Polyglot Lane

I always expect to be speaking two languages when I’m in the office dealing with my Italian colleagues and speaking with our English clients, but not very often is it a requirement of dog walking.

Today I’m taking our youngest dog, Alf Alf for his walk and the first person I see in the lane is the English builder working on my neighbour’s house, I stop and we pass the time of day. I continue on down the lane when driving towards me is my friend Nicola and we have a quick chat in Italian.

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The weather’s good so we walk further down the lane than usual and I spot a couple from a nearby village who have a holiday home here and we converse with a few English pleasantries before my friend Giuseppina calls to me. She only speaks dialect and we manage a short cobbled together conversation before it’s time to turn around and walk Alf Alf back home.

I’m sure moments like this are quite common for anyone living in another country where the language is different from their own.

And it’s moments like this that make living abroad special.

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Raised Eyebrows

Apologies for not posting over the past few days, but I’ve been quite busy with work following the magazine re-branding. I’m now on top of my new assignments, and taking a breather from research and writing articles about mummies, salt-dried cod and the Piemonte region, to mention a selection of my current workload.

I took Olive to the vets this week as she’s been scratching quite a lot and we thought she had mange, turned out she had a problem in the bowel caused by chewing on cooked bones, I wont go into details here as it would make unpleasant reading. Suffice to say, she’s on the mend, smells of paraffin or whatever it is that’s in her twenty-two euro medication and no longer allowed to have cooked bones; and she did love it when we had sweet, sticky ribs.

I was talking to our new vet, Fiorenzo about Alf, our adopted beast, I mentioned he needs to be micro chipped and be checked over and have his vaccinations: We’ve deliberately not taken him to a vet yet as being an abandoned dog it’s taken him time to get over his fear of men. As Alf is around ten-months old and I’d like to have him castrated, so I said to Fiorenzo during our conversation, “Voglio castrante.” Fiorenzo, raised an eyebrow and the edges of his mouth turned up, did he really stifle a laugh?

He switched his computer on to Google translate and typed in what I had just said and pointed to the screen, where the translation clearly read: ‘I want castrating’… Oops!

I think he did well not laughing, I’m not sure I’d have been as composed. In broken English he said, “What you say for this, is, voglio che lui castrato.” (I want him castrated).

Oh well at least it broke the ice, and he can now his family about the new English client who asked to be castrated, there’s something to be said for making a first impression.

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At the window.

Dog Attack

Today I was attacked by a dog.

It was a random, unprovoked attack, by a black and tan beast that stands 60 cm (2ft) at the shoulder.

My office is downstairs but as there is work being carried outside its window, which would be a major distraction, I’m working in the living room. I’m researching the Piemonte region of Italy and looking for some less obvious places for visitors to see. So I’m hunched over the laptop typing random things about Italy’s second largest region into Google and reading everything that comes up. My goodness, there’s a lot of rubbish out there in internet land, so I opt for reference books I have in my office, I fetch them and settle down on the sofa to read.

As I discover that the Po is Italy’s biggest river, the iPod shuffles and, Tom Jones starts to sing, Sex Bomb, suddenly there’s a thunder of paws on the wooden-floor and I look up as Alf launches himself in my direction, his massive jaws wide open. He lands on the sofa knocking the wind out of me and rolls over, his tongue lolling out of his mouth like a roll of pink carpet. His tail is doing its unique form of wagging: helicopter wagging we call it as it goes around in a circle. His brown eyes plead with me to stop work and play with him.

I push him away but it’s no use, he’s back on top of me, grabbing me with his mouth and pulling me off the sofa. It’s no use, I have to put down my book and play, Find Meaky with him. After twenty-minutes of running around he’s ready for a drink of water and I’m ready for a glass of wine. As Sign of the Times, a blast from the past from, the Belle Stars plays, I carry on reading and Alf clambers up onto the sofa beside me, belches and falls asleep.

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BTW: Meaky is a squeaky blue monkey that Alf has adopted as his favourite toy, second only to the pink tumble-dryer ball.

