Sunday, 9 December 2018

Days of calm

Not calm before the storm because Christmas will be quiet here but now we are settled its very peaceful up in the penthouse.  We attended the inmates Christmas lunch last Sunday, we are reconnected with our fellow residents and our lovely view, its gorgeous.
We've been to visit my brother and sister in law and collected the various online orders I made from Italy, outdoor cushions and new solar lights for next year, Christmas presents and a rather indulgent Marks and Spencer beauty advent calendar for myself.  I know that's not what Christmas is about but my goodness am I enjoying opening those generously filled little boxes.
We are spoilt for choice with UK tv, far too much to watch so we've cancelled our Netflix subscription as we try to keep up with Mrs Wilson and The Little Drummer Girl.  How we missed the quality dramas we take for granted here.
Knitting too, this is Be Simple Variations by Carolyn Glauz-Todrank an asymmetrical triangular shawl that makes for easy in front of the telly knitting.

I'm using West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn and size 11 needles, I think one 100g ball might be enough for a decent sized wrap but I have two just in case.  You cast on two stitches and keep increasing until its big enough then cast off, simple just as long as I can manage with straight needles, you know I hate those circular ones.  
More ugly scenes from Paris at the weekend and big Brexit events this coming week, lets just enjoy the peace for a while, sometimes you just want to shut it all out. 

Monday, 26 November 2018


So our homecoming wasn't quite as we imagined.  Driving across France which was in gridlock because protesters were blocking the roads was awful, stressful and worrying.  The demonstration stated out over a week ago against the rising price of diesel, something that affects mostly those in rural areas, but then turned into a general discontent.    The protesters we encountered varied from polite middle aged ladies to militants who were burning tyres across the road, hanging effigies, had opened up the toll booth barriers on our auto route and presumably frightened the staff away.  Many wore masks over their faces adding to the intimidation.  At first the demonstration didn't get a lot of press in the UK until Saturday when Paris was under siege, but in the first few days 2 people were killed and over 600 injured.  It was awful to see on the television news the yellow vests, as the participants in the movement are known, tearing up the street cobbles to use as missiles, building barricades with outdoor furniture from nearby cafes, tearing down road signs and traffic lights.  Police with tear gas and water cannon attempted to control the chaos, it was ugly.
Photograph from the Evening Standard
France is a beautiful country, wonderful open spaces, beautiful villages, its tidy and smart compared to Italy and certainly the roads are in much better condition.  One of the protesters being interviewed complained of working all hours to exist and said he was sick of being poor.  As everywhere there is inequality in France but maybe he needs to take a look round the world to see what real poverty is, I imagine many people would happily change places.  I read that a week of blockades has lead to shortages in shops and that retail in France is down by 35%, that and the general disruption, inconvenience and widespread damage will have to be paid for, I imagine as in most cases by the public via taxes or rising prices,  yet it seems support for the cause is high.  
We were relieved to get on the ferry thinking our ordeal was over but there were so many roadworks, accidents, and general traffic jams that our drive from Dover took almost twice as long as expected but at least we were back in the UK and didn't feel threatened.  
Recovery is taking time, we've both felt out of sorts, perhaps still a little cross about it all, and maybe you don't bounce back so well when you are 70.  However, we are loving being in the penthouse and as long as we don't think too much about our Italian cats we are fine.

Monday, 19 November 2018

These yellow jerseys I don’t like

Just don’t talk to me about French road blocks, I’ve had a hell of a day and it’s lucky we booked such a nice hotel for tonight so I can calm down.   Tomorrow we’ll face the burning tyres and try to get to the ferry.  I’m seriously thinking of boycotting the Tour de France next year, that’s how cross I am with the nation.
And yes I can understand they have a grievance but why take it to the ordinary people who are inconvenienced and stressed.  The blockades are ugly and scary particularly for visitors.

Saturday, 10 November 2018


2 long days picking olives
125 kilos of fruit
20 litres of oil
Not our best crop or our biggest yield but we are grateful.



