Milan is number one!

Yes, it’s true. My favourite city has hit top spot by being first amongst all cities in Europe and North America.

Pretty good, eh?

Well, I’ve also thought it was #1 – but not for this.

To be honest, I expected to see Milan somewhere in the list of the top 25. Maybe 10, I thought?. Or maybe it wouldn’t be there at all, in which case, I would be writing about how it was impossible that Milan was NOT in the top 25 at, say, something like, 10 or 15.

But, no! We get #1 spot as the which, to be honest, I am surprised about.

But, on the bright side, at least we made number one for something! We even beat Rome!!

Planning and parking

There are plans of the house.

And, by “plans”, I mean many, many plans. Each one is an opportunity for him to draw on where things will go, how it is to be organised.

We have quotations coming in for different things. The kitchen, the wardrobes, the bed base, the doors required for my “studio”, the cupboard for shoes (which will, apparently hold 40 pairs of shoes which are, apparently, to be put away in boxes and then put away in the cupboard), the cupboard for the entrance hall (to hold things like coats we wear regularly (e.g. for walking the dogs)), the units for the lounge and dining room, etc., etc.

He’s looking online to buy the furniture from IKEA (e.g. the units to hold the CDs and DVDs). He found out he can save a lot of money by having a matt finish to the doors (which is good).

Some things are already ordered or in progress, some things not.

Lots of things being done and still, lots of things to do.

But a rather strange thing happened, yesterday. I say “happened” when, in fact, it was all in my head.

I knew that F was going to my house and that he was going a bit earlier to take the dogs out before my lesson. Obviously, he was going to my house – he lives there now!

But the strange thing was that I kept thinking of finding some parking around the new house – as if we were already living in the new flat (which is, anyway, near to my current flat and I reach it just before I reach home). I had to keep “telling” myself that I had to continue to drive on, past the new flat. I would find myself thinking about where I would park and then realise that I was thinking about where I could park somewhere near the new flat!

And I would think about arriving home – in the new flat, with all the furniture in already!

It was all slightly weird and unexpected.

But, hopefully, soon, it will be as it is in my head :-)

The case of the mysterious open window.

It’s raining.


It feels like it’s been raining since before Christmas. That’s not true, of course. It just feels like it.

So, at about 7.10 this morning I get in my car. I dump my bag and brolly on the seat beside me and start the car. I need to get out of this space so I look over to the mirror on the passenger side and notice that the passenger door is all wet.

There is no glass in the window! My first thought is that some bar steward has smashed the window.

Of course, it’s 7.10. I struggle to think in any logical way at this hour. My mind takes time to work everything out. There’s something odd.

Still, I’m annoyed that someone has smashed the window. Why? There’s nothing in here to take!

Then, I see that there’s no broken glass.

The window isn’t smashed. In fact, I wind up the window using the switch on my side.

“Strange?” I think. Why the hell was the window down? I drive and, to be honest, I’m a bit flustered. And a bit relieved. How long has the window been down? Is there something wrong with the car? How come nobody noticed? How come the alarm didn’t go off?

I keep thinking about the window and how it must have come down on it’s own, after I was parked.

I’ve heard of the “electrics” playing up on cars in the past and I’m dreading the thought that I shall have to go back to the garage. I know these things are never easy to fix and, sometimes, never get fixed.


The heating is on because, after all the rain overnight that got in the car, the inside has to dry out.

Double bugger!

I am about half an hour away from home when it suddenly hits me.

The window didn’t come down by itself. As it was raining last night, in order to get into the car parking space, I wound the window down so I could see through the mirror properly and then, as it was a tight space, didn’t use the mirror but turned slightly to see out of the back window.

Obviously, after parking, I completely forgot to wind the window back up! Doh!

Still, I was lucky someone else didn’t try to get into the car or try to take anything out! I am grateful that I live in a “nice” part of town.

But, at least the mystery is solved.

Driving in Italy – part 945 – actually, driving anywhere, not just here. It’s “holiday” time :-(

It should be great.

In some ways, it is.

There are, for example, no problems finding somewhere to park. There are always some places around my flat. Not that I have too many problems anyway but, sometimes, a space takes a bit of finding. But not now. Now that people are away because the school kids are off.

