Autumn brings ………………. something to look forward to

Well, in two days it will be September and, so Autumn.

Actually, since last weekend, it’s felt like Autumn. There’s been quite a bit of rain and the nights are cold. So much so that two nights ago we put the sort-of-duvet on the bed again. I don’t think I’ve ever done it so early!

Apart from the cold weather and rain which I do hate, Autumn/September brings one other thing – the Mantova book festival – Festivaletteratura!.

Once again, F will be too busy to come, which is a shame. In fact, for this festival he will be away in Greece opening new stores/concessions for the company. However, in another way, it’s kind of better in that I get to do what I want and see what I want. There’s also the slight possibility that I shall be able to stay overnight which would be great because maybe I can go to Scritture Giovani – which I love.

So we shall see but, in any case, I shall go for the Saturday and, depending on the weather, hope to have my usual stroll around the town, go to some events and meet up with old friends (and eat some lovely food).

It’s really brightened up this cold, miserable, rainy day for me :-)

Spam comments; Mantova; Facebook and the changing of Social Networking

I’m getting more spam on here at the moment – all captured and not published but I still have to check it, so it’s a pain.

Usually, the English is terrible. Often, in spite of links to different sites, the messages are the same. I think the best one I have ever had was the one that just said ‘I hate you’ the other details of this were: (being the link), (being the email address) and (being the IP address). I kept that one, even if it isn’t published. Most tell me what a wonderful site this is and how wonderfully I write and how the ‘post’ was so informative and was the perfect answer to some life-long question that the supposed person had had.

A few offer me ways to make this web site something that can generate so much cash that I would never have to work again. A few offer pornographic sites that are, of course, the best.

Still, the ‘I hate you’ one was by far the best and, strangely, I really love it!

Actually, I think I’m getting more spam because of my ‘Elton John is Gay!’ post. It has been the one most favoured by Google searches as of late. It seems that if you type in ‘William Hague Gay’ and search for images – the image I posted comes out as the first one! Who would have known?

Even though that image is used by a number of other newspaper sites, mine is first :-D


I had a very nice comment from Saruk to say that Mantova will be waiting for me next time! I am so happy about that. The weather, this weekend, will be very nice and I remember so many nice years being at the Festival – even the year where an African artist, doing some rain-evoking chanting/dance thing meant that the heavens opened and the storm was so bad that the event had to be cancelled, people walking over chairs as the auditorium was flooded (perhaps God was looking down after all! :-D) – enjoying both the Festival and the fine weather, meeting friends from Mantova and the UK. Ah, good times.


Facebook, the popular social networking site is losing some of its function – at least for me.

There are many applications (games) on there and, having moved on from Farmville, I am now playing Camelot. This is Farmville with wars which makes it a little more interesting.

Every time something happens (like you complete a quest or get a token from Merlin or ask for help building a castle or searching for your destroyed army after some battle), it is posted on your wall for all your friends to see. Since the purpose of this game is to grow and become stronger then encourage you to become friends with as many people as possible and so, now, I am ‘friends’ with people all over the world – people who I have never met and am unlikely to meet and who, in real life, are unlikely to be friends.

And, yet, since you ‘speak’ to a lot of these people almost every day, since you have common goals, since you are sharing experiences (albeit fictional ones within the game), they feel the same as real friends and provoke the same emotions.

There is laughter, crying, anger, frustration – in exactly the same way as if they were ‘real people’ (yes, I know they are real people but they are only ‘virtual’ friends, so you know what I mean). Recently, when the leader of my alliance was verbally attacked by other members of our alliance it caused a rift every bit as real as if we all lived in the same village. The hatred was just as vicious, the outpouring of emotion from all sides, just as real and vivid.

And, for me too! I was surprised at myself and noted how much I felt, how much, inside, I was upset or angered. The edges of the virtual and the real were blurred.

