Not quite anything

This is an old draft post from 2012 that I found. I decided that it is OK to post it as it stands.

Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country
Expat: a person who lives outside their native country.

There was some article recently that I can’t be bothered to find, complaining that, as an Indian in Britain, he could never be seen as an ‘Expat’.

Then there were lots of comments deriding Expats (meaning British Expats) who went to live in places like Spain but never integrated and, yet, didn’t think of themselves as immigrants but only Expats – as if it makes a difference.

Which, according to the terms as defined by Oxford (online) are, in effect, the same.

Anyway, I have always realised that I am, in fact, an immigrant here, in Italy. Am I an Expat? Well, I suppose so. And if you’re looking for other English people then you could do worse than Google “expat milan”. Obviously, I have friends who are also Expats (American and British) but I really don’t like mixing with Expats much.

I mean to say, the only thing we have in common (usually) is that we live in a foreign country. It does mean that when we’re in a group we are able to complain about the same things, many of us having had the same experiences but the question I always ask myself is, “If we weren’t Expats in a foreign country, would I actually LIKE this person. Sadly, the answer isn’t always a resounding “yes”.

But, I’m not even sure if I’m a true immigrant. I never said that I would stay here permanently. I mean I do love it here but it doesn’t mean permanent. It means ‘for now’. So I’m not sure what that makes me. But I feel as if I’m not quite an immigrant. Nor quite an Expat.

Although I am keeping my British passport, of course. And I like being English – I just don’t want to move back there, if I can help it. But, being away for so long now, nor do I feel it’s quite right to ‘meddle’ in the affairs of the UK.

In the same way, nor do I feel it’s right for me to ‘meddle’ in the the affairs of Italy

Blah, blah, blah

There is a person that I really, really dislike.

I would almost go so far as to say “hate” but how can you hate someone you don’t even know?

There are two basic things “wrong” with this person.

1. They live here but, from what they’ve “said”, they hate/dislike so many things, I really don’t know why they are still here. Well, I do know why – it’s because they’re married to an Italian – but, really, why stay?

I don’t like everything here but, as I’ve said, many times, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I love my life here and the things that suck are few and far between (and, if I don’t try and do anything official, it’s generally pretty fine).

This person complains. Pretty much all the time. And it’s annoying. It seems really difficult for them to see positive things, most of the time.

2. I really dislike it when people allude to “special powers” they have. In this case it’s “links to powerful people”. And, by “powerful people”, I don’t mean the Prime Minister of Italy, nor the local police chief but, rather, the local “mafia”. I remember a guy I once went out with who alluded to being part of the Israeli secret service. It was, of course, a complete load of bollocks – not least because, if he had been, he wouldn’t have gone on about it. Or someone I once employed who tried to convince everyone he had been in the French Foreign Legion. I thought he might make a good salesman but should have trusted my original instincts. He, of course, was lying about everything. And, I mean everything. Including a child that he said wasn’t his and the other women in his life. In the end, he married another employee of mine and I was quite sad about that – for her.

And, so, anyone alluding to some sort of secret connections/job that they “can’t really talk about” but do, really annoys me. I find these people to be, generally, untrustworthy and, so, don’t trust them.

Other than those two things, most of this person’s outpourings are, to be frank, utter bollox. A lot of hot air – or blah, blah, blah containing nothing of interest.

The problem is that I can’t quite bring myself to “get rid of them”. It’s like watching a car crash. Fascinating and hateful at the same time.

But, if I ever met this person, I would want to give them a really good slap in the face so it’s a good job that there is almost no chance of ever meeting them.

Still, I put up with colleagues that I dislike and are really stupid so I’m sure I can put up with this person.

But it’s annoying all the same.

More Tourist stuff to do in Milan

Jean was here for a few days. She had just turned 70 and, for her birthday present, I bought her the ticket to come.

The first time she came, about 18 months ago, we did all the things I do, if possible, for first time visitors – Duomo, Duomo roof, Dialogue in the Dark, Villa Necchi.

So, what to do this time?

Well, although it involved an early start, the day after she came, we went to Venice. I didn’t tell her where we were going and, in spite of the fact that the train was for Venezia, I hoped that Venezia and Venice were different enough for her not to realise. Luckily I was right. She has only started going abroad in her 60s, so is a little more naive than most – but in a good way.

