Strange Days – Halloween and The Day Of The Dead

The weather got cold this week. Sunday night, to be precise. Obviously, it’s not in minus figures yet (°C, Gail) but, still, those of you who’ve been reading long enough will know that I absolutely abhor the cold. And, as for every year, the heating at work was not switched on until we had suffered a number of days of freezing in the office.

But, it is the end of October, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

And, today is Halloween. Obviously, I’m quite old now, so my memories of Halloween are being at home, doing some apple bobbing, maybe making some toffee apples but that’s it. No Trick or Treat stuff (that’s American trash (sorry, Gail)), no elaborate costumes. Instead, it was only a few days from November 5th, or Bonfire Night, as we called it. 1st November was really nothing special. Not even a holiday. We just didn’t celebrate it in the UK.

And now that I live in Italy, although Halloween is getting quite a big deal now, here, it’s November 1st that’s THE DAY. To be precise, The Day Of The Dead.

I’ve always been in Milan and it means a holiday to me. A day off work (except, this year it’s on a Saturday). However, with the special Aunt dying, tonight we’re off to Carrara and, tomorrow – well, I’m not sure what will happen. I’m guessing, a trip to the cemetery and I know we’re supposed to be going out for a pizza with the cousin in the evening.

It will be interesting. As FfI said to me this morning when we spoke, They don’t have a party for the wake but they do this (whatever this may be.)

I’ll let you know ……


We’ve now eaten a few times in the kitchen.

F made soup. And, one time, pasta. I like eating in the kitchen. It’s warm (from doing the cooking) and light and very comfortable. I think, even if he says he hates cooking, that he secretly quite likes it. Possibly, also because I am appreciative. V used to like cooking for the same reason.

However, the “big” test came on Saturday night. We had our first dinner in the new house. We ate, of course, in the dining room. First there were drinks in the living room and then we moved to the dining room to eat. F did soup, I did fish cakes with spinach and roast potatoes and then a chocolate cake.

And lots of wine.

It was lovely and the food seemed to go down quite well.

But, for certain, F had far too much to drink and, overnight, was ill. I know it wasn’t the food since we had the same thing and I was fine. He also blamed the drink. Still, it gave me time to clear up the next morning a bit, which he liked.

So, our first dinner was a success and it was certainly very comfortable with the space to do it properly.

However, there is something that I’ve noticed which is quite strange, for me. In the past, I would always do stuff I had done before. I did things that I had practiced until I “got them right”. Now, I always want to try something new. So, the fish cakes were new, the chocolate cake was new and I cooked spinach for the first time ever!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m confident (because whilst doing these things I always worry that everything will turn out terribly) or, as I think it is, the thrill of doing something for the first time – with the fact that it could be a complete disaster (but rarely is).

20 years ago I would never have been so “reckless”. Now I seem to actually look for things that I’ve never done to see how they turn out!

F, bless him, compliments me to others, saying what a wonderful cook I am. Anyway, he certainly seemed to like the chocolate cake which was a little like chocolate fudge cake – like eating pure dark chocolate in cake form. I was (am, because there is still half of it left) very pleased with it.

So, that’s it. First dinner done. Now we have a lot more to do to repay all the dinners we’ve had at other people’s places. And, then, of course, the house-warming party in December. Maybe it’s the sharing of food with friends, the “breaking of bread”, but our flat seems almost officially inaugurated now.

We entertain, properly, for the first time.

He says he hates doing it and, yet, I suspect he secretly quite likes it.

He calls me. I am surprised to see he’s calling me. I check first, thinking that maybe my telephone called him (it does that these days, randomly calls him – it reminds me, daily, that I will NEVER have another Blackberry phone, piece of trash that it is) since it was only a few minutes ago that we were talking face-to-face, in the flat, him having just arrived home!

But, no, it’s not my phone calling him, he is really calling me. Perhaps, I think, he’s stepped outside for something and forgotten his keys? The door automatically locks.

“An is coming in a minute. Can you let her in, please?” he asks me.

“Where are you?” I am confused.

“I’m in the shower.”

It makes me laugh. But, even if he had shouted loudly, I wouldn’t have heard him. That’s the really nice thing about this flat.

An comes. She explains that she has come because she is on her way home for work and fancied a drink.

I assume that means they are going out but, as I have someone coming in a moment, I offer her a glass of red wine from a partly finished bottle that I had opened the other day. She accepts and sits down. I don’t offer to take her coat or anything as they will be going out.

My “someone” arrives. Luckily, F appears from the bathroom.

