Things to brighten up a Monday morning.

To be honest, this first one made me laugh out loud and I had to tell my colleagues.

It’s from South Korea and is the story of how a woman had a “fight” with her robotic vacuum cleaner in that, she set it going and then decided she wanted a nap so lay down on the floor. The vacuum cleaner thought her hair was dirt and started vacuuming it up. She called the fire brigade to get her free.

The second one is dear to my heart. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know about my “wine diet”. Now this isn’t any old wine. No, it’s any old RED wine. Now, the DailyHateMail regularly has articles telling you how red wine is good for you/bad for you (in fact, it regularly has articles on virtually everything, one time extolling the virtues of whatever it is and the next telling you how it will kill you) and, obviously, one should take no notice. However, recently, a number of friends have been asking if I’ve lost weight (which I haven’t, unfortunately – although I don’t weigh myself, I can tell by whether my jeans and shirts fit) and I wondered if it was because, apparently, red wine helps to keep you slim!

And, I guess, with my intake, I really should have lost weight! LOL

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 ……

Cemeteries and churchyards

“No, they just have simple crosses,” he explains.

Even though I spend the next few minutes trying to dispel this myth, it is to no avail.

“No, we have graves like these,” I say, continuing, “but most are not quite so elaborate.” I’m talking about “in the UK”, of course. But he’s seen the films. He knows how they are.

“Yes, they are more simple.” He tells his cousin we have simple crosses.

Eventually, I give up. It’s not really important anyway.

The cemetery is huge. I mean really huge. Stretching out in all directions. I think: you could get lost in here. But, as with all churchyards and cemeteries, it has a kind of peace and tranquility that I like.

I still find Italian cemeteries strange. Italians (a lot of them) live in flats. When they die, a lot of them seem to be interred (rather than buried) in a flat equivalent. Blocks of tombs, stacked up to 4 high with, maybe, another 4 on top. They look similar to blocks of flats. These blocks surround, what I would call, normal graves – as in, plots where people are buried in the ground.

Most burials/interments have a “headstone” on which there is a photograph. I ask F if it’s normal to have a photograph on the gravestone. F says that it is. For people that they know, they touch the photograph and then bring the fingers to the lips in a sort of kiss, sometimes followed with a crossing (as Catholics do in church). I explain to F that we just don’t do the photograph thing (or, rather, we didn’t – but I don’t live there any more).

He explains to his cousin that our burial places are around the church. They (Italians) never do this. I try to explain that we, too, have cemeteries in addition to graveyards. Again, it falls on deaf ears. They talk about the fact that they would like their ashes to be scattered. I ask if it’s legal to do that here. Apparently not but F would like his scattered on the sea anyway.

We’re visiting the place where his Aunt was buried the other week. With his cousin and uncle. F spots graves/tombs where the person lived to 100. Apparently, F’s uncle says that “she should have lived to be 100.” He doesn’t show emotion. It’s these little things that show how much he misses her. It makes you really feel for him. Of course, they are all suffering. It’s the living who suffer after someone dies, after all. They’re the ones who are left behind; who have to continue with life.

The next day, we go round to the uncle’s place for lunch. F says it will be strange without her. And it was. I could picture her sitting at the table in her usual place (when we went round) and she’s not even my aunt – so I guess it’s really hard for all of them. She was/is missed. After the lunch, whilst they are cleaning up, there is a discussion between the uncle and the cousin. The cousin wants him to come to her house for lunch the next day. Because of her husband’s work, they eat at 12.30. The uncle says he doesn’t want to come and he will eat here because a) he can eat when he wants and b) because he can “talk” to his wife. She thinks this is stupid. F doesn’t really agree and tells her. I don’t really agree either – but it was only explained to me after we had left.

Still, I understand the uncle. She hasn’t left the house yet. That takes time. She may not be physically present but she is a presence, still, within that house. You feel like, at any moment, she could walk through from the kitchen. He’s trying to keep everything exactly the same as it was when she was there. I think I would do the same. Although, I’m not sure I would be as good at it as he is.

