Posts Tagged With: beams

Night of Madness, the Beams and Bluetit Serving Platters

Ciao a tutti,

How is everyone?! It’s been horrible weather this week – cloudy and always raining! I think it might have been my fault – in the heat of the week before I decided that I probably wouldn’t be using the stufa for the rest of the year and so I put the remnants of convenient stufa wood into the cantina. I should really move it back upstairs and release Italy from this non-stop rain.

I’ve got some visitors in the next few weeks: parents, my brother and sister-in-law (a special occasion indeed – it will mark I think the second visit in 15 years! ;-)) and then a group of friends in July. It’s spurred me back into the DIY. I have a big blackboard for my month goals in the kitchen and every single month, I tick off everything, but “finish the beams” is always ongoing to the following month. It’s such a life sapping task. However, this month I FINISHED THE BEAMS!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!! When I say finished, I mean “I am finished” rather than the beams are now finished per se. I spent an entire day up a ladder sanding them with a machine and by the end of it, I didn’t notice even a slight difference. So, I decided to oil and wax them anyway. Voila. Finished beams.

 

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh?

This is the beam closest to the stairs. Not that much paint eh? Despite the blurry photo, you can see it’s not a bad beam.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I've neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit neater at least.

And they then get progressively worse until you get to this beam! I’ve neatened up all the rough plaster and painted it so it looks a bit better at least. My hope is that nobody ever looks at the ceiling.


The rest of that week was spent painting and decorating the living room. I had grand plans to put lots of photos on the main wall in the living room which, you might remember from previous blogs I had blocked off a door-sized niche with wood and plaster. It turns out I am not amazing at plastering. You can quite clearly see where I blocked it off. So I’ve reworked my plans and put some big canvasses there instead! The photo’s are now on the wall by the stufa. In all, I’m reasonably pleased with how it looks at the moment bar a few finishing touches though it certainly looks “unique” and “rustic” what with the half painted beams, random rough plaster patches and a weird zigzag in the floor where there are no tiles (after the wall was taken down) .

I’ve painted one of the bedrooms too and have managed to turn what would have been quite a nice bright room if I’d have just carried on with the white paint, into another “unique” and “quirky” room. I have great reservations about it and I’m considering painting over it, particularly because at some point I was considering renting the room out. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Blue Tits

In other exciting news, we have some Blue Tits that have been nesting in the roof. For several days Mr and Mrs Bluetit had been perching next to the terrace with great long worms in their beaks, eyeing me up suspiciously before flying off. I couldn’t understand why these birds weren’t obese. They seemed to be worm killing machines. And then eventually, when they disappeared under a roof tile a couple of times, I suddenly cottoned on that maybe they had a nest there and were feeding their young. The closer I got, I heard some tiny little chirps! Cute. My mother suggested I feed them…

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…..but she was not impressed with the initial blue tit serving platter saying it was perhaps too sparkly white.

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This is Blue tit Service Platter Mark 2. I can report that the Blue Tits of Sarnano do not eat raisins or coleslaw but they do like cheese. Or at least something on the roof does. Unfortunately the family have now gone. I’m worried something bad happened – a tile where their nest appeared to be had moved quite considerably. I’m hoping their house was under another tile because there’s no sign of them.

ID card

I got myself an Italian ID card the other day. As far as I can see as general life goes, there’s no point to this card – it has a picture of me on with a description (brown hair, green eyes etc) and my address and cost 5 euros and 49 cents (that 1 cent extra to make it easier for everyone would have pushed it over into the realms of too expensive). Passports and driving licenses seem to be just as effective. However, I decided to go ahead with it because I needed it to open a bank account (my English passport and driving license didn’t cut the mustard) so I braced myself for months of red tape and bureaucracy and multiple visits to the Comune to attain this ID card. It took 5 minutes! I walked in with 3 passport sized photos and it was done. I recommend the process to everyone! So I have a nice ID card now and it makes me feel very Italian so I’m glad I have it, though it ended up being entirely useless in my quest to open a bank account. It turns out banks are annoying in Italy too, not just in the UK.

