuvring it through the front door I had to use one foot to keep the cat outside and the other foot to close the door.

The tree looked wonderful, it didn’t shed many pine leaves, mainly because it was still alive and carrying it up stairs I can testify that it was sat in at least 40 kilos of Piermonte clay.

A little Christmas tree
A little Christmas tree

Today Christmas is officially over. Befana has been and gone and I stripped the tree of all its pretty lights and baubles. Like the rest of us, the Christmas tree has put on some extra weight and it looks a little bigger.

It just fitted through the door.

It just fitted through the door.

I dragged it down the corridor and before attempting the 17 stairs I paused to get my breath. As I then started down the stairs, the plastic plate that the tree stood on, broke free and miraculously slid under my right foot that was just trying to find purchase on step number 4. All hell broke loose, the tree, Pecora Nera (Me) and the plastic plate disappeared down the stairs faster than you could say ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’

Stupid plastic plate

Stupid plastic plate

As the tree, me and the @#+??$% plastic plate collided through the front doors, Gilda who is not the best guard dog I have ever come across, decided to attack the strange howling and swearing mess of tree and the creature that was tangled up in it.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with  a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is an attack dog.

Ask Gilda to attack an intruder and she will retire to her food bowl. Fall down the stairs with a Christmas tree and all of a sudden it is a ferocious attack dog.

Next year when we start blogging about Christmas and decorating our houses, please please please remind me that it is not such a good idea to use real live still growing trees that weigh 50 kilos as an ornamental Christmas Tree.

New Year’s Resolution.

1)      To act more like a grown up

2)      Not to follow my own advice

3)      Not to use any more real and potentially life threatening trees at Christmas

Christmas truce Scooby Doo and Gilda Style.

Can a Machiavellian cat and an incredibly fat, but short-legged dog call a truce over Christmas?

Two months ago Scooby Doo adopted us and moved into my garage. At the moment he is in arrears with his rent, I sat down with Scooby Doo and discussed his lack of payment; the following day he left half a mouse. Obviously I was less than happy with the payment, so I gave him a stern talking too. The following day Scooby Doo left me a small brown slightly warm lump in the middle of my garage floor. I have left further payment discussions to Mrs Sensible.

I am patiently waiting for NHS Supplies to come and collect their cat

I am patiently waiting for NHS Supplies to come and collect their cat

I am not really a cat person, I like dogs, big dogs that can chase and fetch sticks. I have repeatedly suggested to Mrs Sensible that we should rescue / buy a big daft dog. Mrs Sensible always points out that we have Gilda.

Gilda is the incredible fat but short-legged dog that belongs to Luigina and lives next door.

Gilda in trouble yet again
Gilda in trouble yet again

Link to Gilda 

Gilda and Scooby Doo have a love hate relationship, Scooby Doo hates Gilda and Gilda loves to chase Scooby Doo. In November I posted the pictures of the great cat chase  between Gilda, Lila and Scooby Doo. Sadly earlier this month Lila passed away to doggy heaven.

The great cat chase

The great cat chase

Last week Mrs Sensible shouted me

Mrs S: PN!! Quickly come here.

PN: Nope I am busy. (I think I was catching up on blogs from fellow bloggers either that or I was chilling on the sofa)

Mrs S: You will never believe it, quick where is your camera?

PN: Uffa! It’s here, why?

Mrs S: Quick look out of the window.

And there it was, Scooby Doo and Gilda eating cat food from the same tray. I was not surprised that Gilda was eating cat food, Gilda eats anything, she is the only dog that eats grass because she is hungry and doesn’t barf afterwards.

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

Gilda and Scooby Doo enjoying a romantic meal together

I was so surprised, I had to check that it was Gilda, so I called her “Yo! fat dog you are supposed to chase the cat” Gilda looked suitably ashamed.

Yo! Fat dog, you are supposed to chase the cat

Yo! Fat dog, you are supposed to chase the cat

Now the real question is, have they called a truce because it is Christmas? Will the truce last till boxing day?

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

Clearly the fat dog likes cat food

Merry Christmas from Mrs Sensible, myself, Scooby Doo who is in temporary residence and Gilda the incredible fat but short-legged dog.

Just another Tuesday

Well… I am not sure what to write about today. I flicked a Euro in the air to help me decide and it rolled under the chair, never to be seen again. So, today I will only give you a little flavour of a day in the life of an Englishman living in Italy.

Bring back Sterling

Bring back Sterling

Mrs Sensible left the house in a happy mood this morning. She had just learnt that she had been awarded the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by 1write way.wordpress. Personally, I am gob-smacked. I am not sure why she won the award, because this is my blog. Mrs Sensible is the cook and the woman that keeps me out of trouble, she doesn’t put ink to paper. A couple of months ago during a glass of fine wine, I did suggest to Mrs Sensible that she should start her own blog. She thought it was a good idea and started to discuss the possibilities of “Living with an Englishman” and “Living with the man who burns Pasta”. Fortunately, I managed to steer the conversation onto more pressing matters and away from a blog discussing her life with me.

Mrs Sensible's blog award

Mrs Sensible’s blog award.

(There will be a post about the award later…..) Massimo, the builder who had come to look at our roof and gutters, following the tornado that wandered through my garden, nearly fell off his ladder this morning. We, me and him, propped a rather large ladder against the side of the house and while I did the technical bit of putting my left foot against the bottom rung of the ladder, Massimo climbed to the top.

A rather long ladder

A rather long ladder

My conversation with Elsa (the landlady and daughter of Luigina) was abruptly interrupted by Massimo shouting a lot of rude words and waving both of his hands in the air. Damn fool I thought, he is supposed to be using one of his hands to hold on to the ladder. “Vespa!! Aiuto!! Porca miseria” he shouted as he waved his hands about. I calmly suggested that maybe he should descend the ladder before he fell off and squashed my pot plants. He took my advice and came to ground zero, sporting a few rather nice wasp stings to the side of his face.

I forgot to give him the can of Zig Zag until it was too late

I forgot to give him the can of Zig Zag until it was too late. The ammoniaca was for the stings

Oh!! I nearly forgot, earlier this year Mrs Sensible entered a national competition organised by the Italian government, (I wrote about this in March). The competition was to organise who would get full-time contracts within the Italian School system and who would continue on temporary contracts. The Government has decided that their competition is far  too complicated and they can’t add up who has won, so they will now announce the winners in September 2014. Fortunately Mrs Sensible has found a place for this year at the same school she taught at last year, so we will make it through another year. PS. I made lunch today,

Dog meat pasta

Dog meat pasta

I used onions from my vegetable patch, some cans of meat that resembled dog meat, but I am assured it is the Italian equivalent to corn beef (as I said dog meat) a clove of garlic, a bottle of wine (I always cook better with a glass in my hand) and some tomatoes. Through gritted teeth, Mrs Sensible said she enjoyed it. If you are lucky I might upload the menu.

You have visitors coming? Ok, then I will huff and puff and blow your garden to bits.

Today started as any Monday morning… with a groan. I rolled out of bed, wandered into the kitchen and started to boil the kettle for a nice cup of tea. Just as I plugged the kettle in, a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder shot across the sky. Mmm that was close, I told Mrs Sensible.

As I wandered into the bathroom, two more bolts of lightning lit up the bathroom and then the winds came. There is a Latin name for the winds that suddenly appear in Piedmont  something like bigggusti flatulantisti windusti. A strange howling sound came from the chimney, it sounded like a Scotsman struggling with a very bad set of bagpipes, Mrs Sensible and I looked at each other with horror, as we watched the lounge ceiling start to vibrate. As we stood watching, the ceiling cracked where it was supposed to be glued to the wall and lifted about 10 centimetres. That’s about 4 inches in real money.

As designed by Isabel

As designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and redesigned by a bit of wind. For you dedicated gardeners, can you spot my lemon tree?

We both, in a very calm British stiff upper lip way, decided that we should vacate the lounge and close the windows. The conversation and actions went something like this.

“What is the noise?”

“Don’t know”

“The roof is moving”

“What?”

