Which hat do I want?

Sometimes I feel I should have taken a Hippocratic Oath. Or that it should be a requirement of the job. Or that it should fall under the Confessions to a Priest thing.

For, at times, I am advisor, office assistant, writer of fine words, solver of problems, sounding board and priest-like listener doling out tea and sympathy (metaphorically speaking.)

Of course, there are the “straight” students. The ones for whom it is a matter of grammar and vocabulary. But there are the occasional ones where you get, over a period of weeks and months, to be let in on the most secret of secrets. And, I take it seriously. I don’t tell anyone, not even F.

But, tonight, possibly, comes the role of “voice coach”. I don’t actually know yet. Someone (who is a “someone important” for an important Italian company) has to make a presentation. It was originally thought to have to be in Italian but, at the last minute this person learned that it was to be in English.

It might be a writing of a presentation in English. Or, it might have already been written and it’s a matter of pronunciation and cadence and inflection. I don’t know. Yet.

Of course, one single hour is not enough time for whatever it is, but it’s all I have so it will have to do. It will be better than nothing, I suppose. We shall see. And, of course, it’s for a friend of a friend/student so I couldn’t really say “no”, could I?

But I wonder which hat, of the many hats I use, I should don tonight?

20 days!

“20 days!?”

20 days!

It’s impossible to hide my shock and unhappiness.

I am, at once, jealous, happy for him and really quite pissed off. He sees this. I wish he could see that I am happy for him. I recover. A bit.

“Well, if I didn’t know you better, I would say that at least you’d have some great food.” Except I DO know him and I know he doesn’t really like their food. It’s why I’m jealous though. One of the countries is one I would love to go to – just for the food. He says he hopes the girlfriend will come too so that he doesn’t have to spend all the time with M, his boss. But I suspect that won’t happen. It’s not that he doesn’t like his boss, it’s just that he also likes to do his own thing.

He says they will probably go around the 3rd October (which probably means it WILL be 3rd October – a Saturday.) “That will mean you’re away for nearly all of October?” Again, I can’t keep my feeling of panic out of my voice. He’s disappointed, I see. I want to be encouraging but he’s just sprung this on me. I knew it was all a possibility and I was very pleased for him – am very pleased for him – but I was thinking a couple of weeks, maximum. 20 days just seems such a long time.

I know. It’s selfish. My first thought was I’ve got 20 days of doing the dogs; getting up very early; all my lessons; just 20 days of hell – after which I will be so tired – and that’s assuming nothing really dramatic happens (which, after a call this morning, is always possible.)

Later, when I’ve had time to recover a bit from my initial reaction, I’m able to say, “Good babe”, as that’s what I really think. This is a great opportunity for him, and I am genuinely pleased for him. It’s a long trip though, to the other side of the world. It will exhaust him, for sure.

And, I know, in the end, it won’t be so bad. The time will fly as I will be really busy.

“I’ll be away for our anniversary,” he says, pulling a face that looks like he will cry. “Don’t worry, babe, we’ll celebrate when you’re back.” It’s OK. But now I’ll give him the model of Dino for when he gets back. It will cheer him up.

I will get the cleaner to do a special clean for when he gets back.

But, still, I will miss him. And the dogs will miss him for sure, not really understanding that he’s only away for a little while.

Still, 20 days!!!

Hello. Goodbye.

He texts me to say that the dogs were exhausted (destroyed, as he says) when he left for work.

He had taken them out for a walk and he lets them play, even in the extreme temperatures that we’ve been having (up to 36° with a “feel like” of the low 40s). But he had taken them out early, so it wasn’t so hot (still, it was 30° at 7.30).

He said they were so exhausted that they didn’t even say hello to him before he left for work.

Italians have a bit of a problem with “hello” and “goodbye” since they don’t differentiate. Salutare, ciao, salve, etc. are used for both hello and goodbye. They don’t really quite get (I’m SURE Chiara does ;-) ) when is the right time to use “hello” or “goodbye”.

As a default “hello” is used.

I try and explain, in a reply text that he should have said “goodbye” and not “hello” as “hello” is used when first meeting/seeing someone and “goodbye” is used when leaving.

However, F is a stubborn barsteward sometimes. He replied that he understood but that, if the dogs don’t see him for 2 seconds it is like the first time they have met. Which is, of course, kind of true.

And it made me laugh. And that’s why I love him.

I replied that he is the only person that will argue with me if I try to correct bad English – and I don’t often do it with him!

But the argument did have a point, as those of you with dogs will know.

The video of Hello Goodbye by The Beatles was the obvious choice :-)

Hang on in there!

Hang on in there!

I am exhausted, to be honest. The holiday, in a little more than 4 weeks, can’t come soon enough. It seems I never stop.

