Saturday 25 November 2023

Count down to Christmas

Returning from Italy mid November to find the shops full of Christmas is always a shock and a wake up call too.  Our town Christmas light switch on takes place this afternoon, cue frantic shoppers made crazy by all the Christmas music and restaurants full of office parties.

So I thought I’d better make an effort. I’ve thought about our Christmas meal, I’ve thought about buying presents and I’ve thought we could maybe have a larger tree this year.  As if that isn’t enough I have also made our Christmas cake, safely wrapped and tucked away.  

I think there quite enough for now.  Oh yes and I’ve started eating mince pies.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Our break in Bergamo

Planning our recent journey home from Lazio we booked a couple of nights in the small city of Bergamo not so far from Milan. It was not the relaxed tourist trip we’d imagined as my eye was so troublesome but it really is a beautiful place and well worth a visit.

We spent a sunny Saturday wandering up to the Citta Alta the higher walled city which was quite busy.  Lovely old buildings, a maze of narrow streets and beautiful views.

In the afternoon we walked back down to the lower city hoping to get lunch at a restaurant MrFF had spotted.  Sadly, because it was beautifully located in old building with charming staff, they were fully booked.  However we found a sandwich place with an even higher rating than the restaurant and equally nice staff, we were well fed.

The lower town is also charming, more beautiful buildings, big squares, fountains everything you’d expect including elegantly dressed people.  There was an array of individual little shops,  a flea market and a street of upmarket names.  I did mention that looking in the Max Mara store was taking away some of my pain, I’m sure buying a beautiful coat would have made me feel even better.

It’s a pity I had to spend most of the day with my head down because the sun hurt my eye. MrFF took the photographs which hopefully reflect what a nice place Bergamo is.

Thursday 16 November 2023

My eye

We are back in ilkley after an eventful journey home. Last,Thursday, the day before we left MrFF lit the bonfire in the orchard to burn all our pruning.  We sat out in the balcony for breakfast and my right eye started to feel sore, it  became more and more painful and watery. I tried washing it but that was too stingy.

Next morning with no improvement as we headed to the autostrada we stopped at the pharmacy and the chemist sold me cream which turned out to be anti biotic and steroid. I had to use it 3 times a day, it blurred my vision and made my eye sensitive to the light which according to the instructions was to be expected. So the journey wasn’t pleasant.

We had booked to break the journey with two nights in Bergamo so we could be tourists.  Bergamo is a beautiful little city with a walled medieval centre, I’ll post about it later. Sadly I spent most of my time with my head down avoiding the sun wearing my comfy top and baggy trousers amidst the beautifully dressed Bergamaschi.

In France I emailed my optician asking for an examination as soon as i got back.  They weren’t registered to deal with minor eye conditions but recommended Boots or Specsavers.  Back home I phoned Specsavers early morning, they did a full triage over the phone and gave me an appointment for 2 o clock.  I had extensive tests and a full examination after which the optician said I needed to go immediately to eye emergency at Bradford hospital as I had a deep abrasion on my eye.  Then I felt sick, they made me sweet tea and reassured me. However the optician was unable to get me an emergency appointment, she tried 5 times, got through to the department, heard a recorded message then the line went dead.

So she said I’d have to pitch up and wait, she gave me a referral letter with various reports on my eye and asked me to let her know how I got on.

At the hospital the eye department said I couldn’t be see without an appointment, I politely explained the phone line was cutting out so it was impossible to make one and she said she’d get the triage nurse.  I was offered an appointment for the next day.

Yesterday we went back to Bradford.  Despite the appointment system there was a permanent notice to say it could take 2 hours or more to see the doctor and it did. I could ask why the system isn’t made more efficient if they know it doesn’t work.  Eventually I was called in and given a through examination, the doctor said there was a foreign body embedded in my eye which he would remove with small tweezers.  Actually they were about twice the size of my eyebrow tweezers, I put on a brave face and wished I could close my eyes. The item removed was tiny, just a spec that could have been a piece of eyelash, a tiny seed from the garden or something blown up from the bonfire.   I was given anti biotic cream to use 4 times a day for a week but it’s much kinder than the Italian stuff and it’s clear so it doesn’t blind me for very long.  The doctor said I’d feel sore as the anaesthetic wore off but should be better in a couple of days and start to heal. This morning I feel fine, no pain at all and greatly relieved.

