Monday 31 December 2018

So it goes

New years eve, you know I won't be doing any deep reflection on the past year or making any resolutions for the new one.  I will say that 2018 has been significant, from the point of view Mr FF and I both became 70, we are dealing with it, we heard of the deaths of two friends, one we'd known for over 50 years, one for 5, but both lost before their time and sadly missed.
More positively, we re-connected with friends we hadn't seen for 10 years and are currently arranging to meet up in Italy with Scottish friends who we haven't seen for about the same length of time.  
It pleases me that as people pass out of our lives others return and that even after such a long time we soon resume where we left off.  
In a couple of days we shall be welcoming a family from our Italian village to the penthouse.  After 15 years we have finally convinced someone that Yorkshire is worth a visit and we are hoping the sun will shine.
Mr FF and I solider on.  Yes we did the £5 Christmas stockings again, 50p charity books, candles, little glass dishes for me, books, toiletries and a pair of socks for him.   Just before Christmas we visited family and all attended church in the village where many generations of our family were born.  My nieces and their husbands, our grand nieces Amelia and Esme were all there and I met up with people I'd gone to school with.  
Fortunately there are no big plans for changes to the penthouse on the horizon, we still need more hall storage but that's easy, no ripping out and tearing down for 2019 I hope.  Still downsizing to do, after 4 years Mr FF still considers keeping a spare tv behind the sofa in the lounge is acceptable and don't get me started on the stacks of CDs that have never been played in this residence.
Of course plans for Italy are slightly hazy with Brexit.  Its frustrating for us not knowing what will happen, what hoops we will have to jump through to continue our life there, it must be infuriating for business.  Meantime we heard that our cat Grigio is fine at our house and we received photos of Crema at Mario's house. 
I hope your Christmas was happy and that 2019 is peaceful and settled,

Happy new year. 

Saturday 22 December 2018

Tis the season

for rubbish customer service.  Let me give you a few examples of December debacles.
I contacted a supplier because a parcel scheduled for local collection had not arrived, the day it was due or the following day.  The explanation was that my parcel had not been delivered because it was delayed.  No apology, no reason, nothing, I'd already worked out myself it was delayed thank you so much.
I received an email from another supplier saying my delivery was delayed because of a glitch with the courier.  I replied asking what they meant by a glitch, when I might expect the parcel and if it was delayed for some time could I have it redirected to the intended recipient.  I didn't receive any response to several emails so I googled glitch but was no wiser, I suspect it wasn't the couriers fault at all.
I have for the past four years been receiving mail from a building society for a tenant who lived in the penthouse at least five years ago.  I have dutifully sent back every letter marked to say the person no longer lives here, but still they come.  So I went to the local branch and explained the situation.  After much computer tapping, building societies have to do that, I was told because they didn't have any other address for the person and because they cannot have an account without an address, they kept using mine though they were aware I was sending the mail back.  I suggested they just made up an address because if any more post came to me I am putting it immediately into the bin.
Mr FF is also joining in the battle.  He had an issue with Microsoft, he phoned the help line with a problem and the person he spoke to ended up practically wrecking our computer.  Mr FF spent days rebuilding and reloading everything, he keeps asking Microsoft for their complaints procedure, they don't seem to have one, there is no phone number on their website and when by email you arrange a phone back, citing date and time, it never happens.  So he contacts them again, so far he has 5 different reference numbers, it goes on and the point blank refuse to apologise.  The last time they had not phoned at the arranged time because they were too busy, but obviously not busy sorting customer complaints.
On the bright side we are currently experiencing no problems with our energy suppliers, lets hope they don't read this and get ideas.
This notepad was a gift from Pam that I received last month, I told her the other day its almost full and I'm hoping to get it published.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Days of calm

Not calm before the storm because Christmas will be quiet here but now we are settled its very peaceful up in the penthouse.  We attended the inmates Christmas lunch last Sunday, we are reconnected with our fellow residents and our lovely view, its gorgeous.
We've been to visit my brother and sister in law and collected the various online orders I made from Italy, outdoor cushions and new solar lights for next year, Christmas presents and a rather indulgent Marks and Spencer beauty advent calendar for myself.  I know that's not what Christmas is about but my goodness am I enjoying opening those generously filled little boxes.
We are spoilt for choice with UK tv, far too much to watch so we've cancelled our Netflix subscription as we try to keep up with Mrs Wilson and The Little Drummer Girl.  How we missed the quality dramas we take for granted here.
Knitting too, this is Be Simple Variations by Carolyn Glauz-Todrank an asymmetrical triangular shawl that makes for easy in front of the telly knitting.

I'm using West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn and size 11 needles, I think one 100g ball might be enough for a decent sized wrap but I have two just in case.  You cast on two stitches and keep increasing until its big enough then cast off, simple just as long as I can manage with straight needles, you know I hate those circular ones.  
More ugly scenes from Paris at the weekend and big Brexit events this coming week, lets just enjoy the peace for a while, sometimes you just want to shut it all out. 

