Story Telling for Kids – In Milan – Carnival Fun

Naughty tiger

Naughty tiger

It has been a long time since I last wrote on the blog.  At least when I write I can make it useful for people who do visit.

Today I gave the fourth in a series of  six story telling sessions being held by British Council in Milan at the Feltrinelli store in Via Manzoni.

A pirate

A pirate

Today’s session was prepared in a rush at home with a sick kid bleating in my ear at regular intervals.   It is amazing how few stories there are about carnival in English.  Like the Winter story, this one was written and illustrated by me.  When I finally become rich and famous (unlikely to happen in the near future) you will all have to pay hundreds of Euro just to hear me speak…..(*laughs hysterically).  In the meantime however, since I am not yet anyone of consequence, I will make my material available to those of you who want them.

I am posting the slides and the materials for teachers and parents out there who might like to exploit the idea with their children and pupils.  There is an activity for more or less each level from pre-school age 4 to fifth year in primary school.

A clown

A clown

For ideas on how to use the materials, you will have to either contact me or wait until I have the time to supplement the materials with some teaching notes (likely to happen when I finally become rich and can live a life of ease and luxury…for now I have to work for my bread).

Carnival Fun Slides, Carnival Fun worksheets, Carnival Fun
Enjoy using the materials and thanks for reading!


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Jobs About Town – Living the Dream

Emilia Di Dio Randazzo is a friend and colleague of mine.

She is a dog-loving multi-faceted language teacher. Her English and teaching skills are so good that she has secured herself a job in British Council Milan.  She is a superlative teacher whose natural effervescence and cheer is a pleasure to those who work with her… to whoever she meets, in fact.

But more than this, Emilia, or Emyl, as she is known to her fans, is a singer-songwriter who, to her absolute credit, is doing her very best to live her passions and her dreams.

Everyone knows that times are hard for the music  industry.  Record labels lament the fact all the time.  Sales are down.  Famous artists make fewer millions than before.  Companies like EMI and HMV get into deep water.

The sad but wonderful thing is, that there are thousands of musicians out there who aren’t Madonna or Lady Gaga.  They are lifestyle musicians who cannot not perform yet they don’t have the platforms that these artists have. They work second jobs yearning for their next gig…

…Meanwhile, out there in the murky city, talented amateur artists play for fun, doing gigs for free effectively ruining the  market place for those who live to make a life out of their music; those who dream of a life immersed in their music all day everyday.

Emyl is one of these.  And you know, her music is my kind of music.

On the evening of 1 December 2012 (shame for not writing sooner), I was returning from my own story telling session in Via Manzoni and I found Emilia performing in the rain.  Stood in the embrace of Piazza della Scala which was lit up like a stage, Emyl was performing to passers by who were huddled under their coats and umbrellas.  Occasionally someone threw a crumb of money her way without understanding that the greatest gift is actually stopping to listen.  I stood with my bags and wanted to cry as I listened to “Stop Waiting”.  I felt like it was my dream she was living. This is why I am writing this post.  People like Emilia, prove that it is possible in this grey age, to chase your dreams without being rich and privileged.

Emilia is a story teller.  Her music is her story.  Her efforts to sing for a public are her story.  Her day-job is another part of her story.

She is surrounded by friends who support her in her passion. Photography and graphics are the creation of Juliaan Hondius who you will also find with Emyl in the street.  You might also find her friend Valentina who was with her on that particular evening making sure she was safe and waiting to help her with anything from moving her guitar case to fighting off thugs.

Emyl takes a rest between songs to have her photo taken by a fan (me)

Emyl takes a rest between songs to have her photo taken with a fan (me)

The city of Milan has introduced new regulations to govern street artists.  There are playing slots which have to be booked early in the morning every Monday, in person.  The queue to pick up some busking slots looks like some of the queues for the new I-Phone 5.

Every week, before rushing in to the centre of Milan to teach English, Emyl stands in this queue of artists and occasionally gets a good position which keeps her going through the drudge of the week.  She lives for these moments in  Piazza della Scala, Piazza Cordusio, Piazza Croce Rossa.

