Pubs and beer and food and Indian and rain and cold and wind – but mainly pubs , beer and food

A proper English country pub

I mentioned before about my friend from school, H, who’s wife died a little while ago.

Unfortunately, I could only go to the funeral for the day but I made the effort and went over on our long holiday weekend – the one just gone, to spend some time with him.

I tried to let him do most of the talking. I thought it was the least I could do. We are blokes, after all, and we don’t do the opening up thing very easily – at least, face-to-face. But I think he did a bit and I really hope it helped him. But his story is not my story to write. I found the UK to be nicer than I had thought it would be. Admittedly, although not so far from London, this was the middle of the countryside and reminded me a lot of Herefordshire.

The first night we went out, with his daughter and son, to The Fox Inn in Rudgewick. It was a typical old English pub serving food. The food was wonderful (Steak and Ale Pie with mashed potato) and, of course, there was the beer. A very nice start to the trip.

The next day we we to his daughter’s new house. It was a lovely old house which she had started doing up. We went for lunch at The Crown Inn in Chiddingfold. Again, a typical English village pub with an open fire. Of course, I don’t eat so much and, in the end we had (H & I) some sharing nibbles. And some beer! God, I miss the English beer. Food was good and the place was very nice.

In the afternoon we did some shopping (for me) in Cranleigh, apparently the biggest village in England (or, maybe the UK?). It was very pretty. We were back there in the evening to go to The Curry Inn – not an inn at all but rather a good quality Indian restaurant. H had asked me if it was OK to go out with some of his friends and gave me a choice of Thai or Indian – which. of course, meant Indian. And boy, the curry I had was the best curry I’ve ever had. It was incredibly busy which, of course, means it must be good but the downside to that was we did have to wait an incredibly long time for the food. But, for me, the wait was worth it! Of course, it was Indian beer but you can’t have everything!

The next day it was raining all bloody day. However, H took me on a trip around and to his “baby”, some all-weather football ground (he’s very sporty) that he’d managed to get built. Then a bit more shopping and then, at my request, we went for a proper Sunday Lunch at The Chequers Inn in a tiny village called Rowhook. Again, a typical old English pub with an open fire (the wood smoke permeated the whole place and was so lovely to smell – I miss that atmosphere and that smell) and the food was fantastic. I had roast pork with gravy and asked for a Yorkshire pudding. And, of course, beer. The waiter/manager was Italian! Of course. I would have liked to understand why he was still there but the place was too busy.

Just before that we went shopping and I got my last bits and bobs.

So a weekend of listening, great food and great beer and meeting some very nice people.

So that’s what I got from it but, really, it was for him, so I really hope he got something from it too! And, maybe because I was with him, maybe because of the English pubs and the Indian restaurant – I didn’t hate being back in the UK – apart from the cold and the wet.

Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again

Well, here we are, in the first few days of December and, amazingly, Italy seems a bit more prepared than usual. Well, at least that is true of the post office.

The Christmas stamps were released last Friday, 1st December and I have already got mine. Obviously, as usual, I have chosen the non-religious ones (and they are also the right price for cards within the EU) and the design is:

Normal Italian Christmas stamp 2017

For the sake of completeness, the religious ones (suitable for post within Italy) are:

Italian Religious Christmas stamp 2017

My cards are already written so today or tomorrow I can add the stamps and post them. You never know, some people even might receive them before 25th! :-)

Connected! A wedding and a funeral.

Connected! A wedding and a funeral

Like the film. Except only the one wedding and not four.

The wedding I mentioned in the two posts below.

The funeral was yesterday. I had been feeling very anxious about it. I was going for the day. It meant flying to the UK, taking trains and it was going to be a long day. Plus there would be plenty of people that I should know but I knew I wouldn’t recognise. And, F was going to be in Japan.

So, he went to Japan on Saturday afternoon and, because of the funeral and the fact that he was away, that whole sinking feeling was back. The spiral into a blackness. But, I knew it was mainly because of the funeral.

