10 anni and 22 day – versary

So, today it’s 10 years. 10 of the best, for certain.

F is in Japan right now but coming back tomorrow and will be, hopefully, here tomorrow night (late) or if he misses his connection, Saturday.

When we went to Scotland, I got him to try Cullen Skink – which he loved and had several times afterwards. I’ve managed to procure some smoked haddock (essential for this) and so plan to make it on Saturday, together with a chocolate cake. That’s my present since now, of course, we have both this anniversary and the new one that is only on it’s 22nd dayversary.

I suppose, at some point, the one will take over from the other.

I never did talk about that day since it’s still not on social media (except a bit on Twitter ‘cos no one really uses Twitter.) It’s a kind of secret but not a secret. So far, only one person has noticed the ring. Obviously, I did tell some of my friends so we’ve had cards and even presents which is nice but unexpected, since no one was involved in the day itself, apart from the witnesses (and the dogs).

So, I went to work in the morning because I didn’t have enough holiday to take the morning off too. I came home about 12ish and we got ready. At the last minute, F decided that we should wear our dog T-shirts under our suits. I had the one with Piero and he had the one with Dino (or la mia vita, as he calls him). We walked to town, passing through the park so that the dogs were a little tired.

We arrived early, of course. We sat outside as it was sunny and reasonably warm. There’s a little garden thing at the back. Our witnesses found us and we sat around talking. At one point, P (she’s married to Af, and they were our witnesses) told me to pose with her for a picture because a tourist was taking pictures of the garden. As soon as we posed though, he turned his camera to an upper part of the building.

Eventually, we were into a side room signing some paperwork and having our documents checked. The woman doing this seemed a little bit crazy (in a nice way) – with a wide-brimmed hat, slightly 70s style, fingerless, lace gloves, etc. In the end she was the one who officiated it all and she was perfect. She seemed more excited about the whole thing than either us or the witnesses!

We went into the room and there was (paid for by our witnesses) an official photographer. I also noticed the tourist was inside but didn’t take much notice. The room is quite beautiful with full length mirrors down one side. The door is always open so anyone can slip in.

We did the thing. Had pictures taken (the tourist was still hanging around). It had taken perhaps 20 minutes, top! We went out into the nearby courtyard and were introduced to the tourist – who was P&Af’s friend and who was there to take more informal pictures. He took several of us 6 (don’t forget the dogs) and then we invited him for an aperitivo. We went to Aperol, which overlooks the Duomo. We had one drink. Then the “tourist” took off and we walked back to the park, stopping, on the way, at F’s normal lunchtime cafe for a bottle of prosecco and 4 glasses. We took these to the park and let the dogs play in the dog area whilst we drank the prosecco.

Then home to drop off the dogs. Whilst there, we had another bottle of prosecco.

Then to the restaurant that F had booked. Our normal pizza place. F had told them that it was Af’s birthday!

So, we didn’t have pizza but some antipasto (fish and vegetables) followed by more fish. During this time we had another 4/5 bottles of prosecco.

Then the cake which F had bought from our cake shop and on which was a platform. F brought out the two men figurines to put on top and we cut the cake. With that we had the huge bottle of champagne which we shared with the restaurant owners and staff and couple of random diners.

We then played a few scratchcards with the cook – who is also one of the restaurant owners, went to the Chinese shop on the corner to play some more, then walked to the bar near our home and had some more cocktails. It had been forecast to rain sometime during the day but, in fact, did not.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and we were both very happy (and quite drunk!)

I will add photos to this in the next few days.

I wish ……. kind of

A Younger Me?

It’s hot here. We’re in the middle of some sort of heatwave. I really do like it but would obviously prefer it if I were on the beach, under the umbrella, reading a good book.

But I’d forgotten this thing that comes with it. Where you are almost breaking out in a sweat all the time. Having a shower helps – but just for the time under the shower. After that, you actually break into a sweat before reverting back to this almost sweating – where the skin feels like it’s about to burst into full-on flooding. It’s not really comfortable but I’d much rather this than feeling cold.

Having just been out for a cigarette, checking the weather forecast, it’s supposed to be a real temperature of 37°C at the moment but feeling like 43°! Tomorrow will be hotter still. And this weekend, we should go down to Carrara, which will be lovely. It will be our first time on the beach this year (the weather up to about 2 weeks ago being pretty dire) and I’m looking forward to getting some sun and reading a book.

