Tuesday, 10 February 2009

7th February

Moved on back to Rais Gerbi for two nights prior to catching the Ferry from Palermo to Genoa.

I will finish off my two paintings as I seem to arrived back in to a rain zone.

They do seem to have had some storms here as a tree blew down on the day I left and crushed one end of the cabin I was staying in for the last thre weeks [have photo].

Sorry this is such a short dull blog but computer still not right and have of this blog just disappeared when i spell checked it!

5th February 2009

Moved on to Catania a city the size of Bristol. I did not realise it but 12% of Italys population lives in Sicily and when you see a dot on a map here it isn't a village as in UK it is usually a vast town of some considerable size.

Weather still very hot so walked into Catania had lunch, wandered for hours - actually found a shop that sends birthday cards - a rarity here as the dont seem to send cards to each other it is deemed impersonal and you must visit to pay your respects.

Had to walk back another hour in the blazing heat as you have to buy a ticket prior to boarding the bus (which is nigh on impossible!) I found one shop that said he did, but on enquiring he said they were sold from a vending machine two minutes up the road - which they weren't, and no bus passed me in that time as it was siesta time.

Just lazed in the sun or sat on the rocks watching the fishermen just offshore to hot to do anything else apart from reading my book.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

February 2nd 2009

This is my last night in Punta Brachetto, tomorrow I leave for Syracuse for two nights 3/4th then move onto Catania where I will stay until the morning of the 9th when I will leave Palermo by ferry to Genoa.

As to my pictures when the weather inproves I'll photograph them and put them on here.

After Genoa - dependant on the weather I'll either dash for home via Vihiers in the Loire and pop in and see Steven and Jill at Ville Dieu - Les Poeles or trundle [ I'm good at trundling] via Monte Carlo, Nice, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Brittany etc

If its crap then I will catch the ferry from St Malo to Weymouth which will pay for itself and knock 8oo miles off my journey, which fuel wise will pay for the ticket cost and save hotel bills as there are no camp sites open at this time of year.

If I do this though it will mean I will miss out on seeing Pat and Keith in Dover and Elly and Mr Crusty at Church Crookham so we'll see.

All the best wishes for freezing snowbound weather beaten England. When I say cold here I mean like now as I'm having to change my shorts and tee for trousers and tee. The problems I have you wouldn't believe.

Grover and Laurence

Friday, 30 January 2009

29th January 2009

Up early and the on the dot, I cant sit in their customer suite as they have an inspection by People from Volkswagen proper so they take into their shopping mall in Ragusaat at 9.15 and are picking me up at 12.15.

It's modern and tiny and Glasgow shopping centre or Bristol mall it aint.

It's tiny as I said and I walk round it and window shop in twenty minutes flat. The town centre is miles away so I switch off, drink coffee, window shop till I'm going mental and it's finally time.

The van is ready, cleaned and away I go. I can't go to the supermarket as its siesta time till four, so home I go to write this blog.

I'm staying here till next Tuesday 3rd then moving on to Syracusa, then Catania and Taormina and round to Finale and Rais Gerbi again then Palermo to catch my Ferry to Genoa on Saturday 7th. I will arrive in Genoa on Sunday am, providing we do not sink on the way [I will not struggle if we do, I shall allow myself to succombe to the waves the perfect end to a what?] An adventure? It's been more like day to day living, and of course life is the nearest you get to near death experience.

Tomorrow I've got to ring Barclays for an error on my Business account apparently. Also book my Ferry ticket to Genoa, which is something Ronnie Mckay couldn't understand either.

The van and I to Palermo to Genoa is 74 Euros [no accomodation included which is compulsory - so you are offered a Pullman armchair for an additional 1 Euro ergo total should be Euros 75 ? no??

breakdown as follows
Seat 1 Euro
van 39 Euros
Lowest quote 74 Euros
Taxes 57 Euros
Total 171 Euros

Previously it was
Van 39 Euros
taxes and supplements 35 Euros
total 74 Euros

Trust me I've checked, and they say it's right but how? This seems to be creative accounting at its very very best. My problem is I like to understand, and I don't
They'll just shrug and I'll pay .


28th January 2009

I really dont know where I am with this weeks blog after last weeks bash on the rear window by Helmut - other than to say that unbelievably, my computer, which is just 3 months old, blew up whilst i was sat quietly playing chess [and losing]. It just froze. I tried everything, spoke to friends in the UK to assist to no avail. I have to take it to Vittorria 30 miles away.

The hard drive has gone.

It takes 48 hours to repair and is about 10 years out of date software wise, but I can email etc. I will be asking Dell to reinstate to its former state with a new hard drive etc when I get back or else it's the small claims court for them.

It has been torrential rain all week and with the computer totally *anked plus the glass if I drive the Van trying to drop out, I've stayed in and have painted two more pictures - one good one rubbish.

I had heard from the garage about my window glass so I drive there - miraculously it's been there since Monday, but they were going to call! yea right, so I arrange for tomorrow 8.30 am.

The whole site went to the local Pizza parlour, the pizza arrived one or two at a time to be shared by 40 people and he never caught up [lack of preparation - he was still making the bases when we arrived!] the wine was acceptable, initially served in jugs but on the second round it changed to an inferior crap which they had spiced to hide the taste! It tasted like a weak Gluwein and nobody drank it, so he says you will have a schnapps on me.

The Germans are happy till he actually gives then Grappa, and a poor one at that. The room is cold and he charges us 8 euros a head. Why do they do that? do they think we are so unsophisticated we wont notice?

No its like everything in Italy it's for his benefit and not his customers, he couldnt be arsed to do it properly. Never the less we had a good rapore going between us three Brits and 37 Germans. I more than held my own and we spent the time misunderstanding each others words and translations, it was funnier than it sounds.

He stood at the door as we left and asked me if I enjoyed my evening, I said the company was good but the food and wine were Merda and a lot of others just walked past him - its a shame really with little effort he could have made it great there was no other food or salad offered just the same Pizza and no choice offered either.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

This past week


The week starts with such promise - glorious sun, calm sea a perfect windless day. I even met a lady who draws beautifully but can't paint, can I help? Very pleasant day had by all.

Her husband kept me supplied with wine. Returned after lunch to paint yet another masterpiece but its not right. Perhaps I will take up modern art then everything I paint that goes wrong will sell for a fortune. I think it may be the wine, so off to beach sleep and awake just as the sunset descends beautiful. Make a spag boll make my own sauce eat too much go to bed.

Similar day to yesterday sleep in to awake to glorious sunshine, but before I can get showered, breakfasted and into shorts and tee the heavens open up from nowhere and it rains and rains so much in the night I cannot get to sleep and if there is one thing I can do well in the world it's sleep

This is not the romantic travel ideal I had in mind! Since I left Blighty in November I've had 5 sunny days in Sicily and that's it. The money I've spent I could have had a month in Barbados all inclusive, But then that's me - not happy unless I'm suffering.

Had I been closer to home I would have returned, but I would have as the song says felt cheated and defeated and I don't like to be beaten. We all know as well of course that the minute I book my ferry ticket back to Genoa from Palermo, Its going to sun like Buggery! All the people on this site come here every year and say this is the worst year they can remember. Get depressed, play chess and win get fed up go to bed.


