8 things about a Black Sheep

I have been tasked with telling you nice people, 8 things you need to know about Pecora Nera.  I could keep my mishaps to myself, but then I would have to decline the award that the nice lady at Sandcastles in Portugal gave me.

Ok, here we go.

Number 1

When I was 13 I was asked to be a cox for the Sheffield Rowing Club. It was great fun, I used to sit at the back of the boat and tell a crew of men or women what to do. I loved it! We raced all over the country and the two crews I raced with were very successful, we even won a Gold Medal at the Vesta International Championships.

One weekend it was peeing it down raining rather heavily. On that fateful day we arrived late at Nottingham Regatta. By the time we had  rowed to the starting position, my boat was a quarter full of water. We asked the umpire if we could empty the water out of our boat. The umpire told us that we were late and if we didn’t come to the start position immediately, he would disqualify us. I wonder if he is related to Mr Cretino?

So we started the race with enough water in the boat to take a bath in. As the oarsmen took their first stroke, all the water in the boat was forced down the boat and into my lap. As I frantically bailed the water out with my little hat, the crew slid forward to take the second stroke and all the water rushed down to the bow of the boat (the bow is the pointy bit at the front). I was just trying to work out why all the water had disappeared, when two of the crew at the pointy end stopped rowing. So I shouted at them, I told them to join back in as soon as they could. Ronnie, a huge tall Irishman, shouted back: ” We are f&%$ing sinking!!”  There was no Kate Winslet to hold my hand as my boat slowly but surely disappeared below the waves.

Pecora Nera sinks at Nottingham Regatta

Pecora Nera sinks at the Nottingham Regatta

 Number 2 (can things get worse)

When I was nineteen, I decided to host a Christmas party in my little flat. I invited my friends from the local pub including Sarah and Julie (I think those were their names). Both of them declined my party invitation, because Joy (I am 100% sure I have her name correct) was due to perm their hair on the night of my party. While I was drinking my pint of beer, I suddenly had an incredible idea. I would invite Joy and she could perm and set the two girls hair while we all partying: easy peasie lemon sqeezy. Joy and the girls agreed.

My hair needed cutting, as it was getting just a bit too long. So Joy suggested she could perm it for me (remember these were  the 70’s). Obviously I promptly declined the offer; you see… I can be sensible at times, just like my wife. However, after 2 or 6 drinks it actually did seem like a bit of a wheeze to have my hair permed.  So, having being asked again, this time I agreed.

Joy, who was no longer the Sensible hairdresser that I knew from the pub, giggled while she poured the solution on my head. We all got another drink and sat down and gossiped danced the night away. All of a sudden, Joy let out a shriek we all turned to her, and she said ” oh my gosh, you still have the perm solution on your head!”  I then looked at Sarah and Julie who were suddenly collapsing in a giggling heap. I personally didn’t understand what the problem was, even after Joy dragged me into the kitchen to wash the solution out of my hair.

Never get your hair cut at a party.

Never get your hair cut at a party.

I don’t remember much more of the party, I vaguely remember dancing to We are family and Le’ Freak.  I remember waking up the following morning with an enormous hangover; as I rubbed my poorly head, my fingers felt a mass and I mean a mass of tight frizzy curly hair, not unlike the picture above.

Number 3

When I was seven and unable to swim, my older brother took me boating in Stamford Park in Manchester. All of a sudden the heavens opened and it started to rain, which is not unexpected in rainy Manchester; knowing that I couldn’t swim, David took the decision to head for the island in the middle of the lake rather than the safety of the landing stage, where the boat owner was waving to us. As we reached the island, David said: “Quick, get out and I will steady the boat”.   I really believed him… duh! With one foot in the boat and one foot on the island, the little boat slowly drifted away. It is amazing how quickly one learns how to swim.

My very first swimming lesson

My very first swimming lesson

Number 4 (Are you still with me?)

Whereas I was slightly inebriated when I had my perm ‘done’ I was stone cold sober, when it seemed like a good idea to have a tattoo printed on my body. My younger brother had a mermaid winding itself down his leg, whereas I (mainly because I was sober and I thank the Lord I was) decided to have a discrete tattoo done. I wanted Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) printing somewhere about my body; and to this day it is still there. Mrs Sensible has obviously seen it, and the Germans at the sauna saw it.