Green Groves

October is here and although the heat of summer has passed it’s still warm compared to England. With the tenth month there have been changes. Today I stopped and noticed that the incessant chirp of cicadas had finished and also the olive groves have become carpeted with green. Where there was once just dust and dried grass there is now a lush blanket of fresh growth. Along the lanes yellow aconites have appeared, their petals splayed out for the last of the bees before hibernation. Wild cyclamen have also blossomed displaying their pink and purple bonnets and under the walnut tree in my neighbour’s garden a delicate yellow flower has pushed its head through the matted oxalis.100_7806

I took Alf up to the olive grove today, as he’s not been for a week or so and he was confused by the grass, he ran about with wild abandon, stopping to grab mouthfuls of this new green stuff that tickles his feet as he runs. He looks at me quizzically, asking what is this new thing? He then rolls over enjoying the feel and the scent. There’s a definite change in the seasons, the leaves on the trees are beginning to change colour and the olives are fat and ready for harvesting. I have to admit that early October is much more pleasant in Italy than it has often been in England.

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Dog in a Tree

I was sat outside a day or so ago, just soaking up the last of the summer sunshine. As usual the iPod was shuffling and Devil Gate Drive by Suzy Quatro was playing, I looked across at Alf snoozing but there was no sign of Olive. Just above my head is a rustling in the fig tree opposite, I look up and see a black thing moving between the branches, is it a polecat looking for the now over-ripe fruits or worse a rat? No it’s Olive a small black terrier that today seems to have developed cat-like skills. I start to worry that she’ll fall onto our wood pile and do herself an injury, so don’t call her in case she becomes distracted and falls.

I watch as she deftly walks along the boughs to reach the figs, she grabs one and scoffs it in a moment and begins her descent, I wait until she’s on a relatively safe part of the tree, and see the shock on her face as I call her, telling her to get down. She gives me a, ‘what me’ look and hurries along the branch and jumps down, but not until she’s grabbed another fig from the tree.

She trots over to Alf, gives him a self-satisfied grin and I imagine her, like a playground bully saying to him, “Bet you couldn’t do that, could you, lanky.”

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Olive, relaxing after her foray into the tree.

For F’s Sake

It’s all about the letter F today. Everything that has given me pleasure or annoyed me has began with this letter.

Foraging. There’s nothing finer than an early morning walk with the dog. At 06.30, I took Alf out for his morning constitutional up the olive grove, The morning was almost silent, the occasional birds’ call filtered through the branches of the gnarled ancient trees and Alf  peed in the same spot he always pees in. He’s getting better at walking beside me without his lead on, he will still bolt sometimes and I have to wait for him to realise he’s too far away and come running back, tongue like an unrolled carpet flopping out of his mouth. Today we play zombies, a game he likes best, he runs back and forth to and from me as I pretend to be a zombie and try to catch him, when I do catch him I have to pretend to eat his brains. (How pleased am I that there’s no one around whenever we play this game. Just how the Italians would interpret a fifty-one year old man, arms outstretched, groaning and walking rigidly as a dog jumps and runs at him doesn’t bear thinking about.) After a few minutes of our game we begin the walk back, foraging as we go. I pick a couple of ripe black figs and we share them as I pick some wild marjoram and collect a handful of fallen walnuts.

Frank Chickens.The first song of the day to shuffle as the kettle boils is We are Ninja by Frank Chickens, a Japanese duo that had a couple of hit singles back in 1982. I check my email and have a quick look at who’s doing what on Facebook before continuing with my research for a couple of magazine features on Italian cooking. The iPod is still playing and another Frank Chickens song plays, this time it’s Cheeba Cheeba Chimpira.

We are Ninja

 

Figs. Yesterday a friend dropped off some figs from his garden and we had them roasted, stuffed with Gorgonzola and wrapped in Prosciutto di San Danielle; in my opinion much nicer than Parma ham. There’s a few left and they seem to just appear in my hand before disappearing inside my mouth. It’s been a good year for produce, I’ve not purchased any tomatoes for weeks, having grown my own. We had a plentiful supply of courgettes and chillies and three large pumpkins on the solitary plant I popped down at the side of the house. I’ll be clearing a patch of land in the autumn to get ready for next years planting of the orto.

Flies. This week there’s been more flies than normal, as the kitchen cupboards were being fitted the room seemed to buzz with them. The bathroom has also seemed to attract them, every time I go inside there’s two or three flitting from surface to surface. I’m constantly spraying the air with fly killer and the dogs are trying to catch them as they bother them too. Sitting outside is a nightmare at the moment as there’s so many of the things. Occasionally a dreadful smell wafts up from down the bottom, where a stretch of unkempt land lies, and we begin to wonder if there’s some rotting carrion down there; it would certainly account for the plague of bluebottles.

