Saturday, 24 September 2022

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

The signs are good

That we might at least get the balcony waterproofed before we leave.  We wrote again for the 4th time this morning to the Comune asking when our residency ended so far there is no response.  

We had a man come to discuss putting the tiles back down for us, 1000 of them. He wasn’t happy about doing so unless he also lays the screed but currently he’s too busy to do that.  Neither was he happy about MrFF’s proposed restoration, he said there was no need to take the old broken membrane away just slap new materials in top. I didn’t remind him that the average life of a balcony here is 4 years or point out that MrFF is a chartered structural engineer I smiled and said ok that’s fine.  He did eventually having inspected the reinforcement and waterproofing liquid we have say he’d take a look at the screed when it’s done and then decide, he must think we are amateurs.

MrFF tells me regularly he has to carry 165 bags of 25 kilos each from the big gates up onto the balcony.  So far I haven’t responded.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Lack of water update

Since I last posted about the water we’ve had two more visits by representatives of our provider Acea, that’s 3 in total, each has said something different and nothing has been done.

Last week we heard that Anna at the bottom of the road had received a quotation for the work which her family emailed to us.  It was basically two lines, the cost of supplying a single pipe sufficient for one property to the top of our road and the cost of one meter box. The housing and support for the meter and obtaining permissions for the Comune would be Anna’s responsibility and the money almost 16,000 euro was to be paid now despite no timescale for the work.  At first Anna asked the other 3 properties to put their share into her bank account so she could pay. We refused to do so, if anything happened to her we’d have no claim against her estate without some written legal agreement, even then it could take years, if Acea defaulted we’d have no contract with them and if work proceeded and we then asked to be connected at the new location, at a further cost, they might say the supply wasn’t sufficient.  To their credit when we explained the neighbours realised this and replied to Acea asking for more detail as did we.

Nothing happened so we contacted the Comune who had said they would help in any negotiations, they suggested another meeting.  Again we explained we have to turn off our supply and store water to avoid the expensive leaks, we’ve had three ineffective meetings, we want no more talk we want a proper water supply. They didn’t like that and said it wasn’t helpful, they have since ignored us.  However they have been applying pressure to a neighbour, raising issues like a manhole built maybe 30 years ago without permission and the fact that because we 4 properties are on a private road the refuse collectors shouldn’t come to our houses to collect our rubbish though no doubt they will continue to charge us.  So far they still collect but now we are the only ones in the road, everyone else has left and all the meters are turned off.  I would have no problem taking our rubbish to the top of our private road, I only use 4 of the available 6 days a week collections as I compost a lot and have no food waste being from Yorkshire.  But others here are elderly, not so mobile and when resident would face a long uphill walk with their refuse.

When you see the number of abandoned properties here and in fact in the whole of Italy just think it’s probably because of stupid legislation and bureaucracy, people can’t fight forever they have to get in with their lives and they leave.   I’ve said before we are a village of 3000 people we have our own town hall with 40 staff, yet no one can do anything to provide probably half the population with a decent water supply.  Some days I cannot wait to get back to Yorkshire, living in Italy can be exhausting.

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Her Majesty

I’ve written before of 70 years ago celebrating the Queen’s coronation in the village where I was born and where this weekend the latest addition to my family will be christened in the beautiful tiny church that has witnessed so many of our family events both joyous and heart breaking. 

The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are now in a period of mourning following the death this week of our wonderful Queen  There is great sadness even amongst those who had no great love of the monarchy.  I am a royalist and proud of (most of) the House of Windsor.

We have lost a constant presence in our lives, the world has lost one of its greatest of leaders, Elizabeth II our head of state who at 96 years of age was still working until 2 days before her death.  She carried out her duty with quiet dedication, dignity and grace, we are fortunate to have lived our lives with her to reign over us.  I really hope our two new leaders one elected one a successor will follow her impeccable example.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Bonus time

You score if 

Your nail varnish matches your knitting.  West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply Seascape, which I did take to the beach but it was too hot and sandy to knit

If you finally get a boiling of beans, even if that might be the beginning and the end of the crop

How about if MrFF also harvested what he thought was a round courgette, turns out it was an unripe melon.  

