Cooking and cleaning in preparation

Cooking and cleaning in preparation

So, Christmas is nearly here and there’s something I like doing before Christmas but for Christmas.

And that’s cooking. But cooking something unusual. In this case, a Sauternes Jelly and a Smoky Beetroot Ketchup, both to be used with cheese. I do this both for me and for Al and P who are likely to come on Boxing Day for our usual day long feast. I say likely because this year then might come on Christmas Day instead. In any event, the menu will be the same:

Antipasto (meats, salami, Russian salad, English cheeses with the things mentioned above, olives, etc.)
Cullen Skink
Individual Cottage Pies with mushy peas and some other vegetables
Roast Duck with Orange Sauce and vegetables as above
Veneziana (which is a little like Pannetone but better)
Maybe English Trifle or something else if I decide to do it.
Wine/Prossecco/other things

We have to do plenty of food because Al eats … a lot!

Anyway, that really wasn’t the point of this post.

So there I am, in the kitchen, making the things above. It’s time consuming (although not difficult) and uses lots of pots and pans – so I am washing up often to reuse pans and utensils. I don’t have any problem with this and really enjoy it as it’s going to be something home made to be presented for our Christmas or Boxing Day dinner.

F, meanwhile, is cleaning in the lounge. The cleaning is spread over a number of weeks before the final BIG CLEAN, a few days before Christmas. These weekends, cleaning involves taking everything out of a cupboard, cleaning and/or washing everything, cleaning the inside of the cupboard and then putting everything back. The dining room, with all the plates and things that “might” be used, has already been done last weekend. Now it’s the turn of the lounge.

And there are things to be washed up and so he does. This is a bit of a pain because he’s at the sink sometimes when I want to use it but, hey ho, such is life. Most of the time he’s out of my way.

At a certain point I need to grind some spices. I can find the mortar but not the pestle. I ask F if he knows where it is. He doesn’t but thinks it might be in the same cupboard as the mortar. I tell him not to worry and I’ll have a look. I do and it’s not there. I look in a couple of drawers where it might be and still don’t find it. I find an alternative to a pestle – in fact, what I have used before.

He arrives in the kitchen. “Did you find it?”, he asks. I tell him no but not to worry. He decides to look in the cupboard. He takes everything out and puts it on the table – the very table that has my recipe sheets, the Sauternes Jelly stuff currently going through the sieve, the jars I will steralise shortly and several other things.

He then states that he needs to clean this cupboard. I have my back to him stirring something on the stove. I am gobsmacked. He can see what I’m doing and still wants to clean in the effing kitchen! I don’t say anything for what could I possibly say? (BTW, the pestle wasn’t there, as I already knew.)

I think, possibly because I didn’t say anything or possibly because I had to go to one of the recipes and, in order to see it, I had to move something he’d placed on top, he went away, annoyed.

But this was 100% not my fault. But he wasn’t happy that he couldn’t do the cleaning as he wanted, for sure.

And that continued for the rest of the time. He went back to cleaning cupboards in the lounge. Occasional mutterings were heard.

Eventually, in a break between things (I’d finished the Ketchup but the Jelly still needed more time through the sieve), I told him I was taking the dogs out and then going to the supermarket.

By the time I got back from the supermarket, all the stuff (well, nearly) on the table had been put back. I don’t honestly know if things were cleaned or not and didn’t ask.

Later, I took a shower and went out with A, as we do on a Sunday.

By the time I got back for dinner, everything was fine. Cleaning was not mentioned.

And, in case you were wondering, the Jelly was perfect (but it only made two jars) and the Ketchup was, erm, different. Not as good as I would have liked but, still, worth doing and I shall still use it with cheese (it made 5 jars).


Once again, from the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook

4 oz margarine
4 level tablespoons golden syrup
3 oz granulated sugar
8 oz rolled oats
1/4 level teaspoon salt

Put margarine and syrup in pan over low heat until margarine has melted.
Grease square, shallow tin about 7.5 inches
Remove syrup mixture from heat and add the sugar, oats and salt and mix well.
Turn mixture into tin, level off and cook at 335°F/Gas Mark 3/170-175°C for 30 – 40 mins until golden brown.
Leave to cool for about 5 mins then cut into 12 bars. Cut whilst still warm or they’ll just break up.
Place on wire rack to cool

I’m not sure why I didn’t post this last year. Maybe because I didn’t do the usual translation of the ingredients into Italian?

Treacle Tart

Another of the old favourites. Italians also seem to like this. The troppo sweetness of the Golden Syrup (I obviously found it one time here – details in link below) is cut through by the sharpness of the lemon zest and juice. I have made it with bought pastry, but it’s not quite so nice. Again, this is from the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book. If you can find Golden Syrup, give it a try!


