Thursday, December 31, 2009

The last blog of 2009

Wow. Here we are at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
Can you remember what was happening at the end of the last decade? The thing that remains in my mind is that we were being told that “We’re all doomed” – to borrow a saying from Fraser in Dad’s Army. All the computers in the world were going to stop at one second past midnight because computers couldn’t cope with the two digit date structure going from 99 to 00, as 00 is earlier than 99 not later, and the world would be plunged back into the dark ages. Unless, that is, you employed lots of freelance IT “experts”, whose rates had suddenly increased. Ahem.Still, poor loves, I bet they had some super holidays and even new homes in 2000.
Anyway, surprise, surprise the world was not plunged into the abyss, which was just as well as I had a thumping hangover the on the 1st January 2000, in common with lots of other people. I don't think I could have faced global meltdown as well.


I did think of doing a Christmas entry and calling it a Yule Blog. I’m glad I didn’t now as I can hear your groans from here!
La D and I had a lovely time. I have probably mentioned it before but we have set up some video call links with some of the family and did a lot of video calling. It really is very good. As long you have a web camera and download the same software, which is free, you can talk to and see each other for as long as you like. The call is also free which of course is a great benefit.
However there is a downside. The microphones are very sensitive and if for example I wanted to say to La D that uncle Rodney was wearing a hideous shirt/jumper I couldn’t just blurt it out without causing some embarrassment, particularly to La D as Rodney is her uncle and I don’t like him anyway. Still you soon learn the little dos and don’ts of video calling. Uncle Rodney’s still not speaking to either of us. But his shirt was appalling.

We had a good call with the DiL and MiL and assorted brothers and sisters several times over the period. In fact we had one yesterday.
Now in La D’s family, as it is rather large, they operate a sort of Family Secret Santa. You know where from a group, one person buys a present for someone else on behalf of the whole group. It works well. I was down to buy the DiL Christmas present. He’s a bit of a gadget man, a bit like myself. He was very interested in a little weather station that La D bought me for my last birthday so I thought I would get one for him as I knew he would love to get it set up straight away and start to measure temperatures around the house. Right up his street.
I wouldn’t say I was appalled, merely saddened, when he said yesterday that he hadn’t got round to getting two batteries required for setting up the outside sensor as he had been, and these are his exact words, “That busy”.
A fellow gadget man, unable to install a fully functioning gadget because he had been too busy to nip into town and get two small batteries. What is the world coming to?
As we ended the call, a small tear welled up in my right eye, no left, or was it my right? Well it doesn’t matter. Oh dear.

Bertie’s sister Jess was really good. We got out for some good walks and tried to tire them out, not with any great success, but they certainly enjoyed them.

The weather was quite weird. About 5 or 6 days before Christmas it was absolutely bitter. The temperatures never rose above 0° at all. On Christmas day at lunchtime we had a temperature of 21° outside with a slight balmy breeze. Very strange and not very Christmassy at all.

La Marchesa, one of La D’s sisters, sent us a box of goodies and in it was a present for Bertie. He loves it.

Yes, Mrs Malaprop is here again.

We were doing a crossword the other night and one of the clues was, “someone who receives stolen goods”.
La D piped up almost immediately and very brightly, 110% certain, “A hedge”.
I really couldn’t contain myself and just roared with laughter. If it hadn’t been the season of goodwill to all people, I fear I wouldn’t be sitting here typing up the blog.
“No darling” I said, still chortling. “It’s a fence”.
“Don’t darling me, you patronising little man. Hedge, fence what’s the difference? Bit like Smith and Smythe isn’t it?”
There really was only one option open to me; that was to agree

New Year – a few funnies

New Year's Day Quotes

New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
Mark Twain
One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.
John Burroughs
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
Oscar Wilde

A New Year's Wish

On New Year's Eve, Marilyn stood up in the local pub and said that it was time to get ready. At the stroke of midnight, she wanted every husband to be standing next to the one person who made his life worth living.

Well, it was kind of embarrassing. As the clock struck - the barman was almost crushed to death.

One last one for those of you who are religious in nature, a New Year's Day Prayer:

Dear Lord.
So far this year I've done well.
I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper, I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help.

All the very best to everyone for 2010. Felice anno nuovo.
May you be healthier, wealthier and wiser. Just remember if you are thinking of embarking on yet another failed diet, that “stressed” is dessert spelt backwards!

Ciao, mantenere la fede. Vi vedo anno prossima

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Sorry for non-blogging in the last couple of weeks. Nothing was very forthcoming.

Autumn fires

Oh yes. I have had a couple of beauties. The heat has been enough to vaporise the mist that we have had whilst the beautiful, dense billowy smoke has enveloped the entire hamlet – by the way what’s the difference between a village and hamlet? One is where people live and the other is a play by Shakespeare.
Yes, there has been loads to burn already and with the pruning under way there will be a lot more.
We had also cut down some of our bamboo a. because it just grows like
billy-o and in fact some had totally obscured an olive tree, and b. because we will be needing some new canes for next years vegetables.
Now you may not know this but small sections of bamboo make the most fabulous bangers. If you get a length of bamboo and cut a piece off just below a knuckle and then above the next knuckle, so you have a complete piece of bamboo between two knuckles, you’ve got a cracker – literally. It must have sounded like an arsenal had caught fire here. The bangs were echoing all round the valley as the fire consumed all the old bamboo stuff we didn’t need.
So, flames, delicious heat, billowy smoke and big bangs. I mean, what more could you ask of your humble garden bonfire?

