There is no other.

“I have a few extra things”.

Not a surprise, really. He doesn’t understand the meaning of the bookmarks I made out of torn-up paper, nor my notes that I have written in pencil. Nor do I in all cases.

He can’t really see the screen. He wants to see what I have done. He wants to check. That’s OK. Almost certainly I’ve missed some things. I wasn’t going to go through it all again to check – with the problems I had had.

>However, the whole thing takes 3 hours. Half way through I ask if I can go out onto the balcony to have a cigarette. I can’t. There is a problem. “I will go downstairs”, I say, “I will be five minutes”.

“Would you like something to drink?”, he asks me. I say that I’ll have some water. “I have some very good juice”, he suggests. I say I’ll take the juice. I really don’t care – I just want a fag!

I come back. The juice, with ice (bless him) is on the counter where there is also one of those independent, 2 hob, electric deals. I notice there is no real cooker nor oven. I remind myself that, however crap my cooker seems to be, I don’t live like this. For the first time, as I drink the quite extraordinarily ordinary juice I can look around his kitchen. Of course, I SAY kitchen. In fact, apart from the very small workspace that holds the two-ring hob, the sink, the drainer of the sink and the fridge – there is nothing else. Well, there are the shelves to the left of the workspace which are open and contain, well, little. Some olive oil is all I actually notice. But there are other foodstuffs, just not much. There is a bowl containing what I assume to be salad on the drainer, covered by a plate.

He is there, at the only window (french doors, really), with one open, trying to explain to me why I couldn’t use the balcony. There’s one of those mesh screen to keep out zanzare. It is broken and won’t open. He is getting it fixed soon, apparently.

We go through the book, page by page. Even he doesn’t always understand the notes he made and so we argue for a bit until he realises that I am right. It’s difficult.

F phones me half way through. He’s going home; where am I? I explain. We didn’t see each other last night. I’m hoping that he decides to go round to mine and take the dogs out or something – I’m going to be here a while.

There are several bins under the kitchen sink and drainer – none with lids – but I guess it’s not a problem if the flat is only really big enough for you!

We continue through the book. I become a little frustrated by the time it is all taking. We find I made one mistake or, rather, did not correct one mistake of his. Damn! But I don’t think he really noticed. It is not baking in the flat but it is warm. Still, we don’t dislike each other and, I think, he is rather liking me. After all, I have done quite a good job on it. He was impressed that I remembered some of his ways of notation. I explain that he had explained it to me once – and that is usually enough.

It’s a little like my experience of the English teaching world. There are so many really crap people out there giving, at best, mediocre lessons, dragging down the prices and leaving people with an unhappy taste in their mouth and assuming that this is what all English teachers are like. Or, maybe, I’ve got it wrong – maybe I just put too much work into it and people really want mediocre at best?

Still, he’ll complain about my work at some time, I’m sure. That’s what people seem to do these days. I’m glad I’m a bit older really. Wouldn’t want to be 19 in this world. I know it sounds a bit depressing to read but I don’t mean it to be like that. Just stating a fact.

I find myself getting really tired. The ‘having one cigarette’ making me want more. He offers me a sweet from a jar. Beady eyes all lit up as if with excitement. I decline. I only chew gum because I can’t smoke. Otherwise I wouldn’t really bother with sweets at all.

He has a list of the pages on which there are to be other alterations. He forgets to check as we go through and so keep going back. Then he remembers and then he forgets. I try my best to explain the problem with the pages. With all the additions and deletions, the pages are all screwed up. The problem is that he references pages within the book so I don’t know if they will be the same. He isn’t bothered.

We reach the end and he triumphantly turns the last, blank, page. He has no idea how I feel but it’s OK. He asks about money. I explain the hours. The extra job of putting it onto the USB key I am to do at home as I have to wait for some woman to send me the font (it uses special Greek letters and so you need a special Greek font). Then I am to come and deliver the key to him. Another hour out of my way.

However, he pays me immediately. OK, I think he trusts me. I think he could see what I had done – and I made some suggestions – English phrases, which he seemed to like.

However, it is past 10 by the time I get home. I make a cup of tea and F texts to say that he has a headache so isn’t coming and am I coming to him. Ummmm. No, I’m not. I’m tired; still have to take the dogs out; I’ve had enough for the evening.

Still, in some inexplicable way, I quite enjoyed the job I have done.

And it’s another skill to add to all the others. And I get paid.