“Look, it is moving.”

“Move, run, now”

“The windows”

“Close them, oh Dio!”

We calmly walked ran around the house like headless chickens, shutting the windows as the wind blew and the mad Scotsman in the chimney played his bagpipes.

A strange sound came from the chimney

A strange sound came from the chimney. Was it Father Christmas, a mouse or a strange Scotsman with his bagpipes.

The crazy man who converted, what should have been a lovely 1800’s barn conversion into a modern American style office building house, installed swinging windows that are 1.5 metres square (Five feet in English). When the wind grabs them then can spin 180 degrees and smash into little pieces.

This photo does NOT do these stupid windows justice.

This photo does NOT do these stupid windows justice.

In Italy, we have a small problem that blights the country; now some of you will be thinking of the mafia and some of you might be thinking of the glorious Italian bureaucracy, however the real problem is the blasted mosquitoes. A ‘proper’ Italian house, designed and built by anyone with an IQ above 25 makes sure that it is easy to install anti mosquito nets. Unfortunately because a moron designed this house, it took me 12 months to devise a way of attaching nets to our huge, swinging windows. The end result took over 80 metres of gaffa tape (for you non-English blog readers, gaffa tape is like sellotape, but wide and very sticky, it has the remarkable property of sticking eyebrows to lips and fingers to windows) 10 packs of netting and a lot of swearing. The end result is mosquito nets, which hang from the windows, the same way my old grannies knickers used to hang from the washing line.

Big and baggy, just like grannies knickers

Big and baggy, just like grannies knickers

They nets do stop 97.5 % of all known mosquitoes, the remaining 2.5% still manage to get in and bite me at around two o’ clock in the morning;  but because of the masses of gaffa tape needed to secure the mesh, the windows no longer close properly. Now this is not normally a problem, except the wind was blowing a hooley and the rain was raining horizontally!! We stood and watched as the rooms slowly flooded. I ran around in circles while my wife ran for the mop and some mats to soak up the water.

When the wind and the rain stopped, we surveyed the devastation. Apart from the three new ponds in the bedrooms, the destroyed shed, various roofs that had detached themselves from the chicken shed etc.; what most upset Mrs Sensible was she and to a lesser extent I, had spent the previous couple of days cleaning and tidying the house ready for our visitors.

I will huff and puff and blow your shed away.

I will huff and puff and blow your shed away.

We checked to make sure Luagina, our neighbour had survived the storm and then we started the clean up operation, so that we would be ready for our visitors arriving from the UK. Hopefully bearing gifts like piccalilli and HP brown sauce.

Weekly photo challenge: the sign says

Share a picture of a SIGN and explain why you chose that picture!

I don’t normally do the photo challenges, however here are two photos from Italy.

One way only.

One way only ?

Italians see road signs and traffic lights, as advisory rather than obligatory.

To give you a couple of examples, I stopped at a red traffic light while we were driving in Catania Sicily. The guy in the car behind me, started honking his horn and waving his hand at me. I looked at Mrs Sensible and said, “what’s his problem, the light is still red!”

Mrs Sensible explained, “the light may be red, but there are no cars crossing the junction so it is safe to go”

It is said that the drivers in Northern Italy are better than the drivers in the south but:-

I was  driving a friend home one night, she was directing me through the traffic, as we approached her apartment, she said “turn left here”

“I can’t it is a no entry”

It doesn’t matter I am a resident

But it doesn’t say, no entry except residents, it is a one way street!!

Pecora, it doesn’t matter, my apartment is just up the street. I have lived here 15 years and I always turn left up here.

Don't use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

Don’t use a pedestrian crossing to cross,

This photo was taken in Calabria.

When you come to Italy on your holiday, please do not use the zebra crossings when you want to cross the street. There are a number of reasons.

1) You will annoy the car drivers who use them to park there cars.

2) They are very dangerous, no really they are. As you start to cross the road, you will be thinking  you are safe and the car will stop for you. I am here to tell you, it is not so. The driver is thinking, mmm pizza today, I had better phone my mum and make sure she has put the beer in the fridge. He will not have even noticed you, not unless you have long legs and a short skirt. And even then he will still run you over.

When I moved here, I drove Mrs Sensible’s car from the UK to Italy, I took the scenic route and drove through, Belgium, Switzerland a bit of Germany… I didn’t have one near miss or accident.

Two weeks after arriving here, I stopped at a zebra crossing in Alessandria, to let an old guy cross the road. The old guy never moved he just stood there and watched the Ford Transit Van redesign my boot and bumper.

While we were exchanging insurance details, the van driver asked Mrs Sensible “Why did he stop?”

Because he is English!

This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Blackberry: A lesson in customer service. (Italians please pay attention)

A while ago I wrote a post about the Fedex fiasco , I was trying to point out, that even a well oiled machine like Fedex grinds to a halt as soon as it crosses over the border into Bella Italia. Last week, the camera on my Blackberry Playbook ceased to work, I thought another fiasco was about to begin….

 For my birthday, my children bought me a Blackberry Playbook. It is a wonderful device. I use it to read English books, watch films, and to monitor the fat I am losing  I have lost two and a half kilos in the past 2 weeks. When I travel I use the playbook to keep track of my business expenses, price lists, quotations, e mails, gosh the list goes on. To be honest, Mrs Sensible tends to get a tad annoyed with me and the Playbook, because it is normally glued to my hand, as I read yet another book.

Playbook Pecora Nera

Disaster stuck on the 14th May 2013, the Playbook camera stopped working. I was devastated, I could still read books and all the other functions worked, but without the camera I couldn’t annoy Mrs Sensible, by filming her while she paints her toe nails or capture her admitting to one of the few mistakes that she makes.

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

Mrs Sensible is a bit camera shy.

My children bought the Blackberry Playbook in Meadowhall UK, the receipt is nowhere to be seen. I spent two days deciding whether to contact Blackberry, to see if they could fix it under warranty. The main stumbling points were A) I had lost my receipt, B) would my Playbook get lost in the Italian postal system and finally, C) Would my playbook be sent to Giuseppe Garybaldy in some repair clinic in Naples, never to be seen again.

I decided to phone Blackberry; I ignored the Italian helpline and instead phoned the UK helpline. Paula, one of Blackberry’s technical support staff, answered the phone. She asked me what the problem was. I began by explaining the camera fault; I then started to tell her how I had tried to fix the fault myself. I went into great detail, telling her I had researched the playbook forums and I had tried all the fixes, including holding down various buttons and forcing the playbook to reboot. I don’t think she was too impressed. I promised, I would never again  try to fix my playbook myself.

Paula told me she needed my Playbook to send her a report. She explained how to do this and promised to call me back in twenty minutes. What a nice woman!

Twenty minutes later, Paula phoned me and said it was a hardware problem, she said I needed to send my Playbook to their service centre. I could just visualise good ole Giuseppe Garybaldy with his screw driver and hammer, plus the next six months of asking “have you found my Playbook.”  I told Paula, that I had reservation about sending my playbook to any site within Bella Italia. I think I told her about my driving licence fiasco, and various other problems I have had with Italy. I even offered to pay the carriage, if she would let me send the Playbook to a UK repair centre.

Paula laughed, she said the Playbook needed to go to Germany. Ah the Germans!! I remember them from the sauna  Now that is a different story, the Germans are more efficient than the English. In fact, they make the English look like Italians when it comes to efficiency.  Paula said, she would send me a box with instructions, I was to put my Playbook in the box, complete the form and ask DHL to collect the box. There was nothing to pay; what a nice lady!

Honest I did a google search for German efficiency and this came up

Honest I did a google search for German efficiency and this came up.

The following day, Paula E mailed me and asked “have you got the box?” I had a quick scout around my office and reception, I couldn’t see it.

I asked the accounts lady “I search box, this big, you see?”

COSA? (WHAT?)

I asked the company secretary “box, like this, DHL, errhh you see?”

She gave me a ten minute explanation, which I didn’t understand, but I nodded my head as though everything was as clear as mud day.

