Breaking News ……..

Sorry for this post being so close to the last one but I’ve just heard …….. it seems as if we shall be moving. The offer has been accepted and so, in about 2 months or so, we shall be living together, in a new (old) flat.

How exciting!

How frightening!

So now, things to do.

1. Get my clocks repaired.
2. Get the sofas and chair recovered.
3. Sort out movers.
4. Throw away lots and lots of rubbish.
5. Get rugs cleaned professionally.
6. Get new kitchen.
7. Allow F to take over my life and the way I live and not complain about it.

OK, so I might fight the last one but I am concerned that it’s what will happen. Oh well, I’m sure it will be fine. And the timing for this couldn’t be better. I have the money to do all this (or will have in the next few days), so it’s just a matter of buckling down to it all. Fun days ahead then. Wish me luck!

Awry!

You know how sometimes, everything seems to go a bit awry?

Well that’s how it is. I mean, it’s nothing major or really important, just little things that are annoying and involve trips to shops and buying some stuff.

So, it started last night. I got home from work and had to take the dogs out quickly and I noticed that my ultra-cheap shoes seemed a bit funny. Sure enough, the sole was coming apart. Of course, these are ultra-cheap and, so, don’t last. But, my thinking is that, if they last even 6 months, it’s still worth it. This is because I wear them to work and, somehow, all the shoes I wear to work quickly become tatty looking. Rather than spend a fortune on decent shoes, it seems better to spend next to nothing and throw them away once something goes wrong. in fact, even when a lace breaks, I’m almost inclined to bin them :-)

Anyway, this means going to buy new ultra-cheap shoes.

Then, I noticed my watch had stopped working. It needs a new battery is all – but that means I’ve got to find somewhere to get it done. Last time, the jewelers I went to wouldn’t do it and I ended up getting it done in Hereford Butter Market – so now I have to find a different jewelers here, in Milan.

Obviously, i checked my other watches and found about half of them needed new batteries.

See, I told you they were little things. It means Saturday will be busy. And, as my next post will show, there are a million and one other things to do too!

Quite nice is not VERY nice, is it?

“That’s quite nice.”

Here, the most important word is “quite” – as in almost something worth looking at. Not nice enough to buy or have in the house but, sort of nice. In the way that, compared to everything else that was on show, it was better but without any “WOW!” factor.

I probably said it a few times. And that, kind of, summed it up.

Amongst the dross there were a few things that were OK enough to look at.

Saturday, bless him, even if he was tired, he knew I wanted to go and see some things with him. So, off we went, with his friend, Fi, from Austria, walking not far from my flat. We were going to Wallpaper. There we did see some lovely things. Last year, we then continued to Brera. This year, Fi wanted to go to Lambrate. So we got a taxi and went.

I’ve never been to the “famous” Lambrate area during Design Week, so I was quite looking forward to it. It’s the other side of the railway that circles Milan – a place I would never normally have gone to. It’s quite a nice area in that it has a “village” feel. It was packed with people. Lots of ex-factories have become workshops and places to exhibit. This is the Fringe Show of the Furniture Fair. We traipsed through some but after two of them I mostly stayed outside. Not only was there really nothing worth seeing (in my opinion) but the crowds were just too much. Still, the sun was out and it was warm, so quite nice. The whole area felt quite bohemian (what, nowadays, is called Hipster, I believe) – full of you8ng designers and artistic types doing the rounds.

There were a few things that I found “quite nice” – but most of it was crap or seemed to have been done before.

By about 2, we were leaving. Fi was going somewhere else, we were going home.

The next day, there were a couple of “exhibitions” by friends or friends of friends. So, yesterday, early evening, we went. the first was a photographer (who, apparently, used to do sculptures which were very good) but he should have stuck to the sculptures because the photographs were, quite frankly, nothing much. Housed in a tiny, tiny room, there was hardly room for the three of us (this time, F’s colleague, Ma).

