Friday, May 30, 2008


... and if you notice the bin first, you have no romance in your soul!


Thursday, May 29, 2008


My dear friend, James, has now been here for 48 hours. During that time he has:

- learnt several Italian salutations
- met some of my students
- become known at the Altro Posto, where he is already affectionately called "James Bond" [which is rather appropriate, really]
- made friends with Simi [despite the "chair" battle, which she is likely to win!]
- scaled a terrifyingly high fence in order to use a shortcut to my apartment
- walked down to Modica Bassa and back
- chipped a tooth [on the hard Modican bread, before you all get ideas!]

So I would say that he is feeling quite at home. He will feel even more so tomorrow or the next day , when the water will probably run out once again: "Il servizio è sospeso, signora" ["The service is suspended"] the clerk said helpfully when I phoned to order a cistern refill today. "There will be another gara".

The whole of Italy exists on the gare, which are competitions for jobs and / or contracts; to win one it is essential to know someone who knows someone who happens to be a relative of someone who....... Goodness knows what we are all supposed to do without water in the meantime!

Welcome to the real Sicily, James.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Yes, I have James of nourishing obscurity here! He is safe and well in sunny Sicily and I have discovered that he mixes a fine g & t! At the moment he is sitting beside me sipping a whisky and munching on focaccia bread.

And now Simi wants a word:

Hi, folks! I have got a new uncle, lo zio James. He seems very nice but he's not having my chair! xx

Happiness Finding Welshcakes

Yes, very true - Simi and I are "negotiating" the same chair but I'm sure we'll come to an arrangement to suit us both. Currently munching on focaccia bread and have one too many whiskies on board but I can tell you, in all sincerity, one thing:

Sicily and Welshcakes are wonderful, in no particular order.

James xx

Sunday, May 25, 2008


What a wonderful feast I was lucky enough to be invited to at the house of my dear friends, Roberto and Roberta, last night. Both the food and the company were international and a fine time was had by all. Grazie, Roberto and Roberta!

In the first picture, Roberta had put all the "starters" out on her kitchen table. By the time we had taken them all through to the "big table", more fare had, of course, appeared!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


"Wherever You Are...."


Friday, May 23, 2008


I felt such a fool at work today, sitting there with an ice pack [topped up periodically by the kind manager of the Altro Posto] on my foot, but it was the only way to cope.

Much fun with a business student as we were tackling a unit entitled “How to Compromise” and working out how to compose a letter to a valued client who has not paid for services recently provided. “If you do not pay me next week we kill you”, suggested the student cheerfully. “Well”, said I, “that may be the direct Sicilian approach but what we need here is a bit of British indirectness”. Finally we got there, producing a round-the-gasworks epistle full of “woulds”, “shoulds”, “coulds” and phrases like “Please be so kind as to…” The student was amazed to learn that such a mild letter can seem quite threatening to the recipient!

We have rubbish piling up in the streets again: what a welcome for the tourists who are starting to arrive!

Ladies, as I replied to a commenter yesterday I haven’t espied Mr Gorgeous or Mr Elegantissimo at the Altro Posto recently but one of the regulars today was a sight to gladden your heart. Let me describe his attire: snappy black suit, pink and white large-checked shirt, pink and maroon silk tie [with gold tie-clip] and the most elegant white pointy shoes you ever saw on a man. When he dashed in with an unlit cigar in his mouth everyone looked more than twice!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


"That's quite enough - you cannot put up with this any longer", declared my friend Irma this morning when I told her of a chronic condition [not my ankle problem] for which I am awaiting tests. "Come with me", she ordered.

And so we trotted over to Pronto Soccorso [Casualty] so that I could be examined and referred to a specialist from there, all on the same day. I must say it would never have occurred to me to do this but Irma assured me that "Everybody does it" and I thought, "Well, I'm a working girl who pays her taxes, so why not?" We waited only an hour or so - of course there was no semblance of a queue - and people kept banging on the closed examination room doors to ask how long they would have to wait and plead old age, having to get back to work or other reasons to be seen first.

What amused me was that, at 1pm precisely, the waiting area just emptied, so only Irma and I were still sitting there, everyone else having decided that their "urgent" conditions were not quite so urgent as lunch!

Half an hour later I had been examined, assured it is nothing serious, given appropriate treatment and a prescription for the medicines I need.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Please forgive lack of posting: I have not been well today, having had a flare-up of an old ankle injury which reduced me to sitting around with ice on my foot all day! If I normally visit your blog but have not managed it in the past week, please do not give up on me - I'll be there soon.

Auguri to all our readers from Welshcakes and Simi xx

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The little plate of complimentary snacks that most bars serve with an aperitivo here continues to be a delight and I must say that at the Altro Posto they have become very generous with this fare lately: as you see, spiedini of one kind or another seem to be in vogue and for the past week or so a fresh plate of these has been served with each drink. [If you're going to have one aperitvo, you might as well have two, especially on a sunny day just made for people-watching!]