I e-mailed Paula to say, sorry but the box has not arrived. As I pressed the E mail send button, I wandered of to the coffee machine, and there on a shelf was my box. Of course it was there, I work in an Italian office and of course, I should expect my box to be hidden.  This is why Italy grinds to a stop; no one knows who moved what or why.

I watch movies while I cook, Please note, the playbook stand in use is not a Blackberry authorised stand.

I watch movies while I cook, Please note, the playbook stand in use is not a Blackberry authorised stand.

I placed my playbook in the box and sent it back to Blackberry. I was wondering, how I was going to cope without my playbook; would the DT’s set in? Would I have to watch Italian television? 24 hours later, DHL delivered a brand new Blackberry Playbook.

Paula phoned me and asked if it had received my brand spanking new Playbook, she asked if she could phone me on Monday to make sure the Playbook was working and to make sure I was happy. What an incredibly nice woman!!

I am not sure where Paula is based, but I sent her, a link to the Fedex Fiasco. After lunch I checked my stats, lots of hits on the Fedex Fiasco and 72 visitors from Portugal. Now if I was a betting man, I would say the lovely lady from Blackberry is based in Portugal.

No comment

Italian Customer Service

Italian Customer Service: Bang head on wall

My UK driving licence has finally expired. The grubby bit of paper the Italians gave me as a substitute, has also expired. My bicycle has a flat tyre.

I was told not to worry, that the temporary substitute licence had expired, as it is normal in Italy and the police will accept it is just another Italian cock up. The important thing, I was told, is to have with you the medical form, that proves you are fit to drive.

That kind of says everything there is to know about Italy.

Do you have a valid driving licence?  No

Do you have cervicale? mm maybe

Links to past driving licence fiasco

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Parts 4 to 349 will follow over the next 5 months, groan

 

 

Part 3: How to swap a UK driving licence to an Italian one in 340 difficult steps

Englishman in Italy

Englishman in Italy

Quick update to part 1 and part 2

So I have just received a telephone call from Mr Cretino, the man who is supposed to be transferring my UK driving licence to an Italian one. To be honest I do not receive many calls on my Italian mobile, normally the caller is Mrs Sensible asking what sort of trouble I am about to or are in. Sometimes Vodafone or one of the other networks call to try and get me to swap carriers, but they give up as soon as they here…. Io sono inglese!!

This afternoon Mr Cretino called, so I asked Luagina the secretary at work to talk to him. The long and short of it is, when I married Mrs Sensible we hyphenated our surnames. It was all my fault I wanted to add her Italian surname to mine.

I am the proud owned of a mix of official documents, some in my birth surname and some in my adopted Italian hyphenated surname name. Mr Cretino is more than a little confused, as is his office.

As I type this, Mrs Sensible is trying to resolve the situation. I somehow have to prove I am both the pazzo inglese with the hyphenated name and also the pazzo inglese with the birth surname.

An update is sure to follow tomorrow.

 

P.N

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who am I? Expat, Immigrant or Zingero

Following on from my post Solipsism, I have decided to discover who I really am. A few people who left comments on the post suggested that I really don’t exist. So who am I?

I would love to be an Expat, I even belong to the British Expat Forum.  Although the moderators in their infinite wisdom, banned me, back in 2008 and I had to secretly reapply using a different name and e-mail address. But as a committed black-sheep (Pecora Nera) I was not surprised.   Apart from being ceremoniously booted off the Expats website, there are also two other reasons why I don’t think, I fall into the category of Expat. The first one is, I was born in Malta and I am not sure if ‘us’ Maltese can be Expats, the second and fundamental reason is, I can’t afford to pay a Punka Walla, also Mrs Sensible draws the line at me sitting all day in the sunshine drinking gin and tonic.

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Gin and Tonic plus a Punka Walla

Photo credit to Neither use nor ornament

This leaves me with either option two an immigrant or option three Zingero. I love the sound of Zingero, it is one of the few Italian words that I can pronounce. It also kind of fits in with the black-sheep image.  Zingero is a derogatory term used to describe immigrants from Eastern Europe.  However I think Mrs Sensible would throw a No 8 wobbly if I started filling forms in with Pecora Nera, a Zingero.

So I am left with being an immigrant. I have just read in the news that David Cameron our beloved leader is clamping down on immigrants entering the UK. Does this mean he won’t let me back into the UK when I need to stock up on Bacon and T bags? Life is so complicated. On Friday night, I discussed, who am I? with Marco over a couple of glasses of beer. We batted the question and answer back and forth as we shared a plate of chips. After much deliberation Marco gave his considered opinion. You are a stupid Englishman.

So now I know!!! When I fill out my application for my Italian Driving Licence I need to write Stupido Inglese.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Gilda in the dog house

Gilda in the dog house

I am sure you remember Gilder the short-legged but incredibly fat sausage dog who saved her owner from the snake attack last November. Well she is in disgrace at the moment. There is a wolf that lives across the road from us. It is a pleasant dog that although it is big, it only howls at night when it remembers that its mate has died. It very rarely barks. The only time it barks, and then it goes absolutely mental, is when Gilda decides to stroll down to the wolf, bark at him and generally wind him up. When the wolf is in a frenzy, and running up and down the garden fence searching for a way to get at the little fat dog; Gilda deciding her work is done for another day saunters back across the road up our driveway and across to Luiginas house. Her tail at full mast just to wind the wolf up a little more.

If you look carefully you can see the wolf across the road

If you look carefully you can see the wolf across the road

Now winding the wolf up is one thing, her punishment will surely come when the wolf realises it can jump the garden fence and outrun a dog that relies on legs that are only 3 inches long and needs to breathe in to make sure it’s belly doesn’t scrape along the ground. No, Gilda was incarcerated for joining up with Lila, Luigina’s other dog, which is known for being timid, and Diana a lovely soft Border Collie that lives up the road. The three of them caused a jogger to stop in mid stride.

The terrible threesome,  and Gilda was the ringleader decided to surround a jogger who was going about his business of jogging up our road, and bark at him every time he raised a foot, shouted for help or tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead. He was paralysed with fear. Mrs Sensible asked me who Gilda was barking at; I replied she was probably winding up the wolf. Go and have a look please she told asked me. I had a quick glance out of the bathroom window and spotted the jogger who was doing an excellent impersonation of a statue.

Credits to Michelangelo. I think he was Italian

Credits to Michelangelo. I think he was Italian

Armed with a sweeping brush, I gallantly went to the rescue. I didn’t really need the brush because the only danger from the three musketeers, would be a good licking. But as I had had to leave the comfort of my warm house, in my flip-flops, PJ bottoms and a coat, I was determined someone was going to suffer. Even if that someone turned out to be the jogger.

Having rescued said jogger, Mrs Sensible decided it was my fault, because I had left our automatic gate open. Please note the word automatic. We have the only automatic gate that is having hormonal problems and requires a good shove to get it to open or close.  Friday it was raining and I simply refused to get out of my car and push our automatic gate closed.

Automatic, don't make me laugh. they can't even spell it correctly.

Automatic, don’t make me laugh. they can’t even spell it correctly.

And that is why Gilda is in the dog house. A new motor for the gate will cost me around 400 euros (all donations to my paypal account please). The cost of keeping Gilda in Jail is significantly less. It’s a hard life when you are a jogger, wolf or a dog in jail.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

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

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

Teachers in Turin

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

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

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

ilogical Captain

Illogical Captain

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

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

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

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Drinkwater

Mrs Drinkwater

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

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

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

A little Summer House

In 2009 I left Piemonte and went to Sicily in search of work. This cunning plan, was to find employment in a hotel, or maybe even at the USAF base at Signorella, I could then persuade Mrs Sensible, to move south to be closer to her family, the sun, sea and beaches.

Mrs Sensible thought this was utter madness, most of the Italians were trying to move north in search of work and her crazy English husband was moving south!! However she did see a positive benefit to the exercise. One, she would sleep better without me snoring in her ear and two, I would be forced to learn to speak Italian. Especially if I stayed with Zia E.

