I did the right thing! Rufus.

“What do you think about having a tree this year?”, I asked.

“Yes, why not”

“Good because I bought one today”

“Is it real?”

“Yes, of course”

“I have balls – red ones, to put on”. He means baubles, of course.

When we got home, I showed him the tree and we discussed where to put it. It was the right decision after all. I suggested we decorate it during the long weekend. He agreed. More importantly, he is already thinking of how it should be decorated. I am very happy about that.

This morning, he took Rufus to the vets. He is having the big lump removed from his back. To be honest, I wouldn’t do it but for the fact that a) it is very, very big and b) it never stops bleeding. The one on his neck seems to be fixed by using the new cream, so that’s good.

I pick Rufus up tonight. After I have (with any luck) got the revisione done. I’m certain, of course, that it won’t be straightforward at all but one has to hope. It will be the second visit to the revisione centre so one can only hope that my ‘minimum of two visits to do anything here’ will replace ‘minimum’ with ‘only’.

Wish me luck. And Rufus, of course.

Love and hate. Is it really the same thing?

It has been said to me on more than one occasion that it takes about 7 years for an ex-pat, living in Italy, to come to terms with Italy or move away.

I have been here 6.

I have one more year to go.

And then I could be leaving.

Although, after the last two days, I won’t need the next 6 months or so.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Italy. I also hate it. It’s not the country, as such, nor the people (well, except for a few – as anywhere else in the world). No, it’s the crazy bureaucracy and ‘job’s worth’ mentality.

Just over a year ago I bought a car. I bought it from a garage that sold second-hand cars. I realised I was paying over the odds but I got a zero-kilometre car (therefore, almost brand new) for much less cost than a new one. (Although I deeply regret not choosing either a SEAT or a Ford and, instead, lumbering myself with the ugly duckling that is the Fiat Ypsilon).

The advantage, thought I, with buying from a garage is not only the fact that everything will be done properly but I will also have some sort of guarantee – plus (and this is a big plus), they will fix all the paperwork which, because I don’t have an Identity Card, is a nightmare to do yourself.

The car, however, celebrated its fourth birthday (officially) yesterday.

It’s fourth birthday is important because at four years, you are required to take it to have a revisione. A revisione is like the MoT Test in the UK.

I’m not worried it will fail since, although it is four years old, it has only been driven round for less than 18 months, so it should be fine.

Apparently, I could do this revisione at any time during the month of its birth.

I was a little concerned that the tyres would be a bit worn. However, it needed to have the winter tyres put on and they would be fine since they had been used for less than 6 months and very few kilometres. So, I booked to have the tyres change. Unfortunately, that could only be done last Saturday. No problem though as I then had three days to fit in the revisione.

With Pietro’s help, there is a place nearby that does not require an appointment. And there’s not time like doing it now and so, yesterday afternoon, I took time off work to go and do this thing.

I have a theory about Italy. When you have to do something that requires official paperwork, you will have to visit an office more than once and normally three times.

I go to this place. I give the receptionist my logbook. There is a problem, apparently. It seems that the ‘use’ for the vehicle was not a normal private car. They cannot do the revisione until the ‘use’ has been changed on the logbook. Hmmmm.

Pietro is called. No problem – he finds me the nearest ACI (Automobile Club of Italy) office, where things like this are done with a wave of the wand.

Unfortunately, this office had lost their wand.

They could do it but I wouldn’t get the logbook corrected for about 2 weeks. And it will cost me €70! But, please note, it COULD be done – it was just a matter of time. I can’t wait, of course. The car will be ‘illegal’ by Thursday morning. It seems the only way to do this was to go to the equivalent of the DVLA. They might be able to issue the corrected logbook immediately. The woman seems fairly certain they could.

So, that’s the end of Day 1 in the saga. there is nothing to do but go home and, rather than go to work, go off to the west side of Milan, in the outskirts (the opposite side of town from my house), and get this thing done.

