Posts Tagged With: cats

Painting attempts, Lost Temples and Cat Sagas

Buongiorno a tutti!

Well it’s been another busy week or so. On my way back from the blog tour a couple of weeks ago, I finally stopped at a few places that have been on my list to see for ages. Firstly there was….

Urbania

I’ve heard good things about Urbania. It’s near Urbino, in north  Le Marche, which is a beautiful town well worth a visit. Urbania is less quaint than Urbino. Still, I was glad I had the opportunity to go there and have a wander around. Here are some photos…

Gola di Furlo

Now, you’re probably reading this and pronouncing Furlo like, well, an English person would pronounce it. You’re wrong. There is no way of pronouncing this word that an Italian person will understand. You actually have to spell it out (and even that’s traumatic because I must have told you before how the Italian’s spell? They just say the word very slowly and consider that spelt! It clears up absolutely nothing.) Anyway, the Gola di Fuuuuurloooo, is a beautiful gorge between the mountains where a river runs through. It’s difficult to get a good photo – the gorge also has a road but that’s closed to cars so you need to either walk or cycle through. However the road is lined with trees making it impossible to get a good view of the river. In the end I had to jump over a fence to take a picture and even then it didn’t do it justice!

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Tempio del Valadier

The next stop was Tempio del Valadier in Genga, built in 1826. I’ve been seeing photo’s on the various tourism websites for this temple for ages and was curious to see it in real life. It was just as impressive as it seemed from the photos and I’m just awed that we have it in Le Marche. In fact, Le Marche really is in my opinion one of the best regions in Italy (the world?!?!?!) – it has such a mix of different things to see in terms of the landscape, towns and history. Really I don’t think you could ask for anything more!

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It looks like a model here but I assure you it’s not! It’s absolutely massive.

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Here it is from the other side.

But, beware the snakes…

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Genga

Then I popped over to the town of Genga. Genga is a pretty little hilltop town but seemed quite deserted when I was there. They do have a museum which looked like it might be quite interesting, talking about the history of the local area but I didn’t have time to go in. The buildings are interesting – they seem to be half carved out of rock strata. It’s very pretty. There was also a room open in what seemed like an old church that had a very impressive picture made of various seeds and grains. It seemed so much like a painting that I had to touch it to check  – I thought the seeds must be glued down. They weren’t. I made a big hole which I hastily tried to cover up.  If any of the artists are reading this – sorry guys!

The weather this year has been generally rubbish on the whole – we have a couple of days of glorious sunshine and then it’s followed by thunderstorms. I took this rather daunting looking picture on the way back from Genga. I did manage to miss the rain though so was pleased about that!

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Walking Group!

I had my third trip out with the CAI (Clup Alpino Italiano) walking group of Sarnano. We were supposed to be going to Monte Bove (still in the Sibillini’s but more central than where I live). It would have been an impressive walk but we had to cancel that because of the storm due that afternoon. Instead, we went out locally, walking from a part of Sarnano called Bisio and then up to a refuge called Citta di Amandola and then on a bit further to the lookout point over Santuario dell’Ambro, a church set in one of the valleys. Our little offshoot of CAI isn’t very well supported (a lot of areas have their own CAI that appear to have more active members). In fact this week, there were only 4 of us. The group don’t appear to have embraced technology to publicise the walks, so I might look into that on their behalf! The Club President is one of the more interesting characters I’ve met here – a sort of hairy naked dude that eats all the plants as he’s walking along but he’s a lovely guy and knows every single path in the area. One of our group was wearing head to toe expensive specialist walking gear…whereas the President was (periodically) wearing a holey vest and shorts and the sort of shoes used for protecting your feet when you’re doing DIY.

I was a bit taken aback hearing a story of some poor paraglider that made a simple mistake and ended up killing himself on that rock face in the pictures below (right hand side). Poor man, I think that was years ago but as an ex-paraglider pilot myself it put the wind up me a bit!