There is, without doubt, less traffic on the roads. This can be great and, sometimes, I can be home within half an hour.

When we are down in Carrara, now, people are driving around like they are on holiday. I.e. slowly and seemingly unaware that there are any other cars on the road. One expects people to slow, turn off or completely stop without any warning. One expects someone who is looking for a car parking space near the beach to drive as if they own the road. I don’t get upset with it – after all, I’m on holiday too!

However, it seems that a lot of the drivers left in Milan think that they’re on holiday too! One guy this morning was driving at 30 Kph on a straight bit of road. In the end, after I overtook him (or, rather, undertook him), he followed me for some way – so he wasn’t even looking for somewhere to park!

Last night, driving near my house, the lights were green and there was a good chance we would get through. Instead the guy in front slowed down, pointing out some building to his passenger. I tooted my horn to get, from him, the sign (see this post I put up a few days ago) saying “What do you want?”

However, he then put his foot down a bit and we got through.

But it’s very annoying!!!! Sometimes, like this morning, getting to work takes just as long as in the winter – and with at least 50% less traffic!

Bloody holiday drivers. Grrrrrr.

Am I dreaming or what?

Everything just seems “not quite right”.

I’m not going to be able to explain this very well.

If, at all!

The alarm goes off. I had already woken almost an hour earlier. F had opened the window and turned the fan off. He is Italian and drafts are like some black magic. Drafts make you ill and can, probably, kill you. Therefore the fan, excused by the need for the dogs to keep cool, had been left on for a few nights. But the weather has “broken”. It’s not so hot (although still hot by British standards). Therefore we can now turn the fan off. Personally, we could keep the fan going all summer – however, not for him.

Instead the window is open although the shutters are drawn.

But Friday is bin day. The bins from the apartment block have to be put outside. The guy comes around 5.30 a.m. to do this. He is noisy but it’s not so bad if the windows are closed – open he might as well be dragging them past the bottom of the bed!

I wake up. And then it’s difficult to get back to sleep with all the noise and so I get up and close the windows.

So, back to where we were. The alarm goes off. I feel like I’ve been drinking the night before – which I had, of course. With A. And I promised not to blog about it, so I won’t.

Anyway, that’s not the point.

Unusually, instead of turning the alarm to “snooze” mode, giving me an extra five minutes (not of sleep, of course, since I am always worried that, inadvertently, instead of pressing snooze, I have pressed “dismiss”), I get up.

It’s all a bit sudden. And all a bit early. And, for some reason, it’s all quite wrong as if I have forgotten something.

I go to the kitchen and switch the coffee machine on. This is normal and, yet, it doesn’t feel quite normal.

It’s as if I am not quite in my body and yet I am still controlling it. It is just taking a bit if effort.

I go to the bathroom to shave. I am doing the normal things without thinking and, yet, I am having to think. I am having to make myself and my limbs and my fingers do things. Obviously, I know HOW to make them do things but this morning I am having to concentrate to get them to do anything.

And, yet, they seem, sometimes, to be doing things on their own, as if I am, in fact, not needed nor indeed part of the act.

I shave, shower and get partly dressed and then I go back to the kitchen to press the button to make the espresso pour into the cup below the nozzle and press the switch so the steam can pressurise to make the frothy milk.

I return to the bathroom to dry my hair.

I wonder if I should wake F up. He had said, earlier in the week, that today he would get up at 6.30. But there is something in my head saying that we had a conversation last night and he told me that it was not necessary now because “someone else was going to do it”. Whatever “it” was that he was going to do.

Except that I’m not sure if I had the conversation with him or not.

I weigh up the possibility that I had, in fact, just dreamed that we had the conversation. Was it real or not? Should I wake him to check or not?

But part of me is certain that the conversation was real and not a dream.

And, in my partial, out-of-body-experience state even thinking is by extreme effort.

But something is wrong.

I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. That sort of achy, butterflies thing. As if you’re going for an interview. I push myself forward and do the milk.

Perhaps, actually, I am dreaming. Except this cannot be a dream because everything is real. And, yet, I know that in a dream everything feels real so who knows?