Awake to torrential rain and decide to be 100% positive today, so I get showered ahve a shave and put on some clean clothes. Make breakfast, make bed. clean Bungalow
Ring Barclays bank in UK. Sort out £490 overcharge on my Broadband account,
Ring Doctors require Medical Statement from Doctor for Pension Fund confirm by e mail.

Ring Bridgwater Housing Association need to find accommodation for when I return as now officially homeless as James has given up the Tenancy of the house he rented and is moving into his new home he is buying with his girlfriend Sarah.vSo if an old tired looking tramp turns up at your door, be kind it might be me.

Still raining. It's 10.30am, I've done all the above and the day goes well. Make coffee, No gas it has run out find site Handyman He replaces cylinder.

Go to wash up the cup, plate etc no hot water find handyman air block I help him find it flush it through job done!

11.30am following resolve to be positive despite the last two glitches I clear table and spread out my painting wares.

There is an almighty bang so I look out of the window and yes some total Deutsch nobber called Helmut (and he is a total Helmut) has backed his motor home into mine broken the heated rear black window glass and dented the door pillar, fortunately not the door.

I am for once in my life speechless He is very apologetic und ist werry zorry. I explain I am not a Happy Bunny and tell him we must go to a Volkswagen Dealer to get an estimate and fill in Insurance forms. He does not like the word insurance, I can see why later when return to the campsite, he backs in to a Bollard and tree.

Its 40 miles away, oddly he had just come back from there having had a problem with his own van, when he hit The Black Pig Its 200 euros for the rear door glass and 250 for the paint work.

He pays for the glass and its being fitted next Tuesday and the paintwork he gave me cash and I will get it repaired when I come home.

I am with him all afternoon and we get on famously, I explain next time he wants to make friends just knock on the door as backing into someones van is an unnecessary and unfortunate way to get acquainted.

Get home lock door, pull curtains its only 5 o' clock the day is young plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong yet!

The site owner owns a house opposite here 30 feet away which as she explained has a faulty alarm system that goes of all the time its raining she explains when I gently complain "Its always doing it It keeps me awake too"

Always? says I, "yes for ages - I must get it fixed" she says. Apparently it was like that last year my fellow campers explain, The Italians have a word for it it is Domani which translates as;

"Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow."

Well its ringing now and she has gone to Amsterdam and Laurence is going across the road the the house to wrench it off the wall [Storm Damage] as its still peeing down

Hi De Hi Campers

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sunday 18th January

I'm updating this blog outside in the sun (looking for sunstroke) just chilling as James would say and I thought, would I do this blog again?.

Yes and no. No because had the weather and the usual man flu things had been better I would have been too busy but it has rained, so I have and also as the internet is so slow here I've had to email it to Elly for her to load onto my blog other wise it takes 20 mins just to do a couple of photos and 2 pages and costs a fortune in charges, Many thanks to her.

Yes, because I've always enjoyed writing (Xmas thank you letters were never a problem when I was a child) except one time when I was in primary School in Edinburgh and they introduced us to Essays and Composition (school was harder then, especially in Scotland) and the subject of the essay was "describe A Day in the Life of a Monkey" well I sat there and then I burst out crying and when asked why I said I did not know what to write as I had never been a Monkey.

On that note I will leave you ...

Note from Elly - You love to write, but I do wish you would also remember some of the grammatical lessons that Grover taught you the other week!!!

Oh and I also added in some more of the photos you sent - if you scroll down to Xmas and New year you will see them!

Saturday 17th January

Awake and all is well and with a flourish and a following wind I explore site and my bungalow and beach and its wonderful.

The sun is blazing down and I'm in a positive mood (I know it's not like me but you have to try or at least pretend!)

I start a new painting which I stick to all day even though its going pear shaped but I need to do something constructive with my day so persevere still not happy but its a start.

Went paddling today, I was going to go for a swim until I met this women and her husband from Minehead staying here. She said a woman had died two weeks ago whilst swimming here, so I wait until I'm a bit more positive frame of mind and then I'll go.

Then again, I might not.

Friday 16th January

My eyes are still sore and puffy (what would my beautician think?) and my kidneys feel like two rocks but am now walking wounded so great improvement!

Obviously it was the prawns and funghi so I shall be writing to that nice man and explaining that I wont be sending his money on as I have spent it on Immodium which didn't work in my case, but its usually does the trick. Anyway have had enough rearguard action time to look forward.

I can only blame myself for this predicament. I have only basically two hard and fast rules in this world

1. Never buy anything from the French (Axa and Societe Generale in my case)
2. Never eat shellfish (A friend died in 1960's through eating Lobster in a Bristol Restaurant)

All the lovely shopping I had done on Sunday had all spoiled so had to clean van [fumigate] but that tires me out so off to bed at 4pm.

Thursday 15th January

Wake for first time at noon go to loo. Shower and look outside.

The people on site have been very kind and they got me some fruit and 6 litres of fruit juices, I was so dehydrated I drank all of that and 2 litres of water [boiled] and still didn't need a pee!

I had no strength and could not even unscrew the orange juice carton top and ring pull by myself. I thought it was Wednesday so I stayed up for an hour still tired and don't wake up till next day.

Tuesday 13th

Of to a site called Scarabeo at Punta Braccetto which is as near to Africa as you can get from here without swimming. Its only 150 km but it takes me nearly 5 hours but I make it.

Feel awful, so I booked into a site and explain my problem. He can see I am unwell. I rent a bungalow and go to bed.

Monday 12th January

Rain is still pouring down and fog on hills. Reminds of the Woolacombe area of Devon, rolling hills to the sea. If it had not been for the lemon trees to my left or the vineyards in front it might well be Dying for a cup of coffee as no breakfast find a motorway petrol station no mean feat in Sicily they are mostly tucked away in villages a bit like 1950's Britain and drink coffee.

I am immediately ill both ends. However I press on but my eyes are sore and glasses don't work. I should have recognised the initial symptoms of food poisoning but didn't of course. I've still got a 110 km to go, but it takes me hours with very frequent stops and blurred vision. I eventually arrived at my destination to find it's yet another crap site and the bloke in charge there is drunk and of course has a strong Sicilian dialect.

If there is one word in Italian I know its sedici (its on the back of every imported car in the UK that my old company imported as in Sedici Valvole) Well it took ages for me to understand what he meant but eventually I paid in advance, not normal here and off he scuttles presumably to the bar with my lire.

He actually looked like a scruffy version of Ronnie Shanks Dad, but that's another story. It's getting dark so I go to bed, but as soon as I lie down I'm violently ill.

So I end up spending all evening and most of night in the toilet block until 4am when the storm that rages wakes me up, and as I do so - the electric goes and so does my heated toilet block. So I take a shower in cold water, dress and make my way back to The Black Pig, a journey of 150 yards but I don't make it, I pass out under a tree and wake up when its light.

Have to shower again in cold water [ never been so clean] Don't want to stay here so decide to push on yo my next stop I shouldn't do it really as its a long drive but this place is so depressing.

