A night at Blue Note and the thoughts in my head; downloading a video from Facebook

I can’t help but stare at him.

He’s young, probably about 25. He has that “floppy” hair that seems in favour, certainly with the gay people, here, in Milan, and he has a “kind of” beard. He plays the violin.

I stare at him because of the thoughts in my head. They race through, from one thing to another.

How lives are different; when I was his age; I could have been in this world; I’m envious that I’m not in this world; how fascinating to be creative; I wonder how much he practices; assuming he’s gay, I wonder what his boyfriend’s like; or maybe he has no time for that; always practising; up late every night performing; no money; no, I couldn’t have done that – no willpower to keep practising; how much do the whole band practise; he doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the band, they are much older, like “this is where not-famous musicians go to die”; but he’s too young for that – he has still to “make it”; so why is he here on stage with the oldies (none of them will be under 40); I wonder what his life’s really like; does he really have another job and this is only a hobby he wishes were something more; I wish I could do something creative; but I’m good with people; but that’s not really creative, is it; I wonder if I could do something creative with that skill; I would like to be on stage again; how did I get here – listening to this, in a foreign land, in a foreign tongue; am I lucky and will it always feel strange?

And so on, and so on.

That’s one thing.

There’s another.

We are at the concert of a “friend”. I mean, she’s not really a close friend but a friend of one of F’s colleagues, I. And she is a florist. And she sings. Good enough to have the stage at Blue Note in Milan – the kind of jazz/blues venue. And she was a student of mine once, for about 6 lessons.

We, in the audience, are a group of 5. There’s I, another girl, S, who is a very close friend and also works in one of the shops, and E who I’ve never met before. But they all know R, the singer. We don’t have a great place to see, being at the side of the stage but R has to walk past us to the stage and gives F her mobile asking him to take some pictures.

So, during the whole thing, F, E, S and I are taking videos and photos with her phone and theirs and then checking the photos and checking with each other for the best photos.

About the second song into the set, I am struck by the fact that, if I look around the place, everyone is watching R sing – except all the people in our group, who are, instead, checking their phones. OK, so R asked them for some photos but, really, even if all these people are friends of R, how come our world is now only really seen through the small screen of a telephone?

I find it a shame, really. People, as last night, are so busy with the technology, they forget to enjoy the experience.

I ate almost the whole plate of chips. And had two beers. And, after the concert, we went for an Indian. And, after a while, R and the entourage came too. But without the guy I mentioned at the beginning.

Of course.

Anyway, I’ve found out how to download a video from Facebook – that is, 1. Open the video in a new tab; 2. Change the part of the url from “www” to “m” and press enter; 3. As the video is playing, right click and “Save target as …..” which will save a copy to your hard disk.

Unfortunately, it seems the video doesn’t work (on this page – although I can play it on my desktop).  Damn the problem with browsers not supporting certain formats, etc.  Still working on it though.

Marrone, maroon, catsagna and Chesternut 5

This, being Autumn, in Italy, is the time for chestnuts. I actually quite like chestnuts although F can’t stand them. Ah well.

However, if you buy the candied version, they are called marron glacé – the French name.

So, this morning I’m chatting with my colleague over coffee (you know, the one who has “blonde moments”) and, as she often does, she will be talking about something and then say to me,

“theword, you know what is?”

In this case, the word was castagna. Now, I do know what this means but sometimes I just reply “no”, as I did this morning.

She said, “oh, you know, marron?” This made me laugh. I explained that this was a French word, not English.

She seemed surprised by this. “But, Marron 5?”

This made me laugh more. What she meant was Maroon 5, the group. I had to explain that maroon is not the same as marron. But what really made me laugh is that all this time she has been thinking of Maroon 5 as Chestnut 5!

I said that the word was a colour – a sort of dark red (I always thought a kind of purplish-red although when I looked it up it’s supposed to be a brownish-red, the name having come from the French word for chestnut).

So, all these things turn a kind of full circle – castagna (It) = marrone (It) [both a type of chestnut and a colour] = marron (Fr) [as in marron glacé] = chestnut (Eng) which could = a darker version of maroon (Eng) [colour] = the first part of the name of a group, Maroon 5!

Of course, there is also a friend of F’s who regularly calls castagna “chesternuts” which always makes me smile.

I further explained to my colleague that Maroon 5 was a group name and said that, for example, a famous (in Italy) group from the 70s or 80s was Pooh – which, of course, could be translated as cacca as pooh is an alternative spelling of poo. Of course there is also Winnie-the-Pooh – but I always thought that name had something to do with Christopher Robin’s idea of fun, since children always think bodily functions are funny.