I sit and have my coffee, reading the web pages that I normally read – doing the things that I normally do but with this very uneasy feeling that I should be doing something else. Or maybe that something is about to happen? It’s not exactly a feeling of dread although it isn’t pleasant.

For sure, something is wrong.

I realise I am going to be a little late abut I am finding it hard to motivate myself to move. Much as now, I am finding it hard to motivate my self to type. To think. To do anything.

Yet I do get up and wash up and clean my teeth and gel my hair and go back to the kitchen to put my shoes on. Piero comes to say “hello” and I give him a stroke.

I leave the flat. As I reach the internal courtyard, I light up my cigarette. It’s not the first this morning, of course. I’ve already had the usual three. As I walk towards the door of the building I feel for the car key in the bunch in my hand. But the keys are different – lighter – and missing the car key because, actually, these are F’s keys. Damn! I KNEW I should have changed them last night.

The lift is at the bottom. I take the lift to my floor and go in and swap keys.

I reach the car and get in. It still doesn’t feel quite right. I am worried that, at some point, I shall lose my ability to control my limbs which is still taking some effort. I am still not wholly inside my body but neither am I outside of it.

I drive to work. Things seem to be “in my way”. I try to concentrate on driving like you do when you’re a little drunk. You know? When everything requires you to do something that normally you “just do”. But I’m not drunk. This is the same and not the same. I feel like I’m going to have an accident. Like some sort of premonition.

This feeling of an almost impending doom won’t go away. No, something is most certainly not right.

And I still have it. Not quite so bad as this morning but, all the same, it’s still here.

So, there you have it.

Not explained at all well but I just can’t seem to put my finger on it.

Can’t wait ’till I’m home. Thank goodness it’s Friday.

Time travel; Foreign Travel

I feel that we’ve come somewhere foreign. I mean to say, it IS foreign, of course because, as I don’t go back to the UK, everywhere is foreign.

We draw up in front of a 70s-style restaurant. One that’s seen better days. F says this, and he’s right. There are round windows with their surround jutting out, like some sort of binoculars. The whole is painted in some rusty red colour but so that it doesn’t look painted but really looks rusty.

It would be the sort of restaurant that, in the 70s, would have been great to go to – modern, with fantastic (and, by that I mean exotic and never-before-tried) food. But, now, these days, you would give if a miss. If you were wise and cared about eating.

But it’s now just a little decrepit, a little run down, a little bit has-been.

But we’re not coming here to eat. This is just a transit place. We may eat here on our way back. But, actually, inside there are shops and bars and places to buy tickets – for this, as the sign said as we pulled up – is Lemezia International Airport.

I turn to F, as the plane has just landed, and ask why there is no applause, for the plane is full of Italians, maybe I am the only foreigner, and so I would expect clapping for the safe landing. He looks back at me as if I am criticising, which I’m not although I always find it amusing. I am somewhat relieved when, a few seconds later, there is the spontaneous applause starting at the back of the plane and moving forward, like a kind of Mexican wave. Good, we are still in Italy.

We get into the terminal. There are two baggage reclaim carousels. It’s a small airport even if it purports to be “International”. F will wait for the baggage whilst I go and sort out the hire car we have booked.

I go through the automatic doors, and, I act like the usual first-timer to an airport, looking about me, trying to understand; trying to get my bearings. After a few seconds, I am none the wiser and so I start to walk. I see some signs to the car hire places. It takes you outside the airport.

As I step outside, I am, indeed, somewhere foreign. A foreign land. A Mediterranean land. For outside the airport there are those stubby palms. And everywhere is dusty and dry, such as we don’t get in Milan until July and August. And, anyway, it FEELS different.

And then there are the airport dogs. Not like in Milan where they are on leads, coming with people to meet people, their people, people from their pack. These are unleashed and languid and their own pack. Here for scraps. They are big dogs and they know the places to sleep, as dogs do. One is an Alsation cross but a big Alsation. The other is white and indeterminate breeding. It adds to my feeling of foreign.

I see the pillar-sign indicating the car hire offices. It lists, downwards, the names: Avis, Sixt, Hertz, etc. But no Budget. We are with Budget. I consult the “ticket” I had printed out when making the booking.

“The car hire desk is located inside the main terminal”, it says, quite clearly.

