Tuesday 27 December 2022

Our Christmas stockings

This year providing each other with a Christmas stocking of gifts costing no more than £5 total was really challenging but we were determined not to up the budget. 

I didn’t do very well with my purchases for MrFF, some organic dark chocolate, two spf lip balms to take to Italy where he is prone to cold sores from the sun, a geology book and a rather lovely landscape book on water gardens costing 50p in the charity shop. It has beautiful illustrations and detailed plans, In case he ever runs out of projects in Italy I would like this one.

My stocking contained all these, he found some lovely things. 

The mini battenburgs were on their expiry in the bargain bucket, I don’t mind that at all.  

The little wooden sphere is a yo-yo, he thought the picture of the badger would remind me of our Italian garden, though not in a good way. 

My favourite item is in the white paper bag, it’s liquorice from Skipton market, where he travelled for free with his bus pass.   The disc shaped ones are Pontefract cakes, which are soft and delicious, the tiny little cats are Dutch liquorice, they are so lovely I cannot bring myself to eat them.  

Slightly less delightful is the grater for taking hard skin off your feet, MrFF thought it might be quite aggressive but it isn’t.   Finally there is a collagen face mask that might get passed on, I am not convinced such a product also containing glitter and costing less than £1 is what my 74 year old skin needs.

Of course we had gorgeous gifts from family to open later in the day but opening our stockings on Christmas morning is always great fun and cheap fun at that which is what we like.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Light at Christmas

am wondering how I feel this year about outdoor Christmas lights.  Living in our penthouse we don’t have the option of an outdoor display but when we lived in houses we generally had white lights in a tree near our front door at Christmas. I think there is a natural desire for increased light during the cold of winter and the long dark nights but this year feels different.

We were invited by our energy supplier to take part in a savings exercise that we happily agreed to join.  Basically at specified peak usage times we must try to  reduce our normal power consumption by turning off what we can.  In return we receive a small credit and help reduce demand.  The first time we did this, turning off tv, computers, anything on standby and using only one light we did well and earned a credit of £2.99 in one hour.  We were invited the next week to do the same for one hour on two consecutive days. We took the same action but our total saving was disappointingly about £1.50, twice the time half the return, maybe we missed something.  The latest request was to save for two hours between 5 and 7 pm which seemed a bit daunting but in fact wasn’t, again the saving was only £1.50.   

Of course it’s no great financial benefit given the enormous rises in fuel prices but we like to think it’s one in the eye for Putin as we reduce consumption and demand,  also it reminds us not to take power for granted or waste it.

So I am finding it hard to accept some of the lavish outdoor light displays we see around us. We look down onto this terrace of smart townhouses, almost every one is illuminated from dusk, most until late at night and one all night long.  I feel this is rather ostentatious, not because I dislike excessive displays (I do) but as more and more people are struggling to cope with financial pressures it seems insensitive.  It’s a tricky one, I love the lights in our town and everyone has the right to spend their money as they wish but with a worst case scenario that we could in future face power cuts shouldn’t we all be thinking about how we use this commodity.  Besides being from Yorkshire I would be inclined to have no lights, enjoy my neighbours to save my money and demand.

Friday 16 December 2022

An early Christmas surprise

Proud great aunty moment.  This is my eldest grand niece Amelia, 13 years old.  I sent to her and her younger sister Esme 10 years old via their grandparents, my brother and sister in law, kits to knit their own Christmas wreaths.  3 balls of chunky white wool, a pair of lovely large wooden needles,  a circular metal frame, a red ribbon and full instructions.  It’s quite a while since I taught the girls to knit so I cast on for both of them and knitted the first couple of rows to get them started.

Imagine my delight to receive an email from their mum thanking me for the gifts and saying that within a day of receiving hers Amelia had finished.  

Amelia looks so cosy and calm knitting, I am beyond being proud and the finished article is beautiful. The little socks were some I made and gave my sister in law to distribute as she wished or keep for herself, I must make more.  I can’t wait to see Esme's wreath and I cannot say how happy this post makes me.  The knitting genes might have missed a generation, neither of my nieces is interested. This feels like a lovely and lasting Christmas gift for me and I am hoping the chunky needles might next be used for scarves.