Anyway, while we’re here, let’s have a bit of Maroon 5:

and a little bit of I Pooh [The Shit, if you like] (who, if you’re not Italian, I’ll bet you’ve never heard of!):

iTunes is crap!

OK, so that’s not entirely true.

Actually, iTunes is a wonderful program. It does the things you want. It keeps all your music in one place, you can create playlists as you want, you can play songs in shuffle mode – and you can make CDs for people (apparently).

I don’t really use it much. I have moved all of my CDs onto iTunes and find it great to be able to play a certain album or track – easy to find, etc. The quality is quite good and, I suppose, if I could be half-arsed, I could set up my stereo to play the music through – except music is nice but not that important to me.

To F it is. F creates CDs for people. He used to DJ on a local radio station (local to where he came from) for a number of years and likes to create CDs where the music follows correctly. It is beyond my understanding, to be honest, but just because I don’t understand (why, even, one song follows another and another song cannot follow) doesn’t mean I don’t like the result. F has something over 2000 CDs and buys individual songs as well so has a collection of something like 15,000 songs on iTunes. He has given me an appreciation of Italian music that a) I never knew existed and b) I would never have had without him.

Since he’s always used iTunes (or, rather, used it for years), he loves it.

But ………

He wanted to download a special playlist to a USB key instead of burning a number of CDs.

And you can’t. Well, you can but you lose the playlist order.

He’s spent days doing this special playlist for someone and now he can’t give it to them. Worse still, whilst he was trying to do this thing, he nearly, but oh so nearly, lost all his songs – and, in the process, lost all his playlists – including the one that he had specially prepared.

And I have trawled the internet looking for a solution and can’t find anything that seems to do the job properly.

I had heard/read that iTunes could just wipe your music (if you were used to synchronising with your iPod) but since I don’t own an iPod (I know, you can hardly believe it,I know) I just thought ‘oh well’. Now, however, I feel bad for F who only wants to do something so simple and yet Apple won’t let you do it.

And so, my conclusion is that iTunes is great – as long as you just want to do everything within iTunes.

Whereas, if you want to do something a little bit ‘out of’ iTunes, it is crap with a huge dose of crapness on top.


OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Last night I saw that my phone was very low on charge. However, this was after we had been to Polpetta (F, An and I) and so I could not stay up long for it to charge. I charged it a bit and it ‘said’ there were two bars of charge. It’s enough.

Except, obviously, it lied. It was not on two bars. During the night it ran out of battery and switched itself off.

This morning, after a rather good night’s sleep, I opened my eyes to see the time was eight minutes past seven.

“Shit!”, I jumped out of bed. The dogs had a short walk. I still had a coffee (as without that I cannot survive), a shower but no shave and rushed out almost an hour late starting to work.

The traffic was terrible.

That’s because there had been a bad accident. Today! The day I am late! I suddenly start driving like an Italian, crossing a dual carriageway exactly as they do! Sometimes I scare myself. I mutter to myself (really I did this), “When in Italy …….”.

Then there were stupid drivers. Then there was a truck blocking the road. It took me an hour to get to work and so I arrived at 9. Grrrr.

Also, I have to admit to you, dear reader that I have, again, fallen off the wagon just a little bit. The night before last I ate two Mars bars. Last night I had two beers.

On the bright side, I have not had a bread roll since I went on the non-diet :-)

Other bright sides: I had almost an hour and a half’s extra sleep; it is Friday; the weather is warmer (or, rather not so cold); tonight I go out with A to Polpetta (he may not talk to me because of the last time) and then we join F and An to go to the Taverna della Lamparo; on Sunday, we shall go for breakfast with An and then, later, for lunch at the Alle Colline Senesi with her. (All links are on the side)

And, Saturday night is the final of the Festival of San Remo, which is televised and which we MUST watch. Well, F MUST watch it and so, we will.

And you? What fun things will you be doing over the weekend?

Thanks; Chiara Civello; Perfect Yorkshire Puds and some really good port

Well, I’ve now been and it was lovely but, as I’m not from the USA (I guess), it was, more or less, like going to dinner at someone’s house.

I’m talking of Thanksgiving.

I’m talking turkey, mashed potatoes, and a rather glorious stuffing.

To be honest, I thought it was going to be an all-American affair (except for me) but it took on quite an International flavour. 3 Americans, 1 Canadian, 1 Australian, 1 Italian and me. The turkey (which I’ve never been mad keen on) was rather good and well cooked. The stuffing was fantastic. The wine and conversation flowed and we even had a rather difficult conversation with N & S all the way from San Francisco – the ‘difficult’ part being the connection which, unfortunately kept dying.

