Funny week that wasn’t funny.

It has been a funny old week, really.

F came back on Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, I’d got up late and by the time I’d taken the dogs out and had coffee, my appointment was coming, so no time to give the flat a quick clean. I did, however, complete all the washing in between everything else.

After my appointment, I knew that the most important thing was to get the Christmas cards finished. Which I did, expecting F to let me know he was leaving Carrara to come home. He didn’t tell me and arrived as I was almost complete with the Christmas cards. But this meant that I hadn’t cleaned anything.

He ironed whilst I finished the cards. I took the dogs out and he cleaned the floors of the flat “because it won’t have been done in 3 days.” Which, of course, was right however, it is difficult to keep the resentment inside and not to make some remark. After all, it wasn’t like I did nothing over the weekend. In fact, I hardly stopped except from Saturday when I did relax a bit – I was so very tired.

Anyway, I can ignore these comments and move on, which is what I did. I had something to eat and then suggested we watch the film on the TV (connected to the computer) which was fine for two films on Saturday night.

The problem was that it didn’t work. There was no connection. It was disappointing, to say the least. I did a quick look on Google and found out why. The adapter is prone to overheating and, instead of unplugging it completely as I had done previously, after Saturday, I left it plugged in and it had, sure enough, overheated and has probably burnt out. I’ve ordered another. I hope it arrives on Friday.

We went to bed and at some time after I fell asleep I had a very strange dream which, as normal, turned into a nightmare. It was all to do with hospitals and me being unable to escape. Then, later, at 4 a.m., I woke up – wide awake, like it was 8 or 9 in the morning. In spite of doing my best to drift off again, at about 4.30, I got up, frightened that I would wake F.

At 5.45, I retrieved my mobile phone from beside the bed, switched off the alarm (this is important for later in this post) so that it wouldn’t wake F and got up.

I left a little earlier. We had clients in and I needed to do some things before they came. As I’m walking along the road towards my car, I spotted the market setting up, as usual, on a Tuesday and realised that I had completely forgotten about that and my car was parked in the way. All I needed this morning was to have my car towed away!

As luck would have it, my car was still there although they had just started setting up the stall by my car, so 15 minutes later and it would have been gone. But I was relieved, to say the least.

But, it was no good. A lack of sleep was already “killing me.” By the time the customer arrived, I had sunk into a black mood.

Coupled to that, my credit card had maxed out the previous week (remember the tickets for a friend to go to La Scala?) and I needed to get that fixed as a payment had to be made later this week (and more of that later, or in another post.) So, at one point, I left the customer in the hands of Engineering. Fixing (increasing) the limit was not important but, contrary to the information I’d been given by phone the previous week, it would NOT take a couple of hours to upgrade but up to 2 days – which would have been too late! I was a bit pissed off, to be honest, which was not helping with the day I was already having.

But, with nothing to do that was within my power, I could not stay angry. Just a little frustrated. Oh and getting more tired as the day progressed.

That night, I had people coming and no time to sort out real parking so I parked in one the residents’ areas, hoping I wouldn’t get a ticket.

By 10, I was in bed although F was watching a film and so it was quite difficult to get to sleep. I suppose I drifted off about 11.

At 6, exactly, I opened my eyes. And, thank God! I had forgotten to put the alarm back to “on” and it should have gone off 5 minutes before! Having rushed to get out, I found that my gamble with the parking was OK in that I didn’t have a ticket.

I had decided to order a new adapter for the MAC to TV and did that first thing. Wednesday was a little better, even if the meeting with the customer was so, so boring (it’s engineering stuff and absolutely NOT my bag) and I was still very tired. Also, the offices, as usual in the winter, have become cold. So cold that all you can think about is how cold you are.

Now it is almost the end of Thursday. The customers haven’t been here today but are returning in about an hour to stand around and witness something. After yesterday (it being so cold), I am NOT wearing a suit but am wearing warmer things.

I am still tired and exhausted. F will be here this weekend which has it’s good and bad points.

And, as an update to Christmas, the latest thing, according to F is:

He will go down a couple of days before Christmas;
I am to follow on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day morning:
Depending on PaC, I will either stay down a couple/few days or come back almost right away.

I don’t really fancy travelling down there for only a day. But I will, if that’s what he wants. But, of course, it’s still all flexible.

Other things that I have learnt are that some people in the family want a second opinion because they want something (some cure) to be done. Except, I have a feeling that for PaC, no “cure” is desired. But that’s only a feeling, of course. In the end (I know because I asked directly), F didn’t speak to PaC about my coming down. I think (and he hinted as such) he’s going to do this at the last minute – and by that I mean Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. He also bought some x-rays back with him. I found them on the table. I think he is going to show them to someone but we haven’t spoken about it so I don’t really know.