Monday 12 December 2022

Christmas countdown

Obviously we haven’t put up our Christmas decorations yet, it’s only the 12 December so they are still in the loft.  However we have done our present exchange as my brother and his wife were able to come over at the weekend.  It was fairly short notice for us all but fortunately I had decided the day before we arranged this to tackle the present wrapping and with a few last minute purchases we were ready.  

It’s so nice to have all these parcels in our hall, a neighbour called in and said it looked lovely that I shall leave them there.

My sister in law made for beautiful festive arrangement for us, it’s on the hall console.  They also brought us 

pink hyacinths 

and a white amaryllis in a decorated glass vase.  Already we look so festive, by my standards, there can’t be much more to do.

It’s unlike me to be so organised, just the usual exchange of gifts to the value of £5 between MrFF and I.  That’s proving this year to be quite a challenge given the rising cost of living, we thought about upping the budget but decided not to break with tradition. 

Sunday 4 December 2022

Kindness costs nothing

MrFF listens a lot to the singer Neil Young, mostly the album Comes a Time and a line of the track Human Highway always resonates with me

          How could people get so unkind 

Kindness costs nothing and changes everything, yet it seems to be sadly missing in today's world.  

Harry and Meghan with their promised revelations about the royal family immediately springs to mind.  I cannot help thinking if The Queen was still alive the couple might have been more reticent to speak out.  They delayed publication of their tell all book after her death but I saw in our local independent and much loved bookshop that it’s now available to order.  I’d love our bookshop more if they refused to stock it and I might have some respect for the Sussexes if they just concentrated on doing something decent with their lives rather than this self promotion that rakes in more money to maintain their extravagant home and lifestyle.  I’m sure the royal family are greatly feeling the loss of the Queen as a dear family member but also as their mentor, Harry does her a great disservice whatever his perceived grievances and he probably know that.  If he has suffered so much at the hands of the royals its surprising he and Meghan were so keen that their children have royal titles and be part of the firm they abhor. 

The recent resignation of Lady Susan Hussey a member of the royal household after allegations of racist abuse towards Ngozi Fulani CEO of a charity that supports abused black and caribbean women is another example, why not all women is another matter.   We are talking about an 83 year old woman with many life experiences, years of devoted (unpaid) service and until this event still working.    There is no kindness in the apparent victim immediately going public about the exchange via social media talking about feeling trapped and violated. Surely better to have explained she wasn’t comfortable being questioned about her ethnicity, that despite their obvious visible differences both women were equally British and she didn't wish to discuss her families heritage.  As it is one woman is hurt and angry which doesn’t stop her seeking publicity and throwing out her allegations,  one forced to resign from the role that has been her life for the last 60 years.    

Thursday 1 December 2022

Move over Marie Kondo

I am basically a tidy person, not in the league of Marie Kondo the decluttering guru who recommends disposing of anything that doesn't spark joy in your life but I am neat enough.  MrFF is different, he likes his life to be visible around him witness the many piles of papers on his desk, he finds it hard to let go of things that might just come in useful one day.  

We have lived in our little penthouse now for 8 years, we downsized quite drastically and storage is always an issue for us.  For example, until we sold my yellow car we often kept our vegetables, wine and oil in it.    

Call me unreasonable I think if you haven't used something for 8 years you don't really need it, MrFF disagrees.  He has in his wardrobe a Corby trouser press from his long gone days of business suits, its never been connected to the power supply in Yorkshire.  

However, lets be fair here, he has recently made some effort.  We have since we moved here stored behind the back of a sofa a surplus 32" tv encased in bubble wrap.  MrFF wanted it on the wall of our spare bedroom, I can think of nothing worse.  We have a large tv in our lounge and small tv in our bedroom which is bad enough, the bedroom is for sleeping preceeded by some reading not watching tv.  Last week he finally admitted defeat and put the tv on ebay, it sold immediately which is fine but I have spent the last 8 years hating the bloomin thing, as often the case the more I complain the less happens.   Someone could have had the benefit of said tv for many years, it was bought as a Christmas present, likewise all the other stuff, it seems quite mean spirited to me.

