Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Incredible

We arrived safely at the house on Friday early evening and Lisa our little cat appeared within half an hour, Theo the shy one not much later.   Lisa didn't  visit so often afterwards, we assumed because our neighbours had been feeding her and she was still getting food and attention.  This evening she came round and I put out food and milk but again she wasn't that interested.  I heard her in the garden being quite vocal and then later I spotted her in our lower garden complete with ... wait for it .... a white kitten.  Obviously when the first kitten was taken she has moved the other and kept it very safe until she felt confident enough to being it to us.  She proceeded to lead the little tot across the garden and carried it, a few steps at a time, up the 13 steps onto our terrace. She was so pleased and happy, purring and fussing the baby.  I was in the middle of preparing dinner, which I abandoned as I tried to find a safe place for them both, they are now locked in our cellar with food, water and bedding.  Lisa didn't seem that pleased to be fastened in but needs must, it was getting dark we couldn't let them stay on the terrace in case junior walked off the edge and anywhere else in the garden left them vulnerable to predators now they have broken cover.
I really hope we can keep the kitten safe, I have already suggested Mr FF start building an enclosure, he was more concerned that his dinner would be burnt, it wasn't because he started without me but at least I can sleep tonight knowing mother and baby are safe.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Things to look forward to

We return to Italy in a few days and while I don't relish the thought of the long drive I do look forward to being back in the heat, seeing our cats and how the garden has progressed.
There was sad news about Lisa, she gave birth to two kittens but they only lived for a few days.  She is a feral cat and though she did her best to find a safe place for her kittens they both disappeared, probably taken by predators.  I am assured that while she was fretting she was fine and she and Theo are now being fed by our neighbours until we return. Nature can be horrible at times I'm afraid.
Back in Ilkley we applied some time ago for Listed Building consent to replace our wooden doors onto the balcony with aluminium double glazed ones. This was granted with only one objection, probably because the doors are hardly visible at fourth floor level behind a parapet wall.  We then applied to install two new double glazed windows, one either side of the doors of the same size.  This has been agreed and so we are now going through the formality of obtaining planning permission.
Having this extra glazing into our lounge will be wonderful, the current doors are badly fitted and very shabby.  This is the view from inside as the sun went down, with twice as much glass it will be spectacular. We probably won't get the work done until next spring, imagine the dust and dirt in our lounge and the logistics of carrying out the installation on the fourth floor, but it will be so worthwhile.  We can then tidy up the steps to the balcony, get some nice new curtains and fit the balcony out for eating and sitting.
We've had some incredible sun sets this last week, almost on a par with the ones we get in Italy, sitting looking onto something like this will be a joy.  

I'm not sure when we shall be back in the UK, no doubt long dark nights with no UK telly will take their toll.   The novelty of cosy evenings in front of the wood burner may fade even with my stash of books and yarn, and our friends and neighbours will gradually close up and leave their summer homes.  Autumn isn't something I ever look forward to and I am much more conscious of the changing seasons in Italy.   Once the olives are picked we will return to the penthouse so lets hope for an early harvest.  Meantime there is the rest of the summer, we have family visitors in September and possibly October and plenty more flip flops days to come.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Copenhagen in pictures

At last I can show you some of my snaps of our week in Copenhagen and hopefully impress you with this gorgeous city.  There was so much to love, the fabulous Design Museum was a good introduction to all things beautiful, 
furniture, 
toys and 
the cafe wasn't bad either.
Married for so many years to an engineer and being hosted by one too, I got a great tour of the city, taking in projects our friend had worked on including the school of architecture which is beautifully located by the water.  
We looked across to the gorgeous Opera House, 
designed by Henning Larsen, it is one of the most perfect buildings I've ever seen. 
Of course we had to see the little mermaid, even smaller than I expected but so sweet.  
Our borrowed apartment was beautiful too, lots of white and calm in a smart and quiet area with lovely local shops, cafes etc but a short walk to the station and 20 minutes to the centre. This is the leafy view from the lounge window.
We also did some out of town visits, 
Here are the grounds of Fredericksborg Castle in Hillerød where we saw an exhibition to mark Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday displaying dresses worn over her reign.  It was fascinating, fabulous outfits including her wedding dress with video clips of events where they were worn, the exhibition room was understandably full of drooling women. 
So after all that beauty and efficiency  it was a big contrast back in rural laid back Lazio and the words 'this wouldn't happen in Denmark' were spoken often. I love both places and my view of Copenhagen might be swayed slightly by the lovely sunny weather which apparently isn't the norm and our generous hosts but I shall definitely be back.  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

My cycling year

We caught a stage of the Giro d'Italia that came through the Tuscan town where we were staying but we were delighted to discover that another stage came through our own little Lazio village while we were there. We had expected to travel to see the boys and only found out that morning that we just needed to go down the hill and wait.  The riders were only a few miles from the end of a very long stage and climbing so they passed slowly and I got a great view of the pink jersey and eventually winner of the Giro, Alberto Contador, fantastic.
Before we left for Italy Mr FF had suggested that on the way home we might go into Paris to see the last day of the Tour de France, driving into Paris, the crowds etc, none of that appealed to me, but I was amenable when he said we could pick up the penultimate stage as we travelled home.  Saturday we crossed from Italy into France and headed towards a little town the Tour passed through but unfortunately several slip roads from the motorway were closed off, in both directions causing massive queues for travellers.  We did however manage to come off the motorway further on and make out way back, we parked up and just followed the crowds.  
This was a big day for the riders including the notorious climb to Alp D'Huez, you can see from the background how steep and high the mountains are.   I think seeing Team Sky leading the yellow jersey Chris Froome and the look of total concentration on his face as he battled to maintain his lead was my best ever cycling experience, apart from when I got a drinks bottle from one of the riders.  Amazing and also unbelievable that I managed to get a photograph.
The town was beautifully decorated for the stage visit, look at this they even had the Yorkshire flag flying.
Sunday we drove towards Calais for our last overnight before the ferry and Mr FF offered to drive to the start of the last day, no racing apart from the final sprint and the boys all taking it easy so we might see more.  I was up for that but again the slip roads were all closed so we pressed on, me thinking we were in the suburbs of Paris on our way out when suddenly this was before me.  