Zia E is a wonderful lady, she is the oldest sister of Mrs Sensible’s Dad, and we love her to bits. The only downside was she spoke very little English, maybe as much as hello, goodbye, one, two and three. Which in fairness matched my Italian.

One evening Mrs Sensible phoned to ask me how the job hunting was going. Not bad I told her, Berlitz want me to teach English to Italian Businessmen.  Your joking she said,  you can’t spell for toffee and your grammar is appalling. It’s not a problem I said, I will teach them to spell fonetically phoneticallie phonetically. There was a long pause and then Mrs Sensible asked me, how was my Italian coming along? Cosi cosi I replied, I am working on it. But you should hear Zia, her English is improving in leaps and bounds. She can now count to 30 and can tell me it is too cold for flip-flops in English. Mrs Sensible let out another audible sigh.

I didn’t secure a job in Sicily, however I did hear this wonderful story.

When Zia’s husband was alive, they owned a summer-house near a little village out in the countryside. Every year Zia and her husband would take a holiday, and visit the summer-house on the same 3 weeks every year. Life was fine, until one year they decided to change the dates of their holiday.

They arrived at the little summer-house 2 weeks early to find the front door was unlocked.  As Zia and Zio entered the house, the aroma of fine Italian cooking  wafted through the air to their noses. When they entered the dinning room, Zia was stunned to see a family of 6 sat at her table eating a meal. Zia asked the woman, who was sat at the table tucking into meat balls or maybe even spaghetti bolognaise what she thought she was doing .

Spag bog or meat balls

Do you want to join us for dinner??  (Credit: Walt Disney Alice in Wonderland Brill film)

The woman stood up and said “we live here and are eating our meal. What does it look like; and who the hell are you?” (Obviously it was said in Italian, with a lot of hand waving) 

When Zia told them she owned the house, the woman said you don’t live here, you only come for 3 weeks, and when you do we move back to the village. Why are you here now??

I think it was at this point that Zia blew a fuse and threw them out. She also decided to sell her little summer-house.

I did wonder how the family managed to live in Zia E’ house without her knowing. Zia explained that on her visits, she sometimes noticed the odd cup missing and maybe a rug not quite in the right position, but she just put it down to her memory and age.

Poo Poohed

We are up to our necks in snow, well almost up to our necks, maybe a little over our ankles if the truth be told. The snow that fell on Sunday is the cold wet type that freezes quickly, makes your fingers cold and the roads in Italy even more dangerous than they normally are.

On Midday Sunday the weather man warned that it would snow, the competition that Italy is running to find out if teachers like Mrs Sensible can have a proper contract was cancelled due to the forecast of heavy snow. Luigina and I looked at the beautiful blue sky and poo poohed them. Mrs Sensible washed the rugs and I hung them outside, they are still hanging there.

Frozen rugs, pure rug no horse meat

Frozen rugs.

On Monday morning on the way to work, I managed to pirouet my little Mini on the roundabout, as the car slide and slewed  towards the barriers, I could hear Mrs Sensible, she was somewhere deep in my head saying “I told you, you need to put snow tyres on your Mini” As I simultaneously asked God to stop the car from crashing and cursed the idiota who was trying to overtake my spinning car. I promised myself that I would change the tyres, immediately if not sooner.

Mrs Sensibles Car

Mrs Sensible’s Car

God answered my little prayer, both my little Mini and I survived our little spin on the roundabout. At lunch time I changed the tyres on both my impractical, but fun Mini and Mrs Sensible’s small but practical and economic Peugeot.

It was still snowing on Monday night when I was driving home,

Snow

Snow and a little pic of my thumb

My house is on the right, if the council used our taxes to install street lights, you would be able to see it. Luiginas house is also on the right. On the left is the house where the bereaved  German Shepard howls at night. The dog started howling after its mate died. The only time the dog doesn’t howl, is when Gilda, Luigina’s short but incredible fat sausage dog wanders down the road to bark at it.

One of these days the German Shepard will jump over the little garden fence and we will see how fast Gilda can actually run.

The snow effects everybody, even my hens are not very impressed, I opened the gate to let them out and they just glared at me.

Hens

Two legged egg laying machines.

Even after I walked back to check on Mrs Sensible’s rugs the hens hadn’t moved.

Hens

Hens, not the brightest animal.

My little Mini was frozen solid. The doors wouldn’t open and the wipers were frozen to the windscreen.

Pecora Nera One

Pecora Nera One

Last picture,

This is what Italy should look like,

IMG_1451

OK, admittedly this was taken on the beach, but you get the general idea. Roll on Summer.

weekly photo challenge: unique

This post was inspired by a fellow blogger called “I used to be indecisive” who posted this post.

I normally blog about Italy and humour, but a change is as good as a rest, so here are a few unique photos of Italy.

Mr TreeEnglishman in Italy

Mr Tree 

Nearly everyday I drive past this tree. I wonder how many children have nightmares because of Mr Tree, or are told behave or Mr Tree will get you.

Balloon Car

Balloon Car

I spotted this car in  Catania, Sicily. I love it.

Lucy

Lucy

This is Lucy, one of my daughters. She is completely unique and very special.

Veronica a Unique little girl

Veronica a unique little girl

And finally, Veronica a very special and unique little girl. Here she is in Milan walking with the help of her papa. Despite her disabilities (she has cerebral palsy) she is always smiling. Veronica was born one month before Mrs Sensible and I married. It was in her papas restaurant (sadly now closed), that I met Mrs Sensible.

If there is anyone out there in cyberland who has a huge heart, and wants to make a difference to a unique and special girl, or for those of you in Italy, who can give 5% per thousand of their tax to a worthy charity. Please spare 5 minutes to have a look at Veronicas web site. Then open your wallet and spread a little happiness.

Normal humour will return next week.

It’s flipping cold

It’s flipping cold, actually it is warm by Piemonte standards. Last night it was just under minus 1°C. Last winter it reached a staggering minus 22°C. Which amazed me, as I thought you had to visit the Arctic Circle to experience such low temperatures; not sunny Italy.

Anyway after completing my third day back at work following my Christmas Holiday, I decided I wanted a hot shower and a proper mug of English tea. I didn’t need a shower, but the heating had been switched of all day and I had the choice of a) going back out to the warm car and waiting for the house to heat up, b) disappearing under the duvet in the bed or c) having a hot and very long shower. Option C won the day.

I flicked the halogen heater on in the lounge, which is where I had decided to towel myself dry and drink my tea, and of course the heater in the bathroom, which is contra to good sense and most health and safety laws. I then quickly got undressed and just as I was about to step into the shower I remembered the kettle.

One of two heaters to help warm the house

One of two heaters to help warm the house

We have amazingly big windows in our house, they are designed to let the heat escape during the winter and allow the sun to cook the house in the summer. As I streaked from the bathroom through the lounge to the kitchen I was praying that Luigina didn’t decide to walk past the house, the sight of so many wrinkles in full flight might have shocked her.

I filled the kettle, whilst hopping from one cold foot to another on the freezing kitchen floor and then flicked the kettle switch. After a quick streak back to the bathroom, I dived into the shower and stood in absolute bliss as the steam rose around me.  Mrs Sensible was still at work so I didn’t even have to open the bathroom window. As I soaped my hair, I was contemplating how wonderful a hot shower really is, when the bathroom light went out. Strange I thought, then the shower started to blast freezing cold water onto me and the luxury steam vanished.

Exiting a shower is a very simple process, you simply slide the door to the right or maybe it is to the left and then just step out. However add the fun of dancing around the shower cubical in the dark, whilst trying to avoid the jet of freezing cold water, plus a little soap in the eyes oh! And add scattering and kicking various potions, shower gels, shaving cans and hair shampoo bottles that are normally stood in the corner of the shower tray and you find exiting the shower in the dark is no longer quiet so easy. From the lights going out, to the first blast of cold water, and finally exiting the shower must in reality have taken a little over five second. I certainly didn’t have time to swear more than three times.