We passed Verona (which she had heard of) and the sun was shining. As we approached Venice, the weather was a bit more miserable – fog – and it seemed cold. We got to Mestre, the stop before Venice and the sign said VE Mestre. She asked me what VE stood for and I said it was just part of the name. I said that the weather didn’t seem so good so at the next station we would go back to Verona.

When the train pulled up in Venice, we got out (with everyone else, of course as it was the end of the line) but she didn’t seem to notice. I said that we needed to see when the next train back to Verona was. And then I said I had to have a cigarette first. So we walked outside to the front of the station which looks out over the Grand Canal.

She cried, which was rather sweet. Anyway, we had a rather lovely day, although, in Venice, there are just too many people/tourists. Living there must be a nightmare!

Day two was much easier. I took her to Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano, which is only a short walk from my house. Then we sat at a café on Corso Buenos Aires, then did a bit of shopping, then another café. As we were sitting, we saw one of the sightseeing buses and I asked if she would like to do that for the next day. She replied that she would. After all, we had walked so much in Venice I was a bit worried about over-doing it.

So,day three was a trip to the Castle where we caught the City Sightseeing bus. It costs €20 per person and there are three different routes (the €20 covers all three) or you can get a 48 hours pass for €5 more! The automatic guide (you get headphones to plug in) are in a number of languages. We went on two of the routes and, if you’re a first-time visitor, I think it’s well worth it. You get to see all the main tourist sights, can hop on and off at any of the stops to visit something you want to see and/or enjoy the ride. It was the first time I had been and I wish they had had them when I first came to Milan.

I’ve put a link to the right (in the useful sites for Milan section).

If you come, do it. It’s a great way to see the city.

Erm, I’ve just funded a film!

Yes, I have.

It’s almost like I’m a movie producer or something.

Of course, I didn’t fund it all. In fact, I funded a little bit of it.

You can see the details here (it’s a Kickstarter project).

And there’s a teaser here (well, until midnight tonight)

And the film is called Nina Forever.

I’m very excited :-)

And, I’ll get the DVD and some other stuff.

Sometime towards the end of next year.

This is my second Kickstarter project – unfortunately the last one didn’t make the target amount so nothing happened, which was a great shame. At least this one will happen.

And, as a bonus, it seems like it might be a good film :-)

Tourists – always watch what you’re doing but if you pay over the odds – walk away and enjoy your stay

I suspect that we’ve all been there.

You’re abroad and not paying quite as much attention as you should. After all, you’re on holiday and relaxed (one would hope). You go to a restaurant, sit outside and order something – say, lobster. You enjoy it as it’s really fresh. One of your party doesn’t like it and spits out the piece they are eating but the rest of you finish everything.

Then the bill comes and you find that you’ve been stuffed for a couple of hundred pounds.

This was not helped by the fact that one of your party had been to this country and had already warned that, before asking for something, agree the price – especially for fish at restaurants. Of course, that made it quite funny, in spite of the shock of the bill.

That was a true story from some years ago when we were on holiday in Turkey. G went there quite often for work, so we relied on him to tell us how to go about things – but the thought of lobster made us forget everything. We reckoned that the piece that V spat out was worth about £8!

What we didn’t do was to complain about it. After all it was our fault. We should have known better but, what the hell, we were on holiday and these things happen.

In Italy, of course, one has to be careful about “hidden” charges. These charges aren’t, generally, hidden, of course, but displayed (although you may have to know a little Italian).

If you go to a bar, for example, have a cup of coffee for about €1 – IF you stand at the bar.

Go and sit down outside the bar and get the waiter to come and serve you and you’ll pay more. It could be as much as €4 for the same cup of coffee! It’s the Italian way. Everyone knows that.

Go to a restaurant and there is, invariably, a cover charge. This will cover the bread sticks and bread and the service (although you can tip up to about €5 if the service is REALLY good). The cover charge (coperto) WILL be somewhere on the menu but isn’t always easy to spot. It varies quite a lot but is usually something like €4 per person.

Go to an ice-cream shop and there is a dazzling array of options …….. and prices. Usually, for a small cup or cone with one small scoop of delicious (or, rather, usually delicious) ice-cream.