Monday 26 November 2018


So our homecoming wasn't quite as we imagined.  Driving across France which was in gridlock because protesters were blocking the roads was awful, stressful and worrying.  The demonstration stated out over a week ago against the rising price of diesel, something that affects mostly those in rural areas, but then turned into a general discontent.    The protesters we encountered varied from polite middle aged ladies to militants who were burning tyres across the road, hanging effigies, had opened up the toll booth barriers on our auto route and presumably frightened the staff away.  Many wore masks over their faces adding to the intimidation.  At first the demonstration didn't get a lot of press in the UK until Saturday when Paris was under siege, but in the first few days 2 people were killed and over 600 injured.  It was awful to see on the television news the yellow vests, as the participants in the movement are known, tearing up the street cobbles to use as missiles, building barricades with outdoor furniture from nearby cafes, tearing down road signs and traffic lights.  Police with tear gas and water cannon attempted to control the chaos, it was ugly.
Photograph from the Evening Standard
France is a beautiful country, wonderful open spaces, beautiful villages, its tidy and smart compared to Italy and certainly the roads are in much better condition.  One of the protesters being interviewed complained of working all hours to exist and said he was sick of being poor.  As everywhere there is inequality in France but maybe he needs to take a look round the world to see what real poverty is, I imagine many people would happily change places.  I read that a week of blockades has lead to shortages in shops and that retail in France is down by 35%, that and the general disruption, inconvenience and widespread damage will have to be paid for, I imagine as in most cases by the public via taxes or rising prices,  yet it seems support for the cause is high.  
We were relieved to get on the ferry thinking our ordeal was over but there were so many roadworks, accidents, and general traffic jams that our drive from Dover took almost twice as long as expected but at least we were back in the UK and didn't feel threatened.  
Recovery is taking time, we've both felt out of sorts, perhaps still a little cross about it all, and maybe you don't bounce back so well when you are 70.  However, we are loving being in the penthouse and as long as we don't think too much about our Italian cats we are fine.

Monday 19 November 2018

These yellow jerseys I don’t like

Just don’t talk to me about French road blocks, I’ve had a hell of a day and it’s lucky we booked such a nice hotel for tonight so I can calm down.   Tomorrow we’ll face the burning tyres and try to get to the ferry.  I’m seriously thinking of boycotting the Tour de France next year, that’s how cross I am with the nation.
And yes I can understand they have a grievance but why take it to the ordinary people who are inconvenienced and stressed.  The blockades are ugly and scary particularly for visitors.

Saturday 10 November 2018


2 long days picking olives
125 kilos of fruit
20 litres of oil
Not our best crop or our biggest yield but we are grateful.



Saturday 3 November 2018

I’ve never been 70 before

It was my 70th birthday this week, no please don’t make a fuss I didn’t, like new year it’s just another day.  We went out for dinner with friends, I had lovely presents and cards from italy and the UK including these hand knitted dishcloths with matching oven glove from my danish friend.  She had apparently noticed the dreadful state of my oven glove, holey, stained and ragged, found me a new one and sourced some matching cotton
I thought I was no different as I reached my next decade until I was blocking 
my latest pair of socks

Bummer, one foot is at least 20 rows longer than the other.  My first thought was to knit another equally mismatched pair.  I’d have one normal pair of ladies socks but the larger pair would be too big for anyone I know, even if they liked a rather short leg
So old age isn’t going quite as well as I hoped, and I’m sorry this post is all over the shop.  It’s hopeless posting with the iPad even though I can finally add photographs it almost kills me doing so as I can only ever see a small section of the post at any time and the screen constantly jumps about. 

Tuesday 30 October 2018

With bells on

Beside the various church bells we regularly hear, my favourite being those at the little chapel of San Michele on the mountain above us, there is a wide variety of tintinabulation from the animals around us. 
The smallest bells are those worn by the hunting dogs that sniffle about, sometimes in our garden searching out wild boar.   The hunting season is in full swing so there is gunfire every day and particularly at the weekend when hunters arrive from Rome looking ridiculous in their camouflage outfits and accompanied by lots of dogs. At least the bells are a warning for our cats to keep away and when dogs get lost as sometimes happens we can tell the hunters if and when we’ve heard them.

Then there is the delightful sound of the bells on the sheep, who are now in the habit of hurtling down the mountainside to attack our hedge and my pots of plants.   We are quite happy about the hedge cropping, wish they could reach a bit higher and tidy it all, but begonias, marigolds and spider plants have all been relocated.  Even when we can’t see the sheep we hear them late afternoon grazing nearby, they make me happy.
The third bells are those worn by the cows that live high on the mountain during summer.  They are massive horned beasts wearing huge alpine bells and the clanking is getting closer as they move down for winter.  They may eventually end up right here at the house as they did one year, grazing outside our bedroom window all night and entertaining us with their bell ringing.  There is some rural law in Italy, we were told about it when we bought our house, that if your land isn’t fenced off anyone can graze their animals on it.  There is access to our orchard and the cows have been known to wander in, as has the odd hunter who apparently has the same right of access.
I find the sound of the cow bells rather mournful, in the way I did the winter geese flying over every night when we lived in Scotland.  It foretells the approaching winter and heralds the next set of bells, those blooming jingle ones.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Provisions and provisos

We have opened the last box of 80 Yorkshire teabags, though I do have 30 bags of another brand for emergencies. The uk muesli is almost finished, and I really eeked that out by alternating with supermarket granola and Kellogg’s cornflakes. I’ve finished my substantial supply of easy summer reads and now have only the books I feel I ought to read and imagine I shall want to one day, A S Byatt, Winifred Holtby, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Pizza is no longer the takeaway food of choice, though it is the only one available.  I’m already imagining our first fish and chip supper and thinking about stopping off at the Cambridge services for a Marks and Spencer’s sandwich on the journey home. We don’t ever buy ready made sandwiches here, or often in the uk for that matter.  The only Italian ones we see in the supermarkets are white bread, simple sparse fillings and amazingly a shelf life of several weeks. Of course any deli counter will happily make up a panino with whatever you like and they are good but we always have the ingredients at home and make our own. 
I’m still loving our own tomatoes and aubergines, eaten many ways and often with pasta but I’m thinking more about uk food now the fierce heat of summer has turned to gentle warmth.
So maybe we shall be back in Yorkshire within a month but despite all the above I’m really not ready.  We have such a lovely quiet life here in rural Lazio, I absolutely love my garden and even more our cat Grigio.  There is the additional consideration that we might be coming back to Italy next year after a no deal Brexit with all the complications that could involve.   The way things are going there is fat chance of any resolution.   It’s infuriating that two years of expensive negotiations have clarified nothing.   I once worked with a guy who when someone was useless would say ‘good job they’re not running a country’ sadly in this case they are, UK and EU ministers continually demonstrating their inadequacies.    How can we ever trust them again, not even to organise a celebration in a brewery.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Water works