I go back inside. I look. The terminal seems too small for a car hire desk to be here amid the few small shops and bars. I walk to a shop selling chocolate and ask, in my terrible Italian, if the Budget car hire desk is here.

She tells me that, No, it isn’t. They are all outside. F joins me and we go back out and follow the signs to the car hire offices that, like most small airports now, are “conveniently located” some walk from the terminal building.

When we get there, Budget is still not on the list outside. I am doubtful about the booking now. “Typical” is already forming in my head but I check the “ticket” once again. No, I did book it from the airport and not the town.

I tell F to wait whilst I go inside to ask. For once, he suggests that he will do it as, should there be any problem, he has the language skills to cope. I let him and a few seconds later he emerges calling me in.

I have booked a Fiat 500 and that’s what we get.

I’ve brought my navigator. We switch it on and type in the address and find what I hope is the right place. It’s near the sea anyhow.

The navigator, as it is wont, takes us, not on the major highways and longer route, but on the smaller (but main, here) roads, over the hills that form the foot of Italy. Or, Calabria, as it is properly called. They have, quite obviously, had a lot less rain so far than Milan but F informs me that it is much greener than expected. Even Calabria have had a crap spring.

The roads, as usual in the more rural areas, don’t seem to be quite understood by the navigator, it telling me to turn right or left when it’s a bend in the road and, sometimes, omitting to inform me to turn right when it thinks the road goes straight on. And so, we get the inevitable, annoying, “recalculating”.

At one point, we have to make a u-turn, which is always annoying. Around 4, half an hour after we expected, we arrive at Baia Dell’Est. The hotel.

It’s like a resort hotel. As we were coming down the hill, towards the coast, I spotted it and pointed it out to F. It has promise. It’s a hotel and restaurant. It’s much like a 70s style place, in my mind. We walk down the path to the reception. Patric comes out and F takes over, as he does everywhere we go – bars, restaurants, etc. It’s one of his “things” – yet still he calls me lazy when he speaks of my Italian (or lack of it).

Patric shows us to our room. Our room is, in fact, a small flat, with a bedroom, bathroom, lounge, kitchen and large terrace. The view is of the sea.

The place could be beautiful. Maybe once, in the 70s, it was beautiful. And modern. Now it is a little jaded and tired. And, maybe a little bit scruffy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, nor is it dirty. But it has seen better days. But, then again, it’s costing us €25 per person per night. Yes, our total stay is going to cost €150 – which is only slightly higher than the hire car!

We relax a bit and then decide to go to the supermarket to get provisions. We go back to reception. We ask about dinner tonight in the restaurant. But this is not really a tourist area and the restaurant is closed apart from July and August. They can, however, Patric offers, get us pizza or some other takeaway?

We ask about restaurants nearby. He suggests one. We ask about supermarkets and he gives directions. We were right to hire a car – you need one here.

We drive off. We buy water for F, milk for me and some chocolate for both of us. As we go to pay, K, the guy getting married (for that is why we are here), texts to ask where we are. I tell him and that we’ll be back in 10 minutes.

Patric has told us, already, that, last night, 270 beers were consumed by 30 people. He scratches his head. He doesn’t really understand the English. But, then even the English struggle with that.

The “English”, or some of them, have already started on the beers. We don’t say anything when we leave the hotel but now, as we come back from the supermarket, K is there. So is M, his bride of the next day. She had been there when we left but I wasn’t sure it was her (I met her once in Milan) as I remembered someone shorter and considerably fatter.

We say hello and they thank us for the present (which was money paid directly into their “holiday fund” account).

We go off to the side for a chat and he tells me that he is a bit pissed off as the guests didn’t hire a car and expect him to organise things for them to do – for here, there is really nothing! Poor guy. As if he doesn’t have enough to do without all that crap!

I tell F later. Apparently, English people are, generally, selfish. I bite my tongue a bit. F goes on to say that, obviously, not everyone but that S, his ex, was selfish.

I find it interesting because I would say the same of Italians! But F wouldn’t listen to me anyway. As I write this, I know that the problem isn’t that the English or Italians are selfish (though in slightly different ways) but that people are, it seems, inherently selfish.