Since we sowed neither there is some bonus value.

Friday, 2 September 2022

Getting nowhere

About 3 weeks ago we received an hours notice that representatives of the water authority and our Comune would be at the top of our road at 1.30 for a meeting with residents to discuss the water situation.  We dropped everything to attend and just one hour late at 2.30 the officials arrived, without apology or explanation for their lateness. There was heated discussion with everyone speaking at once. The water board didn’t want to talk about how they cut everyone off without consultation or the fact two of us have so many unlocated leaks we are having to store water and turn off our supply. 

Their solution is to run a single pipe down the mountainside under the road for which they would become responsible instead of us, and to locate new meters at the top of our road with individual pipes from there to the houses for which we would be responsible.  Quite honestly and as no surprise to me they talked a lot of rubbish, the Comune man had no idea what land was public and what private and the water men as every other official here said no to any more practical suggestion.  MrFF had to put them right a few times, it felt quite hopeless.  

The final outcome was that the water board said they would provide us in a few days with a price for all the work, which the 4 properties in our road must pay though we will have no control over what happens or the cost.  The Comune will consider making a contribution as they had been responsible for approving the original stupid installation.  I cannot imagine they will pay anything because so many other properties are in this situation. 

At the end of the meeting everyone was pleasant, we all shook hands, they said it was a pleasure to meet MrFF and some of the residents actually embraced the Comune man.  I just wanted to knock all their heads together.

Of course we heard nothing more until last Thursday whilst on the beach.  We had a message that the water board had done nothing and now requires an official completed application of many pages asking them to move the meters.   They will then come out to look at the situation, submit a price and round we go again.

First the neighbours asked if only we would complete the form as for some reason two of the accounts were in the names of people who had been dead for at least 15 years. We declined because we got the feeling we might end up administering the whole thing, be responsible for payment and allocating costs and probably not be in Italy (if I have anything to do with it) so we suggested the residents update their details and complete their own applications.

This week MrFF completed our application, it needed everything they already have, account details, tax codes, contact details, copy of our passports.  We believe that one other resident has done the same,  we have heard nothing.

At least the weather is cooler, now mid 20s, it’s really pleasant so I have been gardening and MrFF has tackled various maintenance work whilst fretting about the balcony.  We’ve had some rain, that has of course poured into the room below the balcony which is now without tiles or screed.  I try not to go down to that room as it’s so awful but 2 days after the last heavy rain I could still hear water dripping.  However I’m sleeping well, feeling fine, trying not to stress, missing the penthouse and dreading leaving the cats, just another day in Italy.

Friday, 26 August 2022

Two years later

We were back on the beach, again for MrFF’s birthday, this one no 74.

We planned to go back to the same place we celebrated no 72, at San Felice Circeo.  We packed the car the night before with our folding chairs, sun umbrella, inflatable lilos and pump plus next morning our beach bag and the cool bag with picnic, but after a two hour journey we found it impossible to find a parking space.  We decided to drive down the coast and stopped for a coffee at our favourite gelateria and yes I checked they had my favourite delizia al limone for later consumption.  I took our cappuccini outside while MrFF got chatting to the barista about the parking situation and he recommended a friend who had very inexpensive beach set up with parking just down the road.

So we went and after a quick phone call found Marco the owner who was very nice. We got parking, two smart sun beds and a large umbrella for 23 euro, with toilets and changing across the road in his bar.  We were actually on the public beach and the equipment was on a vehicle parked by the entrance.  We thought it quite enterprising and were happy to leave all our own stuff in the car.  In fact we thought Marco had the ideal job, wheeling beds onto the sand, setting everything up then sitting in his shorts on the beach waiting for the next customer.  Definitely a better and less stressful option than the many tv programmes we have watched recently about people frantically struggling to renovate overseas property as holiday rentals.