Another example.  MrFF brought when we moved at least 8 suits, two black tie.  I don't think he has worn a suit since he retired, apart for a funeral once, in fact some of them have never been worn at all.  We had friends over a while back, they were going to a smart wedding and the wife said she was dreading dragging her husband round the shops to find him something to wear.  MrFF quickly produced an array of options, one suit fit almost perfectly, they had it altered for less than £50 and sent us photos of them looking smart at the wedding. They also took one of the dinner jackets in case they are ever invited to an appropriately formal function though I imagine that was us cluttering their house instead of ours.

And finally MrFF brought back from Italy various bits of kit that over the years have enable us to watch UK tv, don't ask me what they are I can barely operate the tv in Italy.  They sold too.  

Progress indeed, of course the discussion goes on.  Looking for ink for my fountain pen I recently came across about 50 blank CDs, who uses them nowadays.  MrFF wasn't up for discussion about then so I felt it inappropriate to remind him of the 50,000 staples he still has in stock, though I did use one this week, slow and steady wins the race but at our age we may not have that much race left in us. 

Monday 28 November 2022

No getting away from it

At the weekend the Christmas lights went on in our little town. MrFF was there and took this video, it was a well attended event.

This afternoon the tree went up in the atrium of our building, at present it’s undecorated and wonky, I reserve judgement. Yesterday only one of the houses we look onto had outside lights, today it’s three, no doubt the whole road will be decorated soon.

I am holding off, our decs are still in the loft but they will make an appearance in a subdued way eventually.  More importantly I am holding off the mince pies, for now, I expect them to make an appearance well before our lights.  

Sunday 20 November 2022

Stir up Sunday

Sunday 20 November is Stir up Sunday the official day to make your Christmas cake, puddings and mincemeat allowing them time to mature for the 25 of December.  I didn’t realise that when I prepared to make my cake, I was waiting for delivery of a new set of digital kitchen scales that arrived today, mine gave up the ghost last week.  In the meantime I had collected together all the necessary ingredients. I shopped locally, just a stroll the end of our road, to an eco grocery shop where you take your own containers to reduce packaging. I kept the glacé cherries separate as I like to rinse off the sticky sugar coating otherwise everything went into the same box.

I’m quite risqué when it comes to dried fruits (that sounds so Victoria Wood, must be a northern thing).   As well as sultanas, raisins and cherries, no currants, I added dried mango and cranberries with a shot of limoncello in the mix for flavour.  MrFF and I each made a wish while stirring the mixture, we didn’t reveal what they were apart from the fact that both were cat related.    The cake turned out just fine.

To get my moneys worth from having the oven on for 4 hours I also made two banana loaves from a 25p bag of overripe bananas,  later I stuck some jacket potatoes and braising steak in the oven, that kept the penthouse toasty and smelling delicious all afternoon. 
I am so pleased to report all this activity and confirm that I am now fully recovered from our journey home.  It’s taken almost two weeks to feel like me again. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Our run in with the law

I didn’t write about this while we were in Italy and after this year of experiencing so much rule bending maybe I was over anxious but I wanted to wait till we were safely home to come clean.

After we became residents at the end of 2020 we had 3 months to de-register our car in the UK, register with the Italian tax office and change to Italian plates.  We were reluctant to do so as our Saab is 20 years old, of no great value except to us and we knew the process would be long and expensive.  We would not be allowed to use the car while the changes were being made, at least 3 months, which would make life on the mountainside difficult.

It’s usual to use the service of a driving school to complete the registration, the first one we approached refused the work saying it would take forever and the authorities would make fools of us.  The second one would help us, firstly we needed to get an original copy of our UK documents, we take copies abroad,  and have them translated by some legal official in Italy.  We had to do something similar with our marriage certificate when we took residency. UK authorities will only post such documents to a UK address, we had to get them posted on by our key holder, pay for a translation, all that palaver and the Comune looked at them for maybe 2 minutes before handing them back.

