Pubs and beer and food and Indian and rain and cold and wind – but mainly pubs , beer and food

A proper English country pub

I mentioned before about my friend from school, H, who’s wife died a little while ago.

Unfortunately, I could only go to the funeral for the day but I made the effort and went over on our long holiday weekend – the one just gone, to spend some time with him.

I tried to let him do most of the talking. I thought it was the least I could do. We are blokes, after all, and we don’t do the opening up thing very easily – at least, face-to-face. But I think he did a bit and I really hope it helped him. But his story is not my story to write. I found the UK to be nicer than I had thought it would be. Admittedly, although not so far from London, this was the middle of the countryside and reminded me a lot of Herefordshire.

The first night we went out, with his daughter and son, to The Fox Inn in Rudgewick. It was a typical old English pub serving food. The food was wonderful (Steak and Ale Pie with mashed potato) and, of course, there was the beer. A very nice start to the trip.

The next day we we to his daughter’s new house. It was a lovely old house which she had started doing up. We went for lunch at The Crown Inn in Chiddingfold. Again, a typical English village pub with an open fire. Of course, I don’t eat so much and, in the end we had (H & I) some sharing nibbles. And some beer! God, I miss the English beer. Food was good and the place was very nice.

In the afternoon we did some shopping (for me) in Cranleigh, apparently the biggest village in England (or, maybe the UK?). It was very pretty. We were back there in the evening to go to The Curry Inn – not an inn at all but rather a good quality Indian restaurant. H had asked me if it was OK to go out with some of his friends and gave me a choice of Thai or Indian – which. of course, meant Indian. And boy, the curry I had was the best curry I’ve ever had. It was incredibly busy which, of course, means it must be good but the downside to that was we did have to wait an incredibly long time for the food. But, for me, the wait was worth it! Of course, it was Indian beer but you can’t have everything!

The next day it was raining all bloody day. However, H took me on a trip around and to his “baby”, some all-weather football ground (he’s very sporty) that he’d managed to get built. Then a bit more shopping and then, at my request, we went for a proper Sunday Lunch at The Chequers Inn in a tiny village called Rowhook. Again, a typical old English pub with an open fire (the wood smoke permeated the whole place and was so lovely to smell – I miss that atmosphere and that smell) and the food was fantastic. I had roast pork with gravy and asked for a Yorkshire pudding. And, of course, beer. The waiter/manager was Italian! Of course. I would have liked to understand why he was still there but the place was too busy.

Just before that we went shopping and I got my last bits and bobs.

So a weekend of listening, great food and great beer and meeting some very nice people.

So that’s what I got from it but, really, it was for him, so I really hope he got something from it too! And, maybe because I was with him, maybe because of the English pubs and the Indian restaurant – I didn’t hate being back in the UK – apart from the cold and the wet.

Time Warp

The whine by my ear and my futile attempt to bat it away wakes me up.

I look at the clock. It’s about 3. I thought it was later. I wished it were later.

I tuck myself into the bed. The bugger can’t get me now.

But, it’s far too hot. I just can’t sleep. I keep my eyes closed but I get hotter. I worry that, once again, I can’t bloody sleep. Of course, in addition, I have this fear that I’ll go to sleep and become so hot that I’ll automatically put my arms outside the bed and then the little bastard mosquito will get me. Minutes go by.

I hear the clocks strike 4. Surely, it can’t be four? I didn’t think I’d been to sleep and yet the hour seems to have passed too quickly.

I can’t get to sleep. I can’t stand the heat of the covers but I daren’t put my arms out. I just have to fit in one of the little tablets (or, rather two – one each side of the bed) so that the mosquito will go away or die. I get up. I fit the tablet things into the little holders and plug them in.

But then I have to wash my hands. This is really not helping. As long as I don’t wake up enough, I can get back to sleep but fitting the tablets, washing my hands and then going to the kitchen for a quick drink will probably make me too awake.

I try to get back to sleep. Already it’s half past four. Next it’s 5. It still seems I haven’t been asleep and yet half an hour seems to have raced by like 10 minutes!

But, now it’s nearly time for the alarm. I lie in bed, awake, like it seems I have been since around 3, my eyes closed, waiting for the alarm.

The alarm goes off. I put it on snooze for 5 minutes thinking that I may be able to snooze for 5 minutes and knowing that I’ll never be able to snooze for 5 minutes. It’s just wishful thinking. A minute before the alarm goes off again, I get up.

It is warm in the flat, even if almost all the windows are open with the shutters not quite down, so that the dogs can go out onto the balconies, where the normally sleep. I had put a pair of socks out the night before, thinking it would be a tad cold in the morning but it seems not. But, should I risk it or not?

