Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Intrepid Explorer

A loosely work-related brief visit by the Intrepid Explorer resulted in a virtually non-stop 48 hour drinking binge. Dramatic amounts of wine, of course, but also a new digestivo, consumed at the behest of Bruno. The little babies lined up here are a Fernet Branca sub-brand, Menta. Fernet Branca is the Mother of all digestives and this minty version is not unpleasant at all after an Italian lunch consumed with an outside temperature nudging 95F and three (or was it four?) bottles of red wine on the table. Phew.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Dance Hall Days

One interesting societal aspect of time-warp Italy is the number of thriving dance halls where couples in the full bloom of pensionhood, their faces rigid with concentration, grimly cling on to each other as they sashay around the dance floor. Happy Harry, above, was the star turn last week and, yes, he dresses like that because he thinks it's cool and it is certainly not done in a post-modern ironic sense. He will probably have a seven or eight piece backing band made up of a 55 year old pneumatic songstress squeezed into a dress three sizes too small, an accordion player with a permanent rictus grin, two guitarists, a drummer and three pony-tailed likely lads in the brass section who will spend most of their time on the stage nudging each other and winking and gurning at any likely dancefloor prey as they swing in unison to the beat. All the male members of the band are likely to be dressed in powder blue satin suits, with industrial quantities of exposed chest hair on view. All will have arrived at the gig in a converted 20 year old coach with the band name (Julian and The Barons) emblazoned on the side and posters sellotaped up on the back window.

This smouldering hunk is next up in the frame. I bet he pulls.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Summertime snack

The sun has finally started to shine after weeks of rain, so to celebrate this and the concomitant arrival of the first broad beans, Mrs Combo and I tucked into a favourite antipasto hereabouts and if anyone knows of a more heavenly combination than twice-peeled broad beans and local salami, they can sod off. Sluiced down with the first tasting of Smooth Tony's Pinot Grigio (bottled when Fred was here, dribbling over his Welsh bint) straight out of the 'fridge. Fan-sodding-tastic.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


I wouldn't have thought a Fiat 600 could somersault so far. This is at least 30 yards from the road. I couldn't see any bodies so I legged it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

A Pair of Cracking Bloomers

Mrs Combo rang me from the shop where she works on Saturday and said "look, get your finger out, we've got a writer staying with us tonight, and she's launching her new book this evening at Steffi's restaurant, she'll turn up this morning so get her room sorted, I can't come back at lunchtime, take her to the restaurant and I'll see you there at around 8.30, and don't eff around." Bingo! I thought to myself, all day with some published belter, maybe she'd like a spot of lunch, maybe helped down with bottle of Sauvignon Bianco, or I think I've still got some Pimm's....waahey! Blow me down if she wasn't 82 sodding years old and Italy's most renowned herb expert. Anyway, the book launch was actually good fun, five courses with excellent local wine from La Guardia and a bottle of grappa left on the table at the end of the meal. Marvellous! The next day she took us on a herb hunt in the local countryside, another (again free - paid for by you lot out of EU regional development funds!!) lunch, loads of sparkling wine, grilled meats, wonderful cheeses, joy of Italy, you know the form. The accompanying shot was taken en-route, the stout ladies' underwear almost cracking in the stiff breeze. Naturally I saluted them.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Village Life

Think of village and the word idiot comes to mind. Well, to me it does. Maybe I am he. Anyway, I was taking the doggie for a stroll through the local village (the one with the world's worst-stocked shop, open for two hours each morning, see the distant post if you can be arsed to find it) when my old (and I mean Old) mate and world's greatest smallholder Riccardo called me over from his yard where he was busy wringing the necks of a couple of capons (excellent self-basters by the way, having lost their tackle at an early age, thus going to fat) and invited me in for an aperitivo and who was I to say no at half past ten in the morning? His marginally less ancient wife plonked down two beakers (oooh yes!) on the table in their huge, workmanlike 1960s kitchen and slugged out two serious martini rossos, one for me and one for her. "But Riccardo" I ventured, "are you not...?" "Don't ask" he replied curtly so I didn't. No ice, no faggy slice of orange, no mixer, just a straight simple Red Martini, straight out of the bottle into what was almost certainly a dirty glass. Marvellous. They loaded me up with the kit in the photo, all home-made, the white wine being recommended for a roast. Lord knows what the grape is, I don't think even Riccardo knows as some of his vines are older than he is (89).

Monday, 9 June 2008

Slashing down

The beginning of June sees the opening of the various swimming pools dotted around the area. Problem is, it's been pissing down for the past month and it shows no sign of letting up. I blame (in no particular order) Blears, Blair, Harman, Browne and Primarolo. And of course Brown the unelected boss. The B&B business is buggered. The vegetable plots are mudbaths. The game's up. Bollocks.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Men in Black

There were lots of serious looking men in black suits. A lot of expensive motor cars and even more expensive women. The whole wedding was quite an experience, even for a battle-hardened soak like your correspondent. Conspicuous consumption was the watchword.

Champagne, fireworks, champagne, heaving mountains of lobster, white-gloved waiters, champagne, more fireworks, thousands of balloons, sprawling displays of flowers, more food, more everything. Racing to the reception with cars straddling the whole road, horns blaring.

The entrance to the hotel strewn with white almond sweets, rice and rose petals. More fireworks.
Yes the groom was dressed top to toe* in aubergine. Just cop the belt. If his father sees this in the public domain, I'm a dead man. And no, we didn't get to sing Ave Maria. As Bruno pulled out the sheet of music on the plane for the rehearsal, he noticed that he'd photocopied it so badly the last line was missing completely. At least the happy couple were spared that.

*shoes included