IKEA is NOT a Modern Art Museum!

IKEA is NOT a Modern Art Museum!

“Where are we going?” I had to ask twice or, maybe, three times.

“To the opening of a modern art museum.”

Oh, OK. After all, I like modern art. It was in the Navigli area of Milan. We were in the taxi – I was in the back with Fi, F’s crazy friend from Austria, next to me and, next to her, M, a wealthy Russian who now lives in London (I found out later). Fi had come over for one night to meet up with M.

The roads were closed. We got out of the taxi and walked up at the top of the canals, where they come almost together and join in a basin called the Darsena. I remember now that this was the official opening of the Darsena – they’ve finally made it something of a place to go, creating walkways and parks. In fact, the whole of the Navigli is being “done up”. It will be lovely when they’ve finished. It should have been done years ago.

But there are so many people! The place is heaving.

Suddenly we meet some people. I kind of recognise some of them. F reminds me from where. For some it was Fi’s birthday bash in Vienna and for others the time we went to a sea-food restaurant (with about 30 people that Fi had invited (her dinners are rarely less than 10 people at a time).

F reminds me they are rich or “super-rich”.

To be honest, they look more like street people. Later, someone tells one of the blokes (who is in the “super rich” category that his trousers look good. At first I thought this was a joke. Thank God I didn’t laugh out loud!) They are black and loose, like a pair of jogging bottoms but with some 5 or 6 inches of rubber-like elastic bottoms. Underneath them he’s sporting a pair of “fashion” wellington boots. They look bloody dreadful. I wouldn’t wear something like that even if I was only slobbing out at home!

In fact, almost all the clothes they are wearing look as if they got them from a second-hand store. This is rich people for you!

Anyway, it seems that these people are the people we are supposed to be meeting up with. I wish that F had given me some forewarning as to who they were. Then I would have feigned remembering them which would have looked better, at least.

We wander down the street towards the station. There is a “temporary” IKEA store. Everyone goes in. It is IKEA but, given that Expo is opening in Milan in a few days time, it isn’t a normal IKEA store but just about kitchens and food – so at least the more interesting part of IKEA, I suppose.

We wander about for a bit and then go out. It seems the other rich guy, who looks similar to the super rich guy with the jogging bottoms, needs alcohol. I remember now, he drinks like a fish. They look the same – big noses which are red (from too much alcohol), short with particularly rotund bellies (probably from too much alcohol) and both wearing black. But they’re nice enough. And, apparently very rich. But, then everyone is very rich except us. They talk about going for an aperitivo (it is about 1 p.m. – whereas aperitivo time is after 5 p.m.)

We wander across the street and into a place that looks like a restaurant. Exposed brick inside to give it a rustic feel. We are shown to a table in the back room which is set out for 10 people or so. It seems this is what we were coming for. I don’t understand why someone didn’t say!

We sit down. 2 of the rich people (husband and wife – the husband being the one who drinks like a fish) are not staying more than a few minutes. They’re just having a glass or two of prosecco (well, in fact, she’s not drinking at all – he has a couple and then another from someone else.) They go and we start to look at the menu.

The prices are really steep. €20+ for a plate (not that big either) of pasta and €30 or more for a main dish.

It seems most people are having pasta. There are five people having that. The super rich wife is having two antipasti. I’m having the lamb. Of course, it is said that after the pasta they may take a main course. That will make me look rather foolish but, again, I didn’t know and F doesn’t tell me.

A guy has joined us a few minutes before. A tall guy bringing his small black dog. He also has a pot belly. Grey hair but thinning with some missing just above his forehead, the remainder tied in a small pony tail at the back. He’s loud and tends to dominate the conversation. He’s one of those who has ordered one of the five pasta dishes but he’s already says he’s going to have lamb afterwards.

We have to wait because, as stated on the menu, this particular pasta dish takes 16 minutes to prepare. They ask if it can be hurried along because M has to catch a flight back to London and has to leave by 2.30 p.m.

