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.

Connected! A wedding and a funeral.

Connected! A wedding and a funeral

Like the film. Except only the one wedding and not four.

The wedding I mentioned in the two posts below.

The funeral was yesterday. I had been feeling very anxious about it. I was going for the day. It meant flying to the UK, taking trains and it was going to be a long day. Plus there would be plenty of people that I should know but I knew I wouldn’t recognise. And, F was going to be in Japan.

So, he went to Japan on Saturday afternoon and, because of the funeral and the fact that he was away, that whole sinking feeling was back. The spiral into a blackness. But, I knew it was mainly because of the funeral.

I get up at 4.30 a.m. to take the dogs out. Poor things. It would be their only walk until I got back that evening. I felt bad about it but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I didn’t even have time for coffee. I had to be ready by 5.30 for the taxi I had booked. The taxi was there, on time and I got to the airport. I had already checked in and was only going for the day, so no baggage – straight through security and a cappuccino and then straight to the “smoking cubicle”. Then queue up to get through passport control (I was going to the UK – outside the normal rules for Europe – bloody British.

I was flying Easyjet. Not my first choice but I needed to make it as cheap as possible.

I had forgotten that they allocated seat numbers now and got into any seat, to be reminded by a gentleman that I needed to go to the seat I had been allocated. Fucking hell! And it made me wonder why people would spend more money to have “speedy boarding” if they have seat numbers allocated. It became clear before we went through to the gate when the staff started tagging the bags which had to be put in the hold – they had counted them on and the overhead racks had run out of room. Still, it seemed to me crazy that you would pay extra just for that.

Then I remembered that I could also have “paid extra” to decide which seat I wanted rather than an automatic allocation, when I had checked in over the Internet.

We arrived at Gatwick. I absolutely hate the passport checks going back into the UK. Even with a British passport, I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in – they make me feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in!

Through passport control and straight out to the smoking area.

Then to the station to collect my pre-booked tickets. Then I had some time but not really enough to go back to the smoking area.

It’s a bit cold – but I’m dressed like it’s winter here, so it’s OK. On the train. Got to Guildford. Checked with the taxi how long it would take to the crematorium (where the service was to be) and how much it would cost and, more importantly, if I could use one of the two £10 notes I had. Apparently, I could. The new ones have been introduced but it seems there is a while yet before the old ones go out of circulation.

I have several cigarettes and go in to Costa to get a cappuccino. “What size”, I’m asked. Erm, I have no idea. He shows me medium. I’m used to Italian now and that’s too large. “Something smaller”, I reply. He gets a “small” – which is still far too large, really. And I really want it in a cup not a cardboard beaker. But, hey, ho, I go with it. It’s a large cappuccino all right – but with a massive amount of really crap “foam” on top. But I drink it anyway. And go and have more cigarettes.

Then I get a taxi. I am at the crematorium early. The service before them is just going in. I have more cigarettes. I see people getting out of their cars in the car park and chatting to each other. I wonder if I’m supposed to know them. They head towards the building and me.

The guy in the light grey suit heads towards me. He’s unshaven but he looks like H, my best friend from school. I assume he’s D, his brother. I say, “D?” He says he is H. Oh, for fucks sake, I think. Why am I so crap. But my mind closes this off quickly. I can’t worry about it today. I give him a hug. I am pleased to see him and sad for him at the same time. I am introduced to his daughter and his son. This is the first time I’ve met them. His daughter looks the spitting image of his wife, T, who is the person we are having the service for today. She had a brain tumour and died a couple of weeks ago.

He is worried that I am OK. He introduces me to someone who I guess I should know but really don’t. It’s T’s sister. She is chatty and talks to me and introduces me to others that I don’t know and shouldn’t. We talk and chat.

I am introduced to M, who I do know although he is much, much older now, probably mid seventies. He was also a kind of friend from school days although was never really my friend and, anyway, was years older than us – but that’s a whole other story – if I can ever properly remember it.

M hangs around me. We go in together and we are to sit with close family, at the front.

There are so many people here that they are standing all around the room and, although I don’t look, at the back.

We have the service. T comes in inside a wicker basket thing. The service is semi-religious. It’s lovely, if you see what I mean. It is heartfelt and heartbreaking. She was younger than me – didn’t smoke or anything. Bugger!