F’s cousin worries about the food. She doesn’t think she is so good as her mum. Her Dad said, the other day, that she was just as good. It’s different, but she is.

She really wanted F to come down and you could tell that she was really happy that he was there. But this is quite stressful for F. We don’t normally go down between the end of September and April. They ask, as we leave, when we’ll be back. F doesn’t want to commit. It’s a pressure on him. It stresses him out. He says we won’t be back next weekend for sure as he wants to finish the house. Which is another pressure on him. Of course, this is really “made up” pressure – but I’ve been there and I know what this is like.

When we arrive home, around half six, he says he’s tired and he has had a headache since the previous day. I tell him to go and lie down and not to worry as I’ll do the washing. After all, it was no rest or relaxation for him, going down. He goes to lie down and, within half an hour, he’s asleep. He sleeps almost all the way through until I get up – nearly 12 hours. That’s how I know how difficult this weekend has been for him.

Still, the carpenter is coming tomorrow to do stuff in the flat (fit new cupboards, put up rails, etc.) We’re getting there, slowly. F is going to IKEA today to get some more stuff. He will be happier when the flat is in better order, for sure.

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,


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.

Piero goes viral. Maybe ……

Of course, he won’t look the way she wants.

She’s crouched down besides him but she wants him to face the other way, towards the camera on the phone.

Her friend decides to go the other side and she awkwardly turns round to face the camera. The picture is taken. They thank me. I see now that there are four of them; early twenties I would say; tourists, for sure; probably from Japan and this would be their first trip to Europe.

I guess, afterwards, that they haven’t seen this type of dog in whatever country they’re from.

I was coming out from the dog area, yesterday morning. One of the girls asked, “Can we take a picture of your dog, please?”

Of course, I agreed. It doesn’t cost me anything except a couple of minutes of time. However, what they really wanted, to add to their million photos of their trip to Europe, was a picture of one of them WITH the dog. These are the same people who like “Hello Kitty” which, I think, says it all.

Again, afterwards, I think it’s strange that they didn’t ask for the breed of dog. After all, when they show their friends or post it on Instagram or Facebook or somewhere, the only title it can have is “This is a picture of me with an unknown, pretty dog”.

So, now Piero is being seen (or will be seen) somewhere like Japan as ‘one of the pictures of Italy’. Maybe, one of these days, the picture will pop up on my Facebook or Twitter feed? That would be quite funny.

People are quite strange, really. The Japanese, with their insatiable desire to photograph E V E R Y T H I N G – are even stranger!

MIB, 2 flip-flops and a funeral

I am sitting wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a black tie. F sits next to me with dark trousers, dark shirt and dark jacket. Next to him is a guy wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops like he’d just come from the beach. And, yet, it seems, he doesn’t feel uncomfortable dressed in this way.

I had been warned but I wasn’t quite expecting to be so over-dressed.

Someone likened me to the Men In Black which, I realised, with my glasses, dark in the sunshine, was possibly true.

Now, I’m no expert on British funerals. I think I’ve been to five – one of which was with people of Jamaican origin, so doesn’t really count as “British”. But, from my experience (always excluding the Jamaican one), it goes something like this:

You go directly to the church (only the very close family members would be at the home beforehand); the coffin is closed; there is a service; you either go to the crematorium where there is another kind of service where the coffin disappears behind a curtain or to the cemetery, where the coffin is put into a hole in the ground, some people throw a flower or dirt on the coffin and it’s then filled in by a mechanical digger and the wreaths placed on top; you go back to the house (or a pub or somewhere) and you have a bit of a party where you spend the time reminiscing about the person. There are some tears. There are some laughs. The party helps to lift the mood; relieves the tension. It “rounds off” the sadness with some good memories and some a good (if a little subdued) time.

The Jamaican one was different. The coffin is open. There is wailing and crying. The church is so packed that people are standing four-deep at the back! There is a point at which people queue to pass the coffin where they touch the body and do a bit more wailing. Wives, sisters, nieces are supported as it seems as if, at any moment, they will collapse on the floor. The vicar at one point threatens to throw people out because there is too much talking in the congregation!!! It was strange.

