The crazy, criminal, mixed-up land in which I live


I stayed away from the recent controversy with the Italian’s ‘beloved’ leader (and he’s still beloved, it would seem, at least by most). He seems to have been a very busy boy, what with giving money to (ex-?) husbands of UK politicians (not that giving the money was bribing, it was only taking it that seems to be a crime); dalliances with a young girl that his wife, for some reason, took exception to; using government money to have people fly to parties at his residence on Sardinia and, of course, the latest, the payment for young ladies of the night for services rendered – all of which, he denies, blaming all of these “rumours” on those ‘left-wing-communist types’.

We can also, perhaps, overlook the way that he said that the people from L’Aquila, made homeless by the earthquake, should make the most of living in tents, it being just like a holiday and all!

At least he made up for it by agreeing to huge (can’t remember how much and can’t be bothered to look it up) amounts of dosh to rebuild the town (although it seems it may not be quite as was first reported) and, of course, deciding to hold the G8 summit in the town in order that it gets a boost.

Now, I read about the latest development (see, still reading the Guardian rather than using the BBC site) and the President’s call to back off Berlusconi’s (ahem) ‘problems‘ so as not to embarrass Italy when, about half way down, I read this:

the prime minister assured the media that his illustrious guests would nevertheless be received in style at a large revenue guard barracks hastily converted for the occasion. He said the site would soon have 121,000 square metres of gardens with 6,850 bushes and extensive lawns.

Now, given the current economic crisis in the world and the recent death and destruction in the town in which this converted barracks is situated and in spite of not knowing how much will be spent doing this conversion (but I’m guessing not just a few Euro), etc., it struck me that this kind of thing is just crass and obscene in the extreme.

This puts those politicians (from the G8) on the same par with Madoff and (possibly) Stanford – i.e. criminals who are taking us for a ride – since they are benefiting from the outrageous spending that is being done just to show off to each other!

It’s a crazy, crazy world in which we live.

The sun shouldn’t be the only one with his hat on!


For my friends in the UK, I see you’re in the middle of an “official” heatwave. How nice that must be although I suspect there are lot of people complaining that it is too hot. And there seems to be a consensus that people will die or that hospitals should be prepared for an influx of people suffering from heatstroke!

And the temperatures causing this panic and fear? Why, up to 33 degrees!! Wow! We get to that (or close to it) most days at the moment.

However, to be fair, there is a difference, as I have said before.

Now, here, I look for the shade most of the time. When I was in the UK, such is the rarity of such sunny days, people (and I was one of them) would prefer to stay in the sun, however hot or uncomfortable it was.

I still get brown, of course. But, then, I tan very easily. I can assure you it is not because I sunbathe (since I find that boring) nor because I stay out in the sun (which, at over 30 degrees is ridiculous, unless you are forced to) it is just the ‘bits in between’ the shade that cause this.

So, the trick is to stay in the shade and not expect this to be the last sunny day ever. Anyway, with what used to be called Global Warming (now Climate Change – otherwise people don’t understand why the winters are longer, colder and wetter), there’s likely to be plenty more of it…….

And, whilst we’re on the subject of lethargy…..


Sometimes (sh)it just happens!

So, I go to the shop last night and get the adapter I need. I get home and try it out. Boy, that Dyson has some sucking power! I clean the kitchen and the hallway and then, because it’s so hot, I have a drink and answer some emails. This not being Sweden, it is getting dark.

I decide to iron some shirts. Unfortunately the light in the lounge isn’t working. At first, I think it is the timer that’s a problem but, even plugged in (almost) directly, the lamp doesn’t work.

I try the lamp in a different socket. No good.

I try the bulb in a different lamp.

It’s the bulb. In a different time and a different place (namely, with V) I would have become frustrated and slightly angry with the injustice of all things that seem to conspire against me trying to keep the flat clean and tidy (which, in any case, is not working) but the time and place is different and I shrug my shoulders.

Although I remain disappointed, I know that there is no point in fighting such things. What is, is. I cannot, at this moment, do anything about it. The process to change bulbs, leaving some other area of the flat in darkness is just too difficult.

Of course, I should get off my ass and get some more lamps; get the lights that need fitting, fitted; do SOMETHING!

My lethargy in all things (except the dogs, eating and drinking) is really starting to annoy me and yet everything else WILL wait until tomorrow, let’s be honest.

