Sunday 26 December 2021

Boxing Day

Our Christmas was calm and cosy, exactly what I wanted.  MrFF’s insistence that he would forage for our Christmas meal late on Christmas Eve was a success, he came home with a duck crown with stuffing and plum sauce reduced to half price.  My culinary skills decline in proportion to the amount of Prosecco I drink so I need something foolproof, this was easy and delicious.

Beautiful gifts from family, my brother and sister in law must have remembered me telling them that when we returned to the penthouse after 13 months I spent an hour looking for my George Forman grill before realising I don’t have one here.  They gave us just the right one to replace that which never existed.   Candles and smellies, food and drink treats and pretty scarves all made me happy.

MrFF managed the £5 stocking challenge.  Despite many forays to the charity shops with much moaning that he couldn’t find anything and was sick of looking, I received a very nice water bottle so I can hydrate on my power walks, books and a sort of advent calendar of pretty stud earrings, 12 pairs in total.

It was just the Christmas I wanted, no over consumption, no extravagant gifts, plenty of recycling, much peace, messages from Italy.  What more could I ever need.

It’s Boxing Day, we have a white world outside and it’s very quiet in the building, we shall have a lazy day and be thankful for what we have and where we are.   I hope your dreams came true this Christmas.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Happy Christmas

When I called in at the local craft shop at the weekend I was gifted these two comes of yarn.  They are acrylic which I don’t like but for my purpose they were fine.

The wreath is models own, made by my sister in law

I have knitted 7 of these tiny sock decorations, a pattern from Little Cotton Rabbits, which I returned to the shop to be sold for charity or gifted to good customers.  Of course I should have thought about doing this months ago not a few days before Christmas, remind me in June to start again as I still have a lot of yarn.  I might even make a few more now and do a secret Santa round our building.

This week we visited my brother briefly and safely after negative covid tests to exchanged our gifts.  We also saw two of our grand nieces which was lovely even if they got over excited about their parcels and did a lot of squishing.  I asked the 11 year old is she was pleased that Emma Raducanu the young teenage tennis player had won the tv sports personality of the year award.  No she replied I wanted Tyson Fury to win, if you don’t know he is a heavy weight boxer from the travelling community.

So we are set for Christmas apart from buying food which isn’t a major concern, it will be the two of us as usual so we shall have a piece of beef or I might bake a ham. And it may be time to stop the mince pies.  I got on the scales this morning and seem to have added a few pounds, maybe making up for last year’s deficit wasn’t such a good idea

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas, keep safe and well

Thursday 16 December 2021

The LORE of gifting

I am definitely not one of those sanctimonious people so keen to tell you how to live, they irritate the life out of me, but would like you to know that I have made a special effort this year with my Christmas shopping.  All the gifts I have bought have had to meet at least one of the following criteria

L local  I have tried to support local independent businesses of which we have many around us

O organic clothes of organic and sustainable materials 

R recycled new items made from recycled products or used items from charity shops

E ethical items from companies that respect the environment and treat their workers fairly

It’s taken much more effort than an online order to Amazon, which I wouldn’t consider given the hideous warehouse they built not so far from us in Italy that contributes nothing to the street scene and forces workers to travel out of town to their low pay jobs. There has been a lot of useful information with links on other blogs and in the press that helped me take this route.

I’ve also used recycled wrapping paper and ribbon and made all my gift tags from old Christmas cards. 

Now all the shopping is over, phew, I am pleased with the effort I made.  After the disappointing non Christmas we had last year I have managed to resist the temptation for over consumption, except for mince pies that is. I’ve already eaten enough of those for 2 Christmases and I’m not finished yet.   And in case you are wondering, despite rising prices MrFF and I have kept to our £5 budget for gifts to each other.  

Sunday 12 December 2021


When we returned from Italy in August we submitted to our Ilkley doctors details of our covid vaccinations which they confirmed had been added to our records.  We planned to have our booster doses while back here for winter and tried to book them at the end of November.  However bookings could only be made a few days before the expiry of 6 months after the last jab so we waited until the end of last week when the first appointment we could get was in a months time.

Meantime the government reduced the time between 2nd and 3rd jab to 3 months and stressed the importance of the booster.  Presently 30 year olds are being called for their 3rd dose, we are both 73 and classed as elderly and vulnerable.  We were concerned as our 6 months would be 7 months by the time we were treated, at Christmas we hoped to see family but wouldn't feel safe doing so without up to date vaccination and the latest variant is causing alarm as cases rise.

I went on line to find an alternative venue but it was impossible to book anything, I clicked for booster but the only options were 1st and 2nd jabs.  MrFF tried too and got the same result, we then realised our records must not be up to date and we were considered unvaccinated.  We spoke to our doctors and they said the records were up to date, we spoke to the NHS who said they were not and that we would need to travel to Peterborough, a round trip of almost 300 miles to update the database.  

