Monday, 29 December 2008

This Needs Skiing

My favourite field, snowbound. Needs skiing. If I could remember where I left my skis (I'm not joking) after the last trip some three years ago, I'd have a crack. Must have been one apres-ski Negroni too many. Ah the Negroni! Will I ever press my hungry lips against your glass again?

Monday, 22 December 2008

A Light Lunch

Lunch at Giulio's yesterday. There were twelve of us. A new face at the table (for me) was one Mammo. I found out after lunch that he had undergone a quadruple bypass about a year ago. He is quite, er, robust. He smoked incessantly, leaving his dog ends smouldering foully in the brimming ashtray. I couldn't understand much of what he was talking about because (a) he spoke in local dialect and (b) he expertly kept the lit fag in his mouth even whilst eating and talking (which he did at the same time).

At the beginning of the lunch, and in a weak effort at making conversation, I asked him if he preferred red or white wine. "Well now there's an easy question" he coughed, wiping the fallen ash off a napkin that didn't make too much of an impression in covering his ample belly. "It's white wine for me everytime. No problem. I don't know what it is but three or four glasses of red and I'm all over the place. Just want to go to sleep. Nope. I'm strictly a white man, hah hah." I then watched open mouthed as, wreathed in smoke, he drank a single glass of Prosecco followed by one and a half litres of cheap Chianti and a bottle of Barbera d'Asti, everything rounded off with five large grappas and a token limoncello to (as he put it) keep the women company.
Good man. Straight into the Ron Combo Hall of Fame.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Full of wine?

Interesting Anglo-centric graffiti on this train which I anoraked this afternoon. I wonder if those tanks are full of wine? Really cheap stuff from the south of Italy they use to bulk up some of the local plonk. The sort I really like.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Good Weekend

Phew, that's that one out of the way and I didn't get arrested or deported. A good weekend and, oddly, I can remember virtually all of it. Thank you to Fred for the bed, Louise for dinner and bed and to Lord Ashley of Slawston for the pic, the first of the day (St Peter's Mild) at the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell on Friday. Great beer, great pub. We ended up some nine hours later at the Scarsdale in Kensington, dribbling over unattainable young totty. Well, I was anyway. Back on the wagon now for a few days.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

State Visit

Your Uncle Ronnie is in a bit of a panic. This extremely shaky pic is the drive at Casa Combo this evening. It snowed for over 24 hours, it's just stopped and although the snowplough passed at lunchtime, from the state of the road it might as well not have bothered. But will I get to Genoa for the flight to London tomorrow morning? If it snows again tonight it could be tight. Ooer!

Monday, 8 December 2008

An Italian Schoolbook

This is a book in use at one of the 'middle' schools where the pupils have the dubious benefit of being taught English by Ronnie. ("Now children, when you're in the UK and you want to get directions, always ask a policeman. But don't address them as 'Mister policeman', that's far too formal. Use the affectionate term we locals employ, 'Oi, Tosser!'").
The book is old of course, and has lots of different articles for pre-teen girls like how to fold your clothes properly, the historical treasures of Egypt, why drinking milk is good for you, that sort of stuff. All very sweet and innocent and rather touching.
Call me a dreadful old cynic, but I feel sure that its UK equivalent would have single syllable guides on your rights to the morning-after pill and 25 great sex positions to use in your boyfriend's fully-tweaked Ford Fiesta.
I must stay in more.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

My Snowy Milk Thistle Heaven

Owing to the unprecedented levels of interest being expressed in the restorative powers of milk thistle, I am offering you this link which should be of use. Some of you, (no names no pack drill, but Fred and Lord Ashley of Slawston would appear to be to the fore) are obviously already in the dodgy world of alcohol-based long-term memory loss as I have posted on the topic of milk thistle before*, in October last year.

*Or did I? D'you know I'm not so sure now. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Thumbs Up!