Pastry –
4 oz plain flour / 113g farina tipo 00
pinch salt / pizzico sale
1 oz lard / 28g strutto
1 oz butter / 28g burro

Filling –
8 oz golden syrup / 227g sciroppo di zucchero di canna (parlzialmente invertito)
2 0z fresh white breadcumbs / 57g pangrattato bianco fresco/appena (I’m not sure which word applies)
grated rind of 2 lemons / scorza grattugiata di 2 limone
2 teaspoons lemon juice / 2 cucchiaini di succo di limone


Sieve flour and salt into a bowl. Add the lard and butter cut into small pieces and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough water to mix to a firm dough. Roll out pastry thinly on floured table and use to line a 7-inch (18 cm) flan dish (although I always use a normal dinner-size plate instead). Re-roll pastry trimmings and cut into circles with a 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) fluted cutter. Brush underside of each with water and arrange, overlapping, round the edge of the dish.

Mix together the syrup, breadcrumbs, lemon rind and juice. Spoon filling into flan.

Bake for about 25 minutes in the oven (400°F/200°C/Gas mark 8) until the pastry is pale and golden.

Serve hot or cold. on it’s own or with hot custard (crema)

An eventful uneventful weekend; A supermarket open every day in Milan; Dog walking

Well, it didn’t really last long. Three days, in fact. Still, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Isn’t it? Tell me ‘yes’, please?

Well sort of.

It was an uneventful yet eventful weekend. I mean to say, for most people almost uneventful. For me, quite major things were done.

In particular, I am talking about sewing.

Yes, this post may not be the most exciting ever. Please look away now if you are afraid it might be boring. If you do read it, you can’t then say I didn’t warn you. And it is looooong!

I am, as you may know (or have guessed), a gay man. Actually, an old, gay man. But I’m not really your typical ‘gay’. I am, as N would say, quite a straight, gay man. An old, straight, gay man.

I don’t sew. Well, I do but only when I have to and we’re talking simple things here. Buttons and stuff. Buttons are hard. But not as hard as real sewing. But, like ironing and cleaning, they take me a long time. And, just like ironing and cleaning, if I can, I put it off.

So, all the shirts that I had that lost a button or ripped or needed some sort of repair had been, over the last (OMG! I just realised over the last 18 months or two years!!) ahem, period of time, had been hung in a special part of the wardrobe.

But, I was ‘running out’ of workshirts and having to use the ones that F had bought for me. So, on Saturday morning I said to him that I was going to have to go out and buy some. And then, I thought, of course, I’ve probably got a couple that just need buttons so I should do them first and then I would know how many I really needed.

So, Saturday morning, after F left to go to his place and ‘tidy up a bit’, I thought OK, I’ll do it or, at least, look to see how many I could ‘reclaim’.

I really didn’t realise how much stuff I had in that wardrobe. It was a shock. I started looking at the shirts. Putting the ones which had ripped (usually on the sleeve or under the arm) in one pile as these were, probably, irreclaimable (at least with my level of expertise at sewing) and the ones that missed just a button (or two or three), in another.

There were 7 shirts that were reclaimable. It was a big surprise but welcome, nonetheless.

I started. It was cold in my kitchen. I found that threading the needle, normally a process that takes about 15 minutes for me, seemed to be easier than usual. This was a good sign. I found buttons in my little ‘button store’. And, where I couldn’t find the right ones, I found them attached to the shirts, at the bottom. Or I found one that was very similar.

I progressed well, completing the first one in about half an hour. That’s how slow I am. One down and 6 more to go. After the second one, I was finding it difficult. My fingers, hardly as nimble as they were, seemed to be ‘not working’. It was far too cold. I put on some gas rings on the cooker. It would soon warm up the flat or, at least, the kitchen.

The washing machine was on. I think I was doing towels. Or jeans. Something which meant a full spin at top speed.

I did another shirt. (Exciting, isn’t it?)

I decided to have a break from sewing. I took the three shirts that I had done to hang them in the wardrobe (they were already ironed). On the way back (not that it’s a truly long distance but it’s still true since between the bedroom and the kitchen I go through every other room in the flat – apart, that is, from the bathroom – however, the bathroom is on the way back to the kitchen), I stopped off in the bathroom.

I’m standing there, having a pee (I know you may not want to know this but it is material evidence for the next bit) and I hear a sudden crash from the kitchen. The washing machine is in full spin.

There’s not a lot I can really do, standing there as I am. It’s just not possible to turn off the tap, so to speak. (See, I told you it was material to the story). I finish and walk into the kitchen.

The trays which are on top of the microwave, which is on top of the washing machine were the things that caused the ‘crash’. They have fallen onto the cooker. With them, obviously, are the things that are on the trays. Not much, normally, but F, in one of his ‘tidy up’ moods last week, had moved all the stuff that was with my computer on the kitchen table, onto the trays.

This included some paperwork, some CDs, some DVDs, some pens and some other associated ‘junk’.