Originally, Facebook (as far as I was aware) was intended for a way to keep in contact with friends from real life; to see how they were doing; to share photographs; to tell everyone how you were doing, what you were doing, etc. But this ‘gaming’ thing is different. It never was quite the same with Farmville – but with Camelot the virtual world becomes another ‘real’ world, even if it isn’t. Friends are not friends but more like colleagues in the game with all the political and emotional ‘games’ that people play in real life work situations or, even real life social situations. Although it does tend to be a little more like school with it’s excess of pettiness, etc.

The major downside is that, with all these Camelot friends, posting all this stuff on the main page, the real purpose of Facebook has changed and it’s difficult to see what your real friends are doing, so lost are their few posts to the hundreds generated by Camelot each day.

So, whereas Camelot started as a subset of Facebook, now it almost seems as if Facebook has become a subset of Camelot! Of course, I could ‘hide’ all these Camelot posts. But to do that would mean that I lose out on free Merlin’s tokens and not be able to help these virtual friends of mine (and in turn they will not help me, perhaps?). Mixed in with these posts are the Farmville posts and the Frontierville posts (which, although I don’t play that, come up as some ‘friends’ do play it), etc., etc.

And, so, Facebook, instead of telling you anything about your real friends, tells you so much about what they are doing in these virtual games.

Of course, there is a solution to this (Facebook – if you’re listening?). That is to have two ‘front pages’. The front page for games and the other front page for sharing photographs, posting things of real interest rather than the fact that you are building a castle or have found, on your farm, a party duck, etc.

But, back to the game and how much real life is there in this virtual world. Is this what the social network founders had in mind? I suspect not. The creation of a world, bringing together people who will never meet and who, if they had, would never be real friends has, I suspect, modified the function of social networking, creating something that is similar to social networking but cutting across the boundaries of the real world.

But, then, this IS like the real world, I suppose, just on a global scale and in a virtual world that, to all intents and purposes, is a mirror of the real world. This gaming is much like school or work. People from different backgrounds and with different (moral) standards, forced into a small, inner world, where, here, they have something in common as one does in school or at work. The only danger that I see is where the virtual world of the game is taken too seriously (and I assure you that it is) by some people. There is a danger that the emotions in this world become too real and people lose the ability to see it for what it really is – a game and not really the most important thing in life.

Changing Vet?; Weekends Away; Mantova – but not this year!

Let’s be honest, go to a different doctor and you’ll be sure to get a different opinion. General Practitioners are exactly that – general. Specialists, on the other hand are a different beast altogether.

The same is true of everyone, I’m not just singling out doctors here.

I’ve been thinking, for some time now, that I need a different vet. It’s not that the one (or, rather ones, since there are two of them) are bad, exactly, it’s just that I’m not sure they really do the best or right thing.

Take the lump behind Rufus’ ear. He has lots of lumps now; it’s not unusual; he’s over 14 years of age. However, this particular lump kept on growing, fertilised, no doubt, by Dino’s instance on licking it so often. So, eventually, as Dino’s licking would sometimes result in it bleeding, I took Rufus to the vet.

I wasn’t worried about the lump itself, and explained that I wanted to find some way to stop Dino licking it. He looked at it. He wanted to check to see if it was malignant. Actually that thought hadn’t crossed my mind but, OK. He tested it. Or, rather, he poked and prodded it (which made it worse than before). It was not malignant. But the answer to my question was not given. There was some talk of, if it gets worse, we can always remove it but we don’t want to as he is old.

Hmmmm. Plasters provided little respite. But, then, Dino seemed to leave it alone, most of the time.

When we were on holiday, staying at Johnny’s place, one night, Dino was obviously bored or something and, during the night, licked it so much that, in the morning, it was bleeding again – and quite a lot. So we went to the vet that Johnny and A used for their dogs (who turned out to be an old school mate of F’s). He looked at it and said it would be best to remove it.

He did it there and then (and I learnt also that F is a bit squeamish about blood and stuff). It took less than half an hour, cost less than €100 (although we probably got a ‘special price’) and, apart from re-bandaging it over the next couple of weeks, everything was perfect. Dino has stopped licking it (or, rather, where it was).

