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.


Monday, 21 June 2021

More hassle

We were elated to receive our second vaccinations, we came away from the hospital each with a document confirming two doses and imagined accessing our covid passport would be simple.  Wrong.  There are several this can be done, one involving the purchase of a special card reader, another to be certified by an identity identifier or the one that after much research MrFF decided was best, to access SPID, Systema Publico di Identita Digitale.  He assured me this would give us access to not only our health records but tax details and I’ve no idea what else.  I do know he spent a good two hours registering on the post office website and making appointments for us to go to the village post office with our documents.  

So we pitched up this morning, MrFF’s appointment was for 10 mine for 11 but I was determined we would both be processed together, we were.  I don’t understand the appointment system, we just joined the queue to be dealt with by the only person working there though she did ask if we had an appointment when we went to the counter.  She asked for our identity, I handed her my biometric card which she said was no good, it was a permission to stay not ID.  I pointed out it had a photo, date and place of birth, in fact it also holds our finger prints, tax code etc. She said again it was no good and asked for our tax codes.  I handed over our health cards which show our tax codes,  she said she needed the original official tax code card, we have never had one of those.  Then she asked for my passport and finally my driving licence, it’s not the first time my UK driving licence has done the trick.  Suddenly everything was ok, she scanned my biometric and health cards into a machine and tapped away on the computer.  She took our address, mobile phone numbers but faltered at my place of birth. She seemed to have a drop down menu that didn’t include the tiny village where I was born at home.  She asked for the name of the comune, we don’t have those in the U.K. so I said Yorkshire, we wrote it down, she couldn’t find that either. She asked if I was America then asked if maybe I was German, she’d just seen 3 different cards that confirm I am British.  

By now we’d been there 40 minutes, a big queue of people had built up outside, it was getting embarrassing.  So she tapped some more then took MrFF’s documents and processed them much quicker.  She said we would each receive a code on our phones to access the site, we should agree to the privacy policy and create a password to be registered with SPID and strangely enough after we left the codes arrived.

Our next challenge was to go to the hospital for MrFF’s chest X-ray, give me strength.  Oddly it was a quite day at the hospital, they were not doing vaccinations and we met up with Vincenzo the nice doctor who vaccinated us, he offered to help us with the process.  He took us to the cash desks as we expected to pay, first he said we should go back on 01 July for the X-ray.  When Mr FF explained he had an appointment made by phone for 12.30 today he asked for the original doctors prescription, the copy MrFF had on his phone wouldn’t do, but eventually he led us to the X-ray department.  There were two members of staff there, no patients so they took MrFF in immediately, Vincenzo stayed and chatted.  He said we’d get the results straight away, usually the patient has to return at a later date and collect the results to deliver to the doctor.  Sure enough not long after MrFF returned the radiographer produced a file containing a report and a disc. Vincenzo took a look and said there was a mild chest infection nothing to worry about.  

Back home MrFF completed the registration of our SPID accounts and glory be there were our covid passports, in Italian and English. I’m not sure we are much nearer getting back to the U.K. given current testing requirements but it’s one less hurdle.  Surely there can’t be many more we have to tackle but if there are it will be the same information and documents to submit all over again, I’d expect nothing less.

Sunday, 13 June 2021


I wasn’t feeling positive about going for our second vaccinations on Friday as we hadn’t receive any reminder, the first appointment was confirmed by email.  I booked both our first and second sessions in March, the June date for dose 2 was scribbled on the details we were given confirming we’d had the first.   I tried to check the appointment on the health board website just in case there had been a change but that wasn’t possible.  

So we turned up about 15 minutes before my appointment, I was first MrFF 10 minutes late.  We weren’t checked off on any list when we reported to reception just given a two page document to complete, tax code, phone number twice, when we had the first dose, all the usual stuff.  We then joined the standing queue outside the treatment room to be told by the man next to us that they were running late, his appointment was at 10.30, ours 11.10 and 11.20.  We waited about 50 minutes to be seen, maybe longer because first we were told we could queue behind 2 other people just outside the door, it was a relief to know that we were on the list, then we were moved into the anti chamber before finally being told we could go in to the treatment area together.

It was the same nice people we met last time, including the elderly man who loves Edinburgh again sitting behind a huge journal entering our details by hand.  MrFF mentioned that he had some medication to take, he’s been suffering from a urinary tract infection that hasn’t shifted with anti biotic so the doctor has given him a different treatment, just two doses to be taken one at night before bed and the other next morning.  He mentioned this in case it was relevant and they advised him not to start the treatment until Monday night and take the second dose a week later.  He said this was contrary to his doctor’s instruction and also the chemist but they were insistent.  If I wait until a week on Monday to complete the treatment I might be dead MrFF joked, well then your wife will have a young boyfriend was the reply.  I laughed and said that was true and he might be an Italian.  I’ll see you next week said the handsome young doctor.  I’m always up for a bit of flirting, it may not be acceptable nowadays but we all knew it was harmless fun, no one was offended.  Those boys need a laugh doing that job for months on end and I took it as a compliment.  We left smiling, thanked them for being so kind and have had no after effects whatsoever from the vaccination.

we went up to the church square for coffee and pastries. The deserted empty space where we sat in March had been transformed.  Lots of tables and chairs outside, beautiful flowers and best of all people, it was a joy to be there.  