Cosciotto [chicken thigh fillet] was on the main menu today, served with a contorno of spinaci. As you see, they didn't stint on the latter either!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


A lovely, long, leisurely lunch at Linda, Gino and Chiara's today and it was one of those relaxed , happy occasions that the Italians do so well, with the age of the guests ranging from 4 months to 87 years. Our creative Chiara, as only she can, came up with this delightful starter of spiedini of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, slices of hard cheese, cotognata [quince paste] melon and other fruits. I'll be copying these, Chiara! Then there was pasta cooked simply with the zest of lemons picked this morning. We then went Italo-British, with whole chickens that had been roasted on pancetta, the slices of pancetta being served with some very British roast potatoes. For dessert there was a lemon cake baked by one of the incomparable aunts, ice cream -pastry things from a pasticceria and Chiara's wonderful home-made strawberry ice cream.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008


.... if you live in Sicily and he is Raffaele, that is:

It was my fault yesterday as I lingered too long at home during the long lunch break [which I don’t usually have these days] and, of course, once I relax and cuddle up with my Simi I don’t want to bestir myself and go out again! So I didn’t get to Raffaele’s at 3 – 3.30 pm as planned, but at 4 pm. By then it was quite busy there and I asked him if he could get me “done” before 5, as I had a class then. “No problem”, he replied. I then settled down to read his magazines as usual, reader, but was beginning to panic by 4.30. “Ce la facciamo - we’ll do it”, promised he. Finally, at 4.40, I asked him if he could just do a comb-through and he repeated, “We’ll do it”, this time adding a “Won’t we?” to anyone in earshot. Then he burst out laughing as I checked my watch against his clock, explained again that I couldn’t risk being late and that I had to get across to work which would take 4 minutes from the second I left the salon. This last caused more fits of laughter as the idea of being precisely on time for anything, let alone a little early, is regarded as utterly eccentric here. “OK, OK, a comb-through it is”, he conceded in the end so I left feeling able to face the world and my classes at 4.55 pm.

Today I went there for a proper blow-dry at 1pm [they work through the siesta hours on Fridays and Saturdays] and, as I had to be back at work by 2.30, began to wonder if we would even manage it today. “Oh yes, we will !” exclaimed Raffaele, uttering the welcome instruction “Fai lo shampoo a Pat” to one of his assistants at 2.05. "Pat, my dear Welsh lady", [I have trained him not to say "English"] "you used to relax here but now you look at your watch all the time", lamented my lovely Raffaele. I must do something about this worrying tendency, reader.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


According to figures published this week, the inflation rate in Italy has increased by 10 times as much as in the other Eurozone countries in the past 5 years. Expenditure on food [up by 10.1%], clothes, shoes and cigarettes has reached record levels whilst higher prices have had to be paid for furniture, household goods in general and leisure and cultural activities. The cost of utility bills is reported to have risen by 20.2% here.

Italy has spent less than its neighbours only on health services, communications and education.
When you look at this, you can see why Italians wanted a change of government - any change.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Regular readers will know that I love gel al limone and I do not apologise for featuring yet another picture of this refreshing dessert. [Of course you have to take in the scent of the lemons to really appreciate how divine the dish is. I would never have believed it possible until I came here!] At the Altro Posto today it was decorated with the peel of green lemons, which are often on sale in Sicily and just as flavoursome as the yellow ones. Looking at pictures of limes with a student today, I had trouble convincing her that she was not seeing lemons!

Monday, May 12, 2008


We had a Scirocco storm on Friday and ever since then the weather has been cold for Sicily in mid- May. Everyone is still huddled in their padded jackets, no one has made the transition into short-sleeved or sleeveless garments and none of the women is yet tightless. Indeed, I gather it has been warmer in the UK than in Sicily today!

I am glad to be able to report that the rubbish has been collected [for now].

The via Sacro Cuore has been delightfully quiet today as there are roadworks there; at least, I hope it's the road they are dealing with. Someone said they are working on the water system and that idea fills me with horror, lest "modernisation" render the system even less reliable than it is now. Talking of water, we had a delivery on Saturday morning and clever Simi now not only knows when the truck is on its way from the main road, but whether or not it is bound for our condominio! [She has a "special" bark for each case.]