So this morning we went to a walk in vaccination centre not so far away, no appointment required.    Fortunately it wasn't such a cold morning as we queued outside for about 1.5 hours.  When we arrived MrFF had taken the precaution of speaking to one of the stewards outside directing us who took our Italian certificates inside and after consultation confirmed we would be OK.  We were accepted and very grateful to be treated.  

I know its complicated because we were vaccinated in Italy but we have the certificates with batch numbers dates etc it shouldn't be difficult to record these here.  Incidentally at the walk in centre MrFF got into conversation with a couple who were in exactly the same situation, they too had been told to drive to Peterborough, we could all go together.

And speaking of boosts, we had at the weekend a message from Mario that everything at our house is fine with this photograph attached.  Grigio dining in the hotel Splendido.  Mario said he didn't have a snap of Enrico who he hadn't seen that day but had seen 3 days before.  I am missing them, I hope they are keeping cosy as its very cold and a little snowy in Lazio.  

Thursday 9 December 2021

Over illumination

Having expounded in my last post the desire for festive lighting this year I fear some retailers are taking this too far.  My concern was first alerted when I saw light up bottles of alcohol in the shops.  Generally the concoction in the bottle isn’t anything I recognise so I wouldn’t buy it, various fruit but possibly chemical flavoured spirits.  I like my gin to taste of gin and I certainly wouldn’t want the bottle to illuminate.  

Since I first saw the booze I’ve noticed a trend.  Light up biscuit tins, light up boxes of chocolates.  I have no idea how these novelties work, presumably there a smallish battery somewhere.  But aren’t we all supposed to be reducing waste and pollution, I bet these light won’t last much beyond the festive season and the containers will be relegated to the bins in the new year.  

Having said I won’t be buying any of the above, I hope I won’t be receiving any.  I always get annoyed by the shelves of ‘party food’ at this time of year. Over packaged unnecessary fussy mouthfuls of neither wholesome nor nourishing food but I think this Christmas things have gone a step too far. I know I’m back to bah humbug but really where will it end, light up sprouts anyone.

Saturday 4 December 2021

Out of character

This is our lounge today,  spot anything unusual like a little Christmas tree?  Yes it’s just the beginning of December and we’ve done the decs.  I think it’s the effects of our Italian lockdown non Christmas but this year I couldn’t wait to get the boxes out of the loft, after all I hadn’t seen them for two years.

On our way from a walk last week we stopped to admire a garden full of twinkly lights. We were peering through the gate when the lady of the house came out, she was going to make a video to show friends.  We congratulated her on such a magical effect, all the plants high and low in the front garden was covered in lights and you walked up the path to the front door between them.  She said she’d asked her husband if it was too much, he had replied not yet, but they were both worried that a flight for Leeds Bradford airport might be confused and land nearby.  

She said that Christmas last year had been so disappointing she was determined that by 1 December she’d have her lights on.  The houses we look down on, literally not socially, have already started decking out their gardens too. I’m think most people feel we need this festival of light especially to drive away the darkness as the covid situation worsens once more.  We have our less traditional tree in the hall.

Monday 29 November 2021

A close shave

I keep my hair short, I’m no stylist so it’s easy to manage and cool in summer.  Quite often my hairdresser in Italy and the one in Ilkley, both of whom are Italian men, have buzzed round my ears and the back of my neck with clippers, I don’t know the technical name for these battery shavers. 

I didn’t get a haircut during our last stay in Italy so it was 3 months since my last cut when we got back, I went on Thursday to see Filippo.  As usual he asked if I wanted him to use the clippers, I did.  At one stage I commented on how much hair was coming off, meaning my hair had grown a lot.  He asked if he was taking too much off and I said not at all, what could he do if I’d said yes.

I got a nice manageable cut, paid and left the saloon.  It was like I’d stepped into the Arctic circle.  The back of my neck was so cold, I had a warm scarf but I was frozen.  That afternoon we went to do a big shop, restocking after our time away.  I was so cold I couldn’t hang around the supermarket freezers and fridges for fear of hypothermia. I wore my scarf all evening and wondered about a hat with a flap at the back.  I know we lose about 10% of our body heat from our heads, must be about the same percentage from the back of a bare neck judging by how cold I’ve felt.

I am hoping I shall be warmer by Christmas if I survive this current spell of cold weather. Keep cosy.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

I’ve been travelling

didn’t realise how long it’s been since I blogged, but then most days at present I’ve no idea what day it is and when I wake I’ve no idea where I am. In fact we are back in Ilkley, we left Lazio last Friday and arrived here on Monday evening.  We had three overnight stops thinking that would make the journey easier, it seemed to make little difference at all, we are still exhausted.  

We had good and comfortable hotels, the last night in France at the one that last time upgraded us into their chateau sister hotel.  This time they just upgraded us to a better room but we did get to take breakfast at a greatly reduced price in the chateau.  It was a delight, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, good coffee, delicious croissants all in such elegant surroundings, I tried to look the part.

