Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Water works

On Monday Mr FF located the second water leak, it’s up by the little sports ground and loosing a good amount of water.  Someone had strimmed the roadside and left large piles of cuttings which he collected together and burnt whilst generally tidying the area of rubbish, an abandoned pair of old wellingtons and the like.  Then he began digging for the leak which was under a large wooden notice board, the actual break in the pipe is directly below the concrete footings.  The (unused) notice board is massive, he says if it falls in him it will kill him, I believe him as it’s visible from our house some distance below.  
The options are to take down the board, excavate the foundations, fix the leak and replace the board - somehow  - it’s a big job, or put in a new piece of pipe to divert ours from under the concrete.   The pipes for the other 3 houses in our road are also under the concrete but at the moment we are not feeling so benevolent that we want to sort this problem, not that the other properties seem to get as many leaks as us or maybe they don’t care.  Mr FF is busy digging out for the diversion option.
There is so little money spent in Italy on infrastructure, the roads are a prime example and below us the plastic water pipes run exposed at the side of the road for anyone to tamper with.   Marios water pipe runs from the village on the surface of the verge, he’s always getting leaks.  We are never sure about the quality of our water or whether it becomes contaminated by these holes in the pipes, we drink a lot more wine than water as a precaution.
We are totally fed up with the amount of energy expended on these stupid leaks, days of hard work simply because the pipes weren’t laid correctly in the first place.  What idiot imagined running them unprotected, not far below the surface, through thick undergrowth and over sharp stones was a good idea.  
Wonder what the Italian word for Slapdash is.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Friends and aliens

We understand that having foreign friends gives an italian a certain kudos, certainly Mario likes to show us off in the village and we have a friend in Rome who likes to visit with his companion, I use that word as I don’t understand or like the ongoing relationship with the live in woman who nursed his late wife and never left.   This friend believes he can regularly bring strangers to us for lunch, show them round and play the charming host whilst I cater.  People who arrive empty handed, eat our food and we never see or hear from them again.
We weren’t that surprised when having arranged to come for lunch on Friday, it’s a given the companion would be coming, as always empty handed,  our friend phoned the evening before to ask if he could also bring his friend Andrea who would be 80 that day and was feeling depressed.  We met this bloke 15 years ago and thought he was about 80 then, hard to say no so I said yes and ranted.
It turned out Andrea still looked about 80, he was far from depressed, charming and sweet, interested in the food I’d made, the ingredients, my cooking methods, asked to see the garden, gave me good advice and identified plants.  He said he’d had a splendid day, I was pleased to have made him happy.  So my misgivings were unjustified, though it would have been nice to have had a follow up thank you from the Romans,  the bottle of prosecco they brought didn’t go that far between 5, we saved them the cost of a restaurant birthday meal and politeness costs nothing.
I’d been ranting to my Danish friend the morning of the lunch and mentioned that as I approach 70 I need to clear my life of people who don’t enhance it in any way.  She told me she’d just dumped a couple who’d been her friends for 60 years.  This pair come out to stay with them in Italy every year,  buy a few bottles of wine, most of which they drink themselves, a few coffees when they are out together and contribute little else.  I can tell you they are treated very well during their visits, my friend is an excellent cook and a generous host, she makes a big effort.   Things came to a head when they all flew back to Denmark together recently. My friend had packed everyone sandwiches for the journey 
and when they ate these together at the airport the visiting wife went off and bought two small bottles of wine, one for herself one for her husband, offering her hosts for the last 8 days nothing. My friend was understandably furious but didn’t react in the heat of the moment.  After a couple of weeks contemplation she contacted the couple and said she couldn’t see them again, there was an exchange of opinions, it’s over.
I think it’s very sad after so many years that friends part like this. We have known the offending couple several years and see them when they are in Italy.  We enjoy their company but equally I fully understand that one cannot be made to feel like the doormat in a relationship.  It’s hard enough having house guests without feeling totally put upon and a friendship needs maintenance from both sides, even if the major contribution from one is simply to bring joy to the other. 
I’ve had one of these culls before and never regretted the clear out, I feel another coming on.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Water leak update

