I’m reminded of things: the perfect Yorkshire Pudding

V is playing Christmas music (to death) on the CD player. Just had Guadete which I like both as a song and as a Christmas song and then came someone’s rendition of In the Bleak Mid-Winter which reminded me:

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The End of the World is in less than 7 days!!!!

It’s how it feels. The traffic is terrible; the urgency of everything is at its height (work, home, etc.); we are out every night this week as so many of our friends leave for extended breaks with their families; the shops are full to bursting (see below); people start to lose their ‘nice’ gene.

And it happens every year. But why? I realise that, if you don’t get presents before Christmas then it makes less sense but it’s not a disaster. And if the client does get the parts on the day before Christmas, what on earth is he going to do with them? And, if you don’t get bread and milk today then the supermarket WILL be open tomorrow, with new supplies.

There’s this thing about Christmas that is a proper milestone in nearly everyone’s mind.

And, considering this is supposed to be the season of goodwill, where the hell is it?

Apart from the story below, I think the best thing to do is to chill-out. Take it easy. Don’t worry. Even if you don’t get the presents/parts/bread, it’s not the end of the world. Honestly.

Anyway, my experience of trying to get that ‘last minute’ something:

I know what I want. I know exactly what it should look like. But finding it is so difficult. A present for some friends. Candlesticks – but it’s got to be glass, got to be square pillars and not round, preferably smoked or some sort of opaque glass.

And, we’re in Milan, the design centre of Europe? But can I find what I want? No. It seems so simple. We traipse up Corso Buenos Aires and into all the probable shops. V has to go on his work’s Christmas outing (I am joining him later) and so I go to the centre of town to try La Rinascente (like Selfridges or Debenhams as it used to be). I get off the metro and walk up the steps to the outside and it is cold. The crowds are tightly packed. Everyone seems to be going to the same place. I join the slow-moving queue to get inside. I enter and then the crowds are more tightly packed. There is no way to side-step the snail-paced human traffic jam.

We shuffle along and, if I am honest, this is exactly why I don’t like Christmas. If I had any other choice (I guess I DO have another choice but …) I would have turned round and joined the shuffling queue out of there.

At the escalator, going up was more difficult. So I went down – as this was one of the places to look. Downstairs is busy but tolerable. I see some very nice examples, not really what I wanted but suitable, except for the price. I would even pay up to €100 but €300 to €3000 are just completely out of range.

I join the queue to catch the escalator up and up and up. They have ‘bouncers’ at the end of each escalator. But it’s not to check that people aren’t stealing things, it’s to keep the flow going. Why do people reach the top of the escalator and think that it’s OK to stop and look about them? So we move on, as fast but no faster, than the escalators themselves.

I reach the floor I want. Ah, here are candlesticks. And reasonable prices. But not glass and not what I want. I look lost. Some very nice assistant asks if I need help? I explain what I want. She guides me, through, over and round the people pointing out a type of candlestick here, another type there. Eventually I say I will look at them and decide and thank her for being so helpful.

There is a glass one, with a brown glass stem. Not really. Some silver type ones from India but totally wrong. And then I see some small, silver, candlesticks that are ideal only they have been out too long and need serious cleaning. But I have seen silver like this before and it doesn’t always clean so well.

I find another assistant (I should have gone back to find the nice one). This one says that it only needs cleaning. I ask if they will clean it. She says they only have cleaner for glass but she will try. She tries. It doesn’t work, making me more nervous. Will you give me my money back if it doesn’t clean up? I ask. As usual here, in Italy, the answer is no. They only give you a replacement article(s) or, if you’re really lucky, a credit note.

I decide against it. I walk up to San Babila and walk along a street I know that may have something. A shop window looks promising and inside I find what is, almost, perfect. How much are these, I ask. €80 is her response, it’s plexiglass. Not exactly what I wanted but pretty close. Do you have two, I add. No, only that one.

I give up at this point. It’s just not to be and I have a trifle to prepare. I go home, thankful that I don’t have a sackload of presents to buy as I couldn’t stand it for much longer. I’m not really a Christmas Shopper!!

Driving at stupid times

It’s nearly midnight and I start the drive back to the Lakes. I had offered to go back just as we arrived in Milan and would have been back before 10, I reckoned, but was informed that although it would be difficult, it would be alright and that ‘one’ would manage.

