Posts Tagged With: cat

The Good, The Bad and The Stressful

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? Well, I’ve written this blog about 5 times now. I start and then I don’t quite finish, and then more stuff happens and then I have to re-write it all! I’ll start with the good stuff.

I’ve moved in to my new temporary home fully now (I say fully, my bits and pieces still litter the globe in various places…One day I shall consolidate them!).

This is my new view…

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Ignore the telephone wire. I did take a lovely one from the valley but it’s disappeared (the photo, not the valley!)

It’s gone well and for the first time in a long time, I feel settled. I’ve actually joined the local gym and swimming pool. It even has a spa!

It’s such a lovely time of the year here – the flowers are all out in the mountains (I have another blog to write up following a trip up Monte Sibilla a couple of weeks ago) and the fields are all golden with hay that waves with the wind.

Batfink settled in really well. He’s never been in a house so big. The first day I let him out he kept circling the house, meowing through each window and door as if to say “and this… this is STILL our house?”. I also acquired the couple of kittens that I was looking after back in Ripatransone for a while after my friend went on holiday. I even bought a little house for them outside (they’d run havoc if let them loose inside I fear!). Batfink and the kittens greeted each other like long lost friends which was sweet and they really helped Batfink settle in too.

When I came back to Italy I was able to tag onto the end of a life drawing course in Porto San Giorgio, a coastal town not too far from me. It was a joint course with Italian college students and me and a few other English ex-pats. We even made the local news paper!

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This is Porto San Giorgio…

And the wildlife is exciting here! A couple of Redstarts had nested in the woodpile and were very upset about the snake that had slithered into it. The next day they stopped taking food in and I discovered their empty nest the following day. I feel bad for Mr & Mrs Redstart – even I had empty nest syndrome. I’d gotten used to them knocking on the windows (who knows why? Trying to catch bugs on the inside?) But they’ve gone now. Anyway, poor Snakey has to eat too I guess. He’s not a dangerous snake (for humans at least!) but I might be on my guard a bit more next time I get wood!

Snakey

Spot Snakey!

Fireflies

And there’s been fireflies…

My brother, sister -in-law and little nephew came out to visit for a few days too which was lovely. It’s always a good opportunity to see some new places and check out some festas. One of the highlights was Servigliano and their Corpus Domini ‘infioratura’ (‘in flower’) festival. I was really impressed by the amount of work and effort that goes into a number of similar festas around Le Marche. Intricate designs and patterns are laid out with the most vibrant petals and in Servigliano they’d laid out a carpet of flowers extending about 1km only to have everyone from the morning mass walk over them. I can’t get over how badly they’re all publicised – there was nothing on the internet at all!

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Servigliano is a really interesting town – it’s unlike any other I’ve come across. It’s in the valley and is formed as a square (well, not quite, it’s 144 x 137 meters). The entire town centre was built within the space of 6 years starting in 1773 in response to the ever-increasing risk of landslide on the original hill-top town (which is apparently very close to where I’m now staying). It was actually called Castel Clementino before, named after the pope at the time (Clemente XIV), and only changed the name to Servigliano in 1863. They have a market every Monday morning. One of the things that’s quite quaint is the curtains hanging over most of their doors – I get the feeling that they want a bit of a breeze in their house but without losing their privacy! Anyway, here’s some more pics…

So all in all, I feel settled here in a way I haven’t felt settled since pre-earthquake. I’ve struck it lucky to have such a lovely house to stay in with such magnificent views and I’m gradually getting to know a few locals who seems lovely. There are lots of festas, events and walks on at the moment. I could be out every night if I wanted.

However, life has also thrown a few curveballs my way since I’ve been back.

Batfink has been horribly ill for weeks now with bladder stones/crystals and subsequent complications. He flips between acute kidney failure because he can’t wee or he’s incontinent with a catheter (who knew that cat catheters don’t come with bags). It turns out that cats die very, very quickly if they can’t go to the toilet. It goes from “hmm, he seems like he’s struggling a bit” to “oh my god, he’s dying” in a matter of hours. He had another relapse last week resulting in a 2am emergency vet visit after which he was kept in for a few days to see if they could get him functioning again. In the end we’ve had to resort to what is basically a sex change op which has altered his male parts into female parts which will widen his urethra and help him go to the loo. So it should be a totally fixable issue but alas, so far, so bad. He’s having a horrible time of it, as am I, and I’m not sure what to do. I’ve never seen such a sad looking cat; he doesn’t eat, he’s stopped drinking, he stumbles around aimlessly and then collapses facing a wall. Anyway, hopefully it’s just a matter of time before he gets back to his old self. I really hope so. I can hardly remember that, it feels such a long time ago 😦

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My very ill Batfink after his first ‘procedure’. Poor poor Puss.

Meanwhile, one of the kittens died which has been just awful. I found him on my driveway this morning – I’m afraid I ran over him but I can’t believe I’d have done that and not noticed – particularly given I check they’re ok before bed. I was preoccupied with Batfink so perhaps I didn’t but it just seems so unlikely. Potentially something else might have got him and this afternoon there were a couple of massive dogs chasing the remaining kitten, ‘Carrot’ (renamed from ‘Doomed’ – the other was renamed Pumpkin from his original ‘Fated’ rather ironically) today.  So I don’t know. Poor Carrot doesn’t know quite what to do with himself now. He’s got pent up cuddles which he’s giving to me which are somewhat bittersweet.

In marginally less traumatic news, the downstairs toilet got blocked. I can’t even begin to describe the horror of that! Of course this all happened with my family staying – typical! Suffice to say, not only the toilet was a no-go area but also the floor, bidet and shower. The sewage cleaning guys had already been out to clear the cesspit a couple of weeks ago as the plumbing was being a bit slow. They came out again to resolve the block. They solemnly promised it wouldn’t block again. Two days later in was blocked again – luckily nowhere near to the same terrifying proportions. We managed to resolve it ourselves that time and again on a subsequent occasion but I am nervous about what the future holds! The owners have been so lovely to let me stay in their home whilst mine gets sorted (and I’m aware you’re probably reading this A&R!), I feel somewhat racked with guilt that these issues seem to have arisen just now! Still, I’ll keep my fingers (and legs?) crossed.