We go to the restaurant. It’s ok. The main thing is that you can get a pizza for as little as €3! This is unheard of in Milan. But the food was quite nice.

Then back to the hotel. K, we know, has gone to pick someone up from the airport. I think we should wait for him but, although all (actually, not quite) the people are English, I don’t know anyone. We hang around at the entrance then some people speak to us, asking if we are friends of K or M. She explains that she is K’s mother and introduces us to K’s father – who talks with a strong Irish accent.

Whilst we are talking to them, an old colleague of mine comes over. It is R and G his “girlfriend” is in tow.

We chat with them and a Spanish lady and her sun and drink a beer. All around us, K’s family are getting drunk. I think the beer total will be superseded tonight!

We stay for an hour or two and then go to bed. Tomorrow (today as I write this) there will be the wedding.

Plain stupid driving.

I’ve seen some strange things here.

For example, there was the live parrot in the taxi some time ago.

Then there was the rioting. And the winds that blew down the scaffolding in front of a 7 or 8 storey block of flats.

Then there was, one time, I saw a car driving on the tram track.

But this morning was, to be honest, amazing.

The trams run on rails. Sometimes, the rails run through roads and there, the top of the tram rails is the same height as the road. Obviously.

In some places, however, the road is at the side of the rails and the rails resemble normal train rails – i.e. the rails are not set at the height of the surrounding grass or small stones. Especially where the tracks have recently been re-done.

Like on Viale Regina Giovanna. The road is so wide (Viale meaning Avenue) that the road is split with dedicated tram tracks in the centre, lined with trees. The tracks have recently been relaid and, whereas before, the grass areas between the tracks were only slightly below the top of the rails, now the small stones are well below the top of the rails.

So, it would be really stupid to try to drive say, a car, down the tracks. Unless, maybe you had a 4×4?

Not least, it would be stupid because to enter the tram-exclusive area is not easy. I mean, you really have to make a concious effort to do so and you would have to be a) completely unaware of the trams and b) actually turn onto the tracks as opposed to following the road.

And, yet, this morning, holding up the trams, was an nice new Audi, stuck, with the rail being so high as to make the wheels ineffective.

There were about 3 or 4 guys trying to push the car backwards to, I guess, a place where the wheels would have some grip.

The shame was that I was in traffic so I couldn’t stop the car and take a photograph.

I wonder how long it was before he managed to get out. And, how embarrassing it must have been.

Mind you, some people are just plain stupid.

We go to the vet (and other things)

I weigh it up in my mind. Emergency or not?

Of course, in reality, one day or two probably won’t make any difference but I am worried.

Just because I’m worried doesn’t make it a real emergency, though, does it?

No but I would absolutely hate for it to be my fault if something bad happened.

So, although it may not be an emergency, they SHOULD have been here and, so, it is an emergency and won’t wait for another day or two.

But let’s step back a bit.

I didn’t leave work early yesterday. Probably because of my undoubtedly-misplaced loyalty. In any event, I left ‘on time’. I parked and went to see about the tyres. The old, miserable guy remembered me. Or remembered the car. I booked. They keep the tyres in their store since I have nowhere to put them – and the store is somewhere else in Milan, so no doing it straight away.

Anyway, I don’t really want it done before Easter. I want good tyres for going up to the lake (for that is where we are going). If it rains a lot, the winter tyres hold the road better.

Then I go to the supermarket. Not my normal supermarket since I need soap and, therefore, I have to go to the horrible supermarket, Unes. It used to be my favourite supermarket until I found the meat wasn’t so good and they kept overcharging me for plastic bags, etc. Now I hate it. But they do the soap that I like and so I have to go there. I try to get round it as fast as I can, not only because I don’t like it but also because I have to take Dino to the vet.

I get my stuff and pay and leave. Back at the car, I put the shopping in and drive the few streets home. Of course, I am later than normal and so there is no parking in my usual street :-(. I drive around a bit and, eventually, park in a dodgy place – on a corner. Ah well, other people do it. Mind you, my normal parking is half-on the pavement in a street where it has a sign showing that cars will be towed away.

But we are in Italy and everyone does the same and, so far, mine has not been towed away. And nor has anyone else’s. So I park in a place that in England would be absolutely illegal and for which you would certainly find you had a big fine – if not that your car had been towed away.