Mrs Malaprop rides again, and again

La D has been at it again. Using correct words and sayings incorrectly. Mind you, it gives us a laugh. I even caught a glimpse of a smirk on Bertie’s face but he soon switched back to his inscrutable doggy features when he saw me glancing at him.
Here’s three of note:

We were walking up the hill in the garden after a walk when we went past the vines which were due to be pruned.
“I’ve had a pre-cursory glance at the book on pruning L’uomo chi fa .. …Why are giggling, you silly man?”

One night we were listening to the new Foo Fighters single (at least it’s new over here). There’s a very good guitar solo in it.
“What a great skiff” La D said.

The other night we were playing Bezique and in the middle of one of the games I had to keep getting up to tend the fire, get more wine for La D (and myself of course), let Bertie out, let Bertie in, etc., etc.. As it was difficult to maintain a good flow of card playing, La D said exasperatedly, “Oh for goodness sake L’uomo chi fa, you are up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. Sit down. What have I said now? Oh alright, like a tart’s drawers then. Satisfied? Now can we please get on with the game. I’m just about to lay down a royal marriage, a sequence and double-Bezique, so just you dot your “I”s and cross your “T”s!
There are more, but I am saving those for later.

The Orti and Galline

Not much to report at the moment. The weather has turned almost wintry with cold rain and mists. November was lovely. So it has been too damp to do much turning over, but it will be done when it is able to be done.
The Three Degrees are still popping out three eggs a day, which considering the lack of light and the temperature is pretty good going. And of course the eggs are just fantastic. I worked it out the other day. If you discount the costs of setting up a run and coop and buying the birds, we have been getting 90 eggs a month for €5,00’s worth of feed. The shop price for 90 organic eggs is about €40,00. That is not too bad, I think you will agree.
The other thing they do of course is help fertilise the orti, either directly, by scratching and picking it over and pooping on it, and non-directly by us composting their bedding and poo to use on the orti later on. Brilliant.
We have had a lovely cauliflower last week and we have a few more almost ready along with some fennel. The peas and beans and onions that we have planted are all doing nicely.


Very organised this year. We have got all the presents sent off in very good time – we were worried about the postal strikes in the UK, but I think that has all been sorted now.
We were looking forward to a relatively peaceful time, until…………..
Bertie asked if his sister could come to stay. Well something like that.
They are a bit like children. They are quite manageable, most times, on their own, but when they are together, it’s a different story. It’s like having two giant Mexican jumping beans constantly on the go. Going this way, that way, some other way least expected. At first we probably won’t have to take them out much because they just chase each other round and round and round until they are knackered and, with this weather, disgustingly filthy. I think I’ll get the hose out again and set it up. We’ll probably need it.
I’ll report back next week.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What’s large, white, furry and likes to catch flies?

Correct, Bertie. Sometimes he’s like a 32 kilo, self-propelled fly swat.
To see Bertie chasing flies outside is quite fun.
”Aw. Isn’t he lovely,” La D and I say to each other soppily, as he goes bounding around the estate jumping and snapping. The problem comes when he thinks the inside of the house is also fair game for fly-catching. Those of you who have been fortunate to be invited and stay with us and be graced by our presence know how small it is. Bye the bye, we’ve just had to put Liz and Phil off, again, because she still insisting on bringing the wretched corgi and we know that Bert will eat it. Anyway, you can imagine Bertie bounding round the place when about five of his strides takes him from our bedroom through the living room and into the kitchen, trying desperately to munch on a housefly.
We are having pretty good weather at the moment. Days are very clear and sunny and therefore lovely and warm during the day, but chilly at night. So the flies’ biorhythms(?) are shot to hell and they are still wandering around, albeit in a somewhat dazed fashion. Well of course to Bertie, it’s like all his Christmases have come in one go.
Apart from the mayhem and general destruction to our meagre belongings, there is a downside to Bertie too. Stinging flies. Namely wasps and hornets.
Quite often we find a hornet or two at the bottom of the outside stairs where they have been attracted by the outside light the night before. I’m not sure why but can’t think of any other reason why they would end up just outside the house. They have then been numbed by the cold night and end up pretty lifeless on the ground. But Bertie pretty much ignores them. Presumably he thinks they have given up on the game of chase, chomp and therefore is not interested in playing with them. However the wasps are a different matter and are still flying a bit, although some of them look as though the port engines on fire and it’s going to be bumpy landing.
Last week I saw the dog leaping at a wasp and I gave, my now, somewhat perfunctory address, “Don’t Bertie, you’ll get stung!” and thought nothing more. Some time later I came out of the house and Bert was in his usual place, in his sentry box at the front gate. I had to do a double take. One side of his mouth was hanging down. I went up to him and only then saw the reason for this. The lip was huge and it was bulging out rather than hanging down. I wish I had the presence to go and get the camera to have a pictorial record of it.
It could only have been a stinger that had done it. He didn’t seem perturbed at all, which in one way is a great shame as it would be nice for him to learn his lesson and of course Great Aunt Margaret’s tea service could sit in peace on the sideboard.

