For three days now, it has rained, almost non-stop. At least it’s keeping to the routine for when Best Mate is here.
If, perchance, you are reading this within an hour or so of it being posted then I shall be at or near the airport – picking up Best Mate.
“I have to schlep it all across to my house”, she wailed.
I remain without expression. I suggest “Why don’t you just take half?”
“If L were here, I’d get her to pick me up” (L is her daughter who is in the Caribbean as we speak).
“Why don’t you leave it here until Tuesday?”, I ask, helpfully.
I get texts and calls from V. One reason is that the Final Question is still happening, maybe. Therefore, he needs me. Therefore, he remains nice to me. It will be interesting to see if he remains the same once the Final Question thing has been sorted and we start (really) on our separate lives.
My heart starts beating very fast. My stomach has those butterflies doing a crazy dance. The future’s bright! The future is a couple of days away and I can’t believe my luck! For a moment there, all’s right with the world and my place in it.
Let me explain (a bit). Best Mate, due here next week, told me that it might not happen for various reasons. And, to be honest, last night, I came to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t be here. I understood and, anyway, I do intend to be over there come the end of May.
In fact, I had told some people here that I might change plans for next week.
However, this morning, she rang me to tell me that it was, after all, still on and she will be here on Monday evening. And, as she’s telling me this, I did get really excited. We haven’t seen each other since last year and, even though we talk quite often, I really miss her and have felt a little helpless here when she needed help from me.
But now it will be OK. She should, really, have been the first person to come and stay in The Perfect Flat but, never mind, at least she’s coming. Hurrah!
We shall chill out, drink some beer (well, me, at least, as I’m not sure if she will be drinking), talk some and, maybe, do some things depending on how she feels. But all that is unimportant when the real thing about it all is that she will be here.
She is my rock and I just love her to bits.
Today, I learnt a new Italian phrase. This phrase is one that we would replace with ‘It’s not a game’ or ‘We’re not playing’ – often followed by ‘you know?’ to indicate that we are doing/have done something serious and that we did a good job because we take it all seriously.
In Italy, it is ‘We’re not brushing the doll’s hair’.
I just love it.
Yesterday, my so-called boss, was delighted to tell me that I was on the ‘exclusive’ list to go to some important show and be one of the people on our stand. He asked if I would like to go, all smiles and glee at the thought that he was doing me a favour.
His face dropped big time when I said that absolutely, I did not want to go!
There are a number of reasons. 1. I do not like industry shows – even as a visitor but, worse, as a person on a stand. You stand (which is the first thing that is not good) for very, very long hours; you have to smile and treat incompetent visitors like they are kings, 2. You have rare opportunities for breaks, which means cigarettes, for me, 3. You get to see nothing else except the show, the hotel room and, maybe, some hotel restaurant and, in addition to these, to make it worse, it is in France!
Now, some of you will like France. For me, the best thing about France is that the motorways are good and allow you to cross it fast when driving from the UK to Italy. Oh, yes, and the food (particularly the cheeses) and the wine – which are, actually the only two reasons I would go to France.
Worse still, this to be Paris. I realise that, for most of you reading this, you will think that Paris is a wonderful city. For me, it is full of French people and not really that wonderful. It has the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and some other bits and bobs. Hardly a reason for visiting it more than once.
It’s also further north and has weather more similar to the UK than Italy.
So, if I really have to go to this bloody thing, the only saving grace is the food and the wine (as you would expect, Gail).
To try and look on the bright side, I think they probably have the best cheeses in the world.
I said that, of course, if I am obliged to go, I would go but that I really, really didn’t want to go, if I had my way, and what is the point in me going? I don’t understand the subject, I am not interested in the finished products (except to use them) and I will be thoroughly bored out of my mind. I won’t even get to see any of Paris! Not that I really like it anyway.
I will probably have to go anyway. Damn!
Last night FfI cooked dinner. It was a light dinner but really lovely. It was steamed asparagus tips, with a fried egg/two on top (the egg should have a runny yolk but have crispy, brown edges to the whites) covered with a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Washed down with a half-decent bottle of wine, of course, and with some nice crusty bread to eat with it.
I shall definitely be doing it myself sometime.
Tonight, with any luck, it will be pasta with broccoli – now, one of my favourite ways of having pasta and something I’ve never seen in the UK. At first I thought it was a very strange combination but the taste, well, it is to die for!
I feel hungry already……..
Apparently, after an ‘interesting’ conversation she had with her friend, as we’re walking to the pizzeria, I won’t be holding my breath until Saturday or Sunday! Hmm.
