Christmas Decorations are UP! And other Christmas-related things

The Christmas decorations are up!

No, don’t worry, not in our flat. I mean in a street which I use on my way home from work.

They aren’t switched on but they are up.

And, talking of Christmas, I have still to do the cards. This weekend, is the plan.

At the moment, F is talking about doing a house-warming party around the middle of December – when he has decorated the flat! :-) Bless him.

As an aside, I tried, on Monday evening, to get my computer to display films on the TV. We already have the HDMI cable punched through the wall and I had bought an adapter to attach to my MiniDisplay Port. So, it should have worked just by connecting. Although the picture was fine, the sound only came from the computer which, being in the next room, wasn’t really any good. After hunting around, I found that Macs built prior to 2010 didn’t have a proper HDMI slot and no audio was passed through.

Wednesday, I found an adapter that WAS supposed to do the job for Macs of the age of mine. Except that the company making them had stopped making them. However, I found one on Amazon and bought it. It’s “on its way” now. Should be here by Monday but I’m hoping Friday – then I can try it at the weekend!

In the process of trying to make the sound work on Monday, I found, on Tuesday night, that one of my programs wouldn’t work anymore. After hunting around a bit, I decided to re-instal it. So that was that.

Except, on Wednesday night, I found that, as a result of my re-installation, Firefox wasn’t working properly and what-seemed-like-spam pages kept coming up. After much pratting around, I found the solution. Let’s hope that the new adapter I’m going to be getting doesn’t end up messing up other things on my computer. It’s not that I can’t fix it, it’s just that everything then takes so much longer.

It will be nice if we can watch films in the lounge, especially for Christmas!

Rubbing along, sometimes more like a cheesgrater rub!

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

I had started to take the glasses out of the cupboard. We’re putting some place mats into the cupboards so the glasses an sit on top of them.

Can I be really honest? I don’t know why. For me, to have theses place mats in means that we just have something else to clean. But, it will make him happy so it’s OK.

I clear the first shelf of the cupboard. I haven’t shouted that I’m ready yet. I want to clear the whole cupboard first.

I start on the second shelf.

He arrives, with cloth and ammonia to clean. He sits in front of the pen cupboard, right in my way.

So then he starts handing me stuff to put on the table temporarily. I am, just a little, fucked off by this. I hold my tongue but, for a moment or two, I think about going somewhere else. To not be there. FFS – say one thing and do another! It drives me mad. But not so much, as long as I don’t react.

Then he cleans all the shelves, then adjusts the top one so we can put the wine glasses at the top. Then the place mats go in and then I start handing the glasses back.

There are an extra four place mats for us to use on the table. They match the upholstery of the sofas and are the other shade of blue than the seats in the dining room. Now, much later, he has laid the table. There are the place mats and a couple of candles, a slightly darker shade. I must admit, it all looks rather nice.

Earlier still, we had been for breakfast – the rain is persistent, constant and heavy. We go to the supermarket. I had nearly said that I would go later but, as it was raining so much, I thought better of it. In the supermarket, after a few minutes, he tells me to go and do my own thing. I guess he finds me as frustrating as I find him. That doesn’t make it better, of course. I worry a little about our lack of synergy . I mean to say, on a practical level, day to day, we don’t really have the same ideas or, if we do, we would go about them in a different way. And, yet, we kind of rub along together quite well. Later, in the supermarket, when we go to scan our items through, I tell him to pack. He doesn’t want to. I explain that I don’t want him complaining like last time so he must pack. He does but grudgingly. However, this time, at least he couldn’t blame me for anything going wrong! Not that it did, of course. After all, he had packed everything :-)

And so, tonight, we have our second dinner party together. There’s some chickpea soup that he’s done, the fishcakes and then a lemon meringue pie which I have made because one of the guys likes it so much and made a specific request that I make it.

Everything (more or less) is ready to go and we’re three hours away from them arriving so it should be fairly easy. I hope.

A Policeman Calls

The old, Art Deco-style phone by my bed rings.

I pick it up. The mouthpiece is large and made of metal. It’s quite a beautiful example of its kind.

“Excuse me, sir,” the mans voice says, “this is the police. The alarm appears to be going off downstairs.”

I remember now, F had told me a few days ago that the alarm had gone off and he had had to go down. In the end there wasn’t anyone there but, you never know.

