In which I meet people that I’ve [still] never met.

We’re sitting around a large kitchen table, as you do.

We’re chatting about the good old days of Mott [the Hoople]. Ian [Hunter] is talking about what fun it was and I’m agreeing and we’re talking about the great music they made and the great concerts they did.

The only one round the table who seems a really miserable bastard is Mick [Ralphs]. “It wasn’t that much fun”, he says.

I don’t know why he’s so miserable about it. Then, I start to wonder why I’m there at all, like I’m sitting round the table with old mates talking about “the good old days”, since I’ve never met them before now.

It just seems slightly odd. It “feels” right but my logical side says that it’s not right.

And, of course, my logical side is right.

I struggle to wake up enough to realise it’s all a dream.

I have never met these guys, even if they were my favourite group, growing up, and even if I’ve seen them a number of times. I can’t even imagine why I had this dream.

I don’t think Mick is a miserable bastard and I’m sure he wouldn’t say that, so doubly strange. And, yet, there they were, in my dream with us chatting about how good it all was like it was all quite normal and with Mick being grumpy like he was having a bad day!

Silence. Deafening.

I would be incorrect and telling you untruths if I were to say that I am unhappy. Neither am I happy. I am, in fact, indifferent.

Last night, I arrived home just before 6 p.m. and, after finding a parking place in spite of the lack of spaces – which seemed strange because normally, at this time of year, it becomes easier to find a place, I went straight to the supermarket to get a few things. Then, home to take the dogs out.

There was a distinct lack of people out and about. Less cars driving around too. I knew it would be so. The normally bustling, vibrant city, even around my area which is more residential, seemed to be in Sunday mode. There were a lot of people at one bar – in fact, it was so full that there were people crowded round the door. But they were there, standing in silence.

OK, so it was early. And early on.

We continue the walk. Another bar, normally very popular, is almost empty. A couple of small groups of women are sitting outside, enjoying their drinks and chatting. By this time, there are so few cars on the road.

I get back home, immediately switch my computer to watch Wimbledon and make a cup of tea.

Apart from the sound of the tennis players, the ball hitting the rackets, the umpires and the commentators, there is silence around.

It is a deafening silence. My kitchen, where I am sat, is at the back of the flat so, although I don’t hear so much, there is always the “drone” of the motor vehicles passing by on the other side of the building. Tonight there is almost nothing.

And, given the situation, one would expect some noise. Except, of course, for one outcome.

I did hear a few “cazzo”s but only a few.

Other than that – silence.

Eventually, I had to go and have a look so, in a break in the play, I went to Twitter. Later still, I looked at the Guardian and it was confirmed. Italy, like England, have left the World Cup. The future week becomes free of football. Not that it made much difference since I would have only been watching the tennis but, still, no football to get in the way.

The silence, all evening, was truly deafening.

Trip To The Post Office – why Italy can still shock me.

It’s kind of nice – in a “OMG! I Can’t believe it!” way.

That, after all these years here, Italy is still able to shock me.

One could call it stupid, of course, but that would be unkind. One could call it jobsworth, which it certainly is. In so many ways, Italy is so flexible – you can smoke in some restaurants/bars, even if it’s illegal; if you want something done, you CAN get it done, somehow. But, in certain situations, no amount of stonewalling really works (unless you have several hours to spare, which I didn’t) and so I gave up on it. Or, rather, gave in. But, let me tell you the story of my …… Trip To The Post Office!

I arrive in the car park. I see there were few cars so I was hopeful that there would also be a small queue. I entered the Post Office and saw there was NO queue. I think this is possibly the first time ever that there has been no queue. In any post office in Italy!

However, all the counter staff were occupied.

The postal section (I was sending a parcel) only had one position open. The customer who was there, after a few minutes, was called over to another counter. I could see that the “assistant” (although it should be “notassistant”) was obviously busy doing some general paperwork.

So I waited.

Eventually, some assistant from the other end of the counters, called “next!” I showed I was sending a package (by holding the package up) and she wagged her finger at me and shook her head to say “no” and signaled for the woman behind me to come.

I’m a patient guy. I wait. Surely, I think, the notassistant who is actually sitting on the postal counter will stop what she is doing and serve me? But no. The lady finishes at the other end again, she calls “next!” Again, it was still “no” for me.

I was, by now, a little frustrated. I vowed that, the next time a counter was free, I would go up anyway. And not move until they served me.

