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.

I’ll miss you too

I'll miss you too.jpg

“I will miss you.”

Things rarely said become more effective when said.

“And I’ll miss the bambini.”

Well, of course, but that gets said more often.

We’re now into day 3 of at least 16 days. At least 16 because, as yet, we don’t know (or, rather, I don’t know and he may or may not know … yet) if he’ll be required to stay in London for a day or two when he gets back there.

I followed the flight. Most of the flight was over Russia. Russia is a very big country which, although I knew that, following the flight and hours and hours of flying over terrain without towns and hardly any names to rivers and lakes (or seas), I appreciated it more.

Apparently he slept little and watched four films. The flight was over 11 hours. He is seven hours or so in front. As I write, it’s about 6.30 p.m. for him and not even lunchtime for me.

Of course, I’ve been busy. His cousin’s son and his girlfriend came to see Expo and stayed with us. Except he was only there for the Thursday night when they arrived. They stayed until Sunday. So, really, they stayed with me and not us. It was OK. They were at Expo all day Friday and then all day and into the evening on Saturday.

On Sunday, after breakfast, I tried to tell them how to go to the new Porta Nuova area but it was difficult to explain with my bad Italian so I offered to take them. I did my usual walk from there down Corso Como, Corso Garibaldi and into Brera – then we took a tram to the centre of Milan and I left them there. I think they were grateful.

F just phoned me. He has to phone when he can which is not that often since he doesn’t want to run up a huge telephone bill. It’s OK. These snatches of conversation are better than nothing.

I will be quite busy over the next few weeks – also because he’s not here – and that will make the time go really fast. Plus I have a load of films to watch so it’s not all bad. It just gets a bit exhausting – getting up earlier to take the dogs out, doing everything that needs doing, etc. But it’s OK.

He is working too and won’t get so much time to go and visit the cities he will be in. It won’t really be a walk in the park for him.

But, I will be so happy when he’s back and, from his comment, so will he.

And, as I replied to him – “I’ll miss you too.”

20 days!

“20 days!?”

20 days!

It’s impossible to hide my shock and unhappiness.

I am, at once, jealous, happy for him and really quite pissed off. He sees this. I wish he could see that I am happy for him. I recover. A bit.

“Well, if I didn’t know you better, I would say that at least you’d have some great food.” Except I DO know him and I know he doesn’t really like their food. It’s why I’m jealous though. One of the countries is one I would love to go to – just for the food. He says he hopes the girlfriend will come too so that he doesn’t have to spend all the time with M, his boss. But I suspect that won’t happen. It’s not that he doesn’t like his boss, it’s just that he also likes to do his own thing.

He says they will probably go around the 3rd October (which probably means it WILL be 3rd October – a Saturday.) “That will mean you’re away for nearly all of October?” Again, I can’t keep my feeling of panic out of my voice. He’s disappointed, I see. I want to be encouraging but he’s just sprung this on me. I knew it was all a possibility and I was very pleased for him – am very pleased for him – but I was thinking a couple of weeks, maximum. 20 days just seems such a long time.

I know. It’s selfish. My first thought was I’ve got 20 days of doing the dogs; getting up very early; all my lessons; just 20 days of hell – after which I will be so tired – and that’s assuming nothing really dramatic happens (which, after a call this morning, is always possible.)

Later, when I’ve had time to recover a bit from my initial reaction, I’m able to say, “Good babe”, as that’s what I really think. This is a great opportunity for him, and I am genuinely pleased for him. It’s a long trip though, to the other side of the world. It will exhaust him, for sure.

And, I know, in the end, it won’t be so bad. The time will fly as I will be really busy.

“I’ll be away for our anniversary,” he says, pulling a face that looks like he will cry. “Don’t worry, babe, we’ll celebrate when you’re back.” It’s OK. But now I’ll give him the model of Dino for when he gets back. It will cheer him up.