Sunday 11th January

Left Palermo on Sunday, nothing to report other than pleased to do so. On my way Selinunte where the Temples are. Visited Trapani a lovely old Sea port ancienne and Erich, more Temples!

Had lunch in Trapani on the beach. Bread cheese salad [I cooked] and proceeded on my merry way to Marsala where the fine Sherry and wine is made.

I don't know what I expected. I think in my minds eye I had this vision of an Italian version of a French Châteaux Vineyard, rolling fields, a tasting session or two perhaps, you know something you find in the Bordeaux region. But alas no.

What I found was a vast urban sprawl to the horizon in all directions across the huge salt flats [the other regional product] which I could see from up high as you approach Marsala. I couldn't face that after Palermo, so I turned Silver around and Tonto [Grover] and I beat a hasty retreat.

The first open site I visited was Camping Maggiolino. I don't what it means but if I had to guess I say it was a Proctologists dream site. It is an Agri tourist site supposedly the Italian equivalent of the French Passion free camping scheme, well it was so bad I couldn't move for disbelief that anyone should choose to stay there!

Fortunately no one was about, so once again Tonto and I beat a hasty retreat to another down the road which was lovely. It had a nice restaurant (which was open!) the site was clean and it was 100 yards from the Temples.

In my Best Italian I asked to camp for the night, with electric on a pitch for a motor home for one night and was the restaurant really open? He was listening intently and I thought I've got to say that all over again, but he smiled and said
"Parts of your grammar are a bit slack but despite that you can stay!"

He had lived in England working as a waiter to learn English many years ago. I sat there for half an hour chatting with him and we got on really well. Off to set up camp shower, shave etc then sleep till eight then dinner - what a life.

Beautiful meal, Prawns and funghi with spaghetti proceeded with a lovely anti pasto and the start of a litre of the local vino rosso - a bargain at 19 euros.

Awake early and of to the temples its Monday and they are chuiso but i notice the bar is open. whatever else happens in Italy the Bars are always Aperto yet there seems not to be a drinking culture as in UK.

There was one problem however, some absolute nobber had left their Passport in Palermo - I blame Grover as it's his job to look after me and his specific task to look after the Passport but he's not having that so we agree to disagree on that one.

Even then my host took charge and rang my Hotel in Palermo and got them to send a copy of my passport to him. You cannot stay overnight in Italy without producing your passport and lodging it at reception, why? because the Carabinieri say so.

Sod European regulations and travel free restrictions were Italian. Realised I had not paid him, so I went back but house was locked, the site empty and no post box and its raining buckets, so will post it to him from my next stop.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Saturday 10th January

Gave Palermo another go today thought perhaps i was to harsh yesterday. No I wasn't end of story did take some snaps of the Cathedral. It's a Mixture of Norman and Arabic styles which is self evident really but oddly enough it works both as a combined style and as a building and sits very comfortably with itself.

Ive had to give up a cheese I was buying it was called Bergmans it's like a fiery Danish blue and since I've stopped eating it my dreams have returned to normal [ which in some respects is a pity] The dreams were in full living colour almost physcadelic beats Magic mushrooms every time.Anyway this dream ;

I was arriving at a Beach House in Sydney right on the Harbour Waterfront These Beach Houses are a typical Aussie understatement, in they are big enough to keep 4 full time garden contractors like the group next door to the house we were staying at. We pulled outside everybody else goes inside I'm last out as usual and i get out of the drivers seat and watch these 4 guys in orange and gold lame obviously The Gay Gardiners suddenly go into a choregraphed set piece a cross between disco and Wilson Keppel and Betty So I sidle over and say "can I join ya mates " Bugger Off Mate were doing this for the client " How do you no I'm not the client" they click my accent and say nothing so I join um and here we are in the Sydney Sunshine dancing away them in their orange and Black gaywear and me in 3/4 voluminous Beach shorts a tee shirt and jesus sandals.

When the dance finished and i was well into my disco combo stride by then the say are you the client I say no mates and they seemed a bit peeved as gays do sometimes but asked if i liked their special show I said it was fantastic guys and we all dissolve into laughter.Nobody else in my party had seen it so when we came out the house two hours later I wandered over to say cheers mates when they pointed at James and I said that's the client .So up starts the same dance again I join in and i get into my steps faultlessly [well it is a dream] and completed my act everyone in my part was amazed everybody clapped and cheered and i wake up absolutely hysterical with laughter and crying tears with tit all

Off to Trapani and on to Marsala where the fine sherry / wine comes from. The beaches are open round there so when I've had enough I'll sleep in a beach area for the night then find a sight at Agrigento to park up for 4 days and paint yet another Masterpiece yet again!

Palermo Cathedral:

Main road into Palermo, My hotel is the white building behind the tree. As to the rubbish, the whole street is like this:

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Palermo - I should have stayed away!

Well here we are in Palermo . I think I should have taken the advice in my Europe on a Shoestring guide when it says that if you are in Sicily visit Syracuse, Taorimina and Agrigento and forget the rest especially Palermo.

But of course your intrepid explorer and male neither of whom listen very much [especially as that part of the guide was written by a woman] did not heed this warning and although having survived the day has returned to The Hotel D ' Amato an oasis of culture in a sea of effluent has locked himself in his room with a bag of oranges [eight actually], to avoid the evening meal here and "The Assassines Without".

This is actually a very nice hotel, unfortunately landlocked in an area Rambo would not emerge into as twilight falls. I was back in my room by three and asleep by five past overcome by the emotion of my day and by the fact to fit in with the locals I had to wear a winter coat whilst the sun blazed down. Had I not of course done so and dressed in shorts, sandals and tee as the weather demanded I would immediately became suspect either a] A tourist and mugged accordingly [bit like Glasgow but without the sun] always nice to be mugged in the sun the pavement being that much warmer when you come round or b] Gay as I shuffled around in my open toed sandals etc, both of which would have attracted the wrong sort of attention in either case.

Not desirable in Palermo where they have a Murder a day, Had this place not been so full of Good Catholics they would have run out of victims years ago .Anyway I dressed the part wandered round Palermo and realized I should have taken the Writers word and avoided it the like plague.

I have been trying for an hour or so to write about Palermo in some sort of a positive light and also not give you dear readers the impression I'm one of Wogan's Grumpy old Men. Or Victor Meldrew reborn although he is very dear to my heart. I actually in life see myself as a cross between him and Homer Simpson whom I see as a counterbalance to the Victor side of me as Homer is just so positive about life. Don't you just agree?

I walked in to the city from here which took an hour in my winter coat so by the time I got to the SNAV Ferry Terminali in the docks area to enquire about prices,departures etc i was ready to kill. I know what it will be i mused Chuiso for lunch, Chuiso on Fridays, Chuiso Generali or being an in area of foreign visitors no one will speak english. The first and second SNAV booking offices I was sent to were closed permanently but clearly signposted. On arrival were clearly closed. Whilst rattling the door [unnecessarily, just in anger] I was directed to the new offices not signposted yet as they were new buildings. On arrival they were clearly new buildings [about a year ago]. why did the not take old signs down or re use them. I transgress as ever.

