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 hear 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 then one, 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.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

A few exotics

It’s interesting to be able to grow some unusual plants in our Mediterranean climate, especially now I am limited to a small balcony back in Yorkshire.   Let me show you few examples.

Ornuhogalum Saundersan, a sort of giant Star of Bethlehem.  I bought three bulbs that I put into a pot.  In the first year I have one flower which is finally opening and it’s delightful.  

Halicacabum cardiospermum, or as I prefer Love in a Puff.  Grown from seed, I now have two well established plants.  I read they can become invasive, I’m prepared to take the risk, how could something so delicate ever be a thug.

Passiflora.  My small supermarket buy a couple of years ago now covers the trellis in front of the fuel tank, its been flowering for weeks and some fruits have set.  I understand these are not the same species as those we buy at the greengrocers but they are edible when fully ripe.
I’m also excited that a cactus that was a birthday gift several years ago, and returns to the giver for care when we are not here, is flowering for the first time.  Just think I’d have missed all this if we were allowed to travel speaking of which, we may finally be.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

A cool cut

Last time I was at the hairdressers I said we were returning to England for a while and I’d see them when I got back.   Luckily I hadn’t promised them the usual Marks and Spencer biscuits because as you know our return hasn’t yet work out.  My hair was starting to annoy me and getting sweaty on my forehead so Friday I went back for another Italian cut, it was 38 degrees in the valley.  

At the salon they take photographs when they finish to refer to next time so you can have the same, what you had some time ago or search for new options on the web if you want a major change.  I’ve been very happy with my last few cuts so I asked for the same shape but shorter.  Giancarlo asked if I wanted my cut shorter at the back, I agreed and said also round my ears because it really irritates me when my hair starts to grown over my ears. 

He took me at my word, seeing the back of my head was a big surprise but I really like this, just the job for summer. 

When I got home and took a good look, including the two mirror back view, I was even happier and sent an email thanking them all for a lovely cut and a nice experience.  Below is the reply I had from Pasquale, son of my hairdresser Giancarlo, barber and front of house charmer.

 Jenny you are truly a special customer, your sweetness fills our hearts with joy. It is always a great pleasure to have you in our salon to give you a moment of relaxation .. thank you very much for the trust you place in us.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021


13 months ago we were waiting for Boris to tell us it was ok to come to Italy. Now we are waiting for him to say it’s ok to return to the U.K. without the need to quarantine for 10 days and take 2 covid test once back in ilkley.  

I am desperate to return, especially now it’s so hot and mosquitoey.  I am short on energy and enthusiasm and if I’m being honest I’m slightly bored.  It’s hard to garden while sweat pours into your eyes and insects nibble at your flesh, not that there is much to do apart from water, dead head and pick vegetables.   We still go out only once a week for food, we haven’t been anywhere different since we went to Sorrento last September and while I have enjoyed this simple quiet life now I feel I need a change.

After more than a year here I’m Italied out, I need a little time in England to reconnect with people and places I miss.  Not that it’s not lovely here, I was going to add an image of a complicated maze which represents life at present but let’s be more positive, here are a couple of my beautiful terrace pots.  We don’t get displays  like this on our Yorkshire penthouse balcony, there are worse places to sit and wait for news, which might come later today or early next week. Keep everything crossed

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Saturday strim

MrFF continues his early starts, he is now strimming the orchard and lightly pruning the olives which are setting fruit.

Even at 6 am the heat is building so it’s a daunting job but after the delights of all the wild flowers I’m now enjoying the tidy spaciousness and of course we are much safer if we are unfortunate enough to have wild fires so I’m grateful for his hard work.

By 10.30 he has to stop for a shower, brunchie breakfast and to retire to this lovely place to spend a shady afternoon.

Our lovely 88 year old neighbour Giovanni is also busy with his strimmer, he too starts early but doesn’t have quite the same routine as we hear him start again early evening when we are thinking about dinner.  Giovanni does have a lot more land than us, and it seems a lot more stamina.  

Sunday, 18 July 2021

High summer

The flower garden seems almost at its peak, I can’t think of any summer blooms I’m waiting to open and some like the gladioli are almost over.  

The latest (eye)opener was my sunflowers.  I grow the tall giant ones and also the multi headed variety, they are the happiest of plants and I always wish I had more, there are just 3 in this well packed border.

