Leave me be!

__leave_me_the_fuck_alone___by_alchimichi

I’m fairly easy going. I don’t need much and most of it I have already got.

But you know, leave me alone. I don’t want interferance from others and, in particular, governments and organisations. But, particularly, governments.

So, in the 1970s, the UK joined the EU. For most of my life after that, it didn’t really have a direct effect. And then I moved here. I was able to do so easily and, apart from the first couple of years, I didn’t and don’t need any sort of permission to stay here. It’s a right, guaranteed by the EU lawa and protections. In fact, right now, I can go anywhere within the EU to live and work (or not). It was granted to me by the governments of the EU and it’s a thing I like.

I have been here for over 12 years, living, working, paying my taxes, etc. I can go back, if I wanted to, or move somewhere else (as long as it’s warmer :-) ). I have true freedom of movement.

But now, because the UK are a bunch of arseholes, that current and future right is being put in doubt as with a load of other things. And Brexit hasn’t even happened yet! Almost daily, there are stories of people being threatened with deportation from the UK, people who can’t bring in their wife or husband because of an interpretation of the laws by the British courts, etc. And, still Brexit hasn’t happened!

And there are reports that, whereas the EU wants to ensure that it’s members’ people maintain the right of free movement to Britain, the British abroad are being excluded form that because the British government, to be frank, doesn’t really care about it’s small number of people abroad. On the other hand, I don’t care about much else except my continued right to stay and work here.

So, governments – LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!

Commenting allowed!

Commenting allowed!

After putting up my last post, I noticed that commenting was off, for some reason.

Not just on the last port – but all posts, at least for a while back.

I guess, at some point, an upgrade to WordPress made this setting and I had no idea.

Well, now I’ve corrected it. I needed to go to Posts, tick all titles, select Bulk Actions -> Edit and up came a window with various options including allowing people to comment.

Of course, to stop this happening in future, I also went to Settings -> Discussions and ticked some boxes to allow comments.

So, it wasn’t my fault and, it seems, was some common problem.

Glad I noticed it though. At least, now, people can comment on the stuff I write.

My time in the hospice is taken care of.

My time in the hospice is taken care of

It happened a few days ago but a) I hadn’t thought it through and b) it hasn’t actually happened – it’s just an intent.

But, it’s a big intent. Well, I think it’s big.

So, I have a private pension fund (it doesn’t make me rich, honest, (unfortunately)) which, as an ex-pat, I had moved from the UK to an EU country for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was to escape some of the various private funds having a say over who could receive the fund in the unfortunate event of my death.

So, I’ve left it all to F. And I explained that I had done this, warning him that it wasn’t something to get excited about but it would mean he could pay for people to look after the dogs, etc. This was a few years ago.

Then, a few days ago, when I was having some issues and he was away, I talked about them and he told me that his brother had phoned wanting money. Now they own the house down in Carrara on a 50/50 basis and F’s brother wants F to buy him out. F said that he would go to the bank and try to get a mortgage to buy out his brother.

And then he added that he would write a will to leave it to me if he should die.

Because, “it would help you pay for a hospice if you needed.” Which was quite a strange thing to add but, still.

Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that he will die first, given my age and the smoking and stuff – but that’s not the point, as you realise.

And I thought it was quite sweet (apart from the hospice stuff which was a bit weird).

But it makes me feel a little more secure, which is nice.

Car break-ins, Cancer or Not to Cancer, iPhone software bugs.

It is about 7.15 a.m.

I am, as usual, hardly what I could term as “awake”. However, as usual, expecting something bad, as I do often, surprised to see the car where I left it.

As I walk towards it, I press the button on the fob and the indicator lights blink, as they usually do, to inform me that the car is now unlocked. Now, unlike yesterday at about 6.30 p.m., there are no “youths” hanging around in front of the car. Last night, as always, after locking the car (using the fob and not the key), I had checked that I had locked it properly by trying to open the back door as I passed. Only last night, I had made sure I had done it (it’s such an automatic thing that sometimes I cannot, within a few seconds, remember if I have checked my locking by this method) because of the group of four of five youths in front of the car. They were innocuous enough but, you know, I’m an old man now and you can’t ever be too careful, can you? And, anyway, I’m British and youths hanging around with little to do are always a bad sign.