Then on to a “utensil” exhibition in a studio. Again, a couple of tiny rooms, only one of which had anything – on a large table in the centre of the room were things created from everyday utensils. What was created was neither decorative nor useful. It looked like the sort of thing you’d get kids to make in primary school!

Afterwards, when we having a beer, F (who was of the same opinion as me) said that, next year, he would set up an exhibition with his photos of Ma in various disguises (which are very good). Now THAT would be worth seeing. So, next year might be more interesting than this year :-)

An update

Well, as we suspected, the offer was rejected. But not exactly outright.

The comment that came back was – “we were expecting something closer to our asking price.”

Apparently, they were happy to have us – it was just lower than they wanted.

So, last night, we were back to the estate agents and we made our 2nd offer – actually half way between the two 8our offer and their price). We explained that we didn’t want to keep coming back and forth. We asked if they would be likely to accept it. Eventually, with a few more Euro, the next offer was made.

Now we wait and see but we may even know today!

Plastic People

I am way, way over my head here.

And how different this was from the previous night!

I am introduced to various people, only one of whom I will remember – and that’s because we’re going to his wife’s shop (or, rather ex-shop) soon.

Eventually Si and I go to get a glass of prosecco and I manage to grab a small chocolate sweet from one of the waiters passing by who, until now have passed close to me but not close enough for me to grab anything and, anyway, seem to be moving through the room at something close to the speed of light. Most of the time, the ones that get close enough are carrying empty plates back.

The people around me speak mostly Italian and far too fast for me to understand. The men are dressed in suits with ties (no jeans) and the women have on their finest designer outfits and are all “beautiful” and “thin”.

This may be Design Week but one could be excused for confusing this with Fashion Week.

Si had only texted me when she had arrived at the shop (or, as we should now call them, Flagship Store.) Initially, I thought I’d say “no”. I was already tired from the night before but then I thought that I never really do these things and that I really should. What’s the point in living here if I don’t experience the “high life” once in a while. So I had rushed to change and to get there and I was now hot and bothered. She is dressed with a pink theme but doesn’t look out of place. I feel out of place since I have jeans, a casual white shirt (a little unusual – as is my wont) and a “suit-type” jacket.

After a little while we go to our next place. Si’s colleague, M’s wife sued to own one of the most famous jewelers in Milan (apparently since I had never heard of them). We walk to the shop. On the way, in Via Montenapoleone (one of the main fashion streets in Milan), we pass their other shop. M goes over to say hello to someone there and then beckons us over. Apparently we should be going to this shop and not the other one. This shop, though, is not their historical main store but, rather, one that is exclusively for Rolex watches. In fact, I learn, this was the very first Rolex Flagship store in the world.

The party is in full swing. As for most places, there are people on the door checking if you are “on the list”. If you’re not “on the list” or know someone inside, you won’t get in. Of course, we are with the husband of the ex-owner (her cousin now owns it but she goes because it’s expected as she can meet and greet some of the long-term clients that will be there), so we get in.

Si seems very pleased with this all. She works in Marketing for a Luxury Brand (but not fashion) so there could be a tie-in.

Here the clientele at the party are richer than the previous party. The men are not all in suites but, then, the crowd is older. I say older and that’s not entirely true. The men are older, some of the women are older but some are there because they’re not. However, there is so much plastic in the room – most women seem to have been under the knife, some with disastrous results (in my opinion.) There was fur; there were jewels; there was plastic – everywhere.

The shop is not that big but opulent would be a good word to use. The carpet thick, the wood special and lots of it and, of course, the watches. Now, personally, I really don’t like Rolex as a watch. Too much – I prefer simple watches – simple faces, preferably white or blue – even if mine are quite expensive (not as much as a Rolex though.)

The food was fantastic. They did little burgers that were so tasty (and, obviously NOT McDonalds) and some proper Risotto Milanese. Si knew the chef (I’m not sure how she found that out) who is quite famous here, apparently and has a restaurant near Bergamo. Anyway, she mentioned something to one of the waiters and the next thing was that the chef came out to say hello to her – and me – and bearing another tray of the delightful mini burgers (just a mouthful each time – I had about 5!)