I am so grateful for the swift medical care and kindness I’ve received and overjoyed to be back in the UK.  Hopefully soon I can read my book again, I manage the iPad fine, I can knit and I’m in Ilkley. 

Tuesday 7 November 2023

More trouble

Before we left ilkley many weeks ago Mario contacted us as he had signed for two registered letters sent to us by the Comune.  Briefly the 4 pages said there was a planning violation at our house, the original owner and a date of 1985 were mentioned and more importantly a fine totalling over 3,300 euros and various documents were required to regularise things.  It said we had 60 days to respond though later we were told it was really 90, whichever time is almost up.

Obviously the letter didn’t state what exactly the violation was, our minds ran riot, was it the terrace we made in the lower garden, surely we didn’t need permission for that, what if all of the house was built without permission.  Eventually we discovered it was the recently restored balcony and the room below it that were added not long after the house was built.

I’ll try to précis the activities that have occupied most of our time over the last couple of months.  

We wrote 4 times to the Comune trying to clarify things, finally asking for a meeting, there was no response at all.  We tried to arrange a meeting on line, the booking programme didn’t work.  Finally MrFF went to the Comune to be told that although the letter came from them, was signed by Stephano who we know and gave the email address at the Comune that we’d used, they were not dealing with the matter. It was another organisation mentioned in the small print to whom we then sent everything the Comune had already received. No reply to date.

We appointed the Italian lawyer in Scotland who we used to buy the house.  She has basically told us everything we already know and nothing more, we had hoped she’d on be on the phone to Italy all guns blazing particularly as she charges £300 per hour.  This week she wrote to say because she is in Scotland she cannot help us after all and suggested we find a local lawyer, we are wondering if we will get a bill for her non assistance so far.

We tried to appoint the local geometra who worked for the two previous vendors to provide all the plans and technical certificates requested to accompany the fine. MrFF could easily produce these himself but his engineering qualifications are not recognised here.  We have so far waited six weeks for a price for this work, the fees could double the fine we have to pay, it’s beyond a joke.

From our own research we’ve discovered the original owner did apply to regularise the extension in 1985, he paid the comune about 1,000 euros but for some reason left around 750 euros outstanding. This sum plus about 40 years interest and admin fees gives the 3,300 now due.

I am furious.  The Comune have known since 1985 they this situation existed, the property has been sold twice since, 3 times if you count when our vendor bought out his estranged wife.  Each time 2 geometras one for each party and a notary have been paid to check the deeds and documents are in order, yet we are the ones who end up with the fine. 

We’ve contacted our vendor, he said the original owner sorted everything years ago but research shows that days before we bought documents were submitted to the Comune about the extension by our vendor, it seems no money was paid.

The galling thing is that the extension is shown on the documents at the tax office.  We pay tax relative to the size of our property, we pay tax on the illegal extension. How can they recognise and benefit from illegal works and sit back letting the fine mount up.

It’s a complete mess, professionals are at fault but it will cost more than we owe to untangle this, besides why would we employ more of them having been so let down.  We are leaving at the weekend and after almost two months of trying to make progress we are no further forward.  

Here is the offending structure, maybe it will have been demolished by the Comune before we return though on past results that will take another 40 years to organise and we will be long gone

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Trouble at Mill once more

Saturday morning MrFF opened the bedroom shutters and announced we would start our olive harvest.  Quick cup of Yorkshire tea with a bowl of muesli and we were picking by 8.30 am.  We stopped mid morning for cappuccini and croissant then worked on till 6.30 pm,  we had more than 80 kilos with 10 more trees still to pick so that was great.  Sunday we had the same early start with rather less enthusiasm as we were quite tired from the previous days efforts.

We finished early afternoon, tidied up, had some lunch then MrFF packed the crates of olives into the car and went off to the mill.  Unfortunately so did many others and he was queued for a good two hours before he could unload.  He phoned to let me know he was waiting then started shouting and sounding the car horn as an Italian with a trailer full of olives had jumped the queue when MrFF was slow to move.  Then I heard an Italian voice and suggested he phone me back when he’d sorted the situation.  He got his place back, it was fine. Tranquillo.

