Technology and Me!

Technology and me … do not go together well, at all!

It is one of those well-known facts that you cannot be good at everything. Well, I am good with words but useless at maths. I am a good cook but try to toss me an apple and it will inevitably fall “splat” at my feet. I was the last to be chosen for any sport (except swimming, at which I excelled for some reason) at school. My feet were at serious risk when throwing the javelin, I skived off the cross-country runs to take the short cut through the woods, and do not think I have ever hit any ball aimed at me during tennis, netball or hockey games.

I can write on the computer and even managed to set up my own website and this blog page, but it is a good job no one was in the same room as me when I was doing these things, as my language was not fit for delicate ears ­čÖé Now, egged on by my, very patient, publisher “Sunpenny” and author friends, I am on Facebook and can be found tweeting away quite happily most days. I even found out where the hashtag key was last week and since then have been happily inserting # everywhere.

So, I am not quite sure what I think about an unexpected gift my lovely husband gave me today. I am now the proud owner of a “proper” telephone. A Samsung J5 to be exact! Maybe I should explain that my first mobile phone was a gift from my father about 15 years ago and the main problem with it was that I somehow managed to turn it on with my house keys when it was nestling in my handbag. I was unaware of this but Guido got fed up of receiving calls from me, from the muffled depths of my bag. Luckily for me, when I mentioned this dilemma at a friend’s house one summer evening, her sweet son dashed off into the house and came back with his old phone which had a flip-up lid, perfect for protecting it from the savage attack of keys in bags. I loved it from the start and have treasured it ever since. I refused point blank to upgrade. I even love the shape of this old phone, like a small black pebble or shiny dinosaur egg (dinosaurs are the right epoch for this phone, my son, James, sarcastically claims!) that fits easily in my palm. Recently, while driving home from Germany to Italy, my husband asked me to phone a friend for him on his smart phone. I am not sure what I did but the numbers somehow became all mixed up and it took him hours, once we got back home, to sort out the mess.

So, now I am both excited and nervous about my darling new phone. I like it because it is called a J5. ┬áJ for James ┬á– 5 is a nice number. I will call it Jay, which sounds quite friendly. Maybe, if I am lucky, we will build a good relationship. I shall have to develop new skills such as that sliding motion used to turn it on and off (not easy for me) and writing without having a proper button to press (such a satisfying feeling to actually press down and know you have done it right) however, I think it might prove to be worth the effort. I will let you all know how I get on.

Right now, Jay is charging up. It is best if he has a good rest before we begin the battle of transferring old numbers, getting to grips with pre-emptive text and finally … making a call or two.

Wish us luck!



Music for your ears?

Some anecdotes from our time as managers of the lovely “Henry” guesthouse in Bath are just too good not to share with you. This is one of my favourites.

At the Henry our bedroom was below the railings that fronted the guesthouse, so we heard everything happening on the road. I eventually got quite used to it and managed to sleep most of the time. One night however, there was music blaring out for ages and I thought it would wake the guests. Guido, bless him, had somehow managed to sleep, so it was up to me to sort things out.

I got up and went up to the breakfast room in my dressing gown to look out the window, expecting to see a street party – nothing. Just then a slightly squiffy Scot, part of a wedding party, came down stairs. A bit embarrassed to be discovered in my dressing gown, I did not pay much attention to his ramblings at first. He said he would go out and find the party. That seemed quite a good idea, I thought, wishing ┬áthere was a bit more fabric in my robe. As the young man left the house though, I heard him promising to stop the noise for me. That prospect seemed more worrying than anything else so I scampered back downstairs, pulled on my tracksuit and went to sort out the noise makers myself.

Rebecca's wedding - Copia

Good job my hero was not wearing his highland dress that evening!


As soon as I shut the front door there was total silence! I looked up and down the street. Nothing. No one! I had a wander to the corner. Empty streets. I was mystified. The only movement was a car parked in front of the B&B with a rather familiar bottom sticking out, its owners head and shoulders inside the car. As I got closer I could hear a deep and somewhat slurred Scottish voice saying,┬á” and the music was crap anyway, you know! My landlady is very cross and you don’t want to upset her!”

