Reading for summer weekends and holiday

So, I mentioned I had got some books for my summer reading and I thought I’d tell you what they are. To be honest, they’re a little, shall we say, diverse.

Margaret Atwood – Cat’s Eye – never seen this one before so, obviously, never read it. Very much looking forward to this one.
Terry Brooks – The Sword of Shannara. I’ve read one of the Disc World books a long time ago and it was good but I never really “got into” the series.
Harlan Coben – The Innocent. I was recommended one of his books years ago at the Hay Festival. And it was a good recommendation. So I thought I’d try this one.
Charles Dickens – Bleak House. Probably not one that springs to mind as a “beach book” but he writes very good stories and I haven’t read Dickens since school. Worth a try.
John Mortimer – Summer’s Lease. I know he’s a good writer but I’ve never read him. This one is set in Tuscany so it seems fitting.
Stephen King – Under the Dome. Haven’t read any King for years and years. This is certainly a “beach book”.
Yann Martel – Life of Pi. Loved by Piero anyway ;-) Just not this copy (I hope).
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall. May not be considered a “beach book” by many. But it’s the one I really want to read of all of them.

So, there you go. Hopefully, they’ll keep me going all summer.

Living together – maybe not such a good idea?

Perhaps living together is not such a good idea?

I mean to say, it would be great in many ways. On a practical level, we would save money (on bills, etc.), we could have a cleaner every day, there would be someone there with the dogs more often, I would live in a much cleaner house (hahahahahaha).

But, there would be downsides.

I would have to be “cleaner” (Don’t get me wrong, I do clean and stuff – I just don’t always put things away immediately, if you see what I mean), I would have to cook more often (which I do enjoy – but sometimes I just don’t want to bother) and ……………

I would become amazingly fat! More like a tub of lard. I am sure.

But let’s go back a bit.

You remember that I made him a courgette and ricotta tart because he was going to be home for days and I didn’t want him to just eat sandwiches or salumi (cold meat slices).

However, as a sign of how much he loves me (as he doesn’t really like cooking), he made me some ragù (Bolognese sauce to those who don’t live here) and bought some raspberries and spray cream.

So, last night, we had pasta with ragù, a very small slice of the tart I had made (he had eaten most of it during the day!) and then raspberries and cream (because he knows that is my absolute favourite sweet).


However, I eat lunch at work (because it costs about 7 cents a day and I get a plate of pasta and a meat dish with some vegetable). Therefore, I don’t actually NEED any more food. OK, so, sometimes I will have a biscuit or two or a piece of chocolate in the evening – but, in general, I don’t eat. And, with him coming home from work about 7 and not getting to me until about 9, we don’t tend to eat – or, rather, he might eat but I don’t.

We do go out sometimes and, obviously, I can eat and do – but it’s a maximum of once or twice a week. I was very full last night after the food and I know that, after a few weeks of that, I would be the size of, if not a villa, a small flat.

So, maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to live together?

Using your telephone at inappropriate times.

Everyone seems to have a different idea about when and how you should use your mobile telephone.

Now, with the smartphones, there are games (like Ruzzle) that you play in competition with other people. I still have a Blackberry, so I don’t have these games. They only work with a touch screen.

But, surely, there are times when it’s quite acceptable to use phones and times when it’s not.

I don’t like it when F plays Ruzzle during, say, a meal in a restaurant – although I say nothing. I dislike it more when he is playing (at any time) and doesn’t answer me when I speak to him. It’s not like he does this all the time but I will be very glad when he gets fed up with the game.

I don’t think you should be using your mobile when you drive (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in past posts). It is, after all, dangerous.

I watch groups of people using their mobile phones and think, sometimes, that mobile phone usage seems to have replaced “real life”!

I once rang a colleague, some years ago. There was an echoey sound. I asked them where they were. They replied that they were “on the toilet”! I couldn’t believe it. I felt kind of dirty – as if I were in the cubicle with them! I told them to phone me when they had finished. And then I had to go and wash my hands :-)

And then there’s this latest thing..

The thing that caught my attention (as it was meant to do, of course) was that 29% (that’s nearly one third, folks) of Italian women admit to using their smartphone DURING SEX! How that made me laugh.

But, I’m intrigued – are they playing Ruzzle or texting or making/receiving calls? And, one other thing, the partner – don’t they say anything????

Of course, this was a survey and we don’t know what the question was – but, even so……..

Any Italian ladies out there who are brave enough to give us an insight? Lola??? ;-)

Update: A male colleague has suggested that she is answering a call from her husband :-D

He comes to stay. And other things

I went to a second-hand book fair last Saturday.  It was organised by the Anglican Church in Milan of which, one of my friends here is a member.

I came away with 6 books to add to my other 2 that I am saving for the summer weekends and weeks on the beach.  I can’t remember all the titles or authors but they included Bleak House which I have never actually read.

In fact, I realised as I bought it, the only Dickens I have read was when I was at school and I thought it was about time I read one of them for pleasure.