In the meantime, yesterday, someone sent me a picture of one of the models at the recent Paris Fashion Week shows who, apparently, reminded him of me – a younger me, of course, hence the picture at the top. And you see the lips? Similar, for sure, hence the horrible nickname I had at my first secondary school.

And, last night at the bar, I was looking at other, younger people, and wondering if they realise what they have because I didn’t. If I had known I was so “beautiful” maybe I could have had a different life. But only kind of, since I’m happy with my life, more or less, to date and wouldn’t really want to change it. But, obviously, I don’t know how it would have been so, just for a moment, last night, in the bar, I wondered …

And …… relax – well, maybe.

It’s really difficult to explain (here or in person), my feelings regarding Brexit and how it might affect me.

But I felt a little bit better today to read this. Of course, my distrust of things that are said or written, especially by Governments, is high but, you know, this gives me a little hope.

What isn’t entirely clear is if the pension rules, currently in place, will actually be the same after 29th March. But there is nothing I can actually do about that.

But it’s a kind of Christmas present and gives me some calm, so better than nothing.

And, speaking of Christmas, here is our tree:
Our Christmas Tree

Last Saturday, we had people coming round for an aperitivo. Nothing grand – but, of course, the house had to be sparkling and there had to be lots of food and drink. So, late Saturday afternoon, around 5, we went to get some last-minute things. And on our way back, at the Piazza just by our house, I heard singing – as in, carol singing. Now, in all the years I’ve been here, I have never, ever seen or heard carol singers. A big thing in the UK with the chances of not hearing them around zero, here, just like Christmas cards, it is definitely NOT a thing. Sadly, as we had guests coming, we couldn’t stay but, as I hadn’t heard any for so long, it was kind of wonderful and we stopped for a moment. I recorded a short video which might or might not work:

So, on that note (pun intended), I’ll wish you all a very Merry Christmas now. I hope it’s a good one for you.

Christmas is coming … and so are the stamps!

Well, it’s nearly Christmas and, as usual, one has to do Christmas cards.

And, for that, one needs stamps. And they have been released and I should get them on Thursday – which means this weekend will be writing cards.

The options are, as always, 2. The non-religious one is the one needed to send cards withing Europe and it’s this one:

Non-religious Italian Christmas Stamp 2018

The other is the religious one which I don’t get:

Religious Italian Christmas Stamp 2018

To be honest, I don’t rate this year’s choice very much but, as I say, there are only two.

So, this (long) weekend will be writing cards, eating minced pies and watching some sort of Christmas film. I’m looking forward to it!

Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again

Well, here we are, in the first few days of December and, amazingly, Italy seems a bit more prepared than usual. Well, at least that is true of the post office.

The Christmas stamps were released last Friday, 1st December and I have already got mine. Obviously, as usual, I have chosen the non-religious ones (and they are also the right price for cards within the EU) and the design is:

Normal Italian Christmas stamp 2017

For the sake of completeness, the religious ones (suitable for post within Italy) are:

Italian Religious Christmas stamp 2017

My cards are already written so today or tomorrow I can add the stamps and post them. You never know, some people even might receive them before 25th! :-)

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.

Wedding nightmares.

Wedding Nightmares

Just over 37 years ago, I was Best Man at my best schoolmate’s wedding.

It has given my nightmares ever since.

I was young. I didn’t understand and, by then, I was no longer speaking to my parents so I couldn’t turn to them for advice.

I honestly don’t remember the whole day. I only remember (slightly) one part of the day. The part where I had to give a speech. When I say that I remember, that’s not entirely true. I don’t remember what I actually said. All I remember is that it was awful. Possibly the worst speech ever uttered by anyone in the whole world, ever!

And for most of my life, every time I saw a wedding, whether in real life or on screen, the awfulness of that wedding and, in particular, that speech, came flooding back.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, A got married. He wanted me to be a witness (they don’t really have the Best Man thing here). As for when I was Best Man, I was really honoured to be asked.

Then he told me he wanted me to do a speech. I didn’t really believe it would happen, to be honest. In Italy, speeches are not a thing. They just don’t do them. Here, a wedding is the service (in church or the local council place) followed by a meal (which often lasts for hours and has about 6 million different courses). Then everyone goes home/to their rooms (if in a hotel).

But, A being A, wanted a speech from me. He was concerned that many people would not understand because it would be in English and asked if F could translate it. Instead (but only as a just in case because I really believed it wouldn’t happen – both the wedding and the speech thing), I prepared a speech in Italian. F was supposed to look over it to correct the translation but we didn’t have time before the wedding.