I got home at about 3.30 a.m. I then spoke to Ag on the telephone. She was in need of someone to talk to. It meant I got to bed about 5.30. I was, unsurprisingly, tired on Saturday. My headache was still here (but that could have been just ‘cos I’m tired).

F phoned me during the day on Saturday. He said that things were going rather well and he was going to be coming home that night so that we can go to a concert. He had booked it before he knew that he would be away and there had always been some doubt about whether he would be there.

He got home in the late afternoon and then we met up and went for a pizza at Liù (see link at side) – except Liù was full so we went to Time Out 2 instead. Then strolled down to Il’s flat and took a taxi with her to see Chiara Civello at Blue Note.

She was fabulous although I was so tired and we went to the second concert of that evening – it started at 11.30! He knows her because his ex, M, from Rome, knows her. After the concert we went backstage and I was introduced to her as ‘my new boyfriend’. I had been similarly introduced to someone who sat with us and was a friend from some time ago. She works for Moschino or somewhere like that.  It was then added that I was a ‘real man compared to S’ – which always makes me smile – although I never, ever make any comment, of course.

Anyway, there are a couple of Chiara’s tracks at the bottom. I hope you enjoy them. She was lovely, always smiling and the music is really good.

Yesterday, as F is away, I had promised A that I would do Sunday lunch for him and Fr – you know, the Roast Beef type of Sunday lunch, which F would not enjoy so much.

A had baked some bread which we had with something that was like a light pâté that F had brought back from Germany. There was goose-liver and reindeer – they were delicious and not at all heavy as pâté can be sometimes.

Then we had the roast beef and, with my new cooker, the perfect Yorkshire puddings – YAY! I will do a post with the recipe since it has never, except once, let me down. The only reason it didn’t work before was my old oven, I was sure – and this proved correct when, this time, they were well risen and light – just as they should be. Also, when I had been in France last year, I had bought some red horseradish sauce – and it was quite hot, which I liked.

After that we had Apple and Blackberry Crumble with whipped cream. This was all followed by cheese (including Stilton) and some rather fine port, bought for me by a colleague when he went to Portugal. The problem was that then I just couldn’t stop drinking it. I had to ‘force’ myself to stop, even after A & Fr left.

Anyway, they enjoyed it – as did I.

I spent the rest of the evening washing up :-).

F is back on Wednesday as that is the day that the new shop will open. I will be very happy when he is back, as will Dino. And Rufus who is a LOT better. Thanks for all your kind wishes.

Anyway, enjoy Chiara – these are some of my favourite songs of hers.

Sometimes I get confused

There’s another post that I had part-written that should precede this but, then, that’s the way the blog goes.

Last night I was tired (see next post, probably) but I went round to his place anyway.  He was watching a TV spectacular on Mina.

Actually, on that note, I must say how amusing I find it with some Italians when they mention some famous singer here and when you say you’ve never heard of them they can’t quite believe it!  They seem to think that, if some person has had numerous hits in Italy, then the whole world should know.  In the case of Mina, the first time F mentioned her and I said I’d never heard of her he was aghast.

‘But’, he said, ‘she was mentioned by [insert internationally famous singer here] and [insert another internationally famous singer here] said she was the best singer in the world’.

It’s difficult to explain that, if they are really, really lucky, they might have had one hit in the UK or USA, if they only sing in Italian.  Anyway, it was Mina’s birthday a day or so ago and hence the TV spectacular.

His TV is in the bedroom so I went and lay on the bed with him.  He seemed so pleased to see me, kissing me and hugging me.  Later, when I got into bed (and he did too) he cuddled me and kissed my back. Not that we can do that the other way around.  And, anyway, he was still watching the special.

I went to sleep, no dreams and only waking once for a short time.  Today he called me as he was booking the flights for the wedding.  He likes to ‘take charge’.

I thought he was just doing this wedding thing to keep me happy but he seemed really happy about it.  And we get to go to the UK.  I thought he wasn’t so keen on the whole thing and certainly not when it was going to be for almost a week but then, suddenly and without notice, he surprises me by actually booking the flights!

I guess I should be happy and I am but there is this thing that I’m never quite sure if he feels the same way; if we really are together.  Like last night when he seemed so very pleased to see me and, yet, if I were to make the move first he would say ‘Not now’ or ‘I’m too hot’ or something to make me stop.

Yes, sometimes I get confused.

The story that cannot be shared

I really don’t know how to explain this but I’m going to try.