I entered a vast building reiniscent of the huge labour exchanges they built after the war in our Victorian best brick style with small doorways and upon entering you find yourself in a huge high single vast room with two adjacent numpty's sat behind a glass screen. Like Disneyland I had to follow this immense queuing snake falling back on myself ever 45 feet or so. There was no way round it so i carried on through no one else in the buiding just me and this snake and of course the two numptys.

I reached the girl first who was doing her nails so I moved on to the other who spoke good English. I scolded my self for being negative and made my request which was to obtain the departure times, cost and obtain an brochure on there services. Certainly sir he says when did you want to go? February 7th says I. AH! says he. I cannot do that he says, why not? says I, because we close off this booking period on January 20th and we cannot quote you for a date past then. How about the cost? we cannot give you a price for that either until after Jan 20th - Brochure? Our new Spring brochure will be here soon but we have none at the moment. Well that's just F***ing Magic says I. He laughs He translates she laughs I laugh and exit stage left ala Brian Rix.

When I get back here straight on the internet price immediately available for Feb 7th at £233. same as the euro which is just a well as I don't have euro key on my laptop but I do have dollar sign.Must e mail Dell, they're based in Ireland using euros how do they manage? without a euro key how about Europe?

So I continued my deliberations through town seen some Churches some they want you to pay for entering but I'm wise to that one so I say loudly and fast in Scottish that I wish to pray,Always works Have a coffee ask for Cafe American Nero as usual. Perhaps its the Nero bit that throws them because a Cafe Americano is a long black coffee [long?] and I shouldn't need to say Nero but they also ask me if i want milk? Also i do ask for acqua frddo additional hot water to weaken the strength but almost always get acqua caldi.

Perhaps it's not only men that don't listen surely not? Find world famous cake shop Spinnatos wander in vast selection fantastic choice too beautiful to eat Cake shops likke these were common after the war but are fast disappearing worldwide for obvious reasonsVisit main shopping ares of town not impressed one or two shops like you would see in Bristol but the rest well anywere in Italy poky little one man bands gloomy and grubby.

That's what's wrong with Palermo, it has no heart it has definitely no soul. All its ancient buildings are in need or serious repair or boarded up usually both and the land around festooned with parked cars Evev the Churches although internally are perfection externally they are crumbling.

In the Old Market area are Shambles type alleyways and high medieval housing stretching for miles just as they would have been centuries ago except cars are parked everywhere, pollution is causing the miles of ancient paving to break up and the houses are full of Palermos poorest people you don't have to ask, the washing is out of the window and the clothing including the bedsheets are patched and repaired.

The streets are narrow and full of cars the place reeks of disharmony with its surroundings, its just dying on its feet. There are packs of dogs running the streets nobody notices, they're not threatening so nobody cares. There is dog shit everywhere. There is no door to door rubbish collection here, the same as in the rest of Italy, but apart from the main shopping area the rest of the streets are covered in rubbish from overflowing wheelie bins the Italians use for rubbish collection but when they are emptied apparently the dustmen do not pick up the rubbish from around them so the rubbish grows.

Dogs rip open the bags I watched them and motorist slow down to add more bags of rubbish to the pile as they make no attempt to place it in the bin. Nowhere else in Italy have I seen such filth and squalor in the streets. The narrow streets are choked with fumes so I headed for home.

On my way past the port there were men fishing in the inner harbour you can see and smell the diesel it burns your nose as you pass. You could imagine if they ever caught any fish living in there, wring them out and put the fluid probably neat diesel straight into you car tank. Perhaps that the idea.

I decide to catch a bus. I already know its a 224 from Stazione Centrali as I've done my homework. I have my map and I was going to have lunch, but all the restaurants at lunchtimes seem to be closed and looked grubby locali. The only place was a McDonalds which I avoided - this turned out to be a mistake as I discovered later.

Arriving at the bus Station a misnomer if there ever was one It turns out they park around the Railway Station and when its there turn to go they drive off round the block including my number, I tried to wave down one or two of my number to no avail There are no platforms no advisory signs, no information signs nothing there are no ticket machines, yet I know you must purchase a ticket prior to boarding and frank it as you entrada same as I have don in Milan Rome and Turin a million times its Just so different here perhaps the word should be indifferent [here].

I enter the train station to ask and find that the buses go round the block and all go through a single file loading bay so when your bus pulls up you get on board except the platforms are in the middle of the square and at 2 pm are overflowing on to the surrounding speeding car lane and she says you buy your ticket from the lottery office outside the train station she is pleased to have helped me and she thinks this all normal one dangerous platform for hundreds of people and the lottery office selling bus tickets I thank her.

I go to the lottery office I ask in a good accent for a uno Biglietto per amat I know its 1.20 euros but have no change so I give here 2.20 euros and she short changes me and walks away being British. I am politely trying to attract her attention but the woman next to me sees what has happened and bangs so loudly on the glass I thought it would shatter rabbits way and miracolousy the girl appears and so does my money!

I hate that when they try to short change you it says so much for so little I thank my saviour and she says "English?" and when I say yes she is pleased English she tells people around her they smile and nod.

I get the bus back to my Hotel Its a beautiful old Villa well photographed for the internet otherwise you would not go there. The staff are are nice and friendly but the surrounding area is disgusting will take some photos to show you what your missing. The only drawback is the food. There were only two others in the restaurant when I arrived last night so the food should have been excellent as chef had plenty of time on his hands. But no, my Penne Arriabiatta was cold, as were the plates - what is the point of serving hot food on cold plates so I sent it back but he just microwaved the lot which boiled the thin sauce dry and the main course was small pieces of steak on a plate of salad, except the steak had not been fried fresh and the green beans served with it [tinned as expected at this time of year] were watery and cold and a bit mushy.

I'm not a food snob, you don't get a waistline like mine from being fussy about food but if they cant be arsed, I can be difficult. I didn't send that back I just voted with my feet.

In summary Palermo stinks. I have been to some bad places in my life but this is by far the worst. I think it's Italian Anarchy at its worst combined with a I don't care attitude it is so sad. Am here for another night, I could move but wish to update my blog, sketch a bit and visit Trapani and Monterale up the hills above here.

Sorry to be so negative that's the way it is here, If nothing else you realize how [ I was going to say how fortunate or how lucky we are not to live in such a country but those are not the words] luck has nothing to do with it You have to care about your society and its structure and we obviously and through our efforts we have what we have do otherwise we would live like they do here.

I know that Sicily is very poor and that Palermo is the poorest part. Let me give you an example I watched 1 municipal workman cutting the grass and 6 others unnecessarily clearing up behind him in a area that one man in England would cut on his own in 1.5 hours, and the grass left behind to rot and feed the roots. They are scraping the grass into baskets and walking them over to their truck and emptying them, but talking mostly.

I wouldn't change it - that's their system in a poor country. A man needs a job To get to the truck they have to walk through a pile of debris, mostly paper which occasionally blows onto the grass - so they pick that bit and walk back to their truck then pick up another bit of paper and take that to the truck.

In the UK we would have walked over and picked up all the rubbish and put it in the truck, but that's not their job, that's some other poor sods job so must be protected.

But they will stand there, all 6 of them, waiting for the paper to blow their way, then they would pick it up! The problem is attitude, it works - why change? I've said enough, they are in the main such lovely people, it's a shame to see even a small part of Italy like this.

