In which we take a London Taxi and F does a good deed.

I sit in the back and watch the meter increasing by 20 pence every few seconds. Once we’ve hit a pound extra, I start to get a bit annoyed. Apart from the fact that I am tired, slightly drunk and full and want to get to bed and go to sleep, this extra cost is unnecessary.

Of course, I realise (have always realised) that F is slightly crazy.

I have been up since 5 a.m. which, in reality, as we’re now in the UK, was 4 a.m. It’s now about 1 a.m. the following morning and I’ve had about 10 minutes sleep in the afternoon. Plus we’ve been travelling, plus we saw the concert. I am exhausted. And now he wants to go travelling all around London in search of some stupid guy!

But, let’s back up a bit.

When we arrived at Gatwick, we took a train, as suggested, to London Bridge station. It was then 4 stops on the Northern Line to get to our friend’s flat, where we are staying.

On arrival at London Bridge, we both agreed that a full-English breakfast would be perfect. So, we stopped off in All Bar One, at London Bridge for breakfast. They do a special deal between Monday and Friday to do breakfast with a hot drink for £8. And, with the hot drinks come a small glass of smarties! Anyway, it was good, all of it.

But, because that was about 10.30 a.m., we really weren’t hungry for the rest of the day. We had planned to have something to eat before the concert but, still, we didn’t feel hungry. After the concert, which finished just before 11 p.m., we went hunting for food. Unfortunately, there was almost nothing open around Hammersmith – even the pubs were closing – so I suggested going to Covent Garden or Leicester Square as there had to be something open there.

We chose Covent Garden and went to Balthazar where, F said, the burgers were fantastic. I suppose we arrived about 11.30. We both had cheeseburgers and fries and it was, as F had said, fantastic. The waitress was Italian. She seemed displeased that F spoke to her in Italian. F said it was probably because she wanted to speak English. We also had a beer. But I had had several before the concert and I was, by then, very, very tired, so the extra one just made me feel a little drunk.

We paid and left. Covent Garden station was closed so I suggested getting a taxi as I knew Islington wasn’t that far.

We hailed a taxi. When we got in, F immediately found a wallet, left by a previous customer. He spoke to the cab driver who suggested that it belonged to the guys that he had just dropped off at a hotel.

“We have to go there!” F stated.

It was the Euston Hotel which was, sort of, on our way. F informed the driver that, obviously, for our good deed, we should get a discount. We checked the wallet and there was a driving licence in there. The guy was from York in Yorkshire.

The cab pulled up outside the hotel and F went running in, leaving the door open. It wasn’t cold. I toyed with the idea of standing outside to have a cigarette or, after a few minutes of watching the taxi meter clocking up 20 pence at a time, of going into the hotel and dragging F out.

Instead, he comes bounding out of the hotel and back into the cab, as excited as a little child.

“They’ve already left the hotel,” he enthused. “We have to go to a police station,” he continued.

My heart sank. The taxi driver said that he had only just dropped them off. For me that meant that they were going home (possibly by train) and had gone to the hotel just to pick up their cases. F and the cab driver were chatting about possibilities. I didn’t get involved. I wonder what had happened to the old world, where the cabbies took these things to a central place – a Lost and Found for cabs. I know that used to be the case. I guess now we live in a different world.

We arrive at Islington Police Station. F suggests that I carry on to the flat and he’ll come later. I didn’t want to leave him alone in London. Although he had lived there for a number of years, when we were getting ready to leave for the concert, he asked what he should take for ID. I explained that he didn’t need ID in the UK and, so, didn’t need anything. But, still, I didn’t like the idea of him being “alone” without ID.

Instead, I said, that, as it wasn’t far to the flat (well, I hoped that), I’d get out with him and we’d walk.

He went into the police station whilst I paid the driver who did, in the end, knock £1.50 off. Before the driver could leave, F is back saying the the police officer needed the driver’s details. The driver gave them to F and F goes running back in. I finish my cigarette and go in, just as he has finished. I ask the police woman where we have to go and it is, as I had hoped, quite close.

“I didn’t have to give my details?,” F said to me as we were walking back. I was a bit tired to query it. But he was happy as he felt he had done something really good. Bless.

Even the taxi driver had been bemused by his enthusiasm to return the wallet or, failing that, go to a police station to hand it in.

