Hang on in there!

Hang on in there!

I am exhausted, to be honest. The holiday, in a little more than 4 weeks, can’t come soon enough. It seems I never stop.

Take last night. I rush home from work, park the car, walk to the supermarket, momentarily forgetting that it’s about 34°C and therefore walking down the street with full sun on my back rather than a slightly longer way, mostly in the shade. I buy the minimum of stuff and walk back home down the shady streets.

Arriving home, as soon as I step through the door, having stopped “doing something”, I do my Niagara Falls impression. I put away the milk and stuff, change out of my suit (I had customers at work), put on shorts and a T-shirt. Within a second my T-shirt is soaked but there’s not really much I can do. I need to take the dogs out as I need to be back by 7.

I take them out. We do a slightly shorter walk in the heat. It’s too hot for them. I get home and Niagara starts again. Half an hour later, I change my T-shirt as the Falls have stopped (thank God) but the T-shirt is completely soaked. I could manage it better if I didn’t have to rush – but I have no choice but to rush.

After my appointment, I get to read the document that someone has sent me to look at. It seems serious. I text to say that we need to talk. She asks if now is possible and I agree (I shall be busy tomorrow and I want to pack for the weekend) so we meet at Bar Blanco, the nearest bar to my house. I tell her how bad it could be but that I’ve managed to find someone who may be able to help. It’s going to cost her anyway. She is grateful, for sure, but we end up having a drink which means I’m late taking the dogs out and so late to bed.

With less that 5 hours sleep, I feel like shit. But, I feel I have to help her and cannot just walk away.

But, it costs. The cost being my tiredness.

I don’t really need the appointment tonight but it has to be. Then pack. Then the dogs. Then bed – early, I really hope. I don’t want to drive all the way down there and then spend the whole of the weekend asleep! Not that I CAN sleep on the beach, but “sleepy mode”, if I’m tired, can mean a subdued and exhausting weekend.

But, F is being “made” to take 2 weeks holiday. That’s fair enough, since for over a month he has been home for about 4 days in total. He, too, is exhausted. He is with his mother for this time, with us going down for this weekend and next.

But it’s hard for me too. I have to do everything and there’s no time and the heat means I can’t take my time – although I much prefer this heat to the cold and, if I could just take things more slowly, I’d be fine!

But, only just over a week to go before he’s back home and we can share the dog walking. And just over 4 weeks an I shall be with Best Mate AND on holiday.

Hang on in there, I tell myself.

A long weekend with an old, old friend

What I really need now is a weekend off.

I am, in fact, completely fucking exhausted. The last four days have been just constant activity. And, for almost all of it, F has not been here. PaC is not good so he was down there for a couple of days and then he had to go to London for work. So, it was just me and I feel like I just want to relax now.

But, back to the long weekend, (since Lola is so insistent). It was exhausting because D wanted to walk everywhere. I do understand but, obviously, for me, living here means that I don’t need to see everything so the metro is fine.

But we walked. And walked. And bloody walked. Then, whilst they were relaxing in their hotel I would be out walking the dogs, of course. And then walking them in the morning and in the evening. I actually feel like I don’t want to walk for a week.

Or eat for a week when it comes to it. From my usual one meal a day to breakfast, lunch AND dinner. I am stuffed.

So, there it is. After around 30 years of not seeing each other, D was just the same. A little older, true, but really just the same. And I’d forgotten how much he talks. We would be in a restaurant and we (J, his partner and I) would have finished eating whilst he had been talking, so his food was cold (I imagine). And still he would talk. And talk.

And, what did we do besides walk and talk (or listen) and eat?

Well, not much as it happens. They didn’t want to go inside anywhere. I did take them to Villa Necchi – but I think I only got away with that because it poured with rain on the Saturday. And, so, being inside was a good thing. They said they wanted to soak up being in Italy, so I did my best to give them that.

