Can I find the keys to the vaults?

And, to add to my previous post.

My memory is terrible and everyone who knows me knows this to be true.

Except, that’s not really the whole story.

My memory is very selective. It seems that I am able to blot out parts of my life to the point where I remember almost nothing. But it’s a choice, albeit an automatic “choice” in that, I don’t consciously say “OK, I will forget that part of my life” but rather that parts of my life just, simply, disappear.

The student I mentioned in the last post seemed to think it was my way of dealing with difficult or hurtful things.

This can be very convenient. It can also make things difficult.

Convenience comes with not having to remember details that may upset me or things that were difficult. Also with the fact that certain things can be revisited as if for the first time and re-enjoyed without any previous “knowledge”.

The difficulties come with things like the coming weekend. My previous best friend died a few weeks ago. We (V & I) had been on holiday with him and his family many, many times; we spent Christmasses and Easters with them and other weekends too. We just got on so well. On Thursday, I shall go to the funeral. And people will talk about things from the past.

Except, I remember almost nothing of all those years (it was, maybe, 15 years or so) and I remember almost nothing of our times together, except a few, very tiny and insignificant things.

So, I’m quite nervous about this. I will have to have my “Oh, yes, I remember it well” face on. For about 3 days. This could be more than a little difficult.

Sometimes, when people remind me of something, I will be able to retrieve it from my memory bank, from the securely-locked vault. Other times, it’s locked in a different vault and the key seems to be missing. And, no amount of prompting by others enables me to find the key. The memory remains elusive.

And, I have learnt that people will try to help you remember and that they don’t really like it if you can’t remember.

On the other hand, some things I DO remember and, because those who know me and know how terrible my memory can be, assume they have better memories than I do and will be convinced that their memory is the “correct” one, even if it isn’t.

An example of which was the argument I had with my sister one time. Talking about my Grandfather, I said that he was in his 80s and she was convinced he was in his 70s and assumed (and told me) that my memory was always bad and so I was definitely wrong. I knew I wasn’t but I couldn’t convince anyone.

Some years later I found the “order of service” of his funeral which proved he WAS in his 80s. Unfortunately, by then, my sister and I had become “estranged” again and so I was never able to say “I told you so”!

Anyway, let’s hope vaults are opened this weekend so I don’t have to hide my lack of memories too much.

Like a ghost

So, she got me thinking.

Was it true? Did we have such a relationship that HAS affected everything else?

And then came the most disturbing thing.

I realised that, in all the memories, although she was obviously there, she had no physical presence. I mean to say, she was there – she was making or had made food; she put that blue stuff on my wasp stings; she cried in the car as they took me to university. And yet …..

When I tried to picture her or feel her touch, she was like a ghost – not real, ethereal. I couldn’t see a face. Or hands. She was always just out of vision. Just out of reach. She could have been touching me but I couldn’t feel it.

And that was strange. I could see him. He existed in both sight and feel.

But she’s not there, exactly.

So, I keep thinking, is this all part of it? Have I locked it down so well that she is being erased/has been erased by my own mind?

I was teaching something about women in business. There was a thing called “imposter syndrome”. It was said to cause the person to attribute their “success” to other factors such as luck, good timing, etc. rather than to themselves. They felt that they were always on the verge of “being found out”.

So, we were chatting about it and I explained that this was how I felt about the business I had. When people would say I was successful, I would respond with things like, “It’s not me, it’s the people that work here” or “It’s only because I happened to be in the right place at the right time”, etc.

I had forgotten that she has trained as a psychologist.

She said that this was caused by the relationship between me and my mother, up to 5 years of age. She suggested that it was because I had felt disturbed in some way when she wasn’t with me. So, that led me to thinking about the situations with and without her.

And that led me to the realisation that, in my thoughts and memories, she didn’t exist. Not really.

So, come our next lesson, I have to ask about this. To me, of course, this is normal but I’m not sure if it’s really normal or not.

Italy, just a little old-fashioned?