“Are you here?” I ask the policeman. He has a typical policeman voice. A little bit “west country” – Devon, Somerset, perhaps?

“No,” he replies. “We’ll only come if there is a real problem.”

I suppose I’d better go down then, I think. But F is away and what if there are people down there. I look across at the door. It is dark; it is the middle of the night. I see the shirts hanging on the bedroom door handle. I know they’re shirts but, for a moment, they could be a person, crouched down. I knew it was only shirts and I knew that if I looked at them, they would look like someone was there. My heart is thumping like crazy. I really don’t want to go down and see if anyone is there.

I am surprised that the dogs are not awake and by the side of the bed. It seems a bit strange.

I now need a drink. That means going to the kitchen. I don’t want to go to the kitchen either.

I lie back down, as if to go to sleep. My heart is still thumping like it wants to leave my chest. I realise now, some other things are strange.

Let’s take the phone call. The guy was an English policeman. He spoke in English!

Then, of course, the fact that I don’t have an Art Deco style phone by the bed (it’s in the hallway, not connected and, anyway, has a black Bakelite handset.)

Then, in addition, there is no downstairs!

But, at some point, this changed from being some sort of nightmare to real life. In fact, it became real life just before I looked across at the door at the shirts.

So the bit about F having had a call from the police before was obviously not true.

Or was it?

Changing Address

“Don’t you have any Italian document?” he asks me.

I hand over a couple of pieces of paper – one is the original codice fiscale document (a little like the National Insurance number in the UK – I only have the document because the card never came) and the health document which I renewed two days ago.

These are, apparently, not really what he wants. He grabs for my passport (which I had given to him and why he asked the original question) and opens it again.

“I need a photocopy,” he states.

“I don’t have a photocopy,” I reply.

“I need a photocopy,” he states again. I feel somewhat exasperated. I suspect this is the end of the whole deal. I am now prepared to walk away and forget the whole thing. Perhaps he can sense this?

Of course, it hadn’t really started that well from the time I got into the room. There were two “ladies” at reception. I say “ladies” when, in fact, they were there to obfuscate.

“I need to change my address,” I say.

“Why?”

Well, to be honest, I really don’t know what to say. The reason “why” is not that clear. It is, really, because, two days ago, when I renewed my health card, I explained that I had never received the card. The “Mrs Bucket”, who was actually very nice (apparently, she had a daughter-in-law whose mother was English and she came from the next town to where I work – so she was coming into Milan to work as I was going out to work!, which she seemed to like.) She had explained that, even though they had a note of my address (both the old and now new) on THEIR computer system, the address the card was sent to was the one on the computer system that held the “living at” address. Being a different system (even though the two systems were connected) meant dealing with a different governmental department in a different building in a completely different part of town.

Obviously.

We are in Italy.

So, back to this morning. I tried to explain that the lady at the Health Department had told me to come here to change my address.

“But, haven’t you changed it at the Council Offices,” she said or questioned (but it seemed more of an order, to be honest.)

“No,” was my simple answer. Did she not understand that I was British and stubborn and absolutely, completely, utterly fed up with this Italian need to do this bureaucracy stuff?

She did some sort of huge sigh, without actually sighing. He whole body seemed to let out air as if she were a tyre with a huge puncture – but just for a moment before it all seemed to come back in again. She gave me a form and a ticket.

I guessed that I needed to fill in the form, which I did. I waited for my number to come up. I went to the cubicle number 7, as instructed. I smiled at the guy.

Nothing.

I waited for a few seconds for him to speak; to offer me a chair; something.

Nothing.

I went to sit down.

“Tell me,” he said. That’s not as bad as it seems as this is often the “greeting” in Italy. It’s not as rude as it seems. They don’t really DO a “Good morning, how can I help you?” with a smile so broad they look like they’re auditioning to be one of those synchronised swimmers.

I gave him my filled in form saying that I needed to change my address because the lady at the Health Office had told me I needed to do this.

He asked me for documentation and that’s when I gave him my passport and that’s where we came in at the beginning.

I have to be honest here – when I had filled in the form, I had, besides asking for them to change the address, also ticked the box for a replacement Health Card AND for a replacement Codice Fiscale Card. This was three things on one form and, as I was filling it in, I had a thought of coming across some lady clerk who was going to put red pen through two of the options and tell me that I needed a different form for each request.