It was about 30 degrees at the beach with a nice breeze and not crowded at all.  Lots of well behaved people following all the rules of very bronzed bodies at the waters edge, regular passeggiate, family afternoon card games under an umbrella and football or bat and ball games for the teenagers.  This was MrFF’s spot for the day  as usual he spent most of his time in the water while I sat with our possessions and a book.

We stayed until after 6, there was a slight blip at the gelato shop when the delizia tray had gone but when I asked the lady went into the back and got me some.  Then our usual farm shop for bufala mozzarella was closed for the holiday but we found another place, very smart, where they made the cheese on the premises but sadly no bufala to admire.  It all worked out well, we had a lovely day …. except we received another stupid set back from the water authority.  We won’t talk about it now, luckily my expectations that we were making progress were low,  sometimes it helps to be a cup half empty person (and to paint your toe nails in a colour called under water).

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Out of sorts

For the last 10 days or so I haven’t been well.  Nothing serious, at first I thought just an upset stomach but after extensive Dr Google consultation I think I’ve had for the first time irritable bowel syndrome.  The abdominal cramps have been horrible, worst during the night and keeping me awake for hours.  I’ve felt exhausted and had no appetite so I’ve taken a probiotic, bifidus yoghurt and a sports drink to keep me topped up.  I’d already stopped drinking alcohol a while before and I only have one coffee a day and one cup of tea so those weren’t the triggers.

I tried to speak to my Ilkley doctor, requested a call back and explained that we are in Italy.  The receptionist called back asking me to go into the surgery for a consultation.  I explained again we are away, what I thought I had and asked if the doctor might recommend some over the counter remedy, no was the simple answer.  I know I could go to our doctor here but after MrFF’s experience when he had a urinary tract infection for which he was prescribed anti biotics that made no difference, inhalers, a chest x ray and two other unrelated items which I cannot now remember, I preferred not to.

I’m feeling much better now, physically and mentally as things were starting to get me down.   Yesterday I went to bed in the afternoon, slept for a few hours then last night slept like a log with no pain at all.  I’ve done light dorissing today and a little gardening.

This IBS seems a strange illness, there are no tests for it and no cure.  There are various dietary recommendations to alleviate the symptoms as well as avoiding stress and anxiety, I’ve no idea how that’s possible in Italy.  I think my experience has been a result of many things, diet, months of extreme heat, another year living with major building work, huge disappointment with the garden, constant battles with bureaucracy, our water supply fiasco.

We are both 74 soon, certainly we don’t have the same enthusiasm or energy we had 20 years ago when we bought the house.  We’ve decided for various reasons to give up our residency which we took out during lockdown so we could stay indefinitely. As non residents we can be here 90 days in every 180 which we happily accept feeling that our usual 7 or more months per year here is too long. 

We submitted the required forms to the Comune and subsequently have asked 3 times by secure email if we need to do anything else.  We’ve heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement, we still have our permission to stay and health cards. We assume that after our residency ends we can stay 90 days but since we have no end date we cannot calculate when we need to leave.  As I said I need to avoid stress and anxiety so I’ll stop now.  Be interesting to see if my symptoms recur when I’m back in Ilkley, whenever that may be.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Grey and wet - I like it

At last we are getting rain, yesterday afternoon we had spectacular lightning and a few hours of steady downpour that at least dampened the surface of the garden

Today we had heavier rain and some hail, now plants are perking up, the cats are more active, we are all refreshed.

Early this afternoon we were able to open the doors and windows to let in cool air, usually we cannot do this until after 7 in the evening when it becomes hotter inside then out but still hot everywhere.  

And don’t worry about the hail bashing our tomatoes, we don’t have any.  The orchard is now being invaded by a large porcupine, I have him on film.  He’s eaten the fruits, smashed down the tomato plants and my lovely sunflowers, stripped the leaves off just about every plant edible or ornamental in the orchard and not even left me a few quills. The only deterrent seems to be fencing but too late for that now, another disappointment to add to our list this year.  