I remember when we first came to live here. The country (and the people) were strange. Things that I noticed were things like the fact that everyone seemed to have two mobile telephones (whereas in the UK there were still some people without 1 and two was hardly ever seen) and that there were “dancing girl slots” on so many television programmes. By that, I mean to say, a programme (usually a quiz show) would be “interrupted” whilst a scantily clad woman danced, usually in a provocative way, to some music. In that way, it was like stepping back in time. And yet, almost as soon as we moved here, Italy introduced laws to prohibit smoking inside publicly-used buildings. I think, at the time, only the second EU country to do this.

And, since then, I have understood that Italy, whilst being progressive in some ways, is so very backward in others.

Italy remains the only country in the EU that doesn’t have some kind of civil or other union facility for non-heterosexual couples. They’re discussing it in parliament now. But only after being “told off” by the EU for this “oversight”. There’s still a good chance that it won’t be agreed and that here it will not be possible. Yet.

But they’ve just introduced a law to stop people smoking in cars (where there are children or pregnant women) and fines for throwing cigarette butts anywhere but in ashtrays (that must be provided by the council).

Of course, you can’t always get the truth here. The cigarette prohibition, for example. For several days the news programmes had been all about smoking being banned in cars. Period. No mention of the actual rules, it seemed like a blanket ban. In fact, it was only on the day before the ban took place that some (only one that I found) gave the truth of the ban. The day of the ban, it was widely reported – correctly.

But, ignoring their treatment of “news” (which seems rarely to be based on fact) and their treatment of “non-ordinary” people (which seems to be stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages), there is the treatment of women.

For this they deserve a special place. I go back to the thing I mentioned above – the dancing women. In a terribly old-fashioned and sexist way, women on TV are generally seen as objects – and no one seems to mind this at all! Sure there are discussion programs where the older ladies (often pumped up with botox or sculpted to resemble some alien from outer space) is taken more seriously, but once you get on to light entertainment, women are nothing more than an adornment like beautiful jewels. There to be looked at and, preferably wearing something that “shows off their figure” or, even better, shows tons of flesh.

And, so it is that we have two stories today that sum it all up. The first is a woman who may be sent to prison for 6 years because “she didn’t do the housework” for her husband and, possibly most frightening of all, a company boss, cleared of sexual harassment but who, according to the judges, DID sexually sexually harass female employees! But it was only his childlike sense of humour, apparently.

The gay and gay-friendly people were using the slogan “Wake Up Italy” when they had their demonstrations to change the law re: civil unions and I’m inclined to agree – but not just for civil unions. In fact, maybe civil unions shouldn’t be the first thing on their list?

Italy – a land full of old stuff (which is a good thing) – think ancient ruins, etc.
Italy – a land which is just plain old-fashioned (which is not a good thing) – think attitudes to women, etc.

And I haven’t even covered racial problems, meritocracy and a whole host of other things. The rest of the world’s advances in some things seem to have passed Italy by.

Five Years (or, maybe, about ten?)

I’ve been meaning to write and, in fact, have written – but never finished.

Since I moved the blog, for some inexplicable reason, it seems harder to write anything.

And lots of things have happened. Most recently, lots of people have died – people that were 10 or so years older than me. Does that mean I’ve got about 10 years left?

Dale (Buffin) Griffin died (from Mott the Hoople – the first group I followed); Glenn Fry (from the Eagles – and I remember, particularly, Hotel California) died too.

But the one that really affected me, in spite of the fact that, during the 80s and 90s I never bought any of his albums and I never, ever saw him live, was David Bowie.

The day he died I was in a state of shock. For the whole day, I barely functioned. And I tried to work out why his death would affect me so badly. I puzzled over it – I mean, I don’t think I could have called myself a real fan – not compared to others – and yet, there I was, struggling to concentrate on anything, felling somewhat bereft and very sad.

But I couldn’t really work out why. There was the thing that I admired him. I styled my hair like his (or tried to) a number of times in my life. I wanted to “be” him. I remember seeing the first performance of Starman on Top of the Pops – that special performance that changed everything. I remember listening so many times to the Ziggy Stardust LP. But I listened to many things and yet no one dying has quite affected me the same way.

He did make all things possible. He made being “not normal”, acceptable and, kind of, normal – and, therefore, he made me feel better about myself at a time when I wasn’t sure what I felt about myself.

