Sunday, 20 September 2020

Tour de France

I knit my way through the Tour de France again this year, normally in July I pick up my needles and settle on the sofa every afternoon for 3 weeks, less a few rest days. This year the Tour was delayed until September, very different and very exciting particularly as it could have been stopped at any time should Corvid be diagnosed amongst the regularly tested ranks, and possibly slightly cooler for knitting. 

This year I had no great expectations, how could it be the same.  I hated the boys having to wear masks for the presentations and interviews, I thought some of the unmasked spectators were downright stupid cheering on the riders by shouting in their faces and huge crowds in places were definitely not distancing.  But it was the hardest most exhilarating route I’ve seen in a long time with a fairy tale result.  A 21 year old, he described himself as just a kid, took the yellow jersey on the penultimate day’s time trial.  On a time trial it’s man v clock, no team tactics or support, just full gas and in this case a bike change from time trial to road bike before the climb to the finish.  

Slovenia‘s Tadej Pogacar didn’t just win the race and yellow leader’s jersey, he won the polka dot king of the mountains jersey and the white best young rider’s jersey.  He said his dream had been simply to take part in the Tour, he went and won it in history making style.  I love cycling.  

And the knitting, which sometimes had to be put down when the tension on the telly not on the needles was too much, was socks.  The first pair were started in Yorkshire early July, West Yorkshire Spinners lovely Bullfinch yarn, the second 100% knit in Italy is World of Yarn Siberia which I bought last year from

The Giro is coming up soon and then the Vuelta, more bike excitement but don’t worry I have yarn to get me round both races.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

A nature walk

We walked down through the olives to the village recently as we needed to go to the post office.  There was the usual long queue and an equally long wait at the counter to hand over a prepaid parcel, apparently the teller had to spend some time talking on the phone about his brother then the computer crashed.

Afterwards we sat in the little square for a while, my first time in the village this year, it was very quiet.  I never tire of sitting there admiring the houses and enjoying the breeze coming up from the valley though I missed the usual chatter and coming and going of people.   It’s quite a trek home, uphill all the way and while it would have been nice to call in at the bar for a drink we refrained and wandered back in 30 degrees.

We spotted during our walk that there are an awful lot of new animal trails on the 
hillside, we’ve been told these are the routes of wild boar.  We never really noticed them before, it’s a little bit worrying but it’s so quiet round here this year that animals are moving closer to habitation.  Giovanni told me he’d see deer around for the first time and I read that there are wolves across the valley, not so far away, killing livestock.

We arrived home pretty hot so we were quickly into the pool, where I spotted this creature on the clothes line.  Quite a day for wildlife.  I don’t suppose school children take nature walks nowadays, I used to love them in fact I still do.   I might start a nature table here, mr grasshopper won’t be going on it.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Fruit and veg

Our garden is doing so well this year, flowers fruit and vegetables.  We are the envy of our neighbours when we deliver them bags of assorted produce though we don’t mention that it may have something to do with our lack of involvement for the first half of the year and the delay in planting.  When we went to buy our veg plants late in the season the choice was limited and we thought we were taking what no one else wanted.  It’s quite the opposite, for example
 we would never have chosen the only type of tomatoes on offer but they are fantastic, healthy, heavy croppers and really tasty.

It’s a joy to have an endless supply of fresh veg, even if green beans are on the menu most evenings.

Fruit has been good too, our best year ever for apples, many of which I’ve given away with a few left on the ground for the porcupine who touch wood is giving my flowers a rest.  The figs are ripe and mostly eaten straight from the tree by me, pears are not great.

We had friends here for lunch on Monday, they were so complimentary about the garden and our outside space, we were so pleased.  And of course I made another apple crumble with plenty left over for another day.  

And after my yucca find I spotted at the side of the lawn a self seeded plumbago, a long way from the parent plant.  I think it’s been strimmed a few times when Mr FF has been edging but still plenty of growth, it’s potted up for now, another example of the garden thriving on neglect.

Monday, 7 September 2020

The impatient gardener

Having said I love raising plants from seeds and cuttings and that I don’t need instant results, I should also tell you that I like to know what’s happening.  It’s not unusual for me to have a rootle in the compost to see if my seeds are germinating, or tug on a cutting to check if it’s rooted.  Don’t try this yourself it’s usually destructive.

When I put my yucca cuttings into a pot I knew they should root within 3 to 4 weeks.  Of course after 2 weeks I gave them a gentle(ish) tug and there was some resistance, they still looked quite perky though a few of the lower leaves had turned brown, I cut those off.

After 2.5 weeks I went for it, I tipped them out and both pieces had more good strong roots than I ever expected.  I should have taken a photo but I was so pleased I couldn’t wait to get them safely into individual pots.

They are fantastic, they are big and bold, they look brilliant, they cost nothing.  I don’t think I could be happier with myself for finding them thrown out on the land below us and for establishing these lovely new plants.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Happy rain

In total we probably had two hours of rain since we arrived early July and really that made no difference whatsoever.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the ground so dry and of course we were worried about wild fires.  When we went to the beach for Mr FF’s birthday we saw a big fire on a hillside, the helicopters and planes were dropping water and still working that evening when we left.  From our house we saw a few fires in the distance and one day the valley was full of smoke but fortunately there was nothing local.