You may remember (it was on a few paragraphs back) that I mentioned turning on the gas rings to heat up the kitchen a bit? Well they are gas and, therefore, flames and, sort of, flames tend to do things to pieces of paperwork, plastic CD holders, plastic trays, etc.
To pieces of paper, even bank notes, they tend to send them up in flames. To CD and DVD boxes, the tend to melt them before setting them on fire.

The kitchen was full of flames. Well, the cooker was full of flames and not all from the burners.

I don’t know what happens sometimes in times of crisis. Usually, I react quite well. Sometimes, though, my brain doesn’t seem to work. For a moment or two I blew on the flames, trying to put them out. It almost worked but for one small but very important fact. I couldn’t blow the burners out, of course, and so blowing the flame on a piece of paper out had the effect of it going out for a split second before reigniting itself from the burner.


At the same time as blowing, I start to move things (well, move isn’t quite the right word – more like grab and chuck) from the cooker hob to the sink which, luckily, was full of water for washing up, the washing up being in the water and not having been done by now because I am on that long, horrible job of sewing.

I do remember thinking that this really wasn’t the best day for this (but, then, when would be?). Not only am I sewing but it is also too cold for me. And I’ve had a bad week at work.

And my tooth hurts.

Although this may seem like a long time for me to ‘do the right thing’, in reality, of course, it was seconds. Seconds before I realised that, of course, before trying to extinguish the flames I should, in all probability, turn off the hob rings.

I do. Then I am blowing and throwing stuff at the sink at the same time.

The CD/DVD cases have started sticking to the black covers over the gas rings. And sticking to each other. In that plastic burned way. They also go into the sink along with the washing up.

I’m thinking that a wet CD/DVD is invariably better than a totally warped one.

I start to clean up the cooker. I fish things out of the water. Some bits of paper have fared better than others. Some now have no writing on. It seems pointless to keep them without anything on them, their meaning lost to the water. I hang others in various places to dry.
I start separating CD cases. The CDs themselves, look OK. I will have to try them. Possibly when they are no longer wet.

The plastic box full of blank DVDs is difficult to open since bits of the plastic seems to have become welded together. I prise the lid open. The DVDs themselves, seem OK. We shall see. Again, perhaps better to check when they are dry.

I make a cup of tea. There is irrational fear in turning on one of the gas rings to boil the water. I mean – REALLY irrational. There is nothing on the microwave any more. It all went onto the rings, into flames or was melted, then the water, then the drainer for drying out or thrown away for being of no use any more.

I have tea.

I re-start my sewing.

I finish the shirts. There are a couple of pairs of jeans that also need repair. They are my favourite jeans. They need repair because I am not sticking to my wine diet very well. And, also because the jeans were always quite ‘tight’ – even before I had need of any wine diet! One of them has come apart where the buttons were. It was either that or the buttons. The sewing gave first. I sew that up. Not well but, I hope, quite ‘strongly’. The other pair were not so lucky. The second button down – since they are not really buttons but those stud buttons you get on jeans – sheared in two. I have a stud from some other pair of jeans. I fix that in and hammer it together. I hope it holds. But I guess there will be another real button put there if it comes off. I guess there’ll be a button there soon, then!

Also, maybe as a result of the need for a wine diet, some shirts have ripped at the sleeve – underneath the armpit. They cannot be repaired. But a couple of them are good shirts and I don’t want to chuck them. I decide that I could just cut the sleeves off. They would be summer shirts. I try. the result doesn’t look so bad. Maybe they will be fine? I will show F later, maybe?

It has taken me all bloody day to do the sewing. The jumpers have not been done. They will have to wait. I’m quite pleased with myself at having done all this. F and I have chatted over Facebook when I was doing the shirt buttons. I told him I hate doing it, having forgotten how he told me that for S’s first show, various family and friends were up all night doing the sewing. He says he will do it later. For one moment I think of saying ‘yes’ but then decide not to. After all, I should be able to do all this myself. Maybe next time?

We went out for a meal. F was ill. The next day he stayed in bed until about eleven o’clock. Asleep. Then he got up and went home and went to bed and slept.

Yesterday, as he was sleeping, I took the dogs out for a long walk to the park. Have I mentioned that Rufus seems to have really perked up in the last week or so? Well, he’s still quite perky. I’m very happy about it even if I was writing him off only before Christmas.

Then, last night, I went to the supermarket. I love that, now, the Esselunga in Viale Piave is not only open on Sunday but also open after 6! Actually, I think it stays open until about 9 p.m. Italy is moving into the 20th Century. Just a little behind others. In fact, apart from about 2 days in the year, it is open every day and at reasonable times.

I had a hankering for parsley sauce. And roast potatoes. And leeks. I got everything, including some cod (because F likes that). Of course, the cod was salted cod and I didn’t soak it for long enough. The rest was perfect. I must try it again – with a more soaked cod.

And F feels a bit better now and has gone to work.

