Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Man, it’s hot, or phew, what a scorcher!

A few days ago the temperature suddenly went berserk. In the early afternoon under cover, the temperature was hitting 37° whilst just outside cover it is 50°plus – we have a little thermometer which tops out at 50° and the mercury was trying to escape. The nights are less warm, but not a great deal.
Everything is a bit of a struggle whilst our bodies come to grips with this rapid change.
Any stuff outside has to be done by 10:00 otherwise you would end up as liquid feed for the garden. The coolest place in the house is the room we have just turned into the “office” which is quite fortunate.
It is also taking its toil on the vegetables with a bit of leaf burn, but according to meteo some water is on its way over the next few days.

Italian vegetables

The leathery-looking winged lizard plants (courgette) are producing some wonderful zucchini. There are some great flowers on them that apparently you can eat. You can batter them and then fry them. We have not done this yet but we will definitely trying it soon. Also, we have had some potatoes and peppers, both bell and chilli types. Brilliant.
We have to remember not to buy these when we go to the markets. I must say it is extremely satisfying.

Formaggio di capra (goat’s cheese)

Our goat-owning neighbours have been making cheese from the goat’s milk. We are extremely fond of goat’s cheese and this does not disappoint at all. It is absolutely lovely. It is like a crumbly roll and it is covered in very finely chopped olives. Yummy. I am not bleating (sorry about the pun) about the goat’s milk now.

Swallows but no Amazons

There are loads of swallows flying about at the moment, which is good for me because I am assuming some of them eat the little flying monsters that seem to love my flesh. It is funny because the Duchessa hardly gets bitten at whilst I get bitten all the time. In fact she gets bitten so rarely I beginning to think that those who do bite her are a bit short sighted and have mistaken her for me.
The swallows are zooming about pretty much all day long even in this heat. As I was watching them I was thinking about when they rested or had a drink, when a couple of them started chirping and flying about just above my head. When I looked up, I saw that there were a couple who had perched on the locks that hold the shutters open. They were sitting with their beaks open and wings up, presumably trying to cool off. It was a great sight. I think you can see what they were up to in the photos.

More pregnancies, shock horror

Not cats this time. There is a rough old mutt next door and he looks slightly like a miniature Alsatian but with short legs. We thought he was looking a bit pleased with himself recently. Well, one of the other neighbours, who gives us some Italian conversation every week, also has a rough old mutt, but she looks like a miniature Newfoundland that’s gone very wrong. Praise the Gods, there are going to be puppies in the next few weeks. I shudder to think what the offspring will look like. I am sure as puppies they will be, as all puppies are, perfectly delectable. It’s when they grow up that the real truth will be known. Will people gag when they see one? Will they scare old ladies and children who look upon them? Yeah, saith …. I must stop, I’m getting into my preachy mode, which is not pleasant.

I know I said not cats, but have a look at this

Sisi’s boy-owner brought this little fur ball over the other day – mind you it’s his brother’s apparently and as he heard his brother coming down the road, he picked it up pretty sharpish and legged it back to his house rather rapidly.
His name is Romeo, very Italiano and he is as cute as he looks. We have no idea from which one of the five litters that there have been over the past couple of months he comes from, but he is the only kitten we know of here. Hmmmm.


Well, the boys done quite good, but its early doors for the Azurri and of course of Signore Donadoni. He gave himself a great vote of confidence by signing up for a 2 year extension just before the tournament began and then after the Spanish game saying he looked forward to the future with the national team and within a few hours he was looking forward to the future without the national team.
Funny old game.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Garden Gadget Man

For us the strimmer is great tool. But of course, no sooner have you cut the “elephant” grass – well it sure looks like it – it seems to double its effort to grow. This of course means that more cutting is required. Now, we, that is the duchessa (as she is now insisting she be called) and I (l’uomo chi fa or the man who does), agreed that for this year, we would cut and keep maintained the areas under the vines and the trees. You know how sometimes you make a rod for your back? Well, in the duchessa’s eyes at least, I have done such a fantastic job and the trimmed areas look so wonderful, that she now wanted the rest of the “estate” looking as good. We held some discussions on this. It should be stated that the duchessa majors on the talking part of discussions and I major on the listening and head-nodding. As per usual a compromise was reached whereby all the grass has now been cut. However, I will be having a couple of bonfires over the next few days, rain permitting. I might even get a couple of pics to show you. There’s exciting – think Welsh accent here.

