Thursday 30 November 2023

Winter begins

We woke this morning to a covering of snow, winter seems to have arrived early this year.  Not my favourite season but it was such a bright white morning that I decided to embrace it.

The first snow of winter definitely required porridge for breakfast particularly as we had some cream in the fridge and maple syrup in the cupboard.   Usually I have my porridge plain or with a little fruit so this was a treat that set me up for the day.

I am currently considering wandering down to join the massive queue at the post office with an overseas parcel but there is plenty to keep me indoors. I continue  knitting away at the Estuary scarf, less than 100 rows to go, whilst also making fingerless gloves which require much less concentration.

Was it last year I said that if I started in the new year knitting one of these tiny sock decorations each week I would have 50 for Christmas.   Recently I decided that if I knit one a day in December I could have 24, it’s not yet December and I have 7, that’s possible enough I don’t want to exhaust this out of character seasonal enthusiasm.

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 prĂ©cis 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