But he didn’t take the dogs for a walk on Thursday and Friday of last week (because he had very long days and was going to do Pilates), nor Sunday because he was ill, nor today (nor tomorrow, nor Wednesday nor Thursday, I suspect) because he was going to Pilates again. So it only lasted last week. And only for three days. Oh well. I’m sure it’s the thought that counts.


And some lost comments:

  1. Gail says:

18 April, 2011 at 5:16 pm

………phew. I hung in ’til the end. phew – and that’s because I love you you old straight-gay man you!!

Love Gail


    • Andy says:

18 April, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Well done, Gail! Loads of love back

What’s not to like?

“Don’t you like my cooking?”

OK, so maybe it was a bit blunt but it needed to be asked. I qualified it: “because when I suggest to do something you say no”.

As on Saturday. I had been busy. I had started (and I know you’ll find it hard to believe) the bedroom. And by start, I mean I had started on the filing cabinet. The filing cabinet was full. There’s stuff from the early eighties in there. Of course, to me, the early eighties is not that long ago ……. until, that is, you say “it was thirty years ago”! Then, of course, you realise that it is more than half my lifetime ago. It’s a long time.

There is, of course, crap. Stuff which I don’t need to keep. There is stuff I do need to keep and stuff that, whilst I don’t strictly need to keep it, I can’t bring myself to throw out.

And, then, there is the stuff from my time with V. Some of it I can’t even bring myself to look at. Even after all this time. Some, I could. Now, I see things I didn’t see at the time. Well, I guess it’s normal but I did seem quite blind. Or, maybe, I just turned a blind eye?

So, not everything that could be thrown out has been thrown out. But a lot of it has. Three sackfuls, to be honest – and heavy sacks at that.

So, as I said, I’d been busy. It got to 7.30 by the time I sat down at my computer and F & I started chatting over FB chat. And then I realised I hadn’t done anything to eat. And I’d bought stuff to do a Cottage Pie. Anyway, I took soup out of the freezer. Neither of us was really hungry anyway.

Then F said “No, don’t do anything. We’ll go for a pizza”. To be honest, I was quite happy to do this but that made me ask the question on Sunday morning. It seems every time I say I can do this or that, he says ‘no’. I had to know – perhaps, really, he didn’t like my cooking and was just being too polite. Or am I imposing my character on him?

He says that it isn’t that. He just didn’t want me to have to do the cooking when it was late. He didn’t want to impose on me and that, yes, he liked my cooking – ‘otherwise, I wouldn’t eat it’, he adds.

And so, yesterday, after my lesson with S, I did the Cottage Pie. I also did the soup. There was supposed to be some special cheese to add into it – but I didn’t have that cheese. Instead, inspired by his starter at Porca Vacca (and originally inspired by A some time ago), I made grilled cheese ‘slices’. Just grated cheese put under the grill until it all gets hard (and crispy brown at the edges) and makes a really tasty thing to have with soup or some other starters (for instance a mouse). I’d never done it before – but, really, how difficult can it be? And, in fact, as I had guessed, it wasn’t difficult at all. And it used up some old Parmesan I had in the fridge.

The soup was Pumpkin soup that I had made a while ago (and had been in the freezer) and, even if I didn’t have celery, the Cottage Pie was wonderful. Slightly smaller than usual and a bit more improvised than I usually do.

F was quite impressed with the grilled cheese slices. And the soup. And the Cottage Pie. And we had the bottle of Lighea wine that we bought from the Lampara (restaurant) , last time.

And this time, when we got onto FB chat, I just said I had done the Cottage Pie rather than ask, as I do normally. It seemed to work fine and I am slightly relieved.

It seems I collect plastic carrier bags. Who knew?

I can’t find the post where I first mentioned it but I’m sure I did.

I certainly told a lot of people.

And then, yesterday, finally, it happened.  It starts off like a normal day except that it isn’t a normal day at all.  Firstly, I am on holiday.  Secondly, I have found a recipe for mince pies – which includes making your own mincemeat.  I’ve never done it before and finding all the ingredients was, shall we say, a bit of a challenge.  In the end I didn’t find everything but I did, eventually, find stem ginger which for me was the most important part.  Mixed spice doesn’t have to be mixed spice (but can be a mixture of spices I can find) – suet can be replaced by butter, special sugar can be replaced by other sugar, etc.  But stem ginger couldn’t really be replaced.  I found some and so it was a green light.

So, I start the mincemeat.

I had promised to go visit FfC, picking up FfI (who is now living, not in Isola but in V’s flat) so I could pick up my cushions for the sofa.  I was late.  When I got there, as usual, she huffed and puffed about the fact that it was too late and she didn’t think she would go now.  I’m like ‘whatever’.  It’s the cutting off the nose to spite the face thing and it annoys me a lot.  I don’t bite.  I don’t say ‘Oh. please come’.  I really don’t care.  If she comes she comes and it will be nice and if she doesn’t then it will be nice too.