Sparky? ………Not!

I’d just like to say now that I am writing this under duress as La D has said I have to appraise you of certain events.
Now you know that my name is L’uomo chi fa, or if you must have it in English, the man who does. Well here is instant when I should have been called, L’uomo chi non fa. I am not going to translate as I am sure you will understand what it means.

We try to keep Sundays as God wished, i.e. you’ve been doing all your worky bits in the previous six days so now you can have a day when you don’t do anything. Last Sunday we woke up to no electricity. The first telltale sign was the electric alarm clock was not on.
I got up and flipped up the trip by the meter. But it wouldn’t stay up. I tried several times, but no, it would not catch and stay. Now this is not the first time that the trip has gone and I have been able to reset it
So, I went round and made sure all the appliances were unconnected and tried again. No joy.
I thought in that case it must be the supply to the house. I went and checked with a neighbour, but no, she had power – in our hamlet we are all on the same line, so if there was a supply issue, we would all have a problem.
I rang the electricity company but got one of these multiple choice answering machines – reminded me of chemistry exam papers – and all I could make out was that there was no one you could speak to until Monday.
I was despatched to go and see another neighbour. He and his sister have a company that project manages restoration of old houses for people, a lot of them non-Italian, and he speaks pretty good English. I explained the problem. He said have you flipped the trip or “fare scattare” in Italiano. Yep. So, very kindly, he rang a different number at the electricity company and got through to someone. Anyway we verified that in fact there was power to the house and therefore the problem was internal. Drat. In his line of work of course he knew a sparky and said he would ring them but doubted they would come out on a Sunday and that Monday morning was a better bet. I said that was absolutely fine and thanked him as effusively as I could without it becoming sickening.
So La D and I passed our Sunday in great peace. In the evening speaking to family by candlelight and making a lovely beef and dumpling stew out if the piece of beef we had bought for roasting. It was stonkingly delicious.
The next morning I tried the trip again as I had done all through Sunday. Nope. Nienta. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. What more can I say.
Eight o’clock, the sparky and his mate rolled up at the house. We show him the metre and trip, he presses a button the trip and then lifts the switch and, bugger me, it stayed up. He pressed the switch again to trip it and pushed it up again and the sweet music of small electric motors from the fridge and freezer hummed into life.
I apologised, but this time sickeningly so. I was so embarrassed. I had tried every which way to do it. After all it is only a trip. He asked if there was any water that might have come into contact with the power and there isn’t. We have very straightforward pipe work for the plumbing and none if it goes near the wiring. He said the wiring is old and I pointed to an old label hanging from one of the wires that had written on it “Installed by Methuselah.” He nodded. Resignation written all over his face.
He indicated that we should check plugs and sockets in case there was looseness that shouldn’t be there. We bade our farewells and he said to call him if there were any other problems. Very kind and understanding.
As soon as they had gone I looked at La D and said, “You saw how many times I tried to get the trip to work, didn’t you?”
“Did I?” she said, haughtily. “I can’t remember”
“Yes you can!” I implored.
“Of course I can darling” she said with a big smile on her face and gave me a great big cuddle. She did have me worried for a bit though.
The electrics? So far so good.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Cacciatore

Well the hunters, just like Arnie, are back.

Yes, it’s the time of year when anything that moves and has a pulse, apart from humans, are in danger for their life from I cacciatore.

The Italian hunters will blast away at anything they are allowed to.

There are hunting calendars published which detail on which days a specific of minute songbirds can be blasted to kingdom come. They can pretty much shoot anything they like as long as it’s on the right days on the calendar. But I am not sure how well, if at all, the calendar is regulated.

With all this shooting going on and hunting being in the blood, so to speak, one would expect the hunters to be quite good shots. One would also expect that being able to carry loaded rifles for the cinghiale and shotguns for the birds, and wander all over the highways and woods that they would be very aware of what they are carrying and their responsibilities to other humans around them. Not so sure on that one. Although a lot of them do sport bright fluorescent orange vests when hunting in the woods. Probably a good idea.

Some of them stroll up and down the roads looking like vigilantes, guns hung from their side and belts of ammo draped over their shoulder like a Sam Browne. Cigarette dangling from the side of their mouths. They’ve just stepped down from their big four wheel drive pickups. Think Ennio Morricone at this point. I remember Jeremy Clarkson once saying that the only reason anyone would buy one of those vehicles if they didn’t need it for business, was because they wanted to look like an American or they were stupid. He wasn’t sure if there was a connection between the two!

