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 ………

Shit happens

Shit Happens

He’s been back just over a week but it seems like F O R E V E R!

I’m not really complaining, of course, but it seems I’ve rarely have a good night’s sleep since he’s been back. Such is life.

Last night wasn’t too bad except that I woke up some time around 3 a.m. and, amongst the many thoughts that crowd my brain and keep me awake, was this blog. Can you believe that?

It started off by me thinking about my brother. We haven’t “been in touch” for about a year. He stopped emailing since I explained that F’s dad was dying and that everything was a bit “up in the air” and then, even though I’ve sent an email (or two), – nothing.

I’m not particularly bothered by it one way or another but I do wonder why. And this led to the blog.

After all the trouble I went to to move it, for some reason which I don’t really understand, I’ve let it slip a bit. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say, it’s more like I don’t want to write it all down, which is strange for me. As I’ve explained before, I tend to use it as some kind of therapy and yet, right now, it doesn’t seem to work as well as it did before. Or something.

I still have the same doubts and fears about the most stupid of things but I either don’t want to write about it or can’t be bothered.

And, without regular posts, of course, blogs become a bit defunct.

And then there’s the blogs that I have listed that have suddenly become “private”. I have emailed the guy for one of them, Man of Roma, and he said he’d email me after the summer but then he didn’t. And, if you can’t see the blog, you can’t see what’s going on. Or, maybe he’s not posting? In any event, you can’t tell if there’s anything happening in his life (not that it was really about his life, as such.)

So, here I am, after the middle-of-the-night thoughts, posting something to explain why I’m not posting much. If you see what I mean.

I do have some shit going on, of course, as usual but nothing I can write about since I do need to try and sort it in my head and find a “way round” the problem (which is all to do with the effiing bureaucracy here) but let’s see what I can do first.

And, then there’s other stuff. But it’s not like any of it is exactly life-threatening, so it will keep. And it’s not like my life is terrible, as opposed to friends who are ill or dying or struggling with life in general.

And, anyway, shit just happens, right?

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.”

Days yet to come

It is possible, of course, that this is the earliest ever …. for me.

Yesterday, I ordered the first Christmas present for F. And, today another! So that’s two presents down.

But that’s not why I’m writing today.

I’m writing because I’m quite concerned. I am concerned that, in our desire to be correctly politically correct, we are forgetting some basic truths.

One that IS important is about rape, for example.

Let’s get one thing straight, in a perfect world, anyone should be able to walk down the street wearing what they want; to get drunk without fear of being raped, etc. The message (generally to men) shouldn’t have to be “Don’t Rape”” because, to be frank, it shouldn’t be necessary.

Unfortunately, this is NOT an ideal world. The message that should go out more should be “Don’t Rape” and with that message should be the education about what is rape and what is consent. But, in the same way that we tell people not to steal and not to drink & drive, there are some people who don’t seem to understand and, therefore, still do it.

Of course, we should try to educate them and get them to understand that what they are doing is wrong. But, sometimes, it is too late for they have already committed rape. And there are people out there who will, in the next few day, week, months, years, commit rape.

So, how is it possible to stop this without resorting to Minority Report-style policing? If we are unable to stop some men from thinking it’s OK to rape some women, what can we do to help? If you cannot stop the perpetrator, what else can we do? The only thing left is to address the victims. What can they do to help stop this? Well, for example, wearing a skirt which barely covers your arse, doesn’t help, surely. Drunkenly weaving about the street may also not help. Neither of these things will, necessarily, save you but it might just help a bit.

And, yet, were I to say those things out of context, they would certainly be taken the wrong way.

And so, I feel a little bit sorry for Matt Damon. Unfortunately, there IS discrimination against gay people, in spite of any legislation you may care to pass. In the same way, there is discrimination against women. But he was correct in saying that the best thing to do in his business, is to keep silent (about being gay – it’s a bit more difficult to be silent about being a woman, if you ARE one.) Again, don’t get me wrong. It shouldn’t be necessary. In an ideal world, who you go to bed with shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the work you attract as an actor. But it is. Certain people can “get away with it” but certain people cannot and, if you’re at the start of your career, don’t go coming out, was his message.

And now, some people are saying he’s wrong and homophobic. See, I don’t see it that way. He was stating a fact about the world as it is, not the perfect world that it should be.

On the other hand, if no one came out, ever, than things would never change. So we should applaud those who do it for they are the trailblazers for young people coming up. They are brave and they have, almost certainly, sacrificed their career and possibly millions of dollars by simply saying that they are gay.