This morning, coming to work, the temperature sensor was recoding 16.5 degrees. The sun is shining and, for the first time this year, I did not wear a jumper to work! Yay! Although, obviously, I was wearing a coat.
Still, if only this would hold for the weekend and, even better, if Best Mate still comes, next week! Blue skies, no wind, and, again, last night, we were able to sit outside for our meal without jackets. Oh yes, this makes it all worthwhile.
So, back to last night. The plan was that FfI was going to make dinner at home. She bought all the stuff. She also bought a clothes drying rack; a standing lamp; a basket to hold washing and cleaning stuff; a mirror for the bathroom. She also cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom. It’s like having a wife!
The problem is that the clothes drying rack is for hanging outside on the balcony. She likes her clothes to dry outside. Given the pollution in this city and the film of dirt that is on the car every morning, I prefer to dry everything inside. Ah well, there are worse things.
The lamp, however, is really great. It is now standing in the kitchen. The Art Deco lamp that was in the kitchen is now shedding light in the hall (which was the only place without light or windows and was, therefore, very dark). It’s good. It cost €5 but looks like it should be worth about €100!
The mirror (a cheap one from one of the Chinese shops that is full of tat) is serviceable and now I can shave without having to squat down!
Instead of her making dinner, she suggested that we go for a pizza. We walk up to Via Eustachi which is a very elegant street in Milan. It is also full of restaurants and bars. We select a pizzeria that she says is part of a small chain and, supposedly, very good. It’s called Time Out, or something like that. The chain is run by Chinese, apparently. The pizzas were good, the house red wine was fizzy and cold and perfectly acceptable and the conversation flowed. The evening was warm and very pleasant. And all for €13 per head! Very good value and one I can see myself going to much more often.
It was marred only by the phone conversation she had with her friend on the way there and a subsequent one when we got there.
She had told me, before, that she had texted her friend, twice, asking what was going on and could she still come tomorrow (now today, obviously) to stay. Her friend was not responding. I knew what this meant and told her.
A few minutes after we started walking to the restaurant her friend rang her (she had just sent another text) and there followed a rather heated argument. It was embarrassing and unnecessary, in my view. After all, I knew from the day before yesterday that this ‘move’ wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway, the upshot is that her friend didn’t have room because some other friends are down from the mountains. FfI wasn’t happy. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic but had to offer that she could stay – what else could I do? So, now it will be until Saturday or Sunday or, perhaps, even Monday). An offer to go to the Friend with the Second Home on the Lake for the weekend was rejected. I understand but, still, a break would be nice (for me, really).
Here I am in my new flat and unable, really to stretch out and enjoy it; continue putting stuff away and sorting things out, etc. Hmmph! And, even with V, I need my personal ‘downtime’ or space.
I really hope that Best Mate can make it after all as that IS something to look forward to and the weather is predicted to be pretty good – plenty of sunshine and warmish weather. And I want to explore the area with her, above all others.
Remember? I’m still not holding my breath. Last night FfI mentioned that the friend, to whom she was going to move, may not be able to put her up until the weekend. I read between the lines and know what that means. Certainly, she will be there tonight. Tomorrow?
However, it changed again this morning, probably because she insists on getting up after I have taken the dogs for a walk and I don’t think she normally got up anywhere near that time in the past. At that time it’s only just getting light. She gets up for coffee with me. We have conversation. Now, I’m not really a morning person; I don’t like having conversation. I prefer to be quiet and not to do much (except drink coffee and have some cigarettes).
I really don’t mind having her stay. Except that, whereas she’s lovely, she may be considered harder work than someone, say, like Best Mate. With Best Mate I can, certainly, be totally myself and completely relaxed. With FfI, it’s not really the same at all.
But she’s trying to be sweet and I am trying to be accommodating. It’s difficult, this living with someone else, especially if you’re in a three-room flat!
Anyway, as a sort of payment for using my flat over these two (or three or four) days, she took me out last night. Please bear in mind, it’s always ladies first, ladies have a seat, ladies are treated, well, like ladies. But I have no problem when they pay for things. For me they are equal in all things but should be treated with the courtesy of being a lady. This does not mean they shouldn’t pay their way – after all, some of them I know earn so much more than I do.
She had asked me where and, since I’ve never been there but passed it the other night whilst taking the dogs out, I suggested Aladino. She had mentioned it several times in the past as a great restaurant and that we should go and now, as it’s a two minute walk from my house, it seemed the perfect time.
