February 29, 2008

While flicking through the newspaper, my eye was caught by an article entitled ‘Groin turns into no-go area for luckless Italians’. This relayed the news that “Italy’s highest appeals court has ruled it is a criminal offence for Italian men to touch their genitals in public.”

Well, nobody likes a fiddler, but this seems a little harsh. Especially as “a quick grab” is apparently a traditional Italian superstition to ward off bad luck when a hearse drives past or someone mentions a terrible illness. (I’m sure there’s a “touch wood” joke in there somewhere…)

But the times they are a-changin’. The court ruled that the old tradition “has to be regarded as contrary to public decency, a concept including that nexus of socio-ethical rules requiring everyone to abstain from conduct potentially offensive to collectively held feelings of decorum.” (I suspect it sounded a lot better before the translation.)

The thing that really caught my eye, though, was the Italian expression for a man’s dangly bits: “attributi”. I love it. I don’t know if this is a serious term or if it’s used with the same sort of humour as the British “crown jewels”, but henceforth I intend to refer to my meat and veg, on the rare occasions that I have cause to mention them, as “my attributes”.


February 28, 2008

Not a word you hear that often these days (apart from when the jackets were everywhere a decade or so back). But then it’s not that often I get talking to old men in Waterloo station.

I had twenty minutes to wait for my train, so I sat down to read the paper. In the seat next to me, an old man was studying a page of instructions. Partly to check he was OK, partly out of sheer nosiness, I read over his shoulder. “…Meet opposite platform 8 at 8.35. My mobile number is… Your mobile number is…” And so on. He had plenty of time anyway. I guess he noticed I was looking, as he started telling me that he was going to the dentist. This led him onto how he’d had 14 teeth taken out and replaced with plates before joining the RAF in the war, which led to how he “hadn’t had a bad war” being an aircraft engineer at a training camp in Canada getting Wellington bombers ready for flight, crawling around in the cockpit chasing coils of wire, endlessly worrying in case he’d missed something and some young pilot wouldn’t make it back. Then about how he’d gone back to carpentry after the war, and married an accountant who’d invested his money for him and made him rich, and how she now had cancer and the cloud that had cast over his life. Then a little bit about his chickens that he’d been feeding at five that morning.

And then it was time for me to get my train. We shook hands and off I went, a little bit richer than when I’d sat down.