Being a foreigner; another first!

It’s probably about 10.30 p.m.

Maybe 11.

It’s Friday night and I’m taking the dogs out for their final time that night. It’s a bit later than normal as tomorrow is Saturday and a lie in. If I take them too early, they will want to be out early the next morning and, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that at the weekend. Well, I could and, obviously, have but I prefer not to if I can help it.

We had been to Liù for a pizza earlier. It was a bit strange in that, when we were sitting there waiting for the pizzas to come, I had this sudden moment when I felt that I was in a foreign land. Of course, I AM in a foreign land but as I’ve been here quite a long time now, I don’t tend to notice. It is my “normal” and it’s not new. So, although most of the time I hear Italian all around me, it doesn’t seem strange nor does it feel like I live somewhere foreign. And yet, just for about 20 minutes, I felt as if I were not in my own country.

It’s not that it was a bad thing. It just “was”. And, in some way, I marvel in it. If I had been told when I was young that I would up sticks so late in life and go and live in Italy, I’m not sure that I would have believed it. Retire, maybe, but just to come and live and work here, probably not.

Anyway, I digress. So, there I am, going out with the dogs for their last walk.

We come out of the building and turn right, as always. They know which way to go. Dino does his first pee on the nearest car, as always. Piero usually waits to the first junction.

As we approach the junction, a car pulls up and half-blocks the entrance to the road on the right. I don’t think anything of it. I mean people sometimes park there like that.

These people don’t get out though and the engine is still running.

We cross the junction to continue our way down the “perfect street” and I glance inside the car as the courtesy light is on.

And I see something that I’ve never, ever seen before. I mean to say, I’ve seen it on films and TV but never in real life!

A line of what I can only assume is cocaine is on some sort of hand-held flat surface (maybe the back of a phone or a mirror), the passenger is holding the said flat surface whilst the driver snorts the white powder.

There, in the street (well, the car) in full sight of anyone (that would be me) walking past!

Obviously, as I’ve never taken any drug apart from stuff for illness, tobacco and alcohol, I get sort-of excited about this. I mean, this is for real!

I guess that most people will have seen this since it seems that the snorting of cocaine is fairly common from what I have read or seen on TV or in films.

However, for me it was a rather strange first.

The new “new” new

Written some time ago but I never published it – I don’t know why.

During lunch I came to a sudden “understanding”.

You see, F has been talking about doing up the house down in Carrara and how, once it’s done, “we’ll go to Ikea and Mondo Convenienza to buy new furniture”.

Then again, about moving house here, in Milan, “I have to accept your furniture”.

And I suddenly realised, when a colleague was aghast at another colleague for not having “changed” their furniture that, in the process of becoming “good” consumers in this throw-away society, we have this thing about buying new things even when existing does equally well (or, in the case of old/antique furniture) even better!

I began to think about F and his “need” to fill a newly built/decorated/moved into place with all brand spanking new things!

And I realised that, in all probability, I have become one of those “old people” that I always warned myself about.

Oh shit!

I just want to scream!

I love Italy. I love Italians.

In general, that is.

Well, apart from some annoying things.

And there’s one, perfectly captured by something that happened last night.

But first, a bit of background.

Before Christmas, my friend A broke his ankle. He sort of fell over and sat on it, more or less. Anyway, it was a bad thing and broke several bones. he was rushed to hospital and had to have an operation to have pins put in and stuff. He came home but, obviously, still cannot really walk far, nor stand on his foot properly.

So, instead of him popping over to me and us going to a bar or restaurant, I have been popping over to see him from time to time.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before but going to his house is rather strange. His flat is on the 7th floor. You ring the bell at the entrance to the building and then take the one and only lift to floor 7.

On that floor, there are three flats.

With two exceptions (in fact, the previous two occasions I went to his place), having answered the bell at the entrance and confirming that it is, indeed, I here, at the appointed time, it takes probably about 5 minutes to call the lift and get to the 7th floor. Then, when you step out of the lift and walk the couple of paces to his door, you will, almost certainly have to ring the bell.