On Monday Mr FF located the second water leak, it’s up by the little sports ground and loosing a good amount of water.  Someone had strimmed the roadside and left large piles of cuttings which he collected together and burnt whilst generally tidying the area of rubbish, an abandoned pair of old wellingtons and the like.  Then he began digging for the leak which was under a large wooden notice board, the actual break in the pipe is directly below the concrete footings.  The (unused) notice board is massive, he says if it falls in him it will kill him, I believe him as it’s visible from our house some distance below.  
The options are to take down the board, excavate the foundations, fix the leak and replace the board - somehow  - it’s a big job, or put in a new piece of pipe to divert ours from under the concrete.   The pipes for the other 3 houses in our road are also under the concrete but at the moment we are not feeling so benevolent that we want to sort this problem, not that the other properties seem to get as many leaks as us or maybe they don’t care.  Mr FF is busy digging out for the diversion option.
There is so little money spent in Italy on infrastructure, the roads are a prime example and below us the plastic water pipes run exposed at the side of the road for anyone to tamper with.   Marios water pipe runs from the village on the surface of the verge, he’s always getting leaks.  We are never sure about the quality of our water or whether it becomes contaminated by these holes in the pipes, we drink a lot more wine than water as a precaution.
We are totally fed up with the amount of energy expended on these stupid leaks, days of hard work simply because the pipes weren’t laid correctly in the first place.  What idiot imagined running them unprotected, not far below the surface, through thick undergrowth and over sharp stones was a good idea.  
Wonder what the Italian word for Slapdash is.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Friends and aliens

We understand that having foreign friends gives an italian a certain kudos, certainly Mario likes to show us off in the village and we have a friend in Rome who likes to visit with his companion, I use that word as I don’t understand or like the ongoing relationship with the live in woman who nursed his late wife and never left.   This friend believes he can regularly bring strangers to us for lunch, show them round and play the charming host whilst I cater.  People who arrive empty handed, eat our food and we never see or hear from them again.
We weren’t that surprised when having arranged to come for lunch on Friday, it’s a given the companion would be coming, as always empty handed,  our friend phoned the evening before to ask if he could also bring his friend Andrea who would be 80 that day and was feeling depressed.  We met this bloke 15 years ago and thought he was about 80 then, hard to say no so I said yes and ranted.
It turned out Andrea still looked about 80, he was far from depressed, charming and sweet, interested in the food I’d made, the ingredients, my cooking methods, asked to see the garden, gave me good advice and identified plants.  He said he’d had a splendid day, I was pleased to have made him happy.  So my misgivings were unjustified, though it would have been nice to have had a follow up thank you from the Romans,  the bottle of prosecco they brought didn’t go that far between 5, we saved them the cost of a restaurant birthday meal and politeness costs nothing.
I’d been ranting to my Danish friend the morning of the lunch and mentioned that as I approach 70 I need to clear my life of people who don’t enhance it in any way.  She told me she’d just dumped a couple who’d been her friends for 60 years.  This pair come out to stay with them in Italy every year,  buy a few bottles of wine, most of which they drink themselves, a few coffees when they are out together and contribute little else.  I can tell you they are treated very well during their visits, my friend is an excellent cook and a generous host, she makes a big effort.   Things came to a head when they all flew back to Denmark together recently. My friend had packed everyone sandwiches for the journey 
and when they ate these together at the airport the visiting wife went off and bought two small bottles of wine, one for herself one for her husband, offering her hosts for the last 8 days nothing. My friend was understandably furious but didn’t react in the heat of the moment.  After a couple of weeks contemplation she contacted the couple and said she couldn’t see them again, there was an exchange of opinions, it’s over.
I think it’s very sad after so many years that friends part like this. We have known the offending couple several years and see them when they are in Italy.  We enjoy their company but equally I fully understand that one cannot be made to feel like the doormat in a relationship.  It’s hard enough having house guests without feeling totally put upon and a friendship needs maintenance from both sides, even if the major contribution from one is simply to bring joy to the other. 
I’ve had one of these culls before and never regretted the clear out, I feel another coming on.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Water leak update

Sunday morning Mr FF went off to fix the water leak, which he discovered was our neighbour Anna’s, he fixed it anyway and she was delighted plying is with cake and wine in gratitude.  However we were left with our meter running when the supply was turned off at the house.  We searched the mountainside but it had rained so it was impossible to locate the problem.  Yesterday Mr FF went up again, found and fixed our leak.  Let’s hope that’s the end of it for this year.  
While he was working he got chatting to contractor who was working on the land nearby.  He agreed we need a single pipe down the mountain to our road where we could locate the 4 meters in an accessible spot.  He said he had the equipment and would do a good job for us.  Of course all 4 houses would have to agree and pay for this work but it would make life much easier.  You might think it would make sense too for the water board to have an efficient system and they might contribute, think again. 
Meantime we had a card in our post box from the water authority asking us to take a reading from the meter and send it in.  No reference number was provided or reply card, we should phone or email a response.  Since their member of staff who was here this week, a man considerably younger than us, had failed to enter the chamber of horrors to read the meter it’s a bit cheeky to expect four pension aged householders to do his work.  Annna has told us to throw the card in the bin but I’m tempted to reply, if I can find a reference number.
Spoke too soon, Mr FF has just checked the meter, we still have a leak.  Give me strength.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Utility bills