He was intelligent but ordinary; weird but not at all strange. He did what he wanted but never really strayed into an “impossible to live in” world. And, of course, he “spoke” to me (and many others), through his lyrics which often didn’t talk about anything real at all.

Of course, he will be missed because of his extraordinary talent. One of the things I thought on that day was how sad it was that he wouldn’t be releasing any more albums. Not for me but for everyone else.

OK, and for me.

Even now, days later, there seems some sort of hole in my life now that he’s gone.

Strange, isn’t it?

p.s. My favourite album was Aladdin Sane – just so you know.

Death of a friend

death of a friend

Well, there we are. Another Christmas/New Year break over, so Happy New Year.

It was, probably, the best Christmas ever. Obviously, we did the usual things but we did have a couple of days of relaxation – where even F didn’t clean! I know. It’s almost unheard of. He corrected it all by doing a full clean (Spring clean for most people) yesterday, after we took the tree down.

But there was one thing that happened which wasn’t so nice. It was the death of a friend. Well, not an actual death, as such, but the mourning still applies.

FfI has been a friend for many years, as you will have seen from posts I’ve made in the past but over the holiday the friendship died a death. It was, in some way, my fault, in as much as I could no longer keep up the pretence that “everything was OK”.

She asked about coming to us for New Year, as is usual. I asked if “he” was coming to which she replied “yes”. I said I’d think about it. She got stroppy with me and said she wouldn’t come now anyway. This was all by text. The next day, she apologised by text and we spoke. I explained that I didn’t like him. She wanted to know why but I couldn’t really explain it. I explained that he hadn’t done or said anything bad but I just didn’t like him and the fact that every time I saw her, he was there – being creepy and smarmy and, generally, dislikeable.

And, so, that was that.

She’s going off to the USA with him. It should have been the 28th December. Then it moved to 10th January and now it’s moved to 30th January. They are “business partners”. I put that in inverted commas deliberately. She, of course, being like V, never has any money, so she’s not putting any money into this business and, yet, he wants to make her a “partner”. But, I guess she does have something to bring. She has contacts in the States and she has American citizenship. So, if he marries her, he can get his green card and escape from his mother and Italy.

I suppose she has a lot to offer him.

In the past, with the various boyfriends she has had, she has regaled me with stories of going out with him and the friends of his she has met and the dinner parties she has given to entertain these friends.

She has been clear about this one, stating several times – “He is NOT my boyfriend”. And, yet, he has been attached to her like a limpet or a puppy dog. And there have been no dinner parties for his friends since, it seems, he doesn’t actually have any.

I tried to hold on thinking that he was going soon, But the “soon” kept slipping and the thought of having him for New Year was just too much. I couldn’t do it. During her texts to me she stated that she had “accepted F” as my boyfriend – which would be a little like me accepting her boyfriends – which I have always done.

During the conversation she stated again that he was NOT her boyfriend but the subtle difference between being a boyfriend and NOT being a boyfriend seems to have been lost on her.

But I’ve had enough. I never want to see the little prick again. I never want to hear about how I look like some Hollywood film star from his mouth and I don’t want the creepiness around me that he brings. And I fail to understand why that is difficult for her to understand that, if he was her boyfriend I would be able to tolerate him much more but the fact that he isn’t means I can’t and don’t have to tolerate him at all! However “well he treats me” – and by that she means “much he pays for.”

And, so, the end. Enough.

It is the death of a friend and FfI is no more.

I can hardly believe it …….

Well, they arrived yesterday.

So, that’s good and it means there is the final present, already wrapped and under the tree.

Of course, it’s possible that their system will work out that they sent me these after they had cancelled the order and given me a refund. Let’s see. In any event, they do have a really crap system and they need to look at it and, maybe, fire the IT people who wrote it.

But, after Christmas. I wouldn’t want to spoil Christmas for them.

And now, the cleaner is in and Frankie and she are doing what feels like a Spring Clean …….. AGAIN!

Soon I will start to prepare the food for tomorrow and Boxing Day.

And, then relax and enjoy Christmas as it’s supposed to be.

And, so, guys, a very Happy Christmas to all of you.

And I hope Gail’s move goes well and the new home is even more “home” than the old one.

A secret post

A secret post

I had partially written a post about buying things online.

