Saturday 30 August 2008

La Scala

One of the main work objectives during our visit to Italy was to replace these worn old steps that lead down to the lowest part of the garden where the new irrigation shelter was built last year. We spent a good deal of time at the builders yards purchasing the materials, loading as much as possible into the hire car and carrying them down to the bottom garden. I'm using the word we though I did very little work myself on the steps. We also had to purchase wood which Mr FF used to make shuttering to contain the poured concrete.
This part of the garden is quite sheltered, gets extremely hot and the hedge always seems to be full of insects, Mr FF was bitten quite badly on his arms but luckily the rash disappeared before we got to the swanky hotel.
One ton of concrete later, with measures to ensure the material didn't set too quickly and crack, we had a big improvement,
and Mr FF included a little dedication on the last step, sweet.
Cleo by the way had been a bit demanding whilst we were away. My cousins were staying in the house and had been given strict instructions to encourage Cleo to eat, which they did very well but had found the whole experience quite stressful. Cleo has been fine since we got back and is obviously very proud of her staircase.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Sixty in Sabaudia

We moved out of our house on Sunday and into the stunning San Francesco hotel in Sabaudia to celebrate Mr FF's sixtieth birthday on the Monday. We were absolutely delighted with the hotel, beautifully located on the side of the lake, we had a spacious room that looked across the immaculate gardens to the lake. Everything was white, the building, the terraces, furniture, flowers, it was perfect and such a wonderful treat after all our labours. Meals were taken outside on the terrace, in the evenings the garden was ablaze with candles and the staff couldn't have been more attentive.There were several small and private lakeside decks that hung out over the water complete with sunbeds where we sat and watched the rowing teams practise. In the morning we took a trip into the little town for coffee and Mr FF was treated to an English newspaper. I mentioned to the receptionist that it was his birthday before we took off for the beach and when we returned there was a bottle of prosecco and fresh fruit with a card for him, at dinner his pudding arrived complete with candle and a rendition of happy birthday partly in English partly in Italian from the waitress.

We both agreed it had been a perfect 60th birthday for Mr FF from the wonderful food to the glamouress 'footballers wives' who frequented the hotel, but the biggest treat for me was the pair of fluffy white flipflops that matched the fluffy white bathrobes in our room, how could they have known?

Thursday 21 August 2008

A few days off

We had almost a week of work at the house when we saw no one but our neighbours and hardly got out of our working clothes apart from quick dashes down to the village shop for supplies. So we decided to have a day at the beach, well an afternoon really because we combined it with a trip to get repairs done to the irrigation pump. Its the August holiday so we expected the place to be busy and it was. We sat for a while on the prom watching the world go by and decided to pay to use the facilities of one of the private beach areas.
As you can see, its not exactly spacious, the umbrellas were touching and how the Italians like to sit in straight lines, but we had nice view of the sea (sort of).

Anyway it was great to be able to get changed, swim in the sea and get a shower afterwards, well worth the money for two deck chairs and one sunbed even though we only used them for a few hours. The people watching was great, we had a lot of fun.
On the way back through Latina we stopped at one of the farm shop places where we got Mozzarella di Bufala, totally fresh and delicious, we had some for lunch today and it was the best we've ever eaten, which is saying something. Smooth and silky, we never get anything like this back in the UK. I expected to see more of the bufala in the fields but only caught a glimpse of a few black ones in a barn and these wandering around the stunning countryside.

Yesterday we went into Rome to visit friends who live in a little gated complex with a large and quiet swimming pool, where we spent an hour in the water before sitting down in the shady part of the garden for a long Italian lunch. Eight of us, Irish, English, Italians and Romanians, we ate six delicious courses with various wines, liqueurs and espresso coffee. It was all I could do to crawl onto one the the sunbeds afterwards but of course a little sleep after lunch is quite acceptable here.
Back to work today (the kind I like not to be confussed the Edinburgh rubbish I used to do), its been really hot and we stopped around 1.30 for lunch and a little sleep before Mr FF started work again and I came inside to blog and take a shower before I cook the pasta for supper. Its the unveiling of the garden steps tonight and hopefully not too many jobs left to do - I wish.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Images of Italy

Goats in our garden in Puglia
Sun, sand and cement, this must be the most beautifully located builders yard in the world.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

