Cocktails, Tattoos and Turtles

Today the October weather was glorious, the sun was shining and with just a whisper of a breeze we donned our sunglasses and headed off out for an adventure. The lovely Annie; who was having an adventure of her own, coming to Italy alone and driving a ‘wrong way ‘round car’ arrived as the iPod played The Idol (all Gods Fall) by Marc Almond. We quickly secured the mutts inside the house and clambered into my car and headed off to Roccascalegna. The journey gave the step-son a chance to see some of the terrain around these parts as all he’d seen since arriving was the motorway and our local town. The drive up to Roccascalegna is a nice one, you pass through the small town of Altino; its narrow streets giving it a stepping back in time feel, and as soon as you leave Altino you get spectacular views galore. The roads wind their way ever upwards and you can see for miles, down over olive groves and patches of wild fauna and over towards the lake at Bomba, that amid the greenery looks like a splash of mercury today.

We collect Mark and head down the other side of the town towards the lake. We stop at a small cafe that has been recommended but sadly the doors are locked and there’s no signs of life, we pose for a couple of photographs with the sun on our faces before making our way further downwards and around the lake, the surface of which, when kissed by the breeze, quivers like a plucked string. “Turn right here,” Mark says directing me the wrong way up a strada exit, luckily nothing is exiting towards us and I cut across the road. Minutes later we are entering what looks like another typical Italian bar, but this one was very different. The walls are covered with signs for Guinness and other English beers, the wood is stained dark and the pictures are similar to what would be found in a public house in the heart of England.

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A man who looks shocked to see us there appears behind the bar and we order beer and panini, which when they arrive are huge slabs of bread filled with cheese and meat. The five of us grapple with our surf-board sized sandwiches and share the two bottles of beer between ourselves before I pay the man and we make our way towards Villa Santa Maria, the home of the great Italian chefs. The very first professional culinary school was founded here in the 16th century by Prince Ferrante Caracciolo of Naples. Just before  Villa S. Maria is a town with a name that appears longer than its main street. We stop here in Pietraferrazzana and head off towards our intended destination, a relatively new bar on Corso Giuseppe Mazzini. The reason we’re here is cocktails. The bar is renowned for its selection of drinks made up of multiple beverages. The waitress comes to take our order and I spot an intricate tattoo on the underside of a forearm, I’m about to tell her it’s a nice tattoo and my brain shuffles and the only Italian word I can recall is tartaruga, and even I’m not stupid enough to say to her, “You have a nice turtle.”  I’m drinking my blue drink that looks like shower gel but tastes delicious when the correct word for tattoo; tatuaggio, makes itself known to the inner workings of my brain.

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As we chat a handsome man arrives with a guitar and starts to play, Mark asks him if he knows any English songs, he responds in broken English, “No, I know not any English songs.” Stefano, as we discover his name to be, then plays and sings, Save the Last Dance for Me, which sounds very English to our ears. Later the barmaid brings us all another drink telling us they are from Stefano, we thank him and afterwards just before we leave Mark gets an impromptu lesson in Italian pronunciation from the barmaid and she shows me her tattoo in detail, telling me I need to have the tattoo on my wrist changed as it’s too small. “Maybe I’ll have a turtle added to it,” she looks at me perplexed, “personal joke,” I respond and somewhat more confused she then goes back to giving Mark more pointers on his pronunciation, which in jest he deliberately gets wrong.

Emmerdale

Despite living with sawdust and the noise of the house restoration, six days a week I’m really enjoying being in Italy. It’s always felt right for me to be here and without sounding like some blurb on the dust jacket of a paperback, it’s always felt like my spiritual home. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not devoutly religious, or mystical: in fact it takes me half my time to recall my own name in the morning, let alone a handful of saints and multi-limbed divinities.