Grabbing a towel and putting on my trusty flip-flops and still dripping wet; I went to the fuse box near the front door. The little red LED that flashes on the fuse box was not flashing, and the trip switch was still in the up position. So I grabbed the nearest coat, one of Mrs Sensible’s and set off outside to reset the main trip switch on the fuse box which just happens to be not only outside, but through the gate and stuck in a box on the front of the house.

The switch had tripped, and as I was resetting it Luigina said “Ciao Peter, come stai” As Gilda  Luigina’s dog decided to lick my wet toes I answered “Fantastic, sempre bene, molti bene, e’ lei?” She looked at me as I stood there with shampoo in my hair, Mrs Sensible’s coat, flip-flops and bare legs; while her stupid dog was weighing up if my toes were edible or not. She smiled, handed me 6 fresh eggs from the hens, wished me goodnight, took one last look at me called the dog and walked back to her house.

Had Mrs Sensible been home when I decided to have a shower and make a cup of tea at the same time, things would have gone differently. First she would have made sure that the bathroom window was open so that the steam wouldn’t build up, second I wouldn’t have had to streak to the kitchen as she would have prepared the cup of tea for me and thirdly and most importantly, the electric would not have tripped out. Mrs Sensible knows to turn off the two heaters before attempting to boil a kettle.

If you have seen Electrickery  you will know I am not a supporter of Italian Electrics, and in our all singing and dancing Italian house there are 15 switches in the lounge that enables me to operate not only the SINGLE light in the lounge, but also the lights in the kitchen, bathroom, hall, front door light, outside security lights, and in all probability several lights in Luiginas house, but if I try to boil a kettle and run two heaters whilst having a hot relaxing shower the fuse box throws the trip.

Simple arithmetic

First Halogen Heater      1.2 KW

Second Halogen Heater    800 w (one bar is non functioning)

Kettle                                  2 KW

Light bulb            sweet fanny adams

Total                           4 kw (ish)

Maximum allowable kw into the house before the trip has a tizzy fit and trips, 3KW

I don’t know why it didn’t trip when I first switched the kettle on, maybe it is Machiavellian and thought it would be better and more fun to wait until I was in the shower and had soap in my hair. Who knows in Italy?

Vicious snake attacks defenseless women in Italy

I know I have just done a post about dogs but Gilda the extremely fat but short legged sausage dog yesterday saved the life of our neighbour Luigina. I know I hinted that Gilda was a good for nothing fat little eating machine but yesterday at about twelve minutes past two in the afternoon she saved her owner’s life.

Luigina who is a spritely 87 years old was brutally stalked and then attacked by a very long snake as she walked across the garden on the way to feed the chickens.The beast of a snake was slithering through the grass with the intentions of impaling its fangs into Luigina’s heel. Fortunately Luigina saw the snake and realising she was in mortal danger she let out a piercing scream and clutched her hands to her breast, OK my imagination is running away a bit but she did shout bestia and wave her hands about a little.  (A picture of Luigina can be seen here L’orto and the Fairies)

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

Gilda who heard her mistress’s distress came running to her rescue. Her tail was in the full mast attack position and her belly was clear of the ground by at least 2.5 centimetres. Gilda pounced on the snake and pinning it down with her front paws, she sunk her teeth into the middle of the snake and gave it a really good shake.

Donna our guestaway who is not scared of snakes dead or alive estimated the snake to be about this big.

Upon further inspection by our resident expert (again Donna) the snake was deemed to be a Natrix  Natrix or to the uneducated who don’t speak Latin the common grass snake, but as Luigina pointed out it could have been a   Vipera Aspis  (viper).

I couldn't find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

I couldn’t find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

Luigina is full of praise for Gilda and the snake is still on show for anyone who wants to come and have a look. This coming Saturday Luigina will bury the snake with full military honours near the black fig tree behind the chicken run. Attendees are expected to wear black or full military dress uniform.

The mother of Mrs Sensibles discussing the graveside military honours include firing a volley over the grave

Truffles & Dogs

Black Truffles

I have put my foot down and told Mrs Sensible that I am buying a puppy, well maybe I haven’t told her but I have dropped enough hints. One of our neighbours has a dog and they go truffle hunting, the pair of them run up and down the trees at the bottom of the vineyard making lots of noise digging around in the trees for truffles. It looks great fun.

One morning as I stood watching them I asked Mrs Sensible who our neighbour sells the truffles to and does he make much money. Restaurant pay a lot of money for truffles she told me and with one of her school marm looks she asked me why.

Just wondering I answered.

A while ago I broached the subject of buying a puppy and Mrs Sensible pointed out that we already have two dogs. “Really?” I answered more than a little puzzled. “Of course we do. we share Luigina’s dogs”.

Luigina has two dogs, a short fat dachshund called Gilda or sometimes called streger (witch) or even stregona whose only claim to fame is she will eat anything she can catch and despite her short legs and fat body the incredible ability to outrun and outpace anything that tries to catch her, this includes the huge German Shepherd that lives up the road and Luigina armed with a brush.

Her other dog is a one hundred percent pure breed mongrel named Lela or gamba lungo. Lela is a very timid dog that can jump over every fence on the land including the chicken run fence, which she does once or twice a week when she decides she wants an egg.

Lila & Gilda

Lila & Gilda.. the photo doesn’t do justice to Gilda’s belly

Neither of these two dogs are good material for truffle hunting. Lela is impossible to train, she even dares to ignore Mrs Sensible, even I don’t do that. As for Gilda I know she would make a great truffle dog, with her short legs her nose is already dragging along the ground. The problem is any truffle Gilda found would disappear into her belly before I could shout Oye.

So I have decided to get a small sensible house trainable truffle hunting dog.

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag

Now I have heard that it is easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission so I am going dog hunting and later hopefully truffle hunting.

Italian Customer Service

Peach

Uttering the words Italian and customer service in one breath is as bad as using King Herod and child care in the same sentence they just don’t go together, except in the case of our local macellaio. Mario knows this particular pazzo Inglese can be forced to buy his wonderful homemade sausages, fillets of steak and other tasty produce, all Mario has to do is point at them and say ancora? And I will nod happily and say si si.

I also receive incredible service from the local corner shop. Maria who serves behind the counter always serves me before anyone else in the shop. It doesn’t matter who is waiting to be served or how many people are queuing to pay she always says prego prego as she gestures me to the front of the queue. No no io sono bene. I will reply. But the other women who are either gossiping about local village life or queuing to pay soon join in prego prego they chant.

So I am forced to go to the front of the queue and using my appalling Italian start purchase my shopping. When Maria and the women first started to invite me to queue jump I initially thought it was due to the respect Mrs Sensible holds as the local school teacher; she is not called Mrs Sensible in the village but Maestra. It took the episode of the peaches for me to realise why they always let me go to the front of the queue.

Mrs Sensible sent me to the shop one afternoon to purchase five peaches, now I know you normally buy fruit by the weight but I am aware of my limitations when it comes to ordering in Italian so I began with Io Bisogno cinque pesche per favore, (I understand that I should us “vorrei” and not bisogno but it never sounds right when I say it) Maria gave me one of those looks that are saved for the village idiot, I hadn’t noticed at this point that one or two of the women were already giggling and snorting into their handkerchiefs, I just thought there was a cold going around.

Maria disappeared into the back of the shop where the freezers are kept. I thought this was really odd as the peaches were in baskets just to the right of me. Stupid old bat I thought. Maria returned with one box of fish fingers, one frozen fillet of fish in a box and what looked like a piece of old shoe leather that might or might not have been dried fish.

Fish Fingers

Fish Fingers

Erh no no!! I said, pesche I repeated pointing at the basket of peaches cinque pesche. Maria grinned and said pesca Peter pesca.

The women behind me were dabbing their eyes and thinking the pazzo inglese never fails to let us down this time he ordered five fish instead of five peaches. With as much dignity as I could muster I worked my way through the rest of my shopping and thankfully left the shop.