On the first day, we walked to the centre of the city (via the flamingos off Corso Venezia), past the Duomo, into the Galleria to the front of La Scala then up to Brera where we had lunch. Then around Brera and on to the the Castle and then back down to the Duomo and back to their hotel via Via Della Spiga and the park. That evening we went to Ristoranti Al Grigliaro where we ate fish (this is because J really likes fish and so does F and F was only going to be with us for that night for certain.)

The next day, F was at work. I met them at their hotel which was close to our flat and we strolled through Porta Nuova (the brand new area of Milan), stopping for ice-cream (it was J’s first time in Italy), walking down Corso Como (we stopped in to take a look round Corso Como 10 a famous designer shop/café/restaurant which also has a bookshop and an exhibition space) and then on to Eataly where we had lunch. From there, down Corso Garibaldi and back to the centre and straight back to Corso Buenos Aires. That evening we went to eat at the Cantinetta Belle Donne so that F could get home easily if it got late.

The next morning, early, F left for London. I had some errands to do so I ended up at their hotel about mid-day. We went to La Belle Aurore for a simple lunch and then to Villa Necchi Campiglio (the villa that featured in the film I Am Love). The nice thing was that, this time, we had the tour with a guide who spoke English (rather than a recorded tape) and, as there were only 6 of us, we saw a couple of rooms that I hadn’t seen before (the bigger groups don’t get to see them). In addition, they had finished the work on the basement so we got to see the Butler’s pantry and what had originally been the changing rooms for the swimming pool and the snooker room. That evening, in spite of the persistent rain, we went down to Navigli (we took a tram) and had an aperitivo (with mountains of “free” food) and then a pizza at Fabbrica – they loved the pizzas.

By the next morning, it had almost stopped raining. By 10.30 we were on our way to via Paolo Sarpi, the “Chinatown” of Milan for the New Year’s celebrations. We got there early and walked about. We couldn’t get in to any of the Chinese restaurants but went to a Sardinian place off piazza Gramsci (Ristorante Giulia) and came out just before the parade started.

As J comes from Taiwan, he was able to explain the procession – the Emperor, the concubines, the courtiers, the common people, the wedding party with the bride and groom, etc. So it made it much more interesting.

Then, even before the thing was over, we were back on the bus to their hotel as they had a plane to catch and I had a lesson.

It was really nice to see D again, after all these years. And J, his partner was lovely. There weren’t any “difficult” moments and it was all very easy (if exhausting) and I think they enjoyed it very much. It was unfortunate that F didn’t get to spend more time with them. But I think they did get a flavour of Italy, which was important.

And in a few weeks, my friend, J, is coming for a few days and a trip to La Scala, so that will be nice.

Perk yourself up!

I remember, probably some 10 or 11 years ago (Gillie, if you’re still “popping” by, you’ll remember it too), going down to a friend’s house for her birthday party (mid-July).

The plan was to have a barbecue “party” in her newly done garden.

Sounds good, right?

Well, yes, except this was in England. We travelled down for the weekend. It was going to be great. A summer barbecue, no driving so plenty of drinking and relaxing in the warmth of summer.

But, as I said, this was England. Summer can be lovely but you never know exactly when that “summer” will show its face. And when it does, it’s not always for long. A couple of weeks is pretty good. More than that is strange/climate change/immigrants/European directives or something.

Anyway, we travelled down on the Friday night. And it was cold. and by cold, I mean something like 12°C.

Obviously, the barbecue was modified and the food was cooked in the house.

The reason I mention this is because of last night. But let’s go back to a couple of nights ago, when F and I were heading off to our usual bar. I remarked to F that it was “more like September.” You know, the days can be as hot as hell but the evenings can be a bit chilly and the mornings more so.

He agreed. “It’s not normal,” was his reply.

