Thursday 30 July 2020

Amber turns to red

Yesterday and today we have been on an amber warning for extreme temperatures, tomorrow the warning turns to a more serious red with a forecast on the mountainside for 34 degrees, goodness knows what it will be in Rome.   It’s hot, very hot, last night the temperature in our bedroom was 29 degrees.  We sat outside until midnight and by 5 this morning I had the doors and windows open to let in some cool, reducing the temperature to 27.  I slept again and woke at 8.30 feeling like I hadn’t slept at all.  Grigio slept outside and is now resting in top of the dvds.
Meantime the bee and wasp population has discovered the cooling delights of our pool.  Wasps I am happy to fish out dead but bees are different and I have a duty to rescue them.  Actually they are pretty smart and have been enjoying floating round on the noodle, the polystyrene tube we also like to float around on.  I took it out, covered in bees, this morning, now there are less around, I feel I can get into the pool for an essential cool down.
The bees have built a nest in the chimney from our boiler room, the netting that kept them out had deteriorated and they established themselves while we were away.  It’s impossible for the local bee keeper to access the nest to take them away. we can do nothing about it but hope they might leave.   A lot of them got into the boiler room through a small hole and sadly died, there were hundreds on the floor when we arrived but Mr FF blocked the gap and now they are safe.
They only became a problem during this hot spell, the worst time for us of course but then the water is probably keeping them alive.  The weather is set to cool after the weekend, let’s hope we get our pool back and don’t melt in the heat before then.

Monday 27 July 2020

Going out

Friday is our local market day, it’s a fairly regular thing that we meet friends for coffee then go off to walk round the stalls, buy our fruit and veg plus anything else that takes our fancy.  So that’s what we did at the end of last week but it certainly wasn’t the usual fun morning.  We wore masks of course but I had a reluctance to touch things.  Usually I have a good rummage through the piles of clothes all at 5 euro or less, I’ve had some good bargains in the past, and I can never resist another pair of cotton shorts or cropped trousers.  There wasn’t the usual buzz about the place, no stall holders shouting about their wonderful goods or encouraging people to take a look.  Our regular fruit and veg man had no conversation and insisted I wear gloves to select my tomatoes and peaches.  
We called in for wine on the way home, I love the place we visit down in the valley, it’s so pretty with flowers everywhere and the family of producers are really friendly.  Again no conversation just thanks and have a good afternoon.
The whole experience knocked my confidence and it saddened me that another consequence of this damned virus is that it has taken so much joy from our daily lives.  
In the UK I was fine with lock down and tolerated the weekly food shop, I don’t know why it has affected me more here.  We voluntarily took 2 week quarantine when we arrived and I am happy spending days at home.  In 3 weeks we have had no one inside our house and we have not been in anyone else’s.  Perhaps I was naive to think that at least some part of life would be the same, so far it is all very different.
On a brighter note we joined friends for pizza that evening.  8 of us enjoyed drinks in an old square that was full of children running round and old people keeping an eye on them while chatting.  Then lovely food sitting outside a small restaurant in the medieval centre with well spaced tables and the old houses crowded above us.  It all felt a bit like a beautiful film set and made me feel a little bit more confident.   I hope this coming week is positive for us all.  

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Another lovely day

Good morning, it’s threatening to be a scorcher here so we completed the outside duties, sweeping, watering etc before breakfast.  In fact I generally get up around 6 am, feed the cats, make tea and potter around while it’s cool.
The vegetable garden is looking good, we may have been too late putting in our tomatoes and aubergines but they look so nice a crop will be a bonus.  We are more confident that the courgettes and green beans will be productive.
I don’t have so many plants in pots this year, I am coming round to thinking that’s a good idea as it means much less watering.  Instead I can spend the time putting out and taking in my outdoor cushions.  They look lovely but in fact it’s not that comfortable on Mr FF’s new wall seat, the cats however find sleeping there a treat.
Yesterday we celebrated coming out of our self imposed quarantine with a trip to Fiuggi a nearby spa town.  We had ice cream, a walk and a sneaky look round a swanky hotel with a gorgeous pool and garden.   I checked afterwards and it’s very expensive to stay there, our pool on the other hand cost about a third of an overnight in Fiuggi and it’s all ours.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

The usual

We arrived last Tuesday evening, a week ago.   After a couple of days we noticed that water was running from the gulley where the supply pipes are located down onto the road.  Mr FF went up to the meter, turned off our supply but the water kept flowing, for once it wasn’t ours.  A day or so later the lady at the bottom of the road came up to talk to us about the leak.  Mr FF went up again, turned off her supply and the flow stopped, mystery solved.   Long story short, her daughter and son in law were here at the weekend, he located and fixed the leak though left the excavation open to ensure the repair was good and Mr FF offered to do the backfilling.  There was the usual discussion about the intolerable situation, that the four owners in our road should get together and demand a common and more durable supply,  moving the meters into our road rather than the snake infested pit up the mountain that no meter reader will enter, but really nothing will change.
The other predictable happening.  I saw a cat in the front garden that at first I thought was Enrico.  It was the female that last year had kittens in our garden, took them to various neighbours after I discovered them and we ended up with 3 living here until we left last year. They weren't around when we returned.  There are 4 little ones this time, I imagine they will be moved now I’ve discovered their location but I doubt that’s the end.  Neighbours will feed them until the end of summer then the kittens will come back to us.  I feel sorry for the under nourished mother constantly producing young, I feel cross that sterilising cats is so rare and so expensive here,  sad that there is no cat rescue organisation to reduce the unhealthy feral population.
These are regular and predictable occurrences, we had settled into a complacent routine of outdoor work, pool and rest, we should have known it’s not that simple.   Back to the builders yard for sand to protect the repaired water pipe, I’m sure the boys there will all be pleased to see us.