Last night we went to a concert given by Ornella Vanone.  The problem is that, if you’re not Italian or lived here for a long time, you may not even know who she is.  Until a few weeks ago, I certainly didn’t.

She is, I understand, in her mid-seventies.  She has a good voice and sings love songs that, according to FfI are almost all about saying goodbye to a love and saying that she’ll wait for them to return.  All heart-rending stuff.

It was a good concert.  My first time at Blue Note which, as it is a jazz club, I had thought would be rather sleazy.  As it turned out it was rather nice.  Almost quite posh.

Ornella is Italian (from Milan, I think) and sings with a slightly husky voice.  A nice voice.  Not really anything that special but nice.  Of course, I don’t understand the words and, when she’s speaking, either because she’s old, or drunk (someone said she drinks a lot) or just because she’s playing to a Milan audience, her Italian is difficult to understand for me and she speaks very fast.  OK so I get some of it but not really enough.

F keeps asking if I understand.  I don’t want him to translate everything, not least because it will get so annoying for him.

But, with some songs, he goes really quiet, whilst on the other side of me, FfI is wiping away tears.  And this is the bit I want to try and explain.

Even if I could understand her words, her songs to their fullest, I’m not sure I would be so moved by them.  There’s a history that I cannot share.  Cannot even hope to share.  There’s a story behind all these songs, a story that’s different for everyone.  But, of course, that’s normal.

What I’m trying to explain (badly) is that, whereas, if I was with people from the UK or, even the USA, there would be a common, shared history to the singer.  I mean, if I was in the UK, and with someone from the UK and we were to watch someone like, say, Shirley Bassey, then, even if she’s not my favourite singer, we would all know something about her, about her history in the country, about some of her hits, about her love-life or private life or things like that.  It makes her a ‘real’ person and a person who can be ‘shared’ by you and those around you.

Whereas, here, I could not share it, could not be part of it.  I wanted to be part of it but, unless I were to read all about her, study her and her music, put each song into the setting of the time, I cannot be a part of this.  It is a history beyond my capability to perceive, to live, to have.

And to me this was striking and difficult to determine how I should feel about it.  On the one hand, it’s not important, of course.  On the other, it is a part of F that I cannot share.  I don’t mean the past, for, of course, the past is gone and neither of us can share our pasts with each other; only recount stories but never relive them.  No, this is also the future.  For the future or (in the case of the concert) the present, has a part of the past that is beyond either of us to share with each other.

We (F & I) are supposed to be going to see Joan Armatrading next year.  Being my favourite singer, it is important to me.  Her songs hold special meaning for me.  I know most of the words to the songs; can sing them with correct inflection, breathing, etc.  But, if we go, F, although with me, cannot be with me during certain songs.  Cannot be in my head or fully understand nor appreciate the meaning and the subtlety of each word.

It was a good concert.  Probably, if I had grown up knowing her, her songs, the history, I would have said ‘great’.  But I cannot say that.  I don’t know if it was great.  Was she always like this or was this substandard?  How the hell would I know?

What I do know is that it was good and that, being with F was all that really mattered.  As he held my hand or kissed me or lay (just for a moment) his head on my shoulder, it felt good and right and perfect.  And all I wanted to do was hug him whilst this (to my perception) slightly mad (and mad-looking) old lady, moved around the stage, drunkenly or unsteadily or maybe she’s always like this, singing songs about love or about the end of love, with a voice that reminded me of how, probably, Shirley Bassey is, now, in concert.

And, in my heart, so full of love for F, there was an ache for the ‘missing’ part; the part of me that is outside his experience and a part of him outside mine; a part that cannot be shared for, in a final way, we are, in fact, from a different culture, with a different history and in spite of anything that we may build together, a future of shared experiences, loves, hates, friends and enemies, there will always be this ‘missing’ history, the story that cannot be shared.

Gianna Nannini

Gianna Nannini or, as I thought for ages, Gian Annanini (although why some woman would have a blokes name, God only knows), was truly fantastic. Her name is pronounced Janananini as there is no gap when you say it.

This is helped, no doubt, by the fact that the last concert (and first here, in Italy) that I went to was…wait for it…Robbie Williams!

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Busking – who gets your money – the DJ or the Baroness?

Mantova, Saturday, 8th September.

We decide to have a drink at a bar. It’s very warm and we want to sit outside. As we walk towards the centre, we look up a side street, we see a bar with an empty table. It’s not an ideal position as there aren’t many people to watch walk by – it’s a quiet side street – and people-watching is one of our favourite pastimes. However, the beer’s the thing.

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