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


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 - 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.