Thursday, 9 July 2020


On the final lap of our drive to Lazio we agreed that if Grigio wasn’t around we would be up all night calling her, despite the exhaustion of 3 days travelling.  We actually started calling her 40 miles from home, it must have worked because we hadn’t unlocked the door before she appeared.  She was a little shy at first, that didn’t last long, starving hungry of course and in great condition.  After 8 months she slipped back into the routine, sleep, eat, inspect the garden, repeat.  Enrico is here too, he arrived later the first evening, also famished.  He comes and goes but seems delighted to see us and is as friendly as he became last year.  Our clever capable cats.
That’s not all the happy news.  My garden is fine, a few plants in pots are lost but nothing important, lemon, orange, plumbago and bougainvillea are all fine, my kiwi is four times the size it was last year. Now I shall be much relaxed about constant attention and watering, the plants seem to know how to survive.  Mario had cut the grass, strimmed the orchard and swept around, his wife and daughter had cleaned the house.  We had expected the worst after months of neglect, their kindness is overwhelming.
Yesterday Giovanni and his wife called by, it’s so nice to see them but we are being very cautious and keeping our distance.  After driving through 4 countries, using hotels, motorway services etc we want to make sure we are ok and not pass anything to others.  We are semi isolating for a couple of weeks and limiting out contacts.  It won’t be normal after that but up here on the mountain with our cats and our land around us it does feel brilliant.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

It's official

Yesterday Boris announced that it is now safe for us to travel to many countries, Italy included.  Of course Mr FF had anticipated this happening and made a booking early in the week for us to start our journey tomorrow.  We leave early in the morning for the midday crossing, we don't even have to get out of the car, just drive onto the train, sit and wait, drive off again in France.
We have booked two nights accommodation en route, one in the Champagne region one near Lake Como.  Both are small family run establishments each with only 3 letting rooms, we imagine we will be the only guests, we will have our meals there, probably outside and follow all the rules.  We are happy to support these small enterprises rather than stay in chain hotels, particularly at this time.  
We have sanitiser and masks, we will take our own lunches, drinks and snacks for the journey, we are doing everything we can to be safe although toilet stops might be a challenge.
Once we arrive at our house, which is fairly isolated, we shall be fine and fully occupied with the garden that has been neglected for 8 months.
I had a message from a friend in the village last week saying that she and her family had taken a walk up to our house and seen a grey cat they thought was Grigio.  I do hope it is her, she will have been waiting since last November for us, bless, or maybe just waiting for Mario to turn up to fill the feeder. I can see me being outside all night calling her if she isn't around when we arrive. 
So there we are.  Today we have all the madness of packing, sorting the penthouse, moving plants, eating too much because we want to empty the freezer, though quite a lot is being given away.   I hate this last day when home isn't home any more but it will be fantastic to get to Lazio and relax.
And the icing on the cake.  I phoned my hairdresser to cancel my mid July appointment, he asked when we were leaving and said I could go this evening for a haircut.  Perfect, its not going to be the usual relaxing pamper but at least I won't have to cross Europe wearing a hat.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

I love my little town

We passed this on Sunday our walk, it was uplifting.  The rainbows are actually crochet.  After all the hassle last week of unwelcome visitors in our town its a pleasure to see the kindness of people who actually want to make things better for everyone not worse.  Well done Ilkley folk for all the positive signage -  rainbows, painted stones, thanks to our key workers and messages of hope - plus all the hard work collecting masses of litter.  It's a joy to live amongst you.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

From lock down to limbo

Ever since lock down Mr FF has been itching to get to Italy, every month or so he tells me we shall be going in a few weeks, I ignore him.   Now it looks like the government advice not to travel will change and Mr FF wants to be the first in the queue.  I don't share his enthusiasm and the only step I've taken for the journey is to order hand sanitiser and a few more toiletries.
I have so enjoyed summer in the penthouse, this week we've taken to eating dinner outside.  I now need to dispose of all my lovely balcony plants that haven't yet reached their full potential to friends and family, from a safe distance. 
I won't get to enjoy the longed for riot flowers.  Following good practice I took the first buds off all my geraniums to produce stronger plants, so far one of 18 is showing any colour, if I'd known I would have let them get on with it and admired the display.
Its likely I will have lost many plants when I get to Italy and have to start all over again there and I doubt we will produce many vegetables this late in the season.  
Yesterday my lovely hairdresser phoned and gave me an appointment for 3 weeks time.  I may not get my haircut before we leave, will travel across Europe with my mad hair and then have to negotiate an appointment in Italy where discussion about a new maybe longer style will be tricky.  I'm still doing the online language course and if I ever meet two plumbers who are cousins I can tell people but have yet to reach the lesson that covers hairstyles.
Our Danish friends are travelling out next weekend and it will be lovely to see them and all the other people we know but it won't be the same.  No festas, though dinning outdoors I image will be ok, segregation on the beach, no hugs and kisses, mask everywhere.  I hope it will be better than the chaos we have seen in the UK during the hot weather.  Our little town was so rammed with visitors enjoying drink, drugs, BBQs which are banned and major littering around the river.  Eventually the police imposed a dispersal order and with helicopters flying overhead the masses were sent away and the town closed to non residents for 48 hours.
So a week of waiting, half hearted packing and eating the contents of the freezer I think.  I sound ungrateful I know, we are so fortunate to have this second home and we want to keep it in good order.   Its just that I'm 71 I don't do spontaneity and I am aware of the risks of a potential lock down in a foreign country.   Life has to start again sometime, maybe we just have to make a move and if there is the chance of being reunited with our cats again I will.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Storage and skips