I rush to get cigarettes since I am nearly out.

I rush home and change my shoes and take my tie off and off we go. I notice that Dino now has a cough as well. This is not good :-(

I feel rushed. And hot, even if it isn’t quite so hot. Spring is back with a vengeance – meaning it is cool and overcast and not really that nice. Milan is grey when it’s cloudy. More like Aberdeen (in summer :-) ) than a city near the Mediterranean!

Dino is a bit confused because although we start as normal for our early evening walk, we deviate.

There are a lot of people about which is why, normally, I don’t come down this street. Too many shops and stuff and the pavement is not very wide. It means Dino cannot wee as often as he would like.

As we approach the vet, I see that the shutters seem to be down.

When we get there I see it is closed. I check the opening times on the notice. Yes, they are supposed to be open. There is a motorbike outside and it may be one of the two vets. I try to call the vet number – the phone inside. It rings but no one answers. I look at the notice. There are two mobile numbers to call ‘in an emergency’.

Then I spot another, temporary notice. It explains that they are sorry but the practice is closed this afternoon. In an emergency phone this mobile number – one of the ones on the main notice.

And now we have caught up. I phone the number. I get the not-so-nice-vet. I explain the problem. He is sorry that they are not open. I humpf in my head. I am not happy. It’s a good job I hadn’t come home early especially to take him there. But I don’t say this. I explain he has what seems like a very bad cold.

He asks if he is coughing – except he uses the Italian word for it. Cough is a difficult word for Italians – unsurprising when you consider its spelling to its pronunciation. I explain that he wasn’t until this evening.

He asks if he’s eating. I say that he is – which he is. He says its a virus and common at this time of year. I think it must be Kennel Cough.

Anyway, he asks what I have left over from the time when we had Rufus – as we kept on having lots of pills for him. I say I don’t know and he says I should telephone him and he will advise if anything I have is good for Dino.

I rush home. The chemist will close in just over half an hour and if I need to buy something, I need to do it soon. Of course, I moved a lot of the bandages and plasters and stuff that we used to use with Rufus, into storage above the wardrobes. At least, I hope I did else I don’t know where they all are. And, of course, there’s the bathroom cabinet stuff. Some dog’s stuff might be in there.

I get the stepladder and find the stuff I am looking for in the second box I open. I get the stuff from the bathroom too. It goes onto the kitchen table and I make the call. I don’t have so much, to be honest. I thought I had more. Ah well.

The vet tells me that none of the stuff I have is any good and I must get this other stuff. He should have one pill tonight and one in the morning. Then I should phone him tomorrow. The stuff I am getting is anti-inflammatory.

I rush to the chemist. I get the pills. Dino has one. Or, rather, I shove it to the back of his throat and clamp his jaws shut, massaging his neck so that he swallows.

Last night I was really quite angry with the vet; for being closed; for not being there in MY emergency.

This morning, Dino is much better. He still has the occasional problem but is definitely more lively than the last few days. He didn’t cough at all this morning. And I didn’t get woken up in the night. But I shall take him to the vets this evening, just in case. I am not so angry with the vet now and, anyway, any anger is negated by the fact that the pills seem to have worked.

Walking through the city that I love.

I must admit, it didn’t seem quite right. Of course, it had crossed my mind earlier, before I set out. And, so, I should have checked, I suppose. Still, I had mentioned ‘showroom’ and nothing was said to make me think otherwise.

In fact, when I had asked, earlier, if he would like to come with us for a walk, I had assumed he would be going that way anyway. He had said ‘no’ since he had many things to do. In a way, that was a shame, in that I would have found out that he wasn’t going to the showroom after all!

Unfortunately, I was a little late setting out. And there wasn’t a bus coming. But I knew that, if I walked, I could be there by about 7.30, so that was only half an hour after it started and that was OK. I walked. Eventually, at one of the stops I saw that the bus was coming and waited. Three stops later and I was off.

I don’t particularly like that part of town. It always seems so dark, so dead. I got to the gates – painted especially mimicking something that a graffiti artist would do, thereby making graffiti pointless. It works. Also it is quite stylish.

