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

Does this stuff really happen!!!

I received an e mail asking me, what inspires me to write my posts and does this stuff really happen or do I just have an over active imagination. So let me take this opportunity to put the record straight. Much to Mrs Sensible’s dismay, my blog is as it happens here. Mrs Sensible wouldn’t allow me to tell lies or exaggerate. If I did she would hit me with a wet wooden spoon.

Mrs Sensible is deadly with a wet wooden spoon.

Mrs Sensible is deadly with a wet wooden spoon.

How do I decide what to write about?  Well let me give you an example.

Two weeks ago my reading glasses were sitting on my face at a funny angle, so I took them off and tried to straighten them. I heard a little snap and ended up with two monocles, one for each eye.  Mrs Sensible just looked at me as my glasses fell apart in my hands. “What have you done now?” she asked. Nothing I replied as I tried to hide my glasses in my pocket.

A monocle for each eye.

A monocle for each eye.

Breaking my glasses is not a huge problem as I also wear contact lenses. Unfortunately I lost several boxes of contact lenses when we moved house. I can find my corkscrew and my bottles of wine. We have eventually found the kettle, but my lenses are still in a box…. Probably marked Christmas decorations!!

Are they in the box marked Christmas?

Are they in the box marked Christmas decorations?

Like everyone else I have two eyes, my right eye does all the work and my left eye… well it is there only for decoration, it is called a lazy eye. It looks normal but it just refuses to work. When I went for my eye examination for my Italian driving licence, the doctor gave me a paddle to cover my left eye as he tested my right eye. Everything was OK, however when he asked me to cover my right eye and read the letters on the wall, I was tempted to ask him “what wall?” I managed to get around this slight difficulty by removing the paddle and having a quick look at the letters before the doctor turned around and asked me what he had just pointed at.

What do you mean, where has the wall gone

What do you mean, where has the wall gone?

So what inspired me to write this post? Well last week we had the COSI on-line discussion and I was sat in a bar with a glass of wine, squinting at my laptop. I couldn’t find any more contact lenses, my reading glasses are broken so my solution was to wear my normal glasses and over the top of those I put on a pair of Mrs Sensible’s reading glasses, with the double magnification and providing I partially closed my left eye I could read my laptop almost perfectly.

With my multiple sets of glasses I looked quite sexy

With my multiple sets of glasses I looked quite sexy

After a couple of glasses of wine I forgot that I was wearing two sets of glasses. When the waitress who delivered my third glass of wine, looked at me funnily I immediately checked to make sure my fly was zipped up.

The COSI webcam was a bit chaotic, but I enjoyed it. I sat there with a glass of wine in one hand, an ear phone plugged into my right ear and my finger stuck into my left ear to block out the noise of the bar, oh and two sets of glasses on. I think ‘M’ from Married to Italy sent me a message and said Pecora “ your webcam is on we can see you” I didn’t worry too much until I realised what I must look like, after all I was already getting strange looks from the people in the bar.

So do I make this stuff up? No this is life as I know it in Italy

Press the button

Press the button

It is amazing just what you can order, with the press of a button over the internet; when I need some bacon I go on line and press the button, if I require some English books I just press the button.

Close your eyes and press that button

Close your eyes and press that button

In May I pressed the button and ordered 2 workaways from the USA to help paint my new house. They arrived on time and in good condition. Normally the first thing I do when I receive something over the internet, is I remove its protective packaging and check it for faults and damage. I particularly like stuff that arrives in bubble wrap, I can get around 10 minutes fun popping the bubbles.

Mrs Sensible said it was not necessary this time to remove the protective packaging and added that if I attempted to remove any part of their protective packaging, something might break. I think she was hinting that I might damage my fingers or even my neck. Although I couldn’t understand how this might happen,  I decided to take her advice.

Workaway 1 checking the protective packaging is still in place

Workaway 1 checking that the protective packaging of workaway 2 is still in place

Throughout June our workaways wandered around our house and packed our stuff into boxes, they helped keep the house nice and clean and seemed to function incredibly well. The only thing we had to do was feed them and give them a corner to sleep in. When we transferred to the new house, we reprogrammed the workaways to unbox our belongings and set about painting the house. The reprogramming was very easy, with my Tomtom satnav I need to hook it up to my laptop, but with the workaways they had a very simple verbal interface.

