Sunday 24 December 2017


As ever my minimal Christmas preparation has been hurried and stressful, switching from relaxed Italian mode to full on UK festive season is always hard, its quite shocking to return late November to see the excess of consumerism already underway.  Equally my ambitious knitting schedule is never achieved, mostly socks and none of the pretty scarves I planned, but I did manage a couple of little jumpers for newly born Harry,  His Dad is a keen cricket player and fan so the cream one is for match days.
As ever Mr FF took some persuading to put up the lights, he bought some new ones this year and despite the pack saying there was about a metre of light, there were miles and miles.  I had to point out that though they looked lovely reflecting off the marble work tops this just wasn't practical, they are now strung prettily round the dining area of the kitchen which we have renamed Santa's grotto.
My brother and sister in law kindly did the present exchange earlier last week, which was a great help and lovely to see them here.  Val brought me a couple of fresh greenery arrangements so my hall is suitably decked and my brother stocked us up with veg from his garden.  
We are looking forward to a quiet time, we already have the top floor of our building to ourselves, with enough of what we need.  I hope you have a wonderful time and your Christmas wishes all come true.  

Saturday 9 December 2017

My usual seasonal rant

I'm doing my best with to deal with Christmas.  Last week Mr FF and I helped to put up the large tree and decorations in our communal hallway, bit early if you ask me but really they needed to be done before our in house Christmas lunch.  I attended the latter and stayed the course till around 10 pm.  
I've written the cards, wrapped the overseas packages.  It's not going too badly.  After 6 months in Italy I have lots of socks in the gift department even though I haven't made the various scarves and gloves I imagined I would.  
Mr FF has been busy attending his walking groups lunches, coming home wearing irritating paper hats.  What is it with crackers, we had them at the in house lunch and when I helped to tidy later I found a large selection of stupid plastic items left on the tables plus all the paper debris, I'm pleased to say not many hats were worn.  Such a waste of money, I imagine said crackers had been shipped from China to end up in landfill.   
Much nicer that one of our resident ladies had made table decorations mostly  sourced from our communal garden which we were allowed to bring home, a week later mine looks good.

Its cold outside, 1 degree, but not too snowy here, hope you are coping and cosy.  I may venture out later if there aren't too many Christmas tunes in the shops.

Sunday 26 November 2017

The best of times the worst of times

So another Italian summer sojourn is over and it's been fantastic with the best ever weather, we rarely ate breakfast indoors even in November. We made huge progress with the garden, all the front terraces and paths repaved, discovered the delights of having our own plunge pool, rediscovered our little kitties and cherished the time we have spent with them. 
It was the worst ever time because of the wildfires, scary that the inferno came so close and sad to see so many beautiful old trees lost. The only up side of the fire was that when we were evacuated I realised that no materials goods were that important, I was even ready to abandon the car when we couldn't get down the road for fire vehicles. 
The worst of times for visitors, we only had one night when anyone stayed with us which may speak of my hospitality. We hardly left the house, no overnights on the coast, we didn't go to the coast, no trip to Rome, not so many meals out but plenty of festas and I've loved the peace and quiet, I've been content. 
I did have a longing for a new yellow handbag for the summer but that didn't happen, as usual I bought far too many pairs of cotton trousers, culottes and shorts on the market, at 3 euro a pair I cannot resist them, but I did finally manage to wear out a few t shirts to create some wardrobe space. 
In July I got the best haircut ever at my regular salon, in September I asked for exactly the same and got such a bonkers cut I could hardly believe it. Giancarlo explained that the two cuts were exactly the same (not) but that the first was elegant while the second was powerful, something must have been lost in translation because I didn't see it that way but in November he gave me an extremely short, and chilly, cut that I love, we remain friends.
I read 24 books, knit 12 pairs of socks, lost some weight, it all felt so very very relaxing and comfortable, just like this

Thursday 16 November 2017

Can't stop

We are leaving in two days though nothing whatsoever is booked as we are being flexible. Piero is still here building the garden wall, he lost several days due to rain but the sun is back now. Mr FF has made a secure wooden house to accommodate the cat food dispenser, if those girls get much fatter they won't be able to squeeze in but happily they took to using it immediately, maybe they remember from last year. They also have two separate cosy outside sleeping options, we've done our best let's hope they stay around till we return. We are hanging on till the last minute to put away the garden furniture as we still manage breakfast outside but we've done most of the packing. Not looking forward to the long journey home while trying not to stress about it. I am looking forward to seeing family and friends after six months away and of course Ilkley and the penthouse. Mr FF has already got Jim lined up to rip out our ensuite bathroom in the new year, we need to select new tiles, fittings etc when we get so that can look forward to more disruption, I expected nothing less.