The car has needed a new injector. It took 4 visits to my old mechanic back in Sarnano to get that changed finally and I think all the faffing around during the visits (none of which was my fault!) has resulted in a somewhat inflated price. At least it fixed the problem or so I thought. The car was fine for a week or two but now has stopped being able to accelerate again leading to some stuck-in-the-middle-of-roundabouts-with-oncoming-traffic fun.

People often ask me what I do all day. Month’s back I started preparing a ‘day in the life of’ post – but I can safely say at the moment it’s just flitting between various crises’!

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hopefully my spell of the ‘malocchio‘ has finished for this year but one never knows!

x

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Earthquakes, prisons for cats & explorations…

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well.

Things are moving along here. On the earthquake front, we’re still getting quite a lot of tremors, still magnitudes 3 and 4 which aren’t insignificant. I guess it will take a while for the earth to settle down. I had never realised before just quite how long it takes for the aftershocks to stop after a big quake. It could be a year or more.

Storms and high winds (Sirocco winds from North Africa that can get to 100km an hour) have not aided progress. On my first day back from my UK visit I’d set up a tent in my neighbour’s garden as a place to hang out when I was ‘back home’, and hypothetically speaking, to store stuff rescued from my house (not that I would ever, of course, consider entering it as once it’s been declared dangerous, it’s illegal to  enter and you can be fined heavily). Anyway, imagine my frustration when I discovered the following day that the tent had been ripped up and destroyed by the wind in the night with all of the stuff I had managed to rescue from my house.

Just down my little road of a kilometer or less there were about five trees ripped up, blocking the road and lots more on the way back to ‘Home Two’ in Ripatransone.

They call our emergency centre in Sarnano ‘Base Camp’ – it makes me feel like I’m  about to climb Everest each time I go in! It’s a lot quieter there now with people having been moved out to hotels and apartments closer to the sea. The town centre is still closed and will remain that way for a while – there are very precarious tiles and chimneys that have come down that are balancing on  roofs and that will all need to be sorted before people will be allowed back.

Next week the structural engineers will start doing property checks around the area. I really don’t know what they’ll say with regard to my place – whether it will need to be knocked down and rebuilt or whether there’s a chance it can be restored somehow. I’ve had promising chats with a Structural Engineer who says that perhaps my main concern – ‘the Bulgy Wall’ can be replaced and other measures put in place to make it more structurally sound. However, it’s never going to be great – basically in the event of another earthquake the amendments would just give me more time to get out before it crumbles! On the other hand if they do knock it down, I should be entitled to a new home, but what if I don’t like it?! I don’t imagine I get much of a choice of design and with the building being shared by three others it will be difficult to agree a solution we’re all happy with. On the plus side, hopefully it wouldn’t crumble around me in my sleep so there are swings and roundabouts!

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The Bulgy Wall

Meanwhile, single displaced residents like I am get 300 euros towards accommodation and there’s talk of container houses being available before Christmas and wooden huts in the Spring. It’s difficult to piece together what’s rumour and what’s reality at the moment and I suspect the powers that be don’t have all the answers yet either.

Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying my new home in the hills surrounding a little town called Ripatransone. The cat has settled in really well, I think he’s probably happier here away from ‘Evil Cat’ who used to attack him every time he left our old house. Now he has a very naughty little puppy to contend with, a 3yr old ‘mouse catching champion’ dog and two other cats.

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This is Batfink relaxed in his new home – he likes his head being stroked! I’m not throttling him, honest.

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Despite looking innocent, this is a very naughty puppy. We aren’t talking at the moment. He pooed on my carpet and then I unwittingly trod in it with bare feet (just after I’d done my nails which further rubbed salt into the wound).

The apartment is lovely and even has central heating – a complete novelty to me – so much so that I just can’t work out how it works!

The countryside around the house is really interesting and different from further north in Le Marche where my house is. I don’t have my decent camera at the moment but you get the idea…

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Those sort of protrusions of oddly shaped rock are called Calanchi. There’s lots of them in this area. I was quite pleased to capture this lovely rainbow!

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And the vineyards are spectacular at the moment.

I’ve finally done some exploring of some of the local towns which has been great. I’ve been to…

Offida

Offida is known for its yearly carnival which is apparently something to behold. Maybe this year I’ll have the opportunity to go. It’s also known for its tradition of bobbin lace making. My friend and I saw one woman who was demonstrating ‘lace’ jewellery in action – I thought I might get an idea of how it was done but she was impossibly fast! Even Offida has been impacted by the earthquake. The main square was full of firemen and vehicles and many of the buildings are cordoned off.

The people of Offida are very strict though; imprisoning cats for their wrong doings. Who knows how long this one has yet to serve…

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Cossignano

Cossignano is in an even worse state than Offida with a lot of the streets cordoned off. The damage to the buildings was perhaps a bit more obvious in parts too. From the bits we could see, it looks very quaint. It’s a lot smaller than Offida. We found a lovely, empty restaurant called Elvira serving really nice cremini (bread-crumbed deep fried squares of custard… mmmm), giant portions of delicious pasta and some absolutely foul home-made alcoholic distillation of something (old socks?).

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Cupra Marittima

Cupra is a seaside town. I’m not endeared by many of the Italian seaside towns and this was no exception! They’re just a bit plain and uniform and well, I prefer quaint! HOWEVER, there IS Cupra Marittima Alta (‘alta’ means high) which is on the overlooking hill and that is absolutely lovely. It’s a very cute little village where it feels like all you do is walk upwards. We didn’t see anyone else wandering around. We did find the only bar / restaurant though, Pensione Castello, and had a nice meal there. It’s rated number one in the area on Trip Advisor and specialises in fish. They did a good job at providing something for me though as a vegetarian. I would definitely go back in the summer, if only for the views which are spectacular and overlook the sea.