We visited Epernay in the champagne region and admired the glamorous champagne houses, a few brave people were sitting outside tasting but there wasn’t the holiday atmosphere we felt when we drove past in September.

We stopped again at the Arass war memorial to pay our respects and search for the memorial of a friend’s great grandfather who died in 1917 and has no known grave.  Sadly we couldn’t find his name though his details were in the memorial book.  When I got home I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who were so kind and helpful.  They gave me more information and directed me to the War Graves Photographic Scheme.  Within half a day I had photographs of the memorial name, the panel in which it is engraved, pictures of the memorial and a map, all of which I have passed to the family.  I was deeply touched by the dedication of these people, I’ve made donations to both organisations.

So we are recovering and adapting to winter in Yorkshire,  I’m glad we don’t have to worry about another winter lockdown in Italy as infection rates rise across Europe.

Monday 15 November 2021

A Proud Great Aunt

Esme, the middle one of our three grand nieces, was 9 last week, once again we missed her birthday, but here she is with the present she asked for from her Mum and Dad.

A litter picker, how great is that, apparently it was all her own idea.  Sunday she took her family and her birthday gift for a 4 mile walk and came back with a full bag of litter.  I’m so proud of her, our own little earth friendly eco warrior.   I think that for the next COP meeting the world leaders should follow Esme’s example, get out and demonstrate some positive action, less blah blah blah more do do do.  

Friday 12 November 2021

A popular destination

No we haven’t been to Rome or to the beach, we’ve been to the scrap yard.

Before we had new double glazed windows installed our old wooden windows had wooden shutters that we chopped up for firewood plus wrought iron grilles between the shutters and glass as a security measure, the glass doors had wrought iron gates.  We kept all the grilles for years thinking they’d be useful for something, they never were, MrFF tried to sell them on line, he got a few watchers but no takers.  Eventually he contacted a reasonably local scrap yard, they wouldn’t collect so in the end he laboriously cut the metal into manageable pieces to deliver in our car.  

We took them this morning, driving very slowly as it was quite a load which MrFF assured me was well distributed so it wouldn’t be a problem.  The scrap yard was huge, mountains of metal and some truly scary machinery moving stuff about.  In fact as we unloaded a huge grabber was shifting massive blocks of concrete to contain the waste and getting perilously close to our car, it was like a scene from a gangster film complete with crushed cars.

Before we loaded we drove the car onto a weighbridge, the total weight was recorded and we did the same again after we’d unloaded.  MrFF shouted to me to get back in the car as he drove on I had to explain that we got out of the car before the weight was recorded it would be pointless having our combined weight deducted from our load.   The girl who dealt with the finances was charming. She asked me if we were on holiday, I know themed breaks are popular but sourcing and selling scrap seems an odd choice.  We explained we had a house not so far away.

We were told before we went by the yard that members of the public can only sell 30 kilos of scrap at any one time but with a little pressure they said we could take as much as we liked.  We ended up with 150 euros in cash, no paperwork, no details taken, it must be very easy for thieves to get rid of their stolen goods, fortunately everyone we saw at the yard seemed pretty respectable.  It was a satisfactory mornings work, we’ve made space in the cellar and negotiated another Italian experience that was never covered in our language course. 

I didn’t take any photographs at the yard I’m not sure if they would have allowed that but I’ve downloaded ones from the net of identical scary equipment.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

A plague on both your houses

Moving house is stressful,  I should know I have lived in 9 during my 73 years, I’d like to think I’ve finished moving, other people seem to have different ideas.

First the penthouse.  A while back everyone in our building received a letter from a local couple wanting to downsize and keen to become part of our community.  We thought about this, considered it was silly not to take it further and gave the enquirer details of our apartment.   Emails were exchanged, photographs sent, discussions had.  The potential buyers said they wanted to move quickly which was a little unnerving as we were in Italy.  They were keen to view but then decided the asking price was too much.  This was early in the year, in fact their house hasn’t sold so a move isn’t imminent.

More recently here in Italy I saw one Saturday morning MrFF chatting to a couple at our back door and the next thing I knew they were coming inside. They were house hunting, had an appointment to view two empty properties above us and had gone astray.  MrFF told them our house could be for sale, news to me, and we showed them round. I was hardly prepared but luckily I’d spent the morning cleaning, it was not a house viewing as I know it. The husband wanted to know the square meterage of the house, same for the garden and the asking price, on the latter we said we’d let him know.  They weren’t interested in viewing all the rooms, asked no questions, the wife loved the garden and admired my balcony pots, the husband said he wanted the lowest absolute minimum price.

Next morning they were back again with their teenage daughters, who equally weren’t that interested in seeing around, the wife said she’d already had a look and was happy to sit and chat with me. They are charming people, the wife is from our village and wants to return.  We said we’d love them to buy the house down our road which we know is for sale though not advertised, we had already given them the neighbours’ phone number.  The eldest daughter spoke good English and confirmed her father was looking for the lowest possible price.  When we finally told him what we wanted it was as expected too much, which was a huge relief as I had no idea at all what I would do with the accoutrements of a one time holiday let that accommodates 8 people.  I have more than 16 bath towels, 16 hand towels, untold amounts of glassware and crockery, not to mention all the furniture and most important of course what would happen to the cats.

