A night at Blue Note and the thoughts in my head; downloading a video from Facebook

I can’t help but stare at him.

He’s young, probably about 25. He has that “floppy” hair that seems in favour, certainly with the gay people, here, in Milan, and he has a “kind of” beard. He plays the violin.

I stare at him because of the thoughts in my head. They race through, from one thing to another.

How lives are different; when I was his age; I could have been in this world; I’m envious that I’m not in this world; how fascinating to be creative; I wonder how much he practices; assuming he’s gay, I wonder what his boyfriend’s like; or maybe he has no time for that; always practising; up late every night performing; no money; no, I couldn’t have done that – no willpower to keep practising; how much do the whole band practise; he doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the band, they are much older, like “this is where not-famous musicians go to die”; but he’s too young for that – he has still to “make it”; so why is he here on stage with the oldies (none of them will be under 40); I wonder what his life’s really like; does he really have another job and this is only a hobby he wishes were something more; I wish I could do something creative; but I’m good with people; but that’s not really creative, is it; I wonder if I could do something creative with that skill; I would like to be on stage again; how did I get here – listening to this, in a foreign land, in a foreign tongue; am I lucky and will it always feel strange?

And so on, and so on.

That’s one thing.

There’s another.

We are at the concert of a “friend”. I mean, she’s not really a close friend but a friend of one of F’s colleagues, I. And she is a florist. And she sings. Good enough to have the stage at Blue Note in Milan – the kind of jazz/blues venue. And she was a student of mine once, for about 6 lessons.

We, in the audience, are a group of 5. There’s I, another girl, S, who is a very close friend and also works in one of the shops, and E who I’ve never met before. But they all know R, the singer. We don’t have a great place to see, being at the side of the stage but R has to walk past us to the stage and gives F her mobile asking him to take some pictures.

So, during the whole thing, F, E, S and I are taking videos and photos with her phone and theirs and then checking the photos and checking with each other for the best photos.

About the second song into the set, I am struck by the fact that, if I look around the place, everyone is watching R sing – except all the people in our group, who are, instead, checking their phones. OK, so R asked them for some photos but, really, even if all these people are friends of R, how come our world is now only really seen through the small screen of a telephone?

I find it a shame, really. People, as last night, are so busy with the technology, they forget to enjoy the experience.

I ate almost the whole plate of chips. And had two beers. And, after the concert, we went for an Indian. And, after a while, R and the entourage came too. But without the guy I mentioned at the beginning.

Of course.

Anyway, I’ve found out how to download a video from Facebook – that is, 1. Open the video in a new tab; 2. Change the part of the url from “www” to “m” and press enter; 3. As the video is playing, right click and “Save target as …..” which will save a copy to your hard disk.

Unfortunately, it seems the video doesn’t work (on this page – although I can play it on my desktop).  Damn the problem with browsers not supporting certain formats, etc.  Still working on it though.

The “Family” tag

Well, so far it’s taken me about 1 month to fix all the links/pictures.

But, I think I’ve done it.

Now there are a couple of things I want to do (such as linking to my “best” posts, linking to specific areas, etc.) which will take more time but, slowly, slowly.

In the meantime, I have got rid of about 50 or 60 posts (some of which were draft) and published some other draft posts (as you will see (as they are scheduled to post over the next few days) and as you will have seen already). Then set up some links from the old blog. And so on.

But, one of the things I just wanted to clarify, which came about as I was double-checking all the old posts. That is, Family. There is a tag “Family” which is great, of course, but not really that simple and could be confusing.

The Family Tag

In my head (and, therefore, on this blog) I have at least 3 very distinct and different “families”.

These are:

1. F’s family – who have always been so kind and who, initially, got me confused with S, F’s ex-boyfriend but, from the first time I met them have been very inclusive – i.e. including me. I treat them as family because, well, they are!

2. V’s family – who were always so lovely to me (with the exception of V’s sister, P and her ex-boyfriend who were, to be frank, downright racist!). I still phone on birthdays, send Christmas cards, etc. Of course, since the split, it’s not been quite so easy either for them or me. Worse still as V is now back “at home”, so more difficult for them, I imagine. However, there is a post soon about the call I made to his mum on her birthday. I still treat them as family because after more than 25 years of being my family, they are too!

