Reconnections and visits and some apprehension

This year’s going to be busy, I think. A bit “unstable”, of course, with PaC and the problem there and then there’ll be F and how he will react.

But, also, this year there are going to be a few reconnections with the past.

Towards the end of March, a guy, D, and his boyfriend are coming for a few days. I haven’t seen him for over 25 years. We’ve stayed in touch, just about (I’m talking Christmas cards). He hadn’t ever even met V (although he did see him, briefly)! I am a bit worried that, after all this time, we won’t really have anything in common. Except a past that I can barely remember due to an ability I have to shut off and eventually forget almost all things to do with my past.

Then, in early May, a friend from school days, R, and his wife are coming over. They got married 35 years ago (in May, when they are here) and it was the terrible occasion when I was the Best Man and did, possibly, the very worst Best Man speech ever. It was so bad that over the years, whenever I see, attend or watch (on film) a wedding, I am reminded of it and cringe inside. M (my first boyfriend) and I used to see them occasionally for a couple of years afterwards – but I probably haven’t seen them for over 30 years. Again, we stayed in touch – in exactly the same way as above. And, in exactly the same way as above, I am a bit worried that we won’t have anything in common.

So let’s look at what I DO remember.

Let’s start with R. At one point, probably my best friend at school. I don’t even know WHY we were best friends. He liked and played football and cricket a lot – I hated it. I smoked – he didn’t. We both liked drinking. That’s it. Things I remember: He was going bald by the time he was 17. He never had “girlfriends” whereas I always had a girlfriend (and look how THAT turned out :-D ). We used to (in the 6th form), go to one of two pubs at lunchtime and sometimes only return to school to catch the same last bus home (we lived quite close to each other.) My first holiday away from my parents (excluding the disastrous time they made me go to Boys’ Brigade camp in Guernsey – which had such a profound effect on my life thereafter) was with him and another close friend. We stayed in my parents’ caravan in Cornwall. It was just after we had taken our A Levels (the final examinations at 18 at that time.) My results came through while I was there and my parents couldn’t really understand why I could not have given a shit about the results.

So, at the end of all that, we were drinking buddies, I guess.

For D, he and his partner, S, were the second gay couple M and I met and became friends with. They were a lovely couple. Sadly, at the age of 21, S committed suicide which left D quite bereft. In fact, in one way (but not at all his fault), he was the reason that I found V and that M and I split after 10 years. In fact, that moment, in a club in Birmingham, was probably the last time I saw him, so that would make it close on 17 years ago.

So, I am a bit apprehensive.

On the other hand, J should be coming in the middle of March as I got her a ticket to Aida at La Scala. I’m thinking I might take her to Florence for a day. I think she might like that. And she is one of the sweetest people I know.

And S, my very Best Mate, should come over at the end of May for a few days and I am really looking forward to that.

So, already 4 different visits. It’s going to be a busy year.

Breakneck speed …..

As we hurtle, at breakneck speed towards the “time to go back to work” and the “time it gets to be effing cold”, I thought I’d get you up to date ……

Most years, I wish for snow at Christmas. It never happens, of course. Maybe we have some snow before Christmas but that’s gone by Christmas Eve. But, just once, it would be lovely to have snow and for everywhere to look like it does on the Christmas cards.

However, this year, I didn’t wish for snow because, for the first time ever, I would be travelling on Christmas Eve and the road/motorway I would be travelling on would be through mountains – so I definitely didn’t want snow. I didn’t even want rain, to be honest.

So, secretly wishing I wasn’t travelling but, rather, staying home, I travelled. There was little traffic and I was down there by the afternoon.

F had put the heating on for a full day but opening the door, it was like a sauna. My glasses steamed up immediately. The house has a damp problem. A big damp problem and the heat, instead of drying it out, just created a steamy atmosphere. I opened windows, hoping it wouldn’t be so bad.

To be honest, I was a little bit worried for the dogs. I’m not sure that the humid/damp atmosphere would be good for them but there really wasn’t anything I could do.