We have another water leak.  I’ve mentioned before that our water meter is on the mountainside above our house, about 10 minutes walk away, and that from the meter the pipe is our responsibility.  We had thought this year we were ok, the pressure was good and Mr FF had understandably been reluctant to take a machete to hack his way through the undergrowth to the sometimes snake infested pit that houses the meters.  
This week a man from the water authority was here looking for the meter, armed only with an iPad he had no chance and left without taking readings. 
Anyway this visit prompted Mr FF to turn off the water at our house, beat a path to the pit and see if the meter was spinning, it was.  We couldn’t have a summer without a water leak though I do wonder why it’s always our pipe that fails not one of the three other houses in our road.  Fortunately earlier in the year Mr FF had spent a couple of days clearing the gully the pipe runs down of brambles and self seeded trees.  He was able to find water bubbling up from the earth fairly quickly.   Let’s hope it’s an easy fix.  
In case you are wondering why our meter is so far away, it seems the water authority only have to supply within a short distance of a road, our road is private so it doesn’t qualify and though we’ve all tried to get the meter moved closer, like the end of our road, it’s just not happening.  No doubt when we do get a meter reading and a proper bill there will be further discussion.
Speaking of which we didn’t get a bill for refuse collection last year, we reported this and were told the lady who dealt with the accounts had been off work, quite a lot of people hadn’t been charged and that an invoice would arrive.  Subsequently we received and paid this years bill but despite a reminder nothing has come for last year, I just hope it isn’t the same situation as the tax office where we received a 30% fine for declaring some unpaid tax, in fact we’d paid the tax in the UK but that didn’t help.  We were told if we’d kept quiet and waited to be discovered the fine would have been 10% and if we weren’t found out within 5 years we’d have got away with it. Smart thinking that strategy, like putting water meters in an inaccessible location and not being able to charge.

Monday 1 October 2018

Closing in

It’s that time of year when the nights are longer, we have to start sleeping in the bed rather than on top of it, lunches are a bit more substantial than a few slices of melon and shorts are not always the garment of choice during waking hours. I won’t call it autumn, we still have high daytime temperatures, the leaves remain on the trees, tomatoes continue to be produced, breakfast is always taken outdoors.    But I can feel the change and I don’t like it.  The local festas are over, we had the last one on Sunday and it got quite cool sitting in the square till midnight for our village talent contest.  The grape harvest has started and the olives are turning black, people are preparing for winter and of course wearing their warmer clothes even on a sunny day.
The pool temperature is down to about 18 deg so it isn’t used much but we leave it up as it’s holding down the membrane for the new pavings that probably won’t be laid till next year.  
We are into October, we shall have to go back to Yorkshire next month and my heart sinks at the thought of leaving our cat Grigio even though she is perfectly happy spending most of her day and a lot of her night outdoors.  She has chummed up nicely with Enrico who has become much less aggressive and likes to sleep in the pizza oven, it does contain a basket and pillows and is never used for cooking.  
A better person would concentrate on the last weeks here and relish the season, I’m trying really I am.   Tell you what I’ll light a candle or two as the sun goes down, put my slippers on and pretend I like cosy.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Grinding to a halt

Mid September is the new August.  Now the days are very hot, there is no more rain and it feels like high summer.  So we are doing all the August things, watering the garden, closing the shutters to keep out the heat, watching the landscape turn parched, dipping in and out of the pool and feeling sweatily exhausted most of the time.  It’s a slight worry that fires will be allowed again in a couple of weeks just when things are drying out, maybe the commune will extend the ban.
I read online that our lido in Ilkley (unheated outdoor pool) is staying open this month.  However if the water temperature drops below 15 deg wetsuits must be worn, if it drops to 10 deg the facility will close.  Our garden pool is around 24 deg and that takes my breath away.  Yorkshire folk are a tough breed, Mr FF once spent an hour in the lido when the water was 17 deg, meanwhile the Italian pools outdoor pools are closing for the year as they always do.
Our Danish friends are going home for a few weeks and will only return for a short time in October, our Roman neighbours are back in the city, not so many house lights to see on mountainside now.  Its getting quiet up here and there is a feeling of things coming to an end, let’s just hope the heat stays a little longer, you know how the turning of the season can throw me out of sorts.  In fact I may already be a little crazy, I’ve made an online Christmas gift purchase and bought a few Christmas gifts here to take home.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Lost in translation

Mr FF’s Italian isn’t great, in fact after 15 years of visits, latterly for up to 6 months at a time, it’s awful  Only last week a neighbour was berating him because she couldn’t speak with him.  He gets me into situations, like when he said a visitor wanted to know what I was feeding my rather large courgettes, I answered ‘just water from this’ holding up the hose pipe ‘and not every day’.  In fact the person wanted to know why we hadn’t put a jacuzzi in the corner of the garden instead of vegetables.
At the weekend he came back from a walk having met Giovanni who he said had invited us to go up for coffee at 11 today.  We were late setting off as Mr FF had been to the builders yard, en route we met the elderly gentleman who has a lot of olive trees around us, we chatted then he insisted on giving us a bag of peaches from one of his trees so it was turned up for 12 when we arrived at the house. 
As a gift I’d made an apple and blackberry crumble with fruit from the garden, I explained how to cook it and that it could be eaten with ice cream, yoghurt or whatever.  Milena turned the oven on immediately and put the crumble in, I didn’t say anything.  She also took the bag of peaches from me, I said they were a gift from the old gentleman, I’d envisaged there would be confusion and was happy to relinquish them.
We had a walk round their lovely garden then Giovanni asked Mr FF to look at some cracks inside the house that were worrying them, he asked me to go too to translate.  Our Italian classes didn’t concentrate so much on building terminology but between us we were able to reassure Giovanni that the cracks were cosmetic and the house wasn’t falling down.
When we came back Milena asked me if I liked porcini and onions and other things and said she was going to make a sugo.  I told Mr FF I thought they planned to feed us though I wasn’t quite sure if she wasn’t just interested in my diet whilst wanting to crack on with their own lunch.   The four bread buns they arrived at the table were a giveaway and yes they did provide a delicious lunch with lots of homemade and homegrown food.  The crumble, cooked for 20 minutes and cooled arrived with a large plate and a knife for me to serve it.  I had to ask for dishes and a spoon, there was no accompaniment, then we ate the peaches.  
Mr FF insists they didn’t invite us for lunch and that they only provided it because I took a pudding, who knows. The are such a sweet generous couple there was no awkwardness and mostly they speak to Mr FF as if he understands them.
He is currently next door helping other neighbours who’ve been having problems with their septic tank, he did manage to find them a company that can empty the tank and clear the pipes, they are working there now.  With Mr FF’s command of the language I won’t be surprised if the contents end up in our garden.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