My plan then was that, armed with the new logbook (which would surely take no more than an hour and a half), I would go straight to the revisione centre and do that. Then to work.

As you may know, I’m always looking for the positives. In this case, the positive was that I would get up three quarters of an hour later than usual – 6.15 instead of 5.45!

I was a bit later than I had wanted to be this morning since Rufus had sprayed shit around the flat overnight. Poor thing. I’m wondering if the operation tomorrow morning is really worth it?

Anyway, I use the metro. Better than trying to take the car across Milan. I’ve never actually travelled at rush hour in Milan. It’s a nightmare. The platform was about 5 people deep. I ‘missed’ two trains until I could fit into one.

I get off and find my way to the DVLA place. I’m not sure where to go but take a guess. It seems right. I wait in a queue for the desk labelled ‘Information’. She has a coat and scarf. We are inside. I check other people in their office. some are wearing coats and most are not. No one is dressed as if they are outside (which is cold), except her. I show her the documents.

Apparently it can’t be done. Either the garage that sold me the car has the required notification or I need to do a statement at a police station (yes, I know – but here nearly everything requires a statement from a police station) to say that the notification of change of use had been lost and then I could come back there for a new/updated logbook.

I speak to Pietro. Pietro seems to think I should speak to the garage. I’m thinking it will be easier (and quicker) to get do a statement at a police station. I know that Pietro is probably right but, still ……..

Pietro calls the garage for me. He says they are checking. In the meantime I ask someone if there is a police station nearby. I walk to the police station.

It is very cold out here, far from the centre of Milan. I think, again, that I could never live somewhere like this. 15-story apartment blocks – the place has no ‘soul’. No restaurants, no bars, no shops to speak of. It’s like living in a town with nothing around. So, like living in the country but without the countryside. I’m sure I would die here. Or, at least, my soul would. I think that if I had to come here, I would seriously consider relocating back to the UK.

I find a bench. There are several benches arranged around a sort of pedestrian piazza. But it is soulless in that there is nothing there, in the centre. The benches are wet with melted frost. I go to the one that has been in the sun the longest. It is drier that the others although not completely dry. I sit anyway, my coat protecting me from the worst of the water. I wait for Pietro’s call. I see my phone has not much battery left. Typical!

An old man walks into the ‘piazza’. He carries a small plastic carrier bag with something in. He checks some of the benches and tries the water with his finger as if he doesn’t really believe it’s water. Maybe he things it is just shiny? He now knows that it is water. He looks at another bench and sees it’s the same. He ambles away. This would be worse, I think. To be retired in a place like this. To be in a soulless place while your life ebbs away. Dreadful.

Don’t get me wrong, it has lots of trees and space. But there aren’t that many people, certainly not walking around. The buildings are uniformly hideously boring. There is no prettiness in this place, in spite of the trees and the space. This is a place for sleeping. For hibernation. So depressing.

Pietro calls. Apparently, the garage are going to get me an updated logbook by tomorrow, if I go to them with this one. Oh well, on the bright side, I won’t have to pay €70 (I can’t bring myself to say ‘save’ since, two days ago, this wasn’t in the budget in the first place!).

I go back to the metro station and get on a train.

As I walk from my metro station home, I pass the Tuesday market. I decide that I will get a new ironing board cover. Also, there is a place selling Christmas trees. I get one. It costs €25. It’s probably going to be slightly too big but it will be OK. I’m hoping that it’ll be a nice surprise for F.

I go back to the flat and give my cleaning lady the new ironing board cover. It won’t fit – but I’ll make it fit, I just don’t have the time right now.

I put the tree on the balcony.

I go to the garage. This is far to the north of Milan. I know the way, more or less. I hope I will get there before 12 noon. I am worried they will close and then what shall I do? Already I’m taking more time off work than I would like.

