Le Vent Du Nord; New Year’s Food Feast

Last night, F, along with Al (of the R&Al fame) and another friend went to see Loretta Goggi. As she does a bit of singing but also a bit of comedy, etc. F said that, maybe I shouldn’t go as it would be too difficult for me. In this case, I agreed with him. I mean, if it were just music or if it were a film (with a plot) then that’s one thing – a stand-up/cabaret act is another thing entirely and I didn’t want to spoil his enjoyment by being there and him feeling he had to explain everything.

And so, as this had been arranged some time ago, R suggested we go out for dinner whilst they were at the show.

The other friend’s girlfriend, Ale was with us too. She is really nice and I like her a lot. We had quite a lot in common – mainly food-wise.

Anyway, on to the restaurant, which is why I’m posting this post. It’s called Le Vent Du Nord and is, apparently, Belgian. One good thing about Belgian places is the beer – and that was certainly true of this place. The one I chose was superb. Belgian beer has a particular taste, very malty, and I like it a lot.

But this place is one of the places to go for mussels (moules). I chose Moules Marinieres and it was, quite honestly, fabulous! Cooked to perfection and so tasty. Ale chose some other version. After we had finished, we both wanted a little more and so were going to get one between us – unfortunately, it was their last night before closing for a week and so they had no more left. Whilst we understood, we were, to say the least, a little disappointed.

Apart from the food and drink the evening was really nice.

And, I think, Ale and I could be firm friends.

If you like mussels (they do other things too, including meat) and Belgian beer then this is, certainly, a place to go in Milan, even if it is a little bit of a trek from the centre itself. In the end a couple of beers each, the moules, a sweet and, for two of us, a digestivo only cost 25€ per head – great value, I think you would agree.

The service was excellent. All-round, a great restaurant.

R dropped me home and I did the dogs. F rang after he had come out of the show and picked me up in a taxi and we spent the night at his place as he is working as I write.

Tonight we are just us, here, at my flat, being a little Italian with a little left-over shepherd’s pie (obviously NOT Italian) and zampone with lentils which I adore. Always eaten at New Year as the lentils mean wealth. Zampone is pigs trotter filled with some sort of meat stuffing – a little like a large sausage but more glutinous. It would never sell in the UK but you should try it if you get the chance as it really is scrumptious!

And, on that note, I wish all my readers a very, very Happy New Year.

La Belle Aurore – great bar and great lunchtime food.

For the first time, I ate in the La Belle Aurora Café in Via Abamonti on the corner with Via Castel Morrone.

F left the house early and, because I would have had to get up to lock the door, finally, he took one of the keys.  I told him to and he said no and I said that if he didn’t I would have to get up – and so he did!  Hurrah!  And now all I need to do is get another front door key and give that to him!

Anyway, he got up early because IKEA were delivering some units for the new flat.  And then, after, I went over and helped him put them up.  We finished about 1.30 and went for lunch.  The other day we had happened in La Belle Aurora for a very late breakfast and they were serving lunch, which also smelt good.  So today, as the café is, sort of, about halfway between his place and mine, we went there.

F had a risotto with peas and asparagus (which I tasted and it was really good) and I had roast pork with an orange sauce and puree (mashed potato to you folks not in Italy).  We also had a German beer which I forget the name of.  The food, limited to a single primo and single secondo, was excellent.  The whole lot came to less than 15 Euro.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure they only do food at lunchtimes but for those of you who visit Milan and go to Il Salvagente (the oldest outlet store in Milan), it’s worth a walk up there should you want a break at lunchtime.  Alternatively, if you’re seeing or staying with me, we should definitely go as it’s less than 10 minutes from my home.

This café/bar has a wonderful atmosphere.  It feels kinda French.  The tables and chairs are old, wooden and have seen better days but that is all part of it’s charm.  The staff were good (as they always are).  I was struck by the crowd of people.  They were a mixture but you had the feel of being on the left bank of the Seine rather than downtown Milan – like they really could be writers, artistes or intellectuals.

I’ve always liked this bar.  And the food did not disappoint. In fact it was all rather good and very tasty.

Whilst we were putting up the units, we finally decided that we would spend the New Year alone, at my place, even if we have had several offers for parties and dinners.  F said that he would ‘really like if it were just the two of us, with the dogs.  And, so would I.  But it was still nice to hear him say it.

Last night, whilst we were at his place having dinner and he was on the phone, between courses, I looked at him and thought how really cool and sexy he was and what an overall nice guy he is and, therefore, how lucky I was to have ended up with him.