We delivered the car documents to the driving school but after some thought decided not to proceed, we collected them back and gave him a few bottles of wine for his trouble.  Obviously we worried about being fined or having the car impounded but not too much, nothing happened and we returned to England in that November.

This year we hadn’t been back in Italy long before we were stopped by the carabinieri, the state police.  We are always told to speak only English to them because they cannot do with the hassle and will wave you on.  We greeted the officer with a good afternoon, he spoke excellent English.  He asked for our documents, we showed our UK driving licences,  we couldn’t show our Italian residency card or our cover would be blown.  He took the cards back to his vehicle and his colleague, they had a discussion,  made a phone call and came back asking for the car documents.  We should carry the registration document in the car, we don’t do that in the UK because if the car is stolen it’s much easier to sell on.  MrFF showed him our insurance document which is on his phone, we didn’t think the officer could read it let alone understand but he said it was ok.  He asked if the address on the driving licence was where we lived, yes, and he took a photo of our car number plate.  I asked MrFF if he was scared and he said he was a bit, I was a lot.

Anyway we were waved on.  I mentioned that we might now be on some Italian database MrFF thought not.  We were on our way to dinner at friends, we needed a stiff drink as soon as we arrived.

A few weeks later MrFF was returning from the builders yard, he pulled up at the house and so did a police car.  He explained to me that he’d been almost home and the 2 local police ladies were driving in the opposite direction but quickly turned round,  followed and stopped him asking for the car documents, he explained they were at the house.  We told them about not carrying them etc, they obviously didn’t grasp the principle and said if the car was stolen we could phone for new documents.  The documents were ok but then one of them said we could only have our car in Italy for 3 weeks without registering it and that we should do so immediately by driving an hour away to the tax office.  We said we’d never heard that before, apparently it was a new rule.  When they left I checked online and there was nothing, but we wondered if they might check if we were residents in which case we definitely needed to register the car.  

About a week later the two ladies pitched up again this time with a directive about this new 3 week rule, MrFF photographed it.  They said we should go to the region capital and register the car, as if it was as simple as that.  We were sitting in the garden, MrFF disappeared into the house for some reason leaving me to chat. Things got awkward when they asked when we arrived and how long we were staying.  I’m not sure if they knew we were residents, their office is in the Comune building it wouldn’t be difficult to check.  I mumbled about coming send going and moved the conversation on, fortunately one of them was very interested in the garden, phew.

Later I did some more research and the 3 week rule was for residents driving a car they didn’t own on foreign plates, for example a worker with a Swiss company car. Nonetheless we were breaking the rules and felt vulnerable, we took to only going out about once a week for provisions and doing this at lunch time when of course everyone is eating and then resting.  Whenever we saw a police car we were nervous, one time driving through the village we saw about 5 carabinieri officers outside the bar, luckily too involved in coffee and chat to spot our UK number plates.

The stress combined with the need by the end of this year for MrFF to take a written and practical Italian driving test, preceded by 6 compulsory driving lessons, for 3 years to be classed as a new driver with limit on the size of car he can drive and increased insurance premiums, convinced us to give up our residency solving all these problems.  We applied in July and heard not a thing until October, we had copies of our cancellation request forms in case we were stopped but reality we probably continued to drive illegally.  

Just another hassle we lived with this year.  I sometimes read the British Embassy in Rome’s Facebook page.  Plenty of cross people who worry about changing their licence to keep their jobs, and rightly furious that for Italian drivers in the UK it’s a  simple process, no tests at all, no new driver designation.  But then why would Italy ever make anything straightforward, where else would you need your tax code before we could buy a sofa or your car registration document for a replacement windscreen wiper.  

Now we can only be in the Schengen region for 90 days in every 180.  No more 7 month stays, we will need to juggle our visits and minimise travel time.  At present I don't have the strength to do that or the enthusiasm to think about this, I am still exhausted and cross.  

Wednesday 9 November 2022


We are back in Yorkshire, hallelujah, after the usual exhausting 3 days of travel.  On the first day we drove for 12 hours into France to find no food available at our hotel.  4 star with 2 restaurants even the bar was closed.  Guests were wearing their coats at breakfast it was so cold indoors, the place had the cheek to call itself Grand Hotel Bristol.