Workaways 1 & 2 safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty during the night. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

Workaways One and  Two safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

The new house has a wine cellar, so one evening I took a drive to one of our local wine cantinas to buy some wine. I took the workaways with me to help carry the heavy boxes of wine. While we were there I let them taste a glass or two and the transformation was amazing. They really liked the wine, in fact when it was time to go they really didn’t want to leave.

Workaway 2 didn't want to leave

Workaway 2 didn’t want to leave

I don’t like reading the instructions that come with items I order over the internet and the manual wasn’t very clear. Instruction number 2 stated: Do not mix with alcohol.  Did it mean I shouldn’t drink alcohol when operating the workaways, or they shouldn’t drink the alcohol. I decided to ignore the warning; I couldn’t ask Mrs Sensible what she thought, because she had flown to Sicily to see her mother and left me in charge of our workaways.  Her instructions regarding what I could and could not do with the workaways was very simple, clear and specific, it also included what might happen if I disregarded any of her advice or attempted to remove the workaways protective packaging.

Two days later I decided to see if the workaways enjoyed burnt food, so I fired up the barbeque and burnt some chicken and some sausage. Workaway number 1 was despatched to the wine cellar to fetch some wine and workaway number 2 was ordered to begin the task of opening the wine.

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine


Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

What happened next was unbelievable, all the expensive programming just stopped working. They couldn’t follow simply instructions, when I suggested workaway 1 should go and mow the lawn she collapsed in giggles.

Workaway one just laughed when I asked her to mow the lawn

Workaway one just giggled when I asked her to mow the lawn

When I told workaway 2 to clear up the mess and start cleaning the kitchen she just laughed at me. It was a very disappointing evening.

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Yesterday I returned the workaways to America with a strongly written complaint and I have suggested they should improve their user manual. I have ordered another workaway for September, hopefully its programming will not be affected by a little alcohol.

Thanks to Mrs Sensible for tolerating me and a very Special thanks to Jessica and Liz for being so much fun and working so hard and thanks to the guy who invented workaway red wine.

Best e-mail received☺

E Mail

If there is one thing I like better than reading the comments on my little blog of madness, it is receiving an e-mail from someone who has read my blog and taken the time to trawl through my speling spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Imagine my excitement when I opened and read the following E-Mail, from a lady asking for my advice and help. I was very excited because is not often I get asked to supply advice, normally I supply it whether it is wanted or not, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

I will call Antonella from London, Mrs X to preserve her identity.

On 13 January 2014 17:07, Antonella wrote:

Name: Mrs X
Email: Removed
Comment: Dear Pecora Nera,

What a brave man you are…leaving Uk for Italy, which let’s face it it’s not always sunny and cheerful!

I’m facing a dilemma and I could really do with your advise! My beloved English husband of 8 years keeps on putting learning Italian off. I’m trying my hardest not to take it personally, and while he can mumble the odd word and understand quite well, he says he really doesn’t like learning and he married me because of me and not because I’m Italian. That’s lovely, one’d say, but I can’t help getting frustrated ’cause a) everybody would love to learn Italian b) I’m tired of translating for him when we are in Italy..

My question to you is, do I give up and be happy with my amazing husband the way he is or do I keep on pushing ’till he gives in?  Somehow I sense that once we get to spend longer periods it’ll be easier for him to pick up the language…

I’m very sorry about my odd request, but I love your blog and I read that you too struggled with the language…

Warmest Regards,

Antonella

Dear Antonella,

Thank you for your lovely e mail, I am really glad you enjoy my little blog of madness. I have never done the “agony aunt” bit before, so I thought it would be useful to answer your E mail in 2 parts, I will give you my suggestions and then Mrs Sensible will give you hers.

Pecora Nera suggests.

You are fighting a lost cause. Love him lots, make him cups of tea, always make sure his favourite beer is in the fridge and his comfy slippers are next to the fire.