Number 5: I ate at the same restaurant 36 times in a three month period.

Three times a week for three months,  I went to Maso Restaurant and indulged in their fine food,  in a vain attempt to persuade Miss Sensible to go out for a meal / drink with me.  She kept turning me down with excuses such as: she needed to wash her hair… she was too tired or had a much more sensible thing to do than going for a drink with a crazy Englishman. Not one to take a hint, I would simply rebook another meal.

Ah! I am sorry Miss Sensible isn't working tonight, try again tomorrow

Ah! I am sorry Miss Sensible isn’t working tonight, try again tomorrow

Number 6: I have been a pilot taa raaa.

My elder brother is stinking rich; I am poor as a …. well poor. My brother has his own plane, it even has a go faster stripe down the side. One weekend he offered to take me flying. As we flew over Lincolnshire he let me take the controls of the plane and asked: “Have you ever gone cloud hopping”, “cloud hopping?” I asked.

“Yes: you head for a cloud and pretend you are a battle of Britain pilot”. So David and I went cloud hopping, neeeeeooowwww; the plane went as we shot down through the clouds. As we burst out of the cloud into the sun we shouted Rat tat tat tat tat and pretended to blast the imaginary German Luftwaffe. We were having a great time until the local air controller asked in a very British clipped voice “could you please confirm your direction. Ooops! Once a Pecora Nera always a Pecora Nera.

Fortunately I didn't decide to fly for an airline.

Fortunately I didn’t decide to fly for an airline.

Number 7

I am a dog man. I like pussy cats, but I prefer dogs. I want a big daft dog that will chase sticks; however, at the moment I have a cat that sleeps in our garage and he isn’t really our cat. I had to dissuade Mrs Sensible from putting a collar on him yesterday. We feed him twice a day, he has been deflead and has thanked us by peeing on the stairs and leaving a little parcel for me in the garage. Mrs Sensible said he does it because he knows I won’t let him into the house.

Scooby Doo lives in a box in the garage. Although he is not completely happy with this arrangement.

Scooby Doo lives in a box in the garage. Although he is not completely happy with this arrangement. PS dear NHS supplies if you want your box back, you may come and fetch it.

8) I have been awarded The Woman’ Skirt Award, hence the 8 facts about me.

Woman's Skirt Award

Woman’s Skirt Award

And 8 other people who deserve this award? Very difficult to pick only 8

http://livinginthelanghe.wordpress.com/ Mrs Sensible and I went and visited them a week ago, Mrs Living in the Langhe was wonderful, their little dog Otto was fab, I can’t remember much about Mr Living in the Langhe.

http://ilghepardo.wordpress.com/ This lady is not scared of trees.

http://ytaba36.wordpress.com/ Yvonne from Ytaba. Maybe I will invite Mrs Sensible and I to her part of the world.

http://lifeisbutalabyrinth.wordpress.com/ He makes me laugh even on a Monday. The man has more blogs than I have fingers..

http://bluefishway.com/ Ralf is as mad as me.

http://ididnthavemyglasseson.com/ A really nice blog.

http://1writeway.com/ A great blog for all you budding writers.

And last but not least ANDY, who comments on my blog. Andy, now you have an award, go and start a blog.

You 8 now have to write a post, include 8 things about yourself and nominate 8 other blogs. To read the proper rules go and visit HERE

Sauna German Style

Sauna German Style

Last time I was in Germany I visited a spa and sauna centre, and after the swim I decided to try my first ever sauna so wrapping my towel around my waist I went in search of the sauna rooms.

The first wooden door had a sign with DAME and although my German is limited to words learnt while watching war films, I thought it was prudent not to enter that particular door. The following door had Finnish printed on it, so very slowly I peeked inside. Four huge male Germans were sat on the wooden benches buck naked. It was only as I entered the sauna that I realised that although they were naked, under my towel I still had my trunks on. I am not sure which would be more embarrassing, caught wearing trunks in a German sauna or sitting there naked with a bunch of Germans.

I decided that they were men after all and we are all made the same, just slightly different in places, so I excused myself and retreated back to the changing room to ditch the trunks. Knowing you are nude under a towel as you walk through the swimming pool area while everyone else has a costume on is a very nerve-racking experience, once or twice I nearly chickened out and went back for my costume.

