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.