I will get the cleaner to do a special clean for when he gets back.

But, still, I will miss him. And the dogs will miss him for sure, not really understanding that he’s only away for a little while.

Still, 20 days!!!

Mice, men and plans.

Mice, men and plans.

“Maybe we can leave early?”

I have work, so it can’t be really early. But, as in less than two weeks, I shall be staying at work a little later (rather than go home before picking up Best Mate), I could leave half an hour earlier.

So, in order to be at home as quickly as possible today (Friday), last night, I went to buy cigarettes rather than, as I usually do, on Friday. And I bought that long-life milk to take down with me. That would mean that the only thing I would have to do on Friday night, on my way home, was fill up with petrol.

But, the best laid plans ….. etc., etc.

Of course, it was first mentioned, a few days ago.

“They can’t deliver the new furniture until Saturday.”

This is for the shop. Since he’s responsible for the layout, it’s important that he’s there. It was due to come this week, during the week but for some reason, can’t be done until Saturday. I ask if he has to stay and he says “no” but I’m not convinced. His boss has also told him he doesn’t have to be there. But I know he’ll feel responsible.

So last night, I met him and some of his colleagues for a drink. He tells me two things. 1. His brother (and girlfriend) will be staying at the house from next week (his girlfriend’s house got flooded and is being “worked on”) and, 2. he has to stay in Milan for Saturday.

Whereas I’m not really surprised, I’m disappointed (and very disappointed for him) on two fronts. First that his brother will “mess up” the tidy, super-clean house that he spent about a week doing, ready for our holiday and secondly that he can’t come down this weekend.

He’s quite angry and frustrated. With his brother and with the furniture thing.

I shall still go down tonight but it’s not really so important to leave early. My heart’s not in it. Without him it’s really not the same. But I’m going down because it will be so hot over the weekend and going down is so much better for the dogs, poor things. But, I think this year, we’ve actually travelled together only once. And, even if he annoys the hell out of me (switching off the air conditioning from time to time and not wanting me to smoke when I want and lots of “be careful”s or sharp intake of breaths because he thinks I’m not driving slow enough, etc.) I much prefer that he’s with me. In fact, I much prefer that he’s with me most of the time and this year he hasn’t been.

And, then, maybe, the weekend after, his brother will still be there so probably we won’t go down, which is a shame, mostly for him.

But let’s see. He wants to buy out his brother from the house. If his brother won’t give up his half, he says he will push to sell the house and then buy one of his own.

He’s angry and frustrated, I’m just disappointed. My plans were for nothing.

Listening – it’s bloody hard sometimes.

Most of the time, I bite my tongue.

After all, if he wasn’t listening two seconds ago, he won’t be listening now, will he?

We’re talking about things that need to be done. He is going to be there for the Fastweb engineer on Thursday. I want to ask the engineer if he can put a wire from wherever the box goes, through to my studio for my computer. This may be something that he does for cash and, given that we’re in Italy and the wages are so low here, the chances that he will do it are high.

“it will be better,” he says, “as he can do any drilling through the walls before we move all the stuff in.”

I agree. I add, “And I can sort out the connection from my PC to the television before we move, too.”

“That’s not important. It can be done afterwards. It’s more important to find someone to run a pipe from the gas point to the place we want it in the kitchen.”

Well, yes, I know that. after all, without a kitchen, we can’t really move in.

“You’ve got different priorities than me,” he adds.

Well, actually no, I haven’t. The kitchen is the number one priority. The extension for the cooker was given to you to sort out, since you speak Italian and the chances of the plumber speaking English is far less than some technical thing that I should do.

He becomes tetchy because in his head, all I’m worried about is my PC.

“No, the kitchen has to be done before we move in,” I say, “but I also need my computer when we move because of the lessons.”