Cycling

On Saturday I decided I would try and make it up to Sassotetto on my bike. Sassotetto is one of my nearest mountains. I packed a sandwich and lots of water and set off at about early morning. Wanting to do a circular route, I went via San Liberato first, a beautiful monastery set in the woods about half way up the mountain. I mistakenly thought that it might be the easiest route. In fact, it was exhausting. I had to get out and push on a number of occasions. The road was empty other than every time I got off my bike, within seconds you could guarantee a troupe of cyclists would come along (all sporty looking men in sporty looking outfits – in fact, there are simply no cyclists that wear normal get fit stuff here, they all seem to have proper racing gear like they’re all doing the Tour de France – they take their cycling very seriously! I don’t think they were particularly impressed by me with my general keep fit gear, a big backpack and a cheap bike!). Anyway, 6 hours and 40 kilometers later and with legs that refused to work anymore, I was back home again. Guess how quickly one of my CAI walking companions does that same route? An hour and a half. I don’t think I shall ever ‘cut the mustard’ as a cyclist!

Cat update

It’s just been an awful year for our little community of cats. A few posts back I mentioned how one of them was at the vets apparently suffering from the same slug pellet poisoning as before. Unfortunately he didn’t make it which was terribly sad. He was less than a year old and had a lovely character, always wanting a chat, albeit the conversation was a bit ‘samey’ after a while: “Meow?” “Meow”, “Meow!”, “Meow?”. Then last week, the lovely Pellosina died. Pellosina was just the sweetest little cat and was about 4 years old. She was really quite shy and didn’t like to be stroked but had such a gentle character and she was a fabulous climber – always high up on some post or other. She had three kittens a couple of months ago and though she didn’t like to be stroked, she was so content with motherhood that if you approached her with her kittens she would roll over onto her back with the kittens still suckling as if to say “look at my little family” and she’d let you stroke her and the kittens. She was the girlfriend of Neve the Evil Cat (he’s constantly attacking my cat Batfink) and it was him that led us, Lassie style, to Pellosina when she was convulsing behind a shed. Slug pellet poisoning is absolutely awful; it’s an agonising way to go and poor little Pellosina died in my arms outside the vets office. That’s 3 cats that have died now and it feels like I’m on a countdown until Batfink is struck down again (he’s already survived one bout). So, I would like to urge everyone – please don’t put slug pellets down. Have a look here for alternatives. Here’s my little photographic tribute to them 😦

And Sole, one of the survivors from the last batch of kittens has an awfully sore nose from something or other. Here he is having a cuddle from Batfink. It’s never a dull moment with the cats at the moment unfortunately!!!!!!

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Poor little nose!

Lion King!

On a less depressing note, Sarnano had a theatrical production of the Lion King the other week! It was an amateur production but still a lot more impressive than the amateur productions I used to be a part of. I was rather amazed to see that some of the costumes were akin to the ones used on the London stage!  The only problem was, it seemed to go on for a lifetime. The trouble in Italy is that everything is just too late. The show started at gone 10pm and there were little children in it! Why they don’t begin their entertainment events in the late afternoon or early evening, I will never understand. And yet, the Italians don’t appear to be perpetually tired so who knows, perhaps the country just doesn’t need to sleep?

Painting

I’ve been having fun with the watercolour class and painting. There’s a real technique to it. Watercolour is completely different to painting with any other medium. I can’t say as I’ve ever been particularly enamoured with watercolours as I have traditionally veered towards bolder paintings with quite a lot of texture: I discredited watercolours as “painting-lite” for those who just want to paint quaint, dreamy village scenes and flowers. That was until I started my watercolour course a couple of months back and in fact, I really like it. Far from it being a “quaint” form of painting there are some really amazing techniques and it needs a lot of practice even to do what seems to be the simplest of things. The course focuses on landscapes but I’m absolutely inept at those, though perhaps getting marginally better. Portraits seem a bit easier. There was talk about us students having an exhibition. I quite like the idea of that – something to work towards. I think I’ll dedicate July to producing a couple of reasonable landscape pictures. Anyway, specifically for my Uncle Richard who has pointed out on a few occasions that I never post photos up of my paintings, here are some of my least embarrassing efforts to date.  I’ve specifically embedded these pictures in small so don’t look too closely and don’t judge me, I’m still learning!!!!

And to help with the inspiration, I decided to create a little ‘studio’ where a bookcase used to be. I like being up there and it’s good for watercolours because I can pop them out to dry on the terrace. All in all, I’m quite pleased with it.

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I’m looking forward to the weekend – I’m going to be staying in Senigallia (coastal town) with my friends this weekend and then I’m straight off to Puglia (southern Italy) with another friend visiting from the UK. I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!

I shall leave you with my tagliatelle making efforts from yesterday. I hope you’re all having good weeks!

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x

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Poor Poisoned Pusses, Ankle Biters and Events!