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

Always leave a space at the bottom for vegetables and butter

You might want to teach him the following key phrases,

1) Quanto Costa? (How much is it)

2) Dovè il bagno (Where is the bathroom)

2) Dovè è mia moglia (Where is my wife)

3) Non me piace seppia nera (I don’t like that gross squid cooked in black ink that looks ikky, so please stop making me eat it)

4) Mi piace il vino rosso, vino bianco, grappa etc. (I like red wine, white wine, grappa)

Other than the above, I find that if I speak slowly, a little louder and add a suitable vowel onto the end of an English word, the locals understand me. In the past 6 years my ability to mime has improved greatly. I am sure I could easily win any Christmas game of charades, with one hand tied behind my back.

John wasn't playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

John wasn’t playing charades, he had just trapped his fingers in the piano

Mrs Sensible suggests.

I have found a wet wooden pasta spoon is a good way of motivating Pecora Nera.

Mrs Sensible's tools of motivation

Mrs Sensible’s tools of motivation

If your husband is like Pecora Nera and is either pigro (lazy) or  incapace, (incapable) simple stop translating for him. When I am fed up with translating, I just stop. Pecora will then stand next to me saying “what?, what?, tell me!, Sorry I missed that, what did he/she say?”

I can now hold a conversation with a friend and manage to blank out his voice. After a while it becomes easy, much easier than trying to force him to learn the language. I have tried to teach him Italian but he even forgets the Italian vowels. Pecora is like a mule, I cannot force him to learn, he picks up words and sentences because he has to.

Me, stubborn? I won't have it said.

Me, stubborn? I won’t have it said.

Obviously he quickly learnt how to order wine, grappa and corretto.

Make sure there is more grappa than espresso.

Corretto:  There should always be more grappa than espresso.

As a last resort, tell your husband he can’t come to Italy next summer unless he takes the language seriously.

Best regards

Mrs Sensible

I hope Mrs X found our advice useful and remember.

A person who can speak 3 languages is multi lingual

A Person who can speak two languages is bi lingual

A finally, someone who can only speak one language is an Englishman.

 

PS. I have had so much fun with this post, I have decided to become an agony aunt. So if you have any questions relating to living in Italy. Just send them via my contact form. 😉

Forced to eat vegetables.

Cabbage, it is green its healthy and good for you. Uh huh

Cabbage, it is green, it’s healthy and good for you. Uh huh

9.30 pm Sunday 20th October 2013

PN : I am hungry.

Mrs S. You’re hungry? It’s a bit late.

PN: uh huh.

Mrs S: There’s some cabbage in the fridge go and nuke it.

PN: It’s ok I’m not that hungry.

Mrs S: You’re like a child, you eat with your eyes and your ears.

PN: Where are you going?

Mrs S: To nuke the cabbage.

PN: NO, REALLY IT IS OK. I AM NOT HUNGRY

3 mins later……. PING

munch munch munch

PN: How come this cabbage is so nice, what did you do to it?

Mrs S. I cooked it in some of your red wine.

PN: Is there any more?

Mrs S: See? You should listen to me more often, you are like a child.

PN: Uh huh.

Mrs Sensible's Cabbage

Mrs Sensible’s Cabbage, cooked in my best Barbera with onion, carrots and love.

I have quit the booze…

On Tuesday the 8th of October in the year of our Lord 2013 I supped my last glass of wine.

englishman in Italy

I have quit drinking this lovely stuff

I am yet to notice any significant health benefits. In fact my health took a downward turn last Friday when I complained of some sort of manflu. Mrs Sensible examined me and said it was probably a bad case of asthma. She promptly prescribed an antihistamine tablet, after a lot of protesting that they only send me to sleep, I dutiful took the offered pill and promptly fell asleep.  I slept from Friday evening  straight through to Saturday evening, only waking up long enough to take another pill and then immediately became comatose until some-time on Sunday.

I lost two days of my life to sleep

I lost two days of my life to sleep

You guys know I don’t trust or like doctors or dentists, but under threats of severe repercussions, if I didn’t do as I was told, I was finally persuaded by Mrs Sensible to go and see the local medicine man, mainly because my coughing at bedtime was worse than my snoring and was keeping both of us awake.

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

My Doctor is not quite like this, but then again..

The doctor diagnosed that I was suffering from Brontosaurus or some other dreaded disease probably related to cervical. He prescribed an intense 5 day course of antibiotics, a little bottle of clear liquid to stop my coughing, pastels for my sore throat and not wanting to be left out, my good wife Mrs Sensible made me use an inhaler for people who are suffering from asthma. We agreed to disagree on the added benefits of using another antihistamine tablet.