She decides to come.  I think ‘Don’t try these games on me lady – I lived with V for over 20 years!’

She tells me that FfC has done lunch!  I wasn’t expecting that.  We go.  FfC’s mother is there, over from Canada.  FfC now has a baby.  It is lovely (the time, not the baby).  I have a nice time and I really love FfC.  Her baby is a baby.  Her Mum keeps trying to give it to me.  I decline.  Several times.  She asks me who I think it looks like.  I explain that I don’t do that.  Babies look like babies and I can never see any parent in them.  They all look, more or less, the same – like a baby.  I’m not really a baby person.

I agree to take FfC to the butchers so she can get her turkey.  F calls and suggests that I call by at his office to collect boxes, as I have the car.  I then drop FfI off at a bank and make my way to his office.

He has shoe boxes.  A lot of them.  We fill up the space in the car that remains after the cushions had been put in (they are BIG).  We drive home to my place. He helps me with carrying stuff up and decides to stay rather than go home.  In itself, this is unusual.  But I like it.

He starts suggesting that, perhaps he should do a bit of sorting out of the lounge.  Or the kitchen.  This thing that he has been threatening to do for a while now (and for which I can’t find the post).  I am nervous.  We would have done it last Sunday but An couldn’t get back to the UK. But I’m not really prepared for it now. However, if he wants to do it ………..

It seems he does.  He starts.  I am supposed to ‘throw things away’.  Hmmmm.  He is shocked by my collection of carrier bags.  I collect them to line the rubbish bin.  We find so many I will never need to have another bag for a year, probably!

Things get put into shoe boxes with the contents written on the outside.  Boxes get stacked in cupboards.  He is going to be here next time my cleaner is here, he says, to explain to him how to clean properly.  He is like a mad man.  Every surface has to be cleaned.  It is quite scary..

The kitchen is slowly re-ordered.  Everywhere is cleaned.  It seems he is in his element.  All the items on the top of the kitchen cupboards get put somewhere else (inside a cupboard).  All the bottles and things on top of the fridge get put inside cupboards.  It is hard work and, mostly, I am watching!

I would have stopped after about 1 hour.  He is going to finish it because ‘I won’t sleep if anything is left to do’, he says.

At half past ten, I take the dogs out.  At midnight I go to bed.  At 2 a.m., or thereabouts, he comes to bed.  The kitchen is the same and yet changed.

‘I will check it once a week’, he says.  I laugh.  ‘I am serious’, he says.  ‘I know you are’, I reply, laughing still – laughing because I know he will.

This morning, it being Christmas Eve, I must go to the supermarket and get the veg.  He tells me I must also get some things for the bathroom.  He is going to ‘do’ the bathroom.  Maybe later today.

Tomorrow, he will do the lounge as I am doing the cooking and as he is preparing the dining table.  He will too.  He says he enjoys it.  He is, in fact, quite crazy.

But, I wonder?  What if this is the start of us living together?  Maybe he has this idea, now that we spend most of our time here, that he might as well make the house more as he would like it.  And if I can keep it more or less the same (i.e. perfectly neat and tidy), he will be happier to stay here.  And then, his house becomes more like ‘a room’ that is his?

And, so, gradually, he moves in without there being a definite move, if you see what I mean?  No point at which we are ‘living together, officially’ just a point at which he doesn’t really go to his home much any more?

Maybe?  We shall see.  In the meantime, the kitchen is better and I do, quite like it.

But now I must get on and make the Lemon Meringue Pie (for a birthday party tonight) and finish off my mincemeat and make the mince pies.  The mincemeat, after being left overnight does actually smell like mincemeat now, too!  I am very happy about that.

Have a good Christmas everyone.

And lots of love from me, F, Rufus and Dino.

Perfect Yorkshire Pudding

OK.  This recipe has failed me only once.  Prior to using this recipe I used to hit good Yorkshires about 50% of the time – after using it I hit 100%.  The only reason it failed once was that it was my old cooker in the new flat which did not have settings for the oven (other than High, Low and Off).  This recipe makes about 12 – 15 small cake-sized puddings.


2 Eggs……………………….2 uova

3 oz Plain Flour………………85 g farina (tipo 00)

1/4 pint of Milk………………0.14 l latte

Salt and Pepper……………….sale e peppe

Some oil/lard…………………olio/strucco


Sieve flour into a bowl and add the salt and pepper (a bit of each to taste).  Break two eggs into the flour and mix well.  It is better using a mixer (like a Kenwood Chef).  Now add the milk, drizzling it in very slowly and making sure it mixes well to give a batter without any lumps.  Put into the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  (I have made it the day before and left it in the fridge until needed – but it needs a good whisk if you do that as it does separate).

Use a patty tin (like the cake tin to make small cakes – preferably with rounded bottoms to the individual cake parts).  Brush a little oil or melted lard over the tin and place in oven (the oven should be the hottest you can get – max, max, max!).  At this point anyway, you can take the meat out to rest – so it’s all perfect timing.

