Thursday 25 February 2021

Spring is certainly in the air

We are having the most gorgeous weather, temperatures in the high teens but feeling warmer,  blue skies, no frost. This has caused me to garden furiously, tidying, cutting back shrubs which I should probably leave alone for now, moving pots out of their sheltered positions,  sowing seeds, ruining my hands.  I am sleeping like a log and having a great time.

I’m not the only one with spring fever.  A cat has been calling round, one we’ve seen before and thought was a male, it’s quite large and in good condition.   From the day long howling and Enrico’s reaction we thought we got that wrong and it must be female.  Friday night Enrico slept out, which he does sometimes, but was around during the next day joining in the continuing cats chorus.  Grigio was quite put out as were we, it just went on and on.  Saturday night Enrico slept out again, Sunday we didn’t see him at all and were starting to worry,   He returned Monday evening and slept a lot.

The visiting vocal cat called again on Tuesday afternoon but Enrico wasn’t interested and it took off down the road  Then Mr FF reported that a cat had sprayed at the entrance to his grotto, he works with the garage door open.   The dust sheet over the table, covering amongst many things the spare bags of cat biscuits had been disturbed and on further investigation he found a packet of food had been torn open and biscuits were scattered around.   It is a male so why is it pestering another male although not aggressively and a neutered female who is bewildered, why doesn’t Enrico see it off, the Italian cat world is a mystery to us. 

Back to the garden.  This is the first time I’ve really experienced spring and I’m very pleased.   I’m not sure I want to spend another winter here but I’d be happy to be back from now onwards to enjoy watching my plants spring into life.  Plenty of buds about to burst, the apricot and plum trees will be flowering soon, perennials are emerging, the ants and lizards are about, it really is quite special.  On Monday I was wearing a short sleeved t shirt to potter around. Four men came into our road to take down some trees above the olives, all wearing big jackets, hats and gloves.  Even though they were working hard bringing the wood down the hillside they remained fully clothed. I bet they thought I was the crazy one with my bare arms but I hope they also thought I have a very nice garden.

Monday 22 February 2021

Man at work

The biggest part of the garage wall is done, cleaned, repaired and repointed. It looks splendid.  The ex garage will be a wonderful workshop/laundry room/wine cellar and while I am heartily sick of all the dust which is everywhere despite the protection the improvement will be worth the continual house cleaning.

Now Mr FF has moved the grotto to the other end of the wall and is doing the same again.  I’ve had a bit of trouble getting him in there since we’ve had such nice weather but the end is in sight.  He will box round the various pipes at the top of this section, though knowing him he’ll still repair and repoint the part that will be out of sight.  

I did ask him if he was ok for me to take a snap and post it, he was pleased to oblige, so here is your first and probably only glimpse inside this secret place, enjoy.  

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Top Cat

Our Sunday walk in zero degrees but bright sun took us halfway up the mountain to the area where the paragliders we often see over our house launch themselves into the sky. We sat there briefly as the view was stunning and the air bracing.    Very soon the Siberia wind penetrated my four layers of clothing, t shirt, wool jumper, fleece and padded jacket so we didn’t linger.

We encountered few people out but on the mountain at least half a dozen unaccompanied dogs, mostly of the large sheepdog variety, and one horse wandering on the road.  There were a lot of cars parked outside the village hotel which was open for lunch.  We’d forgotten it was Valentine’s Day until we saw a couple come out of the restaurant the lady carrying a single red rose.

I was very pleased to see that despite such cold days and minus 6 degrees overnight, the first blossom is out, both pink and white.  I have no idea what it is, I think maybe a wild cherry, it is all over the hillside and down in the valley among the olives, there is even a small tree opposite our house.  I’ll keep an eye on it and see if any fruit sets.  

We came home for a pot of tea, to warm up in front of the stove and to rescue Grigio who was once again climbed a tree and jumped onto the roof of the house  where she was stuck.   We must prune that tree before it bursts into bloom, or better still just after, to stop her using it as access.

Tuesday morning Grigio found a new place to risk her life.  She probably jumped from the house roof onto the terrace chimney stack.  While Mr FF went for a ladder to get her down she jumped back onto the house roof and I was able to let her in through the bathroom window as usual.  I wonder if she’d like to join the village paragliding club.

Saturday 13 February 2021

Grey days

Back in November I showed you the blue sky

Today it looked like this

We have been in the cloud all day, the temperature has only been two or three degrees and it’s forecast to drop to minus 6 over the next two nights.  I’ve wrapped my tender plants in fleece and moved pots to sheltered places.  

It’s not forever, by next weekend temperatures should be kinder so I am hoping this will be the end of winter.  And it’s not all misery today, after looking out at this for hours 

Just before sunset the cloud lifted, there is snow on the mountain and the mist in the valley turned red.

Mr FF knows nothing of this, he’s been working in the grotto all day and says I shouldn’t start dinner too early, sounds like a long day.  I bet he’s made great progress while I have done nothing much.  Grey just isn’t my colour and whilst miserable weather isn’t my favourite topic during these lockdown days there is little else to talk about although Piero our neighbouring shepherd called by this afternoon with a gift of his ricotta, kindness that brightened our day.  

