Bamboo Bar – Armani Hotel

Last night I went out for an aperitivo, to celebrate FfI’s birthday.

She chose to have it at the Armani Hotel, near the centre of Milan.

They’ve taken months and months building this hotel on top of their superstore (although I understand the correct term is now ‘flagship’ store).

It’s plush, of course. And chic, I suppose. And, I expect, expensive.

We are in the bar. Or, maybe it’s the lounge. It has a ‘smoking room’ – which is, actually, a smoking corridor. Still, smoking permitted nonetheless.

Everything is creamy leather. The ceiling is several stories above me. The huge windows have, as their background, the Duomo – all lit up and looking beautiful. It seems like a posh-hotel bar and could, in fact, be anywhere in the world.

I was the first to arrive (after FfI). We sat and chatted. Eventually, just as I was getting a bit fed up with waiting for something to drink and thinking of going to the bar, someone came to take my order. I ordered. There were about 4 serving staff who were anything but rushed off their feet. And one barman, who seemed busy.

After about 20 minutes, FfI’s boyfriend arrived with his son and girlfriend. Then some friends. More drinks were ordered. I was still waiting for my drink.

Then FfI’s daughter arrived with her friend. The drinks arrived. I’d been waiting for about 40 minutes.

Nibbles had been served on several occasions whilst awaiting drinks. They were OK. All nouvelle cuisine and no substance, really.

To be honest, however much it cost, it was a waste of money. Appearance is everything at these places. Poor service is tolerated because, let’s be frank, you’re not really there for the drinks but rather to be seen.

Go, if you’re a fan of Armani. Go somewhere else if you want an enjoyable time and getting your order within about 20 minutes. In fact, go anywhere else.

Another strange Italian idea!

I’ve mentioned before now about the strange things that Italians believe in and how funny I find it.

I was in the process of writing a crap post but, at lunchtime, I was given the opportunity to write about something else.

A colleague, who originates from the South of Italy was asking another colleague about whether the chilli pepper (that he and a lot of Southern Italians sprinkle on most of their food) was bad for you. He was informed that it was not bad for you but black pepper was.

I couldn’t help but laugh. But, I was told that the doctors say this. “Which doctors? Where?”, I asked.

“All doctors, everywhere”, came the reply. I was astounded. I was certain that doctor’s in the UK did not say this and, in fact, that there were health benefits to using black pepper and said so.

“Yes, but you drive on the left”, came one person’s comment – said in jest, I have to add.

However, I had to check. I do know many Italians (including F) who dislike black pepper here. But this was the first time that I had heard of it being bad for your health.

A check on Google both for the health benefits and the possible harm of black pepper confirmed what I thought – although it MAY irritate your stomach, it is (they say) good for your digestive system. Obviously, eating it by the spoonful wouldn’t be advisable but, overall, as I suspected, there is simply nothing wrong with black pepper.

Of course, I am unable to compete with the ‘doctors say’ line from an Italian and have to admit defeat on this one. I will never be able to convince her that she is simply wrong and listening to old wives tales.

What I want to know is, where the hell do they get their ideas from? Anyone know?

Our rooms are just a little apart.

Did I tell you that he’d as good as moved in?

Except, it’s not that much different really.

A colleague/friend, who is here for temporary work, has his flat. He goes there to shower sometimes and also to take clean clothes and do washing and stuff. He arrives at my place, more or less, at the usual time. He is covering for another colleague so is working more (including some Saturdays and every Sunday) and, so, it is the same.

Of course, now that Rufus is no longer with us, we could, in theory, spend more time at his place. At least until the puppy arrives. I wonder if we will, when the colleague/friend leaves in the middle of February?

Someone asked me the other day, “When will you guys move in together?”.

As I explained, it really is up to him. A friend of his is moving out of her flat. It is a nice flat and would be big enough for the four of us. The other night when we were out with An, she was talking about, maybe, sharing a flat with someone. It moved to how difficult sharing was – you have to really gel with the person to be able to do this – unless you are a couple, when it is a different thing.