A student came in this evening wanting an "emergency lesson" to help him prepare for a test tomorrow. "I have to study a tense.. quello con [the one with] had.. or maybe it's quello con have", said he, helpfully. As the former could be any of 4 and the latter any of 8, I was a little perplexed, reader. Then I decided that it was unlikely that he would be tested on the English perfect tense if he had not yet been tested on the present perfect, so that's what I plumped for. I hope his regular teacher at day school doesn't have too bad a time day to day, that she has had a rest tonight and had had a rest before that. I also hope that she has not been working too hard recently and had not been doing so prior to that period. I trust that she will have finished her marking by tomorrow and that she will not have been finding it too hard. If I had known exactly which tense was needed today I would have done a better job. I hope the lady has been comforted if she has read this, that she has been reading it as a light article, as was intended and that she will have had a laugh by now. She won't have been offended, will she? Auguri, fellow-professoressa!
So come on, CAE students of mine: which tense is which, then?!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I do love revamping some of my stalwart recipes from the UK by adding Sicilian ingredients: thus the addition of a little fresh Sicilian orange juice [as a substitute for flavoured balsamic vinegar which you cannot find here] and some slices of Sicilian blood oranges make all the difference to this salad:

Put 1 - 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a bowl. [Here I have used 1 chicken breast plus some chicken thigh fillets, as I had some of the latter in the freezer.] Chuck over about 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and the orange juice, if using. Cover and let it marinate for about 2 hours. Drain a can or jar of antipasto artichokes, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the oil. Then, in a small bowl, whisk together about 4 more tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablesp. honey, the artichoke oil and 3 tablesp. extra-virgin olive oil. Add some dried oregano, season and chill. Heat 2 -3 tablesp olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chicken and cook until there are no pink juices when tested with a fork. [Turn the chicken several times during cooking - about 20 mins in all.] As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, slice it thickly and place in a serving bowl with the artichokes, orange slices and a good quantity of interesting salad leaves [include rocket, if possible]. Drizzle the dressing over and serve at once. You need only some good bread to accompany this.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Two of my favourite singers sing one of my favourite songs and I hope you enjoy it, too, reader.


Thursday, May 08, 2008


My "fairy godmother" friend, who always knows what to say and do, arrived today, bearing roses [the pink one at the back smells sublime] more grapefruits and lemons, the very thin, leafy celery that we get here and lettuces from her garden.

I love Cavatieddi pasta and this plate of the wonderful stuff, served with a tomato, cream and ham sauce was just what I needed at the Altro Posto at lunchtime. Somehow a dish of this pasta smells so inviting and homely. Such a pretty dessert again, too ; the arrival of anguria [water melon ] has always symbolised summer for me in Italy.

Sadly and shamefully, another kind of smell greets one in the streets these days; the refuse collectors are on strike - for the quite valid reason that they have not been paid - and so the bins are overflowing. Let's hope we avoid a Napoli situation!

This week - what's new? - the Water Office are not answering the phone again!

Here's hoping you all have a "fairy godmother" friend in your lives, readers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I know I keep saying that the friendships you make through blogging are amazing but I do believe it's true: this morning this lovely, clever fridge magnet from Anne arrived and nothing could have cheered me up more. She made it herself and I do envy really creative people. Thank you, Anne.

Leslie has a meme which I found interesting; you have to answer each question with one word only, so here goes:

Where is your mobile phone? Somewhere!
Your significant other? Dog
Your hair? Colourneedy
Your mother? Saintly
Your father? Generous
Your favourite thing? Reading
Your dream last night? Forgettable
Your favourite drink? Cointreau
Your dream/goal? Security
The room you’re in? Booklined
Your ex? Bastard!
Your fear? Dementia
Where do you want to be in six years? Around!
Where were you last night? Home
What you’re not? Conventional
Muffins? Yep!
One of your wish list items? Emerald
Where you grew up? Didn't!
The last thing you did? Cooked
What are you wearing? Lipstick!
Your TV? Off
Your pets? Family
Your computer? Misbehaving
Your life? Busy
Your mood? Changeable
Missing someone? Often
Your car? What?
Something you’re not wearing? Glasses
Favourite Store? Rinascente
Your summer? Hot!
Like someone? Umm...
Your favourite colour? Blue
When is the last time you laughed? Today
Last time you cried? Yesterday

I don't tag but will be glad to read you if you want to do this meme.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Here's a dish that I used to make often in the UK and I tried it here for the first time last night. You cannot imagine how much better it tastes made with fresh, Sicilian lemons! Here's what you do:

Squeeze the juice from 4 large lemons, reserving the lemon halves. Put the juice in a bowl, add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tablesp. honey and a chopped red chilli pepper or a few chilli flakes if you like. [I used a couple of squirts of my chilli spray.] Season the marinade and mix well. Chuck it over 4 chicken joints which you have put in a roasting dish, add the lemon halves and leave for at least 2 hours, turning the joints now and then. Turn the chicken skin-side up, scatter a few more unpeeled garlic cloves over it and place the dish in an oven heated to 200 C for about an hour.

Chicken cooked in this way tastes almost as good cold as it does hot.