A counter a couple up became free. This time I was accepted. In my bad Italian, I explain that I want to send the small package to England and I want it to get there in a couple of days and, preferably get a signature. She goes to ask the miserable notassistant. After a few minutes, she calls me down to the notassistant. I know her (I go to this post office quite a lot and there are two of them that do the post; both older ladies, one of them loves me and the other, this one, I think hates everyone and the whole world, probably for even existing!) and everything is just so much trouble.

“It’ll cost €30,” she says, expecting me to change my mind about sending it.

“That’s OK,” I say. She regards me, much as I assume Paddington Bear would regard me if I told him something he didn’t like. There was an unsaid, “Are you sure?”

But I was sure.

She next looked at the address. She read it out loud, as best she could.

“There’s no number,” she states, “There has to be a number.”

It takes me a moment to understand what she is saying. She’s right! There is no number. There’s the house name, the road name, the village name, the county name, the post code and the country. There just isn’t a number for the house. Here, in Italy, every house has a number, even if, sometimes, there is no name of the road. This is in addition to the post code. In the UK, of course, whereas there is often a number, in the small villages or if your house is really big and important, there isn’t always a number. In this case, there is no number. I try to explain.

“There is no number.” I’m not really sure what else I can say.

“It has to have a number otherwise we can’t send it.”

“But, there is no number for this house,” I add. “In England, the post office know that it has no number. It’s a small village and some houses don’t have a number.”

“Well, it has to have a number.” She is adamant. She goes to give me back the parcel.

At a different time, in a different place, I would have argued the toss. I would have stood my ground. I would have insisted. I was, quite frankly, shocked at the stupidity of her.

I was also a little angry. Not really angry as much as frustrated. How does this bloody country work? I mean how is it possible to get anything done? I want to kill her. This, in particular, is the most downright, shockingly stupid thing I’ve ever come across. I do realise that if I was sending it within Italy, I would need a number. But I am sending this to the UK. “Don’t you get it?”

I want to say that. But, of course, I don’t.

“But,” I add, “how can I give it a number if there is no number?”

The woman to whom I had first gone, pipes up, “It’s not the post office in England,” she explains, “It’s the post office here. If there is no number, they will return it.” This is helpful. Although, quite honestly, it is simply wrong.

I want to say, “At Christmas time, I sent these people a Christmas Card, using this same address, and my friends got it OK. So you are wrong.” However, siamo in Italia (we are in Italy) and I know that arguing with these people does not work whether they are right or wrong. These are the people who can “decide” whether something happens or not. If I don’t accept what they say, they just won’t do it. And there’s no one I can go to to fix this. I have to either go to another post office (and hope for the best) or send it another way. Or, I have to, somehow, solve this problem so that they will send it.

“OK,” I say, a little exasperated but trying hard not to show it in case they decide that accepting it at all is too much trouble. “If I write “1”, is that OK?”

I get several minutes of explanation of why they need a number which, to be honest, I don’t listen to. I repeat, “I’ll put a one.”

“It won’t go until tomorrow,” I am told. Whilst this is not the first time I’ve heard these attempts to dissuade me from using the postal service, they seem to be being persistent today!

“It’s OK,” I reply.

“Where is the telephone number?” Oh for fucks sake! I don’t know if I have it. My phone battery has nearly died. Can I get a number, assuming I have one, before it dies? If I don’t have their number, can I send a Facebook message AND get an answer before my phone dies?

“We must have a telephone number,” she adds, “because they will phone before delivery.”

I almost despair. I know (and, maybe they know), that no one will phone. They will try and deliver and, if no one is home, they’ll either leave it at a neighbour’s or take it back to the depot and make my friends collect it. In this case, if I can’t get the number (if I have it) from my phone, I’ll just put something down. After all, they won’t know if it’s right or not.

My phone lives. My contacts also list a phone number! I am in luck.

I fill in the slip of paper. It has my address, my phone number, their address (with a “1” against the street name), their phone number and two of my signatures.

“What’s inside?” she asks.

“A box,” I reply. She looks at me as if I am stupid. I smile. No, that’s not true. I grin. Yes, it seems stupid to have a box within a box – but it has the distinct advantage of being the truth. Inside the inner box is some foam. Rather special foam, I admit, but foam nonetheless. It’s like having a rather largish box for a watch, with the blocks of foam that you have inside ring/jewellery boxes. It’s true! Although I can see, as you read this, you, too, think it sounds stupid. I can’t tell you more just in case my friends read this. It’s a surprise, you see.

I try to explain. I think they get it. She says, “You write it in English, in this space.” I do.

She then “processes” the slip. This takes some time. Eventually, she tells me it’s €30.50 which, in fact, is only €1.50 less than the cost of the present! Still, it will be worth it for, I think, it is a most unusual present.