Perhaps the perfect Italian or human reflection would be the combination of the Swiss with the German efficiency with Italian welcome-ness and French knowingness!

Coastal road to Palermo:

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

We are of course at that time of year when our thoughts usually look to the future and what the new year will bring. Well as you should have realized by now it will bring you nothing you have not worked for yourself, if you don't believe me then do nothing, then wait for poverty to knock on your door, it will be there faster than a butcher's dog.

I waited for years for Sicily to arrive in Somerset it never happened so I went to find it and lo and behold it was there isn't that amazing? I always enthralled my children with little sayings and anecdotes [yes, I can hear them groaning even now] If the mountain won't go to Mohammed Then Mohammed must go to the mountain.
I didn't actually say that it might got em off on the wrong religion. As it happened they have worked out ok in that respect. I have one lapsed catholic [small c you notice] one Atheist and one interested in Spiritualism but too bright to fanny about with it because she can see it's a con. Also you never said words like Mohammed to Katherine as she always wanted an explanation for everything and mentioning Mohammed would have led to hours of explanation, me giving in and the reading of the koran [small k] taking place and her still saying but why? But why? But why? Worse of all she would have had to tell James all about it and I couldn't inflict that on him. She still says "ye but" to everything I say even today What actually I used to say was; Input equals Output.

In other words what you put into life you will get out, I thought it's simple and I can't go wrong here. They have all grown up well, have good jobs and careers and don't work in Tesco, although the discount would have been nice! They are fit and wise [some later than others] and James in a turn up for the books [as once when he worked for me I had to sack him] now employs me, I am so proud to say as his Chipper Monkey a title and occupation I am proud to hold.

I suspect your New Year as mine will be a time for reflection of times and people past. You cannot discern what your future holds neither can you forward plan it, for life is what it becomes. Yes you can have a brain and decide to use it but the bits in between the knocks and setbacks come in random sequence. If you haven't got a brain then no problem. You take it aasit comes.

There is of course one exception to every rule.

I was married to a woman once who used to say "If I was six foot tall I would rule the world - Well she wasn't, so she didn't - except she has a brilliant brain [out of the top 5% in the country Mensa Rated] and with that, and the same height as Napoleon and Genghis Khan she could have ruled it, except she lacked the get up and go required [everybody else had got up and gone] and she studiously applied her brain to avoiding work, whereas had she applied same she could have made her mint and retired early doing exactly what she wanted to do but in comfort. Yet she was clever enough to have been brilliant at anything she chose to be at examples such as Piano and Art spring to mind. That I never understood.

So here we are at the Gate of the Year as my Mother used to say which her favourite short poem [Anon] was as it was hers and is mine.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."

It is a time for reflection, a review of events past, not just in the past year but over our life time and over the lifetime of those that have died but not slipped from our memories. We always talk about the good old days. Well invariably they weren't. What we really mean I feel is that time when all the people who we loved and loved us in return were with us, and that was the good old days when families all lived together and were part of our day to day existence.

Sadly that scenario is no more. My Nan brought me up as she lived in the flat below my parents house, a fact I will always be grateful for. Nowadays if your Nan is looking after you it is because your parents are divorced or you're a single mum [small m] or she's not yet succumbed to Alzheimer's.

So the toast at Hogmanay has to be; Absent Friends.

Even Hogmanay has changed mainly due to the influence of television. Why go and stand at Tron Church in Edinburgh with countless thousands of others as I often did until television came along awaiting the chimes of Big Ben, which we couldn't hear but were transferred through peoples wristwatches {the Tron Church clock being temperamental] to announce the moment, So we stayed home we first footed and we watched such Scottish Classics such as Moira Stuart, Kenneth McKellar and of course the peoples favourite [and his own] Andy Stewart all in their kilts of course.

I can't remember what Moira sang which says a lot, Kenneth always sang "the Skye Boat Song" a rather dismal song from a dismal island, all rocks and rain. Andy on the other hand sang his annual favourites [and ours apparently] which consisted of his one and only recording hit [funnily enough only in England was it a hit] which was "Football Crazy" which had nothing to do with Hogmanay but it was Andy's hit and he liked it and of course he didn't have to rehearse it so we had to have it. His other Annual contribution of course yes you've guessed it! "Glasgow belongs to me" a place in those days the Rest of Scotland would rather avoid like the plague especially if you came from Edinburgh.

The only reason Edinburgh folk went to Glasgow as my Granddad used to say was if you had a terminal illness and the NHS treatment lists were full, Apparently all you had to do was catch the train to Glasgow alight onto the platform and speak in an Edinburgh accent and death was almost instantaneous. Of course that doesn't happen anymore now that Glasgow has now been "A European City of Culture ". I believe you can actually make it to George Square before you get stabbed.

Anyway, on reflection, I suppose I'm just melancholy as I'm here and your there and as one of my many, many, Wives used to say you're a brilliant Father but not such a good husband [never understood that one] but I hope my children agree with her.

A Happy New Year to you all with special mention for Sarah and James moving into their first house together, My daughter Elly and Mr Crusty , this to be the year the IVF will succeed, Lillo [My Mate] a Trojan amongst men for putting up with my lovely daughter Kate, Jean whose Mr Right will come at last if only she would let him, Sarah and Simon in start of their first of many pub ventures or is it adventures? Nick and Jo - that they may eventually complete The Money Pit and Nick to realise there are other teams than Bristol City, Kurtis a future Prime Minister [or at least Minister For War], Keith [an Arsenal supporter] and Pat Rogers may her health improve. Joyce Mckay whose kidney problems hopefully will improve. Ronnie McKay for just being my friend, Jerome for just being him wins the lovely boy award. My art class and Miss for putting up with me over the years. Especially Mick Rogers whose whole family are beset with serious health problems. I wish them Health and Happiness and soon.

To the rest; A Happy New Year to You and Yours.

We now have three Scots families amongst the campers here all the rest are Germans and Netherlanders one Austrian, one Swiss One French no English odd that. Anyway we are having a bit of a do this evening something to do with The New Year or something. So I'll be off then to have a tinny or two.

Love to you All


Dad is writing his life story, Grover is explaining the finer points of grammatical composition and sentence construction to Dad (who clearly ignores the good advice the Grover gives!)

Grover has read dad's first chapter, and has fallen asleep (he has no eyelids so you can't tell!) or he has passed out with boredom!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Sunday 28th December

You can always tell it's Sunday in Italy, away go the Cinquecento's and the Piaggi's and out come your Super Moto's all in their National Colours and paintwork in adoration of their Superhero the World Champion Valentino [nothing to do the actor or Santa] - just ask my mate Lillo he 's a top fan.

They behave superbly on the Strada immaculately dressed and moving twenty to thirty at a time in perfect formation it's a sight to see and one you can see all over Italy on a Sunday.

Very restless night caused by this picture I found in the Times Magazine by an artist named Bond [John not James] I'll do the jokes here!

It's a simple winter scene using no more than three colours Violet, Cobalt and a hint of something and there's the problem and it got to me.

Life's' hard - all your problems out there, World Economy, DHL or not DHL. British weather, another quick seventeen pages of Excel accountancy spreadsheets before I go home or shall I savour it overnight and do it tomorrow?