It’s all rubbish

In our region of Lazio we have door step rubbish collection 6 days a week, it’s remarkable that when we are the only occupied property the bin lorry still trundles up our track to collect.  Recently we were issued with 3 smart new stackable bins for paper, plastic and unrecycleable items, the bin we already had to be used for glass and metal.  I thought that was fine until a neighbour called to tell me that I needed to go down to the square to collect my allocation of plastic bags to line the bins.  Giovanni offered to take me down but I declined thinking I’d manage without plastic.  However Mr FF disagreed so we went down on the second day the bags were being dished out.   It was devastating to see a sizeable transit van packed high with rolls of plastic bags to be distributed to our small village.  
I brought the bags home but didn’t use them.  I am obviously breaking some rule because the lady who empties our bins gets very cross every time she collects.  She even resorted to checking my rubbish, one time she took out yogurt cartons and a plastic egg box and left them in the bin, I have no idea why but for the next collection I did put them and other plastic in one of the standard issue bags and everything was taken.  I can hear the lady muttering away, particularly if Mr FF has put out anything building related, one time she had a good sort through, spoke to the driver who tooted his horn as they drove off leaving our rubbish behind.  As I said we have six collections a week but I actually miss out 2 as I am happy to compost all my peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds etc.  That and the fact we are only here half a year and pay for a full years collection has no bearing on what the bin lady will sanction.
We have a long list of items we cannot put in our bins that have to be taken to the depot down the mountain on Tuesday or Saturday morning.  We took a mattress down recently and the lady there was charming, she said she remembered us from a couple of years ago, let us take a perfectly good cat carrier from one of the skips. showed us the depot cat and it’s kittens and then asked us for identification.
Fly tipping is a huge and ugly problem in Italy, even quiet country roads are strewn with litter and it’s not unusual for us to collect paper and bottles as we walk down our track.  There is a nice picnic area above us with tables, seats and BBQ facilities.  Someone had collected together their rubbish, put it in a black bag and left it there.  Of course animals had torn the bag open and the contents, food waste and plastic plates were strewn around.  The idea of taking rubbish home is completely alien.
The use of plastic here is excessive.  In the nicest of Italian homes you can be served a meal on plastic plates, the supermarkets are stocked high with them.  I take out a plastic storage box for ricotta which our shepherd calls but he still insists on putting the cheese into a plastic bowl first.  I’ve solved that issue by taking the same plastic bowl out as well.
Yesterday in our little mini market Mr FF bought bread and sausages both admirable wrapped in brown paper bags. However at the checkout the shop owner started to put both paper bags into a plastic one.  Mr FF stopped him and tried to explain the Pass on Plastic policy, Gianni responded that it would never happen in Italy, he’s probably right, if they don’t see the litter under their noses they won’t be thinking about the wider environment.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Cooking on gas

An expression I first heard from one of the 3 builders we used on our house in Scotland, he never really was but his words stuck with me.  I certainly feel as if I am being cooked most days now, it really is hot particularly in my kitchen, where I do use gas.  Not complaining, I love it.  We now have our plastic pool though the new terrace isn’t quite finished, we could wait no longer to be able to cool down.  I’m desperate to deck the area with summer pots, I’ve taken a lot of cuttings that are on stand by but Mr FF has suggested they will be in the way when he works so I have to wait to position them.
We’ve had a couple of weeks of the quiet times I love, where we are up very early, Mr FF does hard labour while it’s cool, we breakfast mid morning then we do very little and wear very little.  We go out hardly at all, it’s too hot now to walk down to the village, we just stay home, sweat and snooze.  
The hardest thing I do is water the garden and pick veggies in the evenings.  Every night we have courgette surprise on the menu, the surprise being that it’s courgettes again.  I took a bag down to a neighbour this morning and returned with a bottle of Spumante and a bag of figs, I came out best in that deal.
We can look forward to more of these dog days for a while, intense heat, occasional electric storms, lethargy, slight madness, cats spark out on the terrace, it’s what I’ve been waiting for, it’s paradise.

Wednesday 27 June 2018


The stage is set here for a glorious Italian summer, all that’s missing is the weather.  The days are warm enough but we still get regular afternoon showers and some days thunderstorms, our neighbours tv aerial was taken out last week by lightning.  
The terrace pots are floriferous, geraniums, begonias, plumbago full of bloom with my mini sunflowers standing to attention.  My rather English herbaceous border is full to bursting with gladioli, lupins, asters, vinca, morning glory, hydrangea and more exotic datura and amaryllis.  Several pots of basil sick of waiting for the tomatoes are thinking of going to seed.
The first cherry tomatoes are turning, courgettes, peas and cucumbers almost ready.  I can’t wait for the days when have more tomatoes than we can face, eat our aubergines for lunch and dinner and still have veg to give away. When we sit out till late looking at the lights in the valley and sleep on top of the thin cotton sheet that becomes the cover for our bed.  I have stocked up on spirals to burn when the mosquito arrive in force and enough candles and lantens to create magical evenings.
For now the evenings are cool, we’ve hardly seen the fireflies, barely eaten dinner outside and have no problem keeping the house cool.  
So what are you waiting for summer, get yourself here pronto.   Even if the new terrace isn’t ready for the temporary pool it soon will be, the plate vibrator is lined up for the weekend.