I get to the car and open the door, taking my bag off my shoulder as I do so to slip it into the passenger footwell.

And I noticed something slightly strange. On the front passenger seat is the emergency first aid box that is permanently in the car. The reason it was strange is that I had not moved it from under the front seats and so it was completely out of place. I looked behind my seat where I put various thing, most of them in some cheap yellow shopping-style bag. And sure enough it was a little in disarray, and the umbrella could have been moved and my “summer driving shoes” had almost certainly been moved.

I checked each of the windows of the car. No, none had been smashed.

So, someone had got into to a car that I absolutely, certainly KNOW was locked without having to break any windows. They had rummaged around a bit and, from what I can tell, took two or three lighters (that I get for free anyway) but nothing else.

Not that there was anything to take. The yellow bag holding things like a bottle of water for the dogs, some additive for the windscreen wiper water and some other fairly crap items that are only useful when making car trips.

However, it did give me a slightly weird feeling. It’s not as if I can really report anything? I mean, what could I possibly say? But now I doubt the security of the car, of course.

And the reason I was parking in that particular place was that I had been to the doctor. And I don’t have cancer, of the lungs, at least, although I’m not entirely convinced I haven’t got it. However, because the heart doctor had panicked, I’m now on pills for blood pressure, which doesn’t really please me, and I have some further tests to do next year (the first booking I could get). So bugger a bit but relief as well.

The doctor suggested that I try and cut down my smoking. She also added that I was a “lucky man” – but, then, I’ve always said that, haven’t I?

In other news, Apple phones are just as crap and unreliable as other phones. iMessage doesn’t work with phones that aren’t other Apple phones. A long conversation with Apple Help, which included resetting my telephone, didn’t help and they told me it must be my provider. It didn’t really make sense as it HAD been working and, then, sometime around April/May it stopped working – which, for a while I thought was because the phones I was trying to text were in the UK and I thought it was a UK problem – until a colleague had a problem sending a message to me.

I’ve now found that this is a known problem (well, known to the world except for Apple, it seems) and, although I’ve tried every trick given to sort the problem – so far, no good. Which doesn’t please me much. It’s something to do with an update to the operating system that they did a while ago, it seems. Let’s hope the next update fixes this. I thought the guy from Apple who was helping me was quite OK – until afterwards when I realised that he, like nearly all helplines, actually knew nothing and was just doing the equivalent of “switch it off and then back on again”

So bugger.

I will add a photo later or tomorrow.

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.

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.

Christmas is coming and the stamps have arrived!

Finally, after all these years, I am getting better.

This year, about a month ago, I started looking at the Italian Post Office site for indications of when the Christmas stamps would be out. In fact, they came out on Saturday. And I was able to place my order last week.

There are, as usual, two stamps available. There is the religious one:

Religious Christmas Stamp

And then there is the non-religious one:

Christmas Stamp I chose

Which is, of course, the ones I chose. And, this morning, I got them! Yesterday, I went down to the cellar and brought up the box with the cards and, now all I have to do is write them. This means there is a really good chance that everyone will get their cards before Christmas – even the people in far-off lands.

But, I still have to write them!

Surprise! This one’s about food (maybe unsurprisingly.)

Italy still has the power to surprise me, even after all these years.

In this case it’s food (again).

So, for the last 5 years or so, I’ve been going down to the Tuscan coast a fair bit, especially in the summer. Of course, we have often eaten at someone’s home – real Italian home-cooked food. And, more often than not, it is delicious. There are things that F likes a lot and, as it’s his family, he gets what he really likes. I’ve never really paid much attention to it other than to like it and eat it. There are things I like less than others, of course.