Weighed against my major problem what is the missing colour? I think is Alizarin Crimson or it might be Cadmium Red Hue and so it went on...

I was awake half the night trialling everything I could think of now I look at again it more of a brown hue. See the problems I have? - and you thought I was having fun. Stressed is what I am.

Shorts and t-shirts weather order "whites" as we used to say as Cadets, no socks of course, Johnny Foreigner knows immediately you're a Brit if you're found to attired in Wolsey's Finest Argyll Pattern even if you are wearing the latest type of Jesus sandals.

I was due to leave here on the 1st Jan 2009 but the weather next week here is not going to be good and so I will sit tight here in my chalet caravan and complete my last four paintings, clean out the van, wash the remainder of my clothes, top up the van levels and on the seventh proceed to Palermo for two days to have a really good look round.

Then it is onwards to Trapani for one day then to Selinunte for one day, Agrigento for five days then Ragusa for seven days, Syracusa for two days, Mt Etna camp site for one day (no use tempting fate by staying longer!) Then Taormina for one day then on the ferry to Reggio Calabria and to Tropea camp site before nightfall.

I will then tackle the long journey home commencing on the 28th January which will give me 28 days to get home through Italy and France over to Bordeaux up to Vihiers (if you join up the v and I to make a w it spells Whiers a bit like my old company Walon spelt with a w pronounced like a v as also in German).

So if I'm visiting and if they've all got big noses and waffle on for hours about nothing then I'll know that this is my ancestral home. It's as scientific as that folks!

It's very quite here today, twilight is upon us a 4pm.

Ate lunch outside with a bottle of wine had a long chat with Grover. He is quite knowledgeable about quite a wide tranche of things, though I never actually see him drink and yet his share seems to go down briskly enough. You would be surprised what he has got to say after a bottle of wine or two, I even find myself losing the odd argument with him once he really gets going!

All our love Grover & Laurence

Taken on the 22nd December:

Beach at Cefalu - I slept in the sand for 2 hours!

Swimming pool at Rais Gerbi

Path to the beach at Rais Gerbi

Taken on the 23rd December:

Train coming:

My New home for the next 3 weeks:

Set up for my painting

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas to All - 25th December

Buon Natale ! Buon Anno!

Restless night should have been “Silent Night” but wasn’t [too subtle?]

Awake at 4.07 am to excitement and anticipation as to what the day might bring but alas where is Grover?

Perhaps he is next door just wrapping his little personal present to me? Unfortunately he is not a happy Grover but is nearly a Cot Death Grover as someone [ me presumably] has rolled over in the night and is lying on his head and everything else for that matter, He is not a happy Little Grover at all.

Grievous apologies and Christmas felicitations [on my part] silence on his, I make my way to the door and peer expectantly around but nothing! Surely Santa has not forgotten me? Perhaps he does not travel this far south? Perhaps Santa thinks that if the Italians can’t be arsed why should he? Anyway whichever way you look at it there is bugger all there.

Chin up make tea, eat Italian Muesli not exactly Jordan’s finest .Grumping noises from bedroom. Grover refusing to get out of bed- say s I’m moronic to believe in Santa at my age. What do you mean, no Santa says I? I’m further shocked to discover after much lengthy explanation somewhat over dramatically expressed by Grover [ A bit like Hamlet with knobs on. It could have been worse on reflection it could have gone into the throes and woes of that Scottish play.]

There is no Santa!!!
What’s more apparently there never has been! Grover – Superior Bastard that he has now become states says he has never believed in Santa, no sane person would. I point out that I am having an in depth argument with him [and losing] was I sane?

I rest my case My Lord says Grover. He says there is no point in getting up at this time. Even that Katherine clone of yours who still believes in Father Christmas at 29 years old won’t be up yet Anyway Grover’s not getting up yet, it’s still dark so I’m off back to bed

PS Grovers asleep already

PPS If Santa does bring presents for Dad I’ll let you know quietly later on.
In the meantime A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to you all

20th December

Since I arrived weather has been fine tea shirt weather in fact until night when we received

1. OH THANK YOU GOD another electrical storm [what a waste of money you would think in these eco friendly green days God would be more efficient in his use of electricity but no he was clacking it overhead all night’ pigging long bring it on mate I’ve had worse] On the other hand if there is a god and he is all seeing and all hearing then perhaps he wise to my criticisms and the odd bit of blaspheming perhaps a change of tack methinks might improve my weather prospects. But then we are British we’ll find something about the weather to moan about.

Any way apart from sketching which takes days mainly because I cannot draw for the life of me and yes I know all the people who can draw and paint correctly will tell you that you don’t need to be able to draw properly to enable you to paint as a true artist well that’s testiculari as they say in Italy

Their pictures look like they are meant to be, as objects are in real life a house , a tree, people all beautifully drawn and in their true perspective shape and form these people are artists and they can paint and draw. This is what I strive to achieve.

I was actually have an interesting discussion with myself on my blog about modern vs. what I hope to achieve but after two A4 pages I’ve scrubbed it mainly because I lost my own argument.

I love Roy Lichtenstein’s work as I love Dali’s. You could look at Dali’s paintings a million times and see something you had missed before.
Picasso is a wonderful painter but his Woman Playing the Mandolin, not for me .In fact that’s what my portraiture efforts come out looking like all the time .Perhaps that’s’ where my real talent lies, having no talent. Excuse me I’ve got to finish up now as I need to look up Charles Saatchi’s telephone number.

It's been a bit quiet

Elly added this in - due to the fact that Dad can be a bit of a computer numpty, I didn't get the blog updates when he actually sent them, as they never really sent! so I'm adding them in today after giving instructions on how to email them!

I also have a load of photos that I promise I will upload, but I'm not very well today so it will have to be another day as I need to go and be ill on the sofa!

However I will add this one - as I love it - Grover made a friend....


Sunday, 14 December 2008

Captain Grover on the way to France!

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15/16th December

I have left the mud slides of Marinello camp site in Oliveri. I was there for a lot longer than I expected.

Could not get out for three days even with my trucks kerb height and I have now driven 90 km to the small town of Finale which is about 12 miles to the right of Cefalu as you look on the map.

This Site is called Rais Gerbi and it is here that I will spend Xmas and New Year.

The sun is out I’m in tee shirt and shorts (actually I’m in my underpants) but in deference to you single ladies, or those of a nervous disposition or those that know me with good re collective visual parameters I've changed it to shorts (but I’m still in me pants my bird) best Brent Knoll Somerset yokel speak.

This a really tremendous site right on the Beach (private) and has every facility you could wish but as Vincenzo the owner says his bookings are dramatically down on last year and as he showed me by nearly 50% and this is common all over
Sicily he knows as they speak to each.

It was 10 Euros a night for the truck, 2 Euros a night for electric, and 1 euro a night for the tent and Grover goes free. A total of 13 Euros. I asked him about bungalows, caravans etc and we struck a deal that provided I stayed for two weeks I could rent a caravan (log cabin with wheels) including electric and gas!

It would have a double bed, three bunk beds, my own bathroom and shower, super kitchen and the breakfast area is flooded with light for me to paint better. Absolutely brill.