He then mentioned the flat of his friend. He likes the flat, as do I. He said that he could fit all his CDs in the hallway – which he could.

I pointed out that the only problem was the bathroom – which is very small, has no bath (which he likes to use) and has no window.

But it would be big enough for us to spread out a bit. We could safely be in different parts of the house and not even hear each other.

Sometimes, I wonder how long it will be before we move in together. Mostly I don’t, as we already do, our separate rooms are just a few street apart, that’s all :-D

OK, so this is WEIRD!

It may be that, although I am writing this, it is too ‘disturbing’ to post. We shall see. If I post it, I shall leave this bit in and warn you that you may choose not to read it, which is fine by me. At least you will understand that I was, in some way, reluctant to post it but feel that it should be posted.

Continue reading

I’m lucky.

I have a piece of advice.

Don’t go and open the box unless you’re sure you want to know. Sometimes (often), once open, the box can never be closed.

And I’m not talking about the box on the table in my lounge, here.

This piece of advice has come to mind a few times over the last few days. It first (in my memory) applied to a friend who was thinking about embarking on an affair. I suggested that it wasn’t a wise thing to do. I said that, once he had done it, there was no going back and that he would stand a chance of dying a lonely, unhappy old man.

He opened the box anyway. He’s still with his wife but, so he has said, unhappy. I predict that he will, whilst not ‘lonely’ in terms of having no people round him, die a lonely, unhappy old man with the regret that he did, in fact, open the box.

V did the same, imagining that the thing inside the box was fabulous. Of course, there is always a chance that the thing inside IS fabulous! I hope it is for him.

And there is another person who desperately wants to open the box. She’s been married for many, many years. She recently went with her husband and some friends to a big bar/club where older people, of between 30 – 60, go when they are single, to find that perfect someone to love. She said it was sad but wants to go again – and go to another. The friends she was with had met at this place and the woman confided in her that she misses the place and comes back when she can. I said that it was dangerous for her to go, given other circumstances surrounding her age and her marriage (although I didn’t add that bit).

This is just like I told her it was dangerous to go sniffing around on Facebook. Instead, she got an account and went sniffing anyway. Unfortunately, having not been able to find what she wanted, it has not taken any of the distress away, since she thinks (and possibly rightly so) that it is there but she is not been able to check because of security settings on people’s accounts.

This morning, she had a row with her husband. After staying awake all night (thinking about it all). I don’t know the details but I know (from a conversation she had with someone else) that it has to do with Facebook and something that has been happening for a year (they were both 50 last year and that was a cause for a mid-life crisis for both of them).

But, sometimes, in life, it’s better to turn a blind eye and not open the box. Knowledge is not, necessarily, a good thing. Sometimes less knowledge is better.

I tried to ignore my knowledge but during the last four years with V it became more and more difficult and, eventually, impossible.

This is, of course, not a new thing. Pandora’s Box was all about this, in effect. The apple and the serpent were another version of the box. So this dilemma is as ‘old as the hills’. I’ve done it myself and am fortunate that everything turned out OK in the end. Well, at least for me.

But, I’m watching this woman do the same and know that a probable result will not make her happier. She becomes more intrigued and more determined to find things out, the more her knowledge grows. Or is it that she has the knowledge but not the confirmation? Maybe it’s the confirmation? Either way, I think she should leave well alone.

Our curiosity and/or inability to have faith in someone else leads us to open the box. And, opening the box does not always make us happy.

So, if I had my time over again, would I have opened the box (actually several boxes)? For me, yes, because it led me here. In general, I wouldn’t advise others to do it – unless they are really prepared for the consequences. For certain, if I had not opened those boxes I would not be here now. And, maybe I would have been happier but I can’t see how I could be happier than now.

But, then, as I’ve said many times. I am a very lucky person.

I give you my favourite singer/songwriter who, quite possibly feels the same as me :-)

Joan Armatrading – I’m Lucky

Thinking is the problem.

