Thursday, 27 March 2008
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Monday, 17 March 2008
We said our goodbyes to Sergio on Saturday at the godforsaken village on the Plain of Lombardy where he lived. The whole place is permeated by the smell of cowshit, drifting over from the huge sheds just outside the village where some 500 head of cattle, who never see the light of day, are kept. We went to pay our respects to him, laid out in his house. He had often been laid out in his house before but never in a big box, surrounded by candelabra, with a chiller running to keep him fresh and a bloody suit and tie on. At a quarter to three the undertakers arrived, asked people to leave, closed the shutters and then sealed the coffin. Prior to this however they spent a couple of minutes taking the suit off and dressing him as he had requested: in a pair of his favourite Bermudas, a particularly hideous Hawaiian shirt and mirror shades. They then loaded the coffin in the back of the hearse - quite like the one above, but even more Italian with an illuminated crucifix on the roof, and (inside) uplighters, downlighters and, most probably, sidelighters as well and hidden exterior loudspeakers. It then moved off, very slowly, with the priest leading the way kitted up with a radio mike chanting a rosary which the hearse broadcast to the mourners following behind. What technology! After the funeral service we again went through the same routine for the trip to the cemetery. All the shops had their shutters down as a mark of respect. Bar owners in the village could be seen openly weeping, both for the loss of Sergio and the accompanying and significant loss of income.
Thursday, 13 March 2008
It's all go, go, go at Combo International Enterprises Inc. And business prospects are looking distinctly positive. We have just managed to secure the exclusive distribution rights in Southern Europe for Letraset; I truly believe that once people discover this product it could prove a sea-change in the way advertisements are produced. However all this work doesn't mean that a little snooze after lunch is ruled out. Oh no. And it was after resurfacing at around 5.30 one afternoon that I saw a large commercial aircraft execute a perfect U-turn above Combo Towers. By the time I had got the camera all that was left was this vapour trail. What happened? Did the pilot suddenly realise that he had left the gas on?
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
An old mate from Milan, Sergio, was chucked-out of his favourite bar for the very last time this afternoon at five o'clock Italian time. He was a classic boozer, often funny, sometimes out of order, unpredictable, subject to violent mood swings but most of all always extremely generous. When he drank he really attacked the glass, his mouth curling back into a sneer as he downed a glass of wine. It was Sergio who bought a bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry to go with pudding at a dinner a couple of summers ago. It dates from a 1927 Solera. I liked it so much, he insisted we have another one. And this is the bottle. He died of course from cirrhosis. Time's up Sergio. Let us other bastards get to the bar. And you lot raise a glass to Sergio. A boozer's boozer.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Auntie Combo lives in Connecticut and is knocking on a bit to say the least. But she doesn't look anything like her age. It's because every evening at six o'clock she fixes herself one of these. A Pink Gin. And it has to be Plymouth Gin. No substitutes. It's probably one of the easiest cocktails to make; just splash some angostura bitters in a glass, swirl them around a while, empty the bitters in the sink and fill with gin (the glass not the sink). Anyway, that's what I did last night. Highly recommended on an empty stomach, with an immediate alcohol whoosh. I was bumping into all sorts of things in the kitchen. Marvellous stuff.
Monday, 3 March 2008
There's something about this field I really like. Maybe it's the lovely curve and gentle slope which this picture doesn't convey. Perfect for sledging. Apologies for this strictly temporary burst of lyricism. Normal service will be resumed after I have got my hands on a decent bottle of gin.
Saturday, 1 March 2008
Our order for wine from Veneto had to be faxed by the end of February so in distinctive Italian style an ad-hoc supper was organised for the evening of the 29th with all the participating members of the buying group to decide who was having what, who was prepared to share half a demijohn and so on. Above is Smooth Tony's price list. We faxed over our order at around 11 o'clock (I think). To tell the truth the wheels started to come off at a bit earlier as we were so keen to re-sample some of his wonderful wines that a lot of the detail escapes me. I believe I have ordered one demijohn of Cabernet Franc, one demijohn of Sauvignon Bianco and half a demijohn of Pinot Grigio plus some cases of Prosecco. I'll wait for the lorry to turn up in two weeks and discover that I put my hand up for six demijohns of everything.