Sunday morning Mr FF went off to fix the water leak, which he discovered was our neighbour Anna’s, he fixed it anyway and she was delighted plying is with cake and wine in gratitude.  However we were left with our meter running when the supply was turned off at the house.  We searched the mountainside but it had rained so it was impossible to locate the problem.  Yesterday Mr FF went up again, found and fixed our leak.  Let’s hope that’s the end of it for this year.  
While he was working he got chatting to contractor who was working on the land nearby.  He agreed we need a single pipe down the mountain to our road where we could locate the 4 meters in an accessible spot.  He said he had the equipment and would do a good job for us.  Of course all 4 houses would have to agree and pay for this work but it would make life much easier.  You might think it would make sense too for the water board to have an efficient system and they might contribute, think again. 
Meantime we had a card in our post box from the water authority asking us to take a reading from the meter and send it in.  No reference number was provided or reply card, we should phone or email a response.  Since their member of staff who was here this week, a man considerably younger than us, had failed to enter the chamber of horrors to read the meter it’s a bit cheeky to expect four pension aged householders to do his work.  Annna has told us to throw the card in the bin but I’m tempted to reply, if I can find a reference number.
Spoke too soon, Mr FF has just checked the meter, we still have a leak.  Give me strength.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Utility bills

We have another water leak.  I’ve mentioned before that our water meter is on the mountainside above our house, about 10 minutes walk away, and that from the meter the pipe is our responsibility.  We had thought this year we were ok, the pressure was good and Mr FF had understandably been reluctant to take a machete to hack his way through the undergrowth to the sometimes snake infested pit that houses the meters.  
This week a man from the water authority was here looking for the meter, armed only with an iPad he had no chance and left without taking readings. 
Anyway this visit prompted Mr FF to turn off the water at our house, beat a path to the pit and see if the meter was spinning, it was.  We couldn’t have a summer without a water leak though I do wonder why it’s always our pipe that fails not one of the three other houses in our road.  Fortunately earlier in the year Mr FF had spent a couple of days clearing the gully the pipe runs down of brambles and self seeded trees.  He was able to find water bubbling up from the earth fairly quickly.   Let’s hope it’s an easy fix.  
In case you are wondering why our meter is so far away, it seems the water authority only have to supply within a short distance of a road, our road is private so it doesn’t qualify and though we’ve all tried to get the meter moved closer, like the end of our road, it’s just not happening.  No doubt when we do get a meter reading and a proper bill there will be further discussion.
Speaking of which we didn’t get a bill for refuse collection last year, we reported this and were told the lady who dealt with the accounts had been off work, quite a lot of people hadn’t been charged and that an invoice would arrive.  Subsequently we received and paid this years bill but despite a reminder nothing has come for last year, I just hope it isn’t the same situation as the tax office where we received a 30% fine for declaring some unpaid tax, in fact we’d paid the tax in the UK but that didn’t help.  We were told if we’d kept quiet and waited to be discovered the fine would have been 10% and if we weren’t found out within 5 years we’d have got away with it. Smart thinking that strategy, like putting water meters in an inaccessible location and not being able to charge.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Closing in

It’s that time of year when the nights are longer, we have to start sleeping in the bed rather than on top of it, lunches are a bit more substantial than a few slices of melon and shorts are not always the garment of choice during waking hours. I won’t call it autumn, we still have high daytime temperatures, the leaves remain on the trees, tomatoes continue to be produced, breakfast is always taken outdoors.    But I can feel the change and I don’t like it.  The local festas are over, we had the last one on Sunday and it got quite cool sitting in the square till midnight for our village talent contest.  The grape harvest has started and the olives are turning black, people are preparing for winter and of course wearing their warmer clothes even on a sunny day.
The pool temperature is down to about 18 deg so it isn’t used much but we leave it up as it’s holding down the membrane for the new pavings that probably won’t be laid till next year.  
We are into October, we shall have to go back to Yorkshire next month and my heart sinks at the thought of leaving our cat Grigio even though she is perfectly happy spending most of her day and a lot of her night outdoors.  She has chummed up nicely with Enrico who has become much less aggressive and likes to sleep in the pizza oven, it does contain a basket and pillows and is never used for cooking.  
A better person would concentrate on the last weeks here and relish the season, I’m trying really I am.   Tell you what I’ll light a candle or two as the sun goes down, put my slippers on and pretend I like cosy.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Grinding to a halt