He didn’t do this.

But, back to where we were. He had asked for a photocopy and I said i didn’t have one. He had asked again and I was on the verge of saying “Forget it!” and walking out.

“You can get a photocopy done just outside. I’ll wait here whilst you do it.” Suddenly, he seemed much nicer.

“It’s OK, you can leave your stuff here,” he suggests. He means, of course, the bits of paper.

I go to the photocopier. Some little old lady is photocopying a lot of things.

“Do you need just one,” she asks.

“Yes,” I reply.

She lets me interrupt her. I ask her for help as I do it as I know she will like it. She helps me. While we’re waiting for the photocopy to be done she asks if I’m German. I reply that I’m not but that I am English.

“Strange,” she says, “you sound as if you have a German accent.” I’m not sure what to say to this. I tell her that, no, I am properly English. I think her very much for letting me interrupt her photocopying to get my one copy.

I go back to the cubicle where the man has been typing stuff in to the computer. I give him the photocopy.

“It won’t work,” he says, alluding to the computer system. I don’t really understand what he’s talking about. But it seems he can’t order a replacement Codice Fiscale Card.

Then he works it out. He has to change my address first. Once he’s done that, everything is fine and everything can be done.

After all, it wasn’t too stressful. And i am more used to just saying “no” to them these days and finding that there is a way round it, after all!

The weekend

Well, the weekend was lovely and not so lovely.

The visit to the cemetery was made on the Saturday, 1st November, which I thought was the Day of the Dead. I didn’t go. The Day of the Dead is, in fact, the 2nd – but they didn’t go then. The 1st is All Saints Day.

And the weather was glorious, all weekend.

But, I didn’t go (to the cemetery) because I felt rather crappy and constantly cold. So I don’t really know what it was all like. Still, there’ll be another time, I’m sure.

F realised how bad I felt by Saturday evening and, from then on, drove and made sure I was OK, bless him. He drove back on Sunday afternoon (for which I was grateful) and then insisted I went to bed when we got home. I half-watched a couple of films and then went to sleep.

He was rather sweet all evening, coming in to check on me and offer cups of tea and stuff. He insisted on taking my temperature and decided I had a bit of a temperature. He didn’t want me to go into work but he knew I would anyway.

So, here I am, still feeling fairly crappy but it’s OK. If I can get a good night’s sleep tonight, I’m sure it will all be much better in the morning.

What? No Christmas stamps??

This weekend, as F is away for the whole weekend (working), one of the plans is to write Christmas Cards.

I know, it seems too early but I want to be ahead this year rather than rushing at the last minute. Also because it means that, should I not have enough cards, I can ask F to get a few more.

There’s only one, slight, problem.

Every year, as those of you who are regular visitors will know, I get hold of the Italian Christmas stamps for that year. They only ever produce two, one religious and one not. I normally select the non-religious stamp and make up any difference with other stamps.

This year, unfortunately, I may not be able to get stamps from my usual source so I thought I would try to order from the local (to work) post office. Obviously, in the UK, this is easy and really not a problem. Here, in Italy, it may be more difficult. First, I will have to convince the staff that I need to order them and then they will have to actually make the order. Being Italy, this might involve a lot of paperwork and, therefore, the staff are likely to be unsupportive towards me. the last time I went to the post office, to send a card to a friend, they simply wouldn’t let me send it recorded delivery and, unlike me, I gave up on trying to persuade them. Every Christmas, sending cards and presents is always met with some unexpected new problem (using exactly the same two women at the post office!)

But there’s also a “new” snag. The snag is that, on the posteitaliane website, there are no Christmas stamps yet! Every year (except one), the Christmas stamps are shown by now with a date of release (usually October). Only one year was the release later in November.

So, I’m a little worried that my traditional card sending with the Italian Christmas stamp won’t happen this year.

We shall see, I guess. I will contact my usual source, just in case there is something I can do. I’ll let you know.

Strange Days – Halloween and The Day Of The Dead

The weather got cold this week. Sunday night, to be precise. Obviously, it’s not in minus figures yet (°C, Gail) but, still, those of you who’ve been reading long enough will know that I absolutely abhor the cold. And, as for every year, the heating at work was not switched on until we had suffered a number of days of freezing in the office.