Grottammare

Grottammare is similar to Cupra. It’s a seaside town which is pretty plain as far as I can establish but again has an absolutely lovely ‘alta’ part which I’ve been to earlier in the year and thought was great. I did take photos then though I can’t track them down for the moment. They had a food festa on last week where the streets were lined with stalls selling everything from chocolate to all manner of repulsive looking meats (there was one man stirring some stomachs and intestines around in a saucepan – deeeelicious).

Petritoli

Petritoli is another cute hill top town that’s worth a visit. I got lost on the way to the supermarket and ended up here so it was a rather quick visit but I’ll certainly go back.

Ripatransone

And lastly Ripatransone which is now my nearest town – it has the smallest street in Italy (the world? Universe?). I can confirm it’s very small. Next time I’ll take a picture. I almost had to shimmy down it. It’s also got an amphitheatre where they have operas in the summer. We had a chat with an old lady for about half an hour whilst she gave us a bit of history of the town. I like it when that happens – it really is nice when people are so friendly and I think she liked sharing her knowledge too. The photo’s below are from the old wash-house where women used to wash their clothes with water that was piped down from a spring on the local hill. There were some tops hanging up – perhaps the tradition is still on-going!

 

Well I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks. I’ve been busy sketching and painting this week which has been a nice change from packing and unpacking! If you want to receive painting updates as and when they happen, follow me on A Painting Occasionally  (click the three lines on the right hand side for the “Follow” option!

A presto,

xxx

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Sunbathing in Senigallia, Entertaining and Photography!

Buongiorno a tutti!!!

How is everyone? Well, I have a daunting amount of updating to do! It covers a bit before the Puglia trip at the beginning of the month and thereafter.  I shall aim to keep it short and sweet (I realise I’m not particularly adept at that!). On a separate note, if you’ve signed up to these posts by email (thank you!), I’m told it’s worth clicking on the link to read on the website as the layout is better. Anyway, between doing a bit of teaching, I have been…

Sunbathing in Senigallia

I spent a weekend with some good friends in their apartment in Senigallia at the end of June. The weather was amazingly hot and it was nice to have some time at the beach. We had an aperitivo at a lovely bar called Chalet Beach at Marina di Montemarciano and then finished up near the apartment in a great restaurant with candlelit tables on the beach. It was already busy back in June but later this week it’ll be even busier because they hold a Summer Jamboree – an international rock festival which I went to a couple of years ago and loved. We had some good sunsets whilst I was there, in particular one sunset that looked remarkably like the sky just before the aliens came down in the film ‘Independence Day’.

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Photographic Excursion

I also had a little photography excursion around the mountains near where I live with the friend who came to Puglia with me…

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Then a few days later some other friends with their 17 month old came out to stay for the weekend. I was slightly nervous because I wasn’t sure how ‘toddler-safe’ the house is. My stairs to get to the second floor, for example, are really something to behold – I’m considering attaching a mountaineering fixed line for people to attach themselves to as they go up and down. Anyway, I’m pleased to say that despite my concerns, the 17 month old left intact and happy and I think the parents did too!

Lounging in Lago di Bracciano

Then the a couple of days later I drove down to Lago di Bracciano with a friend. That was a bit of a long day – 9 hours of driving in one day. I think that’s about twice my personal record!

It was a good day though and it was nice to explore a new area. The lake has a swimming area and the sand is actually black (and really, REALLY hot!). It was a nice lake and I also visited Anguillara Sabazia, a little town jutting out into the lake which had a lovely ‘old town’ to wander around.

Watercolours!

I organised a little watercolour painting excursion too at Lago di Fiastra which I think went really well although there were only 4 of us. I think we were the talk of the beach! Everyone kept coming up to have a look. I felt like it could have been a comedy sketch – us four reasonably professional looking painters and then my painting at least, looked like a 2yr old could have done it. I can only imagine what people were thinking! Anyway, I’ve definitely got the bug, I’m hoping to organise another excursion in a couple of weeks, though to be honest, I haven’t entirely worked out the advantage of painting “live” as opposed from a photo! Our tutor said the other day that we should be ready to start painting something that we might want to put on our wall. I think I have vaguely managed that, or at least, my friend from the class wants one of my paintings to put on his wall! I’ll put some photos up of some paintings on the next update.

Colmurano “Artistrada” Festival

I’ve heard good things about the Colmurano “Artistrada” Festival for months. Colmurano is a little town in Le Marche, about half an hour from my house. The festa is one that celebrates all kinds of art forms – whether that’s painting, portrait drawing, music or street performances. I have to say, it was one of my favourite events that I’ve been to in Italy so far. Colmurano itself is pretty to just have a wander around but the events were all really good too. I even bought a CD by a guy called Geordie Little, a percussion guitarist (have a look at his videos on the link if you don’t know what percussion guitar is).

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Percussion Guitar is where you use all of the guitar – you might hit the sides to get effectively a drum beat and you might press the strings down on the neck like you’re playing a piano… it’s very interesting to watch!

Then we saw an excellent dance group who I unfortunately only saw through the phone of someone videoing it (thankfully,  otherwise I wouldn’t have seen a thing as it was so busy!) and then a brilliant fire-dancing group called Pyrodanza. I took some photos and they are going to put them in their online photo gallery 🙂

Party!

I am always being told by the Italian’s how many English people there are in Le Marche and up until a week or two back, I’d met only about 5,  which doesn’t seem to tie up with the high numbers I’d been told about. Anyway, I was invited to a party (I was the ‘plus one’) and there were dozens of us! DOZENS! When I moved out I was quite wary of not mixing only with ex-pats as that seems like it’s cheating a bit, but then that seemed an impossibility anyway because I couldn’t find any! However, it was great having a chat about other people’s experiences here, particularly with the language learning and I met a lot of like minded people so I’m pleased about that. The party itself, a celebration of a recent marriage, was fabulous too. We were even treated to a couple of celebrity singers!

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Ricardo Foresi and Monica Trapaga. Apologies for the blurry photo – I blame the phone camera (and not the wine)

Macerata Language Exchange Group Outing!