We have heard from more than a few people that they often stay inside their house now when the hunters are out. Previously they have heard shotgun pellets pinging off their windows, guttering, woodwork, etc., as they have been outside tending their gardens or just going about some daily routines. Now given that a shotgun has a very limited killing range, probably about 60 metres, the hunters must know they are near houses and therefore one can assume, people. So why do they shoot at something so close and also in the direction of habitation? I suppose they should be grateful they weren’t after the cinghiale with their rifles!

I cacciotore are fearless, that’s why. There’s no other explanation apart from suffering from some mental retardation.

I remember being over here for Christmas and New Year a few years ago. We had got the house lovely and warm and had tremendous Christmas Day. We thought we might do a typical English thing and go for a good long walk first thing on Boxing Day. When we awoke however it was a real pea-souper outside so we thought we would wait to see if the mist lifted. At about 10:00 it sounded as though a gun fight had started in our garden. The bangs were so loud even some of the panes shook a little. La D and I looked at each other and said at virtually the same time, “What are they shooting at?” We just couldn’t believe that anyone in their right mind would be popping off guns in weather like that. So, we looked through our paltry library of DVDs and selected a couple and decided to spend the day inside. A good decision we thought.

It was almost as bad the other night. You won’t believe this. The last shot of the day was at, wait for it .. 22:15! Can you believe that? It starts going dark here at around 17:00 at the moment. What were they shooting at? Could they see? Did they know? Did they hit anything? So many questions and so few answers. Life.

Anything else?

Nothing much to report. Pruning time over the next couple of weeks. La D has decided we need another orto, so that is to prepare by the end of the year.

(Erratum. La D, who says she needs to proof-read the blog before it is posted - more like a Big Sister approach so she can amend anything she doesn’t agree with - has changed this to “the end of the week.” However, she didn’t say which week. Ha, Ha, Ha.)

Oh, bloody hell, not long before Christmas. We are fairly well advanced on that though, in terms of trinkets for the P&P,IA (Progeny and Partners, If Applicable).

All the animals are OK. Well, Bert did bring half his supper up all over the rug last night, just as we were about to go to bed. Thanks Bertie.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Destruction and Mayhem in Central Italy … or just another day in the life of L’uomo chi fa and La Duchessa

The time had come. The “shed” had to come down before it fell down, perhaps on me!
Last Saturday we decided to do the job.
You will see from the photograph of before, the state of the shed. It had been used to store – I use that word very loosely – old wire and faggots made from old vine cuttings tied together with another vine cutting. Very clever but I still have not fathomed out what they used them for. I have used them for fire starting (oh, yesss). They are so old and dry you just need to look at them and think fire and they burst into flames. Brill.

Out we went, all three of us, Bertie was there as an observer. He’s good at that.
We did some strokey beard stuff as we had a good inspection of the structure thinking how best to go about demolition and then it was decided.
“Right La D,” I said, “Up you get. Onto the roof and start to claw the nails out of the corrugated iron roof. I’ll go underneath and help release the nails if they have been twisted over. We’ll get the roof off first and then we can take down the timbers.”
To my utter amazement, La D leapt onto the roof like a cat burglar and started using the claw hammer as if she had been born with one. Fantastic.

Bertie quickly became bored with his observing and started to chase the Three Degrees for a while, in between barking at the men who were fixing our neighbours roof. But he calmed down when we stopped for our coffee break and the treats came out. He’s such a food tart.
It was a lovely day and we got pretty warm. However, it wasn’t long before we had demolished and then had to store the corrugated iron – for use somewhere perhaps or just dumping – and the wood – for winter fuel on our open fire.
There were quite a few faggots left that when you touched them just fell apart. So following the new rules imposed by La D, I wrote out a quick bonfire request form and waved it under her nose. She took a long time to decide whether to sanction the request. I had to keep impressing on her the futility of trying to save the faggots as they were virtually all dust and if we tried to move them, by the time we moved them to another storage area they would have fallen apart. Eventually she gave in.
I had a great bonfire. The faggots burned beautifully and I was able to get rid of all the other sort of garden debris nearby.
It has made quite a difference to the aspect of the garden, as I’m sure you can see.

A Moving Experience

About two years ago we met a couple who were staying at the B&B up the road. They were from England and were spending a little time looking at the area with a view to buying a house and moving over here.
Despite a few ups and downs in their plan, they finally moved over last weekend. They have not bought over here yet, but have sold their house in England. They are renting a house, in Grottazzolina, whilst they try to settle in over here and see how it goes. They do have a youngish daughter (about 12) who will have to find schooling here. That might be problematic. A big plus in their favour is that they both have Italian parents and so speak Italian.

We went to see them last Sunday as they were staying at the B&B again and told us they had a huge pantechnicon arriving on Monday with all their stuff, including two London cabs! He had a second hand car sales business in Sussex and bought them with a view to speculative income generation such as hiring them out for weddings, trips, etc.. I am pretty sure that they must be the only two London taxis in Le Marche.

I offered to go over with them the next day and help them offload. They were very thankful as they had had loads of help packing up but there were only themselves and the driver at this end.