It IS a changing world but I don’t think it’s right to jump down the throats of those people who are saying something that applies to the real, here-and-now world that we inhabit.

One day, I hope within my lifetime, a girl/woman will be safe to walk down the street and not get raped – even if she is wearing nothing at all, should she wish. And, one day, no one will be secretly penalised for not being “normal”.

But that day is yet to come.

p.s. The song, from one of my favourite artists, 2Pac, called Better Dayz came up when I was looking for a picture to post at the top of the post. So, instead, you got the song :-)

Same thing, different country.

“Not one of them is Italian!”

“None of them?”

It seems not. Except the “foreman” or someone like that. Or, at least, he speaks Italian.

I ask what they are. I am told Romanian. Ah yes, of course.

There are lots of tut-tutting and shaking of heads. What is the world coming to?

I say that this is similar to the UK. A lot of builders are Polish or Romanian (I have read).

Except that, as an immigrant myself, I don’t tut-tut nor shake my head. I also know that there are many Italians who would rather not do this type of work – carrying heavy windows up the stairs, balancing precariously on the ledge where the old window was whilst fitting the new window. And, anyway, these people will be cheaper, I’m sure.

It’s not a job that I’d like to do and quite possibly, I would be crap at it anyway.

My old hairdresser was Romanian. I doubt if he could have gone round fitting windows either. A waitress (until the end of the month when she goes to be an air hostess) in one of the local restaurants that we like is Romanian. Romanians are everywhere and in all sorts of service jobs. It doesn’t make them bad people.

Still, the reaction from the Italians is much the same as I’ve seen from the British.

I am saddened by it.

Time Warp

The whine by my ear and my futile attempt to bat it away wakes me up.

I look at the clock. It’s about 3. I thought it was later. I wished it were later.

I tuck myself into the bed. The bugger can’t get me now.

But, it’s far too hot. I just can’t sleep. I keep my eyes closed but I get hotter. I worry that, once again, I can’t bloody sleep. Of course, in addition, I have this fear that I’ll go to sleep and become so hot that I’ll automatically put my arms outside the bed and then the little bastard mosquito will get me. Minutes go by.

I hear the clocks strike 4. Surely, it can’t be four? I didn’t think I’d been to sleep and yet the hour seems to have passed too quickly.

I can’t get to sleep. I can’t stand the heat of the covers but I daren’t put my arms out. I just have to fit in one of the little tablets (or, rather two – one each side of the bed) so that the mosquito will go away or die. I get up. I fit the tablet things into the little holders and plug them in.

But then I have to wash my hands. This is really not helping. As long as I don’t wake up enough, I can get back to sleep but fitting the tablets, washing my hands and then going to the kitchen for a quick drink will probably make me too awake.

I try to get back to sleep. Already it’s half past four. Next it’s 5. It still seems I haven’t been asleep and yet half an hour seems to have raced by like 10 minutes!

But, now it’s nearly time for the alarm. I lie in bed, awake, like it seems I have been since around 3, my eyes closed, waiting for the alarm.

The alarm goes off. I put it on snooze for 5 minutes thinking that I may be able to snooze for 5 minutes and knowing that I’ll never be able to snooze for 5 minutes. It’s just wishful thinking. A minute before the alarm goes off again, I get up.

It is warm in the flat, even if almost all the windows are open with the shutters not quite down, so that the dogs can go out onto the balconies, where the normally sleep. I had put a pair of socks out the night before, thinking it would be a tad cold in the morning but it seems not. But, should I risk it or not?

Of course, my powers of deduction and rational, logical thinking are not good when I am still asleep. But, what the hell, it really is quite warm in the flat. I put on my short-sleeved shirt and my sandals (without socks, of course) and take the dogs out.

Even when we’re in the lift, I realise that I may have made a mistake. Whereas it’s not cold, this is 5.30 in the morning and it’s September – there’s a definite chill in the air.

We go outside. It’s too late to go back now. the dogs simply wouldn’t understand. I’ll survive.

The roads seem unusually busy. More like 7 or 8 o’clock than 5.30. I check some traffic lights that I can see in the distance. My mind struggles to compute that, if the orange lights are blinking then it has to be – what time? Well, before 6 for sure. At 6, they go back to normal operation.

But, as we reach the main road there’s a tram that’s quite full of people. How come, at this time in the morning?, I question. It seems strange.

Nothing about the night or this morning feels quite right. It’s as if there’s been some sort of time warp.