Of course, I do know that it can be considered a ‘failing’.

V used to say that I was too nice. Some people may think that I’m a bit of a walkover.

The reality is that, until otherwise proved, I tend to take things at face value. Other people can do the convoluted, twisted thinking for me.

It’s not that I don’t think things through. No, not at all. It’s just that I prefer to live my life assuming that everyone means exactly what they say. Sure, I am met with some disappointments from time to time – but nothing really to shake my conviction that most people are inherently honest. Misguided, maybe, but honest.

So, I have mentioned to some people about the phone calls at Christmas and New Year from V’s parents (because I was so delighted to get them) and the invitation (which I may not have mentioned before) to Ay’s birthday party.

You see, she’s 21 this year. This is the girl that, almost 21 years ago, slept in my arms whilst V was up worrying about her; the baby that quite happily accepted curried goat from me at some party when she was only a few months old; the girl that used to run to me so that she could sit on my knee and read her latest school book to me; the girl that still calls me Uncle Andy.

So, quite obviously, without any thought, when C asked me if I could come because “Ay really wants you to be there”, I immediately said ‘yes’.

And, since then, I have thought about the fact that V will be there. Well, he must be there. But it’s not important for I am there for Ay and, anyway, I don’t harbour any bad feelings. A little hurt, maybe, by his decision to cut me off, but I don’t hold any grudge or anything.

Although, of course, it will be a bit strange to see him after all this time.

Of course, I didn’t put any store by the actions that, to me, were separate and isolated. The phone calls from his parents were not connected to the invitation from C, Ay’s mother and one of my favourite members of V’s family.

Why should I add any ulterior motive to all this? It is Ay’s 21st. I am honoured to be invited and, of course, I should be there. And F agrees. His only thing was ‘Please don’t ask me to come’ – but I didn’t intend to do that – that would make the thing charged with some tension, which would not be right, it being Ay’s day/night.

But people (or some people) can’t believe that this is all good. First there is the disbelief that F is OK with this. But, why not? He told me that I should go. But there’s got to be some jealousy, I get told. But why? Surely, at my time of life, I can do without jealousy? I try to explain. At my age I won’t be finding someone who has no ‘past’. It’s just not possible. More than that, the person will have had at least one, long-term, serious relationship before me. Actually, if they haven’t then I would question why? There has to be something wrong with them (or they are extremely unlucky) if they haven’t.

But, the upshot of all this is: They have a past. It makes them who they are. I cannot change it and, so, I should embrace it. If they still loved the ‘old’ lover, then they would still be with them, wouldn’t they? It’s true for me and so, in my thinking, it is true for everyone – unless or until I am proved wrong.

Not loving the ‘old’ lover doesn’t mean they don’t like them. After all, if they’ve been with them for a long time, there must have been a reason and that reason should still be there. It’s other factors that make us turn our backs on the past.

I am not jealous of F’s ongoing relationship (as friends) with his exes. It’s OK by me. I have met them and I like them. They are nice. Nor, do I think he has any problem if I want to speak to V. He understands (I think) that we broke up because we were not suited any more. That hasn’t changed. We’re still not suited. The relationship was finished and, to be honest, I have no desire to go back to the place I was three years ago. Now, I am happier and more content than ever before.

But, it seems, others are thinking that the phone calls and the invitation might be connected. As a way of pulling us back together. This is because, it seems, V is still not back with this ‘husband’. So someone has suggested that this might be an attempt to ‘get us back together’.

Of course, now that someone has mentioned it, it does cross my mind that it could be a reason – even if I think not. But you know how these niggling doubts happen. How they can get out of hand.

The thing is that it just won’t happen. V was (and is, probably) a wonderful person, in many ways. But not to live with. Not to be with, in a relationship. Now, whatever he tells me will be fine. Even if it is bullshit. For how will I know? More importantly, why should I care?