Well, to be honest, it was to include my “investments” too. It was really about good customer care and bad customer care. I reckoned that about 25% of my online spending ended up as “not a very good experience”. Maybe that is an over-estimation but, with a couple of more recent things, I had become a bit pissed off.

On the other hand, paying for something using your credit card online is always a gamble. After all, you don’t have a physical “shop” with real, physical people to go back to complain to, do you? Add to that delivery problems (it doesn’t turn up; it turns up late; it wasn’t what you expected; etc.) and that gives another layer of potential problems.

In addition, I have “Italian” to add to the mix. If I have to complain or get something done it’s just that much harder.

So, the story goes like this (but whisper it because I don’t actually HAVE the things yet, so I might be premature):

I see some things that I think would be nice for both F and me. Seems like a good Christmas present. I check the size (for him) and order one for him and one for me.

I get an acknowledgement of the order.

A day or so later, I think that this would be a good present also for a couple of friends, so I go back online and order two more (separate orders).

I get acknowledgements.

Then I get confirmation that they have shipped (the two last orders – NOT the one for us). But it’s into December now and I don’t worry.

After about a week, I start to worry. Why haven’t I had a confirmation of shipment? So, I’m back to the site requesting info. The response comes a day or so later. There’s a problem with one of the items – they’ve run out of that particular colour. New ones should be in in the next couple of days. Would I like to pick a different colour?

Well, no, I reply immediately. If the right colour will be in in the next couple of days, I’ll wait. I know we have time before Christmas.

A couple of days later I get a reply which suggests that it will be a couple of weeks before new stock comes in. Would I like to pick a different colour?

I reply that they had told me 2/3 days and it had now become 2 weeks! How can that happen? And I really did want the colours I had picked.

A couple of days later I get a reply to say that they had had problems with the supplier but now the other one had run out too and would I like to pick a different colour because they were “flying off the shelves”. Oh, and right now, they only had the one colour left (which was neither of the colours I had been looking for).

I politely declined saying that the colour was important and that, if they couldn’t guarantee they would be here for Christmas, I’d like to cancel the order and would they refund me, please?

They cancelled the order and sent a separate email saying they had refunded me. Because this was a refund in pounds and it had to be converted, I lost about €4. Oh well, I thought, this is life.

Shortly after, I received another email from them (a different person) explaining that they couldn’t fulfill my order and would I like to change my order to a different colour. Since I had just received notice of cancellation and refund, I ignored it.

I kept checking my credit card online to check for the refund. And then, last week, it was there.

So, that’s when I started to write the post about online buying/spending.

And then, on Friday, I got an email to say that my order had been shipped!

I still can’t quite believe it and, obviously, I don’t have the goods yet but they included, in the email, a tracking link. I clicked on the tracking link on Friday and again on Saturday and I see that the goods are already in Milan!

So now, the question is – will I really get them? How did their systems allow this to happen?

But mainly – is this real? Are they real? Will I get them in the next couple of days?

And then – at what point do I get an email saying that they shouldn’t have shipped them and would I like to pay for them?

So, right now, they are still in Milan, it seems. But not yet delivered. We shall see …….

So this is a secret. I’m whispering it. Just in case it’s not real after all!

The Joy Is Back

The Joy Is Back

He’s away. Again.

This time it’s for at least 10 days. He left on Friday morning for London and then on Saturday flew to China. 10 days is a very long time, made worse by the fact that, this weekend just gone, was a long weekend – Monday and Tuesday were holidays.

But I had plans to make sure that I wasn’t stuck in the house all day by myself. Or, as it could be, lonely.

Plans of things to do. Some of which I did do and some I didn’t – of course, as this is me.

Things that I did do include: finishing all the Christmas cards (they are now with the daughter of the woman who works at the main post office in Milan as the Christmas stamps (see a post below) do not even cover the postage to other European countries, let alone American and Australia or New Zealand); buying of presents; wrapping of presents for overseas to be boxed up and posted today (more on that later); the usual stuff such as washing and tidying up; getting the winter tyres put on the car.

Things that I didn’t do include: cleaning the silver; painting the bathroom shower area; brushing the dogs.