Thursday 2 November 2017

All is safely gathered in

I used to like the church harvest festival when I was young, the church decorated with fruit and veg, corn and straw, I liked the hymns and the way all the local farmers some of whom didn't attend church so often always found time to give thanks for another years crops. So I've been giving thanks myself that we managed a decent harvest here, 122.5 kilos of hand picked olives produced 24 litres of delicious oil. I would say delicious wouldn't I but truly because of our altitude and terrain oil from this part of Italy really is prized. Mr FF and I picked on our own over 3 days finishing yesterday which was my birthday. It wasn't great fun as Mr FF is always anxious to get the work done and I am always anxious that the olives are pristine so I spend ages picking out all the leaves, twigs and bits of bark while he complains I'm wasting my time. He doesn't complain though when we get a great yield, I maintain the debris adds to the weight but produces zero oil and all anyone cares about is your resa, a calculation relating to weight of olives to weight of oil with something to do with specific gravity thrown in. We used the local frantoio as they will do a run on small quantities, we delivered at 3 pm by 5 pm the oil was flowing, we barely had time for a coffee in our favourite bar which conveniently is opposite the mill. As ever we came home and made bruschetta, I think we shall do so again tonight, got to take advantage of the freshness of the oil. The bitter peppery taste is intense when the oil is new and the flavour lingers in your mouth afterwards. I'd decided before we started the harvest that I'd be content with 15 litres, we exceeded our expectations and that doesn't happen so often to a couple of 69 year olds.

Friday 20 October 2017

Oil is well (sorry)

The harvest has started, our little road is covered in the nets used to collect the olives as they are combed off the trees and conversation is all about the oil. We took our regular early evening walk to the village recently and were chatting to a friend. He revealed to us the three Ss essential to produce the best oil. SOLE - sunshine, we have that in abundance and this year has been exceptional with daytime temperatures still in the mid 20s. SASSI - rocks, we live in the side of a mountain and since the wildfires the limestone outcrops are even more evident, our land is poor and stoney, apparently that's perfect. SILENCIO - silence, apart from birdsong, sometimes the mew of the buzzards soaring on the thermals above us and the chatter of people working in the fields, we are very quiet. So we have the ingredients for the best oil and though we mentioned that apparently the harvest in Puglia is good this year, our friend says their oil doesn't match the quality of ours. We haven't started picking yet but I'm as excited as ever about the harvest and interested to see what difference all this extra sunshine has made. We are waiting patiently and quietly, don't want to disturb our developing crop.

Saturday 14 October 2017

Enjoying the season

How unusual for me, Mrs FlipFlops, to be relishing the changing season which hasn't yet involved a change of footwear. It continues to be warm in the day, we still haven't lit the wood burner as the house is warm enough and we are still sleeping under a summer weight duvet. Most nights I look down the valley to see if there is smoke from any of the houses but there never is, strange as the Italians are now layering up their clothes and into socks and jackets while we still walk round in t shirts. We are hopeful of a small olive harvest and our neighbour says we can put ours with his if we are short of a mill run. Our kitties are becoming more independent, they sometimes go off for the day and don't return starving hungry, or even pleased to see us. Some nights they sleep outside, sometimes inside, sometimes they come upstairs and wake us in the middle of the night to be let out. Gentle days spent outside starting with breakfast in the terrace, of course always a project for Mr FF, quiet evenings with maybe a film and lots and lots of sleep, it's all so relaxing. We still open the shutters each morning to bright blue sky and sunshine, it certainly doesn't feel like summer is over and even though we've dismantled our plastic pool Mr FF is still using the outside solar shower. We ve been here five months, often it feels like five minutes and oddly I haven't felt at all homesick or had a longing for UK winter food. I still have a stock of Yorkshire tea, knitting wool and books, what more could I ask. We will return to the penthouse within a month but already I'm thinking about comkng back to Lazio next year and desperately hoping that Crema, Grigio and Theo will stay around, we are doing our best to make provision for them.

