My Story


From my days running a nighclub in France to, travelling around Italy learning the language and trying to find a place to lay my hat, settling in my own little piece of heaven and starting a new business.

Here is my story...

Part 3 "I have no Ikea?"

As I had the majority of the work to do myself, the true hard graft was about to start, not just physical stuff as my Italian didn’t cover those basics we take for granted; rawl plugs, drill bits, hammer action drill, MDF, plywood, let alone tongue and groove try looking for that in the dictionary or those oh so expensive “patronising“ Cd’s I had listened to day in and day out, drummed into my head on how to ask for a hotel room with a view over the piazza, but I needed 25 Aluminum rivets or a Pack of plasterboard nails where are those on the language CD’s there are no Wickes or B&Q where I lived, there was one shop similar but on such a small scale it wasn’t going to be worth the 3 bus trips as at that point I didn’t have transport.


The shop sold nails, screws and wood but didn’t sell plasterboard or cement, electrical and plumbing were impossible to find in the same store, most shops were counter fronts so it was impossible to even see items and point, to which I had become very good at. These shops were like something out of open all hours, with large old fashioned and desirable wooden chest/ units that had thousands of draws from waist height scaling the wall finishing at the ceiling with those push ladders that slide along enabling the shopkeeper to retrieve the goodies inside, I looked upon a self-hammering screw as a piece of treasure, its value to me was gold and rare.   


Fortunately I came across two suppliers that made my life a lot easier not sure if I can say the same for them as they needed some patience with me, it was either business wasn’t that good or I had run into two saints who allowed me to go behind the counter and search box after box, there I was in the storeroom and under no pressure being left to look through boxes that contained smaller boxes all labeled like military soldiers, I took handful of this and that and ensured that Walter who was one of the owners and one hell of a guy wrote down for me the Italian names for things so my little pocket book became my bible, pages were divided into two the English word written one side and the Italian the other informing me for future purchases.


One thing I found here customer care was not always a priority and having to get used to that slightly crunched up face as they tried to deceiver my broad English accent speaking their flowing dancing language, home delivery services were available on large orders only but on some of my smaller orders I was left with either using taxis begging lifts or using public transport trying to save money and without pushing those new friends of several weeks too far I chose public transport.


Which was even more challenging due to the irregularity of it and as time went on I found I was even more restricted as I had to try to avoid certain bus drivers due to a couple of bad experiences. One being a slightly torn bag of cement leaving a trail of cement as I disembarked unbeknown to me, then having a spilt bag of wood screws scatter loudly across the bus floor, was it my fault that they put them into a brown paper bag? The final straw was trying to get on the bus with a piece of 3x2m MDF; the driver drove straight past the bus stop acknowledging me with a friendly smile.


I was competent at the majority of things but a jack of all trades and master of none at that point learning through those Homebase cards my dad sent me as he did his weekly walk around Homebase in Letchworth or the old books DIY and home improvements books that were dated 1982 with handy Andy from the Changing room program.


So it was like learning by numbers for some tasks I had never tackled, “try the internet” one of my friends said to me “You Tube” a thing we take for granted in the UK, but where I was at that time, internet access was a foreign word ISDN was the new technology that had just arrived in the village back in 2008, so as you can imagine it took its toll on trying to watch a video on how to plaster a wall with a normal telephone line, it was a bigger challenge to watch on how to do it than it was doing it.


Cutting into walls couldn’t be that hard could it? Yes my walls were nearly 20 inches of pure stone my arm was like Popeye’s at the end of 2 days successfully completing

4 meters of drilling which was enough, my trusty Black and Decker drill which could drill through anything in my house in Cheshire admitted defeat in a cloud of smoke before it had even drilled an inch.


My small outside space became a graveyard for electrical tools, the stone walls were one of my biggest challenges, the neighbor’s fig tree that blocked my light was my greatest and my fight with that will be told later.


A trip to Ikea in Genova was organised and at that point I still didn’t own a car so an English couple I had met recently (themselves having moved in to the village from  

Spain), a pair of real expats, well that’s how I thought of them, moved abroad with the same dream as I did but at a more senior age. They too came a cropper with the language as we were very far from Southern Spain where the local major spoke English and a British community existed, I had images and still do of Eldorado the soap that aired in the 1980’s all Brits together with the local shop selling bacon, a fish and chip shop, (oh how I would kill for a plate of fish and chips), a dish that truly cannot be found outside the UK


Anyway I digress, this lovely couple offered me the use of their Renault Kangoo this was like a luxury box of chocolates to me, I hadn’t driven for about 2 years so the change of carriageways wasn’t going to be a problem.


A tip for those of you who don’t speak Italian, go to the business sector (normally where they sell office furniture), as you will find an English speaker there however I must say that Ikea Genova have a Swedish lady that speaks perfect English in the Bedroom section and if delivery is required will list all your items and organise it all for you.

Heading down the A8 windows open and radio blaring, it was the first time in a long time I felt totally in control well at least until I exited the motorway and with my “Thelma and Louise” moment windows open air rushing through the car the toll ticket must have blown out.


Pushing that button where it has the Union Jack, call me naïve I had imagined that an English speaking person would answer, but oh no all I got was “Si dirmi il problema”, my Italian was efficient to answer but after a 30 second conversation that felt like 30 minutes due to the the car horns getting ever louder and more angry behind me.


Eventually after a 10-minute delay and having to pay the maximum fee for using the Autostrada of 90.00E I was back on track and heading through Genova with my newfound friend that could speak English “Tim” a computerised voice from the Tom Tom.


As I have now found out the car horn appears to be the only thing in a car that the Italians know how to use maybe it’s in their driving test? As the use of an indicator clearly isn’t.