Disturbing, difficult but good

Well, that was hard – although I did finish it in less than 2 days.
Whenever I read books now, I think about Lola reading them in Italian. And, in the case of A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, all I could think is that this book couldn’t be translated.

And then I wondered at how difficult it must have been to write! They are English words but not really English sentences. Sentences half. That are are. Half. Formed. If you see what I mean.

But also the subject. The usual Irish/Catholic angsts and problems but written in oh-so a different way.

Towards the end of the book, I had to keep putting it down every paragraph – the subject matter was too dark; too difficult – and do something else for a few moments.

But a really good book. I can see why it won prizes.

And now, I hope, something a bit lighter, maybe. The Weekend by Peter Cameron. We shall shall we. We see. Surely.

There’s always something

I just read Lola’s blog and it reminded me about last night.

“There’s something wrong with Piero’s paw. Lift him on the table and look.”

I do so.

“He’s been licking it,” I am informed.

I don’t say it’s nothing to worry about or dogs are always licking something or let’s see if he continues to lick it, for these would be a waste of breath and time. No, the easiest and quickest thing is to look.

So I do. I carefully take the paw, examine and feel it all over, checking between the toes and underneath.

F spots a small tuft of matted hair and, not bothering to correct his assumptions (because he wouldn’t listen anyway) I let him cut it off with scissors.

“I’m sorry,” he says, meaning for bothering me or worrying me or something.

Which he didn’t but never mind.

What’s important is that he is satisfied there’s nothing there and nothing to worry about.

My “appropriate” reaction was all that was required to “fix” the situation.

G? Take note! ;-)

Reading, reading, reading

It seems travel (sort of) books were next. First up, Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch, an amusing book about taking his family around France. Amusing, yes but one of those books I won’t read again. Sorry, Ben. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids? The stories are mildly funny but I think you have to have kids to really get them.

It was well written and, as I say, amusing but not really “great”. It can’t, for example, compare with The Goldfinch, nor anything by Margaret Atwood. Maybe it should have been the first book that I read?

And then I started an ebook. To be fair, although this IS available on Amazon, it’s a book written by the brother of a friend and ex-colleague and also the son of another ex-colleague, sadly no longer with us. As I don’t have a Kindle, he sent it to me in PDF format.

It’s called: New Zealand Calling by Alex Richards.

He’s not a professional author but he tries to be descriptive. However, it reads much as I assume my blog reads; interesting enough if you know the people involved; a collection of experiences and stories that don’t really hang together with a “plot”. There’s no “conclusion”.

However, some of the stories were interesting and some, amusing.
But I found that just reading an ebook was neither comfortable nor enough and so, at the same time, I started God’s Traitors by Jessie Childs.

I finished it today, so it’s taken about 3 days. This is a history book, about the Roman Catholic persecutions during Elisabeth I’s reign and afterwards, told through the experiences and lives of several generations of one (noble) family.

But it’s history and so full of dates and factual things. Not really a novel, as such but still a bloody good read.

And, for my next book (which I will start in a moment) I’ve chosen A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. I think this won the Women’s Prize for Fiction but I’ll need to check.

In any event, I’ve read it’s difficult to read, so I have another, just in case.

The Goldfinch

Well, it took me about 3 days (and a bit) but The Goldfinch was, possibly the book of the summer for me.

Stunningly great book. So descriptive, so intriguing, so well written. Loved it. The “official” next book is at the beach. We’re not there because a) it’s raining and b) we’ve both got a little sunburned (and F has some spots he doesn’t like). So, we’re having a “day off.

Now I have to pick something else. Maybe the ereader would be a good choice? Yes, I think that’s right.

Livers and spots

It’s always the hands, isn’t it? They’re the give-away. You can always do something with other parts but there’s little you can do with your hands except, maybe, wear gloves. Except that I don’t do anything. My idea has always been to grow old gracefully or, rather, just grow old.
So, the lines on my face multiply and grow deeper and longer; my belly hides more of what’s beneath it; my bones click and creak, stiffen and have pain for no reason (and although many Italians and older Brits would blame the weather or the change of weather, I don’t for I know it’s not that, it’s just a time thing – and, by that, I mean the passage of time); my throat has developed what I can only liken to the wattle of a chicken and, finally, I have small areas on the backs of each hand that are slightly darker, like freckles but are, of course, liver spots.
They, like when the skin on the backs of your hands becomes thin and almost translucent, are signs of extreme old age. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve always thought.
And, I’ve noticed here, on the beach, that they seem to be multiplying at an extraordinary rate – even in the last few days.
I guess it could be the sun. Or the smoking. Or both. Or, just old age although I had always thought that liver spots were something reserved for those who had passed retirement time – some time before their appearance.
It seems not. Or, at least, not for me!
It’s not that they look so bad – just that they exist at all! And, instead of fading against the tan I am getting, they seem to look worse!
Anyway, I’ve finished The Bat. It was OK. I suspect that Lola quite fancies the author, whose picture was on the cover. Today, I’ve started The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This is a thick book. Let’s see how long this keeps me going!