So, we arrive at the church. F sits at the back correcting and editing (slashing loads of stuff out because it was too long, he said) whilst the service commences.

The church
(see the church! At the top of the very windy road, just below the famous statue at Maratea – God, it was scary!)

Then we all get in cars to head back to the reception which is at the hotel we are staying at, far away from Milan, at a place called Maratea, on the Italian coast, south of Naples.

hotel with private beach
(this is the hotel, near Maratea, with its own, private, beach! The subject of another post)

We have the aperitivo. I don’t have much because I know there’s a main meal to come. Then we go in for the main meal. In the UK, we normally have the speeches after the meal. A wanted them before. M, one of his other witnesses and, possibly, his best friend, gives a speech. Then it’s my turn. He gives me the microphone but the waiters are serving the first course – so it doesn’t happen. Later it does. I (try to) speak in Italian since that is how it is written but I’m sure it was terrible – and yet, it wasn’t like 37 years ago. It didn’t embarrass me at all. Firstly because it was all written out and secondly because I made such an effort, I guess.

So, maybe now I can get over the 37-year-old disaster and be proud that I did something good?

A picture of the famous statue with the town below

Leave me be!

__leave_me_the_fuck_alone___by_alchimichi

I’m fairly easy going. I don’t need much and most of it I have already got.

But you know, leave me alone. I don’t want interferance from others and, in particular, governments and organisations. But, particularly, governments.

So, in the 1970s, the UK joined the EU. For most of my life after that, it didn’t really have a direct effect. And then I moved here. I was able to do so easily and, apart from the first couple of years, I didn’t and don’t need any sort of permission to stay here. It’s a right, guaranteed by the EU lawa and protections. In fact, right now, I can go anywhere within the EU to live and work (or not). It was granted to me by the governments of the EU and it’s a thing I like.

I have been here for over 12 years, living, working, paying my taxes, etc. I can go back, if I wanted to, or move somewhere else (as long as it’s warmer :-) ). I have true freedom of movement.

But now, because the UK are a bunch of arseholes, that current and future right is being put in doubt as with a load of other things. And Brexit hasn’t even happened yet! Almost daily, there are stories of people being threatened with deportation from the UK, people who can’t bring in their wife or husband because of an interpretation of the laws by the British courts, etc. And, still Brexit hasn’t happened!

And there are reports that, whereas the EU wants to ensure that it’s members’ people maintain the right of free movement to Britain, the British abroad are being excluded form that because the British government, to be frank, doesn’t really care about it’s small number of people abroad. On the other hand, I don’t care about much else except my continued right to stay and work here.

So, governments – LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!

Car break-ins, Cancer or Not to Cancer, iPhone software bugs.

It is about 7.15 a.m.

I am, as usual, hardly what I could term as “awake”. However, as usual, expecting something bad, as I do often, surprised to see the car where I left it.

As I walk towards it, I press the button on the fob and the indicator lights blink, as they usually do, to inform me that the car is now unlocked. Now, unlike yesterday at about 6.30 p.m., there are no “youths” hanging around in front of the car. Last night, as always, after locking the car (using the fob and not the key), I had checked that I had locked it properly by trying to open the back door as I passed. Only last night, I had made sure I had done it (it’s such an automatic thing that sometimes I cannot, within a few seconds, remember if I have checked my locking by this method) because of the group of four of five youths in front of the car. They were innocuous enough but, you know, I’m an old man now and you can’t ever be too careful, can you? And, anyway, I’m British and youths hanging around with little to do are always a bad sign.

I get to the car and open the door, taking my bag off my shoulder as I do so to slip it into the passenger footwell.

And I noticed something slightly strange. On the front passenger seat is the emergency first aid box that is permanently in the car. The reason it was strange is that I had not moved it from under the front seats and so it was completely out of place. I looked behind my seat where I put various thing, most of them in some cheap yellow shopping-style bag. And sure enough it was a little in disarray, and the umbrella could have been moved and my “summer driving shoes” had almost certainly been moved.

I checked each of the windows of the car. No, none had been smashed.

So, someone had got into to a car that I absolutely, certainly KNOW was locked without having to break any windows. They had rummaged around a bit and, from what I can tell, took two or three lighters (that I get for free anyway) but nothing else.

Not that there was anything to take. The yellow bag holding things like a bottle of water for the dogs, some additive for the windscreen wiper water and some other fairly crap items that are only useful when making car trips.