We have wine after the prosecco. There is no discussion on the wine. Super rich guy knows the people who own the restaurant. I don’t really care. I’ve been talking to M who doesn’t speak Italian but does speak English.

Eventually (but a LOT longer than the 16 minutes quoted) the pasta, the antipasti and my lamb arrive.

Except there’s a problem. We’re short of one of the pasta dishes. There is a general “no, share with me”, etc. But it seems the guy with the ponytail is the one without.

He refuses to share.

But he has a tantrum. Really, he’s about my age but he starts acting up like he’s a 3-year-old child. Shouting about how he was hungry but now won’t eat anything. How they should cancel his order for the lamb (which he hadn’t made anyway). Not only is he cutting off his nose to spite his face, but he is making everyone uncomfortable. Many offers are made to give him their pasta dish. He refuses. Offers are made to give him a whole pasta dish. He refuses. He just gets louder and more obnoxious. Fi, who is sitting next to him, suggests he “lighten up” which enrages him further.

I keep my head down and enjoy my lamb which is, quite possibly, the best I’ve ever tasted in Milan. It comes with a small amount of minted bread (bread soaked in a mint sauce) and microscopic amounts of a thyme sauce. It’s beautiful, but it’s not a lot. I’m not sure it’s worth €30. I don’t think we’ll be taking anyone there, to be honest. Yet the place is busy, every table being taken.

Pony-tail guy eventually calms down a bit. Another bottle of wine comes. Everyone decides they have had enough. M leaves to get a taxi to the airport. More wine is drunk. Pony-tail guy hasn’t eaten a thing! Yet he’s been drinking. He’s calm now and back to being the centre of attention.

I go outside with super-rich wife as she smokes. We talk about (or, rather, she talks about) how Berlusconi stole from everyone and how he destroyed Italy. F comes out later holding sweet menus and tells me which one I should have. She tells F that it was her husbands fault. He wound up pony-tail guy by starting to eat his pasta before making sure everyone had some. I’m not sure why this should wind up PTG in particular but I can believe it.

We go back in and have sweets – except PTG, of course, although he does taste a bit of everyone else’s. We have coffees and a digestivo. Fi pays for everyone, as usual.

We say our goodbyes.

It should have all been lovely. Obviously, there was no museum involved so I’m unsure why it was even mentioned. PTG was a bit of an arse, to be honest. All the childish stuff was really not necessary.

Later he comes to our flat to pick up Fi to take her to the airport, which is nice. I don’t see him as I am busy. But I hear him. Fi comes in quickly to say goodbye to me. She’ll be back. She says so :-D

A night at the opera – Aida.

The last two posts were about Friday.

It was a rather “full” day in terms of emotions.

But, I had J staying and, on Sunday, as her birthday/Christmas present we had tickets for the opera. She had told me, on her last visit, that, as a teenager, she had got a scholarship for singing at the Royal School of Music in London but that her parents thought it would be waste of time and, instead, had forced her to go to secretarial college. She had wanted to sing opera.

I had bought three tickets. It was going to be her, me and, of course, F. But the gods did not smile on us and, very unfortunately, F couldn’t be there. I decided to offer the spare ticket to FfC, who has been going through a rather rough time of it, as of late.

This was at La Scala, Milan. I’d been once before, having bought V to the ballet. We’d had seats in one of the boxes. He had the seat in the front and I right behind. But, should you be getting tickets, don’t ever get a box unless you’re right at the front. From the second row, you only get (in my case) a view of half the stage. For a concert or, even, I suppose, an opera, it’s not so bad. But, for a ballet, it’s truly disastrous.

Anyway, to be safe, this time I had bought tickets in the stalls, just about half way back from the stage.

F had said that you didn’t need to dress up. But, that didn’t stop some people. Next time I’ll know – dress up as much as you like! We were smart but you could have gone all the way.