Italian funerals, much like Italian weddings are similar to British ones but slightly different. In both cases, the party (where there could be dancing and stuff) is missing. In the case of the wedding, it is a meal that lasts for hours and has a million courses – but no dancing and music and people getting really, really drunk.

F doesn’t want me to come down the night before. Instead, I drive down in the morning. I’m doing what he wants – making myself available for whatever he says I should do but not wanting to be any sort of burden for him.

I arrive at his house to get changed and he is there. He says that I should come to “the house” about 12.30. To be honest, I’m very nervous but really because I don’t know what to expect. He tells me that S (his previous partner) has sent flowers. I feel a bit miffed because I would have sent flowers but he said not to. I say that I should have sent some. He says it’s OK, it’s because S can’t come to the funeral. I don’t argue with him – he doesn’t need anything but support from me.

He leaves to go for lunch there (something quick and easy, he says, don’t come because they will be embarrassed by the food (not to their normal standards)) and I am to go into the town and get something to eat. That’s OK for me. Except, it’s really out of season, so more places are closed or shut for lunch or stuff. I eventually sit at a cafe and have some pasta dish. It’s not “wow” but I don’t care. It may be the only food I have today. I have a beer with it – after all there will be no party with alcohol and food afterwards – this much I know.

I try to get him the cigarettes he has asked for but the tobacconist is closed (for lunch, I guess, or just because …….).

I go back to his house and park and walk round to the house. I am about 20 minutes late. i expect the house to be filled with people but I am “the first” of this afternoon’s visitors. At the moment, it’s just the immediate family (and F). And, now me.

Most people have T-shirts and trousers. I, on the other hand, am the Man In Black. F says, “I told you so.” I say, “I don’t care, it’s how we do it in the UK.” For me, it’s a sign of respect and I can be a funny bugger like that. It’s tradition and it’s my tradition, so I’ll stick to it.

I go to see the body, laid out on the bed. As I approach the bedroom, E (the only daughter and like a sister to F) comes out. We hug. I go into the bedroom, am introduced to E’s mother-in-law and I see the body. But it isn’t her. it looks a bit like her but it’s not her. She’s not there, in this room. I leave. I then spend the next hour or so trying to be inconspicuous in the corner. This is hard because I tower over most people and also because I look like some secret agent and I’m not known by everyone.

Some people greet me; F’s niece, sister, mother, some other relations. His Dad comes later and looks visibly shocked to see me and also deeply upset (not to see me – it was his sister). The Funeral Director’s people come to put the body in the coffin, etc. They have blue, short-sleeved shirts, no jackets and striped blue ties. I look more like one of their people than they do – but, then, this is not the UK. At least they wear a tie.

The brother comes. From Sicily. He’s a priest. I’ve met him once or twice before. For some strange reason, I always feel, when he looks at me, that he is judging me. I always stare him out, refusing to be intimidated by someone from the church. Of course, this may be entirely in my mind. Or not?

Apparently, a few days ago, he was up for a few days to see his sister. They didn’t know how long she would live. He is, of course both the uncle of F and the uncle of E. Apparently, he asked E if “F’s friend” had been there. E replied that he should use the correct term – that I was not F’s friend but F’s boyfriend! I only know this much. I wanted to ask his reaction – but I dare not. I’m impressed by E but my wanting to know his reaction is, really, a desire to give the church a “slap”. So, when F told me all this, a few days ago, I didn’t enquire further.

Anyway, i digress. The coffin is carried out to the car. We all walk to the car. There are a lot of people milling around. I am definitely out of place, not only for towering over everyone. The big, fat priest (not the uncle), who has been mopping his brow every few moments, walks in front of the car and the people, led by the daughter and husband an other close relatives (but not F – where is F? I look around. I don’t know where I’m supposed to be!) and then the rest of the people, follow behind at the slow pace thing they do for a funeral procession. The sun is shining and it’s very hot. I am dying in my dark suit. F suddenly appears beside me. “I’m going to leave my jacket in the car,” he says. “Do you want to leave yours too?” I reply that, no, I don’t. I’m going to be the usual stubborn Englishman that I always am and wear my jacket and suffer, even in this extreme heat.