Buonasera a tutti!

How is everyone? It’s been a little on the stressful side here! I shall start with the most stressful and work my way in a random fashion to the least stressful…

The Terrible Incident of the Poisoned Cats

For a short time last week I was left in charge of the neighbour’s collection of animals. My neighbour has countless chickens, rabbits and about 9 cats.  The morning after she left, I found one of the cats, Batfink’s girlfriend (Batfink is my cat), in an awful state – frothing at the mouth, meowing a very mournful little meow and convulsing. Poor little thing. I phoned the vet who asked me to take her to see him, which I was just about to do until I then noticed Batfink frothing at the mouth as well. Suspicious, I checked up on the others and they all seemed well although Storm, a sweet little black cat, was missing. Eventually I located him unable to move in a field, he was frothing at the mouth as well. Three ill cats! The vet took pity on me and came out and took them all to his practice. It turns out they had eaten slug pellets. Generally cats don’t eat them but it emerges there are some types of slug pellet that are very appealing and yet very poisonous to cats. Poor Batfink’s girlfriend didn’t make it, which I’m really sad about. I do miss her. Batfink and Storm thankfully pulled through. By the time the slug pellet theory materialized, another of the cats had been poisoned. Luckily he pulled through as well. Shortly after I managed to locate and resolve what I thought was the source of the pellets (a delicate situation in itself – I fear it may have been another cat loving neighbour who had been unwittingly using the pellets and I didn’t want to upset him). All has been well for a few days and then, Storm showed up in an awful state frothing at the mouth again. He’s currently having an overnighter with the vet so fingers crossed! Perhaps I should train to be a vet?!  I think it would be a less expensive situation overall with the way things are going!

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This is one of the new kittens, thankfully unaffected by the Slug Pellet Saga this week. I think I’m going to call her Cindy for her little mole on her lip. In fact, she might be a he. I’ll have a re-think if so,  I don’t want to give him a complex.

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Awwwwwwwwwww…

Italian Funerals

Sadly, I had to go to a funeral this week here in Italy. It’s only the second funeral that I’ve attended and my first in Italy so I didn’t know quite what to expect. They have a quick turnaround time here, with funerals taking place only one or two days following the person’s death. When someone dies, they ring the local church bells and then a poster goes up on several memorial notice boards in town which tell you who has died and when the funeral is. The funeral I went to was closed casket, I think they often are but there does seem to be an opportunity to see the person before the funeral at their home or at the hospital. The Italians are ‘gobsmacked’ by the length of time it takes us in the UK to bury people – their main confusion is around where the people are put between the time of death and burial. I’m no expert. I told them we have special buildings with large fridges. That’s what it seems like in the serial killer documentaries at least.

The church service itself was probably much like a church service in the UK. They do not have an Order of Service but they do have a sort of memento you can take away. It’s usually got a photos of the person and a comforting quote. People wear whatever they usually wear to the funeral. I wore a rather plain dress and felt positively glamorous in comparison to almost everyone else. They go to the cemetery after the church. People aren’t often buried in the ground here – they’re slotted into a wall. If you’re well off, you’ll have a family tomb, otherwise you’re slotted into a large generic wall. There doesn’t seem to be much said at the cemetery itself and it’s all quite a practical affair. They have a bricklayer in situ who actually seals the coffin in the wall there and then. They don’t seem to have the concept of a wake and there’s not generally a gathering after the event. It was obviously a very sad occasion of course but quite interesting at the same time to see how different it is to the way things are done in the UK.

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This is a bit of a blurry example that I took years ago at the cemetery in Camerano

Walks not to do in Elcito…

Elcito is a tiny little village atop Monte San Vicino or at least atop a sort of mountainous outcrop of it. I found it very evocative. It seems totally abandoned apart from a garden and a little cafe/bar. It’s lovely to just sit in what must have been a little meeting spot and look out at the scenery.

It’s set in a lovely area of Le Marche which I haven’t really explored. There are some good walks around Elcito. Alas, we didn’t do one of them. Instead we walked downhill 2 or 3 km, realised that we weren’t even close to doing one of the recognised walks and that there wasn’t really an adequate way of getting back unless we went back the way we came so we had to walk back up again. All in all, it was an unsatisfactory walk but there was gorgeous scenery which more than made up for it. I’m hoping to go back soon and do a decent walk!