Today, after the chilly start this morning, just after lunch, I went out for a cigarette and, standing in the sun, it was almost too hot. I say almost – but not really for me. Probably less than 30°. But, last night. Last night was a different thing. In the middle of the night, F awoke saying he was cold. Indeed, I was cold too and struggling to sleep. He put on layers of clothes and I got up and, out of the wardrobe, got the thin duvet/bed cover. Yes, it was THAT cold.

According to “my” weather forecast, it may have got down to about 16°. In any event, I’ve really had enough of it. One day hot and beautiful sunshine, the next cold and cloudy or long showers. Just the other day, a river in Milan burst its banks and flooded some Northern part of the city!

As I say to all the people who will listen, I didn’t come here to be subjected to an English summer – for that is how it feels.

On the other hand, it’s ideal weather for packing and sorting and moving.

But, on 1st August, we go to Carrara for our holiday. It’d better be perking itself up real soon and at least by the end of July!

Design Week – the parties, the exhibitions, the fun of it all.

The weather is quite nice now. Not really hot but warm and then, in the evening, pleasant – but you need a light jacket or coat.

That was certainly one reason why, when I arrived, the place was heaving. In fact, I’ve never seen it so full.

Obviously, I know a lot of people now so it took us a while to get to a place to grab a drink. At the start, S hung on my coat tails but, after a while she relaxed.

The shop looked great and F had done a really good job although people would “touch” things and move them out of place and that irritates F. There were four stunningly nice chairs onn hooks on the large wall they have and on one of the bottom chairs, F had placed a bird (it was a theme). Some guy who looked like he had come straight from a Harry Potter film set as one of the teachers of the school – long, slightly crazy white hair, beard and glasses – had just reached up to the bird and dislodged it. We watched him as he tried to put it back on the chair. He couldn’t. He laid it on the chair and, with F seething, we watched him look around, trying to work out if someone had noticed. He looked and, almost certainly felt, very guilty.

We eventually got a drink from a roving waiter and picked up food as it came round. S was introduce to everyone that I talked to.

F told her she looked very elegant, as he does to almost all females. So, even today, all I am hearing is F said this; F said that!

Anyway, she loved it. She felt more special, I know. I remember when I used to feel like this all those years ago (before F). Now, I’m just interested in finding really nice people that I can become friends with. Not because I’m looking for friends, you understand, just because it’s nice meeting new people who are intelligent, funny, experienced and, with any luck, have something really interesting about them. Still, all the people that S met were, so she said, very nice. Of course, F was the best and she kept on about his trousers and how I should get some the same which, of course, I won’t, since I don’t really do trousers unless they are part of a suit!

We wandered about and chatted with all these people. Colleagues of F, friends of ours who came, other people that I know that are friends of F’s or his colleagues or used-to-be colleagues. Even our (my) old neighbour came.

At 8, people were still trying to get in and soon after they stopped people because they started to clean up. Si had arrived late and she and I stood outside; waiting for F who was polishing all the glass table and cabinet tops and resetting everything that had been touched and moved, ready for today. S left as she had her daughter to collect. But you could tell that she really wanted to come with us.

Then, we walked down to Via Tortona and a street that ran parallel. There were crowds and crowds of people and, as we commented later, it’s a nicer crowd during Design Week, more relaxed than during Fashion Week. Obviously, there were the people with the strange idea about dress – a little bit quirky or downright weird. But it is more casual, in general.

We met up with F’s best colleagues and visited some places that were open (most were open) including the studio of L’s sister, B who is very, very nice.

Everyone is “wowing” about the designs she does. I’m agreeing but inwardly thinking “Well, this is OK but I wouldn’t have it in my house”. But, of course, you can’t say that.

We did meet a 50-something dancer who has a one-room flat in London, speaks very good English and has just opened a dance studio here in Milan. She might also design jewellery. She might have been quite interesting to get to know but it was late and I was tired and we were about to go to Bar §Basso. I’m sure that I’ll meet her again – if it’s meant to be.