Let’s hope now we’ve had rain all these animals will find what they need up on mountainside and leave us alone.  Speaking of which Mario told us he was outside early one morning last week and counted 22 young wild boar in his garden.  If they grow to be adults they really will be a problem and less than 10 minutes walk from here.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Garden update

Well something is working, we haven’t had a garden invasion for almost a week apart from minor digging in one back door pot and the new kiwi uprooted again.  What a difference it makes waking up to find everything in its place and not spending ages cleaning and replanting.  Well done MrFF, sterling work, a few barriers and a lot of urine save the day.

The garden is burnt to a frazzle, I’m not convinced the lawn will come back from this, I’ve lost a lot of bedding plants and a few insignificant shrubs.  The ground is so dry now any water just rolls over the surface, I loosen and turn the soil around important plants in the hope that will get some moisture to their roots.  My greatest fear is if we ever get a downpour it will just wash the light dry soil away down the hillside.

There are as always some good surprises of course, little gems that are surviving unaided like this lavatera that is flowering under an apple tree.  

Or the self seeded sunflowers amongst the tomatoes, MrFF wasn’t happy when they first appeared, now they make him smile.  Sweet peas are my all time favourite flowers but they don’t thrive in the Italian heat.  Sunflowers are such happy blooms on high summer days that they have to be my flowers of choice here.

The upside of this stifling weather is that I haven’t had to weed for months because nothing is growing, even if it was necessary it would be impossible.  Dead heading is all I can manage so I’m living with the departed hebe, the dying conifer and the crispy bergenia leaves in the front garden. We all have to adapt.  

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Signing off

I’ve noticed a trend recently for customer services personnel to end their messages with ridiculous and inappropriate valedictions.  I sent about 10 emails recently when an online order went horribly wrong. Despite failing to understand my frustration or resolve the problem, the customer service people, a different one each time of course which meant I had to keep explaining what was wrong, felt it necessary to finish their message so annoyingly.   Here are some examples

Please do stay safe and have a wonderful day

Stay safe in these trying times

Stay safe and have a lovely day further

Stay safe stay amazing 

I found the inane familiarity irritating particularly when the operators never bothered to resolve the problem and were in fact responsible for me becoming cross, unstable and therefore completely unsafe.  And stay amazing, what’s that about, how dare they assume that I am amazing when I’m actually fuming.

MrFF recently had a debacle with our uk power supplier, the man signed off each time Love and Power, Steve.  Did he mean by power the gas and electricity we were being overcharged for or was he just wishing MrFF the strength to deal with the situation.

Whichever PR twit came up with this idea needs to know that customers would be happier with better service and the ability to deal with one people who is accountable when a problem arises, who sees it through till the customer is happy, sends emails that can be replied to and doesn’t just provide an inappropriate reply from the script or sign off in such an insincere way.  

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Don’t let the badgers get you down

Actually it seems to be just one reeking havoc.  Last night I was woken at 3 am by the newly installed security light at the back door shining into our bedroom.  I had the shutters open in time to see a badger scurrying down the road.  Not before he’d upturned all the troughs down the side of our steps, first time they’d been attacked.  I went outside to check around, for the third night the pots on the lower terrace were emptied and overturned.  There were also some big holes in the lawn but the vegetables were ok.

However this time I’d set the camera in just the right place, I got footage of the horrible creature climbing into pots and throwing out the contents, often until the pot fell over.  

Another big clean up this morning, we are trying to think of ways to protect the pots but realistically it’s impossible to keep wildlife out.  I think MrFF needs a bigger bladder. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

A slightly happier morning

MrFF rigged up more motion sensor lighting last night and I put out my wildlife camera at the scene of yesterdays destruction.  This morning only 3 pots, all out of camera sight, had been emptied and I have a video of the culprit, which unfortunately I don’t have the equipment here to transfer onto the iPad.  It seems one single badger is causing all the mayhem, travelling all round the garden, last night it arrived on the lower terrace via the balcony. 

So not so much repotting and cleaning up this morning but more lighting to install.  