So here I am and last week my builder asked me if there was anything back in England I miss, obviously it goes without saying that there are family and friends, special people in my life. Thankfully we can stay connected due to the wonders of Facebook and Skype, and I know that when the five bottles of HP sauce I have brought with me run out then I’ll miss that. Or as my builder calls it, English sauce. I like a nice dollop of the brown stuff on my bacon and eggs, and maybe i could find it over here at a vastly increased price.

The more I thought about it, all I could recall was things that I wouldn’t miss. Stationary traffic at junction 10 of the M6, the neighbour who plays drum and bass at full volume, every Sunday morning from 07.00 and vomit on the pavements outside kebab shops. I shook away all my negative thoughts of England and tried again to think of the things I miss most, one thing was English television. As we have limited internet allowance it’s not practical to use it watching TV, so we’ve been watching films and television shows on DVD. (Don’t get me started on last nights offering, the film, Sliding Doors – what was that all about, okay, it was a pleasant enough story with some nice acting thrown into the mix, but if there was a message in the film, I missed it completely, as the credits rolled I just thought, Huh! But I digress.

Now the problem with DVD’s is that once you put a disc in and pour the wine before you know it you’re three episodes in of some American drama. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really good American shows out there, but I do prefer English dramas. So It’d be fair to say that I will miss English television – that is until we get a decent broadband connection and monthly limit.

Talking of television, there is one thing that I do miss already, the Yorkshire television soap, Emmerdale. In fact so far I’ve missed so many episodes It’ll take me ages to catch up. Now people may think it’s a bit sad to say I’ll miss a TV show, but I do. Yes I know they’re all fictional characters and that the storylines are dreamt up in offices possibly overlooking the ring road in Leeds but of all the TV shows shown in the UK, it was the only one I watched religiously.

I may not know the names of all the prophets but can name you everyone who has lived at Home Farm or worked behind the bar at The Woolpack.

Unusual Names and the Snow

Last week, the snow that was promised arrived. As the streets began to cover with a blanket of white, Louise Minchin was sat on the sofa at BBC centre in Salford, asking the viewers to be careful and only take the car if it is absolutely necessary. Wise words, Ms Minchin. However I had to go out, staying in was not an option as I had an important appointment. Luckily, I thought, as my appointment is for 09.30, I can do what I have to do and be back home before the streets are under the predicted 5 cm’s of snow.100_5417

Anyway, I won’t bore you with my reason for going out, but I will tell you that while I was out I heard two instances of people having unusual names. The first was in the bank. A young, painfully skinny male was at the counter and the woman behind looked at her screen, then at him and back at her screen, before saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to pronounce your name. Is it really spelt ZZZ?”

“Yes said the boy, it’s pronounced, Zeds.”

I’m thinking that he’s changed it by deed poll. The next was I was waiting for my appointment, when the lady on reception paged a colleague, asking for Adventure Stokes to come to reception. Adventure turned out to be a girl. Shame that she has a name that sounds like a brochure for what to do on Bank holidays.

So my appointment fulfilled I popped on my headphones, switched on the iPod and was happily strolling along with Wanderlust by David Sylvian playing. On my way to the car-park I spotted this number plate and thought it’d sit nicely with today’s unusual names, so out came the camera and the snap below was taken.

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I now had to drive back from town. My journey in had been relatively quick as the roads were quiet, however after a couple of hours continuous snow, the three mile journey back was a crawl at ten MPH as we all snaked our way through snow laden streets. Every traffic light stopped us, and the car at the front of the queue had the task of spinning its wheels before leading us all again slowly through the churned up snow. I was almost home, when at a mini roundabout a car to my left suddenly pulled out, meaning I had the dubious task of braking quickly, I slid forward, then to the right, I then steered into the slide and regained control as the offending driver pootled away. No harm done, I rounded the corner, parked up and went inside to enjoy the snow – through the window, as it should be enjoyed.

Note to self: Next time there’s snow predicted, phone and rearrange any appointments.

Later whilst walking in the snow, Michael Bublé featuring the Puppini Sisters, shuffled forward with Jingle Bells, from his Christmas album. It seemed appropriate in such a snowy setting that I let it play.