On Monday morning, I set off. He had arranged for another couple of people to come over and help so it shouldn’t be too bad.
We got to the house but there was no sign of the lorry. The driver was lost. Oops. Eventually this thing arrived. It was enormous. It was one of those HGVs that has a trailer as well. When I used to work in Logistics (or Distributionn as it was then) we used to call them a Dog and Pup.

The driver took the side curtaining off to reveal the contents of the trailer. I don’t think these people have ever thrown anything away in their entire existence. It was chokka.
Eventually we cleared out the trailer bar one of the taxis and then we started on the lorry. Same story, heaving with life’s materials collected over a long time.
The plan was to have the taxis lifted off by a forklift. We just had to find one. Hmmmmm. Planning didn’t appear to be one of their strong points. However, an Italian neighbour had been watching us for about three hours and talking (probably offering his verbal support, I could not understand him so I am not sure). Anyway, apparently he said why don’t you get a breakdown truck (soccorso stradale) to back up to the lorry and the trailer and drive them off. Excellent. In about 30 minutes, one had been organised and turned up. He just backed up the open doors, levelled the breakdown vehicle’s bed and the taxis were driven off. He moved off a bit and then tilted the breakdown vehicle’s bed until it rested on the road and the taxis rolled backwards. Job done. Do you know what? The breakdown man would not take any money for it. Fantastic.
We tidied up, found a kettle and had a lovely cuppa and a piece of La D’s walnut and date cake that she had sent with me.
After that, the other helpers and I said our ciaos and went of to leave them to do their unpacking.
I must say it is a lot more enjoyable helping people to move than moving oneself.

Cat in a Bin!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, November 5, 2009

News in brief

It’s been a bit of a quiet week.

The weather is turning quite autumnal now so we’ll be out in the garden doing what needs to be done.

The Three Degrees are still giving us three eggs a day. One of our friends who have four chickens, are only getting one or two a day.

Bertie and the cats are fine. Still stuck with the three kittens who seem to be taking over the kitchen as soon as the door is open. They like the full-on frontal assault as they come piling in over one another to see if we have any food for them, which we normally don’t. They seem to be particularly dim-witted. Perhaps that’s why we still have three of them left. Hmmm. Food for thought.

Great piece of news. Last Friday my second son called and asked if we would like to do a video call as we both have web cameras. We thought it was slightly odd being a Friday as we normally do our family comms on the week-end. Well blow me, we are going to be grandparents again! Oh la. Yes, Little Miss Sunshine will be having a baby brother or sister sometime next May, if the dates are correct. Great stuff. La D and myself are extremely pleased for them. Well done. I of course will be advising on names, although if like last time, they will be completely ignored. However I did think that Cosmos Xerxes did have a certain “”je n’est ce quoi” about it that wasn’t appreciated. But there you go.

We were invited to a birthday meal on Sunday by some people we have just got to know. They were the ones who took one of the kittens - Dora, now named Mia. The meal was at an Agriturismo in our nearest village. It was great fun and the food was just fabulous. We had an excellent time.

Joke – told you it’s been a quiet week

Jock Paddy Dai Margaret Cholmondley-Warner ( I think I’ve covered the bases here. Don’t want to be accused of some “ism”, racist or otherwise) went to the church and started to pray to God.
“Oh God, I really need some help. My business is not doing so well and I’m not giving my wife enough attention because I am worried. Please let me win the lottery”.
Some weeks pass and Jock finds himself in the church again.
“Oh God, I am becoming quite desperate now. The business is getting worse. My customers are leaving and my wife knows that things aren’t right and she is worried too. Please let me win the lottery”.
A couple of weeks later Jock goes to the church again.
“God. Are you there? My business will be closing next week unless I can get some money. My wife has her bags packed and is ready to leave. I am utterly desperate. Please, please let me win the lottery.”
He stays on his knees for a few seconds and then just as he is raising himself up, he hears a deep voice from above.
“Jock, meet me half way. Buy a ticket”

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Early morning pictures

La D took these one morning when we took Bert out for his walk. The webs were dripping with dew. They look fabulous at that time of the day with the sun just coming up

We’ve been rellied!

Well La D and myself have made it through another gruelling rellie visiting session. Phew.
The DiL and MiL were over along with one of La D’s brothers and his wife for a while. No, the woman who came with La D’s brother is not his wife “for a while”. She is permanently his wife. They only came over for a week, while the others stayed for two. I’ll stop. When in a hole, best stop digging. Suffice to say my English is letting me down.
At the same time we had my brother’s son and his girlfriend stay in the little B&B about 50 metres up the lane. They flew into Rome for a few days then hopped onto a train and came and visited for a couple of days and then went back to Rome before flying home. It was very good to see him again as we hadn’t seen each other for about five years. His girlfriend was lovely. Last year she crewed an ocean-going yacht across the Atlantic in a race. All I did was to have a few bonfires – but what bonfires!
The weather was a bit mixed. We were able to sit out a few times, but other times we were huddled up inside as the rain lashed down outside. Well. It is autumn.
But we did get out. One day we went to Tolentino market. It was lovely then and DiL. La D’s brother and myself were in shorts. Well, did we get some looks at the market. Do you remember at school when 1st October came round, the heating was put on whether the weather warranted it or not. I remember many times having been seated next to a radiator, having to fully open the window because it was so hot and you couldn’t control the radiator. It’s a bit like that with the Italians. Once autumn has started out come the coats and scarves and boots, no matter that the sun is shining and it’s quite warm during the day. So some stranieri wandering around with their legs on show is definitely cause for some disbelieving looks and light-hearted comments.
However, ever since DiL and MiL returned the weather has been fantastic. Beautiful blue skies. So very warm in the day, but chilly when the sun goes down. It is so good that yesterday we had a some people round for lunch – a very un-Italian curry. Yum – and we sat outside in the glorious sunshine, feeling very warm. It was brilliant.