Saturday 30 September 2017

Give me credit

I'm going to stop posting that all is calm it just tempts fate. This week Mr FF tried to renew our car insurance but his credit card was declined, I offered him mine and that was declined too. Our cards were due to expire in August while we we'd be in Italy so we contacted Barclaycard before we left, explained the situation and in April we each received new Visa and American Express cards that ran until 2020, great. However when we spoke to Barclaycard after the cards failed they happily explained that they'd ceased their association with American Express, issued new Visa cards in August and stopped all the cards we have with us. Mr FF asked if the existing Visa cards could be reactivated till we came home, no chance, computer says no. Cue several lengthy and expensive phone calls with lots of holding, repeating the same information, passport number etc, spelling out our Italian address to three different people, receiving texts and emails demanding we phone America to progress our request. Eventually after a few days they approved the issue of an emergency card. Meantime I remembered that I had a Marks and Spencer credit card that I hardly use, fished it out and tried a small on line purchase to see if it worked, card declined. I phoned M&S bank, explained our dilemma but they said I should have told them I was abroad, it's in the terms and conditions, who knew. I asked them if I could have the card working but they said they wrote to me in August asking if I wanted to keep the card, that expires in 2018, and since I didn't reply within 14 days they'd stopped it. I explained that we were in Italy for the summer so not receiving post and questioned why they couldn't just let my card run to expiry, they said its in the terms and conditions that I have to keep using my card. I asked if they could reactive it, no but they could send a new one to my home address, I said that wasn't helpful and finished the call before I lost my temper. By now I was furious with frustration and though I hadn't spoken to Barclaycard thinking that just one emergency card would be enough, I decided to call them to ask just why they'd decided to issue new cards within four months and stop the existing ones. We knew that the American Express cards were defunct but didn't understand why the Visa had to be replaced. The lady was lovely, she said she'd try to get the card I have reactivated, I explained my husband had tried that and she'd be wasting our time, hers and mine, but she insisted. I only held a couple of minutes and she came back saying that's your card back functioning until the end of the year. Unbelievable, it's infuriating that one operator tells you no while another solves your problem, just the luck of the draw. Mr FFs emergency card was being couriered out at this stage but he was cross and phoned to ask for his existing card to be reactivated, they said no and when he told them that was wrong they offered to do so until the end of October, you can imagine his response and eventually he got his card live until the end of the year too. What a shambles, we are exhausted with fighting and worrying about booking our journey home without credit cards, goodness knows what would have happened if we'd been in a hotel having to pay for accommodation and meals or travelling from place to place with no means of paying. All Visa had to do was reactivate our cards but they took us down a lengthy expensive and stressful route they means we'll be leaving them and applying for cards with different providers when we get home. It's a pity for that lovely lady who actually helped, she probably gets no recognition for her dedication and is treated the same as the jobs worths who bang on about terms and conditions or just tell you no and don't give a toss about customer service.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Autumn thoughts

My posts of late have been about as frequent as the rain we've received here in Lazio. We had an overnight storm and turned off the irrigation thinking it was redundant for the rest of the year, now we are thinking of turning it on again. There's not a lot to report, time is whizzing by, days are quiet and calm, it's lovely. We are sleeping well now we can actually lie under a light duvet instead of tangling ourselves on top of an unwanted sheet. Of course we've had another water leak up above the house, four leaks in four months must be a record. The latest is fixed and Mr FF had taken it upon himself to clear the track of the pipes down the hillside of undergrowth and self seeded trees as roots were distorting the plastic pipes and cracking them. He's up there now with a brush cutter, he'll come home scratched snd bleeding expecting a heros welcome. A porcupine has been digging in my garden, made a large hole and eaten the tubers of some iris, it's also chewed through the irrigation pipe. The hunting season has started, we hear the shots early morning and late afternoon, some times the pellets shower down onto our terrace and we shout out that they should respect the distance they are supposed to be from property. Mostly round here they are after wild boar but the casual hunters accompanied by dogs wearing bells will shoot anything. I hate them killing the songbirds, but at present if anyone took a shot at that porcupine I wouldn't object. The cats are eating on demand, I tell myself they can put on a bit of weight for winter and I wonder if they'll survive with the automatic feeder. I worry about other cats taking all their food, a large grey male keeps coming round and terrorising the,, we call him the nasty party and chase him away. However we were away for an overnight and Crema and Grigio survived and didn't bear a grudge at being abandoned. I can only be hopeful and tell myself they are healthy and strong, their lives have been happy and stress free, unlike many of the cat population here. Let's not dwell on that, we left them as kittens last year for six months, we've promised next time it won't be so long. We've got weeks left before we think of leaving, plenty of time for more water leaks and garden predators, besides I haven't had any polenta yet.