This is what happens when you stop boozing. You lose all your points of reference. You're operating in a strange demi-monde, peopled by strangers, different perspectives and ways of doing things. There I was, slicing a raw fennel with my latest acquisition from the market, a kitchen utensil with quite the sharpest blade in the Western hemisphere. One moment I was happily slicing, the next I was pulling the top of my thumb off the blade. Blood every-sodding-where. Showing unusual presence of mind, I stuck my thumb in my mouth and started sucking and then hunted for a piece of string (Mrs Combo was at work). No string so I cut the strap off the camera and tied that tight around the digit as a make-do tourniquet. Half a kitchen roll later Mrs C pitched up and took me to A&E. Such is my accident-prone nature that I am virtually on first name terms with the doctors and nurses. Three stitches and home. That'll learn me.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A Royal Lunching

Bit of a lapse yesterday at a lunch with friends in a very old house in the country (All paintings on the ceilings, silver candelabra, dusty stuff like that. Where's the sodding 46" plasma I was wondering). The main course was wild boar cooked in decent Barbera. This was preceded, of course, by a vast selection of antipasti, one of which was this huge and beautifully-presented jar of stuffed chili peppers. Not like the Combo version, stuffed with anchovies, but stuffed with tuna. They were sensational. Then a risotto with wild mushrooms. Then the wild piggy. Burp. I drank a couple of glasses of white and then a few* reds, reasoning that it would have been extremely rude to my host who had spent two days preparing the boar not to have helped it down with some Chianti, Barbera and finally some Barbaresco. I was then advised to drink a very old barrel-aged rum as a digestivo, which I did. God knows why, I don't even like bloody rum. Result was a thumping headache later on in the evening. Feeling a tad remorseful I have weighed back in with the veg and water today - and of course the milk thistle. Oh Ron, that it should have come to this!

* More than a few actually.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Italian Pikey

Spotted in the local town this weekend. And the Ape (translation bee, as in busy, geddit?) is probably one of the biggest nails of its type I've seen. But it still goes about its work, tooling around the rubbish bins of the town, its horribly-inbred owner scavenging for scrap.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pile it High!

Well, how could I say no? I have always been a disciple of the Kingsley Amis School of Boozing, which invariably lauded quantity over quality. This remarkable offer of 1.5 litres of Tetrapaked white wine for 79c (around .66p at today's exchange rate) at a local Lidl, plumbed happy new depths in my unremitting quest for rank bevy.
This is the cheapest wine I have ever come across, and believe me I have scoured northern Italy. Goodness knows what Vinogirl will have to say about this. The packaging gives away as little information as possible, as you might imagine. Its 11%, its Italian and packaged near Verona.
I reckon this is the genuine EU wine lake number that you lot have massively subsidised with your taxes, so thank you all very much. It is clearly undrinkable, although maybe after the seventh or eighth plastic beaker you're probably past caring if you're with your horribly-stained mates on the park bench. Which is where I will be in February, knocking this back, when the dark clouds of abstention have lifted and I am back in the sunlit uplands, squeaking and dribbling with childish joy.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Exhortations for a Better Life

Whilst waiting my turn at the spa and contemplating my Condition I enjoyed looking at some of the framed posters on the wall which must have been there for about 30-odd years. The one above is telling people not to wear their clothing too tight as we are all crawling with fungal growths....
....get yourself a hobby.......
....keep in shape...........
...and, strangely for Italy, Drink in Moderation. Quite frankly, if Drinking Moderately leaves you looking like the bloke above, I'd prefer to Drink Immoderately, thank you very much. Which of course I can't for the moment, chiz chiz.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Going to Hell

Without wishing to turn this into a medical journal, I am currently undergoing a course of inhalation treatments at the spa. Our local town is famous for its foul, hot, sulphurous waters which bubble up in lots of different places. The water is said to be very good, if drunk, for one's digestion, but it is also used to create steam which is dispensed to those with respiratory or sinus problems. I get the latter in the winter so I booked my series of sessions. The place is very, um, Germanic and 1960s, acres of white tiling, spotlessly clean, few decorations and staffed by frau-like female attendants* who brook no buggering around. The poor shot above, taken at great personal risk, gives a glimpse of one of the row of sinks where the inhalers sit, faced by a slightly vulgar nozzle out of which the steam jets. The view upon entering, particularly when it is full, is terrifying, with rows of old bleeders sitting rigid at their sinks, the women in hairnets, eyes tightly shut, their mouths wide-open in a ghastly blow-up doll rictus as they take the steam orally. Factor in the constant hissing, the clouds of steam and the background aroma of sulphur and it's a sort of healthy hell.
I always leave feeling a little light-headed after all that sulphury steam and on the first flight of stairs on the way out invariably miss my footing and nearly twist my ankle when confronted with the above.