I get up at 4.30 a.m. to take the dogs out. Poor things. It would be their only walk until I got back that evening. I felt bad about it but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I didn’t even have time for coffee. I had to be ready by 5.30 for the taxi I had booked. The taxi was there, on time and I got to the airport. I had already checked in and was only going for the day, so no baggage – straight through security and a cappuccino and then straight to the “smoking cubicle”. Then queue up to get through passport control (I was going to the UK – outside the normal rules for Europe – bloody British.

I was flying Easyjet. Not my first choice but I needed to make it as cheap as possible.

I had forgotten that they allocated seat numbers now and got into any seat, to be reminded by a gentleman that I needed to go to the seat I had been allocated. Fucking hell! And it made me wonder why people would spend more money to have “speedy boarding” if they have seat numbers allocated. It became clear before we went through to the gate when the staff started tagging the bags which had to be put in the hold – they had counted them on and the overhead racks had run out of room. Still, it seemed to me crazy that you would pay extra just for that.

Then I remembered that I could also have “paid extra” to decide which seat I wanted rather than an automatic allocation, when I had checked in over the Internet.

We arrived at Gatwick. I absolutely hate the passport checks going back into the UK. Even with a British passport, I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in – they make me feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in!

Through passport control and straight out to the smoking area.

Then to the station to collect my pre-booked tickets. Then I had some time but not really enough to go back to the smoking area.

It’s a bit cold – but I’m dressed like it’s winter here, so it’s OK. On the train. Got to Guildford. Checked with the taxi how long it would take to the crematorium (where the service was to be) and how much it would cost and, more importantly, if I could use one of the two £10 notes I had. Apparently, I could. The new ones have been introduced but it seems there is a while yet before the old ones go out of circulation.

I have several cigarettes and go in to Costa to get a cappuccino. “What size”, I’m asked. Erm, I have no idea. He shows me medium. I’m used to Italian now and that’s too large. “Something smaller”, I reply. He gets a “small” – which is still far too large, really. And I really want it in a cup not a cardboard beaker. But, hey, ho, I go with it. It’s a large cappuccino all right – but with a massive amount of really crap “foam” on top. But I drink it anyway. And go and have more cigarettes.

Then I get a taxi. I am at the crematorium early. The service before them is just going in. I have more cigarettes. I see people getting out of their cars in the car park and chatting to each other. I wonder if I’m supposed to know them. They head towards the building and me.

The guy in the light grey suit heads towards me. He’s unshaven but he looks like H, my best friend from school. I assume he’s D, his brother. I say, “D?” He says he is H. Oh, for fucks sake, I think. Why am I so crap. But my mind closes this off quickly. I can’t worry about it today. I give him a hug. I am pleased to see him and sad for him at the same time. I am introduced to his daughter and his son. This is the first time I’ve met them. His daughter looks the spitting image of his wife, T, who is the person we are having the service for today. She had a brain tumour and died a couple of weeks ago.

He is worried that I am OK. He introduces me to someone who I guess I should know but really don’t. It’s T’s sister. She is chatty and talks to me and introduces me to others that I don’t know and shouldn’t. We talk and chat.

I am introduced to M, who I do know although he is much, much older now, probably mid seventies. He was also a kind of friend from school days although was never really my friend and, anyway, was years older than us – but that’s a whole other story – if I can ever properly remember it.

M hangs around me. We go in together and we are to sit with close family, at the front.

There are so many people here that they are standing all around the room and, although I don’t look, at the back.

We have the service. T comes in inside a wicker basket thing. The service is semi-religious. It’s lovely, if you see what I mean. It is heartfelt and heartbreaking. She was younger than me – didn’t smoke or anything. Bugger!

We go outside. There are possibly 200 hundred people here. She was well liked/loved.

I am taken to the wake by some people who are neighbours. I hear afterwards that V (the wife) had been so pleased to meet me because T had told her how much she had enjoyed their trip to Milan. There is food and drink available but there isn’t enough for all the people here. I say that the number of people is a testament to how well loved T was. I say all sorts of crap to anyone that’ll listen. I don’t really want to be there. I think: this is the way it is now – I shall be coming to the UK for funerals – it’s an age thing.

I get to see H a bit. I hug him several times. M asks if I can come and see him. I say I had thought of coming in December when I have a couple of days’ holiday. M says that would be very good. I want to do this.