Of course, you can go for bigger ice-creams with, usually, up to three scoops. Of course, for this you certainly won’t be paying a few Euro. But you will have, in your hand, something that is almost a meal in itself.

So this is really quite annoying. I mean, there you are in one of the tourist hot-spots in a capital city and you go into the ice-cream shop. You see the prices start from a few Euro so you have the ultra-large cone with three scoops and think that that will cost you 3 times (say) €3. But, of course, each scoop of ice-cream will be double the size of the small scoop and the ice-cream will be hanging well over the sides of the cone. It’ll probably take about 15 minutes to eat it and you’ll feel quite full afterwards.

So, stop complaining. The prices will have been on the board in the shop – it’s just that you were being a tourist and forgot to check properly. Have a laugh about how you should have checked it better and move right along to enjoy your holiday.

So, stupid people. Not for missing that price nor paying so much – but for complaining about it afterwards to the British press.

This morning

I have mentioned before – if you want to get an official document or get something stamped or signed – it will require at least two visits – maybe, even, three!

So, this morning, as my job required it, I needed to get a couple of copies of my passport and driving licence authenticated.

First by Italy and then by India.

I had everything.

So, the alarm went off. I stuck it on “snooze” but, as usual, got up about a minute later. I am in my usual it’s-too-early-to-function-as-anything-other-than-a-robot” mode. I shave and stuff. I make coffee. Once I have washed up, I start thinking about the getting the final things ready (gum, cigarettes, my tie, etc.)

I think “There’s something important in my bag”.

What is it that’s important? And why would I remember?

Then I remember. It’s the copies of my passport and driving licence which need to be authenticated by Italians and then passed by the Indian Consulate. It’s a work thing. What’s more important is that it means the alarm should not have been set for 6.15 a.m. but more like 8 a.m! Damn!

It’s now 7.15. For a second I think about staying up and then decide that an hour in bed is better than nothing. I go back to bed. F briefly wakes up as I am getting undressed and asks why. I give him the briefest of details.

About 8.15 I get up again. Without the shaving, I do it all again, including the coffee.

I leave the house for the office where, it seems, I may be able to get an Italian to stamp or authenticate my copies.

I get there.

I queue up.

When I get to the counter, I am told I am in the wrong queue. It should, of course, be the longer one.

I join and wait. I note that it will take 3 days for the document to be stamped. Italy cracks me up.

When I get to the counter (this is the counter next to the woman who told me I was in the wrong queue I am told that they can only authenticate my copies once my copies have been stamped as true copies by the commune (local council). WTF?

I walk down to the office that does this stuff.

I arrive and work out where to go.

I get a ticket. I think that IF (and that’s a big IF), I can get this stamped here, then I can try the Indian Consulate, since they only want it stamped by someone …….probably.

I wait for my turn.

And wait.

Eventually, I get to the counter.

It can’t be done. I have (and, of course, now that I think about it, stupidly, because I should have realised) copied my passport and driving licence onto one document. It saves paper and both documents prove that I am me.

But, as they are 2 documents, they have to be on two separate pieces of paper since then they can make separate charges.

I express my disgust at this and say OK I will do something else. He tries to explain something to me. I say it’s OK because I will do something else. Except, probably, I shout this a bit. He starts shouting at me and I just leave. Fuck ‘em. Really, WTF more than the last one!

I had had a bright idea that, since the point was for India to have copies that were authenticated, maybe the British Consulate in Milan could do it. And, at least there, I don’t have to deal with Italian bureaucracy.

I go to the British Consulate.

I am told that, as from the 1st April (so I missed it by 15 days), all this sort of stuff stopped being done by them and was now done by a couple of solicitors. They give me the details. I find that one is the other side of town but the map on my phone doesn’t recognise the name of the street of the other one. I toy with going back to the British Consulate to ask and decide that, as it’s now nearly lunchtime, I should go home and go to work.

At home, I make a cup of tea and check the map on the computer. The street was two minutes from the British Consulate. Grrrr.

I go to work anyway.

I arrive at work to get told that this documentation is no longer required.

So, although my theory of a minimum of two visits was confirmed, at least now I don’t have to do the second lot of visits!

And it was a beautiful day to be walking around.

And I did have an extra 40 minutes snooze this morning.