Road tripping

On the general scale of competency as a functioning human being I’m sure I’m about midway – not brilliant but still able to tie my own shoelaces and string a sentence together. However, I did use to be a good driver – did the RAC advanced driver training course when I worked for them, and clocked up thousands of miles zooming up and down the UK without penalties or injuries to me or my car. But something insidious happens to your driving as you get a little older. You lose a bit of confidence, maybe aren’t quite so sure of directions, aren’t as assertive. Or you just become really rubbish overnight. Like me.

Lunch in Vasto with an American friend was on the schedule, so my first guest Ms S and I decided to gird our loins, as it were, and brave the A14 autostrada. Now in my defence, I’m sleep deprived after four nights of an icky cold and a rattly chest that sounds like Chewbacca on acid. Plus today even getting out the door is a challenge – you know that incredibly irritating moment when your coat sleeve is caught up and You Just Can’t Get Your Arm In? One of those. In the car and I’m complaining that the phone (with the oh so essential sat nav) isn’t charging. It’s not plugged in, says Ms S, trying not to roll her eyes. As it turns out it wouldn’t have mattered terribly much anyway if it was plugged in or not, as I’d contracted Sat Nav Neglect – I’d hear the words “Turn right” OK but I just didn’t feel inclined to act on them. We go to get petrol…I go the wrong way. Get to the service station (a visit made extra special by the sighting of a local gent proudly carrying what Ms S coined a huge “pasta baby” tummy) then go out the wrong way, swing around and wave feebly at the puzzled attendant on our way back. The next hour involves more missed turns than a drunken footballer attempting pirouettes, being tailgated at speed, and suffering harassment at the hands of a toll coin machine, which refused to take my €2 coin – but then strangely accepted and gave change for €1.50.

After a walk round Vasto old town and a lovely lunch of chargrilled lamb with rocket, tomatoes, parmesan and small roasted potatoes, we head back to the car, left in a multi story car park nearby. Panic ensues as I can’t find the car keys. Well that would be because they were still in the ignition. What. A. Plonker.

We deliver our friend back to her apartment, who cheerfully joined in the spirit of confusion by screaming “There! There!” from the back seat when she spotted a parking space, but not being clear about where “There” actually was. The fun and games continue on the way back home, with me successfully ignoring the sat nav a number of times at key moments, including the approach to a busy toll road and then cutting across in front of a lorry when I did actually get there.


We reach Sanctuary and close the door behind us. Ms S had coffee, I reach unsteadily for alcohol, and we ponder the miracle of “How the hell did we make it there and back in one piece?”. Might leave it for a while before I do that drive again. Oh, and I’ll try and get some more sleep.


It’s all in the timing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that life is much improved by having whitegoods, so it’s happy days here, as I’m now the proud owner of a new fridge and washing machine – bought online to avoid any pesky language embarrassment and delivered in two days. Mr D’s brother came round to hook the washer up yesterday, then we set it for a test run and all huddled around like expectant parents as it filled with water and happily drained away again. Mrs D and I can’t have our machines on at the same time (another fuse tripping scenario) so we’ve agreed that I’ll do laundry after 7pm.

Now I’m dying to try it out but in order to dry your clothes you need sunshine. After my earlier “Spring has sprung” boast we’ve sadly lurched back into winter and the 10 day forecast reveals nothing but rain and dropping temperatures – which I can live with, but it’s not such good news for my first UK house guest, due tomorrow. On the bright side, it has been miserable weather there too, so at least she will be acclimatized.

In the meantime, I’m staying indoors and getting lots of reading done. Still feel a quiver of guilt every now and then when I wonder why I’m on such a long holiday and shouldn’t I be back at work by now…but I’m sure that will fade in time.


All blown up

Another lovely Spring day and Mr B kindly took me shopping for whitegoods. Thought we were all sorted in one shop – after some prevarication I picked out the right fridge and washer for me and thought “Yaye” at the 50% discount the store had advertised everywhere, only to get to the till and discover that the (very) small print meant my chosen whitegoods would have ended costing way more than I’d budgeted for. Caveat emptor, of course, but as neither of us had clocked the conditions, I said no thanks…getting very flustered and embarrassed in the process, and speaking a kind of awful English with an Italian accent.

A soothing lunch was required, and I was soon revived by pasta with rape (a gorgeous green, a cross between spinach and broccoli), followed by stuffed peppers and cabbage, and then coffee that came close to stopping my heartbeat, with a cherry gelato chaser. The sun was shining, it had to be done.

I mention to Mr B that I have to find a cash machine – I now have my Italian bankcard so am armed and dangerous – plus I need to pay my rent. Mr B, always in the know, is one of those amazing people who doesn’t just drive past a shop and wonder what it’s like. He stops, he shops and he gains local knowledge; and by doing so he has got to know his way around this area. I really want to be more like that – explore, take my time, let this corner of Chieti unfold gently. So we drive past a few ATMs with me unhelpfully going “Look there’s one” as we motor past it. “Don’t worry,” he assures me, “…there’s one just a bit further down on the left”. When we get there, there is indeed a machine that gives withdrawals. Not a bank, though. The bank that used to be a bank is now a pharmacy, and the ATM as was is now a condom machine…so not quite the withdrawal I was thinking of, unless money gets tight and I go into a whole new line of work.


He looks at me, I look at him, we roar with laughter and head to the bank we’d just passed. One with money and not prophylactics.