I am never without people to speak to. I am the centre of attention or, rather, the second centre of attention after H. They have all seen the picture of me and H after our first holiday together, on our own. The picture was taken by my mother. H disputes the date of it – I don’t know – it was my mother who wrote the date on the back of the photo.

H doesn’t burst into tears but almost, at several points. It’s been lovely and not lovely at the same time.

D takes me back to the station. I am very early. I have hours to wait before the plane back. I wish I’d booked an earlier flight but I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get back and wanted to be there in case H needed me.

But, he didn’t. And, anyway, he had loads of people around. I catch an early train. At the airport I have a meal, as I had only eaten very little all day. Then I decide to go through security. This, being Britain, means no smoking as there are no “smoking areas”. Bloody up-their-own-arse people. I’ve been overhearing conversations whilst travelling and, to be honest, it’s painful. I can’t imagine living here again. I hope, really hope, I never have to. I try to buy chocolate. They need my boarding pass – which they don’t, by the way. I say no. She says “it’s the rules.” I tell her I don’t want them then. I go to Boots for Lemsip and pills. The guy in the queue before me is asked for his boarding card. He says it’s in his jacket so he doesn’t have it. The guy takes his money anyway. My turn and he asks me if I have my boarding card. I say I have but he doesn’t need it. He’s clearly pissed off but accepts my payment anyway. I go and get chocolate and newspapers from WH Smith. They don’t ask me for my boarding card.

I wait around, have yet another beer and, finally, the gate is up. I can’t wait to get out of this country. The funeral was fine but the people travelling make me want to go home – and this is NOT home. I should try to remember this when I complain about Italians.

On board, the guy next to me wants to talk. He talks. Then he goes to sleep. We are late. I worry about the dogs having been inside since around 5 until now – which is already 11 p.m. I don’t even stop for a cigarette but get in a taxi straight away. They are a little bit super-pleased to see me. I take them out. I feed them and have a cigarette. It’s gone midnight. I go to bed and they come with me, super-attached. And then normality will start in just 5 hours.

God, I’m knackered.

And the connection between the funeral and the wedding? Well, this was the woman that H, my best friend at school, married those 37 years ago and when he asked me to be Best Man and when I made that terrible speech. Life is odd sometimes, isn’t it.

Wedding nightmares.

Wedding Nightmares

Just over 37 years ago, I was Best Man at my best schoolmate’s wedding.

It has given my nightmares ever since.

I was young. I didn’t understand and, by then, I was no longer speaking to my parents so I couldn’t turn to them for advice.

I honestly don’t remember the whole day. I only remember (slightly) one part of the day. The part where I had to give a speech. When I say that I remember, that’s not entirely true. I don’t remember what I actually said. All I remember is that it was awful. Possibly the worst speech ever uttered by anyone in the whole world, ever!

And for most of my life, every time I saw a wedding, whether in real life or on screen, the awfulness of that wedding and, in particular, that speech, came flooding back.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, A got married. He wanted me to be a witness (they don’t really have the Best Man thing here). As for when I was Best Man, I was really honoured to be asked.

Then he told me he wanted me to do a speech. I didn’t really believe it would happen, to be honest. In Italy, speeches are not a thing. They just don’t do them. Here, a wedding is the service (in church or the local council place) followed by a meal (which often lasts for hours and has about 6 million different courses). Then everyone goes home/to their rooms (if in a hotel).

But, A being A, wanted a speech from me. He was concerned that many people would not understand because it would be in English and asked if F could translate it. Instead (but only as a just in case because I really believed it wouldn’t happen – both the wedding and the speech thing), I prepared a speech in Italian. F was supposed to look over it to correct the translation but we didn’t have time before the wedding.

So, we arrive at the church. F sits at the back correcting and editing (slashing loads of stuff out because it was too long, he said) whilst the service commences.

The church
(see the church! At the top of the very windy road, just below the famous statue at Maratea – God, it was scary!)

