Sunday, 29 May 2011

What's happened since I last blogged properly part 2

Shock news all around as I ended my 3 year love affair with the man who inspired this post on Work Your Magic. Aleksei,you're still beautiful,you're still funny,and by God you're still a better performer than Eric Saade,but like Craig David once said- I just don't love you no more ;)

Now.I feel awful for Aleksei after all his hard work at Eurovision.In the back of my mind I can't help but be slightly pleased that the Eurovision Conspiracy Theorists' idea that "Russia will always do well whatever they send" has just been disproved,but he didn't deserve to come 15th,and he certainly didn't deserve the headline of this Russian newspaper article. But God,that performance was cheesy wasn't it?! That,combined with the promo-people building Lyosha up as an amazing macho man just put me off of him a bit.

But don't worry.The Russian-shaped void in my life has already been well and truly filled by four Danish guys.Hmm,I wonder who they could be...?

I'd be happy to take them all on to be honest,although I do have a particular liking for Ash (the bassist in the very Scandinavian jumper).Contrary to my original thought that Tim was the one from the bustling metropolis that is Tønder (a town so exciting I once spent 2 whole hours there),it's actually Ash.He doesn't have much to say,he's beautiful and he just seems to be an all-round sweetie.But as I say,the others are all just as lovely really :)

Anyway,more about their music another time (on WYM probably).I'll leave you with a link to Afil TV,which is just brilliant,and this song What a Way,the video to which actually stars Thure Lindhardt,looking so different to how he does in Angels and Demons that I didn't recognise him at all.

Personnel on the forecourt

Without doubt the best thing on telly these days is (rather dark) Icelandic comedy Næturvaktin (Night Shift).

BBC Four are showing it as part of their Iceland season,and it seems to have acquired a bit of a cult following online (particularly on Digital Spy).You might not think that a comedy revolving around 3 characters working nights at a petrol station would be all that funny,and indeed,it probably is funnier if (like me) you have worked nights at a petrol station.But the attitude of communist boss Georg (played by the actual mayor of Reykjavik- seen here slagging off Denmark) is hilarious and often outrageous.He also comes out with some classic one-liners ("there are many things in here a diseased mind would covet").His flowery language and stern tone of voice are even more humorous considering that he has 5 degrees (psychology, sociology, pedagogy, political science and a teaching qualification) yet works as a lowly shift supervisor at a garage.Basically if you've ever worked in retail,chances are you've had a boss like Georg.

The other main characters are Daníel and Ólafur.Daníel starts working at the garage in the first episode and is a university dropout prone to anxiety attacks and depression at work- particularly when confronted by a member of his family or old university friend.Well we've all been there...He's the only one with a brain and sense of rationality and is generally in a bemused state.

Ólafur ("a doer,not a thinker") is a loveable idiot who gets taken advantage of by pretty much everyone.He's full of big dreams but doesn't get anywhere.He's the agent of a band called Sólin who have "a very good chance" of their latest song being played on the radio soon,but he also has ambitions of becoming a singer himself.This leads to a hilarious scene in episode 4 where he sings to Einar Bárðarson (Iceland's Simon Cowell) in the petrol station toilet hoping for a chance to appear on X Factor.

Speaking of Bárðarson,there are a few cameos made by Icelandic celebrities throughout the series,most excitingly (also in episode 4) by Birgitta Haukdal,with whom Ólafur gets into another awkward situation.

Næturvaktin is followed by two other series Dagvaktin (Day Shift) and Fangavaktin (Prison Shift),and then by a film,Bjarnfreðarson.Because of the unique setting of the petrol station,I wasn't sure in the beginning whether I would like the other series.But as time's gone on,I know I'd be gutted to miss out on them (seeing as it's very unlikely that the BBC will show them),and so last week I bought the DVD of Dagvaktin.Not sure about the state of the Icelandic postal system given recent events but I hope it will be here soon.The series finishes tomorrow and Monday nights won't be the same without Nordic comedy.

You can catch up on iPlayer until 6th June. As each episode is only around 25 minutes long,you'll have plenty of time to watch the whole series.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

What's happened since I last blogged properly part 1

In March I went back to the (grand)mother land after 9 years and had a rather nice,chilled-out time.Ate lots of nice food- if you're ever in Sorrento,you need to go to Bar Rita on Corso Italia,and also Bar Sottocoperta on Via degli Aranci for the best breakfast in the world...

...they also do caffè alla nocciola,which is a yummy speciality from the neighbouring Salerno province.It's basically an espresso with hazelnut cream in it but you just can't find hazelnut cream over here and have to use syrup instead,which isn't quite the same.

I also heard lots of good music on the music channels at my hotel and on the radio- most notably this...(I love the video too)

I got hooked on quiz shows L' Eredità and Affari Tuoi (Italian version of Deal or No Deal that is in fact referenced in Tranne Te).

