Saturday, 28 November 2015

My garden

We may not have made much progress inside our Italian house this year but we made great strides in the garden.  My new border was planted up with plumbago, two bougainvillea, oleander, nasturtium and malva.   Amazing how quickly things grew in the lovely weather with the help of our irrigation system and it soon filled out.
I took various packets of seeds from the UK.  Some were not so happy, the sweet peas for example really didn't like the heat, they started to recover just before we left and might even be flowering now.  The morning glory were in their element and happily romped up the new trellis in front of the gas tank.
A 99p packet of snail vine seeds produced two plants that were greatly admired by friends and neighbours.  Having climbed several metres up to the fence on the wall behind the border, they produced these pretty flower buds

that opened up like this, so exotic.

All my pots did really well, it was a pity to leave them but I moved everything together at the back door in the hope Mario might water them if needed.  

I harvested the walnuts, invented a pasta recipe to use some of them and brought a big bag home 
A picture of the olive harvest in progress above us, our water burst was some distance above the green netting so you can imagine how difficult it all was.

Finally an autumnal view from the orchard and in case you are worried, we heard a day ago from Mario that the cats are still in residence and their food dispenser has been replenished.  

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Back in Ilkley

Well that was some trip home.  We anticipated delays at border crossings though really it was only France that had taken any serious action with auto routes reduced to one lane for checks and lorries being stopped and searched. There didn't seem to be any extra security, or really apart from a look in the car boot any security at all at Zebrugge.  
We made the ferry with little time to spare, parked the car, found our cabin, complained as the bedding wasn't clean and were move a bigger 4 berth one that was much more comfortable.  We were due to depart at 7.30 pm but were told that high winds had caused a large container ship to come adrift, it was bobbing round the harbour and all available tugs had gone out to rescue it.  This wasn't a bad thing as we were able to enjoy our dinner on board before we set sail.  Mr FF went off to watch the football though spent most of his time watching the boating activity and I settled into bed with my book.  We cast off at around 12.30, into force 10 gales and waves up to 4 metres high.  I've never done an overnight on a boat before, two hours across the Channel was my previous limit, and I wasn't too sure if the ferry was supposed to bang and creak and clatter for hours on end.  We rolled around on the North Sea unable to sleep until about 4 am when things calmed down a bit and we dozed until around 8. Unfortunately we were then told that instead of docking at 8.30 am it would be more like 1.30 pm when we got to Hull. So be it, P&O Ferries looked after us well, coffee and cake for everyone mid morning and a reasonable lunch all provided free of charge. Fortunately the boat wasn't full at all, 200 passengers with a capacity of 1,000, and I met some nice ladies from Sheffield who were busy with their knitting. Sadly my wrist still prevented me taking up my needles though I have now started doing about quarter of an hour each day.
So a couple of hours driving and we were home safe and sound, a bit wobbly and dizzy after the travel.  We have been exhausted ever since, sleeping well and long but it just doesn't seem to be enough.  We may be getting a bit old for all this travel, we both turned 67 this year, and we do seem to be feeling the cold which doesn't usually bother us.  Still nothing for us to do but recover.
So let me leave you with some photos of the kitties, a week since we left them, we hope they are coping.    
Not so long after Marzia arrived in August

Just before we left, almost as big as Mum now

This is the cat apartment, we left the door locked almost closed for safety

Saturday, 14 November 2015

So many goodbyes

We leave Lazio tomorrow morning and all being well should be home in Ilkley around noon on Wednesday.
We seem to have been saying goodbye for weeks, our Danish friends left the same day as our last visitors and seeing them all go was hard.  Our neighbours have gradually moved back to the city for winter, we had our last lunch with our friend Monica this week and tomorrow we leave Mario and his family for another year.
The final and hardest goodbye will be when we leave our little kitties.  Mr FF has totally refurbished the outside gas cupboard, yesterday insulating the walls and moving in the cat bed.  We bought a food dispenser that should keep them happy for about a week, plus many big bags of crunchies and later today Mario is coming for a lesson in topping up the food.   Marzia was happy to go into the little house, the door is fastened open at cat width with a catch that a dog couldn't nudge open, but Lisa was very resistant.  However we went out with a torch late last night and mother and baby were tucked in and Theo was on patrol outside, excellent.  We spoke to a local vet and he said at 3 months Marzia is far too young to be spayed and suggested 8 months which would fit in with our return next year if she is still around.
So it's a sad time and I shall be glad when we get back to the penthouse but in light of events in Paris it's nothing.  I'm proud that Mr FF and I care so much for our friends and our animals, I am appalled by the human race's inability to accept differences and live in harmony.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

One handed

Things weren't going too badly, our neighbour's grandson found our water leak when he was out playing and Mr FF has fixed it.  We had already been to the water board and after queueing an hour filled in a form for a Tecnico to come out and locate the leak.  We asked if he would have a listening device, yes he would.  Next day we received a message that he wouldn't be coming, the leak was our responsibility but they were sending someone to consider moving our meter out of the pit, which it transpired the inspector was too large to climb into, onto the roadside.  Long story short, they wanted 110 euros to move our meter 10 metres onto the roadside, we declined the offer and hope eventually they will move all the metres at their own cost.
Saturday I had a fall in the garden and seem to have badly sprained my wrist.   Luckily it is the left one but it is very disabling, swollen and still slightly painful so activities are limited and definitely no knitting.  The nights are long watching old repeats of Pointless on Challenge TV but I still have a good stock of books.  The weather is so good, up to 20 degrees, deep blue skies and autumn colours on the mountain above us, things could be worse.
Good job we got the olives picked before my accident, 182 kilos of fruit turned into 20 litres of oil.
So just a few more jobs for Mr FF, we are waiting for the weather to break, which isn't forecast for a while, trying to find out if we can have Marzia doctored before we leave, hoping the cats might start using the new shelter Mt FF has re roofed and re floored for them, at present they still prefer to be put on the terrace snuggled together as the nights get colder.
Forgive the quality of my typing, this 60 wpm touch typist is reduced to stabbing with one finger, but that's just one of the many challenges facing me at present.