And now it’s taken for granted that we spend the nights together (the only discussion being about where), except for certain situations (like he’s away, etc.) and I like that we have slipped easily into this routine and that it feels warm and comfortable and I’m pretty sure he feels the same.

And, every day that I am with him, I am truly grateful for how my life can be so good.

It’s like stepping through a portal into the Dark Ages.

It’s a simple thing, really. I want to pay a bill. I have my bank account details and their bank account details. I need to make the payment today.

In the UK, I would go to a (any) branch of my bank and make the payment (if it wasn’t online). This would be a simple thing. They would check, via computer, that I had enough funds. They would make the payment by the computer. I may have to sign something or use my bank card. The payment would be made and, within a couple of days (or the same day if the same bank) the payment would be done. Easy.

Ma, siamo in Italia (but, we are in Italy). I go to the nearest bank. The same bank as mine but a different branch. No, they can’t do it. But they can send the slip that I fill in, to my branch, who will make the payment. Or I can pay it by cash and then they can do it from there. This, I remind you, is the same bank, with branches all over the North of Italy (maybe, even, all of Italy!). It’s just not my branch.

OK then, I say, can I withdraw the money from my account and do it that way. Apparently not. You see, my money is only at the branch I have the current account with. But, what she can do, if I fill in the form, is to fax the form to my bank and they will do it today.  Fax!  Perhaps carrier pigeon would make the whole system run faster.

Wait, I think, they have computers.  But, not, it can’t be done.  So, I ask myself, what is the point in banking with a ‘nationwide’ bank if you can’t do much except withdraw money from the cash machines?

However, I really need to pay it and so I fill in the form. She telephones my branch to confirm that I have a current account there (I wonder what is the point in computers here?) and asks for the fax number so that she can fax it through.

So, she will, by now, have faxed it through. Someone at my branch will have typed it into the computer and then the payment will be made in God knows how many days.

And then I went outside to withdraw money from the cash machine – which, if I didn’t have enough money in the account, wouldn’t have let me have it.

I am puzzled as to how this country actually works at all. Sometimes, it’s like stepping through a portal into the Dark Ages.

You did your best

The days all blur into one but I think it was Christmas Day.

I’m cooking the ‘chicken’ thing, etc.  I wash up a few things as the kitchen isn’t that big and, anyway, F is on the computer.  I go and sit with him and he asks, ‘Have you washed up?’  He is obsessed with ‘clean’ and ‘perfect’ (just check out my Farm on Farmville – he did it and you can see that it’s very ‘organised’ and tidy).

I reply that I had.  He looks over.

‘You did your best’, he says.  Bastard!  But he still makes me laugh :-)

I go Christmas Shopping (finally)

Milan is Milan.  It is raining in the way that I have only really experienced here.  Heavy, wet, miserable.

And, yet, it’s not for me.  There is a sea of waving umbrellas.  Waving because as the people move to and fro, they have to move their umbrellas.  The rain is unforgiving.  I move through the people with a lot of serenity.  I have decided that THIS, this moment, this time, is the best for Christmas.  I left the house at 5 p.m.  The streets are crowded but not too bad.  Partly it is the weather, partly because, this evening is the big dinner for the Italians, so what the hell would they be doing out of their house except to be getting ready to go or actually going to friends or relatives?

We, too, shall be going to friends for dinner.  It is R’s birthday.

I don’t know them well enough and, so, have made his favourite English desert – Lemon Meringue Pie – as a kind of present (although F & I are giving him something, as a joint present, chosen by F, of course).  I started to get everything ready earlier.  And then I realised I had a small problem.  I had no scales.  No means of weighing anything!  And, for me, I can only do recipes with exact measurements.

>But I had no time to go and find scales and so I guessed.  It seems OK, but I really hope it is.  We shall see and I shall let you know.  It’s the pastry that worries me the most.  And that is usually something I do really well.

So, back to where I was.  In Corso Buenos Aires, with only the vaguest of ideas as to what to buy my loved one, who I have not known for long enough to be able to get certain things.  I walk, calmly up the street.  Not hurrying but not idling either. The rain, straight down, as Milan rain is.

My first shop is a disaster.  I thought they would have scented candles but, no!  Still, I have about an hour.  I should be able to find the stuff I need in that time.

I love it.  The place is almost busy but the tills are almost empty.  It’s a fabulous time to be doing Christmas shopping.  I thought it was only for V because V was easy and I could walk into shops and know, within seconds, if there was anything that was suitable.  But I find that this is not so difficult.  I am limited only in what I can buy, but what I can buy there is enough of and so choosing is not so difficult.