We go outside. There are possibly 200 hundred people here. She was well liked/loved.

I am taken to the wake by some people who are neighbours. I hear afterwards that V (the wife) had been so pleased to meet me because T had told her how much she had enjoyed their trip to Milan. There is food and drink available but there isn’t enough for all the people here. I say that the number of people is a testament to how well loved T was. I say all sorts of crap to anyone that’ll listen. I don’t really want to be there. I think: this is the way it is now – I shall be coming to the UK for funerals – it’s an age thing.

I get to see H a bit. I hug him several times. M asks if I can come and see him. I say I had thought of coming in December when I have a couple of days’ holiday. M says that would be very good. I want to do this.

I am never without people to speak to. I am the centre of attention or, rather, the second centre of attention after H. They have all seen the picture of me and H after our first holiday together, on our own. The picture was taken by my mother. H disputes the date of it – I don’t know – it was my mother who wrote the date on the back of the photo.

H doesn’t burst into tears but almost, at several points. It’s been lovely and not lovely at the same time.

D takes me back to the station. I am very early. I have hours to wait before the plane back. I wish I’d booked an earlier flight but I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get back and wanted to be there in case H needed me.

But, he didn’t. And, anyway, he had loads of people around. I catch an early train. At the airport I have a meal, as I had only eaten very little all day. Then I decide to go through security. This, being Britain, means no smoking as there are no “smoking areas”. Bloody up-their-own-arse people. I’ve been overhearing conversations whilst travelling and, to be honest, it’s painful. I can’t imagine living here again. I hope, really hope, I never have to. I try to buy chocolate. They need my boarding pass – which they don’t, by the way. I say no. She says “it’s the rules.” I tell her I don’t want them then. I go to Boots for Lemsip and pills. The guy in the queue before me is asked for his boarding card. He says it’s in his jacket so he doesn’t have it. The guy takes his money anyway. My turn and he asks me if I have my boarding card. I say I have but he doesn’t need it. He’s clearly pissed off but accepts my payment anyway. I go and get chocolate and newspapers from WH Smith. They don’t ask me for my boarding card.

I wait around, have yet another beer and, finally, the gate is up. I can’t wait to get out of this country. The funeral was fine but the people travelling make me want to go home – and this is NOT home. I should try to remember this when I complain about Italians.

On board, the guy next to me wants to talk. He talks. Then he goes to sleep. We are late. I worry about the dogs having been inside since around 5 until now – which is already 11 p.m. I don’t even stop for a cigarette but get in a taxi straight away. They are a little bit super-pleased to see me. I take them out. I feed them and have a cigarette. It’s gone midnight. I go to bed and they come with me, super-attached. And then normality will start in just 5 hours.

God, I’m knackered.

And the connection between the funeral and the wedding? Well, this was the woman that H, my best friend at school, married those 37 years ago and when he asked me to be Best Man and when I made that terrible speech. Life is odd sometimes, isn’t it.

I guess it was a bit of a shock!

“It will be quite hot,” I suggested.

“I come from Calabria,” was the reply. And, it is true that Southern Italy cuisine tends to use chillies in their food, making it a little hot.

But, this was Indian food and Indian food uses a variety of spices that can numb your mouth in ways that chillies really can’t. But, we’re in Italy and, after all, Indian food here is certainly not like Indian food in the UK. No, no, not nearly as hot as it can be in the UK.

I was having my usual Lamb Balti. On the menu it has two chillies against it meaning it is one of the two hottest/spiciest things on the menu. I love it.

A had chosen Chicken Madras. If we had been in the UK I would have said he shouldn’t have it. Here, I couldn’t really say that even though it was the only other item on the menu with the two-chilli sign. However, I was a bit concerned. After all, in spite of everything they may say, Italians simply aren’t used to spicy-hot food.

However, in his usual arrogant manner, he effectively told me that people in Calabria do everything better, especially when it comes to hot food.

Let’s be clear on this, I had not chosen the Indian restaurant. He had chosen it. It’s not because I didn’t want to go just that Italians trust “foreign” food in the way they trust immigrants – in that, they don’t. We still have stories here about the Chinese restaurants using cats in their dishes, etc. Plus, Indian food can be very spicy-hot and really not at all what Italians are used to. So, even if he’s a “real man” and comes from “God’s gift to the world”, Calabria, I had my doubts about the choice. I was, in fact, quite nervous about this. But, hell, I love it and he had chosen it.