Then I spotted a wedding, well actually just a young bride and groom coming down the steps of the church.  

Suddenly from around the square a crowd of well dressed people appeared applauding the couple and throwing rice.  Presumably only the bride and groom could attend the service while family and friends waited outside, I hope they were able to have some celebration together.  I love an Italian wedding, the bride often a little pouty posing like a supermodel at least for one day, the guests dressed to kill, men in sharp suits and women in evening wear, wonderful events.

How almost normal it was, we are relieved and grateful to be fully vaccinated, to see the town coming back to life and to witness a happy event.  If feels as if better times are returning, speaking of which we will wait 14 days for our vaccinations to be fully effective then start to think about returning to Yorkshire for a while.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Essence of white

I am rather obsessed with white flowers, I usually surprise the plant growers around here when I don’t want to buy a cheery selection of different coloured geraniums, begonias or mandevilla for my summer pots, I want only white.  This year I decided to have a change, I have pink, purple and red flowers, a garish but striking Mediterranean collection on the terrace and I like it.

However I still love white and right now I’m enjoying these lovely white shrubs

I have two Trachelospermum jasminoides, the star jasmine, in the lower garden that I’ve trained up onto either end of the balcony.  They are just starting to flower and smell wonderful particularly at night.

Also in the lower garden is a large Philadelphus, possible belle etoile, which is also highly perfumed.  I prune it right back after flowering but it’s enormous.

I usually step out last thing at night to enjoy the cooler air and the heady scents drifting around and again first thing in the morning, the perfumes are wonderful.

Before you imagine this balmy idyll I need to mention that we also have three screech owls that circle the balcony after dark, screaming their bloomin heads off. The first time we heard them we thought it was an injured animal, we realised it was birds but had to listen to a few podcasts before we identified the call. The sound doesn’t bother us or the cats, we are pleased to have the owls here but sitting out till late in high summer breathing in the heavenly scents may not quite as calm as it should be.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Letting it happen

When we travelled out to Lazio last year we had an overnight at a green hospitality b&b between Lakes Como and Lugano just over the border from Switzerland.  The place was run ecologically, they grew food for their guests organically and reduced their impact on the earth, we loved it.  

Our host Samuel and his staff were charming, happy to chat about their ethos and show us round the beautiful grounds.  This is their natural swimming lake, the water cleaned through reed beds, no need for harsh chemicals and any leaves or debris simply fished out with a net.

I told Samuel I hadn’t seen my Italian garden for 8 months and was worried about how it would be when we arrived in high summer.  He smiled and said it would probably surprise me and have managed perfectly well without me.  He was quite right, hardly anything had died, we weren’t overrun with weeds and we soon caught up with our orchard planting to enjoy another summer of flowers fruit and vegetables.

I often think of this valuable advice, which was confirmed again last week.  We called at the local vineyard for 10 litres and while MrFF was inside I took a walk round the gardens.  The winery is a lovely old property with large porticos with lots of tubs of dark red roses in full bloom and a large table with many chairs for convivial long lunches.  The owners house nearby is very beautiful, white and modern with a glass balustrade and large patio both dotted with big weathered pots of colourful annuals and geraniums.  I spotted in a gap in the terrace an enormous Amaryllis with at least 50 big blooms.  The mother of the family came out when she’s served MrFF and told me the plant was there when they arrived many years ago, a single bulb growing out of the concrete.  She said apart from giving it water now and then they ignored it.  I’ve seen amaryllis growing in waste land here or in pots so if I have one as a house plant afterwards I put the bulb into the ground.  Now have 3 in the border and I noticed recently that one plant has a large bud. I told the lady how excited I was about this single flower and she laughed when I said one day mine might be like hers. 

I’m thinking of writing a book about this laissez faire style of gardening, about sitting back and just letting the plants get on with it.  That’s it written really, nothing more to say.

Thursday, 3 June 2021


Lunch I can take or leave, some days I just have fruit or a yoghurt, some days MrFF kindly produces a more substantial plate of food for me.

Yesterday was local cheese, local bread, our own olive oil, a handful of leaves,  prosciutto, a dish of our own cherries and water.  Eaten on our sunny terrace, it was all delicious. I’m sorry the photograph is rather out of focus, I should have checked it before I ate the lot.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

At the doctors

Mr FF last weekend developed a UTI urinary tract infection.  It’s not the first time he’s had this problem, probably due to lack of hydration, so he emailed our Italian doctor asking for anti biotic.  5 emails, several unanswered phone calls and a WhatsApp message later, all without response, he decided to go down to the surgery, a neighbour told him no appointment was necessary.  