That night, we went to his cousins for something to eat. I was bloody starving as I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I had planned to have something for lunch but our cleaner was in so I didn’t and she only left at the time that I was leaving so no chance to grab something quick. I ate like a bloody horse – so much so that this was the butt of jokes over the next few days.

We slept at the house. We switched the heating off and it got very cold and damp during the night.

The next day, Christmas Day, we went round to his parents’ place to say hi. PaC, to me, didn’t look worse than the summer except he was slower and seemed resigned, almost as if he had had enough.

Then we went to the restaurant for our Christmas lunch. Christmas lunch with the extended family (not F’s but the cousin’s). It was OK but once I caught myself thinking that I may have preferred to be in Milan, on my own. Still, it was nice and I was included. F drove back and was going to drop me off at the house and then go his parents but had a headache and asked if we could go to his parents’ first and then I take the car to the house. I was to have a bath, take the dogs out and call him. I didn’t call him because it meant he could stay with PaC and I didn’t want to disturb that. Eventually, around 9, he called me. He had been sleeping and had a bad cold (which he had had before Christmas but now it was worse.) We agreed that, with his cold, it would be stupid for him to come over to the damp house to sleep and so he stayed here and I stayed at the house with the dogs. I left the heating on low all night.

To be honest, without him being there, it made it possibly the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. At least the one Christmas I had been on my own, many years ago, I had the comforts of home. Here I had no computer, no films and not even a TV! It was really dreadful.

The next day, we were to meet at his sister’s to have lunch. When we got there I said, as I decided previously that morning, that I would go home after lunch. I mean, what was the point of staying if I wasn’t even going to have the nights with him? He was happier with that too as it meant he wouldn’t have to worry about me. And, so, I came home and happier to be here. F said that it didn’t feel like Christmas and for me, it was worse, it was a crappy “weekend”.

But it’s done and over now. New Year’s Eve was the usual dinner with (mostly) self-invited guests. We put on a wonderful spread with help from FfI and her friend, H. We finished at 4 a.m. I think it was successful.

And now, tomorrow, is F’s birthday. The special thing which I helped to fund via Kickstarter has not arrived in time, so it will have to be a birthday present to come later. In the meantime, I’ve bought an Italian copy of The Humans by Matt Haig, my favourite book of 2014, a DVD and one of those cards with the year he was born.

Tomorrow, as well, because we didn’t have our usual Boxing Day lunch with P and A, we shall have that, to celebrate his birthday. Then there’s a dinner party for A, my friend, and his girlfriend on Monday, then Tuesday is the “take the tree down” and him getting ready for London and Wednesday is all back to the usual grind.

And, apart from the day before New Year’s Eve, when he was a complete bastard (but I’m trying to be so patient with him given the circumstances) it’s all been either OK or, in the last few days, quite lovely. We now have TV and so we’ve been spending some time watching films and stuff in the lounge, which has been nice.

From Wednesday, he’ll be in London for over a week and I’ll be struggling to get back into the swim of things.

And, so, I hope you all have a great 2015. Wishing you all a very happy New Year.

Christmas Things – update.

So, on a lighter note than recently, the Italian Christmas stamps have been issued and I have ordered 50 of the non-religious ones, which are also the right price for Europe.

The one I have ordered is this:

Italian Christmas Stamp 2014

The religious one is this one:

Italian Religious Christmas Stamp 2014

I have also purchased, today, a Christmas-cum-birthday present for a very dear friend. It’s tickets to La Scala as once, when she was over, she said she had always wanted to go to La Scala. Having been there once, I knew that the best places were in the stalls and so I have bought 3 tickets (F, my friend and me). It’s not until March of next year but that should be fine. I hope.

For Best Mate, I also have to buy some things but I will do that in the next couple of weeks. One thing has to be done at almost the last minute.

And, apart from the present we have bought together, for each other, and the Kickstarter thing that I am hopeful will come before F’s birthday, at least, that will be it this year.