Whilst we’re waiting for our antipasto (I had the usual mix and he had chosen some chicken and lentil soup – which, apparently, was quite nice), he said that I was an OK person for never having insisted on this place as one of our options.

But, that’s partly, for me, because it would only give him another reason to diss English people and their choice of foods. He can be quite crap at times.

Still, we were here. As part of my mixed starters I have a poppadom and I like to mix the incredibly hot onion mix with the cooling yoghurt to have with it. After he had finished his soup, he looked at the onion mix.

“That’s really hot,” I warned him. He decided to try a very small amount. It was as I had said. Too hot for him. He was grateful I had warned him and said so. But, that really should have been a warning in general. Anyway, it was too late now – we had ordered. The main dish arrived.

The waiter had persuaded him to take rice with his madras. I was, as usual (as always), having two naan breads. There’s a thing about spicy-hot food that’s done well. It takes a few moments to really hit home and then it stays with you and builds up over time. It’s one of the things I really like about Indian food. But, for me, you really need the naans to take away the heat. Bread works wonders.

So he started with his madras. The first mouthful was OK but by the second, you could tell by the look on his face, it became a little too much.

After all his “this will be nothing – I’m from Calabria” stuff, it made me laugh (inside, of course – I couldn’t actually show that). As it happened, the waiter came over to check if everything was OK. He knew me so knew that I was fine but was really checking about A. A spoke to him telling him it was too hot. The waiter suggested that he mix it with the rice (although I’ve always found naan breads better) to take away some of the heat. Still the waiter took it away to be “softened” a bit.

Except something went a bit wrong with the instructions and it came back hotter than it had been. It was like something from one of those comedies.

Needless to say it went back again to be “softened”. By that time, I’d finished mine. I tried the “new” version. Obviously, mine had been quite hot too so my taste buds were a bit fucked. Anyway, I found it too tomatoey.

But, fair play to the people in the restaurant. They were sympathetic and tried to be very helpful. I guess they’ve seen all this before!

However, maybe next time we go somewhere he isn’t used to, A will actually listen to me and not assume that, just because he’s from Calabria, he knows and can do everything?

Although I very much doubt that, bless him :-D

We were at the Rajput – see link on the right

Another night.

Of course, I could be dreaming.

Except I know I’m not.






There’s panic. I’m used to this panic. It’s not the first time. At first I thought he used the Italian word for tick. As I wake enough to move, I grunt something. I don’t know what time this is but, in any case, I was asleep. Deep, deep sleep but, quite obviously, not deep enough. And anyway, him being Italian, the well-being of others is not always foremost.

Except, of course, Dino. That is foremost and the worry that occurs when he thinks something isn’t good is incredible.

I try to move. My back still hurts. The “belt thing” I’m wearing is hot on my back but, although it’s quite pleasant, it hasn’t cured the pain …….. yet.

I get up slowly, cursing him in my head. I’m not really awake, to be honest.

Dino is lying on the bed. He is hunched over Dino.

Dino has been licking his paw and that is where I am to look.

There is something red on one of the pads of his paw. But, although it’s red, it’s shiny (but not in a “wet” way like it would be if it was blood) and it seems to have flecks of silver or something. I touch it and it’s not wet. It can’t be blood. I scrape at the edge. It seems to be something stuck to the pad – a little like chewing gum.

My eyes can hardly stay open. I wonder why he hasn’t tried this. But, of course, that’s not fair. He hasn’t owned dogs. He doesn’t really know. He has no experience. Still, it’s very dark o’clock and I was very asleep although less so now. I want to say “for fuck’s sake ….” but I don’t. I don’t complain about being woken up.

I tell him that it’s just something stuck to Dino’s paw. He can see it now, I think. I haven’t taken it off, I’m too tired and can’t be bothered. I get back into bed.

He apologises and I reply with “It’s OK”, even if it’s really not OK.

I am already lying down. I wish he’d turn the bloody light off. But, of course, he is determined to get this “thing” off the paw. And so he does.

Then he turns the light off and tells me that he’s going for a cigarette. I mumble “OK”. after he turns the light off, I look at the digital light on the ceiling that tells me it is something like 12.30 (but I’m not too sure since my eyes are not really working.)

