Being David Bowie!

The other day, at work, G asked me:

“Do you like David Bowie?”
“Yes,” I replied, “Why?”
“Because you look a bit like him.”

Now, for me, David Bowie, throughout his life, has been one of the most handsome men I have ever seen. There is something about him that oozes style.

I don’t really think I look anything like him but I was chuffed with the compliment, all the same.

And, the winner is…………..

It’s not all done and dusted yet but it’s getting there.

Last night it was the revisit to the flat-with-the-terrace with FfI. She had already decided that this was the flat I should have

First, we met in our mutual friend’s shop. She’s from London and has a clothes shop – but not just any old clothes, specific designer clothes from the UK and Japan She is lovely and beautiful – tall, black and just stunning. Her shop is in Isola.

We walked to the flat-with-the-terrace. On the way, FfI saw a couple of guys (who looked a little like Beppe Grillo) and we spoke to them for a bit. They are jazz musicians who live in Isola and play, regularly, at the Blue Note Café which is also there. Nice guys. When FfI explained what we were doing one of them said we should go to his friends agency round the corner – but the problem is agencies. They always want between 10-20% commission (based on the annual rent). This equates to thousands of Euro which, given that I have to put down a deposit, pay three months rent in advance AND move furniture, etc. is just money down the drain, as far as I am concerned.

Obviously, when we first came here, we had no choice as we didn’t know the “rules” of renting in Italy – but oh how I wish we had known. It would have meant a much nicer flat for less money than we actually got in the end. Still, as I say, we didn’t know squat then and had no one to help us with the translation or anything, so it had to be.

The guy was there to show us round. When my friend had phoned originally, she had asked if it was an agency and had been told that “no, it wasn’t really and there would only be a very small charge as he was doing this as a favour for someone”.

The flat was great. Empty, the balcony on the front, overlooking the church was big enough for a small table and several chairs; the terrace at the back was, really, another room, only overlooked by the flats above. The kitchen seemed bigger than I remembered. Nearly all our furniture would fit if V chose not to take anything.

It was going to be such a difficult decision.

Then my friend asked about the rent (which was very reasonable) and the “spese” (this is the annual charge for the upkeep of the building, the cost of the doorman/woman, etc. She was shocked at how much it was. But again, the guy said that we could make an offer and he was sure that the total payable per month would fit my budget. It was looking good. The owner wanted the 3 months deposit and 3 months rent in advance, of course. This was going to make things a bit tight but it was do-able.

But then, my friend asked about the fee. It was to be 20% of the annual rent! It now became impossible. My friend suggested that, maybe, it could be paid over a period of time. “Oh yes”, he replied, “it wouldn’t have to be paid until the contracts were signed”! As my friend said – that means a couple of weeks from now!

Well, on the plus side, it took away the need for choice. It was now down to the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street.

Off we trundled into the centre of Milan to meet with the owner of the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street, as had been planned.

We arrived at a fabulous old building, just off Via Torino, one of the main shopping streets of Milan. The offices were on the first floor. We went up to see a typical Milanese older lady (probably in her 60s), smartly dressed, with money, jewellery, style, etc. She seemed nice.

On the internet, whilst searching for a flat, you can, usually, select those flats that are being offered privately (rather than through an agency). For this one it was in the private section and the woman living in the flat explained that she had put it on because otherwise she would lose 6 months rent. There was no agency involved.

However, whilst, maybe, not saying that we would have to speak to the owner (although I’m sure she did), she certainly implied it. In fact, this woman we were in front of was the Administrator of the building and not the owner (apparently the owner is 99 and I would get first dibs on the flat, to buy, when she dies!).

Now, here’s the thing, if you get a flat through the Administrator, it is similar to the agency thing. They want their “cut” She wanted 1 months rent as her fee! This was considerably less than the agency fee but, still, with 3 months deposit and 3 months rent in advance it was extra expense that I could do without.

So, I started to get my coat, explaining that the woman in the flat had said/implied that this was with the owner directly and a private deal not through someone wanting their cut.

The Administrator reduced her fee and then reduced it some more. My friend suggested that I pay the three months in advance and one months deposit, over time, building that up to three months deposit.

The woman asked someone else who said absolutely not but – I could pay three months deposit and then pay the rent monthly!


I filled in some details and paid her the ‘fee’. Of course, as it was so much less, although I had a receipt for the fee, once the contract was signed we would tear up the receipt so that the fee would be ‘in nero’ (in the black/under the table). Anyway, the result is that I pay less than I thought in advance even with her fee!

So, it was done! Obviously the contracts have to be drawn up and signed and the woman will try to get the current tenant out by the beginning of April. As soon as she’s out I can move in – and, as a bonus, the contract will start from 1st May so whatever I get, in terms of time in the flat, in April, will be free!

I was very, very happy.

