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 incredibly 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 balustraded balcony 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’d 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.