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!

Leaving Lake Garda

Left lake Garda, such a vast lake with lofty mountains, like on the bags of flour (or used to be).

The Journey to Verona took me along the motorway, something I’d done before on this trip only to find an anomaly in the motorway tool booth system.

Approach 3 lanes toward booths 1 red light showing, two green lights showing, so far so good. One of the lanes is telepass automatic billing, so the other lane is me.

Simple says biglhetti ticket to you and shows flowing cash symbol as well as credit payments.

Well nobody's in the booth so I can’t pay with cash, it does not dispense tickets and wants me to pay with my credit card for 60 cents! which is stowed away in the black pig.

I bang the bell for assistance and they rattle away at a hundred knots. I explain that I speak no Italiano, and the Italian woman comes on at me with higher decibels, which grates so I lean on the van - I’ve got all day! (unlike the ten or so behind me who are honking like mad the man two cars behind, who asks if he can help he’s German!)

I explain the problem, he bellows down the speaker "ticket issued" and he explains the minimum charge. They should have the cash booth open but the man probably has not come to work, and no cover! all you will have to pay is 60 cents at the post office. Ok, so off I go, but I've not gone 4 miles when there is a traffic accident - a lorry shed it's load on the motorway, so we were diverted back onto the motorway I’d just come off of, and of course I'm faced with the same problem! only this time the same Italians are looking out of the booth and pointing at the British reg.

I pull up and the ticket magically comes out as before. I shout mille grazie they all wave!

When I want to come 100km later they're in a ticket booth but not for my tickets so I go through the staggered telepass barrier, the only other available option and park up across 3 lanes of traffic. They won't come to you so they just stand there in the hi visibility jackets posing, so I go over and show him my two tickets, pay 20 euros and try to explain the problem. I need to pay motorway charges i.e. just been on but he waves me away like Il duce, 12 euros saved. You couldn't make it up if you tried.

Reach Verona, see the opera house, I take a look in but no Egyptians at home, so I took a few photos.

I also parked wrongly apparently, carabinere shouting "automobile non furgone" which fortunately I knew, so I buggered off quick but couldn't find a campsite nearby so went to Padova to stay the night.

Wednesday 3rd December

I arrive at the lake garda site, by lake shore. The scenery is beyond belief and the lake water is clear and pure, so I go in for paddle. It's freezing but refreshing. The site is 27 hectares of olive groves!

I was content just to sit the by the shore for a while, and just relax and enjoy life and the views and the first bit of sun I've had for days.

I book in to the site and there is nobody else there. Choose a fantastic spot, set up camp, have a brew but wait - there is a problem with the electrics.

Holy shit it must be me, I think - but I cant solve it, so I have to get the owner to sort it out, and of course it's dead simple (if your Italian but I'm not - simple that is, though I do wonder at times) I'm British.

It was one of those moments, like when having searched Asda for an hour and can't find something you want knowing that when you find an assistant they are going to point directly behind you doh! As Homer would say.

Sure enough that’s what happened I tried every available way, six sockets no power, flicked other secondary switches nothing, and I've done an electrical wiring course at college!

Angelo (for that was his name) and who speaks good English, says it is my fault because it is so simple you just have to apply the correct logic, which is Italian logic. I failed because I tried to apply British logic he said "to an Italian it would be no problem, he would just do this" and he solves the problem.

We return to the bar where I found him and I have to buy the drinks because I had not thought the problem through and applied the correct logic. I Can’t help thinking I’ve got this wrong somehow, and yet I’m still paying at the bar.

I love the Italians as a race, although I strongly object to the childish and petulant road manners. I think the expression "the bigger the car the smaller the dick" was invented for them. Also they provide a third kind of logic they present to the world .

Usually we have two types, the first two;

Mens logic
Womens logic
Italians logic

However back to the Italian logic re wiring, everywhere in the world red means danger, live, stop, or as a warning i.e. traffic light

Green means go

I have an rcd trip in my van which lights up when a connection is made, all systems go. I got nothing, what I should have done - applying Italian logic was to throw the main master board switch we have at home onto the red position which plainly in English said off, when logic - British style that is, would not touch it anyway and because the green switches plainly said on, again in English telling me I had power so it did not touch them. Plainly my fault.

However because of it I had a good laugh with the locals at my expense after Angelo explained my British logic to them.

And so to bed tomorrow I'm going to call in at Verona to see the Coliseum /opera house.