I am sure my Italian doc  said I had brontosaurus

I am sure my Italian doc said I had brontosaurus

Last night, which was three days into my treatment, I suddenly suffered a coughing fit. Tears were rolling down my face and the only sound I could produce was whuu whuu whuuuu. My lungs finally decided to go on strike and as I staggered into the kitchen while trying to bang my back in a vain attempt to re-start my lungs; I heard Mrs Sensible drop her mobile phone and come running into the kitchen to help me: she immediately joined in the banging on my back; as she slowly bludgeoned me to the floor I could hear her friend continuing to talk on the phone through the loud speaker, totally ignorant to the fact that she was talking to herself and that my wife was trying to save my life.

My lungs decided they couldn’t withstand any more of the punishing Mrs Sensible was meeting out to them and with a loud gasp of air they started to work again. I managed to squeak “basta basta” enough enough to Mrs Sensible and she stopped her onslaught.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

Basta basta I can breathe honestly.

As I slowly got back up to my feet, I cast a quick glance to make sure Mrs Sensible hadn’t taken too much pleasure from beating me to the floor, fortunately all I could see in her eyes was love and concern.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

I know Mrs Sensible loves me, really she does.

OOOH! I have news from Mr Cretino allegedly he has my new Italian driving licence, I wonder which name it will be in. When I get my breath back I will fill you in and when I finish my antibiotics I will raise a glass or two of wine to you all.

Bye for now

Pecora Nera

Bloggers European Bunfight

Montgomery Fest (that is the the couple that go around holding hands a lot) and Mrs Sensible and I are considering the possibility of organising a weekend meeting in Budapest for bloggers.

So we are testing the water to see if anyone is interested in joining us for a weekend of madness fun.

We are thinking of springtime

Spring flowers

This is the only picture that I could find of spring flowers

A fun Awards Ceremony

Awards we will try to get Charlize Theron

Awards we will try to get Charlize Theron

And either a dinner

A light lunch

A light lunch

and or a dance.

A little tea party

A little tea party

So if you think you might be interested either send me a message with how many people, using this form, or contact Montgomery Fest using this form

or stamp your feet and shout very loudly

Stamp your feet and shout

Stamp your feet and shout

We have created a second site where we will upload more details, as soon as we get some feedback and numbers. Please go to http://bloggersbunfight.wordpress.com

Yoo hoo I am back

I have been away from bloggoland for almost a month and I have to say I miss you guys. I enjoy writing about the crazy stuff that happens to me in Italy, but more importantly I love the comments and interaction between other bloggers. So, normal service has now resumed or as normal as it is ever likely to get.

Over the past month, we have had an assortment of Mrs Sensible’s family arrive and depart, I have eaten too much fine Italian food and gained nearly all the weight that I had earlier lost. I have also played countless games of Scoponi, see here for instructions. My Zia gave me a new nickname ‘Furbo’, I think it means ‘he who wins every game of Scoponi.’

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

Some of us are naturally lucky, and some of us have 2 gold sevens in our hand

 Last week I flew to the UK to watch my daughter’s passing out parade, we celebrated with copious quantities of beer as only an Englishman can. The following day I was Godparent to one of my nieces and once again we celebrated with gallons of beer at the local rugby club.

Proud, so very proud of her. She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in the troop.

Proud, so very proud of her.
She is holding a medal she was awarded for attaining the best fitness in her troop.

Feeling slightly hung-over and very tired I arrived at East Midlands airport at 5.30 am Sunday morning. Still wearing the clothes I had partied in four hours earlier. I consider myself a seasoned traveller; I know not to wear boots with large metal eyelets. I understand that if you don’t remove your watch and belt before passing through security, the guards become upset and will give you a quick pat down to make sure you aren’t trying to smuggle a pen knife through security. Some people do you know, even innocent mother in laws.. see here.

I passed through the metal detector without a problem, as I started to rethread my belt and scoop up my loose change I noticed that there seemed to be a bit of excitement over someone’s hand luggage. Three security men were pointing at the monitor. It was at this point that my hand baggage emerged from the x ray machine. As I waited for it to trundle down to me, (I was still struggling to loop my belt through my pants,) a female security guard picked it up, turned it on its side and pushed it back into the machine.

