Pubs and beer and food and Indian and rain and cold and wind – but mainly pubs , beer and food

A proper English country pub

I mentioned before about my friend from school, H, who’s wife died a little while ago.

Unfortunately, I could only go to the funeral for the day but I made the effort and went over on our long holiday weekend – the one just gone, to spend some time with him.

I tried to let him do most of the talking. I thought it was the least I could do. We are blokes, after all, and we don’t do the opening up thing very easily – at least, face-to-face. But I think he did a bit and I really hope it helped him. But his story is not my story to write. I found the UK to be nicer than I had thought it would be. Admittedly, although not so far from London, this was the middle of the countryside and reminded me a lot of Herefordshire.

The first night we went out, with his daughter and son, to The Fox Inn in Rudgewick. It was a typical old English pub serving food. The food was wonderful (Steak and Ale Pie with mashed potato) and, of course, there was the beer. A very nice start to the trip.

The next day we we to his daughter’s new house. It was a lovely old house which she had started doing up. We went for lunch at The Crown Inn in Chiddingfold. Again, a typical English village pub with an open fire. Of course, I don’t eat so much and, in the end we had (H & I) some sharing nibbles. And some beer! God, I miss the English beer. Food was good and the place was very nice.

In the afternoon we did some shopping (for me) in Cranleigh, apparently the biggest village in England (or, maybe the UK?). It was very pretty. We were back there in the evening to go to The Curry Inn – not an inn at all but rather a good quality Indian restaurant. H had asked me if it was OK to go out with some of his friends and gave me a choice of Thai or Indian – which. of course, meant Indian. And boy, the curry I had was the best curry I’ve ever had. It was incredibly busy which, of course, means it must be good but the downside to that was we did have to wait an incredibly long time for the food. But, for me, the wait was worth it! Of course, it was Indian beer but you can’t have everything!

The next day it was raining all bloody day. However, H took me on a trip around and to his “baby”, some all-weather football ground (he’s very sporty) that he’d managed to get built. Then a bit more shopping and then, at my request, we went for a proper Sunday Lunch at The Chequers Inn in a tiny village called Rowhook. Again, a typical old English pub with an open fire (the wood smoke permeated the whole place and was so lovely to smell – I miss that atmosphere and that smell) and the food was fantastic. I had roast pork with gravy and asked for a Yorkshire pudding. And, of course, beer. The waiter/manager was Italian! Of course. I would have liked to understand why he was still there but the place was too busy.

Just before that we went shopping and I got my last bits and bobs.

So a weekend of listening, great food and great beer and meeting some very nice people.

So that’s what I got from it but, really, it was for him, so I really hope he got something from it too! And, maybe because I was with him, maybe because of the English pubs and the Indian restaurant – I didn’t hate being back in the UK – apart from the cold and the wet.

Who knows?

“What the fuck?”

That’s what I wanted to say. But I didn’t. Everything has to be thought through before I say anything.

I think I actually said, “Really?”

It seems that I am right in as much that “everybody” doesn’t know, except that the “everybody” that doesn’t know is only the person that this really affects! It seems that the doctor has spoken to the family but not the person at the centre of all this (PaC.) Everyone is acting perfectly normally whilst PaC is in the room. PaC doesn’t know anything.

To say I was shocked is an understatement and I still can’t quite get my head round this. I asked that, should I ever be in this position, please, please, please tell me. Apart from getting used to the idea of it all, I would have things to do!

But I’m still in shock.

PaC doesn’t want to go anywhere at Christmas and doesn’t want anyone coming over (to eat). F said he would prefer me not to go down, for this reason. So, now I’m not sure what will happen. I’ve said I’ll do whatever he wants.

PaC is not eating. Has not been eating much since summer. Is thinner. I wonder, if, in fact, PaC will even be here for Christmas? I don’t say this. But now I’m certain we’re talking weeks or, maybe, a couple of months. You can’t go on forever without eating.

F is stoic, as he normally is. Almost too English. He will go down again this weekend and speak to PaC about the possibility that I might come down. Then he’ll make a decision based on this (as to whether I go down or not) so, I may go down or I may be on my own. I’m not sure I will want to go and “celebrate” with any one else, tbh. It just doesn’t seem right.