Friday 8 September 2017


Suddenly we had rain, not as much as we need but everything is freshened. The temperature has dropped by about ten degrees to the manageable mid 20s so we can work and sleep easily. Even the cats have taken on a new lease of life, spending much more time outside instead of finding a dark room and Theo the shy one has been seen chasing the girls up trees and rolling around playfully with them. The water in the pool is a bit cooler now, it doesn't stop Mr FF getting in and since all the neighbours have moved back to Rome leaving is alone in our little road he's not so bothered about wearing his swimming trunks. We are finding the energy to walk down to the village early evening and were thrilled to see that some of the olive trees we thought killed by the fire have started to shoot again from the bottom. Not all of them of course and it will be many years before they become trees again, but it gives is hope. All that heat and they still come back, a bit like us, I am cooking and ironing again, Mr FF continues with his new damp proofing. The garden is happier too, my terrace pots are overflowing with flowers and maybe the lawn will soon be green again. It does feel a bit autumnal in the evenings but I'm still in shorts and t shirts, flip flops too of course and I'm not missing those sweaty days of intense heat at all, this is just right.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Same old same old

I'm well aware that weeks have passed since I last blogged but then the weeks are all much the same. Still no rain, we are desperate, water is rationed in many places. Here on the mountainside we are not restricted but we do try to be considerate, watering late at night when there is less evaporation and not splashing the precious stuff about in the daytime. Wild fires continue to destroy the landscape, some days we can see huge flames licking up hillsides that must be 10 or 15 miles away and I am a bit edgy when I see ash in the air or smell smoke. We are all so vulnerable until the rains comes and then worried the water will bring down rocks dislodged during the fire. Our lovely walk to the village is now depressing and every time we see the poor olive groves they look worse. I cannot imagine they will ever be restored, younger generations are generally not interested, we often chat to a man from the village who comes up to tend his fortunately saved olives, he is 86 and always works alone. On a happier note we have far too many tomatoes, I give bags away to neighbours and we eat an excessive amount ourselves. The rest of the veg is suffering, far too dry. Likewise the lawn is brown,it will come back. We had quests here for Mr FFs 69 birthday, 8 of us out on the terrace till late, we are going to an 80th birthday lunch soon and out for dinner on Friday. We have friends from Scotland coming next week for an overnight, so plenty to occupy us but not too much, that's the way I like it. I had an email from a friend asking how we unwind, do we watch tv, read etc. We start the day sitting out for breakfast looking st the view, we end the day sitting out looking at the stars and in between its home maintenance, gardening and relaxing, nothing too much to stress about.

Monday 7 August 2017

Wild fire

Yesterday we had our first close and dangerous fire experience. I noticed in the afternoon there was small fire below and to the side of us. Gradually the smoke got darker, a sure sign of trouble, and ash started drifting around us. We took down our terrace umbrella and sunshades in case sparks ignited them and dampened down our hedges and tree for the same reason. It got worse, Mr FF suggested we pack bags in case we needed to leave, I threw in pants, a change of clothes and my toothbrush. Strangely I didn't immediately think of my jewellery or my knitting, I took the former but not the latter. Mr FF was a bit concerned our only road out might be impassable and also worried for Mario so he took a walk out. By now the helicopter was dropping water, albeit it only one and obviously having to travel some way for water. Marios house had been completely surrounded by fire but saved, he and Lina were in shock. Mr FF said he'd spotted as he walked back fire coming at our level which he thought he could stop, he took a large plastic barrel of water in the car and did a good job of stopped the flames. But above us the fire was raging, huge old trees sending flames high into the air and the noise of cracking and burning dreadful. Around 9 when the helicopter had stopped flying the vigili, the civil protection, came and told us we had to leave as it was too dangerous. I alerted the neighbours lower down who were practically hysterical by now. Stella asked me where they should go. The road out of the village was blocked as the cemetery was still burning. I had no idea where we would go so I gave her a hug and said we were all together, we'd be ok. I checked several times the cats weren't in the house, I knew they'd be safe outside, we closed all the doors windows and shutters in the hope that would curb any flames. Such an awful sensation to leave knowing we could lose everything but strangely nothing seemed that important. The situation didn't improve when our single track road, the one with the drop to the side, was blocked by fire vehicles and four cars had to reserve in the dark with the flames raging around us. We parked in the village and eventually the boys got pizza and water as we hadn't eaten all day, we sat in the square. The vigil said they were on stand by to defend our houses, later that the situation was critical and we must wait, finally around 12.30 that in about 40 minutes we could return home. Some neighbours were too afraid to come back and went to the village hotel, we set off to drive to where our road turns up so we'd see the fire fighters come down and get the all clear. Passing Marios he and some of our neighbours and friends were sitting out, we joined them and Mario served Mr FF a beer and me a prosecco, drinks never tasted so good. Eventually the brave workers came down and said we were able to go back, we thanked them all. Around 1.30 we were home everywhere deep in ash, a terrible smell of smoke and rather worryingly a small fire smouldering not far above us. I got up regularly to check this. About 3.30 the fire brigade were here again applying water. This morning the helicopter returned, there is still smoke and we wait to see if the fire will start again as often happens. I have nothing but admiration for those people who protect us, no property was lost apart from the cemetery which to my mind doesn't count, no one was injured. I always compliment the fire fighters who work with limited resources in impossible terrain, they are brilliant, we are all safe if still a little stressed and exhausted. The olives around is are singed but not totally destroyed, life will go on thank heavens, these resilient country people will just get on with it.