And I’ll let you into a little secret. I told someone about the possibility that F will go down and I will stay here for Christmas and they made an immediate offer for me to join them at their parents’ house. And, you know what? I’d prefer to stay home, just me with the dogs. After all, it’s not like it will be a fantastic Christmas this year and I quite like the idea of not celebrating it but spending the day, just me and the dogs, going for walks and watching some films. Seems bloody ideal to me. But the offer was very kind. I expect there to be a few more to be honest. And F will have this idea that I shouldn’t be on my own, of course. But it’s fine by me. It’ll be a day to myself and, in spite of myself, my head is already selecting the films that I will watch.

Strange Days – Halloween and The Day Of The Dead

The weather got cold this week. Sunday night, to be precise. Obviously, it’s not in minus figures yet (°C, Gail) but, still, those of you who’ve been reading long enough will know that I absolutely abhor the cold. And, as for every year, the heating at work was not switched on until we had suffered a number of days of freezing in the office.

But, it is the end of October, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

And, today is Halloween. Obviously, I’m quite old now, so my memories of Halloween are being at home, doing some apple bobbing, maybe making some toffee apples but that’s it. No Trick or Treat stuff (that’s American trash (sorry, Gail)), no elaborate costumes. Instead, it was only a few days from November 5th, or Bonfire Night, as we called it. 1st November was really nothing special. Not even a holiday. We just didn’t celebrate it in the UK.

And now that I live in Italy, although Halloween is getting quite a big deal now, here, it’s November 1st that’s THE DAY. To be precise, The Day Of The Dead.

I’ve always been in Milan and it means a holiday to me. A day off work (except, this year it’s on a Saturday). However, with the special Aunt dying, tonight we’re off to Carrara and, tomorrow – well, I’m not sure what will happen. I’m guessing, a trip to the cemetery and I know we’re supposed to be going out for a pizza with the cousin in the evening.

It will be interesting. As FfI said to me this morning when we spoke, They don’t have a party for the wake but they do this (whatever this may be.)

I’ll let you know ……

Inauguration

We’ve now eaten a few times in the kitchen.

F made soup. And, one time, pasta. I like eating in the kitchen. It’s warm (from doing the cooking) and light and very comfortable. I think, even if he says he hates cooking, that he secretly quite likes it. Possibly, also because I am appreciative. V used to like cooking for the same reason.

However, the “big” test came on Saturday night. We had our first dinner in the new house. We ate, of course, in the dining room. First there were drinks in the living room and then we moved to the dining room to eat. F did soup, I did fish cakes with spinach and roast potatoes and then a chocolate cake.

And lots of wine.

It was lovely and the food seemed to go down quite well.

But, for certain, F had far too much to drink and, overnight, was ill. I know it wasn’t the food since we had the same thing and I was fine. He also blamed the drink. Still, it gave me time to clear up the next morning a bit, which he liked.

So, our first dinner was a success and it was certainly very comfortable with the space to do it properly.

However, there is something that I’ve noticed which is quite strange, for me. In the past, I would always do stuff I had done before. I did things that I had practiced until I “got them right”. Now, I always want to try something new. So, the fish cakes were new, the chocolate cake was new and I cooked spinach for the first time ever!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m confident (because whilst doing these things I always worry that everything will turn out terribly) or, as I think it is, the thrill of doing something for the first time – with the fact that it could be a complete disaster (but rarely is).

20 years ago I would never have been so “reckless”. Now I seem to actually look for things that I’ve never done to see how they turn out!

F, bless him, compliments me to others, saying what a wonderful cook I am. Anyway, he certainly seemed to like the chocolate cake which was a little like chocolate fudge cake – like eating pure dark chocolate in cake form. I was (am, because there is still half of it left) very pleased with it.

So, that’s it. First dinner done. Now we have a lot more to do to repay all the dinners we’ve had at other people’s places. And, then, of course, the house-warming party in December. Maybe it’s the sharing of food with friends, the “breaking of bread”, but our flat seems almost officially inaugurated now.

We entertain, properly, for the first time.

He says he hates doing it and, yet, I suspect he secretly quite likes it.

He calls me. I am surprised to see he’s calling me. I check first, thinking that maybe my telephone called him (it does that these days, randomly calls him – it reminds me, daily, that I will NEVER have another Blackberry phone, piece of trash that it is) since it was only a few minutes ago that we were talking face-to-face, in the flat, him having just arrived home!

