I’m going crackers for Christmas

Chatting to an American friend (FfI) over coffee, today, she was telling me how she and her boyfriend watch the cooking channel. They like Jamie Oliver but also watch Nigella Lawson.

And she asked me what the silver tubes were. They had been stacked in a pile and looked really nice, apparently.

And it struck me again how, things we take for granted at Christmas are just our things. I mean, Italians, too, have no idea about them.

I had to explain that, these were Christmas Crackers. At each end the silver paper is pinched and that, two people pull the cracker which makes a small explosive crack. Inside the roll is some sort of item (small – like a toy or something), a joke or something on a piece of paper and a folded, paper hat.

The crackers are pulled before the lunch/dinner and then everyone wears the paper hats and tells the (usually stupid) joke.

It’s a British thing. But I got some shipped from Bowie’s in Hay-on-Wye and they look rather good. We’re going to have ours on Boxing Day when we have some Italian friends come over for lunch. Should be good. :-)

And, below, a picture of a Christmas Cracker:

Christmas Cracker

and a typical Christmas paper hat:


Whatever special or unique things you have at Christmas, I hope you have a good time.

Another thing I did today was make the mincemeat (which for the uninitiated is not meat at all but, rather, a mix of dried fruits, nuts, sweet spices, etc.) so that, tomorrow, I can make mince pies. I know it’s not Italian but you might have it in the USA.

As you were.

We’re back in business.

The tree is up and decorated. Not the tree I bought. That is on the balcony. It’s a new tree. And now he is happy.

And, so, with the exception of the cleaning, Christmas can commence.

In addition, I am so happy because, unusually, at work, instead of spending the last hour standing around at what is known as (but in reality is nothing like) “THE PARTY”, we shall be going home an hour early. I’ve always hated this so-called party thing. I’m sure that everyone is just waiting for the opportunity to get out of there. Instead we stand around, trying to be pleasant with a glass of prosecco and a piece of cake. Every year, I promise (to myself) to be the second person out of there but never make it. This year, at 3.15, I shall be leaving and going home.

And I might make mince pies :-)

And that will certainly make it the start of Christmas.

The wolves are in charge, it seems

Finally, it seems, people are starting to wake up.

I have done several posts in the past giving my view that, if you want to really protect your sheep from the foxes, you don’t put the foxes in charge of looking after the sheep.

Nor do you put some sheep in charge. They are, after all, frightened of the foxes.

And, yet …….

And yet, that is exactly what we have done.

The steps go like this:

1. Liberalise everything so you cannot check what the banks are up to.
2. The banks learn how to make more money by “playing” the systems (see recent news about LIBOR manipulation).
3. Everything goes tits up.
4. Blame the sheep for using the fields that the banks have lent them.
5. The sheep in charge, being frightened of the banks (wolves) ask what they can do to fix the situation.
6. The wolves reply that, since the sheep were to blame in the first place and, unless you want to lose the fields, you need to cough up some dosh.
7. Even better was when the wolves managed to get one of their own (e.g. Monti – an ex-Goldman Sachs player) in a position of power.
8. All head sheep say we need austerity, having been told that by the wolves.
9. Austerity means the sheep don’t get fat and so can’t be sold at market. No money coming in.
10. The wolves are laughing all the way to the bank.

Sooner or later this nonsense will stop.

In the meantime, gives a much more business-like take on what I’ve said above.

Thanks to Alex from Italy Chronicles for the heads-up.

Not everything goes according to plan.

Well, that didn’t quite go as expected.

The problem is that I don’t think like him. I mean to say, when I saw him cleaning the place where the tree was to go, I thought, “Oh yes, of course, I could have done that” but, until I saw him cleaning, it never crossed my mind that it would be necessary.

In fact, I would never have thought of it. Nor, in future, will I think of it. My brain just isn’t wired that way.

And, so he got annoyed.

And then, one set of lights didn’t work.