3. My family – who, by and large, I dislike intensely. For a while, just recently, I was in touch with my younger brother but that seems to have petered out and, probably, that’s for the best. Just to be clear, there was my father (who died in 2003) who was a right bastard, my mother, one sister who is much like my father and two brothers, the youngest of whom looks slightly similar to me. I now have sister-in-laws and nephews and a niece – but I haven’t met any of them. I don’t treat them as family but as people to avoid. I find them intriguing in that they are my blood relations – but I really don’t have any ties to them. They are a bit like “ancestors” – but still alive (some of them). Only my maternal grandfather remains as the one of them who causes me to feel deep, deep love, even after he’s been dead for so long.

For all three above, if I post about them, I use the tag “Family”. So, it is possible to get confused by that.

So this is just to clarify the category.

A long weekend with an old, old friend

What I really need now is a weekend off.

I am, in fact, completely fucking exhausted. The last four days have been just constant activity. And, for almost all of it, F has not been here. PaC is not good so he was down there for a couple of days and then he had to go to London for work. So, it was just me and I feel like I just want to relax now.

But, back to the long weekend, (since Lola is so insistent). It was exhausting because D wanted to walk everywhere. I do understand but, obviously, for me, living here means that I don’t need to see everything so the metro is fine.

But we walked. And walked. And bloody walked. Then, whilst they were relaxing in their hotel I would be out walking the dogs, of course. And then walking them in the morning and in the evening. I actually feel like I don’t want to walk for a week.

Or eat for a week when it comes to it. From my usual one meal a day to breakfast, lunch AND dinner. I am stuffed.

So, there it is. After around 30 years of not seeing each other, D was just the same. A little older, true, but really just the same. And I’d forgotten how much he talks. We would be in a restaurant and we (J, his partner and I) would have finished eating whilst he had been talking, so his food was cold (I imagine). And still he would talk. And talk.

And, what did we do besides walk and talk (or listen) and eat?

Well, not much as it happens. They didn’t want to go inside anywhere. I did take them to Villa Necchi – but I think I only got away with that because it poured with rain on the Saturday. And, so, being inside was a good thing. They said they wanted to soak up being in Italy, so I did my best to give them that.

On the first day, we walked to the centre of the city (via the flamingos off Corso Venezia), past the Duomo, into the Galleria to the front of La Scala then up to Brera where we had lunch. Then around Brera and on to the the Castle and then back down to the Duomo and back to their hotel via Via Della Spiga and the park. That evening we went to Ristoranti Al Grigliaro where we ate fish (this is because J really likes fish and so does F and F was only going to be with us for that night for certain.)

The next day, F was at work. I met them at their hotel which was close to our flat and we strolled through Porta Nuova (the brand new area of Milan), stopping for ice-cream (it was J’s first time in Italy), walking down Corso Como (we stopped in to take a look round Corso Como 10 a famous designer shop/café/restaurant which also has a bookshop and an exhibition space) and then on to Eataly where we had lunch. From there, down Corso Garibaldi and back to the centre and straight back to Corso Buenos Aires. That evening we went to eat at the Cantinetta Belle Donne so that F could get home easily if it got late.

The next morning, early, F left for London. I had some errands to do so I ended up at their hotel about mid-day. We went to La Belle Aurore for a simple lunch and then to Villa Necchi Campiglio (the villa that featured in the film I Am Love). The nice thing was that, this time, we had the tour with a guide who spoke English (rather than a recorded tape) and, as there were only 6 of us, we saw a couple of rooms that I hadn’t seen before (the bigger groups don’t get to see them). In addition, they had finished the work on the basement so we got to see the Butler’s pantry and what had originally been the changing rooms for the swimming pool and the snooker room. That evening, in spite of the persistent rain, we went down to Navigli (we took a tram) and had an aperitivo (with mountains of “free” food) and then a pizza at Fabbrica – they loved the pizzas.

By the next morning, it had almost stopped raining. By 10.30 we were on our way to via Paolo Sarpi, the “Chinatown” of Milan for the New Year’s celebrations. We got there early and walked about. We couldn’t get in to any of the Chinese restaurants but went to a Sardinian place off piazza Gramsci (Ristorante Giulia) and came out just before the parade started.

As J comes from Taiwan, he was able to explain the procession – the Emperor, the concubines, the courtiers, the common people, the wedding party with the bride and groom, etc. So it made it much more interesting.

Then, even before the thing was over, we were back on the bus to their hotel as they had a plane to catch and I had a lesson.

It was really nice to see D again, after all these years. And J, his partner was lovely. There weren’t any “difficult” moments and it was all very easy (if exhausting) and I think they enjoyed it very much. It was unfortunate that F didn’t get to spend more time with them. But I think they did get a flavour of Italy, which was important.

And in a few weeks, my friend, J, is coming for a few days and a trip to La Scala, so that will be nice.

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 ……


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. 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 :-))