I recently discovered a lovely group of people, part of the Macerata Language Exchange group, wanting to improve their English (and sometimes their Italian, as many of them come from all over the world!). We met for a special “Games / Chatting” night at Civitanova organised by a professional facilitator, Adriano. It worked out very well in fact as we were prompted to talk about things that probably wouldn’t come up in normal conversation – goals, life history, stories… Good for my Italian! And I can’t tell you how amazing the place was where we had the event, Casablanca – it was absolutely stunning, complete with swimming pool and restaurant. I’ll definitely be going back there again.

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Trekking & The Walking Boots of Hell

I also went on a fab trek a couple of weeks ago in the Sibillini Mountains with some new fellow ex-pat friends. It was a gorgeous day and we walked up along the ridge of the mountains. It was difficult walking – through long damp grass and on uneven slopes, but satisfying and definitely worth it when we got up to the ridge which had amazing views. Alas, I slipped onto a rock and still have quite a painful leg as a result! However, it made me think. I spend a good potion of my time in the mountains slipping down them. I had previously been blaming my general ineptness at maintaining any kind of balance but it suddenly occurred to me it might be my old, cheapish walking boots. It was also a revelation when I spoke to the others about the state of their feet / boots that apparently, it’s not normal to feel like you’re tottering on bloodied painful stumps towards the end of a walk. WHO KNEW?!?! So, I’ve invested in expensive new walking boots and walking sticks (sporty ones rather than the old people ones), and they’re amazing! I hardly slip at all now (touch wood, or touch iron as the Italian’s say!) and my feet are still entirely operational after a long walk. This weekend there’s a long trek with my walking group in Gran Sasso, an area of the highest of the Apennine mountains. I had worried about being able to keep up but after a local walk this Sunday, I got approval to go by our walking group president who said I was very “tosta” (tough)!

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This is the lovely Milly – she must have gone 20 times further than everyone else that day, bounding between the members of the group!

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Smerillo 

There’s been a festival in Smerillo, another very pretty little hill-top town with amazing panoramas of the area. It’s a yearly event called “Le Parole della Montagna” (the words of the mountain) and had some good mountain focused films and talks organised. Last Friday I saw Kurt Diemberger, one of only two survivors from the K2 Disaster in 1986, who gave a talk about his climbing experiences which was interesting. Nice chap. A bit short with people perhaps but in an amusing way!  I’ve since become obsessed with mountain disaster films. I will never feel daunted by a steep slope again.

Amandola Gelato Festival

This was one of those festa’s that was a bit of a let down. It started at 3pm apparently. Knowing that the Italian’s are somewhat of a ‘late’ nation,  my friend and I went at 5pm and they were still only just setting up. We had been expecting lots of different stalls selling unusual flavoured ice-creams but there was nothing. So we got a couple of drinks and watched them set up. By the time we left at about 6.30 all there was, was a guy explaining how to make ice-cream. So we had ice-cream from a normal gelataria (ice-cream shop) and left. There was a good band on later apparently and I wanted to go to the “Silent Disco” they had planned but it would have been a bit of a wait around for several hours so we headed back to check out the nightlife in Sarnano instead…

Checking out the old Italian classics

I haven’t really explored Sarnano at night – in fact, I could count on one hand the number of times I’d stayed in town after 10pm. It was actually busy with people milling around. We stopped at a bar called Decantautore to watch a band called Souvenir D’Italia play old Italian hits. It was great! It was very amusing, particularly when the singer got out a sort of manual loud-speaker.

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Almost at the end of the update.. well done if you’ve got this far…

Tessera Sanitaria (Health Card)

I’ve finally got health cover – the same as I would if I was an Italian citizen. I’ve so far been relying on being healthy and having no issues but I decided that approach was probably too optimistic long term. So I had to pay a very specific 387.34 euros in what was quite a faff going between “ASL” (the office where you get your Tessera) and the post office. I’ll still not believe I’ve actually managed to get one until I have it in my hand.

Sterilizing the cat!

I finally took the plunge and got Batfink neutered this week. He looks so sore, I’m feeling horribly guilty. But it was for the best. I think his raging hormones are responsible for a couple of missing kittens 😦  Here he is in all his pre-neutered glory when he still loved me.

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Poor little adorable Batfink

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And this is his “I can’t believe you’d do this to me, you traitor” look 😦

And finally!!!! MY OLIVE TREE HAS GROWN AN OLIVE! Three in fact. Isn’t it impressive?! Good little olive tree.

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Spot the olive! I did have high hopes for those other little balls but they don’t appear to be getting any more olive-like. Nevermind. Three is plenty to be getting on with. Perhaps I’ll make oil.

Ok, that’s enough excitement for this blog post. Apologies it’s been so long but you can rest assured that I’m up to date now!

Have good weeks!

x

 

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Hibernation, Wholewheat and Action Planning…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? I’ve been quiet, I know!

I’ve been suffering from a lack of inspiration and general loss of motivation. The weather in Italy for the first half of March was unbearable, in fact, reminiscent of the UK 😉 I think I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder although that doesn’t seem quite accurate. It’s more Dreariness Affective Disorder. I can cope with weather if it’s “proper” weather – rain is fine if it’s raining properly, but if it’s grey outside and there’s a general life-sapping drizzle, then I would rather just stay in bed until the sun comes out.

So I hibernated for at least a couple of weeks but it wasn’t a complete write-off. My lovely Italian friends came to visit one weekend which cheered me up.  They’re big walkers so we went on a couple of nice long walks and the weather for that weekend was positively beautiful!

I even managed to have lunch on my terrace for the first time this year just before I left so I think my hibernation phase can finish as Summer is coming (in direct contrast to the situation in Game of Thrones for anyone that watches that).

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Exhibit A: Proof that I had lunch outside.

In other successful news, I managed to locate wholewheat flour; somewhat of a difficult substance to find in the shops here (or at least, at a reasonable price). Instead the shops are stocked with thousands of different brands of white flour. There’s a mulino (mill) in Gualdo, the town up the road, which sells wholewheat flour and semi-wholewheat and it makes for tasty bread so I’m pleased about that. The shopkeeper seemed equally pleased to have a “beautiful” new client!!!  I conducted many bread making experiments and now the freezer is full.

