It was great with air conditioning that almost worked in every room and an entertainment system that built up gradually over the holiday, so we didn't get over excited from the start. The villa's particulars had promised a DVD player and satellite TV. It turned out that the DVD player did not work and the owner had taken the satellite receiver with them. My sister mentioned this to the management company and on day two a new DVD player arrived. Day three and the satellite receiver arrived but we could only get a couple of Italian channels as they had not included the Sky satellite card. Day four and the satellite card arrived which gave us access to basic Sky services. I had hoped that more channels would appear over time but alas that was our lot. Still, it gave the kids something to do when they came out of the pool. It's funny, you can't seem to get kids near water when it comes down to washing, bathing, showering etc but a bit of chlorine and insect infested water and you can't get them out of it for days.......
Impressive in a "I can’t believe there are not more wrecks at the side of the road" kind of way. The driving style varies from "Fast with no give way", to "Ultra slow (almost slow motion)". This latter style is in general when the Sicilians are on their phones and are expending so much energy on hand gestures and high volume speaking that they don’t have anything left to push down on the accelerator. They don’t worry about looking before pulling out into moving traffic (they are, after all, too busy in mid conversation to worry about mundane things such as the highway code. If an Italian version exists I expect it consists of the following – “Do what you like as long as you don’t hit anything” I suspect the following amendment may have also been added – “If you really must hit something make sure it's a tourist). They just drift out slowly and continue at a snail's pace, while vehicles all around screech to a halt with horns blaring (the Sicilians never miss an opportunity to announce their presence with a cacophony of horns) or other motorists are forced to drive into the oncoming traffic. Once their phone call has concluded they just put their foot down and immediately re-join the rest of the mad throng, without heed to anything around them. I was particularly impressed with the motor bike that shot past us on a narrow winding road. The rider then slowed dramatically as he appeared to be trying to take off his tight fitting jeans. Fortunately he was not bike stripping but trying to fish his phone out from his pocket. We slowly followed him for 20 minutes as he weaved precariously all over the road, hand gesturing with both hands at times. Then just at the point where I thought I was going to have to nudge him off the road he abruptly concluded his phone call and then shot off at high speed. I saw a couple of police speed traps along the roadside but I’m sure they were just for handing out medals for the most erratic driving (or that could possibly read erotic if you count stripping motorcyclists).
Not much sign of the Mafia in what is purported to be their spiritual home, unless you count the Mozzie Mafia who took every opportunity to suck every last drop of blood from us. I don't even remember borrowing any money from them or getting a visit offering us protection. We tried sacrificing my sister's children to their merciless biting but they seemed to like their meat to be on the more mature side. I'm not sure what the Mozzie Mafia equivalent of a horse's head in the bed is (think the Godfather) but we did find a half-drowned bat in the swimming pool one morning. Not sure what message that was sending us other than "Time to clean the pool". For those of you worried about the rat on wings he appears to have survived the ordeal - it must have only been a warning for him as his little legs were not encased in concrete blocks. Fortunately the villa had a huge cave underneath which not only acted as a garage but also came in handy as a bat recovery station. Please note I'm only guessing that batty survived as when I returned to check on his progress he was gone. I was a bit suspicious about the cat that was sitting on the spot where I had left him, licking its lips but put that down to coincidence.......
As Mrs B has signed us up for a triathlon and these were two crucial weeks in the intensive training schedule that we were busily avoiding, we decided we had better take running gear and wetsuits with us. Since we did not own wetsuits and I had found some reasonably priced ones on the internet I had ordered them for next day delivery. They arrived as promised but unfortunately my Large suit proved too small for me (I have broad shoulders and am sticking to that excuse). Since the supplier was only based around 40 miles away I decided to make the trip to change it. Rather embarrassingly I ended up with an XL (Please remember the large shoulders, any excess that appears around my middle I’m putting down to additional material to accommodate them…….) Fortunately Mrs B’s suit fitted perfectly.
Cycle training - not happening as there are no bikes to hire nearby – not the end of the world as we do quite a bit of cycling so should be no problem…..
Running – The first 800 metres of the first day's run went really well and then my calf muscle tightened (the one that I hurt racing a small dog in Canada last year. I should have known that would come back and haunt me).
This has resulted in me power walking rather than running. Mrs B seems to be doing well and as long as I turf her out of bed around seven she is off like a grey hound with arthritis that has been attached to a stone block – leaving any later than 7:30am and it gets too hot to do anything other than a pathetic shuffle. My subsequent attempts to run have led to an ever decreasing return as the leg now gives way after about 200m. Deep joy.
Swimming – This is going to sound pathetic but my bike crash in Wales a few weeks back had left me with muscle problems in my upper arms. Even short swims were leaving me in agony that I can only describe as being like an attack of the bends (True I have never suffered an attack of the bends but it was what I imagine it would be like if I had). Having dragged the wetsuits with us I was determined that we would use them at least once. I tried it in the Villa's swimming pool but it was so warm it was like being boiled alive in a straight jacket. The decision was made that we would have to find a secluded cove and do some covert wetsuit training.
The saving grace has been that Lisa, my sister's neighbour who came with us, is a trained massage therapist and has been nursing me through the worst of my aches and pains. She is probably why I can still move. So for poor old Lisa it turned into a bit of a Busman’s holiday.
For those of you feeling generous Mrs B's and my own, pitiful, Triathlon efforts are up for sponsorship. The Charity is run by HSBC and aiming to rebuild a school and orphanage in India for under privileged kids.
If you would like to sponsor one or both of us then please use the following links
That's it for Sicily, there is a lot of other stuff that went down on the holiday but I've had a gagging order placed on me - I will try and take the opportunity to leak these out in future BlackLOGs