However, it did give me a slightly weird feeling. It’s not as if I can really report anything? I mean, what could I possibly say? But now I doubt the security of the car, of course.

And the reason I was parking in that particular place was that I had been to the doctor. And I don’t have cancer, of the lungs, at least, although I’m not entirely convinced I haven’t got it. However, because the heart doctor had panicked, I’m now on pills for blood pressure, which doesn’t really please me, and I have some further tests to do next year (the first booking I could get). So bugger a bit but relief as well.

The doctor suggested that I try and cut down my smoking. She also added that I was a “lucky man” – but, then, I’ve always said that, haven’t I?

In other news, Apple phones are just as crap and unreliable as other phones. iMessage doesn’t work with phones that aren’t other Apple phones. A long conversation with Apple Help, which included resetting my telephone, didn’t help and they told me it must be my provider. It didn’t really make sense as it HAD been working and, then, sometime around April/May it stopped working – which, for a while I thought was because the phones I was trying to text were in the UK and I thought it was a UK problem – until a colleague had a problem sending a message to me.

I’ve now found that this is a known problem (well, known to the world except for Apple, it seems) and, although I’ve tried every trick given to sort the problem – so far, no good. Which doesn’t please me much. It’s something to do with an update to the operating system that they did a while ago, it seems. Let’s hope the next update fixes this. I thought the guy from Apple who was helping me was quite OK – until afterwards when I realised that he, like nearly all helplines, actually knew nothing and was just doing the equivalent of “switch it off and then back on again”

So bugger.

I will add a photo later or tomorrow.

Italy, just a little old-fashioned?

I remember when we first came to live here. The country (and the people) were strange. Things that I noticed were things like the fact that everyone seemed to have two mobile telephones (whereas in the UK there were still some people without 1 and two was hardly ever seen) and that there were “dancing girl slots” on so many television programmes. By that, I mean to say, a programme (usually a quiz show) would be “interrupted” whilst a scantily clad woman danced, usually in a provocative way, to some music. In that way, it was like stepping back in time. And yet, almost as soon as we moved here, Italy introduced laws to prohibit smoking inside publicly-used buildings. I think, at the time, only the second EU country to do this.

And, since then, I have understood that Italy, whilst being progressive in some ways, is so very backward in others.

Italy remains the only country in the EU that doesn’t have some kind of civil or other union facility for non-heterosexual couples. They’re discussing it in parliament now. But only after being “told off” by the EU for this “oversight”. There’s still a good chance that it won’t be agreed and that here it will not be possible. Yet.

But they’ve just introduced a law to stop people smoking in cars (where there are children or pregnant women) and fines for throwing cigarette butts anywhere but in ashtrays (that must be provided by the council).

Of course, you can’t always get the truth here. The cigarette prohibition, for example. For several days the news programmes had been all about smoking being banned in cars. Period. No mention of the actual rules, it seemed like a blanket ban. In fact, it was only on the day before the ban took place that some (only one that I found) gave the truth of the ban. The day of the ban, it was widely reported – correctly.

But, ignoring their treatment of “news” (which seems rarely to be based on fact) and their treatment of “non-ordinary” people (which seems to be stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages), there is the treatment of women.

For this they deserve a special place. I go back to the thing I mentioned above – the dancing women. In a terribly old-fashioned and sexist way, women on TV are generally seen as objects – and no one seems to mind this at all! Sure there are discussion programs where the older ladies (often pumped up with botox or sculpted to resemble some alien from outer space) is taken more seriously, but once you get on to light entertainment, women are nothing more than an adornment like beautiful jewels. There to be looked at and, preferably wearing something that “shows off their figure” or, even better, shows tons of flesh.

And, so it is that we have two stories today that sum it all up. The first is a woman who may be sent to prison for 6 years because “she didn’t do the housework” for her husband and, possibly most frightening of all, a company boss, cleared of sexual harassment but who, according to the judges, DID sexually sexually harass female employees! But it was only his childlike sense of humour, apparently.

The gay and gay-friendly people were using the slogan “Wake Up Italy” when they had their demonstrations to change the law re: civil unions and I’m inclined to agree – but not just for civil unions. In fact, maybe civil unions shouldn’t be the first thing on their list?

Italy – a land full of old stuff (which is a good thing) – think ancient ruins, etc.
Italy – a land which is just plain old-fashioned (which is not a good thing) – think attitudes to women, etc.

And I haven’t even covered racial problems, meritocracy and a whole host of other things. The rest of the world’s advances in some things seem to have passed Italy by.