This, of course, carried no weight. He has already stopped listening to me, if he was even doing that at the beginning. He continues saying things about how our priorities are different and how I’m not concentrating on the right things, etc., etc. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, I listen to the things he says but, since he’s not listening to me, it is better not to respond. I’ve learnt that much. I cannot argue my point because he misinterprets almost everything I say. I can’t explain. And, anyway, the difference in our languages makes everything more difficult. It’s one of the drawbacks, for certain.

I know that it is better just to let it lie. Although it is a bit frustrating. It means we can’t talk about the thingS we need to do, only the thing he is concentrating on at the moment.

I try to let it all wash over me, and, my strength of will makes it so. After all, it is only this moment and he doesn’t mean to do it. It’s not like it’s going to kill me.

He suggests about moving stuff over. I explain I don’t like doing it. He says he does. Again I get the “I’m not trying to tell you what to do” thing, even if, in reality, that’s EXACTLY what he’s trying to do.

It’s OK. He knows I’m quite stubborn and I’ll just do the things my way anyway.

It is extremely hot. It’s already half nine or so, and it must be close to 30°. We talk about the dogs, as Dino, in particular, is struggling a bit in the heat. He’s going to get some sprayer thing so he can spray him with cool water from time to time. We can try. Anything is worth a try.

He then suggests that, soon, we can start going down to Carrara. Especially because it will be nicer for the dogs. He will have to work some weekends, one of which will be going to Paris. He suggests that I should go down with the dogs on those weekends. I say it will depend on what needs to be done but, secretly, I think I might. I miss the weekends in Carrara – the asparagus and lardo pizza on Friday; days spent on the beach with some books; eating at his Mum and Dad’s; the morning coffee and croissant at the bar overlooking the sea. Yes, I’ve missed those this year even if it’s been for a very good reason.

So, maybe we will go down.

As I’ve written this, I think about something I’ve read recently – listen without trying to form a response in your head at the same time. I must really try to do that. It’s difficult though, isn’t it?

Plastic People

I am way, way over my head here.

And how different this was from the previous night!

I am introduced to various people, only one of whom I will remember – and that’s because we’re going to his wife’s shop (or, rather ex-shop) soon.

Eventually Si and I go to get a glass of prosecco and I manage to grab a small chocolate sweet from one of the waiters passing by who, until now have passed close to me but not close enough for me to grab anything and, anyway, seem to be moving through the room at something close to the speed of light. Most of the time, the ones that get close enough are carrying empty plates back.

The people around me speak mostly Italian and far too fast for me to understand. The men are dressed in suits with ties (no jeans) and the women have on their finest designer outfits and are all “beautiful” and “thin”.

This may be Design Week but one could be excused for confusing this with Fashion Week.

Si had only texted me when she had arrived at the shop (or, as we should now call them, Flagship Store.) Initially, I thought I’d say “no”. I was already tired from the night before but then I thought that I never really do these things and that I really should. What’s the point in living here if I don’t experience the “high life” once in a while. So I had rushed to change and to get there and I was now hot and bothered. She is dressed with a pink theme but doesn’t look out of place. I feel out of place since I have jeans, a casual white shirt (a little unusual – as is my wont) and a “suit-type” jacket.

After a little while we go to our next place. Si’s colleague, M’s wife used to own one of the most famous jewellers in Milan (apparently since I had never heard of them). We walk to the shop. On the way, in Via Montenapoleone (one of the main fashion streets in Milan), we pass their other shop. M goes over to say hello to someone there and then beckons us over. Apparently we should be going to this shop and not the other one. This shop, though, is not their historical main store but, rather, one that is exclusively for Rolex watches. In fact, I learn, this was the very first Rolex Flagship store in the world.

The party is in full swing. As for most places, there are people on the door checking if you are “on the list”. If you’re not “on the list” or know someone inside, you won’t get in. Of course, we are with the husband of the ex-owner (her cousin now owns it but she goes because it’s expected as she can meet and greet some of the long-term clients that will be there), so we get in.