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I also made some hot cross buns 🙂

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And this was the wholewheat loaf…

Just before I left to come back to the UK for Easter, my poor cat got an infected leg. I entirely blame his father who chases him every time he leaves the house. If he’s been inside, I have to give him a lift to a secret location before I put him down otherwise he’s set upon immediately. It appears traditional local methods of curing an infected cat’s leg involve smothering him with a towel and poking his leg with a sharp implement whilst he screams in agony (who knew cats could scream?!). This methodology didn’t prove to be effective (hmm) and I ended up almost as traumatised as my poor cat. He was issued with antibiotics in the end but as I’ve been back in the UK, I’m slightly concerned the antibiotic regime has taken a knock. Anyway, I’m very much hoping that I return to a full operational four-legged cat.

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This is Batfink the cat feeling sorry for himself on an upturned box I was trying to air.

I always look forward to coming back to the UK to see everyone and it refreshes the batteries a bit. I return to Italy each time with a list as long as my arm of things I want to get on with. Here’s a cut-down sneak preview for the next couple of months:

  • Join Cai – the local walking association. They go out every Sunday in the mountains but I think it’s probably still a bit too early in the year. I did get invited to a local cycling club meet as well, I came across them at the top of a mountain. I think they overestimated my abilities. Before I left, I could just about make it to Sarnano and back without having to get off and push the bike like I have been!
  • Join a watercolour painting class – my new ex-pat local friend has introduced me to a teacher and I’m hoping to start lessons later this month.
  • Start swimming lessons or join the aqua gym class.
  • I’ve also been inspired to make more effort with my cooking following a stay at my friend’s house. I feel a bit stunted on ingredients in Italy. Italians do Italian food excellently of course but if you’re trying to make anything else then it’s more of a challenge.

    Dinner

    Lovely dinner!

 

  • I started a “Human Origins” free online course a couple of weeks ago. It’s actually very interesting and I think I’ll be able to impress everyone with my extensive knowledge of fossil dating and paleoanthropology. I would like to finish that but it is a bit heavy going, I must say! It’s only a 6 week course. There are loads of other courses on http://www.edx.org if anyone is interested.
  • Take more pics! Now the weather has improved I’m hoping to get out a bit more to take some photos. There’s a few big touristy places in Le Marche I’ve not been to yet and I’m keen to go soon!
  • I’m also hoping to become a bit more green-fingered. I want to turn the front bit of my garden into a drive and get a few flowers for the terrace. The problem is, my gardening efforts will be very much on public display. I imagine the neighbours will set up chairs outside to watch and provide helpful instruction (“Why don’t you get a man in to do this?”.

Now let’s see if I actually do any of it! I’ll report back of course.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have an excellent week.

x

 

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Why not to get a bike, being Indiana Jones and chocolate festivals…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone?

I hope you’re all well. I’m somewhat light on the photo front this week you might be pleased to know!

I had a flying visit to the UK last week. As usual it’s not ever quite enough time to get around everyone I’d like to but it was still lovely to see people. It wasn’t quite so persistently gloomy on the weather front either which was a nice change! In fact, when I left London it was gorgeous sunshine and when I arrived here it was raining… That never, ever happens! It’s always the opposite way around!

My cat Batfink (so named after the cartoon cat that had large ears… but he’s grown into his ears now and he’s a very handsome feline) seemed reasonably pleased to have me back. He’s hormonally active at the moment – I was told he was only supposed to have 3 weeks worth of err, hormones, but he seems to have fallen for his sister and they’re constantly hanging out together now. It would be quite cute if I wasn’t worried for the health of their future children. I was in charge of the neighbour’s dog today and we went for a walk up the road. Batfink came too, weaving in and out of my legs. I think I must look like a crazy cat lady to the locals.

I found an English language speaking group in Civitanova which I met up with on Friday. There was a good turnout with the majority being Italians wanting to practice their English and there was one other English girl. I’ll definitely go again, it’s just a shame it’s not a bit closer to Sarnano (it’s about a 50 minute drive).

Just before I left for the UK I bought a bike. It’s probably 20 years since I rode a bike (apart from one outing in Richmond Park). Anyway, let me tell you!!….. Buying a bike, when you live in the mountains and you live in a country known for the crazy drivers, is the silliest idea ever. I don’t know what possessed me. I have ridden up and down the road a few times on it which is absolutely exhausting and alas far less than a kilometer. Not to be defeated though, on Saturday I went to Abbadia di Fiastra, a lovely, large, flat (woohoo!) park and cycled for about 8km. It’s a great place to go to cycle because it’s all off-road so there’s no imminent danger of being hit by a car. However, I’m not used to cycling and by Saturday night, I felt like I’d been hit by a car anyway! Why do they make the seats so horribly uncomfortable?! I definitely bought the wrong bike – I want to be upright, with a basket on the front (and perhaps with a motor)! Still the deed is done so I better try and get a bit more in shape for it over the next few weeks.

On Saturday evening, I went to see my first play here in Italy. It was Madame Bovary at Civitanova Alta. I didn’t know quite what to expect. All the towns here have dinky little theatres. Having lived in London with the massive professional productions that often carry on for decades, I was expecting, well, less to be honest. However, it was anything but. It was very well performed, with excellent actors and a really creepy and original way of portraying Madame Bovary’s daughter. All-in-all, it was very impressive and I’m a bit sad that it was only being performed for one night, particularly after it must have taken months and months of hard work for them to prepare.

Sunday, rather than not get out of bed (everything ached!), I went for a walk around San Severino with a friend. San Severino is a lovely little town and it’s surrounded by hills (or rather mountains the size of Mount Everest for someone that is already aching everywhere). Walks in Italy are never straightforward. I had a book with me which described the walk, and we had downloaded a GPS map and there was also the occasional sign and yet still it wasn’t clear where we were supposed to be going! Still we made it back. The whole walk took about 5 hours. It was 19km with a climb of about 1km. As exhausting as it was, it was a really nice walk and it was good to see the Eremo di Sant’Eustachio, a monastery built in the 11th century that was partly carved out of the mountain. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones wandering around there. There’s also a lot of caves dotted around and the ruins of a mysterious round looking tower. On the whole, it was very interesting.