Food. For part of my research, I’m reading Italian Food by Elizabeth David, published in 1952, it’s a seminal work that paved the way for other writers’ of foreign cuisine. Lunchtime comes around and as I’m focussed on antipasti, I decide a plate of such will be nice. I think if you’re going to prepare antipasti it’s best to use good quality ingredients and take the time to prepare it. I start off making a cucumber, caper and tuna salad flavoured with lemon juice and olive oil; unfiltered extra virgin of course. The second salad is simple, just finely chop three average sized tomatoes, season with white pepper and a pinch of salt, crush one raw garlic clove into the tomatoes and slosh on some olive oil. These salads are served with some Prosciutto di San Danielle, some chicken and spinach roll, another fig, olives, cippoline and a wedge of Gorgonzola and a dollop of fresh ricotta seasoned with black pepper and anchovies. As I tuck in, I think of another thing beginning with f that would go well with my lunch, focaccia.

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Funkadelic. As I wash up the lunch things, the iPod shuffles and Funkadelic play their ridiculously long-winded ten minute and forty-four second track, with an equally long-winded name, Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doodoo Chasers).  Dishes washed, I return to my research, life in Italy is far from dull.

How Odd ( a short scene taken from reality)

Time: 21.30

Place: An Italian House

Man 1. Pours himself a glass of wine.

A car horn sounds.

Man 1. Puts down the wine bottle and walks to the door and opens it as he restrains his dog.

Man 1. Sees a car containing 2 men.

Man 1. Can I help you?

Man 2. Are you English?

Man 1. Yes.

Man 2. We come for you.

Man 1. What?

Man 2. Hands Man 1 a sheet of paper.

Man 1. Looks at paper. On it written in English is directions from Ciampino airport in Rome to this lane in the Abruzzi countryside.

Man 3. We take you to the airport?

Man 1. No.

Man 2. Is there three English for the airport?

Man 1. Not here mate.

General confusion, man 1 reads again and sees it says ‘our friends live at this house’

Man 3. Is this from your friends?

Man 1. No.

Man 2. Will your dog attack.

Man 1. (Lies) Yes. It mentions a yellow house.

Man 3. Is there a yellow house.

Man 1. Yes, but not up this end of the road.

Man 2. Where is a yellow house?

Man 1. Down the road, that way.

Car reverses up lane and drives away in the direction of the yellow house

Man 1. Goes back into the house and resumes the pouring of the wine.

This happened here on 27th August 2013. Odd doesn’t cover it.

A New Addition

I don’t normally post at the weekend, but thought I’d make an exception with this news.

We had a new addition to our family today, she’s a small black terrier by the name of Olive. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, we have been waiting for our home to become dog safe before we could take her in. She’s come from a friend who has changed job and dogs are not allowed where she will be living. We’ll hopefully visit the canile (dogs home) in Lanciano over the next week or so and get her a friend to keep her company.

We’ve already discovered that she’s definitely an outdoors dog, any opportunity to be outside and she takes it, she loves running up to the top of the lane and having a nosey when she hears a car; so she’ll fit right in here, and at the end of the day she likes nothing more than to chill out with a DVD, even if she does fall asleep halfway through the film Smile.

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Dog in a Frock

This morning, as we slumbered with little intention of rousing ourselves from the bed, a cannon sounded. The boom reverberated though the valley, followed by a volley of firecrackers. It’s festa (fiesta) down in Altino. Italy loves its feste (the plural), there’s feste to celebrate the humble olive, some to champion their porcini crop and even the completion of a road. I kid you not, in 2011 we celebrated the completion of the new road in Casoli. There was a band, the local bar moved it’s pumps and the local pizzeria also set up stall on the newly laid tarmac. A procession holding a religious effigy sang hymns, a priest blessed the road and children spun around on the merry-go-round. Meanwhile me and my good friend, Christine, drank Peroni.

Today the road to Altino is closed and it’s flanked either side by market stalls selling everything from toys to hats and saucepans to pan pipes. (There’s always someone playing music from the Andes, and cheap wooden pipes that give you splinters in your lips).  Everybody that lives in the area is there, meandering along browsing the stalls and calling out to each other. shouts of ciao, buon giorno and vediamo fill the air as does the aroma of porchetta being sold from vans. A man is selling enormous rounds of cheese and as each customer purchases some, his diminutive wife, picks up the heavy cheese and with a knife almost the length of her arm she cuts a slab for him to weigh.