And this includes the ironing, whilst I get a bulb (they are bayonet types since this is an Art Deco lamp from the UK and bayonet bulbs are simply not sold here in the usual shops) but, even then, tonight I am going to sort out the start of the ‘other’ work that really must move on.

Ho hum.

I wonder…….?


I’m not sure what it says about me (and I CERTAINLY don’t mean the picture which is a random one anyway) or if, indeed, this post is worth the bother of writing but, anyway, here goes….

I cannot remember when it started or, even, why but, from a very early age I had this desire to live outside the UK.

For some reason, Sweden was the place I wanted to go (and this was before Abba even sang about Waterloo, maybe, probably, before Waterloo had ever been thought of). In particular, I wanted to live in Stockholm.

For many, many years, it was understood, by me, in my inner brain, that I would, someday, be living there.

Instead, I came to Milan and never went anywhere near Sweden until after I came here. And now, finally, I have been there.

I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful place, the weather was superb; the food wonderful; the modernity, outside the old part of Stockholm, well, modern; the people were nice and friendly (although nowhere near as attractive as one would imagine – think Benny and Bjorn rather then Agnetha and Anni-Frid – all-in-all as good as one could expect.

Of course, the sunshine and warmth puts the whole thing in a good light and the reality is that, for most of the year the weather would probably be worse, or at least as bad, as the UK.

But, I wonder, how would my life be now if I had gone to that place that I dreamed of being in for so many years……?

My trip to the Northern Lands

Unexpectedly (even for them) the weather was gorgeous – even better than Milan and less humid.

We even got chance to wander about the capital city and, being as it was so much further north, we marvelled at the daylight extending into the night (although I didn’t marvel at the bloody dawn starting so much earlier).

This picture is of, what we think was, the Cathedral.  My picture doesn’t do it justice but the tower of wrought iron (I guess) was quite fabulous.


We ate in a restaurant called Mårten Trotzig where I had fish roe with a wonderful slice of warm cheese pie to start and followed that with Reindeer with a sauce which, to me, was really like a redcurrant sauce.  It was really good food and well cooked.  A delight.

A nice red wine would have been perfect but I was with one colleague and one of the customer’s representatives – so we had beer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beer and I like to taste different ones but, when I’m having a meal (unless it’s a pizza) there’s nothing to beat a glass (or bottle or two) of good wine.

The price, though, was astronomical.  For the same money I could have eaten in one of the better restaurants in Milan and had wine, water and more food.  Still, I won’t be unhappy to go back there again, if I have to.  Of course, the weather is not normally better than Milan!  However, next time, for certain, I will get a hotel in the centre, preferring to travel to the customer rather than be on the customer’s doorstep but having to travel into the city.


I don’t know what this building was but it was taken a few minutes after the other one – it was after 10 p.m.!  It should be noted that my phone (see post below) is not really that good for pictures and they seem a little dark.  It was not as dark in real life as it seems in the photos, sorry.

Making a new purchase is difficult


I’m not really what you would call “a shopper”.  In spite of V’s 20 years of trying to make me one.  And now that I don’t have him to “force” me to do so, I find that putting off making that purchase suits me just fine.

So, I really could do with some new shirts and there’s a shop just down the road with shirts for €10 so there’s no excuse, really.  But still, when I pass, which I do often, there’s always a good reason why “this moment” is not the right time.

The same is true of the table that I really want but just can’t be bothered to get in the car and drive to get, which is annoying, even to me and yet, not annoying enough that I actually do something about it.

However, if I need to shop or are in a situation where I am with others who are shopping, purchasing can be quite easy.

Food shopping I do actually enjoy.  Not going to the supermarket, exactly (but even that is quite nice if I have a recipe/meal in mind) but looking round interesting food shops (which I have been doing some of whilst abroad, recently).

And when I was getting my passport renewed, we were stuck for some hours in a town and I managed to pick up a couple of very nice T-Shirts for a very reasonable price.  For clothes shopping, the way that works is I walk into the shop, take a quick glance at the rails I can see and quickly determine if there’s likely to be any chance of finding something I will like.

I go to the rail and quickly flick through the things and only if there is something slightly unusual or interesting do I bother to even pull it out.  Then, if I can’t find my size within milliseconds I find an assistant who can do all the looking for me.

So, as you can imagine, finding something more “technical” quite fills me with dread.  Although I seriously need a new computer, I just cannot go looking.  The same with a new mobile phone.  You see, the problem is that there is too much choice and you can’t tell what you want just by “browsing” through a store.