We arrived about 4.30 and met up with FfC. We went in and I bought two programmes – one for J and one for FfC.

Just after we sat down, it started.

And then, just as you start enjoying the singing and the spectacle, someone coughs. And then again. They’ve got that awful, irritating cough. The one that won’t stop. I half expect the singers on stage to stop and wait for the person to finish coughing. The coughing stops. And then starts again. Obviously, this person has a problem. Every few seconds, the cough comes. I try to ignore it and I may have been able to but for one important thing. The coughing is from the person next to me. And the person next to me is FfC!

I feel two things. The first is that I feel so sorry for her. She’s been looking forward to this and it’s a really nice treat when she’s going through such shit – to be ruined by coughing. Of course, once you start, knowing that you shouldn’t, you cannot stop! And she can’t. I offer her a gum. She drinks some cough medicine. But it is being persistent. She just can’t shake it off. The other thing I think is that I’ve paid €300 for her ticket and, although she feels terrible, I don’t want her to leave!

Eventually, she decides she will have to leave the auditorium. She is told she “won’t be let back in” – but I can’t believe that!

Meanwhile, the opera continues.

It is glorious. It is spectacular. A translation of the songs, in English, is available from a little screen attached the the back of the seat in front of you. The set was minimalist but, to me, just perfect. I didn’t know the opera work but I had read a synopsis and it was a typical “tragedy”, of course.

FfC didn’t come back in.

At the interval, I went out for a cigarette, leaving J in her seat.

FfC texted me. She was in the lobby and, obviously, she could come back in for the second half. She offered to buy me a drink. She said she had had a cup of tea and felt much better and would give it a try. She had been watching it on a monitor. Apparently, at every performance they get 4 to 6 people who have to step out for one reason or another (but often for persistent coughing).

Although there was the occasional cough from her, she survived the second half. J loved it all which, after all, was the reason we were there. If I were rich enough, I would love to go more often. Ah, well, you can dream.

The finale was spectacular! Both in terms of the set and the singing. This was not some amateur affair (nor amateur prices, of course) and, anyway, we were at La Scala!

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant called La Torree di Pisa – not cheap but stunningly good lamb (my dish), so worth every penny of its expensiveness!

All told, a lovely evening and I would do it all again tomorrow!

p.s. also a nice change from the Friday, of course.
p.p.s. J got me to sign her programme the next day. I wrote a little message and then she started crying. You may remember Venice, last time. She does cry at the simplest things :-D Bless her.

A long weekend with an old, old friend

What I really need now is a weekend off.

I am, in fact, completely fucking exhausted. The last four days have been just constant activity. And, for almost all of it, F has not been here. PaC is not good so he was down there for a couple of days and then he had to go to London for work. So, it was just me and I feel like I just want to relax now.

But, back to the long weekend, (since Lola is so insistent). It was exhausting because D wanted to walk everywhere. I do understand but, obviously, for me, living here means that I don’t need to see everything so the metro is fine.

But we walked. And walked. And bloody walked. Then, whilst they were relaxing in their hotel I would be out walking the dogs, of course. And then walking them in the morning and in the evening. I actually feel like I don’t want to walk for a week.

Or eat for a week when it comes to it. From my usual one meal a day to breakfast, lunch AND dinner. I am stuffed.

So, there it is. After around 30 years of not seeing each other, D was just the same. A little older, true, but really just the same. And I’d forgotten how much he talks. We would be in a restaurant and we (J, his partner and I) would have finished eating whilst he had been talking, so his food was cold (I imagine). And still he would talk. And talk.

And, what did we do besides walk and talk (or listen) and eat?

Well, not much as it happens. They didn’t want to go inside anywhere. I did take them to Villa Necchi – but I think I only got away with that because it poured with rain on the Saturday. And, so, being inside was a good thing. They said they wanted to soak up being in Italy, so I did my best to give them that.