So relax, we are going no where.  However Mario our neighbour was here today.  He is having major energy efficient improvements made to his house under a government grant.  Solar panels on the roof to power a new heating and air conditioning system, new double glazed windows and doors.  Work was supposed to start in September, it didn’t and now it may be December.  However he has discovered that all the floors need to be taken up and he, his wife and adult daughter must move out for 3 months, possibly the Italian 3 months that we call 6, who knows.  Anyway he asked if they could live here in our house and what rent we would expect, the vital money question again.  We’ve thought about it all day, we are more then happy for them to stay here, we have no idea about rent because we want to help out and are pleased the cats may have company over winter.  The cats not so pleased as Mario has two young cats of his own.  However, we hope to leave at the weekend.  There are quite a few things we need to do before we go and suddenly we might have to leave the place fit for someone else to move in.  The family will need wardrobe space and kitchen space and I really don’t want to have to pack things away like I did when we rented. 

What is it with our properties that other people have designs on them, it’s unsettling though not so much in the latter instance as we are not letting go of this property, for the moment.

The title is a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Sunday 7 November 2021

A night on the tiles

Last night was exceptionally windy. Around 10 pm Grigio decided to go out and we left the terrace light on so we could see when she returned to the door to be let back in. Except she didn’t reappear, we called her several times and eventually went to bed thinking it was an odd decision to stay out on such a bad night.

This morning I was up before 6 believing Grigio would definitely be ready to come in but she still wasn’t at the door.  I called her then wandered down onto the terrace and heard her crying but because of the wind I couldn’t quite tell where the sound was coming from.  I opened the cellar, went down to the pizza oven, looked in the log store, checked the cat apartment and the hotel splendido, I even looked onto the roof but I couldn’t see her.

I went back inside and up to the bathroom where the little window with the grill opens onto part of the roof, Grigio bounded in delighted to be safe.  It’s likely she had been on the roof all night and couldn’t get down because it was so wild, she has been sleeping all day.  She was lucky not to have been blown away but I doubt she has learned her lesson and now I can worry about this happening when we are back in Ilkley unable to rescue her,  thanks Grigio.

Monday 1 November 2021

Another year

Saturday afternoon we had a phone call from the mill to say they were about to start our olives.  MrFF went over to watch the process while I stayed at home to mend the nets so they could be packed away for another year.  He returned with 33 litres of really good oil, you don’t need to take my word for this as our resa, the yield, was exceptionally high indicating excellent quality.  We made bruschetta as usual, the taste of the newly milled oil was almost too strong but it will settle and be perfect.  We also have about 15 litres from last year, that’s still fine but we prefer to use the newest oil without heating it, eg for salads, and last years can be used for cooking in sauces etc. 

We were exhausted on Saturday, still tired yesterday and today we are taking it easy as it’s raining, it’s All Saints day which is an Italian national holiday and it’s my birthday, 73 if you just know, where does the time go.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Trouble at mill

The olive harvest has started but this year it is complete chaos because of lack of capacity at the mills.    We heard from our friends that they delivered their crop with a reservation just before midnight and returned home with their oil at 3 in the morning. Another friend has an appointment to deliver at 2.20 am.  When we tried to get a booking at that mill the first available appointment was 10 December.

Our nearest mill, not in our village as both those mills are closed, isn’t taking bookings. It was the same last year, we queued 3 hours to deliver the olives and didn’t get our oil for another 3 days.  When I contacted them this year they again said no bookings, I expected they will only allow as many people as they can process to queue and turn the rest away.  We spoke to someone recently who said it’s the same everywhere and it’s so sad. Producing your own pure oil locally is totally sustainable.  One of the mills in our village was a co operative run for the members, and the oil was processed in the traditional cold press way.  They closed several years ago.  The other was a modern centrifugal system, we were processed in a few hours.  Its short sighted to close these places, particularly the co operative. They say people just want to buy their oil at the supermarket, the waiting lists and queues contradict that and everyone knows the stuff on the shelves is rubbish no matter what it says on the label.

It’s a desperate situation, our area is covered in olive groves, every family has land with trees yet it’s impossible to process the harvest.  We didn’t  know what to do, though MrFF insisted we keep picking, after three days of hard work we could do no more.

This morning MrFF was up before 6 to go to queue at the mill, not knowing what time they would open as the refused to respond to our enquiries.  He arrived before 6.30, the gates locked and no queue, however a notice said they would open at 8.30, by which time one other person had joined him to wait.  He delivered 159 kilos of olives, beautifully cleaned by me, the oil should be ready tonight or tomorrow.

We could hardly believe it was that simple, how can one mill have a 6 week wait yet MrFF only waited two hours.  Admittedly he wasn’t able to watch the process, we shall have to chance getting our own oil back, but he was home in time for breakfast.  