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There’s some beautiful flowers out at the moment. Anyone know what tree this blossom belongs to? On a separate note, the blossom from the Acacia (seems to be called Black Locust in English) with its white blossom is so prevalent here that it seems like it’s snowing on a windy day!

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Sitting in the little grassed over meeting point, I spent ages photographing the very busy bees!

Tagliatelle making

In this week’s successful news is a new found appreciation for pasta making. I really like tagliatelle but it’s more expensive than other types of pasta and being the miser that I am, I find it difficult to justify buying it. Now that I know how cheap it is to make, it’s even more difficult to justify buying it! To make tagliatelle for 2, you just need 200g of flour and two eggs. My eggs come from the next door neighbour and the wheat is bought from a mill in Gualdo so it’s all quite nice and fresh with organic ingredients. I’m not a pasta aficionado but it doesn’t taste bad either. The only issue is that it requires more time than getting it out of a packet! I don’t buy bread these days either – I make a big batch every now and then, cut it into slices and then freeze them so I can just take out a slice as and when I want it. I think I might start doing that with pasta as well (not slices)!

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Watercolour class

I’m having a great time at the watercolour class on Friday’s. It’s a really difficult  medium – it’s definitely something, I think anyway, that requires a bit of guidance and tuition first. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I’ve done a couple of portraits and some landscapes. You’d think landscapes would be easier but I’ve struggled more with them than anything else! I’ve also found a good group for artists in Le Marche too and so I’m hoping to get out in the field with them to get some more practice in. It’s a very relaxed medium as you just can’t rush otherwise you’ll ruin your painting. You paint a bit, and when you can’t do anymore you can just sit and admire the scenery in the sunshine and wait for your painting to dry a bit before you do the  next thing. Lovely!

Antiques fair in Recanati

Now that summer is coming there’s an increasing number of events out and about. One of my expat friends was over a couple of weeks ago and what we always seem to do together is to find events to go to that are either cancelled or just perhaps don’t even exist in the first place! We decided this time we’d attempt to go to an antiques fair in Recanati, a town in Le Marche towards the coast. However, during the drive, the heavens opened and it seemed even more improbable that there would be a fair. I lowered my expectations of a successful antiques fair visit from an already low 10% to 0%. However, we were surprised to find that the fair was on and people (albeit not many) were there! We finished off in an English pub stunning the barmen with our darts playing prowess (they probably hadn’t seen anyone so consistently miss the dartboard before).

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My friend found some crystal glasses for an absolute bargain. I, however, wander around all antiques markets in a state of amazement at the sheer number of ghastly things brought together in one place. I’m so busy concentrating on nightmarish ornaments that alas, I suspect I miss out on genuine bargains.

Scarfiotti Race in Sarnano

A couple of weeks ago the 26th Scarfiotti Sarnano to Sassotetto car race was held. Once a year, Sarnano is full to the brim with fancy cars, be they formula one or ancient antique style cars. They have a time trial up the mountain. Sarnano has about 3300 inhabitants. I wouldn’t class it as a totally sleepy little village but it’s approaching that description. I am quite frankly stunned that once a year, apparently reasonably well-known people come with their reasonably well-known cars to compete in what is apparently a reasonably well-known competition. Isn’t that lovely?! I’m quite proud of my little town! It’s just a shame that it rained almost the whole time and on the main race day, there was just so much water that it would be difficult to have distinguished road from waterfall. Anyway, perhaps next year I can see if they’ll let me compete with the Fiat Panda.It’s a good little car, I think I could take on the cars below…

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This car clearly has nothing on my Fiat Panda.

Abbadia di Fiastra

There’s a series of 3 concerts set in the woods at Abbadia di Fiastra (Le Marche) which have taken place over the last couple of Sundays with the last one this coming Sunday. Abbadia di Fiastra is a lovely setting. There’s an abbey and two or three restaurants and lots of countryside to explore. The concert was good and quite atmospheric set in the woods.

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There were a lot of people at the event… Here’s a photo. I was testing out my “dreamy” setting on the camera!

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The first of the three concerts was a flute quartet

Festa dell’Europa in Macerata

Every year in Macerata there’s a festa to celebrate European food of all different types. The UK was represented. This place below (alas blurry) was serving fish and chips and burgers! (I feel like we were cheated a little in terms of quality, probably understandably given the lack of equipment). It was a good and lively event with lots of stalls and lots of people. We ended up eating in another English style place. They served coleslaw (or “coldslow” as they called it), chips, onion rings and some sort of chicken quiche affair for meat eaters.