I didn’t quite finish the wrapping of presents to be posted because I forgot to buy things for Best Mate’s dogs. So that means that I will have to go out this lunchtime to get things – which is actually OK because I can also buy the food to keep our dogs going over Christmas. So the parcels will actually be sent tomorrow. This is not so bad and they should reach there in plenty of time.

The cards should also reach most destinations in time. I hope. Obviously, they won’t actually be sent until tomorrow but as it’s only the 9th today, it should be OK, I think – I mean it’s 2 weeks!

I also went to Il Salvegente (a kind of Designer Outlet store – the oldest in Milan) to see if there was anything for BM and J (there was) and to buy some jeans and a jumper and, maybe, something for F. There wasn’t – but I did pick up a pair of shoes that I liked (but certainly didn’t need – unlike the jeans and jumper). As they didn’t open until 11 a.m. yesterday (it being a public holiday here), I took a longer, more meandering route and managed to find a shop (unfortunately closed) that sold Shaun the Sheep stuff – so I’ll be going back there on Saturday to pick something else up for F.

I also got a call from V’s Dad. Ay had told him that we had really looked after her well when she came over. He was ringing to thank me. I told him that he didn’t need to thank me as this was Ay and I would do anything for her – but I think his ringing me was a lovely thing to do.

Next weekend, I still have time to paint the bathroom (but probably won’t) and time to brush the dogs (I will possibly do that) but I’ve decided to forget the silver. It’s better to do that on 24th when F will, almost certainly, be cleaning the house like it’s spring or like the Queen is coming. At least it will give me something to do other than being in the way (and in the cold as the windows will certainly be open throughout the house). Obviously, even cleaning the silver, I will certainly be in the way (and in the cold) but he will understand that I’m doing something – with any luck.

Among other things that I did over the weekend was get some tickets for The Cure (next November) which F wants to go and see. This, I’ve decided, will be his birthday present. I have also ordered tickets for the ballet at La Scala for 30th December – which will be his main Christmas present, as they are quite expensive. I also thought it would be a nice thing to go to – sort of Festive and dressy-uppy and, as it’s Cinderella, both a story I can follow (I’m not that much into ballet) and right for the Christmas period.

What I also did was wrap all the presents for him, so that’s good. I still have the Cinderella tickets to come and one other present which should be on its way soon and, of course, the Shaun the Sheep thing. Then I’ve done.

And, for those of you who’ve been reading this blog over the years, you will know that this is totally unlike me. This is NOT to say that I won’t do some last-minute shopping on 24th as you will know I like that. But I really don’t need to as I have enough. It’s like the old days when I was prepared and ready. F has given me the joy back and I really like that.

So, although I miss him, I AM busy and am doing lots of things and the time is going quickly and so it’s OK. I will be very happy when he’s back, safe and sound though.

A visit

A Visit

Ay (my “niece”) and E, her boyfriend have been over for the weekend. Well, long weekend.

They came Thursday night and are leaving this morning.

To be honest, we haven’t seen that much of them. Ay (and, maybe E) like shopping, so they are out every day. Saturday night they got tickets for the football (AC Milan v somebody other team that’s not at all famous). Sunday night we cooked for them at home.

I say, “we” meaning F. He did pasta with his ragù (which is particularly nice) and the saltimbocca (using chicken fillets instead of veal) and some mixed vegetable thing. It was all really lovely and he went to lots of trouble. I mean, she isn’t my “real” relation, being V’s niece really, but they are a sweet couple and he thinks so too. He wanted to make them real Italian food, bless him.

i know he liked them because he invited them down to Carrara (when the house is finished) which he only does if he likes someone.

But it was really lovely to see them. I miss Ay (and all V’s family, to be honest) although I don’t miss the “drama” of their family life. But, in the peace and quiet of Milan, talking to them and spending some time with them, it has been really, really lovely.

So, I will miss them but I think they had a lovely time and I hope that means they’ll be over again.

I think so.

One slightly strange thing – as I never told E what he should call me, he addresses me as Uncle Andy. I’ve always felt quite strange about Ay calling me Uncle Andy but I like it – it just gives me a strange feeling. But E calling me Uncle Andy seems even weirder. However, I don’t want to correct him as it seems far to late to do that.