These 14 nights until will cost me 250 Euros about 2 Euros a night more so what would you do? Right, I grabbed it at a cost of 2 more Euros a night for luxury camping. Brinty I know it’s not totally mathematically correct but I don’t think we need a spreadsheet on this one do we? Oh we do and it on its way!
Oh dear.

As broadband is so slow I am having trouble uploading photos onto my blog, and the odd technical hitch (me) so I might have to leave it till I get home. When I tried before it uploaded eventually, and I marked it for insertion in day one but no its goes to 13th of December and blanks out a page!

Just having a day of cleaning van putting clothes away go shopping, unpack all my painting stuff ready to start tomorrow. There is a nice little harbour near here, might sketch and paint a few boats over the next few days. Then a doorway I have seen, although I should have done that in Art class 6 months ago [sorry Miss] Also a woodland I saw in the Ardennes and of course a snow scene which of course could have been almost anywhere on this camel ride to nowhere.

Here is a map showing where I am:

View Larger Map

Saturday, 13 December 2008

13th December

Wake up to a bright sunny day, tidying up after storms. The garden is surfaced with fine volcanic ash, wonderful when dry, but a bastard when wet it sticks everywhere.

My washing is out drying, just a little more to do, then I'm done. I thought it was the camp site only that had the flood, but no it is the town of Oliveri as well.

Mobile reception seems to be back online so I will try the internet later when i have been into town shopping. I tried to go last night for shopping and for a meal but everything was closed including the main street from town to here, so I had to turn round and come back.

I am beginning to like all bran and water, I've eaten all the beetroot (that was lunch yesterday) eaten all the crisps with 2 cuppa soups for my evening meal and snacked on all bran and cups of tea and im still fat!

I've been into town and now have bananas, tomatoes, bread, cheese, sausage, milk and tomato juice. A grand feast will be held for lunch and dinner! Town is a mess at this the beach end, all the restaurants are flooded and chuiso (what else!) and this site apart from me is empty.

All the motor homes were in the low lying area behind the beach, so they were bogged down. Now the rain has stopped they have been pulled out, or under there own steam but it is a quagmire and not surprisingly they’ve moved on not without loss.

Some have had generators ruined and tables and chairs lost. As I said in my previous reportage, I was lucky opting for a bungalow as I would have been in the same area as them, as it was the bungalows had a torrent flowing round them, but no water ingress and the black pig was parked on tarmac on a level above the bungalow so it's ok there.

Wednesday 11th - Thursday 12th December

I'm heading for a site at Oliveri, open right on the beach, the bungalows are 29 Euros a night and camping is 18, so what would you do?

I’m in a bungalow! I unpack furgone, had a shower, changed, heard a rumble and thinks it's the ristorante but no it's thunder!

Its 4.15pm I open the front door to torrential downpour - a monsoon with knobs on.

Its so severe I forgo the restaurant and have ready brek instead, we are in the eye of a great electrical storm which even 19 hours later at noon the next day has not abated it keeps going round the mountains above us.

The gardens in front of the bungalows were all 6 inches deep in a great sweeping flood in the rush to the sea, I exaggerate not! All the bungalows are surrounded by water. The owners came to ask if I am OK. I am.

I have coffee, tea, no milk but cup of soups x2 (minestrone of course) and a jar of Baxters sliced beetroot, a packet of crisps and some all bran which if mixed with water is palatable - not great but edible. A feast!

At least I have to get on with my blog but no! the power cuts on and off as an increasing electrical storm approaches. The phone won’t work but I eventually get through to Elly before I'm cut off to say tell everyone I'm OK, time to go to bed!

The storm finally abated last night at 1pm the silence woke me up, I looked outside the front door, and it's still torrential rain out there. I was better off than most on this site.

There were no tent campers, only motor homes (who were above the flood level on the middle of the main site) just as well really as the camp entrance bridge above the river, although intact was impassable due to mud, logs and debri coming over onto the bridge and blocking it. So we couldn't get in or out until half an hour ago it is now 2pm and I have managed with what I have had food wise.

My plan was to spend the day painting watercolours. But I have to think that
A) God does not like water colourists and B) hates bungalow dwellers C) has got f**k all else to do in the world except pursue me through Europe down through Italy and into sicily.

Is there any truth in this or is paranoia setting in? The bungalow and gardens are brilliant. I've got central heating, electric, hot water, a fridge, superb bathroom, double bed, kitchen and sofa and in the garden a brick built table and chairs.

Today Iv’e caught up on my washing, caught up with my blog, so I'm going to shave and go into town to get supplies.

There's no telly here so I might go to the restaurant tonight or stay and have a heart to heart with Grover . He is still severely pissed with James for dumping him in the attic for the last 14 months but I’ll talk him round.


First night in bungalow:

Take me I'm yours!

Next day floods:

River in the garden:

Path to the beach after the rain stopped:

10th December

I'm more tired than I think, so I go to Palmi to break the journey to Sicily. The site is open! but it takes some finding as once again the AA book is bollocks. Tom Tom can’t find the site as AA has it on the wrong strada.

Eventually find it, more by error! and the restaurant is open. I have a hot meal 3 huge courses for 12 Euros and retire to bed. I think I may stay another day, it's in the woods - a bit creepy but it's filled with beautiful, ancient, twisted olive trees like the ones on paxos.

When I wake up I find the weather is giving me torrential rain - sod this says I its off to Sicily we go, and as we do the rain clears and the journey was ok. The road surfaces are crap as usual but straight on to the ferry as there is no one else waiting.

32 euros they say furgone (i know it means van) but I say no not furgone it's a Volkswagen van, I know I shouldn’t but sometimes the look of exasperation on their face is a picture. I then understand and they are pleased they have got through, much si si and backslapping.

Vaticano - Dad's favourite Italian Holiday!

Jeans Turtle Beach:

Dad's Theatre - on stage every night in 2003:

Grover sheep rustling!

Monday 9th December

I'm having trouble with camp sites that the book says is open, but I find them closed on arrival. I even rang ahead for this one as it's a fair old trip from Bari.

It’s Gallipoli which is right down on the heel of Italy, so in my best Italian I ask if they are open "si aperto ano" so off I go.

When I get there it is barricaded with CCTV, vast sliding steel doors and traffic lights with signs saying passport control. Looks like Dachau! The question is if I get in will I ever get out?

I ring the bell and eventually a woman arrives she says she speaks English and says that was her husband on the phone, and he should not have said this!

I explain that I have driven all the way from Bari to get here, and could I not stay one night? Chuiso she says however my husband will apologise so she goes away and sends him out on his own - he no speak Eeeenglish.

I tell him I telephoned and he said aperto. Si si he says. Wanker says i, si he says. Its 1pm everything is chuiso as it's part of a national park. Albergos even are chuiso. So I drive to the next camp site, another 300 km! on the way I find advertised English B&B - aperto ano english so I run, ring the bell but sorry, closed - owners gone away for the weekend, presumably they have found somewhere that is open!

I arrive at the next site at 18.10, ring the bell and a German arrives, so I explain in Italian I wish to stay the night. "No we are open but closed?" Closed now, open tomorrow 9am, apparently I am 10 minutes to late to book in, but if I come back in the morning I can stay.