Then, as I was finishing up my drink and closing my computer I hear an ‘Oh, no!’ wail from across the hallway. It seems that the tickets for the flight to Rome and to that very important meeting, the next day (but only just) were in the bag left behind. So, instead of going to bed to sleep for 6 hours (which is the very minimum I need to function like a human being of any sort), I get my shoes and coat on and head out the door. To return a few minutes later to collect the bag with the car documents which are essential here as it’s illegal to drive without all the documents, both for the car and for yourself.

In the car, I forget to take off my jacket first so I know it will get too hot, but I cannot be bothered to stop.

I start to drive and it’s foggy. In fact, it’s very foggy. I’m driving out of Milan, on the motorway, and I’m thinking that, at this speed, it will take me all night. Luckily, the fog stops not too far from Milan and the roads are clear so it makes for an easy journey. Me, of course, grumbling about the fact that I could have done this several hours earlier and be in bed by now.

Then, just off the motorway, I get flagged down by the police. Thank God that I went back for the bag containing the documents. After about 10 minutes they hand everything back to me and I continue.

I arrive back at the house to find the door bolted from inside. This means I have a choice. I can go sleep in the car until about 6 a.m. or I can raise them now. ‘Them’ being the relations that live in the same building (it’s owned by one family).

It’s about 1.20 a.m. I’m thinking of a warm bed against the (very soon to be) cold car. And, of course of the fact that it’s getting colder and that there may be more fog by morning.

So, I rang the bell. They were very understanding but I just wish, so much, that I had gone when I first thought of it and then I would not have had to wake them up at all. V owes them (and me) a present for this!

The drive back was uneventful. The fog stretched further from Milan but did not seem quite so thick. I made it home just before 3. That meant 3 hours sleep. However, so far, today, I haven’t felt so bad. I know that I only have to hang on for a couple more hours (well 4 to be precise) and then I can be in bed.

And the special prize this morning – the flight was cancelled. I presume they caught another as I have had no word from V, so I guess the meeting with all the important people, went ahead.

Christmas Cards; White Lights; St Ambrose

We have started to receive Christmas cards, which is really nice. First, as always, we had one from R who is now living in New Zealand. But also from M & B who are on their way to Vancouver for Christmas and New Year and also one from B and L and about whom I feel very guilty since they don’t have computers and I should really write to them more often.

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Lying, disrespectful, arrogant, child-like rich kids – or maybe that’s just Serge Bodulovic (or Egres Ludob)?

It’s not often I name people in this blog. It’s not often that I have no other recourse but I should know better. I have a feeling that it’s a problem that will have serious repercussions in another 20 years or so. Of course it will happen gradually so that we shall hardly notice. Alternatively, it’s always been like this and, somehow, it has no effect. We shall see.

It must be difficult for parents who are both immigrants and quite well-to-do: have a certain respectable status in their society: to bring up their kids to have the same values as they do. I mean, if you have the money and the status, you would want your kids to have everything you didn’t have when you were a kid. I’m only guessing, but I think this is a case in point.

So, we’re looking for someone to rent our spare room. I advertise and this Australian guy by the name of Serge rings up. He’s looking for somewhere desperately because he’s staying in a hotel (first alarm bell should ring but, unfortunately it didn’t) and he’s not keen on it.

He comes round. A gangly, 6-foot-something, kid of about 22/23 who is doing a fashion course at Borgho’s (where V went for his) (second alarm bell didn’t ring either).

He came here the day after Sam left. Paid the deposit and the rent. We laughed at his inability to unlock the front door in less than 10 minutes. He seemed amiable enough. He did tell me he was a bit clumsy (third alarm bell was silent – and, anyway, that was an understatement).

But, to cut to the chase. He asked, for the last half month if, rather than pay the rent, he could pay only the estimation of the expenses as he needed money to travel back to Australia. I worked them out and, against my better judgement (and I should really trust my first thoughts) agreed for him to pay that only.

So, we’re into the last two weeks of his “stay”. I’m at the computer having only just got home from work. He comes out of the bedroom and goes to watch television. After about 5 minutes he switches the television off and walks past me to his bedroom (about the hundredth alarm bell a silent as a mouse). I laugh and say that the television programmes must be really bad. We then have a chat, for about 10 minutes about how Italian television is really not the best in the world, even if you can understand the language. He goes to his room and then comes out and says he’s off to his friends’ house to do his homework. He seems a bit strange but, then, he is a bit strange.