I can, I am told, track it on the Internet. I already know this, but allow her her moment of satisfaction at my special surprised expression.

I pay the money and take away my copy of the receipt.

My trip to the post office is done. I thank her (even if I think she really doesn’t deserve it) and thank the first woman on the way out.

And I’m out.

“Breathe!” I tell myself. “Just breathe, and remember that this is SO worth the effort.”

Now we shall see if that is true. In a few days or whenever the last delivery is made :-)

In the meantime, I have survived the Trip To The Post Office!

Update: the present was a box which contained a foam-like substance. the idea was to imprint your baby’s foot into the foam and it would remain forever (so you had to be careful doing it). I don’t actually know if they did do it but the idea was the thing any way!

Doing things; Food

So, F was working all weekend. Saturday he got home about 9 to 9.30 and last night about 10. It’s Milan Fashion Week (since Saturday – and anyway, only until about Wednesday, so not even a full week!) and Showroom Sales start, selling the collections for Spring/Summer 2015. The Showroom must be perfect because the Big Boss is coming over today – the start of the sales.

Anyway, this was fine for me. I sorted through all the boxes in the bedroom, clearing out more junk. I started on the kitchen – washing everything, chucking stuff that I don’t need, etc.

I had two people come to see the flat so they can do a quote for removals. I have another couple this week. So, by next week, I should be able to decide and, maybe, book it.

The three-piece suite and the dining chairs were picked up this morning to be recovered (probably being returned in September.)

The flat already looks kinda empty.

F is going to start putting all the IKEA furniture together later this week, he says, once the Showroom Sales have started. Then, of course, he will put all his stuff away and, probably, take all my DVDs and my (few) CDs and put them away too.

I’m almost excited, especially as I know the three-piece suite will be recovered with wonderfully-coloured covers :-)

As F wasn’t there, this weekend I ate some stuff from the freezer. Some pork chops (since F doesn’t really eat meat like that, I have to save it for the times he’s not there) and some peas with some fried slices of potato. Nothing special but, since I don’t eat that stuff so much any more, it was rather scrumptious, to be honest.

On Saturday, for lunch, I also had some bacon sarnies (smoked bacon from Hay and fresh, crusty bread that I get via our cook at work.) I had had a hankering for them for a few days. Buttered bread with tomato sauce so that, as you eat them, liquid butter mixed with tomato sauce spills over your fingers. Mmmmm. They were also rather scrumptious.

Which reminds me: I don’t know (if you’re British I guess you couldn’t escape it) if you saw anything about the thing in the last week or so, in the media, about not washing chicken. The splashes, apparently, contain lots of bugs/bacteria. Of course, I’ve always washed chicken and, so far, nothing bad has ever happened. I don’t know that I’d feel right not washing it.

Still, there was a very funny piece – the Lazy Person Guide to Food Hygiene.

What made it funnier was a) rubbing an apple on your trousers before eating it – something we used to do all the time! and b) putting leftover sauces and soups in the freezer until you move house. I definitely do that one – better still is not to label them so you have no idea what they are (were.)

Anyway, enjoy the article – and let me know if there are any you’ll admit to in public ;-)

p.s. my new hankering for next weekend, when F will be in Paris, is pasta with chopped ham and peas – so I guess I’ll be eating that :-D :-P


First load of new stuff has been delivered.

It’s from IKEA, so needs to be assembled. F will assemble it and then get the carpenter to fix things to the wall. He also bought the iron strips/bars which will mean everything is off the floor (easier to clean, don’t you see?)

He will be working nearly all of this weekend but I suspect that, from Sunday, I shall hardly see him whilst he puts everything together and then puts all his stuff away.

Then, probably, he’ll start taking my stuff (CDs, DVDs, etc.) and putting those away. And I shan’t be able to stop him.

And, then, maybe, he’ll be happy. Not that he’s unhappy now – just that he’ll be really, really happy when this has been done.

Tomorrow, his wardrobe comes (and they’ll also assemble it), so all his clothes can go away.

The kitchen is another thing. The gas pipe needs an extension and the gas boiler must be connected. But, first we need a certificate from the people who installed it. But he’s handling that.

The three-piece suite is being picked up on Monday to have the recovering done.

in any case, by the end of July, we’ll be in. Maybe without gas and a fully functioning kitchen – but in anyway.

Apparently, it will all be perfect before we go away on holiday! He says.

He thinks!

A pile of junk.

It’s there. Kind of hanging there, in the background. Always there. Making doing other things difficult.

It’s better than it was but, still there. Still like this big, black cloud of crap.

I want rid of it but without repercussions.