Then we all get in cars to head back to the reception which is at the hotel we are staying at, far away from Milan, at a place called Maratea, on the Italian coast, south of Naples.

hotel with private beach
(this is the hotel, near Maratea, with its own, private, beach! The subject of another post)

We have the aperitivo. I don’t have much because I know there’s a main meal to come. Then we go in for the main meal. In the UK, we normally have the speeches after the meal. A wanted them before. M, one of his other witnesses and, possibly, his best friend, gives a speech. Then it’s my turn. He gives me the microphone but the waiters are serving the first course – so it doesn’t happen. Later it does. I (try to) speak in Italian since that is how it is written but I’m sure it was terrible – and yet, it wasn’t like 37 years ago. It didn’t embarrass me at all. Firstly because it was all written out and secondly because I made such an effort, I guess.

So, maybe now I can get over the 37-year-old disaster and be proud that I did something good?

A picture of the famous statue with the town below

The End of The World

The End of The World

I haven’t posted anything much really but, I just want to post this.

Driving between the sea and Milan this summer, a number of times, I was struck by one thing – instead of having to clean my windscreen very often, I didn’t have to do it once.

The reason was there were no dead insects covering the windscreen.

Obviously, from the point of cleaning, this was great.

But, it worries me. If there are a lot fewer insect deaths, either insects have become very clever and are avoiding roads or, possibly more likely, there are a lot fewer insects. And, by a lot fewer, I mean to say, an incredibly lot fewer.

To be honest, either reason would be cause for concern but, for a moment, let’s assume that it’s because insect numbers were decimated for some reason.

This, of course, is worrying because of the amount of life on earth that relies on insects. Swallows, frogs, lizards. OK, so you may not like frogs and lizards, but they do have a part in the food chain. So less frogs, for instance, means a source of food for Egrets and Storks is reduced. The knock-on effect is quite horrifying to imagine.

Then there are plants. Most plants rely on insects to reproduce. So, less insects means less reproduction of plants.

To me, this is just as horrific. We feed ourselves on plants whether we be vegans or carnivores and plants form an important part of our nutrition.

I hope this dearth of insects is just a one-time thing but, if it isn’t, perhaps the end of the world is already upon us?

I’m fucking done with bullshit!

I'm fucking done with bullshit

I’m afraid this is going to be a bit of a rant. I’m also unhappily saying that it’s all my fault as I should have known what I was doing. But I forgot or ignored my base instincts and did something really stupid and, for sure, now I will pay for it – in several ways, just like I did before.

Before. For almost 21 years. V (my previous partner) was lovely. He was kind (well, as long as he wanted to be), fun, entertaining, engaging, etc.

He had one major flaw. Or, rather 2. The first was money. I used to joke about it saying that it burned a hole in his pocket. He would get cash and then spend it almost within seconds. And then he would run into debt and, more than once, I would have to bail him out.

The second thing though was far worse. It was the lying. I mean to say, he lied (or told half-truths, white lies) all the time. But, when it came to money, they often became full-blown lies. I got used to it and I could read the signs. Most of the time, I knew the real reason for something – being that he had no money or had a debt with someone, etc. His “trick” to get out of the “problem” was to start by lying and then, eventually, to run away. To hide from people and things as if hiding would, somehow, fix everything. The lying, though, was the very worst of it. And, as I’ve said before, the thing I hate/hated the most.

And, now there’s FfI. I’ve always known she was crap with money and, very much like V, would borrow money from people and, sometimes, never pay it back. But, whereas it might have been slightly delayed in the past, I always did get the money ….. eventually.

So I was in a situation where I needed to “use” her company. I made sure that she would be well “compensated” and, as it was through her business entity, I thought it would be better – after all, running a business is a different thing, isn’t it?

I did have slight misgivings, of course, based on her past dealings with money and the fact that she has always been the female version of V. But she had a proper accountant for the business and so, I thought, it would be OK. She had a separate business bank account, so that would be OK.

Of course, my initial misgivings should have been enough. Plus, after agreeing to it, she sent me a couple of private invoices that she was struggling to sort out. She had invoiced incorrectly and, seeing the comments from her customers, I understood how to fix them – but I could see that she was completely clueless. Much like V used to be. I fixed them for her but continued with our “business” anyway. Stupid, stupid me!

So, the first couple of transactions went OK and I felt more relaxed. The last transaction, however, didn’t go so well. Her accountant raised an invoice but really late. Then it was paid. By now she had this “potential husband” so was jetting off everywhere with him. I knew I would have to wait for the money. Several times she asked me how much it was.