Go and listen to some of her music.  Find her in Milan.  Put some money in her guitar case and pick up her CD (for pennies!) She isn’t just a busker.  She isn’t just a street artist, She is living the dream.


Contact Emyl at, find her on you tube and My Space

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By fellow teacher and accomplished travel writer Shaun Sweeney…Executive Kit | muggins over here

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A Hard Day’s Work | muggins over here

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Jobs About Town – End of Life Plastic Packaging

As part of the series on Jobs about Town, I spoke to Stefano Petriglieri who studied in Milan and now works in the waste disposal industry in the recycling sector. Stefano is passionate about his job and gave me a lot of information about the recycling of plastics. His ambition is to work on a European working commission.

 This is a real, hands on example of how to apply business acumen to ecology and sustainability.

“You work for a plastic recycling company Co.Re.Pla. How much plastic waste is produced in Italy each year?”

The management of end-of-life packaging plastic which is plastic waste has grown a lot since the increased use of plastics for packaging started to contribute to the increase in household waste in general.

A survey from the Environmental Ministry showed that, from 1998 – 2005 the amounts produced by households across Italy increased by 18% from 26,800,000 tons to 31,700,000 tons. The average growth rate was 2.4% per year.

This 2.4% percent shows that the per capita production of household waste is greater than  population  growth. The amount of waste production actually changed from 472 kg per person in 1998 to 539 kg per person in 2005 although in that period the population increase was quite modest.

Because the plastic content of household waste is roughly 30% by weight or 50% by volume, total plastic waste follows the same dynamic. In fact in the same period the amount of plastic waste produced across Italy increased by 16% per year from 110,000 tons to 360,000 tons. In 2010 614,000 tons of plastic packaging waste were collected as part of the separated collection.

“That’s a lot of plastic, Stefano. How much of this plastic is collected and recycled in Milan?”

Well, our performance in Milan is quite high. This means that over 59% of packaging plastic collected is recycled, 37% is recovered and the rest is disposed of.

These percentages represent the average value of Co.Re.Pla.’s  performance. That means they also refer to Milan’s performance which is roughly 23,000 tons per year (17,6 kg/inhabitant/y).

“Is this the same all over Italy?”

As a matter of fact, Italy is a country with varying collection growth rates. Over 60% of plastic packaging which is binned is sorted in the north of Italy, 15% in the centre and the rest in south. More or less, per person per year we collect 14.5kg  in the North, 8.3kg  in the Centre and 6.3kg in the South which means a weighted average of 10.4kg in Italy .

“How has the management of plastic waste changed over the years?”

Over the past 20 years a lot of work has been done by legislators who are interested in waste management.  Because of the huge amount of plastic being produced, legislators need to have proper regulatory tools and the technology to minimize environmental impact of plastic waste.

This goal could be reached, for instance, through the resourcing and the use of material according to best available recovery techniques for each packaging material or best design practices that represent some possibilities which the regulators take into account. The objective is to make environmental needs a part of policy making so now, environmental matters really play an important role in waste management.

“Can you give an example of one of these regulatory tools?”

Presidential Decree 915/82 was the first legislative tool to regulate waste disposal. This came of the awareness that both quantity and quality of waste follow specific dynamics. It was clear that there was a need to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

In later decrees ( “Decreto Ronchi” and “Codice Ambientale”) some new concepts were introduced  and developed which had only been touched on by the previous decree. These laid down that the three R’sreduction”, “recycling” and “recovery would become an integral part of “management strategy” rather than something to be considered individually.

Decreto Ronchi made the problem of the packaging and its end-of-life handling part of the government’s core politics. 

“Is this where your company came from?”

Yes, CONAI and Co.Re.Pla. were established as a result of this.

“What do the acronyms CONAI and Co.Re.Pla stand for?”

CONAI is the National Packaging recovery Consortium. Its management was entrusted by law to its member companies. Its task is to manage the recovery and recycling of packaging in its entirety and to try to reach the recycling and recovery objectives set by European legislation which the Ronchi decree was trying to respect.