The new and improved hall cupboards are almost finished, the plain matt white doors are due in about 10 days but for now I've been able to return everything and still have room to spare.  We have ordered a pull out hanging rail for the new cupboard then coats will go into that side too. 

Last night we took a walk out before dinner as I wanted to check on the modern house that is being built round the corner, its been interesting watching it take shape.  There was a skip outside and on top was this picnic basket, needless to say it came home with me. 

The basket was filthy, I did have to think twice about taking it but i decided even if it it didn't scrub up that well it would be nice filled with plants on the balcony.  It had been splattered with cement which actually pinged off quite easily with a skewer when I had an initial clean this morning. 

It even has the two original plates inside.   
I know that taking things from skips on private property is theft, but I took the risk.  I love a skip search, when we built our house in Scotland our cloakroom washbasin came out of a skip.  I had to stop the builder smashing it to pieces as he had done other sanitary ware and I was able to ask permission to take it plus a stainless steel sink earmarked for our greenhouse.  This time there was no one to ask. 
If you see the newspaper headline 'basket case woman sentenced after claiming to save item from landfill' pretend you don't know me.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Still learning

A while back I told you what lock down had taught me, the learning goes on.
I realised when watching a YouTube video about cleaning short cuts that I was watching too many YouTube videos full stop.  When the lady presenter demonstrated that you could use your dishwasher, without detergent, to clean potatoes, carrots etc, carefully lining up a selection of veg on the top shelf,  I knew I had gone too far and I have stopped.
My continued drawer tidying has revealed that I shall never ever have to buy another pair of pants (knickers if you prefer) for the rest of my life.  I managed to bin a few unsightly pairs but kept the ones that might fit me one day if I ever desert my beloved big pants and want something a bit skimpier and less comfortable, which truthfully I doubt will happen at 71.  
I am never going to break my habit of buying too many toiletries.  I went for several months not restocking and now I have weakened.  I tell myself that since I am using items destined for Italy I need to replace them in case we suddenly take off and that there are some great offers out there especially if you spend enough to save delivery costs.  None of us believe any of that.  
I have learned that I won't be going back to the shops when they open next week.  Even one of the charity shops here plans to re-open, I fully understand their need for income but I will not be tempted.  Neither will I be tempted to take them the pile of books etc I have ready to donate, it feels far too early.
So I think lock down will more or less continue as it is here in the penthouse.  It's been harder this last week or so with the upheaval of Mr FF making new hall cupboards and the horrible weather but it's no great hardship.   Just don't let me fill this extra space with more stock of body lotions.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Lock down brain

After an aborted attempt to knit a lacy scarf,  not enough concentration, I decided I should stick to what I know and knit socks.  So I started with some of my favourite yarn, West Yorkshire Spinners, to  produced a plain easy knitting pair.
Except as you can see they are not a pair.  I have no idea why I do this, it isn’t the first time so I should know to check the dimensions not just (mis) count rows. Fortunately I have two balls of yarn so I can knit two more odd socks and voila.
I’ve also had days of clumsiness, this morning I almost knocked a couple of things over at breakfast.  I blame lack of stimulation, but things may improve as Mr FF is about to entertain me by starting work in our hall.
At present we just have this corner unit with a small door, its such an awkward space to store our outdoor clothes, shoes etc so he's building a new coat cupboard to the right hand side and making a bigger door opening for the existing cupboard. 
I actually like the hall with nothing in it, the usual contents, a console table and some shelves are distributed throughout the penthouse but I’ll make a decisions about what gets reinstated once the work is done.
Let’s just hope Mr FF is a bit more precise than me, he usually is but what about the lock down effect, watch this space.