One of our neighbours very kindly collected some wild funghi from the woods and brought round about 2.5 kilos worth. I made some sumptuous soups from them. It really is the best mushroom soup I have ever had. Wow.

But remember this old adage:

"There are old mushroom pickers, and there are bold mushroom pickers. But there are no old, bold mushroom pickers!"

This is a picture of the third lot he brought round for us.

Diabetic check

Had my half yearly check up at the Anti Diabetico clinic. I was a bit worried .as my indicators seemed to show a small increase in my levels of disease, but the doc was very happy with my stats overall and sent me on my way with a smile. Don’t have to see her again until well into 2010. Yesss. A good result.

Three Degrees

The girls are doing a sterling job. Three eggs a day at the moment. We have addressed the problem of two of them laying from the perch by putting down strips of paper underneath to cushion the fall of the eggs. So far it seems to be working. The rellies absolutely loved the beautiful fresh eggs we were able to provide them with whenever they wanted.
Also la D is a mean cake maker and the cakes made with the lovely fresh eggs are just incredible. Unfortunately as soon as she made one, the MiL wanted to eat it straight away. The rest of us had to get in there quick if we wanted a piece. The MiL has an appetite for cake that is only matched by her appetite for ice cream. Of course she is in the right country for ice cream when she is here.


Well, Bert is Bert. Still barking at anything that moves past our gates. Looks after the Three Degrees if they are out of their run – only a couple of small chases, but he does like to help when we are trying to “herd” them back into the run. This normally takes the form of running at them in the opposite direction to which we want them to go. Oh well, he does try, poor lad.
I would say he is more loving than ever. He’s brilliant.
He loves everybody that stays with us. The only problem is, he thinks he smaller than he really is. When he jumps onto your lap the first time, it can come as a bit of a shock as a 32 kilo white furry monster suddenly arrives on top of your knees and starts to lick your nose and ears.


Nobody wants any of the three kittens left. It’s a bit of a dilemma. Also, their toileting is something of a problem. They keep regressing to doing their business just outside the back door for some unknown reason. La D and I are wracking our brains as to how to stop them doing it. They’ve acres out there that they use as a loo, why don’t they use them all the time? What is so strange is that they have been going outside for quite while now and then suddenly this. Very odd.
I have tried talking to them, but it’s just like speaking to dumb animals I’ve got nowhere with them.
Picture of a couple of young hunters

And finally, congratulations to Jenson Button

Well done on your 2009 F1 crown. More please.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Italy’s Special Space Programme ….. or ooops!

We have been having some wonderfully warm early Autumn weather. Blue, cloudless skies in the day, with a virtually breathless wind and still very dry. Cooler in the night, so very good for sleeping.

It was time I tackled the lowest terrace of the estate with the strimmer. This piece is outside the fence we put up to keep Bertie in and the cinghiale out. The weeds were nearly all as tall as me. So it was hard going getting in and mixing it with the strimmer. But I did. Raked all the cuttings up after every session, ready to burn.

The last time, I went out to pretty much finish the strimming. I set off in a t-shirt, cut-off denims and a pair of wellies. I thought I would burn what had already been cut and whilst that was doing, I would complete the rest of the strimming. Bertie cam down with me and sat on his side of the fence and watched me with a curious look. Well that was the plan.

Now I am sure most of you will remember the famous incident of Janet Jackson’s breast (left one I seem to remember). She was performing some duet with Jason Timbertruck or Justin Timbersomething, at an Amercian sporting final, when she had what was later described as a “wardrobe malfunction”. In other words her boob popped out, either on purpose or by accident and zillions of American watching on TV were, rightly so, absolutely aghast by this lewd display. Of course the news channels all over the world, picked this up as a major piece of earth shattering news of global importance that they just had to re-broadcast and re-broadcast and analyse what it all meant for humanity. I suspect that the reality of it was that they couldn’t get over the nipple ring.

I digress a little. I had a little malfunction myself. Not of the wardrobe variety though, this was a “weather malfunction”. I had had this before and I should have remembered.