There are some major road works which closes off the road I know. I am sent on a detour and, as usual, the detour signs stop suddenly. I pick a road. Eventually, I end up on the right road, more or less and get to the garage at a quarter to twelve.

I go in.

The woman takes the logbook and gets me to sign something. I don’t know what it was and don’t really care. She faxes off the logbook to their ‘agency’ that deals with registrations of cars, etc.

After about 5 minutes, the woman from the agency phones. Yes, we are fully aware that there has to be a revisione done by tomorrow night. That’s why I’m here and that’s why we need an authority for me to drive without the logbook and why we need the logbook back tomorrow – so I can do the revisione.

We wait.

Eventually, the permission comes through the email and the woman prints a copy for me.

Tommorrow, at 3.30, I go to the garage again to get the new logbook, then race back to the revisione centre to have the revisione done. There had better be no problems!

If only I could believe that, after traipsing here and there across Milan and outside of it, there would be no problems, I would be happy and relaxed. I don’t so I’m not.

I have used the words ‘fucking’, ‘bastard’, ‘bloody’ and ‘Italy’ in the same sentence many times today. At least to myself.

I may update and change this post tomorrow. Running out of time. Sorry.

One, two, Tree?

Christmas is a strange old time for me.

Many years ago, first with M and then V, I tried to recreate the ideal Christmas. There would be the tree, decorations, cards, holly, mistletoe, the Christmas lunch (which was goose), Christmas pudding, stockings for the morning and main presents after lunch and so on and so on.

About 5 years ago or so it all changed.

Three years ago this Christmas I really couldn’t have cared less. The white, designer tree V had got some years ago came out but I bought no presents and I really wouldn’t have bothered at all were it not for the fact that friends were round.

The last two Christmases have been different. For a start, I didn’t even know if we would still be together. Secondly, given that F doesn’t seem ‘to do’ Christmas either, I really didn’t feel inclined to do something which he wouldn’t be interested in.

However, I guess things are getting a bit different now.

And this year, for the first time for years, I’m thinking that, perhaps, we should have a tree. I do have a multitude of decorations, after all.

I think I will ask him.

The only problem is ‘where to put it’ as the flat is not that big. In any event, it won’t be a big one. But it might be nice this year.

I just seem to be having a bad day – my visit to the post office; Christmas stamps

Dunno just not a good look this morning

You know. Sometimes you just get those days.

I saw the picture and, apart from the hair, it reminded me of the post office worker on Saturday.

I have to say that I really do hate going to the post office. As soon as I found out that I could pay bills via the tobacconist, it cut down my need to go to the post office to almost zero.

However, when you send parcels, it is impossible to avoid them (although I might try something different next time).

And so it was that the birthday present for Best Mate needed to be posted. I found an old jiffy bag and popped everything in it. I sealed it up very well and put the label on. And, Saturday morning, as I was already up early (the car tyres were being changed plus I needed to go to the vets with Rufus), I walked down to the post office.

They used to have a ticketing system – a bit like they have in the supermarkets for the deli counter – but that is gone now. Instead we have a system remarkably like the one in the UK. People queue. This wasn’t how it used to be but it seems to work now.

So I queued for the postal counters. Obviously, there were a lot of people queuing but it was OK – I had time. I got to the counter. The woman behind the counter looked a lot like the picture.

Now, as you know, being English, sometimes it is better to not speak Italian. Sometimes (but not always), I get away with things that I wouldn’t if I spoke Italian.

She tells me that I can’t send it like that.
I ask why not.
She tells me that a) the package is broken (which it isn’t but it does have a strip of something on it and so it’s not perfect) and b) that it’s dirty. By dirty she meant that the package had printing on it. In particular, the bar code used by shops in the UK to process the sale of the jiffy bag. Apparently, from what I could make out, the other post office workers wouldn’t be able to understand that this was part of the envelope and not a bar code they are supposed to use for tracking or sending the parcel!