Last Saturday night, we found Rufus to be limping. I thought he might have something in the pad of his paw but looking at it I could find nothing. We came back on Sunday and on Monday night, as he was still limping, I took him to my vet.

“Ah”, he said, “it will be one of the ‘hairs’ from a grass seed that has got in”.

He found where it was (it was on the top of his paw, not underneath) and decided to ‘have a look’. He got out something that looked a little like a blunt pair of scissors and tried to find the offending ‘hair’ but couldn’t. He then said we would have 10 days of antibiotics and see after that. If the infection came back, he would need to go in to try and find it, if the infection stayed away, then it was already out.

But he seems to have made the situation worse than before. Or, maybe I’m not giving the antibiotics enough time to work. Or, maybe, I really should go and find another vet ………


F texted me last night. He is in Berlin. He checked into the hotel. They said that they had the room for two nights. He thought that was strange as it should have been three (he was coming back on Saturday night). Once in his room, he checked his itinerary and realised that he had made a mistake. He comes back on Friday night after all! Now he is suggesting that we go down to Carrara on Saturday morning, early. If we leave by 9 a.m., we should be on the beach by 11 – enjoying the last few days of summer.

I am more happy than you can know that he is coming back on Friday – whether we go down or not.

Next week he is working in Spain and is flying back from Spain directly to Pisa. If the weather is going to be good enough, I will drive down and we shall have yet another weekend there.

You may remember how, on the night of ‘Disaster’, the first night of our holiday, he suggested that I made him bring me down there and that he never wanted to come. It seems that may not have been quite the truth ;-)

Still, it does mean that I have, obviously, passed ‘the test’ and that, probably, from his family’s point of view, I am very much ‘the good guy’ as they will be seeing him more this year than any other! :-D


The only drawback to this and the wedding earlier in the UK, etc., is that this year, for the first time for years, I shan’t be going to Mantova – not even for a day – for the Festivaletteratura. I’m really sorry about that because I always loved it and I loved meeting the people I know. However, I do think it was V that they always really wanted to see (him being exotic and so on) and I guess this is one of those things that I should ‘let go’ now.

Still, I should send an email or something, perhaps next week, just to wish them all the best with this year. I shall miss the friends I usually saw and the things like playing chess with Boris Spaskey and playing Subbuteo and those sort of things.

Life moves on and change is inevitable. I would have liked to take F there, in the way that it was but I guess there’ll be other things that come up in years to come that will be similar.

At least Hay will always be there for me, when I can do it.


…..the post in which I explain how I am becoming paranoid (oh, yes, and some other things)…..


No. of times out and about today – 1
No. of stares noticed – 1
No. of long/strange stares – 1

So, I’m now ‘on’ several sites.  I’ve actually only paid money for 2 of them so the others have very limited access – i.e. I can look and people can look at me but it’s a little like being in a soundproof glass box, it doesn’t matter if I were to scream, no one could hear me.

On some of them, I have my picture.  There is a very good reason for this.  I don’t look my age and, unfortunately, my age is against me in that, most people seem to be looking for someone who is a couple/five/ten years younger than me – so I need them to ‘see’ that I don’t look my age.

Also, and I can assure you this may seem very shallow but it isn’t, people pick people on looks.  It’s a good job we all like different sorts of people but absolutely, one of our major deciding factors in who we will consider, is their look.

So, I am looking for someone like me, more or less.  Not too fat, not too much muscle, not too camp.

Now, on the one site which is, mainly, for people looking for other than sex (well, I think that’s true) and one of the ones I have actually paid for, I’ve made an observation which I will share.

The Spanish, in spite of they’re being a Catholic country, have the most profiles that include pictures.  I reckon about 90% have pictures.  The French would be next at, probably, about 70-80%.  The British next with about 50-60% and, finally, the Italians.  The Italians boast about 30% of profiles with pictures.  My profile has a picture, of course.

