Money, Money, Money by Abba is playing today. I’ve just returned from Lanciano, where I’ve been offered a job, so here’s hoping it’s an omen. (So now I have two jobs, and I thought I came to Italy for an early retirement).

As I was walking from the car park to the town centre I was accosted by two nuns, I say accosted, when in truth a softly spoken girl with an angelic face gently touched my arm and stopped me saying, “Mi scusi.” I looked at her large imploring brown eyes, then at her partner, who was the opposite, a brutish looking nun with a better moustache than I can ever hope to grow and black foreboding eyes. I swallowed hard and looked back to the pretty nun… Is it acceptable to refer to a nun as pretty?


She asked me for directions to a street that I had no knowledge of, I apologised for being no help; in fact, I think I atoned by explaining I was a stupid Englishman with a meagre grasp of the street layout of Lanciano.

The gentle nun nodded and said goodbye while her accomplice grimaced and I’m sure I heard her growl as they walked away. As I walked on I remembered an Italian friend saying to me once that if you need to cross a very busy road, avoid being run over by staying close to a nun. Italian drivers always slow down for a nun as it’s a sin to run one over, in fact I did once hear it was illegal to hit one with your car.

I’m not sure what he meant when he said the same doesn’t always go for a priest.100_3129

No! I Am Not

Now I know I stand out when I’m out and about in town. It’s not the colourful clothing I choose to wear or the fact that despite my advancing years, I’m sporting a cockscomb hairstyle, (blame the punk era)better suited to a twenty-something that singles me out.  it’s the fact that I’m naturally blonde (now more a greyish white) and blue eyed. This leads to lots of staring by the swarthy, olive skinned, raven haired locals. Some older members in the village look at me with suspicion and mutter behind their hands. This happened yesterday, doing my best to maintain my standing as a local I dropped into the local bar again for a coffee. The pretty young girl behind the counter recognised me, scoring me another, Barry’s a local point. I ordered my coffee and standing at the bar noticed two elderly signorina’s staring at me, one muttered something to her companion, who dipped her eyes as I smiled and wished her good morning. Then the question came, “Lei Tedesco?” (Are you German?”) I replied letting them know I was English and not German, suddenly their demeanour changed and they both smiled and wished me a good morning. It really is a case of, don’t mention the war.

I then went with Fabrice to purchase cement, we arrived at the builder’s yard and I went into the office to get the paper-order to hand to the young man on the fork-lift truck to collect for us. As I entered the chatter stopped instantly and the two ladies in the office looked at me; rather like rabbits in headlights. I said hello and one of them relaxed slightly, and then asked me, if I was Swedish. “No,” I told her, “but I am partial to a little bit of ABBA.” The sarcasm was wasted on her. “Sono Inglese,” I then said, in an attempt to raise the temperature in the room. “Ahhh,” they both said in unison. “Inglese. Birmingham, London?” Shaking my head I replied, “No, abito qui.” (I live here). Just then as my order was being scribbled into the order book an man came into the room, he looked at me and scowled, seeing this the older of the two women said to him, “He’s English,” the man asked, “Are you sure he’s not a Russian?” The younger woman handed me the slip of paper and then said to the man, “No he’s not Russian or Swedish.”


I took my order out into the yard muttering that I wasn’t a fan of the musical Mama Mia either, the lad on the fork-lift truck took the order from me and then said, “Are you a German?”

I just rolled my eyes, waited for my cement and wondered how much hair dye would cost.

And to add insult to injury, on the drive back the iPod shuffled and Abba kicked off with, Knowing Me, Knowing You.