Previously, I had bought Life of Pi and the Hilary Mantel book, Wolf Hall, her historical fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power.  In fact, I shouldn’t have bought Life of Pi at all.  I was lent it by someone but then Piero got it and it was turned into small pieces of paper, spread all over the flat, so I bought another copy and I might as well read it before I give it back.

So, that’s my summer reading all sorted now.  All I need is summer which is taking a rather long time to come through and all the rain we are having is rather annoying, not to say anything about how cold it is.

F, having spent all last week in Spain (for work), became ill but still travelled down to his Aunt and Uncle’s 50th Wedding Anniversary “party” on Saturday.  I was invited but I don’t think he was so keen for me to go, so I didn’t.  However, he rang me during the meal because his Aunt wanted to thank me for the present (which F bought in Spain – but which he said was from both of us) and his cousin just wanted to say hello.  It’s nice of them but I still get confused with S and, in fact, his Aunt called me S.

But that really doesn’t bother me at all on the basis that they see us as a couple in the same was as F & S were and, after all, they’re both foreign names to them :-)

F only went down for the day (the party was a lunch) but by the time he came back he was worse.

Sunday we went to the hospital.  The sister of P (One of F’s best friends and who got married last year in Villa Singer), E, has just had her kidney replaced (she had been on dialysis for ages) and, until the middle of last week, had been doing so well, they were going to send her home.  Then it started rejecting and so they needed to put her on stronger drugs and keep her monitored.  Obviously, as she comes from Cararra, she is a long way from home and F tries to see her as often as possible.  Sunday, we went together.

The hospital is one of the biggest in Milan and only a little way outside the city. It took us about 10 minutes to get there by car).  The strange thing was that, apart from the hospital beds and people walking around with bags hanging from them containing liquids of various kinds, it didn’t actually SEEM like a hospital. I mean it didn’t have the usual hospital smell that I really hate. It almost seemed quite nice!

Anyway, P rang F later to say that she had been very happy to see us, so that was nice.

By Sunday night F was feeling worse. Yesterday, he didn’t go to work and this morning, he went to the doctors to be told he had otitis and he’s off work until Friday (which is good because we have the Lisa Stansfield concert on Friday night).

Now, here’s thing. I mean to say, here’s the point of this post.

F doesn’t really do being ill very well. In fact, he always prefers (he says), to be on his own.

However, he has gone home, on his way back from the doctor’s, to get changes of clothes before he comes to my place to stay with the dogs! This is a huge difference from previous illnesses when he would go home and stay there. Of course, I guess it helps that I am there in the evenings to make drinks and other things for him. Bless.

Blah, blah, blah

There is a person that I really, really dislike.

I would almost go so far as to say “hate” but how can you hate someone you don’t even know?

There are two basic things “wrong” with this person.

1. They live here but, from what they’ve “said”, they hate/dislike so many things, I really don’t know why they are still here. Well, I do know why – it’s because they’re married to an Italian – but, really, why stay?

I don’t like everything here but, as I’ve said, many times, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I love my life here and the things that suck are few and far between (and, if I don’t try and do anything official, it’s generally pretty fine).

This person complains. Pretty much all the time. And it’s annoying. It seems really difficult for them to see positive things, most of the time.

2. I really dislike it when people allude to “special powers” they have. In this case it’s “links to powerful people”. And, by “powerful people”, I don’t mean the Prime Minister of Italy, nor the local police chief but, rather, the local “mafia”. I remember a guy I once went out with who alluded to being part of the Israeli secret service. It was, of course, a complete load of bollocks – not least because, if he had been, he wouldn’t have gone on about it. Or someone I once employed who tried to convince everyone he had been in the French Foreign Legion. I thought he might make a good salesman but should have trusted my original instincts. He, of course, was lying about everything. And, I mean everything. Including a child that he said wasn’t his and the other women in his life. In the end, he married another employee of mine and I was quite sad about that – for her.

And, so, anyone alluding to some sort of secret connections/job that they “can’t really talk about” but do, really annoys me. I find these people to be, generally, untrustworthy and, so, don’t trust them.

Other than those two things, most of this person’s outpourings are, to be frank, utter bollox. A lot of hot air – or blah, blah, blah containing nothing of interest.

The problem is that I can’t quite bring myself to “get rid of them”. It’s like watching a car crash. Fascinating and hateful at the same time.

But, if I ever met this person, I would want to give them a really good slap in the face so it’s a good job that there is almost no chance of ever meeting them.

Still, I put up with colleagues that I dislike and are really stupid so I’m sure I can put up with this person.

But it’s annoying all the same.

More Tourist stuff to do in Milan

Jean was here for a few days. She had just turned 70 and, for her birthday present, I bought her the ticket to come.

The first time she came, about 18 months ago, we did all the things I do, if possible, for first time visitors – Duomo, Duomo roof, Dialogue in the Dark, Villa Necchi.

So, what to do this time?

Well, although it involved an early start, the day after she came, we went to Venice. I didn’t tell her where we were going and, in spite of the fact that the train was for Venezia, I hoped that Venezia and Venice were different enough for her not to realise. Luckily I was right. She has only started going abroad in her 60s, so is a little more naive than most – but in a good way.