We had various weather warning for thunderstorms but it wasn’t until Monday this week that we got proper rain and it was the best kind.  Often after a dry spell we get violent storms, damaging the garden and flooding the roads, sometimes with huge hailstones that destroy precious crops.   But this was gentle continuous downpour that lasted all day, the right kind of rain.

Of course it’s still nothing like what we need but it’s so welcome.  The temperature dropped enough for Mr FF to put on a jumper, for the first time we didn’t eat dinner outside and I returned to sleeping in the bed rather than on it.  Blue sky was back before the end of the day and the temperature is set to rise for the rest of the week but it was joyful to see the garden so refreshed.  I discovered the panorama option on the iPad camera,  I like it, you can see early evening the cloud clearing around us.

Now it Tuesday morning and the temperature has crept back up to over 20 degrees.  A quick sweep up, return the outside cushions, sun sails, table cloth and open up the house for some good fresh air after trying to keep out the heat for weeks.  It’s wonderful, we are both back into our shorts and gardening, we feel invigorated.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

When porcupines invade

We assumed it was a porcupine eating the leaves from a courgette plant but we didn’t worry too much about it.  Then the other morning I got up to decimation, there must have been an army of porcupines in the garden.  They had taken green tomatoes and aubergines from the veg plot, leaving half eaten ones all over.  Mr FF has now put wire netting all round our crops, let’s hope that does the trick.
There’s worse.  I have for many years tried to cultivate Belle di Notte, an herbaceous perennial that flowers late afternoon and through the evening with a wonderful perfume.  I’ve tried seeds and cuttings with little success until last year I managed to keep a couple that were due to flower this year.  I don’t know why I have so much trouble with them, they grow like weeds, they get mowed down and come up again, they seem to like being treated badly but I’ve really had to molly coddle mine.  Unfortunately shortly after we returned Mr FF accidentally strimmed one of them which was my fault apparently for planting it in the wrong place (below the terrace so we could enjoy the perfume when sitting out in the evening).  I nurtured it back to life and marked its position clearly for future reference.
Then the porcupine had a go taking the top off again, I am not sure if it still has the will to live, it should be flowering now like the other one.  
One cheeky creature had climbed up onto the wall of a raised border in the middle garden and had a good munch on the juicy tubers of my iris, which is in fact very cheeky as these also grow wild and there are hundreds to eat on the hillside behind us,  which is where we think the porcupines live

A spider plant I’d been establishing in the front border had been completely destroyed, it was carnage but it could have been much worse. I’m hoping my dahlia tubers will be left alone and grateful that the hole dug next to my Passion flower had done it no harm. 
It’s bad enough having to water every evening whilst being attacked by mosquitoes without having these spiny pests undoing all our hard work.

Thursday, 27 August 2020


Mr FF quite often likes to spend his birthday at the seaside, for his 60th we spent two nights at a beautiful hotel in Sabaudia, this year his 72nd was a little more subdued but very enjoyable.  We went to San Filice Circeo, a new to us little town in the province of Lattina, an hour and a half away by car much less as the crow flies, blame those mountains.

We needn’t have been concerned about social distancing, there were stewards taking our names and phone number before directing us to marked out spaces on the beach.  We usually hire beds and umbrella at one of the stabilimenti where there are toilets, showers, changing and a restaurant or snack bar but this year decided to use the free unserviced public beach, taking our own shade and folding chairs.  We took our drinks and lunch too, no mingling for us as the public beach was much quieter than the other spots.

The beach experience was much as it always is, plenty of beautiful bronze bodies, large families talking non stop,  kids with a vast assortment of inflatables and lots of fun and sun. 

We were right at the end of town and it was very pretty, lovely white houses rising up above us, craggy rocks and when I did my obligatory 
long passeggiata along the wet sand the views round the corner to the next large bay were stunning.  Mr FF had his usual long swim, he’s gone so long that I always think he’s perished in the water, he reported he’d tried to get round into the harbour but failed. 

Late in the afternoon we packed our belongings and took a walk round the town, admiring the boats in the harbour and some smart hotels, it really is a nice little resort, this photo is from the town Facebook page we didn’t get to the still active lighthouse.

Photo from Facebook

We stopped on the way home for ice cream, the best we’ve ever had with new flavours to try.   Delizia al limone for me, which was fantastic and included little squares of lemon sponge plus bacio, the Perugina chocolates with fondant and nuts.  Mr FF had paradiso which was full of all sorts, orange, lemon, nuts, yoghurt, and was pronounced delicious plus amarena crocante, sour cherry with crunch bits.  Last stop was our favourite farm shop for bufala mozzarella.

We also brought home quite a lot of sand, on our clothes and on our bodies.   I like that and the gritty feeling of being coated in salt with hair stiff from seawater.  We always feel we’ve had a good bashing after a day at the sea, the water was warm and pleasingly choppy, I’m sure it does us good.   And that is what birthdays are about.