Me and my “someone” go to my room. Almost an hour and a half later, I can hear they’re still there and not out as I expected. Indeed, I need to just ask F something and so I go to find them. They are in the kitchen having soup. The soup that F made the day before.

When my “someone” leaves, I join them in the kitchen and get offered some soup. It’s leek and potato soup with grated Parmesan cheese and fried bacon bits on top. He is so proud of it. And rightly so, it is lovely.

He explains that An DID ask him to go for a drink but, as it is so cold and as she has no kitchen in her new flat, he suggested drink and soup at ours. It’s nice sitting at our new kitchen table with a friend. It’s very comfortable and easy. I can’t truly express how lovely it is to be entertaining friend(s) in the setting with home made soup and wine in our flat. And, more so because it is unexpected. No elaborate planning and work. Just simple and easy. I can see he is happy about it too. And about what he has cooked. Which is, in any case, really tasty – and I like the bacon bits on top.

The heating is turned on (slightly) and the kitchen is warm and inviting.

It’s exactly how it should be, the whole thing. Even better that, now, I can do my thing and he can entertain and I can join them when I’ve finished. All really perfect. Long may that continue.

Noises are not good.

He presses into my back but he can’t settle.

Two or three times, he turns around, each time, pushing himself into my back. Trying to get closer still.

Eventually, he decides it’s not enough and he steps over me and tries, again to settle.

This time between us. Having something on both sides must be better, I suppose.

I realise that something is wrong. There are two possibilities. One is that he is ill. The other, that he is frightened. I wake myself up, enough so I can tell the difference. There are noises. Bangings, from time to time. It’s the wind. The tail end of the hurricane must have reached us. He is so frightened. He gradually moves up between us until he is almost sitting on the pillows. Then lying on the pillows. Then up again, sitting but anxious. Panting because he’s hot but there’s no way he’s going to move from this place of safety.

I hear a banging from, what I think may be the bathroom. I get up. I close the bedroom door which shuts out (a bit) the noises of things being hurled around the courtyards below. I go to the bathroom and see that the window I left open is banging shut from time to time. The wind is strong and very gusty.

I go to my studio and shut the windows there too. This, effectively, closes the back of the flat.

Back to bed and I have to move him to get back into bed. But he is not, just NOT going to be moved far. After getting into bed he starts inching up again towards the pillows at the next sound.

F is awake too now. Piero cannot settle and, I’m sure, would prefer to be under the covers with us protecting him. F says we should shut all the windows. He says he’s worried about the stuff on the balcony from the kitchen. We keep the rubbish bins out there (he doesn’t like them in the flat – the smell, you know?) As well as a ton of other things. I go and shut the lounge and dining room windows first. I go to open the closed shutter in the kitchen but he is there first. He always complains that it is too heavy to open so prefers it open. I close it in the evening as I go and switch on the coffee in the early morning and don’t want other people to see me before I’m fully dressed. I go to take over from him but, as usual, he won’t let me help. I shrug my shoulders and walk away. It’s one o’clock in the morning. I don’t even have words to say. He opens it and the door and checks the balcony but leaves everything out there and just closes the door.

I go to close the shutters. He says to leave them open. I try to explain that I don’t like them open until I’m dressed. He says that no one will notice which is probably true. But I’m funny like that. But I can’t be bothered to argue. I get the clothes I will now need to get up and put on before I go and switch the coffee machine on. I am pissed off. Royally pissed off but I say nothing.

We both get back into bed, sliding in next to Piero. Piero can still hear bangs and clunks from outside and he just won’t settle. I consider that, if I can’t get to sleep, I’ll get up, have a cigarette and some milk and read some of my book (Gone Girl, btw – I want to read it before I watch the film) but I try to crush those thoughts.

He gets up again and tries to call Piero but Piero ain’t budging. He goes into the kitchen, opens the door and brings everything inside, closes the door and then the shutters. He does, kind of, listen to me but only grudgingly and with bad grace. It doesn’t matter. I know he has done this by the noises from the kitchen not because I saw him do it.

He comes back to bed. Piero doesn’t move but accepts his strokes and affection. After a while, I go to sleep.

The alarm goes off. I feel like I’ve slept for about 5 minutes. It’s going to be a crap day. And it’s still very, very windy. But the sky is clear, which is something and, although it’s colder, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Later, by message, he tells me that he’s going to leave a window open. I say no because Piero will still be frightened. Even with them closed, he’ll be frightened but, hopefully, less so. Tonight he’ll be as attached as a limpet, I’m sure.