And then a taxi to Bar Basso. Si, who is more like F’s age, seemed genuinely “excited” about the whole thing and the atmosphere at Bar Basso because it was “very International”.

Then we went home.

Also, the people who own the potential new flat are very interested in us taking the flat but want us to come closer to the asking price.

We go this evening to update our offer :-)

Staying with you -v- going out with my friends

He doesn’t say much.

I mean he talks A LOT, but doesn’t say much in the way of “lurve”. No “I love you”s or “I miss you”s or stuff like that.

So, you have to take what you can.

Last night we were out doing some of the Design Week Fringe events and we ended up at Bar Basso with this rather lovely lady, Si. We got our drinks and were standing outside drinking and having a cigarette amongst the crowds and crowds of people, many foreigners who come for Design Week.

F likes to get the cocktails in great big glasses, which they do there and is one of their trademarks. Then there were these people from somewhere “abroad”, staring at our drinks whilst they were drinking the same drinks in very small glasses and chatting amongst themselves about the drinks, probably thinking they were some special drink and, of course, they’re in Milan so everything is exotic.

Anyway, F was saying to Si that he could go out every night with his friends, staying out with them but that he “prefer to stay with Andy”. That’s about as close as I get to an “I love you”.

Later, when we were at home, I said that it was one of the nicest things he had ever said.

He doesn’t take praise well and so the reply was “Well, it’s true”, which I guessed anyway.

Still, it was a lovely and unexpected thing.

Wild all-nighters

As I mentioned in my previous post, Saturday night was the Notte Bianca in Marina di Massa.

Effectively this is an “all-nighter” but rather than a single club, in the whole town. There are stalls (selling trinkets and hand-made stuff (i.e. crap), food and, in the case of the one on Saturday, beer (which, of course, we had to try)).

And what I forgot to mention in the last post was something I thought of whilst we were watching the concert.

The street were FULL! Absolutely packed with families, couples, children and ……. YOUTHS.

And, what struck me was that, in the UK, such a thing would have been a night for DRINKING. And by drinking I mean alcohol and lots of it. So, there would have been young people who, almost certainly, would have had a little (read A LOT) too much to drink – by about 11 p.m., if not before – and would be staggering around, possibly vomiting, possibly lying in the street and probably fighting. The weather was warm and very pleasant.

There were indeed “gangs of youths” – but they were walking around in groups, talking, laughing and, although they had possibly (even probably) been drinking, there was no staggering that I saw, certainly no vomiting or lying in the street and definitely no fighting. Italians don’t tend to drink alcohol until they can hardly stand up. They seem to know when enough is enough. And, even if they do get drunk, their pleasant side seems to come out.

Italy makes me feel safe. I can walk the street of a city (although I’m sure there are areas of any city where walking around could be a little hazardous) and not feel I have to keep an eye out for drunk people who just want to fight.

Maybe, after we left (about 1.30 a.m. – so quite early, I suppose) it got more like a British all-nighter – but I doubt it.

I know that there are stories about kids getting drunk more often. But I don’t really see it much (and I live in an area of Milan with many popular bars for the yoof of Milan). And, certainly, there’s not the aggressiveness between people that there is in the UK (especially when mixed with a bit of alcohol). So, one can enjoy it. If I had kids, I wouldn’t be worried about them being with me at these events. It would be OK. And there are many young children and babies around.

I wonder if this aggressive streak in something in our genes?

Anyway, for me, it’s one of the beautiful things about Italy. Thank goodness it’s too expensive for hordes of Brits to descend upon and create a more dangerous and unpleasant place.

Dino, the vet and taking temperatures.

The exchange went something like this:

“Dino did diarrhoea this morning and there was blood in it. Please take him to the vet”
“If you can’t do it then I will do it”

Hmmmm. The thing is that he is VERY busy right now with the showroom sales starting on Monday. And then, because he will be involved in the showroom sales, he will be even busier.