Just as the first pile of hay had caught, the f*&^ing wind picked up, didn’t it. For the next ten minutes I was running round and round this increasing large burning circle trying to stamp out the fire as it crept outwards burning the stubble until it reached another pile and so and so forth, at quite an alarming rate. As it approached more piles I at first started to move them away, out of the encroaching fire’s reach, but of course it was soon approaching them again. So I changed tack and started to put the piles into the middle of the burnt circle. I was choking in the smoke, my feet felt as though they were about to boil in the wellies and my once proud hairy legs looked as though they had been waxed. However I felt I had nearly got it under control. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

At this point I heard La D coming down the top garden carrying a couple of watering cans with the Berts at her heel. “Need any help, L’uomo chi fa?” she shouted. “It certainly looks as though you do. What did I say to you about bringing some water down as a precaution? You silly man. Here, take these and I’ll go and get some more.”

“Thanks La D” I mumbled. “It’s almost out and under control”

“Is it?” La D said. “What are those flames doing then, down at the bottom left hand corner. The ones just licking that huge pile of dried hay.”

“Oh no” I said as I ran down the hill with my hairless legs rattling in my red-hot wellies with water slopping out of the cans to douse the flames. Bertie just sat there looking almost amused at the spectacle unfolding in front of him.

A few more watering cans later, the fire was out but there is now a rather large area of scorched earth where there shouldn’t be.

As la D and I trudged up the hill back to the house she said, “I will only say this once L’uomo chi fa, although I do so want to say it more than once, but “I told you so””.

“Thanks La D” I muttered.

“When will you ever learn, that as a woman, I am always right” she said.

“Sorry, I temporarily forgot. But the fire was almost out, just a coup …….”
“Enough, Luomo chi fa” she said in a very final tone., and walked on.

I wondered why she had come out to see. The smoke was billowing away from the house so she wouldn’t have smelt anything and there wasn’t really any noise. Just as these thought were going on in my head, I looked over at Bertie. He somehow looked guilty. I looked harder at him and he sort of shook his shoulders as if to say “I didn’t tell her. It wasn’t me guv. Honest!” Then I swear I saw a hint of a smirky smile on his lips. He was beginning to look like Muttley, Dick Dastardly’s dog in The Wacky Races.

Behind every cloud, blah, blah, blah. I later contacted the Programma Italiano Spazio Speciale or PISS as it’s known, to see if I could offer some of our estate as a potential launching site. They are sending some of their personnel over to have a look to see if it might be useful for them. We’ll have to wait and see.

PS. La D has now confiscated all lighting equipment. They are to be signed out and in from now on. I ask you. It’s like living in a police state!

PPS The rellies are coming!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Has it been that long?

I didn’t realise that it has been three weeks since I last updated this masterful piece of work. Please accept my humble apologies dear readers.

Well what has been happening in the world of Casagrotta?

Gattini update.

One of the kittens, Dora The Explorer, has gone to a lovely new home with some people who already have a couple of cats. She seems to have settled in very well, and we are going to see her next week. In fact the people are so enamoured with her “regalness” they have had to give her a more appropriate name and she is now called Mia. Lovely.

We did say to the new owners that they could have another one, like a BOGOF but in this case it would have been a TOHOF (Take One, Have One Free), but surprisingly, they declined the offer. Oh well. So we have three of the little tykes still here. The silver tabby, Tigger, we will probably keep as he is a rather handsome chap.

They are getting cheekier with Bertie now they are growing and I think they might lead him a merry old dance soon. Mind you, it does look as though he loves every minute.

Here's a picture of Tigger and Daisy in Bertie's empty water bowl.

The Three Degrees

Doing well. Eggs are now considerably bigger than they were when they first started laying. But, we have a problem. The first and second degree have started to lay whilst they are on the roost at night. So when we come to let them out in the morning invariably there is always one egg that is broken and more often than not there are two. Not sure what we can do here. We have put some paper below the perch and that has helped a bit, but we need to break this stupid habit they have got into. The third degree lays her eggs properly in the beautiful bespoke nesting box I made for them.

We have started to let them out into the top half of the garden and they do seem to like their freedom. So much so, that the day after we let them roam, first and second degree flew over the gate, not bothering for us to open it for them. I am\ hoping we have not set ourselves up here. I am going to have to do something to increase the height of the gate methinks. ( had put “I think” here but La D thought “methinks” was better as it indicated a sort of furry beard moment. I did point out that I think she meant a “strokey beard moment”. Ho hum.)

They are funny to watch as they dart around trying to get hold of the myriad cricket-like insects that hop all over the place. Also their gentle clucking is pretty calming. We were sitting outside yesterday afternoon working through some papers in the gorgeously warm early Autumnal sunshine. They were only a few feet away scratching for things to eat making their soft noises. Very peaceful.

The Bert

Last week we looked after Bertie’s sister Jess and her friend Rustic, as their people had gone on holiday to the Sorrento peninsula. Usual mayhem. Loads of barking with one setting off the others.

Hope we didn’t annoy the neighbours too much, although one neighbour seems to have no sense at all and delights in goading Bertie and the other dogs with the result that Bertie comes across as a bit aggressive. Not sure what to do about this. His nuts might be coming off. But we haven’t told him yet. We are waiting for an appropriate moment to inform him of his pending emasculation.