The gates were closed. I rang the bell. As I rang the bell, I thought that, quite obviously, I was at the wrong place. For certain, with something this important, the gate would be open and I would hear sounds of partying or, at least, sounds of people, etc.

I text him, asking if it was at the shop but not really expecting an answer since it would be unlikely he would have his phone on or with him. Still, if it were to be at the shop, then I would be very late and, maybe, he would check his phone and see where I was. Or where I had been.

I ring the bell a second time. There seem to be lights on, from what I can make out over the hight wall and gates – but, still, I am sure I am at the wrong place.

Now this is nowhere near the shop. The shop will take a while to get to. I think about a taxi but decide I can’t really justify the expense. If it had not been for him, at this point I would have just gone home. But I can’t let him down and I know he wanted me there.

Luckily, I have a general map of Milan in my head, including most public transport. I can get to the Duomo (cathedral), I think and from there I can walk – it’s not so far.

But first I need to walk back the way that I came – the other side of the park that Dino and I had been playing in a few hours before.

At first I was going to walk straight up the road then I realised it would be quicker to go diagonally, through the park. Well, when I say quicker, easier to catch a tram. I thought I would take a number 12 or 27 as I was sure they were the ones. They didn’t take me to the centre but it would do. It would have to do. It wasn’t so far to walk to the centre. Then I remembered that I could change and take a tram number 23 which would take me to a delightful little square just behind the Duomo. The park that I’m walking through is quite nice in the darkness (although there is no real darkness since we are in the city. So it is more shadows of darkness, some darker than others). There are few people about. A couple of couples, intertwined as young lovers often are in Italy – after all, they seem to have nowhere else to go! A few people walking their dogs. A group of three young lads one of whom is holding the lead to a rather small white fluffy dog which takes away from their swagger as it’s more of a lap dog. I smile. To myself, obviously.

But it’s beautiful in the park with its shades of darkness. It makes me think of Twilight (even if I’ve never seen the thing). It makes me think of summer (even if it’s not as warm so as to be wearing just a T-shirt). It’s that kind of smoky darkness you get at twilight in the summer. It’s why it’s also called dusk, I guess. Dusky.

I got to the stop. Earlier, when Dino and I were coming back from the park, there had been an accident. A tram had run into a car. I had heard the bang from the park and thought it must have been an accident. It doesn’t happen that often and still amazes me when it does. I don’t believe that the tram ran into the stationary car but that the car had tried to turn left, crossing in front of the tram, thinking that he could ‘get away with’ the manoeuvre – except he didn’t. Stupid.

Now there was no sign of the accident. I get to the tram stop and walk a little further down to check on the trams or buses that stop here. I am in luck! A number 73 bus, from Linate airport also stops here. I had forgotten about that option. This takes me right to San Babila and so is a much better choice.

And even more lucky! The bus is nearly here. The bus is packed as it always is, coming from the airport. I can’t believe it has taken them so long to make a metro from Linate. Well, it’s still not finished but at least now it’s under construction!

As we near San Babila, I look out of the window of the bus and see, above the buildings, the Duomo, there, in all it’s glory, floodlit and beautiful (well, if you take the plastic wrapping off the tower that holds the larger-than-life, golden Madonna). I catch my breath. It can still do that to me!

I get off the bus and walk over the square in San Babila. I think about V and how much we loved this city and realise that I still do. It fills me with an excitement that is impossible to describe. It has a beauty and a liveliness that I have found only in one other city, Istanbul (even San Babila with its modern buildings all around – its shops). There are people with bags – bags from designer shops, there are people making their way to dinner, or the cinema, or the theatre, or home, of course. The city is alive and I like it a lot.

I walk down Via Montenapoleone (one of the main designer shopping streets in Milan). I notice windows more now, given that it’s F’s job. I like the window in Louis Vuitton. They have large arrows as if on a target, in a circle, around a bag. The fletches are the same colour for each window, but a different colour between windows. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, as such, but it’s pretty and inspiring at the same time. Like a work of art.

I notice that some of the other shops are no longer impressive to me, with their window displays. I am affected (or should that be infected) by F and what he does. I am less interested in the actual clothes or bags than I am in the displays! I pause in front of Iceberg. They were my favourite designers. I quite like a jacket there. Sometimes, I wish I had the money to shop there like I used to but that’s just a fleeting thought. Clothes, after all, are not that important, it’s how you wear them that’s the key.