Must have done 400 miles today, to no avail I take it god was never a camper, no he like me is forced to look for a room at an inn - subsequently he has no sympathy for the poor traveller without. Off to find my own manger.

I eventually find a nice hotel, quickly shower, shave etc and off to bed as I'm too tired to eat. I think I will go straight to Sicily tomorrow. Surely that can’t be chuiso as well?

The last two days have been pleasant and sunny, misfortune must be round the corner surely? These are the only nice days I've had so far the rest have been plain bad.

7th December

Up at 7am, away at 8.30am and on the road to Bari. Nothing to do with Bob Hope (that was bali).

My Tom Tom is fantastic. If I had my time over again I would marry it/her. Her name is Jane, and she is the perfect woman! She is always polite, discreet and invisible and I am never accused of something I haven’t done, or accused of something I have done.

She never finds fault and never answers back. Even when I cock up or fail to listen to what I am being told (a male failing apparently).

She is always in the background – working quietly away never complaining always achieving! Even when I lose it she never takes it personally or argues back or turns any of my failings (minor of course) into a major argument. How Columbus found America without one I’ll never know.

Two other observations I noticed - you see post persons everywhere in yellow and black, bright yellow vans everywhere but if you try and find a post office they are invisible! almost impossible.

I know as Iv’e tried several times. There are very few, a bit like ours will become I suppose, and you have to use a tabacchi a (tobacconist) who sell everything including stamps but not postcards. I haven't found any post cards since Verona and I couldn’t buy that, because there was nowhere to park!

The concept of breakfast - as in substantial, is unknown here for a country that prepares, concocts and eats superb food. Apart from the hotel ibis in padova the usual cheese sausage etc, all you are offered here are pre-packed baby rusks, fruit juice or chocolate pastries, sometimes croissants but that's it.

Italian is such a lovely language in its pronunciation and softness, even asking for a carrier bag sounds sexy!

The van in English is called "the black pig" in German it is "der schwarz schwein" in Italian it is "la peccorino nero" - so much nicer.

Not much to do today, on Sunday everything closes, all the shops, very few fuel stations and only on the motorways.

Music; oddly enough they are all short ones, Dean Martin (sorry) singing "how do you speak to an angel" an absolutely haunting melody of the 30s/ 40s era words are:

"How do you speak to an angel
I’m completely in the dark
when you know that you've just met an angel
is there a proper remark
we were alone for a moment
why was I lost in a cloud
do you speak to an angel in a whisper
or do you just say I love you out loud".

Old friends by Simon and Garfunkel (all to close i fear)
And the other is of course Barclay James Harvest singing “galadrial”

Words are;

"She comes up with the morning sun
and tells me life has just begun
oh what it is to be young
and in the early evening light
she brings me flowers for the night
oh what it is to be young"

Very 70s and haunting

I just took a break by the shore, thinking about things and music is one of those things I have been able to lose myself in - but it is such a personal choice so I shall say no more except listen to barbers violin concerto, pictures at an exhibition (having read the case notes first) and of course pacibels kanon

Arrived at Bari, tried 3 camp sites, the book says apert gates say chuiso
Eventually found a nice hotel Marci 7. It's better than it sounds but I arrived late and went straight to bed so I can be away by 8am - so much for Bari

6th December

I drive 300 miles today, just pushing on to Casalbordino and staying at a hotel which is a 4 **** for 47 Euros includiong breakfast!

There is a fabulous wedding going on, and everybody is dressed as beautifully as perhaps only the Italians can, with such flare, such brio.

Although I've noticed one or two of them are copying the style of Geordie girls on a night out. In this case by wearing white trilby's which English butchers or Smithfield market porters used to wear to work, but as they are so beautiful they are forgiven, and what do I know about style anyway.

I've showered and changed here but stand out, especially as I am writing up my journal and they are curious. Guardia finenza perhaps?

I make a show of speaking in English and they relax. I am in the television room and I've got the television clicker - I was there first but they want to watch football. It's on already but they're arguing what to watch so the old gentleman next to me asks what I would like as I am a guest, so we changed over to watch Lazio v Inter - my choice! I thought they can’t complain about that but moans & groans come as inter are up at 38 mins, inter up at 48mins inc 3 mins injury time. 10 mins second half 3 up to inter - what a brilliant game!

I receive a bottle of the wedding wine, a red produced locally - literally a mile up the road - wonderful. And when they are all finished eating I'm given a huge plate of seafood pasta which was just wonderful, a bowl of bread and a few more stares from the blokes who didn't want to watch Lazio! I found out the old man owned the hotel was the same man who asked me to decide which to watch.

Grover likes the seaside:

Grover hanging on!

5th December

I leave Padova today, I'm heading off to San Marino. I decide not to take the autostrada as I'm not feeling strong enough to take on the toll booths single handed.

It's still raining, although it clears later on. San Marino is beautiful, its surrounding countryside is more like you see in the travel brochures, beautiful Italian landscapes with an occasional "perche village" dotted here and there. Yes I know its French but I don’t know the Italian term for the equivalent.

When we (Grover and I!) started to climb, we started to go up and up on increasingly dangerous roads which were no more than the width of a car! plus many parts of it had great tree roots sticking up through the tarmac, I kid you not, that had obviously been there for years, but over a two mile stretch and 150 metres apart on both sides of the road they were advising you of the problem - with brand new road signs!

Presumably it is cheaper to provide signs than repair the road! This was typical in Italy. The same road when it got to San Marino was perfection in its construction, it even had much needed crash barriers.

Another problem I am having is with the AA Europe camp site guide. Iv'e got a brand new copy but there are so many errors in it! and only here in Italy. This site in San Marino isn't in San Marino proper, but in one of the outlying regions called Serravalle, so Tom Tom can’t find it. When I put in Serravale it found it straight away. Letter to AA on return!

Neither does it appear in Rogers Europe, yet it is open all year and is a magnificent site high in a wooded valley overlooking the plains below. It was sunny when I arrived, but in the morning a dense fog that did not lift by lunchtime which was a pity as the ristorante and beer garden were superb! the food was great quality and value but I need the sun, so of we go.

4th December

At Padova I book into the hotel Ibis for two nights, I need to sort out my IT problems with broadband as it won’t work.

UK Online won't work, nor will skype so I changed to all possible suppliers in Italy all too slow, won’t work so I'll be having stiff words with T-mobile when I get home.

It works OK on the campsite wi-fi, but not on the road. I also need to have a hot bath & 'chill out', that's James speak for doing bugger all!

I need to write out and post my xmas cards, send postcards, rewrite all the computer instructions Elly gave me (which runs to three volumes to date - lets hear “computers are simple to operate really” if i say it enough times i might believe it).

But at the moment it's the one thing that's causing me severe stress on this holiday! I also need to re-write and standardise my three address books. Yes I know it's sad, but paperwork is a comfort zone. I even miss doing James books!

I was going to go to Venice tomorrow but it's closed. St Marks square being amongst the others that are currently flooded, not surprising as the two nights I've spent in Padova 30km away, its been nothing but torrential non stop rain.

Never mind it smells anyway!