Take last night. I rush home from work, park the car, walk to the supermarket, momentarily forgetting that it’s about 34°C and therefore walking down the street with full sun on my back rather than a slightly longer way, mostly in the shade. I buy the minimum of stuff and walk back home down the shady streets.

Arriving home, as soon as I step through the door, having stopped “doing something”, I do my Niagara Falls impression. I put away the milk and stuff, change out of my suit (I had customers at work), put on shorts and a T-shirt. Within a second my T-shirt is soaked but there’s not really much I can do. I need to take the dogs out as I need to be back by 7.

I take them out. We do a slightly shorter walk in the heat. It’s too hot for them. I get home and Niagara starts again. Half an hour later, I change my T-shirt as the Falls have stopped (thank God) but the T-shirt is completely soaked. I could manage it better if I didn’t have to rush – but I have no choice but to rush.

After my appointment, I get to read the document that someone has sent me to look at. It seems serious. I text to say that we need to talk. She asks if now is possible and I agree (I shall be busy tomorrow and I want to pack for the weekend) so we meet at Bar Blanco, the nearest bar to my house. I tell her how bad it could be but that I’ve managed to find someone who may be able to help. It’s going to cost her anyway. She is grateful, for sure, but we end up having a drink which means I’m late taking the dogs out and so late to bed.

With less that 5 hours sleep, I feel like shit. But, I feel I have to help her and cannot just walk away.

But, it costs. The cost being my tiredness.

I don’t really need the appointment tonight but it has to be. Then pack. Then the dogs. Then bed – early, I really hope. I don’t want to drive all the way down there and then spend the whole of the weekend asleep! Not that I CAN sleep on the beach, but “sleepy mode”, if I’m tired, can mean a subdued and exhausting weekend.

But, F is being “made” to take 2 weeks holiday. That’s fair enough, since for over a month he has been home for about 4 days in total. He, too, is exhausted. He is with his mother for this time, with us going down for this weekend and next.

But it’s hard for me too. I have to do everything and there’s no time and the heat means I can’t take my time – although I much prefer this heat to the cold and, if I could just take things more slowly, I’d be fine!

But, only just over a week to go before he’s back home and we can share the dog walking. And just over 4 weeks an I shall be with Best Mate AND on holiday.

Hang on in there, I tell myself.

Life threads – so frail?

This was a draft post from March of this year. I don’t know why it wasn’t posted and, maybe I meant to say more. But I think it stands anyway. So, here it is.

As my regular readers know, a lot of the stuff I post is stuff in my head which bears no resemblance to what I actually do or say nor to what people who don’t read this blog think that I’m thinking. Nor, sometimes, to reality.

For the stuff in my head is intangible and floats and changes depending on the crap that I may be thinking about at the time.

And so, this morning, I wake up with that feeling of dread. Again.

There’s no reason for it. Or, rather, there are reasons but they aren’t real … yet and, quite possibly will never be real. They are, of course, my “nightmares” of the waking hours – as opposed to my nightmares when I am asleep, of which I’ve had plenty just over the last few days. Not the same. All different.

So, this feeling of dread. It’s as if something bad is just about to happen. Like I’m on a knife-edge of a reality where everything starts to go horribly wrong. And, yet, nothing has gone wrong so far.

But the feeling persists. Maybe it’s the recent incidents involving V? After all, the fall from who he was to what he is now (as far as I can tell) spans less than 6 years. Can a normal, ordinary life have so short a thread that is can become unwound in such a short time? Well, yes, of course. And I’ve known that for such a long time too. I remember teaching a guy on a programme called Restart – a government funded programme to get unemployed people into work.

This guy told me how he’s had a good job, wife kids, house, etc. And within a couple of years lost it all simply by being made redundant. He’s been a roadsweeper at one point and told me of having people spit at him. He was a decent guy who wanted to work but then, all those years ago, by the time you were over 50 you were considered “past it” (I was about 25 at the time and I was teaching people how to rewrite their CV, write letters, etc.)

And, of course, from that point it’s not far to be one of those people without a home, no prospect of any type of job and sleeping on the street.

The Studio – a bone of contention?

I suppose there had to be something, didn’t there?

My “studio”. What would be the second bedroom.

Against the wall were the bed would go there are two electric sockets. On the other side, in the corner, is one socket and the television aerial point. I know exactly how I want it laid out. F has other ideas. A couple of days ago, we were in the new flat (he has put away all his CDs and there’s a whole section for my few CDs and DVDs) and he asked me how I wanted the room to be organised.

Specifically, where I wanted my wardrobe put.

I told him. He wanted it on the opposite wall.

