Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sicily part 2 - yes we made it....

It was clear that not many English had made it to the particular part of Sicily that we were staying in.  We were accused of being Polish, Russki and even Yanks but not once English. It’s also a novel experience being in a place where hardly any English is spoken. This adds an exciting new edge to ordering food in restaurants. I’m not sure if the locals are simply really bad at acting out food charades or if they take great delight in fooling us into eating the most unexpected items possible. I’m not 100% certain but I think we might have eaten (well been served anyway) swordfish testicles. Hmmm, keep those coming while I just pop off and evacuate the rest of my dinner……For once, even my tried and trusted "speak louder in a funny foreign accent" mode of communicating failed me. I guess people have to have some understanding of basic English for this to work.
The Sicilian version of smoked fish.....

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.......
The local beach was not huge but it was certainly well used

Sicilian driving
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.......
I think the Mozzie Mafia ran out of horses heads

Triathlon Training
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


Mrs B

I told you those triathlon starts can be brutal

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


  1. Wooo, you've had the decorators in. I like it.

    When I was in Spain I thought I was Basil Fawlty talking to Manuel in my 'speak louder in a funny accent' skills. Stupid foreigners.

    That bat is brilliant, but slightly scary at the same time.

    You're a braver man than me driving over there. I've so far managed to shun all driving responsibilities when abroad - probably cos I go the bar as soon as I can.

    Seeing you leap onto that dolphin, all I can say is that Mrs B is one lucky women...phwooaaarrrr!

  2. batty looks exciting (though perhaps not terribly alive). Hoping the triathlon doesn't do the same for both of you. Hugh laying on sofa with bad back, seems as we get older our bodies give up in tiny little bits....

  3. Enjoyed reading your blacklog today, you should have made it longer though!

  4. CSI'm impressed that you noticed but a little hurt that you have been away for so long...

    How do these foreigners not understand slowly with an accent....

    The little eek noise he made was cute but the teeth were a little unnerving especially the large incisors...

    I like the challenge of driving abroad. The first time I did it I managed a 180 spin on a highway out of Denver in a snow storm. It's been a bit tame ever since.

    That is Mrs B.... What are you trying to say....

  5. Skipper Batty was fine after he spentb the day recovering in the bat cave.

    I'm not sure about our bodies giving up in tiny little bits, mine is giving up in huge chunks. Hope Hugh feels better soon....

  6. Anna glad you liked it, most people request shorter BlackLOGs

  7. The Italians are crazy drivers in general. Stayed in a small village on the mainland for a friend's wedding and they just drive mad. Lots of scooters with one/two/three people on them and a couple of dogs plus all their shopping. Funny to watch though.

    You should get a job on the Holiday programme and show what these destinations are really like! :)

  8. I've been reading using Google Reader Mr B - just not visited the site.

    I hold my hands up to being a shit commenter though. I don't comment on nearly enough blogs/posts when I should. I try and rememdy it, but normally fail through bone idleness ;)

  9. MJB Are the Italians crazy or are they attempting to save the planet - first Bob Geldolf gave us "Live Aid" now the Italians give us "Moped Share" (although to be honest India and Thailand have a similar share policy when it comes to bike cramming).

    I'm not sure the BBC is ready for me, I don't even think some obscure satellite channel that no one watches is ready for me.....

  10. SC Ah, the evils of Google reader. I guess that does not register on my site as a hit....

    I must admit I cast envious eyes over comments that your blog receives on a regular basis. I can only hope that I attract the more silent but thoughtful readers. If only I could tap into the dead market (which is certainly a growing one) I could clean up.....

  11. That bat does not look like he made it. Perhaps he too was training for a triathalon.

    What a wonderful holiday. Have always wanted to go to Sicily as my great grandparents are from there. I may have to settle for naming my first born Sicily. More photos please!

  12. Nikki despite the bat doing a creditable impression of me after a short training session I can assure you it did make a recovery.

    I will try and include some more photo's of Sicily in the next Blog.


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