I go to sleep. Another night of disturbed sleep then.

Difficult, 14 and gay? Don’t let the story get in the way of the headline.

Yesterday evening, I spent a few hours with the lovely Lola and, at one point we were discussing how misogynous Italy is and lamenting that Italy hadn’t really entered the 21st Century.

Talking of which, there was an “interesting”* conversation at lunchtime between some male colleagues that went something like this:

Colleague A: I took my daughter to volleyball practice
Colleague B: And I imagine you enjoyed watching all the girls
Colleague A: But they’re only 13 so not really. It would be different if they were 18.

OK, really, it wasn’t said like this but near enough. All I could think was – but they are the same age as your daughter! So this is almost like incestuous desire!!!!!

And, here’s another thing that makes Italy just a little bit “backward”.

Of course, if you read it carefully, it does seem like the foster parents were trying (and not quite as the headline suggests, packing him off as soon as they knew) and only “gave up” because a) it became very difficult and b) everyone “asked” them why they were bothering.

I would like more background on this story. I’m wondering if the real problem is not that he was gay, per se, but, rather that life with a 14-year-old was too difficult or whether peer pressure played a part. Let’s be honest here, a 14-year-old is quite a handful. A troubled 14-year-old, more so!

Or, even, if they were being “bullied” by other parents?

In any event, my heart goes out to the kid who has obviously not had it easy whichever way you put it. I know what it’s like to be certain of your sexuality at that age. The difference is that I never told anyone and kept that secret for almost another 5 years!

* And, by interesting I mean disgusting

Occasionally, Italians are REALLY annoying!

As I have mentioned before, I quite like food.

OK, so that’s an understatement. I bloody LOVE food. I mean L. O. V. E. it. Especially food that is bad for you although I also like food that is good for you, I suppose (I like vegetables and stuff).

Coming to Italy, one would think then, was really just the perfect place for me. And it is, in many, many ways.

But, as I have probably mentioned countless times, the Italians, themselves (with notable exceptions such as F, Lola, etc.) are so SMALL-MINDED when it comes to food. In fact, over the last few days, I have become quite incensed about it. So much so that this morning, when I brought flapjacks in for my colleague, S, to taste (and many thanks to Amy for reminding me about the fact that flapjacks are made with Golden Syrup), when she said that she loved them and wanted the recipe, I had my little say about Italians always complaining how nowhere else can do food properly and that it wasn’t true as can be proved by some of the things that I make and that Italians like.

And the reason I was so uptight about this was some random article about foods you SHOULD NOT ask for in Italy.

One of the things was an Hawaiian Pizza (boiled ham with pineapple as a pizza topping). The article was certain that none of the foods mentioned were available in Italy. I pointed out, quite rightly, that I have had this pizza in a couple of places in Milan (and, with fresh pineapple rather than the tinned variety and really top-quality ham it is NOT the same as any I’ve had in the UK but a million, zillion times better).

But Italians will be so effing conservative when it comes to food! So I’ve had many comments railing against such a thing and saying that this is done only for the tourists (when I specifically pointed out that these pizzerias were NOT in any tourist area!) and that Milan is not a typical Italian city. The most stupid thing is that they think it is horrible – without even tasting it! And yet a fishy mayonnaise sauce is the perfect topping when spread over a thin slice of veal!!! And Melon goes with cured ham. Or figs.

They just close their minds to tasting something new without some preconceived ideas about what is right and wrong. In fact, if it wasn’t invented in Italy then it’s obviously wrong.

Sorry (Lola), but they’re just plain wrong!

And it makes me just a little irritated, to be honest.


Arguing about food with Italians. Do I have mad cow disease?

Well, I have been here for a number of years now so I am, I feel, partly qualified.

Obviously, I have not tasted everything this wonderful country has to offer. For example, I learned today that there is such a thing as tomato mostarda – and, what is better, is I am promised some by a colleague :-). Mostarda is usually made with fruit (pear, fig, etc.) and has a special, very slightly mustardy taste.

The reason that I learnt about this is that we were having an argument about food.

