Monday 29 November 2021

A close shave

I keep my hair short, I’m no stylist so it’s easy to manage and cool in summer.  Quite often my hairdresser in Italy and the one in Ilkley, both of whom are Italian men, have buzzed round my ears and the back of my neck with clippers, I don’t know the technical name for these battery shavers. 

I didn’t get a haircut during our last stay in Italy so it was 3 months since my last cut when we got back, I went on Thursday to see Filippo.  As usual he asked if I wanted him to use the clippers, I did.  At one stage I commented on how much hair was coming off, meaning my hair had grown a lot.  He asked if he was taking too much off and I said not at all, what could he do if I’d said yes.

I got a nice manageable cut, paid and left the saloon.  It was like I’d stepped into the Arctic circle.  The back of my neck was so cold, I had a warm scarf but I was frozen.  That afternoon we went to do a big shop, restocking after our time away.  I was so cold I couldn’t hang around the supermarket freezers and fridges for fear of hypothermia. I wore my scarf all evening and wondered about a hat with a flap at the back.  I know we lose about 10% of our body heat from our heads, must be about the same percentage from the back of a bare neck judging by how cold I’ve felt.

I am hoping I shall be warmer by Christmas if I survive this current spell of cold weather. Keep cosy.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

I’ve been travelling

didn’t realise how long it’s been since I blogged, but then most days at present I’ve no idea what day it is and when I wake I’ve no idea where I am. In fact we are back in Ilkley, we left Lazio last Friday and arrived here on Monday evening.  We had three overnight stops thinking that would make the journey easier, it seemed to make little difference at all, we are still exhausted.  

We had good and comfortable hotels, the last night in France at the one that last time upgraded us into their chateau sister hotel.  This time they just upgraded us to a better room but we did get to take breakfast at a greatly reduced price in the chateau.  It was a delight, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, good coffee, delicious croissants all in such elegant surroundings, I tried to look the part.

We visited Epernay in the champagne region and admired the glamorous champagne houses, a few brave people were sitting outside tasting but there wasn’t the holiday atmosphere we felt when we drove past in September.

We stopped again at the Arass war memorial to pay our respects and search for the memorial of a friend’s great grandfather who died in 1917 and has no known grave.  Sadly we couldn’t find his name though his details were in the memorial book.  When I got home I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who were so kind and helpful.  They gave me more information and directed me to the War Graves Photographic Scheme.  Within half a day I had photographs of the memorial name, the panel in which it is engraved, pictures of the memorial and a map, all of which I have passed to the family.  I was deeply touched by the dedication of these people, I’ve made donations to both organisations.

So we are recovering and adapting to winter in Yorkshire,  I’m glad we don’t have to worry about another winter lockdown in Italy as infection rates rise across Europe.

Monday 15 November 2021

A Proud Great Aunt

Esme, the middle one of our three grand nieces, was 9 last week, once again we missed her birthday, but here she is with the present she asked for from her Mum and Dad.

A litter picker, how great is that, apparently it was all her own idea.  Sunday she took her family and her birthday gift for a 4 mile walk and came back with a full bag of litter.  I’m so proud of her, our own little earth friendly eco warrior.   I think that for the next COP meeting the world leaders should follow Esme’s example, get out and demonstrate some positive action, less blah blah blah more do do do.  

Friday 12 November 2021

A popular destination

No we haven’t been to Rome or to the beach, we’ve been to the scrap yard.

Before we had new double glazed windows installed our old wooden windows had wooden shutters that we chopped up for firewood plus wrought iron grilles between the shutters and glass as a security measure, the glass doors had wrought iron gates.  We kept all the grilles for years thinking they’d be useful for something, they never were, MrFF tried to sell them on line, he got a few watchers but no takers.  Eventually he contacted a reasonably local scrap yard, they wouldn’t collect so in the end he laboriously cut the metal into manageable pieces to deliver in our car.  

We took them this morning, driving very slowly as it was quite a load which MrFF assured me was well distributed so it wouldn’t be a problem.  The scrap yard was huge, mountains of metal and some truly scary machinery moving stuff about.  In fact as we unloaded a huge grabber was shifting massive blocks of concrete to contain the waste and getting perilously close to our car, it was like a scene from a gangster film complete with crushed cars.

Before we loaded we drove the car onto a weighbridge, the total weight was recorded and we did the same again after we’d unloaded.  MrFF shouted to me to get back in the car as he drove on I had to explain that we got out of the car before the weight was recorded it would be pointless having our combined weight deducted from our load.   The girl who dealt with the finances was charming. She asked me if we were on holiday, I know themed breaks are popular but sourcing and selling scrap seems an odd choice.  We explained we had a house not so far away.

We were told before we went by the yard that members of the public can only sell 30 kilos of scrap at any one time but with a little pressure they said we could take as much as we liked.  We ended up with 150 euros in cash, no paperwork, no details taken, it must be very easy for thieves to get rid of their stolen goods, fortunately everyone we saw at the yard seemed pretty respectable.  It was a satisfactory mornings work, we’ve made space in the cellar and negotiated another Italian experience that was never covered in our language course. 