Michele is there and calls across to me, he introduces me to another man, whose name I do not catch, and before I can ask again they’re off shouting hello to a couple across the street. I ‘m swept along by the crowd, unless you’re buying there’s no time to idly stand around, this human river is hell bent on making it from one end of the market to the other. Up ahead there’s the sound of amusements, that tinny sound you always get at arcades and fairs, and before long I’m watching children as they scream and laugh as rides toss them around or spin them in a centrifuge. A teenage couple wander along hand in hand, she has a dog on a lead. Nothing unusual about that, except this little black poodle is wearing a red gingham dress, making it look like its escaped from a circus. The girl spots a group of other girls and they begin talking in that animated way girls the world over do, no one seems to listen as they all chatter ten to the dozen, words spilling out and sweeping over other phrases, swooping under sentences. A decision seems to have been made and the girls climb aboard a machine designed to take you high into the air before plunging you downwards, free-falling until the brake is engaged and the contents of your stomach hurtle back upwards.

The dog lead is handed to her boyfriend, who self-consciously nudges his mirrored sunglasses onto the bridge of his nose: If he was attempting to disguise himself, he’s failed, as just then a group of teenage lads enter the makeshift fairground, spot him and the dog in a frock. Needless to say, taking the micky is universal no matter what language is used and like the lads I have a little chuckle before walking on.

As I don’t have a photo of a dog in a frock, and couldn’t find a royalty free one, here’s the rainbow outside my front door three days ago.

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Dog in a Frock

This morning, as we slumbered with little intention of rousing ourselves from the bed, a cannon sounded. The boom reverberated though the valley, followed by a volley of firecrackers. It’s festa (fiesta) down in Altino. Italy loves its feste (the plural), there’s feste to celebrate the humble olive, some to champion their porcini crop and even the completion of a road. I kid you not, in 2011 we celebrated the completion of the new road in Casoli. There was a band, the local bar moved it’s pumps and the local pizzeria also set up stall on the newly laid tarmac. A procession holding a religious effigy sang hymns, a priest blessed the road and children spun around on the merry-go-round. Meanwhile me and my good friend, Christine, drank Peroni.

Today the road to Altino is closed and it’s flanked either side by market stalls selling everything from toys to hats and saucepans to pan pipes. (There’s always someone playing music from the Andes, and cheap wooden pipes that give you splinters in your lips).  Everybody that lives in the area is there, meandering along browsing the stalls and calling out to each other. shouts of ciao, buon giorno and vediamo fill the air as does the aroma of porchetta being sold from vans. A man is selling enormous rounds of cheese and as each customer purchases some, his diminutive wife, picks up the heavy cheese and with a knife almost the length of her arm she cuts a slab for him to weigh.

Michele is there and calls across to me, he introduces me to another man, whose name I do not catch, and before I can ask again they’re off shouting hello to a couple across the street. I ‘m swept along by the crowd, unless you’re buying there’s no time to idly stand around, this human river is hell bent on making it from one end of the market to the other. Up ahead there’s the sound of amusements, that tinny sound you always get at arcades and fairs, and before long I’m watching children as they scream and laugh as rides toss them around or spin them in a centrifuge. A teenage couple wander along hand in hand, she has a dog on a lead. Nothing unusual about that, except this little black poodle is wearing a red gingham dress, making it look like its escaped from a circus. The girl spots a group of other girls and they begin talking in that animated way girls the world over do, no one seems to listen as they all chatter ten to the dozen, words spilling out and sweeping over other phrases, swooping under sentences. A decision seems to have been made and the girls climb aboard a machine designed to take you high into the air before plunging you downwards, free-falling until the brake is engaged and the contents of your stomach hurtle back upwards.

The dog lead is handed to her boyfriend, who self-consciously nudges his mirrored sunglasses onto the bridge of his nose: If he was attempting to disguise himself, he’s failed, as just then a group of teenage lads enter the makeshift fairground, spot him and the dog in a frock. Needless to say, taking the micky is universal no matter what language is used and like the lads I have a little chuckle before walking on.

As I don’t have a photo of a dog in a frock, and couldn’t find a royalty free one, here’s the rainbow outside my front door three days ago.

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