Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The not so "argh" post afterall...

Yesterday I was frustrated and angry and despairing. I wanted to write a blog post along the lines of AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH and spew rage and cry and laugh hysterically. But today I feel so much better. In fact I have a big smile on my face. Maybe Italy is not so bad after all. Just maybe.

Yesterday I had my appointment at the Comune of Milan to start my residency process. I had waited two months for that appointment and my friend came with me to help translate. Unfortunately she didn't get a chance to do much interpreting as the building was open but nobody was there on account of Italy being a unionised country and all the staff had gone to their union meeting. So it left us with no option but to ring around switchboards for an hour, have Skype let us down repeatedly and then find nobody who knew anything about anything. So I was left with the only option of going this morning at 8.30 which felt like the crack of dawn and braving it out.

Well, we eventually got directed to a woman with an "non-me-ne-frega"* face and before we (yes I know my friend is amazing to get up so early to fight the tyranny of bureaucracy with me) had even opened our mouths I could see the answer was going to be a "no". Just as I was about to get ready to PRETTY PLEASE it a different woman walked by and took pity on our cancelled appointment state and  coaxed her colleague to allow her to help us.

Such a pleasant surprise! She was super nice. She even called me as I was leaving the building to say I had forgotten to photocopy my passport and gave me directions to the nearest photocopy shop and then kept the desk open for us. As we left she blew us kisses goodbye. I am so grateful to her. If she hadn't stepped in it would have been months until the next available appointment.

This afternoon culminated in the same wonderful friend accompanying me to my x-ray. I bought her a coffee afterwards but I think she deserves flowers, cake and several bottles of wine for all her help. It was at a private hospital and the service for me as a state patient was fantastic. There was someone at the entrance just to answer dumb-ass questions about where to go and we paid within 10 mins. In fact my x-ray - which was a chest x-ray, as it turned out  (who knew?)- was over BEFORE my appointment was even due. The service was so efficient that as I stood on the x-ray machine not understanding directions in my "stupid foreigner" way I found my face pushed abruptly into the metal and my arms hoiked for me. It was startling but probably necessary.

Ladies and gentlemen I can proudly announce, that what I had once thought too close to call is actually true. Yes. Italian bureaucracy is better than Belgian! Why, they even have a government here (and only the one!). Post office queues are only 30 mins long as opposed to 50. Regional antipathy is not so great that I am banned from moving to Naples if I so choose. It might take 6 months but I don't have to pay 300 euros to get a piece of paper that says I live here.
And these are all small comforts.

The next time an Italian complains at the post office I will say to them "Yes Italy sucks, but it could be worse. You could be in BELGIUM."

*"I couldn't give a s***".

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Reasons to like February

If I had to pick a least favourite month February would win. I know a lot of people would choose November, but my birthday is in November and so that makes the whole month a lot more bearable. No, it would  have to be February. It's the middle of the brown season and Spring is showing very little sign of ever remembering the world. There are no holidays and this year there isn't even pancake day.

However there are a few reasons why I'm starting to forgive February this year. It has it's own ways of cheering me up. The first is Valentine's day. Any excuse for flowers in the house is surely a good thing and A really excelled himself this year, I am a lucky lady.

I made him a Love Heart card but they don't have the sweets in Italy so he didn't know what it was. FAIL.

Then there is Carnival. My friend had a fancy dress themed birthday party in honour of the carnival season. Here we are. Aren't we magnificent? Can you guess what the theme was?

The birthday girl (centre) won the Oscar, and A was happy as ragioniere Filini, Fantozzi's best mate in many Italian comedies. He came joint third with Napoleon.

Plus Carnival gives you a great excuse to eat deep fried sugary "bugie" which is another mood booster. Until the sugar come-down at least.

Finally, and this is more of a personal reason, February has introduced me to loads of great crafty blogs which are giving me tons of inspiration. I'm creating a little sacher torte box of creative things. Yep, even the playing cards have come to fruition.

Bird Power! May my Eagle Owl bring you wisdom, my Song Thrush bring you creativity, my Blue Tit, intimacy and my Jackdaw, courage until Spring arrives.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Thursday Curse

A and I have been arguing again. We were fully concious that we had a high probability of arguing but somehow we ended up doing it anyway. We even laughed about how we were going to argue. In fact it's a running joke now that we will end up having a spat on Thursday.

A came in triumphantly one evening after having read a piece of research that said that 8 pm Thursday evening  is the worst time for couples' arguments. For us, actually, the time of the argument will be somewhere between 9-10pm. However we felt that was insignificant given that we don't get back from work until past 8.

So what is it about Thursday that makes it so uniquely favourable to bad moods and bickering? Well, I put it down to the confluence of the constellation of Thursday teens and the planet "Annozero," ruling planet of televised fervent political debate.

My sweet colleague cackles with glee as she wishes me "Happy Thursday!", (schadenfreude is not only for the Germans), partially because I like Wednesdays and she doesn't, and partially because the look of doom on my face must be amusing. While I don't find Thursdays as odious as I did at the beginning of the year, I still couldn't say that I bounce into work with as much enthusiasm as I would like. 

I normally come home feeling a bit frazzled and in need of hot tea and relaxation, which is why it is probably very unfortunate that it coincides with A's favourite programme of the week, which equally unfortunately stresses me out. Every week they discuss Berlusconi and every week there is a lot of incomprehensible shouting, angry music and futile debate. People are invited because they are either really pro Mr B and prepared to say on national TV they would send their own daughters to one of his parties, or they are anti-Berlusconi, but can't be heard because the others are shouting so much, or they are communists and anarchists making provocative statements for the hell of it.

I can't follow the show, because of the cacophony of voices, but it's got vibes of Jeremy Kyle meets Jeremy Paxman. To add insult to my injured ears, A insists I happily sit next to him while he watches this show. (Sorry A, I know you love the show, but if you watch it, I have to be allowed unwind in a different room).

So if you were planning on having an aperitivo Thursday evening or going out for pizza, or even just wanting a chat, let me know, and help us save us from ourselves.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Winter Sun on Sant' Ambrogio

A couple of weeks ago we went out for a trip with the camera to the atmospheric area of Sant' Ambrogio. San't Ambrogio is Milan's patron saint and also the name of a stupendously old church. It dates from the 4th century so its a simple building with a mix of styles from different epochs. One thing hasn't changed though, Sant' Ambrogio hasn't left his church and you can seen him today in all his grisly gory glory.

To get there however we needed a bus and we missed it. This meant we had to walk, but fortunately there were plenty of things well worth looking at. This is the Basilica San Lorenzo from the back. (I think it looks better from the back).

 The two guys on this motorbike were definitely breaking the law, but I don't think it bothered them. They were quite excited to be included in the picture.

 And here we are near Sant' Ambrogio itself. I think it was at this point that I realised the light was too far gone for the pictures I had had in mind.
It was still beautiful though! When we arrived the sun was almost set and the top half of everything was covered in gold.  

We had a look at some of their ancient frescos, the man himself and then went on our way. By the time we hit the January sales it was completely dark but Via Torino was still heaving. We pushed our way through the crowds and I could feel desire for buying things evaporating. Shopping on Saturday in Milan is not for the Milanese. 

Until I saw this really cute navy buttoned skirt that is.