On the first day, we walked to the centre of the city (via the flamingos off Corso Venezia), past the Duomo, into the Galleria to the front of La Scala then up to Brera where we had lunch. Then around Brera and on to the the Castle and then back down to the Duomo and back to their hotel via Via Della Spiga and the park. That evening we went to Ristoranti Al Grigliaro where we ate fish (this is because J really likes fish and so does F and F was only going to be with us for that night for certain.)

The next day, F was at work. I met them at their hotel which was close to our flat and we strolled through Porta Nuova (the brand new area of Milan), stopping for ice-cream (it was J’s first time in Italy), walking down Corso Como (we stopped in to take a look round Corso Como 10 a famous designer shop/café/restaurant which also has a bookshop and an exhibition space) and then on to Eataly where we had lunch. From there, down Corso Garibaldi and back to the centre and straight back to Corso Buenos Aires. That evening we went to eat at the Cantinetta Belle Donne so that F could get home easily if it got late.

The next morning, early, F left for London. I had some errands to do so I ended up at their hotel about mid-day. We went to La Belle Aurore for a simple lunch and then to Villa Necchi Campiglio (the villa that featured in the film I Am Love). The nice thing was that, this time, we had the tour with a guide who spoke English (rather than a recorded tape) and, as there were only 6 of us, we saw a couple of rooms that I hadn’t seen before (the bigger groups don’t get to see them). In addition, they had finished the work on the basement so we got to see the Butler’s pantry and what had originally been the changing rooms for the swimming pool and the snooker room. That evening, in spite of the persistent rain, we went down to Navigli (we took a tram) and had an aperitivo (with mountains of “free” food) and then a pizza at Fabbrica – they loved the pizzas.

By the next morning, it had almost stopped raining. By 10.30 we were on our way to via Paolo Sarpi, the “Chinatown” of Milan for the New Year’s celebrations. We got there early and walked about. We couldn’t get in to any of the Chinese restaurants but went to a Sardinian place off piazza Gramsci (Ristorante Giulia) and came out just before the parade started.

As J comes from Taiwan, he was able to explain the procession – the Emperor, the concubines, the courtiers, the common people, the wedding party with the bride and groom, etc. So it made it much more interesting.

Then, even before the thing was over, we were back on the bus to their hotel as they had a plane to catch and I had a lesson.

It was really nice to see D again, after all these years. And J, his partner was lovely. There weren’t any “difficult” moments and it was all very easy (if exhausting) and I think they enjoyed it very much. It was unfortunate that F didn’t get to spend more time with them. But I think they did get a flavour of Italy, which was important.

And in a few weeks, my friend, J, is coming for a few days and a trip to La Scala, so that will be nice.

I guess it was a bit of a shock!

“It will be quite hot,” I suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were at the Rajput – see link on the right

I thought the sausages were good – then they brought me meatballs!

I went out with A last night.

We normally go to a restaurant because he wants (needs?) to eat. Sometimes I eat and sometimes not. Last night he suggested trying Il Trullo, a restaurant specialising in cuisine from Puglia (the heel of Italy) and, as we were going there, my mouth was already salivating. This restaurant does some of the best sausages that I’ve ever tasted.

It’s not a big restaurant and the tables are very close together – but it is always very busy and, probably, about 50% of the time we go there, we can’t get in!

It’s not really a romantic restaurant in any way, apart from the tables being so close, the lights are bright and it looks more like someone’s big kitchen. Last night, however, there was one table free.

They give us the menus but I already know I’m taking the sausages. However, when the guy comes to take the order, he informs me that they don’t have the sausages tonight. Instead, they have polpette (meat balls). It’s still cavallo though and so I choose that.

And, to be honest, they were even better than the sausages! Filled with herbs and spices, they came with a simple tomato sauce and red and yellow peppers strips. The taste is absolutely amazing!