Friday 4 August 2017

From a darkened room

We are enjoying, if that's the right word, the effects of anticyclone Lucifer with exceptionally high temperatures day and night accompanied by a hot wind straight from the Sahara. I have gone native and like the ladies of the village am keeping the doors windows and shutters closed to keep out the heat but still the temperature indoors remains above 30 degrees. We cannot cool our bedroom, typically its around 32 degrees when we go to bed after midnight, we have a fan that makes no difference apart from wafting a bit of air over us. We keep that going all night then around 5.30 as it comes light we open the windows briefly before things get seriously hot again. We have a billino rosso, a red alert, for dozens of cities and temperatures forecast to reach 50 degrees before this record breaking heatwave is over. Additionally there is a wild fire on the hillside about four miles from us, it's been burning for two days now filling the valley with smoke and haze that intensify the inferno effect. Now have a little above ground pool that gives us some respite. It's deep enough to immerse and I can swim across in three strokes, perfect. Mr FF has also made us an outdoor solar shower for rinsing before and after using an old table, some coiled water pipe, and a hose, all bits and pieces he had in stock. It's not a thing of beauty but it works perfectly. Unfortunately with the hot weather the pool water is getting a little bit too warm, no breath taking shiver when you enter, that would be nice. For health and safety reasons I have closed the kitchen, by the time I'd cooked our evening meal I was so hot I had no appetite so now we are eating lots of salads or pasta with our own vegetables. Of course we are drinking litres of tap water cooled in the fridge and in the evening a glass or two of wine with ice. The end of Lucifer is I believe in sight and life might become more normal, not that it's stopped Mr FF working. He has been breaking out concrete for a new damp proof course at the front of the house, working until around midday when he takes a dip in the pool and retires to bed. He's gone native too.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

One of those days

Spoke to soon about the annual water leak. I noticed yesterday that despite the drought there was water on the road outside our house and after investigation Mr FF confirmed that it is indeed our pipe. While he was up at the meter, which is in a deep pit that the water board refuse to enter so we never get a correct bill, he found we had another leak up the mountain. I dread the thought of him having to dig up the road because the leak may not be where the water surfaces, it makes me so cross that the water board are rationing the supply to the village but will do nothing to help locate leaks despite having the equipment to do so. Then this afternoon Theo our shy black cat returned after almost a week with the most horrendous neck wound. He took some food and had a little wash afterwards, which I take as a good sign, but he's in quite a state. It looks like he might have had an abscess the puncture looks deep but clean so I do hope he's going to be ok because we can't get near him to help. Some evil creature has been eating our peas, we were so looking forward to them, as a change from courgettes and tomatoes, not only have the pods been eaten but many of the plants have been devoured. There was quite a large footprint in the soil and sizeable holes dug, I really would like a wildlife camera to see what happens down in our orchard when we're not about. To complete this forgettable day we had a tremendous electric storm with welcome heavy rain followed by unwelcome hailstones the size of marbles that turned the landscape white. More garden devastation, I worry for the grapes and olives in the valley not to mention all my seedlings and terrace pots. As they say it never rains but it pours, Italy has gone beyond that big style but I have every confidence normal sunshine will be restored and everything else will be resolved. Not like me to be so positive, its been a funny old day. Don't ask me why blogger won't allow me to space my text, no matter now many returns I insert everything stays in one paragraph,