I also inform him that, as I’ve been sweating a lot, to take my jacket off would expose that. To explain: My shirt, which is cheap but the only white one I had that was clean, is almost see-through when it is wet. If I took my jacket off, it would look like I’ve entered for a wet T-shirt competition! Whereas this might fit in with the flip-flops and shorts, I think it’s just too much.

We get to the church. I tell F that i will stay at the back. F says that he will too. But then he goes to the front. He waves me forward when he gets there. I go to sit in the row behind him, on the far left-hand side. He waves me to come and sit by him. We are on the front row. They don’t seem to do etiquette like we do in the UK. Next to me sits F. Next to him sits a guy who is the cousin-in-law of E – he who is wearing flip-flops and shorts!

They do a mass. The uncle-priest appears, dressed like a priest (until now he had been wearing a suit) and assists the big, fat priest in the mass. I don’t understand anything. I stand up when others stand up. i sit down when others sit down. I don’t do the crossing thing they do. I don’t do the “taking communion” thing (although most people didn’t do it, including the chief mourners). Let’s be honest, I don’t really do the “religion” thing either it, in my mind, being just a way to “control” people. I think: I must tell F that I don’t want a religious ceremony (if it can be avoided) when I die. The big, fat priest often wipes his face with his handkerchief. I think: it would help if he lost some weight and, probably, if he ate a lot less pasta! No, I’m not religious at all.

The whole thing finishes and the coffin is led out by the big, fat priest. Everyone, trundles out. F comments about how the church is full of “old people”. I point out that, as the person who has died is old, (not that old, mind you) the church is filled with a lot of friends who will be of similar age. this is the way it is.

Outside, the sun is blazing down. The people mill around, chatting, greeting each other, etc. I tell F that I’m going for a cigarette – it’s been a couple of hours since i last had one. Also, although I don’t tell him this, I can’t stay in this suit, in this sun. And, anyway, I don’t speak Italian well enough. He tells me to go and wait by the car and gives me the keys. I go and, in the shade by the car, have several cigarettes. Eventually he arrives together with his sister and his cousin-from-Sicily – who is a nun.

We drive to the cemetery. There is a lot of discussion about meeting up with the hearse at some point. But no one can agree about what was supposed to happen. The gates to the cemetery seem to be locked. We hang around. Eventually, someone (the nun or his sister) goes and asks someone. It seems the hearse is already inside! With all the people.

We go in. The cemetery is huge. Cemeteries, here, are HUGE! There are, of course, the usual plots in the ground. But here they also do walls with, what I have always assumed, ashes inside. We walk down to where all the people are. In fact, the whole coffin is inside a hole in one of these walls. It is a tomb. instead of soil being piled in on top of the coffin, the hole is being bricked up! Bricking up the hole takes a whole lot longer than piling soil on top. I think how wonderful it is that the bricklayer is a woman, her long, blond hair tied up in a super-long pony tail. She works fast and hard under the glare of the mourners. In the meantime, I position myself under a tree, for the shade.

At one point, the bricklayer turns around. I see that she is, in fact, a man. He finishes the wall. F explains that, eventually, after some years, the bones of several relatives are collected together and put in one tomb. For now there is some sort of temporary (I suppose) “tomb stone” fixed to the outside. the flowers are placed around outside. This has taken so much longer than a burial in the ground that a majority of the people have excused themselves at some point or another. I don’t, of course, since I need F to take me back to the car which I’ve left at his house. Several people (his dad, his mum, etc.) ask if I’m staying. I explain that I’m going back to Milan. I have work the next day. And the dogs. And, of course, F didn’t want me to stay. That way he has the freedom to do the things he needs to do without being concerned about me.