He weighed in 119 kilos of olives, not a bad result and the mill would phone us when the oil was ready.

Late Monday afternoon we got the call collect our oil at 7.30 pm.  We were there on time and waited until 8.50.  We received 15.3 litres of oil which we were told by other customers was very good quality, it was clean without the foamy scum and dark green. But last year we picked around 80 kg and received 15 litres, it doesn’t make sense to produce so much more and receive the same amount of oil. Even the taste of our delicious new oil didn’t take away our disappointment and confusion.  
Of course 15 litres of oil is more than enough for our needs, if we had more we’d give it away or use it for cooking as it got older, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have more. But we had expectations that we’d done well, we’d worked hard and spent a lot of hours waiting at mill.  Tomorrow it’s my birthday and I’ll be 75, I could say I’m getting too old for this oil business but our lovely 92 year old neighbour Giovanni is here picking so I guess I have no excuse but to keep on and since he’s working on his own and has 200 trees, we have 30, we will probably offer his some help if he doesn’t think we might jinx his harvest too.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

My kind of autumn

Until a few days ago temperatures were still in the mid 20s and skies were blue.  Then we had a much needed day of rain.  Now we are in the mid teens, it’s still lovely sunny flip flop weather but a short sleeved t shirt is required rather than a strapy vest.  I’ve worked a lot in the garden, I am happy with how it looks after being neglected all summer.

It’s almost olive time, mills in the valley have opened for business but so far we haven’t heard any pickers around us.  As the fruit turns black it becomes much more apparent what sort of crop we have, I’d say not great but not too bad this year, time will tell.

Happy days of calm, filthy feet and knitting, yes I am going to wash them now.

Sunday 8 October 2023

An orange is the only fruit

When we bought this house 20 years ago the garden wasn’t great and of course I had no idea what plants there were.  I’ve nurtured them all with compost from the heap we started, occasionally organic fertiliser and no chemicals at all.  

In particular outside the kitchen door, in an area where I now grow herbs, there was a stick about 12” high with few leaves, I initially thought it might be a bay.  Over the years as it improved I realised it was a citrus, I assumed a lemon.  It grew tall, it’s now about 8 feet high, healthy if not well shaped and I’ve never seen it flower.  I often empty the teapot onto its roots, Yorkshire tea must work wonders because when we returned this time I spotted a small fruit and it’s an orange.  Makes we so happy even though I won’t be here to see it ripen.

Amazingly two courgette plants survived our summer absence and are flowering and cropping.   We have our own (limited) fruit and veg once again.

My cat nurturing abilities however have failed, after 2 weeks there is still no sign of Enrico.  Giovanni said the day before we arrived Enrico was at his house, I wish he’d come home.   

Tuesday 3 October 2023

An uphill race that was all down hill

When I first saw this poster for a cycling time trial to the top of our mountain I was so excited thinking one of my favourite riders Vincenzo Nibali, an excellent climber,  was going to be present. Closer examination clarified that the route of the race was one of his training routes.  Since Vincenzo is Sicilian and also has a home in Lugano I imagine he hasn’t climbed Monte Scalambra that often though his wife is from a village not so far from here,  maybe he does wizz to the top when visiting the in laws, I’ll keep my eyes open.

Here is the race profile for anyone who is as enthusiastic about these things as me 

Monte Scalambra from La Forma is a climb in the region Lazio. It is 11.2km long and bridges 893 vertical meters with an average gradient of 7.9%, resulting in a difficulty score of 795. The top of the ascent is located at 1374 meters above sea level

We decided to support the event even without celebrities and Saturday afternoon wandered down to the village to be in place for the 2 pm start.  Oddly there was no one else in the street, we chose a position where the road forked between the village centre and the climb out and up.  After a while the first motorbike arrived, actually a scooter, with a red flag attached to the rear.  The driver stopped to ask us which way to go.  

The riders as in the major tours were set off at intervals, some with a scooter accompanying them some not.   Most of them asked us for directions, clearly the A4 size direction posters were not apparent or well located. We decided to take charge, MrFF who deserved a high viz jacket stood blocking the route into the village centre and pointing the right way while I provided the applause with shouts of bravo and allez allez allez.  The riders were so appreciative, I didn’t want them to waste their breath shouting grazie but they did.