Saturday, 3 November 2018

I’ve never been 70 before

It was my 70th birthday this week, no please don’t make a fuss I didn’t, like new year it’s just another day.  We went out for dinner with friends, I had lovely presents and cards from italy and the UK including these hand knitted dishcloths with matching oven glove from my danish friend.  She had apparently noticed the dreadful state of my oven glove, holey, stained and ragged, found me a new one and sourced some matching cotton
I thought I was no different as I reached my next decade until I was blocking 
my latest pair of socks

Bummer, one foot is at least 20 rows longer than the other.  My first thought was to knit another equally mismatched pair.  I’d have one normal pair of ladies socks but the larger pair would be too big for anyone I know, even if they liked a rather short leg
So old age isn’t going quite as well as I hoped, and I’m sorry this post is all over the shop.  It’s hopeless posting with the iPad even though I can finally add photographs it almost kills me doing so as I can only ever see a small section of the post at any time and the screen constantly jumps about. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

With bells on

Beside the various church bells we regularly hear, my favourite being those at the little chapel of San Michele on the mountain above us, there is a wide variety of tintinabulation from the animals around us. 
The smallest bells are those worn by the hunting dogs that sniffle about, sometimes in our garden searching out wild boar.   The hunting season is in full swing so there is gunfire every day and particularly at the weekend when hunters arrive from Rome looking ridiculous in their camouflage outfits and accompanied by lots of dogs. At least the bells are a warning for our cats to keep away and when dogs get lost as sometimes happens we can tell the hunters if and when we’ve heard them.

Then there is the delightful sound of the bells on the sheep, who are now in the habit of hurtling down the mountainside to attack our hedge and my pots of plants.   We are quite happy about the hedge cropping, wish they could reach a bit higher and tidy it all, but begonias, marigolds and spider plants have all been relocated.  Even when we can’t see the sheep we hear them late afternoon grazing nearby, they make me happy.
The third bells are those worn by the cows that live high on the mountain during summer.  They are massive horned beasts wearing huge alpine bells and the clanking is getting closer as they move down for winter.  They may eventually end up right here at the house as they did one year, grazing outside our bedroom window all night and entertaining us with their bell ringing.  There is some rural law in Italy, we were told about it when we bought our house, that if your land isn’t fenced off anyone can graze their animals on it.  There is access to our orchard and the cows have been known to wander in, as has the odd hunter who apparently has the same right of access.
I find the sound of the cow bells rather mournful, in the way I did the winter geese flying over every night when we lived in Scotland.  It foretells the approaching winter and heralds the next set of bells, those blooming jingle ones.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Provisions and provisos

We have opened the last box of 80 Yorkshire teabags, though I do have 30 bags of another brand for emergencies. The uk muesli is almost finished, and I really eeked that out by alternating with supermarket granola and Kellogg’s cornflakes. I’ve finished my substantial supply of easy summer reads and now have only the books I feel I ought to read and imagine I shall want to one day, A S Byatt, Winifred Holtby, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Pizza is no longer the takeaway food of choice, though it is the only one available.  I’m already imagining our first fish and chip supper and thinking about stopping off at the Cambridge services for a Marks and Spencer’s sandwich on the journey home. We don’t ever buy ready made sandwiches here, or often in the uk for that matter.  The only Italian ones we see in the supermarkets are white bread, simple sparse fillings and amazingly a shelf life of several weeks. Of course any deli counter will happily make up a panino with whatever you like and they are good but we always have the ingredients at home and make our own. 
I’m still loving our own tomatoes and aubergines, eaten many ways and often with pasta but I’m thinking more about uk food now the fierce heat of summer has turned to gentle warmth.
So maybe we shall be back in Yorkshire within a month but despite all the above I’m really not ready.  We have such a lovely quiet life here in rural Lazio, I absolutely love my garden and even more our cat Grigio.  There is the additional consideration that we might be coming back to Italy next year after a no deal Brexit with all the complications that could involve.   The way things are going there is fat chance of any resolution.   It’s infuriating that two years of expensive negotiations have clarified nothing.   I once worked with a guy who when someone was useless would say ‘good job they’re not running a country’ sadly in this case they are, UK and EU ministers continually demonstrating their inadequacies.    How can we ever trust them again, not even to organise a celebration in a brewery.