I find everything that I had thought of whilst walking.  They’re not big things and some are not at all expensive (downright cheap, actually) but perfect – or, as perfect as they can be.

I am happy.  It is the only bit of Christmas shopping I have done but I think I might do this every year!

I go to the supermarket for (I think) one last thing.  F calls me.  He wants to change the arrangements.  He thinks (and he is right) it will be easier to stay at mine tonight.  That’s what we’re going to do.  This makes it easier for me and gives me this chance to enjoy a hot cup of Tetley’s tea before showering and getting ready.  On the way back from the supermarket I go, on the off chance, to a shop to buy the perfect, small, irrelevant but perfect gift.  Yep, this was the best way of shopping for Christmas.  And without any stress or hassle.

I have to wrap the presents in a moment but that won’t take long either.  I hope he likes the things even if some of them are quite stupid.  Still, they were bought with love.

I have decided I will call V tomorrow.  Just to wish him Happy Christmas after our exchange of emails today.  I think I owe him that.  And, maybe, to find out how his Yorkshire Puddings turned out – I had sent the recipe by email, since I have the cookbook it was in.

But that is an aside, since, really, this Christmas belongs to F.  Well, for me anyway.  And, I very much hope, for him too.

A new life and a new forever.

“I really miss you”, he says through the sobs.

Part of me wants to say that he wouldn’t be here, in this place, if he hadn’t wanted something else.  It makes me angry.  Part of me just wants to go to his place and give him a big hug and tell him that everything will be alright – even if it’s not with me.  But the other side, the angry side, thinks that he threw away 20 years – and for what?

I go to the bedroom.  F is lying on the bed.  I feel guilty for having been talking to V.  Especially as F will probably realise who I am talking to.  I say nothing about the phone call.  It’s as if it has never happened.  Yes, he knows.  But I am here with him.  I give him a kiss.  I love him, now, not V.  Well, I love V too – after 20 years how can I not?  But F is the one that I love with passion, with that heart-stopping love.

I, too, regret that, the last Christmas, as the song goes, he broke my heart and so this Christmas, I’ve given it to someone special.  But this Christmas is already great and wonderful and full of love.

V had called because he wanted to hear me because he and Ig had broken up.  I feel so bad for him but you can’t go back.  He can’t go back.  I’ve already moved forward and we’re now on different roads.  And that is life.  Or, rather, that is the life he chose to make.  For without Turin a few years back and events after that, he wouldn’t have to be missing me at all.  And, I’m sorry for that but in an arm’s length kind of way.

Sorry for him and sorry for the life we had, which I thought was forever.  But now I have a new life and a new forever.

Last Christmas – Wham!

And, in case I don’t get to write another post, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.  Enjoy and have fun and may you all be as lucky as me, now, and in the future.

I am a little confused; We all change, apparently

“I need to know how to get the comments posted in the same way as they are on your blog?”, F asks me.

I am astounded by the fact that he knew about the blog (not that it would be difficult) and also that he has said nothing up to now.

Thoughts race through my head.  What has he read?  How long has he been reading?  Has what he has read made a difference as to how he feels about me, given that I have been, sort of, quite open about how I feel?  Why hasn’t he said anything?  Is he angry or not?  What should I reply to his question?

Of course, he knows about blogs.  He’s signed up to one.  The one that his boss does.  But that’s about work.

I think: How stupid am I not to have told him.

I think: But what if he asks me to take it down?  How can I?  It’s part of me, it’s something I just HAVE to do.  And, although I can be anonymous somewhere else I can’t (or is that don’t want to be) too anonymous.  After all it’s about my life.  It involves my friends, my life, my interests, my love.

No, it’s ‘don’t want to be’.  I don’t want to give this up.


As I get dressed I think about what I have dreamt.  For a moment I think of it as if we have really had the conversation before I realise that it just had to have been a dream.  Part of me breathes a sigh of relief.  Part of me thinks I should do something.  Part of me thinks I should leave well alone.

To put it mildly, I am a little confused.


I have got some spots on the inside of my legs, around the knees.  A couple of nights ago, they were really hot.  So hot and uncomfortable, in fact, that, lying on my side I could not put my legs together.  I thought it was just something that would go away.  It hasn’t.

I told F.  He had a look.  He decided that it was because it was dry skin.  He said I needed to put some cream on it.  I was going to put some hand cream on it (as that is all I have in that line of product).  He told me no and gave me some of his body cream (I still fail to see any real difference – but what would I know?).

As I was putting it on and rubbing it in (because I so hate the feel of the skin afterwards – so greasy like, as I used to say to V, dipping yourself in chip fat), I said that I didn’t understand why it had happened as I never had this problem before now (apart from my hands but there’s a good reason for that).