Si seems very pleased with all this. She works in Marketing for a Luxury Brand (but not fashion) so there could be a tie-in.

Here the clientèle at the party are richer than the previous party. The men are not all in suites but, then, the crowd is older. I say older and that’s not entirely true. The men are older, some of the women are older but some are there because they’re not. However, there is so much plastic in the room – most women seem to have been under the knife, some with disastrous results (in my opinion.) There was fur; there were jewels; there was plastic – everywhere.

The shop is not that big but opulent would be a good word to use. The carpet thick, the wood special and lots of it and, of course, the watches. Now, personally, I really don’t like Rolex as a watch. Too much – I prefer simple watches – simple faces, preferably white or blue – even if mine are quite expensive (not as much as a Rolex though.)

The food was fantastic. They did little burgers that were so tasty (and, obviously NOT McDonald’s) and some proper Risotto Milanese. Si knew the chef (I’m not sure how she found that out) who is quite famous here, apparently and has a restaurant near Bergamo. Anyway, she mentioned something to one of the waiters and the next thing was that the chef came out to say hello to her – and me – and bearing another tray of the delightful mini burgers (just a mouthful each time – I had about 5!)

The shop had a “vertical” garden at the back, a roof terrace on the top floor and, on the same floor, a very large balcony that overlooked via Montenapoleone. Quite stunning.

It was all very nice but, to be honest, I preferred the previous night. There weren’t any real “designers” at these parties, just people who were to be “seen”.

I wasn’t way over my head because of the people so much as the fact that I don’t have the “culture” knowledge that they do. I mean, I know stuff but when people mention this designer or that artist, quite often I don’t have a clue who they are. Mostly I say I don’t know them. Sometimes, just because otherwise it gets boring, I say “Oh really?” – thank God they don’t ask too many questions.

Although, obviously, these people, especially at the Rolex shop, do move in a different world from me.

Still, it was all very nice and I’m glad I went but I did prefer the previous night where I got to meet “real” people rather than “plastic” people.

Design Week – the parties, the exhibitions, the fun of it all.

The weather is quite nice now. Not really hot but warm and then, in the evening, pleasant – but you need a light jacket or coat.

That was certainly one reason why, when I arrived, the place was heaving. In fact, I’ve never seen it so full.

Obviously, I know a lot of people now so it took us a while to get to a place to grab a drink. At the start, S hung on my coat tails but, after a while she relaxed.

The shop looked great and F had done a really good job although people would “touch” things and move them out of place and that irritates F. There were four stunningly nice chairs onn hooks on the large wall they have and on one of the bottom chairs, F had placed a bird (it was a theme). Some guy who looked like he had come straight from a Harry Potter film set as one of the teachers of the school – long, slightly crazy white hair, beard and glasses – had just reached up to the bird and dislodged it. We watched him as he tried to put it back on the chair. He couldn’t. He laid it on the chair and, with F seething, we watched him look around, trying to work out if someone had noticed. He looked and, almost certainly felt, very guilty.

We eventually got a drink from a roving waiter and picked up food as it came round. S was introduce to everyone that I talked to.

F told her she looked very elegant, as he does to almost all females. So, even today, all I am hearing is F said this; F said that!

Anyway, she loved it. She felt more special, I know. I remember when I used to feel like this all those years ago (before F). Now, I’m just interested in finding really nice people that I can become friends with. Not because I’m looking for friends, you understand, just because it’s nice meeting new people who are intelligent, funny, experienced and, with any luck, have something really interesting about them. Still, all the people that S met were, so she said, very nice. Of course, F was the best and she kept on about his trousers and how I should get some the same which, of course, I won’t, since I don’t really do trousers unless they are part of a suit!

We wandered about and chatted with all these people. Colleagues of F, friends of ours who came, other people that I know that are friends of F’s or his colleagues or used-to-be colleagues. Even our (my) old neighbour came.

