I just don’t geddit

This was going to be a long, rambling post but I decided to cut it short.

Jack would be appalled.

Having had a dreadful time that evening already and being much later than normal, I pay for the supermarket items I have bought with a card.  The total cost is €40.02.  I hand over my debit card.

‘Have you got the 2 cents?’

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Alcohol helps my Italian (apparently)

Last night we went to a great house party held by a colleague of V’s.  I did have a little too much red wine but didn’t realise that until I woke up this morning.  Luckily, I don’t, generally, suffer from hangovers so I just felt a little sick.  However, the party was FUN!  And I spoke more Italian than normal and even had some sort of debate with some guy, who’s standing in the upcoming elections here, from some new communist party.  Well, I say debate – he didn’t speak English and, now that I know I was quite tipsy, God knows what I actually said to him.

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Magical Weddings in Scottish Castles – not to be missed

Perhaps I should say why we were in Scotland?

I have not been to many weddings but there are two that stand out as being the most magical and romantic weddings of all. Both were held in Scotland and both held at a castle. And, for both, we felt most honoured to be invited.

The first was for our dear friends B&M. Not only was it held in the rose garden of the castle (it was such beautiful weather) but we also stayed for two nights in the castle itself as guests of the bride and groom.

And it was one of the most fun times that I have ever had at a wedding.

The second one was when we went to Scotland this month. We did not stay at the castle but in a hotel nearby. But it was a short walk to the castle. This was an evening wedding and, by the time we started walking to the castle, it was already dark.

But the castle was lit up and, funnily enough, it is the same castle that I used to see from the motorway when I drove up to see B&M when they were still in business, so it was nice to finally be there, all these years later.

As we entered the castle gate there were braziers to give heat and a warm glow to the surrounding courtyard. Then another gate led to the main courtyard, around which were the buildings of the castle including the chapel (where the wedding service was held) and the Great Hall, where the feast and dancing were to take place.

In the main courtyard was a piper, piping the guests into the castle (like the other wedding) and then the chapel was lit by candles – but many, many candles and a harpist played music whilst we waited for the bride.

The bride looked resplendent and the service was beautiful. The parson, being so tall (as he explained to us later) chose to have the bride and groom facing us with himself placed to one side. It made it really nice because it meant that we saw them clearly and could hear them much better.

The meal in the Great Hall was magnificent. The dancing (especially the Scottish dancing) very good but the thing that will stick in my mind, and, I think, is a testament to the bride, is that the friends all instantly got along. In fact, it seemed, for some of the friends we met, that we had know them for years by the time the wedding was over.

Obviously we knew some from Milan but even those we just met were great. I will never forget the stories of teaching English in Hong Kong which had us rolling around with laughter. And Vanessa (from Zimbabwe) and I were both convinced we had met before!

Smokers congregated outside, as we usually do and, as expected, some of the greatest people end up there (me, obviously, being one of them :-) ).

Yes, we had great fun and the whole affair was truly magical. If you are planning to get married, marrying in a castle in Scotland creates a special atmosphere that can never be forgotten. Of course, the friends also help, so it’s a good idea to get some good ones!

Dancing in the street; “The best espresso this side of Milan”

More on our trip to the UK.

I have mentioned this before but it was particularly noticeable as I haven’t been back to the UK for a while.

People here, in Milan (and maybe the whole of Italy), walk just like they drive. There is no forward planning and manoeuvres are made at the last minute and only if absolutely necessary. Except that, the difference between people and cars is that, if you bump into another car with your vehicle there will be a lot of time spent sorting out the insurance; shouting and screaming at each other with a lot of gesturing; many years of paying extra for your insurance.

Bumping into people does not cause any of those things. So, as a result, people manoeuvre a lot less when walking and there is a lot of bumping. And, more importantly for the people from the UK – no apologising!

Whilst in the Scottish city, we had spent a couple of hours walking round the shops and dancing in the street – by that, I mean the little two-step dance whilst trying to avoid other people.

I asked V if he had noticed that, in all the time we had been walking, not once had anyone so much as brushed past us. He replied that he hadn’t but that now I had mentioned it, it was true. It was so pleasant. I must admit that, having been here for almost 4 years now, I no longer apologise when bumped into or even when I bump into someone else. It has taken all this time and a great deal of personal resolve to stop saying ‘sorry’. There is a way of walking here that means head up, stare straight ahead, ignore the fact that the person is approaching you without any intention of moving slightly out of your way and, if they are much bigger than you, only move slightly to one side at the very last possible moment. If there is any physical contact, whatever you do, DO NOT say ‘sorry’ – after all, it’s their fault for being in your way.