At one point the wife of the shorts and flip-flops man asks F if he’ll go for a cigarette with her. Instead, he says that I will go. He’s right, of course, I will always sneak off for a fag. (Note to Gail – that’s the British term for a cigarette and not what you think!)

Of course, she speaks no English but somehow we manage to talk about her son (who has grown a lot in the last 12 months) and the dogs and some other stuff.

Then we go back and I go back to my place in the shade. They finish the bricking in and the laying out of the the flowers. By now it’s really only family that are left. We start to walk back. E, linking arms with me and F. We pass some graves of people that I don’t know but I know about and some graves of people that I don’t know and don’t really know about but they are related somehow.

Then out. We say our goodbyes. The mood is lighter but there isn’t the relief that a wake would have given them. In F’s car, besides me, are the uncle-priest, F’s sister and the cousin-nun. It feels quite weird to be so close to them without any escape (yes, I really DO have a problem with religion.)

We drop the uncle-priest off first. I get out of the car to shake his hand. He says, “bye-bye.” I wonder how much of the conversation between F and me he understands.

Next, we drop off the cousin-nun and his sister. Then he drops me at his house. He wants to go and see E and make sure she’s all right so he doesn’t stay.

I drive home and the dogs are pleased to see me. After I’ve taken them out, I go for a pizza and a few beers. Alcohol is essential after a funeral. It’s like saying, “….. and ….. relax!” Though it would have been better with people who had known her. Then they could have told some great stories and we could have laughed and remembered her fondly and the love that people had for her would have taken the edge off the fact that she was no longer with us.

I must remember to tell F that, when I die, I want a big fucking party – with food and alcohol and music and, if people want, dancing. And I hope, very much, for some really great and funny stories :-)

Anyway, this was another “first”, and I don’t get so many of those, these days. Hence the long post.

Guess what? The Internet is NOT a safe place for your private things. Who knew?

So, according to the DailyHateMail, there has been O U T R A G E about some “private” photographs that have been “stolen”. People are comparing it to rape, stalking and the rest.

Well, in my opinion, don’t put anything anywhere on the Internet that you wouldn’t be happy to leave lying around on your coffee table when you’re giving a dinner party with complete strangers. And, by that, I mean any device that can access or be accessed by the WWW. This includes telephones, pads and computers.

Worse still is to entrust the safe-keeping of those personal affects to a storage place that is not, physically, in your house. That’s like leaving something important and personal in a secret hiding place somewhere down the road.

In the “old days” this was easier. After all, we were not “connected” and if you took a photograph on your camera and you developed the photograph yourself, you had complete control. If it was anything other than that, you were not in control. I’m not sure how we got to a place where we thought, even for a moment, that the Internet was safe? After all the stories in the recent years, too!

And, so, do I “feel sorry” for these celebrities that have had some nude pictures stolen and banded wound the Internet for all to see? Well, no, not really.

First: Why are you taking nude photographs of yourself? Or, why are you allowing someone else to take nude photographs of you? If it was for your personal pleasure, then they should be kept (safely) on your computer or camera.

Secondly: Why did you think that it was OK to put them on some central storage place or send them via email or message? Haven’t you heard about the revelations by Snowden about people screening all these places? did you not stop to think that, if the NSA/GCHQ can do it, so can other (?less scrupulous?) people? If not, are you some kind of stupid?

Thirdly; You’re a celebrity. You can expect the rags like the DailyHateMail to try and get these private pics. And, if they can’t get them first, then they can be “outraged” that someone else got them first! Did you not hear about the News of the World hacking scandal? Have you been living on some distant planet?

So, the upshot is that it’s entirely your own fault.

But, I really want to know: Have all these celebrities really been busy taking nude pics of themselves? Am I now so old that I find it really quite strange? Have we developed into a civilisation the likes to create its own porn?

And, tell me why it is that (apparently) so many people are interested in seeing certain parts of celebrity bodies?

Let me go and have a look for some to find out ……….


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

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

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

However, I was struck by the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said I would wait.

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

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

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

The full link to the article is here

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. an 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.