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.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Somedays

 We wait ages for the gaffer to arrive and get the work started.



Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Over the rainbow

The finest rainbow ever last night, we could almost touch it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the pot of gold was in Giovanni’s garden.

Today it’s beautiful, the air is clear and the sun is warm, that’s enough treasure for me.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Oh hail

I should know better.  Having posted on Monday my hopes for a good crop of lemons, hail storms permitting, the next day we had a terrific hailstorm.  Like most days it started nicely with warm sun and breakfast outside, by early afternoon thunder was rumbling around the mountains, finally lightning and hailstones the size of grapes arrived. 

It was worrying as the terrace is now almost stripped of tiles, it stood water in places as the surface is now quite uneven but fortunately there was only the slightest drip into the room below.  The damage to my plants however was considerable with new growth shredded, flowers destroyed and compost splashed all over the place.  I’d spent the morning potting up cuttings, they looked bedraggled and there was leaf debris everywhere.  


However while the flowers on the grapes are battered the lemon flowers seem ok and it’s too early for the olives to have suffered any damage.  The garden was white, in fact the next day there were still patches of hail in the orchard.  While I moan a lot about bureaucracy and inefficiency here there’s nothing to be done about the weather, we just take what comes and mostly it’s wonderful. I’ve already swept and cleaned ready for the sun to return. 



Monday, 2 May 2022

A positive post

Let’s start the week feeling good, even the threatening thunderstorm currently on the opposite side of the valley but alarmingly loud could be useful to wash away the terrace dust and water the garden.  

MrFF continues chipping away at the terrace, literally, with a few expletives when he accidentally takes the edge off a tile.  We have about 50 spare unused tiles in the cellar and at the end of last week found a local stock that doesn’t quite match as ours have had maybe 30 years in the sun but will do to replace cracked and broken ones. That was such a stroke of luck as these tiles are no longer manufactured. 

The washing machine finally gave up last week.  At 20 years old it had become temperamental, some days it didn’t empty out the water and just kept taking more in.  If we didn’t notice we’d flood the garage, if we did we had to drag the heavy machine to the outside before we could open the door.  A new machine was long overdue, our old one only took a 5 kilo load and had a slow spin.  Damp washing isn’t a problem in the summer but in winter is horrid.  So we ordered a new machine on line, from a shop not from Amazon, this was of course a challenge.  The site needed a phone number, wouldn’t accept our UK mobile or our Italian landline, we used Mario’s.  He was OK with that though he did say we should have consulted him and he would have arranged for us to have our old machine beautifully repaired, no thanks.   There was no indication of delivery time until the order was placed when it could be up to 15 days from the machine being received by the courier.  However it took only a week, was here on Saturday, shortly after I’d done a hand wash and the old machine was taken away.  Happy days, the new model can take 2 bath towels plus a few garments, all spun quietly at high speed and pretty dry when they came out. It has plenty of wash programmes, flashing lights, satisfying beeps and plays a happy tune when it finishes.  

Lots happening in the garden.  My passionflower is covered in buds, dahlias are sprouting and best of all the lemon tree that hasn’t fruited for several years has lots of flowers about to open.  I’ve promised MrFF lemons for his G&Ts in a few months, freak hail storms permitting.  Just as well he bought 2 bottles of gin last week when they were on offer.  Preparation is everything.  

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Once upon a tile

The major work has started, the terrace tiles are coming up so the new damp proofing can be installed 

And there is a lot to do, fortunately they come up easily as the bedding is quite damp so they can be reused.  We heard there is a shortage of ceramics in Italy because of the price of gas to produce them.   

However not everyone is lending a hand, Grigio is fully occupied keeping Enrico at home.  


Monday, 25 April 2022

So

We’ve been here 11 days now, it’s been mixed.  The weather has varied from very cold and wet to sunny and not so cold.  We are lighting the stove at night, it’s cheery and currently we have plenty of dry wood.