And so he gave up. But all that was after the “getting stroppy” bit which meant that I had already given up. There’s simply no talking to him and, certainly, no reasoning with him once it gets to this stage. He is a practical person and I am a man of words and numbers. It’s really that simple.

So, the Christmas tree is in place with some lights on and that’s all.

The rest will be done when he returns on Thursday. Or, maybe, he will wait until Friday.

I think we do need to have a discussion about how he is like an apple and I am like a piece of rock, if you see what I mean. Even if he knows this already.

The preparations continue

So, he is very happy. The carpenter guy came round last night and fixed the lamp in the bathroom. Now he can clean it properly and it’s brighter and the mirror is higher and the wires are hidden.

We’re, maybe, almost ready. Apart from the cleaning. Followed by the extra cleaning and the re-cleaning.

Oh, yes, and the tree.

He was going to get a tree from the market (the ones he turned down two weeks ago because a) it was too early and b) they were too expensive) – except that they had no more small trees left and the price of a big one was €120!

He said he was going to ‘phone round’ and see what he could get but me, being me, no longer quite trusted that he would do it. I asked if he wanted me to ask someone here, at work, if there was anywhere to get one. He said ‘yes’, confirming to me that he wouldn’t do it.

So, at lunchtime I went to a place I know and found some. I phoned him to say that I had found one and had bought it. At which point he told me that he HAD phoned and there were some at the place they use for the shop in town.

If I had known I wouldn’t have spent my time driving around at lunch and he probably would have got a nicer one for, although it’s OK, it’s not as “perfect” as the one I got last year from the market. Grrrr

Still, we have it now. I can imagine he will want to decorate it this evening. We shall see.

FYI, my “illness” is proceeding. It will soon not cause me any really bad feeling but just be annoying. To be honest, it’s already annoying.

Ah well.

I’m iller than you are!

Of course, there is one downside to being a gay man.

This is that your partner is a man.

Men are notoriously bad when it comes to being ill. Italian men worse (imho).

So, here I am, suffering with “man flu” (i.e. a slight cold) and, instead of being able to really suffer, I find myself in a situation where F is “worse” than me.

I have this cold (as it was formally known before all illnesses had to be “the worst thing that has ever happened to you so far”) and F has stomach ache.

Of course, his is worse than mine.

So, he is at home and I am at work because, of course, if one is to suffer, one has to suffer properley. Suffering properley means that one must “soldier on” making sure that everyone knows that you are being a hero whilst, at the same time, trying to hide it. This doesn’t mean hiding it but rather, being subtle about making sure that your partner (and, in my case, colleagues) know that you are being a hero and passing it off as “nothing really”. By being the hero, in the normal course of events, it would illicit messages of sympathy and care but, in this case, I get nothing because he is feeling worse than me and my Italian colleagues have absolutely no concept of this “soldiering on” thing. Bloody Italians.

Bah, bloody humbug.

Of course, my cold is because I went out on Friday night without a hat or umbrella. And it was raining cold rain. So, Sunday morning I woke up with this bloody thing that I now have

On the bright side, it should mean that it is all cleared up by Friday and that I won’t be coming down with any other lurgy for Christmas.

Still, it’s a bit of a bugger that, on one of the very rare occasions that I AM actually a little ill, I can’t exploit it for all it’s worth!

I cut my thumb ……. with soap

So, I am supposed to be writing Christmas cards right now.

Instead, I am exhausted and spending a few minutes (which is fast turning into one hour or so) relaxing.

Today I have been busy. Following Piero’s destruction blitz that he’s on at the moment, I decided that I would have to bite the bullet and sort out the TV cable. It comes in above the front door, runs along the hallway, into the lounge and then to the bedroom (where the TV is located).

Originally, the TV was in the lounge but when I moved it to the bedroom I had to buy extra aerial cable and, rather than putting it against the wall, ran it in front of the wardrobe. OK, it was because I was lazy.

Then we got Piero.

Piero quite liked the cable that ran on the floor through the bedroom doorway and along the wardrobe. So, after nearly chewing his way through, I taped it to the floor using packing tape.

