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.