Large Green Things

The zucchini and citrioli (courgettes and cucumbers) are, along with every other green thing, growing like billyo. The leaves are massive. From where I am sitting they look like leathery wings of some prehistoric flying animal that we have got caged up. We had quite a big storm the other day and some of the leaf-stems just twisted and bent in the wind. We do not know if this will affect their fruit bearing. Only time will give us this answer.


Despite the wet weather we are doing quite a bit of Enning at the moment. Unfortunately our neighbour seems a bit under the weather (excuse the pun) as we have not seen so much of her in her garden. When we do see her she does seem a little tired and weary. Perhaps she is grieving over the poor performance of the Azurri in the Euro 2008 competition. However they had a good result the other night against France that has set them up against Spain in the next round.
Anyway, she, and her sons in her absence, have been spraying the tomatoes and vines with stuff they call here Ramata. It is actually known in the trade as Bordeaux Mixture which has copper sulphate as its active ingredient. Actually, if you Google Bordeaux Mixture (I hate turning nouns into verbs but this one is now so common) you can find out the origin of the name which is quite an interesting story.
So, naturally, we got some too and sprayed our plants following the mixing instructions carefully in our fairly loose understanding of written Italian. Our plants were covered in a very pleasing pale, pale pastel shade of cornflower blue. This looked nothing like our neighbours, which looked as though she had painted on navy blue paint – a real Stalinist job. Again, we have had a nagging question of does this woman know what she is doing?
Well, as we thought of this, we were brought back to a time a couple of years ago when she presented us with one of her tomatoes. It weighed in at just over 900 grams. It tasted quite wonderful and was so juicy. So, does she know what she is doing? Of course she does, you silly people. We are out with the paintbrushes tomorrow.


I have been reading recently about some people who had a bit of a mishap in the South Pacific and ended up on an island to escape shark-infested waters. The trouble with the island was that, apparently, it was a favourite seaside playground for Kimodo Dragons which are some sort of rather large lizards. Although not poisonous they are big enough to give you a good seeing to with fatal results. I suppose if it was a toss up between a Great White sniffing your toes as an appetizer whilst you splash about in water or taking a chance on dry land, hoping the nasty Kimodos would be too occupied ogling the other Kimodos on the beach (I am assuming here that the nasty ones are male, but that might be a wrong assumption), I would probably take the earth-under-my-feet option. However, the words frying-pan and fire do spring to mind. If you did not read or hear about the story, they were rescued and are quite OK.
We have loads of lizards here, although I am unaware of anyone having been mauled to death by one, but as they range from about 75mm to 200mm that is perhaps not surprising. They are incredibly fast over short distances. If the cats see one they try and chase it, but they are so quick they just dart off.
We have spotty ones, stripy ones and even a few that are day-glo green.
They are quite fun to watch as they try and stay very still waiting for some fly or insect to provide them with a snack. The rain has kept them away and out of sight at the moment but when summer starts at the weekend we are hoping to see lots more of them.

First Pepper!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sisi pregnant again?
From our special court correspondent

We have been seeing a lot of Sisi recently. Rather than coming to us for attention though, she is always on the scrounge for food. We are a bit worried about this as it reminds us of how she was when she was pregnant back in January/February. I hope that the randy old toms have not had their evil way with her. What is also worrying is that I am often catching my better half in a state of cogitation and wistfulness when she sees Sisi. I am hoping that she has no designs on becoming The Great Queen Cat Collector of Central Italy! I have not broached the subject with her for fear that she is NOT thinking along those lines at all, but when she hears what has been going on in my mind, she will think it a wonderful idea!
More to come on this front later in the year, I have no doubt.