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The highs and lows of bike riding

The bike riding is going reasonably well. I say only ‘reasonably well’ because it’s not serving its primary purpose which was to get fitter and lose weight. I shall be leaving my body to medical science. The more exercise I do and the healthier I eat, the fatter I become and the worse my general fitness becomes (thought I am getting better on the bike). However, I have accepted my fate and have discovered other unforeseen advantages to going out on the bike: I’m often awestruck by the scenery and this way, I get to see more than if I’m walking and have a bit more flexibility than going with a car where I can’t stop and admire the scenery or take photos quite so easily. If it was just exercise (that seems to yield no/negative results) I probably would have given up by now, but it’s nice to see the countryside in a different way. A couple of days ago I came across a porcupine happily running towards me (I was less happy about it running towards me but it was great to see nonetheless! I’ve only ever seen dead ones at the side of the road). And look at the countryside below…. this was taken the other day from a ride to Gualdo, one of the closest towns. Isn’t it just beautiful?!

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In addition to trying to get up hills and mountains, I’ve discovered the most pressing challenge is how to avoid getting bitten by dogs. They all seem to be trained from an early age to attack cyclists. Going up hills with large rabid looking dogs biting at my ankles certainly adds a level of excitement and gives me that all important motivational push when I’m flagging. Perhaps as well as padded cycle shorts I could get padded ankle protectors. Anyway, so far my record is 23km which will seem like nothing to proper cyclists but half of that was up an entirely vertical incline.

I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks! I hope you’re all having a good Monday 🙂

Ciao a tutti,

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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Welcoming committee, driving traumas and course enrollment!

Buonasera,

I hope you’re all well. I made it back in one piece! It’s been lovely 🙂 I’m back to wearing vest tops rather than jumpers!!!

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Sarnano looking sunny 🙂

Car rental trials and tribulations

I hired a car from Ancona airport. ‘Budget’ cars seem to offer the best deal so much so that there was absolutely nobody at any other car hire place and a massive queue for Budget. The others should up their game (or help out Budget so people don’t have to queue for hours).

In the UK our steering wheels are on the right hand side. In Europe and everywhere else pretty much, steering wheels are on the left. So I was a bit nervous about this and driving a new type of car as well but really, it’s only been mildly traumatic. I hit the window each time I want to change gears and I feel less comfortable being on that side for other reasons too – given the Italian’s have a penchant for driving at speed in the middle of the road, me physically being on the pavement side of the car used to feel safer (in the event of a crash, hopefully they’d just take out my passenger. Phew.)  Also, I suspect I might have been scathing in the past about how Italians sometimes just park basically where they are, rather than at the side of the road. But mystery solved! It’s quite difficult for some reason parking when controlling it from the left-hand side. I think me, the cars behind and all the onlookers were all thrilled today when I eventually managed to parallel park in the tiniest space imaginable in a car that seems to have blind spots in almost all directions. I am about as quick and reactive as a sloth. I wish there was a “Learner” style sign for people trying to work out how to drive new cars and on the wrong side. I can’t even point to my trusty old GB sticker by way of explanation.

House and feline welcoming committee

It’s been lovely catching up with the neighbours. I’ve been duly provided with eggs from the chickens next door, celery, herbs, several jars of preserved tomatoes, onions, grapes, peppers, courgettes… I hardly needed to go to the supermarket. I do have the best neighbours of all time.

Batfink the cat was here to welcome me when I arrived! He was very sweet and didn’t leave my side all day and meowed incessantly wanting to sit on my lap whenever I sat down for a second. Before I left for the UK he seemed to be having a thing with his auntie (despite frequent lectures on what’s right and wrong) and had almost ditched me entirely but I think they’ve fallen out because I seem to be his favourite again. He’s turned into a bit of a grumpy old man. I think he’s been emotionally scarred by the kittens who are naughtiness epitomized. To be honest, I think I will be scarred soon too.

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Batfink with a kitten sneaking into the background.

Every time I open my door, Batfink comes in followed quickly by 4 kittens, Batfink’s ex/aunty, his mother and his father. Eight flea-bags is just too much. So I shoo the cats out, and the adult cats go. But the kittens remain. Nothing at all scares these kittens. So I pick up a kitten in each hand and put them outside, close the door and then go to get the remaining kittens. I pick up those kittens and as soon as I open the door to put them out, the other two kittens come in. So I close the door to get the other two kittens. Guess what happens when I put the other two kittens out? Yes, kittens number three and four come in. It’s relentless kitten removal. I’ve had to resort to using the handheld kittens as sort of bowling balls to knock the others out of the way so I have enough time to close the door.