As well as bright lights being a deterrent to garden invaders, I read that male urine will keep badgers away.  I’ve been telling MrFF he drinks too much, not water we can never get enough of that.   Perhaps I was wrong and should encourage him to continue with the beer and wine he enjoys every evening then pee outside,  definitely worth a try in the pots though maybe not on the tomatoes.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Not a happy morning

It gets worse,  not only the big pots at the back door half empty this morning, there was total devastation on the lower terrace.  

We thought we’d fixed the tomatoes when we installed a motion activated light that seems to keep the invaders away.  In fact it’s just directed them elsewhere.

I’ve been out in my nightwear restoring order with extra compost, a little slow release feed and a good watering in the hope the plants will recover.  Nothing to say the beasts won’t be back of course.

Giovanni said he sets his alarm for 3 am and gets up to check his vegetables are safe.  He added that really this is the animals territory and we are the invaders.  He is a better person than me I’m just cross and very hot after this mornings work.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Another day another invasion

The uprooting of plants in the garden and in pots is becoming a regular occurrence.

The second time my new kiwi was out of the ground MrFF put wire netting round it, this morning a hole had been dug under the wire but the culprit had not reached the plant.  More uprooting among the tomatoes, pots overturned in the front garden  and worst of all a large pot sitting at the back of the house was destroyed, this was a step too far.

Giovanni is having the same problem, he says the creatures are not interested in eating his flowers and herbs just in decimating them.  He sent a photo of his balcony with pots overturned and plants and soil pulled out. I know nature is having a hard time with the drought but there are dishes of water all round my garden for the cats and I regularly put out old cat food.  I am doing my best to provide but the animals just aren’t playing fair.  Don’t they watch David Attenborough, we are supposed to live in harmony.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. —Frank Lloyd Wright

Sunday, 10 July 2022


Where did we get to with the water leak situation, we had friends to stay for a week so we took some welcome time out but now it’s back to work.   Finding no 4 was impossible, MrFF cleared the pipe route of undergrowth twice and we searched for a damp area but found nothing.  So he bought another 250 euro worth of plastic pipe and with help from Giovanni has bypassed another section with pipe on the surface.  This isn’t ideal and certainly won’t be in winter but the alternative was costly water wastage.  Here is the car loaded ready for action.

Once the work was done MrFF checked the meter, we have leak no 5.  This one is in the gully where we already have a bypass section or possibly under the road, it needs more investigation.

We had the first major wildfire last week, 48 hours of helicopters and planes dropping water.  Fortunately for us it was on the opposite side and well out of the village, worrying nonetheless.  Our Comune had recently installed a large open  water tank in the valley to reduce the time it takes for the helicopters to collect water, within days it was put to use.

Photo from our Comune website

Because of the drought animals are desperate for water, I keep several outside water stations topped up for the cats.  However the wild animals don’t use them preferring to uproot garden and pot plants in search of moisture and roots.  Our neighbours had told us wild boar were digging under fences to get to water pipes.  Yesterday my newly planted kiwi was out of the ground, today tomato plant roots are exposed in the orchard, even outside Enrico’s beloved hotel Splendido where he likes a summer display soil and plants have been turned out, Enrico probably slept through.

Some days if feels like we live in the Wild West, we are pioneers trying to scratch a living while being constantly beaten back by nature and man made problems, sadly my spirit of adventure is just about worn out.

Monday, 27 June 2022


Extreme temperatures have caused the worst drought in Italy for 70 years.  Water levels are half what is normal at this time of year.  Our region, Lazio, has declared an extreme calamity and today we are on a red warning for heat, it’s 33 degrees and rising.

Meanwhile we have discovered our 4th water leak since Easter,  this time in the worst possible location, the jungle between the sports ground and the meter in the snake pit.  MrFF keeps checking and Giovanni too is looking out for a patch of green on the brown mountainside.  Anna has had her 4th leak repaired but is still losing water, she has turned off her supply and gone back to Rome.

I can’t help thinking that if there was better infrastructure there wouldn’t be a 45% loss of all drinking water through leaks and the calamity would have been avoided.  