I was asked that, if they have got back together, how I would feel about seeing him with someone else? Well, to be honest, I really don’t mind. All I hope is that he is happy – whatever he’s doing and whomever he’s with. For I am happy and I want him to be too. I’m certain that all my life has led to this and this is a great point in my life. And he has played a part in this and, so, I want the same for him.

But I come back to my original thought – why shouldn’t I take all this at face value?

People are, I am sure, inherently good and honest. It’s all this thinking that does for them.

The Jewelry Box

I didn’t really know what to expect.

In the end it’s like quite a pretty jewelry box. Blue, marble effect. With a gold coloured clasp on the front.

He tells me it’s sealed but we can break the seal if we want. It’s sealed because that is the law. On the back it has the name. And the name of the company. Inside, he tells me, is a plastic bag.

It’s not what I was expecting. It’s neither a ceramic urn nor some sort of plastic container – either of which would have made more sense to me.

We are, apparently, going to put a photo of him on the box. F will do that, being as he’s ‘visual’.

It sits, at the moment, on the coffee table in the lounge. For some strange reason, I felt it had to be in a ‘place’ not just shoved in a corner. So it sits, on it’s own, apart from the table lamp, on the table. I’m not really sure what to do with it, to be honest.

So, it sits there.

F will be back tomorrow. Maybe he will want to put it somewhere else?

Dust is dust and ashes are, well, just that.

I read that one British woman, who lives abroad, is suing the owners of Costa Concordia for the loss of her husband’s ashes.

I’ve always wondered what the fascination is about getting back the ashes. I’ve thought it strange. I mean, the person, as a living human being can make you laugh or cry can love you or hate you – but the ashes? What are they other than a pile of, well, burnt remains.

It’s a bit like ‘things’ really. I mean, I like to have nice things but, you know, they’re just ‘things’ – a piece of wood or metal or plastic or ash. I can’t get upset over a ‘thing’.

But tonight, as a first, I may be going to collect Rufus’ ashes.

Of course, this is for F really, as you might realise. For me, I shall remember the funny way he used to jump up, later to raise his front legs as in a rearing horse and latterly barely making it off the ground, before we went for a walk. Rather than Dino’s complete turn round.

I will remember his pretty face and the way his ‘trot’ was so ‘refined’ unlike Dino’s rather big-arse, swinging gait – Rufus walked like a model.

I shall remember his gentleness when taking food, much like Dino now, before he became blind and would snatch it out of your hand (almost, sometimes, taking your hand too!)

I shall remember the time he caught a live rabbit (although it wasn’t live for long) and then, on returning to the house how he wouldn’t come in until he had eaten every single bit of it. And my worry that it might have myxomatosis, even though, quite obviously, the rabbit didn’t have that.

I shall remember, when I was preparing to drive here with our belongings, how he got in the car about 8 in the morning and wouldn’t leave the car – not for any reason, as if he was frightened he would be left behind. And the drive down with him curled up in a tiny space and stopping often for him to have a stretch.

I shall remember getting Dino and Dino and him playing in the park with a huge tree branch that had come down in a storm, each trying to pull it off the other, lots of growling but no malice in that – it was part of the game – before Rufus became too weak to be able to match Dino.

I shall remember that he was a great dog.

But, of the ashes, I’m not really sure. I have mixed feelings about wanting them in my house. It seems kind of morbid. I must have become old. I think it will just be another thing that will want cleaning. And, anyway, I don’t believe it will be the ashes of Rufus. Just some ash. Not the same thing at all really. But I won’t tell F that. I’ll let him believe what he wants. I would even confirm that it was, if he should ever ask.

Will it be in some nice jar or something terribly gaudy and trashy? After all, in my head, keeping the ashes of something is trashy – or that’s how I thought. It wasn’t done in our family. And I’m a little nervous about how F will take this – whereas, for me, the essence of Rufus remains in my memories, just like the essence of my grandfather is not in some little plot in some churchyard in rural Herefordshire. I can’t get attached to some thing. It has to have a beating heart. Without that it doesn’t bring out the same feeling.