The adolescents have taken over the Internet

It seems as if we’ve lost the art of “discussion.”

Words like misogyny, troll, anti-Semitic, sexist are banded around, it seems, for every occasion that there is some disagreement.

The latest I saw was for something called #gamergate. And, on that point, how come, after Watergate, does everything have to have “gate” tagged on? They aren’t the same thing, you know?

It seems (and please mind that I said “seems”) as if it all started when some unhappy person spouted off about their former partner and their breakup but has developed into something else. I choose my words well. I did not say “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” because, actually, that’s not important (although it seems to have become so.)

So, this person called their former partner a liar and accused them of having several affairs.

This is very sad. Made more so by the decision to publish the details online, in a blog post. This was, apparently, to “make people aware” of what their partner was really like. So that others would be able to decide whether to trust them or not. But it strikes me as more of a “washing your dirty laundry in public” and it certainly didn’t make this person look good.

The partner was a “big shot” in the the world of computer games, having developed at least one themselves. Apparently, to get good reviews, this person slept with a journalist (who, I have read, didn’t actually do a review of the game!)

This partner also, it would seem, somehow managed to scupper some other thing, set up in direct competition to the partner’s own business.

So, there we have it. A person (the partner) is, apparently, a) a shitty person to have a relationship with (according to their ex-partner) and b) runs a business; trying to get favourable press and destroy the competition. That’s all it was or, rather, all it started out as.

The problem is that the original post is not a happy post. It reminds me of something one does when one is 20. A relationship breaks up and one side is more hurt than the other (which is normal as it’s rare that both sides “decide” to split) and being more hurt, they want to make the partner hurt too. It’s a normal reaction. But, unfortunately, adding a post to the Internet is a little like whispering it to everyone in the world. It becomes “public property” and, at that moment, because it’s the written word, a little like Chinese whispers, it takes on a life of its own.

It morphs into something different.

And, from what I’ve read, what could have been a discussion on how the gaming industry (let’s not forget that this is BIG business, now, not some nice little community of like-minded people) works and how it should work and what’s wrong with it, it developed into a fight between two camps and, at worst, an attack on women which it never started out to be. It started as an attack on one person who happened to be a woman but could have equally been a man.

So, what started as a rather sad individual trying to get some retribution for the break up, ended as something completely different – a fight between people with the minds of adolescents.

I mean, “death threats”? “Attacks on women”? It’s not normal, fair-minded people who do that, surely? And, yet, hidden behind the anonymity that IS the Internet, it seems we can ignore “discussion” and go straight to hate-filled rhetoric.

Unseasonable weather; the sorting of many things; illogical obsessions.

Well, let’s do the weather first. 29°C! That’s what my car said on Friday afternoon! That’s Friday halfway through October. Incredible!

And we’ve been having some lovely weather although the mornings are a little cool and sometimes there’s a dampness in the air.

Anyway, back to Friday. That is, Friday 17th. I went to get the rugs, which had been cleaned. This was going to be the weekend of finishing (well, almost) the flat. I picked up the rugs and, whilst I was paying, some other customer mentioned that it was Friday 17th. Which is like Friday 13th in the UK and nobody had mentioned it at work and, so, I didn’t remember – until that point. I said that, for the English, it’s Friday 13th so today I’m English but on Friday 13th, I live in Italy – either way, they’re OK. It got a laugh, anyway – or, maybe, that was my bad Italian?

Marco Felegname had been round to fix the cupboards and the rest of the lamps.

Saturday morning, we went to get the kitchen table, donated by a friend/colleague of F’s. It’s an IKEA table, white and has a kind of 50s look. Perfect. After we got it back I went for a haircut and tried to find something to send BM for her birthday. I got one stupid thing and then, as I couldn’t find anything really suitable, ordered a book, online, when I got home. The book was The Humans by Matt Haig.

By the time I got home, I felt like crap. The onset of ‘flu. So I said I was sorry but I just had to go to bed for a bit. I felt so tired, all my bones ached and I felt “‘fluey”. I dozed, on and off, for a couple of hours. After that I felt considerably better. Not really well, but better.

In the meantime, the rugs were down and the table set up. Also, a few more pictures had been hung. Things were moving apace. Almost everything had been moved from the kitchen worktops into the cupboards. Not what I wanted but I’m not arguing about it. It makes him happy and it’s not like I use everything every day (or, even every week!)

The next day was more “organising”. I put up another set of drawers for my studio; he moved the towels and sheets from the cupboards in the bedroom to a new one in the hall.

