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.  

Friday 14 May 2021

Reuse and repurpose

When Mr FF took down the old rustic mantle piece above the wood burner to replace it with a minimal amount of marble he was all for cutting up the wood for the fire.  I persuaded him that the L shaped pieces would make a decent bench for the front garden and finally that’s what he’s made.  

He went to the builders yard to buy wood to make the legs, they kindly gave him three offcuts which he painted black, the paint was left over from another project, all he had to buy were the brackets that connect the seat to the legs.  I did say I was not sure about seeing the brackets, I’m told it’s called structural honesty when the makings are visible.  

Anna our neighbour was here on recently, she liked our recycling ethos and sat down on the bench for a while.  As she said it’s nice to sit and greet people walking by, the bench faces onto the road, then added except there is never anyone walking by, we are a cul de sac.  Never mind the view is nice.

Monday 10 May 2021

Permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay)

believe we are not to call them ID cards though they are biometric, contain our cross and ugly photos, fingerprints, tax codes, passport numbers all of which can be used to identify us.  You may recall we applied for these mid January, an experience I’d rather forget, after which we kept checking the website to see if our applications had gone beyond the being processed stage.  A couple of weeks ago Mr FF reported that the cards were available and we would receive a message telling us when and where we could collect them.  We rather foolishly hoped this might be at our local police station rather than involve another trip to the police HQ in our provincial capital. Yes I know we’ve been spending time here for 20 years, we should know things never work in our favour.

We didn’t hear anything, Mr FF sent an email, ditto, ditto, after the third email we got a reply saying we didn’t need an appointment, we could turn up at the HQ any Tuesday or Thursday afternoon to collect the cards.   So last Thursday, with heavy hearts, we drove to the capital.  We arrived before they opened at 2.30,pm, there was already a queue.  At the main reception we were asked if we had an appointment.  When I said no and before I could explain we were told we didn’t need one we were given a piece of paper with 10 on it and simply told to go.    At the immigration office we waited outside for an hour, at least this time there was no snow, neither was there anywhere to sit and after calling in customer no 3 the staff gave up on the number system.  The electric sign wasn’t working, lit but constantly showing zero, so we were all left to sort ourselves out.  Several people did have appointments but that didn’t seem to make any difference.  We chatted to a lady from the Ukraine who said she’d been trying to renew her card since March and getting no where.  She was no 11 and processed at the window next to us.  I heard her say she couldn’t keep turning up every week but after much shouting by her and the staff she left no further forward.

It was the usual madness, our cards were in envelopes which could easily have been passed to the local police, we watched as they were opened and thrown away.   Some computer consultation, we were told to wait then passed to another staff member who took our index finger prints again, with much tutting and head shaking.  I think she wanted us to believe she was some forensic expert checking them against those they took in January, we didn’t.  Even to hand over 2 cards more paperwork was required but once the stapler came out I knew we were on the home straight.  Finally she practically threw our cards at us, we thanked her and left, almost 4 months later we were done.  I never want to go back there again.

Like everyone else at the immigration office we were treated appallingly from start to finish.   Old people, older than us, families with young children, everyone waiting outside for hours in all weathers, made to feel we were there for something to which we were not entitled. No organisation at all, why do the authority feel it’s acceptable for everyone to waste their time waiting, for everyone to travel to the capital rather than to one of the 91 local comune offices.  Yes that’s 91 town halls for half a million people,  Yorkshire 75% larger with a population of over 5 million has 39 and that includes city halls.  Here’s our local comune taken from their Facebook page, it has a staff of 40 serving a community of 3000. I suppose all these local offices provide employment but it’s a contrived tax payer funded economy of people pushing paper around, any benefits are cancelled by wasting the public’s time, unnecessary bureaucracy and the toll on my mental health.

Since we applied for residency last year we received little help from the British Embassy, at one stage they admitted on their facebook page that Italian authorities  are not up to speed with post Brexit legislation so simply rejecting applications, which was our experience at both our comune and the health board.  Yet the Embassy doesn’t seem to do anything about this ridiculous situation so hundreds of people like us get stressed and angry while they try to comply with the regulations.  In total we’ve made 7 visits to 3 different offices, from walking distance to an hours drive away, nothing was done on line, no coordination between departments, even during the highest rates of covid infection and strict lockdown we were expected to turn up and queue.  Not one person behind the counters we visited was pleasant or helpful, we never received a smile or much of a greeting, we were shouted at often.  

And you remember how immigration asked each of us to provide a 16 euro tax stamp with our application even though the information on their website when we applied did not mention this, other regions definitely did not require stamps and the embassy said we did not have to buy them.  Mr FF was on the case looking for answers and last week he got one. They said at the time we applied we did have to pay for stamps but then the law changed and they were no longer necessary.  They didn’t say when this change happened.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Perfect climate

I cannot begin to tell you how good the weather is now, in fact some days our local weather forecast simply says perfect climate, we know exactly what they mean.     A warm sunny day, not too hot, no mosquitoes and occasional welcome rain, humans and cats see thriving.

Gardening continues at a pace.  A week ago MrFF applied weed and feed to the two lawns, just before we had a day of rain.  After 7 days he cut the grass and weeds as per the instructions, it’s looking good for now, I won’t want to show you what it’s like in high summer.

I have edged round the 98 paving slabs that form paths in the grass, it’s not a job I enjoy or do too often but the end result is more than worth the effort. 

Of course not everyone is so busy, some are only here to admire the garden if they can keep their eyes open long enough.  

Sunday 2 May 2021


At last my first wisteria is performing beautifully.   It’s huge, the flowers are almost half a metre long.  Waiting has never been my strong point but it’s true good things do come eventually.

The other one I have, a slightly more pink shade with smaller blossom is always a week or two behind which is good as it prolongs the season.  

I think we can say winter is definitely over as the first tomatoes are in the ground, only 4 but many more waiting to be planted out.   Even the weather is on our side. We had a week of heat, yesterday a day of rain, today the sun is back.  Now it takes me and Grigio quite a while to complete our daily inspection of garden growth, we can barely keep up.