Thursday 4 July 2024

He’s only gone and done it

A record 35 stage wins on the Tour de France.  I was one if those who wanted him to stop when he equalled Eddy Merckx’ record because I didn’t want him to keep putting himself in such danger or me under such stress every time there was a sprint finish.  I was a wreck yesterday, luckily Cav and his Astana team were in full control.  A fairy tale ending for a man who has overcome such adversity, he is inspirational and will always be my favourite rider.

It’s another sprint stage today, please just stay safe Cav.

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Back to ourselves

 We are recovered from Italy and fully entrenched in Yorkshire life.

I have planted up my 2 new balcony troughs with a selection of mostly white herbaceous plants from the lovely local nursery that I can walk to and from, £1 each and they make me happy. 

Last year I bought white lavender and shasta daisies for the tall pots at the same price, this year they are sizeable.  My only issue with small plants is whether they will spread and flower before we leave again but really there is plenty for us to enjoy now.

We are both back into walking, we’ve had friends round for dinner, MrFF has started his latest project adding more storage and a dressing table to the spare bedroom.  Any work in a small top floor apartment, building or gardening, brings extra challenges and disruption but my goodness we’ve had plenty of experience over the years especially with building work.  Someone asked me the other day why we don't have a handyman to do this sort of thing, we do,  it’s MrFF who I know will make an excellent job, be as clean and tidy as possible and do as he’s told.

We are watching the Tour de France live, so far it’s been amazing apart from me fretting about Cav, soon to be Sir Cav, as he attempts to beat the record for most stage wins on the Tour ever.

Giovanni is in touch regularly, he seems to relish having Vincenzo for company.  Sunday he said Vincenzo was completely exhausted having spent the morning eating, there was a photo of the dear little cat spark out.  It seems that as well as the cat biscuits and treats I provided he is getting lasagna, chicken and lamb, and I imagine lots of attention when Giovanni’s family visit at weekends. 

The weather has turned a little cooler than I’d like and the rain is a bit unpredictable, I got quite wet but never cold on my walk yesterday, but we feel settled and content back in Yorkshire, for a few of months at least.

Monday 24 June 2024

Home again

We arrived back in Yorkshire last Wednesday evening, that journey from Lazio doesn’t get any easier.  Our first two overnights were in Bergamo, we’ve discovered that getting back in the car for the day 4 mornings in a row is just too much.  So we had a lovely second day swimming in the pool and relaxing on the sunny balcony of our apartment before heading off for dinner in the old walled city.  We left early with the intention of strolling to the restaurant, we weren’t exactly sure where it was and of course it was at the very top of the town.  We ended up taking the funicular up and down the last stretch but we still walked over 6 miles, it was beautiful.

Back in the car next morning we drove to the champagne region of France to an elegant small hotel that was new to us in a pretty little village that we found time to walk round,  it didn’t disappoint.  

Our room was spacious and calm, we had an excellent dinner and fortunately breakfast started at 6.30 so we left in good time catching an earlier ferry than we’d booked.  Just over 12 hours after leaving our hotel we were home.

We are taking a long time to recover, fortunately we brought the sun back with us and have been sitting out on our balcony resting, taking gentle walks and watching a lot of football.  We have the bifold doors open all day and the windows are open day and night, it feels like we are finally on holiday after all the work in Lazio, which is now having a heatwave with temperatures in the high 30s.  This week we have friends here on two days, MrFF has a walk with his group and on Friday fittings arrive to build more wardrobe space and a dressing table in our spare room, holiday over.

Best news of all, our little cat Vincenzo has moved up the mountain to live with Giovanni as we all hoped he would, we left food and treats there for him and Giovanni sends regular reports. 

Thursday 13 June 2024

The closing ceremony

We plan to leave our house in Lazio on Sunday, preparations have begun and some bookings made. We are going back to Bergamo for a couple of nights, last year I had terrible eye problems that spoilt our visit so we are trying again.  We will have one night in France then take the ferry Wednesday to be home in Yorkshire that evening.

So there’s work to be done before we leave.  MrFF was up before six this morning to strim the rest of orchard and burn all our hedge clippings and cuttings.  We have to burn these on site and any fire must be extinguished before 9 am, he’s well on target so we don’t expect the police helicopter to be circling.

The garden is looking good and the new irrigation for my pots is almost ready for a trial run, not that I want to move everything under the spray just yet.

The rest of the garden will survive, it won’t be beautiful when we return but it will come back. I am a little worried for some large yucca cuttings I was given.  I’ve put them in the orchard and watered them for almost two weeks but it’s been very hot.  They are quite robust plants so if they make just a few roots they’ll be ok. I hope so, I have visions of a tropical border where we used to grow our tomatoes.  MrFF is not so keen and has plans for new retaining wall that could accommodate them

Vincenzo the little cat is here most of the time but still visits Giovanni daily.  When we leave I am sure Vincenzo will just move up the mountain so I’ll take some food and the treats he likes to Giovanni and make sure that Mario steps in if needed to for feeding duties.  Giovanni hopes his grand daughter who will be at staying in August might adopt Vincenzo, he’s a calm friendly cat who deserves a home.  