“Can I move my books, yet?” (into the cupboards in the bedroom that were now free) I asked.
“No, I need to clean behind the cupboards first,” he replied.

Later, I start moving my books. “Don’t you want to clean the cupboard first?” he asks. “I thought you did it,” I respond. “No, I cleaned behind them,” he said. “I’m sorry my English is no good,” he continues, irritated that I would put the books away without cleaning. Whenever he says about his English being no good, I know he is pissed. I refrain from saying that, if the cupboards WERE dirty, then so were the sheets and towels that we just moved and that, surely, they all needed washing, then? He’s just manically obsessed by this cleaning everything lark. I say I will clean the cupboards (even if there is absolutely no need) but, because of his stroppiness, he starts cleaning. I walk out of the room – after all, there’s no point in arguing. Not only doesn’t he listen but the whole thing makes no logical sense.

Later, he hangs all my pictures. There are four that he groups together. “I don’t really like these,” he tells me. “That’s OK. Don’t put them up – or put them up in my studio,” I don’t really mind. Eventually, they are put up in the hall. It seems he doesn’t really hate them. Or he puts them up because they’re mine. I don’t know. From time to time he says, “Do you like this (picture here)?” “Yes,” I say. “Or is it better here?” “Either looks good to me,” I reply. Which is true. He’s the one with the eye for detail, not me. In the end, everything is put up.

By the end of the day, we are really almost finished. Even the wire connecting my computer to the television in the lounge is fitted (although not tested yet.) Now there’s only the curtains and the sofa bed to get. Maybe, also, a new filing cabinet. And some new (more) rugs? This was F’s idea because he realises the dogs suffer a bit with the slippery floors.

And then we’re done.

But he’s already very happy, so that’s good. The party will be in December. Apparently.

There was discussion on Saturday evening. “Shall we do an aperitivo or an after-dinner party?” I had always assumed an aperitivo. “But will people come to after-dinner?” I ask. It seems that they will although I am not convinced. Anyway, by the end of the discussion, it seems aperitivo has won the day – although it’s not really fixed. Later, over dinner with friends, he says there’ll be about 40 people coming. even I am surprised. We shall see.

A little rant about stupid people.

Some people are, to be honest, quite stupid.

Oh, I know, I shouldn’t really be so hard on them, I suppose. But, you know, when me sending an email to you regarding the changes in flat details, prompts you to send a reply to me just a few days ago, then WTF are you doing texting me now to ask for those very details?

And then there’s the guy who used to be a student of mine. He was “in love” with this other guy. I say “in love” because he was straight and so was the other guy (well, probably) but he just adored him for his “skill” with, to use a very, very old British phrase, “pulling the birds”. Many times he would tell me stories and he was awestruck with this guy.

Well, I’ve now met him and, in fact, he’s the guy I mentioned above with the text.

And I’ve seen this guy a few times now. I’m not so awestruck. If only the old student would get in touch, I could now tell him how, exactly, he does this magic. Of course, it’s not magic at all. He just asks questions. All. The. Time!

Of course, he’s not trying to “pull” me but, I guess, he doesn’t know how to NOT do it and, so, I suspect, he does it with everyone. He asks questions and keeps eye contact. I can imagine to a young girl, this can be quite flattering, especially in Italy where most people tend to be all me, me, ME. And so, his friend, my ex-student, was impressed but couldn’t work out quite how to do it. Which makes him quite stupid too, really.

And then there’s the dilemma I told you about. I decided to ask T if it was OK to ask R for “permission” to ask Z for permission to give out the email address. He decided to trawl through his old email account to find the email address himself (which, if it’s that old, won’t work anyway because Z has changed his email address) to enable him to just say “hello”. Not that I believe he wanted to just say “hello”. Anyway, he said he would do this and so I didn’t need to speak to R, which is what I thought he’d say. So now I’m off the hook. Which is better. But, T was quite stupid to think that I would just give out details as I never do that without asking first. Or, maybe, he thought I was stupid?

Anyway, I just thought I’d have a little rant about stupid people. Forgive me.

A Dilemma

So, for the first time since I’ve been working here, I have a dilemma.

This might be a little difficult to explain but I’ll give it a try.

The players involved are R, the boss of the company; her daughter, D; her ex-son-in-law, T. a guy who works as an agent for us, Z; M, a colleague and, of course, me.

I am “connected” to T via LinkedIn. I met him once, when he was still with D, at the Paris Air Show. Since then they had a baby and are now separated, if not, divorced. From what I’ve heard, all is not well between D and T and, so, also between R and T.

