So, here it is ……. almost.

It’s 4.27 a.m.

I woke about 2 hours ago and got up. I had eaten too late last night. And now I’ve been up two hours and thinking I really should go back to bed.

For tomorrow is a looooong day. Or, rather, a looooong day and night.

And tomorrow (today) will be very, very busy since we have the usual New Year’s Eve get together at my flat.

Strangely, with V, we never really had these regular New Year’s Eve dos. Yet here I am, some years later with a “regular” New Year’s Eve thing going on!

Anyway, menus have been planned and some things are wip. Other things are to be made tomorrow. Hence, tomorrow will be very, very busy. And when not preparing there’ll be cleaning (because F will insist on it, bless him, even if my cleaner has already been in). Which means that it is very, very unlikely that I shall post anything tomorrow.

Which is why I’m posting now ……. just to wish my readers a very happy 2014!

I hope it will be a good year for you all!

And so it was!

And it was.

A very Merry Christmas, I mean.

Christmas Day was cooking but, since we didn’t have anyone over, I enjoyed it. And we took it slowly. Although, if I’m honest, I shan’t be rushing to make the Christmas Duck recipe again. It was truly delicious (even with my improvisations) but just too complicated with about four different “things” put together only on dishing up. The Leek and Mushroom Filo Parcels that I made for F were, on the other hand, really good and really easy to make – although I will make them smaller, by about half, when I make them again.

Christmas was also presents. The dogs had theirs first then us. Thank goodness, the book I bought (second-hand) of Romy Schneider, F didn’t already have.

Boxing Day (S. Stefano here) was wonderful. Our guests were here from one o’clock until 10 p.m. I did roast pork – with crackling and apple sauce. We also had the mince pies we bought at Harrods and the Christmas Pudding (with Brandy Sauce) that Best Mate had made for me. It was lovely. Not so heavy and full of nuts and fruit. All in all a great time.

Yesterday I cleaned (as F was at work) as I managed to stop F doing it the night before.

And, today, F’s birthday present arrived. They look good. I can’t tell you what it is, just in case F reads this (although I’m almost certain he doesn’t). Still, they are perfect and I think he will be very happy :-)

So, onwards to New Year, when, for New Year’s Eve we shall have FfI, her friend H and, possibly FfC as well. In addition, of course, there could also be An and her husband. In any event, it should be a great New Year’s Eve.

I hope you all had a good time too and are also looking forward to New Year’s Eve.

It will be a very Merry Christmas – the preparations.

I’m sitting in the kitchen cleaning.

Yes, sitting and cleaning.

That’s because I’m cleaning the dogs’ toys! WTF! Even I find it hard to believe that, as part of the preparations for Christmas, when everything has to be cleaned, when every corner must have no trace of dirt, I am cleaning dogs’ toys. These are the rubber and plastic toys that could not be put in the washing machine. It’s my contribution.

F had already “done” the kitchen whilst I was away.

He has decorated the tree (which looks a million times better than in the photo), put all the other decorations up, cleaned the wardrobe tops and mirrors and I’ve watched Scrooged to “get me in the mood” – which really wasn’t necessary but I just really wanted to watch it.

I’ve bought his main present and a few others. The rest will be bought on Christmas Eve afternoon. For me that’s the newish “tradition” that I really love to do.

That was a couple of days ago. Yesterday was my hunt for filo pastry, visiting A (who has broken his ankle and is now stuck at home) and searching for filo pastry. I love Italy and its wonderful food but, sometimes, you just wish they were a little more open about it. I got some eventually, thanks to A phoning round. It’s to make some leek and mushroom parcels for Christmas lunch for F. On the other hand, I will be having a duck thing. Both of them look good recipes.

To be honest, I was glad to be out yesterday. My cleaner was round and I left F cleaning the bathroom (using the steam cleaner) and my cleaner to it! Ammonia filled the air. Last night the dogs went for their Christmas clean.

So, today is the last minute things. Pasta from the pasta shop (F has become firm friends with the guys whose shop it is), to the market to get fresh fruit and veg (and a little bit of fish for this evening, if I can persuade F), picking up the meat (wild duck for me and then a nice piece of pork, with skin for crackling for Boxing Day, when we have friends over) and, probably, going to the supermarket for last minute things.

Then F can relax a bit whilst I go out and do the last minute shopping and wrap the presents for him.


And, then, tomorrow, a full Italian/English Christmas lunch/dinner. Opening presents (most are for the dogs!). And just hanging out.

I’m really looking forward to it.

I hope you all have a great Christmas in spite of the terrible weather that seems to be everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Including Milan where it is raining and will continue to do so for the next couple of days.

Things are OK now; A trip that I didn’t like; And relax.

Well, just to keep you updated, the problem that was, is “was” and is no more. Or, at least, not for a bit and, soon, possibly not forever again.

So, that’s good, isn’t it? Yes, it is.