Obviously I had appeared more formidable in my nightwear than I had assumed! Quite amused now, I peered into the car. Two swarthy looking thugs were reeling from the Scottish alcohol fumes, so I took advantage of that moment to thank my hero for his help and ask the thugs to move on. They informed me angrily that they would not, then reluctantly offered to turn the volume down. How they could have listened to the car music system at that volume and still have ears is beyond me but I bravely informed them that I did not care how long they parked outside my home but if I heard even one more beat I was calling the police. To my surprise that seemed to work and they turned the music off.

Then I led my huge, helpful hunk back into the guest house, reassured him that I would be ok and did not need a “wee dram” to steady my nerves, made sure he managed the stairs without falling over and finally went back to bed ­čÖé



Having just spent eight lovely months working in England we are now back in Italy and I am struck once more by the very different approaches to life in the two countries. I read a great book over New Year, “How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics”, by the talented Valerie Poore. I laughed out loud as I read and it inspired me to write this blog, in praise of eccentricity.

Vals book

Italians are very concerned with their “look”. They are extremely house-proud and even more careful about how they dress. I can tell an Italian tourist anywhere in the world by their well-turned-out appearence. They do not embrace eccentricity really, at all. I do not know how they manage to do it but they all wear “appropriate” clothing for any occassion and look incredibly similar to each other. I start wearing shorts too soon in the summer, do not wear a coat in October if it is still warm and often misjudge the necessary sartorial style completely . I did this again on New Year’s Eve. Off we all trundled to the village party, dressed in all our finery, only to find that most other people were in jeans. We did look good though!

Parronchi's at New Year (FILEminimizer)

Parronchi New Year elegance!


Us Brits, on the other hand, are brought up to think that anything unusual is actually quite normal. My own family is quietly eccentric in a rather genteel way. My parents are traditional, conservative and at first glance quite “normal”. However, scratch the surface and …

Mum is always dressed beautifully and is very lady-like, except when she is cooking. If while trying to follow a recipe (she is a reluctant cook and has never improvised in her life) she makes a mistake, the air turns blue and we have to cover our ears. She then turns to us, smiles sweetly and says┬á“Oops, pardon my French”! She┬átakes a trip to the local market every Thursday to buy fresh fish. Nothing eccentric in that, I hear you say. Indeed, but then she takes the cod home and puts it in the freezer, to be taken out and cooked on Monday, which is their fish day!

Me and Mum Bourne

Mum and me off to buy fish, on Thursday


Dad is equally elegant, always wearing a suit and tie or, in his more sporting moments, a double-breasted blazer. When he used to come and visit us in Italy he always brought his navy blue overalls so that he could help Guido build his plane in our workshop. One year we asked Dad to give us a hand with a fence that needed painting. Off he went, paintbrush in hand and applied himself to the task with prowess. He speaks no Italian but nodded politely and smiled at everyone who walked by the fence, thinking how friendly everyone was. He was completely unaware that he was the subject of much mirth among the locals. I think nearly every inhabitant of our village trooped past that day to look at the spectacle of the eccentric English gentleman, dressed in paint-splattered overalls over the top of his smart white shirt, red tie and shiny brogues.

My brother learnt a smattering of the Klingon language when younger, knows a vast variety of silly songs which he sings out loud whenever he feels like it and thought nothing of naming his two cats “Beer” and “Guiness”, never once considering the neighbours reaction when he stands in the garden at night to call them in!

Beer and Guiness sheepdog trials

Beer and Guiness watching the sheepdog trials – Purrfectly normal cat behaviour, I think!


All my pets have quite ordinary names. So do my plants and car. They all respond very well to gentle endearments and the occassional sharp rebuke and any claims that I go around talking to myself instead of them are completely unfounded. I never wear anything in bed as I get too hot and tangled up. However, I do possess several pairs of pyjamas, because I find them the most comfortable things to wear and happily spend my days in them, as long as I have no guests coming. I got caught out by an unexpected visit by a neighbour yesterday and answered the door to him wearing my fleece pyjamas with red top and cute little owl-patterned trousers. He gave me an odd look and politely refrained from making any comment about my attire but I bet he went home and told his wife!

Presents minimized

Parronchi’s in pyjamas this Christmas


I have guests coming for dinner tonight so when I have finished writing this I will whisk around the house with a duster to give the impression that I am a good housewife and then change out of my pyjamas into a more suitable outfit. My friends are English though, so I will not have to bother too much to disguise any other eccentricities that might crop up throughout the evening.

Long may the tradition of English eccentricity last!