Monday, 27 June 2022

Drought

Extreme temperatures have caused the worst drought in Italy for 70 years.  Water levels are half what is normal at this time of year.  Our region, Lazio, has declared an extreme calamity and today we are on a red warning for heat, it’s 33 degrees and rising.

Meanwhile we have discovered our 4th water leak since Easter,  this time in the worst possible location, the jungle between the sports ground and the meter in the snake pit.  MrFF keeps checking and Giovanni too is looking out for a patch of green on the brown mountainside.  Anna has had her 4th leak repaired but is still losing water, she has turned off her supply and gone back to Rome.

I can’t help thinking that if there was better infrastructure there wouldn’t be a 45% loss of all drinking water through leaks and the calamity would have been avoided.  


Monday, 20 June 2022

Change of plan

We have made a plan as we have friends coming to stay in 10 days time and work on the terrace has been set back by temperatures in the 30s.  Not only is it impossible to work much after 11 am and then not again until early evening it’s never cool enough to lay the expensive new screed, not at any time of day or night.

MrFF is currently repairing the balcony edges which are a right bodge up and probably the cause of a lot of our damp problems.  He’s had to change his repair plans a few times as he’s uncovered various horrors but he’s making a great job with new fully reinforced concrete as you can see from the before and after.

So we’ve decided to clean as much as possible the old membrane so we can at least sit on the balcony for meals.  We will rig up the sun sails somehow, they are normally fastened to the railings which are currently mostly connected to nothing and propped on blocks.  I will arrange a few pots and we will remove the cement mixer which we hauled into position only last week.  

We can then install the plastic pool on the lower terrace where we have been eating and lounging. It’s much airier on the balcony, has better views and it’s easier to step out with food and drinks than carry it all down the steps.  Plus I am desperate for the pool for cool downs and quite happy to have a break in the work, I’m sure MrFF is too, he needs a pausa as we say here.  Like all the workers we are up before 6 to tackle jobs before the heat arrives and we regularly fall asleep struggling to watch the 10 o’clock need that we see at 11.  The heat is forecast to continue for at least 10 days with no rain in sight as Europe continues its heatwave.  The tomatoes are turning and being regularly watered, the lawn is brown and crisp, I am rather that way myself.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Checking the meter

We are now re-connected to our water supply via 15 metres of above ground pipe that bypasses the underground leak we cannot find.  I am very grateful to have the water back and that MrFF resolved this for us albeit temporarily.

If you are reading this Acea, our water provided, can I just point out that the residents in this area are all in their 70s, some in their 80s, some late 80s.   How the hell are they supposed to traipse up the mountain to read their meter, lift a heavy metal manhole cover off the pit, and lean into the deep chamber as MrFF demonstrates below.  

And how dare you impose a standing charge for this ramshackle arrangement whereby you tap into a local spring,  stick on inaccessible meters and never check the quality of the water which is not treated in any way.  You had the nerve to keep taking our money even when you disconnected us for 2 months saying we had no contract despite us being your customers for the last 20 years.    You installed our metres half a kilometre from our house to make us responsible for the badly installed pipe work through a jungle of undergrowth and under roads down the mountainside.

Please don’t trouble yourselves responding to this complaint, you’ve never done so in the past, we have no expectations of customer service.

Your publicity about providing clean water from springs checked by satellite is nonsense, your seem ignorant of your failings. The quality of our water hasn’t been checked in 20 years.  Despite stating that the meter must be read at least twice a year we’ve had estimated bills for the last 14,  the meter readers can never find the snake pit or are too afraid to go there or don’t turn up at all on the dates we are advised to give them access which presumably means we should hack out a route to the pit.

If we die from dehydration or some water borne disease somebody please pass this post to the appropriate authority, preferably not an Italian one.  Thank you.


Thursday, 9 June 2022

Another water leak

MrFF went to do his regular meter check last night to discover we have our third water leak since we arrived.  Again it’s in the gully, we went out to do our usual scratch and search but this time we couldn’t find the leak.  By 8.15 last night we gave up, I came home to start dinner while MrFF turned off the supply as we are losing so much.

After further investigation this morning has MrFF determined the leak is in the top 15 metres of the gully where it’s steep and rocky.  It rained overnight so now finding a damp area is even more tricky so he’s gone to the builders yard for supplies and for now is going to bypass the leaking section with a temporary overground pipe.  At least we shall be able to wash and I can tackle the pile of washing up in the kitchen.  We made tea this morning with bottled fizzy water, not recommended.

It’s hard to believe this is happening. Water is such a huge issue here, not that we ever run out even in the driest spell it’s just the problem of getting it to our home.  I could walk from our house to properties that have been built with no water supply at all yet we are only 40 miles from the capital city.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if we’d known 20 years ago it would be like this we’d have made our own arrangements then, like bought a house in France.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Happy and glorious


/

I intended posting today about the Queen’s jubilee and including an old black and white photograph of me and my brother at our village coronation celebrations in 1952.  I posted this snap 10 years ago however blogger or ipad have decided it’s impossible for me to take the photograph from that post and stick it on todays. I can have the next photograph no bother but not the one I want.

Life’s a bit like that, you can get all sorts of things you neither want nor need but never just what you do want.  Take our tv set up here.  I know it’s complicated to get the stations we want, Italian and UK, to do so we have many boxes and routers and dishes and receivers, in fact we have 8 remote controls but don’t ask me what they are for, I’ve no idea.  It’s reached the stage now we need the iPad or MrFF’s phone to get the bloomin tv on, it’s beyond my ability or enthusiasm to work it.  MrFF being a man and an engineer gets cross and ask how I’d manage if he wasn’t here, he forgets I’d be on the next flight back to Yorkshire where I can work the tv.