But the new “potential husband” was keeping her away. But it was all going to be perfect. She would live in Australia or Hong Kong and they would buy a flat in Milan. Except, she finally got home and it was all over. Apparently, it wasn’t all going to be perfect. And she needed work, she told me. Of course, that wasn’t helped by the fact that she had spent most of the last couple of months away – in Ibiza or the mountains in Piedmont or anywhere except Milan – so she had lost out on work and now, it being June/July, there IS no teaching work.

Then I was told that her accountant had stripped her account (including my money) because she “didn’t realise she had signed some papers at the beginning allowing her to do that”! As I said, the private invoices should have been enough to warn me that, when it comes to business, she is total crap. So she tells me she is sacking the accountant and closing the business (not such an easy thing to do here, in Italy, which was why she managed to get the business in the first place for free – the person who’s business it was, didn’t want to pay anything and so convinced her to “take it from her for free!”)

But don’t worry, she says, I will get paid on 1st July and will “pay you then”. Having not heard from her in almost 2 weeks, I was genuinely concerned that all was not well. So phoned (no answer) and then emailed to check she was OK. He phone was “broken”, she said. I phoned again. She was rushing around to lessons, she said. I will get paid on the 10th, she said. And I’ll “pay you then”, she said. Let’s meet up at the weekend, she said. Call me, she said, as my “phone is broken”, she said.

By this time, I realised that “my phone is broken” meant that she didn’t even have the money to recharge her phone. This has happened before so it’s the usual trick. And, if she can’t even recharge her phone, then things are really bad. No money for anything. Let alone paying debts or rent, etc.

So, I thought, OK, let’s wait until Monday but, she wanted me to call over the weekend, “even if just for a coffee”. On Saturday, I telephoned twice but got no reply. I emailed to say I had tried. I thought, OK, she’s now avoiding me because it means difficult questions must be answered.

Last night I heard what seemed like a crash in another room (as if something had fallen down) and Dino was crying. I was worried something had fallen on him so sat bolt upright and got up. He was fine and I couldn’t see anything had fallen so guessed he had been trying to get up and, with his bad hips, struggled as usual (hence the crying) and had possibly been scraping the floor or wall with his paws in his effort to get up (which could have sounded a little like a crash of something.)

I use my telephone to light the way. I notice there is an email from FfI. Stupidly, I have a look.

Her phone is still “broken” (no money to recharge) and now she has “no internet” because she is in the mountains (escaped from Milan (or she says so and it’s not true) to her friend’s place miles from anywhere) and, can I call her after 11.30.

The fucking nerve! But it keeps me awake. For a couple of hours. I am so angry. I am angry with her for the bullshit lies. I am angry with myself for trusting her for a moment. Never again! This is the last time, I tell myself.

And, you know what? No, I won’t fucking call you. Maybe I’ll email you to tell you to call me “when you have the fucking money to fucking recharge your fucking phone”.

And, then all I could think of was she was, in essence, a female V. As unreliable and full of bullshit as he was. But I got rid of V and I should get rid of her. Or, at least, never put myself in a position where she owes me money.

Although I won’t call, I won’t send an email either. I’ll say that I have been just far too busy. That I meant to phone but it’s all been completely crazy and I completely forgot. Or something. I’ll wait for her to call me. And as for something that, by virtue of the stuff I did for which she now owes me, we were supposed to do together in September, fuck that! Unless she pays me in advance. There again, I’ll just make up excuses. But I really don’t want to be in business with her ever again. You’d have thought I’d have learned by now, eh? 21 years with V was obviously NOT enough. I am really, really stupid.

And, have I lost the money? Possibly. I’m expecting something like “I can’t pay all of it but here’s €50 and I’ll get the rest to you as soon as I can”. And, maybe I’ll get it in October? Or I won’t get it ‘cos something else has “come up” that she didn’t realise. I’m just expecting bullshit.

And, I’m fucking done with bullshit.

……..And It Makes Me Feel Like Shit

and it makes me feel like shit

Today is the day. The day that the UK goes to the polls to re-elect the existing party and Prime Minister or change them/her for a new one.