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One of the oldest road races went through Sarnano the other day so I popped down and took lots of photos of old cars as they sped past. Here’s one…

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Visit to the beautiful Ambro fraction of Montefortino

May is a special month for the Madonna here in Italy, being a predominately Catholic country. Jesus’ mother is big news here. In fact, not being religious or particularly well read in the bible, I was somewhat confused up until very recently. Town’s often refer to their churches by “Madonna di <town name> “.  Not really thinking about it, I had assumed, that all of these towns had their own Madonnas and it was just a very common name (a bit like if you’re not sure of a man’s name here in Sarnano, you can call them Giuseppe and you’ll more than likely be correct!). The Sue of Portsmouth, is not the same Sue of Edinburgh for instance. However, I’ve been informed that there’s just the one Madonna and she does good works everywhere. Every year, a trip is organised for the Sarnanese (the people of Sarnano) to go and worship the Madonna at the Madonna dell’Ambro church in the fraction of Montefortino. The story goes that the Madonna appeared to a mute shepherd girl in the month of May just by the river and where the church is now, and was given the gift of words. It’s certainly a stunning place and it looks like there’s some nice walks there too. I’ll have to investigate.

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This was actually taken from Montefortino itself rather than Ambro.

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Birthday Celebrations

It was my birthday on Saturday so I decided to have a party. I don’t like the idea of having parties; if people show up then there’s all the pressure of having to make it fun with food everyone likes and if people don’t show up then it’s a bit depressing isn’t it? It’s a lose, lose situation! However, I wanted to do something just as a gesture to my neighbours to say thank you for being so welcoming to me in the last year or so, so I prepared an English-style buffet (sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, pastry nibbles etc.). In the end, not that many people came but it was really good! I must have them over again – they were positively overflowing with compliments about the house and food.

The celebrations continued with a virtual online Eurovision Song Contest party that evening with my friends and family back home which was very good. It could have been a bit of a miserable day being away from everyone but in fact, it turned out to be a good day all around!

My immediate neighbour gave me a ‘massage experience’ at the Sarnano Terme where she works. Terme means spa/thermal baths in English. It’s not like a beauty spa though – everything is geared towards health. There are three springs within the Terme – the waters are all used in various different treatments: Inhalation to treat allergies etc, hydromassages to treat aches/pains and water retention etc. and if you drink the water from one of the springs it has amazing diuretic properties (I didn’t even know this was a good thing but it apparently is). My experience started off with a hydromassage first with a lovely man who explained about the terme and was very patient whilst I laughed my way through the first 5 minutes. It’s an unusual experience! You walk up some little steps to a big metal bath filled with this special thermal water and then the masseuse uses a reasonably high powered hose to massage you under the water. Once the initial ‘surrealness’ had passed, it was actually very relaxing. Then I had a more conventional massage which was lovely. All in all, a great birthday present and a unique experience.  If you’re coming to Sarnano, it’s definitely worth checking the spa out. In fact, the grounds themselves are lovely and it’s free to go to them. Take an empty bottle with you and fill it up with the thermal water (and when you drink it, make sure you’re near a bathroom).

The Hunt for Wild Boar

Apparently the area is rife with wild boar. Rife. However, in almost a year, I’ve not seen a single one (apart from perhaps the bottom of one running into some trees being chased by dogs during the hunting season but I can’t be sure). I have seen evidence of them though (they sort of nose around in the soil looking for food and churn it up) so I’m sure they exist in the area. My neighbour has taken it upon herself to show me the local wild boar so we’ve been on a few wild boar searches of the local area. We’ve seen some from a distance which look strikingly similar to bushes so I still don’t feel I’ve really experienced seeing a wild boar. Still, the hunt continues so who knows, I might have some photos for the next blog.

Notte dei folli

A week or two back was Notte dei folli in Sarnano – Night of madness. People dressed up in costume and there were lots of people performing: lots of bands, singers, dancers. And I’ve never, ever seen so much alcohol available here, or so many people in Sarnano. The Italians are somewhat boring drinkers – most of them seem to have one glass of wine and call it a night (unless they’re driving in which case they’ll have a bottle or two). Even if they do drink, they hold it remarkably well and you wouldn’t particularly know. It’s not like in the UK where past 9pm all the pubs are full to the brim of people being loud and stupid and then later photographed sprawled across pavements. So I was shocked to discover at this festival there were actually DRUNK people, it was like being back in London 🙂 I’m definitely going next year. There was an absolutely brilliant performance from a group called DuMadet. I don’t think I’ve actually seen two such talented musicians before.  It was a guitarist and a violinist doing wonderful and quite elaborate versions of modern songs. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

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This was a band called “Cecco e Cipo”. The two main guys were in the Italian X-factor a few years back. Here’s their x-factor audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvngeQTlyA. Cipo, the beardless dude, is particularly mad /amusing. It could never be said that he gives a boring performance. For their final performance of the night, they just all came into the audience and starting singing, much to the displeasure of the sound and light people!