Saturday 8 July 2017

About the cats

Still only three, Crema Grigio and Theo. there were six that we left them last November with a lot of dried food,an automatic dispenser that Mario filled regularly and a little house to sleep in. We didn't intend to leave them so long but works in the penthouse dragged on into May. In March this year Giovanni and his wife returned from winter in Rome to their lovely house above us and of course the cats sensing company moved up to join them. Mario passed the remains of our food and some more he bought to Giovanni who took over the feeding and provided the family with a nice place to sleep. All was going well and we had regular positive reports. Then Giovanni and his wife, I have been told her name but I can never remember it, returned to Rome for a month and did not make provision for the cats. I wish we'd known we could have got Mario back on duty. When they returned to the mountainside only two of kittens and Theo were still here. We have guessed at all sorts of possibilities and looked around the area for the missing ones but there is no sign. It seems strange that three siblings who were devoted to each other, the two here still are, would split up. Rosso the third kitten was the most friendly, he was a delight and would be adopted easily. The mother we can understand going off if she had new babies and Marzio the kitten from two years ago had turned into an unneutered holligan he could be in Sicily by now. If three could survive without regular feeding then surely they all could. So we have to accept the family has reduced. The kittens are brilliant, they have relaxation to an art and have remembered all the naughty things they did last year, play fighting under the sofa, sleeping on shelves, constantly unpacking my knitting bag. Crema even managed to remove a ball band and unwind a full 50 g of sock yarn, turning it into an almighty tangle that kept me occupied for some time. I am so glad we had them neutered last year and delighted they are still here. We plan to stay in Italy into the Autumn but already I am fretting about leaving them again, they get cross enough when we go out for the day.

Sunday 2 July 2017

The other side

We spend so much time sitting out on our terrace, eating, reading, chatting, snoozing and just gazing. Most evenings we sit looking across the valley to the mountains opposite ours and see lights twinkling on the horizon. I made enquiries and found that the highest village we see is a small place, population about 1000, called Rocca Massima. On Friday we went to visit having called at the opticians en route as I accidentally sat on and bent Mr FF's everyday glasses. They were fixed quickly and at no cost. Rocca Massima about an hours drive away was a delight, perched high on a ridge with views back across the valley to our mountain on one side and down to the sea on the other. Little traffic free streets and steps wound round past beautiful houses with so many pots of flowers, cats sleeping on door steps, old ladies sitting at windows. We wandered around and came upon a group of six men who had dragged a table onto the street and were tucking into a massive pan of pasta, complete with plastic dishes of pasta on the ground for the cats. We greeted them and they asked if we'd like a glass of wine, we declined explaining we had a drive home, they wished us a good walk. I was totally charmed by this pretty mountain village and it's kind people. Now when we sit out looking across the valley to the horizon and see the lights come on I know exactly what we are looking at and what a wonderful place it is.

Thursday 8 June 2017


Not only did Crema return safe and sound if exhausted this morning but late last night Theo, the shy and gentle black cat who has been visiting for a few years appeared. We and Grigio were delighted to see the old boy who has always been so good with the little ones and his return gives us hope for the rest of the family, just so long as Lisa hasn't been adding to the numbers.

Wednesday 7 June 2017


The annual water leak is fixed, the garden is coming on, today I finally cleaned the downstairs lounge, the one we never use, and I was going to say the cats have become permanent. However this morning a large grey striped stranger appeared howling on next doors balcony. Crema decided to join him and hasn't been seen since, not like her to miss food but let's not start to worry yet. We seem to have a new strain of mosquitos, generally they bite me but don't bother me, now I am coming up in itchy blisters and I have a large ugly lump on my forehead. Pizza delivery man Mr FF is here I must stop.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Change of life

After five days in the car we arrived back at our house in Italy. All the usual frustrations of Internet not working despite many trips to the Three shop and several payments, the irrigation is out of action, all my pot plants are dead and the house is filthy. But it's great to be back and two of our cats Crema and Grigio are around albeit part time as they still spend time with Giovanni and his family. Up until a month ago all the other cats were around too but they seem to have disappeared, we will take a walk out soon and see if we can spot them. We are cleaning and planting and socialising in equal measure. For some reason blogger has a mind of its own and it's really difficult to post so I won't go on but all is good, sun is out and I'll try again another day.

Friday 19 May 2017

Calmness is restored

Now our bathroom is finished we have reinstated the second bedroom, until recently used as a work and storage area for all that was happening in the ensuite.
Although we envisaged buying fitted wardrobes for now Mr FF has moved the existing ones into the newly created space, they look fine. 
I bought a very cheap pair of off the shelf beige eyelet curtains, maybe they need an iron, but the room feels calm and of course has the benefit of the newly installed ensuite bathroom.  I'd be happy to sleep there, in fact we are toying with the idea of moving to the other end of the penthouse.  But don't think about coming over for a few days Mr FF is keen to get off to Italy.  Me I'd like to enjoy the quiet and the sunshine here for a while, I know what's waiting in a house that has been empty for 6 months and a garden that has been neglected for the same amount of time.  I could move into the second bedroom for a while before the next bout of dust and debris but we are leaving very soon.

Saturday 13 May 2017

I couldn't wait

Having said I would take Josie Kittens sock pattern to Italy, I couldn't resist starting a pair using the Austermann Step yarn.
Both pattern and yarn got top marks, nice colour shading in a yarn that was good quality and an interesting textured pattern that wasn't too demanding.   I will definitely knit more of these especially as there are three size options.  