The shop had a “vertical” garden at the back, a roof terrace on the top floor and, on the same floor, a very large balcony that overlooked via Montenapoleone. Quite stunning.

It was all very nice but, to be honest, I preferred the previous night. There weren’t any real “designers” at these parties, just people who were to be “seen”.

I wasn’t way over my head because of the people so much as the fact that I don’t have the “culture” knowledge that they do. I mean, I know stuff but when people mention this designer or that artist, quite often I don’t have a clue who they are. Mostly I say I don’t know them. Sometimes, just because otherwise it gets boring, I say “Oh really?” – thank God they don’t ask too many questions.

Although, obviously, these people, especially at the Rolex shop, do move in a different world from me.

Still, it was all very nice and I’m glad I went but I did prefer the previous night where I got to meet “real” people rather than “plastic” people.

Design Week – the parties, the exhibitions, the fun of it all.

The weather is quite nice now. Not really hot but warm and then, in the evening, pleasant – but you need a light jacket or coat.

That was certainly one reason why, when I arrived, the place was heaving. In fact, I’ve never seen it so full.

Obviously, I know a lot of people now so it took us a while to get to a place to grab a drink. At the start, S hung on my coat tails but, after a while she relaxed.

The shop looked great and F had done a really good job although people would “touch” things and put them out of place and that irritates F. There were four stunningly nice chairs in hooks on the large wall they have and on one of the bottom chairs, F had placed a bird (it was a theme). Some guy who looked like he had come straight from a Harry Potter film set as one of the teachers of the school – long, slightly crazy white hair, beard and glasses – had just reached up to the bird and dislodged it. We watched him as he tried to put it back on the chair. He couldn’t. He laid it on the chair and, with F seething, we watched him look around, trying to work out if someone had noticed. He looked and, almost certainly felt, very guilty.

We eventually got a drink from a roving waiter and picked up food as it came round. S was introduce to everyone that I talked to.

F told her she looked very elegant, as he does to almost female. So, even today, all I am hearing is F said this; F said that!

Anyway, she loved it. She felt more special, I know. I remember when I used to feel like this all those years ago (before F). Now, I’m just interested in finding really nice people that I can become friends with. Not because I’m looking for friends, you understand, just because it’s nice meeting new people who are intelligent, funny, experienced and, with any luck, have something really interesting about them. Still, all the people that S met were, so she said, very nice. Of course, F was the best and she kept on about his trousers and how I should get some the same which, of course, I won’t, since I don’t really do trousers unless they are part of a suit!

We wandered about and chatted with all these people. Colleagues of F, friends of ours who came, other people that I know that are friends of F’s or his colleagues or used to be colleagues. Even our old neighbour came.

At 8, people were still trying to get in and soon after they stopped people because they started to clean up. Si had arrived late and she and I stood outside; waiting for F who was polishing all the glass table and cabinet tops and resetting everything that had been touched and moved, ready for today. S left as she had her daughter to collect. But you could tell that she really wanted to come with us.

Then, we walked down to Via Tortona and a street that ran parallel. There were crowds and crowds of people and, as we commented later, it’s a nicer crowd during Design Week, more relaxed than during Fashion Week. Obviously, there were the people with the strange idea about dress – a little bit quirky or downright weird. But it is more casual, in general.

We met up with F’s best colleagues and visited some places that were open (most were open) including the studio of L’s sister, B who is very, very nice.

Everyone is “wowing” about the designs she does. I’m agreeing but inwardly thinking “Well, this is OK but I wouldn’t have it in my house”. But, of course, you can’t say that.

We did meet a 50-something dancer who has a one-room flat in London, speaks very good English and has just opened a dance studio here in Milan. She might also design jewelry. She might have been quite interesting to get to know but it was late and I was tired and we were about to go to Bar §Basso. I’m sure that I’ll meet her again – if it’s meant to be.