Despite hit and miss petrol supplies in France we managed to keep topped up with diesel.  We had a quiet but choppy channel crossing and on the M25 were delayed by the Just Stop Oil protestors as were hundreds of others, the cost of delayed freight alone must be enormous.  Eventually the motorway was completely closed heading north but fortunately where we exit for the A1.

It’s so good to be home after a difficult and disappointing 7 months in Italy.  We left the house with no resolution to the water problem and only 15 litres of oil after 2 days of picking. The penthouse is calm, we are recovering and I am so happy to be back whilst trying not to think about the cats.  

Monday 31 October 2022

A Yorkshire great

You may not have heard of Brian Robinson  unless you love cycling as I do.  He was the first Brit to finish the Tour de France and the first Brit to win a stage in the days before professional cycling became the science it is now.  No aero dynamic helmets, no helmets at all, no skin suits, no tubes of gel to suck in a quick energy boost.  I would not be surprised if he had to pack up his own sandwiches each day.   He was from Yorkshire.  He died recently aged 91.

MrFF and I had the privilege to meet him and his wife a few years ago in Ilkley.  A local brewery had produced a beer in his honour, aptly named stage winner and there was a promotion in our local supermarket.  It was fairly quiet and we had the chance to chat to Brian for some time. He was charming, interesting and totally  unassuming.  He was as pleased to hear about our exploits following grand tours on the continent as we were to hear about his life.  For many years his achievements were hardly recognised but once the Tour came to Yorkshire, he was one of the ambassadors working hard to make that happen, he was acknowledged as the legend he was.  He told us that latterly he and his wife were guests at the Tour and every year taken to France and treated as the VIPs they were. 

He lived a long life and achieved much, he made Yorkshire proud inspiring others including members of his own family to get on their bikes. RIP Brian. 

Saturday 29 October 2022

Water - season 7 episode 83

The next stage of the water saga goes like this.

Anna’s daughter said after our acceptance of the bum deal that by the end of the week, that’s 2 weeks ago, she would be sending details for us to transfer our money into her mothers account.  We raised a few issues about the supply from the new meter location to our house which she ignored.

We then had a message to say her husband would be here at the weekend to install the foundation and box for the new meters at the top of the road, our responsibility why on earth would the water company be bothered with such details or offer any guidance.   We asked where exactly this would be and were told it would be assessed and there were no problems.  Husband and wife pitched up last Sunday, we joined them at the top of the road and it became clear they had no idea where the meters are to be located, with the added frisson that the likely location would be on someone else’s land for which we’d need permission.  

The daughter said she’d contact the Comune for guidance.  The Comune must have forgotten which drawer they keep the plans in because it took a week for them to issue two incomprehensible plans and a list of approximately 15 different owners.  You need to understand that land in Italy gets divided amongst families over the generations until lots of people end up owning a piece the size of a tea towel.  It took 18 months for our solicitor to find all the owners and agree a sale when we bought our ruin in Puglia, by which time we’d rather gone off the idea and should have given up.

Now the owner or owners needs to be traced and some agreement reached which of course is our responsibility, not the Comune or the water company.    It does raise again the question of pipes on private land, both authorities insist the water company cannot install water pipes on private land but then say the householder must have obtained permission for them to do so when they accept a contract.  Call me stupid, I cannot see why the houses in our road cannot give permission for the pipes to be laid down our private road with the meters at our gates. I’d raise the issue again but the man at the Comune said the time for questions was over, he wisely never said the time for action had begun though.  I can’t see anything happening soon.  At least we can hang onto our money a but longer, she said trying to be positive whilst feeling hysterical

Monday 24 October 2022

As Promised

JosieKitten  posted recently that she had knitted a pair of socks in a day.  Incredible work, makes my efforts over the last 6 months hardly worth mentioning, but I will.

We had months when the daytime temperature was in the low 30s, nights were spent sitting outside admiring the stars and the lights in the valley, there was no knitting at all during high summer.  In total 4 pairs of socks have been produced since April.