Sadly, last night, the service wasn’t “wow!” In fact, it was rather poor. The usual two girls weren’t there.

But the meatballs! Just so stunningly good that, even as I write this, I can taste them and now I really want to go back there again tonight!

One of these days I’m going to try some other things but, you know, when I get there, the sausages (and now meatballs) are just so damned good, I can’t see anything past them.

We also had a litre of wine, two small bottles of water, some mussel thing that A had and he also had a sweet (Forest Fruit tart – which I tasted and it was rather lovely – definitely home-made) and the total cost was about €45 – which was really quite good.

Obviously, we are in Italy, so cavallo is fine (and I really like the meat as it’s quite strong tasting). For those of you who don’t eat meat (Lola) or want your meat to be in plastic trays covered with plastic film, don’t go looking up what cavallo is.

Still, I’ve been meaning to write about Il Trullo before. They do lots of fish stuff as well. And cheeses cooked with vegetables and I really should try this other stuff. But, right now, I just can’t – the cavallo stuff is just too, too good.

What makes it perfect is also the fact that it’s a couple of minutes from my flat and only a couple of minutes more from the new flat (it’s between the two). Which, by the way, we shall be moving into on 24th July – kitchen ready or not! Eeek!

Occasionally, Italians are REALLY annoying!

As I have mentioned before, I quite like food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Being a foreigner; another first!

It’s probably about 10.30 p.m.

Maybe 11.

It’s Friday night and I’m taking the dogs out for their final time that night. It’s a bit later than normal as tomorrow is Saturday and a lie in. If I take them too early, they will want to be out early the next morning and, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that at the weekend. Well, I could and, obviously, have but I prefer not to if I can help it.

We had been to Liù for a pizza earlier. It was a bit strange in that, when we were sitting there waiting for the pizzas to come, I had this sudden moment when I felt that I was in a foreign land. Of course, I AM in a foreign land but as I’ve been here quite a long time now, I don’t tend to notice. It is my “normal” and it’s not new. So, although most of the time I hear Italian all around me, it doesn’t seem strange nor does it feel like I live somewhere foreign. And yet, just for about 20 minutes, I felt as if I were not in my own country.

It’s not that it was a bad thing. It just “was”. And, in some way, I marvel in it. If I had been told when I was young that I would up sticks so late in life and go and live in Italy, I’m not sure that I would have believed it. Retire, maybe, but just to come and live and work here, probably not.

Anyway, I digress. So, there I am, going out with the dogs for their last walk.

We come out of the building and turn right, as always. They know which way to go. Dino does his first pee on the nearest car, as always. Piero usually waits to the first junction.

As we approach the junction, a car pulls up and half-blocks the entrance to the road on the right. I don’t think anything of it. I mean people sometimes park there like that.

These people don’t get out though and the engine is still running.

We cross the junction to continue our way down the “perfect street” and I glance inside the car as the courtesy light is on.

And I see something that I’ve never, ever seen before. I mean to say, I’ve seen it on films and TV but never in real life!

A line of what I can only assume is cocaine is on some sort of hand-held flat surface (maybe the back of a phone or a mirror), the passenger is holding the said flat surface whilst the driver snorts the white powder.

There, in the street (well, the car) in full sight of anyone (that would be me) walking past!

Obviously, as I’ve never taken any drug apart from stuff for illness, tobacco and alcohol, I get sort-of excited about this. I mean, this is for real!

I guess that most people will have seen this since it seems that the snorting of cocaine is fairly common from what I have read or seen on TV or in films.

However, for me it was a rather strange first.

A post about moving

Sorry for not writing a post for ages but I’ve been a bit busy. Again.

Friday was Valentine’s Day and, as usual, I got F some white tulips. We hadn’t booked anywhere to have a meal but thought we would try Porca Vacca again as, according to F, the “old” people are back there. And they were and the menu was back to something like it was before and it was great (and seemed a little less expensive than before).