The street is not full but the people there are mostly tourists. Maybe they’re too frightened to come there during the day? Frightened they will be made to purchase something that’s too expensive or that they will look out of place walking down there when the shops are open?

Still, I enjoy walking down the street. I want to tell them that I live here, that this place is my home. I am happy to live here. No, even proud! I imagine their envy, even if it’s not for everyone (even for most Italians). Still, it’s a city that I love and I like to be reminded that I love it – and not just because I’m with F. And it does feel like home (which it is) even if I would happily live in the country again. But I may only have this short time here, in this city, so I have to savour every moment.

At the end of the street, I turn right and reach the shop. Even if F has not replied to my text, it is obviously right. Whilst all the shops are now closed, there are people outside this one, having a fag, talking, etc.

It’s a special thing to launch a range of spectacle and sunglasses frames. Of course, I know a lot of people there. Well, the people that work for the company. They are all, of course, very nice to me. F is pleased to see me and I explain what happened.

It’s like an upmarket cocktail party. There are drinks (prosecco and wine) and nibbles, being served around the shop by waiters. Finger food, aperitivo food. When I try some, eventually, it’s nice. As I would expect, really.

I wander about a bit, not wanting to be in F’s way as he is, or should be, working. Saying hello and chatting with clients many of whom he knows, of course.

Someone comments on the jumper he’s wearing. It’s a simple grey v-neck. He tells them it’s from Zara and that I had bought it for Christmas. This is true but I only recognise it now, when he’s said it. He did seem particularly pleased with it and, obviously, he really is. That makes me happy. Also, I am happy that, even if I’m not in this business, I can do something so right.

He finds me a little later. He puts frames on me. He favours one that is a pale grey. I prefer one that is a dark blue. He says that the lighter one suits me. This time, I think, I shall listen to advice since I am always better pleased later.

But since I like the darker frames, later still, with a group of colleagues around me, we have the frames put on me again and people nodding their heads or shaking it giving their sage advice as to what looks best.

Apart from me and one other person, they side with F. I guess my next pair will be light grey frames then?

The party finishes and most people leave. F had told me that he has to re-do the shop for tomorrow. It has to be done now because tomorrow (today as I write this) he is in Germany for a week. I thought it was going to take a long time but before 10 he is finished and we go home.

As soon as I got home, I took off my shoes since my feet were killing me. I had done a lot of walking in shoes that I don’t wear so much now. Still, the walk both through the park and the city itself were worth it, reaffirming as it did, my feeling for this city. And I’m not even a city person!

Traffic – less: Milan Congestion Charge; Fuel Increases; Fashion Week

Perhaps it’s just me?

I’ve noticed or, should I say, it seems, that, in general, there’s less traffic in Milan. And, even with this being Men’s Fashion Week, the usual nightmares with traffic on my way home are absent.

If I’m not wrong there are a number of factors at play that could make it less.

One is the new Congestion Charge in Milan that was introduced on 16th January. Now, to go into the centre of Milan, almost everyone has to pay €5 per day. The previous charges allowed many (of the newer) cars to go in for free. Now, no. I am outside the ‘Area C’ as it is called. In fact, I never drive into this area anyway. But I’m only just outside and I did wonder if this new set of charges would mean that all the car parking in my area would be taken. It seems not. It seems that people are either leaving their cars at home or travelling to a tube station and taking public transport.

I know not everyone likes the charge and I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it should it cover my area – but it is so much nicer with less traffic.

The other reason could be the sharp increases in the cost of petrol. Last summer I was filling up the car for about €50. Last night it cost me nearly €70! That’s a hefty increase. The increase is down to the austerity measures brought in by the new government of Italy. It’s another of those ‘let the ordinary people pay for the stupidity of the very rich banks’ rule.

I keep thinking that, sooner or later, people will wake up but it seems not just yet.

Perhaps, also, because of the crisis in general, there are not so many people at this year’s fashion week?

However, whatever the reason, it does make Milan more pleasant to live in and I’m not complaining.