I am now knitting socks of course, they will always be my knitting of choice but I decided because of all the stress we’ve been under that I should also have something that requires a bit more concentration to occupy and calm my mind.  

I’ve started another Estuary wrap.  I love this pattern, it’s interesting but not too tricky thanks to clear instructions and excellent charts, the finished article is elegant and so wearable. I am using Freedom Gorgeous dk, containing 75% bamboo it feels beautifully silky although it has a slight tendency to split, I am being careful. I was given a bag of this yarn which I think it now discontinued, I probably have enough for two wraps which a better person would have finished in time for Christmas.  I’m not interested in high production or meeting deadlines, I’m aiming for sanity. 

Wednesday 19 October 2022

The die is cast, maybe

Yesterday was D day, decision day on the water.  Reluctantly we have agreed to pay our share, 4000 euros, towards the cost of moving the 4 meters to the top of our road. We were not swayed by the various threats of what would happen if we didn’t join the other neighbours in this exercise, that if we changed our minds later we would have to pay 16,000 instead of 4,000, or even the rather more sinister suggestion we would be left with a very unhappy feeling, which would be a change from the frustration and rage we’ve been feeling for weeks.  We went ahead because actually not having the meter in the snake pit therefore a shorter length of pipe to be responsible for is a benefit.  But the main reason is that we are certain that when the contractors start excavating to install the new single pipe to the new meter location they will destroy our existing pipes and we would come back next year to probably no water and an almighty battle to sort that.    

We are still furious and have no idea about the next stage of the work, pipes from the new meter location to our houses which we residents must arrange.  The water company refuse to give us a quote for connecting to the proposed new meter and without that we cannot pay, in advance of course, to be connected.  Our neighbour has a quote, we applied weeks ago and our last two emails have been ignored.  

We haven’t paid the money yet, which we must put into our neighbours bank account without any paperwork although we will make some note on the transfer.  We have no expectations of any kind of receipt.  The only start date for the work was given verbally at the meeting, straight away when we pay.  I interpret that as sometime next year and hope to be proved wrong.

Unrelated to the water, I read in the paper this morning that Silvio Berlusconi who will be part of Italy’s new coalition government is boasting of his recently renewed friendship with Putin.  There has been an exchange of lovely letters and Vlad has declared Silv one of his top 5 best friends.  Things are pretty pear shaped government wise in the UK at the moment but there’s a long way to go before we reach this level.

I promise the next post will be a knitting one, even if there is more craziness and there probably will, we need some balance.  I’ve broken my own rules and have two projects on the go as I knit to be calm, as recommended by Weave.

Saturday 15 October 2022

Home - if only

Weave asked in my last ranty posts if I’d thought of coming back to Ilkley and knitting lovely socks.  Pat, my mind has been occupied with such thoughts for months and hopefully it won’t be long now.  With hindsight we should have returned for a couple of months during the scorching summer when we just sat around wilting and unable to do anything constructive.

We applied in July to cancel the residency we took during lockdown because we couldn’t travel back to the UK, after Brexit we would outstay our welcome and we needed to register for healthcare.  We asked many times for the official date of cancellation so we could calculate how long we could stay here. If cancellation was from the date we applied we’d need to be out of the Schengen area by next Monday which would involve leaving here today at the latest.   We had no response at all to 4 emails in the last 12 weeks, even a reply saying no idea would have been something.  Then this week we had one of those high security PEC emails, which don’t elicit a response either, saying our residency has been cancelled from 10 October.  So it’s taken 3 months to tick a few boxes and cross us off the list, good going Italy.   Happily it means we can stay at least another week to pick our olives, the local mill opens today.

The balcony is looking good, the final,waterproofing layer has to be installed but fingers crossed the worst is over.  The man who might re-lay the 1000 tiles was here to take a look and declared the work more or less perfect.  We still have to receive his price and he won’t do the work until next year but hopefully the room below is now watertight for winter.