But, it is the end of October, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

And, today is Halloween. Obviously, I’m quite old now, so my memories of Halloween are being at home, doing some apple bobbing, maybe making some toffee apples but that’s it. No Trick or Treat stuff (that’s American trash (sorry, Gail)), no elaborate costumes. Instead, it was only a few days from November 5th, or Bonfire Night, as we called it. 1st November was really nothing special. Not even a holiday. We just didn’t celebrate it in the UK.

And now that I live in Italy, although Halloween is getting quite a big deal now, here, it’s November 1st that’s THE DAY. To be precise, The Day Of The Dead.

I’ve always been in Milan and it means a holiday to me. A day off work (except, this year it’s on a Saturday). However, with the special Aunt dying, tonight we’re off to Carrara and, tomorrow – well, I’m not sure what will happen. I’m guessing, a trip to the cemetery and I know we’re supposed to be going out for a pizza with the cousin in the evening.

It will be interesting. As FfI said to me this morning when we spoke, They don’t have a party for the wake but they do this (whatever this may be.)

I’ll let you know ……

Inauguration

We’ve now eaten a few times in the kitchen.

F made soup. And, one time, pasta. I like eating in the kitchen. It’s warm (from doing the cooking) and light and very comfortable. I think, even if he says he hates cooking, that he secretly quite likes it. Possibly, also because I am appreciative. V used to like cooking for the same reason.

However, the “big” test came on Saturday night. We had our first dinner in the new house. We ate, of course, in the dining room. First there were drinks in the living room and then we moved to the dining room to eat. F did soup, I did fish cakes with spinach and roast potatoes and then a chocolate cake.

And lots of wine.

It was lovely and the food seemed to go down quite well.

But, for certain, F had far too much to drink and, overnight, was ill. I know it wasn’t the food since we had the same thing and I was fine. He also blamed the drink. Still, it gave me time to clear up the next morning a bit, which he liked.

So, our first dinner was a success and it was certainly very comfortable with the space to do it properly.

However, there is something that I’ve noticed which is quite strange, for me. In the past, I would always do stuff I had done before. I did things that I had practiced until I “got them right”. Now, I always want to try something new. So, the fish cakes were new, the chocolate cake was new and I cooked spinach for the first time ever!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m confident (because whilst doing these things I always worry that everything will turn out terribly) or, as I think it is, the thrill of doing something for the first time – with the fact that it could be a complete disaster (but rarely is).

20 years ago I would never have been so “reckless”. Now I seem to actually look for things that I’ve never done to see how they turn out!

F, bless him, compliments me to others, saying what a wonderful cook I am. Anyway, he certainly seemed to like the chocolate cake which was a little like chocolate fudge cake – like eating pure dark chocolate in cake form. I was (am, because there is still half of it left) very pleased with it.

So, that’s it. First dinner done. Now we have a lot more to do to repay all the dinners we’ve had at other people’s places. And, then, of course, the house-warming party in December. Maybe it’s the sharing of food with friends, the “breaking of bread”, but our flat seems almost officially inaugurated now.

We entertain, properly, for the first time.

He says he hates doing it and, yet, I suspect he secretly quite likes it.

He calls me. I am surprised to see he’s calling me. I check first, thinking that maybe my telephone called him (it does that these days, randomly calls him – it reminds me, daily, that I will NEVER have another Blackberry phone, piece of trash that it is) since it was only a few minutes ago that we were talking face-to-face, in the flat, him having just arrived home!

But, no, it’s not my phone calling him, he is really calling me. Perhaps, I think, he’s stepped outside for something and forgotten his keys? The door automatically locks.

“An is coming in a minute. Can you let her in, please?” he asks me.

“Where are you?” I am confused.

“I’m in the shower.”

It makes me laugh. But, even if he had shouted loudly, I wouldn’t have heard him. That’s the really nice thing about this flat.

An comes. She explains that she has come because she is on her way home for work and fancied a drink.

I assume that means they are going out but, as I have someone coming in a moment, I offer her a glass of red wine from a partly finished bottle that I had opened the other day. She accepts and sits down. i don’t offer to take her coat or anything as they will be going out.

My “someone” arrives. Luckily, F appears from the bathroom.

Me and my “someone” go to my room. Almost an hour and a half later, I can hear they’re still there and not out as I expected. Indeed, I need to just ask F something and so I go to find them. They are in the kitchen having soup. The soup that F made the day before.