We passed Verona (which she had heard of) and the sun was shining. As we approached Venice, the weather was a bit more miserable – fog – and it seemed cold. We got to Mestre, the stop before Venice and the sign said VE Mestre. She asked me what VE stood for and I said it was just part of the name. I said that the weather didn’t seem so good so at the next station we would go back to Verona.

When the train pulled up in Venice, we got out (with everyone else, of course as it was the end of the line) but she didn’t seem to notice. I said that we needed to see when the next train back to Verona was. And then I said I had to have a cigarette first. So we walked outside to the front of the station which looks out over the Grand Canal.

She cried, which was rather sweet. Anyway, we had a rather lovely day, although, in Venice, there are just too many people/tourists. Living there must be a nightmare!

Day two was much easier. I took her to Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano, which is only a short walk from my house. Then we sat at a café on Corso Buenos Aires, then did a bit of shopping, then another café. As we were sitting, we saw one of the sightseeing buses and I asked if she would like to do that for the next day. She replied that she would. After all, we had walked so much in Venice I was a bit worried about over-doing it.

So,day three was a trip to the Castle where we caught the City Sightseeing bus. It costs €20 per person and there are three different routes (the €20 covers all three) or you can get a 48 hours pass for €5 more! The automatic guide (you get headphones to plug in) are in a number of languages. We went on two of the routes and, if you’re a first-time visitor, I think it’s well worth it. You get to see all the main tourist sights, can hop on and off at any of the stops to visit something you want to see and/or enjoy the ride. It was the first time I had been and I wish they had had them when I first came to Milan.

I’ve put a link to the right (in the useful sites for Milan section).

If you come, do it. It’s a great way to see the city.

Erm, I’ve just funded a film!

Yes, I have.

It’s almost like I’m a movie producer or something.

Of course, I didn’t fund it all. In fact, I funded a little bit of it.

You can see the details here (it’s a Kickstarter project).

And there’s a teaser here (well, until midnight tonight)

And the film is called Nina Forever.

I’m very excited :-)

And, I’ll get the DVD and some other stuff.

Sometime towards the end of next year.

This is my second Kickstarter project – unfortunately the last one didn’t make the target amount so nothing happened, which was a great shame. At least this one will happen.

And, as a bonus, it seems like it might be a good film :-)

Tourists – always watch what you’re doing but if you pay over the odds – walk away and enjoy your stay

I suspect that we’ve all been there.

You’re abroad and not paying quite as much attention as you should. After all, you’re on holiday and relaxed (one would hope). You go to a restaurant, sit outside and order something – say, lobster. You enjoy it as it’s really fresh. One of your party doesn’t like it and spits out the piece they are eating but the rest of you finish everything.

Then the bill comes and you find that you’ve been stuffed for a couple of hundred pounds.

This was not helped by the fact that one of your party had been to this country and had already warned that, before asking for something, agree the price – especially for fish at restaurants. Of course, that made it quite funny, in spite of the shock of the bill.

That was a true story from some years ago when we were on holiday in Turkey. G went there quite often for work, so we relied on him to tell us how to go about things – but the thought of lobster made us forget everything. We reckoned that the piece that V spat out was worth about £8!

What we didn’t do was to complain about it. After all it was our fault. We should have known better but, what the hell, we were on holiday and these things happen.

In Italy, of course, one has to be careful about “hidden” charges. These charges aren’t, generally, hidden, of course, but displayed (although you may have to know a little Italian).

If you go to a bar, for example, have a cup of coffee for about €1 – IF you stand at the bar.

Go and sit down outside the bar and get the waiter to come and serve you and you’ll pay more. It could be as much as €4 for the same cup of coffee! It’s the Italian way. Everyone knows that.

Go to a restaurant and there is, invariably, a cover charge. This will cover the bread sticks and bread and the service (although you can tip up to about €5 if the service is REALLY good). The cover charge (coperto) WILL be somewhere on the menu but isn’t always easy to spot. It varies quite a lot but is usually something like €4 per person.

Go to an ice-cream shop and there is a dazzling array of options …….. and prices. Usually, for a small cup or cone with one small scoop of delicious (or, rather, usually delicious) ice-cream.

Of course, you can go for bigger ice-creams with, usually, up to three scoops. Of course, for this you certainly won’t be paying a few Euro. But you will have, in your hand, something that is almost a meal in itself.

So this is really quite annoying. I mean, there you are in one of the tourist hot-spots in a capital city and you go into the ice-cream shop. You see the prices start from a few Euro so you have the ultra-large cone with three scoops and think that that will cost you 3 times (say) €3. But, of course, each scoop of ice-cream will be double the size of the small scoop and the ice-cream will be hanging well over the sides of the cone. It’ll probably take about 15 minutes to eat it and you’ll feel quite full afterwards.

So, stop complaining. The prices will have been on the board in the shop – it’s just that you were being a tourist and forgot to check properly. Have a laugh about how you should have checked it better and move right along to enjoy your holiday.

So, stupid people. Not for missing that price nor paying so much – but for complaining about it afterwards to the British press.