But it was so nice to stroll around without having bruises at the end!

I did drink a lot of tea whilst there and it was very, very nice. But I did miss the Italian coffee. So, whilst out, we saw a Café Nero and decided to go in and have the ‘real Italian coffee’ that they purported to sell.

Of course, here, a café latte is not taken so often and, certainly, is not as big as the Café Nero ‘regular’ let alone ‘large’. However, we were in the UK so a large café latte seemed in order.

Maybe it’s the water; or the coffee; or the milk – whatever it was, it did not make it particularly nice. And I very much doubt (although I didn’t try it, so I can’t be sure) that their espresso is not the best this side of Milan. After all, we have quite an area of Italy between Milan and the French border and, I can assure you, coffee in any part of Italy is superb.

I do remember that, when we still had the flat in Hay and returned to help out at the festival 3 years ago, we brought our moka back with us along with a supply of coffee so that we could make our morning fix.

Where have all the assistants gone?

More from our trip to Scotland and the differences between UK and Italian life/culture, etc.

We landed at the airport and had arranged for a taxi to take us to the city at which we were staying. There were quite a few of us. We knew about half the people and knew of, by reputation, most of the rest.

We arrived at the city and a group of us (about 6 or so) decided that we would go into town. V & I really wanted a Kentucky Fried Chicken fillet burger. I know it’s crap (junk) food but when you just can’t get something the old adage ‘absence makes the heart (or in this case, stomach) grow fonder’ was definitely in full swing.

Luckily, an Italian with us, F, was also very keen on this type of junk food and was also up for it. A couple of the others had never tasted it so had no idea. A couple of people returned to the hotel. We asked several people where the nearest (actually, only) KFC was. We had various answers, mostly quite vague. V saw Greggs and decided to have a sausage roll – as did F and one or two others.

I thought, whilst they were buying, I would find out definitively, where the KFC was. What I needed was a shop with helpful assistants. Aha, I thought; Marks and Spencer. So I walked in. The shop was spacious with plenty of room between the racks of clothes, something we rarely see here, in Italy. Something else that I hadn’t bargained for and had completely forgotten about was that, after wandering around for about 10 minutes, I still couldn’t find an assistant!

Here, in Italy, after about 1 minute an assistant would be there; offering their help. Here, in one of the most renowned stores in the UK, assistants were less than ghosts.

I gave up and went to a shoe repairers where some very pleasant local lassies gave me very precise and spot-on directions.

Later we talked about this within our group. It was consensual that, in the UK, we had driven this type of service out of existence. And, the more I thought about this the more I knew it to be true. In the UK, I used to get very annoyed if I was bothered by assistants. Sure, I wanted them to be there but only when I wanted them! Until then I wished to be left alone until I had selected what I wanted. I agree that I think the UK drove this away and I think that the UK is the worse for it.

Here, in Italy, good service – and having an assistant pay attention to you almost as soon as you walk through the door is very good service – is essential and very much expected. Here, and certainly in Milan, assistants are everywhere and I’ve got used to it now. I know how to react and use their assistance rather than discourage them from trying.

By the way, the burger was divine. I know that to you, my lovely reader, this is nothing special but to us the taste was a wonder on our tongues. I wouldn’t swap Italy for the UK but, sometimes, these things are missed.

Visiting the UK and Primark (several times).

Sorry for the lack of posts but I have been busy, more of which in later posts.

As a tempter for you to return, we have been in Scotland! I have many stories and things to tell you but I forgot to bring my book in which I write things down.

So, the most amazing thing about the UK right now is – Primark! How are their prices possible? The material alone would cost more than the finished price of the goods. I bought a pair of jeans for work for only £6! Absolutely incredible.

We went there nearly every day we were there. We couldn’t get jeans on a market here for less than about €20 so £6 could not be ignored. I have a good (I hope) pair of jeans for work that I am wearing now. Sure, I’m not expecting the quality to be brilliant and, after a few washes, I expect the jeans to look somewhat worn or out of shape. At that point I may throw them away but, by then, they will have served their purpose.

I am assuming that everyone in the UK buys most of their everyday clothing at Primark. Why wouldn’t you?

Five pairs of socks for £2! It’s just not possible. Someone said that the Oxford Street store that they have is selling £1m of goods a day! I guess the profit margin may be tiny but on that kind of turnover, the margin may be small but the amount of actual profit would be huge.

Anyway, that’s all for the moment. Hopefully, there’ll be more tomorrow.