Of course, my powers of deduction and rational, logical thinking are not good when I am still asleep. But, what the hell, it really is quite warm in the flat. I put on my short-sleeved shirt and my sandals (without socks, of course) and take the dogs out.

Even when we’re in the lift, I realise that I may have made a mistake. Whereas it’s not cold, this is 5.30 in the morning and it’s September – there’s a definite chill in the air.

We go outside. It’s too late to go back now. the dogs simply wouldn’t understand. I’ll survive.

The roads seem unusually busy. More like 7 or 8 o’clock than 5.30. I check some traffic lights that I can see in the distance. My mind struggles to compute that, if the orange lights are blinking then it has to be – what time? Well, before 6 for sure. At 6, they go back to normal operation.

But, as we reach the main road there’s a tram that’s quite full of people. How come, at this time in the morning?, I question. It seems strange.

Nothing about the night or this morning feels quite right. It’s as if there’s been some sort of time warp.

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 :-)

Express Train

There are just 2 weekends to go and then it’s almost our holiday. I say “our” meaning mine, since F won’t be with me the first week.

Instead, Best Mate will be.

I am just so ready for this holiday. The problem is that I know that the holiday will also pass like an express train so, although I can’t wait for it to come, I also don’t want it to come, if you see what I mean. For as soon as it starts, it will seem to end.

There is also the weather. As usual, it is incredibly hot. It is July and this is normal. The problem is that last year, the end of July also triggered a significant change in the weather, for the worse. I’m hoping this year is not the case.

People are, as usual, complaining that it’s too hot – although the temperatures are only in the mid-thirties °C (although the temperature felt is closer to the forties.) The rain which my forecast keeps promising is due in the next 10 days (for about the last three weeks) has failed to materialise – but today does seem as if it might rain.

Over the next couple of weekends, we’re going to try out a few restaurants nearby, so that I have places to take Best Mate who will be with me for just over a week. Obviously, we have some – Bati Bati (lardo and asparagus pizza), Venezia (fish), La Brace (meat) – but we need more. I have also thought that, maybe, one night we do a barbecue in the garden. We’ll see how it goes. I’m very easy-going about it all tbh.

So, only 17 days to go until I pick BM up from the airport and start my hols! Yeah!!

Books, beach and stuff

Well, my last book, finished just this evening (Saturday) was Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir. It’s taken me about 5 Days, so more than Dickens’ Bleak House!

It’s not that it wasn’t Interesting, it was just a bit overfull with facts rather than story. Hilary Mantel, you have a lot to answer for! ;-). Weir made a good case for her being quite powerful, behind the scenes and for her and Henry VII having a loving marriage but, still too Many facts (how much money she gave and to whom, bills paid and for what – essential, I know, for trying to determine her actual life but not easy to read.)

So now on to Ali Smith’s How To Be Both, winner of loads of prizes – which is why I have it – notably, the Bailey’s Woman’s Prize.

I am alone at the beach full of people. F got loads of the small blisters yesterday And the chemist said to avoid the sun, so he’s at the house with the dogs. Later, we go back to Milan without him. He has another week here and I have another week of 35 degrees and getting up at 5.20 every day. I am already exhausted by the very thought of it!

But I’ll survive. I lay in the sun for a bit but was sweating like Niagera (spelling?) Falls so, after about 10 minutes, I was back In the shade of the umbrella.

I miss F but couldn’t stay at the house as he was going to “clean a bit”!

So, I sit typing this and, after I post this, back to my book.

Hope you have a lovely Sunday.

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.

In the meantime ……

It’s not that I haven’t been writing.

It’s just that I haven’t been able to finish anything.

I don’t know – it’s a strange time. F has been away for almost a month now. I was joking with people the other day that I didn’t know who he was. Of course, the side-effect of this is that I have been incredibly busy, since I have to do everything at home. I don’t mind that, of course, but it all takes time.

There’s also another thing. Since I moved the blog and went through all the posts to delete some and ensure links still worked, I’ve become a bit more aware of the better writing and the boring stuff (this would go under the heading of “boring stuff”) and there’s a part of me that doesn’t finish the posts simply because I realise it’s not good writing or it falls into the category of “boring stuff”.

Of course, I should get over this. I can always delete posts later if they are really boring – like I did when I tidied things up after the move.

Also, because I’ve been so busy, there is also much less angst than usual and, as you will know, angst results in better writing. So, too busy = less angst = worse writing. A no win situation.

There have been many things that I’ve wanted to comment about, from the news, from life – but nothing really “strong”, nothing really important.

I am well. The dogs are well. F is stressed and tired but well. Summer is coming (it’s reasonably warm here if a bit temporal.)

So, that’s another thing – nothing is really happening.

Still, there ARE posts I want to finish so, who knows, maybe I will finish them soon.

In the meantime, apart from this post, I’ve been posting songs 8as you may have noticed) as a temporary stop-gap. Sorry.