Cupboard love?

The Parsnips – no, not Derek and Edna, but the real things.

Well, what can I report? We have planted a second lot of seeds after the first ones failed to germinate. However, there were some plants that started to grow where we had planted the parsnips. We carefully weeded round them and tended as best we could, and they were growing very steadily. A little while ago we noticed that a flower head was growing in the middle of the plants. Was this a good thing? Should parsnips have flowers like this? No, they should not. It turned out they were poppy plants! OK, they both began with P, but I guess that is where the similarities end.
The second set seems to be having as charmed a life as the first lot. This is a real shame as, my wife particularly, adores roast parsnip, and we have never been able to find any in the salumiere (grocers) or supermarkets.
Funnily, when we were looking for seeds back in the winter, parsnip was the only one we could not find here (we got them sent out from England) .. perhaps for good reason. The blasted things will not grow here!

Gorillas in the Mist

The weather, though warm, is a real mix at the moment. It seems to have a habit of changing rapidly from beautiful sunny skies to thunder, lightning and downpours in a matter of minutes. It is unusual weather at this time of year, so we have been advised by the local weather sages.
Associated with this weather pattern is lots of mist that clings to the side of the small valley we look over, moving very slowly or dissipating gently. It can be both quite eerie and lovely at the same time. I actually thought I could glimpse a few gorillas amongst the trees on the other side of the valley the other day. My wife said I should not have had that half bottle of Rosso Piceno! It was very nice though.

This a picture of the Sibillini from Sarnano last Saturday. It shows you what I mean about the mist, on a large scale compared to what we have here at home.

Italian School Holidays

Would you believe it? Schools broke up for their summer holidays (for 3 months) last Friday. Whilst the next door neighbour’s littlest boy can be good fun and a source of Italian language learning for us, he can be precocious and sometimes a reet booger.
We have just relocated our office/working area to downstairs. Sometimes he just wanders in and jabbers away at us and then starts to fiddle with things that shouldn’t be fiddled with.
We are going to have to be a bit stricter with him. I was thinking of learning some Italian idioms that correspond with some English ones such as “if you touch that once more, you will be dead meat!” or “which part of go away, do you not understand?”

For this, I have one of my sons to thank.
We have sampled the delights of downloading music from a website called We have not done it before as we were (and still are) waiting for Italian telecom to live up to its promise of proving a broadband service in this area. They wrote to the town council 11 months ago stating that ADSL would be available in the autumn of 2007! So we are still on jolly-old 56k dial up, which isn’t too bad 95% of the time.
Anyway, it takes a bit of time to download song/tune, but it is brilliant.
One of the songs we have now and can play as we compute, is La Mamma Morta by Umberto Giordano from his opera Andrea Chenier. This was an aria sung by Maria Callas in the film Philadelphia. Tom Hanks listens to this as he is filmed walking around his apartment with his mobile drip. Very poignant and very beautiful.
After that we stick on some Christian Death Thrash Metal and really rack up the volume.

Red Cross Parcels

My dad-in-law is a real diamond geezer. Every so often he parcels up some newspapers, sports reports, literature and music reviews, odd magazines and occasional DVDs that he has got as newspaper give-aways, and sends us a Cultural Red Cross parcel. It is an excellent piece of post to receive.
My wife and I fight over them as soon as they arrive and the reading matter lasts for ages. We savour it.
Thanks d-i-l.

A bit of rain!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Big Smell

We are very glad we do not live in Naples. They have been having no refuse collection for some months now. The official rubbish dumps have become full so there is nowhere to put their waste. The fact that the waste disposal industry is run by the Mafia is seen as purely circumstantial – oh yeah? Last year, in one region alone, Calabria, it is estimated that the Mafia’s turnover was in the region of €20bn!! This is more than some East European countries annual GDP. It is now getting very warm, particularly in the south, so you can imagine the pong from the tons and tons of uncollected rubbish.

