Thursday 31 December 2020

New year

Here we are ready to welcome the new year, desperate to be rid of this one.  We are putting all our hopes into 2021 being a better year, longing for the life we had and thought we had a right to.   We’ve endured 9 months of restrictions and fear, we’ve missed our friends and family, our freedom, some have lost dear ones to this virus that has taken over the world.  We all have our stories to tell.

I’m trying to take from 2020 something positive, to realise what I need and what I don’t, to make better use of my time, value what I have and who I have in my life, live a little more the way that suits me.  We’ve spend the last six months quietly and simply and happily in our house in Italy.  I’ve been much healthier eating like an Italian and unintentionally lost weight, almost a stone.  Who thought I’d be going into 2021 with a winter weight of 9.5 stones, see I was right to keep all those too tight clothes,  it’s just a pity they are back in the UK.  

The first part of the new year will be hard with Covid raging worse then ever but there is hope, we have to stay strong and believe.  Mr FF says the weather here in the mountain will challenge us through January.  It’s not so cold, we’ve only occasionally been down to minus one but when the cloud comes down we get dark damp days when there is nothing to do but sit in front of the wood burner, watch old films and snooze.   Next day the sun comes back clear and warm and we are outside again, even during December we’ve often eaten breakfast and lunch on the terrace.  The days are get longer, we already have 2 hours more daylight then we would in Yorkshire and when the sky is blue it’s the finest cheeriest blue ever.  As from the Covid restrictions there are lessons to be learned living in isolation, which we do from a location not a medical view.  We are busy and content, more in touch with the seasons and nature than we could be in the penthouse.   We are trying to step lightly on the earth, growing a lot of our food, hardly using the car, though we sometimes resort to technology when we long for a chat in the English language that is not with each other, or the cats.

I hope 2021 brings tanti belli cose (many beautiful things) and a return of all we love and need which isn’t necessarily the same as all we miss. 

Happy New Year  Buon Anno

Friday 25 December 2020

All is calm all is bright

 Happy Christmas everyone

Wednesday 23 December 2020

We can breathe

It felt awful this morning setting off to the health board for a second attempt to register for medical care.    We had twice emailed asking if everything was ok without response but nothing ventured off we went.  The building was even busier than last time with quite a queue but we went up to the directors office, she was out again and we spoke to the secretary Emanuela.  We hoped to retrieve our papers to re-present them at the desk manned by miserable people but she said the director had them with her and they were being processed.  We didn’t give up, we said come 01 January we would have no cover we needed it now.  We showed her the new document from the commune, she said it was not necessary.  She spoke on the phone to the director.  This time she didn’t allow us into her office, we had to stand at the door but then she called us in and said we could speak English with someone she had on the phone.  It transpired this person Mara was the wife of Stefano at our comune.  Stefano does not deal with residency but back in October did his best to help and at that time got Mara on his phone to explain more clearly.  We told the secretary that we had spoken before with Mara and knew Stefano, who it transpired is Emanuela’s brother.  Suddenly she was smiling and able to speak some English, we were practically family.  Mara said our papers were fine and being processed but there was delay because of the holidays.  We thanked her, Emanuela said once we can we should all get together for a drink or something to eat in our village, where they all live.

Then she took us down stairs to the public office, told us wait, came and asked for our passports, tax codes, everything we had presented last week, except our S1 forms which were with the director.  Whilst we were waiting the nasty man who last week had shouted at us came past, I gave him a cheery buon giorno, he didn’t respond and when he walked back again looked the other way.  

After a while Emanuela reappeared and said unfortunately we couldn’t have our certificate or our health card as the computer had gone down, doesn’t it always.  We came home feeling better than when we left to find there was an email waiting with copies of everything we need.   Emanuela phoned to check it had arrived.  We provided nothing different to the documents we presented last week when we were refused, it was the same with the residency registration, documents that were wrong suddenly after a lot of argument become right, it defies logic.

Actually the expiry date on the certificate and on the card do not agree, the card is valid for 6 years, I shall be 78 by then.  If there is much more stress here I may expire before the card.

I forgot about going to the yarn shop in my elation that we might be getting somewhere but we did stop at our favourite vineyard for 20 litres of wine, this victory deserves a celebration and unlike the Italian authorities we do know how to organise one at a brewery, or in this case a vineyard.  Cin cin 

Sunday 20 December 2020

I could weep

Mr FF went down to the Comune at the beginning of last week, Mrs Unhelpful wasn’t there but one of her staff issued a receipt for our residency application made 6 weeks ago, enough to register for healthcare.

