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.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


We arrived safely at the house on Friday early evening and Lisa our little cat appeared within half an hour, Theo the shy one not much later.   Lisa didn't  visit so often afterwards, we assumed because our neighbours had been feeding her and she was still getting food and attention.  This evening she came round and I put out food and milk but again she wasn't that interested.  I heard her in the garden being quite vocal and then later I spotted her in our lower garden complete with ... wait for it .... a white kitten.  Obviously when the first kitten was taken she has moved the other and kept it very safe until she felt confident enough to being it to us.  She proceeded to lead the little tot across the garden and carried it, a few steps at a time, up the 13 steps onto our terrace. She was so pleased and happy, purring and fussing the baby.  I was in the middle of preparing dinner, which I abandoned as I tried to find a safe place for them both, they are now locked in our cellar with food, water and bedding.  Lisa didn't seem that pleased to be fastened in but needs must, it was getting dark we couldn't let them stay on the terrace in case junior walked off the edge and anywhere else in the garden left them vulnerable to predators now they have broken cover.
I really hope we can keep the kitten safe, I have already suggested Mr FF start building an enclosure, he was more concerned that his dinner would be burnt, it wasn't because he started without me but at least I can sleep tonight knowing mother and baby are safe.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Things to look forward to

We return to Italy in a few days and while I don't relish the thought of the long drive I do look forward to being back in the heat, seeing our cats and how the garden has progressed.
There was sad news about Lisa, she gave birth to two kittens but they only lived for a few days.  She is a feral cat and though she did her best to find a safe place for her kittens they both disappeared, probably taken by predators.  I am assured that while she was fretting she was fine and she and Theo are now being fed by our neighbours until we return. Nature can be horrible at times I'm afraid.
Back in Ilkley we applied some time ago for Listed Building consent to replace our wooden doors onto the balcony with aluminium double glazed ones. This was granted with only one objection, probably because the doors are hardly visible at fourth floor level behind a parapet wall.  We then applied to install two new double glazed windows, one either side of the doors of the same size.  This has been agreed and so we are now going through the formality of obtaining planning permission.
Having this extra glazing into our lounge will be wonderful, the current doors are badly fitted and very shabby.  This is the view from inside as the sun went down, with twice as much glass it will be spectacular. We probably won't get the work done until next spring, imagine the dust and dirt in our lounge and the logistics of carrying out the installation on the fourth floor, but it will be so worthwhile.  We can then tidy up the steps to the balcony, get some nice new curtains and fit the balcony out for eating and sitting.
We've had some incredible sun sets this last week, almost on a par with the ones we get in Italy, sitting looking onto something like this will be a joy.  

I'm not sure when we shall be back in the UK, no doubt long dark nights with no UK telly will take their toll.   The novelty of cosy evenings in front of the wood burner may fade even with my stash of books and yarn, and our friends and neighbours will gradually close up and leave their summer homes.  Autumn isn't something I ever look forward to and I am much more conscious of the changing seasons in Italy.   Once the olives are picked we will return to the penthouse so lets hope for an early harvest.  Meantime there is the rest of the summer, we have family visitors in September and possibly October and plenty more flip flops days to come.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Copenhagen in pictures

At last I can show you some of my snaps of our week in Copenhagen and hopefully impress you with this gorgeous city.  There was so much to love, the fabulous Design Museum was a good introduction to all things beautiful, 
toys and 
the cafe wasn't bad either.
Married for so many years to an engineer and being hosted by one too, I got a great tour of the city, taking in projects our friend had worked on including the school of architecture which is beautifully located by the water.  
We looked across to the gorgeous Opera House, 
designed by Henning Larsen, it is one of the most perfect buildings I've ever seen. 
Of course we had to see the little mermaid, even smaller than I expected but so sweet.  
Our borrowed apartment was beautiful too, lots of white and calm in a smart and quiet area with lovely local shops, cafes etc but a short walk to the station and 20 minutes to the centre. This is the leafy view from the lounge window.
We also did some out of town visits, 
Here are the grounds of Fredericksborg Castle in Hillerød where we saw an exhibition to mark Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday displaying dresses worn over her reign.  It was fascinating, fabulous outfits including her wedding dress with video clips of events where they were worn, the exhibition room was understandably full of drooling women. 
So after all that beauty and efficiency  it was a big contrast back in rural laid back Lazio and the words 'this wouldn't happen in Denmark' were spoken often. I love both places and my view of Copenhagen might be swayed slightly by the lovely sunny weather which apparently isn't the norm and our generous hosts but I shall definitely be back.  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

My cycling year

We caught a stage of the Giro d'Italia that came through the Tuscan town where we were staying but we were delighted to discover that another stage came through our own little Lazio village while we were there. We had expected to travel to see the boys and only found out that morning that we just needed to go down the hill and wait.  The riders were only a few miles from the end of a very long stage and climbing so they passed slowly and I got a great view of the pink jersey and eventually winner of the Giro, Alberto Contador, fantastic.
Before we left for Italy Mr FF had suggested that on the way home we might go into Paris to see the last day of the Tour de France, driving into Paris, the crowds etc, none of that appealed to me, but I was amenable when he said we could pick up the penultimate stage as we travelled home.  Saturday we crossed from Italy into France and headed towards a little town the Tour passed through but unfortunately several slip roads from the motorway were closed off, in both directions causing massive queues for travellers.  We did however manage to come off the motorway further on and make out way back, we parked up and just followed the crowds.  
This was a big day for the riders including the notorious climb to Alp D'Huez, you can see from the background how steep and high the mountains are.   I think seeing Team Sky leading the yellow jersey Chris Froome and the look of total concentration on his face as he battled to maintain his lead was my best ever cycling experience, apart from when I got a drinks bottle from one of the riders.  Amazing and also unbelievable that I managed to get a photograph.
The town was beautifully decorated for the stage visit, look at this they even had the Yorkshire flag flying.
Sunday we drove towards Calais for our last overnight before the ferry and Mr FF offered to drive to the start of the last day, no racing apart from the final sprint and the boys all taking it easy so we might see more.  I was up for that but again the slip roads were all closed so we pressed on, me thinking we were in the suburbs of Paris on our way out when suddenly this was before me.  

Oh no, that's not what I wanted to do.  We parked up and took a walk round in the rain but although it was early afternoon we couldn't find much indication that such a major event was taking place.  Eventually Mr FF spoke to some people who told us that the Tour didn't start till 4.30 and wouldn't be in town until at least 5.30, we had some distance to travel and it was 1.30 then. After rather tense discussion about checking the route but not the time we got back into the car.  We then drove round central Paris for about 3 hours, so many roads closed, so much traffic, not a fun experience.  We arrived at our b&b around 6.30 apologised for being late and explained what had happened. Madam immediately whisked us into her beautiful home where we joined her husband in front of the television to watch the final hour or so of the Tour with a glass in our hands.  If Mark Cavendish had won the sprint it would have been perfect, it was pretty good anyway.
So I've seen the Tour de Yorkshire in my home town, two stages of the Giro d'Italia and one of Tour de France, I am such a biking groupie, my best year ever.