As we were close to Peck and, as I have never been, FfI took me in. It is wonderful. Similar, for those of you who have been, to Harrod’s Food Hall. The displays of food were amazing. And, for future reference – they have Stilton. Immediately, I thought of Stilton and a good glass of Port. The Stilton looked wonderful. I’m sure that heaven, should I get there, is one big food hall, just like Peck!

In celebration we called in at Princi which is really a chain of bakeries – that do apero as well – the food, freshly baked on the premises is great and the cost of the apero, including a plate of food was only €5. For those of you coming to Milan it is one of the best places to go.

Then we made our way back to Isola as our friend-with-the-shop would be closing up and we could go for a drink. We had a lovely time and several drinks.

I still can’t quite believe it and have to keep saying to myself “I’m going to live on the perfect street” just to make it true!

How friends are helping me decide; V & I make an appointment to see each other.

Last night, one of my friends picked me up and we went to Blender Bar. On the way we passed the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street. I described that flat and also the flat-with-the-terrace. My friend lives closer to my current flat and so it will come as no surprise that he prefers the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street, since it means we can still go for a drink from time to time as he is on his way back from work..

This afternoon, whilst it is still light, I go with FfI to see the flat-with-the-terrace before, supposedly, going to see the owner of the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street. Unsurprisingly, she (my friend from Isola) would prefer me to take the flat-with-the-terrace. Especially since said terrace will allow for bbqs and sunbathing – she likes to be tanned in the summer. After all, it looks much better with white clothes, doesn’t it?.

So, now, the choice is much easier, isn’t it? Or perhaps not.

So my friend, last night, was saying that as the flat-with-the-terrace didn’t have a kitchen, it would be too expensive to fit one. My Isola-friend says, of course, it will not be expensive and it will be quite easy to do. She said, this morning, after informing me of the appointment to see the flat-with-the-terrace that, after viewing, we should just cancel the appointment with the owner of the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street!

Still, it is nice to feel wanted, particularly right now.

Meanwhile, V & I have ‘made an appointment’ for Sunday to discuss the dividing of the ‘stuff’. We have to make the appointment because we have, more or less since the end of December, been leading entirely separate lives – sometimes, not even seeing each other for days at a time! It’s a strange period indeed.

Choices, choices.

Now things have become more difficult. I went to see a flat last night. It is, more or less, the same price as the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street (or can be, according to the guy showing me round). It has good and bad points. On the plus side is the following:

  1. It is slightly bigger
  2. It has a garage for the car (just behind the building) included in the price
  3. It has a terrace that is, in effect another, extra room – at least for about 6 months of the year.
  4. It is in Isola which has a ‘village’ feel to it.
  5. The front overlooks a very nice church and grounds (looks like a well-kept park), the back overlooks the garages and has green trees around.
  6. The lounge/diner is definitely a lounge and diner (I.e. there is more than enough room)

On the minus side are the following things:

  1. It does not have the character of the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street.
  2. It does not have a courtyard at the back, so is not like the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street – i.e. pretty
  3. The kitchen is not ‘abitabile’ but more galley type.
  4. The kitchen is not fitted with anything so would require buying.
  5. The bedroom is not as big.
  6. The terrace, if it faces south, will be too hot during the day in June, July and August so will be unusable, except at night.
  7. It is in Isola which, being like a ‘village’ means that everyone knows your business.

All very difficult. Of course, FfI, who lives in Isola (hence FfI – Friend from Isola) is quite keen for me to live there and the terrace appeals to her (for sunbathing, bar-b-ques, etc.). She is going to see it today.

On the other hand, I go to see the woman who owns the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street on Friday evening, after I have seen the flat-with-the-terrace (so I can see it in the daylight). Decisions must be made.

Opportunity – take it or leave it!

Opportunities occur in your life from time to time. Things that happen where choices must be made. As I have said before, I have been lucky in my life. But, with that luck, comes the taking of opportunities when they arise. One cannot sit there with one’s thumb in one’s mouth just waiting. Sure, things may happen and come one’s way unexpectedly – good or bad – but you still have to do something.

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Back with the ‘old’

As you may have noticed, I have decided to go back to the old way of doing posts. I decided that the whole blog looked a little boring and need ‘spicing up a bit’.

So, for those of you newer readers, it goes like this.

Type the title of the post into Google and do an image search. Select an image from the first page – any image you like but always from the first page of results. Use that image.

As I have said in the past, should anyone be unhappy about the use of an image and is the owner, please contact me and I shall remove it.

The flat-on-the-perfect-street seems to be the perfect-flat-on-the-perfect-street!

I found three other possibles for a place to live, on the internet. One was an agency (sort of) as I phoned it myself.

FfI came round just after 6. She phoned the other two. One was an agency but would take no commission and the other was an agency. Also we phoned the flat-in-the-building-we-both-like but there was no answer as it must be an office or something.

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Pictures of people in your head – does everyone do this?

