venerdì 31 ottobre 2008

Seeing Red

This blog is not usually a place for highbrow political or cultural musings, as any regular reader will know, but having spent the best part of a week imprisoned under a blanket with just the TV and internet for company while Luca earned our daily bread, I have stumbled across some interesting reading. And by interesting I mean completely and utterly terrifying.
So, we are in crisi. Economic slowdown, recession, call it what you will – in short, the world is changing, and when the world starts to change, so do its inhabitants.
I’m not going to go into the whole Obama / McCain saga – mostly because I’m not American and so am following it with only one ear – although I appreciate that, like it or not, what happens in the US does tend to have an impact on what happens to the rest of us. I don’t like to be known as ‘the rest of us’ either, but there we go.
The issue is this: Italy is a pretty messed-up country when it comes to politics. 61 governments in 63 years, Fascist brigades terrorising the population until as recently as the 1990s, and Benito Mussiolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra - former glamour model / singer / actress – a prominent member of Berlusconi’s current right-wing governing coalition. Even more worrying than this, however, is the current level of tension between the authorities and the man in the street, or rather the student in the street, with demonstrations and marches in protest at recent education reforms having paralysed the country for the past few days. Whilst it is easy to write off such events as young people taking the opportunity to cause trouble and skip class with the excuse of taking an interest in political reform, I was reminded by Alex of, that this is exactly the way that real revolutions start, and judging by its social and political history, Italy is a prime candidate. As Alex points out, former Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga appears to be adamant that Italy is returning to the era of the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) – in other words, left-wing extremist terrorism, born out of the reaction to hardline right-wing policy in an already unstable political climate. Just last year a number of supposed ‘militants’ were arrested in Padova and a quantity of explosives uncovered and linked to bomb plots against national newspapers and one of Berlusconi’s luxury villas. The employment situation in Italy today is, quite frankly, dire. Aside from a 6% unemployment rate (roughly the same as the UK and US as far as I know), there is the even more discouraging reality of a working world which doesn’t support its employees, offering short-term contracts, low wages and poorly-paid ‘work experience’ which have all but replaced the ‘steady job’. High taxes, low wages, poor services, no job security, rising inflation and economic slowdown are not just interesting subjects for expat blog readers. The fact is that we are facing a winter of discontent, which some believe could bring with it a new era of extremism. Let’s hope for all our sakes that it doesn’t come to that.

giovedì 30 ottobre 2008


This post comes to you from a fuzzy-headed sick person, curled up on the sofa with a duvet and SATC re-runs on Comedy Central. It’s that time of year again, except that it feels like about 5 minutes since the last time it was that time of year….
Having moved house recently, I have had to go through the pain-staking task (even more painful than my tonsils) of registering with a new doctor and managing a rather bitchy email conversation with the HR department at work. One of the very many bureaucratic hoops that needs to be jumped through in order for daily life to go on in many Italian companies involves an obligatory sick-note for even a single day of illness. This is a pain in the ass if you have, say, a headache, or you ate a bad shrimp, as even if you don’t need medical attention you are required to drag yourself to the doctor’s office and wait in line just to get a note. As I’ve probably mentioned on this blog before, doctors in Italy don’t have receptionists or secretaries and don’t work in surgeries, so the doctor’s office is literally just that. If you call you often don’t get an answer as it is the – always busy - doctor himself who mans the phone and in many cases (as with mine) there is no appointment system. Your only choice is to turn up and hope - even if all you need is a note because that bad shrimp kept you away from the office for a day….
Then there’s the three day rule. If you’re absent for 3 days or more, you need a special note, a copy of which you are obliged to post to the National Insurance office ON THE SECOND DAY of your illness. No exceptions. So, imagine that bad shrimp has you running to the bathroom for 2 days straight. On the first day you have to drag yourself to the doctor’s and hold your stomach while you wait in line with a room full of old ladies, and on day two you have to do the same at the nearest Post Office. If you live in a small village like me, you’ll probably have the same group of old ladies for company on both days. Arriving in the waiting room yesterday evening 15 minutes before the doctor herself was due to arrive, I opened the door to be greeted by 8 pairs of elderly eyes, including my next door neighbour. Seeing me enter, she looked delighted that she would be the bringer of good gossip, enquiring sweetly “Anche Lei sta male?” “Are you ill too?”. I exchanged the usual Italian pleasantries with her and the others, before taking my seat and leaving them to natter away in dialect about the weather, feeling quite relieved that I couldn’t take part even if I wanted to as Pavian dialect is a total mystery to me. Half an hour later the doctor still hadn’t arrived and the smell of unwashed old person was starting to make me feel nauseous, so I gave up and went back to my sofa. I discovered today that I am a day late in sending the medical certificate to INPS, which apparently means the end of the world is nigh. My fault entirely of course, for not jumping through those hoops….