Of course, it was full but after about 10 minutes wait a table was free. A lovely meal and a lovely evening.

Friday, during the day, F had been to see a house. And by this I mean a real “house” with two stories and a garden. It was next to or in the middle of an old factory. Obviously, they were converting some, or all, of it to become residential.

It was beautiful inside, judging by the pictures and F confirmed that it was fabulous. There were just two problems: a) it was right by the motorway ring that surrounds Milan – which is raised and so there would be the hum of traffic day and night and b) there really isn’t any public transport to speak of.

Then, for Saturday morning, he had arranged a viewing of a flat near mine which had a garden. The particulars suggested it was quite big. We went to see. It was beautifully done but the size was large because they had included a large “room” that was under the terrace. This “room” was, almost, a basement but could not have been used as a real room. The terrace was fantastic and there were steps down to a large garden which was excellent – walled and quite private. But, the flat itself was just too small.

Then, Sunday morning, he went off to London for the London Fashion Week show and I was quite grateful, in a way, for a chance to spend Sunday doing whatever I wanted. In fact, Dino had been a little ill overnight so there was cleaning up, cleaning him, brushing them both, doing some shopping and making some soup.

Although I did watch one and half films as well. And went out to eat with friends in the evening.

And then he came back last night. And the three of us were very pleased to see him :-)

I was going to go to bed early but a) he didn’t arrive until about 10 and b) he had something to tell me.

So, in the end we stayed for about an hour in the kitchen, talking about his news. There’s a very slight possibility that he could move to London. It was an, erm, interesting discussion. He said his English would have to be better and asked for me to help. Also to help with a letter and a CV. Of course, I would. I have to stress the “slight possibility” here. We judged that it was a “very slight” possibility but you have to consider that anything could happen.

Of course, many things were going through my mind. Not least the fact that I’m transferring my pension out of the UK and what would it mean if I went back? Well, that’s something to look at. Plus, there would be the problem of a job for me which, at my age, is not guaranteed. Plus, there’s the dogs to consider but his mind had already moved on that one to a house with a garden.

And, so, I’ve realised that most of this post has been about moving (or potential moving).

And, yet, none of this is certain.

Ristorante Delicatessen

Sunday was rather nice. We SHOULD have been with Lola and G and Orlando but the weather forecast was for a dreadful day and so a day walking with the dogs was postponed. We wait for better weather.

And the weather WAS dreadful. It rained nearly all day and was much colder – and, in spite of the ‘extra hour in bed’ I didn’t sleep so well.

However, a couple who were friends of F & S and have a baby came from where they live (Lake Como) to Milan for lunch.

F booked a place about an hour before they arrived.

Every morning I go, by car, to work, along Viale Tunisia. And, although I am aware this place exists (because An, a friend, works nearby and swears by it for a good lunch), I have never actually seen it. And I have looked (but, then, I am a man).

It is quite easy from our place – three or four tram stops and possible to walk if the weather is OK.

The place is called Delicatessen.

Now, for me, Viale Tunisia is not a particularly nice “avenue”. In fact it’s just a large and well-trafficked road, dirty and uninviting. But, sure enough, I have passed it every day.

But, I’m going to recommend it – highly recommend it.

The front looks OK but, once you get inside, it’s a completely different world. It’s been there about 18 months (or more). It is smart and clean, wood and brown. It is large and airy but also warm and cosy. In short, a rather nice place.

The staff are excellent. We had a 19-month-old baby in our party. But nothing was too much trouble. First they got a high chair, then a rocking horse, then, when he went running off, they were there to look after him. That’s not to say that they didn’t look after us too! They were attentive, serving the wine when it needed to be served, explaining the dishes, etc., etc.

The food is from Alto Adige – in the Alpine region of South Tyrol. This is a region of Italy where nearly 70% of the population speak German as their first language, even if it is part of Italy. One of the specialities of the area is speck, my favourite cured ham. And, sure enough, the menu (with German then Italian descriptions, as one would expect) is littered with dishes containing speck.