Hey Ho the snow is on it’s way

Snow Chains

Snow Chains

Now is the time of year when Italians dig out their snow chains and put them in the boot of their car. Snow chains are a fiendish device; they were invented in 1904 by Harry D. Weed in New York. See I have done my research this time and even added a link to the Wiki page.

We have two sets of chains, Mrs Sensible has some in the boot of her car and I have a set in the boot of my Mini. Despite the fact that last year we had snow up to our armpits, I have never successfully managed to fit a set of chains to either car. Under careful supervision I once managed to fit one chain onto the spare wheel while Giorgio my instructor helped to pull and stretch the chains into position. But it is important to note that the spare wheel was not connected to the car, nor was it cold and wet, nor was I up to my armpits in snow and there were two of us unhindered by wheel arches slush and passing motorists.

Last February under protest I did get out of bed at 6.00 am to fit a set of chains to Mrs Sensible’s Peugeot. When she had finished her breakfast and entered our garage at 7.30 am to drive the car away I was still sat amid twisted chains cursing both the car, Mr Harry De Weed and the beautiful snow that carpeted our garden.

I suggested she took my mini as it was great fun pretty good in the snow. Fifteen minutes later I received a tearful phone call from Mrs Sensible who had embedded my Mini in a snow drift and successfully blocked the main junction at Rosignano. Half of the villages of Rosignano were in their cars stuck behind her and the other half were stuck in front of her.

It took me 35 minutes to walk to her through the snow. By the time I had arrived some thoughtful but angry residents had dug my Mini out and pushed it away from the junction. It was not Mrs Sensible’s fault as she is a good driver, and it wasn’t my fault for not fitting the chains on the car it was Mr Harry D Weeds fault for inventing something so stupid.

Although this morning to comply with Italian law, I have put a set of chains in the boot of both cars I have made a solemn promise to Mrs Sensible that I will buy her a set of winter tyres at the weekend.

The snow chains pictured are not mine, I never intend to see mine again. I have pinched the picture from another WordPress blogger called Salish Sea who it seems has managed the art of fitting snow chains.

Veggie Man

It is nearly November and my little vegetable plot is still providing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and aubergines for the kitchen plus eggs from the hens.

Earlier this year I found a great way to keep my cauliflower, broccoli and potatoes pest free. Spray them once a month with the DIY organic pesticide. I found the following recipe on the internet, and at first I was a bit dubious but it works for me. I have added an ingredient because it is important to tweak a recipe and make it your own.

Recipe

Four chilli peppers.

One clove of garlic.

Half a pint of water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 to 2 glasses of red wine.

Method

Step one

Chop up the chilli peppers and place them in an old jam jar or honey jar, we have plenty because for some reason Mrs Sensible washes jars and stores them in the cupboard. I think she is a secret hoarder.

Step two

Take a sip of the red wine, this is a very important part of the recipe and it is important to get it right, if you are not sure you have done this properly take another sip to be sure.

Step three

Chop up the garlic and place them in the jar with the chilli peppers.

Step four

Repeat step two but this time really savour the wine. It is impossible to add too much wine at this stage.

Step five

Add the olive oil and fill the jar with water. Leave for one week.

Final step

If you have used up all the wine well done, maybe you might want to add just a little bit more to the glass so that you can stand back and admire your jar of organic pesticide with a contented glow. If you did not use all the wine you really ought to change your wine supplier. I would recommend Marco Bellero.

Application

Strain the liquid into a spray bottle, be very careful not to spill any of the liquid on your hands or the work surface because you will stink of garlic and peppers for days.

This is the first year that I have attempted to grow vegetables. I love wandering down to the L’orto to see if there are any strawberries hiding under the leaves. I have been very lucky and everything I planted has grown. So much so that I have decided to go into  wine production.

Planting my first wine tree

A little prayer

Oh Lord please help. I have been a good boy today so why did I have to receive a phone call from Mrs Sensible at 13.50 today to remind me that I have to visit Roberto our friendly  dentist. Lord I am sure you remember the pain and suffering he put me through before. If you can’t remember please plug in your laptop and read this This might hurt a little.

Why Lord did you help my wife to remember the dentist appointment? Did I not pray hard enough on the way to work asking you to make her forget.

Lord if I have to go tonight please either make Roberto too ill to be there or let him decide we need to wait a day or six.

I promise I will be a good boy for the rest of the week.

P.S

Just in case you can’t make Roberto ill and he does decided to drill and fool around with my teeth I am going to take some pain killers before I go. I know I promised I wouldn’t. But these are hard times.

God bless everyone except dentists.

DIY

English weather in Italy

It has taken me four months to get around to fixing the curtain rail and Sunday afternoon seemed like the ideal time. One reason was it was pouring down with rain so there was no hope of pottering in the garden and the second reason was my wife has started to use a peg to close the curtains at night. Not any old peg, a big red plastic peg. Mrs Sensible is big on hints.

I personally don’t see the need for curtains in the bedroom. The only person who overlooks the house lives one kilometre away on the other side of the valley and I like the curtains open so that I can watch the sunset in the evening. I don’t know how good the sunrise in the morning is because unlike my wife who allegedly has seen it nearly every day. I am never awake in time to experience this profound and moving spectacle.

Sunset from the bedroom window

Back to the problem of the curtain runner. The curtain runner is very simple device, two little plastic pulleys, lots of plastic hoops with wheels on, one technical piece of cord and two plastic thingamajigs that should whizz along the runner enabling the curtain to open for the sunrise and close and shut out the wonderful Italian sunsets.

I laid the contraption on the floor of the living room and slowly started to disassemble it. Quiet straight forward to be honest, no screws just pull the plastic ends and it miraculously falls apart into lots of little plastic runners and assorted bits. While Mrs Sensible was in the kitchen baking apple pie and biscuits I sat pondering how this simple device that contained two pulleys and one technical piece of string worked. It is in fact quiet ingenious and totally baffled me. I could see the hole in the plastic thingamajigs where the technical piece of cord should be attached. But once re assembled it still didn’t operate.

I kind of thought it couldn’t be that simple, after all it is Sunday afternoon, it is raining when it should be sunny and I had forgotten to include all the little plastic hoops that the curtain hangs from. I think subconsciously I left the little plastic bits out because I knew from bitter experience that nothing ever works first time.

From the kitchen my wife heard me struggling and also the new names I was now using for the technical piece of cord. She suggested I strip down the one from the guest bedroom and see how a good curtain runner works. It sounded like a great idea. After all that is all the Chinese do isn’t it. “Please to send curtain rail, we make copy, cheaper and quicker.”

So I did as my darling wife suggested. I took the step ladders into the guest bedroom and started to remove the curtains and then the curtain rail. There was a split second as I unscrewed the curtain rail when I asked myself how this simple ten minute DIY job of rethreading a piece of cord was suddenly becoming so complicated and time consuming. Maybe I would need to call in an expert or allow my wife to continue to use the red peg to close the curtains.

I placed the good curtain runner from the spare bedroom next the devastated curtain runner on the lounge floor and slowly I took it to pieces. I made sure that I kept the plastic parts separate. I examined how the technical piece of cord was attached to the runners and how it looped around the two pulleys, I handled it as one might handle an unexploded bomb, and very slowly I reassembled it making sure I included all the little plastic hoops and bits. Testing it by pulling the technical cord I was not at all surprised that I now had two curtain runners that didn’t operate.

As I sat glaring at the assorted plastic parts scattered in various piles around the lounge and wondering if Eunice had another red peg available for the Guest bedroom, my darling wife was quick to point out that she had also suggested that I should have just swopped the curtain onto the spare curtain rail in the bedroom and not had to mess at all.

You see we have two curtain rails on each window. One for the curtains and a second inner curtain rail to hang heavy curtains to keep out the winter cold, the cold winters of Italy has been quite a shock to me I thought I was escaping the UK to the land of sun. It was a shock when the first winter reached minus twenty degrees centigrade. I refuse to hang the heavy winter curtains; they are ugly and have a peculiar smell. I also did not want to use the heavy curtain rail as I initially wanted that feel good feeling every man receives when he completes a successful Sunday DIY job.