We are inundated with cucumbers, we cut at least 4 a day and try to give most of them away.  Even the grapes are doing well this year, I really have no idea about training the vine but I must have done something right.

MrFF continues with his wall repairs, which during the recent hot weather has meant  getting up before 6 to work until around 10.30 when it gets far too hot for man or materials. 

He’s currently working very close to my wisteria, half of which he has already removed telling me it’s a hazard to structural safety.  I am not looking forward to seeing how he deals with the last stretch of wall.

Last week we cut the front hedge again, the one that faces into the road.  It’s looking tidy for everyone to admire, sadly that’s just me, MrFF, the cats and the refuse collectors.  Quiet floriferous times continue on the sunny mountainside.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Get me home


I read this morning about a new crafting venture in Ilkley.  Duttons for Buttons, a wonderful emporium of haberdashery in the town, closed down quite a while back and the little shop remained empty.  Now it is to become a crafting venue, Mrs Duttons Wondrous Workshops. 

That’s such good news, we are not getting another in every high street chain, a charity shop or a coffee shop.  There are a lot of workshops on the list for all abilities, knitting, embroidery, macrame, appliqué, rug making, and best of all crochet for beginners, maybe I can finally learn.  There are also crafternoon tea sessions with goodies supplied by a local bakery and deli, must be careful not to get my work sticky.  

Now I really need to get back to ilkley to check this out, I’m sure it’s a valid reason for travel.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

You are on your own

My happy Passion flower brightening a ranty post

As a UK citizen I used to feel fairly confident that I was well looked after and supported by my country, that if push came to shove I’d be ok.  This last year living as a Brit in Italy I’ve realised how scarily vulnerable we are, basically the authorities paid to look after us don’t give a toss.

The occasions I’ve contacted the British Embassy in Rome for help they’ve been unable to assist or advise, basically said read the manual.  Oddly I’d already checked the websites they suggest, that didn’t answer my questions which is why I contacted the embassy. I got the impression they prefer holding receptions and handing out Ferraro Roche chocolates to helping their citizens.  God help us if we ever have a real crisis.

Now it seems our Italian covid passports won’t be recognised by England so we will need to quarantine for 10 days and take 2 tests if we return, unless of course we were italian football supporters attending the final of Euro 2020 in London,  apparently 1000 are allowed to travel without these restrictions.     We had Astra Zeneca vaccines, the same as most of the U.K, we have batch numbers and dates, why are they not valid, is anyone but us challenging this.  

It continues to be impossible to get a covid test before we leave to present at the channel in the required language, English, Spanish or French or within the 72 hour time scale.  We can travel throughout the EU with our Italian covid passports and in theory have a test in France.  However finding information with limited language is difficult, we’d have to wait up to 48 hours for results and allow for that in our channel crossing reservation, that’s a long time to hang about.  Information says we are responsible for ensuring our tests meet the required standards, that’s so annoying, how do we know the bloomin standards, why aren’t the testers regulated accordingly, shouldn’t all tests meet the standard.  And if one of us tested positive what would we do, drive back to italy without stopping?

I’ve said before if we don’t get the car back by the end of this month we won’t have tax or MOT. Our insurers are aware of this and our inability to travel. I know we are not alone in this dilemma, we have friends who’ve had 4 flights cancelled and wasted hundreds of pounds on tests that have expired in an effort to get the car they left on the continent back to the U.K. for the same reason.  They’ve contacted the vehicle registration authority, their MP, their insurance company and got no where.  

I acknowledge there are much bigger problems in the world, these are the rants of a person fortunate enough to have a second home, but the difficulties we encounter highlight problems endemic throughout government and public authorities. Those in charge make the right noises, tell you what you want to hear but test the system and it’s not working. 

So we wait, listen to the news and time ticks away.  We stay positive, why wouldn’t we with sunshine and plenty of lovely outside space.  We live well but it’s over a year since we arrived in Italy, we never imagined we’d stay so long.  I wish we knew what to do, I wish I’d brought more tea bags I’ll never travel again without at least 5 million.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Mediterranean garden

Summer and the garden is going overboard with flowers which in this heat, most days reach 30 degrees, don’t last very long.  My terrace borders are a riot of colour, usually I favour white but I decided anything goes and the clashes of vivid colours certainly suit the hot climate.  