Mid September is the new August.  Now the days are very hot, there is no more rain and it feels like high summer.  So we are doing all the August things, watering the garden, closing the shutters to keep out the heat, watching the landscape turn parched, dipping in and out of the pool and feeling sweatily exhausted most of the time.  It’s a slight worry that fires will be allowed again in a couple of weeks just when things are drying out, maybe the commune will extend the ban.
I read online that our lido in Ilkley (unheated outdoor pool) is staying open this month.  However if the water temperature drops below 15 deg wetsuits must be worn, if it drops to 10 deg the facility will close.  Our garden pool is around 24 deg and that takes my breath away.  Yorkshire folk are a tough breed, Mr FF once spent an hour in the lido when the water was 17 deg, meanwhile the Italian pools outdoor pools are closing for the year as they always do.
Our Danish friends are going home for a few weeks and will only return for a short time in October, our Roman neighbours are back in the city, not so many house lights to see on mountainside now.  Its getting quiet up here and there is a feeling of things coming to an end, let’s just hope the heat stays a little longer, you know how the turning of the season can throw me out of sorts.  In fact I may already be a little crazy, I’ve made an online Christmas gift purchase and bought a few Christmas gifts here to take home.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Lost in translation

Mr FF’s Italian isn’t great, in fact after 15 years of visits, latterly for up to 6 months at a time, it’s awful  Only last week a neighbour was berating him because she couldn’t speak with him.  He gets me into situations, like when he said a visitor wanted to know what I was feeding my rather large courgettes, I answered ‘just water from this’ holding up the hose pipe ‘and not every day’.  In fact the person wanted to know why we hadn’t put a jacuzzi in the corner of the garden instead of vegetables.
At the weekend he came back from a walk having met Giovanni who he said had invited us to go up for coffee at 11 today.  We were late setting off as Mr FF had been to the builders yard, en route we met the elderly gentleman who has a lot of olive trees around us, we chatted then he insisted on giving us a bag of peaches from one of his trees so it was turned up for 12 when we arrived at the house. 
As a gift I’d made an apple and blackberry crumble with fruit from the garden, I explained how to cook it and that it could be eaten with ice cream, yoghurt or whatever.  Milena turned the oven on immediately and put the crumble in, I didn’t say anything.  She also took the bag of peaches from me, I said they were a gift from the old gentleman, I’d envisaged there would be confusion and was happy to relinquish them.
We had a walk round their lovely garden then Giovanni asked Mr FF to look at some cracks inside the house that were worrying them, he asked me to go too to translate.  Our Italian classes didn’t concentrate so much on building terminology but between us we were able to reassure Giovanni that the cracks were cosmetic and the house wasn’t falling down.
When we came back Milena asked me if I liked porcini and onions and other things and said she was going to make a sugo.  I told Mr FF I thought they planned to feed us though I wasn’t quite sure if she wasn’t just interested in my diet whilst wanting to crack on with their own lunch.   The four bread buns they arrived at the table were a giveaway and yes they did provide a delicious lunch with lots of homemade and homegrown food.  The crumble, cooked for 20 minutes and cooled arrived with a large plate and a knife for me to serve it.  I had to ask for dishes and a spoon, there was no accompaniment, then we ate the peaches.  
Mr FF insists they didn’t invite us for lunch and that they only provided it because I took a pudding, who knows. The are such a sweet generous couple there was no awkwardness and mostly they speak to Mr FF as if he understands them.
He is currently next door helping other neighbours who’ve been having problems with their septic tank, he did manage to find them a company that can empty the tank and clear the pipes, they are working there now.  With Mr FF’s command of the language I won’t be surprised if the contents end up in our garden.