I fall into bed after midnight. Tomorrow I will be exhausted but that is life and one has got to get on with it and make the best of it for there is no other. Just like F, really – even if he does annoy me by not being there – he’s been working hard too so I should not complain – there is no other.


Hmm. Maybe it wasn’t what I thought. Or, at least, it wasn’t the whole thing.

You may remember this. Well, I have, in the last few moments, finally finished it. It’s not because I was being slow or particularly lazy (although without a deadline, as I have mentioned in the past, I am far to much ‘I’ll do it later’ which, invariably, leads to a massive rush in the last few days, hours, seconds, whatever). No, with this job I had some real difficulties and it has taken me far too long.

However, as with all things, you learn stuff on the way. And these are some of the things I have learnt:

1. It was a really good idea to buy the laptop – especially as it was one with windows rather than an apple. It has almost ‘saved my life’!
2. Word on an Apple Mac IS NOT the same as Microsoft Word. They are similar but not the same. Plus, if the version is in Italian it is too difficult.
3. It was very useful having a USB key – this has also ‘saved my life’.
4. It is important, when doing this kind of work, that the computers at home and at work are compatible – at least to a major degree.
5. Other people are not so bright either – they don’t know how to use functions in, for example, Word in exactly the same way that you don’t! Worse still, just like you, they use it and then stop using it randomly (the special function, that is). This is not really a problem until someone who doesn’t know where and when and how you used it comes to look at it.
6. Don’t have anything to do with computers or new technology!

Of course, it’s finished now. The final two things (one of which involved the special function) were done, this morning, at work. Actually, it’s not finished. In the physical book are loads of markers where questions have to be asked. The page numbers appear to be different (which will be a BIG problem as page numbers are referenced), one or two spelling, one or two bits of English (although checking the English is not really part of the job, as such). Still, I’ve phoned him and I go and see him tonight – when the job WILL be finished – except if he asks me to go through it again for the English!

But you have to know that on Sunday, I was there for hours, only to find that everything got mucked up (thanks Bill Gates for your product) and so I gave up about 9.30 p.m.

Then last night, I was rather pleased to find it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been and I finished it about 8.30 p.m. to do the final two bits this morning.

Now I have to decide how much to charge, for it was a real pain in the ‘you know where’.

And, having finished it, I feel a great weight lifted off me. Maybe it wasn’t that customer after all – at least, not entirely!

Well, on the plus side, at least I think I know what it is.

I think I know what it is now.

I’ve been having this sick feeling in my stomach. There are too many things going on and too many decisions to make and I don’t like it. This feeling, I haven’t had much since V & I split in November, 2009. I thought it was all about the (mostly) small things that were nothing but annoying in my personal life.

I always felt much better when I got home and, in particular, when F was around – even if we were in our separate places, communicating through Facebook or something – or, not even communicating but him just being five minutes away.

And, then, it hit me as to why I feel this way. Yes, there are all those other annoying/frustrating things and, yes, when I get home and shut the door on the rest of the world, it’s better and everything seems to slide away. But the problem is actually work. Not the other work but the main work.

There’s a problem with a customer. I can’t solve it. I don’t know how. I mean, I know of one way, for certain. But I can’t do that. It’s not my decision to make. But they are upsetting everyone by their unreasonableness and their stupidity and that makes it very difficult to manage them as well as the people at work.

And, every time I look at my inbox, there’s always something. Some other request or unreasonable demand. And I really want to tell them to go and f*** themselves because they really deserve it – but it’s not my job to do that. I try to be strong and hard with them but, at the end of it all, as I said, it’s not my company and, so, not my decision.

And, even as I write this I feel that gnawing in my stomach, so I’m almost certain it is this that is the problem. And I really hate that it’s a work thing. I haven’t had this since England really (last November was for different reasons) and I thought that, working for someone else, I would not have this – so it’s doubly annoying.

And I can’t see the situation changing much before the end of July, at least. Damn them!

Lesson One – Remembering How To Teach!

I am almost prepared. I should have done more, of course. I have copies of things and, probably, much more material than I really need. But, as always, I worry.

It’s my first English lesson for nearly 4 years. To be honest, I’ve almost forgotten all the names of the different tenses of verbs. But I’ll cope, I’m sure. After all, we don’t use the names when we learn English, as kids – and the names of them aren’t really important.

It will be at my house. This suits me fine. No trudging halfway across town or anything.