But, no, it’s not my phone calling him, he is really calling me. Perhaps, I think, he’s stepped outside for something and forgotten his keys? The door automatically locks.

“An is coming in a minute. Can you let her in, please?” he asks me.

“Where are you?” I am confused.

“I’m in the shower.”

It makes me laugh. But, even if he had shouted loudly, I wouldn’t have heard him. That’s the really nice thing about this flat.

An comes. She explains that she has come because she is on her way home for work and fancied a drink.

I assume that means they are going out but, as I have someone coming in a moment, I offer her a glass of red wine from a partly finished bottle that I had opened the other day. She accepts and sits down. I don’t offer to take her coat or anything as they will be going out.

My “someone” arrives. Luckily, F appears from the bathroom.

Me and my “someone” go to my room. Almost an hour and a half later, I can hear they’re still there and not out as I expected. Indeed, I need to just ask F something and so I go to find them. They are in the kitchen having soup. The soup that F made the day before.

When my “someone” leaves, I join them in the kitchen and get offered some soup. It’s leek and potato soup with grated Parmesan cheese and fried bacon bits on top. He is so proud of it. And rightly so, it is lovely.

He explains that An DID ask him to go for a drink but, as it is so cold and as she has no kitchen in her new flat, he suggested drink and soup at ours. It’s nice sitting at our new kitchen table with a friend. It’s very comfortable and easy. I can’t truly express how lovely it is to be entertaining friend(s) in the setting with home made soup and wine in our flat. And, more so because it is unexpected. No elaborate planning and work. Just simple and easy. I can see he is happy about it too. And about what he has cooked. Which is, in any case, really tasty – and I like the bacon bits on top.

The heating is turned on (slightly) and the kitchen is warm and inviting.

It’s exactly how it should be, the whole thing. Even better that, now, I can do my thing and he can entertain and I can join them when I’ve finished. All really perfect. Long may that continue.

Mantova

Mantova. 6th September.

I wake up, first, at about 4 a.m. The dogs seem excited and are ready to go for a walk. I try to get back to sleep. It must have been after 5 before I managed to doze off again. The alarm re-awakens me just before 5.30. I hit the snooze button a couple of times before getting up to take them out.

This the “normal” time to get up but, what isn’t normal, is that I went to bed after 1 a.m.

But, it’s not a work day, it’s a Saturday and, what’s more, I’m off to Mantova, for the festival. Sadly, without F. And, just sadly as the “background stuff” remains.

I get the leads and we leave the flat. As we exit, I see some bastard has called both lifts. I wait for one to become free and call it. It’s the slower one. Oh, well. As we’re waiting for the lift to arrive, the other one arrives on our floor! Since there are only 2 flats on our floor, this has to be our next door neighbour! And so it is. He’s obviously returning from his night out. Oh to be young!

He’s mid-twenties, I guess. And, it seems, he likes dogs, which is excellent. As he asks, I introduce the dogs to him as he strokes them.

I realise afterwards, that, although he now knows the dogs, we both failed to introduce ourselves! And, I guess, if he has the habit of coming in at this time, we may not see him so often!

The streets are almost deserted. There’s the newspaper stalls opening up, a few people going to work and a few, like our neighbour, returning home. We go for a longer walk than normal – I won’t be back until late and I’ve allowed extra time, as I do when using public transport.

Back at home, I make coffee and message F. He messages back. He’s on his way to the hospital, so he phones me and we chat about things. I tell him I’m not staying overnight this time. He says that he’ll definitely come next year and I realise that he understands it’s important to me.

I go to get the tram for the station and nearly miss one but the driver kindly waits for me.

And so now I am on the train, on my way. I’m thinking that some beers are in order, maybe (one of the reasons for taking the train, after all :-))

Mantova Festivaletturatura

Here it is, starting tomorrow, the sign that the warmer weather (what there was of it this year) is about to go away in a final flourish of summer.

Mantova’s (Mantua) literary festival is the signal for me that the holiday period is almost over and it’s a soft, gentle way to slip into Autumn.