Although, at that point I nearly laughed (based on the fact that I do find it hard to believe that their postal workers are quite so stupid), I didn’t. Instead I feigned stupidity and ignorance and not being able to understand much of the language. I argued (in my best English) for a bit and also tried the ‘I don’t know what you are saying’ face with silence and just waiting. Sometimes that works a treat. This time, although she got a bit frustrated, she cheated rather than give in to my intransigence.

Ah well, it was worth a try. After about 10 minutes, she managed to find someone else in the ever-increasing queue who translated for me. Apparently, I would just have to go round the corner to purchase a ‘new’ envelope and then I could come back but would not have to wait in the queue.

I went to the shop. I found a bag big enough and paid an extra €1.80. The bag was useless – too thin, not enough padding – were it not for the fact that I just slid my jiffy bag inside.

Then I went back. Of course, having started this pretence of not really understanding Italian, one must keep it up. It’s no good at that point, suddenly spouting Italian like you can really speak it (albeit with a terrible accent).

She wanted to know how it was to go. I said, in my best English ‘to sign for’, miming the signature bit.

I asked, in faltering and badly pronounced Italian, ‘When?’. She said Wednesday or Thursday.

On another postal note, I am almost at the stage of writing Christmas cards. I have ordered stamps, as every year. This is from a colleague who’s mother works in the central post office in Milan. The problem this year is that it seems there are no Christmas stamps!

Having checked previous years, on the post office website, the Christmas stamps are available from about October. This year, there is no issue of Christmas stamps or, at least, no Christmas stamps issue date showing. This is more than a little disappointing. V (the colleague) still thinks there might be some but I have my doubts. We shall see. Such a shame, though, if they aren’t doing them this year. Some, in the past, have been rather lovely.

A pin in the neck.

It’s new.

Well, it’s been in my wardrobe for a few weeks, maybe months but, yesterday, as there were customers and I was wearing a suit, I wore it because I hadn’t worn it before now and it’s a nice shirt. F had got it for me so it was one of the designer ones. It was nice too, and comfortable and slightly ‘green’ so that caused me a bit of a problem since I didn’t really have a green tie. So I wore a blue and grey striped one. Of course. Especially since I was wearing a brownish suit. It all fitted together perfectly. I work on the basis that if the colours don’t match then you might as well go for contrasts. Hah!

I got up early, as is normal, since F was going out of Milan and, therefore, for him, getting up early – about 2 (nearly 3) hours later than me.

So I walked Rufus and Dino. Rufus now is so slow that it can’t really be called ‘a walk’ but more of ‘a saunter’. Hence I now get up five minutes earlier to (try to) give him enough time to pooh outside rather than inside. Not that it actually works so I don’t know why I bother. I think the only solution to that is to get up at 5 and have at least one hour’s sauntering.

So, I get home and get ready and put on my new greenish striped shirt. It’s nice. It’s been washed, obviously. And ironed (by my new super-cleaning lady).

I go to work. I am a little early since the customers want to be here earlier than I would like. It’s OK. They go away today.

We continue our meeting from the day before. There are a load of pictures they have taken and changes that they want done. To be honest, I fucking hate them and their pickiness even if, sometimes, they are right.

We move, later in the morning to the shop floor to view the part and the changes they want.

My shirt is feeling less comfortable now. It’s the collar, It’s a bit like it’s rubbing which is strange because it’s not too small with plenty of room but there is something. Of course, I don’t actually think about that too much, I just rub my finger round the collar, pulling it away from my neck.

It doesn’t make much difference. It’s not at all painful – just slightly uncomfortable.

The discussions on the shop floor continue. I wish there was a way to tell them ‘No – we’re not doing it’. I’ve been searching for that. But I know it won’t happen, really.

My shirt collar is still a pain in the neck, so to speak.

Again, I rub around the collar.

And, this time I find out why it is a pain in the neck.

It should be, quite literally, a pain in the neck since it still has one of the pins in it – the one that they put near the top button on new shirts. It is sticking out of the shirt straight into my neck. It IS a pin in the neck.