Not really in the UK

Of course, London is not really “the UK”. It’s like its own country. Still, it has many things related to the UK.

It seems as if people fall into three groups: Eastender-type people, foreign people, pretentious pricks.

Eastender-type people speak estuary English. That’s like English for people who never went to school. They also dress as if they don’t have mirrors at home and select clothes which, quite obviously, don’t match anything else in the world, thereby creating an image of having selected things from a jumble sale. Basically, they don’t seem to give a shit.

Foreign people are everywhere. Of course, by “foreign people”, I don’t really mean foreign, what I mean is that, even if they, themselves, were British born, their parents or grandparents came from somewhere other than the UK. The mix of cultures is obvious. I don’t have any problem with it – it’s just noticeable and completely different from Milan. F said that it seems as if all staff in restaurants and bars are not English – and I think this is true. Certainly, we seem to come across “an Italian” in nearly every restaurant or bar. It was noticeable that there were a lot more “Muslim” women around, wearing some sort of head cover. Milan, on the other hand, seems to have very few.

Pretentious Pricks fall in to two categories. 1) Hipsters (although there seemed to be less than in Milan.) 2) People who look like someone from the 30s or 40s. Same haircut, same “look”, normally as camp as Christmas. Speaking with received pronunciation and being loud everywhere. Or “business men”, on the phone or a laptop being “business-men-who-are-very-important” – with received pronunciation or speaking like a cockney. All of these people seemed very much up their own arse.

On the other hand, there was BEER, TEA and full-English breakfast. Pubs with tables sticky from spilled beer; weather which was bright or cloudy or raining or different – every few seconds; wind; police or security – everywhere; drabness and colour in equal amounts; overflowing ashtrays; expensive public transport; and, of course,

Kate.

No, not the one that people call “beautiful” even if she isn’t – it’s just compared to every other member of the royal family, she is!

No, Kate Bush. The live edition. The two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza of singing and music and choreography. It was truly fabulous. She was fabulous. The whole set was fabulous.

Oh, yes, and we went up the Shard, which I think is an ugly building – but the views of London were stunning.

So that was London.

Silence. Deafening.

I would be incorrect and telling you untruths if I were to say that I am unhappy. Neither am I happy. I am, in fact, indifferent.

Last night, I arrived home just before 6 p.m. and, after finding a parking place in spite of the lack of spaces – which seemed strange because normally, at this time of year, it becomes easier to find a place, I went straight to the supermarket to get a few things. Then, home to take the dogs out.

There was a distinct lack of people out and about. Less cars driving around too. I knew it would be so. The normally bustling, vibrant city, even around my area which is more residential, seemed to be in Sunday mode. There were a lot of people at one bar – in fact, it was so full that there were people crowded round the door. But they were there, standing in silence.

OK, so it was early. And early on.

We continue the walk. Another bar, normally very popular, is almost empty. A couple of small groups of women are sitting outside, enjoying their drinks and chatting. By this time, there are so few cars on the road.

I get back home, immediately switch my computer to watch Wimbledon and make a cup of tea.

Apart from the sound of the tennis players, the ball hitting the rackets, the umpires and the commentators, there is silence around.

It is a deafening silence. My kitchen, where I am sat, is at the back of the flat so, although I don’t hear so much, there is always the “drone” of the motor vehicles passing by on the other side of the building. Tonight there is almost nothing.

And, given the situation, one would expect some noise. Except, of course, for one outcome.

I did hear a few “cazzo”s but only a few.

Other than that – silence.

Eventually, I had to go and have a look so, in a break in the play, I went to Twitter. Later still, I looked at the Guardian and it was confirmed. Italy, like England, have left the World Cup. The future week becomes free of football. Not that it made much difference since I would have only been watching the tennis but, still, no football to get in the way.

The silence, all evening, was truly deafening.

Trip To The Post Office – why Italy can still shock me.

It’s kind of nice – in a “OMG! I Can’t believe it!” way.

That, after all these years here, Italy is still able to shock me.