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See what I mean about feeling a bit like Indiana Jones discovering some secret lost temple?!

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This was the inside. There’s more rooms underneath and to the side of the Eremo, a cave that looks as if something interesting used to go on inside!

I think I must have burned off a reasonable number of calories over the weekend but after the walk, we discovered a chocolate festival in San Severino so the diet all went to pot. Still, I can highly recommend you all try white chocolate ice-cream and chocolate orange ice-cream 🙂

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Mmmmmmmm chocolate…

 

In other exciting news, I’ve been invited along on another Blog Tour so I’m excited about that 🙂 More details to come as and when I get them but it’ll be in June. I’ve also got a few friends lined up to visit me later in the year which is going to be good.

And I’m famous! I’ve had an interview published on http://www.expatfinder.com – I wrote it probably over a year ago so it’s somewhat out of date but still, I’m famous! Click here for the interview.

Anyway, I hope you all have an excellent week.

Buonaserata!

x

 

 

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Methane Cars, Zumbing and the Free Time University!

Buonasera a tutti!

How is everyone? I’m pleased to report that I’m doing well! I’m finally feeling settled.

I have bought a car! It’s a little nippy Fiat Panda like my old Nanmobile. It’s called Nanmobile 2. It runs off methane! METHANE!!!! Imagine!!!! My experience of methane comes from scientists years ago worried about the effects of global warming caused by the release of methane from cows. However, in Italy they run cars off the stuff (I was half expecting the methane filling station to be overrun with cows but not so). And it’s great! Rather than spend 50 euros on petrol, I spent 10 euros for the same miles per gallon. Bargain.

The car buying process in Italy is an exemplary demonstration of Italian bureaucracy  – at its worst though. It’s also not easy to find a decent car, or certainly not in the area where I live. I have ‘brain dumped’ my lessons learnt here for anyone interested in buying a car in Italy! On a less specific car purchasing experience front, my nerves are only now getting back to normal after what has to be the most stressful car buying experience ever. Alas, my mother/editor has warned me about ‘ranting’ on this blog on more than one occasion so I shall leave it there 🙂

I have enrolled in a zumba class! I’m on a mission to try and be svelte and fit at the moment. I’m exercising lots and eating healthily(ish). However, since my mission started a fortnight ago, I have put on weight. It really is very annoying. Anyway, Zumba is amusing. Generally I seem to sort of chuckle my way through getting all of the moves wrong whilst everyone else seems to do it all with serious looks (which usually makes me chuckle even more!).

I have also signed up to do some teaching. As many of you will know, I dislike teaching. However, I’m actually excited about it this time around. I’m going to be teaching adults as part of a set of courses for “l’universita’ del tempo libero”. But because they pay a pittance, I get to go on as many of the other courses as I want free of charge. I LOVE COURSES! I’m going to do them all!!! Well maybe not ALL of them but I’ll try. I’ve also signed up for an online drawing course and of course there’s still my nude person drawing class starting at who-knows-when in November to look forward to.

It’s absolutely freezing here at the moment. The house needs a bit of warming up so today is going to be this years “stufa” (wood burner) inauguration day. I’m really looking forward to it but unfortunately I only have about two weeks worth of wood left at the moment to last me for the next few months.

In other news:

  • I have finally checked out the local swimming pool  (I love it, it’s absolutely empty!). It was embarrassing though – the lifeguard asked me if I had a helmet. I laughed thinking he was joking of course. I mean, who wears a helmet swimming? Who wears helmets indeed… what he actually asked is if I had a swimming cap.
  • I’ve been to a couple of lovely new restaurants and investigated another cinema nearby.
  • I’ve been making bread.
  • I’ve been scavenging for nuts and fruit.
  • I’ve been going for walks.
  • I’ve been commissioned to make an old damaged mirror look marginally better!
  • And taking pictures of the stars.

Here is the evidence…

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So I have discovered several walnut trees and a hazelnut tree near me and a sort of abandoned apple and plum tree. And the green stuff is called mentuccia (a sort of minty oregano). It took me hours to shell the walnuts. I was just getting to the end when my neighbour gave me a million more. I made a hearty apple & plum crumble with the rest. There’s something cockle warming about foraging I think.

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This is Lago di Fiastra taken from a new angle for me – I’d never been to this side of the lake before a week or two back.

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This is the Lame Rosse. I went on a great organised little hike to it with a group from Jesi 🙂

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And I found a new walk from the house with some great views of Sarnano and the mountains.

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And THIS little church was built on top of this rock in Roccaporena where Santa Rita used to go regularly to pray. From what I can tell, Santa Rita is famous for such miracles as having spineless roses that never die and a slow-aging corpse.

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And this is the church in Cascia where Santa Rita lays in a glass box. Not wishing to cast doubt on the slow-agingness of the corpse, but I would have found it useful to have a regular corpse aside her for comparison purposes.

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And look at this little goat from Cascia! Cutie. Though I do worry about the ethics of a chained up goat gimmick.

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And this is the main piazza in Cascia. It was a cute little town all in all.

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And there some fabulous views in Cascia too.

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Including this one…

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Sourdough mission complete.

And this was the commissioned pimped up mirror to cover some damage at the bottom of it.

And this was the commissioned pimped up mirror to cover some damage at the bottom of it.

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My first attempt at trying to get star trails! Since that night it’s been cloudy very frustratingly!

I think that about sums up my last couple of weeks. I shall leave you with this picture of my cat looking sweet.

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Batfink is not allowed in my bed. He knows this. We’ve been through it. Generally he’s an obedient sort but after a mystery disappearance following a bath last week, I managed to locate him. He wasn’t told off on this occasion because he’s been having a bad time of it with his dad, poor puss.