Once the oil/lard is hot (and smoking slightly is good – no, not you, the oil/lard!), take out of the oven and pour some of the batter in each one.  Put back into the oven for about 15 minutes until well risen and brown.  Try not to open the oven door too much or too early but they shouldn’t really deflate anyway.  Serve immediately with the meat and good gravy.  They are to-die-for!

Save any left over (if there are any) and you can have them with a spoonful of sugar when they are cold!

How old are you?; Inside a Lava Lamp; Cooking and DIY; Rufus; Oh, yes, and I win the lottery

Miserable bloody weather that it was ….. and still is.

We get the day off on the 1st November. Some catholic thing about the day of the dead. To me, it’s a holiday. And, at a really stupid time of year! I mean, October/November? I ask you, why?

And so, from Saturday night, it rained. And rained. And rained. And rained. Well, you get the idea. It was grim with a capital ‘G’. After today it will be fine …….. until Saturday, when it’s forecast to …..piss down with rain!

Still, it meant, more or less, a weekend at home. We had been offered a trip to the Turin area and lunch at some restaurant. F didn’t really want to go. He doesn’t like the bad weather either, really. Anyway, the trip was to be Sunday when the forecast said it would rain all day (which it did, more or less), so F cancelled our ‘booking’. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


A (his Milanese friend who lives in London) called. We were going to go for for an aperitivo at Polpetta (see link at side). He was just waiting for her to call when she was on her way. He phones/texts me about 9 to say they are on their way and would pick me up (since I live 2 seconds from Polpetta). On our walk there it is decided that we shall skip the aperitivo and go straight for the Pizza at Liù, which is just across the road from Polpetta.

Whilst we are eating, I get a call from M. M is F’s colleague and the second one I ever met. She speaks English at about the same level as I did before I moved here – if not worse. She is sweet and loveable and we get on really well, in spite of the language which, after a few beers, is not a barrier. She drinks like a fish (or like a cow, as F would say). Before I answer, I say to F that it is strange, her calling me (they are almost best friends, after all). I answer.

“How old are you?”, she asks in a clearly drunken stupor. There is someone (I guess L, their other friend) in the background shouting stuff at her. I know what she means. “I’m very well, thanks”, I reply. She talks some more. I understand nothing. I pass the phone to F.

It seems they are at some bar and want us to join them. The husbands/partners are watching football. M rang me rather than F because she knows F too well and knew he might not answer the phone :-). C is there too as her husband, Ma, who is English, is with the men watching the football.

After our meal we walk up to the Atomic Bar. They are waiting outside. F had told me, on the way there, that when he and S got together, they used to go there a lot. There are a lot of English people that go there. I cannot beat the description on the link – ‘Like hanging out inside a lava lamp”! We have a couple of beers. Ma joins us after the football. The music is too loud and I cannot hear people well, who, in any event, are all talking in Italian. I stand no chance. Plus, I am tired. We leave sometime after midnight, just after it starts to liven up a bit. Rather than English, I would say it is frequented by a lot of students. I am old enough to be their grandfather – not that I care but the loud music and stuff, although good, doesn’t fit well with how tired I am. I am glad to go.


The man came to put the cupboards up in the bathroom. These were the cupboards I bought from IKEA a few weeks ago. I assembled the cupboards but wasn’t quite confident to put them up – although, before I had assembled them I was so confident in my head. I mean, how difficult could it possibly be?

Well, apparently, quite difficult. As I watched him heave them up and there being a lot of cazzoing, I thought that, actually, I had been somewhat crazy to even imagine that I could have done this myself …… on my own! And he even had all the right tools! He looked at my light but couldn’t fix it (so I called the electrician – who may be there on Friday) and looked at my shutters in the bedroom (one of them wouldn’t close) and did fix that, sort of. But the important thing is that it now closes and (almost) opens.

Then, as I had arranged with F, we went to buy my new cooker. I had gone two weeks previously and found the one that I quite liked. It’s all gas, which is my preference but wider and slightly deeper than the current one but, more importantly than anything else, does not just have High, Low and Off but rather gas marks! I can’t wait. I shall be able to cook things properly with much less guessing. Anyway, Saturday was the last day for the offer for free delivery and free fitting which, with gas, is a must. Not really a DIY thing at all, especially for me! Also, the nice thing was that they will deliver on Friday! So I can plan a meal.

Saturday night we went to A’s place. F2 was there too although they are still not really ‘together’. F talks so much. Afterwards I said that he didn’t have to do so much talking. He replied that if he didn’t there would be nobody talking. I think this is not true but I think it is also when he is a bit nervous. The food was great, as usual. It started to rain just after we got there. And almost hasn’t stopped since. We left quite early as I was still tired.