We have done a lot in the garden, much weeding, cut the grass, collected the olive and fruit tree pruning that Mario left everywhere and had a bonfire. I am still outraged that Mario attacked all the trees in our orchard, taking off huge branches, leaving raggy cuts that are ugly and unhealthy and breaking our chain saw.  We told him when we left last year to do nothing, fat chance.  We are still waiting for his bill which will be extortionate, that’s the way it is for us strangers and we have to accept it or fall out with everyone. It certainly doesn’t make it easy to accept though.

The cats have settled into their routine which at present for Enrico means spending time with us then going off on his giro d’amore for a few days before returning for food and sleep, recover and repeat. I check him for injury, none so far, and remove the ticks he seems to collect, he likes a fuss and he and Grigio are pleased to be reunited but then he is also happy to leave us again 

Friends have called by to say hello with lovely gifts,  we’ve already been invited out for lunch, our shepherd sold us pecorino.

You are probably wondering about the water situation, touch wood we don’t have a leak but the man from the water board was here the day after we arrived. He reported that there is a major leak above us, it is Anna’s she has the house at the bottom of our road. According to the meter she had lost more than 20,000 euro of water, for which she will be liable.  Anna is in Rome and has been since October last year but at the weekend a digger arrived with 4 men, one of them her son in law.  They excavated beside the top road, Giovanni phoned to alert us and we went up to see what was happening.   They were using a pick axe in a hole full of water and we were worried they might damage our pipe as the 5 that supply our road and Giovanni run close together. In fact they punctured Giovanni’s pipe and he was without water until they fixed it.  One leak on Anna’s pipe is repaired but apparently there is another deep under the road, Anna’s supply is turned off again and nothing is happening today. Although we are not affected this time we are sick to death of this system where our meter is located well away from the house and we deal with any leaks between the meter and our house.  It must be the same throughout rural Italy, badly laid pipes, often running on the surface and easily damaged, people paying a fortune for lost water and constantly sourcing leaks and making repairs.  


While I’m in a roll I’ll give you another example of inefficiency.  When we got our lack of hot water resolved we also arranged to have our boiler serviced.  We are obliged to have this done and registered, the Technico gave us a slip of paper and told us we have to go to the post office and pay 10 euro for the process.   I think the average waiting time at our seldom open and always busy post office is an hour.  Wouldn’t it be simpler for the heating engineers to take an extra 10 euro and process all service registrations say at the end of each week.  No no, that’s far too sensible, every single customer must get to a post office, possibly having to travel
 and waste their time waiting.

Yes I am somewhat out of love with Italy, we’ve had 20 years of all this madness and the novelty is wearing off.  If it wasn’t for our cats, our lovely garden, the wine and our wonderful summer outdoor life I’d be thinking seriously about the situation

Speaking of which my wisteria is as ever gorgeous and MrFF is getting his moneys worth from the sun lounger, he tells me work to repair the terrace will start tomorrow.  We spoke to a friend about the damp penetration, he said 4 years is the average time before a terrace starts to break down.  I don’t think it occurred to him there must be a better way, it never does.




Monday, 18 April 2022

In Italia

We are in Italy at our house.  We arrived late Thursday evening after a long and stressful 3 day journey.  We expected queues and confusion at the Port of Dover but the process was relatively easy, worse was to come.  Despite a lack of fuel before Canterbury, thanks to blockade of local depots by protestors, we had enough diesel to get to our first overnight if necessary and easily filled up in Calais.

On the second day we experienced long queues for the San Gottardo tunnel, fortunately we were forewarned and found toilets before we joined the 10k line for the entrance and sat for a couple of hours.    We didn’t reach our hotel until 9 pm, fortunately the restaurant was open, we had the place to ourselves but we were fed.

We were looking forward to a short last day, usually 6 hours to our house, we were wrong.  It took 3 hours to drive round Milan, in fact it was stop go all the way with crazy drivers who made me feel nervous.  Near Florence we were stopped for quite a while in a 3 lane tunnel, we kept edging forward and I assumed we were almost through until I saw a sign that said 5 k to the exit.  The police arrived with their sirens going, edging their way through the traffic, the lorry drivers started sounding their air horns and I considered having a panic attack.  There was even a hold up to get off the autostrada, it was after 9 pm so the shops were closed and we had no dinner.  We bought takeaway pizza at a bar where they kindly sold us a bottle of milk.