When my “someone” leaves, I join them in the kitchen and get offered some soup. It’s leek and potato soup with grated Parmesan cheese and fried bacon bits on top. He is so proud of it. And rightly so, it is lovely.

He explains that An DID ask him to go for a drink but, as it is so cold and as she has no kitchen in her new flat, he suggested drink and soup at ours. It’s nice sitting at our new kitchen table with a friend. It’s very comfortable and easy. I can’t truly express how lovely it is to be entertaining friend(s) in the setting with home made soup and wine in our flat. And, more so because it is unexpected. No elaborate planning and work. Just simple and easy. I can see he is happy about it too. And about what he has cooked. Which is, in any case, really tasty – and I like the bacon bits on top.

The heating is turned on (slightly) and the kitchen is warm and inviting.

It’s exactly how it should be, the whole thing. Even better that, now, I can do my thing and he can entertain and I can join them when I’ve finished. All really perfect. Long may that continue.

Noises are not good.

He presses into my back but he can’t settle.

Two or three times, he turns around, each time, pushing himself into my back. Trying to get closer still.

Eventually, he decides it’s not enough and he steps over me and tries, again to settle.

This time between us. Having something on both sides must be better, I suppose.

I realise that something is wrong. There are two possibilities. One is that he is ill. The other, that he is frightened. I wake myself up, enough so I can tell the difference. There are noises. Bangings, from time to time. It’s the wind. The tail end of the hurricane must have reached us. He is so frightened. He gradually moves up between us until he is almost sitting on the pillows. Then lying on the pillows. Then up again, sitting but anxious. Panting because he’s hot but there’s no way he’s going to move from this place of safety.

I hear a banging from, what I think may be the bathroom. I get up. I close the bedroom door which shuts out (a bit) the noises of things being hurled around the courtyards below. I go to the bathroom and see that the window I left open is banging shut from time to time. The wind is strong and very gusty.

I go to my studio and shut the windows there too. This, effectively, closes the back of the flat.

Back to bed and I have to move him to get back into bed. But he is not, just NOT going to be moved far. After getting into bed he starts inching up again towards the pillows at the next sound.

F is awake too now. Piero cannot settle and, I’m sure, would prefer to be under the covers with us protecting him. F says we should shut all the windows. He says he’s worried about the stuff on the balcony from the kitchen. We keep the rubbish bins out there (he doesn’t like them in the flat – the smell, you know?) As well as a ton of other things. I go and shut the lounge and dining room windows first. I go to open the closed shutter in the kitchen but he is there first. He always complains that it is too heavy to open so prefers it open. I close it in the evening as I go and switch on the coffee in the early morning and don’t want other people to see me before I’m fully dressed. I go to take over from him but, as usual, he won’t let me help. i shrug my shoulders and walk away. It’s one o’clock in the morning. I don’t even have words to say. He opens it and the door and checks the balcony but leaves everything out there and just closes the door.

I go to close the shutters. He says to leave them open. I try to explain that I don’t like them open until I’m dressed. He says that no one will notice which is probably true. But I’m funny like that. But I can’t be bothered to argue. I get the clothes I will now need to get up and put on before I go and switch the coffee machine on. I am pissed off. Royally pissed off but I say nothing.

We both get back into bed, sliding in next to Piero. Piero can still hear bangs and clunks from outside and he just won’t settle. I consider that, if I can’t get to sleep, I’ll get up, have a cigarette and some milk and read some of my book (Gone Girl, btw – I want to read it before I watch the film) but I try to crush those thoughts.

He gets up again and tries to call Piero but Piero ain’t budging. He goes into the kitchen, opens the door and brings everything inside, closes the door and then the shutters. He does, kind of, listen to me but only grudgingly and with bad grace. It doesn’t matter. I know he has done this by the noises from the kitchen not because I saw him do it.

He comes back to bed. Piero doesn’t move but accepts his strokes and affection. After a while, I go to sleep.

The alarm goes off. I feel like I’ve slept for about 5 minutes. It’s going to be a crap day. And it’s still very, very windy. But the sky is clear, which is something and, although it’s colder, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Later, by message, he tells me that he’s going to leave a window open. I say no because Piero will still be frightened. Even with them closed, he’ll be frightened but, hopefully, less so. Tonight he’ll be as attached as a limpet, I’m sure.