I cannot wait to return to sanity.  We had a curt email after our meeting from the Comune about the water situation.  Such phrases as take it or leave it, like it or not,  the time for questions is over are hardly harmonious or appropriate for someone employed to serve the public.  I’m happy that in future we can only be in the Schengen for 90 days in 180, that’s more than enough.  I want to come home, I’m a UK resident, I’m a Yorkshire lass and being in Italy has made me cross more times than it’s made me happy this year, the love is lost forever.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Trust me I’m an Italian

We went to the meeting today about our water.  Anna was there with 4 others, family and friends, also Pietro and Stella, us 2, the Acea man and 2 Comune people. Also there was Mara who has helped us in the past to offer translation, we’ve spoken to her by phone a few times but never met her, she was adorable.
The meeting was called for 3.30, we residents all arrived in good time and waited until 4.10 before anything happened.  There was a lot of shouting and talking over each other, people were keen to retell how many leaks they’d had and the hours of work to locate and fix them.  I soon lost the will to live (in Italy) but I did take some notes, these will amuse you.
We’d been told Acea were aware of our concerns and that we weren’t happy with their proposal but it was clear nothing had changed, it was take it or leave it so the meeting was pointless.  These are some of the responses.
We can only have one quotation one client and one bill for the 4 houses in our road because for the purpose of the contract we are a condominium, they agreed we are in fact 4 unconnected houses and not a condominium but the offer doesn’t change. 
Because Acea are a public company they can only work on public land, in fact they are a private company and we know of several local properties that have meters in their private gardens or in their houses. When we asked again about the legislation they said there is nothing written but it’s a verbal rule.
Although they have quoted for 25 mm diameter pipe which is sufficient for only one house they will in fact provide a 60 mm pipe but they won’t revised their quotation to confirm this and we must sign up to the original offer, at least Anna does because the rest of us don’t sign anything we just cough up the money.
They cannot run the new tube down the gully and place the meters half way down our road, because it is illegal to have water pipes in a gully.  We did explain that they are well aware our supply has come down the gully for 30 years and no one has ever challenged it.
We asked about the additional cost of work to run pipes from the meters at the top of our road to our houses, we have to arrange that between us, manage and coordinate the work with the new meter installation, I’ve no idea who is going to do that.
We asked when the work would take place and Acea said as soon as they have the money, yeah right.
We also asked what would happen if we paid for the new pipe and then some others nearby wanted to connect to it for 87 euro.  Anna said they wouldn’t be able to do so as we’d paid for the pipes and they were ours, of course they will belong to Acea we just pay for them.  
The two sets of neighbours present are keen to go ahead, we and the third neighbour who was not there have our doubts. We were asked for our decision but said we hadn’t made one, we have to decide by next week.
Its completely against our culture to pay in advance for something so vague without contract or control, a real recipe for disaster.  The other 2 families say if we don’t agree they will go ahead and we cannot connect to the system later, we wouldn’t try do that it would be immoral.  We got the impressions they were bluffing and trying to pressurise us, if we and the absent neighbour don’t go ahead the other 2 would be looking at at least 10,000 euro each, Pietro and Stella are here for less than 4 weeks a year so that’s lot of money.  
What will we do, I have no idea, I’m open to suggestions.

Saturday 8 October 2022

Water, water, water

I’m not sure that you want me to keep ranting about our water problems, I’ll try to be brief although the situation does seems to occupy us constantly and has many complex issues.

We made it clear we weren’t willing to hand over almost 4000 euros to our neighbour, our quarter of the costs to move the 4 meters from the mountainside to the top of the road, with no legal paperwork and no timescale for completion.   Actually the quotation was for a single pipe sized for one property to which we should all 4 connect, according to UK standards it should be twice the size quoted, and what’s to stop them once the pipe work is installed from saying it’s just for one house and we each actually have to pay 16,000 euro.

We had submitted our own application for a price for the work but Acea, the water people, said they couldn’t give us a quotation until we installed the meter housing ourselves. At the same time they made an appointment to visit our immediate neighbour, who doesn’t have the necessary meter housing to give her a price (and they’d already given the price of almost 16,000 euro to the other neighbour who doesn’t have a meter housing ready either).  So MrFF got in touch and said since they were going to be here they could give us a price at the same time.  Our immediate neighbour asked them to do the same thing for us, she wasn’t able to attend and appointed MrFF as her trusted person to meet the Tecnico and discuss details.