But, the BIG news this year, is that F is coming! I am so happy about that. I am hopeful that we can get to stay 2 days because that would be nice. But even if it’s one single day, it will be good. I get to show him off. He’s coming even though he has to fly out early on Monday morning, so this is a bit of a sacrifice for him. Or, maybe a peace offering following an “incident” during the holiday?

In any event, I want to make the most of it.

One book down

Oh, I should say that I thought I wouldn’t be able to post but, obviously, I can.

So, here we are, day 2. Last night, again at F’s parents, there was a rabbit stew thing. It was lovely. And dangerous. Dangerous because, if I were to continue to eat like that every day, I would become very fat. Luckily, F arrives this evening.

They are making foods they think I will like. And they are not wrong. It will change from tonight when F is there. It will be all vegetable stuff with occasional fish dishes. But it’s OK. F’s their son, after all.

It seems the weather has changed for the better. At least, here. Today is hotter than yesterday and, after this morning, not a cloud to be seen. I am under the umbrella having got a little sunburnt yesterday in three places – my top, right thigh (not enough suncream) and the top of both my feet (no suncream – I didn’t think I’d need it there)!

Anyway, I’ve finished Maddaddam. Very good, as all Atwood’s books.

Now, following Lola’s suggestion, I’ve started The Bat by Jo Nesbo. Good job I’ve brought plenty of books though – the first finished in less than 2 days!

I eat my lettuce, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich, sprinkled liberally with the black pepper I keep here just for this occasion. It’s the taste of summer for me. I lie in the sun for a while but it’s really too damned hot. Not that I’m complaining. Tomorrow will be different, with F here. The same but different.

Nicoletta (we share the umbrella with her and her husband) hardly stopped talking to me this morning and, although I understand her mostly, it takes so much energy to listen and speak only in Italian. Again, with F here, that will be better and I can switch off a bit.

The beach fills up and is noisier. Anyway, it’s nearly time to go. The dogs need their afternoon walk, I need a bath and then I pick F up from the station and then, once again, to his parents for dinner.

I get a surprise!

“You know my family know, don’t you?” He means that they know we are moving in together.

Well, yes, of course. I didn’t really think it was a secret since his cousin had posted something to some pictures added to Facebook.

“What, everyone?” I ask.

“I’m sure,” he replies. “B (his sister) telephoned me.”

“I saw that E (his cousin) had made a comment,” I said.

“Yes, and she will have told everyone.”

I wonder, since he and I are, where not exactly a secret couple, shall we say, a couple of really, really good friends, even though, of course, everyone knows, what his parents think then, assuming they have been told that we will be moving together.

“We can invite them up,” he says, “maybe for Christmas.”

Now – “invite them up” is all the family? Surely not!

“Who?” I ask.

“My Mum and Dad,” adding, “I can go and pick them up but we would have to sleep on the sofa.”

I have no idea what to say to this. Inside, I know this is the “final” acceptance. This means that he is so relaxed about “us” that he can now invite his Mum and Dad up to stay into our flat and that, as they would see we only had the one bedroom with a double bed, there couldn’t really be any doubt – even though, of course, he would never, ever tell them. But that’s OK for me. I don’t need for everything to be explicitly said. Not any more.

“What a lovely idea!” I exclaim.

Of course, I can’t add all the feelings I really have inside – but I am really very happy about this surprise announcement.

“Maybe, not for Christmas but for a weekend, anyway.”

OK, as you want, I think and, probably, say. He goes on to say that his Mum has only ever been to Milan once before and his Dad never, despite him living here for well over 20 years! They don’t have this need or desire to travel. Even in Italy! I mean to say, I’ve seen a honeymoon picture which, I think, was taken in Rome but I’ve never heard tales of any travel.

Of course, I realise this may never happen, this trip to Milan but that’s not really the point. The fact that he’s thinking about it means so much in so many ways. Every time I think about it brings a new insight into the fact that he’s so very happy we’re together. Happy and more and more relaxed about it.

Which is more than can be said about the actual “moving” thing. For that he is exceedingly stressed. But it will settle down once he’s moved his stuff over – which is happening right now.

But that’s for another post.