When he tells me that PaC is the only person who doesn’t “know”, I tell him that there’s no way this would happen in England. But now I wonder if that is really the case? And, is it always the case in Italy? I’ve never been this close to the situation to know. I’ve just always assumed ……

And, can I just say that, the whole thing is scaring me. The knowing and not knowing thing is scaring me more. I don’t know why. I feel uneasy, unsettled. It’s not a good time. I even heard F telling someone on the phone that 2014 has turned out to be a pretty shit year.

My heart is full of tears for him and his family.

And the rest of me is as scared as hell, for some reason I just can’t fathom.

Cemeteries and churchyards

“No, they just have simple crosses,” he explains.

Even though I spend the next few minutes trying to dispel this myth, it is to no avail.

“No, we have graves like these,” I say, continuing, “but most are not quite so elaborate.” I’m talking about “in the UK”, of course. But he’s seen the films. He knows how they are.

“Yes, they are more simple.” He tells his cousin we have simple crosses.

Eventually, I give up. It’s not really important anyway.

The cemetery is huge. I mean really huge. Stretching out in all directions. I think: you could get lost in here. But, as with all churchyards and cemeteries, it has a kind of peace and tranquility that I like.

I still find Italian cemeteries strange. Italians (a lot of them) live in flats. When they die, a lot of them seem to be interred (rather than buried) in a flat equivalent. Blocks of tombs, stacked up to 4 high with, maybe, another 4 on top. They look similar to blocks of flats. These blocks surround, what I would call, normal graves – as in, plots where people are buried in the ground.

Most burials/interments have a “headstone” on which there is a photograph. I ask F if it’s normal to have a photograph on the gravestone. F says that it is. For people that they know, they touch the photograph and then bring the fingers to the lips in a sort of kiss, sometimes followed with a crossing (as Catholics do in church). I explain to F that we just don’t do the photograph thing (or, rather, we didn’t – but I don’t live there any more).

He explains to his cousin that our burial places are around the church. They (Italians) never do this. I try to explain that we, too, have cemeteries in addition to graveyards. Again, it falls on deaf ears. They talk about the fact that they would like their ashes to be scattered. I ask if it’s legal to do that here. Apparently not but F would like his scattered on the sea anyway.

We’re visiting the place where his Aunt was buried the other week. With his cousin and uncle. F spots graves/tombs where the person lived to 100. Apparently, F’s uncle says that “she should have lived to be 100.” He doesn’t show emotion. It’s these little things that show how much he misses her. It makes you really feel for him. Of course, they are all suffering. It’s the living who suffer after someone dies, after all. They’re the ones who are left behind; who have to continue with life.

The next day, we go round to the uncle’s place for lunch. F says it will be strange without her. And it was. I could picture her sitting at the table in her usual place (when we went round) and she’s not even my aunt – so I guess it’s really hard for all of them. She was/is missed. After the lunch, whilst they are cleaning up, there is a discussion between the uncle and the cousin. The cousin wants him to come to her house for lunch the next day. Because of her husband’s work, they eat at 12.30. The uncle says he doesn’t want to come and he will eat here because a) he can eat when he wants and b) because he can “talk” to his wife. She thinks this is stupid. F doesn’t really agree and tells her. I don’t really agree either – but it was only explained to me after we had left.

Still, I understand the uncle. She hasn’t left the house yet. That takes time. She may not be physically present but she is a presence, still, within that house. You feel like, at any moment, she could walk through from the kitchen. He’s trying to keep everything exactly the same as it was when she was there. I think I would do the same. Although, I’m not sure I would be as good at it as he is.

F’s cousin worries about the food. She doesn’t think she is so good as her mum. Her Dad said, the other day, that she was just as good. It’s different, but she is.

She really wanted F to come down and you could tell that she was really happy that he was there. But this is quite stressful for F. We don’t normally go down between the end of September and April. They ask, as we leave, when we’ll be back. F doesn’t want to commit. It’s a pressure on him. It stresses him out. He says we won’t be back next weekend for sure as he wants to finish the house. Which is another pressure on him. Of course, this is really “made up” pressure – but I’ve been there and I know what this is like.

When we arrive home, around half six, he says he’s tired and he has had a headache since the previous day. I tell him to go and lie down and not to worry as I’ll do the washing. After all, it was no rest or relaxation for him, going down. He goes to lie down and, within half an hour, he’s asleep. He sleeps almost all the way through until I get up – nearly 12 hours. That’s how I know how difficult this weekend has been for him.