I think that about sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having a great week.

xxx

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Blasted beams, feng shui and sucking Italy dry…

Ciao a tutti,

I’ve just realised this is my 100th post! It feels like I must have written loads more than that! It’s like when parents can’t remember their lives before their children, I feel a bit like that with the blog. Without it, and a way of sharing my experiences, photos and rants there’s a good chance I’d be a gibbering wreck by now. But more than that, it means so much more that there are people out there reading it! Thank you all so much for following my little journey and taking the time out to write comments. It’s always appreciated.

Anyway, enough of that! How is everyone? For me, these last couple of weeks have been of mixed success…

Beams, beams, beams

The main focus of last week was beam sanding. I can’t put into words how much dust the sander makes so it was all hands on deck to try and get the house clean, tidy and dust free before the sofa was to arrive last Wednesday.

What an utter failure! By Tuesday night and after countless er, debates, about the best method of sanding beams, they were still nowhere near paint free. Pane Caldo treats the beams as though he’s restoring a Da Vinci. His approach is to caress the beam with the finest possible sandpaper. To give him his dues, it does work (eventually).  My preferred tools consists of the coursest sandpaper on the electric sander and a mallet and chisel. Admittedly, if left to my own devices the beams would probably resemble dowels right now. Anyway, the crux of the matter is that the beams are still not done. They’ll need another couple of days of work but neither of us can face it so we’re having a break from it.

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Beam close up – those annoying little paint-y divots are a nightmare.

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Beams from a distance. They need to be finished, tidied up where the plaster meets them and then waxed.

Stupid sofa colour? 

The sofa arrived as planned on Wednesday after organising to meet the delivery folk in the town centre to bring them here (does anyone else have this issue to get their post or anything delivered?). I’m generally really pleased with the sofa. The best thing about it, is that it fit through our hobbit-sized front door (albeit with the door taken off). The shop make it up in whatever fabric and colour you want so it was quite exciting to see the finished article, not least because we bought the thing well over a month ago.

We selected a sensible dark colour. Or that’s what I thought. Dark colours are not remotely sensible in this house it turns out. The dust is still settling from the sanding and so I think the sofa is already several shades lighter than it was and now has dusty highlights. I should have gone with a patchy off white colour.

The new sofa

The new sofa.

Feng shui-ing the house

Meanwhile we’ve been playing around with the sofa and the vast expanse of furniture we now have (the previous owner left us quite a bit). It’s gone well and I think the biggest success has been “writers corner”. We stuck the two (disgusting) old armchairs by the fire under the stair nook and the unused space is now lovely and cosy and used all the time.

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Please excuse the odd angle (the panoramic setting on my camera isn’t great for close-ups!), and the mess, the revolting chairs, the ladder, the duvet cover hanging up over the stairs (see below!)…The thing I wanted to show you was Writer’s Corner, below the painting. You have to imagine it in the evenings with the lights off and the glow of the fire. Cosy, cosy, cosy.

Heat retention and free cooking!

I’ve put up some temporary curtains to block off the stairway as otherwise all the heat just goes upstairs. The experiment has proved successful so I might see about making the curtains more permanent rather than stringing up old duvet covers.

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Duvet Door number two between the kitchen and living room. Number one was by the stairs in the above picture. We need to tidy up the wall where it was knocked down! That’s going to be a weekend task.

The stufa (woodburner), has been used in earnest and let me tell you, what a success! For a little thing, it does knock out a bit of heat. Our fire lighting techniques have improved. From an average of about 80 matches and several firelighters to get it going, we’re down to 2 or 3 matches and no firelighters. This week’s goal will be to get down to one match.

And then….

AND there's more!

AND there’s more!

It's now filling up a good chunk of our cantina! And I only came across 2 scorpions :-s

It’s now filling up a good chunk of our cantina! And I only came across 2 scorpions :-s

Look at all my wood!!!!! And it was only 70 euros. 70 EUROS! Bargain (I think anyway!). That amount of wood will surely see us through for the next century. There’s something nice about being able to see and control how much you’re spending on your heating. No nasty “quarterly” bill surprises. But it’s a bit disturbing to be burning so much wood – I know it’s not quite like single-handedly chopping down the Amazon but it does feel morally questionable. I’ll have to get over that of course otherwise we’ll freeze to death.

I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t cope for any extended length of time if the power went out (as it sounds like it’s likely to do during storms) as the oven and hob are both electric. However, as long as we can get the stufa going then we’re good to go.  So far, we’ve made soup, heated up curry, made eggy bread (mmm), stewed plums and made custard. Jacket potatoes will be tonight’s experiment.