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Sometimes, they all manage to squeeze onto my front door mat. So from left to right: Pellosina (“Hairy”, Batfink’s Aunt/Ex), Felixa (I’ve dubbed her this, I don’t think she’s been named), Scaredycat, Naughtiness, Batfink, Grigia (“Grey”, not particularly imaginative name but this is Batfink’s aunt), Neve (“Snow”, Batfink’s dad. They hate each other), Sole (“Sun”, or Naughtiness 2). I could write a book on the life of these cats. There’s everything you could ever want in a story: forbidden love, fights, illicit children, the devastating effects of favouritism, bullying… If I wrote it without people knowing they were cats perhaps people would even read it (maybe that could be an incredibly unsatisfying final revelation/ twist at the end)

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The kittens are more persistent than even the most frustrating cold callers. I’m going to have to start exiting the building from a window.

I was also welcomed by a giant scorpion, a massive spider occupying most of the terrace, and several dried up ants. They were less cute but expected nonetheless.

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This spider is roughly 5 foot by 8 foot. I’m too scared to even remove it. I imagine this is how Frodo felt in Lord of the Rings when Shelob comes to get him.

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So this scorpion was dead which was initially a relief but now I’m worried about what killed it. Shelob?

Course enrollment

Well I have enrolled in my art course – I’m quite excited!!! It wasn’t a simple enrollment process. In England, my usual method of course enrollment goes: Look at the prospectus either online or paper copy. Decide on the course based on course information (syllabus / dates and whatnot) and complete / download the enrollment form and send it off with a cheque. Receive confirmation with details as to where and when it is.

So there’s some information online about this course but for the year 2013/2014. I downloaded a form and attempted to complete that but it’s out of date. Not to be put off, I went to the school itself. The conversation went thusly:

S: Help me! Is this the right form for the course I want to enroll in?

Guy (G): Meh, looks like it <glances at it briefly>. You need to go to the bank and send us some money.

S: But is there space for me on the course?

G: There’ll be space.

S: And this form, I’ve filled it in ok?

G: Hmm. Yeah I reckon so.

S: So I can just send you money and then come back with it?

G: Yeah.

S: It’s just I wasn’t even sure this was the right form because it seemed old and for another course.

G: Hmm, I guess you could use this form <hands me this years form, an entirely different form in fact which requires a passport photo and tells me the course is actually 100 euros more expensive>.

S: Ok. So I fill in this form and do the money thing and then what? When does it start?

G: November.

S: Any specific date?

G: Thursday.

S: The first Thursday?

G: Usually.

S: And like, when?

G: Usually afternoon.

S: Right.

He seemed thoroughly bemused about the level of information I was asking for. I do wonder how people here usually enroll for courses. Perhaps they fill out random forms and then just sort of hang around hoping to come across the course. In fact, there were a few people loitering outside…

So to enroll in the course you can’t just send in a cheque. You have to:

  1. Go to the post office and pay some money (I wonder what the post office do with this money…?).
  2. Go to the bank and transfer some money (to the school I presume).
  3. Go to the tabaccheria and pay for a very expensive stamp which gets stuck on the application form (for tax purposes I was told).

Anyway, despite all that, I’ve done it!!! It wont be long now until artistic fame and fortune rolls in, I’m sure.

That’s about it so far apart from a quick excursion to Lago di Fiastra yesterday (photos below). Car buying is in full swing. I’m seeing some at the weekend. Please keep up with the vibes!

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A presto,

x

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Winter wonderland, attack dogs and cultural evenings…

Buongiorno!

How is everyone? It seems a while again since I’ve written so here’s a quick update.

I went back to the UK for a flying visit. Everytime I go back I never seem to be able to catch up with everyone I want to.  Anyway, before I get to UK stuff, let me tell you about my airport stresses! My weather app had been threatening snow the day before I was due to fly but I didn’t believe it. It had been far too sunny and lovely the proceeding days. And in fact, as I went to put the cat out at 3am (after he insisted that my neck was the only comfortable place to sleep in the entire house), there was no snow to be seen. Four hours later, there was a foot of snow which kept growing throughout the following day.