So this was not a “I can help by taking him for you” – instead, this was a “I will take him if you don’t but I will make you suffer for it because I am far too busy to take time off work to take him”.

I’m not stupid.

Even if his understanding of English is not always so clear, the underlying meaning to this is flashing lights and ringing bells.

I ring the vet. Yes, bring him along but before 5 o’clock.

Which means that I have to leave work early.

Apparently, I have done everything right, so far. His temperature is taken. It is 38.6°C. It should not be higher than 39°C – so he is fine.

He has an injection of antibiotics for the stomach. Red blood, apparently, is common (although I knew that) it’s the black blood you’ve got to be worried about. Starving them (for a day) is perfect for diarrhoea and not to worry too much if it’s still not perfect. It is, after all, exceedingly warm (we’re getting highs of about 34°C at the moment with minimums, overnight of the low 20s.)

So, nothing to worry about.

Of course, I had also been a little bit worried – but not as much as him – so to find out that everything is really OK makes me feel better and I’m not too upset that I took him. It’s nice to know that all is OK.

Anyway, the weather is about to “half break” – i.e. it’s about to get a bit cooler and, maybe, we will have some thunderstorms. It’s likely to be under the 30s for most of next week.

I was advised by the vet that, if I get worried again, I should take his temperature myself. So, as well as some pills recommended by the vet, I go to the chemist later and buy a thermometer.

Later that evening, we go for a drink in Polpetta with An, his friend. I tell him that I have bought a thermometer and that I have written “DOG ONLY” on every surface of the box – to ensure we don’t get it mixed up with ours.

He is very excited. He wants to try to take the temperature. He thinks you just put it in the dogs mouth – this makes me laugh. However, good the dogs are, telling them to close their mouths and wait for a few minutes is very unlikely to work. Especially in this heat where they are panting most of the time.

I explain how their temperature is taken. He still wants to do it. He is quite crazy.

1 Englishman, 1 American and 2 Italians in a pub.

There’s an Englishman, American, two Italians and two dogs, sitting in a bar ………

Sounds like the start of a good joke, doesn’t it?

OK then, let’s continue …..

The humans are talking about this and that, having a few drinks. It’s a pleasant evening, quite warm and, whilst not exactly outside, they are in a semi-covered area, stuck in a corner. It was the only place available. They are sittiing around a small, round table.

They haven’t seen each other for a while and it’s good to chat.

Suddenly, and without warning, there is this awful, retch-inducing smell.

The Englishman, being English, says nothing but pretends that nothing is happening.

The Italians, being ‘out’ say nothing and pretend that nothing is happening.

The American, having lived in Europe long enough, politely says nothing and pretends that nothing is happening.

The dogs, being non-human, say nothing.

The position in the bar means that there is no escape. And, to move would be to ‘know’ and no one wants that, do they?

Two, three or maybe four times this happens.

Each time it seems worse than the last.

Eventually, everyone leaves to go home.


“It was Piero,” says F, as we are walking home. And I agree.

We had brought the dogs with us as our friends wanted to see the puppy, even if he is 5 months old and quite large now.

I mean, you get this problem with oldeer dogs. Occasionally, Dino ‘drops one’. But for such a young puppy – but it’s true and I agree. That night, when they were in separate rooms, it comes again and confirms it’s Piero.

Bloody dog! I haven’t even changed his food!

In any event, it wasn’t a joke at all. But what were we to do?

Bamboo Bar – Armani Hotel

Last night I went out for an aperitivo, to celebrate FfI’s birthday.

She chose to have it at the Armani Hotel, near the centre of Milan.

They’ve taken months and months building this hotel on top of their superstore (although I understand the correct term is now ‘flagship’ store).

It’s plush, of course. And chic, I suppose. And, I expect, expensive.

We are in the bar. Or, maybe it’s the lounge. It has a ‘smoking room’ – which is, actually, a smoking corridor. Still, smoking permitted nonetheless.