Friday, 9 October 2015

It goes on

Life here in Lazio goes on much the same and you probably don't want to hear much more about the sunshine, the outdoor life, home grown tomatoes, meals out etc, so let me update you about some of the more mundane aspects of being here.
We had another financial scare from the Italian authorities when we received a demand for 480 euros plus a fine of another 300 euros for unpaid community charge back in 2008.  They said they wrote to us about this in 2011 but didn't receive a reply, we never received the letter,  so they wrote again 3 years later, I'm saying nothing.  Anyway we were able to find our receipt from 2008 and we owe nothing, which makes a nice change as we seem to have forked out quite a lot in fines over the years.
We have a leak on our water supply.  For some reason the meters for the 4 houses in our road are high up on the hillside behind us and we are responsible for the pipes that run down to our houses.  We were alerted when a neighbour who lives above us called to say there was water on the road and sods law it seemed to be our pipe.  Mr FF fixed this leak by digging down at the roadside and finding the problem but our meter is running even when the supply is turned off at the house.  Finding where this second leak is seems hopeless, he could probably dig up half the mountainside, I think he may be as he goes up there most days for hours on end.  Giovanni, the neighbour who is in his 80s is kindly helping, and providing huge quantities of his delicious grapes too.
Marzia our kitten is doing amazingly well.  It soon became clear that she's wants to join the local feral pack.  Weeks ago she started to resist being fastened into the cellar overnight with Lisa,  making a big fuss, crying etc so we decided to let her sleep on the terrace.  The first night I was awake worrying and up at 4 am checking she was ok, she was on the pillow I put out tucked in between her mum Lisa and her uncle Theo.  The 3 of them are inseparable and the 2 adults put up with a lot of abuse, being attacked, jumped on, all in a good natured way.  I really didn't know what to do for the best when we leave, certainly Theo and Lisa survive the months without us and come back to the house when we do.  Even if we could find a home for Marzia I wonder if she might not be happier living outside with the others presuming we can make some arrangement for them to have shelter and  food.  I'd like to get her sterilised before we go but I think she will be too young allowing for us to be here after the operation to give her care.  Meantime she gets bigger and smarter every day and is a delight to have around, she is in great condition and has definitely had a good start in life.
The olives are turning black and though we don't have a great crop we should get some oil.  We have friends coming to visit in a couple of weeks and then it will be November, our Danish friends will have left, the nights will be dark and we shall start to think about the drive home, but not just yet.  Sunshine and tomatoes a bit longer please.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Italy, now you've made me cross

Weather continues to be wonderful so on Thursday we decided to spend the afternoon at our local outdoor pool that is part of a large sports complex.   We first visited on 25 August and signed up for membership for the rest of the year having been told the pool was always open as they have a retractable roof.  As we drove down we noticed despite the heat that the cover was on, Mr FF suggested if might be because it was a breezy day and debris from the garden could blow into the water.  It was 35 degrees when we arrived to see that not only was the pool covered but there was no furniture in the garden.  I mentioned I didn't want to sit inside the cover as we approached the entrance, fat chance there wasn't any water in the pool and no one about.   We went to the office to be informed  that the pool closed at the end of August as the summer was over, did I mention it was sweltering outside.  We were told the pool would open again in October for winter courses and when I checked the completely out of date website I saw that the summer season doesn't start again until mid June, at least it didn't in 2014 when the site was last updated.
Strange when we took membership that no one told us there was only a week of outdoor swimming left.   Even more annoying that they turn away business based on the calendar rather than the  temperature and therefore demand.  We had to give an email address when we registered so presumably they could keep members updated about opening times and extend the season and their income accordingly.  We wasted an hour travelling to and from the pool,  we had expected to pick up shopping on the way back but of course the shops stay closed till 4 and we were home by 3 feeling hot and cross.  I have sent an email to the club expressing my irritation, I have no expectations at all that I will receive a reply.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Extending the flip flop season

I don't suppose you want to hear that despite a couple of storms we are still enjoying glorious weather, that we've been to a variety of local festas, had friends for meals, been to friends for meals, eaten lots of our own produce, rather sick of aubergines now but still loving the figs.
You probably do want to hear that Marzia, our little kitten who was named by our guests before she disappeared, is doing wonderfully well.  Our multi level garden and terrace are death traps for a little one but despite one big fall onto concrete that left her dazed but otherwise OK, Marzia is now coping with all the steps, not wandering off the end of the terrace, eating proper food, tormenting her mother Lisa dreadfully and keeping us amused but sometimes terrified by her antics.  We are making efforts to find her a good home, which isn't easy here as everyone has kittens to give away but because she is pure white with a slightly ginger tail, strong and fairly well behaved we are hopeful.  Our black feral Theo is so good with her, tolerates being jumped on while eating and never retaliates, it is delightful to have all three cats around.
So days pass quickly and I am ever conscious of the changing season,  darker and cooler nights that at least make it easier to sleep and a general autumnal feeling.  Time for the grape harvest, the outdoor pools close mid September, no doubt the beach establishment have all disappeared for another year and the bars will soon replace their displays of gelato with delicious cakes.  Who wants to swim or eat ice cream when it's only 25 degrees - well me actually but it just wouldn't do, be liking drinking cappuccino after 11.30 am.
We have family coming to stay next week until October, then we shall start thinking about the olive harvest, driving home and Marzia's future, but for now I want to continue this warm and carefree life just a little bit longer.