Still, the carpenter is coming tomorrow to do stuff in the flat (fit new cupboards, put up rails, etc.) We’re getting there, slowly. F is going to IKEA today to get some more stuff. He will be happier when the flat is in better order, for sure.

I just want to scream!

I love Italy. I love Italians.

In general, that is.

Well, apart from some annoying things.

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

But first, a bit of background.

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

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

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

On that floor, there are three flats.

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

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

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

Last night we were back to normal.

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually, he got it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When “hot” doesn’t mean “hot”

I’m not talking about the weather. No. That is as cold as the tip of an Eskimo’s nose. Winter is arriving, for sure.

No, I’m talking (again) about differences between Italians and the English.

If you live here, can you remember the last time you had a really “hot” meal cooked by an Italian? I don’t mean “spicy” hot but hot hot. More like boiling hot. So hot that you had to cool it down by blowing on each forkful.

No, I didn’t think so. Meals, here, are regularly served on cold plates – the food itself hardly piping hot. The only exception to this is, sometimes, meat, served on a sizzling hot plate or, at one restaurant where they used to serve thinly sliced Branzino (Sea Bass) on such a hot plate that they had to warn you about it.

At the weekend, in partial preparation for a move, I was cooking stuff from the freezer. I found a Mincemeat and Apple Plait that I had made to use up the last of the mincemeat I had and some of the apples that we always buy at Christmas (and then leave to rot in the fruit bowl). I thought F might like it. And I made custard to go with it. Not a lot because (I thought) F doesn’t like custard.

I cooked the Plait and timed it just right so that it was ready to come out as we finished the main course.

In fact, F did want custard – and as much as I could give him – which was a bit of a bastard as it meant that I had much less and, if I had known, I would have made a full pint rather than half a pint :-(

But, he wouldn’t eat it.

He put it outside, on the windowsill, to cool down. I was quite shocked. I asked him why. He told me that he can’t eat hot deserts and had I not noticed that Italians don’t do hot deserts which, now that he had mentioned it, was true!

“But why can’t you eat it when it’s hot?”, I asked. Apparently, it’s bad to put hot things in your stomach. Who knew that, all my life I have been doing something so bad for me? And why wasn’t I ill more often?

And then, today, as I was eating my lunch in the canteen, I bemoaned (to myself, obviously) that everything is served fairly tepid on cold plates and, so, you don’t actually eat “hot” food. I was eating cauliflower which was almost cold. Partly because it was only tepid when served and then because the plates are actually cold. And that’s true (with the exceptions I’ve mentioned above) in restaurants too!

Perhaps it’s a climate thing? It’s certainly a cultural thing. And, again, we come back to the weird beliefs Italians seem to have about your health and what is good or bad for you.

In the UK, serving anything it was expected to be on hot, or at least warm, plates. And if it were piping hot, then that was better. But not here. Or, having just spoken to my colleagues, not for many people and, certainly, not for F.

Having spoken to my colleagues, I find that there are a few (but only about 3 or 4) sweets that are served hot. Unlike in the UK where, apart from during the summer, nearly all sweets are served hot.

And on warm plates so that they keep warm.

Sometimes, I miss certain things. This is one of them.

Italians are a strange bunch!

This is the Endy ……. and other Italian/English things.

I don’t and can’t get upset about it.

F’s Mum has a problem with my name and it’s become a bit of a joke within the family. Even though she has been corrected a number of times, she still calls me Wendy. It makes me laugh and I thought it was only her but it seems not.

M, as I mentioned in a previous post, booked tables in the two restaurants for me. As she booked the table, in both cases, she told them that it was Andy with a “y” (ipsilon), just to be clear.

For Griffone, the table was, indeed, reserved. There was a handwritten note on the table with my name. Except it wasn’t quite my name – it was, in fact, written as Endy.

It made me smile.

On the differences between the language, Italians (those who know something of English) realise that adding “ly” to an adjective creates an adverb. So quick becomes quickly, horrible becomes horribly, etc.

Except, of course, for exceptions. One of these exceptions is “hard”, especially used in situations where you mean “a lot” – like work.

It makes me laugh to read “I was working hardly” when what they mean is “I was working hard” :-) But it’s not really their fault – the rule is well and truly broken for this word.