Anyway, this is the first lesson. We need to try out some things. I do the error correction stuff first. This one is a bit ‘finger in the air’ stuff since it’s the first lesson but I do remember stuff from our chat the other day. Then it’s to my favourite bit – the pronunciation. It’s a bit like a game. I go through the pronunciation of the symbols we shall use throughout the lessons. Then the words she’s supposed to fit with them. Then she fits the words to the symbols. We go through and discuss any errors. It is, of course, better in a class.

Then there are various other exercises and I have some listening stuff for her to do. Well, one listening exercise, anyway. We shall do it together, this time. It’s the first time, after all.

I am a little nervous but not so much considering I have been away from it for a bit. In a way, I shall quite enjoy it.

An English Teaching job that wasn’t

I had an uneasy feeling about this. I very nearly texted F with all the details – the address, the phone number, the name, etc.

It had been a strange phone call. All in Italian and, unfortunately it didn’t really make sense.

“I saw your advertisement in Easy Milano”.

“Do you have a computer?”, he asked. I replied that I did. “Because I need to have this program modified”, he continued. “Do you have a key?”, he asked. Hmmmm.

He sounded like he was mid-forties or fifties. I said that I didn’t really understand what he wanted but that I would come and see him and we could discuss it – just like we could discuss the price (which he wasn’t happy about). I thought that this was a man who wanted to have some computer program which either taught him English or was a test of English, altered to suit him or make it easier or something. It was probable that it couldn’t be done but, anyway, the price would be at least double.

In the morning, I thought that, perhaps, I should ‘forget’ my laptop and then phone to say I had forgotten it; or just not go; or make some other excuse. I felt that it would be a waste of time. He was, quite probably, a beginner. And he didn’t want to pay for anything.

Of course, my judgement was clouded because, although I didn’t know the particular area where he lived (I looked at it on Google Maps whilst he was on the telephone), it was very close to a place that FfI and I went to see a flat, when I was looking for flats, last year. This place we went to was an out-of-town council estate. I say estate and, of course, since this is Italy, there were no houses, just huge sets of blocks of flats. The flat we went to looked like it had been used as a drug den. I can’t tell you how happy we were to be leaving and getting back to the comfort and safety of Milan proper.

>So, this place was another couple of blocks down.

I had a vision of what would happen. He would certainly be paying for this.

I parked the car next to a car that looked as if it had been vandalised – the front windscreen smashed, the bonnet and front end looking like someone had rammed it. The small car park looks like the sort of thing that was built on the same sort of estates in the 50s and 60s, when no one who lived in ‘those sort of places’ could possibly have afforded a car! The car park had weeds growing – this is how it would look a few months after the whole of the human population had been wiped out – like you see in those sci-fi films.

I got out. I checked with a guy who had just parked his car, that I was on the right street. Yes, I was. The huge, ugly block of flats loomed ahead. Must be several hundred, maybe a thousand, flats in this complex.

Should I take my computer (in a briefcase) or not? Would I be mugged? No, I was being really stupid, I decided, even if there were signs everywhere I looked – one can read too much into things.

I go to the entrance to the block. the block is actually several blocks, all joined together, round a large garden with flowers and trees. I find his button. He answers. I am to go to the F Stairs. The first one on the left is A. As it is, F is nearly the furthest away. I pass all the flats, some with amazing displays of flowers, others with what looks like junk on their balconies. Overall, though, it wasn’t like that other block I had been to before, just up the road. This was not a crack-dealing estate and may, even, be privately owned flats.

Still, I wasn’t entirely happy about it all.

I got to entrance F. I had to buzz again. He let me in. I was to go to the top floor. The seventh.

As I entered the building, the usual smells of flats hit me. This, like any other block, smelled of the latest food cooked. I idly wondered if, in reality, the smell was so different from the ones in my block? It seemed so but maybe that was only my preconception, given where I was and what I was doing. It wasn’t pleasant, in any event.

I thought about the first flat I had ever lived in. When V and I got together. We lived in his council supplied one, near the heart of Birmingham. Just down the road from the red-light district. I remember getting in the lift sometimes (we lived on the 10th floor). It was like this, except that this lift (the one I was in now) didn’t smell of piss like the one in Birmingham often did. Still, it brought back some memories.

When I reached the top floor there were four possible doors to his flat. As I stepped out one was opened. I guess this would be the one, I thought.

My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. In front of me, holding the door open, was an elderly man. I don’t mean retired or anything. I mean O.L.D. He was, probably, in his eighties! He was hunched over and he shuffled, rather than walked.

My first thought was to laugh! This guy wanted to learn English? Why the hell would he need or want to do that?

