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