One could call it stupid, of course, but that would be unkind. One could call it jobsworth, which it certainly is. In so many ways, Italy is so flexible – you can smoke in some restaurants/bars, even if it’s illegal; if you want something done, you CAN get it done, somehow. But, in certain situations, no amount of stonewalling really works (unless you have several hours to spare, which I didn’t) and so I gave up on it. Or, rather, gave in. But, let me tell you the story of my …… Trip To The Post Office!

I arrive in the car park. I see there were few cars so I was hopeful that there would also be a small queue. I entered the Post Office and saw there was NO queue. I think this is possibly the first time ever that there has been no queue. In any post office in Italy!

However, all the counter staff were occupied.

The postal section (I was sending a parcel) only had one position open. The customer who was there, after a few minutes, was called over to another counter. I could see that the “assistant” (although it should be “notassistant”) was obviously busy doing some general paperwork.

So I waited.

Eventually, some assistant from the other end of the counters, called “next!” I showed I was sending a package (by holding the package up) and she wagged her finger at me and shook her head to say “no” and signaled for the woman behind me to come.

I’m a patient guy. I wait. Surely, I think, the notassistant who is actually sitting on the postal counter will stop what she is doing and serve me? But no. The lady finishes at the other end again, she calls “next!” Again, it was still “no” for me.

I was, by now, a little frustrated. I vowed that, the next time a counter was free, I would go up anyway. And not move until they served me.

A counter a couple up became free. This time I was accepted. In my bad Italian, I explain that I want to send the small package to England and I want it to get there in a couple of days and, preferably get a signature. She goes to ask the miserable notassistant. After a few minutes, she calls me down to the notassistant. I know her (I go to this post office quite a lot and there are two of them that do the post; both older ladies, one of them loves me and the other, this one, I think hates everyone and the whole world, probably for even existing!) and everything is just so much trouble.

“It’ll cost €30,” she says, expecting me to change my mind about sending it.

“That’s OK,” I say. She regards me, much as I assume Paddington Bear would regard me if I told him something he didn’t like. There was an unsaid, “Are you sure?”

But I was sure.

She next looked at the address. She read it out loud, as best she could.

“There’s no number,” she states, “There has to be a number.”

It takes me a moment to understand what she is saying. She’s right! There is no number. There’s the house name, the road name, the village name, the county name, the post code and the country. There just isn’t a number for the house. Here, in Italy, every house has a number, even if, sometimes, there is no name of the road. This is in addition to the post code. In the UK, of course, whereas there is often a number, in the small villages or if your house is really big and important, there isn’t always a number. In this case, there is no number. I try to explain.

“There is no number.” I’m not really sure what else I can say.

“It has to have a number otherwise we can’t send it.”

“But, there is no number for this house,” I add. “In England, the post office know that it has no number. It’s a small village and some houses don’t have a number.”

“Well, it has to have a number.” She is adamant. She goes to give me back the parcel.

At a different time, in a different place, I would have argued the toss. I would have stood my ground. I would have insisted. I was, quite frankly, shocked at the stupidity of her.

I was also a little angry. Not really angry as much as frustrated. How does this bloody country work? I mean how is it possible to get anything done? I want to kill her. This, in particular, is the most downright, shockingly stupid thing I’ve ever come across. I do realise that if I was sending it within Italy, I would need a number. But I am sending this to the UK. “Don’t you get it?”

I want to say that. But, of course, I don’t.

“But,” I add, “how can I give it a number if there is no number?”

The woman to whom I had first gone, pipes up, “It’s not the post office in England,” she explains, “It’s the post office here. If there is no number, they will return it.” This is helpful. Although, quite honestly, it is simply wrong.

I want to say, “At Christmas time, I sent these people a Christmas Card, using this same address, and my friends got it OK. So you are wrong.” However, siamo in Italia (we are in Italy) and I know that arguing with these people does not work whether they are right or wrong. These are the people who can “decide” whether something happens or not. If I don’t accept what they say, they just won’t do it. And there’s no one I can go to to fix this. I have to either go to another post office (and hope for the best) or send it another way. Or, I have to, somehow, solve this problem so that they will send it.

“OK,” I say, a little exasperated but trying hard not to show it in case they decide that accepting it at all is too much trouble. “If I write “1”, is that OK?”

I get several minutes of explanation of why they need a number which, to be honest, I don’t listen to. I repeat, “I’ll put a one.”