The roads weren’t closed for the race, it was worrying when an elderly couple drove up and started manoeuvring their car into a parking space outside the minimarket, again MrFF took control.  It was even more worrying when the race director, he had an A4 sheet of paper stuck in the back window of his car confirming who he was and was wearing a suitably sporty t shirt.  We assumed he knew the route, it was a choice of two and he was supposedly the man in charge. First he tried to drive into the village centre then came back to ask us the way.  I felt real despair.  He decided to park outside the minimarket then to reverse out again just as a rider was passing, I think he understood our shouts of stop and I hope he realised from our scowls that we thought he was useless.

Another spectator arrived, increasing the crowd by 50% but only to tell us all the riders had passed, so that was it.  I am sure the guys got a good ride out but really it was a disgrace of the usual standard. 

There was very little reporting, just a few badly taken photographs on the village Facebook page, mostly of local dignitaries and the village beauty queen.  I have no idea who won or in what time, I expect because of the staggered start the man with the watch is having difficulty with the calculations.  It was all so very Italian.

Thursday 28 September 2023

The journey

Now that the house is dorrised and everything unpacked though not necessarily into the right location, I thought I’d tell you a little about our journey from Yorkshire to Lazio.

We left at 4.30 on Saturday morning and had a fast smooth journey to Dover.  We were fortunate to be allowed onto an earlier ferry, the port was surprisingly busy.  We boarded and queued for coffee and pastries, of mediocre quality.  There was an inaudible announcement and we didn’t depart as expected.  After about 15 minutes delay we noticed armed French police walking round, about half a dozen of them with automatic weapons their fingers on the triggers.  This went on for a while before we finally set sail, I hoped they had stayed on board in case there was an incident. When we disembarked three of the police we’re waiting as we drove off the ferry, goodness knows what they were looking for or maybe it was just an exercise but it didn’t make for a relaxing crossing.

However we were still earlier arriving in Calais than we’d expected and not under such pressure to get to our first over night in the champagne region.  We stopped in one of the nice picnic areas for a snack and arrived at the little town where we had a booking around 6.  And we were of course staying in an old folks home, I kid you not.  MrFF had found accommodation in a complex of apartments for the independent elderly that also lets some of them for visitors or holiday makers.  It was amazing. I’ll show you below but we got a very spacious one bedroom apartment with a well equipped kitchen, balcony, there was also a small pool, sauna, outside space with great landscaping and nice furniture, secure parking, a restaurant and a bar (that closed at 8 pm), even bathrobes and slippers which we didn’t use both to save the environment but also because we paid only about £75.   The staff and the residents we met were all friendly and helpful, the old folks as we called them forgetting that we may be older, we’re elegant and sprightly, we really enjoyed our stay.

We slept well and set off on our second days travel, this time to the nice hotel in Aosta where we have already stayed twice this year.  We passed into Italy at the top of the San Bernard pass and coasted down to our hotel. We had a different room, this time with both a mountain view and a balcony, we slept with the curtains open admiring the lights across the valley.

The third day of our journey is always the worst, I dread it.  We join the autostrada almost immediately and stay on it all day.  Traffic is always heavy and often manic, we got held up around Genoa queueing in tunnels which I hate and stopping at busy and expensive services though fortunately we still had some picnic food that kept us going.  When we came to the exit and pay station our ticket collected at the start of the day wouldn’t work, we and the cars behind us all had to reverse from the booth so that we could find help.  We paid almost 73 euros for our day on the autostrada, collected a few essentials and arrived at our house around 7 pm.  Grigio was here waiting on the terrace, delighted to see us as we were to see her.  

The house was as ever full of dust and dead insects, I ignored all that and cooked us some quick pasta after a brief tour of the garden, which wasn’t as bad as I expected given it hadn’t been watered during one of the hottest summers for years.