Thursday 21 October 2021

Better boundaries

We finally finished the hedge cutting, we’d saved the hardest till last.  The large laurel hedge between us and the neighbours is always difficult, involving ladders, precarious balancing and a lot of clippings to collect for the bonfire.  We get access to cut the neighbours’ side too, it’s a couple of days work but it’s all done now.

Our side
Their side

We had an easy day yesterday the sun was hot so we sat out in the afternoon and lit the stove in the evening, it cools down quickly once the sun sets which makes for cosy nights.

Today was back to work for MrFF, he has been applying a coat of repairing screed to the wall capping before he installs the wire mesh to the new fence posts. It’s making a huge difference, Grigio and I were out admiring his work earlier, I’m not sure if Grigio isn’t planning to have a stroll over it later to add her prints, she did seem very interested.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Gardening part 2

After our successful front hedge clipping MrFF decided we should tidy up the triumphal arch as I call the two blocks of hedges in the lower garden that I decided some years ago should be united to form an archway.  I’m very pleased with the result, it deserved a good trim and here it is in all its glory

It would be rather nice to have something to look at through the arch other than just the big gates.  I’m thinking of a coy looking life size naked person maybe but that wouldn’t be ideal as he/she would be viewed from the road presenting a bare bottom to passing track.  I’ll keep thinking.

Thursday 14 October 2021


We cut the front hedge on Tuesday.  It benefitted from the watering system we left for our balcony pots and grew like crazy the month we were away.  So half a days work had us looking smart again, combined with the new fence the neighbours would be impressed if any were here but they are all back in Rome.  Maybe the refuse collectors will notice, otherwise it’s just us.

We are still enjoying produce from the garden.  The tomatoes are not as tasty as they were in high summer but still good and it’s the best year we’ve ever had for dessert grapes. Every day I cut a bunch, strangely by the time I’ve walked back to the house half of them are eaten, they are delicious.

We are not the only ones appreciating the garden, I’ve never seen so many bees.  It’s not unusual for several to be feasting on the same flower, dahlias seem to be first choice.  I grew these from seed, they flowered the first year and did so well I split them last year.  If there is space I might move some divisions to the vegetable area, I feel I owe it to the bees to provide them with as much food as possible. 

Monday 11 October 2021

A long overdue knitting review

It’s been ages since we had an update.  I’ve been busy knitting fingerless gloves and children’s socks, a sample above,  for the little craft shop in Ilkley, that takes some of my work.  Hopefully I will be able to deliver these before Christmas.

Then with the longer nights I thought it would be nice to return to socks and tackle a new pattern.  I decided November socks, a 12 row repeat so not too complicated would suit my red West Yorkshire Spinners yarn.  How wrong could I be.  I started twice and pulled it all out twice as both times I got the pattern completely wrong.  Nothing at all to do with the clear instructions, the problem was my brain and possibly the poor lighting in our cavernous Italian lounge.  The third time I tried again in the daytime sitting outside in the sun and by jove I think I’ve got it, all seems perfectly logical and straightforward now.  I should be able to knit in the dim evening light now I am familiar with the pattern.   

I’m glad I didn’t give up on this project though I was beginning to think it would be November before I knew what I was doing.  However I do know when I’m beaten and today I’ve stripped our bed of the single linen sheet we’ve been sleeping under and installed our winter duvet.  I’m not giving up on my flip flop days yet but definitely the evenings are turning a cooler, besides who doesn’t like cosy nights.

Thursday 7 October 2021

Don’t fence me in

Yesterday it rained continuously, the first real rain we’ve had in the three weeks we’ve been back.  It was great for the garden to have a thorough watering and for everything to have a good wash down, even if being incarcerated gave me flashbacks of our winter lockdown.  The sun has returned today, the air is clear and fresh, we are renewed.

MrFF keeps having different ideas about dealing with the leaky terrace, he had a lot of thinking time yesterday.  Possibly motivated by the constant drip of water coming into the downstairs room his latest plan is to deal with the area in sections, the worst first.  Don’t hold him to this, plans may change.

Meantime on the dry days he has been replacing the shabby wire and wood fence onto the roadside.  It was quite a ramshackle arrangement, contrasting nicely with all the neighbours smart metal railings.  Now we have 22 new green posts and later there will be green plastic coated wire like this already installed with the help of my brother and sister in law a few years ago in the lower garden.

I like it so far, providing much less of a visible barrier than expensive railings, it makes the garden feel less enclosed and therefore bigger.  I believe this method of incorporating the background scenery into your garden is called borrowed landscape.  Who on earth wouldn’t want to borrow our glorious views.

Saturday 2 October 2021


I am pleased to report that we all seem to have our lives back in balance.  

The cats are very relaxed and enjoying a happy routine of eating and sleeping with the occasional trip round garden.  