The operational management of recovering packaging for each material (glass, steel, aluminum, paper, plastic, wood ) is entrusted to six material consortia, one for each material. This is the “CONAI System” or rather Italian System


Co.Re.Pla. is a no profit private company representing the plastic packaging in the CONAI system. Co.Re.Pla, among its other duties, takes care of the handling of residual materials obtained from separate collection of plastic packaging.

“So what happens to our plastic once it is collected?”

An important part of plastic recycling is the possibility to recover the packaging as material or energy. You all know that plastic reappears as blankets and pullovers on the supermarket shelves but it is also used for energy and Co.Re.Pla.’s choice in the handling of packaging plastic waste in the field of energy recovery is very interesting. On the one hand, it offers an interesting and cleaner energy power and on the other hand it has to follow the recycling path through material recycling in compliance with  EU norms.

The municipalities and/or operators on behalf of municipalities itself arrange the separate collection which is sent to sorting plants where the material is split up into different polymeric families (types of plastic for the uninitiated).

“What does Co.Re.Pla. do with the plastic it collects?”

 Co.Re.Pla. sells every recyclable fraction, i.e. bottles and flacons (PET, PE), film (plastic bags, packaging plastic film etc)  (LDPE), by auction. Co.Re.Pla. is  now also able to sell a new product constituted by a polyolefin compound (MPO) which is a mix of  food trays, tanks and pots in PE, 

The residuals from the sorting and recycling processes that have a certain energy value is sent directly and or duly treated to the waste to energy plant or the cement works.  

The treated plastic, in a reduced pellet – like form, is used to substitute coke in the burning process and because it burns at a higher temperature, it gives more energy and is cleaner too.


“How much of the plastic you collect are you able to recover?”

In 2010 over 36% of plastic packaging waste was recovered which is the amount of plastic packaging collected and treated but the material storage is not taken into the account.


For more about ways to go green in your everyday life, visit this site which helped me by recycling it images…..


For an interesting video about what happens if you don’t recycle… these youtube clips:



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A very happy hour – Milan’s luxury happy hour

Feel pampered and loved during happy hour this week…

  Renato Andrea Aquilone, presents his own personal expertise in the Milanese aperitivo scene.

 If you like Milanese “happy hour” you can now enjoy a new experience.

 In Milan, luxury hotels are opening their doors not only for their guests but for everybody and they are offering food and drink with real style as befits the Style Capital of Europe!

 The first hotel to do this was the 4 Star Diana Majestic (at the end of Venezia Boulevard) 

This hotel has a garden which is so beautiful that you can’t imagine that you are right next to the chaoticBuenos Aires Boulevard, the longest shopping street inEurope. 

Then, you might choose the pink, 4 star Starhotel Rosa’s lounge bar near Fontana Square, with its speciality open buffet;

 For a closer than life experience of the Milan’s magnificent Duomo, the 4 star Grey’s terrace (2nd floor…not the roof….) is  a must.  

Duomo square, in front of Straf bar (Straf hotel – 4 star) one of the most cosmopolitan and international places inMilan.

 Without ever leaving the city centre, you can pop in to the 5 star Exedra Boscolo hotel  which is very close to Abercrombie & Fitch, Matteotti Boulevard, a sophisticated design hotel (in the past, it was a bank headquarters), or to the extremely luxurious 5 star Bulgari hotel near La Scala square.

 Two others are the 4 star Visconti Palace hotel near Lodi Boulevard and the newest, Palace hotel terrace, Repubblica square.

 We are now waiting for the next one with bated breath: will it be the Armani hotel maybe (opening soon) or The Mandarin?  Watch this space.


This is the best part.  You can enjoy these once in a lifetime experiences every day for about 10 to 15 Euros, no more….. per drink, of course!

But don’t worry, food is included and the Milanese aperitif buffet is a world famous experience not to be missed and never to be found elsewhere!


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Jobs about Town….model makers

Very often people are channeled into traditional paths of study but there is no clear  idea of the work/job opportunities that are available in the real world at the end of these studies.  As the first blog in a series about Jobs about Town, I spoke to model maker Edoardo Marco Tullio Fontana of Archimodelli who told me about his work…an interesting off shoot of architectural studies. 