venerdì 24 ottobre 2008

The Big One

Somebody won 100.000.000 euros on the Italian lottery last night. Yes, you read it right. One hundred million euros. The ticket was purchased in a bar on the outskirts of Catania, Sicily, and my first thought was “I hope the lucky winner wasn’t Mafioso…”. That gives you an idea of just how many Mafiosi there are in Catania.
The second prize ticket – with winnings coming in at just under four million – was sold by a newsagent in the centre of Milan. God dammit I knew I should never have moved out of the city…..
The question on everyone’s lips is: Was it rigged? This is the largest amount of money ever given away in the Italian lottery and the hype surrounding it has reached epic proportions over the past few weeks. They apparently announced that they wouldn’t allow for the jackpot to go any further, and should the numbers not have come up last night (it’s been 6 months since anyone picked up the jackpot), they would have divided it into smaller prizes. And what d’ya know?? Somebody won! I have also been informed (by not so much of a reliable source, but who cares?) that they didn’t televise last night’s extraction as they usually do, so nobody physically witnessed the winning numbers as they came up. Hmmmm.
I’m not usually the gambling sort, nor am I one of those sheep-like people who jump on the nearest bandwagon just because everyone else does, but given that sooooo much money was involved, I felt a strange need to participate. I have to admit that I have bought three lottery tickets in the past couple of weeks and have not even so much as won back my investment (there are 90 numbers to choose from– an impossibility if you think about it)…
What does a person do with 100.000.000 euros? I can barely even imagine it, but I expect I would feel out of control, simply for the fact that I would need to put my life in someone else’s hands and I’m never comfortable doing that. Who would I trust to give me good advice? How would I invest it and in what? How much would I give to charity / family / friends and what / who would they be? And the Big One: Would I give half to Luca? Ha! That question has already come up in our house, as has the one about when you get married and have to chose whether or not to merge or separate your assets. The answer?
Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it…..

mercoledì 22 ottobre 2008

What's going on?

Did my pornographic picture bring out the blog police? Is anyone else not seeing it anymore? Do they realise I got it from a national newspaper?
Curiouser and curiouser.....

venerdì 17 ottobre 2008


I thought I would cross the blog picket line just long enough to post this picture, which I found on the front page of the online Corriere - the electronic version of one of Italy's most 'serious' daily newspapers. Yet another example of the naked female ass culture in this delightful country, the picture accompanied the headline on a story about the relaxation of public indecency laws in the UK. It's also a perfect example of how they wouldn't know the meaning of the phrase 'public indecency' here in Italy. I ask myself how many hours of work the journalist responsible for this piece was forced to dedicate to trawling porn sites for an ‘appropriate’ photographic demonstration of his story. Time well spent, I’m sure….
As for the ‘please have sex wherever and whenever you choose’ attitude of my compatriot law enforcers, I can’t help but think that this is just another example of the moral slippery slope. I’m sure the police force would claim that they have better things to do than stroll through parks telling people to pull up their pants, but the fact of the matter is that rules are rules and the police being told by their superiors to ‘turn a blind eye’ sends out mixed messages to a nation already in moral turmoil. Call me a prude if you like, but I have always been a member of the “get a room” brigade, and probably always will be. My least favourite thing in the entire universe is a lack of respect for others. People behaving in ways that negate the existence of others is a perfect example of this, and having sex in public comes into this category for me. Just like wreckless driving, queue-jumping and people at the council who don't pick up the phone – all well-worn subjects if you read this blog with any sort of regularity….
So, my rant for the week over, I am now going to drag my (well-covered) ass through the last couple of hours of the working week before negotiating the Friday night, queue-jumping, wreckless drivers on the ring-road. Hopefully I won’t come across any public acts of indecency on the way…

giovedì 16 ottobre 2008

Strike it not so lucky (part two)

Tomorrow there's yet another General Strike:

Fire-fighters (!)
Healthcare workers
State workers

So, this post leaves you with a book recommendation to be getting on with (literally a bit behind The Times but worth it if you've not got around to reading it yet) whilst I sit on the blog picket line in protest over the lack of transport and public services.

Happy Friday everyone!!!

venerdì 10 ottobre 2008

Watch and learn

I stole this video from Jessica at Too Tall for Italy, simply because it involves two of my favourite love / hate things…. Italy and Jeremy Clarkson.
Watch and learn from the 8 minute point onwards….