In Italia

Here we are in our lovely house in Lazio after a successful visit to Puglia, not least because on the journey there and back I managed to knit a pair of socks. We had two positive meetings with our architect and are now happy with the proposals and ready to rumble. We visited the ruin to find that someone had broken into part of the trullo and (I kid you not) had taken away loads of junk, old furniture, empty bottles, crates, broken pottery, completely cleared it out which can only be a good thing. I'd already had a good check round the property when we first bought it to make sure there were no hidden treasures so nothing lost. We had a lovely moment when a local farmer with two large dogs herded about 75 goats through our land into another pasture, giving us a cheery wave as he went by. I adore goats and would be happy for them to graze our land if they promised not to eat the olives and the figs that I noticed they had been nibbling as they passed through. If I'd had any doubts about the property, which I don't, seeing the goats would have confirmed that it will be a perfect place for us.
We enjoyed staying with our friends Les and Patsy who were extremely hospitable, put up with our various comings and goings and gave us the benefit of their experiences.
The evening we arrived here in Lazio our neighbours told us that the local gastro festival was taking place having been postponed from Saturday because of rain. So we quickly unpacked and took off for the village to sample about 20 different types of wine, cheese, hams, breads etc, all produced locally and all delicious and accompanied bymusic and some dancing. Such a good start to our visit and an opportunity to meet our friends.
We are now settled into a happy routine of some work some relaxation, local shopping and many visits to the builders yards. Today we bought sand, cement and timber to construct some garden steps and came away from one shop with free t shirts and from another with caps that the owners said we would need for our work. Our Italian vocabulary is amazing when it comes to construction, fortunately Mr FF is able to sketch what we plan to do and all the assistants gather round giving us the correct words and advice, its just brilliant that they are so happy to help.
It will soon be Ferragosta when everything closes down for several days, we have dancing in the village square and firework displays all round the valley. The weather is gorgeous, very hot but we always get a light breeze in the afternoons, a perfect time to be in Italy and to live my flip flop dream. Ciao, a presto.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Off to Italy

We fly to Rome tomorrow and will set off to drive down to Puglia staying overnight near Naples because on Friday we have an appointment at the offices of the Notary to collect the documentation for this, our very own ruin.

After many months of negotiations and legal dealings and almost two years since we first saw it, we have purchased this old trullo set in 4.5 acres of land. At present the property is not habitable, its a series of attached buildings with four separate entrances and no connection between then, no water, sanitation or windows and its absolutely full of junk. This is a big and exciting project for us, the building work we have done in Lazio has shown us how difficult things can be in a foreign country but ever hopeful we are meeting an architect on Saturday morning to talk about our plans.
We shall be staying the weekend with English friends we met when we first went to Puglia, they have already been through the restoration process and survived. Then on the Sunday we travel back to our Lazio house to spend two weeks there whilst our tenants are back in the States, a mixture of maintenance and holiday. Finally we move to a hotel by the beach for two days to celebrate Mr FF's 60 birthday.
Cleo's cat sitters will arrive later today. She has been absolutely fine, still catching mice and eating well so we hope she won't miss us as much as we shall miss her.
Lots happening, I may be offline for a while though I will try to blog at some stage. If not there will be lots to tell you when we get back.

Saturday 2 August 2008

First of the month

I had intended to post this yesterday but I had so much else to tell you that it had to be delayed. Amy kept this Homes and Antiques calendar beside her desk at work, it was her pride and joy and we were never allowed to turn the page to see the next beautiful picture until the first day of that month, never ever Amy said it would bring bad luck. When I was put on gardening leave Amy had secretly taken down the calendar and put it into my bag as a gift. I didn't notice for a while and when I did said that I couldn't possibly take it, but she insisted so I had to promise never ever etc etc and I haven't, honestly. I'm sharing August's photograph so we can all see it, especially Amy, thank you sweetheart I know how much you loved this calendar.

Friday 1 August 2008

My Perfect Purple Patch Party

My leaving party at a restaurant in town was wonderful, delicious food, a handsome flirty waiter and all my favourite office people, my admin girlies and the Swedish blond. I noticed and mentioned when the girls arrived that they were all dressed in a certain hue with matching accessories, make up and nail varnish. They were all in purple and had based my party on this poem by Jenny Joseph (which is already a favourite and a mantra for me and my friends of a certain age). The poem was inside this beautiful handcrafted card and the theme continued with my lovely gifts.
A fabby selection of purple toiletries and beauty products, I am such a sucker for these, constantly moisturising and now I have plenty of time for relaxing baths and painting my nails
A brilliant patchwork pin cushion, such a good idea that will really inspire me to get on with my own patching efforts
The sweetest little hand knitted bag that though you can't see it here has a metallic thread running through the darkest purple stripe, I must ask Amy about that. I discovered when I got home that there was also 4op spending money inside, thank you.
A purple dahlia in a purple pot, that I am going to stand at the front door for now and a bottle of purple labelled Italian wine
Thank you all for my gorgeous gifts and for my meal, generous, adorable girlies it was so good to spend time with you last night, with no tears this time, lots of laughter, a bit of ranting, the perfect night out. I hope we can do this again soon, in fact now that Amy has put in her notice and will be leaving at the end of August I'm hoping everyone can come out to the country to celebrate at my house, and admire my Italian tan of course (more of our planned trip soon).
Incidentally, the expression purple patch, to have an exceptional good time in your life, may originate from the fact that Roman noblemen used to wear purple togas, those guys knew how to enjoy themselves too.