Edoardo made this model of the Cà Cranda for his exhibition at Rotonda della Besana


Hi Edoardo, Can you tell me what you do exactly?


I make prototype models of all kinds.  While I specialize in architectural models, I love to make a wide range of things like garden and household furniture, household items, decorations, gifts and I work with raw materials to create something innovative. I use plaster, resins, metals, glass. You name it

Mi occupo di modellazione di ogni genere  ma soprattutto architettonica e design. Realizzo modelli e plastici ma anche mobili per esterni ed interni, decori, piccoli oggetti da regalo e utilizzo vari materiali tra cui, legno massello di varie essenze, gesso, plastica, resina, metallo ed altro.


Where did this idea come from?

 It all started about a decade ago when I was studying at the Politecnico of Milan.  I had to build models as part of my course and it soon became evident that I had a particular talent and passion for it.  I made models for a number exhibitions; “Il Bene e ilBello” which was held at the Rotonda della Besana in Milan and which then became a mobile exhibition around Milan and Europe, too.  Then, of course there was the model of the first Basilica of St Peter for the exhibition Peter and Paul which was held in Rome in the Palazzo della Cancelleria for the Jubilee in 2000.  Another exhibition and a particular favourite of mine was, “Bramante and his circle in Milan and Lombardy”.  I made three models out of mahogany for this exhibition which also later went mobile.

Another section of the Cà Granda Courtyard

Il mio lavoro inizia dieci anni fa, contemporaneamente ai miei studi al Politecnico di Milano, realizzando modelli per mostre, tra le quali cito “Il Bene e il Bello” svoltasi alla Rotonda della Besana a Milano poi divenuta mostra itinerante in Italia e in Europa, ho collaborato con un modello della prima Basilica di San Pietro alla mostra “Pietro e Paolo” tenutasi a Roma al Palazzo della Cancelleria in occasione del Giubileo del 2000, in ultimo la mostra “Bramante e la sua cerchia a Milano e in Lombardia”, per la quale ho realizzato tre modelli in mogano massello, tenutasi a Milano e poi divenuta itinerante.


It must be great to make a living out of this…

 Well, yes although it is a lot of hard word building a network of interest and clients.  In recent years I have worked as an external consultant to a firm of architects.  First I was a member of a team of modellists and then I took over all of the firm’s work in terms of model production.  I make models for various firms, for professionals, for construction companys, real estate agents etc…  At the same time, I have my own  brand, ARCHIMODELLI.

Bene, si.  Ma devo dire che e’ estremamente adua l’attività di crearsi una rete di interessati  e clienti. Negli ultimi anni ho collaborato stabilmente da esterno presso il laboratorio di modellistica in uno studio di architettura dapprima in team e poi come  responsabile della produzione. Realizzo modelli in materiale plastico per progettazioni interne allo Studio, per altri Studi, per professionisti, per imprese edili, per agenzie immobiliari, ecc.  Contemporaneamente eseguo lavori con il mio marchio ARCHIMODELLI.



How can potential clients contact you?

This is another shining example of Edoardo's skill in recreating the intricate details of architecture

If you are interested in my work, you can drop me a line at or visit my new website when it is completed  I’ll keep you posted on the date of the website launch.

Per ulteriori informazioni contattatemi con una e-mail a questo indirizzo oppure all’indirizzo e visitate il mio sito




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My business card.

This is a great website for creating business cards, business gadgets…all personalised and extremely cheap.  After visiting my own online business card, make your own and have them delivered at


Fast, Cheap, Easy, Fun - Gadgets and business cards for your start up.

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Workplace Mobbing – What it’s all about

Are you unhappy at work?  Have you been having problems with your boss, your colleagues or even clients?  You might be being mobbed or then again, you might not be!

Workplace bullying and mobbing are unpleasant manifestations of human behavior in the office.  They may also be the manifestation of business strategies.  It is important to understand what these involve however because you may simply be experiencing ordinary daily office conflict which you can deal with by talking to your boss or colleagues and sorting problems out before they become too big to handle.  After all, a certain amount of conflict is normal in a place where you spend at least eight hours of your day with other tired stressed human beings.