He hadn’t been home two hours before the police arrived, they are required to come and check us out, make sure we are indeed resident. The officers were two beautiful young girls, they were so nice, admired the garden, the new terrace and our views. One of them was a knitter who spotted the sock I’d been working on and left on the outside table.  They said everything was fine and that we should stay here and never return to England.  We were so happy.

This just left the healthcare to register followed by a visit to the wool shop.  Wrong.  We went to the large clinic half an hours drive away where the administration office is located, presented our documents and were told no they weren’t in order.  Cue chaos.  I think 8 different people appeared, all handling our documents and shaking their heads, phone calls were made.  I truly think none of them knew what they were doing and because they didn’t recognise our UK S1 form said we needed to buy insurance at a total cost of more than 1600 euro.  I told them with this form the U.K. would reimburse any health costs we incurred in Italy, they said the form wasn’t in Italian which it wouldn’t be as it covers all of Europe.  Mr FF pulled up a translation on his phone, they weren’t interested.  He also showed them the legislation that confirmed its validity, no one wanted to see it.  A particularly objectionable man said the S1 had expired, he was reading the issue date but wouldn’t be told,  and that we had to verify why we were in Italy, by which time I was asking myself the same question.  I explained the police had checked us and everything was ok. One woman said we didn’t need healthcare as we were only there for the Christmas holidays, you couldn’t make it up but they obviously did.

There was shouting and banging down of papers, Mr FF got cross and said he wasn’t leaving without healthcare, I walked away thinking I’d have to be seriously ill before I’d be a patient in any Italian hospital.

Eventually we left the department of fools and went to find the chief to complain.  She wasn’t in but her secretary copied all our papers and said she would pass them on.  We came home, the wool shop by now closed for a 4 hour break, and confirmed everything in an email.

When I’m not feeling absolutely furious I feel sad that such a beautiful country with so much potential allows itself to be excessively bureaucratic, that it spends millions paying public servants who appear to hate the public and are ignorant of the laws they administer.   

Saturday morning we went again to the comune to ask for our residency registration certificate.  We were there 2 hours, we were told we had to go to the embassy in Rome for an original of our marriage certificate.  I told Mrs Unhelpful we would not do that and asked if we actually needed to be married to be residents, she just smiled.  She said we had to go to our regional capital for a card with our tax codes on it, we’d  already given her copies of our code documents, again we asked why.  Eventually she agreed to issue a document, not the residency certificate we wanted but oddly one that shows we are covered under the terms of the EU UK withdrawal agreement and is the next stage after residency.  We signed some forms, she entered data, we paid 64 Euro she then said we’d have to go back on Monday as her computer had developed a fault and offered to sell us ID cards at 22.50 euros each.  As we left she said she’d done a full weeks work, that explains a lot if  2 hours work equates to one week in Italy.

It was comical chaos in the building, we never got beyond the reception with people coming and going and stood there for 2 hours while 3 members of the Red Cross shipped 100s of panettones from the building into an ambulance.  Apparently every Christmas the comune gives a Christmas gift of panettone, prosseco, chocolates etc to everyone over 65, the mayor was there ready to distribute the treats in the village square. The photo above was the actual stock in the comune building, I downloaded it from the comune website, I wasn’t kidding there were hundreds.

We have to try again at the health service with our new forms if we get them but the office doesn’t open until Wednesday next week.  On Thursday the whole of Italy goes into full lockdown until 6 January apart from a few days here and there,  basically we have to stay at home so Christmas is sadly cancelled for families.  For me it will be a relief not to continue our battle for a while.

This morning we were surprised by an Italian friend who was in the village to see his parents while he still can and called by with gifts.  He knew we would have no presents so brought some treats including home made liqueurs and a little wood cross he’d turned himself.  Gianluigi thank you so very much, that is very special and extremely kind, much better than a panetonne  from the mayor.

And cakes

Wednesday 16 December 2020

The cat apartment

This is the old gas cylinder cupboard outside our house that Mr FF made into luxury accommodation for the cats a few years ago.  He re-roofed it, lined the inside with insulation and put extra guttering above it so water doesn’t pour down and splash inside. I added some pillows and old wool jumpers pushed well to the back away from the door. The door is secured just slightly open so cats can get in and out but hopefully nothing bigger.  It seemed to work and was quite popular to the extent that occasionally we might spot a visiting cat in there.