MrFF is busy replacing some fencing and not mentioning quite so often how tired he is.  He is of course still trying to unlock his internet device, the providers after being reminded they are legally bound to facilitate this asked for information already submitted.  This may be long standing strategy, they are not the first organisation here that we’ve had to point out to already have what they now ask for.   He has also done a lot of investigation on the best way to waterproof the terrace and is having doubts that it can be completed before we leave for winter.  I’m fine with that, we can put down a waterproof cover, tackle the job in spring and take things  a little easier until we leave.

We are so back to normal.  We managed an al fresco lunch on Friday, with 3 Danish friends and 1 Danish dog, a well behaved and cat friendly dog though Grigio did feel the need to defend her food dish with a little hissing.

I am happy that I’ve got the house reasonably clean and the garden tidy.  I have spotted signs of the changing season, the wild cyclamen are in flower and little pots of chrysanthemum planted out from previous years and now large clumps are bursting into flower.  But I am an autumn denier, I don’t believe winter is coming.  We still have warm days, we still sleep under a single sheet and have the terrace doors open until we go to bed,  a few different flowers means nothing. You’ll be telling me next the leaves are going to fall off the trees.

Saturday 25 September 2021

I didn’t expect that

As usual our lovely cat Grigio appeared within minutes of us pulling into the drive.  She ran up the road with plenty to say, in good condition and pleased to see us.  Giovanni our neighbour must have heard us arrive too as quickly there was a text to say Enrico was at his house, wrong Enrico was in his way down and despite spending a month at Giovanni’s he is now reinstalled here with Grigio.  They are a delight to have around.

Even after only a month the house was really dirty, very dusty, cobwebs and dead insects, the bathrooms had become fly cemeteries.  I’d left cleaner in the toilets but they were stained with limescale and horrible so there has been a lot of cleaning to do.  We left the penthouse for 13 months yet it only needed dusting after all that time.

However the biggest surprise was the terrace pots.  We’d moved everything to the front of the house under a timed sprinkler.  It was a scene of devastation when we returned,  big pots tipped over, lots plants pulled out by the roots, compost everywhere.  We have no idea what caused such destruction, maybe a gang of porcupines or wild boar.  There are big holes in the adjacent border and also in the lawn at the other side of the house.  I’ve never seen anything like it, I spent half a day replanting and sweeping.

So not the return we expected, however the weather is lovely, temperatures in the high 20s, lots of sunshine and most of garden looks lovely if a little overgrown.  We still have a few tomatoes, a few peppers, lots of grapes and figs.  MrFF has cut the lawns, we are presentable and enjoying al fresco breakfasts and outdoor showers once more.

We have made contact with friends and neighbours, a trip to the market yesterday, we are out to lunch tomorrow, Piero has delivered pecorino and ricotta.  I think after the weekend normal Italian life will be fully restored by which I mean the terrace work will be starting, all the tiles will come up to install a new damp proof course, cue more dust and exhaustion, as I said normal Italian life.  As you can see the terrace is clear of most pots ready for the work to begin although I’m sure it would be a safer place for my plants.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

In Italia

Our journey started well if very early on Sunday. All our paperwork at the ferry was in order, the ship was large, new and practically empty.

Sunday we had a comfy night in the Champagne region of France, in a very small Ibis bedroom where we took turns to stand up.  It was clean, cheap and conveniently on our route, no complaints.

We had a day of delays yesterday, roadworks and confusing detours in France, inexplicable long queues for the San Gotthard tunnel, but we made it to our B and B on Lake Como and our delayed dinner reservation.  Despite completing the locator form required to enter Italy including where and when we planned to cross the border there were no checks at all, none into Switzerland either, no customs checks anywhere.

This is the lovely early morning view from our bedroom window. Just one more day in the car, with no pressing deadline to arrive and another of our epic journeys done.  The church clock is striking 7 am, the sun is coming out.

Saturday 18 September 2021

On the move again

Guess where we are going, correct.  Now we have most of the telecom and IT chaos in the penthouse fixed we are going back to Italy.  Cue a little more madness as MrFF completes the travel paperwork, declarations etc which he did enliven by entering his Italian biometric card as ID for the ferry,  he said he thought he’d take the risk.  I made him phone to give them his passport number, I don’t need the stress.  He must be addicted to the push one to be given the run around lengthy and frustrating phone calls, he’s made so many of them lately.

We leave early in the morning.  Our usual French and Italian stop overs are fully booked, it must be busy on the continent,  so we are trying new places.   I am taking far too many winter essentials with every intention of getting back to Yorkshire in November, I shall keep a very close eye on the travel situation.  

I didn’t do half the things I wanted to whilst we were home, but yesterday was calm and sunny so after a little essential pruning, I cannot stand seeing shrubs covered in dead flowers, we sat out in the communal gardens chatting to neighbours.  It’s sunny again this morning, the view from our balcony is gorgeous, we are relaxed.  I doubt that calm will continue since the extensive terrace work planned in Italy will be right outside the lounge door no doubt filling the house with dust yet again.  