“It won’t go until tomorrow,” I am told. Whilst this is not the first time I’ve heard these attempts to dissuade me from using the postal service, they seem to be being persistent today!

“It’s OK,” I reply.

“Where is the telephone number?” Oh for fucks sake! I don’t know if I have it. My phone battery has nearly died. Can I get a number, assuming I have one, before it dies? If I don’t have their number, can I send a Facebook message AND get an answer before my phone dies?

“We must have a telephone number,” she adds, “because they will phone before delivery.”

I almost despair. I know (and, maybe they know), that no one will phone. They will try and deliver and, if no one is home, they’ll either leave it at a neighbour’s or take it back to the depot and make my friends collect it. In this case, if I can’t get the number (if I have it) from my phone, I’ll just put something down. After all, they won’t know if it’s right or not.

My phone lives. My contacts also list a phone number! I am in luck.

I fill in the slip of paper. It has my address, my phone number, their address (with a “1” against the street name), their phone number and two of my signatures.

“What’s inside?” she asks.

“A box,” I reply. She looks at me as if I am stupid. I smile. No, that’s not true. I grin. Yes, it seems stupid to have a box within a box – but it has the distinct advantage of being the truth. Inside the inner box is some foam. Rather special foam, I admit, but foam nonetheless. It’s like having a rather largish box for a watch, with the blocks of foam that you have inside ring/jewellery boxes. It’s true! Although I can see, as you read this, you, too, think it sounds stupid. I can’t tell you more just in case my friends read this. It’s a surprise, you see.

I try to explain. I think they get it. She says, “You write it in English, in this space.” I do.

She then “processes” the slip. This takes some time. Eventually, she tells me it’s €30.50 which, in fact, is only €1.50 less than the cost of the present! Still, it will be worth it for, I think, it is a most unusual present.

I can, I am told, track it on the Internet. I already know this, but allow her her moment of satisfaction at my special surprised expression.

I pay the money and take away my copy of the receipt.

My trip to the post office is done. I thank her (even if I think she really doesn’t deserve it) and thank the first woman on the way out.

And I’m out.

“Breathe!” I tell myself. “Just breathe, and remember that this is SO worth the effort.”

Now we shall see if that is true. In a few days or whenever the last delivery is made :-)

In the meantime, I have survived the Trip To The Post Office!

Update: the present was a box which contained a foam-like substance. the idea was to imprint your baby’s foot into the foam and it would remain forever (so you had to be careful doing it). I don’t actually know if they did do it but the idea was the thing any way!

Fastweb and Tennis

Finally, summer is here. Over the weekend it was nudging the mid-thirties (degrees centigrade) and the next few days, it may get as high as 37° – or that’s the forecast – before dropping down to hovering around 30°.

This was the weekend where I got away with something – but I know I won’t be getting away with it for much longer. I got away with it because he is living in “my flat” – when the “my flat” becomes “our flat”, I know it won’t be tolerated.

It involved some stuff on the microwave. The microwave sits on the washing machine and is a very handy place to drop things that I must look at or do something with later. At one point he replaced the “general mess” with a shoe box. Now the top of the shoe box becomes the place to drop the stuff. He wanted me to clear it away. I explained that I needed to sort the kitchen out first as some things had to be put away when I find the boxes with like things inside.

He wasn’t happy but “It’s your flat” was the response. I know that I won’t have these choices in a month or so’s time. Ah well. enjoy it whilst it lasts, I suppose.

As part of the “getting ready to move”, I threw away lots and lots of clothes. And sorted out my shoes.

And we went and ordered Internet connection via optic fibre as it will be faster (and, in fact, the engineer is coming on Thursday). I mention this because, over the weekend it was the French Open Finals and, now that I can watch British TV, it was a delight.

Well, I say “delight” when, in fact, given the speed of my download, it kept hanging every few minutes. In fact, I tried my phone for a few minutes and got a much better reception via that!

The Fastweb connection, providing I cable my Mac to the modem, will be more than 30 times faster and should mean no more “hanging”. Unfortunately, we shan’t be in the new flat in time for Wimbledon – but there’s always next year :-)

Tomorrow – will the Daily Hate Mail have won?

I do my best but it’s difficult.

After years of crisis and depletion in spending power and savings, someone HAS to be to blame.