Ever so often I give everything an airing, rearrange the pillows and generally freshen up the apartment as I did last week.  I was walking past the other morning and looked in to see if Enrico who often spends the night in there had made himself a cosy bed.  I was greeted by a red fox staring back at me.  After the initial shock my reaction was to close the door to give me thinking time, the creature made no move.  I called Mr FF who said we should just wait for it to leave, we opened the door again but it was in no hurry to go.  Later I saw it strolling round our orchard before it wandered off down the hill, it seemed perfectly at home and rather too confident.

Of course it stinks in the apartment. I’ll need to wash everything and the cats are not going near.   I checked last night before we went to bed and again when we got up, the apartment was empty.  

Strangely our rubbish bin left out for collection overnight last weekend had half the contents strewn down the road next morning, torn food paper and bits of an old wool jumper Mr FF had worn to destruction when concreting and finally thrown out.  At the time I didn’t know what had happened, the bin lid has a lock though there is a small flap on the top that is always operable, and the contents have to be in a sealed plastic bag.   As Mr FF said it could have been worse, foxy could have been wearing the jumper.

Saturday 12 December 2020

A quick up date

Not a lot of progress this week, the early part of which was wet and dreary.

The Logman now says he will deliver next week.

The technician says he might come next week to look at our fridge freezer.  

The comune despite saying over a week ago that they would issue our residency have not and since there are only a few days each week when we can register our S1 forms we are running out of time before the year end.   Mr FF has been chasing, even an official acknowledgment would suffice and the website says it takes only two days for an application to be decided.   We originally applied at the end of September.  I am of the opinion that the more we ask the less they do and it’s all a game.  The time it took to write and tell us they would issue the documents could have been spent actually issuing the documents.

However, the sun has returned, blue sky and some heat though most mornings there has been a dusting of snow on the mountain top.  We ate breakfast outside yesterday and today, it’s light until 5 pm.  Still a lot to enjoy amidst the chaos.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Reliably unreliable

Mr FF always keeps the faith, he believes people when they say they will do something.  His sentences often start with ‘you’d think they’d’ or ‘I cant believe they’d’ when he is let down again. I base my judgements on experience and generally have low expectations.   So last week we had four different days for delivery of our original order for logs, none of which materialised and there was no communication at all expect when we chased our supplier.  It didn’t become an issue because we got an alternative supply quickly and we’ll just bide our time, if the original order ever arrives we’ll be well stocked for winter.  So far we’ve heard nothing.

We continued our deliberations with the comune for residence, like the Brexit deal it’s going to the wire.  Last week we were told we had to go to hospital across the valley to take out health insurance, pay a full years premium to cover the last few weeks of this year and a full years premium for next year, go to the post office to have this verified then back to the hospital to deposit the documents.  We refused, Covid deaths in Italy are at an all time high, we are both 72, why send us twice to a hospital and to an always busy post office for something that was not actually necessary.  The lady at the comune knew that we had applied for form S1 from the UK which covers our health costs throughout Europe, we sent her the confirmation of our application that we received (immediately) from the UK.  She argued it wasn’t acceptable, Mr FF sent copies of the legislation that confirmed it is acceptable, still she said no.  

Sometimes it does pay to keep the faith, the S1 forms arrived and despite the comune saying they would only accept documents in Italian and these were in English, Mr FF copied them and emailed them to our less than helpful civil servant with a link to a sample translated into Italian.  Almost by return there was an email saying ignore all the previous stuff she would be issuing our residency certificate shortly.  No apology for all the misinformation, no apology for saying we hadn’t submitted information when we had and certainly no thanks for doing her job for her.   Shortly of course means something different here, we are waiting but at least we have written confirmation we are acceptable for residency.

We will still have to go to the hospital but just once, and in that town there is a rather nice knitting yarn shop so not a wasted journey at all.  We also have to be visited and checked out by the local police within 45 days, until which time the residency can be cancelled.  Now I’m wondering if we have to stay home for 45 days so as not to miss the visit, not a problem because that’s more or less what we are doing though I expect the police to pitch up when we are doing our weekly shop and reject our residency again.  The log man will probably arrive the same day.

Thursday 3 December 2020

I’ll take another November please

Now we are into our first ever December in Italy we enter unknown territory.  We’ve always left by mid November with a car full of our own olive oil and enough local wine to see us through a UK winter.  We’ve no idea what to expect, though the way all the neighbours have disappeared back to Rome leaving us alone on the bare mountain is a bit worrying.  We once spent New Year here and it was fine, I seem to remember some sunshine, but that was only a week.  So far December has been cooler and quite wet, not enough to keep us indoors but maybe a foretaste of things to come.