But, the whole thing becomes tiring and if I feel like that, I can only guess what his family feel like! In the end, he’s not going down this weekend. For one reason, PaC would find it too strange. For another, I suspect, he is exhausted with trying to prop up the family, trying to make out that everything is OK, like he does.

Last night he was away, for work, and sent me a picture of a tree. I wonder if he’s still going to decorate the flat? And, if so, I wonder why? If I were him, I wouldn’t do it and yet, maybe, it will help him feel better, more like Christmas?

Lights and decorations are everywhere now but I don’t feel in the least Christmassy. Still, I get F for the whole weekend, which will be lovely. Probably.

Changing Address

“Don’t you have any Italian document?” he asks me.

I hand over a couple of pieces of paper – one is the original codice fiscale document (a little like the National Insurance number in the UK – I only have the document because the card never came) and the health document which I renewed two days ago.

These are, apparently, not really what he wants. He grabs for my passport (which I had given to him and why he asked the original question) and opens it again.

“I need a photocopy,” he states.

“I don’t have a photocopy,” I reply.

“I need a photocopy,” he states again. I feel somewhat exasperated. I suspect this is the end of the whole deal. I am now prepared to walk away and forget the whole thing. Perhaps he can sense this?

Of course, it hadn’t really started that well from the time I got into the room. There were two “ladies” at reception. I say “ladies” when, in fact, they were there to obfuscate.

“I need to change my address,” I say.


Well, to be honest, I really don’t know what to say. The reason “why” is not that clear. It is, really, because, two days ago, when I renewed my health card, I explained that I had never received the card. The “Mrs Bucket”, who was actually very nice (apparently, she had a daughter-in-law whose mother was English and she came from the next town to where I work – so she was coming into Milan to work as I was going out to work!, which she seemed to like.) She had explained that, even though they had a note of my address (both the old and now new) on THEIR computer system, the address the card was sent to was the one on the computer system that held the “living at” address. Being a different system (even though the two systems were connected) meant dealing with a different governmental department in a different building in a completely different part of town.


We are in Italy.

So, back to this morning. I tried to explain that the lady at the Health Department had told me to come here to change my address.

“But, haven’t you changed it at the Council Offices,” she said or questioned (but it seemed more of an order, to be honest.)

“No,” was my simple answer. Did she not understand that I was British and stubborn and absolutely, completely, utterly fed up with this Italian need to do this bureaucracy stuff?

She did some sort of huge sigh, without actually sighing. He whole body seemed to let out air as if she were a tyre with a huge puncture – but just for a moment before it all seemed to come back in again. She gave me a form and a ticket.

I guessed that I needed to fill in the form, which I did. I waited for my number to come up. I went to the cubicle number 7, as instructed. I smiled at the guy.


I waited for a few seconds for him to speak; to offer me a chair; something.


I went to sit down.

“Tell me,” he said. That’s not as bad as it seems as this is often the “greeting” in Italy. It’s not as rude as it seems. They don’t really DO a “Good morning, how can I help you?” with a smile so broad they look like they’re auditioning to be one of those synchronised swimmers.

I gave him my filled in form saying that I needed to change my address because the lady at the Health Office had told me I needed to do this.

He asked me for documentation and that’s when I gave him my passport and that’s where we came in at the beginning.

I have to be honest here – when I had filled in the form, I had, besides asking for them to change the address, also ticked the box for a replacement Health Card AND for a replacement Codice Fiscale Card. This was three things on one form and, as I was filling it in, I had a thought of coming across some lady clerk who was going to put red pen through two of the options and tell me that I needed a different form for each request.

He didn’t do this.

But, back to where we were. He had asked for a photocopy and I said i didn’t have one. He had asked again and I was on the verge of saying “Forget it!” and walking out.

“You can get a photocopy done just outside. I’ll wait here whilst you do it.” Suddenly, he seemed much nicer.

“It’s OK, you can leave your stuff here,” he suggests. He means, of course, the bits of paper.

I go to the photocopier. Some little old lady is photocopying a lot of things.

“Do you need just one,” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply.

She lets me interrupt her. I ask her for help as I do it as I know she will like it. She helps me. While we’re waiting for the photocopy to be done she asks if I’m German. I reply that I’m not but that I am English.

“Strange,” she says, “you sound as if you have a German accent.” I’m not sure what to say to this. I tell her that, no, I am properly English. I think her very much for letting me interrupt her photocopying to get my one copy.

I go back to the cubicle where the man has been typing stuff in to the computer. I give him the photocopy.

“It won’t work,” he says, alluding to the computer system. I don’t really understand what he’s talking about. But it seems he can’t order a replacement Codice Fiscale Card.