Written Friday, 8th August.

It’s 3 something and I’m awake. For 2 nights I’ve slept all the way through and now no!
I’ve got crap floating around my head. Did I pay the car tax that was due In April? Did I understand that woman correctly and was it only a week’s holiday they were having?
And then, suddenly, is this all just some elaborate set-up? Some convoluted hoax? Some way to “get me” or “get at me”?
And I realised that the man was a real bully. And I also realised that J was right that time when she said I was just like him, for I was! And, therefore, changing my life when I did was crucial. It was the only way to stop “the rot”.
But, in my defence, I had thought (without any thinking involved) that it was the way to be! How was I supposed to know any differently?
Bullying and controlling. That was what I learnt from an early age.
But, I also realised (now) that I must be watchful. I must be on my guard. It must not happen again to me! I must not be that person; must not be a reflection of him.
It’s hot again today. As if summer had been waiting until we could relax and enjoy it. The beach, really empty when we arrived at. 8.45 is starting to fill up and is noisier now. People are really noisy, aren’t they?
Obviously, they’re just talking and stuff, but it seems loud to me. Loud and intrusive. I’m in the shade of the umbrella. It’s too hot in the sun for me after a few minutes. I start leaking. A LOT.
Here, on the beach, in the sun (even with the noise) the bad thoughts of last night are banished. Which is just as well. I say banished but, probably, subdued is a better choice of word? Subdued, to be brought up like a cow’s cud and chewed over in time.
F’s parents were so pleased to see him, you could tell. Which makes me happy. They aren’t really a touchy-feely family but his mum touched his face one time with obvious affection.

One book down

Oh, I should say that I thought I wouldn’t be able to post but, obviously, I can.
So, here we are, day 2. Last night, again at F’s parents, there was a rabbit stew thing. It was lovely. And dangerous. Dangerous because, if I were to continue to eat like that every day, I would become very fat. Luckily, F arrives this evening.
They are making foods they think I will like. And they are not wrong. It will change from tonight when F is there. It will be all vegetable stuff with occasional fish dishes. But it’s OK. F’s their son, after all.
It seems the weather has changed for the better. At least, here. Today is hotter than yesterday and, after this morning, not a cloud to be seen. I am under the umbrella having got a little sunburnt yesterday in three places – my top, right thigh (not enough suncream) and the top of both my feet (no suncream – I didn’t think I’d need it there)!
Anyway, I’ve finished Maddaddam. Very good, as all Atwood’s books.
Now, following Lola’s suggestion, I’ve started The Bat by Jo Nesbo. Good job I’ve brought plenty of books though – the first finished in less than 2 days!
I eat my lettuce, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich, sprinkled liberally with the black pepper I keep here just for this occasion. It’s the taste of summer for me. I lie in the sun for a while but it’s really too damned hot. Not that I’m complaining. Tomorrow will be different, with F here. The same but different.
Nicoletta (we share the umbrella with her and her husband) hardly stopped talking to me this morning and, although I understand her mostly, it takes so much energy to listen and speak only in Italian. Again, with F here, that will be better and I can switch off a bit.
The beach fills up and is noisier. Anyway, it’s nearly time to go. The dogs need their afternoon walk, I need a bath and then I pick F up from the Station and then, once again, to his parents for dinner.

Shouting may help me understand better?

Day -1

I’m not sure if she’s shouting at me because she’s going deaf or, like the English abroad, because she thinks I’ll understand better.

But, she doesn’t stop. In fact, she seems to get faster, as if she has so much to say and only minutes to tell me. And louder, as if I’ll understand better.

And it’s so fast that I struggle to translate. I forget, now, many things. I only remember 2. There is no television because the licence inspectors wanted to come and check if there was a TV. So there is no TV and, to be certain, no TV arial wire since it ran on the outside of the house.

And the second thing is that the roof leaks into the flat above. The flat that belongs to F’s brother. She will, apparently, give F a key so that, should it rain, he can go up to put things under the leaks. I’m not sure why they don’t ask me but it’s too difficult to ask. So I don’t.
I think her shouting gets louder. And she seems to get more frantic to get it all out.

She had arrived whilst I was at the supermarket. I was getting dog food, milk and water. She brought milk (for me), water and biscuits. And was also there to make the bed and clean up outside.

A couple of hours later, I was at their house having saltimbocca (pan-fried veal with cheese and parma ham) which was probably the best I’ve ever tasted.

We held a “conversation” of sorts. F’s dad doesn’t seem so well, to me. And he and his mum say as much although what it may be remains unspecified.

I go home and start on my first book – Maddaddam – Margaret Atwood.
Today is the first day at the beach and it strikes me that I really can hold conversations in Italian now. They may not be brilliant, but they are real conversations. It’s another step forward.

And, after this dreadful summer, the weather is good and it is hot. Thank goodness.

And earlier today F messaged me to say that he will come down tomorrow night instead of Friday, which is fantastic news and makes me very happy.

A little secret, just for you.

The boxes are clear.

The place looks totally amazing, to be honest. And so big. F is really happy with the flat (in spite of saying he wasn’t the other day).