Stranger and stranger I thought, as my case disappeared into the machine, the guards again started pointing at the monitor. This time I took a long stare at the monitor, they were pointing at a dark grey square that looked like a big block of plasticine. Ah ha I thought, my two kilos of hermetically sealed bacon does kind of resemble a slab of semtex, or maybe even, the better quality C4 much used by the professionals.

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

Plasticine, not to be mistaken for Semtex

As my case exited the machine for the second time, the female security guard asked in a very loud and authoritarian voice. “Whose case is this?” I sheepishly held up my hand and frantically started to worry, if it was illegal to transport parts of dead pigs across European borders. “Did you pack it yourself… sir?” she asked.

Breathing a fair quantity of the previous evening’s alcohol in her general direction, I said I had packed it. “Can I look inside” she asked. Now, I have always, always wanted to say “No bog off”, but ever so politely I said of course.  As she started to rummage through my clothes, I tried to breathe the alcohol fumes out the side of my mouth, “it’s full of dirty clothes” I said, as a pair of boxers rose to the top of the case. Ah ha, mmm hum, she muttered. She moved my camera case, that contained my Semtex Plastacine C4  hermetically sealed middle back bacon and grabbed a box of Yorkshire T bags. “Erm” I said raising a finger in the air. “Two minutes” she said as she waltzed of down the conveyor with my precious cargo of T bags.

My two favourite drinks.

My two favourite drinks. Yorkshire tea and Barone di San Pietro

When she returned, she gave me back my T Bags and said “they looked strange on the monitor, but you can pack your bag and go” I nearly, ever so nearly said you made a mistake, what you saw on the monitor that looked like a block of Semtex was my bacon. It was only because I was trying to breathe out of the left hand side of my mouth, thereby not intoxicating her with alcohol fumes that I literally… kept my mouth shut.

So the moral of this story is, if you want to smuggle Semtex bacon in your hand luggage, hide it in your camera case and drink enough alcohol the night before, so you remember not to open your mouth and incriminate yourself.

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

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.

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.

Image

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.

Workaway

A couple of months ago I found a site called www.workaway.info

The workaway concept is very simple. There are hosts who need some help and there are workaways who need somewhere to stay while they backpack around the world. No money changes hand, just a maximum of 5 hours work per day Monday to Friday in exchange for meals and a place to sleep.

I had a trawl around the site and found most of the hosts had organic farms and needed someone to help sow, dig, build or do something to earn their keep. There were also families who wanted help with looking after children and one or two old people who wanted help looking after themselves… I could probably fall into the later category but I have Mrs Sensible to look after me. Accommodation for the workaway ranged from a Teepee,(no kidding) to a self contained flat.

I thought is was a really good idea and decided to upload a couple of pictures of our house and announce that we needed domestic help in the house.  After vetting one or two people and I have to say Facebook is really useful for this task because it is amazing what people write on their pages I accepted a young woman called Chloe from Tasmania. Normally I would change her name but I have nothing but praise for Chloe.

That night I thought I had better tell Mrs Sensible about my experiment….

Part of the discussion with Mrs Sensible was, “but she is on the way and you hate ironing just as much as I do”.

Mrs Sensible really couldn’t get her head around the workaway concept, maybe it is an Italian culture thing or maybe it was her friends who made remarks like, so how long have you known her, and what if she goes rummaging around in your knicker drawer.  A week before Chloe was due to arrive Mrs Sensible said “if this girl is arriving on Monday we had better spend the weekend tiding the house and getting it ready!!!!!  It is defiantly an Italian culture thing, “we have a guest coming, you start cleaning and I will start baking”. No amount of protesting from me about the lack of work there would be left for our workaway experiment cut any ice.