Yes, an actual argument which, even if I am English, I didn’t lose, by the way. Even if there is a lot of English food that is really good, people here still think of English food as it was in the 50s, 60s and 70s which, to be honest, was not really great, in general. Then we found things like garlic and our cuisine improved at breakneck speed. However, I digress.

For lunch, in the works canteen, there was, for the main course, goulash with polenta. I do eat polenta but, when I sat down with colleagues at the table and one of them said something out my choice of main course, I couldn’t help but make some snide comment about polenta.

Polenta is, after all, as I pointed out, a “filler” in that it fills you up. What it does not have is taste. Nor, for that matter, a decent consistency. Imagine, if you will, some lumpy, badly mashed potato that has been allowed to get cold and then warmed up – but without any real taste.

I did say that “rough” (i.e. unrefined) polenta is much better in that it does have some taste (and mixed with a good Gorgonzola it is quite remarkable). However, I think “tasteless stodge” would be the best description for polenta.

I’m guessing that this was “poor people” food. You didn’t need to have much or any meat but some sort of sauce to give it taste and then, bingo, you had a filling meal!

The person in front of me couldn’t really disagree but tried. I explained again that it was, basically, a filler.

I then added (as I was in my stride) that Italians, who think they know something about food are, in fact, quite crazy and can’t really talk about “food” in that they have meat with fish – a very popular dish here. A number of years ago I would not have dared to do this. Now, I know what I’m talking about.

He knew what I meant. He said “You mean vitello tonato?” I did indeed. He then tried to say that it wasn’t really like that as it was only a sauce. I replied that it was a fish sauce ….. with meat. He agreed but said that there was only about 10% of tuna and mostly mayonnaise. I retorted with the fact that containing fish and tasting of fish, meant that it was, in fact, a fish sauce – and that insane Italians had it with, of all things, a piece of meat.

He then decided to try a different tack.

“Chutney,” he said.

“Mostarda,” I came back with. I think he knew he was beaten.

He didn’t like mostarda even if his wife comes from the place that makes “the best mostarda in the world”. He promised to get me some.

I Said how much I liked mostarda, especially with cold meats. He then told me about tomato mostarda and promised me some of that.

To be honest, rather than chutney, he could have come back with a lot of things but I’m getting better at this lark and can think up things to come back with.

The problem is that everyone think that Italians = food and English not= food which, of course, is too much of a generalisation and therefore, is always open to attack. In my case, whenever anyone comes out with something like “the English don’t know how to cook”, I have a number of things to hit back with – including vitello tonata and polenta. Italians don’t really equal food after all ;-)

Then again, it’s really all a matter of taste.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand Italians :'(

Many people here take “half a coffee”.

They can’t drink a “whole one” as it’s too much. The machine we have means you have a capsule and, by pressing a button, YOU determine how much liquid goes into the cup. In general, this is a mouthful (this is not the UK or the USA). This is an espresso.

However, instead of just stopping the water soon after it’s started, they choose to do a normal espresso and then pour half of it into another cup (and then give it to me).

But I suppose we (from the UK and USA at least) are used to drinking a coffee rather than just having a taste of coffee, like the Italians. Still this half-coffee thing doesn’t really make sense to me.

Nor so does mustard. Not that they have mustard here. They have senape which is a vinegar flavoured, thick sauce. No hint of “hot”. Today I had some deep fried, doughnut-style-non-sweet-dough, wrapping some cheese and onion mix for lunch. And the cook, bless her, added senape. Now, mustard goes with meat and only pork (and ham) and beef at that. It doesn’t go with cheese and onion. Even if it isn’t really mustard. So I didn’t eat it.

I suppose it’s much like veal with a fish sauce. That doesn’t go either and makes me feel quite sick just to think about it!

Italians! Great food (in general) but really, really, really weird as well.

Half full

It’s only half.

But why? I mean to say, a half is almost the same size as a full, since to get the half, the cup is filled slightly higher and, therefore a half of that is just a fraction shorter than a normal short.

So, I see no difference really between a half or a whole.

The benefit is that I get free coffee – a short coffee, certainly, but a coffee nonetheless.

My colleague takes a coffee with me in the morning at about 8.45 and then gives me half a coffee at about 10.20.

Occasionally, very occasionally, she takes a half coffee in the afternoon.

We’re taking a centimetre of difference here.