First of all we couldn’t find the surgery, it’s in the lower part of the village, an area we’ve barely visited since last we arrived last July.  We asked at the garage we use which is in the same road and a nice young mechanic took us to an unmarked door at the side of a residential building.  There was no signage at all except a notice on the door saying access was only by appointment which could be made during surgery hours by phone or email, I beg to differ.  MrFF decided to chance it and after waiting half an hour until everyone in front of him had been seen he took his turn with the doctor. 

I waited outside, wandered down to the pharmacy and decided it would be quicker to walk back there with his prescription than move the car.  MrFF was a long time but eventually emerged with a handful of prescriptions, 5 in total, and a letter to make an appointment for a lung xray at the hospital where we had our vaccines.  He only went in with a UTI.  

He said the lady doctor had given him a thorough examination, checked his blood pressure and listened to his chest which she said was slightly noisy.  MrFF puts this down to the dusty work in the garage grotto, though he did wear a mask and a shower cap.   She prescribed an inhaler for his chest, more of the nasal spray he uses for his sinus, antibiotics for the urinary infection, some cream for his dry skin and something for the cold sore that had just appeared, because he is a bit run down and always forgets to put spf on his lips despite me constantly reminding him and buying appropriate lip balms.

The chemist was very helpful, said some items were free and charged him 51 euro, that bag of medication should keep him healthy for a while.  We have no idea why it was impossible to get a response from the surgery and were starting to worry, if we’d had a real emergency and needed a doctors visit that could have been a problem. However there are no complaints at all about the consultation and MrFF is feeling better already.   I must try and keep him in good shape in future, I’ll take him some water now, he’s currently in the recovery position on a terrace sun bed.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Il tricolore

Some homes locally fly the Italian flag, some have their favourite football team pennant hanging from the balcony.  Yorkshire of course has its own flag seen on public buildings and some private houses.  We are not flag wavers but my post today is the colours of the Italian flag, the garden shows its allegiance.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

My meadow

At this time of year the notices go up that long grass on roadsides must be cut  before it becomes a fire risk.  Not only do people clear the verges they cut under their olives too.  From early morning, I’m talking around 6 am, till lunch time we hear strimmers, its the signal summer is coming.  

I’ve told you before Mr FF likes country music and the more stupid the lyrics the better.  He keeps playing and singing along to In the Field of Opportunity its Ploughing Time Again, it drives me mad. Now he’s changed ploughing time to strimming time, it’s no improvement.

There are so many wild flowers in the orchard,  I want them to seed before we mow them down so once again MrFF has cut paths through the long grass, we and the cats can get around easily, no wild flowers have been harmed.  
Recently a friend directed me to a free plant identification app PlantNet which I downloaded.  It’s easy to use and covers Europe so I’ve checked out quite a lot of things I was never sure about including wild flowers, or as the app calls them weeds.  

These are gladiolus italicus, field gladioli, for me much nicer than the cultivated ones.  There are about a dozen in the orchard, I’d like more, hundreds more.  There are tiny sweet-peas, herbs, grasses, so many varieties I have yet to identify from alpines to big daisies.  I’ve been making a wild garden where we used to burn our cuttings, moving a few things from the borders and throwing down seeds but I might as well let nature take over, I could never reproduce this colourful display that has established all on its own.  

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Found and fixed

Soon after the warm weather arrived our latest water leak became visible, in the road just outside the house.   A white transit van came into the road, turned at the hammerhead at the bottom and drove back, it may have worsened the leak by driving over it because we spotted the patch of damp later that day.  

This is the gully where the pipe comes down the mountain, you can imagine Mr FF was quite relieved the burst was relatively easy to locate, he could have been lost up there for days. This is only half the distance our pipe travels from the meter,  first it visits the little sports ground, it used to go under the concrete foundations of the notice board but Mr FF diverted it when we had a leak under the board, now it goes round.  The pipe travels along the side of the road to Giovanni’s for a while,  not far below the surface so anyone working on the olives might park their car on top of it and cause another burst. It then comes down the gulley which is where Anna had her latest leak and we’ve had a few.

Actually the dig was bigger than expected, at the lower end of the patch of water, so Mr FF had to go back to the builders yard for more asphalt to repair the road and sand to make a protective bed around the pipes.  This leak occurred when stones got lodged between our pipe and our neighbours piercing the plastic, because the bright boys who carried out the original work didn’t bother with such minor details as protection simply whacking in the pipes as near the surface as possible amongst sharp stones and boulders. Vibration of the pipes, loads placed on them, tree roots, animals all move the rocks about and when they press on the pipe they make holes.
A quick botched job has resulted in many years of problems, a lesson to be learned though I expect the twits who installed these are long gone.