Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I surrender!

The Intrepid One was over with the twinkle-toed Jo. It was quite a demanding weekend.
There was a lot of this.
And quite a lot of this.
And even some of this.
However the climax of the weekend was undoubtedly a first-ever visit to a genuine Italian dance hall, a raid led of course by the evergreen Giulio the Singer and The Tigerwoman.
It was a remarkable experience that is difficult to encapsulate with mere words. It was as if we had all stepped back into an Italian equivalent of Butlin's from the mid-fifties.
Jo wowed the regulars and collected quite a few admirers. She only declined one invitation to dance from a local ("he smelled of pee"). Fortunately TIO had managed not to soil himself and so was allowed to give her a bit of a whirl too.

All photographs © TIO. Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeers!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Going up?

Now here's one for you lot. Which country do you think has more lifts per '000 head of population in the world? Of course, it's Italy. And do you know why? Because all Italians, he exaggerated wildly, live in blocks of flats. And on this single subject, dear reader, there is a book to write. There is a complete, self-contained enormous legal strata that deals just with the (literally) millions of disputes within said blocks of flats, another sprawling, unimaginably vast, layer of administrators, huge gangs of cleaners with their clapped-out Iveco vans, and so it goes on. Most of these palazzi were shoved up during the renowned boom that Italy enjoyed in the 1960s and early 70s, (Italians of a certain age still get misty-eyed when they start banging on about that golden time, and boy do they bang on) and for that reason most are somewhat, er, ugly. But inside...what a time capsule we have. Utterly untouched in terms of decoration or furniture, the halls and landings of Italian blocks of flats are silent, stark mausoleums, with nary a sign of dirt or mote of dust. Perhaps you will hear a distant television, but there is (sadly) little sound of crockery smashing against walls as another marital infidelity is uncovered. There is an occasional 1950s-style notice in a little glass frame advising the complete closure of the main entrance and counselling against the use of the lift in case of fire, but that is it.
Apart from all those bloody pot plants. Every-bastard-where, on every landing, outside every door, just sitting there doing sod all, being bloody shiny and green and evil, growing half an inch every ten years, as they have been since the six storey nightmare was thrown up forty years ago.

I really think I should get out more. Or is that stay in more? Can't quite make up my mind. Time for a Campari and Soda I believe.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

And another...

Different table, different bottles, same endless excess, another night out with Giulio the Singer. And on Friday The Intrepid One arrives for some R&R. I may well need some professional help in a week's time.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Bar None

Combo Catering decanted to the town of Vercelli last week to sate the hunger of braying arty types at the launch of a new Guggenheim exhibition in the local museum. Whilst the horribly underpaid and viciously overworked minions sweated away, I was able to take some time out for a gentle stroll around Vercelli, famous for being the rice capital of Italy, surrounded on all sides by flatness, utter flatness, and squillions of hectares of rice fields, each carefully flooded in the spring and summer creating a vast patchwork of mirrored geometric shapes when seen from the comfort of an airliner (get on with it, ed.). Anyway, because of all this, the town is renowned for the size and hunger of its mosquitoes in summer and the impenetrability of its fogs in winter. However, the centre of the town itself is an absolute jewel, with some sensational food shops and beautiful bars like this one:
The establishment is 120 years old, unchanged and still in the keep of the same family. The bar itself is not zinc but a mixture of tin and antimony, whatever that is. That's my coffee bottom right (on duty hence damned abstinence).
Well worth a visit to neck a few Campari and sodas (when not on duty) and soak up Italy's living past.