So I had speck with gherkins to start. It was lovely. F had a selection of meats and cheeses (and that meant I had some of that too, since he doesn’t eat meat with too much fat :-D ).

My main course was lamb. Like a crown roast, with ratatouille and a side dish of potatoes with cheese (hot). The lamb was perfect – not overcooked and VERY tasty. We shared sweets but, to be honest, my choice of grape strudel was the best.

OK, so the prices were quite high – €8-12 for a starter, €10-15 for the pasta course and €23+ for the mains – it was pricey but the food was plentiful and tasty and I didn’t need anything to eat for the rest of the day!

So, place – 4 stars, staff – 5 stars and food – 5 stars!

Wonderful place. Do go if you live or come to Milan.

Orsoblu; French = gay?????

Well, it was far better than the last deal we went to, that’s for sure.

Another Groupon deal, this time Orsoblu, picked especially because not only was it close but it was also a fish restaurant.

The interior is smart, modern, chic and ……. well, …….. blue. It was a Monday so it was fairly quiet but that was fine. It was a fixed menu, since that was part of the deal. We chose (well, he chose) the wine. It was some Chardonnay. It was quite nice.

It took some while for each of the courses but that’s OK. I don’t mind waiting except that it was a Monday night and, because I had had a lesson booked (which was subsequently cancelled), I had booked it for 9.

There was the antipasto. Nicely presented. It included a raw shrimp, some salmon, a scallop (as an aside, I could not remember the English word for this. I had to look up the Italian – cappesante – which I remembered. This is shocking and, to be honest very annoying. It’s not as if I could spell the word correctly in Italian anyway, so that makes it even worse!!), some unidentified white fish, a mussel and something that was like a lump of polenta – oh, and a razor fish. It was quite nice. Too much bread-crumbing for me, personally (the scallop, the mussel), however, the razor fish (which I’ve had once before, bread-crumbed) was not bread-crumbed and therefore better, although I’m not sure if it’s quite as good as it should be – I’m not sure what to expect with razor fish. I mean, there’s hardly anything there! It was the first time he had had it so he wasn’t sure how to eat it. That made me smile.

Then there was the primi. On each plate was some sort of pasta (like slightly flat spaghetti) with clams – this was nice and some risotto. The risotto was flavoured with orange and was ‘fishy’ – i.e. had some fish thing going on – but I’ve no idea what. Still, they were both very nice.

Then we had the main course. Half of a very well filleted branzino (Sea Bass), with a sauce that was quite rich, with mushrooms (that were quite nice) and some breaded pieces of potatoes, roasted or fried. The taste of the branzino was a little lost in the richness of the sauce but it was well done.

Then we had cannoli. This is a particularly Sicilian sweet. Quite often filled with ricotta cheese. A lot of Italians love it. As far as I’m concerned, it is OK but a bit too sickly sweet for me. But, then, I prefer something with fruit, to be honest.

By now it was already 10.30, so we paid (with the voucher we were paying only for the wine and water – the bill being 23€!)

Overall, I would say that it was nice. For me there was a bit too much going on with the dishes. I’m not a great fish eater and I always prefer simple. This was not the Lamparo. But, to be honest, they did a good job, trying to give us a sample of the things they can do. I prefer my branzino with little else – just steamed or fried.

On a minus note, the waiter spoke so softly that I don’t think I actually heard a single word he said. But, maybe, that was just me. The service, although we waited a long time between courses, was good.

Yes, I would go there again but no, I wouldn’t rush to go there, choosing Lamparo or Baia Chia before it.

Oh, yes, and it’s sponsored by Vivienne Westwood! Who knew that restaurants were sponsored?

On our way back to the car I was informed that French (the language) was very ‘gay’.

Guess who I was with? ;-)