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Stewing plums and making custard…

Using the stufa has worked out quite well because we can only have 3kw of power to the house at any one time and the hob uses pretty much all of that. If you want to turn the cooker hood on, then you have to compensate by turning off all the lights. I did phone the electricity company about it but the conversation was odd. It went a bit like:

Sue: My electricity meter keeps putting up threatening messages on it about disconnecting my electricity. It says we’re always x% over our allotted amount and it’s going to disconnect us.

Electric Company (EC): Yeah. Don’t worry about it.

Sue:  Really? You’re not going to charge me extra for going over my limit? You’re not going to disconnect me?

EC: Nah. Your electricity might trip but then just turn it back on again eh?

Sue: Uh huh. Could I just legitimately have more electricity please?

EC: Yeah, you could do that. You’d have to pay £££’s to upgrade and then an extra ££ for every unit of power you use on top of that every month.

Sue: Huh. That sounds expensive.

EC: Yeah. Up to you.

Sue: Well I might just continue to use more than my allotted amount and just turn the electricity back on when you disconnect me then?

EC: Yeah, good call.

Magical Water Removal Device

We’ve been sucking out all of the water from Italy with our recent dehumidifier purchase. I know the house is damp, but I can’t believe it’s as damp as the dehumidifier is making out. We have been putting it on every night for the whole night for a couple of weeks and every night it sucks out 3 litres of water. Pane Caldo believes that it’s sucking water out of the walls. I, however, believe it’s sucking water out from the surrounding countryside and through the walls. Does anyone else have a dehumidifier? Any thoughts on acceptable amounts appreciated!

The Curse of the Festas

Last weekend it was the Festa dei Morti (`Celebration of the dead`. I think festa literally means party but I think celebration is a better translation in this instance!). The Italian’s have this every year at the beginning of November to remember and celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have passed away. Last year in Camerano I  had taken my parents to the cemetery for a visit (as you do), and was overwhelmed by the number of people there not realising why at the time. Later that week there was a candle-lit procession around the town. This year, I resolved to pay a bit more attention and so planned to go on the procession. I was thrilled my fellow expat friend from Israel wanted to come with me (let’s face it, it’s an odd thing to want to do on a Saturday evening), and so we arranged to meet up early that evening and try and find out where it was and when (as usual, there was nothing online or in the paper about it – Italians appear to be born with an innate ability to sense upcoming festas). I had warned her about my curse – the fact that any festa that I want to go to is non-existent or not at the time or place I think it is (or where or when it was advertised as being I should say!). As anticipated, we were an hour late for it and had just missed it! Maybe next year…

We did have a wander around the cemetery though... I'm always really impressed with them here. They 'bury' their dead above ground as opposed to under ground like we English people do.

We did have a wander around the cemetery though… I’m always really impressed with them here. They ‘bury’ their dead above ground as opposed to under ground like we English people do.

Writing

I’m still managing to keep up with the novel writing. The goal is to do 10,000 words a week. I’m hoping to finish the first draft by mid December. Getting all the intricacies of a plot that’s big enough to carry a whole novel is a challenge. I can’t believe there are so many people out there who have managed it!

Batfink

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Batfink struggling to get comfy…

Batfink remains a cutie. You may be able to hear his meows from wherever you are in the world every morning when it’s breakfast time here. It sounds like he’s being beaten with a stick rather than him being hungry. When there’s a dog nearby, he scrambles up on my shoulders and sits there like a parrot staring the dog out and refusing to come down. But bad news, I have discovered he has worms (ugh!). Batfink doesn’t really seem entirely like my cat. For instance, he shares illicit nights with the neighbour occasionally and spends most of his time in her barn. And there was never a “here, he’s yours” conversation, only a “aw, he loves you, in the winter he’ll want to stay over night”.  I think he’s basically of shared ownership as much as anyone can own a cat. So, I’m perfectly happy to go to the vet and speak to them about his worms. But if I have a conversation with her I fear that she’ll be stunned that I would consider worms were a problem (all the cats must have them) and I don’t want her to feel under pressure to do something about it. Yet, if I just go to the vets with him without discussing it with her first, then I’ll feel like I’ve kidnapped her cat. Difficult!

Walks

I’ve been going on lots of nice long walks from the house. We’re lucky enough to live in an area that has lots of signed designated walks around wooded areas and hills. Unluckily though, it’s impossible to follow any of the designated walks. If they exist at all, many of the signs have fallen over, are confusing or point in opposing directions. I’m going to complain and offer my services to put up some decent signs.

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A picture from one of my recent walks…

Ok, I think that about does me for now. I hope everyone has splendid rest of weeks!

x

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