Swimming Trunks

When I returned to the sauna the four Germans were still sat cooking away, so ditching my protective towel I sat down on one of the benches as far away from them as I could. It was hot and I mean really hot; after walking out of the sauna once I knew I would have to stay at least 5 minutes or if I was lucky I might manage to leave when the Germans had had enough.  As I sat watching beads of sweat miraculously appear on my arm I decided that protocol or no protocol, I desperately needed to leave the sauna. It was just as I started to stand up that the door opened and three pretty women walked in. One lay down on the bench and the other two sat across from me.

No one uttered a word; none of the Germans said the girl’s sauna is down the corridor. I couldn’t say anything, my German was limited to halt, ausfart and bitte and all I could think was they are naked, nude, no clothes and oh lord so am I.  I was already cooked to a crisp and wanted to leave the sauna, but now I would have to stand up in front of these women, and no way was I about to wander out with nothing to cover my modesty. My hands had moved from my knees and were now strategically covered myself, which wasn’t really necessary because it is amazing what heat and fright does to a man.

As I sat there pondering what my options were, the sauna door opened and one of the attendants appeared. I immediately thought he had come to shoo the girls out and send them back to the girly sauna, but with quick clever flicks of a towel he forced some of the heat out of the sauna and into the corridor. I thought I could therefore manage a couple more minutes in the reduced temperature.

The attendant then closed the sauna door and tried to cool the room down by splashing water onto the bricks in the corner, lots of steam filled the room and to be honest it didn’t seem to get any cooler in fact I got the impression that  the room was getting hotter. Grabbing his towel the attendant started to wave it in the air above the girls, I glanced across at this spectacle but it wasn’t erotic. To be honest I was too busy trying to work out my exit plan to be worried over erotic thoughts.

The guy then moved around the room to the Germans I waited with bated breath for him to reach me so that I could receive some cool air. When it was finally my turn he started to wave the towel above and in front of me. This guy was either a sadist or stupid what was he trying to do kill me? I had to take a look at his towel to make sure it wasn’t a heat gun; I swear I was receiving third degree burns.

Third Degree Burns

When he had finished his little act everyone clapped, I have decided that the Germans are mad.

I left the sauna as soon as the attendant opened the door and showed the girls a clean pair of heals as I escaped down the corridor. In the corridor with my towel securely fastened around my waist I realised that it hadn’t been as bad as I thought, no one whistled or laughed as I exited, I am sure they would have in England, it was all just so .. normal maybe a bit surreal. I wandered down the corridor and came across two old dears both very old, very naked and very wrinkled who were chatting away sat on their towels next to the biggest Jacuzzi I have ever seen. There were already ten people in it and space for at least another fourteen.  So I made up number eleven and ditching my towel I entered the Jacuzzi.

As I sat amongst the bubbles feeling very relaxed my mind drifted to my wife Mrs Sensible who would be ironing or cooking parmigiana. I am sure she would love to sit in a sauna and relax in a Jacuzzi, but I know there is no way she would do it nude. It is just not done in Italy or for the matter in the UK.

Thanks to Pixby Shumbles for inspiring my post. I did write a post about swimming in the spa but it has disappeared.

Driving in Italy

Driving on Italian roads is just like participating in a grand Nintendo game but with only one life.  The object of the game “Guida” is to try to overtake the car in front, regardless of his speed or the road conditions, while preventing the car behind from gaining points by overtaking you. Points are deducted for the use of indicators or if you are caught driving within the speed limit; however points are gained if you manically flash your headlights while tailgating the car in front. Bonus points are awarded while tailgating if you know it is impossible for the car in front to pull over to let you past. Guida is played throughout Italy although at different levels depending on how far North or South of Florence you are. I mention Florence because the Fiorentini are prohibited from playing Guida mainly because there are an awful lot of autovelox and the local police fine drivers for speeding, which is not really very sporting or Italian.

Toll Booths on an Italian Autostrada

Italian toll booths, two lanes open up to 10 lanes for the toll booths and back to 2 lanes to join the autostrada. Always an excellent opportunity to practise your 0 to 60 acceleration and dodging / weaving skills.