And, of course, there are those words that we use that have more than one meaning – except that, the meanings don’t always coincide – making them, somewhat, “false friends”. If you say that someone is/seems miserable you mean (quite clearly) that they are/seem unhappy, sad, etc.

Unfortunately, miserabile, in Italian, when used to describe a person, is something like low-life or wretch. Not quite the same 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.

Confession time

Piero is fantastic. He is small, cute, fluffy and makes me laugh.

He will be a lovely dog, of that I am sure.

It will take time, of course. He needs training by both me and Dino but already he is looking to Dino to determine how things should be. I am prepared and I am not concerned by the pooping anywhere but the paper – it takes time for him to understand what’s OK and what’s not.

I’m not too worried about the barking when excited or when he wants to play. Although one doesn’t want to encourage it, of course. Barking is not good. I have spoken to Rita, our door lady, to ask that, should the other residents complain, she should tell me.

He is sweet and wants to be with you but seems a little more independent than Dino – although it’s far too early to tell, yet.

He is everything a puppy should be and will grow into a stupendous Bearded Collie.

And I do love him, very much.

But ………

He is not Dino.

I have always said that Dino was going to be the best dog I’ve ever had. And Dino HAS been the best dog I’ve ever had. I don’t know why, it was just the way it was from the moment I chose him.

I don’t have the same feeling for Piero. I mean, I love him and everything – but, somehow, there isn’t the same connection as there was with Dino.

Perhaps, of course, it will change? Or perhaps this is how parents feel? Perhaps, after all, their favourite is a real thing and in spite of how they WANT to feel, they really do favour one over the rest?

But it makes me feel a little guilty.

I mean, I loved Rufus (and Ben and Sam and Spotty Dog and the rest) very much – but Dino was, really, THE ONE and I was a bit worried that, with Piero, Dino would lose ‘his place’. Instead, Dino retains his place and that, in some way, makes me feel bad.

I shall, of course, like any good parent, try to ensure they both get treated the same and feel the same love from me, but ……

I hope you understand what I mean.

Of course, if you can’t see the REAL problem(s), what hope is there?

Italy is going through a period of change, right now. One could say, a period of upheaval. Not unlike most countries,I suppose.

We have what is known as a ‘technical’ government. The Prime Minister and the cabinet members have not been elected. They are here, temporarily, to ‘save’ Italy from the same fate as Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Monti (the PM) has been tasked with introducing reforms. The idea is that he will reduce the amount of government debt and reform the labour market to make Italy more competitive.

At the beginning, like Obama in the USA, he was hailed as the saviour of Italy but it’s now all turning a bit sour – just like it is with Obama.

The latest problem for Monti is his determination to reform the all-important Article 18.

Article 18 is a law that provides for any employee who has been sacked to be reinstated to his old job if judges think he was unfairly sacked.

Apparently, most of the time, the judges tend to side with the ex-employee. This is judged as the reason that Italian companies do not sack workers and why people stay in their jobs for EVER, thus depriving young Italians of a chance to get real, full-time jobs – and youth unemployment is very high here.

In order to ease the situation, some years ago, there was a law introduced making it much easier to hire workers on a contractual basis. It was cheaper for the companies and, of course, was intended that they could ‘try out’ a worker before offering them a full-time job.

But it didn’t really work out. Most employers renewed the contract for a couple of years (the limit) and then let the person go and found someone else just as willing (desperate) to work on a 6-month contract basis for a nice, low salary.

Monti (and many other commentators) seem to believe that, by reforming Article 18 and making it much easier to sack workers (who are bad workers, of course), it will free up the job market, providing employment to the youngsters and getting the Italian economy back on track.

Workers are worried that nasty bosses will just sack workers if their face doesn’t fit. Bosses think that the reforms proposed (enacted?) don’t go far enough.

But, in my opinion, they are all totally wrong.

First, it’s not the problem. And reform is not the solution.

The problem is much more complicated than this. The problem is Italian culture and this won’t be changed by the change in Article 18.

in my experience, certain young people get full-time jobs without a problem. They do this because they are from a wealthy or powerful family and their parents ‘call a favour’. In one case, for one guy to whom I used to teach English, his father simply created an Estate Agency and put him in charge. Making money was not really its major concern. Giving his son something to do, was!

Take the company I work for. Many people who work here are related. Cousins, wives, husbands, etc. It’s the way it works. Jobs are ‘found’ for people’s relatives. People ask if ‘you know anywhere that is looking for a xxx’.