The clocks went back. It means an extra hour in bed. Well, it would mean an extra hour – unless you have small children or dogs. I have dogs. The dogs didn’t put their clocks back. Plus Rufus is ill. I know this will mean a diarrhea mess in the kitchen, even if we do get up quite early. He can’t help it, of course. It does mean exactly that. We take them for a walk after I clean up. It is only spitting but, even so, we bypass the dog walking area – it is too wet and muddy for that. F didn’t have a good night. I did – it just wasn’t long enough.

He wants me to do Crumble again. This time I will do apple and blackberry. He also wants Shepherd’s Pie (as he calls it for, really, it should be Cottage Pie). He also wants carrots the way that A did them last night. I also want to try the Roasted Tomato Soup that I made a few weeks ago.

He goes home and I go shopping. They don’t have fresh Thyme, so I get dried. I forget to get bread (which I realise when it is too late). I get everything else I need. The supermarket (Carrefour in Via Modena) closes just as I am getting the last couple of things – which explains why it is so quiet in there – but this makes it a million times better than going to Esselunga, where I would have had to fight to get round and then queue up for about half an hour at the tills. I even manage to get a bus as I get to Via Castel Morrone! I am very happy.

I start the cooking when I get back. I think the tomato soup will be too much, so one tomato is omitted. I put too much black pepper on them (as I find out later). The Apple And Blackberry Crumble is both easy and will be fine, even if I don’t know how to get cooking apples, so it may be a little too sweet. The Shepherd’s Pie will be huge. I have just the perfect glass dish for it.

I am doing the Blackberry and Apple Crumble, the soup has been done and the Shepherd’s Pie is in the oven when there is the sound of a small explosion and steam comes from the cooker! Shit, I think to myself. I open the door of the oven. There is a lot of steam and hissing and the flames of the gas fire are yellow and bigger than they should be. It takes me a moment or two to realise that the glass was obviously not oven-proof as I had thought and has split. Shepherd’s Pie filling is all over the bottom of the oven. I turn the oven off and carefully lift out the remains of the glass dish. I put it on the side and the gravy starts dribbling nicely down the ‘curtain’ and onto the floor. Hmmmph! I think about it for a moment. Luckily, the glass has cracked (and come off) only on two of the corners. I can rescue most of it. Of course, to be certain I don’t have any glass in the part I am going to rescue, I need to leave quite a lot behind. However, there will be enough for the two of us for a couple of days, even now. I try to clean a very hot oven. Not very well but enough (I hope) to allow me to continue. Ah, well, the cooker goes away on Friday so who cares?

I have moved my computer into the kitchen, on to the kitchen table, since I need the internet to see the recipes. It works much better than me having to traipse from the kitchen to the lounge and trying to remember the next couple of steps. Also, I can listen to music or watch a film or something whilst I am cooking.

The plan is to eat early. I feel like I have been on my feet all day by the time F arrives at about 7.30. We sit down at 8. The meal is great apart from, slightly too much black pepper in the soup. The Shepherd’s Pie is the best I have ever done. The Apple and Blackberry Crumble is fantastic with whipped cream. I am very pleased. So is F. I decide I’m going to try Swiss Steak (a winter favourite of mine) and hope that he will eat the meat. I think I may try it at the weekend with my new cooker.

We play cards a bit, watch some TV, I take the dogs out (in the rain – did I mention that it rained almost ALL weekend?) and we go to sleep.

Monday (we are on holiday).

I am woken by, what seems to be, Rufus’ last breath. He has, what can best be described as, a very bad cold. It seems he is struggling to breathe. It wakes me up. It is 2.30 a.m. The long drawing of breath so loud as to wake me in the first place. I get up to check he’s OK. He’s OK but this is the second time in the last few days that this has happened. I worry that it’s not just a cold. I think that, just now, there seems to be something wrong nearly every week. He is very, very thin at his back end. When you rub his back you can feel every bone as if they are speed humps in the road. I decide to get up and have a drink. I go to the kitchen where, now, the computer is. I clean up the mess from Rufus. I have a drink and look at the computer. I chat with someone who is online through Facebook. They tell me to go back to bed. I do. I awake again just before 9. It is still raining.

F gets up to take the dogs out on a short walk. Short because it is still raining. Meanwhile, I clean up the mess from Rufus. I wonder when this will end. F has suggested that we won’t go to Austria for Christmas and New Year whilst Rufus is like this. I mean, whilst Rufus is alive. F says that he hopes he isn’t here when Rufus dies. I don’t tell him that, in all probability, it will be my choice and that I will take him to the vet, so he won’t see it anyway. I know that he won’t come. That’s OK. I worry that, just a little, I feel that I almost ‘want’ Rufus to go or get so bad that he has to go – just so I can go to Austria for Christmas. It makes me feel very guilty. But then, last night (well at 2.30 a.m.), I think that, anyway, it won’t be long.