Sunday 12 July 2020

The journey

I was apprehensive about the drive to Italy, we left the UK immediately it was ok to do so, stocked with masks and plenty of sanitiser plus lunches, drinks etc for the route but no idea what to expect.
The UK motorway services to the terminal were only partially open so we couldn’t find a decent coffee when we stopped but a one way system was in operation, there was plenty of hand sanitiser and some washbasins and hand dryers in the toilets were blocked off to maintain space between them.
At the eurotunnel departures there were again limited facilities and we failed to find any Sunday papers to bring with us and made do with a machine coffee which was awful.
The toilets on the tunnel train were closed and we were advised to stay in our vehicle for the crossing,  We weren’t the only ones wanting a quick escape, there were long queues and we were delayed by about half an hour.  At the border the health declarations we’d completed as advised in the website were not required.
In France things were well organised at the supermarket where we always collect jams and some cheese to being to Italy, we wore our masks for the first time.  At our B and B we were the only guests, there was sanitiser at the door, we ate outside and didn’t pet the animals as we normally would.
Italy of course was different, our second B and B didn’t offer sanitiser and at times the staff seemed  to get a bit too close.  Again we ate outside, there was another family from Budapest staying and they chatted from a distance,
We stopped for a major shop just before we reached our house, again no sanitiser, the trollies were not being cleaned between customers, there were no screens to protect the till operators.  Other customers seemed to get too close and it didn’t feel very safe at all.  It seems not all the local bars and restaurants have reopened and we haven’t been down to the village.
Our neighbours have all been to see us, arriving wearing masks but taking them off to chat.  No one has been in our house,  On the mountainside it feels quite safe with all the fresh air and sunshine and since we haven’t watched tv for a week the virus hasn’t been so much on our minds.
I’d say the journey was about what I expected, lots of sanitising at the auto strada pay booths, petrol stations etc, we were careful and will continue to be so.  Another week and we can stop isolating but then again call me unsociable but I love this quiet solitude.

Thursday 9 July 2020


On the final lap of our drive to Lazio we agreed that if Grigio wasn’t around we would be up all night calling her, despite the exhaustion of 3 days travelling.  We actually started calling her 40 miles from home, it must have worked because we hadn’t unlocked the door before she appeared.  She was a little shy at first, that didn’t last long, starving hungry of course and in great condition.  After 8 months she slipped back into the routine, sleep, eat, inspect the garden, repeat.  Enrico is here too, he arrived later the first evening, also famished.  He comes and goes but seems delighted to see us and is as friendly as he became last year.  Our clever capable cats.
That’s not all the happy news.  My garden is fine, a few plants in pots are lost but nothing important, lemon, orange, plumbago and bougainvillea are all fine, my kiwi is four times the size it was last year. Now I shall be much relaxed about constant attention and watering, the plants seem to know how to survive.  Mario had cut the grass, strimmed the orchard and swept around, his wife and daughter had cleaned the house.  We had expected the worst after months of neglect, their kindness is overwhelming.
Yesterday Giovanni and his wife called by, it’s so nice to see them but we are being very cautious and keeping our distance.  After driving through 4 countries, using hotels, motorway services etc we want to make sure we are ok and not pass anything to others.  We are semi isolating for a couple of weeks and limiting out contacts.  It won’t be normal after that but up here on the mountain with our cats and our land around us it does feel brilliant.

Saturday 4 July 2020

It's official

Yesterday Boris announced that it is now safe for us to travel to many countries, Italy included.  Of course Mr FF had anticipated this happening and made a booking early in the week for us to start our journey tomorrow.  We leave early in the morning for the midday crossing, we don't even have to get out of the car, just drive onto the train, sit and wait, drive off again in France.
We have booked two nights accommodation en route, one in the Champagne region one near Lake Como.  Both are small family run establishments each with only 3 letting rooms, we imagine we will be the only guests, we will have our meals there, probably outside and follow all the rules.  We are happy to support these small enterprises rather than stay in chain hotels, particularly at this time.  
We have sanitiser and masks, we will take our own lunches, drinks and snacks for the journey, we are doing everything we can to be safe although toilet stops might be a challenge.
Once we arrive at our house, which is fairly isolated, we shall be fine and fully occupied with the garden that has been neglected for 8 months.
I had a message from a friend in the village last week saying that she and her family had taken a walk up to our house and seen a grey cat they thought was Grigio.  I do hope it is her, she will have been waiting since last November for us, bless, or maybe just waiting for Mario to turn up to fill the feeder. I can see me being outside all night calling her if she isn't around when we arrive. 
So there we are.  Today we have all the madness of packing, sorting the penthouse, moving plants, eating too much because we want to empty the freezer, though quite a lot is being given away.   I hate this last day when home isn't home any more but it will be fantastic to get to Lazio and relax.
And the icing on the cake.  I phoned my hairdresser to cancel my mid July appointment, he asked when we were leaving and said I could go this evening for a haircut.  Perfect, its not going to be the usual relaxing pamper but at least I won't have to cross Europe wearing a hat.