Aladino (not pronounced the English way – I.e. like Aladin with an ‘o’ on the end and the stress on the ‘la’ – but rather as in Allah + Dino (deenoh) with the stress on the ‘di’) is a Lebanese (and, as I look at the website, Syrian) restaurant.
As FfI had been there before, many times, and, I was on the telephone to another friend, she went and ordered for both of us. Which was fine by me!
What we had decries description. To start with was cold ‘mesa’ (may not be spelt correctly) which was about 25 small dishes with ‘stuff’. Different sauces, vegetables done in different sauces, etc. Served with warm pitta bread.
Each dish allowed four small but adequate portions of whatever the ‘stuff’ was. This you put on pitta bread and eat. Most of it was very tasty but very different tastes for most of them which meant you felt as if you were getting a whole meal. And, to be honest, I had to check at one point, what was coming next, so as not to over-do it at the start.
Next came three different hot ‘mesa’. Again, very nice and, thankfully not so much as I was already a little full from the cold dishes.
Then came the kebabs – lamb and beef. Served with salad and rice. By now there was far too much to eat! Still, to follow, was the sweet – two types but not over-sweet and one of which was a little like blancmange (which was always one of favourite deserts). Then there was tea and, for me, a limoncello.
Very, very nice meal although not cheap at €40 per head! However, as an alternative to Chinese or Indian, very welcome.
I should be working. Both ‘real’ work and the ‘other’ work (which, in reality, is just as real and, if I actually got my ass into gear, would pay for a new laptop).
I sit here, in the office, with my coat on. It is not so cold – except in this office.
FfI arrived last night; late. She should have arrived at about 11 and instead it was about 11.45. It did make me clean the house and put some boxes in the car to take back to V; or, rather, to take back to the old place to allow me to pack some more stuff to take away and try to find a place for it in a flat with no storage.
FfI bought me an ashtray and some chocolate-covered wafers from her trip to the strange land. The ashtray is nice and also very useful, since the split means I don’t have so many of them each. The chocolate-covered wafers are, apparently, fantastic. We shall see.
It was to be for one night. Now it will be two but she ‘should be gone after that’. Another friend’s ex-husband is leaving to go back to the country house and so there will be room. I am not holding my breath
I finished the cleaning; flattened some boxes; went round to V’s place (that was our place and now is an alien place even if the furniture is still ‘our’ furniture). I collected a duvet (it being so cold at night) for FfI, some mugs (I realised I only had two) and some pans (I had none). These things, in the main, having been forgotten by me in the rush to advise each of the packers in different rooms
V and I had a glass of wine. He lent me some incense – it being essential to mask the smell of the dogs, especially in this damp or wet weather.
I went home and sat at the kitchen table in the silence of the night although, if you listened hard enough, you could detect the hum of the traffic and the clang and grinding of the trams; I opened a bottle of wine and poured myself a glass and read the book that I had been lent about 9 months ago and should have finished about 8 months ago.
I wouldn’t do that at the previous home. I expect, when I get the TV functioning, I will do less of that. But, for now, it’s such a pleasure to be able to read in the dim light of one lamp (since all the light fittings have been taken – as they do here) and a glass of wine in one hand.
Dino, of course, wants to play. I am mindful that throwing things for him too much could cause problems for the people below me – first, the thud of the toy hitting the floor and then the clippety-clipping of the toenails as he scampers to retrieve said toy and then, occasionally, the crash as he slides into something like a door or bookcase.
When I stop the playing, he comes and, almost, takes my arm off, such is the force by which he ‘nudges’ me. It makes it difficult to drink the wine – I have to sip it in between the ‘nudges’.
FfI arrives and, having just travelled for hours, is not so sleepy. I pour her wine in the other glass I got out some time before, ready, for just this moment. She wants to hear about the flat but also wants to tell me about the trip; the things that were done; the shade of brown she has become; the men she has met or re-met; the old friends that she saw.
I only half listen. Had she not been coming I would have been like a log in my bed by half past ten.
As it is, we chat for a bit. I try to concentrate on what she is saying, I do, I really do.
I help her make up the ‘bed’ in the lounge.
I crash into my bed – I can’t even be bothered to turn off the computer. It will be five hours and I will be up again. I would normally say ‘roll on the weekend’ but, again, I will have so much to do I know I will not have the lie-in that I so want.
On the plus side, when Best Mate comes next week, now that she is sleeping like a normal person, I should be able to catch up with my sleep – if that is ever really possible!