It’s warm in, what looks like, a one room flat with a single window. There is a door. It could be a bedroom……. or, maybe, just a cupboard. It is very hot. I ask if it’s OK to take my coat off.

I ask him if he speaks any English. He does. It’s not brilliant and he doesn’t have that much vocabulary but it’s passable. He asks where I come from and I explain, as I do, that he won’t know where it is before telling him and then explaining where it is. He tells me he’s been to Bristol. Not that far away after all.

We sit at his table. In front, at the back and slightly to the left is a covered-up typewriter. To the right is a single desk lamp. Between them is a CD and a usb key. In front of those two things, closest to him, is a book; a red-bound book that looks as if it has been well used.

He points to the book. I suppose this is an ‘English’ exercise book although I have never seen one like it.

He opens the book and starts explaining that, as he points them out, these corrections are to be made to the text (or the layout or the spelling or whatever). When all the corrections are done, he would like it transferred to the usb key (to send to the publisher, probably).

As we go through the changes he requires, I ask questions. I suggest that I’ll do it at home – it will be easier. He is doubtful but, as we go through the changes he wants, he becomes more comfortable. I obviously know what needs to be done and can understand his notations and symbols and writing that he has done.

I make sure that I can read the CD and that it is a program I can change. I ask him how long it took him to write (for it is a HEAVY book – not a nice novel for bed-time reading). 38 years is the answer!

I assume he must be some sort of retired professor but it turns out he was a photographer. It took him 38 years because he needed to see and interview some of the people who are quoted in his book. There were some from China, Japan, Africa, etc. It took time for it all to be arranged. He wrote it in Italian and had it translated. The problem is that the translators are not from Milan and, for these few corrections, he wanted someone closer.

We have, in some sort of way, ‘got on’. We were both wary at the start, both unsure – me of his requirement, he of my competence. As he shuffled behind me as I was leaving, we were smiling; he reminded me of many of the people I have met at the festivals.

“Well”, as I pointed out to him, “this is much more interesting than just English teaching”, without adding that ‘and, I can do it at home!’

Life, the play starring Me (and You, of course)

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

And now what?

We live in a huge social network experiment. We (OK, maybe not YOU, my lovely reader but certainly me), even knowing the fact, continue to be part of this experiment. It’s an experiment simply because we really don’t know the implications of it all.

Facebook. A wonderful tool for keeping in touch with friends who live some distance from you. I chat (either on Facebook or Skype) with people that, normally, I would not stay in touch with. Take A, just the other day. I saw she was online in FB and started chatting with her. It was lovely to reconnect as we haven’t ‘spoken’ for quite some time. I made her laugh (apparently) which is, it seems, just what she needed right at that moment.

I have, of course, checked out my sister on the site. I get a feel for what she is doing; where she is; who she is with. It satisfies my curiosity. She, of course, has the connection with my brothers and my nephews and niece. It’s enough for me and just about as close as I want to get.

As far as I know, she is not in touch with any other friends of mine. Certainly, none of them are friends on FB. And my name is, thank goodness, so common that there are thousands of me. I have no picture on my profile that is of me but, rather, my dogs. Even if you came across me by accident you couldn’t know, for certain, that I am who I am.

But, I guess, some people are determined.

And now I have a friend request from a very close friend of hers. I know they are still friends (via FB) and they still keep in touch in a way that only women seem to do. Or, maybe, that’s everyone except me seems to do.

I wonder how she found me? I wonder if she trawled through the site until she saw a likely me? I wonder how many other people she contacted with friend requests? Or was she just lucky?

And, now, what to do?

I am a great believer in ‘everything is for a reason’. People come into and go out of your life at different times to serve or having served a purpose or for you to serve or having served a purpose. Nothing is accidental – improbable, maybe, accidental, no. Each contact brings more out of us or teaches us things about others and ourselves. We play a role, a lead role, in this play called life. Everyone we come into contact is also a lead role but maybe in a different version of the play called life.

But, I cannot deny, I am apprehensive. This could open up a lot of old wounds. Is the right thing to do to accept the friend request or ignore it? Is there a sinister reason for it? Or, is it just like it says on the tin – a friend request? After all, we were once friends (even if that was through my sister).

The problem with this one, of course, is that it then opens the door to the rest of them. Starting, of course, with my sister.

Then, again, it could be an interesting door to open. After all, my name is not Alice and there is no Wonderland the other side but perhaps there’s something, something interesting, perhaps? Something wonderful? Unlikely. Something sinister? Maybe. Certainly something or, of course, perhaps, nothing!