Even after Chloe arrived there were problems. My wife was mixing up the concept of workaway and guestaway. Due to Italy’s Ferraogosto the two-week period when Italy grinds to a halt and everyone heads to the sea, both Mrs Sensible and I were at home while Chloe was with us. So Chloe managed to do a maximum of around 1 to 2 hours work a day the rest of the time we spent showing Chloe places like the King Palace in Turin, wine tasting at the local cantina or we went out to eat at our favourite pizzeria. We also spent a fine Sunday morning sat in a cafe drinking aperitif. In the house the two of them sat and watched videos or disappeared and went shopping. My wife would say Peter please go and fetch the washing in and I would splutter but but we have a guestaway…

Both Mrs Sensible and I are back at work and today I received another application from a workaway, Miss X from New Zealand is due to arrive on the 12th of this month. I will warn Mrs Sensible after the weekend because no way am I spending this weekend cleaning the house. I have sent a very detailed e-mail to Miss X from New Zealand with the work that is involved including, ironing, cleaning the bathroom & kitchen and mopping the floors and under no circumstance must I have to fetch the washing in or should she spend the day shopping or watching videos with my good wife Mrs Sensible.

Hello world!

Ramblings from An Englishman in Italy.

Ok plan B We will rent out our house and I will take any job in Italy.

Eunice calmly and slowly pointed out my inability to understand or construct even the most basic sentence in Italian.

“You are married to an Italian.

Your two best friends are Italian.

And so far the only words you have learnt are:-

ciao, si, non, cosi cosi (so so)

and non e’ vero (not true).”

 

“Non e’ vero” I replied.

In 2005 I married Eunice an Italian who had emigrated to the UK to try and escape the problems, confusion, poor driving and in her words corruption in Italy.  After two years of married life and against her better judgement I managed to persuade her that we could make a life in Sunny Italy. I think the constant English rain helped me to convince her that it might work.

I suggested to Eunice that if she finds a job in Italy as a teacher, she can support me while I turn our new Italian home into a bed and breakfast . This was plan A, which was well and totally scuppered by the collapse of several banks in the UK and of course the housing market.  My wife had played her part, she had found the teachers job and was sat in Italy waiting for yours truly. I on the other hand was sat in rainy Sheffield with a house we couldn’t sell.

Plan B didn’t really work either, I spent 2 years doing manual labour, gardening, builders labourer and fetch and carry for a landscape gardener. Despite my poor spelling and grammar I even considered teaching English, the traditional fall back position for any self respecting English Expat.

My first teaching assignment organised by my wife, was conversation with an Italian businessman. This was ideal because I didn’t need to spell anything. Marco and I met at the local cafe for our first lesson and my first piece of conversation was are we drinking wine or beer?  After several bottles of Peroni (we kept asking the cafe owner to clear the table in case my wife turned up) Marco suggested we start a business importing and marketing a range of liquid pumps, he must have realised I was not cut out to be a teacher.

Do I love Italy?

Yes, it is a great place but it shouldn’t be run by the Italians.

Do I hate Italy?

Yes there is a lot wrong with the country, as my wife tells me  “life is hard in Italy”

When I have to deal with anything to do with paperwork, the Italian post office or when the education department  fails to pay Eunice for 3 months I do think that I should have listened to my wife when she said “life in Italy is hard”. But all the problems of Italy disappear when I have a glass of  fine wine in my hand and I am sat in the glorious sunshine outside one of the many cafe’s in the villages hidden in the Monferrato hills.

Do I miss the UK? I don’t miss the weather, or the traffic and speed cameras, I do miss Bacon, Walkers Crisps and a decent cup of   tea and of course English humour.  At times I  miss standing in a real pub, having a couple of drinks with friends and laughing out loud. In Italy only drunkards drink beer without a plate of food in front of them, even if it is only a couple of slices of salami, olives and a chunk of cheese.

I have tried to find other English people who have escaped to La Dolce Vita, but in the large part in vain.

According to the latest data released by the Institute for Public Policy Research, there are 29 thousand British people who are registered as residents of Italy. If  this is true and you are out there, where are you??

Lord knows where they are all hiding because in the past 5 years I have bumped into a grand total of 18 of them. Starved of English humour I even took a train from the north of Italy to meet up for an Expats lunch in Florence. Two British turned up the rest were from the USA, New Zealand and one Italian man. I am not sure why Daniele was there perhaps he was from the south of Italy and considered himself an Expat in his own country.

So 5 years on, am I fluent in the language, am I living the Dolce Vita, do I have regrets?  No, Cosi cosi, si. You see I do speak the lingo.