Later, when V arrives, we go to sit in the lounge and find, to my absolute horror that the sofa has a hole in the cushion from a cigarette. We know it is Serge because a) although it’s where I sit too, I smoke with my left hand and this is on the right of where I’m sitting and b) this has happened since the last time we sat there.

Suddenly, I realise that I have no deposit to cover the invisible repair that I now have to get done. What to do? Now I understand the rush with which he left the house. Maybe he had just done it and that’s why he rushed to his friends’ house – rather than face the music.

I go into his bedroom to try and find basic information about him (why didn’t I do this before he came here in the first place – sometimes I am, as V always says, too trusting). I find his address in Australia and various other details about him – this stuff is just chucked on the floor – not hidden away or anything. I don’t have to search at all.

Of course, he doesn’t arrive back before we go to bed. I guess he’s panicking a bit. The next morning I stay in the house a little longer than normal to wait for him to get up as he normally gets up just before I leave for work. But not today. Looking back, maybe he wasn’t even there.

The next time I see him the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Serge, is there something you want to talk to me about?
S: Uh, no, about what?
Me: Well about the sofa, for instance?
S: Uh, um, oh, yes, I was going to talk to you about that.
Me: Really? Well, what do you propose?
S: Well, like what? I don’t know really.
Me: Well, I shall have to have the deposit now.
S: Well, you can just turn the cushion over.
Me: (Incredulously) What? You’ve burnt my sofa and you think I should just turn the cushion over? No, I shall have to get a repair done and, if I can, an invisible repair.
S: Aw, come on, it won’t cost that much.
Me: Well I don’t know. I shall do what I said I shall do. I will send you the money that’s left afterwards.
S: You could buy a whole sofa for that money (we’re talking €270 here).
Me: (more incredulously and now slightly angry) What!?! That suite cost x thousand!
S: OK but can it wait until Monday.
Me: OK.

He went to Florence for the weekend. He came back Sunday night and we chatted for a bit about how he liked Florence and didn’t like Bologna. Later he told me that his parents were transferring the money that night (I guess Monday to them) to his account so he could get the money. I said OK.

Monday morning and his door was closed and we went off to work as normal. He didn’t get up. I felt things were not right but couldn’t put my finger on it.

Monday night. His room was in darkness with the door closed. Not particularly unusual. He often slept from about 7 p.m. for an hour or two, got up for an hour and then was in bed again by about 11. This night he didn’t get up. I nearly went into the room but thought OK, he’s tired after his weekend away.

Tuesday morning. I left for work and double locked the door. I just had a feeling. When I arrived back it was the same. I knew he had not been back. I went into the room and it was clear. He had done a runner.

I’ve checked out many things since then. I was right not to trust him after the time we found the burn. What I should have done, of course, was throw him out that very night.

He’s from a family that obviously has money. They live in Barton which is a posher part of Canberra than most. His family and relations are quite well-to-do. The problem is that, I suspect, he’s a liar, possibly a thief, has little or no respect for others or other people’s property and, so far, has always been bailed out by his parents.

He has no sense of decency, in my opinion. He sneaked out, in the middle of the night on Sunday, I later found out. I also later found out that the clumsy oaf had broken some other things and kept quiet about them too. He left a note saying he was sincerely sorry – but obviously that was a lie too.

Well, I guess I will learn by my mistake. Don’t be so trusting and certainly listen to the alarm bells, even if they don’t ring. Also, never, ever trust kids of nouveau riche, particularly if they are 2nd generation immigrants (they came from Serbia or somewhere like that).

It also makes me wonder. Many people complain about the immigrants from Eastern Europe. That they are thieves, all-round bad people. Perhaps even the rich ones are the same? Perhaps I was always wrong to think that it was unfair to label all the people from Eastern Europe as bastards: perhaps they are all bad people, after all?

Certainly, in my opinion, Serge (or to give him his full name: Sergej Dean Bodulovic) is a very untrustworthy, arrogant, selfish person. I can only hope many bad things happen to him although I expect, in the main, he will be protected from that reality by his parents’ money.

Still, if anyone reads this before they are sucked into dealing with him, then I will feel that I have done my bit to protect someone else from Serge’s lies and deceit. My final advice: don’t trust him and don’t let him come anywhere near you! Certainly, and I’m very sorry for this, I will be careful about trusting anyone who has rich parents: is of Eastern European extraction and who doesn’t pay their dues on time.

Of course, I am a very, very stupid person sometimes.

I now understand that he also goes by the name of Egres Ludob. Just in case you should run into that one instead.