The only question in my head is – once open, can I close the door if I choose, or will someone put there foot there? Ah, well, there’s only one way to find out!

Back to the grind; a little lopsided

Well, finally, I’m on my way! Yessssssss!

I met my first student yesterday. Very sweet and, I think, it will be a lot of fun. Then, I was telling FfI and it might be that she can put some work my way, which would be very cool.

And I did some things I have been putting off; tidying stuff in the house and sorting some things, so I feel like I really did something this weekend, which also makes me happy.

Now, tonight, I must start digging out the stuff I need to teach English and start doing the photocopies and stuff.

Saturday night, we went to a ‘new’ restaurant – Piero & Pia. We sat outside as it was warm but with a nice breeze. I had goose liver pate with some warm, sweet bread, followed by rack of lamb (and for once, here, in Italy, it was cooked right – pink) with roasted potatoes and then a thick, creamy rice pudding with a sprinkling of sultanas and a light dusting of coconut for sweet. It was all delicious. With wine and water it was something around €50 per head. Not outrageous but not cheap either!

The only problem was at the end. F insisted on paying for it all. It’s just that I really can’t afford it right now but I’m annoyed at myself for being in a position where we can’t go ‘dutch’. This is one of the reasons for going back to English teaching. It will just give me the spending money I need and, hopefully, will just give me that bit extra for our holidays. I know F can afford it (the occasional meal, etc.) but that’s not really the point.

Ah, well – soon it will be different :-)

Going or not going? More importantly, why?

“you know, other things ……, house, you, the babies :-)”

I can be a disingenuous sometimes, it’s true. Of course I knew the list included me and the babies. When I said that I wasn’t sure this morning, when he asked if he should go, I was hoping and wanting him to say this. Even if, last night, he was a bit concerned when I told him that I may not be able to get the ‘sitter’ for the dogs and, so, maybe wouldn’t come. He suggested that I could come on just the Sunday. I said we’ll see. No, he doesn’t want to go unless I am coming or following behind. But this morning I said that he should go. He needs to see his parents and has, probably, promised his best friend. Or, rather, nearly promised.

Still, we all need confirmation about the feelings of those around us, from time to time, don’t we?

And so he isn’t going. And, so, I’m not going either. There will be another time. It would be so much easier if we could use his house. Then we could take the dogs and all would be fine. Let’s hope it becomes free soon.

Meetic – why do I still appear on people’s lists?

Sorry for the non-posting. I’ve been a bit busy, not had enough sleep and feel like crap, to be honest.

But that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to say to you out there – do not trust Meetic with your money!

Several times a day I get notifications, by email, that someone has viewed my profile.

I know, having used it for several months last year, that most people at the ‘top’ of any list are those that are online, followed by those that have been online in the last few days.

Except that I haven’t. So, unless by extraordinary coincidence, people are trawling though old profiles or being so specific in their search criteria as to have found me as being one of the only people, Meetic are placing me at the top of lists for no apparent reason. It almost makes me want to sign in as a fake person to see where I DO appear!

Maybe I will. But not today.

>F will be away in his home town at the weekend. I may go down on the Saturday for the night. We shall see. That’s not what is making me feel crappy either.


It’s started. No, it had started some time ago but now it’s more. It’s difficult to get up. Getting up requires help. It was inevitable but just as I thought that, maybe, I had got it wrong and there was a long time to go, it hits and makes me sad.

As I say, it was inevitable. Still……..

Of course, it doesn’t help that the floor gives no grip. F realises this. He jokes that Dino can come to his place and I can stay with Rufus at mine. Later he says that he might get a large piece of the stuff they put under carpets here to stop them slipping – a sort of mesh thing. I think he will. Before that he had said that we would have to spend much more time at my place.

I picked the place because of the dogs but didn’t realise that the floors would be quite so good. They have a roughness that allows grip – not shiny wooden or marble floors which offer none.

So I help him to his feet. He will get used to this. I will do it for as long as it needs to be done, the only worrying thing for me will be that he may be in actual pain. I hope not but, of course, he cannot actually say. I can’t remember how long after the falling down bit it was before Ben died.

He’s OK when moving – stumbling a bit from time to time now but OK. Ben was much worse. F suggested that we have to keep them apart a bit now. “Why?”, I asked. “Because he will miss him when he’s gone”, he said. And, so, he wants him to get used to it now.

I don’t know how long it will be. Maybe months; maybe many, many months. It only happened the one night. The next day he got much better and now seems OK. But it will happen again. I’ve seen it before.

It’s still sad, even if you know it’s coming.