I still can’t post comments, the problem seems to be on sites that like me use  So annoying but know that I am following you even if my thoughts have to stay in my head.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Give and take

So with thousands of people crossing the Med in dangerous boats to land on her shores Italy has now refused asylum to the 600 plus migrants who had to be rescued recently.  Whilst we can all condemn the new government for this perhaps you need to know a little more about the impact and the cost of all these people who cast off in dangerous craft no doubt having handed over all their money to the traffickers.
Firstly you cannot go into an Italian supermarket without being accosted by migrants at the trolley park for money, I refuse to hand over any.  When you come out with your shopping you are asked again for money and often followed back to your car.  One persistent migrant once watched me unload my groceries into the car and had the cheek to say you have money for ice cream but you won’t give me anything.  I was furious and explained to him that I had worked for 42 years to earn my money not stood with my hand out.  The larger the supermarket the more migrants and the more intimidation, sometimes I dread taking my trolley back to be harassed for the Euro deposit.  These people all have fancy mobile phones, apparently they need them to keep in touch with their family even though they need my money to buy water.  
Once a guy asked Mr FF for a few euro, Mr FF suggested that rather than just hang around the guy spend his time picking up litter in the car park while we shopped and we would pay him for doing this.  When we came out the man had done nothing and still wanted money.
Even shopping at Ikea in Rome we were harassed by someone wanting to help us unload our shopping, he said he worked there, maybe in his mind he did but not for Ikea and not in any official tax paying way.
Our little village with 700 inhabitants took in, housed and fed, about 30 people. Not all migrants but all adult men with problems, homelessness, abuse, addiction.   They used to congregate in the palazzo near the church waiting for their next meal provided by the ladies of the church.  Few of them spoke when greeted, none of them did anything like help keep the village clean and tidy, and believe me litter is a huge problem throughout Lazio.  Now the church is concentrating on its own community, the number of priests we have has reduced and there is less help for outsiders.
Then there are the black prostitutes who stand on the country roads waiting for business and wearing very little.  I have no doubt they are pimped, controlled and probably on drugs, I feel very sad for them and worry for their safety.  Or I would if they didn’t appear to relish what they are doing, even pulling down their pants and shaking their bare bottoms to passing traffic.  Did they leave their country in search of a better life to end up on the streets,  do the supermarket men think they have a better life begging.   I have no idea of the horrors they left behind, no idea what they endured to get to Italy but I do know they need to start making this better life happen for themselves and giving something back would be a good start.

Monday 28 May 2018

Blooming blogger

Won’t let me post comments at present, unless they are posting and I can’t see them in which case I might have repeated myself a few dozen times.  I am still reading and thinking about you if you haven’t heard from me.
Meantime the weather has improved somewhat, still getting rain but not so much and it’s warmer.
Loved this years Giro, it was spectacular both the racing and the scenery although maybe this years route was just a bit too demanding.  I don’t think these tours need to get harder and harder.  I have high hopes for Simon Yates after 3 stage wins and in pink for 13 days, and how adorable is his team mate Esteban Chaves, 28 years of age, looks about 12.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Still raining

Since my last post we have had only one day when it didn’t rain, yesterday it bucketed it down in the afternoon and again during the night.   It started again mid morning, now we have light showers and some sun.    We are sodden, if things didn’t improve soon I shall be cross.
We have ordered more wood for the stove, we are eating winter food, my great niece Amelia is thinking of knitting me a scarf to keep we warm.  Amelia is 8 and asked me to teach her to knit before we left the UK, I was deeply touched by her concern and her enthusiasm.
I’ll let you know as soon as the weather returns to normal, meantime stay where you are there is nothing for you here.

Monday 7 May 2018

Some progress much precipitation

Things have been going along nicely, apart that is from Crema deciding she did prefer to live with Mario and his two male cats and,ade her way back.  We keep meaning to visit her but so far have only succeeded in sending down a large bag of cat food, maybe that will remind her of us.  Grigio is well settled here.  When  our local shepherd and cheese maker called at the weekend we asked if Grigio had been at his farm over winter but he said not do we are no wiser where she has been.  The large grey male we unkindly called the nasty party last year has been renamed Enrico and is doing his best to be friendly.  No sign at all of Theo, we have to be content with what we have.
The gardening continues, two steps forward one back.  A porcupine came and are some of my cutting and took the tops out of almost all the 24 tomato plants Mr FF had put.  The culprit left footprints in the earth and also demolished several large clumps of wild iris growing on the bank opposite us, the fleshy tubers seem to be a favourite with the porcupine.
The major project to make a sitting out area and paving for the inflatable pool continues.  Mr FF is currently taking up lawn and back filling the new raised planting area which I have in mind for slightly tender plants as there is good protection from walls on two sides. Perhaps a lemon as the one I have in a pot has been cut back over the last two winters and failed to fruit.  A bougainvillea might be worth a try too, the one I put in my border only lasted a year.
However over the last four days or so we have been totally set back by rain and cooler temperatures, we have never known such weather in May.  It feels like winter, the socks and jumpers are back on and we are lighting the wood burner.  Things had better improve soon as we don’t have that much wood in stock.  I know the UK is enjoying glorious sunshine while I am going a little crazy as we sit looking out at low cloud and the forecast isn’t for much improvement.  I’m trying to look at the benefits of all this water, certainly everywhere is beautifully green but positivity never was one if my strong points, I want the sun back,  please UK return it soon I can offer you rain.