And yet …….

I feel some trepidation at going to the vet. As if there is some real finality about it all. As if, by not getting this, I can imagine him not dead but alive somewhere. As if he might come home. Or, perhaps this waiting for the urn and the ashes is, in some strange way, keeping him more ‘alive’ in my head. Stretching out the death process by over a week.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a sadness in these thoughts (although maybe a slightly damp eye). It’s an unknown and strange feeling I have.

But like all the other ‘firsts’ since I’ve come to Italy, I must steel myself and go do this thing, even if I would prefer not to.

Traffic – less: Milan Congestion Charge; Fuel Increases; Fashion Week

Perhaps it’s just me?

I’ve noticed or, should I say, it seems, that, in general, there’s less traffic in Milan. And, even with this being Men’s Fashion Week, the usual nightmares with traffic on my way home are absent.

If I’m not wrong there are a number of factors at play that could make it less.

One is the new Congestion Charge in Milan that was introduced on 16th January. Now, to go into the centre of Milan, almost everyone has to pay €5 per day. The previous charges allowed many (of the newer) cars to go in for free. Now, no. I am outside the ‘Area C’ as it is called. In fact, I never drive into this area anyway. But I’m only just outside and I did wonder if this new set of charges would mean that all the car parking in my area would be taken. It seems not. It seems that people are either leaving their cars at home or travelling to a tube station and taking public transport.

I know not everyone likes the charge and I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it should it cover my area – but it is so much nicer with less traffic.

The other reason could be the sharp increases in the cost of petrol. Last summer I was filling up the car for about €50. Last night it cost me nearly €70! That’s a hefty increase. The increase is down to the austerity measures brought in by the new government of Italy. It’s another of those ‘let the ordinary people pay for the stupidity of the very rich banks’ rule.

I keep thinking that, sooner or later, people will wake up but it seems not just yet.

Perhaps, also, because of the crisis in general, there are not so many people at this year’s fashion week?

However, whatever the reason, it does make Milan more pleasant to live in and I’m not complaining.

Bloody people!

You may remember, some time ago (almost 1 year ago, in fact), I had some problems with the refurbishments made to both my flat and the flat next door.

First there was the sudden appearance of two holes in the wall of the bedroom.

They filled them.

Then, during a windy night, one of the shutters came loose, threatening to fall to the courtyard below.

Telephone calls were made to the administrator’s office to ask for repair.

More telephone calls were made. Apparently, even though there was a swarm of builders in our building every day, it was very difficult to arrange for them to come and fix it.

Then, one of the builders told F that there may be new holes in the wall and, sure enough, new holes had appeared by the radiators in both the lounge and the sitting room.

More telephone calls and emails were made and sent.

During one telephone call, the ‘lady’ suggested that the shutter would be down to me until it was pointed out that the first telephone call was made to them in April. And, anyway, it was poor workmanship.

Just before Christmas the last calls were made. It seemed that, even though the defects had been reported several times, she could not make the builders come and fix it.

So I got a quote from someone.

Yesterday, I faxed (not emailed since here, email is not legally binding – yes, I know but, as I’ve said before, sometimes being here is like stepping back to the fifties or something) the quote with a letter giving them 7 days or I would do it myself, taking the money from any rent to be paid.

This morning, at 9.04 a.m. I received an email from her. Never before has the response been so fast. Do you think it might have been the money thing?

It stated that the builders would come round to repair the walls this morning – at 8.30 a.m. – more than half an hour BEFORE I received the email!!!!!

And that, on either Thursday or Friday, someone would come to repair the shutter.

I’ve sent another letter explaining that I am at work and that they can come either before 7.15 a.m., after 6 p.m. or on Saturday, after 8 a.m.

I expect I shall be sending another letter next week saying that unless arrangements are made I shall go ahead with the guys who did the quote.

Something that could have been done in the last year but wasn’t, now has to have special arrangements. Stuff them!