I worry about two things:

1. How can I get this out of the shirt without attracting attention and
2. Does this mean that there is blood all over the shirt.

On point 2, I can’t really do much. Point 1 has my full attention. Since, apart from potentially stopping any more of point 2, it has the added advantage of potentially making the collar less uncomfortable.

Sometimes these pins are difficult to take out having been inserted in the thick part of the area near the button.

As it is, once I have the right end of the pin (now I may have blood on my finger!), luckily, it is an easy pull and it is out.

Now I have point 3 to worry about.

Point 3. Where to put the pin.

I think about putting it in my pocket but:

a) the outside pockets of the jacket are sewn up (it helps the suit to retain it’s shape),
b) the inside pockets of the jacket are not really an option as the pin would be difficult to retrieve later and,
c) the pockets of my trousers are not really an option since the pin, sticking through my pockets and into my legs would be worse and I use those pockets to put my hands in so they might also get lacerated at some point during the day when I had forgotten about the pin I had placed in them.

I have to find a bin.

I find a bin.

I casually (when no one is looking) drop it into the bin.

My pin in the neck has gone.

Later I see there is no bloody mess on my shirt.

Today (for this was yesterday), as I write this, I keep fingering my collar as if this shirt has the same problem. Also, as I write this, I wonder how I missed it when I took the shirt out of its packaging and think that I am sure I checked. Perhaps there were two pins? Having found one and taken it out it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to look for another. I also wonder how my super-cleaning lady could have missed it when ironing the shirt!

It’s not a load of Kaki

SuperMario says he wants to change Italy to a more meritocratic society. A view that seems to be widely applauded and backed by many that I know here.

It’s a nice idea. Some would say that it works that way in most Western countries. And, to some extent, they would be right.

I was looking for the word that means the opposite. It’s not so easy to find, you know? Kakistocracy was the first word that comes up. Except it doesn’t really explain it so well. I mean, this country has not been run by a bunch of idiots – I mean, they’re not really stupid even if you disagree with them. You could even say they have been clever.

Eventually, I found that oligarchy is what I’m really looking for. The country has been run by a bunch of wealthy and connected people. Then I found Corporate Oligarchy – this included such people as would run the banks and other corporate institutions as well as politicians of wealth and connections.

It is said that “any political system eventually evolves into an oligarchy” [Robert Michels].

And that got me to thinking that, in spite of our conviction that we (in the UK) have a completely meritocratic system, in fact, as far as the ruling class go, it is really a Corporate Oligarchy.

And, of course, with the old regime being washed away here, it has been replaced by a new Corporate Oligarchical system – run by banks.

Perhaps it’s time for us to go back to the creators of the democratic system, Ancient Greece, and introduce some checks and balances as they did, just to prevent the creation of this oligarchic government that we all seem to have?

But, actually, that wasn’t what I wanted to say.

What I really wanted to say is that, in spite of everything that people may say here, given the chance of getting a good job through someone you ‘know’, nearly everyone would take the opportunity. So, in spite of the backing, the reality will always be different. I think these are words that people want to hear – as long as the ones in control don’t have to actually change anything.

Don’t you think?

The trees are out to get us.

We’re in bed. It’s morning. The sky is bright and it’s warm. The window, high on the wall, is open.

“Smell that”, he says.

I look out of the open window. Ahead, almost obliterating the sky, is a mountain full of trees. It’s all very uniform – I mean, each tree seems exactly the same. They are a vivid, bright green. I can smell them. It is pine.

We are in a room that is not ours. It is a bed and breakfast, or something like that. It is most certainly NOT winter and, for some reason, it is a place that F knows.

Then the trees start moving towards us. Slowly at first but gathering pace.

The fill the whole window now. It’s some sort of landslide, I think. It’s going to engulf our room!

I wake up.

A day of mourning

I’m in mourning today.