November was perfect, such bright sunny days and though temperatures didn’t rise above 15 degrees there has been real heat in the sun and no rain at all.  We’ve made great progress outside, Mr FF keeps building and I keep gardening.  

I was surprised to see the berginia are flowering already.  I think of them as spring plants but they add to the welcome winter colour to the front garden.

We are pretty well stocked with what we need, our little freezer is full although it makes a strange noise now and again.  It’s only about 18 months old and of course wasn’t used for 8 months while we were in the UK so we shall be very cross if it breaks down.  The logs we ordered to be delivered Monday or Tuesday of this week did not arrived, when we contacted the woodman he said he was having problems which his vehicle and couldn't deliver before Thursday, today he said maybe Friday or Saturday. Meantime Mario put us in touch with a friend who delivered 200 kilos of good logs this afternoon.  We will still take the original order, can’t have too much firewood, so far we’ve managed with just the wood burner and not used the central heating.

Of course there are two cats who are very pleased we are still around, we left them for 8 months to live and eat outside, they are making up for lost time.  If Mr FF and I keep this snuggly over winter we shall be fine.

Saturday 28 November 2020

Lost property

On Sunday afternoon we had a walk out, skirting the village and taking the road up the mountain.  We stopped at a picnic area where I found a nice leather wallet sitting on one of the tables, there was no one about.  For some reason being in possession of someone else’s lost property makes me uneasy.  Once in Edinburgh on my way to work I found in the road a wallet containing a lot of money, I picked it up and walked to my office, holding it at arms length in case I might be accused me of theft if I concealed it in my bag.    Fortunately it had the owners details and he was able to collect it from me. 
Being in Italy this wallet contained an identity card and other important documents for the owner who lived down below the village near the builders yard we use a lot.  We decided to deliver it to him rather than wait to take it to the police office when it opened on Monday, if it opened on Monday because even when it’s supposed to be open it isn’t always.   
The number of the house was 67, easy you might think, think again.  There is no logic to numbering here, no odds at one side evens at the other.  There are four houses in our road, the bottom one which closes off the road is 2, the other 3 houses are on one side, we have no idea what our number is.  We drove past 41, then 64, then 59, all in the same side of the road in that order and many houses had no number on display.  By this time is was dark and though we stopped and got out of the car to peer at names on door bells we made no progress. 
We got back in the car and drove a little way then we stopped to ask a couple walking their dog and they didn’t seem to think there was a no 67 in the road.  I explained about the wallet and said whose house we were looking for, they snapped into action.  They phoned the father of the owner, who it transpired was out with his son searching for the wallet.  The wife/mother was at home and we were told we should go to the house, the dog walking couple offered to go on front of us to show the way and set off at a jog down the road.  We would never have found the place, it was up a track and happened to have a little cantina selling their own production wine.   We had stopped the car at the bottom of the track, got out to speak to the dog walkers and for some reason Mr FF set off without me but the husband kindly accompanied me up the dark track.
The mother was there to meet us and very grateful to have the wallet back, she said it wasn’t the first time her son had lost it.  She chatted away, asked us if we were on holiday, was interested to know where our house was,  said we must like the area if we kept coming back.   She insisted we should have a little gift and produced two bottles of their own wine in a nice box.  Then the husband and son returned, more thanks, the father said he was so happy that good people had found the wallet and the son thanked us in English.  
Driving home we saw the dog walkers again, told them everything was sorted and thanked them for their help.  They thanked us.  What nice people they all were, we felt happy we’d done something good and were glad we didn’t have to spend the night with lost property on the premises. 
Incidentally I checked out the website for the cantina when I got home, it said the house number was 54.  

Monday 23 November 2020


Over two weeks ago we re-applied for residency and asked for an acknowledgment, we heard nothing and sent our first reminder.  I was of the opinion we have made the application it’s up to the comune when they deal with it.  Mr FF is more anxious and wanted confirmation that they had received our documents,  though last time we applied they did nothing for a month and 3 reminders until we went in person to the office to be told the form was incorrect and rejected.

At the weekend, late Saturday night to be exact, we received an email saying our third application was rejected because we hadn’t submitted our tax codes (we had) and that because I am a dependent (I am not) they needed our marriage certificate translated into Italian, said certificate is back home in Yorkshire.  The address the email came from did not accept replies, Mr FF discovered that when he tried to tell them we had given our tax codes and that my pension is sufficient for me to support myself according to their rules if not my requirement for knitting wool and toiletries.  We despair, presumably they will make us reapply as they simply reject our application every time, there is no discussion or request for more information, computer says no.  We now have four different email addresses relating to our applications, we keep trying to respond but I doubt it will do any good.