T sent me a message requesting the email address of Z. Now, Z is one of the sneakiest, slimiest, most nasty pieces of work you could possible hope to ever meet. He must be about 70 and is an agent for us in a Far Off Country (on which I have done at least one post). He is constantly contacting R behind my back, even if I am the Project Manager and he should come through me. Anyway, I also make sure R knows everything that’s going on so that she never gets some sneaky email about something she doesn’t already know about. It’s the only way to “beat” the miserable bastard.

Normally, of course, in a standard situation, I would email Z and ask him if it’s OK to give the email address to T. In this case, though, if he emails R, she will know and she may not be happy about me giving the email address to T (or, for that matter, that I have any contact with T). Of course, I don’t know, for certain, that she has a real problem with T but I’ve been told so by someone who works here, M, who is still friends with T.

So, emailing Z to ask if it’s OK is not really on. At the same time, telling R about it first, may also not be the best thing, especially if she says “no”. I mean to say, it might cause further problems between R and T and I don’t want to really be the cause of that, do I? However, I can’t really ignore the request either.

And, of course, I don’t really know T. If I were to give him the email address without telling anyone else, will he then, at a later date, spill the beans on me? I mean, Z may be aware of the problems and, as soon as T gets in touch with him, he could go straight to R.

So, as I’m writing this, this is my plan. I speak to M and see what he knows about the situation between R and T. Then email T to tell him what I will do. If he is OK with it, then I tell R and ask if it’s OK. If so, then I email Z and ask for permission to pass on the email address and then, providing I get the OK, pass the email address on to T. A bit convoluted, eh?

But any other way is a bit risky, I think. Don’t you?

Reading, the last of summer and more eating!

It’s the first weekend in October.

I’m in a T-shirt and shorts. In the sun, it’s really too hot for even a T-shirt. Out of the sun, a T-shirt is necessary. A jacket or jumper is necessary in the evenings and the mornings. Summer is making a last gasp, but failing to assert itself.

I sit in the garden. F had gone to his cousin first thing this morning. I took the dogs for a walk. F kept texting me.

“Where are you?” “Are you going to the beach?”

I tell him where I am and I say “I don’t know” to the beach question. Several times.

When I arrive back at the house I decide not to go to the beach. Although I don’t tell him, it’s because he isn’t there, with me. I will do what I normally do, given half a chance. Avoid people. Avoid making an effort. I tell him that I’ve decided not to go to the beach because all I would do is read my books and, by staying in the garden, I get the sun, read my books and stay with the dogs for a bit. That last one would excuse me, I know.

I finish Dolan Morgan’s excellent collection of short stories – That’s When The Knives Come Down. Some great stories. Almost a kind of Science Fiction/Fantasy (but don’t let that put you off because they weren’t really – it’s just the only way I could tag them) with some weird ideas. I would say the general theme was nothing or, rather, a lack of something/someone which is not quite the same as nothing.

Then I started Gone Girl. The film is out now and the book was a best seller. So I bought it, when we were in the UK, because the films sounds great. I’ve read a few chapters. It said, on the cover, that you “wouldn’t be able to put it down” which I can’t (so far) quite agree with.

So, for about 4 hours, in the garden, moving from time to time to stay in the sun. Very relaxing and nice. Of course, there was nothing really in the house to eat. Eventually, I found some Pringles – which had already been opened sometime in the summer, when we were down, and were also past their sell-by date. They were quite soft and horrible.

Of course, I could have gone to some café or something. But I couldn’t be bothered. Eventually, F asked if I wanted to come with them to the cemetery and then go for a walk with them. I said “yes” but, afterwards, I wish I’d said “no”. But that was just the lazy me talking.

We went to the cemetery (see previous post) and then on to a small village on the sea. It was a nice afternoon.

Then we went to his Mum and Dad’s for dinner. He told them that I hadn’t eaten anything which meant they could try and force me to eat, to their great delight. But I could eat quite a lot, actually, and we left there, both full.

Then we went to a friend of F’s birthday party where I met a guy who was Australian (born and brought up there until he was about 11)/Italian. He was an artist (painter) and played in a band. Interesting guy. He paints (now) clothes with people missing, in oils, in black and white (and shades of grey, of course.) His band plays electronic music, in costumes with two ballerinas and the singer changes his costume a number of times. I couldn’t help think about the Smurfs, or Frank. They haven’t had any hits, which didn’t really surprise me. Anyway, it was quite a nice evening all round.

And, for me, quite relaxing.