At 8, people were still trying to get in and soon after they stopped people because they started to clean up. Si had arrived late and she and I stood outside; waiting for F who was polishing all the glass table and cabinet tops and resetting everything that had been touched and moved, ready for today. S left as she had her daughter to collect. But you could tell that she really wanted to come with us.

Then, we walked down to Via Tortona and a street that ran parallel. There were crowds and crowds of people and, as we commented later, it’s a nicer crowd during Design Week, more relaxed than during Fashion Week. Obviously, there were the people with the strange idea about dress – a little bit quirky or downright weird. But it is more casual, in general.

We met up with F’s best colleagues and visited some places that were open (most were open) including the studio of L’s sister, B who is very, very nice.

Everyone is “wowing” about the designs she does. I’m agreeing but inwardly thinking “Well, this is OK but I wouldn’t have it in my house”. But, of course, you can’t say that.

We did meet a 50-something dancer who has a one-room flat in London, speaks very good English and has just opened a dance studio here in Milan. She might also design jewellery. She might have been quite interesting to get to know but it was late and I was tired and we were about to go to Bar §Basso. I’m sure that I’ll meet her again – if it’s meant to be.

And then a taxi to Bar Basso. Si, who is more like F’s age, seemed genuinely “excited” about the whole thing and the atmosphere at Bar Basso because it was “very International”.

Then we went home.

Also, the people who own the potential new flat are very interested in us taking the flat but want us to come closer to the asking price.

We go this evening to update our offer :-)

How excited are we?

Well, it seems, very excited.

Bordering on hysterical.

Now, when I say “we”, I don’t actually mean “we” as in F & me. I mean my colleague, S.

She is a bit “snobby”. Not in a horrible way, of course, but she does like to think of herself as better than she is. More elegant, more beautiful, etc. I find it funny, to be honest.

Anyway, it’s the Furniture Fair in Milan this week and F’s shop has a display of some furniture, the fabric for which was designed by the designer (of the clothes, obviously). And there is a kind of small “party” which is really just an aperitivo, tonight. I am going, of course and, as F requested, invited certain people (it means that the shop will be full and that’s always good). There will be prosecco and the event is catered with some very nice “finger food” and there are waiters mingling to hand out this finger food. I go because F wants me to go and he can introduce me to English people and I can talk to them, which he likes.

Anyway, amongst the people I invited was S, my colleague. I knew she would like to be invited and half expected her to say no but, instead, she said yes. What the hell, I thought. She almost certainly knows of the existence of F (being quite good friends with some people that know of F here, at work) and I’m sure she is being just slightly nosy. But, in addition, it is a party with, for her, the glamour of Milan fashion and, so, something to be seen at.

However, I wasn’t expecting the reaction we have so far – she is wearing something but has bought a dress to change in to if I thought what she was wearing wasn’t good enough!

As I’ve tried to explain, this is just a small party in the shop. It’s not really something you have to wear a cocktail dress or evening gown to. It starts at 6.30 and will be all over by 8!

However, she is VERY excited. and a little bit apprehensive, which surprises me.

So, we shall see. The “tension” will be mounting throughout the day. Probably.

Hotel Castelbarco; Bergamo – Città Alta; Crespi d’Adda – a night away

Sorry. Been busy. Still am.

But taking a break for a moment.

Saturday night we spent in a hotel not far from Milan, the Hotel Castelbarco, near Vaprio d’Adda.

Vaprio is a small town just outside Milan, on the river Adda, hence its name.

It was a Groupon voucher thing that I got about 6 months ago and, so, as normal, we were running out of time!

It was for one night’s B&B.

The hotel was formerly the stables, etc. of a rather grand house, now used for functions (such as weddings). The grounds are spread along the river Adda. To the left of the great house are the stables and so on (now the hotel) and to the right are some other buildings (maybe new) that are now a restaurant, bar and night club complex (more on that later).