After some moments (or minutes), you will hear the sound of bolts being drawn and locks being unlocked. It’s as if it is a surprise that I’m going to be there!

The last two occasions only, the door was already unlocked when I arrived at the 7th floor.

Last night we were back to normal.

I knocked on the door, muttering to myself about how he’s always the effing same and who the hell does he think will get to the 7th floor other than me in the allotted time!

As he opened the door he explained that I had to be patient because he was hobbling about on crutches.

To be honest, this time, I was a bit gobsmacked. He is telling me this whilst holding the door open with one hand, the other hand on the crutches and his head a few inches away from the entry phone through which he had spoken to me and released the main door not 5 minutes before!

I asked, “but why didn’t you unlock the door when you let me in downstairs?”

It seemed a reasonable question to me but he was confused. I repeated it in a different way. He still didn’t get it. I tried to explain it again, differently.

Eventually, he got it.

“I don’t know. I never thought about it,” he said.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my argument for the prosecution!

The problem is that, in almost all instances of Italians doing anything (and, obviously, that blanket statement doesn’t always apply and not to ALL Italians), there is no thinking ahead; no logic; no forward planning. This applies to walking along the streets, driving in cars and, it seems, unlocking doors, etc., etc. These people are just too fucking F R E A K Y!

So, I’ve concluded that, since this can’t possibly be only nurture, it must be in their genes.

A couldn’t understand what I was trying to question (i.e. why didn’t you unlock the door at the same time as you were there letting me in downstairs as it would mean only one journey on crutches and not two) because it’s not possible for him to understand it. It’s simply not possible because his brain is different to mine and there is some missing computer-style logic code in his brain. In the same way that a bunch of people can be chatting together, taking up the whole pavement, see me and the dogs coming some yards away and then be totally shocked and surprised when we are upon them trying to find a path through. And they look as if it’s MY fault!

Or when you’re driving and get stuck in a queue because no one has thought to leave a space to let someone turn across the path of the stuck traffic and the cars lining up behind the car trying to turn are, in turn, blocking the path of the cars that are blocking the path of the car wanting to turn! If you see what I mean?

Sometimes, it makes me laugh. Other times, I want to take the logic and forward planning, transform it into a large hammer and beat it into their brains until they get it.

It’s like the two bits (cause and effect) just don’t connect and the obvious future event remains unseen.

And, sometimes, it just makes me want to S C R E A M!

From Top Of The Pops to Nursery School – timetravelling backwards

I’m what you may call a “quiet” guy.

Those of you who’ve read my blog long enough will know that, although on the surface I seem quite well-adjusted, sensible and, well, just plain ordinary, I am, underneath it all (or, rather, in my mind), quite seriously screwed most of the time.

I have conflicts and dilemmas most of my waking hours. I find it really difficult to be “close” to people.

I have friends, of course. Well, I should say, people that I quite like and that I speak to quite often. But, what I consider “real” friends – no, not many.

And a recent post from one of my links got me to thinking about relationships with people and friends, in general. More specifically, it took me back to when I was younger (much, much younger.)

When I was 12 or 13 or maybe even before that, my Nan bought me my first record (single). The reason was that one of the members of the group came from where she lived and, this being rural Herefordshire, not famous for it’s proliferation of famous rock stars, was a very big deal. From my Nan and Grandad, I learnt about Top of the Pops – because they used to watch it every week.

Apart from this making them very cool (although we didn’t use that word then – maybe “hip” or something), they got me interested in music and the radio and Top of the Pops. So, then, I used to watch it every week. And I got a radio for Christmas or my birthday which enabled me to listen to Radio Luxembourg under the bedsheets at night.

The thing about this was the charts. All these programs worked on charts. And charts I liked. I was, for some reason, fascinated with charts and the moving up and down of songs based on their popularity and sales. And I wanted my own “charts”.

