oh for a dizionari


This originally appeared as an e-mail to friends in April 2006.

We had been going to night school to study Italian for about a year before moving. C had made decent progress but i was missing classes because of work commitments. It’s probably my age but whilst I was doing fine in the class, I really struggled to remember what I’d been taught in the previous lesson. Short term memory recall eh. Where was I..oh yeh. By the time we’d moved to Italy my vocabulary extended to maybe 100 words and some basic phrases. Honestly I knew more Anglo-Saxon than Italian.

Our vendors had left us with very few light fittings and in many places just bare wires. We’d looked around some local lighting shops but didn’t really like any of the styles, which were too traditional for our tastes. We yearned for a Habitat or IKEA (spookily a huge Ikea opened in September in Ancona and it’s been mobbed ever since). So on my frequent trips back and forth to the UK, I bought some light fittings from the IKEA in Milton Keynes until we had enough to sort out our home in Italy.

I decided to have a look at the fixing instructions – it required screwing into the walls to secure the units. Now I have to admit I’m not the most practical of blokes and faffing around with electrical wiring isn’t my idea of bank holiday fun. In fact it scares me. Before drilling the holes for the fixing plates I was trying to guage where the wiring lay beneath the plaster work. I couldn’t tell so i told C I needed one of those sensors that could identify hidden wiring and pipes.

Returning from shopping one day I noticed a hardware shop, pulled over and told C I’d be 2 minutes just to check if they had one of the sensor guns. The store-keeper was v friendly but didn’t speak a word of English. I tried to think how to describe a wiring a pipe sensor with my limited vocabulary then resorted to a language in which I was becoming fluent: sign-language mixed with a bit of give-us-a-clue overlaid with a bit of strangled Italglish. I managed to describe wiring and he brought me a cable drum. Nearly there – but I was struggling to describe the sensor device. I made a kind of bipping noise as i moved my hand across the wall with a finger pointed like a gun. He looked a little apprehensive but indulged me as i made a slightly louder beep as I pointed to the cable drum. I repeated this at least 5 or 6 times and was about to give up when he smiled and shouted back at me, ‘ah bip, bip, beep; bip, bip, beeep. il sensore, il sensore!’

By Giorgio I think he had it. I excitedly shouted back ‘Si, si, si signore; il sensore’ (well it was my first Italian tongue-twister and I was quite proud of myself). I eagerly asked if he had one in stock, he said ‘momento’, disappeared round the back and re-appeared a few minutes later shaking his head rather sadly. Bugger. My heart sank, that was half an hour of my life and some of my finest acting, wasted. But he added, I gathered, that he could order one for me which would be in stock the following Tuesday. Bene! I thanked him rather enthusiastically and mimicked Arnie’s ‘I’ll be back’ line which went over his head a bit.

Back in the car C asked me what on earth I’d been doing, this wasn’t unreasonable as I’d ended up over half an hour in the shop and had come out empty-handed. I gave C the shortish version, told her he was a very nice man and probably the nearest thing to a friend I had. After about 5 minutes driving I then dropped the bomb-shell that as I would be back in the UK would C go and pick the sensor up for me pretty please. I was quite sure what C meant by ‘oh thanks’ but had an idea. I don’t think she fancied the idea of re-enacting the whole performance just for a bloody sensor that I could easily pick up in the UK. Umm… female logic can be so bloody….well, logical. But i wanted to buy it from my friend now.

The following week whilst back in the UK I called C on the Tuesday night, chatted as you do and at then casually asked if she’d maybe found time to maybe pop in and maybe get the sensor. Even more casually C replied ‘yeh sure’. Wo, way to go babe but how, what, who…..I trailed off as C just said she went into the store, smiled and said buongiorno and then simply announced, ‘mio marito e inglese’ which i’m sure you can see is ‘my husband is english’. Ah si, the store-keeper smiled at C as he replied ‘Signore Bip Bip Beep,’ handing C the sensor and the bill. One minute, in and out.

Which just goes to show that women are smarter than men and my wife certainly is. But hey who’s the one with the new nickname?

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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

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