Palermo and Catania play this game on their roads with a slight difference, points are awarded for the use of exaggerated hand signals and for vocal instructions to other gamers, bonus points if the local dialect is used. With regards to Naples the Neapolitans don’t play Guida at all, it is far too easy for them, they play a game that is a derivation of Rollaball and only experts should consider participating. On a recent trip to Germany I found out that Guida is not permitted in either Switzerland or Germany, their police take a dim view of this Italian pastime, and will fine anyone caught attempting to play the game. Perhaps one day it will be allowed because the Swiss and Germans take great delight in joining the game of Guida as soon as they cross into Italy.

On Thursday I was visited a couple of clients in Germany, and I stayed at a great hotel the food was fantastic and the room was clean and orderly, although to my disappointment they had taken the precaution of emptying the mini bar before I had arrived. Over a drink with the hotelier, I can’t remember her name but she was probably called Greta we discussing the differences between Germany and Italy, her comment was “Yes Germany is well organised but Italy has nice wine and pasta, and they seem to enjoy life more in Italy, we are sometimes too serious in Germany”. So it is not just the English that think the Germans have no sense of Humour.

Greta or maybe she was called Hilda asked me if I had tried the local spa, she informed me that if I wanted to go swimming I could rent a towel and purchase some trunks at the spa. After a 6 hour drive through Europe and a days work it sounded like a really good way of relaxing and easing the knots in my back. So I set off for a relaxing swim.

At the swimming pool there was an orderly queue of people waiting to pay for the entrance to the swimming pool. As I reached the head of the queue the receptionist said “bitte” .  Erh do you speak English? I asked. Of course.

Of course!! I forgot it is only the English that only speak one language. I was once told that someone who can converse in three languages is tri lingual, someone who can speak in two languages is bi lingual and someone who can only understand one language is English. Anyway I asked how much to use the swimming pool, 8 euros and 12 if I wanted to use the sauna after. I have never used a sauna but a deal is a deal and I decided to go for the full package.

I changed into my trunks and headed towards the swimming pool. As I entered the warm pool and swam briskly to the centre I was amazed to see that the only person swimming was me, all the other swimmers were standing around the edge of the pool, watching me. There is nothing like the rabbit in the car headlight moment to bring you to your senses and evaluate what faux pas you have just committed. As I swam around in circles I noticed that there was an orderly queue waiting to enter the pool, in my excitement to go swimming I had somehow missed it, but as I stood contemplated getting out of the pool and joining the queue I heard a buzzer and to my amazement everyone standing in the pool took a step to their right and one of the Germans that had patiently queued on the steps entered the water as one women left the pool.

To say I was bemused is a bit of an understatement, I turned a full circle in fact I turned around twice just to see if I could graciously leave the pool by another exit. Unfortunately there was only one  exit and there were 32 Germans watching me, I know because I had counted them. As the buzzer once again sounded the static swimmers once again took a step to their right, one more German entered the pool and another left. It was at this point that I nearly drowned; all I could think was the Germans are so organised and disciplined that they even swim by numbers. A woman left her position by the side of the pool and swam to the exit. I decided I had better take her place until I work out if I was allowed to swim or if I also had to move around the pool as regimented as a soldier.

As I backed into the vacant space that she had created, a blast of water hit my left buttock and very nearly knocked me of my feet. As I grabbed the side of the pool I noticed a silver disc stuck to the side with the number seven printed on it. As I stabilised myself and experimented with the water jet the buzzer sounded again, I was quiet reluctant to move away from station seven but the man to my right at station eight had moved and the huge woman to my left was looking at me as though I was a sandwich short of a picnic, even a man who was patiently waiting to enter the pool looked at me as he realised it was I who was holding up his swimming. So I took a step to the right. It was at this point that the giggles hit me and another water blast from the side of the pool buffered the small of my back. I don’t normally suffer from the giggles but it was all too much for me, here I was in a swimming pool being watched by a bunch of very serious Germans waiting for the next buzzer while thinking of the song The Time Warp  from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. ♫It’s just a jump to the left  and then a step to the right .♫  Too much, much too much. The more I tried not to giggle the worse it got. I managed to get to station 10 a water jet to the back of the knees, before I gave up and left the pool. I walked back to my locker and wrapping the towel around my waist I went in search of the sauna and jacuzzi. Which I may or may not blog about.