And then a taxi to Bar Basso. Si, who is more like F’s age, seemed genuinely “excited” about the whole thing and the atmosphere at Bar Basso because it was “very International”.

Then we went home.

Also, the people who own the potential new flat are very interested in us taking the flat but want us to come closer to the asking price.

We go this evening to update our offer :-)

Staying with you v going out with my friends

He doesn’t say much.

I mean he talks A LOT, but doesn’t say much in the way of “lurve”. No “I love you”s or “I miss you”s or stuff like that.

So, you have to take what you can.

Last night we were out doing some of the Design Week Fringe events and we ended up at Bar Basso with this rather lovely lady, Si. We got our drinks and were standing outside drinking and having a cigarette amongst the crowds and crowds of people, many foreigners who come for Design Week.

F likes to get the cocktails in great big glasses, which they do there and is one of their trademarks. Then there were these people from somewhere “abroad”, staring at our drinks whilst they were drinking the same drinks in very small glasses and chatting amongst themselves about the drinks, probably thinking they were some special drink and, of course, they’re in Milan so everything is exotic.

Anyway, F was saying to Si that he could go out every night with his friends, staying out with them but that he “prefer to stay with Andy”. That’s about as close as I get to an “I love you”.

Later, when we were at home, I said that it was one of the nicest things he had ever said.

He doesn’t take praise well and so the reply was “Well, it’s true”, which I guessed anyway.

Still, it was a lovely and unexpected thing.

How excited are we?

Well, it seems, very excited.

Bordering on hysterical.

Now, when I say “we”, I don’t actually mean “we” as in F & me. I mean my colleague, S.

She is a bit “snobby”. Not in a horrible way, of course, but she does like to think of herself as better than she is. More elegant, more beautiful, etc. I find it funny, to be honest.

Anyway, it’s the Furniture Fair in Milan this week and F’s shop has a display of some furniture, the fabric for which was designed by the designer (of the clothes, obviously). And there is a kind of small “party” which is really just an aperitivo, tonight. I am going, of course and, as F requested, invited certain people (it means that the shop will be full and that’s always good). There will be prosecco and the event is catered with some very nice “finger food” and there are waiters mingling to hand out this finger food. I go because F wants me to go and he can introduce me to English people and I can talk to them, which he likes.

Anyway, amongst the people I invited was S, my colleague. I knew she would like to be invited and half expected her to say no but, instead, she said yes. What the hell, I thought. She almost certainly knows of the existence of F (being quite good friends with some people that know of F here, at work) and I’m sure she is being just slightly nosy. But, in addition, it is a party with, for her, the glamour of Milan fashion and, so, something to be seen at.

However, I wasn’t expecting the reaction we have so far – she is wearing something but has bought a dress to change in to if I thought what she was wearing wasn’t good enough!

As I’ve tried to explain, this is just a small party in the shop. It’s not really something you have to wear a cocktail dress or evening gown to. It starts at 6.30 and will be all over by 8!

However, she is VERY excited. and a little bit apprehensive, which surprises me.

So, we shall see. The “tension” will be mounting throughout the day. Probably.

Planning

It’s sort of forward planning.

You may remember, dear reader, my horror last summer at running out of books and my subsequent purchase of a Sony eReader to make sure it would never happen again?

Well, of course, being the old codger that I am, the eReader is fine – for emergencies. I really prefer a “real” book – the feel of the pages, the smell of the book, the never running out of battery, etc., etc.

Last year, if I remember rightly, I had somewhere around 9 books for 3 weeks and reckoned that, even at a rate of 2 books per week, I’d be fine. In fact, I ran out of books by the end of the second week.

And, although I now have my emergency backup eReader, I don’t want to be running out like last year.

And, the other day, I was reading something on Twitter from one of the people I follow and they were plugging their book as it has just been released in paperback. Which made me look at my “bookshop” (I use Bookstore, in the UK. Amongst the very nice things about this company is the fact that I have my “list” of books saved and I pick out the ones that I want to buy.