I am not really doing the pattern justice as I took the photos before I blocked. Sorry JK, not just in a hurry to start the pattern, in a hurry to show it off.

Monday 8 May 2017

Breakfast treat

I love breakfast, its my favourite meal of the day.  When we wake before we get dressed one of us makes a pot of Yorkshire tea, I have one cup Mr FF two and whoever hasn't made the brew gets to drink theirs in bed reading. Eventually we drag ourselves into the shower, dress and properly set the kitchen table for breakfast.    For me its always a large milky coffee, Lavazza made in one of our many stove top espresso pots, some rough tough muesli and wholemeal toast with home made marmalade, honey or jam, preferably red.  Mr FF is much more demanding, he's heard to say I'm bored with this muesli before we get to the bottom of the jar and often cooks himself bacon or a poached egg.
So I was delighted to find these beautiful big cups recently in a charity shop, £3 for the 4.  I spotted them as soon as I went into the shop and I was thrilled to look underneath and see that they are Danish.

They are perfect for my cappuccino and making me very happy at the start of the day.  I expect Mr FF will be bored with them soon.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

A quick alert

The lovely people at Wool Warehouse have further reduced Drops Fabel 4 ply sock yarn to £1.30 for 50 g.  Since delivery is free on orders over £25 I fear there will be another lovely squashy bag of yarn arriving at the penthouse soon.
I have started using this yarn and I'm happy with the ways its knitting, I like the colour patterning and its not splitting or being at all tricky.  It may be slightly thinner than other brands and of course I can't guarantee how it will wash and wear but at the price I do think its worth a try.
I'd show you what I've done so far but we are off out for lunch, I will try to post later but for now I suggest you take a look.
Happy knitting.

photo added, shade 914 Shoreline

Sunday 30 April 2017


We have over the last three days had Le Tour de Yorkshire cycle race passing through our beautiful county.    
Today was the last and toughest stage that passed through our town before tackling some serious climbs amongst amazing scenery.  And did we get a mention on the news, did we heck.  I am furious, we had top cyclists, millions of people out on the roads celebrating a wonderful event, no trouble, no problems, just a lot of fun and its totally free to enjoy.   Football, boxing, formula one all mentioned on the national news, Le Tour de Yorkshire not at all.  

Every inch of the route was packed with people, I bet there were more than a million spectators,  every town and village decked out with bunting and flags. Our wonderful Sir Gary Verity, chief exec of Welcome to Yorkshire, was driven round the route ahead of the race accompanied by Christian Prudhomme director of the Tour de France.  He reported that neither of them could believe the crowds and support, even better than the two previous years.  I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get another Grand Depart here before much longer and we already have the world road racing championships coming here in 2019.   We produce great riders, champions, the first Brit ever to win a stage on the Tour de France was from Yorkshire.   Brian Robinson was born in 1930, rode competitively in the 50s and 60s and still rides today.  I've met him, he's wonderful, a modest, genuine man who loves and supports cycling.  
Come on Britain, wake up to what happened here, this is special and important and positive, we are proud of how we make this event,  we want everyone to know how great it is and don't you think those guys on the bikes should get some credit to.  We are all cross.  

Monday 24 April 2017

How did that happen

I am once again fully stocked with sock yarn so no further need to worry about me or the demise of my LYS.
The latest addition was this package from Wool Warehouse, again a beautifully presented bag full of Drops Fabel 4 ply, a yarn I haven't used before.   For some fortunate reasons Wool Warehouse applied an extra 10% discount to my bill for readers of Simply Crochet, I don't read that magazine, I can't crochet, so each 50 g ball worked out at £1.89, excellent.
Before ordering I checked the reviews on Ravelry and read that it was best to buy three balls as you can get two pairs of socks from 150 g, so mostly I did that risking 5 in one of the blue shades and hoping for either 3 pairs in a man's size or even a small persons garment. 
Rest assured that this year I shall not run out of yarn in Italy and I might still look there for something beautiful to make another Estuary.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Lest we forget

In my continued effort to clear the bookshelves, I've embarked on this
Three books in one, its a hardback of almost 600 pages so not ideal bedtime reading as I tend to nod off and drop it - heavily.  I've finished the first book, Regeneration, which centres on a real life encounter at Craiglockhart hospital Edinburgh, where first world war shell shocked soldiers were sent for treatment, between an army psychologist and Siegfried Sassoon.  At school so many years ago we studied the war poets, Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke et al, their words never left me so I enjoyed the book and knowing the setting from my years in Scotland made it all the more vivid.
Craiglockhart war hospital, now part of Edinburgh University
When we travel through France on our way to Italy the great war always comes into my mind as we pass signs for places from history, The Somme, Ypres, Arras and often we've glimpsed memorials and war graves from the motorway.  Two years ago we made a special visit to the Menim Gate in Ypres and last year as we travelled home we stopped off at the Ring of Remembrance, Notre Dame de Lorette.  
This remarkable modern memorial is a large ring of concrete containing 500 sheets of bronzed stainless steel listing 576,606 names, without rank of country, people of all nations who gave their lives in northern France.  I found it overwhelmingly sad.