Obviously, I was young and didn’t have any buying power so I came up with the idea of a chart for friends. To make it real, they were “marked” to different criteria (which I don’t remember now but possibly something like – how nice they had been to me this week, had they shared any sweets with me, did I share any sweets with them, etc.). Each would be given a mark (quite possibly out of 10). The marks would be added up and, from that, the week’s chart compiled. This would mean that I would know who was my “best friend”.

I really don’t remember how long I did this for. I had a little exercise book and dutifully recorded the “chart” every week, watching how people moved up and down. It made me feel better if someone had been horrible to me and they dropped sharply down the chart and better too if someone who had been “middling” shot up to number one because of something nice.

Obviously, reading this now, I was set to be on a psychiatrist’s couch as soon as I was old enough :-)

But, then again, I was at school. And children are quite horrible. Friendships are made and broken on a whim. “I won’t let you play with my toys. I’m not your friend anymore. I’m going to tell my Mum.” These are all the things we say and hear. We’re learning about the value of people, how to trust them, how to read them.

So, let’s bring that up to date. Today we have a new Nursery School. But this one is for adults, it seems. In broad terms it’s called social media. In the olden days, we became friends with people that we met, face-to-face, people that were physically in our own circle.

Then, with the invention of the telephone, we could become friends with people that we spoke to a lot.

In fact, I remember, as a buyer, many moons ago, I became “friends” with a guy who was employed at one of our suppliers. We used to chat a lot and, when I left that company, we arranged to meet up. Of course, we never spoke after that. Not because he was a horrible person in real life but because I think we were a bit disappointed that the guy on the phone was not really like that in real life.

Social Media is another revolution. We can become friends with people so easily. Maybe we like their photo or the things they write or the pictures they post.

On Twitter, a while back, I would follow anyone who followed me. So it was that one person followed me and I followed her back. The problem was that, in real life, given the nature of her tweets, I wouldn’t have ever spoken to her after our first meeting. She was (is), in a word, vile. Nasty, small-minded, arrogant and always making out that she was cleverer than everyone else. I decided that Twitter was the ideal platform for her and that, in all probability, she had been the most hated person at Nursery School – she had (has?) no social skills. Zero. Nada.

How grateful was I when I discovered that she had “unfollowed” me – permitting me to unfollow her! She still appears on my timeline from time to time (being retweeted by others on my timeline) and, occasionally, I visit her profile to see if she’s changed. Needless to say, she hasn’t.

There’s a guy that I follow that reported on the Grillo-Renzi meeting, for example. Now, I’ve been following him because he tweets some interesting stuff about Italian politics and the economy. When I read what he wrote about the meeting however, I realised that he was also quite stupid. But, then again, he’s not my “friend” (I don’t even know if he follows me and, to be honest, care less) and, after the tweet about the meeting, is surely never to be.

Facebook too – I have friends on there that are my friends because we used to (or I used to) play games through Facebook. Now that I don’t, I do wonder why the hell I don’t just purge them. I have other “friends” on there that I’ve never met who have become “friends” via other means (they might be friends of friends that I have at Hay Festival, for example.) Again, I sometimes query why they are there, taking up space on my timeline. But I don’t want to be the first to cut them off! Stupid, eh? But, although they aren’t really my friends, I don’t want them to feel hurt – unless they really piss me off, of course. Then there are “friends” who I’ve never met and know little about but who I have some sort of interaction with. I can class them as “real” friends in that we do interact, of course. Whether they would be real friends in real life is another matter – and I simply don’t know the answer to that – I’ve never met them and don’t know enough about them.

Of course, when V “defriended” me on Facebook a few years ago I was both surprised and a bit disappointed. But not so as you’d know. After all, we’d split up in real life and, to be honest, he was right in one way. Still, it’s a shame.