Sure, it can be similar in the UK but here it is more so.

But it’s not just that. My first landlady here decided she wanted to ‘change her life’ a bit. She wanted a different kind of job. She was in the chemical industry. She thought she wanted to move into the Energy industry with a focus on renewable energy. In the UK, to change one’s career drastically, like this, is not really a major problem. Here it is virtually impossible.

She spent a year or more getting the qualifications that she needed. Then she found some work. On a temporary contract. The problem here is that people will look at your previous employment and, if it is not exactly relevant, will, quite often, dismiss it. It is very hard to change career. In the end, because it was just too difficult, she went back to the chemical industry. She didn’t have any other choice. And the only reason she was able to do it in the first place was because she had rich parents to support her. She’s mid-30s, btw.

Changing your career is simply not done here. Any skills you have obtained become almost worthless if you try to move out of your field. Getting another job in the same field is difficult enough – getting one out of your field is nigh-on impossible – unless, of course, you have the right connections!

Then there is the financial incentive given to employers to take on people under short-term contracts. They get to pay less tax and NI (National Insurance). Why take on someone full-time when you save money by taking them on a contract basis?

And, in addition, I don’t entirely believe that employers don’t sack people because of Article 18 and the judges, apparently, favouring the employee. I think there is a deep-seated fear of confrontation. Employers don’t want to confront employees. Everyone here wants an easy life.

Even here, in my company, there are numerous instances where employees appear to ‘take the piss’. Sometimes, something is said. But then everything just goes back to the way it was before.

And, remember, I used to employ many people – so I’m not predisposed to come down on one side or the other.

The worst thing about this whole thing is the belief by Monti and many commentators that changing Article 18 will be the magic wand that a) brings young people into employment and b) gives a kick-start to the Italian economy.

It is my opinion that neither of these things will happen with the reform of Article 18. It is a red herring and will change nothing.

Monti and his gang are a group of economists/bankers, etc. Look where they’ve got us so far! It’s like putting the prisoners in charge of the jail.

One day, people will wake up but with the false promises about the labour reforms that Monti is putting in place, this is likely to turn out the same way as Obama in the States. People will be disillusioned but everything will continue just the same. Except that, maybe, Italy will lose something important along the way.

I don’t see a good outcome, unfortunately.

We may both be in Europe but it doesn’t mean we’re the same.

Of course, I have long known it. More, I have blogged about it quite often. Usually, it makes me laugh although often that laugh is kept inside of me.

I have talked about it with FfC who now has a child.

It’s the illnesses that Italians get.

A often talks about his liver and how it is suffering. Or should that be how HE is suffering?. Yet, if this article on Italians and their ills is correct, it is impossible for you to ‘feel’ that your liver is bad. Indeed, until I came here, I had never heard of such a thing. I still find it very amusing, more so now that I know it cannot feel unwell.

I always thought the closest thing to ‘colpo d’aria’ was a stiff neck. I was always amazed by how much the Italians took it so seriously. Now, from the article, I understand that it can include illness to your head, ears, eyes, etc and so cannot be just a stiff neck. Again, until I was here, I had never heard of such a thing. Now that I look it up I find a translation that says it is a ‘blast of air’. I can’t even imagine the UK people too worried about a blast of air. After all, one of the things you can guarantee about the UK is the wind!

Let’s not get too pious though. The English (and Scottish and Welsh) DO have illnesses. We used to have a cold, a sore throat, a cough, (all three would be ‘flu), a headache, a stomach (or tummy) ache, etc. Nowadays this has become ‘flu, a migraine, stomach cramps. Of course, originally, a migraine was worse than a headache but since no one else can actually feel what you feel, how can they know that what you have is not a migraine but just a regular, plain, headache? As you can see, this is all invention anyway (although if some of my friends saw this they would argue that I didn’t have a clue, I am sure).

However, I loved this bit, which is so very true:

British mums hold their kids’ jackets so they will not get hot and sweaty while they run around and play. In contrast, the parks here in Italy are filled with pint-sized, quilted Michelin men, zipped up to their noses to stop the air getting in and hitting them.

In fact, the wearing of a scarf round the neck (precisely to stop the blast of air) is, I think, now, a fashion item here. Certainly, you will see people with a scarf round their neck even if they are inside a building or even outside, even if they are not wearing a coat!

Yea, Italians do make me laugh sometimes.