It was dark when we arrived at the house, we called the cats and they soon appeared.  We unpacked the essentials,  I tried to inspect the garden in the dark and MrFF discovered the hot water wasn’t working.  On Friday neither was the outside solar shower so we rinsed under a hosepipe in the garden, the man came on Saturday and fixed the boiler.

The weather has been lovely, it’s a joy to feel some heat, to have our own outside space and share time with two very happy cats, who really appreciate the crunchies and cat sticks we brought them from Waitrose.  

Most of my balcony pots have survived, geraniums are in full flower.  I’ve had a good tidy, weeded the borders, we are starting to look good.  The plastic sheeting on the terrace had kept out the winter damp so the downstairs room is no worse than we left it, we had visions of the ceiling coming down.  We just need to recover from that journey, it was truly stressful and exhausting, but when I look at these 2 it was so worth it.



Sunday, 10 April 2022

Who’s a lucky girl then

I popped down to the craft shop that sells some of my knitting last week, just to do a little stock up before we leave for the summer.  I phoned Barbara who runs the shop beforehand who said she had some yarn for me.  Knowing my preference for natural yarns she had allocated for me a donated skein of naturally dyed hand spun wool, that had me excited.

A skein was something of an understatement, she had two bags of yarn ready for me, I sat in her lounge where we tipped out the bags to discover an amazing selection.  Just look

100 g of the promised lace weight Blue Faced Leicester

9 x 50g balls of Freedom Gorgeous 79% bamboo dk

4 x 100g balls of Rico Starlight chunky

3 x 50g of Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran merino superwash

2 x 50g balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace extra fine merino

14 x 25g of Debbie Bliss Angel or Party Angel, super kid mohair and silk the latter with a slight sparkle and all in the most beautiful shades

There is also a space bag so I can suck the air out and squash down the contents for packing.  It’s amazing that all this gorgeousness has been donated, I feel obliged to use it wisely.  Obviously a lot is going to Italy, I have promised to work hard to knit lovely things in time for Christmas.  Keep reminding me of that please.  

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Astounded.com - yes it’s a rant

I occasionally, well quite often, refer to some people in our town as the Ilkley entitled.  A certain element seem to think they are above the rest of us and can do what they like.  A recent example was a perfectly nice 100 year old arts and crafts house in a conservation area that sold for £1.75 million and was immediately demolished to be replaced by something more modern and probably less tasteful.  And don’t get me started about the number of large SUVs buzzing round the narrow streets our little town or parked outside the schools at home time.

Sunday I took a walk out and crossed the right of way bridge that spans our communal lake garden and links to the higher road.  I always take a look over the bridge because our so called gardener piles rubbish and clippings under the bridge, don’t ask me why it’s awful and actually quite depressing when I see what he has pruned at the wrong time of year.  Sunday I spotted several uprooted shrubs on the pile, including pieris definitely not from our communal garden, said idiot gardener killed the half a dozen we had a few years back by cutting them down to the ground,  I was furious at the time and still cross.

When I got back from my walk I asked MrFF to help me save the plants but he wasn’t up for that so I hoped they would still be there next morning, they were on private land and access would involve climbing the iron fence.  They were still there, 3 beautiful pieris in full bloom, an unidentified shrub, a rhododendron and some bulbs, I calculated more than £100 worth of plants just throw away.  I also discovered they had come from the garden of one of the houses further up our road evidenced by the gaps in the border and soil on the path. 

The plants are all now planted in our lake garden, MrFF redeemed himself by digging the bigger holes.  A few plants were a little damaged after being dropped off the bridge but hopefully they will settle in,  it’s raining today which is good.

But who would do that, dig out decent expensive and beautiful plants, not try to find new homes for them and think it’s ok to lumber someone else with their cast offs. If I wasn’t so pleased to have them I’d consider it littering. 

I cut off the broken branches and have a vase of pieris flowers on the kitchen table, saved me buying British daffs this week.   The entitled didn’t think about cutting off some flowers and probably drove the half mile to a florist for imported blooms to grace their home. More money than sense, they cannot be Yorkshire born and at a time when so many are worried about the rising cost of living and millions have been displaced by war it’s shocking to be so wasteful.


Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Booking.com

We were thinking we would set off for Italy next week, we want to be there before Easter, and no we definitely won’t be using P&O ferries.  However our lovely stop off in the champagne region isn’t available on the date we want and the weather forecast isn’t great.  So it’s the week after which gives me time to consider what we need to take for maybe 7 months away.

Today in Yorkshire it’s 2 degrees and snowing, flakes keep drifting past the balcony doors and the hills have a dusting of white, how can I contemplate shorts and t shirts and flip flops.  But I can think about seeing Grigio and Enrico, who won’t be pleased to know I have already bought their worming tablets.  It’s more than 4 months since we have seen them, bless their hearts it shouldn’t be much longer.  As far as we know they are still well and together, just hang on a little bit longer kitties you’ll soon be relaxing in the garden while MrFF tackles the terrace repairs.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Out of control


It’s difficult at present not to feel the world is a mad and dangerous place to be.  The brutality and devastation in Ukraine, the immediate sacking of 800 P&O workers who seem to have no employment rights at all, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe confirming she should never have been held hostage in Iran for 6 years while 5 different foreign secretaries talked of negotiating her release. 

I don’t write about politics on my blog although I do rant a lot about mindless bureaucracy.  Sometimes I am offended by the political comments of other bloggers and their assumption that I am of the same persuasion.    Now however I am enraged by how the world seems to revolve on power and money, greedy grabby companies and individuals, few leaders prepared to lead and a lot of ordinary folks trying to make a difference.   

I have no answers to the despair we all feel but I need to acknowledge it is there and I have.  Let me finish with a photo that arrived this afternoon of Grigio and Enrico taking the sun.  Who knows when we shall see them, Europe needs to feel more stable before we will leave Ilkley. 





Saturday, 12 March 2022

Without wheels

 

I sold my yellow Lupo Sport today, it was the only new car I ever had the others were MrFF’s cast offs.  I’d had it 22 years but now I never drive, everything I need is within walking distance and if I wish to venture further afield its 10 minutes walk to the bus and train stations.   Plus of course I have MrFF to chauffeur me and while I was tempted to keep the Lupo as it’s quite a desirable car I was happy to sell it to a young girl who said it was exactly what she’d been looking for in her favourite colour.  It is a girly car with cartoon cats and mice on the yellow seats, I was dreading it going to some boy racer to be mistreated.

Mr FF took our buyer out for a drive, explained the various features and said the CD player worked fine but she probably didn’t want to listen to my Glen Campbell CD, she didn’t know who he was.  She came today to pay and collect the car with her Dad who looked about 15.  The whole process made me and MrFF feel old, but then again we are and while I always thought it was cool to have a nippy little yellow car those days are over. 

However, if I ever need to start driving again which would involve a refresher course and in a couple of years a driving test, there could be a pastel coloured spanking new cinquecento in my sights,  maybe even a convertible.


Thursday, 3 March 2022

The not so smart meter


MrFF has always been quite keen for us to have smart meters monitoring our power supply, those that give you detailed information on your fuel consumption and can be read remotely both by the supplier, cancelling the need for physical meter readings, and by the homeowner from a small rechargeable device like this.  He tried to get these meters some time ago but the technician who came to carry out the installation said because our two meters are in separate rooms in the basement of the building they cannot connect to each other and wouldn't work. We thought this was strange as a few residents already have them in the same locations.

When our energy provider went down the pan last year we were allocated a new one, Octopus, who said they would be able to fit smart meters for gas and electricity.  The man duly arrived, he said the first thing he had to do was check that our appliances were working and he would check again once the meters were fitted.  This seemed to involve him annoyingly turning on all the gas rings and letting them burn for quite some time while he checked the boiler.  He asked to see the gas fire working but this wasn't possible because we didn't have a battery for the ignition.  These batteries cost around £75, they last less than a year, we don't use the fire because it give no heat and the flame effect is miserable.  I think there was a clue when the fire basket was full of tiny fairy lights which the man asked us to remove.