I remember, when I was a buyer for an Engineering company in Dursley, There was a sales guy that, over the phone, I used to get on with really well. Over a period of a year or so, we built up quite a good relationship – more than just the work thing.

In my head he looked a certain way. He was tall, blond-haired, good looking, etc. His voice sounded that way.

After about 18 months, I left the company and, as I was leaving, we promised to meet up. A few weeks later, we did. He was short, fat, dark-haired and a bit goofy. And, face-to-face he did not have the same personality as on the phone. I guess he felt the same way as neither of us touched base after that. Face to face it was all wrong, somehow.

Then, there’re books versus films. I read Lord of the Rings, a long time before any of the films came out. I pictured the whole thing in my head. The characters had real faces, were dressed in certain ways. The film of course has now erased those characters as they were in my head. The only one I remember that was totally wrong was Gandalf – although I can’t remember why now. It still sort-of annoys me when I watch the film for, although I can’t remember my original, I know the film depiction isn’t quite right. However, Frodo was much better than I had pictured so it sort-of balances itself out, I guess.

And then there’re songs. Take ‘Puppy Love’ by Donny Osmond. When it was released I remember thinking it was a girl singing it. When I saw him on Top of the Pops – I still thought it was a girl. And the name ‘Donny’ was American and it was the first time I had heard it so I was still convinced it was a girl. Of course, when I found out it was a boy I kept it all to myself – after all, it was only my parents that couldn’t recognise the difference between boys and girls – all because of their long hair! How stupid were they!!!!

And then there’s Gail. Gail has been commenting on my blog for a while now and, recently, she pointed out that she had put a picture on her profile on her blog and that I should take a look.

Before you go and look, I should tell you that Gail, in my head, already looked a certain way. Even though we have not spoken (therefore, I could not be swayed by the sound of her voice) we have emailed and commented and, weirdly, I have to build up how she would look. So Gail was blond with shortish hair, slightly curly or permed or maybe wavy. She wasn’t tall and not skinny but neither short nor obese. She had a rather round face with a perfect nose and rather nice brown or hazel eyes. Even when she just got up in the morning, her hair and make-up would be done and be “just right”. She had a way of shaking her head so that the curls of her hair would bob up and down and she would do this for effect.

She was a grandmother but quite a grand grandmother, with a style that was all her own.

To be honest, she is, probably, all these things. However, when I saw the picture the hair was so different I was shocked. Now, isn’t that really stupid! If I had met her before the online relationship she would just be Gail. But now she is a different Gail! That’s not to say that she is not attractive or fun or any of the things that I pictured but it’s the hair! It just doesn’t fit.

Gail, I’m sorry but you need to have a haircut, a wave put in and go blond! :-)

The problem with bloody foreigners is that they want more than one room to live in!

The problem with bloody foreigners is that they want more than one room to live in!

“He’s going to live there on his own?”

The old man was incredulous. You could see him thinking how strange these foreigners are.

“Yes”, FfI replied. “He needs a studio”.

Obviously, this exchange was in Italian. I could do this but it would take me much longer and things do get lost in translation (especially when I try Italian).

He seemed unsure. We walked in to the flat. Built around 1920 or 1930, it had not really been updated much since then. The ‘cucina abitale’ (living kitchen) did have a table in it. At a squeeze you could fit four people round it, as long as the oven wasn’t still on, otherwise the person sitting with their back to it would be in hospital with 2nd degree burns.

The hallway was pokey. The bathroom had a half-bath with an (old) shower fitment over it. There was no room for a full size bath in any event.

“Why don’t Italians like baths?” FfI asked to me.

Room 1 was a bedroom. 2 single beds and a mismatch of furniture (wardrobes, chest of drawers). Some of the furniture was newish. But none of it was bought at the same time or bought from the same store. Room 2 was another bedroom with one single bed and a wall unit that would not look out of place on a bonfire. In fact, that is where it should be.

All the furniture would be staying. He was adamant. The girl living there obviously was not trying to sell the place. The washed clothes were drying on a rack in the hallway.

The girl explained that she didn’t live there on her own. In fact, as FfI put it (she is American but has, obviously, lived here too long) – they are in three – a literal translation of the Italian “sono in tre” – properly translated as “there are three of us”.

That’s how they could afford the rent. Which went up €100 Euro when my friend asked how much the rent was – at least compared to the internet price.

We didn’t ask about the dogs. And neither of us bothered to question the other about it. This was, excepting for the furniture, only marginally more salubrious than the “crack den” down on the Navigli.

As FfI put it later, you wouldn’t want to go home to that. I could only whole heartedly agree

We discussed the fact that, only as a student could one live in one bedroom. Later, over lunch and coffee, we discussed the fact that, given the cramped conditions in which Italians live, it is no surprise that they spend most of their spare time out, walking, eating, meeting friends, etc. And, why they never really seem to do dinner parties – at least, not like we do.