I witnessed the (lack of) 150 anni dell'Unità d'Italia celebrations.It's Italy's 150th birthday this year,but apparantly only Rai Uno are interested in this fact,dedicating A WHOLE EVENING/NIGHT of programming to an immensely dull show about how great Italy is and major events in history.I love the Italian national anthem but I did get a bit bored of it...Anyway,when I asked some people in Sorrento what was happening in town to mark the occasion,I just got puzzled looks.

I met lots of lovely people- some Italian some not.As is widely-known,football is a pretty big deal in Italy,which works to my advantage when I'm in the south.Pretty much everybody down there supports Napoli (apart from my cousins,who in true glory-hunting fashion support Inter and AC Milan).So when you're related to this man,people get quite excited...

Giuseppe Taglialatela (otherwise known as Pino or Batman) was Napoli's goalkeeper on and off between 1986 and 1999.Despite never playing for Italy,Napoli fans loved him,and apparently still do (he's a commentator and appears on Napoli TV these days).Of course I had to drop his name into a few conversations,even though I've never met him (it's OK,my nan says she does it too when she's there),to instantly make me a more interesting person in the eyes of restaurant owners and various other people :) On the Sunday night,after having a lovely calzone at the restaurant round the corner from my hotel,the owner invited me back in the evening to watch the Napoli game with his family.I sat next to his very elderly father who spoke only Neapolitan,so I didn't understand a word,but it was still fun.

I actually made the trip to Naples on the bank holiday Thursday and was ripped off to the tune of €5 for the return train ticket (it's around €2 on normal days).Everyone should experience Italian train travel once in their lifetime.It's horrendously grubby,uncomfortable and packed full of people who have no qualms about snogging eachothers face off within your personal space,but it's so cheap and such a good opportunity for people-watching.Anyway,my mum always told me not to go to Naples because it's a dangerous,dirty place.Immediately after leaving the train station,I felt scared so went back in and stayed there.Thankfully there's some rather good shops there (CD shops for a start- these do not exist in Sorrento) and very nice,very cheap pizza.

I went to Capri on one of the only days that the weather was nice.Having not been on a jetfoil for many years,I forgot that sitting at the front is not good for the stomach,even when the water is calm.Anyway,my favourite book is I Love Capri by Belinda Jones,and I'd taken it with me to read for the second time.So I was rather pleased when by complete accident I came across Caesar's gardens which are mentioned in the book.The gardens overlook the Faraglioni rocks...

...and are a lovely relaxing place to spend an hour reading :) Other than that,well,I found Capri to be rather overrated.Ischia is much nicer,although I didn't get there this time on account of jetfoils not running from Sorrento in "winter",bad weather,extortionate prices etc etc.

I went to Herculaneum,which is quite a rough town actually.I wasn't even tempted by the €2 fresh pizza,so I went straight to the ruins,where this decoration was my favourite thing of all...

...apart from this dog who kept popping up everywhere like he was on a mission...

On the way back I stopped at Vico Equense but it was boring so I didn't stay long.

Back in Sorrento I accidentally wandered into I Giardini di Cataldo where a nice lady gave me samples of limoncello,orange liqueur,mandarin liqueur and other drinks made of basil and fennel.

I went back to the restaurant round the corner from the hotel and was greeted with "eh,Taglialatela!" by the owner.And then I only got charged €10 for my dinner.Which was a result.

On the last day I went to Amalfi on the bus.It's one thing "doing the Amalfi drive" in summer when the weather is lovely and you can see across the bay,quite another in thick fog and rain.On a normal day,the view (coming back into Sorrento) in the following picture is of Mount Vesuvius.Not that day though...

...Naturally,hairpin bends on steep mountains were all a bit much for the driver,and when we got to Massa Lubrense,he stopped,got out and had a fag before taking us back into Sorrento.

But despite the rain,Amalfi is still lovely.I've been once before but don't remember any of it,so I was pleasantly surprised by the cathedral.Especially its "Cloister of Paradise" which is Moorish in style and contains pretty mosaics like this one...

St Andrew (yes,the Scottish one) is the patron saint of Amalfi,and as such,the whole cathedral is named after him.Some of his bones (and head) are kept in the Duomo- in this area...

...who said Catholic churches were chintzy?!

And then it was time to go home.But not before purchasing some of the famous local inlaid wood,the world's most comfortable hoody,lemon soap,a Napoli flag for my car and Carthusia perfume for my dad.Oh,and a leather handbag of course.For me,not my dad.

It was a brilliant week,and the first "proper" holiday I've had for a long time.Even though I didn't get to see any of the family,there was more than enough to do,and as I said,even complete strangers are very welcoming and friendly.I was a bit worried before I went,as I've never been to southern Europe on my own before,but I felt just as at home there as I do in Germany,Denmark or Norway,and I got on fine linguistically.There's so much more to say,and so many more pictures,I could fill up a whole website.I'm just trying to convince my dad to take us there for Christmas this year.My nan told me today that the decorations in Piazza Tasso in Sorrento are beautiful,so I have to see them now!