To be honest, I wouldn’t say the hotel was WOW! but it was quite nice and very, very clean. The breakfast was ample. As normal with Italian hotels that have been converted, the walls are paper thin and the woman with her stilettos that she continued to wear as (it seemed) she danced for an hour round the room next door, didn’t help. But, that aside, it was fine.

We arrived at something like 3 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon. It had been raining on and off. Fine rain or drizzle, not the normal Italian downpour, thank goodness.

We got in our room and dumped everything and left for Bergamo.

I’ve always wanted to visit Bergamo, more famed by the British for it’s airport that receives Ryanair jets from the UK. But there are two Bergamos – Bassa and Alta – and I had heard that Bergamo Alta was really quite a lovely city – being the original city built long before flying started and, as normal in Italy, on a hill.

And, pretty it was. A small medieval town with cobbled, narrow streets opening out, from time to time, on small squares or, in one case, the Piazza Vecchio (Old Square).

The cathedral (although it might just be a church) was wonderful, if not a little strange. There seemed to be a great mix of styles from Medieval to baroque – but it was lovely. We were both hungry so stopped for some lunch at Al Donizetti.

Although there was some very fine rain, it didn’t seem so cold and there was, waht seemed like, an old ‘market place’ under which they had tables. People were there eating without coats and so we chose to eat ‘outside’. that was possibly a mistake as it started to rain heavily and we ended up not taking our coats off at all!

It was also very touristy. But, then, the whole of Bergamo was very touristy – full of restaurants and bars, particularly those advertising their beers.

But the food was good and the service pleasant and, had it been a little warmer, it would have been lovely. We shared a plate of cold meats including lardo and some rather fine boiled and cured hams and then F had some polenta with mushrooms in a sauce and I had tomasino (a flat round cheese) with speck (they said it would be ‘crispy’ but it wasn’t so I wondered if that got lost in translation) on a bed of raddicchio done in a red wine sauce. It was rather lovely. The wine was good.

The only thing that let it down, in my opinion, was the sweets. I’m sure they were home-made but the pear and chocolate tart that I had was neither chocolatey nor pearey enough for me. The ricotta cake that F had was, to me, just stodgy without real taste . However, overall it was good.

We walked around the town for a bit, in, what was now, drizzle and light rain or, occasionally, no rain at all!

It was all very nice.

We had decided that, rather than eat in Bergamo and then have to drive to the hotel afterwards, we would go back to the hotel and eat there.

And so we did.

To get to the restaurant from the hotel, one can walk but, given that it could rain at any time, we drove.

The car park was overflowing. It made us a bit worried that the restaurant would be full. We eventually found the entrance (for it was not well signposted) and it was, in fact, the entrance to the bar and nightclub. When we explained that we wanted to go to the restaurant, he took us through to it.

If I say that it was being in a restaurant of a fairly cheap, 90s hotel, I think you’ll get the idea. If it wasn’t that I really didn’t want to have to drive around (having already have had a little less than half a bottle of wine at lunchtime), I would have suggested going somewhere – anywhere – else.

But it was all too late now. We were in Cubeba, famed, according to its card, for food, drink and dance!

And the food was more like something one would receive at Little Chef! Don’t get me wrong, Little Chefs are great places for food – for a very reasonable price. This was overpriced and the musak far too loud (to drive out the sound of the bar music, I suppose). I mean, it was OK but nothing WOW!

However, next door, it seemed the whole of Vaprio and it’s surrounding villages had come for they were having a ‘Fashion Night’. We went out for a cigarette at one point but, because we had to go through (a little bit) the bar, we had to have our hand stamped to prove we were entitled to go back in without having to pay! Not really what I expect from any decent restaurant.

The waitress, who seemed new, tried her best and, so, for us, we left a good tip. For the food I would have taken some money away! For the ambience, we should have had the whole thing free.

However, F did notice that, on Friday nights, they had their ‘Beautiful People’ night. It made us both laugh.

