Thursday, 19 April 2012

"At that moment he spotted the Traffic Department car parked behind his and the overalled warden jotting down his registration number. Harry crossed the street and held up his ID card. "I'm on police business". "Makes no difference. No parking is no parking", overalls said without pausing in his writing, "send in a complaint" ". ("The Leopard", Jo Nesbo).

The Italian newspapers today report that the "vigili urbani" (traffic police/wardens) in Rome have run out of official parking tickets.  (A case of "cuts" cutting off the nose to spite the face?).  No problem, with sound Italian ingenuity the vigili have printed off, and are attempting to present transgressors with, photocopies.  The question is whether a photocopy constitutes a valid legal document.  The wardens are consequently having to summon up all their "charm" to convince the lawbreakers that their parking tickets are indeed valid and that the on-the-spot fine must be paid forthwith.  How resourceful can a traffic warden be?   Disarmed, must be disarming!  as one resourceful journalist put it.  (The alliteration translates well).

Due to a "technical" hitch the amount of  real space for the staircase in our house falls somewhat short of that allowed on the original plan.  We are aware (sort of).  Paolo has been trying to worry us with this for weeks:  "But, I have to recalculate every step to the millimetre!" ...  "I have to redesign the entire stairwell!"  We smile meekly, sympathise, place a reassuring hand on his shoulder,  rue that there isn't one on ours.   Whether out of self-preservation (this was a problem too far), or whether out of absolute faith in Paolo's ingenuity (I prefer this one) we didn't take the bait, refusing to be reined-in to this potential nightmare.

As it turns out, Paolo has won through.  We always knew.

The base of the staircase has just been concreted.  We have access to the first floor as such, as yet.

There will be a first floor... won't there, Paolo?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

"Marine atmospheres in search of colours, in the naturalness of materials and lines of horizons." (from the introduction to one catalogue of medium-range Italian kitchens, designed by their specially commissioned "poly-sensorial" architect. The english translation is theirs.)

Now that the concrete base of the kitchen is down, we have a clearer idea of its dimensions.  This means only one thing - we have to choose a kitchen.
When it comes to state-of-the-art kitchen design Italy has no peer.  At the top of the range the Tate Modern would be hard put to find worthier exhibits.  A few of these kitchens even look as though they might be fit-for-purpose (as functioning kitchens, that is).
But, as with all things Italian, for the modest man with a modest budget, buying a fitted kitchen is quite a different kettle of fish.  I think I may have moaned about shopping in Italy before - it's a nightmare!  (And you can forget internet shopping, Italian design is pre-Unification when it comes to web sites.)

There are hundreds of little outlets for fitted kitchens, one for almost every town in Le Marche alone.  Many are reasonably priced and Italians, it seems, will not think twice about ripping out and replacing a kitchen on a whim.  Styles range from the cluttered, impractical country-style with tile and grout worktops - what? -  a poor imitation of a gypsy caravan, through endless IKEA lookalikes (or is it vice versa), to copies of the modern masterpieces.

We think we'd like a country style kitchen of sorts.  But, when it comes to country kitchens you can't beat English design and workmanship.  I now know why endless repeats of "Midsommer Murders" (dubbed) are so popular on RAI TV.  Italians aren't interested in solving the crime (they've got Montalbano for that), they simply want to catch every glimpse of those quaint, english kitchen interiors.  Who can blame them!

I, however, have my sights on BIGGER horizons, neither of which fall within the fitted kitchen pricing category at all.  Firstly, I'd like a BIG fridge, with a BIG freezer - for ice-cream.  Secondly, a BIG sink - for washing BIG pasta pots.  And the third is, an outrageously  prominent, all singing, all dancing gleaming stainless-steel coffee-making machine for ...  "bella figura".  And, lastly, a cosy corner where I can drink my mug of Instant; eat my Marmite toast unseen; and with confidence, plan my day in the sun.