However, I thought that getting a new vacuum cleaner would be a bit of a breeze.  Although I had put it off for about 2 months, I decided, yesterday, that I really had to do it as I cannot beat out the big rug – it’s just too big to go over the balcony and I was finding it difficult to clean.

I knew what I wanted.  A Dyson.  Now there’s a simple thing, I thought.  I go to the shop in Corso Buenos Aires that I know.  As I get to the right area I see an array of vacuum cleaners.  Not a good sign.  I find a few Dysons.  Actually, a few too many!  There’s one for allergies, one that says “Origin” (meaning original?) and a few others.  They are expensive so I briefly toy with the idea of a Hoover or similar equivalent but remember that the Dyson is definitely better.

I pick one as if sticking a pin in a map and deciding where to go.  It’s the Origin.  Not the most expensive but would seem to be the right one.

The one on display is the last one they have.  I ask for a discount.  They won’t give me enough and so I leave.  I decide to go to the other shop of theirs that is between Piazza Oberdan and Piazza Repubblica.  I can get the same one there that hasn’t been on display.

I go to the right areas for vacuums.  Here they have even more choice of Dysons!  There’s even one for Pet Hair!  Who would know that you could have a cleaner that was specifically designed to get all the pet hair up?  However, that one costs almost €200 more than the normal ones.  Although I may need it, I am not paying so much extra.  But there were at least another 4 different types!  Why?  Too much choice in this sort of thing just makes me want to walk away.

Anyway I plump for the one that I think will suit.  The girl has a good time (not) searching for one that has the correct tool for both hard floors and rugs but, eventually, finds one. I pay and catch the tram back home, grateful, in fact, that the tram stop is right outside and that I didn’t have to lug one from their other shop.

I put it together at home but didn’t actually try it as I am feeling so tired following my recent trips.

I decide to hoover up this morning.

I try to find a socket or adapter that will take the plug.  None do.  My flat is old and uses a special (old) type of socket that requires special adapters to permit normal plugs of today to fit. However, I was surprised that none of the adapters would work. Damn!

So now I will be back to the shop on Monday to find (hopefully) an adapter that works.  The cleaning will wait.

Potatoes, Turnips, etc.


I’m afraid I shall be away, again, for the next few days. This time I go to a northern country from where there came a delicious root vegetable. Actually, I don’t really know why the nationality should share their name with a root vegetable at all.

Still, as far as I know, it’s not famous for its food and they are unlikely to make wine. I seem to remember reading that their alcohol is extraordinarily highly priced (to stop people drinking so much, from what I understand) but it’s on expenses so that won’t worry me in the least.

I am going with a colleague (again) but one that I know better and, I think, will be more on my wavelength.

So, I’m back late on Friday night and then have a million things to do over the weekend. Ho hum.



I do have, from time to time, and overwhelming feeling of dread. This usually happens just before I get to sleep or if I wake up in the night. I do and don’t know why.

But it always comes back to V and what has happened and whether anything was really real or not and, therefore, whether anything can be real in the future – with or without V.

V is due to move out in the next few days. This is good and bad in that, finally, there will be some sort of closure, which I certainly need. It’s bad in that, from that point, we shall drift apart, as yachts on a still lake, without means of steering, or, maybe, race away from each other as if down different ravines; the threads that once held us together becoming more stretched and thinner until, finally, they snap or melt to nothing.

And my thoughts turn to ‘home’ and what it is and what it really means. And to why we are here and why we even have to struggle through life – to what end? Does it all really serve any purpose?

For if there is no ‘life after death’, other than the memories of others and if, like me, one remains childless without anyone to need to remember me, then there really is no point.

And, therefore, people believe in ‘life after death’ because it fulfils their need for a point.

But, tell, me, if we have that wrong, then why?

Help me find someone, somewhere?


Our stand is near one of the doors which leads to one of the entrances and next to one of the outdoor cafés.

As such and because of bad signage, we are more like an information point – for the toilets, in the main.

It was the first thing that M explained and that question is asked more than most, closely followed by “Do you have any gadgets?”. To which, the answer is ‘no’, since we don’t. But you can see by the slight hesitation before the walk away (and the distrustful look in their eyes – or is that just my imagination?) that they don’t believe that. They obviously think that, stashed away, behind the ‘counter’ we have sack-loads of things that we are choosing not to give them – but only them. One kid even came to the side, to check if we were telling the truth!

