Storm Chasing

Today’s title may evoke images of being inside a jeep hurtling towards a raging tornado or the eye of a hurricane, maybe even being trapped inside a Kansas farmhouse as it rides a twister to, The Merry Old Land of Oz., but actually, the title is misleading, as it’s not so much storm chasing as being chased by a storm.

We were having a pleasant mid-morning in Lanciano, when we decided to have lunch at Il Chiostro. It’s a an informal yet pleasant restaurant a few paces from the church of St. Francis, that houses the Eucharist miracle. The interior has a rustic feel to it with big wooden seating bays that easily accommodate up to eight people per table. The menu options change daily and for a mere twelve euro per person, you can have a substantial lunch. We collected our cutlery and tray, heaved a great slab of bread onto it and stopped at the options for primo piatto. I opted for an unusual yet tasty bacon and cauliflower pasta while the OH had a pasta bake laced with enough garlic to keep the entire inhabitants of Transylvania at bay. Secondo Piatto was either roast pork or stuffed veal, we both opted for the veal, which was served in a rich tomato sauce, with grilled vegetables and potatoes. We decided two courses was sufficient and declined the sweet course before grabbing a bottle of aqua frizzante and becoming ensconced behind the huge wooden table.


Stuffed and satiated we decided to walk off lunch and took a leisurely stroll through the medieval part of the town. We meandered through narrow alleyways taking refuge from the afternoon heat. Windows were open and the lives of the inhabitants spilled out. A conversation motored down a narrow vinco, an argument burst through closed shutters and babies squealed with joy from within the dark recesses of a skinny house. We took some time out sitting on a bench near the park before heading back to the bank to do some business there.

Our business concluded we walked back to the car, as we set off on our journey home, the sky suddenly changed; the blue became grey and an ominous black cloud sailed overhead. Now I have before alluded to Italian thunderstorms being epic, and was once sat in stationary traffic on the motorway outside Rimini as great threads of lightning bounced around the cars. So I was apprehensive about being up so high and away from the relative safety of our valley. As we reached the edge of Castle Frentano I stopped the car and looked back, the skies were filled by an angry cancerous cloud, giving the illusion of us being trapped inside a Hollywood action movie.


I climb back into the car and start the descent down the winding, serpent like road, I look in the rear view mirror and the black cloud seems to be following me. I slow as I navigate a hairpin bend and the cloud sends out spikes of yellow, flashing behind me. I can accelerate through a relatively straight piece of road and the cloud moves sideways. This time it’s almost peering in the side window, mocking me. It grumbles and more flashes follow. Eventually we reach the bottom and the rain starts, great gobs of water splatter the windscreen. We wind our way up our little lane just as a huge snap fills the air, I stop the car and make the fifty yard dash to the front door. Sods law takes over, I drop the keys, giving me those few extra seconds of drenching. With the door now closed I look outside and the cloud moves away towards Archi, up on the mountain top. I’m changing into dry clothes as it laughs  at me with a final electricity charged crackle and the sun bathes my house once more. I’m then reminded of the song by Sparks, Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth.


Eating Out

Monday 14 January 2013 – Last week I had three different meals out and all turned out to be an experience in themselves. Obviously I can’t name them here, and I’d be a fool to do so – law suits are not the in thing for 2013.

First meal of the week was a trip to a national ‘all you can eat’ restaurant. The chain boast over 34 metres of food counters displaying tasty and freshly prepared fare. They have everything from traditional roasts, to Italian and Chinese and even British fish and chips. Sadly this concept of serving so many cuisines meant that they failed to become the master of any. I tasted nothing there that would warrant a return visit, the food was basically, sub-standard school dinner quality.

The Italian food was unlike any Italian food I have ever seen before, paper thin dough with tomato sauce and grated cheese does not make it a pizza. The BBQ section had burgers that would be best suited to shoe soles and the salad bar was quite frankly the scene of a vegetarian massacre. Lettuce was browning as tomatoes softened and grated carrot seemed to invade every section of the serving area. Not to mention spoons lazily shared between the jugs of salad dressings.

The seating area was packed with diners stuffing food into their mouths like Armageddon was about to happen. I had an instant vision of what hell must be like. People walked over to the serving bays and piled food onto plates and returned to their tables and to begin devouring the over-laden dinner plate. It really was gluttony on a massive scale.

Two women sat at a table nearby, and during my stay I observed them eat four plates of food, and finish off with two puddings. At one point, one of the women was wrapping chicken wings and sausages in paper napkins and secreting them in her handbag.

Another table close by had two young couples sat at it, the table groaned under the weight of food the young men had brought with them and one of the girls took advantage of the free soft drinks by bringing over eight large glasses of cola. I was intrigued by the other girl as she ate a plate of food which contained a burger, a battered fish, some sliced gammon and roast potatoes and some Chinese noodles: Truly international cuisine? She followed this with chocolate sponge and custard. I thought to myself, she’s had her fill, just a dinner and a sweet, but no – she then washed it down with cola before adding a curry to the contents of her stomach.

Now I’m not a bleeding heart liberal, and I’m not going to bang on about poverty, but I did find the experience obscene. Needless to say, I shan’t be returning.

My second experience was a return trip to a well-known high street pub-cum-restaurant. You know the one, where they don’t play music and the name is made up from the two words that describe climate and cutlery. Usually I’ve had good quality grub here, okay it’s not a la carte , it’s not even remotely posh but it has always been filling and satisfying. Sadly this day it was not. I ordered an Italian chicken burger, basically a piece of chicken on a bun with pesto served with onion rings and fat chips. The problem this visit was it took an age to arrive at our table and when it did it wasn’t very hot, in fact tepid is the word I’d use to describe the meal, but the final insult was the burned toasted bun. All I can say is, it’s a good job I don’t usually eat the bread bun.


The final experience was at a small shabby looking Chinese restaurant. I didn’t expect much, just standard commercially cooked food. What a surprise it was to eat, excellent well prepared plates of food and all for just £15 for two people. Made up for the two disappointing meals earlier in the week.

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