But someone else has also started giving me half his coffee. But I find this one a bit strange. I almost feel like he’s trying to bribe me. You see, I really don’t like him and he knows this, for sure. To me he is the most ineffectual, overpaid, useless moron. He has, in the past, said things that are simply not true and done things that really show how useless he is.

And, yet, suddenly, here he is on an almost daily basis, giving me half a coffee.

Obviously, instead of ignoring him, I have to say “hello” and “thank you”. I’m not THAT rude. But, still, it really does grate on me. And it does feel like a kind of bribe, as if he’s trying to get me to “like” him, and not even in a Facebook kind of way!

However, since I think this whole “half” coffee thing (if you see what I mean) is weird, coffee is coffee and free is free. So I will just have to put with the “hello” and “thank you” that goes with it. Although the fact that he is a quite useless bastard will, quite obviously, not change.

Don’t mind me, I’m just having a little rant that’s all.

This is a post for non-Italians.

Italians – don’t read this.

That includes you, Lola and you, Pietro. This doesn’t apply to you.

I’m just having a rant.

I have come to the conclusion that Italians are a) ignorant b) bad-mannered, c) rude or d) stupid.

Or, of course, all of the above at the same time.

Yesterday, it seemed they were all those and all at the same time.

Let me give some examples:

1. I’m taking the dogs for the evening walk. We get in the lift and we arrive at the ground floor. I open the lift doors and there is an older couple waiting to take the lift. From the front of the lift to the door to outside is a matter of a few feet. There are some steps on the right (the stairs to the floors going round the lift) and to the left is the corridor to go to the shops and café that are on the ground floor. When the lift door is open, this corridor is, effectively, shut off to you.

There is, just about, enough room for two people to pass each other without going up the stairs a step or two, providing you walk a little sideways.

I am holding two leads connected to two excited dogs. They enjoy going out for a walk. They are straining on the leads. It is not possible for me to either go sideways nor to go up the steps.

The two people stand, one behind the other and, two people, one behind the other, effectively block the door outside.

I wait for a few seconds.

The dogs don’t. The people stand there – in my way. They give no thought to moving. I decide they are stupid. Surely, it must be that? They look like perfectly respectable people but, quite obviously, the fact that they have lived so long is purely a matter of luck and definitely not judgement.

As the dogs strain to get past, the woman turns a little and tries to step back. She is obviously more stupid than I had at first thought as there is nowhere to go. So the dogs brush against her (much to her chagrin) and I mutter that they are stupid.

2. On the same dog walk. We are nearing the end. We have to pass the tobacconists. They are doing some road works (on the pavement) and the pavement is not so large.

As I approach, I see that there are about 5 or 6 people who are at the cigarette machine and as if they are in a queue. They are completely blocking the path.

They see us but do not move. I mean, why would you? We are in Italy. We get to the point where in a second we will collide with them. Two of the people who are “at the end of the queue”, move back slightly, permitting us to squeeze through. Again, I have two dogs. They are obviously not happy about the dogs touching them. Because, quite obviously, they just didn’t realise that the dogs would touch them if they leave a minuscule gap for us to get through!

3. I am driving. I need to turn left. There are two bikes (one after the other) coming towards me on the opposite side of the road. If I were Italian I would just turn into the road and go. I am not. I am polite. I wait. The first bike, without any signals turns right into the road into which I will be turning. It is annoying but it’s OK. The older woman on the second bike sees that I am waiting and so tries to cycle a bit faster.

Without signals, she also turns right. I could have turned right before the first one, IF ONLY THEY HAD SIGNALLED. Bastard people with no thought for anyone but themselves.

4. I am driving down the road. Cars are parked either side. There is enough room for a car to double park (providing it is “tucked in” and for another to get past. Just about. The car in front is driving a little slowly – but anyway, suddenly stops without any indication that they were going to do so. They have not “tucked themselves in” and, therefore, there is no way I can get past. Obviously, the road belongs to them and I should have realised that. Also they had absolutely no idea that I was behind them. I guess their mirror is used to check hair and make-up?

There were lots of other examples last night – but I can’t list them all.

But, can I just say, it FUCKING ANNOYS me!

* Of course, this doesn’t apply to any Italians that are my friends. Except, of course, the ones who are a) ignorant b) bad-mannered, c) rude or d) stupid. But you’ll know who you are.