Here’s another example of legislation gone mad.  We needed a new back windscreen wiper for our car, it’s a Saab and spares are not easy to find here.  We went down to the auto parts shop in the new part of the village, the man found details of what we needed and said he’d have to order it.  Fine said Mr FF please do so, but they needed to have the documents for our car to verify the order.  Of course we hadn’t taken them with us though unlike our marriage certificate we do bring them to Italy.   I know we needed a tax code when we bought a new sofa but this is ridiculous.  What would happen for example if you were buying for someone else, say you wanted to surprise your wife with a new headlamp for her car, which isn’t beyond the realms of Mr FF’s idea of what constitutes a nice surprise.

We went off to do our weekly shop and popped into what I call the plastic palace next to the shopping centre.  These megastores are appearing all over our region, usually run by oriental people (am I allowed to say that) and massively stocked with household items, cleaning products, toiletries, toys, lighting, an emporium of unnecessary goods made of or packaged in plastic, mostly of unknown brand and poor quality.

They had lots windscreen wipers, not the one we wanted but parts that claimed to be universal, and I’m sure we could have made a purchase without providing our car details, birth certificates or confirming our blood groups. Anyway I prefer not to support these places, most Italians I know feel the same and I was sorry to see recently that a rather up market locally owned clothes store nearby has turned into another plastic palace. 

We would prefer to support our local auto shop but Mr FF found what he needed online, 10 euros cheaper and no documentation required, now there is just the challenge of waiting for delivery.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Cut back

We have a lot of hedges around our property in Lazio, none of them in great condition.  I’m not a fan of hedges, yes they can look good with a lot of work, I planted a nice informal one of Escallonia in Scotland that didn’t need a lot of attention, provided pretty pale pink and white flowers through the summer and was evergreen, but most hedges I know are far too wide and dead in the middle.

Here we inherited a large expanse of laurel that had been badly tended, it takes up too much ground, grows furiously in this climate and would benefit from three cuts a year, it gets one.  Since we didn’t arrive until July this year, too hot for hedge cutting, the laurel took the opportunity to grow unrestrained and we’ve spent the last week or so trying to take back control.  I tackled the side and as high as I could reach, Mr FF then pruned the top using a ladder and we contacted our neighbours who are back in Rome for access to deal with their side.  We worked mostly with loppers and secateurs and Mr FF used a long handled electric hedge trimmer for the very highest branches.  I did try to remove some of the width but didn’t want to take the sides right back to bare wood, perhaps I’ll do that in spring when it will quickly regenerate, now it would look ugly through the winter and we need all the cheer we can find.

My goodness it was hard work, we took down about 6 feet of top growth and removed as much of the dead wood in the middle as we could, the heap of cuttings in the orchard is enormous.  It’s taken away some of our privacy but there is no one else here and we are getting a lot more light into the garden and the house plus of course we look much smarter and have more views.

Our neighbours on the other side had a similar hedge that they had taken right down to ground a few years ago revealing railings I’d never seen before as they’d been completely concealed in the laurel.  It soon recovered and they’ve kept it low, about 4 feet high, so it’s easily managed. At least ours shouldn’t need so much attention next year after this drastic cut, I’ll let you know.  

We have another small laurel hedge in the lower garden, it was two separate blocks but I decided to grow them together to make an archway.  We cut that much quicker in early summer and as hedges go I quite like it but not as much as I like these blue sky we are getting.

Friday 13 November 2020

A mini break

As usual we went out onto the terrace for breakfast the other morning to find the neighbours’ gardener Peppe was having a bonfire below us.  Smoke started to drift up and then some ash.  He saw us on the terrace, shouted his apology and said he was almost finished, we didn’t mind and told him it was fine.

So Mr FF suggested we move down onto the new lower terrace which we haven’t used since we took down the pool.  It was delightful to sit there, different view, different table, as Mr FF remarked it was like sitting out at a lovely B and B, and the coffee was great.

So that’s the answer for all those in lockdown who long to get away, change what you have, same but different and it costs nothing.

Monday 9 November 2020

Cat on a hot tiled roof

Grigio is a fearless little cat, she likes to sleep on the window cill above our spiral staircase where she could easily fall between two floors or walk along the narrow top edge of the balcony railings also with a big drop.    It’s best to ignore her, especially when she does the walk of death, I hold my breath and look away.