It’s great here because the rubbish is collected every day except Sunday. Every few homes have a communal bin by the side of the road and you just walk your own rubbish up and pop it in the bin. We pay less than our neighbours who are nearer the bin, but more than the neighbours who are farther away than we are. Seems very fair to us.

Enough of this rubbish!


We use bamboo cut down from our estate (stop sniggering) to use as vegetable stakes. When we were cutting them down, we wondered about whether there would be any new growth, or rather how does new bamboo grow – we do show our thickness sometimes. Well this picture shows a few new bamboo shoots that are a few days old. Yes, that’s right, just a few days old. Honestly, you could almost get a chair and sit and actually watch these things grow. We’ve never seen anything like it. So we needn’t worry about a disappearing resource, far from it. We might even be able to sell some excess next year. However, “She who must be obeyed”, does have an expansion plan which may need some very careful countering by myself if I am not to have actually live outside next year to make it easier to carry out all my land chores in the programme! (This reminds me of an incident when I was working for a major Agrochemicals company. I was involved in a very large system development for manufacturing and production tied into sales forecasting. One of the IT staff had bought a new, back then, software package that allowed you to have a computerised project plan to help with activities and timeliness. One of the benefits of this was that people involved in the project would have the times of their activities input and you could then see who was doing what, when and how long it was projected to take. The project manager thought this was marvellous. The project became more and more intensive and at one point, one of the project team was down to do five 25 hour days! When this was pointed out to the by now very harassed (and over worked) project manager, he said, “but it’s only for a week!” The stunned faces told him that he had said something odd, but it still took him a few seconds before it dawned on him. That is a true story).


We have seen fireflies before. When we were staying near Castiglione – a small walled town by Lago Trasimeno - in Umbria some years ago, we went to a lovely restaurant in the town. After we had finished we went out through an arch in the walls and there were thousands of fireflies. We looked at each other thinking we haven’t had that much to drink have we? No, we hadn’t. Well one of us hadn’t at least as they had to drive back to where we were staying. It was a wonderful sight.
Well, the other night we looked out of the window and there were some fireflies. They were like some small sparks that were darting to and fro over the garden. They are so much better than glow-worms which just sit there and, well, glow. They don’t move. But fireflies are brilliant to see and watch. We will be keeping our eyes open to try and see them again.

Paying a fine (“multa”)

Last week we got a parking ticket. Not the sort of thing you go to Sarnano market for on a Thursday. It’s our own fault. We should have used a designated parking area, but there were loads of Italian cars where we stopped and parked up. We had parked there before, but never mind.
The ticket said that the fine - €36,00 – had to be paid within 10 days to the Municipale Polizia. There are lots of levels of police here and these, as their name would imply, are responsible for town matters.
Well I duly went along to the Municipale office to find it shut! I went andinquired at the Turistico Informatzione place next door who told me that the policeman – yes, there is only one on duty at any one time – was on one of his “gira” or lap of the town and he would probably be back within the hour. Well 3 hours later and with large lightening streaks in the sky accompanied almost immediately by ear slitting thunder claps and very large drops of rain (I was in shorts and t-shirt because it was lovely and sunny at the beginning of the day) I decided to leave, rather hacked off. Sarnano is not a big town by any stretch of the imagination, so I really had no idea why his gira was taking so long. Perhaps there was some sort of love interest on the way round!
I had a couple of letters to send so I stopped at the post office to get some stamps. Whilst I was waiting, there was a sign in the PO about paying bills through the PO. The Italian PO does handle a lot of bill paying, utilities and stuff, so I thought I would ask if I could pay my multa through the PO. Sure enough I could. What a palaver for having 2 wheels over a white line. Still, I won’t ever park in an area that I am not 100% convinced won’t be crawling with Municipale Polizie waiting to slap a €36,00 multa under the wiper!

Little Grapes!

Just thought I’d include a pic of the grapes at the moment. There are lots of these on the vines which, hopefully, bodes well!