It takes a few days to recover from such a long drive, we both seem to suffer from a type of motion sickness where we feel we are still moving when we are not. It takes a few days to get the house and garden back in order, to remember where things are and to feel at home.  The weather has been lovely and we’ve made time to sit and rest.  We have Grigio and are waiting for Enrico, we have hope as it took him a week to appear last time which is a bit rude when we have made such an effort to get back to him.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Monday 25 September 2023

Now almost there

We are in Italy, tonight we should be at our house, phew.  Photo is at the top of the San Bernard pass, MrFF cannot seem to stop driving over it.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Neither here nor there

I didn’t realise I hadn’t blogged for a couple of weeks, no excuse.  We’ve had a few visitors at the penthouse but otherwise our Yorkshire life has continued as usual.  However that is due to change, we plan to leave for Italy at the weekend, ferry and overnights are booked, it’s definite.

So I am at the in between stage, half packed, mentally planning what I need to take whilst trying to continue normal life and feeling restless.  We’ve moved house a lot, at least half a dozen times, I mean actually given up one house for another not just decamping between two homes in different countries.  Every time I have tried to keep life as normal as possible as long as possible, not wanting to dismantle our home too early and to enjoy every final minute.  This strategy isn’t the best, it means a lot of final frantic packing but does avoid every room being filled with boxes for weeks, a half empty home with everything but the essentials gone. Of course last time we moved from Scotland back to Yorkshire the removal van had left long before MrFF started packing his office so I didn’t feel too bad about my own procrastination.

I suppose in my heart I would happily stay here.  I know we are going back to Italy to deal with another water leak, a battle with the Comune about a planning violation that took place in the 1980s and which they have been aware of for more than 40 years, all the usual stress.   The weather is still pleasant there but summer is over and dark nights are coming.  However there are two cats we miss terribly, Grigio and Enrico are fine, we’ve had updates and photos from Giovanni who they have visited regularly.  I really look forward to seeing them but leaving them again for winter will be as awful as ever.

I need to pull myself together, I could move balcony furniture and plants to safer sheltered places, but it all looks so lovely, maybe just one more day of this.

Friday 8 September 2023

To be expected

We might have known that during the best week of weather this year our management company would decide to erect scaffold next to our balcony to allow the roofers to repair a leaking chimney stack we reported two years ago.  

So sitting out is limited, the lads are nice enough, friendly and chatty, but I am sure they have no desire to gaze on a 74 year old in shorts and vest and I have no wish for them to do so.  Besides there is dust and debris falling on the balcony, I’d be slathered in factor 50 and very gritty.

No worries, we have in the afternoons decamped to our communal lake garden which is calm and leafy, even if the benches and chairs are rather hard.  There is pleasant background sound from the running water and sometimes ducks.  It’s hot, mid 20s, but never that ferocious energy sapping what we get in Italy, it’s perfect.

A couple of times MrFF has walked down to the lido, less than £3 for the afternoon with all the facilities including a cafe.  The water is 21 degrees, he manages that and we both manage this temporary disruption.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Separate Saturdays

Regularly on Saturday MrFF takes off for one of his group walks, sometimes starting in Ilkley which is convenient, sometimes from a location that he can access by public transport, both our bus and train station are less then 10 minutes walk away. Today the walk started at Gargrave on the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales which required him to drive.

The alarm went off at 6.40, he brought me a cup of tea, breakfasted alone and left at 7.40.  A lesser woman might have gone back to sleep but I was up, into my walking gear and completed 6 miles with 2 good climbs before coming home for a shower and breakfast. A bit of dorissing including washing the kitchen floor and I moved onto the sunny balcony.  

It was lovely out there with all my happy things and 21 degrees. I came inside to watch the final kilometres of the Vuelta a España, and then sat out again till 6.30.  After my morning exercise I’ve had a lovely relaxing day.

MrFF walked 23miles, he took this photo of some hardy folk in Janets Foss.  Now he is in the shower, he’ll be sleep soon after dinner which means I won’t have to listening him moaning when I want to watch a double episode of Casualty.  Saturdays work well for both of us.

Friday 25 August 2023

The fun continues

Today MrFF is 75, that sounds old but obviously he isn’t.  

To celebrate we went out for lunch at the Boar’s Head in the pretty North Yorkshire village of Ripley, taking the scenic route over the River Wharf and across the moor.  The hotel is part of the estate of Ripley Castle, we took a walk round the periphery of the grounds before lunch. 