So I’ll enjoy this last Yorkshire day and think about being reunited with our cats on Tuesday evening.  We are told they are just fine, Enrico is being spoilt by neighbours and apparently Grigio has been on the roof but fortunately not all the time we’ve been away.  Thank goodness she’s worked out a way to get down.

Friday 10 September 2021

Our little break in Yorkshire

I spent many months in Italy dreaming of being back in our Yorkshire penthouse.  We have been back three weeks and it's been more of a nightmare.  A few things that we haven't had working 

The internet

The landline that operates the front door intercom and access

The car air conditioning

My sense of humour

MrFF, ever hopeful, has worked tirelessly to try to improve things.  He even opened a special secure email account in Italy, a PEC, in order to obtain an unlock code for the device we use there for internet.  He paid his 12 euro and sent off the request, of course he's heard nothing, I imagine a response will arrive around Christmas, not necessarily the one this year.

Against my wishes, he got our garage to order a replacement part for the car air conditioning from ebay, a second hand part.  It arrived late and didn't work, a week later he paid almost half the car's value for a genuine part which has finally been fitted and does work.  We took the car for a test run today, it was lovely and cool but the engine warning light was back on, that's another problem.  Since we drove over 1000 miles on the way home with this alarm displaying MrFF is quite blase about it.  I on the other hand panic when the light comes on to say we are low on petrol.

However I have had the most wonderful haircut, so short I just need to run my fingers through it and its styled.  We've socialised with friends in the building, I've sat out on our balcony and in the communal gardens knitting, we've had friends for coffee, we've been to friends for tea and cakes and early one evening shared a bottle of prosecco with a lovely neighbour in her pretty ground floor patio garden.

But what could have been a calm and pleasurable 3 weeks of mostly the latter activities has been majorly stressful and its only now that normal service is being partially restored.  I don't know if its the covid effect or old age that makes us both so tetchy when things don't work, maybe its just the complications of modern technology.  Of course MrFF is more anxious than ever to get back to Italy and start the major project of installing a new damp proof course and replacing all the tiles on our large upper terrace.  I cannot even contemplate the drive back to Lazio let alone all that upheaval and then picking the olives, I am not yet restored.

Sunday 29 August 2021

Give me strength

I cannot tell you what a relief it is finally to be able to put up a post here.  We have had nothing but IT problems in the penthouse since we returned and what should have been a wonderful calm week after our long journey has been total madness.  I wanted to order do so much online while we are home and contact so many people but we have very little internet despite MrFF making many visits to phone shops here and in other towns.  He has resorted to visiting the bowling club daily to download the newspaper, check various things and have a pint.  Somehow that doesn't stress him half as much as being so out of touch does me.  We don't have a landline phone either, which means no one at the front door can contact us on the intercom, we could be missing hundreds of visitors

I have an appointment for an eye test but cannot get a dentist appointment until well into September when we should be back in Italy.  I've booked for late November, it will be over 2 years since I've seen my dentist.

I spent a good hour on Friday looking for my George Forman grill to cook MrFF a belated birthday steak.  I've come to the conclusion I don't have one here, there is one in Italy which must have been here and I could swear I bought another for the penthouse, apparently not.  

So lets turns to the good things.  The apartment is lovely, Yorkshire is lovely and I am loving being cool.  We have visited family and caught up with my brother and his wife, my nieces and grand nieces, the youngest of whom has changed from a little baby to an adorable walking talking toddler.  We've done missed birthdays and Christmas, we returned to the penthouse with a mountain of gorgeous gifts and feeling so happy to have seen everyone after more than a year.    

We've heard that everything is fine in Italy, including our cats who we think of every day.   So I should be able to relax and enjoy being here but so far that hasn't happened.   Maybe it's the thought of the return journey, MrFF is keen to get back me not so much, I'd like a bit of quality time first and a better internet connection please.

Saturday 21 August 2021


We are home in Yorkshire, we did not perish in the heat of the car despite 38 degrees in the San Gottardo tunnel when we could hardly breathe. It’s delightfully cool here and we are recovering from another epic journey.

At present we have very limited internet so I just want to let you know all is well.  We have used our steamer, eaten pies, some of us more than others, and fish and chips.  Importantly we got the car back without incident, it now has an MOT test certificate and is taxed.

I’ve worked out where we keep things in the kitchen and discovered clothes I didn’t know I had.  I’m enjoying the cool and this morning light rain that won’t stop me taking a walk round the town later.  

Today we need to take and post at a priority post box, our day 2 covid tests.  The test package which cost almost £140 for the two of us arrived yesterday, in Italy we paid 40 euro for both to be tested at a clinic.  Anyway it’s all worked out and more than 13 months since we left we are back for a while.