*Oh nursey, nursey, I've been naughty, haven't I nursey?

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Game's Up

I got the results yesterday and went to the Doctor's surgery this morning. "Well Mr Combo" said the Doctor, scanning the four pages, "what you have to do is diet. For three months. No cheese, no eggs, no fried food, no pork-based products, no duck, no goose, nothing high in fat. Your cholesterol is too high. Not high enough for medication but still too high." He then looked up from the analysis and fixed me through his half-moon spectacles, "and your liver is in crisis. I will allow you half a glass of wine at mealtimes and no more." "Does that include breakfast?" I asked brightly. "I don't really need to answer that do I Mr Combo?" "No doctor, just a little joke, ha ha, you know my way of coping with, er, bad, y'know, news." "Come back and see me at the end of January and we'll do some more tests. However the rest of you would appear to be OK. Your prostate is fine. So it's not all doom and gloom is it?"

Yes it sodding well is actually Doctor. Anyway, dear readers, what should I do? Buckle down and do what the dear doctor recommends or flick two fingers at the health fascists and carry on? I am inclined to cave in (starting tomorrow of course, November 1st, I have a dinner tonight for God's sake) and follow orders. I have always been obedient in the face of authority, that's St. bloody Custard's for you. What do you lot think I should do?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Food Glorious Food!

On Sunday I went to the Salone del Gusto at Turin, a huge exhibition devoted to the very best worldwide in food and run by the admirable Slow Food organisation. Its was absolutely mobbed but great fun with all sorts of free tastings and opportunities to get stuck in for nowt. Dominated by Italians of course but there was also a lot of representation from Africa and China. You'd need at least two days to do the lot. Can you believe that I did NOT visit either the beer hall or the wine tasting centre? I think I may be going certifiably mad.
This, remarkably, is the scene by the British Pig Association stand where they were flogging bacon and sausage sandwishes at €3 a pop. It was bonkers and heaving. Couldn't get near.
The event itself was held in the old Fiat factory at Lingotto. This is a view from the inside looking up. On the top of the building is a fully-banked test driving circuit, but most of you lot probably knew that anyway.
In the evening and back at home I had to go out for dinner and worked my way through five courses and a shedload of decent Cab Franc, Raboso and Barbera. On Monday morning I bit the bullet and went for a comprehensive blood test at the local hospital. That should have caused an interesting reaction ("Mamma mia! Come here and have a look at this sod!") in the analysis lab the next day. I get the results tomorrow. Well, it's been fun, what I can remember.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Tinkle Halt

Now, this is the only one of these I have seen in Italy. It has a rather pleasing name too: vespiasiano. So much nicer than urinal. This one looks rather, er, well used. I understand that there are lots of vespiasiani in Blighty still, most of them designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

His day is done

"Finish good tractor; the bright day is done,
And we are for the dark"*

All the proud work in field and valley is forgotten, this old workhorse is now counting out his days in the damp corner of a grotty field, powering a bandsaw.

*Sincere, abject apologies to W.S.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Good grub

Just about recovered from Fred's visit; he certainly made a big impression with the locals. There was a lot of wine taken. And I thought I thought I was the one with a drink problem!
Anyway, I must try and look forward. Mrs Combo has a cousin who is a real peasant (in the nicest sense of the word). They are virtually self-sufficient, living a truly bucolic existence, seemingly unaware that their house is falling down around them. I had a 'phone call this morning telling me to pop by as they had gone mushrooming yesterday. These little beauties were duly thrust into my hands; they have a name in local dialect, something like pinerung. Whilst there hasn't been the rain followed by a hot spell that is needed for a classic mushroom season, apparently if you know where to go, then they can be found.
I washed them, sliced them, finely chopped up a handful of parsley and a clove of garlic and chucked everything in a frying pan with a little oil. Bingo! Delicious, washed down with half a bottle of Cabernet Franc out of the 'fridge. I had to prepare this one for luncheon whilst Mrs Combo was at work as she isn't too keen on the smell of funghi. I once put her in hospital for three days after some unfortunate mushroom selection. Live and learn I say.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A Broken Man