Her latest adventure is climbing a tree at the side of the house and leaping from there onto the roof.  That’s not so perilous apart from the fact she can’t get down again.  Leaping back into the tree isn’t an option and although the house roof is at various levels everywhere is too high to jump down to the ground.  The first time this happened we started to panic, thought about ladders but then I remembered that the family bathroom window opens onto a lower section of roof and we were able to encourage her inside the house.

Of course it’s become a game, on a sunny day she happily parades round on the tiles no doubt admiring the view knowing she will be rescued.  That’s fine for now but if we are not here she’s struck.  Mr FF says he’s going to cut out the branches she uses as her launch pad, I like the tree and it will make it lop sides but I love Grigio,  needs must.  

Tuesday 3 November 2020

The wait is over

We picked our friends’ olives for two days and our own for almost two days ending with 268 kilos of fruit on Saturday afternoon.   I contacted our nearest frantoio (mill) to make a reservation but they said they weren’t taking bookings and we should just arrive with our crop and take our turn.  Last year we went early morning and unloaded our olives straight away so it was surprising to arrive before 5 pm to find a big queue.  We had to park on a busy road, we weren’t even into the premises with several large trailer loads of olives in front of us.   We waited an hour and nothing happened, then a girl came out and gave us a piece of paper with 11 written on it, our place in the queue.   We waited another hour before things started moving and another half hour before we got to the unloading bay where our plastic crates of olives are tipped into one large box, by which time it was dark.  Unfortunately whilst loading Mr FF spilt a crate of olives onto the ground, or as he explained it one of the crates decided to dislodge another. I scooped up the top ones that were still clean and Mr FF scooped up a few with gravel on them.  Meanwhile one of the frantoio staff managed to damage some plastic trim on the car whilst dragging out crates.  

We watched our olives being weighed, they had to move Mr FF off the scale as he was on it too,  and we were given a scrap of paper with our name and the total weight hand written on it to place on top of the olives.  It always happens like this, you get no receipt, there is just a flimsy ticket with your information, usually people stay with their olives while they are processed to ensure their safety but we were told ours wouldn't be ready for two days, Monday, and even if there wasn’t a big queue understandably they didn’t want people hanging around.  We left our 50 litre oil can and came home feeling a bit concerned.

There was no phone call on Monday. Late afternoon I tried to contact the frantoio but got no response.  It’s such a disorganised system, you wonder if your ticket has blown away and your olives have gone in with someone else’s. We were next to a harvest that was several large crates worth it would be easy to think without a ticket ours were part of that.

Fortunately this morning we got the call, and were told when we got to the mill gates to telephone for access.  We thought things would be quiet mid day but there was a queue of 18 vehicles on the road and they weren't opening the gates till 1.30.  I felt so sorry for people who work hard picking then have to spend hours and hours waiting, some of them will have more harvesting to do and want to crack on while the weather is good but everyone seemed good humoured and some were taking the chance to have a nap in the sun. After trying to turn us away saying they had no oil for sale they let us into the mill and we had to find the can we’d left, our oil was waiting in a large hopper.  We had 43 litres, that’s an amazing yield, even the staff agreed we’d done really well and suddenly all the hard work and the stress of waiting was forgotten.     Enough oil for another year,  we will share the crop from our friends’ olives and have plenty for friends and family.

Yes of course there was bruschetta for lunch, and maybe for dinner too.  The oil is so fresh and green we can’t get enough of it.  The vibrant colour will gradually fade, you can see this years next to last years, it all tastes good but the new oil is so special.  Maybe all the hard work and hassle makes it taste even better, certainly the amount of satisfaction we get producing our own oil is incredible and I’m hopeful we will do it all again next year.

Friday 30 October 2020

We’ve started

We spent two days picking the olives kindly offered by our Danish friends who are now back on Copenhagen. We got about 140 kilos.  We enjoyed being in someone else’s garden apart from an over excited large yellow dog that turned up and rampaged round us alarmingly and a stray cat that helped itself to one of our panini, Mr FF had left the rucksack open.  We shared the remaining one and it was enough.

