And, whatever else there may be, we will have candlelight.

You’ve probably gathered from my posts that this year, this Christmas, is very different from the others. Among other things, although I will be doing some shopping on Christmas Eve, I have already done quite a bit.

Apart from the fact that I’ve certainly got the ‘Christmas spirit’, F has definitely got it. And that is making this period even better for me.

“I need candlesticks”, he said a few days ago.

“I have some”, I replied.

“No, not those. I need some short ones. And some candles”

I didn’t argue even if I have candles too. When he has an idea about how he wants something to be, it’s best to let him get on with it.

And so, last night, he came with bags. Bags of candlesticks and candles. Apparently, there will be a LOT of candles at Christmas.

We start with candlesticks. He showed me. It was a simple, couple-of-inches, glass candlestick. I liked it.

“I’ve got six of these”, he adds. And a ton of candles.

I’m not entirely sure of his idea but I think all six will be used.

And, he informed me, he had invited a couple round for New Year. And we invited another couple a couple of days ago. If everyone comes, it will be quite busy but neither of us expect that.

But, at least we’ll have candles everywhere!

Thank God or I possibly wouldn’t even be here!

I’ve mentioned them before. The homeless people you see on the streets of Milan. The crazy woman with her designer gear (sort of); the black immigrants with nowhere to go; the old men with the beards or the disabled with no hope except to show off their deformity like they were in some 18th Century circus.

And I often think – there but for the grace of God go I – since I know it doesn’t take much to fall off the social ladder – no job = no home = no chances.

But, thank God or gods or whoever it is in whom you believe, I’m not there – otherwise I probably wouldn’t be there at all but, rather, six feet under.

A thought for those without the festive fun at Christmas or, more importantly, without their own home, for whatever reason it may be. Life isn’t always fair or just. But no one, surely, deserves to be without a roof over their heads?

Nightmares before Christmas

“Did you lock the door?”

I don’t know why I had woken but I have my suspicions. I answered that I had, not knowing, really, if that were true but being pretty sure that I locked it when I came back from walking the dogs. Of course, I couldn’t get up to check it for that would highlight my doubts and, right now, even in my half-awake state, I knew that ‘doubt’ was not required nor desired.

“Did you hear that noise?”

This was moments later. I didn’t check the time right then but later I realised it was about an hour after I had got to sleep.

“Turn the light on”, he demanded. I did. “Do you want me to go and check?”, I asked. “Yes”, came the response.

I got up. “I’m coming with you”, he said.

I walked into the lounge and then the hallway, turning lights on as I went. The lights were for two reasons. 1 – just in case Rufus had done a pee and 2 – because F was frightened.

I had asked, just before I went to sleep – “Do you watch these [horror] films when you are on your own?”

“Never”, came the reply.

He makes me laugh even if I was up and about when I should have been asleep!

And, as a treat, a clip from one of my all-time favourite Christmas films :-D

Better late than never.

Of course, I expect it’s too late now.

But it’s done anyway.

This morning was when I finally got these.

The cards have been ready since the 10th December and I had brought them with me to work this morning. Having got them, I stuck them on straight away and then walked to the nearest post office to post them.

But I think they will take a week or more to get to their destinations which means they will arrive after the big day.

Ah well, such is life. They do look very pretty so better late than never. I’m sure everyone will understand.

The Chritsmas Spirit; Friends from across the water.

“Did you like the thing on the table in the lounge?”; he grins as he asks this of me.

“What thing?”, I ask back. Of course, I knew he had been there, dropping off some jars of antipasto stuff for Christmas day lunch. But they had been in the kitchen. Although I had put some washing out to dry in the lounge I had, as normal, failed to look at anything. I am a man. It’s not an excuse – just a fact.

He is obviously excited about it. In fact, he seems very excited about Christmas all round. Which is lovely.

I go back home and look on the table. There is a festive table centrepiece. All green and gold and red. I tell him it is lovely – which it is – but more for the fact that he is making such an effort with everything this year. Not that it is really effort – at least, I think he’s doing it because he’s really looking forward to it.