Monday 16 August 2021

Good bad and ugly

We went this morning for our covid tests, it was amusing that the man applying the tampone as we call the probe up the nose was wearing his mask below his nose and smoking between customers.  Despite the woman before me making an big fuss, and having being told the sensation was like being stabbed in the brain, the process was completely painless.  We waited at the house of our Danish friends, shared a delicious relaxing breakfast of home baked rolls, salami, cheese and coffee provided by them and fresh croissants we brought from our local and favourite bar.  Afterwards we had a swim then returned to the clinic for our negative results in English, job done.

We had noticed on our drive to the clinic that the air conditioning in the car wasn’t working, it wasn’t working on the way back either, by which time it was mid day full on heat.  We were both drenched in sweat, I felt sick and the two garages where we stopped for help were both closed for the holidays.  

MrFF decided the best course of action will be to leave at 4 am tomorrow to get as far from sweltering Italy as possible as quickly as possible.  So we have uploaded our test results to our euro tunnel booking, found a hotel in France for tomorrow evening, visited three neighbours delivering tomatoes, saying arrivederci and asking them to look out for the cats.  At Giovanni’s we found Enrico reclining in the shade and discovered he is being fed there as well as at Anna’s, chicken and lamb last night with lots of water.  We’ve had the too much luggage, what’s in that case argument, it’s going to plan. 

We are worried about the wine and olive oil in our car, we are worried about ourselves too.  Years ago there was no air conditioning in cars, my 21 year old Lupo has none, in fact I can remember cars without heaters.  I’m sure we shall survive, I shall think of it as a mobile sauna, roll on tomorrow evening where the forecast is for 21 degrees and the hotel has a pool.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Moves are afoot

We are on an emotional roller coaster as we try to arrange our return to Yorkshire.  We’ve had so many possibilities mostly concerned with covid, like self testing before we leave then getting a test in France to meet the Spanish French English language requirement. Finding information on French testing facilities is a nightmare with limited information only in French and a phone number to call.  The French I learnt almost 60 years ago isn’t going to help me at all.

Now we think we’ve found a local place just down in the valley, after having to beg for a response, that will give us results in English but because of the August holidays they have limited opening times.  However it seems that the test no longer needs to be within 72 hours before we cross the channel it just needs to be in the 3 days before we do so. Yes I know that’s ambiguous but the government website says if you are travelling on Friday get the test Tuesday Wednesday or Thursday. So that could work but we need to ensure the test is to the necesssary standard. Everyone it seems has a responsibility to do this, wouldn’t it be better if all the laboratories simply offered a test that was to the standard.  We swing between despair and hope, interspersed with anger at lack of support.

All the pots need to be moved off the terrace so that they are under the irrigation with a few days to check that’s effective.  I’ve run down the contents of the freezer and stocked up on cat food.  The car has two new tyres and has been through a safety check.

This morning MrFF was up early and finished the wall repair which will be unveiled tomorrow, he just needs to reinstate what’s left of the wisteria and later in the year replace the old fence. Meantime the temperature just keeps rising, 34 degrees yesterday.  Our friends are on holiday in Sicily which yesterday recorded the highest ever temperature in Europe, 48.8C  119.8F.  Maybe 3 days in the air conditioned car followed by a few weeks cool down in England will be worth the current hassle then we can start it all again to come back.

Sunday 8 August 2021

Olympic manners

MrFF and I have enjoyed the Olympics much more than we expected to and are of course delighted with team GB’s array of medals.

But neither of us was impressed with British boxer Ben Whittaker who refused to wear his silver medal because he was disappointed with his performance.  It was much the same when many of the England football team at the Euros presentation immediately removed their runners up medals considering them a reminder of their failure to win the final.  I don’t generally watch football and I was surprised and confused to see this, a bit of research revealed that it often happens at football contests nowadays.

Well I think it’s bad sportsmanship and sets a really poor example, I hope England manager Gareth Southgate, who wore his medal, had a word with his lads afterwards and set them straight.  What happened to ‘it’s the taking part that counts’?

Whittaker said he hadn’t won silver he’d lost the gold.  I’m a cup half empty person myself but even I think he’s wrong and disrespectful to his fellow competitors.  Only three in every event win a medal, I imagine any one of those going home empty handed would be delighted to take his place.  Think of the 13 year old GB skate boarder Sky Brown winning bronze, she was rightly over the moon, would her British team mate Whittaker like to tell her she’d merely lost both silver and gold.

I love the final presentations on the cycling grand tours when the winners and runners up who have children take them onto the podium for the ceremony, small babies, toddlers, teenagers, because they are so proud whatever their placing.  Here are this years Tour de France first three, Pogacar the winner at only 22 hasn’t got round to having children but second and third were delighted to share the moment with theirs. 

Speaking of children Whittaker said he didn’t want to seem like a spoilt brat, why behave like one then.  I don’t know if he has children, or intends to, is he going to pretend to his kids this didn’t happen, will he share with them his ethos that life is all or nothing, winning is everything.  We can’t all be top dog but we can give it our best, be proud of our achievements and gracious in defeat alternatively we can be sulky silver medalists when life doesn’t quite go the way we want.