Hope you all have a good week!

x

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Distractions, Opera and Carnivale…

Ciao a tutti!

Well what a difference a couple of weeks makes…Pane Caldo has gone back to the UK to work for a while 😦  I shan’t be too soppy, lest he read this, but it’s not the same. But I’ve had the following distractions:

Everybody needs good neighbours: I’ve hardly eaten at home since Pane Caldo left. I think I’m the local charity case and no matter how much I say “no, really, I’m fine”, my neighbours are insistent! So that’s been nice. I’ve not really felt too lonely, in fact, often its been far from it. The problem is the Italians cook lots of stuff – they have a prima piatti (pasta dish) and a secondo (meat usually), a contorno (veg) and then a dolce (desert). Which is of course not a problem in itself but it is when it’s my turn to return the favour and herein lies the problem: a) I can’t just double up on what I usually eat for lunch – crackers and cheese is hardly a fair swap for someone used to eating 4 courses at lunch, b) Even if I did go ‘all out’ and try and do multiple courses, I have a limited supply of electricity to the house so using the oven and hob at the same time can be a challenge and c), Most of what I cook is “Italian” but I can hardly serve my version of Italian food to a genuine Italian. Oh the shame!

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Look at these lovely home-made treats the neighbours brought us for Carnivale (Shrove Tuesday)

Stealth Cat: I thought the cat might be an ideal Pane Caldo replacement so I thought I’d let him stay in overnight (he usually sleeps in the barn with the other cats but he does whinge about it). But he’s a bit hormonally charged- all the cats here are at the moment, it’s like a feline soap opera. On top of that I think he’s just reached puberty. Anyway, he seems so overcome with glee about being allowed to stay in at night that he can’t contain his emotions and bites me. So I put him out. And then we do that again the next night. Although he’s started getting wise and starts off at the bottom of the bed like a good cat and as soon as I turn the light off he edges up to my head and starts biting my shoulder. As though I wouldn’t notice that! I think he thinks he’s being stealthy. He’s the only cat I know that meow’s to have a cuddle.

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Pretending to be an innocent non-biting cat

Opera: My favourite distraction has been going to see an opera – it was called Giannis Schicchi by Puccini and it was in a pretty little theatre in Amandola. It was a lovely evening and it was nice to do something a bit out of the ordinary, for me at least! I even understood it, though the explanation from my friend first helped I suspect!

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Look at the beautiful ceiling! And I was in a box!!! A BOX! I felt like the Queen.

DIY: My main source of distraction has been DIY though. I think ‘The Sanding of The Beams’ last year sapped all DIY motivation out of us. Anyway, I have managed to claw it back and have tiled the kitchen and have been doing a bit of plastering etc. I’ve certainly got a lot to be getting on with over the next few weeks.

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I’m not sure the tiles particularly go with the kitchen but they were in the Cantina when I bought the house so I thought might not. I have a million tiling tips for anyone interested. My first one is: Don’t bother tiling.

Out and about: I’ve also been out and about. I went to a Carnivale celebration in a pretty little hill top village called Castignano with my neighbour which was good fun.  In comparison to the very organised and impressive one I went to last year in Fano, this one was complete chaos. Nobody in the parade paid any attention to what they were supposed to be doing. It was mainly a collection of odd looking adults and children wandering down the road but it was a good atmosphere.

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Carnivale in Castignano

 

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This is the view from the church at the top of Castignano

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And on another little trip I went to San Ginesio which is just a few minutes away from where I live and finally went into the church …quite a pretty crypt

Bread making:  And of course there is always bread to be baked. These are yesterday’s efforts. I left out salt in one (unintentionally) and the “Popovers” stuck to the muffin tin and had to be levered out with a spoon. Not my biggest success to date.

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Dirty Dancing: My most confusing distraction has been getting propositioned by a 70 year old. I’m 34. I assumed he was being fatherly and looking out for me, but no, it turns out he wasn’t. Is that flattering or insulting?

I think that about sums up recent events. I hope you are all having a good week.

xxx

 

 

 

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Chicks, pizza and TV watching cats…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? All good here…

Cutie chicks

I’ve been feeling very rural. The next door neighbour has been rearing cutie little chickens. I’ve been watching them hatch. It’s like `One Born Every Minute` but for chickens (and with less screaming, and instead of an epidural my neighbour gives the mum sherry or vino cotto which I think is basically the same thing!).

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These chicks are a few hours old.

Bread & Beans

When there’s a quiet moment here (most moments), my thoughts turn to bread. I am in the process of making a sourdough ‘Starter’ and I’ll have a go using that later this week to try and make some bread that doesn’t have a massive hole in the middle like my last attempt at bread making. But regular bread has been going very well. Today’s efforts look reasonably professional (at least one of them does, the other two are completely burnt – note to self: don’t put bread on the top shelf of the oven)…

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Look at my “crumb” (that’s what the professionals say!)

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And what a pretty loaf I made!!!!!!!!

In other bread related news one of the neighbours brought me some of the dried yeast I’ve been searching for here, though it says on the packet it’s only for pizzas and focaccia (how does the yeast KNOW that?! If you put it in a normal loaf will it stubbornly decide not to rise?!). The pizza went reasonably well I think too.

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Apparently the base wasn’t crispy enough and the tomato sauce was too sweet. Some people can never be pleased. I very much look forward to Pane Caldo’s efforts.

I have produced a reasonable interpretation of Heinz Baked Beans. They have to import the genuine article here and it’s a rare find and only ever in the big supermarkets. They’d be more readily available and probably cheaper if I hired an actual Heinz Baked Bean chef to be on permanent stand-by, hence trying to make them myself.

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Not very Italian this dish…

The Science of Happiness

I’ve found a course! Continually doing courses is something I’ve missed greatly about not being in the UK so I was thrilled to find this font of free online courses at http://www.edx.org. I’ve picked what seems like quite a fluffy course: “The Science of Happiness” but it’s founded in years of research and studies and it’s absolutely fascinating. So now, in between thoughts about bread, I’ve been posing myself in-depth philosophical questions.