It seems very likely that they will re-elect the existing ones.

And I still fail to see how anyone (apart from those earning a LOT of money) could possibly vote for May and her party and still be able to sleep at night.

If only I could vote, I would, this time, for the first time in my life, vote Labour. Not because I agree with them but because they are the most likely to be able to stop the Tories. Not that I think my vote would have made any difference but, you know …….

I don’t hate the Tories – they are people, after all. But I do hate what they have done and are doing to the UK.

I especially hate the fact that they are going ahead with Brexit even though less than half the voting population of GB voted to leave. Mind you, Labour will go ahead too, so the difference to me, personally, would be minimal – except that I think Labour are the most likely to safeguard my rights as a Brit living in the EU.

To stay in the EU, I would have to have voted LibDem and, although I was a Liberal/LibDem supporter for most of my life, after that coalition with the Conservatives, I’m not sure I could vote for them again.

So, tomorrow morning I will learn whether I should be more worried about my position here or not. Already, like the pound, I am worrying more. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion – knowing there are going to be fatalities and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. Knowing there are some of your friends in the car but the driver is someone you don’t really like and he’s going too fast and is out of control and doing stupid things and you kinda say “well, it’ll serve him right!”

But, then again, there’s a couple of friends in the car with him and you really don’t want them to be hurt.

I have to be honest and say that in the past, I haven’t always voted in elections. There didn’t seem any point. How I wish I could take all those past non-voted-in elections and roll them up to be able to vote today. But I can’t, so just like watching the car crash, I sit here, worried about how bad it will be.

And it makes me feel like shit.

I may not like them but they ARE rather good.

I may not like them but they ARE rather good

And, further, on my post below.

I really try NOT to buy using Amazon. But I can understand why they’re taking over the world.

First, they tend to be the cheapest supplier of “stuff”.

Second, they offer free delivery.

Third, so far (I’ve used them twice), they beat the customer expectations. They promise delivery within a week or so, when you place the order, and then deliver within 2 days! So, I placed the order two days ago, they promised it would be delivered Tuesday or Wednesday of next week and then they have delivered today!

I hate them more.

I would never pay for Amazon Prime since the delivery, in any case, is so good. You can see why everyone uses them.

But I will still only use them when I really need to. I get my books from Wordery, who have wonderful customer service. I like to book my hotel and flights directly (I phoned the hotel in Rome and got a much better deal than I would have online, for example). But, you know ……

Amazon ARE doing something right. Cheap and efficient.

I still hate them though :'(

Coming soon …..

Coming Soon ......

There’s a death coming and coming fast.

And it will change your world.

I’m old. so, obviously, this is painful for me. But I can see it coming because of what happened on Saturday.

In “the old days”, if you wanted something, you’d go to the shops to buy it. When I arranged V & my’s surprise 10-year anniversary trip, I went to the Travel Agent next door to the office and we arranged everything – flights, hotels, train transfers, the lot. Within a few years, anything like hotels and flights, etc. I would do using the Internet. Then I moved here and I would buy CDs and books and stuff like that online.

But, if it’s something technical or something to wear, I prefer seeing the thing physically and buying it from a shop.

So I want something to connect the computers at home and have been told of this great product, a little more expensive than the Netgear stuff I tried before, but, apparently, more reliable and faster. I looked on the Internet for it and ignored the online-only shops. I found that one store stocked it and there was a store not too far away.

So, I went, on Saturday. Not only didn’t they have it but the guy was rude so, fuck them! I went home and ordered the cheapest one I could find which I ordered through gritted teeth as it was via Amazon.

But, my real point is that it is impossible to buy from a local shop! So, it’s one more thing that a shop won’t get to sell me and, of course, I shan’t be going back to that particular store ever again!

And I know there are many people who buy clothes online (although I don’t), buy food online (I do – but only for specified British things that I can’t get here), etc.

And that’s why the “High Street” is dying. And there’s not much to be done about it if they won’t do anything about it. Here, the “high Street” isn’t quite as dead as in the UK, but it’s coming here too. And how will our streets look then? The only shops being charity shops, betting shops, cheap shoe shops and, often, boarded-up shops.

Coming soon to a place near you!