Everything is creamy leather. The ceiling is several stories above me. The huge windows have, as their background, the Duomo – all lit up and looking beautiful. It seems like a posh-hotel bar and could, in fact, be anywhere in the world.

I was the first to arrive (after FfI). We sat and chatted. Eventually, just as I was getting a bit fed up with waiting for something to drink and thinking of going to the bar, someone came to take my order. I ordered. There were about 4 serving staff who were anything but rushed off their feet. And one barman, who seemed busy.

After about 20 minutes, FfI’s boyfriend arrived with his son and girlfriend. Then some friends. More drinks were ordered. I was still waiting for my drink.

Then FfI’s daughter arrived with her friend. The drinks arrived. I’d been waiting for about 40 minutes.

Nibbles had been served on several occasions whilst awaiting drinks. They were OK. All nouvelle cuisine and no substance, really.

To be honest, however much it cost, it was a waste of money. Appearance is everything at these places. Poor service is tolerated because, let’s be frank, you’re not really there for the drinks but rather to be seen.

Go, if you’re a fan of Armani. Go somewhere else if you want an enjoyable time and getting your order within about 20 minutes. In fact, go anywhere else.

Elettrauto – Cadore – great food/poor service

He wasn’t happy.

I turned round once but he told me not to call her over. He pursed his mouth in the way that he does when he’s annoyed. He didn’t go in to tell them. The waitress had, after all, laid our table and given us menus about 15 minutes before. It did seem strange that she had not come back to take our order. She came outside several times but, each time, walked away from our table to other tables.

He was getting more and more annoyed.

Eventually, some 20 minutes after we had been given our menus, a waitress appeared.

There then followed some dialogue between him and the waitress. It wasn’t good. He complained about us having to wait so long. She asked why he hadn’t come in to say anything ….. or something like that. Of course, that was the wrong thing to say, especially to him. The correct thing to say could have been – ‘I’m terribly sorry, sir. I wasn’t aware you were here but I shall make sure you get your order quickly’. this would have stopped him dead in his tracks since this sort of response always leaves the person with two possible options: 1. shut up or 2. repeat the things you have said, thereby making yourself look like an incoherent idiot.

He explained afterwards that he was this way because a) he comes here a lot and b) that was not the right way to answer a customer that wasn’t happy.

And he should know. He added, after I had suggested that ‘OK but maybe they were busy’ with the fact that the turnover of staff here is very high. ‘They change every five minutes’, he advised.

He was right. The service was terrible. The shrimp club sandwich that I had was very nice, though. And the fact that we could sit outside was good. And I wore sandals until the late evening. And we’d had such a lovely walk in the park with the dogs. And I’d changed the duvet for the bedspread. And it felt more like May than April.

But back to the late brunch we were having.

I didn’t even realise that Elettrauto in Via Cadore DID brunch. It is conveniently situated almost at the edge of the park I (we) now go to with the dogs and it’s useful to know that they serve food at 4 p.m. – see, I told you it was a late brunch!

It’s not that cheap – two club sandwiches and two beers came to around €35 – but with the weather being so nice, it was perfect. Obviously, the service was dismal but I wasn’t in a hurry.

But, then, this morning I read this article and I got to thinking.

There is absolutely no reason to be rude to waiters, waitresses, shop assistants nor, indeed, anyone else. At the same time, people doing these jobs should have a pride in what they do and want to give the customer good service. I am a different person when I talk to or are with my customer. It doesn’t matter what day I am having, they are the customer and should be treated with courtesy and respect. I always try to exceed their expectations but, at the very least, meet them. If I can’t then I tell them and apologise. Not really so difficult.

So I am always amazed when the service leaves one feeling disappointed. And the service, yesterday, was disappointing, which was a great shame. It won’t stop me going there – but if it happened too often, it would.

As it is, it does seem a great place to go for a Saturday and Sunday after walking the dogs in the park.