The memorial is located on a strategic ridge that was bitterly contested during the war.  Nearby is a church with cemetery and ossuary that hold the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims, it was atmospherically misty when we were there.

Perhaps most touching of all were the elderly Frenchmen who every day stand at the entrance to the graveyard, each with a proud chestful of medals and wearing their berets.  This Honour Guard consists of volunteers who retain the memory of those who died for France and represent the families of the dead who are known to be burried in the cemetery.   We chatted to them briefly, they thanked us for our visit and we thanked them too.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.
For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon

Monday 10 April 2017

Knitting now

The Estuary scarf is finished and has been worn, yes it is more of a scarf than a shawl.  I was in one of the smart dress shops in town the other day and as soon as I walked in the sales assistant told me how beautiful it was,  I was very pleased and thanked her explaining I'd made it myself.  The yarn is beautifully soft, it drapes well and the pattern was delightful to knit, plenty of interest but not too challenging. So this item won't be leaving the penthouse but I'd be very happy to knit it again with some other suitably gorgeous yarn.
I used just under 4 x 50 g balls of yarn,  enough left overs to produce this little cowl which I am prepared to part with, its Spiral Cowl from Keri McKiernan.  I didn't knit the picot edge just started and finished with 5 rows of garter and kept going until the ball and a half were finished
Back to socks for now, I've started Sunshine from the Cookie A book I borrowed from the library using West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply in cinnamon stick. 
And speaking of lovely socks, let me give a shout out to Josie Kitten and her latest pattern, I've already printed this to take out to Italy where I believe there is a decent stash awaiting my attention.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

The big bathroom reveal

I don't have photographs of the bathroom before, it wasn't included on the estate agents details, for obvious reasons, it was the room they showed us last and I can understand why.  The floor tiles were black and white check, many of them broken because the floor underneath had been flooded in the past and rotted, the washbasin was a black counter top bowl that was too far onto the marble shelf to use comfortably and showed every soapy drop of water.
The cabinets had obviously been white and badly painted black, and the piece de resistance of course was the free standing black bath with silver feet, these are all the photos I have but you get the idea.
We managed to squeeze into the bathroom a large shower that has a steam facility, a bath, toilet and basin.  No way was I going to live in a home without a bath which did delayed the decision making and involve a lot of planning but we got there.  It was my original desire that I would be able to lay in the bath and look through the door across the bedroom to the hills but we had to move the door and take a chunk out of the bedroom to make space for new fitted wardrobes.  I was disappointed this didn't happen and very sad when the new wall was tiled, no going back then.
However the new bathroom is very beautiful.  There are just a few final touches, for example we fitted shiny white panels to the ceiling and the very last one to go up was damaged. 
We have to wait a week for a replacement but I can't wait another week to show you.

There's a handy storage drawer under the basin so I only need display my most beautiful toiletries

It was difficult to find a wash basin that didn't project too far into the room but still had putting down space, this is great

A lovely big shower head and in the photo below you can see there is also a little spray,  presumably for those hard to reach areas.  Yes there is a slight slope on the shower ceiling that's to allow the condensation to drain when we are steaming

That's not a phone on the wall in the shower its the controller for the steam facility

The back lit auto demist mirror is operated by holding your hand at the bottom, Mr FF has left the instruction on the wall for those of us who fail to embrace technology

My bath 

The pale grey marble that edges the bath is also used in the bottom of the recess behind the toilet

We designed the layout ourselves (after much argument) and sourced the fittings and tiles direct.  We paid day rates to Jim our plumber/tiler/boy wonder who added some very lovely details, Jack our joiner and Lewis our electrician, Mr FF project managed and I was the gofer doing emergency dashes for bits and pieces in town. I also provided copious amounts of tea and coffee, biscuits, bacon sandwiches and sometimes lunches, everyone got on great and it was a pleasure to have the boys around.  We are all delighted with the end result but personally I am so glad its finished.  Now where's my shower cap.