I explained why I wanted it like I had said. He explained why he wanted it the way he did. But, as usual, he wasn’t listening to me. He didn’t understand that, although I may have to run the wire from the PC to the television in the next room, above and round the window, it would be a much more pleasant room to be in and in which to do lessons, etc..

Eventually, tired of the fact that he wasn’t listening, I just said, OK, you do it as you want.

Last night, I mentioned that I really wanted it the way I had said.

We’ll see if I get what I want or not. But it is much better my way, even if it is more awkward in terms of cabling, etc.

The “Mafia” and the Catholic Church – two institutions that “run” Italy

There’s a story about squatters living in one of the churches in Rome that the Pope uses.

They are, in fact, making some sort of demonstration about the housing crisis in Rome.

However, I was struck by the following:

“We are an alarm call, a heads-up that the housing system in Rome is collapsing,” said Luca Bonucci, 38, a former security guard who lost his home when his employer failed to pay him for a year.

The thing that struck me was not that the housing system in Rome is collapsing, nor that this guy was a former security guard that is now unemployed, nor that he “lost” his home.

It is that his employer failed to pay him for a year!

This is something that seems quite common here, in Italy.

In the UK, I only heard about this happening (for an extended period of time) for one person. Here, I’ve heard about it often. It seems a common thing.

Of course, this has all to do with cashflow management – and how good or bad the managers are at managing it.

It’s not helped by the fact that Italian government and council agencies still find it acceptable to pay companies late – more than 90 days – and yet those same agencies demand money immediately or, even, (from what I understand) in the case of VAT (IVA, here), up front! But it’s not only government and council agencies.

I can’t imagine continuing to work somewhere when I wasn’t paid – for a whole year!

It’s not even as if wages here are so huge. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before now, I still can’t quite understand how this country functions with wages set so low.

As usual, the solution to this (and most problems here), is a change in thinking. A change that seems unlikely to come any time soon.

I remember one of my “contracts” here when I was teaching. I did some work that was funded through the EU, providing cut-price lessons to companies in Italy. The pay for me was quite high (compared to most English teaching “jobs”) and the funding actually came through charity organisations. Since I did a number of these contracts, I had different contracts with different charity agencies.

All of them were really good – except one. The one that was terrible was the “Catholic” one. For this one, I really had to fight for my money. The others paid me almost as soon as the courses were complete. This one kept me hanging on for a couple of months. Eventually, I went to their headquarters. I was told that the person who could sign the cheque was not there right now. I said I would wait. They told me that it was not a good idea to wait as they didn’t know when he would come in but they would make sure that he signed the cheque as soon as he came in and I should come back the next day.

I went back the next day. Apparently, for one reason or another, he hadn’t signed the cheque. And he wasn’t there right now but they would get it done today and I could come back tomorrow. I explained that that wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t trekking all the way across town again.

I said I would wait.

They didn’t want that but they thought that I would give up and go after an hour or so. They had no idea who they were dealing with. I waited for an hour and a half to two hours.

Suddenly I was called to the desk as somehow, miraculously, they had the cheque! This was strange, as no one had entered the building since I had arrived, apart from people going to the desk and then leaving!!!! I thanked them but told them that I would never do work for them again. I was shocked at the time as I never expected a Catholic charity to be lying bastards.

Catholic charities, it seems, are the worst for paying their debts! So it seems justified (in a justice sense) that the Catholic Church should suffer the homeless people who may have even been made homeless by their failure to pay the company for which poor Luca worked. Even if it wasn’t a Catholic charity directly, you can be certain they were involved somewhere down the line. They are, after all, as prolific here as the “Mafia”. And, to be honest, I would put them both in the same category of organisation.

The full link to the article is here

Erm, celebrating ……. sort of

I have an idea in my head.

It goes something like this.

We sign the contracts and we are both really happy.

We should celebrate!

OK, so he paid half for Piero, so this is not the first major thing we’ve done. But, you know, it’s a little different than Piero. This is a contract that binds us together for at least 4 years. This is where we have to live, whatever happens. This is not quite the same as buying a house, but damn well near it.

Of course, tonight I have a bloody lesson. But it’s only from 7 to 8. We can go out at 8. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Well, yes but he’s arranged to go for a drink with some ex-colleagues. I can come but it’s not near my flat so, as my lesson is at 7, I can’t. It’s just too far. It would be lovely – to celebrate the new flat that we’ve got together – but later, after my lesson. After all, he’s going for an aperitivo – just a drink. He’s coming back to my flat straight afterwards.

She’s late, my student. To be honest, she’s a bit of a pain in the arse. But I can’t really fob her off just to go for a drink. We’ve finished by 8.30. I text him straight away to tell him she’s gone. Perhaps, on his way back, he’ll suggest going for a quick drink to celebrate?