Tuesday 24 April 2018


We arrived at our house in Lazio Friday evening and spent a few days unpacking the car,  knocking down the cobwebs and felling the knee high lawn.  Everything is beautifully green after an exceptionally wet spring,  there is a lot of blossom on the trees, many wild flowers and the cuckoo is around.  The sun shines every day, our white limbs are on display and we are back to our outdoor life.
There had been no sign of the cats for the first few days, despite much calling, though Mario said the Grigio was still being fed at his house but going off until the next meal, so we didn’t see her when we called in as we arrived.   Then this morning I saw Grigio walk past the kitchen window, she had plenty to say to us.  We were all delighted to see each other and we thought she was pretty smart realising we were back and walking the half mile or so from Marios.
Mid morning Mario arrived and we showed him Grigio but he said that wasn’t the cat living at his house and he hadn’t seen this one for a long time. So we went down to Marios and after some calling Crema appeared, obviously the two names and colours had been confused.  Mario insisted we bring Crema back in his car, she wasn’t at all happy and neither was I so I decided to walk back leaving the men in the car with a rampaging cat.  Once home Crema took refuge under our car for a while, disappeared, reappeared, spat at her long lost sister and generally took offence.  Grigio on the other hand is adorable, still lots to say, following us around in case we take off again and has slipped back into her previous life.  She is stretched out beside me on the sofa as I type.
I hope Crema comes round, if she does decide to go back to Marios we will respect her choice but we really want her to stay.  We are so happy to see the two kitties alive and well, four days of travelling, four days of waiting and finally we are reunited.

Thursday 12 April 2018

All change

Finally we are moving back to our other life.  We leave for Lazio soon, I won't tell you exactly when in case Mark Zukerberg broadcasts this to the world.  
I haven't started my clothes packing yet, which is an ordeal in itself, but I have sorted out all the other bits and pieces I've sourced while we've been in the UK.  Survival essentials like Yorkshire Tea of course, muesli, you can't get a decent muesli in Italy and whilst I can't take enough for 6 months its nice to have a pack or two to eek out.  Why did I think those lanterns, much reduced as a local interiors shop was having a refurb, would be easy to transport.  They are pretty and will be great in our revamped Italian garden, but packing them safely is a challenge.  The sparkly flameless candles are lovely too, battery operated, again for the garden and in the Laura Ashley sale.
Lots of gifts to take, everyone wants Cheddar cheese, biscuits, UK magazines.
Whilst in Italy I make a list of what we will need for the following year,  toiletries because I like my regular brands, new bed linen, books, but back in the UK I start to doubt myself. Does it mean because I haven't included shower gels that we have enough or did I just forget, best pop in one or two just in case.  Not sure how much sock yarn I left in the house so best to take lots.
Mr FF has got himself a new iPad and has been collecting various IT related items in the hope that we can get some UK telly again, at least when the temperature cools and we stop sitting outside until midnight.  
I'm also taking cat worming tablets, which we can never find in Italy, just in case those little kitties reappear, fingers cross.
Sitting here in socks and jumper with rain hitting against the windows its hard to believe we shall be in the sunshine soon, once we get over the channel I can forget about warm clothing for many months, I can't wait.  
A presto Lazio.

Friday 30 March 2018


I have knitted two more Estuary scarves with my Sublime yarn, I won't show you again as they are just like the first one.
Waste not want not, I used the remaining yarn to make Winter Berry Cowl by Michele Meadows, an easy and pretty pattern I'd definitely use again probably knitting in the round so the cable runs upwards.  My finished article isn't as long as the pattern suggests but its fine.  I just repeated the 4 rows until I ran out of yarn using almost every scrap of the 75 g I had, this is all that was left.
So I thought it was time a bit more yarn came into the penthouse and recently our lovely postie kindly came up to the top floor, even though he's afraid of our glass lift, to delivery these.
My first yarn purchase of 2018.  Black Sheep Wools are having a clearance on Sirdar Heart and Sole so obviously it was worth making up an order of over £25 for free delivery
I bought 3 x 100g of dancing shoes 
and 4 of country bumpkin.  I don't think I've used this yarn before so I can't comment on the quality but you can't be robbed at £3.99 per 100g.  Sorry I haven't taken the balls out of the plastic bags, I'm sort of telling myself they are going to Italy but I expect I shall soon be casting on and who knows I might need to buy more to take to Lazio.
Because it's Easter it's cold and raining I don't have plans to be out and about much, we are attempting to eat our way through the contents of the freezer before we can leave for Italy.   Happy Easter everyone.

Friday 23 March 2018

Happy Friday

I received this photo from Amelia and Esme, makes me happy 

Mr FF is happy too, he has been back to the hospital, they have discharged him after his op though suggested he keeps the special boot at big longer in case he needs it.  He has been wearing two slippers and now he is in bare feet allowing the air to get to his wound.  He went to the hospital in Bingley on the bus, celebrated his all clear with a curry in Bradford before travelling on to Leeds and then back to Ilkley.  Since he hasn't been able to drive he's used his bus pass a lot, even leaving Yorkshire to venture into Lancashire.
My brother and his wife are coming to stay for a couple of days, it feels springlike outside, enjoy your weekend.