Running out of books …….. again!

Running out of books again

Well, we’ve started the summer and, by that I mean we went down to Carrara for the weekend.

I had an extra 2 days (the Tuesday being a national holiday here and so the Monday being what they call a bridge day – but it’s mandatory and taken out of your holiday allowance) whilst F, bless him, had to leave on Sunday because he was flying to Greece on the Monday (for work).

I didn’t want to take a huge suitcase so took three books with me. They were: Reasons To Stay Alive (I had to finish that one off), The Humans (would be a just-in-case reread – it being one of my favourite books last year) – both by Matt Haig and Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards which I “won” and was, therefore, free.

Reasons To stay Alive was a good book. I was hoping it would help me with BM but I’m not sure it will really. Of course, I finished that within an hour or so. So, then on to Because She Loves Me. I did really enjoy this book. I don’t know that it’s my “usual” read these days being a cross between romantic fiction and thriller but I enjoyed reading it and I didn’t guess “whodunit” which was good.

But, unfortunately, I finished that within two days and so I was on to the re-read of The Humans. This remains a great book but it was a different read this time around as, in fact, it was his thoughts on Depression and during his Depression wrapped up in a type of Science Fiction (although I really think that’s the wrong genre for it – I think it’s more of a book on what it is to be a human being – even on the first read), as explained in Reasons To Stay Alive.

I tried to slow down my reading but it didn’t really work and so, in the end I had to start re-reading Reasons To Stay Alive!

Needless to say that last night I gathered together all my books to be read. I don’t want to be in that position again! And I find, to my surprise, that I have quite a lot of books to be read, so that is great.

This weekend, we go down again and, this time, a number of those books will be coming with me!

p.s. The weather was quite nice and mostly sunny but the wind was quite cold. The temperatures were about mid-20s°C

The weekend in which I don’t, exactly, get a cold.

I’ve woken up with a bit of a sore throat and a little blocked. It could be the start of a cold. But it isn’t.

Instead, it’s because yesterday I was cold for most of the day.

After all, there are wonderful things to say about F being back home.

On the other hand ……..

Saturday was the moving of furniture. That is, the moving of the “new” cocktail cabinet from the place we both thought it would look good (but, in reality, didn’t) to the place in the entrance hall where the bread prover stood. The bread prover was moved to the kitchen, giving us extra space to put things.

Obviously, moving everything out of the bread prover, then moving the bread prover, then the cocktail cabinet, then putting things away takes time. A lot of time. Especially when it’s F who’s putting things away.

And then, just when I thought it was nearly over, F had other ideas. Whilst we were moving things around, he decided to “do the kitchen”. This means taking everything out, cleaning the cupboards and putting everything back except, this time, in a way that he wanted. I’m sure I won’t be able to find things but that’s OK.

So, that was Saturday.

Sunday, on the other hand was a) the first day of spring and b) a lot colder because it was raining first thing and cloudy and damp all day. But Sunday was the day for a “general clean”. And, general clean he did. But, while he’s cleaning all the windows have to be open, everything has to be aired. And, it’s cold. And, damp.

And, so I was cold, all day.

The flat is truly spick and span and gleaming like you wouldn’t believe. Which is lovely and I really do appreciate the work he has done.

But, this morning, I have this sore throat and blocked nose and feel a little bit shitty.

Next weekend he will probably be away and there’s a silent little cheer in my head although, quite obviously, I will miss him like hell. Still, I will be able to relax and keep the flat warmer.

It is as it is.

Nearly, nearly done.

The cocktail cabinet is in the wrong place. And, by that I mean that we both agree that the place where I have put it is wrong. It will have to be moved and the chest of drawers that is in the hall will have to be moved to make room for it. Where the chest of drawers is to go, I have no idea!

The final bit is the final payment which will be done tonight. And then it is finished, done, complete. Phew!

F arrived home last night. PaC continues to go through good days and bad days. I asked how his mum was. He said that she seems OK but he really couldn’t tell. Sometimes, with the exception of his sister, they seem more English, with the stiff upper lip, than English people.

He should be going away to Venice at the end of the week but he’ll cancel. He should go to Greece next week but he’ll cancel. It’s all a bit uncertain.

But J comes on Thursday. And the weather is quite spring-like which seems likely to continue. I keep thinking of what to do when J is here. So, I thought maybe of going to the lakes (Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore) if the weather stays good. I had thought of taking her to Villa Litta where they have a fantastic water garden but, unfortunately, it is only open from May through to October.

But I have some ideas for a rather gentle time, strolling through Milan, etc. Nothing too strenuous. We shall see but, in any case, I’m looking forward to it. How much F will be here, of course, all depends but I’m planning that he’s away most of the time.

It is as it is. And nothing I can do will change this.