It’s not that the task, in itself, is difficult. Well, it IS difficult but, if I really wanted, I could do it in minutes. Instead I wonder what to leave in and what to leave out. We don’t want too much in there, do we?

And, of course, opening cans of worms comes to mind.

And, then there’s the trust element.

So, it’s preying on my mind, making me uncomfortable and unsettled although I don’t let that show, of course.

I’ve done it. But it all sits there waiting. Waiting for me to go “Oh fuck it” or something like that.

I dip in from time to time, refining the contents. Removing something. Adding something. Starting again.

It’s junk, I know, but important junk. But junk nonetheless.

Worthless knick-knacks of a life that has been. But no future is there. Not really. It’s just ties to a past life really and I tend not to like ties. In the past I would cut those ties; remove them. Now, I am mostly indifferent, tending to live my life for the now, for tomorrow.

But, still, it sits there, waiting for me to do something. I know it’s there, even if I can’t see it.

Something will happen and I will either trash it all or accept it as it is.

We shall see.

Order is important ……. ish

“How should we put the DVDs?”

This is not a stupid question. I’ve probably got about 400 and he has at least a couple of hundred. First, they will take up some space and secondly, if we are to find a film, we need to be able to get it without searching for hours!

“I don’t mind,” I say.

“You’ve got yours in alphabetical order,” he adds, “whilst mine are in a different order.”

“I have all the Romy ones together, for example. Or I have them in order of the director.”

“But I don’t really know the directors, that’s why mine are in alphabetical order,” I say.

When I want a film, I tend to go for the title of the film. I rarely remember the director’s name (with a few exceptions). “Perhaps we could have them in alphabetical order but then put the ones for Romy under “R”,” I suggest.

He pulls a bit of a face.

“But the others I have are in a different order,” he counters.

I laugh. After all, to be honest, we don’t watch DVDs so often these days – but maybe we will when we have a TV in the lounge?

“OK, you do it how you want,” laughing as I say this.

After all, this is how it will be, whatever I think!

The “Mafia” and the Catholic Church – two institutions that “run” Italy

There’s a story about squatters living in one of the churches in Rome that the Pope uses.

They are, in fact, making some sort of demonstration about the housing crisis in Rome.

However, I was struck by the following:

“We are an alarm call, a heads-up that the housing system in Rome is collapsing,” said Luca Bonucci, 38, a former security guard who lost his home when his employer failed to pay him for a year.

The thing that struck me was not that the housing system in Rome is collapsing, nor that this guy was a former security guard that is now unemployed, nor that he “lost” his home.

It is that his employer failed to pay him for a year!

This is something that seems quite common here, in Italy.

In the UK, I only heard about this happening (for an extended period of time) for one person. Here, I’ve heard about it often. It seems a common thing.

Of course, this has all to do with cashflow management – and how good or bad the managers are at managing it.

It’s not helped by the fact that Italian government and council agencies still find it acceptable to pay companies late – more than 90 days – and yet those same agencies demand money immediately or, even, (from what I understand) in the case of VAT (IVA, here), up front! But it’s not only government and council agencies.

I can’t imagine continuing to work somewhere when I wasn’t paid – for a whole year!

It’s not even as if wages here are so huge. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before now, I still can’t quite understand how this country functions with wages set so low.

As usual, the solution to this (and most problems here), is a change in thinking. A change that seems unlikely to come any time soon.

I remember one of my “contracts” here when I was teaching. I did some work that was funded through the EU, providing cut-price lessons to companies in Italy. The pay for me was quite high (compared to most English teaching “jobs”) and the funding actually came through charity organisations. Since I did a number of these contracts, I had different contracts with different charity agencies.

All of them were really good – except one. The one that was terrible was the “Catholic” one. For this one, I really had to fight for my money. The others paid me almost as soon as the courses were complete. This one kept me hanging on for a couple of months. Eventually, I went to their headquarters. I was told that the person who could sign the cheque was not there right now. I said I would wait. They told me that it was not a good idea to wait as they didn’t know when he would come in but they would make sure that he signed the cheque as soon as he came in and I should come back the next day.

I went back the next day. Apparently, for one reason or another, he hadn’t signed the cheque. And he wasn’t there right now but they would get it done today and I could come back tomorrow. I explained that that wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t trekking all the way across town again.

I said I would wait.

They didn’t want that but they thought that I would give up and go after an hour or so. They had no idea who they were dealing with. I waited for an hour and a half to two hours.