Monday 19 March 2018

Everyone's an expert

I was browsing Country Living magazine online recently and came across an article about how knitting is shown to lower blood pressure, tackle depression and help you cope with pain, the article was accompanied by the above image (for the uninitiated the lady is crocheting).  Presumably whoever uploaded it realised knitting involved yarn and needles and imagined this image met both criteria.  Certainly did nothing for my blood pressure.
I am sick to death of people voicing ill informed opinions and over estimating their own knowledge and capabilities.  I used to detest those radio phone in programmes when strange people often late at night rang in to broadcast a tirade of nonsense.   I thought they should be banned. 
Nowadays everyone types their own correspondence, we have so many masters of all trades.  I receive documents that make me laugh out loud at the appalling grammar, the shoddy layouts, the poor command of English.  Of course everyone jumps on the bandwagon of slapping in an apostrophe whenever they use capital letters or a plural or neither.  
Our communal garden is a great example of the idiots taking over the asylum.  We employ a gardener who has no idea when or how plants need to be pruned and does what he likes, he is not a gardener but the ill informed believe he is doing a great job and never wonder why there are so few summer blooms.  Likewise the council staff who come to tend the public gardens.  Every spring I watch them savagely prune the gorse before it can flower and cut back the catkins as they appear.  
Recently one of our management board, a fellow resident, was tasked with ordering bulbs for our lake garden, £500 worth.  He said he had ordered snowdrops, when they arrived they were erythronium, the dogs tooth violet which admittedly are lovely but not snowdrops.  He obviously had no idea of the Latin name for snowdrops (galanthus) and didn't bother to find out.  I pointed out his mistake when I helped with the planting and he replied well they look like snowdrops, they'll be fine.  Unfortunately the poor resident who had put up the money for the bulbs was not so pleased.
On our local Facebook chat page recently there was information about the upcoming annual business awards event.  Some one had written in the comments to the effect that those nominated were a bunch of rich snobs, he made a few spelling mistakes in his comments.  I'm sure he would be delighted if someone wrote on his page that he, his family and friends were a set of chavs.  When I checked this person out he didn't even live in our town so how he knows that everyone running their own business here has too much money or looks down on others is beyond me
The internet has a lot to answer for, my blood boils when I see blatant displays of ignorance.  I am careful what I post, I am not here to be contentious or to voice my political views. I stick to what I know and God forbid I should ever make a fool of myself my stepping outside my areas of expertise (obviously ranting is one of these).  It's such a pity that others don't do the same.  

Thursday 15 March 2018

Big socks and Little socks

Mr FF was in hospital recently having a ganglion, a fluid filled swelling, removed from the top of his right foot.  He made his own way to and from the hospital, half an hour away, leaving at 11 am and returning around 9 pm by taxi.
He managed to text me and most people he knows at various intervals, everything went well and he returned to the hospital this week for a check, they didn't remove the stitches or bandages and he goes back next week when hopefully they will.
So life has become challenging, I've nursed him through man flu before, I knew it wouldn't be easy.  For a while the anaesthetic seemed to obliterate from his memory where anything was in the penthouse, he is recovering and locating essentials now although going a bit stir crazy as he can't walk far or drive at all.
He has taken to wearing a hand knit sock over his dressing, he says the sock was too big anyway, now its enormous but if it helps.
Meantime my niece told me that her littlest had spent a frustrating time trying to get a pair of the socks I'd made her on over her tights.  I knit them some time ago and she'd outgrown them but was pretty determined she would still wear them.  Strangely I was already knitting up little socks with left over yarn so I soon got on the case to stock up both my nieces.

I'm delighted that they love their hand knits and very willing to keep their sock drawers full, I can rustle up a pair quickly and reduce the stash at the same time.  We are all happy. 

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Snow and smugness

Wintery penthouse view
Now we are back in Yorkshire we don't have to endure the snowy conditions and hardship of winter in Scotland.  Although we did have our fair share of the white stuff the worse thing that  happened in Ilkley was that our local bus, we call it the collider but that's another story, hasn't been running.  So to descend the steep hill to town I've forced Mr FF to walk with me and hold onto me till we get to the flat.  The other day Ilkley was like a ghost town, the banks and post office didn't bother to open at all, trains were cancelled, even Marks and Spencer closed mid afternoon but we got supplies for ourselves and others in our building who didn't want to venture out.  It was no problem and nice to get some fresh air straight from the Baltic.
I spoke to my friend Pam who still lives in what was our village in Scotland, yes they'd had massive snow drifts, the A road to the motorway was closed at times and single track at best, no bread or milk to be had even if you could get to the local town.  Been there, done that, not doing it any more.
It has been a time for battening down and I resurrected a knitting project I started last year.  After I made my original Estuary scarf I loved it so much I planned to make several as Christmas presents, that didn't happen.  Last year I purchased 10 more balls of the lovely Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK , carted them out to Italy and carted them back again.  December in Ilkley I cast on, knitted a bit, put the scarf aside and then made many pairs of socks.  Whilst confined to the sofa by snow I forced myself to pick up the work again and last week finished another scarf which might be given away or might be mine.
I've also been devouring books this year, here is no 10 on my read list.  It is excellent but halfway through I'm not sure if it is going to end well.
How I am loving my local library, I have a long list of reservations that I add to when I have recommendations or like a review in the Sunday papers.  Fortunately the books don't all arrive at once, waiting times can vary, so generally when I pop down to return a book and pick up another.  
Can I just say that no yarn or book purchases have entered the penthouse this year though some of both have left.  I have been collecting 50p paperbacks from the charity shops to take out to Italy but that doesn't count because I keep them under the spare bed and they are destined to depart when we do.

I am calling all this a great result, the decluttering continues, speaking of which the unidentified Christmas gift from Taiwan was indeed a key ring, made in a traditional way.  MelindaJ got it right and I'd send it to her as a prize except its already gone to a better place, not saying where but they do sell paperbacks for 50p.