Blogprolific has died :'(

It’s a very sad day. I have followed Lola through her many blogs and guises but it’s sad that (at least for the moment), we shan’t be able to read her stuff.

I only hope she’s not gone for too long ……….

The game of ensuring a profit.

Let’s have an imaginary scenario – just like a game.

Let’s say I am a business. My business is to give insurance. I give insurance for a healthy profit, thank you very much. And, by making a healthy profit, I can award myself huge bonuses. It’s a win-win situation.

I can, almost, decide on any premium I choose because there are only a few of us companies in this ‘game’. I decide that this insurance is very risky – so I make everyone who wants it pay more than they really need to.

Unfortunately, some of the organisations that take on this insurance are not as good as I am. They have found themselves in some sticky situations. They rely on other companies making a profit. Unfortunately, those other companies don’t always do that.

Now, I want the insurance business. But I don’t really want the risk of the other companies underperforming.

It’s a difficult situation. I mean, I want the organisations to keep insuring with me and they’ll only do that whilst the other companies continue to exist. If all the other companies went bust there’d be no need for my insurance. So, I need to keep the other companies in business – even if they have to sack many of their workforce; even if they have to reduce the pay to the workers that are left; make cuts in everything – just to ensure the company can stay in business. I don’t really care at all. It’s just important that the other companies continue to survive.

So, recently, I’ve had a few of the other companies that have been having a few difficulties. Obviously, my premiums to cover the organisations rises and I make more profit. Which is great. But it’s no good if the other companies go to the wall.

So I have come up with a very cunning plan.

Some of my employees, who have all become very rich working for me, have agreed to go and ‘help’ those companies survive as I want. Of course, we need to keep this below the radar as much as we can. So keep it quiet, please. It’s just our little secret.

You may know one of those employees (or should I say EX-employee). He goes by the name of Mario Monti. He’s going to make sure that that particular other company continues so that I can collect huge amounts of money. He’s going to do exactly what I say he should do.

Let’s face it. The banks, in the pursuit of huge profits, permitted loans to everyone. And investment banks set up the CDS scheme – which, from what I can see is completely unregulated. Eventually it all caught up with them. Now, some high-powered (ex-)employees of those very banks are running Greece and Italy. Obviously, what must not happen is for everyone to stop paying the debts, which generate huge profits for the people running the CDS industry. If they stop paying the debts then the CDS industry goes down and the whole system collapses taking with it, erm, well, the people who’ve been earning bigger and bigger profits and bonuses whilst making everyone else suffer a lot.

I mean, that would be a bad thing, right? Right?

Stepping back in time………….

You’ve seen the films. Usually American, depicting the High School Prom. The dancing, the essential glitter ball, the live band. Particularly from the 50s or 60s.

The strings of lights from the roof. Maybe, if it’s a dedicated ballroom, it has mirrors round every wall. If it does a dinner dance, the tables are arranged, length outwards from the longest two walls, leaving the central part as the dance floor.

You sit at the tables. Maybe you drink some wine. You have the first course and the band starts playing. Between courses, rather than going out for a cigarette, people start dancing. The cha-cha-cha, waltz, tango, etc., etc.

In those days, this WAS the Saturday night out. Couples went to enjoy time with their friends, eat and dance. All for a very reasonable price.


We have the address. An’s birthday was that day. She had been persuaded by her colleague (whose birthday it was last week), known to us as the Lesbico since she is lesbian, to join her birthday party.

An had an address. It was a street I have walked down so many times and yet, I could not remember any restaurant being there. We met up at An’s flat for a glass of prosecco and walked, together, to the place.

‘It’s a bit trashy but it should be super fun’, she told us. ‘The food is super good’, she added.

It was next door to the police station. ‘It can’t be here’, she said when we got to 2A. ‘But this is 2A’, I said remembering that there was a place offering dancing lessons. Yes, it was here alright. We walk down the steps, following the signs for the entrance.

