Sunday, 20 May 2012

Too Much Excitement

It's all getting too much, I don't think I can handle this level of excitement any longer. Yesterday I had to watch A watch the penalty shoot out of the Champions League final. Then at four am I was rudely awakened by the shaking of the bed. Once I heard the car alarms going off and the door opening and closing, the shelves rattling and the hangers in the closet jangling I realised we were experiencing an earthquake.

"Amore! C'e' un terremoto! C'e' un terremoto! C'e' un terremoto!" I panted. "I know," was A's calm response. And then it died down again. Once my heart had stopped racing and I had resisted the urge to go online and check the size of the earthquake I went promptly back to sleep. We haven't felt any of the aftershocks in Milan.

I'm starting to feel quite fed up with this whole earthquake business, after the few we had back in January, the novelty is really starting to wear off. They've been very similar. A remarkably rhythmic shaking accompanied by rhythmic shaking noises, and I don't really want to find out what it feels like any stronger.

But what's keeping my heart rate raised even more than earthquakes, is the prospect of Eurovision.

I've been doing my research on the site and I've come up with a list of songs to watch.

We've got France with quite a modern number, but it's up against quite a similar and catchier number  and favourite from Sweden. The second favourite with the bookies is the Russian novelty act, but quite frankly I hope that's just people betting with a sense of humour.

Other songs that I hope very much won't win Eurovision are the Austrian entry (is it ironic or not?), Montenegro (is that Borat's cousin?) and the dire facebook song from San Marino (how is she going to sing this live?). It wouldn't be Eurovision without them but all the same.

You can never pick a winner. I've never been able to at least. But countries to tend to win with votes from all over Europe and a wide margin, so theoretically it seems like it should be possible.

My favourites since you ask are the soft and sweet 'Love will set you free' by the UK and big and bold 'L'amore e' una femmina' by Italy (of course). I fear that Serbia's entry might be a little too close for comfort to the UK's which might be a disadvantage given that we are the first song on, but the chances of it winning were slim anyway!

I'd like Italy to win, but I'm not sure they'd appreciate it. The population here needs educating about the joys of Eurovision, and I'm on a one-woman mission to do it. Anyone gonna join me?

Finally I leave you with a link to the Irish entry. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Every girl needs a friendly lawyer (unless she is of course herself a lawyer in which case it's probably still nice)

The battle between me and the Italian bureaucracy generators had been pretty quiet. I think perhaps that someone high up had declared a ceasefire. But signs that all was not quiet on that front began to appear at the end of the last year.

First there was the census. As the "head of the household" (according to the form and very conveniently for A) it was my responsibility to fill it in. What a headache all those bureaucratic terms! At least I could just rough guess the answer though if I wasn't sure. When that was done and sent it off via the post office I though I had done.

But unwittingly I had just made myself also responsible for paying the TV license. Damn. Another few trips to the post office. Through some kind of bad luck my nearest post office also happens to be the most unfriendly and badly managed one I have ever been into. That particular day all of the desks but one were closed (computer says no) and the cleaning lady was insisting on repeatedly cleaning the exact same spots everyone was standing on or sitting over with the dirtiest mop in the world while arguing under her breath with the voices in her head.

The atmosphere was horrendous. The one man behind the desk was breathtakingly abrupt and fed up with everything and the growing queue more so. At one point a random woman came in and started abusing him verbally for being rude on the phone. "Madam, I haven't answered the phone this morning!" didn't seem to deter her, and I started to wonder if the gateway to hell had shifted from that pothole in the centre of Turin to the south of Milan. 

On the previous trip I managed to get stuck in the queue behind  a man sending 20 boxes to Cuba. Each of which had to go through the system indiviually and required 5 mins computing time for each. Sigh.

Then I finished doing my tax return (an hour or two's headache to complete) and dropped it off at a random underground office staffed by only old people wearing tattered jeans and T-shirts (which doesn't bode well in Italy). The man said unhelpful things like, "I'm not sure you've filled in the right form," and, "Ok I'll call you." to which I replied, "Shall I take a seat outside then?" and he said "no, no I'll ring you." What? Why? Nevermind. Let's get out of here I need to get to work anyway.

Can't help but feel it needs some colour or something.

Then my bank card stopped working. I've been into the bank four times in person and rung them at least 10 times, for what must surely be a routine problem. Three weeks without money was getting ridiculous so this morning I took my lawyer with me. It was a very good idea, because he whispered helpful suggestions in my ear like "ask for her business card," (Bank clerks have their own business cards in Italy?!) and "if they won't do it there an then get it in writing that they will do it by tomorrow".  

Is the end in sight? Too early to tell. But I have learnt something. Nothing works like in the UK. Oh it works alright, but just not in the way you expect. You just need to ask everybody to do all the details you would expect them to do automatically. The downside to this is that it is only useful if you know in advance the ins and outs of everybody's jobs.

Feel I have enough material to write a book about getting stuff done in Italy now, or at least a very long hysterical laugh. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

What to do with a wet weekend?

What to do on a really rainy long weekend? Lake Como is always atmospheric. Staying at home and baking muffins is always gratifying.
Paint a rainy picture?

I chose this photo of Eilan Donan that I took last August. It looked paintable and I've been wanting to paint a big sky for some time.

The first sketch went well so I thought that that was a good sign. Good drawing days sometimes lead to good painting days.

And then I thought I'd take a picture of my 'studio' which was the only place with quality light in the flat.

Promising. I often paint skies too dark, so I thought I'd start with the sky this time and make everything else darker.

It seemed to be balanced enough.

And there it is finished. I don't think the photo does it justice because you can't really see how big it is but I'm pretty pleased. Not bad for 1 and a half hour's work.