Lunch was delicious, we both had fish and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce, eaten in a small and pretty dining room.  Our window table was ideal with a view down the Main Street as there was a wedding taking place at the castle and many of the guests had spent the night before 
in the hotel.  Sadly we didn’t see the bride arrive but the guests were very well turned out.

Here are views of the front and rear of the Boar’s Head, as well as smart dining there is a bar and outside tables mostly used by cyclists and walkers.

We had such large helpings that we couldn’t face dessert, however a stroll round the village settled our stomachs and we had ice cream from the Ripley ice cream shop, vanilla for the birthday boy lemon curd for me.  We chatted to a few holiday makers and a cyclist from our Ilkley club, it was a pleasant afternoon and we were home by 5.  Within a few minutes MrFF was fast asleep in his chair. Maybe he’s not as young as I thought.

Friday 18 August 2023

MrFF’s big days out

When not trying to sort out our latest Italian dilemma or joining me in a rant about the situation, MrFF has managed to get out and about this week so I’ll show you a few things he’s been up to.

Tuesday afternoon he decided to walk across the moor to Skipton approximately 10 miles and take the bus home.  En route he collected half a dozen eggs at this lovely farm.

He didn’t have any change and neither did the lady he spoke to, nor indeed did the cat Clive who takes care of the hens and goats.  The lady said he could pay next time he was passing so the following day Wednesday he went off on his new bike and paid his debt, with a little extra by way of interest and a note to say how delicious the eggs had been at breakfast.  He then had a tour round bringing home some delicious pork pies and safely completing 25 miles.

Thursday he was off early to meet with one of his several walking groups.  The 14 mile route had been planned to visit the village of Kettlewell which was in the middle of its annual scarecrow festival.  The village hall was doing a good trade in homemade food so that was the lunch stop and there was plenty to see. It all looked lovely.  

In the afternoon they returned via dramatic Kilnsey Crag where several climbers were in action and fortunate to have a faithful dog to guard their possessions.

Don’t you just love Yorkshire, it never fails to delight even when Italy is doing the complete opposite.  

The photos are all MrFF’s own, you can see more scarecrows Here or visit until Sunday. 

Monday 14 August 2023

Here we go again

Life back in Yorkshire is heaven, I am still clad in flip flops and enjoying time on our balcony as well as the delights of our region.  However Italian bureaucracy never stops.

Mario last week received and opened two registered letters, one for each of us from our friends at the Comune, we asked him to send a photo of the details.  Briefly they say work was carried out to our house back in 1980 without permission with no indication what this work might be.  At first we wondered if the original house had been built illegally or indeed all 4 in our road but our neighbour hadn’t received anything and thought it was the terrace.  

The terrace and a large room below were added at the front shortly after the house was built.  Mario told us the original owner was concerned the house might slip down the mountainside and imagined it would act as a sort of retaining structure.  When we bought the house 20 years ago we insisted that everything should be regularisedit is in our deeds that such permissions were the responsibility of the vendor and there is reference to payments being made to the Comune to do so. We paid for solicitors, a geometra (Italian surveyor) and the Notary to ensure everything was in order before we bought but the Comune are now asking for 6,000 euros to be paid within 60 days.

We have emailed asking for more information and sending details of the payments made though of course we don’t have the receipts.  I doubt this will do any good, when they said we owed 2 years refuse bills and we sent our receipts they didn’t do anything until we returned to the village and were able to go to the offices so we could queue for an hour then sit and watch them tap on the computer for half an hour before they agreed that we had paid everything at the appropriate time.

It’s beyond me why this has suddenly occurred 40 years after the offence if indeed there is one.  Speaking to a local he told us he had recently had to get retrospective permission for the house he built 50 years ago in order to benefit from the recent Ecobonus incentive giving grants of 110% for interventions like solar panels, double glazing etc.  Presumably he would otherwise never have bothered about permission.  

I am furious, I’d like to know why we have suddenly been targeted, it seems to be a selective money making exercise.  I cannot believe that over the last 40+ years the authority has never checked for unauthorised building work.  MrFF is furious because he will now spend hours and hours checking details and offering evidence they will be ignored.  He’s already asked for the documents to be sent as PDFs to us and for more details, they won’t send anything.  Although the vendor is technically responsible if there is a problem it will no doubt cost more than 6,000 euros to peruse him or any of the so called professionals involved. 