However, the best was a girl, quite beautiful, French probably, slim, tall, long hair that fell beyond her shoulders –

“Excuse me, can you tell me where the entrance to the show is?”
“Which entrance?”, I ask.
“The one to the show. Only I have to meet someone”.

Interestingly, one would have thought that she had to arrive through an ‘entrance’, or was she beamed in, like in Star Trek?

We get the ‘map’ out.

“There are many entrances, we need to know which one”, I explain, pointing to the map.

It dawns on her that, of course, this is true.

“There is a stall with a juice machine that makes juice from fresh fruit”, she says, helpfully.

Hmm. Our sign, above the stand does not say “INFORMATION – WE KNOW THE ANSWER TO ANY QUESTION YOU MAY HAVE”

“My friend doesn’t have a mobile phone”, she adds, not being helpful at all.

I want to reply “Sorry but what idiot comes to a very large show to meet someone, in 2009, without a mobile phone? In fact, who doesn’t have a mobile phone these days, unless they come from Mars?”

Instead, I ask, “How is your friend getting here – by car or taxi?”

“By bus” she replies, brightening a little.
“Here is the symbol for the bus stops”, I say. M finds the stop on the map. I suggest which way to get there.

She leaves, happily.

I hope she met her friend. I hope she convinces her friend to get a bloody mobile phone!

Into another world


[From Friday, 19th June]

I arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon. The receptionist is most helpful and I get a smoking room on the sixth floor. Of course, these days, they are not keys but cards. I get the lift to the floor. A range of room numbers is given on a sign near the lift. The top range is not for me. The bottom range is. I go right, not having read the sign properly – I assume the top range was to the left and the bottom to the right. After a few steps I realise I must be wrong and go back to look at the sign which clearly has arrows showing the top range to the right and the bottom to the left.

My room is 636. I proceed and there is a fork. This time I read the sign more carefully and the top range is mine (627 – 639). I go to where the arrow points – to the left.

I note the room numbers as I pass. They are all on the right. 627, 629, 631, 633, 635…. but no 636. Perhaps the even numbers are on the left but later, or on the right in a minute, or there is a turn in the corridor up ahead?

But, no. I am faced with a green door with no signs. I decide it must be through there.

And, like I am in some sort of strange dream or nightmare, I pass from a white-walled, pastel-coloured-carpeted, well-lit corridor into a gloomy, dark-brown, dimly-lit (almost spooky) corridor. The room doors, instead of just having the number of the room had, what was supposed to be, a painter’s palette, on which the room number was painted.

Perhaps I had gone through some portal into another time and place? I looked out of the windows on my left and saw the same ‘courtyard’ as before. Still, I figured, I was in the ‘smoking corridor’. And the room numbers continued on but, this time, with even numbers too.

I feel strange about this though. It’s as if I am Alice and have stumbled through the rabbit hole. Any minute now the White Rabbit will hurry by complaining about the time!

I find my room. But the keycard doesn’t work. Then I notice that the room next door, I have already seen – in the previous world.. This just HAS to be another hotel – a different hotel. I mean, the same building but really, a different hotel. I retrace my steps, the uneasy thought in my head – what if I can’t find the door back to the other reality, the one I left behind?

I find a door that may be the one. It is locked – what if you can only come through it one way?

There is one next to it. One I had discounted. I open that one and, like a miner returning to the outside world from the depths of the mine, the brightness explodes in front of me causing me to blink several times!

I go back to the last sign and note that, to the right are almost the same range – but the start and finish are even numbers (although this is NOT very clear).

I go to my room. My key doesn’t work. I try every way. I get a red light and not a green light. I briefly wonder if, by going into that other world, I have, by stepping through the door, invalidated my keycard. I go back to reception. Apparently, the machine the machine that provides these cards, that the girl had used, doesn’t work. The other machine does.

It is with such relief that I enter my room that I fail to notice the fact that it is tiny, badly furnished and too cold.

I hunt for an ashtray. I fail to find one.

I ring reception.

“The ashtray is in the bathroom”, she says. “In all IBIS hotels, we put the ashtray in the bathroom”

Of course you do! How stupid of me not to look?

“I know it sounds strange”, she adds “but it’s always the same in our hotels”.

Globalisation or something, I expect.