It’s now gone 9. He’s not replied. I wonder if they’ve gone on to eat somewhere? But I don’t know. It’s no good phoning. I know him, the sound is off on his phone and it only vibrates or, even if the sound is on, if it’s in his bag, he won’t hear it.

I open a bottle of wine. After all, I’m celebrating.

I am celebrating and ever so slightly pissed off.

I think of texting/calling my friends. But I don’t. I just sit here, typing this and celebrating our new contract together ………. on my own.

Well, the wine is quite good.

I think I’ll ring Best Mate. She should be the first person I tell, really.

I’ll celebrate with her over the phone.

But, you know, this is not really anything like I had hoped.

Living in Italy has distinct advantages.

It was whilst talking with a colleague, the other day, that I realised how very lucky I am in this one respect.

A couple of days before, I’d read, in one of the British papers online, about a man of about 56. He had been made redundant a year or two before and had applied for over 3,000 (yes, three thousand) jobs in the time since his redundancy. He’d had one interview and hadn’t got the job.

And, whilst talking to this colleague, I realised that, actually, by living here, in Italy, I was, in fact, always employable.

Obviously, going back to teaching is not something I crave on the basis that the work pays very badly and the hours can be crap AND, there is little or no work for about 4 months of the year (meaning also no pay).

But, if needs must, I could go back to it tomorrow. What with that, editing work and website stuff, I may, even, be able to make more or less the same money as I do now – in any event, I would be earning something.

Compared, say, to the person I was talking to, who is slightly younger than I am but, if made redundant, would be less likely to be able to find employment.

And, as I talked to him, I realised that, if I were still in the UK, I would, actually, be less employable there, at my age, than I am here! So, by coming here, I have actually increased my chances for work in the future.

Now that’s something I had never thought of before. But, I have to admit, it’s a rather nice thought, isn’t it?

Early morning and a failing diet

They are closed. I half expected them to be open. Not that it matters to me – I only walk past them on the opposite side of the road anyway.

I do keep meaning to go in and see if they have English papers but I have never done yet. This is an actual newspaper shop! You don’t see many of them in Milan. Usually newsagents are some temporary-looking, wooden affair on street corners or pavements. This is a real walk-in shop.

They are closed and it is cold. It seems like winter again. I have a T-shirt under my shirt and jumper and my winter, all-weather coat done securely up to the neck.

As I walk, I wish I had taken the woollen cap and worn it. I want to take out my gloves …. but don’t. It is April, after all.

It isn’t raining any more, which, I suppose, is some sort of blessing. Later, as I’m driving to work, the sky is blue – but so blue and beautiful. In summer, this would herald an unbelievably hot day.

But it’s definitely NOT summer yet.

I shouldn’t be up this early. I think I woke up because I was cold. Also because I got to bed quite early, maybe. So I woke at 4 something, was up by 4.30 and, now, at 5.10 (a good half an hour before I normally get up), I am out with Dino for our morning walk. When he knew we were going for a walk, he got just as excited as if it were normal time. He doesn’t care about what time it is – a walk is a walk is a walk, after all.

We don’t go to the dog areas. After yesterday’s and last night’s rain, they will be muddy pools, smelling rank, no doubt.

We turn up the street near them. Part of the street is dark, the street lights not working. It’s been like this for days at least. I wonder why they aren’t fixed.

Milan is incredibly quiet at this time in the morning. But not dead. A few vans doing deliveries; the odd person walking to work. If it were summer, it would be lovely.

By the time we get home, whilst it’s not really what you would call ‘light’, it is definitely ‘lighter’, which is good.

I do coffee, take the washing out of the machine, feed Dino and sit and have my coffee. I think to myself ‘Bet you’ll be late to work’.

I was. How did that happen?

I showered and tidied up a bit and then came to work.

I’m driving through the new Porta Nuova where the new buildings are, in fact, looking more interesting now. It’s here that I notice the blue sky. There’s a lot of traffic about for some reason. The sky makes a pattern of blue through the buildings. For Milan, they are very tall.

Later, as I am driving on the last few roads towards work, I see, in the distance, the Alps with the snow. Against the blue sky they look fabulous and I wonder if they’ve had fresh snow (whilst we had the rain). I’m also amazed what a difference it can make, this 40-minute drive. From tall, silver buildings with scraps of sky to the snow-capped mountains beneath the same blue.

I love living here (although I would like it to be a bit warmer).

On a slightly different note, I have, within a couple of days, failed with my ‘no alcohol until I go out’, not being able to resist a glass of red wine last night. :-(

And then, at lunchtime, G, the cook, asked if I wanted three of her meatballs. Well, I couldn’t really say ‘no’, could I? I mean, it would have been rude, wouldn’t it?

No, it’s not really going to plan at all.