After he had fitted the meters and whilst in the depths of the basement he handed over some papers for MrFF to sign, which he did.  We always do that, just sign whatever we are asked, in our 70s we never learn.  It was only later that MrFF realised that he had been issued with a danger do not use notice for our gas fire which had been condemned because it couldn't be checked.  In itself this wasn't such a big issue, we don't use the fire, but because we live in a building with 26 other apartments this could have an effect on the communal insurance, we are obliged to have regular safety checks and the notice would go on the register. 

We were cross, if we had known beforehand we would have made sure the fire was operational, in fact officially there is no industry requirement for the meter installer to check any appliances and most companies do not do this.  Anyway after much discussion with Octopus, it took 4 emails before they accepted that when we said flame effect gas fire that's what we meant. We had several concerned emails from them about our meter not working and asking if were we vulnerable without power. There was a lot of argument as you can imagine, eventually Octopus agreed to pay half towards us getting a gas safe technician to certify the fire, Octopus refused to return to do that though they were the ones who had condemned it.  We have paid almost £150 for a new battery and a test to remove the do not use notice on an appliance we do not use.

As if that wasn't enough the remote reader in our apartment doesn't work, too far from the meter.  However that doesn't stop MrFF going down to the basement for regular readings which he somehow puts onto his phone.   Every day he tells me how much power we have used and points out the alarming spike on the graph when I cook dinner.  I am as frugal as the rest of you, our energy use is very economical, we don't have the heating on during the day and because we have a lot of loft insulation its not on much at night.  I am hoping we can continue to have a hot meal and while I know rising energy costs are an issue for many people I really don't care how many killowats it takes for me to use the oven.  

Smart meters, I don't think so.  I've checked, we would have to pay to have them removed and the old ones style meters reinstalled.  


Post post note - MrFF has now admitted that our consumption continues to be very low and that the cooking spike that looks like a lot of money is about £1 worth of power, he’s probably using an equal amount himself checking the figures. 


Post post post note - our Italian water supply has been reconnected, with no explanation or apology of course.  We are not sure if the other neighbours are back on stream.  


Sunday, 27 February 2022

Unbelievable

We heard from Mario at the end of last week that Acea our water company has disconnected our supply because we have no contract.  He sent a photo of a scrappy piece of paper with a reference that bore no relation to our meter confirming this had happened on 28 January.  After investigation we discovered that our meter and those of our neighbours on the mountainside had been turned off and padlocked, the scraps of paper confirming this left in the snake pit where the meters are housed.

We have had a contract for 20 years, less 3 when our house was rented and our tenants took in the contract, we have a standing order to pay our always estimated bills, we haven’t had a meter reading since 2009.  In fact after the meter was turned off we still received and paid a bill.

We have been in touch with our immediate neighbours who are furious as are we, how dare they simply disconnect a property and leave a shabby notice at each metre, some of which appear to have blown away.  The immediate neighbours have contacted our Comune, spoken with our mayor and been to visit their house, they are on the case as is Mario who has copies of our latest paid bills.    Just another  example of Italian inefficiency, we shouldn’t be surprised.  The water supply has always been a disaster and the quality of water is never checked, it probably doesn’t even meet EU standards.  

Goodness knows what is going to happen next but at least Mario has assured us he is taking water to our house for the cats having drained what was left in the pipe. Acea obviously didn’t give a toss whether there were animals at any of the houses when they cut us all off.  Giovanni and Milena, almost 90 years old could have moved back from Rome for spring and discovered they had no water.  We have contacted them to let them know the situation, doing the job of the heartless people at Acea.  Just another Italian crisis.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

My eyes are watery


This afternoon I received this photo from our lovely Danish neighbour who was taking a walk on the road above our house.  Can you see them in front of the gatepost? 

It makes me happy and sad in equal parts but Grigio and Enrico are fine and together.  It’s almost March, covid restrictions are being removed, the weather is improving.  We just have to be patient a little while longer, we just have to miss each other for a few more weeks.  

Thanks Pernille

.  

Friday, 18 February 2022

Bank balance

Last week MrFF spent almost a full day trying to close our Italian bank account and transfer our money and direct debits for water, electricity etc to our new euro account.  