Looking at the two broken curtain rails I decided I would have a better chance of fixing the guest bedroom curtain rail because I hadn’t really tampered too much with it. So again I slowly stripped it back down to its basic components. As I reached the plastic thingamajig I spotted that the technical piece of cord was trapped between the runner and the aluminium rail thereby causing a massive component failure. I think I remember studying about component failure during a sigma six course whilst working for Vickers Pneumatics.

I slowly reassembled the curtain rail making sure that the technical cord was not twisted and was able to run smoothly in the pulleys. As I pulled the cord I was pleased no not pleased I was overjoyed that the plastic thingamajigs not only whizzed closed but also whizzed open. Fuelled by this success and by my mounting confidence in my ability as a DIY expert I successfully reassembled the other curtain rail.

As I eat Eunice’s wonderful apple pie and type this post I am sure there is a moral to this story but I am stuffed if I can figure it out.

Wine, whine, wine.

I am not a hoarder or a collector of clutter, ok I lie I hate throwing anything away. I have also been known to save items that other people would consider to be junk. For example I brought to Italy my dad’s spanners and old tools even though they are imperial and not much use to man nor beast, especially in Italy where everything is metric. But I still have them.

I also have 18 wine bottles that I salvaged from the local recycling bottle bank. I don’t normally collect wine bottles but these looked interesting. My wife was a little confused when I returned home from the bottle bank  with 18 dirty, manky wine bottles, when I had been sent there to dispose of 7 wine bottles and 2 jam jars. When I struggled through the doorway under the watchful gaze of Mrs Sensible with a huge plastic bag full of bottles I was once again transformed back into a little boy again, trying to explain to my mother why I thought it was ok to bring an old bees nest home. Mrs Sensible was watching me as I cleaned them in the yard, I promised her that I would either recycle them back were they came from or if they were as interesting as I thought, I would keep them.

I sent a number of photos to the Sheffield Museum to see if they could give me some idea to the age of my bottles. A lovely lady called Clara Morgan sent me an e-mail confirming my wine bottles were hand-blown, and she said they dated from 1750 – 1800, nice.

The next question that I asked myself and in fact the question that Mrs Sensible kept asking me was “now that you have spent an afternoon cleaning them what are you going to do with them and are they worth anything?” I decided to store them in the attic while I pondered the question.

Drilling a hole in the base of each wine bottle and turning them into lamps was a sacrilege; besides when we had guests over for dinner they were a great talking point. That is until Mrs Sensible became tired of dusting around the bottle that I had strategically left on top of the bookshelf.

In my humble opinion Marco Bellero produces the best wine in Piemonte, he will also deliver wine to my doorstep just like Ernie the milkman in the UK used to do, until the supermarkets pushed him out of business. All I have to do is phone Marco and say 6 Barberra, 3 Grignolino and 2 San Pietro please. And the next morning the wine will be waiting on my doorstep.

One morning I showed Marco my antique bottles and asked him if he could fill them with his famous Barone di San Pietro especially as earlier that week I had tasted the wine while it was still in the oak casks. Marco thought it was a great idea and he agreed.

Eighteen bottles of fine Barone di San Pietro turned up on my doorstep complete with labels but no plastic caps. The bottle necks are too big for my caps he said apologetically. We haggled over the price and he kept saying no no e regalo, e regalo. My wife later told me the 18 bottles some 150+ euros was a gift or regalo.

Marco asked me when I was going to open the first bottle. On my birthday which this year falls on November 3rd and I will open another bottle every birthday so I have enough wine to last me to the ripe old age of 69.

It’s great to look forward to something on your birthday.

This may hurt a little.

 

This is a long post but it is for Jennifer at  http://laavventura.wordpress.com who is yet to visit an Italian dentist. The follow is an extract from a book I am attempting to write, please excuse the grammar.

I have suffered with intermittent toothache since arriving in Italy. This is partly because of the bureaucracy and the necessary completion of various forms and to be honest my aversion to pain. I don’t even want the state to pay; well it would be nice if they offered but it is highly unlikely. I needed with the help of my wife Mrs Sensible to work through loads of forms just to enable me to visit a private dentist.

When I first arrived in Italy Mrs Sensible and I went to see a dentist recommended by Angela our landlady. “Go see Dottor Roberto” she told Mrs Sensible, “he is cheap and good; you can’t miss his surgery it is based in the old folks home in Giarole.” If you are reading this book while sat in an old folks home in England or are waiting to be admitted to one put the book down and go and request a transfer to an old folks home in Italy because they don’t smell of wee and old people.

As we entered the reception area of the old folks home we found the door to the surgery situated on the right hand side of the reception area. But before we could enter the surgery we had to walk past a group of old people sat outside the surgery door on chairs and in wheelchairs. Their highlight of the day was to say ciao and come stai? to all the unfortunate patients of Dottor Roberto.

After I had reluctantly sat in the dentist chair my wife explained in Italian to Dottor Roberto why we were there. To involve myself in the conversation I helpfully pointed to the tooth that was throbbing away. After I had shown Dottor Roberto the molar which was hurting he proceeded to poke and then tap each of my teeth in turn with a small metal bar to satisfy himself that I wasn’t kidding.

He started from the right and slowly worked his way down my teeth as a musician might on a glockenspiel. As he got close to the painful tooth I started to become a little stressed. He gave the painful tooth a whack and I yelped; Dottor Roberto smiled with satisfaction. “Ecco!” he said.

After explaining to Mrs Sensible the treatment I needed and after filling out more forms he said he would drill and fill my tooth with a temporary filling. Sitting up in the chair and getting ready to leave I was quite shocked that Dottor Roberto was intending to start the treatment straight away. I protested that there were other patients sat in the waiting room and I even tried pleading with Mrs Sensible that we had only come to have it checked and to see how much it would cost but to no avail.

Doctor Roberto administrated one and then after much pleading a second injection of anaesthetic. He then set about drilling my tooth and putting in a temporary filling.

Charging me eighty Euros for the temporary filling Dottor Roberto then quoted a further 230 Euros to finish the treatment. He explained that I had to be registered with the local health department for him to finish the treatment but not to worry as the temporary filling was ok for two months which should give us enough time to register with the local health authority and to fill out more forms.

The following day my wife and I went to the main administrative building for health in the centre of Casale Monferrato. We asked the woman in charge if we could have the necessary forms so that I could continue my dental treatment. The woman asked to see my medical card. I produced with a flourish the battered cardboard card the UK National Health Service had issued to me many years ago. She took one look at it and shook her head. “It needs to have the European blue flag on with all the stars, like this one” she said producing from her purse her own plastic medical card. I muttered to my wife “that my card had been issued before we got dragged into the European Union by Maggie Thatcher.

Leaving the building without any forms I was still muttering as we got into our car. “I will get my dad to organise a medical card for holiday makers abroad. We are after all in the European Union and then we can wave that under the nose of that stupid woman.” My wife said something about it was me that wanted to live in Italy and so I should stop complaining.

Thinking that 230 Euros sounded a bit steep for a filling and as I was due to visit Sicily where everything is cheaper I managed to delay the treatment even longer.

In Sicily I received a second opinion from my father in laws dentist in the little village of Giarratana. Following a quotation of 120.00 Euros the dentist told Nuccio that he needed more x rays of my tooth before he could continue. Nuccio turned to me and said “Come on we have to go to the mayor to get an x-ray of your tooth.” It sounded a bit strange to have to go to the mayor for an x-ray but this is Sicily after all. When we had located the Mayor I found out that he also doubled up as the local radiologist.

This dentist with his good looks and black wavy hair that is only obtainable from the best Vidal Sassoon hair stylist looked, more like a rich playboy than a dentist. He quickly looked at the x-ray and said to Nuccio “Ha bisogno di una canalizzazione.” As the dentist shoved his syringe and gloved hand into my mouth Nuccio calmly informed me that the dentist said I needed root canal treatment.