I went grape picking at the weekend; a chap I know was short of some people so I turned up on the Saturday. There were about ten of us, so pairs would work each side of a row of (what else?) Barbera vines. Most of them were locals and I imagine the average age was around 75. I was working with Bruna (78, still blessed with some of her own teeth) and I think I was in. I wanted to take her photograph but she was shy.

We started at eight in the morning, stopped for a light lunch (above, and that's not Bruna in the middle by the way but it is a woman) at twelve and then back to work at one. At four I had to throw in the towel, the seven hours of being bent over nearly double had rendered me utterly exhausted, had done for my back and my ability to see straight. They waved me goodbye all the Italians, still bent over, picking, laughing, chatting, sometimes singing*, scurrying around with their plastic baskets, in perpetual motion, the sun beating down from a cloudless sky. Bastards. The thing is I had done it a few years ago and hardly batted an eyelid. Time for a major review of my physical condition? Fat chance with Fred pitching up on Friday, bright-eyed and ready for it. I wonder whether he will have an, er, travelling companion?

*Sorry for the Under the Tuscan Sun moment.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Talking and Boozing with Italians

Italians love yapping. Anytime, anyplace, any topic. Give them a chance 'though to speak in public on a subject about which they have more than passing knowledge and they seize it with both hands, clutch it to them and snog it until their tongue is aching. And so it happened at the reception for the new 'University' which is to be (if anyone bothers to enrol) a languages unit as an offshoot of the University of Genoa. It should be a banker however because it is in a remote hilltop village (pop. 173) with no public transport connections whatsoever. But don't worry because you lot paid for it via the EU's regional development fund. The people at the table above are all language specialists. And they went on. And on. And on. For about one hour and forty minutes. It honestly seemed like two days. Talking bollocks of course. All against a backdrop of gentle snoring from some of the old boys from the village who scented a free drink. The old buffer seated second from the right with the white hair is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Genoa. More about him later.
However, everything comes to him who waits. Afterwards there was a rinfresco in a 15th century cellar belonging to the local council. All red wine and decent grub, including little crispy pan-fried ravioli. Delicious. Being a borderline alky (water always finds its own level), I soon found myself boring two Germans, an Italian and the V-C glassy-eyed with London drinking tales (big nod to Lord Ashley). The old boy (the V-C that is) could certainly stick it away.

Two hours later (after having fended off a frantic Mrs Combo on the 'phone) I found myself with the dregs of the group in this private cellar in the village. On the left of the table is a model of the US Cavalry Fort at Tuscon made out of fag packets and corks and the other is of St. Peter's in Rome made conventionally out of polished wood. Just cop the posters on the wall.

The biblical-looking owner's cellar is a shrine to the 70s. I had never met him before. Here he is extolling the benefits of a Remington razor. I think him and his mate opened some eight bottles while we were there and there were only six of us. My final, hazy memory of the evening is leaving the cellar and seeing the V-Cs enormous wife staggering around in the garden trying to find the way out. There was a bizarre green light flashing under her lower clothing. I think it may have been a warning that her bag was full.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Blood red

Look at the wonderful colour of my peppers! And I like the way the are so knobbly and misshapen. Very appropriate at Casa Combo.
Sorry if this is a bit Under The Tuscan Sun (possibly the worst book I have ever read about Italy, lots of eulogising over food, beautiful sunsets, honest toiling peasants, cypress trees, you know the form) but normal service should be resumed from tomorrow; I am having a day off the sauce as it's Monday and I am filled with the usual post-weekend remorse.
Tomorrow there is a reception at a new university where, if I behave myself on the free drinks front, I may have the possibility of some work as a part-time lecturer.
So that's that one ruled out then.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