Our Italian bankers continue to give us the run around.   They said to close the account we had to send a secure email, from the same postal account we used to attempt to unblock the internet device we have from our phone supplier, that got us nowhere and cost is 12 euro.  We sent the email.  The bank then said we had to return our unused cheques and bank cards by registered post, which doesn’t exist to Europe although there is a track and trace option.  We are more than reluctant to send these documents in the post.  So many things from the UK to Italy have been lost or greatly delayed over the years, even if we cut up everything the details could still be legible and available for say online fraud.

Our utility providers are just as useless, they say they will not accept direct debits from a bank outside Italy.  You might think that as long as the bills are paid in full on time in the correct currency it’s immaterial where the money comes from, you would be wrong. 

It’s all really stressful and chatting recently I suggested to MrFF that he forget about the admittedly annoying fact that we would continue to pay the now increased sum of 16 euro per month for our bank to keep our money and provide no service until we return to Italy.  Then we can take a 3 hour round trip to our bank, because of course we cannot deal with a more local branch, present our cards and books and whatever else they need, pay the required fee to close the account because obviously removing your own dosh is not free.  Even if we have to take our money away in a bag we can finally say goodbye after 20 years of irritatingly shoddy service.  It makes sense to me but to a Yorkshireman paying good money for nothing albeit saving your mental health is a complete anathema.

I have no idea what will happen next, at least my amaryllis just gets better and better




Saturday, 12 February 2022

Happy weekend

After my last post I sent a cashmere jumper I hadn’t worn for years, the sleeves were always far too long, to be recycled by Turtle Doves.  Five days later I received these beautiful cashmere gloves produced from someone else’s old jumper.

 

They are perfect, elegantly long, soft and stylish.  I didn’t specify any colour as I wanted a surprise, these couldn’t be better.  I paid £3 for return postage and of course the cost of sending my jumper, a small price to pay for these lovely gloves and to free up a bit of space in my wardrobe. 

What else is making me happy on this cold blustery Saturday.  

I have finally planted up the large new pots I bought for the balcony, they had been languishing in the lounge for a few weeks as it’s been so windy on the top floor they couldn’t be outside empty for fear of blowing away.  It isn’t exactly calm now but the pots are full of compost so they are secure even if the little plants are getting a battering.  I didn’t use anything expensive or exotic, dwarf bamboo, some dark grasses and red ajuga, as they may not survive a summer without us.  The intention is to have a pot in each corner of our balcony but for now and whilst we are not sitting outside I want to see them from the lounge, this isn’t a permanent arrangement


My amaryllis is magnificent and brightening the kitchen, when I am not in there I am on the sofa knitting socks whilst watching the Winter Olympics.  Have a great weekend, keep cosy.

Friday, 4 February 2022

Old school cashmere

I am a big fan of cashmere, a fibre that has become so much more available but not necessarily in a good way.    It is now possible to buy cheap cashmere from chains that might be described as fast fashion, I have never subscribed to this and never will.  It is not sustainable to source something so rare and fragile without cutting corners from harvest to production in order to meet a price point.  These cheap items are produced from poor quality fibre, will pile and bobble and soon be useless.

I have over the years sourced most of my cashmere second hand, in fact I am currently wearing a jumper made in Scotland that I found in a charity shop and used to wear for work, I have been retired 13 years.  Scottish cashmere has always been renowned for its quality, and prices, I have been lucky enough to find a few old pieces made in Hawick, the borders cashmere town.   I have a very old plain black Marks and Spencer cashmere jumper, it has a small zip at the back of the neck, and judging from the label is from the 1980s.  

I also have a couple of what might be considered old fashioned cardigans, both are quite large and look great. Quality cashmere goes on forever, unless you are unfortunate enough to have a moth attack, is machine washable whatever they tell you and blissfully soft and warm.  I fully expect my collection to outlive me but if anything becomes unwearable there is a place here that will recycle your cashmere jumpers and send you a gift in return.