I didn’t take any photographs at the yard I’m not sure if they would have allowed that but I’ve downloaded ones from the net of identical scary equipment.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

A plague on both your houses

Moving house is stressful,  I should know I have lived in 9 during my 73 years, I’d like to think I’ve finished moving, other people seem to have different ideas.

First the penthouse.  A while back everyone in our building received a letter from a local couple wanting to downsize and keen to become part of our community.  We thought about this, considered it was silly not to take it further and gave the enquirer details of our apartment.   Emails were exchanged, photographs sent, discussions had.  The potential buyers said they wanted to move quickly which was a little unnerving as we were in Italy.  They were keen to view but then decided the asking price was too much.  This was early in the year, in fact their house hasn’t sold so a move isn’t imminent.

More recently here in Italy I saw one Saturday morning MrFF chatting to a couple at our back door and the next thing I knew they were coming inside. They were house hunting, had an appointment to view two empty properties above us and had gone astray.  MrFF told them our house could be for sale, news to me, and we showed them round. I was hardly prepared but luckily I’d spent the morning cleaning, it was not a house viewing as I know it. The husband wanted to know the square meterage of the house, same for the garden and the asking price, on the latter we said we’d let him know.  They weren’t interested in viewing all the rooms, asked no questions, the wife loved the garden and admired my balcony pots, the husband said he wanted the lowest absolute minimum price.

Next morning they were back again with their teenage daughters, who equally weren’t that interested in seeing around, the wife said she’d already had a look and was happy to sit and chat with me. They are charming people, the wife is from our village and wants to return.  We said we’d love them to buy the house down our road which we know is for sale though not advertised, we had already given them the neighbours’ phone number.  The eldest daughter spoke good English and confirmed her father was looking for the lowest possible price.  When we finally told him what we wanted it was as expected too much, which was a huge relief as I had no idea at all what I would do with the accoutrements of a one time holiday let that accommodates 8 people.  I have more than 16 bath towels, 16 hand towels, untold amounts of glassware and crockery, not to mention all the furniture and most important of course what would happen to the cats.

So relax, we are going no where.  However Mario our neighbour was here today.  He is having major energy efficient improvements made to his house under a government grant.  Solar panels on the roof to power a new heating and air conditioning system, new double glazed windows and doors.  Work was supposed to start in September, it didn’t and now it may be December.  However he has discovered that all the floors need to be taken up and he, his wife and adult daughter must move out for 3 months, possibly the Italian 3 months that we call 6, who knows.  Anyway he asked if they could live here in our house and what rent we would expect, the vital money question again.  We’ve thought about it all day, we are more then happy for them to stay here, we have no idea about rent because we want to help out and are pleased the cats may have company over winter.  The cats not so pleased as Mario has two young cats of his own.  However, we hope to leave at the weekend.  There are quite a few things we need to do before we go and suddenly we might have to leave the place fit for someone else to move in.  The family will need wardrobe space and kitchen space and I really don’t want to have to pack things away like I did when we rented. 

What is it with our properties that other people have designs on them, it’s unsettling though not so much in the latter instance as we are not letting go of this property, for the moment.

The title is a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Sunday 7 November 2021

A night on the tiles

Last night was exceptionally windy. Around 10 pm Grigio decided to go out and we left the terrace light on so we could see when she returned to the door to be let back in. Except she didn’t reappear, we called her several times and eventually went to bed thinking it was an odd decision to stay out on such a bad night.

This morning I was up before 6 believing Grigio would definitely be ready to come in but she still wasn’t at the door.  I called her then wandered down onto the terrace and heard her crying but because of the wind I couldn’t quite tell where the sound was coming from.  I opened the cellar, went down to the pizza oven, looked in the log store, checked the cat apartment and the hotel splendido, I even looked onto the roof but I couldn’t see her.

I went back inside and up to the bathroom where the little window with the grill opens onto part of the roof, Grigio bounded in delighted to be safe.  It’s likely she had been on the roof all night and couldn’t get down because it was so wild, she has been sleeping all day.  She was lucky not to have been blown away but I doubt she has learned her lesson and now I can worry about this happening when we are back in Ilkley unable to rescue her,  thanks Grigio.

Monday 1 November 2021

Another year

Saturday afternoon we had a phone call from the mill to say they were about to start our olives.  MrFF went over to watch the process while I stayed at home to mend the nets so they could be packed away for another year.  He returned with 33 litres of really good oil, you don’t need to take my word for this as our resa, the yield, was exceptionally high indicating excellent quality.  We made bruschetta as usual, the taste of the newly milled oil was almost too strong but it will settle and be perfect.  We also have about 15 litres from last year, that’s still fine but we prefer to use the newest oil without heating it, eg for salads, and last years can be used for cooking in sauces etc. 

We were exhausted on Saturday, still tired yesterday and today we are taking it easy as it’s raining, it’s All Saints day which is an Italian national holiday and it’s my birthday, 73 if you just know, where does the time go.