Walking

It’s been miserable weather here pretty much all of last week – overcast and constant rain. Yesterday there was a small break in the clouds so I went for a walk. One of my new year’s resolutions was to write up my walks – and so I have. I’m  hoping to translate it into Italian and see if the local Tourist Information Office would be interested. Some photo’s from the walk…

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It’s quite a remote path, demonstrated by the cute little birds nests in the hedges along the path.

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Beautiful countryside. This house has a couple of dogs outside in a not very clean cage all day. I’m considering mounting a “Free Doggy” campaign.

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Pretty woodland

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And pretty mountains.

Monte San Martino Forgetting that I’ve already been to Monte San Martino, I decided we should go to Monte San Martino. It’s a quaint little hill top village with beautiful views of the local area. Unfortunately we went there during one of the constantly rainy days so we didn’t see as much as we’d hoped.

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Narrow cobbled streets…

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And wider cobbled streets…

 

Animal watch

I know animal watch has been a bit quiet of late. Here’s the resident animal watching the film ‘Ice Age’ (ignore the mess!). He doesn’t usually watch TV but I think he quite likes animations!

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The cat took a liking to Ice Age and spent a few minutes doing his meercat impression. I think if he was a cinema goer, he’d go straight to the front seats.

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We gave him his own little chair so he could get up close and personal but not so much he would feel inclined to jump on the TV

 

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And then it got a bit scary so he retreated to the sofa for comfort.

I think that about sums up this week. I’ll report back next week – probably with with more bread updates !

x

ps. it’s been rather pretty here in the last week with our first “snow” (or at least that we’ve experienced). Here’s a picture…

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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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Sightseeing, kitten-napping update and mushroom identification

Ciao a tutti!

Well another busy couple of weeks here. Here’s a rundown….

Parental Check up

My parents came out for a few days to see the new house. Dad was the one that found the house on a website in the first place so I think it was interesting to see it in the flesh! It’s a pretty unconventional setup. The first couple of days were frustratingly dull and wet (the weather that is!) but it brightened up – it’s always nicer in the sun.

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Mum & Dad heading to a lookout point in the mountains overlooking Lago di Fiastra (Lake Fiastra)

 

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Last time I was there, there were lots of bright blue thistle type things. This time, there were some bright pink ones. The bees seem to like them too!

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead but still beautiful with crystal clear water.

Then we visited Lago di Fiastra. Absolutely dead in terms of anyone there compared to a month before when it was teeming with people still. I think I prefer it when there’s fewer people – much more serene.

 

Archery competition - it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

We happened upon an archery competition in the lovely hill top town of San Ginesio – it did look good fun though they seemed to treat it as very serious business!

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One of the archery targets. Poor boar. I hasten to add this was a fake boar but still!

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My parent’s visit was characterised by me taking us to various festivals and markets that didn’t actually exist. This is Cessapalombo, a local town, where there was supposed to be a food festival. I don’t think we saw a single person let alone a festival. Then we went to Tolentino for a Farmer’s Market which just ended up being a small grocers store. Still, it was interesting to see the local towns!

 

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This is the Basilica of San Nicholas in Tolentino. It’s pretty spectacular – particularly the ceiling. It also has….

 

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… a lovely cloister (a sort of covered walkway around a square – I think!). But the best thing about the Basilica of San Nicholas is…

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…this huge nativity scene of the birth of Jesus. It’s a great scene – going from morning to night over the course of a few minutes with rousing music in the background. If you ever visit the Basicila, you have to go through the gift shop to find this – it’s hidden!

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We went on a nice walk between my house and Sarnano past some pretty scenery.

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This is a pic of Sarnano taken from my garden (Mum & Dad brought out my telephoto lens, thanks M&D)

Fai da te (DIY)

The kitchen is FINALLY done (ish!). The Ikea fitters came and managed to cope with the wonky walls and I’m thrilled to say we now have a working kitchen complete with non lethal cooker (the last gas one used to have a habit of burning off your eyebrows).

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Before (well, still “after” given we knocked out the chimney, filled the floor, knocked out the sink and had all the electrics done. After a week solid of plastering, myself and Pane Caldo were unable to move our hands or touch anything.

 

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But now it’s done 🙂 There’s still some work to be done on the tiles and we need to paint but it’s coming along. Alas, the hob itself uses all the electricity for the entire house so I need to phone the electricity company to talk to them about it and see what that entails.

 

Kittens

I have terrible kitten news 😦 Three of next door neighbours’ kittens died this week after a bout of flu. Poor little things. There’s one survivor called Mimi who since his brothers and sisters have died, has been quite adventurous and always seems to want a cuddle or to play. I really hope nothing happens to him, he’s really quite adorable.

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Neve the deaf, blind, tailless cat has been trying to make more kittens.

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This is Mimi (I’m sure that’s a girl’s name?!) snuggled up on my lap. Pane Caldo has dubbed him Batfink because he has large pointy ears.

 

Funghi

I’ve been on a funghi identification mission recently and have even bought a book on it. I have hundreds of mushroom photo’s now to work through to try and identify. I think it’s probably a futile task given there’s absolutely no chance at all that I would ever eat anything that I picked, but still, it appeals to my self-sufficient ideals.

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It doesn’t inspire me with confidence in that the start of any mushroom identification article or book seems to have one sentence on what good fun it is to pick mushrooms and then several paragraphs dedicated to how dangerous it is. One article said that a number of people in 2010 died in Italy mushroom picking. However, they all went at night and fell off cilffs. Not quite as damning then for the funghi identification but I’m still not going to eat any!

 

These next few weeks should be a bit calmer – there’s no more visits planned and no deadlines to meet so the focus now will be on less DIY related things and more on creative things, at least up until Christmas.  I’ve been socialising a bit more with the neighbours which has been really nice so hoping to do a bit more of that too. My house is 100 years old. I’m actually in only a bit of it – 4 separate people own the full house it turns out. I had thought it was 3!

Right that’s enough from me for now. Have good weeks & buona serata!

xxx

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