“We all change” he said, in a voice that sounded more he was saying this as if a mother to a child, “I didn’t have hair when I was eight”, he added as he walked out of the bathroom.

I just laughed.

Special all the same.

In spite of the snow, the Christmas lights along Corso Buenos Aires, the Christmas decorations in the shop windows, the milling and rushing of shoppers buying their gifts, etc., it really doesn’t feel like Christmas to me.

Sure, I can talk about it here, at work, but I am struck by how unexcited I am.  OK that’s been more or less true for the last few years, I suppose.  This year, I have some excuse.  We’ve been together for too short a time to really be able to plan, to decide on things, to build up to Christmas.

I’m not sure what to expect; I don’t know how it should be; I can’t impose my Christmas (not that I want to impose it anyway) and we’re in a different country with different ideas about how it should be, sort of.

We did talk last night, a little, about Christmas Day and New year and so on.  He was talking about decorating the table for Christmas Lunch.  Anyway, this sort of thing was always V rather than me, so from that point of view, it will be much the same.  However, there’s been a lack of involvement from me in the lead up to this year’s Christmas.

It’s not that I’ve wanted to be uninvolved.  It’s just that I’ve not known exactly how it would be or what we would do, other than being together.

Last night I told him I’d bought Brussels sprouts – even if I know he won’t eat them.  He understood why.  This morning, my colleague, S, said that she had seen Nigella Lawson on the TV (I had told her about NL) and that she had done some strange things – like Bread Sauce.  Which made me think that I should do Bread Sauce anyway, as I love it – even if he won’t like it because, even if I love it, most people don’t.

I might even make the usual white sauce although this will be with panettone rather than Christmas Pudding.  Maybe I’ll suggest it?  It’s an alternative to cream or ice cream and will make the Christmas lunch just a little more like Christmas for me.

He’s planned some films that we could watch.  And, since we both like films, it could be good.  One film he said he had chosen we could watch in either Italian with English subtitles or English with Italian subtitles.

He suggested that we could spend New Year with some of my friends.  He doesn’t want to do the New Year that has been planned by his friends.  Really, I would like to do ‘something’ but I’m really not sure as I really like when we are together.  But, of course, that’s because it’s all too new.

This morning, as I left the house he asked if I had remembered the keys and would I lock the door on my way out.  Later, on FB chat, he asked if we were spending tonight at his or mine.  I replied that I would prefer mine as tomorrow night we will be at his.  He said OK.  It’s sometimes very easy.  It’s often, very comfortable.  It’s always very nice.

I am looking forward to Christmas even if, at the moment it all seems a little at arms length.  This comes, in part, of not having any history to go with it.  But, then, it’s the first and, so, will be special all the same.

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas

Not quite what you think.  This would be what I am talking about.  Italy, with it’s long history of emigration rather than immigration, can’t handle it in so many ways.  But to be doing house-to-house searches?  This country has many throw-backs from the Fascist era, including Identity Cards, etc. and this reminds me of the type of thing they (The Germans and Italians) did prior to and during WWII.

And this differs from the laws introduced by Hitler before ‘The Final Solution’ only in the fact that there are no gas chambers involved.

To my mind it is a despicable thing to do.  I understand that a country cannot just ‘open it’s doors’ to all that want to come, especially when they see the prospect of a much better and economically more viable life.  However, wasn’t this similar to the things depicted by Anne Frank (again, without the gas chambers, admittedly).

Even though the news is being made here, don’t think, for a moment, that this is the terrible work of a bunch of extremist politicians.  Worse than this is the thinking of ‘ordinary people’.  You know, people like you and me!  Comments made to me here, as I have mentioned at odd times before, distress me for the fact that, although they don’t actually lead to the deportation of people or the raiding of houses, they are the reason that these things are being done by the politicians.

I have heard, far too often how the immigrants are to blame for many of the country’s woes, both here and in the UK.  Of course, it is useful for the politicians as it deflects the blame from them to these unknown and, therefore, frightening ‘flood’ of foreigners.

And, I keep thinking that, in the end, I am one of them.  Sure, lucky enough to have a job; lucky enough to have white skin; lucky enough to have been born in the EU, where the borders now allow me to live where I want within the EU; lucky enough, now, to have a white boyfriend – because there were times (a few) when I have been very scared for both V and myself; lucky enough.

But life could be very different were it not for my place of birth and my parents nationality and so on.