The next day, after breakfast, I had planned to take F to Crespi d’Adda, where he had never been.

It is a ‘workers village’ built by the Crespi family to house the workers for the factory they built next to the village. They say he was inspired by the model villages he saw in the UK during a trip there and I guess they were right in that it does have quite an ‘English’ feel to it.

I had been worried because of the rain forecast but, in the end, we were lucky with sunshine and warmth and a lovely trip round the village. This time I had looked it up on the net (see link above) and so had a better idea of where to go and what to see. It was a shame we couldn’t really get to see the owner’s ‘castle’ but the rest of it was just as I remembered it. F really enjoyed it.

Then we came home as F had to get ready to go to Germany which is where he is now.

Overall I would give 3 or 4 stars to the hotel, 4 stars to the restaurant in Bergamo and 1 star (for the waitress) for Cubeba. Next time I’ll try and remember to find out about the hotel restaurant first, before we try it!

It’s like a party out there …… and here.

There are plenty of taxis – just none that are free for hire.

For that matter, there are plenty of cars too.

And there are plenty of people. In fact, in this street, normally fairly dead at this time of night. In spite of the fact that there are some nice hotels on the road, mostly it is shops, and the shops are closed.

And there aren’t any people, normally, since the road doesn’t really lead to anywhere to which people would want to go.

But not tonight. Or, rather, last night. Last night it was ‘buzzing’, in spite of the rain.

It is, of course, the week of the Furniture Fair – Salone Internazionali Del Mobili. Apart from the fashion weeks, one of the most important times for Milan (or maybe bigger than the fashion weeks), showcasing all that is good and great about Italian design.

Now, the main exhibition is at the Rho Fiera (the big, new exhibition centre) outside Milan.

And whilst, when it first moved, Milan became a bit dead, now there are many smaller exhibitions and parties and things around the centre of Milan. And so it was last night, the third (I think) night of the Furniture Fair.

F’s shop had a book launch and so there was a small party, of sorts. Of course, now, I must go. I like to watch him schmoozing the customers – and he is very, very good. Full of charm and jokes.

I know some people, of course, and get introduced to more by F, permitting F to go off and see other people. I chat a bit but I do find it more difficult. I’ve never really been that good at small talk. Still, I do my best and the party is nice.

I step outside sometimes for a cigarette – watching the taxis and cars and people in this unusually crowded street. Feeling kind of odd. I mean, I don’t feel like I really fit in but it seems nice and I want to fit in; to be part of this ‘world’ of art and design and ideas.

But it’s OK. I have a glass of prosecco in my hand and, after several, I’m more relaxed. I meet people that I recognise but can’t place. One is an author; another a buyer or something for Prada; some English woman who is a buyer for some shops out of Milan. But I am crap with names and crap remembering. Somehow I manage to get by, sometimes having to ask F quietly, who it was I have been talking to.

I mention the dog; the new puppy – but they all already know and most have seen the photographs. “Yes, I have seen you in the photographs with the dogs”. Of course they have. I say to one, “I don’t know whether he’s with me because of me or because of the dogs”, laughing as I do. In fact, both are true.

And I am tired. His colleague from Paris has gone (and she is really lovely) and two nights of going out, eating, getting back at half-past midnight have taken their toll. Tonight I would have preferred to go to bed immediately but it can’t be so. It’s part of the deal of a relationship. One does things for the other. And, anyway, F enjoys introducing me as his ‘fidanzato’, especially to people who have never met me. They always think I’m something in fashion or design and he delights in telling them that I’m not. It’s his thing.

We walk home, since there are no taxis. It’s not late but both of us are so tired it feels like it’s midnight anyway.

In the middle of the night, we both stir for some reason and, for no apparent reason at all, as he turns, he lifts himself up on his elbows and kisses my face. He doesn’t really show affection as such but sometimes I feel happy that I know he loves me.