I still have white of course, my lovely agapanthus

And the first flower opening on my hibiscus

This is new, grown from seed it has the challenging name cardiospermum halicacabum, aka balloon vine or my preference love in a puff

presumably from the pretty the pretty heart shaped seed heads that develop from the tiny white flowers. Speaking of seeds, I shall save some of these and I’ve just collected the seed heads from the wild orchids in the orchard.  We gardeners always want more, I’ve already promised some of the agapanthus seeds to a friend. 

Saturday, 3 July 2021


MrFF was back at the doctors on Thursday morning taking his x ray results.  The doctor diagnosed bronchitis and gave him the name of a medication he should buy and take in the autumn, 10 doses per month for 3 months, meantime presumably he just tolerates the condition.

Because we were unexpectedly out and as most of Italy is now in the white zone with hardly any restrictions we walked down to our favourite bar for coffee and croissants.  The whole family was there, the schools are now finished for summer, there was even a new baby proudly being nursed by his grandfather.  We sat in the garden for a while enjoying our second breakfast and chatting to the family, then we sat on the bench outside the bar watching the world go by and finally took a walk through the square.  We chatted to one of the village priests we know, he’s originally from San Francisco and only gets to speak English when he sees us. He said his mother is coming over from California later this month but having problems with flights being changed.

We walked down to the nicest part of the lower village, the lavatoio, the communal washing area. I’ve never see anyone using this one for laundry although I have in other villages seen women washing their sheets at the outdoor lavatoio.  It’s the prettiest of places surrounded by lovely old flower decked houses, the sound of running water and blue skies, like something from a film.  I’m so glad it’s loved and preserved.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

A day of dreams

We were 8 for lunch here yesterday, 6 Danish friends 1 German/Italian and us 2 English.

It was the kind of long summer lunch you plan the garden for and dream of, under the umbrellas with sometimes a little breeze, all the pots full of flowers, lots of chat, a slow easy pace.  

Later when our guests left we watched England play against Germany in the Euros and beat them for the first time in 55 years, and yes I watched that 1966 World Cup Match too.  It was the year I started work and came across MrFF.  One of our lunch guests had quite a lot to say beforehand about what the result would be, she left early to watch the match at home.  We haven’t heard from her and are far too polite to gloat.  We had such a sweet text of congratulation from our lovely neighbour Giovanni.

Best of all we didn’t check the Tour results during the day and watched the highlights in the evening.  Mark Cavendish, my all time favourite rider, now 36, having battled illness and depression, no wins for the last three years and being written off by many as finished, took the stage win yesterday, in magnificent style.  His 31st Tour de France stage win.  The boy is a legend.

Such a good day, if I could have only have one thing from yesterday it would be the scene above, but I don't have to choose, I had it all.  

Thursday, 24 June 2021

We are all hot now

This week so far has been incredible hot, around 30 degrees and forecast to be even hotter next week. However it’s not the right kind of heat, not blazing bright sunshine it’s unusually overcast, humid and oppressive, the valley is hazy, it’s the kind of heat that totally saps your strength.  Sometimes we have thunder and if we are lucky about 10 big fat drops of rain, it feels like we need a good storm to clear the air, settle the dust and energise us.

Since we keep hoping we can to return to the U.K. we haven’t put up the plastic pool so we are cooling under the solar shower.  And no MrFF hasn’t installed  the modesty screen yet, I wear my bathing costume he lives a little more dangerously.

The cats are permanently outside, they don’t become active until around midnight, romp about all night and sleep all day, they can barely be bothered to come inside for food.  I’ve made sure there are plenty of water stations around the garden. Grigio is particularly keen on this chair, under a tree it’s shady all day and gets some breeze in the evening, smart girl. Enrico is usually to be found under a shrub stretched out on the soil.

Speaking of the garden, it’s very happy now the irrigation is turned on. My amaryllis is flowering, 

the beautiful white agapanthus is opening slowly with lots of blossom, dahlias flowering, 

these pretty little grasses Lagurus Ovatus I grew three plants from seed.  

The borders have filled up nicely and the umbrella grass cuttings I stole from outside the doctors surgery have both rooted and sent out strong new shoots.

Speaking of doctor, after a third antibiotic which was only taken twice, one evening and again the next morning, MrFF is much improved and back to the day job.  He’s repairing and repointing more wall.  Sadly this stretch involved the removal of some wisteria, that didn’t please me but I know the wall will look beautiful when it’s done.