Mario was here this morning and we talked about the jubilee.  Like most Italians he doesn’t understand why we appreciate and value our Queen so much.   She has been constant leader throughout my life and dedicated her own to the service of our nation.  A 70 year reign is certainly something to celebrate despite her majesty probably not always getting what she wants either.  I am sorry you cannot see the photograph and that we won’t be tucking into pork pies and cakes today.  

Enjoy the celebrations, God save the Queen.


Monday, 30 May 2022

A plague of porcupines

Saturday morning there had been a porcupine attack in the border. As usual the white irises were the target,  I never worry too much as they grow wild here so they are tough, two a penny and generally recover.  I thought about setting up my wildlife camera but the creatures have never attacked two nights in a row so I didn’t. Wrong again, Sunday morning they’d been back with a vengeance, just look at the destruction. 

Not only were the remaining irises dug up and chewed, they’d also uprooted a lot of bulbs but not eaten them, I’ve replanted gladioli, oxalis, spraxis, obviously none of them tasted good.

I was surprised at the number of iris tubers excavated, there must have been a herd of porcupines and I worry they since there are so few iris remaining they might  start digging up plants that I am not prepared to lose, like the amaryllis that are just about to open or the well established nerines.

I set the camera on Sunday night not that it would stop them if they returned but at least I could see the culprits,  of course they didn’t return.  I’ll just keep up the surveillance until they are back unless they realise there is little left they want to eat and have moved on, I really hope so.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Sent to try us

 The challenges of living in Italy never cease, we have just about had enough.

The worst thing is yet another water leak. MrFF has been regularly going up to the snake pit shown above that houses the 9 meters for our area.  He has to lift off the heavy lid and used to have to climb into the pit until the water board recently repositioned the meters so they are just readable from the outside, as you see here.  

Since we returned our consumption had been low.   I recycle washing up and veggie cleaning water back onto the garden and we’ve only watered the veggie plants by hand as the irrigation is quite wasteful.  MrFF came down on Saturday night to tell me we have a leak, we’d used in the short time since he last checked as much as we’d normally use in half a year.  Some time ago he installed valves so he can isolate sections of our pipe run which confirmed the leak was again in the overgrown gully between our house and the road up to Giovanni’s.

MrFF was both cross and despondent about the leak because of the difficult hard work involved to find it, the cost of the water we’d lost and the sheer frustration of this never ending problem.  In fact one of his solutions was to switch off our supply, buy a lot of bottled water and ask at the hotel in the village if we could have a shower. Not up there with his best ideas.

Sunday we decided to have a day off from the terrace and the water leak and go to the morning market up the mountain.  This trip makes me nervous with all the big motorbikes overtaking so dangerously and cyclists descending at high speed, we’d hardly got to the next village never mind the mountain road before I was a nervous wreck.  The market was pleasant, MrFF got himself a linen shirt and a pair of jeans, we then walked round the town and stopped for a drink at a little bar we’ve used before near the market, the more upmarket bar we prefer was very busy. We each had an Aperol spritz, it wasn’t brilliant and the snacks you are always served with alcohol were pretty basic, but we enjoyed sitting out watching the world go by.  MrFF went inside to pay and came back in shock, we’d been charged 15 euro for two drinks that would cost half that in the elegant bar in our village, where they also provide a good selection of home made snacks.  We think we were overcharged because we are foreigners, other people there, ordinary local folk, definitely wouldn't be paying those sort of prices. This has never happened to us before though it has to non Italians we know, once a friend was charged 17 euro for a beer.  When he questioned the price he was told it was special.  It’s a horrible thing to do, we will never go back there although if we are at the market I will go inside and check the price list.



Back to the leak, Monday morning MrFF strimmed all the gully then we started the daunting task of finding the leak, him with a large fork scratching at the surface for damp earth me with my little gardening fork.  I was almost ready to give up when I found a small damp patch of earth.  We cleared the ground, dug down a little and left it to see if it was still damp later in the day. It was. Late afternoon MrFF dug down, exposed the leaking pipe and made a temporary repair.  However when he checked the meter it was still running albeit much slower, there was another leak which we located between the bottom of the gully and our house, most probably under the road.  We couldn’t randomly start digging up the tarmac so we spent more time scratching about among the surface cracks until again I found the spot, not so far from a repair last year. MrFF had it fixed by early evening though the road still needs reinstating.
We are sick to death of this hopeless situation but complaining will get us nowhere, not even a response even if we send a message by the special secure email we pay for, we’ve already been totally ignored by two companies we’ve contacted this way, one of which is the tax office.  Permanent and summer residents all over rural Italy, the country with the third largest economy in the EU, put up with it, like the lady in our road who has received a bill for 20,000 euro for a big leak that has been running since last autumn when she went back to Rome.  So far her family have fixed two leaks, one under the top road, but she is still loosing water when the supply isn’t turned off.  

Of course troubles come in threes.  This morning when I went into the orchard half our courgettes and half the broad beans had been eaten, some of the tomatoes had been trampled on.  There were big holes in the vegetable bed.  I brought out with me this year a motion activated wildlife camera.  I’ve set it up several nights and so far captured a crow, a chaffinch, a young fox and many photos of our cats.  Enrico seems to be taking the micky as he’s started parading in front of the camera and going right up to the lense.  Of course when I don’t set it up devastation happens, these animals are smart and sneaky, just like the water leaks.