Today has been a holiday but some work came in unexpectedly, yesterday, and today was doing that. In between, under the bloody rain, I did lots of things including picking up jeans that were having a new zip, taking stuff to the dry cleaners, food shopping and going to get F’s main present. I didn’t feel I could leave that until the last minute. Just far too risky.

So, now, apart from food shopping for Christmas and he last minute things and wrapping presents, I am done.

And relax!

But I just wanted to talk about Israel. Before I went, last weekend, for work, many people told me how lovely Israel is and how great Tel Aviv is, etc., etc.

Now I’ve been before. I wasn’t all that impressed last time. This time even less so. I just don’t get it. I obviously don’t see what everyone who’s been there sees.

Let me describe to you my feelings on Israel and, in particular, Tel Aviv.

it is a dirty, messy hole. I wouldn’t go and live there for all the money in the world.

And then there’s the people. Arrogant doesn’t even come close to describing them. A bit like the Italians (but much worse), everything is done much better in Israel, apparently. Except it isn’t. And they always want something for nothing. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t deal with them. They are, as we say in the UK, a nasty piece of work.

And let me just add something that is a bit controversial.

Let me first explain that what Hitler and Mussolini did in the war (and their people) to the Jews was horrific and inexcusable. It should never be forgotten and we should always be watchful that something like this doesn’t ever happen again.

If I were Jewish, and lived in Germany or Italy, it would have been possible that my grandparents would have been killed. So it’s not that far away from me, if you see what I mean.

However, whilst never forgetting about it, I do feel it’s time to put it behind one and move forward. I don’t want to hear about it every day.

You see, I wasn’t hungry. The first day we had a very large lunch and then a very large dinner, provided by our hosts. By day two, I really couldn’t eat much.

I had a little bit of the appetiser, declined the soup and the first course. The jerk just opposite, to the right said, “Oh you can’t be Jewish”. Stupidly, I ask why not. He replied that, if I had been Jewish I would have eaten because, due to the Holocaust, all Jews feel they have to eat everything!

Well, for one, I don’t believe that and for two, excuse me but FUCK RIGHT OFF! That’s not an excuse for you to be a fat bastard and, even if I were Jewish, I would also have some pride about my fucking appearance which, quite frankly, you obviously don’t. And stop relating everything to the Holocaust! I guess, of course, that they can’t leave it alone because, I imagine, their parents constantly reminded them of it – but leave it alone now. As I said, we should never forget, none of us, but it should not be mentioned every fucking five seconds!

And, can I say that the hotel was the very worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. And I really do mean EVER – in all my time staying in hotels (which is a lot of time and a lot of hotels). The Diaghilev, LIVE ART Boutique Hotel will NEVER see me there again. I was a little worried when I saw all the reviews so positive – but quite recent reviews. I should have stayed with my gut feeling. Cold room, no hot water, no decent service, no breakfast the first morning. Dreadful, dreadful, dreadful. My review is on TripAdvisor but the reviews are, generally, full of people posting their first ever review who think it is the best hotel ever. So mine will be lost down the list, which is shame for the real travellers who will be so disappointed when they stay there. Next time, I shall be more careful with TripAdvisor (and I had thought I already was!)

There were two good things about the trip. The first was Turkish Airlines – on time, food good, service good (we flew Milan to Istanbul and then to Tel Aviv). The second was the meal we went for (just me and my colleagues) to < href="" target="blank">Tapas 1 where the service was great and the food superb!

Anyway, enough of all that.

In the meantime, I am, almost, ready for Christmas and so I say … BRING IT ON!

It would make one think, except it doesn’t really.

I’m not a dooms-monger as such but, let’s be perfectly honest, I’ve been smoking since I was 11 (and smoking about 30 per day since I was about 25); I drink (not necessarily excessively but several times a week); I don’t exercise (strolling out with the dogs is hardly strenuous exercise) and I don’t watch what I eat (including sugar, fats, red meat, etc. – all my favourite things are bad for you).

OK so I don’t slouch in front of the TV every night but I do sit a lot, including in front of the computer.

So, to me, it’s quite reasonable to assume that, in the nicest possible way, living to, say, 100 is unlikely.

And so I’ve been trying to sort out my pension. Given all sorts of circumstances, including the likelihood that I may not actually reach retirement age, means I should think about the pot of money that is mine but, should I die, almost disappears if I leave things as they are.

I would like F to get it. And it’s not nothing (to my great surprise). So, I’ve been trying to get it moved from the UK.

However, during this attempt, I was asked to fill in an online form to give an indication (not a guarantee, of course) of the age to which I could expect to live. You answer all sorts of questions and then, at the end, they suggest an age that you may get to.

I was quite shocked when it came back to mid-seventies!

More or less, that’s another 20 years!

Of course, I could get run over by a bus tomorrow (although I would prefer if it didn’t happen) and it doesn’t say that I will be quite healthy until I’m in my seventies.

But, still, it would make you think – if only I could see that far ahead. I’m not really good a projecting into the future. I’m more of a “right now” person.

So, whereas it brings a smile to my face (also an amount of smug satisfaction), it will soon be forgotten.