Monday, May 05, 2008


We do work hard over at the School but we are also always happy to find a reason to celebrate! Today is Cathy the owner’s birthday, so students sang “Happy Birthday” in English to her, Paola, the Italian teacher and secretary made a lovely crostata [tart], champagne was drunk and I took along a bottle of the quince liqueur I made in the autumn. [The manager of the Altro Posto kindly kept it chilled for us until we were ready at 8.30 pm.] Cincin, Cathy! I would like to thank you here for giving me the opportunity to teach with you and for making my day to day working life such a pleasant one.

If you would like an unusual and interesting holiday this year, why not come and learn Italian at the English International School? I guarantee that you will have fun! Please click here for more details.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Tonight I need to direct your attention away from Sicily and towards the UK, if I may: I urge you to read this, by my fellow Blog-Powerer Caum Carr, regarding NHS [National Health Service] treatment there. To give you a little background, Calum’s wife suffers from anorexia; that does not render her unintelligent, incapable of sustaining relationships or a non-person, yet she is being treated as if she is all those things.

Some of you will know that I had a run-in with the NHS during my mother’s last illness, and the last thing you need at such a time is to be regarded as an idiot or not to be believed. So Calum’s story strikes at my heart. Why, oh why, I have been asking myself since 1993, is it seemingly “OK” if you break your leg, because everyone can see the wound and the plaster, but if you are elderly or suffering within your very soul, you are suddenly not even worthy of respect, let alone proper attention?

I have to say that I do not think that this would happen in Italy. I hope I am right.

Calum , I feel for you and Mrs Carr and will do all in my power to help you.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


I love poppies. Long ago, "Poppy" was a lover's nickname for me. So to see these daringly flowering by a Sicilian wall on a main road just made my day. I thought I would snap them before they are ruthlessly cut down by the Comune's machinery, along with the best of the orange blossom. [This has to be done, of course, to protect us from fire, which can spread like mad in the heat, which seems to be upon us from today.]

Friday, May 02, 2008


This is for my friend the Winchester Whisperer and all who missed seeing a photo of chocolate on my "Chocolate Festival" post: here are delightful, tiny "cakes" of chocolate in its purest form, displayed temptingly by Raffaele the hairdresser for his clients this morning.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Milder weather, clearer nights and a calmer sea : consequently boat after boat, each of them crammed with clandestini [illegal would-be immigrants] attempts to reach Sicily’s shores.

The newer [inaptly named] “welcome” centre on Lampedusa is already overwhelmed: it was built to house 600 people and was accommodating 800 by Tuesday. During Mon – Tues night more than 500 desperate clandestini had disembarked. There was a tragedy at the weekend when an inadequate boat got into trouble in Maltese waters: the Italian military sent out a rescue boat and two males did not follow the soldiers’ instructions for transfer to the Italian boat, diving into the sea instead – whether by accident or because they were afraid no one knows. Two brave soldiers dived in after them but one of the clandestini was swept away.

Yesterday 250 clandestini were transferred from Lampedusa to other Italian detention centres and 3 more boatloads, carrying more than 350 people, have been intercepted off Lampedusa today. Another is known to be on its way.

I do not know what the solution to this tragic situation is, for no European country can accommodate all who wish to come. Yet, during my more sleepless nights, I think of these boatloads of sadness and of what terrible circumstances – of which, admittedly, I know nothing – can lead their human cargo to take such risks.


I am sorry to post so late tonight, but what with still not feeling 100%, it being panic-time at work as we come up to exams and one thing and another I seem to be forever trying to catch up with myself lately.

However, I did manage to get over to the Altro Posto at lunchtime, and yet another new waitress had obviously been told to expect me and instructed in the art of mixing a fine g & t. It’s good to be known somewhere like that and treated as a “local”. It means a lot to me.

Now, I have decided that I again need a cleaning lady, reader, as I don’t have the energy to spring –clean myself. It just so happens that the other day, when Simi and I were out, a kindly –looking lady stopped us and made a fuss of Simi. “I see you every day, signora, and because you are so blonde, I know you are not from here. I have often wondered about you.” None of this was said nosily or intrusively – she seemed to be genuinely interested [as, indeed, many people I meet seem to be]. Then I got the remark which I have related to you before, and I repeat it somewhat embarrassedly: “What?! Not married?! Una bella signora come Lei! But why?!!” [I wish I knew, reader!] Anyway, finally she asked me to let her know if I needed any jobs done around the house, as she lives nearby and is looking for a little work. My instinct, which is usually good, tells me that I can trust this lady as she seems to be well known by all around here. But of course, as usual, I will have to have a good clean-up before I can even think of inviting a cleaning lady round!

Finally, here is a little snippet to cheer you all up: according to a survey published today, the Italians are the most sexually contented people in Europe. [I don’t know why anyone had to commission a survey – I could have told them that!] Surprisingly, the Brits are second and the French third. Haven’t I always said that the Italians have discovered the secret of living a happy life?


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