I spoke to some Milanese employment lawyers who gave me their ideas about what mobbing really is:

What exactly is mobbing?

“Well, according to dominant opinion today, mobbing commonly refers to the behavior of an employer or a superior which is systematic, repeated and long lasting and I don’t mean any behavior. I mean hostile behavior.”

Can you tell me what you mean by hostile?

“Yes.  I mean abuse or psychological persecution which mortifies and excludes an employee.  This kind of behavior can seriously damage an employee’s mental state and long term ability to cope with stress or pressure.  It can even cause personality disorders in extreme cases.

So, let me recap then.  Firstly there must be repeated and prolonged persecutory actions which may or may not be legal in their substance but are deliberately aimed either to make the worker feel ill at ease or to be, quite simply, abusive.  Secondly, there must be events which are adversely affecting the worker’s health both physical and psychological, Thirdly, there must be a clear link between the actions of the superior or employer and  the damage to the worker’s state of mind and health.  Finally, It must be obvious that the employer intended this behavior to be malicious and hostile.”

Ok, well that sounds clear enough but can you give us some real examples of what you mean by malicious and hostile behavior?  Is it things like, not inviting a colleague for coffee with the rest of the group or pushing in at the photocopier?

Right, the employment section of the courts in Italy have found evidence of mobbing in the following cases: where a worker is transferred to another office within the building, far away from his unit or to another deserted branch of the company where there is effectively no work to do.  One person was even given an office and a computer but had no work to do and spent the whole day reading the newspaper until, as you will understand, it nearly drove him mad”

That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to me!

“No, well perhaps not in the short term but you can see how it would damage a person’s self esteem and professional credibility.

The other extreme of this situation is when the employer allocates excessively difficult, unrealistic or even dangerous tasks which the worker, not having sufficient means, time or training is not able to carry out.

Other things which judges have considered mobbing are the spreading of rumours, accentuation and mimicking of defects such as speech impediments or physical problems, negative comments about sensitive political, religious or ethnic questions and obsessive checking, controlling and criticism of work done.  Then of course, the taking away of benefits which the worker had previously enjoyed without any justification.”

I have heard lots about mobbing in the news in recent years.  Is it really as common as people think?

“No.  Not at all. In fact maybe only 1 in 10 cases are instances of real mobbing.  Nowadays, for the same reason you mentioned earlier – a large amount of news space given over to the phenomenon – many people are firmly convinced that they are victims of mobbing when in actual fact they aren’t”.

Can you give an example of what isn’t mobbing then?

If for example an employer doesn’t give the holiday dates an employee is asking for or if the worker considers that the role he or she has been assigned is not indicative of their real abilities and knowledge and even sometimes, when disciplinary proceedings have been started against them.

Mobbing has a precise juridical meaning and only a few situations really amount to mobbing.  These can be found in previous “giurisprudenza” (similar to case law). This precise meaning is explained by legal experts and strictly applied in case law.  So be careful before you try to take your boss to court, you might end up in more trouble than you counted for.”

So what should someone do if they think they are victims of mobbing?

First of all, keep a written log of the episodes of hostile behavior or the actions which lead you to feel bullied.  Get certification, if necessary, from a medical professional.  But before you do anything, try talking to your colleagues about the situation if possible to see if they are of your opinion.  You could even try talking to your superior about the situation and what you perceive to be behaviours associated with mobbing.  Sometimes, managers need to learn how to manage and we can all be a part of that process.  What starts off as poor management need not disintegrate into a court room battle.

If all else fails, contact a lawyer or a trade union representative and take things from there.”

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How to publish your writing online

This post is dedicated to Graziella

After the post about how to publish books to Kindle, this post introduces the excellent online self publishing site,

Lulu permits you to sell real books online. You get all the help you need to produce the book (apart from the content) and then, when you sell any, the book is printed, bound and sent and the writer (you) gets 80% of the dosh.  However, it also offers other solutions and you can browse both in English and Italian.

This short video shows how to get started.  If you don’t like the content of the video, at least the background music is quite relaxing.


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