It’s not finished, of course. Pictures still have to go up; lights have to be fitted; the hot water has to come on (tomorrow); the kitchen must be finished. Still lots and lots to do. But we both love it and, with all those extra things, it can only get better.

So, here we are. Finally.

And, I’ll let you into a little secret, as long as you promise not to tell anyone.

It’s very, very organised. And I like that. A lot.

Oh, yes, and it’s very, very clean. And I like that too.

F is already talking about Christmas. “Where shall we put the tree?” he asked me last night. Then he answered it himself by saying it would go on the table, as usual. More or less, I’m letting him put things where he wants. He admitted last night that he hadn’t liked the three-piece suite before. But with the new covers, he loves it.

And the mix of old 20′s-style furniture and brand-spanking, white new cupboards is perfect.

And now I’m packed for Carrara, where I will head tomorrow. F will join me on Friday and we’ll have a couple of weeks by the sea, relaxing, which will be very nice.

So, it’s likely there’ll be no more posts until the end of August.

In the meantime, have a good holiday or good whatever-you-are-doing and see you in just under 3 weeks!


“Look!” he says. I see the kitchen. It’s obviously not complete. Maybe they are coming back tomorrow?

During the next hour or so, we had, “I’ve had enough of this flat.”, “Cazzo!”, “Giorno di merda!”, etc.

Finished with, “You go on holiday because then I can fix everything in the flat. It will be easier.”

So, let’s analyse where everything went wrong, shall we? Remember that I had assumed that the gas man had NOT turned on the gas because of some problem with the installation and, as for the kitchen, I had no idea what had happened. Looking at it, as he had ordered, made me think that they had forgotten a part of it.

In reality, the following events took place:

1. When taking the dogs for a walk, Dino started rolling about in some grass. Now, I have experience of this. Dogs rolling in grass = trouble. Or, rather = smelly shit. In the countryside, this smelly shit was a cow pat or some fox excrement or something. Here, in the middle of the city, it has to be some other dog shit (I hope, if you see what I mean). F didn’t know this. He saw him rolling around and shouted “No” but, of course, it was all too late. He was, indeed, covered in shit. Apparently, horrible, smelly shit. He was washed under one of the water points we have everywhere and then had a bath at home.

2. The gas man arrived. The doorman downstairs told him to ring the citofono (outside doorbell). There is one slight problem in that the bell doesn’t ring in the flat. So, F didn’t know. The gas man thought it meant we weren’t home, of course. At about 9.30, F went down to see why he hadn’t arrived to be told by the doorman that he had already left and had left us a note saying that we weren’t there!

3. The kitchen and fitters came. They fitted the whole kitchen. We had had to pay for a surveyor to measure the kitchen space to ensure that the dimensions were right as some kitchen units had to be tailor-made. Unfortunately, it seems, someone couldn’t read dimensions properly and one unit was 5cm too short. So F rejected the unit. Also, unfortunately, the said unit has to be fitted with another (it’s a corner unit) and the other, in this case, houses the sink and dishwasher. So they can’t be plumbed in. Hmmmm.

So that was that. F was, to put it mildly, crazy.

I also tried to fix the washing machine, which seemed to be leaking. I thought I had fixed it and started a(n empty) wash.

“Are you going to take the dogs out or shall I?”

To be honest, this wasn’t really a question. The wrong answer would have been “No, you do it.” The right answer was “I’ll take them out.” I’m not stupid. I gave the right answer. Unfortunately, that meant leaving the washing machine mid-wash. Ah, well, I thought, it seems not to be leaking. I took them out.

I came back to, “I’ve turned off the washing machine because water was coming out like a fountain!”

“At what point in the cycle did it start coming out?” I asked. A rather huffy reply of “I don’t know!” was received, so I didn’t ask further.

About 10 minutes later, from the kitchen I heard shouting (this means I must attend, of course). The shouting turned out to be an explanation of where the water was actually coming out. It wasn’t the washing machine at all but the opposite wall in the kitchen, under what is now a unit with the sink. It seems that the outlet for the waste water from the washing machine is connected to the sink outlet and, as the sink is not connected to anything, some of the water was coming out of there!

Well, at least I know now.

This weekend, I might try a dirty fix.

In the meantime, on the plus side, we have many units in the kitchen to put stuff away and get rid of the boxes.

On the downside, we still have no hot water, no useable kitchen or cooker and the kitchen will still be a bit messy.

On the other plus side, we received the sofas, armchair and dining chairs back (just now) and F is very happy with them. I mean, really happy.

“We could have bought a new suite for the same money,” he always adds. I guess pointing out that a suite that’s 30 years old but is still as if it was new, every time, is just a waste of my time. However, I still do it as it’s still a valid point.

And, apparently, hot water will be available from Tuesday morning – although me and the dogs may be in Tuscany by then. We shall see.

Last night we were out with friends for a meal. They’re F’s friends really. One of them said that I must have real patience to stay with him. Wisely, I didn’t answer.

Well, onwards and upwards, as they say.