Tuesday 9 February 2021

A solar powered week

Last week we enjoyed glorious warm sunny weather.  It’s such a delight to open our bedroom shutters in the morning, to feel the heat coming through as soon as the windows are open, once the shutters are fastened back the bedroom is full of light and warmth.  I just know it’s going to be a good day.

Tuesday morning the whole valley was in cloud and we were in sunshine, all the little towns had disappeared, just look how beautiful it was.

A week of breakfast outside of course, afterwards I delay my garden walk until the pots are washed and the house has had a quick tidy.  I check every day if my little daffodils are flowering, finally they are. I have quite a few in the borders as over the years I’ve bought pots of them for the terrace and once they finish flowering planted them in the ground.  I haven’t seen a lot of spring bulbs about,  no snowdrops or aconites but I have seen growing wild nearby paperwhite narcissi which are lovely.  They are under the olive trees and on one walk had been planted round a little roadside shrine to the Madonna. In the UK they tend to be forced as Christmas houseplants and after that never do well. 

A friend we met in a walk told me he’s already started pruning his fruit trees, he says it’s time as the sap is already rising. We chatted about the beautiful weather, I’m British I have to do that, and he told me that 21 February is considered the start of spring down in the valley but higher up where we live we have to wait another month until 21 March.  I expect that comes from the same rule book that says 26 January is the coldest day and we don’t plant our vegetables before 26 April.  

Spring was certainly been in the air last week, it was wonderful.  I like the way I got so excited about the daffodils measuring the season as I normally would in the UK when in fact I have a large trailing geranium in a pot that has flowered right through winter in a sheltered position and the forsythia has had a few buds open on and off since Christmas.  This spring that is coming is all new to me.

And as if we weren’t feeling super powered already, Friday morning we had a call from our Ilkley doctors surgery, just 10 minutes walk from the penthouse,  asking if we could go in the next day for our first Covid vaccinations.  Mr FF explained our situation, they said we could phone when we get back and go in straight away for our jabs.  What excellent efficient service, we were then told the weather back home was awful, rain, mist and cold.  

This week there is heavy snow in parts of the U.K. it’s cooler here and we have rain but some blue sky.   However we were so cheered by our spring week when temperatures reached 15 degrees on the mountain that we are not complaining just looking forward. 

Friday 5 February 2021

You may have noticed

that recently some anonymous person put a rather unpleasant comment on my blog regarding my treatment of Enrico, the feral cat we took in a couple years ago.  It wasn’t even on the post which it criticised but on a non related one.    Said person obviously hadn’t read or chose to ignore the full story, accused me of abandoning the poor cat for 8 months.  Obviously the fact I also leave Grigio our other cat didn’t merit mention.

I am not deleting this comment, not defending myself or responding to it in any way, I am simply acknowledging it.   I know what happens to the cats, you may know too, while the situation sadly isn’t ideal that’s how it has to be, we all do our best, we survive. 

I know that other blogs I read occasionally get less than welcome responses, some have banned certain people from commenting, some moderate comments before they appear.  What the hell satisfaction these trolls, as apparently we call them, get from lurking around and being provocative I have no idea.   It seems to be a form of bullying.  Fortunately I am doing fine in semi lockdown and coping with isolation but imagine if I wasn’t.  I could be feeling depressed, anxious, frightened or alone and such public criticism would be very damaging to a vulnerable person.  This thought never crossed the small mind of my critic.  

My blog, apart from my many rants, will always be positive and never controversial.  Especially in these Covid times we need to be entertained, distracted, uplifted, to see a future and to support each other. I won’t try to influence how you live your life and will only give you edited glimpses into mine, my blog is my journal and it’s written as much for me as you.    Visitors and comments are very welcome here, I received some wonderful support after this incident, but if you are just looking for a fight it’s not going to happen, I am far too nice for that and so is Enrico, we’ll both take it lying down.

Monday 1 February 2021

This week

Today we are opening our last box of Yorkshire tea.  160 brews and counting, we use one tea bag a pot as I drink black weak tea, Mr FF let’s it steep (lovely word) once I’ve poured mine.  We still have some breakfast tea and some Ceylon and there are shops, it’s just we love our Yorkshire tea.   Several of you have kindly offered to send us tea, and books and yarn, it’s really generous but honestly the post here is so unreliable it’s not worth it.  Recent examples of mail from home 

Our copy marriage certificate took 6 weeks to arrive

My replacement credit card didn’t arrived after 2 weeks, it was cancelled, another sent and that arrived 2 weeks later, then the original one arrived after a month 

Christmas cards posted 2 weeks before Christmas arrived 2 weeks after Christmas.  I still have them on display as they were handmade by the youngest of our grand nieces, Esme is eight, Isla is just one, bless

It’s sunny today, the forecast is for warmer weather and we are back in the yellow zone for covid restrictions, that’s the lightest one.  Most of Italy is in yellow with maybe 5 regions in the orange mid zone which is good. So we start February feeling positive, Mr FF is cracking on with work in the garage, he’s taken to wearing a shower cap to keep the grit out of his hair, the house is full of dust.  

Let me finish with this lovely photo that was doing the rounds at Christmas. It was taken near Skipton, not so many miles from the penthouse.  Even if we run out of tea for a while there will still be tea, there is always hope.  Keep safe and cheerful, have a good week.