The popular newspapers have done their very best to pin the blame on a number of people which include those who are not working (the difference between not wanting to work and being unable to work is rarely made – and, anyway, the point is that “these people are taking your money for doing nothing”), people who are stealing from the system (often rolled into the previous group – at least by implication) and immigrants (illegal or legal).

In particular, they’ve being doing this, more or less, since 2008. That’s six years of propaganda. And six years of constantly pounding people with the same stuff has an effect.

Then, along comes the UKIP. Now, I’m unsure if the media want the UKIP or not. Certainly, they’ve being helping the three main parties to sling as much mud at them as possible. They have been effectively dubbed the “Loony party.”

However, there’s a major problem. In spite of the media and other parties attempts to discredit them, they ARE, in fact, repeating a lot of what those popular newspapers have been saying for all these years. This includes stopping immigration, removing the EU red-tape and making sure everyone pays his/her way. They repeat, for the most part, the headlines of the last six years and, because people have been reading about it for so long, it all makes perfect sense.

After World War I, The Germans went for similar rhetoric. Instead of blaming the huge debts that Germany was having to repay on both the other nations that were enforcing it and the government and its policies, they took the easy option of blaming the Jews. And we all know how that ended up.

And yet, it seems that the “how” of that happening has been lost and forgotten. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not drawing a direct comparison between the UKIP and the Nazis – the UKIP haven’t yet been talking about a “final solution”. But, there are similarities, don’t you think?

Even here, talking with colleagues and friends, there is a feeling that “immigrants” are to blame, especially the illegal immigrants. I point out that, without these immigrants, there would be no badante (private carers) to look after the increasingly aged population, since Italians don’t want to this type of work. But you can see I don’t make any real impact.

And, to be honest, it scares me. the problem is that I DO understand to some extent. The illegal immigrants that try to sell you a rose or some trinket or novelty lighter – sometimes one every five minutes – when you’re having a drink with friends outside a bar. It’s more than annoying. I point out that the problem is that “people” buy the roses. F, for instance, will, occasionally buy a novelty lighter. And so they continue to ply their wares. If you don’t want them here, annoying the hell out of you, DON’T buy anything from them and don’t give them money!

As I’ve always said, just like “charity begins at home”, look at your and your friends’ actions – THAT’S often the reason these people are here, still; still trying to sell you stuff you don’t need nor want.

And, since I’m an immigrant here, remember, when you say you agree with sending the immigrants home, that would include me! And I want to stay here, if you don’t mind.

So, we shall see what will happen tomorrow for the UKIP. I hope they don’t get the huge support that is being suggested. I fear, unfortunately, that they will. Their simple messages coinciding with the messages that have been fed to the populace over the last few years.

Bloody frightening.

A concert, the weather and the dreaded Visit.

Well, I managed to book for Kate Bush ….. eventually.

Not the date we wanted, nor, even, at a weekend but at least I got some. I saw her on her first (and only) tour back in 1979 (in Manchester) and I remember it quite well. It was an amazing concert. Obviously, this one won’t be so “energetic” but I imagine she’ll do a good show in any event.

I have been so busy of late. So much so that this weekend will be a relaxing weekend. The temperatures should be in the 20s (°C) and it should be sunny – so that means a walk with the dogs, at least.

Of course, there’s the nagging thing about “The Visit”. That hasn’t gone away. The list is quite long now, which is to be expected. Few people know about it, which is the best thing.

Of course, it’s unlikely to be just this one. I’m expecting some other “visits” will have to follow. It’s almost like I shall be “sucked into” this thing. Like getting stuck in whirlpool – going further and further down, getting completely caught up in rounds of “visits”. I’ve avoided all this, so far.

Other things are being “sorted” but much more needs to be done before everything is ready. Still, one thing at a time, eh?

Update: And, apparently, I was lucky to get any tickets!

Believe the headline and become stupid.

The overall stupidity of people, although expected, shocks me still.

In the UK you can make a will. Normally you make it with a solicitor although you can make it on your own, as long as a witness (or, maybe two) sign it.

The will determines who/what you wish to leave all your assets to when you die.

A married couple will, normally, elect to leave their assets to their spouse. They might also leave something to their children. A lone parent may choose to leave their assets, equally divided, to their children.

Or, of course, they may not.