We worked in our own orchard, today and picked about 80 kilos, we will hopefully do the same again tomorrow although we are feeling very tired.  The trees that Mr FF cut back last year, about half our stock, have no olives but the others are very productive.  We should have plenty of oil, enough to give a decent amount to the Danes and lots for us too.  It’s nice to be back in the oil business and we are sleeping well.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Will we won’t we

Around us the olive picking started last week, yesterday everyone was rained off but the sun is back today.  Mr FF was occupied re-pointing the large wall in our orchard, he’s really making that area look beautiful and it’s becoming a destination on my garden inspection walks. The weather last week was perfect for picking, or re-pointing, warm and sunny, I’m not sure it will be so good this week but we intend to start soon.

Meantime with the end of the year and full Brexit looming, we again applied for temporary residence in Italy.  You may recall that last year we completed an application before we left the UK, told the Comune we would be in residence within the week and expected the necessary police visit after that date.  No they sent the police round immediately, we were not there as we’d told them,  they refused and cancelled our application.  When we asked why they did that we were told not to submit false information which we assumed meant the date on the form should have agreed with our arrival. It would have been simpler to tell us this rather than waste police time and ours.

So late September this year we reapplied,  we heard nothing. We sent 2 reminders to the general Comune address where we’d submitted the form and then one to the chief.  Still nothing after four weeks.  We didn’t want to go down to the office, we have hardly been into the village which has 1 case of Covid with 10 more cases in the lower part of the village, all fairly mild, but last week we did.  The hand sanitiser was empty, people were taking their masks off to talk and stepping over the one metre line to lean on the counter.  I hung around near the open door.

It seems that the temporary residence form, a resubmit of last year’s, is no longer valid, and we need to apply for full residence.  They had received our form but all chosen to do nothing and ignore us for a month.

So now we have to decide what to do.  Residency seems to be for people who live in Italy,  not for folk like us who spend the summer here.  Its hard to find information but it seems we would give up a lot, our UK healthcare, driving licence, some savings accounts could not remain in the UK,  we’d have to register our car with Italian plates at great expense, much more than its worth, or buy an Italian car.   What about our beloved bus passes.  If we don’t take residence we can only be here or in any other Schengen area for 3 months in every six and there doesn’t seem to be any way to extend this.

We ask nothing of Italy.  We have our UK pensions and savings, we would hopefully be in or able to return to the UK if we needed medical care, we pay our Italian  taxes and complete a return every year, which amuses most of our friends.  We care for our property, which would otherwise be yet another abandoned house in a village with full streets of empty decrepit property.  You can buy a two bedroom place in the medieval centre for 25,000 euros,  no one wants them.  We use local shops and restaurants, pay a full years community and refuse change, which as a resident we wouldn’t have to do. We even got our cats neutered to reduce the feral population, this year the Comune solution was to ban people from feeding feral dogs and cats.  

Yes I’m cross again, we had thought of sitting out the winter here, now we might be forced to travel home either driving or flying instead of living quietly away from people as we have for the last few months, I’d better not say how many.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Fruit and nut

Giovanni phoned on Friday afternoon to tell us that next morning he and Milena were returning to Rome for a week and we should go up for more grapes.  We didn’t need telling twice, we were soon there to see the couple of them already picking from their two abundant vines.

They kept insisting we didn’t have enough and we came home with over 2 kilos, and I’d eaten a lot during picking, plus a basket of their kiwi which are not ready but I was told to put a few apples with them and they’d mature very quickly.

I have had an allegedly self fertile kiwi in my garden for a lot of years and though it’s grown massively it has never cropped.  I plan to buy another plant, or maybe two a male and a female, we could be overrun with kiwi fruit.  

Our walnut tree has done really well this year.  I’m not a huge fan of walnuts but these are good, as Mr FF said at lunch I am having a cracking time.  I seem to be sharing the nuts with some creature as there are always plenty of empty shells on the ground and once when I was out on the terrace early morning, letting Grigio out, I could hear snuffling and trampling of leaves under the tree.  It was too dark to see what it might be and I wasn’t brave enough to go down.

We are still enjoying sun with some rain.  The forecast for the coming week is slightly warmer dry weather which is good news for us and the olives, Giovanni said we can start picking in 7 to 10 days.  He is I think 86 years old, his face lit up when he told me he is so looking forward to the harvest and how much he enjoys it.  He has about 200 trees and will be picking for maybe 2 weeks, we have about 30 trees and as I told him I find it quite hard work.  However I’m not complaining, our land continues to be deliciously productive and the garden gets better and better, we reap what we sow.

Tuesday 13 October 2020


We never run out of things to do here. Monday Mr FF got the chainsaw out, we thought it was never going to start and he certainly wasn’t taking it for repair as last time it cost 40 euro.  After much effort and tinkering it fired and Mr FF took down some dead branches from a tree in the front garden and a lot of dead wood from the olives. 