Now that's what I call a real breakfast. Duchy sausages (grateful thanks to the marauding Celtic visitors), eggs from Riccardo and Peddy from The Intrepid One.
I was celebrating Genoa's fantastic 3-1 win over Roma yesterday evening.
Just the job. Yum yum, pig's bum.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Stuffed and Cellared

And there they are, those little fiery bleeders, all done and dusted, hunkering down in the dark cellar and waiting for Christmas.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Get Stuffed

In an almost certainly hopeless attempt to overcome the sweaty shakes and general nausea that is the result of a 4 dayer with The Intrepid Explorer and assorted other friends from Caerdydd and Lestah, I am starting on the stuffing of some of the Combo chilli peppers this being a sort of regional speciality. They are fiery little buggers so in the cleaning process, using the tool in the pic which is essentially a 'corer', I have to wear rubber gloves. Always a bonus. Once they have been cleaned I boil them briefly in vinegar and cheap white wine and when they have dried out I stuff them with anchovies and capers and jar them under olive oil. They will be consumed at Christmas, presuming I am still of this world.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The shame! The shame!

Oh God, I'm sitting here at my desk, it's early in the morning, my head spinning with hangover, my stomach sick with nausea. The hunting season's started and the fields around here are full of fucking barking dogs. There's sporadic gunfire. There's a thick fog and it's cold. Why do I drink so much? Why did I drink so much last night? And then to make things worse, why did I berate the people we had round for supper so badly? It started off pleasantly enough of course. I had the Italian version of Radio 3 on and they were broadcasting The Last Night live from the Royal Albert Hall. I'd started the evening in the best way possible with a pint of gin and tonic and then raced along with a lot of red wine. When it got to Land of Hope and Glory I was plastered. Truly trolleyed. Ratfaced. So I stood up and started singing. Then when it had finished I started shouting. Shouting with tears in my eyes. Shouting that this (Land of Hope etc) was the reason that Italians had identity cards and we didn't, that Blair should be impeached, locked up in the Tower of London, executed and have his stupid grinning fucking mug stuck on a pole on Westminster Bridge as a warning to all the other bastards on the Fascist fucking left.
I seem to recall that it all went rather quiet when I eventually slumped back down on the table.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Cuore di bue

The tomatoes that I grow are very good, even if I say so myself. And so they should be with all the dung I had dumped on the plot (see distant post). The plants are just about at the end now. This is what I'm having for lunch today, the cuore di bue (bull's heart=beef tomato) with decent olive oil, fresh mozzarella, basil and good commie bread. No wine on the table as it is lunchtime, but as I sank two industrial G&Ts, a bottle of red and, bizarrely, a large calvados (where did that come from?) last night, it wouldn't be a good idea anyway. Very hot and muggy today, storms are forecast with a subsequent temperature drop of 10 degrees (in foreign money). Summer's on the way out so we should all start drinking more I say.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Chopper Action!

The state electricity company has been changing some bits on a - what is the collective noun for pylons? - a march of serious pylons that pass close by Casa Combo. This involved the use of a helicopter and a lot of noise and blokes swinging around from the top of said pylons on impossibly slim ropes without a care in the world. I got the willies just looking at them. Interestingly, I spoke to some of the climbing gang after they had finished this section and they all have the thickest accents from the Alto Adige/Trentino region.....where the Dolomites are! Climbing must be in their DNA.
Apologies for not having written for a while about drinking. To be honest I have been pouring so much down my fat chops lately that even I feel embarassed at my levels of consumption. Last Wednesday - just as a random example - I had two small 33cl bottles of Europiss at around 5pm; at six I fixed a Martini Rosso for Mrs Combo and but I customised mine with a decent slug of Beefeater, just to give it some backbone. With dinner I drank a bottle of Cabernet Franc, minus one glass for the good lady wife, bless 'er; after she had tootled off to bed I slunk down to the cellar and as quietly as possible drew off a couple of big (alright, huge) glasses of Barbera d'Asti from my excellent bag in box selection. I rounded off this tranquil evening with two sodding great grappas. The only possible chink of hope for me is that the spirits I drink are clear; never really been one for whisky or brandy. And I hardly ever drink at lunchtime, honest. But I'm clutching at straws, aren't I?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Fly the Flag Comrades