But I really can’t lose sleep over someone who defriends me nor unfollows me. it’s up to them. They have their reasons. I have a real-life friend who I follow who doesn’t follow me on Twitter. Should I get upset or be offended?

Well, no, I don’t think so. Firstly, it’s not like my tweets are so fantastic. Secondly, whether she follows me on Twitter or not doesn’t actually change the way I feel about her and doesn’t make her a horrible person. In fact, she is one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever met in my life – and whether she follows me or no doesn’t change that.

The thing I DO know is that a “friend” on Facebook or Twitter is not really a “friend” but more of an acquaintance – like someone you know at work. I really can’t take it all too seriously.

But, people do. People get upset and rant and rave. People follow me on Twitter and then unfollow me if I don’t follow back. Well, like Facebook friends, it isn’t the quantity but the quality that counts in my book. If people have interesting timelines/profiles, I follow them. If not, well, I don’t. It’s really as simple as that.

But it is a little like a Nursery School – or it can be. People take offence at something someone says and it blows up out of all proportion. Someone defriends or unfollows someone else and that someone else feels hurt and “excluded”.

But, it’s not real. It’s over the Internet. A true “friend” relationship takes time to develop – over months and years with ups and downs along the way. Physically being in front of someone smooths those ups and downs as you can see, sometimes, the real person. On the Internet, all you have are words and words don’t show feelings and, worse, can be downright lies.

We’ve a long way to go before we are out of the Nursery School that is Social Media. We have (and it has) a lot of growing up to do – made worse by the fact that in this Nursery School, most people are adult and so have already “grown up” and have their fixed ideas on what is right and what is wrong.

So, perhaps, we’ll never grow up!

A post about moving

Sorry for not writing a post for ages but I’ve been a bit busy. Again.

Friday was Valentine’s Day and, as usual, I got F some white tulips. We hadn’t booked anywhere to have a meal but thought we would try Porca Vacca again as, according to F, the “old” people are back there. And they were and the menu was back to something like it was before and it was great (and seemed a little less expensive than before).

Of course, it was full but after about 10 minutes wait a table was free. A lovely meal and a lovely evening.

Friday, during the day, F had been to see a house. And by this I mean a real “house” with two stories and a garden. It was next to or in the middle of an old factory. Obviously, they were converting some, or all, of it to become residential.

It was beautiful inside, judging by the pictures and F confirmed that it was fabulous. There were just two problems: a) it was right by the motorway ring that surrounds Milan – which is raised and so there would be the hum of traffic day and night and b) there really isn’t any public transport to speak of.

Then, for Saturday morning, he had arranged a viewing of a flat near mine which had a garden. The particulars suggested it was quite big. We went to see. It was beautifully done but the size was large because they had included a large “room” that was under the terrace. This “room” was, almost, a basement but could not have been used as a real room. The terrace was fantastic and there were steps down to a large garden which was excellent – walled and quite private. But, the flat itself was just too small.

Then, Sunday morning, he went off to London for the London Fashion Week show and I was quite grateful, in a way, for a chance to spend Sunday doing whatever I wanted. In fact, Dino had been a little ill overnight so there was cleaning up, cleaning him, brushing them both, doing some shopping and making some soup.

Although I did watch one and half films as well. And went out to eat with friends in the evening.

And then he came back last night. And the three of us were very pleased to see him :-)

I was going to go to bed early but a) he didn’t arrive until about 10 and b) he had something to tell me.

So, in the end we stayed for about an hour in the kitchen, talking about his news. There’s a very slight possibility that he could move to London. It was an, erm, interesting discussion. He said his English would have to be better and asked for me to help. Also to help with a letter and a CV. Of course, I would. I have to stress the “slight possibility” here. We judged that it was a “very slight” possibility but you have to consider that anything could happen.

Of course, many things were going through my mind. Not least the fact that I’m transferring my pension out of the UK and what would it mean if I went back? Well, that’s something to look at. Plus, there would be the problem of a job for me which, at my age, is not guaranteed. Plus, there’s the dogs to consider but his mind had already moved on that one to a house with a garden.