Some of my friends have a theory about why this is – according to them it is because so many of them are married men who haven’t quite come to terms with being gay.  Admittedly, many here, in Italy, say they are bi rather than gay, which is, to me, a little disconcerting.

I have now added to my profile that I won’t contact people who don’t have photos.

But there has been a side effect of this.  I have become paranoid.

t seems (although I do realise it is probably all in my head) that men have been staring at me much more than before.  And I mean to say really staring.

So, the other night, at a restaurant, a guy coming out from the toilets, smiled (maybe at me) or (it being all in my head) at someone at the table he was sitting at (which was behind me).  He looked familiar, sort of.  Me, being me, just couldn’t smile back, which I must improve upon.

Then, this morning, at the supermarket, this guy couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off me.  Not that he was looking at me in a particularly pleasant way but he did make a point, at one stage, of looking over the top of his sunglasses to get a better look at me.  There have been many more occasions than just these two but I can’t remember the details.

Now, for those of you not in Italy, this would be almost a certainty – especially if you live in the UK.  However, here, as I have blogged before, staring is a thing that Italians do.  They will not look away, as they would in the UK, in embarrassment, the moment you look at them but will hold the stare and will even be quite open about looking you up and down, checking what you’re wearing, etc.

However, it seems, to me, that this is happening on a daily basis now.  And, as I can’t see pictures on most profiles, I have no idea whether that’s because a) they’ve seen me on one of the sites, b) because I look strange and foreign, c) because they just fancy me or d) because they’re just Italian.

In any event, I now keep thinking it must be a or b (and I mention b because now that V isn’t here to tell me I look OK I don’t know that I do – perhaps I am dressed strangely or have my flies open or my hair looks weird or I am odd in some other way).  Either way, it is starting to get to me and make me feel nervous and less sure of myself (sometimes) and this is not good.

Yesterday, I went to Mantova for the Festivaletteratura (Book/Writers Festival).  The basic story goes like this:

  1. Every year for the past 6 years or so, V & I have been guests of the Festival – free accommodation; free entry to events; mostly free food, etc.
  2. This year V & I said we would go.
  3. Unfortunately, they could not provide free accommodation.
  4. Because I would have had to put the dogs in kennels (which is expensive) and pay for a hotel room and because V has just moved house, we said we wouldn’t go but would come for the day on Friday.
  5. M asked if we could do last minute and I said ‘yes’ (V confirmed with me later that this was true for him too).
  6. Wednesday/Thursday I get email from M to say they have room for Friday and Saturday night.
  7. V said he couldn’t come (no surprise really – he seems to be totally unreliable now and I’m still waiting for the sofa swap!)
  8. I couldn’t find anyone to look after the dogs.
  9. I go yesterday for the day only.

Although, I really did have a nice day.  Got back about midnight.

Saw FfI and Friend with Shop in Isola (FwSiI) the other night for a pizza.  It was lovely, except FwSiI is not doing really great right now (problems with marriage, shop not doing so well in these crisis days).  So she was a bit down and now thinking of packing everything in and moving back to London (which would be a great shame as I, for one, would miss her).

Picked Rufus up from his vacation a few nights ago.  Need to cut his fringe as he’s now bumping into things left, right and centre (that was when we went for meal and cute guy smiled at me (maybe)).  However, as Dino and Rufus had been apart for more than a week, after a couple of hours back home I was ready to send Rufus back or kill them both.  Obviously we had to go through the bit where they had to re-establish who was top dog.  Much bothering by Dino and much growling by Rufus.  Much ignoring of me when I shouted at them.  However, all is now back to normal, even if Rufus is not so good right now.

Agreed with S the computer set-up that I need and his suggestion for my new mobile phone (cell).  Need to go and sort that and was going to do it this afternoon but now I have to Skype someone at 4 so it may be Monday now, damn!

That’s all really.