The previous morning, we had gone for breakfast and, on the way back, we popped into the Chinese shop round the corner from me. He had decided that he didn’t like the lights round the doorways in the lounge. They were not the right shade of white. He bought two more sets of lights that were the right shade of white.

In the evening we went to Baia Chia – the Sardinian restaurant. A colleague (of mine from 18 years ago, he said – and it was probably true) and his wife (whom I had never met) are over in Milan and we had agreed to go out. Also, Stef was over from the US. An also joined us and so we were six.

We had a fabulous meal. I miss Stef and Nicole quite a lot so it was particularly good to see him. He has gone very American though and all the good work I had put into teaching him British English has been for nothing. Obviously, it’s OK but it was funny to hear him speak with an American accent and use words live ‘beverages’ when he meant ‘drinks’.

We also had a lot to drink. Indeed, between the six of us we must have had the best part of two bottles of Mirto after all the wine! F was a little drunk. When we arrived home, he started trying to put up the new lights. I told him not to do it because he was drunk. He did one but left the other until the morning, thank goodness.

And now the flat is nearly ready. The only room which has not had the full ‘spring clean’ is the bedroom – to be done on Christmas Eve.

And, unusually for me, I did some Christmas shopping on Sunday! This just shows how much I am into the Christmas spirit this year. This could be the very best Christmas ever :-D

R.I.P. Christopher Hitchins

Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62 after suffering from cancer.

A great man – an incredible thinker of our times. Whilst you may not agree with every (or any) stance that he took, one had to admire the way he would argue his case against anyone.

I met him once – I mean that I met him to talk to – although the conversation was short and the situation quite strange. Later I saw him as the speaker at an event and enjoyed it very much. I am so grateful I was able to see him that time and wish I had had the chance to see him more.

I know he didn’t think much of religion (and, on that I can only agree with him) but, still, I say, Rest in Peace.

Difficult to see = probably dead soon!

I left work at just after 5. I left because I am so cold. By the end of the day, my feet feel as if I have had them in buckets of ice all day.

It is dark now, when I leave home and work. It’s no wonder they invented Christmas. It helps to brighten up the dark mornings and nights with lights. I really dislike this time of year.

However, back to the post.

I hadn’t reached the end of the road when a bike came from my right, without looking, and rode on the side of the road just in front of me. Because I was near a junction, I had already slowed down.

However, bikes coming out without looking are nothing new.

What really amazed me was that the guy was wearing dark clothing and had no lights on the bike. The street lighting, this far out in the suburbs, is not that bright. Stupid guy, I thought, he really does want to be killed.

I turned the corner and within a few minutes, there was another cyclist without any lights. I wonder if this is illegal. Surely, this IS illegal? I then decided to count the cyclists on my way home and count the number who had lights (on – not just on the bike, of course).

OK, so I am driving and concentrating on driving so I may have missed a couple of cyclists but I counted 11 in the end. Of those 11 cyclists, 8 – yes EIGHT – either had no lights at all or, if they did have them, they were not switched on.

If it is illegal then 72% of cyclists are illegal.

But that’s not the point, really. The point is that 72% care so little about their lives that they want to be killed. Cyclists – without lights YOU ARE DIFFICULT TO SEE!!!!!!!

The solution, I suppose, by the last two cyclists I saw as I was walking along the pavement to the supermarket, is to ride on the pavements. The last one, with a child in the child seat, did, in fact, have lights. It was just that they (the front one, at least) were broken. I don’t mean not switched on – I mean, nearly hanging off (although, obviously, not switched on too).

Of the 8 without lights, probably about 4 or 5 did have some sort of reflectors and one guy was wearing a fluorescent jacket. Of the 11, at least two had no reflectors and were dressed, to all intents and purposes, in black.

It beggars belief.

A post office with no stamps.

Yes, I KNOW I live in Italy.

Yes, I KNOW everything doesn’t all go quite as smoothly as it should, sometimes.

BUT, how can a Post Office be waiting deliveries of stamps? More importantly, how can it be waiting for Christmas stamps when Christmas is less than 2 weeks away?

If they don’t arrive by Friday, I may have to send out cards with ordinary stamps and that doesn’t please me.

Sometimes, I just think – ‘bloody country’!