Friday, 28 January 2022

Spirits and sparkle

During my walk this afternoon, on a typically cold dull day, I met a neighbour and we chatted briefly both agreeing that January was going on far too long and we had had enough.  When I returned there was a parcel waiting for me that contained just the antidote I need, two bottles of home made flavoured gins.

I may already have had a tipple and they are both really delicious, thank you H.

I have noticed while walking that quite a lot of people still kept their Christmas decorations up.  I’ve seen decorated trees in windows and gardens, quite a lot of fairy lights and even wreaths still on front doors.  In our town the white lights are still in the trees down the main shopping street, they look lovely I can only put it down to people wanting to chase away the darkness until the days get longer.  

                                     Photo from Ilkley People 

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Banking progress

Last week after a long exchange we had an email from our Italian bank to say they had resolved the problems we encountered trying to reopen our account after they blocked it because of possible fraudulent activity.    We first raised this issue a month ago, it is possible our account had been blocked longer than that as we encountered problems with our Italian card as we travelled home in November.

However the email simply said the issues had been resolved, we did not know if that meant the account was again operative or if the online unlocking process would finally work for us. We wrote back again complaining about the awful service and asking for clarification.   Yesterday we received a note to say our account was open, no explanation, no thanks for bringing the broken system to their attention, no apology and certainly no offer of refunding the 14 euro per month we have paid not to have a working bank account.  

We are actively engaged in finding a new euro account.

Speaking of finds, I bagged this beautiful blue pressed glass jug in a charity shop this week, £2.  I love pressed glass, the colour is perfect, I imagine it filled with water and slices of lemon for an alfresco summer lunch but even on a Thursday January morning it’s beautiful. If only everything in life was that simple and pleasing.



Monday, 17 January 2022

Earring update

Back here I posted about my earring collection built up over the last 55 years and I showed you the silver Georg Jensen pair I bought in Ilkley.  After Christmas the jewellers had another pair of smaller chunkier silver hoops in the sale, with a very good reduction.  I have been back regularly to stand at the window and stare   I rather wish someone will buy them so I can stop torturing myself, yes I can afford them but I don’t need them is my mantra.

I thought I preferred hoops, I have a lot, but now I am liking simple studs.  I acquired 12 more pairs from the advent calendar MrFF bought me for Christmas. They were a pain to store, tiny and always mixed up, so I went online for a storage solution.  Here it is

The perspex stand cost less than £2, it took some time to pair and fix them all but my goodness I can at a glance make my choice for the day, it will be easy to transport to Italy and best of all it’s a visible reminder that I do not need any more earrings even if there is space for a few more pairs.  Won’t stop me looking in the jewellers window though, I may be there tomorrow.  

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Lots of New Year Making



I was keen for Seville oranges to arrive in the shops and as soon as they did at the end of last week I bought some.  Last January in Italy I wasn’t able to make marmalade, they make jam with their sweet oranges but there is no marmalade per se so I wouldn’t have found any bitter oranges even if I’d been allowed out of deepest lockdown.

I used 1.5 kilos of fruit and just over 2 kilos of sugar, less than the recipe recommends, I am delighted to have 10 jars of dark bitter conserve.  



I have been knitting too.  I received this sparkly West Yorkshire Spinners yarn as part of an exchange for a few knitted items, enough for socks and mitts, thank you Pat I would never had chosen this yarn but I do like the twinkle on a chilly dull day and surprisingly the yarn is very soft and not at all scratchy despite the silvery thread which is hard to capture on camera.



Now I’m knitting a scarf in Stylecraft You and Me dk.  If I hadn’t found a bag containing 1000g of this yarn in a charity shop for a few pounds I wouldn’t have considered anything that consists of 80% acrylic and 20% cashmere effect Polyamide, whatever that is.  Generally I don’t like man made fibres I support the sheep but this is knitting up well and feels pleasingly soft.



Best of all using the ZickZack pattern, a clever single row repeat that gives a great effect, my scarf looks amazingly like something from Missoni, the luxury Italian fashion house.  The examples below cost almost £200 each, mine should work out at less than £2.00. 





Finally I haven’t forgotten that I said I would start early making the little Christmas stocking decorations for next year.  11 days into the new year I have two, I am on target, for now.