What I will do though, going back to my new paranoia, is document how many times I get stared at by strange men.  Of course, I’ll tell you when/if one of those turns out to be the real deal…..

When is a question not a question? When it’s asked by an Italian!


Sometimes, I just love Italians and the way they think. It’s like living on a different planet.

Having been to Mantova’s Festivaletteratura a number of times I have found that, given the opportunity to speak in public, they really don’t know when to stop or, worse, get to the point.

This is particularly true when they ask questions.

The night before last, I was honoured to be invited to my good friend Stef’s graduation, for he has worked very hard over the last two years and got his MBA. As usual, when he is pleased with himself (as he has every right to be), he just can’t stop grinning.

Of course, before the actual handout of the certificates, there had to be some speech by some guy and then he was asked questions from the panel of lecturers. The last question though, took about 3 minutes to ask and then, at the end, the question failed to materialise! They are a strange people, these Italians.

There was another guy who, I think, was actually doing the handing out – he actually started his speech by saying it would be brevissimo (very short). Of course, he was Italian so that was his own special joke and he continued to talk for over 15 minutes!

Anyway, aside from that it was a very nice evening with drinks and apero food afterwards. N & I managed to get quite a few prossecco’s down us and I met Stef’s parents and younger brother.

There was only one thing, and this is one of those little things that still smart after all this time – if V & I had been together and there, after the event, it would have been nice to go for a quick pizza. But we’re not together and even though I really fancied it, I didn’t go on my own. I did resist calling him which, I thought, was good, as it would have felt far too needy – at least from my point of view.

“There are no revelations. Everything you learn, you know already”

I sit here, with the post below, not posted; with the rain outside – knowing it’s raining because of the whoosh of the cars as they drive through the driving rain; with, as I just told Best Mate, the heater that I didn’t buy last year or the year before that, or, even, the first year that I felt the cold after they had switched the building central heating off, blowing no hot air to keep me from blowing on my fingers to try and stem the feeling that my fingers were gradually shrivelling up – when they had gone cold and shiny and slippery, in the way that they do with the cold – when they won’t work properly.

And, the reason for the post below not being posted, as this one won’t be, when I am finished, is down to wonderful Telecom Italia. I have been back with them less than a week and it already feels like I have never been away. It’s the rain, I suppose.

The difference between this time and the last time I had problems with Telecom Italia (which was just before I moved to Infostrada/Wind/whatever) was that the whole conversation was in Italian. Well, I say Italian. His bit was in Italian and my bit was in a version of Italian that, using a phrase used by one of my ex-students who is now a colleague could only be described as Kill Italian Volume 105.

Still, I made myself understood. He made himself understood to me. Everything was going swimmingly until the end when I asked how long it could possibly take to fix.

“Two days”

“TWO DAYS!” I could barely keep the shock that this information had on me out of my voice. In fact so barely was it concealed that, the reality was, it wasn’t.

He made a noise which I can only describe as a cross between a laugh and a snort. The laugh because I’m sure that’s what it was but the snort because there was a certain amount of the arrogant contempt for which all Telecom Italian employees must have special training in order that they are able to master it to perfection.

I thanked him but I have no idea what for.

Perhaps it is the rain after all. I have noticed that, in general, if anything goes wrong it is when it is raining here. The radio will go silent for minutes at a time; the electricity can be a little intermittent; the telephone lines don’t work properly.

Still, on the plus side, whilst Best Mate was listening to her iPod thing (which is not an iPod at all – just something similar), I finished the book that Peter had lent me at the Mantova festival last September! Yes, it has taken me 7 months to finish a single book. Even I am disgusted with myself. Anyway, the one line that really stood out for me was the line in the post title. I just loved it.

And the book? Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson – page 446 in the version Peter lent me. So there you have it.

This will be posted, exactly as it is, when I have internet access.

They think it’s all over……………………it was after three matches!

There were four groups, each containing 4 ‘teams’. From each, the top two went through, then on to the quarter finals, semi finals and final. In each group, the four teams played each other so that was three games.

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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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