But I might, after all, become really old!


Parcels posted.
Cards posted.
Meat for Christmas and New Year booked.
Pasta for the same booked (by F).
2 Parcels to order next Wednesday (to be sent directly to recipients).
Winter tyres on.
1 present to get for F (maybe 2) around 20th December.
Birthday present (for F – just after Christmas) sorted.
Birthday cards (1 to be from me and 1 from the dogs) on their way.
Christmas Tree to be got by F – I’m not going through the same thing as last year!

So, all in hand and, more or less, going to plan.

Just “the problem” to fix – and I’ll know more after tomorrow evening. Here’s crossing my fingers :-)

Pembridge – where are your photos?

Apparently, Pembridge, a small village in North West Herefordshire, close to where I used to live, doesn’t just put up a Christmas tree with some lights as most other places in Britain do.

Instead, it has 51 trees all decorated and with lights!

Pembridge is a delightful old, black and white village with a rather unusual church tower. It always seemed pretty quiet and, although it is on the Black and White Village Trail, I’m guessing it doesn’t get too many visitors (from what I remember, there are a few shops and, maybe, a cafè – and a village hall which held regular antique auctions and, from which, comes some of my furniture).

What I was surprised about was that I could not find any photos of these Christmas trees! I would love to see it, especially all lit up.

C’mon someone from Pembrisge – post some photos on the net!

Giving a whistle

As I mentioned, nearly everything is good, wonderful or fantastic!

The last half of the year has been rather good, in most ways.

I saw Best Mate for her 40th birthday; we went to a lovely wedding in London and slipped in a few hours of sightseeing too (well more of visiting the Isabella Blow – Fashion Galore exhibition at Somerset House and a tiny bit of shopping); we went to see a lovely flat (although I don’t think it’s quite right for us and nor did F); Christmas is coming and I got a new car.

I did all my Christmas cards (will post tomorrow), got most Christmas presents (except the main one for F which I’m getting during the weekend before Christmas plus, maybe, a few other small things), F’s birthday is sorted (depending on the Christmas post) and F will be cleaning the house whilst I’m away.

Yeah, OK, the going away thing is not so good. I will be away fours days (more or less), including the whole of this weekend. :-(

It’s for work, not pleasure and the timing is, well, not brilliant – other than, when I come back, the house will be clean. Apart from, maybe, the kitchen. F wants to do that when I’m there, otherwise, nothing will be thrown out and he’s a bit of a “thrower-outer” whereas I’m a bit of a hoarder, even with foodstuffs.

The menu is almost set both for Christmas Day and Boxing Day (when we shall have guests, as last year) and, at the rate New Year is going and the self-inviting that people seem to do, we may have a house full and be doing a buffet dinner rather than a sit down dinner! But that’s OK. It’s nice that people want to join us for New Year. The important thing is that we’re with the dogs (because of the fireworks).

For Boxing Day we shall have Roast Pork, some Christmas pudding made by Best Mate, some nice English cheese and a very nice bottle of port that I bought when I was over for Best Mate’s birthday! Plus, because we’re in Italy, lasagne, brodo with pasta, salumi (for which I have a mostarda made with tomotoes), panettone and a ton of wine. Mmmmmm.

We went to see a film on Sunday night (in Italian so I didn’t get a lot of the dialogue – and it was very dialogue-heavy – Venus in Furs). On the way back, as we strolled across Corso Buenos Aries, F remarked how he “didn’t feel Christmassy”. I pointed out that he said the same thing about the same time last year. He explained it was because Milan was so miserable. I said that the lights on CBA looked really lovely. He said that it wasn’t like London. I pointed out that, for me, there were the lights of Hereford or Hay-on-Wye and so, the lights here, in Milan, ARE wonderful although I agreed that London’s were better.

Anyway, I never feel really Christmassy until I’ve finished work for the holidays. Before that, it’s always such a rush to do everything in time – both at work and home.

Anyway, I AM looking forward to Christmas, being at home, with F and the dogs and feeling “safe” as I always do at home.

Got some nice Christmas films to watch as well :-)

So, things are, generally, pretty good!

And, anyway, should anything be bad, you can always do as the song says and give a little whistle.

Not a good time

For reasons I can’t explain.

But not because there’s anything wrong between F & I, nor with the dogs. In fact, on the surface, everything is fine, in fact very good.

There’s just the one thing. And it’s gnawing at me and giving me sleepless nights and that sort of crap.

I know it will all get better – it’s just the waiting to get better bit that is difficult.

Not a happy bunny.


Sorry but I am REALLY busy right at the moment.

That’s “work” busy, “other work” busy, “fighting Italian bureaucracy” busy and “in general” busy.

Hardly time for anything. God, I need a rest!

Not this weekend because F want’s to start cleaning the flat for Christmas and because I will be busy all day Sunday.
Not the weekend after because I have to go somewhere for work.
But the weekend after – the weekend just immediately before Christmas when I only have Christmas shopping to do ;-)

Enough! Gotta go now and do some more stuff.
Speak soon.