However, I remember feeling just as guilty before, with Ben, while we were waiting for him to go before we came to Italy. That made me feel guilty too. In the end, I did it at the right time and I know I will do the same again. I won’t do it just to be away for Christmas – it doesn’t stop me feeling guilty though.

F goes home after breakfast. I sit in the kitchen, in front of the computer for a bit. Then I decide to clean the oven. It makes me feel much better. At least, when they take it away on Friday, it won’t be so bad and they won’t think me such a scumbag for having a dirty cooker! Then I sit at the computer a bit as some washing is doing. Then I decide to put up the new coat hanger I bought at the same time as I bought the table and which has been sitting in the hallway …… waiting for me to put it up. I drill the holes to the right length, put in the rawl plugs and put it up. I am very pleased although I know that I will be unable to open the front door fully. I think that, maybe, this will be a problem for the delivery of the cooker but then, I think, I can always take the coat hanger off, if I really need to. I write some posts but don’t finish them. As usual.

F comes over and we have a second round of soup, Shepherd’s Pie and Apple and Blackberry Crumble. then we watch Cinema Paradisio. I have seen it for about 15 years. The last time was when V & I were doing Italian at night school and the teacher lent it to us. I knew I loved it but couldn’t remember it at all. It’s lovely but we have to have a break at 10.30 so I can take the dogs out. We get to bed just before midnight. I will be tired tomorrow, I think. F says that I need to sleep. It’s true. I have two English lessons after work as well tomorrow night. I sleep.


The clocks going back have made no difference to the fact that is is pitch black when the alarm goes off at 6.40! Or maybe it’s because it’s still bloody raining! OK, so not raining so much, but, obviously, it’s also dark because of the black clouds. Rufus has not made a mess. Well, that’s one good thing. I end up being late for work. I forgot to tell you that I did win the Superenalotto….everntually. I got three numbers on Saturday night. That’s €16.24. This morning, I go to the tobacconist below my house and play again (even if I promised that I would stop when the jackpot was won, which it was on Saturday – exactly when I won €16.24 instead of €177,000,000). Mau is there as usual. He’s promising to ring me about English lessons too. He needs it for the TOEFL test.

I get to work. I must leave home earlier than I do at the moment. I do the lesson log for M-T, my student for tonight. I am annoyed at myself for not having done it last week but it doesn’t really matter.

As I write this, it is still raining. It is supposed to stop in a couple of hours. I will not finish teaching before 8.30 tonight. Maybe, I think, I will take the whole day off on Friday, when the cooker is delivered. Why not?

I am tired.

How do you KNOW you don’t like it?

“I think I’ve had this before”, he says, adding “and I don’t like it”.

It was very difficult to keep the disappointment out of my voice …. but I tried.

“Well”, I said, “try a little and, if you don’t like it, it’s OK, you don’t have to eat it”.

I had whipped up the cream. The cream was really for me rather than him. “You don’t like cream”, I realised this as I got it out of the fridge. Damn! I should have done custard. Ah, well, I thought, if he doesn’t like it anyway then it’s better I did cream.

I put a couple of spoonfuls of the sweet in the dish and added a little cream after he indicated it was OK to do so.

He tried it. It wasn’t the same as he had had before. He said he liked it. Then got some more from the dish. And some more cream. He asked about the topping. I explained that it was pastry, like for Lemon Meringue Pie but more butter and more sugar and without water so that it was crumbs rather than pastry as such. I tried not to be annoyed by the fact that he says he doesn’t like something before he has tried it first but I don’t say anything about that anyway. It took me a few years to train V away from that. I have time. I can train F, possibly, probably, hopefully. I am hoping, much like I did with V, that I can introduce things gradually and get him to trust that what I make is all right and worth trying. I’m not sure I have the patience for this but we’ll give it a go.

I said you can make it with any fruit.

He really did like it, it seems. I told him that he must tell me the truth because, if he says he likes something, I will do it again. He said he will.

I told him it was, to my memory, the first time I had made it. Although, to be honest, even if I can’t remember it, I am sure I must have made it in the past. Maybe Rhubarb Crumble and not Blackberry and Blueberry Crumble.

The next day, he texts me to ask what it was called because he doesn’t remember. Later that night I asked him why he had needed to know. Apparently, there was a guy there from the office in London and he wanted to tell him.

I see, in his fridge, there is a jar of Lemon Curd in the door.

“You can make Lemon Curd Tart”, I said, meaning I could make Lemon Curd Tart, of course. Later, he says I can take it home together with the Banana Curd he bought at the same time, when we were in Hay-on-Wye.

“You can make that cake with it” (meaning Crumble”), he says. I say yes, even if he has, clearly, not understood how Crumble works and that a Banana Curd Crumble just would not be right at all. Ah, well.

I’m reminded of things: the perfect Yorkshire Pudding

V is playing Christmas music (to death) on the CD player. Just had Guadete which I like both as a song and as a Christmas song and then came someone’s rendition of In the Bleak Mid-Winter which reminded me:

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