As he started to drill my tooth I immediately noticed the absence of any dental assistant. Normally there is a pretty female assistant to take my mind off the pain the dentist is trying to inflict on me. She normally sits there smiling and handing over the tools and operating the various suction pipes. Maybe the playboy dentist was going to involve my father in law who was stood watching. I am pretty sure Nuccio would have jumped at the chance of helping as he stood gazing into my mouth. I also noticed the almost total absence of anaesthetic even my lip wasn’t tingling.

I am of the opinion that a dentist should not be allowed anywhere near me with their drills and other instruments of torture, until my lips are all rubbery and I have lost total sensation in at least one of my ears. So it was with no surprise that I jumped as he broke through the temporary filling and hit the nerve. My reaction did the trick; the dentist declined to complete the treatment claiming the nerve must have an infection. As this was translated to me, I told Nuccio to tell him I will be ok if he uses some anaesthetic.

After hastily inserting another temporary filling the dentist told me to come back in three weeks after the infection had gone. Mr Playboy then handed me his card and said if the tooth gives me any problems I was not to hesitate to call him, although this weekend he was going to Monaco to watch some racing.

So here we are another 6 months later back at the old folk’s home with Dottor Roberto who is no playboy. Indeed I may be mistaken but he looks as though he may have gained a few pounds around the waist but it has been a while since he inserted the temporary filling that was only supposed to last me 2 months.  Dottor Roberto asked me which tooth was hurting. I replied “The one with the white temporary filling.”

Just to make sure he tapped each tooth in turn with his little steel rod. I don’t flinch or jump as he gave the bad tooth a whack. This was because I had taken precautions. I had dosed myself up with the best anti-inflammatory and pain killers I could find prior to leaving the house.

When Dottor Roberto found out about the pain killers he was not very impressed. After giving me a lecture on painkillers and the protocol for visiting the dentist which Mrs Sensible dutifully translated for me, (my wife hadn’t known about the pain killers either) she was giving me that you’re in trouble when you get home look; the dentist continued to explain that it is important that he can tell which tooth is hurting. Now I have always believed there has to be a streak of sadism in every dentist and this episode only goes to prove it.

My wife explained in mitigation that I have a very low pain threshold and he could see that I was looking a little worried so he obliged me by using enough anaesthetic to kill all the feeling on the left side of my face even my eyebrow was a little dead it seemed to be stuck up at an angle like one of Sean Connery eye brows. That coupled with the assorted pain killers I had taken before leaving the house I thought I would be ok.

My wife is as always the interpreter, she explained that if I feel any pain I was to raise my left hand. If I feel any pain he would know before I had had time to raise my left hand that’s for sure.

The Dentist with the help of his young assistant placed a piece of latex across my mouth and securing it in place with little rods that somehow must have been secured in and around my teeth. He then used what looked like a mini pastry cutter to cut a hole around my bad tooth and pushing it in place secured the latex. It was great, no debris from the drilling would drop into my mouth and the dentist wouldn’t have to stare at my tonsils. Although he needn’t have bothered as my tonsils had been removed twelve months previous when my nose was re-bored to stop me snoring like a pig. I have also for many years had trouble breathing just through my nose hence the nostril re-bore.

The latex had effectively shut off the air supply to my mouth and as I still have trouble breathing through my nose, every time I inhaled and exhaled the air that was forced in and out past the latex  made a sound not unlike a whoopee cushion. After a little adjustment both the dentist and I were a little happier. Dottor Roberto held out a hand mirror so that I can watch him drill my tooth. But with a shake of my head I refused it. I like to keep my eyes tightly closed as I grip my hands together in my lap in a difficult effort to control the panic and my natural response to leave the surgery.

As he started to drill I knew that if I relaxed everything would be ok but my nerves were straining; waiting for the inevitable pain. Meanwhile my wife is entertaining him with the tale of where, when and how we met and why we are now living in Italy. I lay there in the chair with my mouth wide open and a corner of the latex tickling my nose every time I breathed in or out, wondering if the dentist could concentrate on my teeth while chatting to my good wife.

The assistant had noticed that I had opened my eyes and that I did not look entirely relaxed and happy. She asked my wife “Lui va bene?” My wife said “Are you ok?” I managed to reply through the latex “Urrrmppph!” At that moment a mobile phone started to ring, it wasn’t mine or my wife’s as just before we entered the surgery we had switched them both off. The dental assistant calmly picked up the offending mobile and passed it to Dottor Roberto… “Pronto, ciao Alberto, come stai. si ok dove si va bene…..”

I was gob smacked; truly astounded not only was my dentist talking on his mobile, he was still drilling my tooth. I tried to signal to my wife with my eyes that I was not pleased and the panic I had managed to hold just under the surface was close to escaping.

After what seemed like an eternity the assistant spotted that I was a little stressed and that my eyeballs appeared to be popping out of my head. She calmly ushered the dentist who was still talking on his phone out of the room.

Italian phone calls are never short and end with lots of goodbyes ciao baci arrivederci si domani ok capisco ciao ciao.

I was still in the chair with the tube sucking away in my mouth the latex burping away happily as the doctor reappeared to frosty scowls from both the assistant and me.

The good news is I survived the procedure. The bad news is I had another appointment in ten days time for him to finish reconstructing the tooth. As I left the surgery I promised the dottor that I wouldn’t dose myself with pain killers next time if he promised not to answer his phone while he was drilling my teeth

L’orto and the Fairies

9.30 on Sunday morning I opened our front door to be greeted by a basket of grapes sitting on our patio table. To be honest I was not surprised, happy and grateful yes, but not surprised.  In the year that we have lived in this house various vegetables have magically appeared on the table. During the summer it was tomatoes and zucchini, now it is the time for baskets of grapes and pretty soon large squash will start to appear.

During the week we share our good fortune with our friends because try as we might it is not possible to eat the number of eggs or vegetables that are left on the table. It is not the fairies or a leprechaun that leaves the food on the table but our neighbour Luigina.

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Luigina is eighty-seven years old and when she is not digging in her l’orto she is cleaning out or feeding her twelve hens. One day I asked Luigina how many eggs the hens lay, around six a day she told me, and how many eggs do you eat, around two a week. We receive between six and twelve eggs a week the other thirtyish eggs are given to her friends and relatives. A few eggs a month are stolen by her dog. I have occasionally seen him jump the fence, pinch one egg and carefully carry it unbroken back to his kennel. So why keep twelve hens when you only eat two a week? To pass the time she tells me.

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Lila, the dog that jumps fences and steals eggs

At eighty seven Luigina is surprisingly fit, I have watched Luigina digging with beads of sweet running down her face, so one morning as I contemplated my own mortality and the fact that I could do with losing a few pounds I decided to start my own l’orta.

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Luigina with Nebbiolo grapes, her grandson produces the fine  Barolo wine.

One Saturday in May under the supervision of Luigina I staked out a plot of land four meters by 12 meters for my l’orto, she advised me to use the land near a tree so there would be some shade during the summer. Looking at my plot of land Luigina was working out which plants should go where. I was working out how many calories it would take to dig the hard clay over and how much weight I would lose. She told me I would need some letame because the ground was new. As I nodded in agreement I thought I must remember to ask my wife what letame was.

Sunday was beautiful and armed with my trusty spade (that had last seen action when I was working part-time for two Italian girls who had tried to create an English garden in the middle of an Italian field) I strode purposely down the garden to my l’orto. The fairies had arrived again. This time it was not a basket of grapes but my l’orto had been completely dug over.

As I stood there with my working boots on and my spade in my hand Luigina arrived. I need to quickly add that my Italian is not very good and understanding Luigina is sometimes difficult because she drifts between Italian and her local dialect Piemontese, and I only understand a little Italian but the gist of the conversation was her cousin had arrived with his tractor and late on Saturday he had dug the l’orto over for me. Probably he was paid in eggs.

Five months on we have had fresh vegetables ranging from crisp peas to strawberries, and one of the best parts of owning a l’orto is not eating the fresh vegetables, or watching something miraculously grow from a seed or trying to lose a bit of weight, but playing at fairies and leaving strawberries or potatoes outside Luiginas door.