Monday, 20 June 2022

Change of plan

We have made a plan as we have friends coming to stay in 10 days time and work on the terrace has been set back by temperatures in the 30s.  Not only is it impossible to work much after 11 am and then not again until early evening it’s never cool enough to lay the expensive new screed, not at any time of day or night.

MrFF is currently repairing the balcony edges which are a right bodge up and probably the cause of a lot of our damp problems.  He’s had to change his repair plans a few times as he’s uncovered various horrors but he’s making a great job with new fully reinforced concrete as you can see from the before and after.

So we’ve decided to clean as much as possible the old membrane so we can at least sit on the balcony for meals.  We will rig up the sun sails somehow, they are normally fastened to the railings which are currently mostly connected to nothing and propped on blocks.  I will arrange a few pots and we will remove the cement mixer which we hauled into position only last week.  

We can then install the plastic pool on the lower terrace where we have been eating and lounging. It’s much airier on the balcony, has better views and it’s easier to step out with food and drinks than carry it all down the steps.  Plus I am desperate for the pool for cool downs and quite happy to have a break in the work, I’m sure MrFF is too, he needs a pausa as we say here.  Like all the workers we are up before 6 to tackle jobs before the heat arrives and we regularly fall asleep struggling to watch the 10 o’clock need that we see at 11.  The heat is forecast to continue for at least 10 days with no rain in sight as Europe continues its heatwave.  The tomatoes are turning and being regularly watered, the lawn is brown and crisp, I am rather that way myself.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Checking the meter

We are now re-connected to our water supply via 15 metres of above ground pipe that bypasses the underground leak we cannot find.  I am very grateful to have the water back and that MrFF resolved this for us albeit temporarily.

If you are reading this Acea, our water provided, can I just point out that the residents in this area are all in their 70s, some in their 80s, some late 80s.   How the hell are they supposed to traipse up the mountain to read their meter, lift a heavy metal manhole cover off the pit, and lean into the deep chamber as MrFF demonstrates below.  

And how dare you impose a standing charge for this ramshackle arrangement whereby you tap into a local spring,  stick on inaccessible meters and never check the quality of the water which is not treated in any way.  You had the nerve to keep taking our money even when you disconnected us for 2 months saying we had no contract despite us being your customers for the last 20 years.    You installed our metres half a kilometre from our house to make us responsible for the badly installed pipe work through a jungle of undergrowth and under roads down the mountainside.

Please don’t trouble yourselves responding to this complaint, you’ve never done so in the past, we have no expectations of customer service.

Your publicity about providing clean water from springs checked by satellite is nonsense, your seem ignorant of your failings. The quality of our water hasn’t been checked in 20 years.  Despite stating that the meter must be read at least twice a year we’ve had estimated bills for the last 14,  the meter readers can never find the snake pit or are too afraid to go there or don’t turn up at all on the dates we are advised to give them access which presumably means we should hack out a route to the pit.

If we die from dehydration or some water borne disease somebody please pass this post to the appropriate authority, preferably not an Italian one.  Thank you.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Another water leak

MrFF went to do his regular meter check last night to discover we have our third water leak since we arrived.  Again it’s in the gully, we went out to do our usual scratch and search but this time we couldn’t find the leak.  By 8.15 last night we gave up, I came home to start dinner while MrFF turned off the supply as we are losing so much.

After further investigation this morning has MrFF determined the leak is in the top 15 metres of the gully where it’s steep and rocky.  It rained overnight so now finding a damp area is even more tricky so he’s gone to the builders yard for supplies and for now is going to bypass the leaking section with a temporary overground pipe.  At least we shall be able to wash and I can tackle the pile of washing up in the kitchen.  We made tea this morning with bottled fizzy water, not recommended.

It’s hard to believe this is happening. Water is such a huge issue here, not that we ever run out even in the driest spell it’s just the problem of getting it to our home.  I could walk from our house to properties that have been built with no water supply at all yet we are only 40 miles from the capital city.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if we’d known 20 years ago it would be like this we’d have made our own arrangements then, like bought a house in France.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Happy and glorious


I intended posting today about the Queen’s jubilee and including an old black and white photograph of me and my brother at our village coronation celebrations in 1952.  I posted this snap 10 years ago however blogger or ipad have decided it’s impossible for me to take the photograph from that post and stick it on todays. I can have the next photograph no bother but not the one I want.