And, so, I’ve realised that most of this post has been about moving (or potential moving).

And, yet, none of this is certain.

The case of the mysterious open window.

It’s raining.


It feels like it’s been raining since before Christmas. That’s not true, of course. It just feels like it.

So, at about 7.10 this morning I get in my car. I dump my bag and brolly on the seat beside me and start the car. I need to get out of this space so I look over to the mirror on the passenger side and notice that the passenger door is all wet.

There is no glass in the window! My first thought is that some bar steward has smashed the window.

Of course, it’s 7.10. I struggle to think in any logical way at this hour. My mind takes time to work everything out. There’s something odd.

Still, I’m annoyed that someone has smashed the window. Why? There’s nothing in here to take!

Then, I see that there’s no broken glass.

The window isn’t smashed. In fact, I wind up the window using the switch on my side.

“Strange?” I think. Why the hell was the window down? I drive and, to be honest, I’m a bit flustered. And a bit relieved. How long has the window been down? Is there something wrong with the car? How come nobody noticed? How come the alarm didn’t go off?

I keep thinking about the window and how it must have come down on it’s own, after I was parked.

I’ve heard of the “electrics” playing up on cars in the past and I’m dreading the thought that I shall have to go back to the garage. I know these things are never easy to fix and, sometimes, never get fixed.


The heating is on because, after all the rain overnight that got in the car, the inside has to dry out.

Double bugger!

I am about half an hour away from home when it suddenly hits me.

The window didn’t come down by itself. As it was raining last night, in order to get into the car parking space, I wound the window down so I could see through the mirror properly and then, as it was a tight space, didn’t use the mirror but turned slightly to see out of the back window.

Obviously, after parking, I completely forgot to wind the window back up! Doh!

Still, I was lucky someone else didn’t try to get into the car or try to take anything out! I am grateful that I live in a “nice” part of town.

But, at least the mystery is solved.

Going slightly mad?

It’s February.

It’s the first Monday in February.

It’s raining.

It’s probably going to rain for most of this week.

OK, so these are contributory factors and those of you who’ve read my blog for some time will know I’ve written similar posts in the past – but I feel terrible.

No, I’m not ill (as far as I know). I just feel crap. And down. And, quite a lot frightened.

All, for no reason that I can discern. The reasons above are not really good enough to bring on this feeling of panic and fear. So, there is no reason. I mean to say, I had a nice weekend – we had a nice weekend. We did the usual things (which wasn’t much, really). I watched La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) which was beautifully shot but, I felt, lacking in real story. I’m not sure why it’s won the awards for best film – especially when you compare it to something like The Hunt. I also watched Blue Jasmine which, in spite of the fact that I am NOT a fan of Woody Allen films (except The Purple Rose of Cairo), I really enjoyed.

I even brushed the dogs! And we went out last night with friends, which was nice.

Obviously, I’ve only had about 6 hours sleep, so that doesn’t help but, still, why this feeling?

I feel like there’s about to be a huge disaster in my life. But I don’t really think that, I only feel it – so it has no basis on fact.

But my stomach is churning away. I feel a bit shaky.

I’m concentrating on doing things but everything is just a bit of an effort.

OK, so I forgot one thing – something F said last night in front of our friends that made me feel a little uncomfortable – in that it was another thing that may make living together difficult. But, again, this is not enough reason. Although if I extrapolate what he says then that throws into doubt the long-term future a bit. But only a bit. And, anyway, as I’ve mentioned before now, I have to arrive at that future which is not guaranteed.

I wish this nonsensical feeling would go away.

But, I wonder, do other people get this? Is it just me or, sometimes, do you wake up with a feeling of dread and fear for no good reason?

It makes me wonder if I’m slightly mad.

And, just in case, I leave you with this:

Queen – I’m going slightly mad