We’ve made huge progress while we’ve been here, it’s a relief to have the garden room finished and it looks better than I’d hoped.  Of course we’ll come back probably late September to a dirty dusty house and a wild garden, the prospect of more projects and the olives to pick.  Don’t mention the planning violation, we’ve heard nothing despite a meeting with our geometra who was going to the regional office to inspect our documents.  Six weeks later he’s still waiting for an appointment.  MrFF was chatting to a lady in the village who had a similar though smaller problem, she said the same geometra took 3 years to resolve it. So just over 2 more years to wait.  

Friday 7 June 2024

A water solution

The weeks here go by so quickly.  We wake early to beautiful clear sunny mornings, sit out for breakfast and contemplate the day which seems endless.  Before you know it we are eating dinner then falling asleep in front of the 10 o’clock news that’s on at 11.  

In between there has been more progress in the garden room.   I finished oiling the terracotta floor tiles and MrFF is renovating the solid wooden doors.  Much of the brown furniture has left the building including this beer keller type arrangement, a really nice man from the next village was happy to have it.  For now we have the old wooden garden table and chairs, much more in keeping with the light airy room.

Naturally rather than relax and enjoy our efforts we are thinking of returning to Ilkley.  The sooner we leave the sooner we can come back, the heat is starting to build, 30 degrees today when we went down into the valley for provisions and worst of all the mosquitoes are back.  I am disappointed to be leaving the garden now I’ve regained control as so many plants are yet to flower.  I have hardly bought anything new this year, a tray of trailing geraniums that just started to bloom this week 

and a yellow portaluca 
that I’m not so keen on.  But I want to see the plumbago open, the hydrangea that I thought was dead but is showing a few green shoots come back to life and these geraniums that I’ve had for several years are almost out but not quite.

So today I had a word with MrFF about the possibility of some irrigation for the pots.  Much tutting and head shaking from him as he doesn’t want to leave the water on inside the house, pleading from me.   We have a solution, we will leave all the pots at the front of the house where they’ll be in shade most of the day and netted off from badger invasion.  He’s already bought the plumbing parts and started work on some sort of isolation valve so there will be no water entering the house just supplying the garden tap.  He will then connect a timed sprinkler for the pots.   However at present it looks like he might be installing the Trevi fountain

Saturday 25 May 2024

The garden room

I quite like pretentious room names.  In Scotland we had a large room above the double garage that we called the morning room because it got the sun am. I know a keen weaver and spinner who called her workroom the loom room, you get the idea.  The garden room sounds better than the room under the balcony and makes it acceptable to be a mix of outside and inside.

So the garden room is coming on, it’s decorated, cleaned and partially restored.  I’ve been applying linseed oil to the unsealed terracotta tiles, i love the smell of that stuff, and they look much better.  MrFF has cleaned and repaired the fireplace, it was pretty awful with crumbling plaster and mortar splattered bricks.  

The room was full of brown furniture, we donated the table, bench and chairs to someone opening a taverna down in the valley, the brother of our local bar owner. We have a white wooden garden table and chairs that are far too heavy to move in and out that we can use instead to fill the space, I doubt we will ever wish to traipse our meal downstairs.

I am toying with the idea of chalk painting the large dark dresser as there is far too much brown in the room, it needs lifting and the change would be worth the effort.

Between the spiral stairs and the room we have made a library.  I enjoyed dusting and re-shelving all the books, most of which I’ve read. 

There’s still work to do and it feels rather make do and mend but when I remember that two years ago water was pouring from the ceiling and the walls were black with mould it does feel like progress.  It’s not the beautiful space it could be but neither is it the embarrassment it was, for now we’ve spent enough time and energy on a room we have never used.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Oranges and Lemons

A slight blip in posting as I was logged out of my account, all fixed now and nothing compared to the hassles of Italian life which goes like this.

Two weeks after our meeting with the geometra who as usual told us what he needs to do, nothing has been done.  

The room below the balcony, which I have decided to call the garden room, is almost finished.  It certainly looks better than it did when water was pouring in and the walls were covered in mould but the floor, which has unsealed terracotta tiles is not great and neither is the old furniture in there.  I may do a post to show you.

MrFF ordered some aluminium posts to support a new sun sail for the balcony, to be delivered to our house as they are quite large.  Delivery was due on Monday, by Monday afternoon delivery was due Tuesday.  On Tuesday the tracker said our address was invalid and the courier awaited instructions from the sender.  We’d provided our full address plus what three words identification and our Italian landline number to make sure they’d find us.  So MrFF sent to the supplier a copy of a letter from our Comune that showed our address, they replied that delivery would be on Wednesday, we knew it wouldn’t.  Today Thursday the tracker says the courier is waiting for instructions for re-delivery which is odd since the have definitely not been here to try to deliver, and we have camera evidence, or even tried to phone us.  I am thinking the couriers should offer different delivery options - this year, next year, sometime, never.

In happier news the sun is shining and yesterday we had a morning doing nothing before returning to the work.  The garden is great and my lemon tree is filling me with joy, lots of beautiful large lemons and it’s covered in blossom and bees for the next crop. Not only that, my single orange is gradually changing colour and there are a few more flowers on the tree that I have nurtured for 20 years.  There are also a few flowers on the little kumquat, but the bees are so busy on the lemon I worry the latter two won’t be fertilised.  

We had a wonderful Sunday lunch with friends, so nice to be out socialising after all the decorating and cleaning.  I came away with a large bag of bitter oranges from one of their many ladened citrus trees.  I made 15 jars of fresh fruity marmalade, the taste isn’t quite the same as Seville oranges and it was a challenge getting a set but I was determined.  With all the challenges here I have to be.