Life’s a bit like that, you can get all sorts of things you neither want nor need but never just what you do want.  Take our tv set up here.  I know it’s complicated to get the stations we want, Italian and UK, to do so we have many boxes and routers and dishes and receivers, in fact we have 8 remote controls but don’t ask me what they are for, I’ve no idea.  It’s reached the stage now we need the iPad or MrFF’s phone to get the bloomin tv on, it’s beyond my ability or enthusiasm to work it.  MrFF being a man and an engineer gets cross and ask how I’d manage if he wasn’t here, he forgets I’d be on the next flight back to Yorkshire where I can work the tv.

Mario was here this morning and we talked about the jubilee.  Like most Italians he doesn’t understand why we appreciate and value our Queen so much.   She has been constant leader throughout my life and dedicated her own to the service of our nation.  A 70 year reign is certainly something to celebrate despite her majesty probably not always getting what she wants either.  I am sorry you cannot see the photograph and that we won’t be tucking into pork pies and cakes today.  

Enjoy the celebrations, God save the Queen.

Monday, 30 May 2022

A plague of porcupines

Saturday morning there had been a porcupine attack in the border. As usual the white irises were the target,  I never worry too much as they grow wild here so they are tough, two a penny and generally recover.  I thought about setting up my wildlife camera but the creatures have never attacked two nights in a row so I didn’t. Wrong again, Sunday morning they’d been back with a vengeance, just look at the destruction. 

Not only were the remaining irises dug up and chewed, they’d also uprooted a lot of bulbs but not eaten them, I’ve replanted gladioli, oxalis, spraxis, obviously none of them tasted good.

I was surprised at the number of iris tubers excavated, there must have been a herd of porcupines and I worry they since there are so few iris remaining they might  start digging up plants that I am not prepared to lose, like the amaryllis that are just about to open or the well established nerines.

I set the camera on Sunday night not that it would stop them if they returned but at least I could see the culprits,  of course they didn’t return.  I’ll just keep up the surveillance until they are back unless they realise there is little left they want to eat and have moved on, I really hope so.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Sent to try us

 The challenges of living in Italy never cease, we have just about had enough.

The worst thing is yet another water leak. MrFF has been regularly going up to the snake pit shown above that houses the 9 meters for our area.  He has to lift off the heavy lid and used to have to climb into the pit until the water board recently repositioned the meters so they are just readable from the outside, as you see here.  

Since we returned our consumption had been low.   I recycle washing up and veggie cleaning water back onto the garden and we’ve only watered the veggie plants by hand as the irrigation is quite wasteful.  MrFF came down on Saturday night to tell me we have a leak, we’d used in the short time since he last checked as much as we’d normally use in half a year.  Some time ago he installed valves so he can isolate sections of our pipe run which confirmed the leak was again in the overgrown gully between our house and the road up to Giovanni’s.

MrFF was both cross and despondent about the leak because of the difficult hard work involved to find it, the cost of the water we’d lost and the sheer frustration of this never ending problem.  In fact one of his solutions was to switch off our supply, buy a lot of bottled water and ask at the hotel in the village if we could have a shower. Not up there with his best ideas.

Sunday we decided to have a day off from the terrace and the water leak and go to the morning market up the mountain.  This trip makes me nervous with all the big motorbikes overtaking so dangerously and cyclists descending at high speed, we’d hardly got to the next village never mind the mountain road before I was a nervous wreck.  The market was pleasant, MrFF got himself a linen shirt and a pair of jeans, we then walked round the town and stopped for a drink at a little bar we’ve used before near the market, the more upmarket bar we prefer was very busy. We each had an Aperol spritz, it wasn’t brilliant and the snacks you are always served with alcohol were pretty basic, but we enjoyed sitting out watching the world go by.  MrFF went inside to pay and came back in shock, we’d been charged 15 euro for two drinks that would cost half that in the elegant bar in our village, where they also provide a good selection of home made snacks.  We think we were overcharged because we are foreigners, other people there, ordinary local folk, definitely wouldn't be paying those sort of prices. This has never happened to us before though it has to non Italians we know, once a friend was charged 17 euro for a beer.  When he questioned the price he was told it was special.  It’s a horrible thing to do, we will never go back there although if we are at the market I will go inside and check the price list.