That was months and months ago.

After the fridge destruction, he found a slightly prominent and loose bit of cable in the hallway. It was near the skirting board.

And his persistence in pulling it (it must have been a great game) even when I had secured it and taped it and various other things, meant that, now, there was only one solution. That was to re-route the whole thing. Which I have now done. Now it goes along the ceiling of the hall, through a new hole I drilled at the top of the doorway into the lounge, across the door frame and through two other holes in the bedroom door frame, into the bedroom.

From there, it is tacked to run behind the wardrobe (where it goes down to the skirting board for the first time) and from there to the TV.

To get it now, he either has to jump about 7 feet or pull the triple wardrobe out away from the wall.

And, to be honest, if he can get it now, I will really give up.

And then I washed my hands. I have a new bar of soap but a small sliver of the previous soap.

The previous soap was rubbish. It was that glycerine soap and created no lather and I didn’t like it, Also, it was heavy and I thought the sink would crack when I accidentally dropped it in there a couple of times.

So now I have this thin sliver of this crappy soap. And, as I was washing my hands, somehow I managed to cut my thumb with this sliver of crap soap and so now have a plaster on it as it bled profusely.

I can hardly believe that with all the drilling, hammering, cutting of cable, fixing of cable, use of screwdrivers, etc. nothing happened until I used the soap!

Now, where’s the justice in that?

Painting at midnight! No, not me, of course.

Of course, there is a huge difference between me and him and between living with him and living with V.

For certain things, he has to do them NOW!

I’m more of a ‘OK that’s enough, the rest can be done later’ type of person.

He phoned me about 9.45.  He asked if I had taken the dogs out.  I hadn’t.  He had been to IKEA.  The light from the bathroom (if you’re a long-term reader of this blog you may remember the ‘incident’ from a year ago) is nearly falling off.  It needs replacing.  He had bought a new light.  He’s going to get someone to fix it properly.  Plus he got some other things.  It will all go towards making the flat ‘just perfect’ for our visitors on Boxing Day.

He said he was coming with the car and to come down and collect the stuff.  Just after 10 I took the dogs out.  I had been pretty busy all evening, clearing out the cupboard and the old fridge (destroyed by Piero) and reorganising (and a bit of cleaning) ready for the new fridge.

I didn’t put everything away again because I needed to discuss it with him.  I also needed to discuss some other things – like the money I owed him and the fact that I have invited a couple to use his flat over the Christmas period.  I mean, I know he’ll be fine about it but it’s to let him know.

He went to drop off the car at the office and then came straight to me.

He looked at the reorganised kitchen.  The wall behind where the cupboard HAD been was not painted.  He decided it must be painted.  My heart sank.  It was already 10.45 and I really did need to go to bed.  This is the point at which I would have said ‘OK well let’s see what can be seen after the new fridge comes’ – because it is much taller and, I suspect, the unpainted part of the wall will be covered by it.

But, as I know, once he has some idea about organising or cleaning or decorating, it is quite useless to try and talk him out of it.  It’s better to just let him get on with it.

I said that I was really sorry but I had to go to bed.  He understood.  Or, rather, he said he understood.  Telling me to go to bed more than once (whilst I was preparing coffee for the morning, cleaning my teeth, preparing my clothes for the morning, etc.)  He started painting and I went to bed.  I forgot to tell him to leave everything and I would put the cupboard and old, destroyed fridge back in the morning.  I decided that this was not quite the right time to talk about all the other things.

And this morning, everything was clean and tidy.  Everything was done.

Since I started writing this post, the new fridge has been delivered and cleaned by him and he has gone to work.

Tonight, before Christmas cards are started (see the new stamps below), I will put everything back.

And we have a new way of stopping TBP (That Bastard Piero) from getting to the plug and destroying the new one so, hopefully, it shouldn’t happen again.

In the meantime, I must try and remember to tell him about the friends that might come, the fact that I might not be able to get a Christmas tree and some other things like that.