For example, for breakfast, I usually have a pastry which has apple in it. F usually has the rice one. We don’t seem to see them in Milan but, to be honest, I never thought much of it. They are flat pastries, similar, in a way, to Eccles Cakes (i.e. a kind of flaky pastry thing) – but mine is filled with apple and his with some rice filling (although I’ve had it and there aren’t any bits of rice as you’d expect.)

So, this weekend just gone, we had visitors. One of his close friends from school/college and her boyfriend. Originally, they were coming to go to Expo (which, incidentally finishes on Saturday) but they couldn’t get up until Saturday afternoon so, instead, we went for a walk in the Porto Nuova area (the new area of Milan) and then on Sunday went to the Castle to see some exhibitions/museum things they have there.

The strange thing was that they were coming to stay one night (and not even 24 hours) and yet his friend (she is An2) was bringing the food for Saturday night. It all felt a bit wrong. She is, however, a wonderful cook and every summer we go to her place for an evening meal at least a couple of times. She always makes stuff that F really likes and there is always too much food.

Still, it all seemed wrong that they, as visitors, should be bringing the food.

We were going to be having lasagne and torta di riso.

So, on Friday, I mentioned to someone at work that they were doing this and got a blank expression when I mentioned the torta di riso. I had always assumed that every Italian would know about this. Basically, it’s a little like egg custard tart (which I love anyway and, as an aside, was one of my choices from the bakery when we had treats on a Friday when I was a kid) but, instead of a pastry base, it has a layer of rice on the bottom.

I tried to explain it (but it’s difficult if egg custard tart is not a point of reference.) But I then learnt that the food I’ve been getting in Carrara is local to Carrara! I don’t know why I’ve never really thought of it before. I mean, I had the apple and rice pastries which, to be honest, should have given me a clue since I’ve never seen them anywhere else!

So, I asked F about it. He explained that, yes, torta di riso was quite local. Even in Sarzana, a few miles away, they make torta di riso in a completely different way and, certainly, with many less eggs!

But, even the lasagne was different. Lasagne is known throughout Italy and the world but this is “open” lasagne (called lasagne sfordellate) and is basically small squares of pasta with a meat and tomato sauce. The pasta isn’t arranged in any way, it’s just like having spaghetti bolognese but using, square bits of pasta instead.

I remember having it a couple of times down there and I remember thinking, at the time, that it was strange that they called it lasagne (especially strange since lasagne also includes bechamel sauce, which this doesn’t have.)

As usual, the stuff she did was out of this world. The lasagne sfordellate was divine, the meat seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked in the tomato sauce.

The torta di riso was also divine, as usual. I learnt some things. 1. They use eggs (and I mean A LOT of eggs) when they do this tart with egg custard and rice. In this case, she had used 14 eggs! 2. It is baked in the oven (at 180°C) for 3 hours. Yes, THREE hours! And, on Sunday, was the day that I realised that the apple pastry and the rice pastry is not universal in Italy as she wanted the rice on and, of course, we couldn’t get it here (or, rather, we don’t know where one could be found.)

Of course, even in the UK, we have slight regional differences. For example, tripe is something I would only expect to find in the North West of the UK. But we’re talking a few things. Here, in Italy, there are so many things that are specific to a region.

So, here are some pictures, only one of which is the actual thing we had. The picture of the torta di riso is from someone’s blog where they only used 12 eggs, so, obviously, inferior ;-)

Egg custard tarts (although you can have a big one too)
Egg custard tarts

Torta di riso (I’ve never seen individual ones)
Torta di riso

Lasagne sfordellate with An2 as the model. Bless here. She’s promised to do me lamb with roasted potatoes when we go down again. Can’t wait!
Lasagne sfordellate

I have to say that I appreciate these foods we get in Carrara much more now. I understand the joke about the number of eggs better. I now know how much trouble they go to to create these dishes. Now F has the recipe for torta di riso so I expect one to be coming soon ………