We walk down some underground corridors. Quite wide, lined with that pale, fake-wood boarding. It was very well lit but strange. We turned left and then right and then left again, going through several sets of doors that had been opened.

We arrived at a bar. It had a few people sitting around. There were no windows but still very bright. But the ‘entrance’ was through the bar. I wondered what type of restaurant this could be.

We walked up a few steps.

We were on a fairly narrow balcony. The balcony had a railing over which was a …. ballroom. You could check your coats in for 50 cents. We walked along the balcony and down some stairs. It felt like we were a long way below ground – but that was probably not the case.

The room was a big rectangle. Round three sides were mirrors so the place did not have a claustrophobic atmosphere. What looked like trestle tables (but with table cloths so I couldn’t say they were) to seat 10 people (or 12 if there were people sitting at the heads of the tables) were arranged along the long-side walls, lengthways out from the wall. This still left a huge area in the centre. They had a small table in the centre on which there was a selection of salumi and some parmesan and a couple of buckets holding ice and wine. And plastic cups!

It struck me that this was similar to the Feste delle Unita things I’ve been to in those country places. This was not something I ever expected to find in the centre of Milan. It was like it was a volunteer thing and yet it most certainly wasn’t.

We all sat down at our tables. M (The Lesbico) had done the seating arangements for the five tables we had. All An’s friends were on one table with a couple of M’s friends to fill the table up – but, very kindly, M had arranged that these people spoke English. However, some of them had cancelled. It looked like there were the 5 of us plus another couple meaning there were four empty places. But these were filled later when people turned up to M’s party who weren’t on the list!

The other thing was that M had told all her friends that the women should wear dresses and the men, DJs. An had only found out that morning. M, we learnt, had also sent out special invitations.

There were probably towards 250 people all told. In the end we learnt that there were at least 3 birthday parties being hosted plus, along the one wall, people who really knew the ropes and seemed to come there often (I’ll explain later).

Just after we sat down, the band were introduced and started playing. They were a good band. Not a group to go and see in concert but tight and well-rehearsed.

There were bottles of wine and water on the tables. They started to deliver the antipasto which was a kind of vegetable lasagne. Not bad. Whilst we were eating that, they cleared the table from the centre. Then people started to get up and dance.

The staff were efficient. After the antipasto was risotto. It was OK (me, not being a big fan of risotto) but a lot of people didn’t really like it. Finally the main course, which was a veal casserole with polenta.

As it was An’s birthday, she had bought a strawberry gateau and that was our sweet.

And, for entertainment there was, of course, the dancing. We were struck by how good some of the dancing was. As we discussed, soon this type of thing will die out since most people of my age and younger don’t know how to do this type of dancing. I have tried (and I’m sure I’ve blogged about it) but failed miserably. My feet just don’t seem to be able to function for this type of thing.

F did get up and dance with this rather strange looking woman – short, no neck, a smile as wide as her head, short, black dress and white pearls (or beads, anyway). She knew all the ‘formation’ dancing that went on and was on a table on the opposite side of the wall to us – which I think was ‘the wall for the regulars’. Fabulous! In fact, she only smiled when she danced with F.

We met a couple on our table who were going to get married next year, although they seemed to have a definite disagreement going on about the honeymoon.

Oh, yes, and there was a tombola (that’s the English tombola not the Italian one). In fact, the woman due to get married (who was Irish but has lived here since the late 90s) won the second price – and overnight bag!

The whole thing (without the tombola tickets) cost us €20 each and it was a great night – so much fun.

I think it wasn’t so much ‘trashy’ as ‘old fashioned’ but so weird to find in the heart of Milan. However, if you have a party to organise, it’s a fabulous idea. I would definitely consider it as it is really a hidden gem.

If you wanted to know, it’s called the Sala Venezia and is at Porta Venezia. The link I’ve put is to a blog that gives more details (in Italian).