Oh no, that's not what I wanted to do.  We parked up and took a walk round in the rain but although it was early afternoon we couldn't find much indication that such a major event was taking place.  Eventually Mr FF spoke to some people who told us that the Tour didn't start till 4.30 and wouldn't be in town until at least 5.30, we had some distance to travel and it was 1.30 then. After rather tense discussion about checking the route but not the time we got back into the car.  We then drove round central Paris for about 3 hours, so many roads closed, so much traffic, not a fun experience.  We arrived at our b&b around 6.30 apologised for being late and explained what had happened. Madam immediately whisked us into her beautiful home where we joined her husband in front of the television to watch the final hour or so of the Tour with a glass in our hands.  If Mark Cavendish had won the sprint it would have been perfect, it was pretty good anyway.
So I've seen the Tour de Yorkshire in my home town, two stages of the Giro d'Italia and one of Tour de France, I am such a biking groupie, my best year ever.

Friday, 31 July 2015

In Ilkley

We are counting ourselves very lucky to be safely home with all the problems at the Channel.  We received an email on Sunday evening at our b&b about an hour from the port to say there would be no Calais sailings next day,  we were booked to depart at 11 am next morning, and that we should proceed to Dunkirk. We got up extra early anticipating problems, they started immediately when our sat nav wouldn't work and we drove round the little French villages looking for the auto route. We found the slip road but it was closed, more travelling in circles till we eventually got on our way.  
At Dunkirk we queued for around 1.5 hours to be told we needed to go to the office and rebook our crossing, what they actually meant was go outside the compound and back to the end of the queue to start again.  Mr FF, and don't try this yourself, decided to park the car and walk back, through lines of lorries, past security staff etc leaving me sitting in the car feeling very uneasy but it worked and saved a lot of time.
We were re-booked onto the 3 pm ferry that actually left at 4 pm, another 1.5 hours queue to check in, a jam packed boat and another choppy crossing but we arrived back in Dover relieved.  A good drive back to Yorkshire including a stop for fish and chips and relax.
I really can't contemplate the return journey to Italy at present, I need time here to enjoy the calm and cool.  
I have lots to tell you about the exceptionally hot weather, stages of the Giro and the Tour de France, the madness of trying to get things done, rants will follow, don't they always.  

And while you are waiting, here's a picture of our little Italian cats Theo on the left and Lisa on the right.  Still no sign of the kittens, we are being kept informed by guests who are staying in our house and taking good care of them both for us.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

In case you are wondering

Yes we are still in Italy though only for about 10 more days and next week will be all hell and no notion as we pack our personal items and prepare the house for renters before we drive back to Ilkley to get the motor repaired.
We don't seem to have done that much since we arrived in May, lunches and dinners with friends, a day on the beach, lots of gardening and preparation of an irrigation system to look after things while we are absent.  My youngest niece and her fiancĂ© came to stay for 6 days.  Our little cat Lisa is pregnant and may give birth while we are home.  The tomatoes are ready and delicious, likewise green beans.  The weather is mostly settled and mostly in the low 30s.  I am following the Tour de France on Rai Sport which can only be good for my language though the vocabulary will be a bit limited.  We are plagued by mosquitos, the worst we have ever known.  At the weekend around midnight the municipality sent round a vehicle that sprayed the roads with some killer chemical, we had to keep our windows closed.  The spray has made matters worse rather than better, it's possibly to swat about half a dozen at a time and the devils are here 24 hours a day.  Fortunately we don't react to the bites and never scratch them.
The freezer is broken and has been since we arrived, so we only get gelato when we go out and a G and T just doesn't hit the spot without ice.  Someone is supposed to be fixing it later this week, the third person to try, I do wonder why we didn't just buy a new one but we have a rather nice large steel fridge freezer that I'd be happy to keep.  We have a new sofa that complements the cream leather one nicely, expensive  Italian designer with Ikea cheap and cheerful seems to work.
So days of intense heat where we try to get things done early morning before resting in the shade. Lots of washing of sweaty clothes but no ironing, I cannot tackle that so the sheets get put back straight from the line and clothes are smoothed out to be worn.  Nights sitting out under the stars enjoying the cool.  It's all lovely but I am looking forward to being in Ilkley for a while and to having clean feet on a regular basis, flip flops for gardening are not a great idea.




Monday, 15 June 2015

Home, the other one

That was a brilliant week in Copenhagen, I really recommend it for a city break but do take plenty of money it is extremely expensive and very good quality.   I only bought a few postcards whilst lusting for gorgeous designer household items.  We managed a day on borrowed bicycles, a brilliant way to get around with sensible and wide bike paths, beautiful coastline and massive forests.
So we are back in Lazio, back to gardening and home maintenance, struggling for Internet connection, listening to early morning strimmers working in the fields, by early morning I mean around 4 am, and wondering why I always have such dusty feet.  I am busy creating a new border in the garden, it was full of ivy and wild flowers, some might call them weeds.  I want to make something colourful and permanent, a sort of Engkish style herbaceous area if I can.   So back to it, I'll try to keep you updated and I'm sorry I can't post any photos at present but I am taking lots and knitting a little and feeding our two cats, Theo and Lisa, so life is back to normal.