The appointment, this was over a week ago, was according to the email for between 12 and 2, or between 2 and 4 according to the attachment, best to cover all the afternoon.  I was working in the front garden by 12 and dashed to the balcony to tell MrFF when I heard a car, by the time we’d walked back round our house the man had left.  MrFF phoned him and he said we’d need to contact the office to arrange a separate visit. Obviously he never had any intention of giving us a price.  When we contacted the office they said we’d need to have a meter housing in place before they could price, what a situation, a stern email has been sent, we’ve had no reply.    They also said we couldn’t have our own price and our own bill for our share of the pipework as it was one job so could only have one customer.  

Our neighbour let us know that she received quotation of 87 euro, which is the standard charge for linking into an existing supply, it didn’t need a visit from a Tecnico to tell her that, it’s on the website.  

Now a meeting has been arranged for Tuesday next week by our Comune for all 4 residents in our road to meet with Acea at the little town hall.  We asked what the intention of the meeting is as we cannot accept the current situation where we fork up the money before work begins to a neighbour, have no contract so no control or comeback if things go wrong, have to co ordinate the installation of water pipes from the new meter down our road,  probably while we are back in the UK and accept a supply that is sufficient for one house to supply 4, with the possibility that once the major work is done other houses in our area, mostly currently not occupied, could later link in at a cost of less than 100 euro further depleting the supply and contributing nothing to the major expense. 

If the new meters are housed at the top of our road we still need pipes laid running under our road, we’d have to to arrange this betwden us and still be responsible for any leaks from the new meters to our properties, granted a much shorter run than up to the existing snake pit meter housing but still a concern.  As I said we probably won’t be here to see the work done, if it’s to the same standard as the existing pipework we shall still have problems and be many thousand of euros lighter.  We again asked if the meters could be located outside our houses so that Acea would be responsible for all the pipework.  They insist they cannot lay pipes on private property, our road is not adopted by the Comune, but have so far not been able to point us to evidence or legislation that this is the case, since we’d all be in agreement and give our permission it must be feasible.

The Comune have set up some WhatsApp group where we can all speak with each other, one neighbour isn’t participating, one is as concerned as we are and one, the person who would have the contract just wants to crack on.  In fact her daughter was rather rude to us last week and asked if we were angling to have the contract in our name and for her to give us her share.  She obviously doesn’t understand the issues, no one in their right mind pays out that amount of money without some binding agreement and I cannot see that she or her mother will be up for managing the Acea contract and coordinating the second contract for pipes in our road.  All we’ve seen is a 2 line quotation and a sketch I think was done on the back of a fag packet.  The daughter also said we should stop talking to each other and just resolve the matter because as they are now the houses cannot be lived in.   Excuse me we are living here and while it’s a hassle we are coping by filling our irrigation tank once a week and using that for the bathrooms, cleaning etc and bottling water for drinking when the supply is on, the rest of the time our mains supply is turned off so we are not loosing water from the various leaks we have.    We all want things resolved but we won’t make rash decisions, if the work had been done properly in the first place we wouldn’t have had 20 years of fixing leaks and extortionate bills for lost water, which we refused to pay.  

To be blunt we do not trust Acea, not least because their charter says they will never disconnect a water supply, yet they did disconnect a friend nearby when it was discovered there were two properties on one meter and earlier this year they disconnected the 4 houses in our road saying we didn’t have contracts.   Some of the residents have had contracts for 30 years and even when we were disconnected they continued to take payments from us all.  In every one of these case there was no consultation or notification, although we later found a hand written note on a torn piece of paper in the snake pit saying we’d been disconnected and a number to call.  This is the customer service we are up against, it’s appalling and I need to brush up in my Italian to be able to tell them so on Tuesday.  It’s bad enough being expected to fork out this kind of money just to have a decent water supply which in a major European country should be a given, not being listened to and being treated with such disdain is infuriating.  See, it’s impossible to write about this without producing yet another massive rant.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

It’s still happening

 At least we have somewhere to sit for breakfast

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.