Now, I use this company as it is a truly independent book shop. It’s not part of the Amazon mega-corporation. OK, so I pay a little more than I would at Amazon but the service I get is superb. If I want any type of book I can ask. If I want to change my order before it is shipped, I ask. They are always very nice and responsive and you feel you are dealing with a human being rather than some computer (see, I told you I was an old codger).

Anyway, so really, as a response to this Twitter post about the paperback being out, I thought I might as well get it. I went onto the site and found it and, whilst I was there, checked the books I had put in “waiting” and decided to order some.

So, when the order arrives, I will have another load of books to add to ones I had already bought at the end of last year.

I’ve still got some way to go but I shall probably buy some of those books on the shortlist of the Bailey’s Prize this year.

In any event, I am excited about receiving my parcel of books in the next week or so :-)

Moving forward?

Well, I’ve waited until now to mention anything because I didn’t want to spoil it for Lola when we met yesterday evening.

So, I can say that we have made an offer on the flat we saw (again) on Friday. The offer was, obviously, lower than their requested price. Not that the price they wanted seemed that high both for the size of the flat and the position. Still, you can’t offer the full price, can you? Especially as we live in Italy and here, everything is negotiable.

It is a lovely flat. Light and airy, a large double sitting room with an large archway to, what would be, the dining area. We talked about New Year and how we would be able to extend the dining table fully and be much more comfortable. We talked about the fact that we would need to buy more chairs.

We talked about or, rather, I suggested that he could have his sound system in the corner of the dining area – then we would have music for guests and it would be “his” area. He could do his “music” stuff without interruption.

The hallway is long and, in places, very large. The front door opens onto what is, almost, a room. A doorway opens to the dining area. The “corridor” goes through the length of the flat with a doorway on the left to the lounge and to the right to the large kitchen.

The kitchen needs to have the units fitted, of course, as is common here. But it will be large enough to have a smallish table. It has a small “service” room off to one side, perfect for the dogs stuff and some cupboards to hold things like dog food and cleaning equipment. And there are sockets! This is not so common here, in Italy. It almost seems as if people don’t use electrical devices! Having a number of adapters and multi-plugs is common, as I have now. But, maybe in the future, less will be needed :-)

The hallway continues leading to another doorway on the left to a large “bedroom” that would actually be my studio. I have mentioned “doorways” since they have removed nearly all the doors apart from the kitchen, the bathrooms and the bedroom. Obviously, for this to be my studio, we will need to refit a door or, rather, what I want is a reclaimed double door, such as that in the kitchen, the original type of doors for the 20s and 30s, with half glass and, if we can find it, one of those with an art noveaux/art deco-type stained glass. I’m sure we can. People are throwing them out these days.

My “studio” would also contain my wardrobe – but it is a very large room.

Where the hallway gets to the studio doorway, it opens out again to create a type of “room”, though small. From here there are the doors to the two bathrooms – one quite narrow with a shower at the end and the other quite large with a full bath. It’s particularly nice as the fittings are all brand new.

There is also a door to the bedroom which, although not as large as my current bedroom, is large enough for a full-length wardrobe, double bed and other units and still with plenty of space.

The other advantage is that there are four balconies, for the dogs. Also the bedroom is at the back of the building and, so, much quieter than mine is now.

We went with the estate agent to his office and made our official proposal. F wrote a cheque for a deposit and now we wait until the end of the week to see if they will accept our proposal.

But F is quite excited and we are talking about how life will be better and things much easier and that we can have people come round and do dinners and drinks and stuff.

We are talking about the re-covering of the sofa, F picking types of material he likes. We’re talking about kitchens.

It’s all very exciting.

And yet ……. there is that part of me that feels a little bit frightened. Of course, unlike my previous relationships, I am happy with things as they are – in a way. So, it’s the “change” that frightens rather than anything concrete. But I’m sure it will all be fine. It’s not like we’re teenagers and we seem to rub along just fine.

So, Thursday or Friday we should know more. And you’ll be the first to know :-)