The local town has a bakery on virtually every street and, being Italy, it's difficult to buy poor bread just as it's difficult to eat badly in a restaurant or trattoria. However, bread prices have rocketed recently which is why this place is now even busier than ever (before you start I know it doesn't look busy but the customers got out of the way for the photo). This is a local commie co-operative and the bread and foccaccia is about half the price of that sold by the thieving capitalists who run the normal bakeries. It's good stuff too. Note the patronal saint of murder squads gazing out implacably over a throng of buyers who couldn't give a stuff about Santa Clara.

Being a soundly-principled Conservative of course I now never go anywhere else.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Hard at it

Snapped this little workhorse in a local village. In daily use too. Doesn't Brussels say that tractor cabs are obligatory in the EU? But we're in Italy!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Only in Italy - 2

Dear readers, may I introduce you to the Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities? Being only 33 she has obviously made the most of the equal opportunities afforded her. Her name is Mara Carafagna and she was once a 'showgirl', this being the euphemism Italians use to describe a piece of totty on the telly. He's no mug, Berlusconi, is he?

And this is the over-the-hill, washed-up, well past-it Minister for Education Mariastella Gelmini who at the ripe old age of 41 staggered into Berlusconi's government. As a strict matter of policy he will not have dogs in his Cabinet. Are there any belters in Brown's farcical team? Are there enough pints in the world before you'd give Hazel Blears one?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Yum yum

This was the accompanying plate of nibbles served as an aperitivo with a glass of Gavi di Gavi (not pictured) yesterday evening at a swish bar in town. And jolly nice it was too. Nearly couldn't take a second helping of rabbit at dinner later.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Puffing Away

Here is Claudio on his tractor. Claudio is a pinko and, surprisingly, a nice cheerful chap. As we all know virtually all those of the leftish persuasion are bereft of any manners or sense of humour whatsoever. He works at a local agriturismo. However, Claudio old chap, that's some carbon footprint you're knocking out. For a hippie.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Molto Inglese

I brought back a litre bottle of Pimm's on a recent trip to Blighty and then, at a subsequent evening at Bruno's, introduced a selected group of fellow alkies to the mysteries of this excellent drinky. Pimm's is an unknown quantity hereabouts. They watched with mouths open as I filled the carafe with ice and roughly chopped fruit. "And then you put..... cucumber....?!" Mouths opened even wider. Needless to say it went down a treat, everyone got trolleyed and the hunt was on for a source of Pimm's in northern Italy. Remarkably, a dusty box was found in a local Cash & Carry and the deal was done. This was the scene on Thursday evening. Somehow Bruno knew (maybe it's an atavistic thing) that the addition of a slug of Beefeater gives it more muscle. The sign of a real drinker.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Abnormal Service

Can't upload photos at the moment so no posting for a while. However I will carry on drinking.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Fruits of the Land

Ron's back. Sometimes I really do my toaster with this lot (Blogger that is); often I just can't upload a picture for love or money. Then the next day, wheee, up it goes sweet as a nut. Search me.
Cut a load of hay for my old mate Riccardo the other day in his vineyard and the payment, pictured above, followed soon afterwards. Wrapped in the newspaper are half a dozen fresh eggs, nestling amidst the bottles of doubtful provenance. I understand the wine to be a blend of Dolcetto and Barbera but he's always a bit evasive when I try and pin him down. As the years hurry past I'm afraid his wine is getting more, er, unpredictable. I find that now I can only do about half a bottle before I throw in the towel and open something labelled. Blimey, I'm turning into a poof.
Riccardo found a buzzard in his chicken pen the other week that having landed and killed a hen, couldn't find the necessary space for take-off. He beat it to death with a shovel.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Strop, strop

A wonderful wet shave at one of the many barbers in town, an added bonus being that it was conducted in absolute silence. Unusual in Blighty, unheard of in Italy. I just lay there and gazed wistfully at the plural posters on the wall featuring smouldering, bare-chested young Italian men. You really must pop over Camilla.