Some people choose to leave their assets to a charity. Or to someone who isn’t a relative. Or to only one of their children.

In other words, British people can choose who to leave their assets to – there are no rules but the will must be legally binding.

People who think that they SHOULD have been included in the will can, of course, contest it in court. But it has to be proved that the person making the will made a mistake or was unduly coerced by a beneficiary. This is only worth it when there is a lot of money at stake. Most ordinary wills are not contested.

For example, I doubt very much if my mother has included me in her will. And I very much doubt that, even if it were worth millions, I would be able to successfully contest it since we haven’t had any contact for over 25 years. I could hardly claim that I had a right to a share, could I?

Of course, some Christian principle may encourage her to leave me something. Or, from what I read, if she were Muslim, she would be expected to leave a share to me and exclude my sister. It wouldn’t seem fair but, then, wills aren’t meant to be “fair”. They are meant to express the wishes of the deceased.

So, I read today, in the DailyHate Mail, of a very rich guy who will not be leaving anything to his son!

Now, whilst not being a fan of that newspaper, it is seen as being an OK thing to do since he is saying that his son has to work for his money (and that’s OK according to the right-wing press).

And, yet, in the same paper, yesterday, was a story about how solicitors have been issued guidelines to help them when they are writing wills for Muslims.

This is because, according to their religion, there are “rules” that are meant to apply when someone dies. Of course, without a will, British law would apply. These guidelines are to help solicitors help their Muslim clients to draw up a will that is within British law but that follow the rules of their religion.

Unfortunately, these rules seem to be known as Sharia Law. And so, the headline leads people to believe that “Sharia Law” is being built into British law.

Which is just plain wrong and totally misleading.

And makes the people “shouting” about how terrible it is that “Sharia Law is being enshrined into British Law” seem really stupid.

And, to be honest, THAT really annoys me.

Tony Benn – remembering my parents!

When I was a kid, my parents rarely talked politics.

Or, there again, maybe they did but I just didn’t notice or ignored it.

I knew my maternal grandmother was a Liberal (of the old-fashioned Liberals) as she was a councillor on the local town council.

I knew, somehow, that my parents were Conservative.

And, the one thing I DO remember, was there utter hatred of a Labour guy – Tony Benn or, as I think he was known then, Anthony Wedgwood Benn. He was, I think, in their terms, bordering on evil.

I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t take any real interest in politics but I failed to understand how you could hate someone because of their beliefs and the words that they used.

Of course, one must remember that I was a very rebellious child. And the effect of them disliking something or someone tended to mean that I would be more open to that thing or that someone. On the contrary, the things that they did were so odious to me that, as an adult, these are things I don’t like to do. And so, things like packed lunches for when you go somewhere; carrying a lot of stuff with you all of the time – to the beach, in particular, are some examples.

In fact, I’ve listened to Tony Benn a number of times and, whilst not always or fully agreeing with his point of view, I can’t knock him for his right to have those views nor for his conviction in them, nor even for the intelligent way he would argue his case. Hate him? Certainly not.

And today he has died and tributes are pouring in (as they do). And I wondered, for a moment, if my mother had any thoughts on this (my father having died already)?

Still, that moment has now passed.

UK Government murdering vulnerable people

Atos have been under fire for a while now. Recently there was a case of someone in a coma being “invited”* to attend an interview for either a health assessment or to find out why she hadn’t got a job (I don’t remember the exact details).

The DailyHateMail had been fighting for some time to stop the “scroungers” on benefit from obtaining money by which to live. Using provocative language, they regularly “out” those who have been convicted of benefit fraud and, in doing so, get people to think that everyone who is claiming benefit is a scrounger who doesn’t want to work.

The “fit for work” assessments have been proved to be excessive and morally wrong.

So, although today, the same paper does have this article about a man dying as a result of Atos declaring him fit to work and the DWP stopping his benefits, one has to wonder why it isn’t the main item or, even, why it isn’t given as much prominence as those (few) that are found to be cheating the system?

The headlines should read as I have put in my title. It is outrageous that, in the 21st century, vulnerable people are being murdered by the state. This was what Dickens wrote about and here we are, a hundred-odd years later, having the same kind of compassion.

Truly dreadful. Makes me ashamed to be British.

Fucking politicians.