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Winter Wonderland… I cleared this road.

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And I cleared this road… and there’s another road….

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I did not have my coffee on the terrace that morning.

Now, apparently the snow clearing guys do clear the roads but the day came and went and there was no sign of them. My wonderful neighbour, phoned up everyone that she knew in the comune to get the snow clearers out the following morning so she could drive me to the airport. They did not come! In the end myself and my amazing neighbours cleared the snow from my house to the main road in a joint “get Sue to the airport” effort (hmm, that doesn’t sound like they like me but I think their intentions were good rather than wanting to get rid of me!). Just as we finished, the snow clearer came! Anyway, suffice to say I made it to the airport in the end.

The first couple of days of my visit were spent tirelessly teaching my parent’s new puppy to bite, bark and chase people. It was a slow and laborious job but someone had to do it. (I don’t think I’ll be invited back anytime soon).

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This is Molly the Attack Dog contemplating her next move.

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And this is Molly the Attack Dog in action. Who needs toes anyway?

Then I was in Leamington Spa (henceforth known as L’Spa) to check how Pane Caldo has been getting on in his new non-Italian habitat and how he’s coping with having to get up before 11am.  I’m going to have to review my stereotyped opinions of things north of London that aren’t the Lake District or Scotland. L’Spa is nice with lots of green spaces and shops. It has a large bowling green which makes me want to take up bowling. We popped up to Lincoln for the weekend and went to the beach too before heading to Warwick, a few minutes drive away from Leamington Spa.

 

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One of the many parks in L’Spa

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Erm, somewhere on the East Coast (I admit my geography is bad. However, did you know 85% of British people don’t know where Sheffield is?). Twas windy and cold but lovely!

 

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This is a pretty bit of Warwick. Warwick is an odd mix of absolutely beautiful, and brutally ugly.  I can’t remember what was surrounding it but it could very well have been a block of ugly unkempt flats.

Back in London my DIY mettle was tested when I had to re-hang a door and fit a bath panel in my flat there. I quite like DIY I’ve decided. It’s nice to feel a bit “handy” and all you need is a few YouTube videos and equipment. Having said that, I would not be remotely surprised if the door and bath panel have since fallen off. Luckily I have nice tenants that don’t like telling me if there’s problems. Result.

So now I’m back in Italy. The plan for the next couple of weeks is more DIY – painting the kitchen and finishing the beams (oh the beams).

I made a terrible mistake – I accepted the offer of “free wood” which was basically the remnants of a few small trees. I really like getting wood – it appeals to my hunter/gatherer instincts I think (less hunter, I’m a vegetarian). I even bought massive secateurs for the occasion and everything. However, after maybe 3 hours of chopping up branches, I now resemble Pop-Eye, only the bulging muscle is on my lower arm instead of my bicep.  And whereas Pop-Eye can lift trucks, I can’t even lift a pen without yelping. I ended up with just a wheelbarrow of wood. I could get a wheelbarrow of better and dryer wood without ruining my arm in about 10 minutes wandering up the road. Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth (Italians reading this – good luck trying to work out what that phrase means!).

I’ve been planting things too – the neighbour has given me a number of apparently difficult-to-kill plants so hopefully I can keep them alive. I’m attempting to grow peach and plum trees too – I don’t hold out a lot of hope!

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Yesterday my friend invited me to watch her perform some aria’s (opera songs to you and me) which was interesting. It’s not my kind of music but it was very impressive and I’m really proud of my friend, she was brilliant. After, we went to a restaurant here in Sarnano which I didn’t even know existed! So all in all, a good night.

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It was a good opportunity to see Castello della Rancia in Tolentino which is a bit of an unusual castle to be honest (it’s stuck in the middle of nowhere, not even on a hill)

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The castle is a museum and the upstairs was dedicated to theatre… this is a mask from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”. You’d have to pay me a lot of money to wear that. I think I’d have to boil my face after.

 

My bread making continues… This time burger baps…

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With a bean burger – burgers are one of those things I miss from the UK. Italy still has some work to do on their veggie burgers so I made an ok attempt at bean burgers. I can’t wait until it’s BBQ weather!

 

Today, I’m going to be experiencing comedy at the local theatre.  Now, I don’t wish to do myself down but I’m not going to understand a thing – I think it’s all in dialect! I’ll report back.

Meanwhile, I’m off to get ready.

Buonasera a tutti and have wonderful weeks!

x

 

 

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