Then he works it out. He has to change my address first. Once he’s done that, everything is fine and everything can be done.

After all, it wasn’t too stressful. And I am more used to just saying “no” to them these days and finding that there is a way round it, after all!

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!

Officialdom in Italy – erm, this is NOT how it works!

You may remember I was dreading going to get some official documentation thing done.

Well, today was the day.

The office opened at 8.30. Being Italy, I knew my best chance to spend as little time as possible, the first visit, was to get there about 8 a.m.

I failed. It wasn’t entirely my fault. Last night we were at some friends for dinner and F did his back in during the day so, when we got home about 12.30, I had to take the dogs out.

I set the alarm for 7 a.m., knowing I would have to take the dogs out. An hour would be enough, wouldn’t it? Even as I was setting the alarm at about 1 a.m. I knew that it wouldn’t be. F said that he would get up with me as he wanted to go and have his injection at 8 as he was going to Greece for the week.

The alarm went off. It was so nice being in bed that I set it to snooze for 5 minutes. Of course, as it was only an hour to get my act together, even 5 minutes was a no-no – and I knew that, it was just that I really, really didn’t want to get up.

I got up when it went off again. I didn’t wash or anything but took the dogs out straight away. We got back about 20 to 8 (it had to be a shorter walk this morning). Of course, F only actually got up the moment I got back. And he made for the bathroom. So, that was that. I made coffee. Just before 8 he came out of the bathroom but I was having coffee and, much like every morning, my head takes a while to catch up with being awake. In fact, I always say that I’m at my best from about 11 a.m.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that I can stay up late. Normally, I would say, my best period finishes about 2 p.m. – after that it’s all downhill to bed!

Anyway, back to the story. I did try to rush but it was like swimming through treacle. I made it out of the house before 8.30, which I thought was quite an achievement, to be honest.

I realised, just before I left the house, that I had not taken a copy of my passport or my codice fiscale sheet (I never got the card). I went to the tobacconists under my flat and got copies.

I knew I wouldn’t have everything that was needed but I’d done my best.

I catch the bus but get off too early. I walk to the place and arrive there about 9 something. I go to the office which is on the 4th floor. I really do hate doing this thing in Italy. I dread it. I thought, on the way there about turning back but steeled myself to continue. After all, this had to be done sooner or later.

I get the lift to the 4th floor and go into the waiting room. I see the machine to get a ticket. The ticket says B52. They are currently calling out B21! Shit, I think, I really should have been here earlier.

I sit down and wait. And wait. However, by about 10, we’re nearing my number. All these people only seem to spend a few minutes in the offices. I see many of them clutching folders with documentation. All my documentation is contained in my passport which is in my pocket. My heart sinks with every second of waiting. I toy with the idea of NOT doing this. After all, I maybe don’t have the need of it any more?

But, having already arranged to be late for work to get it, I have to continue.

My number comes up – it’s about 10.15.

I go into Office number 8. The guy is sat at a desk behind a computer. I explain what I want. He asks if this is my first time. I say yes. He asks if I’m resident. I explain that no, I’m not really. He asks where I am from. I tell him.

He needs my codice fiscale. I give him the original paper. He asks if I have a payslip. As luck would have it, in my bag is the last payslip from October. I tell him I have a letter from my employers but he says a payslip is better.

I hand it over. He doesn’t look at my passport.

He types some stuff in on the computer. Whilst he’s doing that, I tell him who I have selected because she is close to my flat. He nods and agrees. He continues typing.

He finishes typing and says, in English, “OK, that’s finished.”

He can see I look shocked. I say, “Finished in what way? What happens now? And my card?”

He prints out two pieces of paper. He says that one of the pieces of paper is the proof that I am “on the system” and until I receive the card I can use this. The other piece of paper gives the time she will be available.

He is smiling. He can still see I am in shock. I explain that this sort of thing has simply NEVER happened in Italy. I explain that, normally, I expect to go two or three times. He assures me that this is all done. He asks to take a copy of the codice fiscale document. I explain I have a copy. He would also need to take a copy of my passport. I say I have one of those too! This thing, of them making copies, has never happened before in Italy – for anything! Normally you must bring your own copies. He takes a copy of my payslip.

And that was that. 15 minutes! I am still in shock. I still can’t quite believe it. This, I would probably not even expect in the UK. This is stunning. This is wonderful. Oh, were it all like this in Italy.

So, anyway, now I am officially able to obtain the free health service. I have a doctor. I can go to hospital. I can be treated – and almost all for free. Like in the UK.

So, my first taste of the Health Service here is pleasant and comes across as efficient.

I like it :-)