And, just in case you think I joke about how the UK is the same – I remember a ‘friend’ blaming the eastern Europeans for ‘bringing problems to the area’ for the increase in crime, for not feeling safe in her own town, etc.  And that leads to the BNP gaining more power.  Now, imagine that the BNP held the balance of power in the Government – what do you think happens then?

But it’s Christmas, and so, just because it is (and because I love this song), I include this:

[Video now removed as it didn’t work and I don’t remember what it was. Sorry]

The start of many more?

I am thawing out.  Everything is wet, especially the dogs which, in turn, means all the floors are wet.  The snow, outside, is starting to turn that mucky brown, as it does in the cities and on the roads.  The park, though, was white and although there had been many people, it still retained it picture-postcard (or should I say, Christmas Card) look.

Dino loved it.  Running through the now, jumping, playing, shoving his nose in it and coming up sneezing and coughing, or similar.  Rufus, although OK with it, has the problem of ice balls forming under his feet and there was a heart-stopping moment on the way back.

We had come out of the park and started to cross the road, where there was no snow.  The ice balls, although small, meant that he couldn’t walk properly.  At one point he just stopped and lay down on the ground, head on the floor and wouldn’t move.  For just a moment I wondered if this was it.  I cleared his paws but he wasn’t moving.  All limp and somewhat dejected.  I picked him up and got him in a sitting position and rubbed his paws again.  This time he was prepared to move but not entirely happy about it.  Still we made it home and he seems OK.  I spoke to F about it later and he said that, perhaps, it was time to take them out separately, which may be true although not entirely a pleasant thought.

Last night, having got home really late, about 8, because of the snow and the traffic, which was, at times, gridlocked in the centre of Milan, I had a shower and took them out, the snow falling thick and fast and then went up to F’s place as had been planned.  F, in the end, didn’t go to his Christmas meals because of the snow.

I walked up the street, umbrella in one hand, trying to stop my bag falling off my shoulder, smoking a cigarette and then a text message came through.  It was FfI who, not a genius with technology, didn’t seem to realise that, although my Skype account showed I was at home, I wasn’t actually there.  So I texted back with gloved hands something that I hoped she would understand.  She didn’t.  Several more text messages came through.  I ignored them since I wasn’t going to take my gloves off and texting was impossible if I didn’t.  The place had that weird silence.  The few cars that were braving the snow were muffled as they drove along the streets, the engines almost quiet and the only real sound was the sort of crunching, scrunching sound as their tyres fought to get a grip on the snow covered streets.  It was magical and beautiful and, anyway, I was on my way to be with F.

I passed the cinema and thought, briefly, what a good night to go it would be.  Especially to see A Christmas Carol, perhaps.  There would be hardly anyone there and it would be nice to have the cinema almost to ourselves.  And then, come out to this magical world.  Another time, I thought.

By the time I had got to F’s place she had already sent him a message asking me to phone her.  I texted her.  Thinking about it as I write this, it was nice of her to be worried but she a) knew I was going to F’s place and b) knows (although she doesn’t seem to get it) that I leave my computer on 24/7 so sometimes it looks like I’m there when I’m not.  I’m kinda glad she shows concern but, really, you’d think that by now she would understand.

When I got to F’s flat, this time, of course, I could let myself in.  I placed the keys on the side and told him I had left them.  He took them back but then gave me the real spare set and said I should have those.  I smiled, inside.  even if it’s only for a short while, it’s nice to have the trust in me and nice that these little things show that this relationship continues.  Continues to grow and be stronger.

In the end we decided that, maybe, I shouldn’t go to work today.  I set my alarm for slightly later than normal.  I got up with alarm.  The snow had stopped but it was deep and curling up with F seemed so much of a better idea, that’s what I did.  We got up several hours later, went down and had breakfast and he went to his new flat whilst I went home to take the dogs out.

Before I took them out, I Skyped with Best Mate.  She is planning to come over in January.  Of course, it’s a crazy time to come here, especially if the weather is like this but I am so looking forward to it anyway and, more importantly than anything else, she gets to meet F.

And now, I go to La Rinascente.  I need to get a flan ring to do Lemon Meringue Pie for Christmas Eve and look at the prices of 25-year-old Balsamic Vinegar for an old mate.  On the way back, I shall stop at Esselunga and, hopefully pick up a Faraona (Guinea Fowl to us) which, even though F won’t eat Goose, he will eat.  Don’t see much of a difference myself but whatever makes him happy.  Our Christmas Day lunch will be Lasagne, Faraona with carrots and roast potatoes followed by the Milanese Christmas Cake – Panettone.

It will be lovely – and, mainly because we shall be together.  Our first Christmas.  And I hope the start of many, many more :-)