Suddenly I was called to the desk as somehow, miraculously, they had the cheque! This was strange, as no one had entered the building since I had arrived, apart from people going to the desk and then leaving!!!! I thanked them but told them that I would never do work for them again. I was shocked at the time as I never expected a Catholic charity to be lying bastards.

Catholic charities, it seems, are the worst for paying their debts! So it seems justified (in a justice sense) that the Catholic Church should suffer the homeless people who may have even been made homeless by their failure to pay the company for which poor Luca worked. Even if it wasn’t a Catholic charity directly, you can be certain they were involved somewhere down the line. They are, after all, as prolific here as the “Mafia”. And, to be honest, I would put them both in the same category of organisation.

The full link to the article is here

Enough already.

The sudden flurry of activity was shocking.

I wrote a couple of posts that will, undoubtedly, stay in draft. One a letter to someone who commented who I haven’t seen for a long, long time and one to the commenter who, apparently, doesn’t care what I think and, yet, reads the blog.

However, enough is enough. The proof of duplicity stands as it is. Previous actions indeed speak so much louder than words. I have no wish to further engage with such a person.

However, the blog is what it is – my blog full of my personal thoughts and feelings. So I will continue to write what I want, when I want and, I’m sure, from time to time, that person will look. Oh well, this is the Internet and the 21st century and this is the way it is.

I still wonder why? There was obviously one or more conversations – probably both before and after. But I wonder why on earth they would bother with that? Occasionally, I write snippets from my past, not to discuss my family but more to help to explain me and why I’m the way I am. Why I’m so pro some things and anti other things. I don’t honestly know if they give any insights to anyone else. Possibly not as you get the results of my musings rather than the thought processes.

So, I still wonder why? I have no connection to the UK aside from my friends there. There is no real reason to go back. Nor do I particularly desire it. I have, more or less, managed to exclude my family from my daily life, only occasionally turning to the Internet to learn something when something happens that makes me think of them.

Of course, I always wondered if, at some time in the future, someone not directly connected to my time there would try and “discover” me. But, in my view, that was unlikely.

Whilst the second commenter made me laugh with her standard double-standard thinking, I don’t feel the need to continue the dialogue with her. My own stupidity was to trust her in the first place. Ah, well, you live and learn, as they say. I don’t want or need such negativity or duplicity in my life, thanks all the same.

So, now, after that little “episode”, enough already.

I wonder why? For at least a few minutes.

I’ll bet you’ve done it, haven’t you?

I’m sure that the majority of people have. I certainly have. Also, given my situation, I’ve searched for my siblings and my parents. It’s how I know that my father is dead and why I know certain things about the female members of my family.

It’s why I wonder, now, if there wasn’t some sort of “set up” being done in the years before. I’m almost certain there was. The one I thought was trustworthy, most probably wasn’t and, in fact, I now think she could have been the cause of the end of that chapter.

But, I hold no grudge. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t be here now, in this place and with this person and having such a wonderful life. So, instead, I’m grateful. Doesn’t make her a nice person though – but then, how could I ever have thought she was? And, from a comment she made some time ago on Twitter, I now realise that she was jealous as well!

Well, the money you have now won’t make that better, dear. You were always striving for something that you would never, ever have. Love of yourself.

Anyway, I digress.

I have a program to log the visitors to this site. I can tell when Lola (have you seen her new blog? – look on the right) and Gail visit. I recognise my regular visitors (like the one from Ireland and Germany) and it’s “nice” to see them visit. And, of course, it means certain friends can “keep up to date” on major happenings in my life (*waves to N in San Francisco*).

I get many people who are looking for the address of Primark in Milan, or looking for details of Felicity Lowde (maybe for her connection with Rachel North) or Serge Bodulovic (who’s just a scum-bag). Even if, now, Google usually encrypts the search words used, you can tell, more or less, what they’ve been looking for by the first page they land on.

But, yesterday, I had a visitor who was on the site for several hours. The person came from the Bristol area. They spent a lot of time on the site (several hours). Among the terms they used to search whilst they were on this site were “mother”, “father”, “family”, “brother” and “sister”. From the first page they got to, they were almost certainly searching for me.

Of course, I say little about my blood relatives. I haven’t seen them for many, many years. Not all of them are bad people (I like to believe) but. for certain, some of them are. It’s better that I don’t get involved. But I wondered who it was, specifically, who was looking and why? Why now, after all these years?

Of course, I shall never know. They’re hardly likely to make any comment and, for them too, it’s probably better to leave things lie.

So, for a few moments, it made me wonder. And then I move on and back to living my life now for which I am eternally grateful.

Update: and now I’m pretty sure I know who it was. Still looking for that loving feeling of yourself, eh? LOL