Giovanni told us last year to allow new shoots to come up from the base and this year select the strongest that will make the best shape and then remove all the old wood and unwanted shoots.  

Some pretty big trunks were cut down but the trees look fine and we got plenty of timber for the log burner.  Olive wood is very dense, it burns long and well with a nice aroma.  Because out wood burner is closed we don’t get any smell but I am so pleased to have a nice supply.

As you can see I am not a good log stacker, the lower half in the picture is my effort but this is not a permanent location.  The wood above the new stuff was stacked by Mr FF last year, he’s always been a bit obsessive about his log pile and I have been in trouble for spoiling the effect by randomly taking wood for the fire.

This year the pruned olive trees have no fruit, let’s hope they are back to production next year, meantime the trees not cut back are full of olives, we are crossing our fingers for a decent yield but not too worried as our Danish friends have now returned to Copenhagen for winter and given us permission to pick their crop.  We shall still be in the oil business.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Still occupied

This week has been glorious. Sunny warm days and not too cool at night though of course we cannot resist lighting the wood burner for a few hours before bed.  

My borders look great, the balcony pots are flowering as well as they did in high summer but despite a reluctance to take the garden apart while it looks so good, I have started to move and divided plants and cut back some shrubs. 

I have so many canna lilies I don’t know what to do with them, they became invasive in my raised border and whilst I love their tropical appearance I have taken most of them out.  A lot went into the orchard and I was tempted to do a bit of guerrilla gardening and plant some on the roadside beside the olives, but since that it someone else’s land I decided not to.

The pool is down now although Mr FF is still using the outdoor shower after his days work making orchard paths. It’s nice for a while to have all that space on the terrace but I’d never be without the pool in summer.

We are waiting now, for the mill to open, for the olives harvest to begin, for our journey home, if that happens.  We had thoughts of travelling back through Germany to avoid any stops in France and thus quarantine in the UK, but Covid cases in Germany are rising and there could be more restrictions in the UK.  As I say we are waiting and if it’s best to stay here we will, there’s always plenty to do and our cats and lovely neighbours Giovanni and Milena who have decided to spend the winter here rather then return to their Rome apartment will all be very happy.

Friday 2 October 2020

The Isle of Capri

Yes this week we spent a couple of nights on the Amalfi coast staying in a small B and B above the town of Sorrento.  We wouldn’t normally stay in such a touristy area but expected things to be quiet and wanted to take the opportunity to visit Capri.

We hadn’t stayed in Sorrento for almost 40 years, that was our first visit to Italy and included 4 nights in Rome.  That was in November, still good weather and we did a lot but now we know much more of Italy we didn’t find Sorrento so pleasant even out of season.  However our accommodation was beautiful with only 6 letting rooms and apart from heavy rain the day we arrived the weather was lovely.

The ferry to Capri was very expensive, as Mr FF said we could have taken our car to Sardinia and back for less but there were no queues and plenty of space on board.  The trip over was a little rough and I was concerned there were no safety announcements as the boat lurched through the waves,  we arrived with me feeling a little queasy.

We wanted to visit the Villa San Michele up at Anacapri and Mr FF thought it would be nice to walk.  I imagined a stroll through sunny lemon groves admiring beautiful white villas, I experienced a lung bursting climb up steep and wet steps through open countryside and woodland. However the villa which belonged to a Swedish doctor Axel Munthe who loved nature and animals was gorgeous, stunning views and beautiful rooms.

We strolled round Anacapri, ate our picnic lunch and eventually got the bus down to Capri town.  We spent about half an hour in the bus queue, numbers were being limited and temperatures taken but onboard it was still pretty crowded with plenty of people standing.  I sat and Mr FF stood beside an open window our Covid concerns distracted by the hair raising descent back down the mountain.

We wandered round Capri town admiring the smart hotels and even smarter designer shops and had a very expensive drink in the square before walking back down to the harbour for our return. There was just about the right number of visitors, I cannot imagine what it’s like on the island during a normal busy summer.  It’s such a beautiful place, the views are incredible and we were fortunate to see Capri so quiet and calm, I’m glad we went.

Here are a few photos, villa, villa, villa, Anacapri, Capri town, as you know I struggle with blogger on the iPad so I am sticking them at the end and going outside for my breakfast.

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Sunday 20 September 2020

Tour de France

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 15 September 2020

A nature walk

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

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

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

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