Of course the authorities have the right to demolish any unauthorised work if they could ever get themselves organised to do so.   It’s a pity we’ve just had the terrace retiled as I am tempted to say be my guest at least we haven't redecorated the room below.  More likely they will just keep adding interest to the fine. I never realised when we bought the house that it is the custom that the only foreigners in the village will be responsible for funding the Comune.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Yorkshire Life


How nice it’s been to sit, between the showers, on our sunny balcony. I bought a few lavender plants at our local nursery which is within walking distance, £1 each, good healthy plants, they were a bargain.   It’s pointless spending a lot on plants for the balcony as they have to survive our absence, fortunately despite the June heatwave most did but some have been set back.  I am not one for giving up though I image I revived some we will be leaving again.

Speaking of which our dear friend Giovanni who this year lost his wife is now in residence in the house above ours in Lazio  He says is much pleasanter then being in his apartment in Rome and he intends to stay at least until the end of August.  He also said that Grigio and Enrico are visiting regularly, he is putting out food and more importantly water which I am sure they appreciate as a supplement to their regular supply from Mario.  

So we can enjoy the cool for a while longer.  Oddly I am not feeling chilly at all and wearing clothes more appropriate for Italy, living the flip flop life today in 12 degrees in Yorkshire.

Thursday 27 July 2023

A timely reminder

I am aware of the problems of fast fashion, cheap buys from the Far East etc, I don’t shop with Amazon for these reasons and also because of the ugly enormous facility they built in the valley below our house in Italy, an out of town building to which all the zero contract minimum wage workers have to travel and not a solar panel in sight on the vast acreage of flat roof.

When we returned from Italy my kitchen clock had stopped working, MrFF said it was finished and I’d need a new one.  That was disappointing as I like the clock very much, so he thought again and said he would try to find a new mechanism for it. However such mechanism was to come from Temu, an online vendor that I believe is in China and gets bad press because it’s suppliers may use child and slave labour, at the prices they definitely aren’t paying them much or investing in their welfare.   However he ordered the product for less than £2 delivered, it seemed from the despatch updates to travel by plane.  It took a while to arrive badly packaged with the plastic wrapping pierced by part of the mechanism but nothing broken.

MrFF had the old mechanism and pointers removed and the new ones installed in a flash, my clock works again and it looks great, I like the new blunt pointers and the addition of a red second hand.  I am delighted and telling myself that a repair is better then the whole clock heading to landfill but I also feel guilty about using such a disreputable company whenever I check the time.

Saturday 22 July 2023

On Tour

This years Tour de France has been one of extremes, I have never known one like it.  It’s been thrilling from the start and each day since, long hard stages, big climbs, scary descents, fierce competition, amazing racing.

I was devastated, but also much calmer as I no longer have to worry about him, when my favourite ever rider Mark Cavendish crashed and had to abandon with a complicated collar bone fracture.  He was riding so well till the accident, it remains to be seen whether he will after all sign up for one more year in an attempt break the record for the most Tour stage wins.  Currently he is equal with the great Eddy Merckx which for me is good enough.  I had lovely visions of him riding the final day of his final Tour through Paris, high 5ing his loyal fans and possibly even taking the last sprint, moving us all to tears himself included.  He is such a likeable man, when he won the final stage in Rome of this year’s Giro d’Italia, having been generously lead out by Geraint Thomas who is in a rival team, he had to embrace not just his teammates and G but every single Giro rider and many of the support staff.

MrFF and I are glued to the telly every afternoon, some days it’s impossible to knit and watch. Friends called by one day and were forced to view the sprint finish with us.  Even today the penultimate day there was tension and emotion, the French fans lining the climb of the Petite Ballon in their thousands to say goodbye and thanks to retiring Thibout Pinot who was at that stage leading the race, a dream scenario.

Tomorrow will be a relaxed procession into Paris, a final sprint and the presentations. The tour will be over for another year, I will feel the loss.  It wasn’t my ideal outcome, I suppose the British twins Simon and Adam Yates finishing joint first was a lot to ask, but they finished third and fourth.  Next year maybe.