Back to the leak, Monday morning MrFF strimmed all the gully then we started the daunting task of finding the leak, him with a large fork scratching at the surface for damp earth me with my little gardening fork.  I was almost ready to give up when I found a small damp patch of earth.  We cleared the ground, dug down a little and left it to see if it was still damp later in the day. It was. Late afternoon MrFF dug down, exposed the leaking pipe and made a temporary repair.  However when he checked the meter it was still running albeit much slower, there was another leak which we located between the bottom of the gully and our house, most probably under the road.  We couldn’t randomly start digging up the tarmac so we spent more time scratching about among the surface cracks until again I found the spot, not so far from a repair last year. MrFF had it fixed by early evening though the road still needs reinstating.
We are sick to death of this hopeless situation but complaining will get us nowhere, not even a response even if we send a message by the special secure email we pay for, we’ve already been totally ignored by two companies we’ve contacted this way, one of which is the tax office.  Permanent and summer residents all over rural Italy, the country with the third largest economy in the EU, put up with it, like the lady in our road who has received a bill for 20,000 euro for a big leak that has been running since last autumn when she went back to Rome.  So far her family have fixed two leaks, one under the top road, but she is still loosing water when the supply isn’t turned off.  

Of course troubles come in threes.  This morning when I went into the orchard half our courgettes and half the broad beans had been eaten, some of the tomatoes had been trampled on.  There were big holes in the vegetable bed.  I brought out with me this year a motion activated wildlife camera.  I’ve set it up several nights and so far captured a crow, a chaffinch, a young fox and many photos of our cats.  Enrico seems to be taking the micky as he’s started parading in front of the camera and going right up to the lense.  Of course when I don’t set it up devastation happens, these animals are smart and sneaky, just like the water leaks.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Fortuitous gardening


When I first saw this large allium appearing I got quite excited but then I’ve been full of anticipation about other plants that turned out disappointing or weeds.  I had no recollection of planting the bulbs but when two others fairly equally spaced appeared in the front border I realised I probably bought a cheap pack at a supermarket, planted them and forgot.  The first football size flower is amazing and the clever things are phasing their appearance so two more to come.

Another happenstance was a little rose I moved a couple of years ago, it wasn’t doing anything and while I wasn’t sure if it was just a sucker or something wild I  moved it and gave it some attention.  It’s beautiful this year with a lovely scent, positioned close to the front gate where it gives a lovely welcome. It’s right next to one of the yucca cuttings I found discarded two years ago.  They soon rooted and both are doing well with children of their own.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

It’s that time again

Strimming season has begun.  Sunday morning when we sat out for breakfast listening to the buzz of machinery MrFF decided he would tackle our orchard rather than have another day working on the terrace.

The orchard is such a happy place at present, I often wander down there early morning and again early evening accompanied by Grigio who since she was a kitten has enjoyed stalking in the undergrowth and climbing the trees.  

The wild flowers are beautiful, they get better every year, probably because we allow them to seed before they get cut down.  There are plenty of insects enjoying the flowers including ladybirds that will be beneficial for our crops.

MrFF assured me that for now he is only cutting necessary paths, for example so that I will be able to pick the cherries and get to the bonfire site.

He will also cut down the wild oats that in places are taking over.  We’ve only had these for the past couple of years but they are everywhere, in the orchard, in the borders and among the olive groves right down to the village.  I don’t know where they came from but they are complete thugs that we will never be rid of.  Even if we clear our own land they will reseed from other places but at least there will be a few seeds less without the use of chemicals.