Got some good walks in down by the river with the bigger dogs. They were thoroughly worn out, well, we were.

But on Sunday, it was Bertie’s and his siblings first birthday.

Jess’s people had organised a Pups’ Birthday Bash. All the dogs and owners were invited to Lago San Ruffino. Owners brought a bit of food and liquid refreshment was obtained from the restaurant by the lake.

Four of the six dogs turned up, Bertie, Jess, Alfie and Harry. We brought Jess (and Rustic) with us to return them to their holidaying owners.

There was a bit of posturing shall I say, by the dogs, but generally they got on pretty well with each other. It was a shame that Maya could not be there as she is the only one who has a shaggy coat like Bertie, and she’s bigger by all accounts. We’ve not seen since she was five weeks old lying in a box with her brother Bertie.

When we arrived there were loads of Italian families enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Strangely enough, a short while after we arrived with baying and howling dogs, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

The dogs ran around chasing each other and went swimming in the lake and then came out and shook themselves all over us. Great fun!

On Monday, Bertie had a day of rest. Having had Jess for about nine days and then the pups party, he was just happy to have a lie down with us either in the office or in the orto.

Bertie with Harry and the four of them.

Season of mellow fruitfulness

We have had a much better grape growth than last year. I would say that we have had a four fold increase or more. Unfortunately we haven’t got the equipment necessary to do the grapes into wine thing. We have looked at taking them to the local community cantina and adding them to others, but we would have to supply details of what we have sprayed and when through the growing season, so we will probably end up making a bit of grape juice from some of them. This is very good. One of the people on Sunday brought some she had made from her grapes and it was great.

We will have to see about next year.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bertie Wusster!

Well. What can I say. Since the incident of the cinghiale in the campo, the Berts won’t even go down to the field. He just sits at the top and waits for myself or la D to come back up. The only reason La D and myself drag ourselves out of bed at such an ungodly hour, is to take the beast out so he can do his “business”. If the brute isn’t going to use the opportunity, then there is little point is taking him.
There has been anther incidence of his complete antipathy towards the wild pigs.
Yesterday afternoon, I was doing the rounds of the upper estate in my CTPU role. What do you mean, you’ve forgotten what this acronym means? Chief Turd Picker Upper, that’s what it means. Despite several meetings scheduled for a discussion on roles and responsibilities with la D, none have actually taken place because something always seem to crop up that means La D is unable to attend. The last time, it was because she had been called at the last minute to see if she could attend an international symposium on e-coli for medial doctors in Berlin, would you believe it. Well, I didn’t even know La D was medically qualified and apart from that I don’t remember hearing the telephone ring. But, there you go. So she cancelled our meeting, but, wait for it, she didn’t even go to Berlin. When I broached this with her, she said, “Oh yes. Oh, they’ve just called and said that the conference has been postponed. Something to do with swine flu.” I didn’t hear the telephone then either. Sounds a bit of a porkie pie to me.
Anyway Bertie and I were turd spotting when, just as we got close to the new fence, there was a lot of very loud, deep snorting and snuffling and then lots of heavy crashing through the long grass. I turned to look at Bertie to see if he was interested in the noises, but he had gone. He disappeared up to the house and was just sitting there looking at me. “Thanks pal” I thought.

The Strange Incident of Electricity Trip in the Night

We have one of those cordless phones in the house. The handset has batteries in it so you can use it all over the house. I’m sure you know what I mean. When we have a power cut, and we do have quite a few, but they normally are really just blips, the phone bleeps, quite loudly and then bleeps again when the power is restored.
The other night at about 2:30 we heard the first bleep, but no second one. I thought maybe the trip had gone. Sure enough it had. Thinking in my somnambulistic state, not too much more about it, I got back into bed. After a short while the thing went again. I followed the same routine. This went on about six times. Not a good night’s sleep was had.
By this time La D and I were thinking, we must have a major leakage of current so the electrics are suddenly demanding more electricity than the house is supplied with. We scratched our heads and took plugs out of sockets and checked exposed wires, etc., and came up with nothing out of the ordinary apart from a very dodgy cooker connection which has now been rectified. We know that the wiring is a little flaky and should probably have been renewed when Julius Caesar was a nipper, but we were at a loss.
The only thing that makes any sense is that the electricity supply suddenly kept dipping to below what we had running, i.e. the fridge and freezer, and so the trip went. Over here the usual domestic supply is 3.0 – 3.3 kws, which is normally adequate. You can pay for a higher level, but it has so far suited us perfectly.
We had a much better sleep the next night.

British TV

Now that Autumn is almost here again, we have taken on a trial to get British TV online. So far we have only watched some things after they have been broadcast, but the real test will be watching a live broadcast. Hopefully it will be OK.

The first thing we have seen is a fabulous piece of drama, Wuthering Heights.
Do you think all Yorkshire folk are like those portrayed in the drama? Heathcliffe was driven completely bonkers by, it seems, the way he was treated by a very weird “step-brother”. Mind you the incredibly bleak landscape probably added to sense of other worldliness. Is Yorkshire really like this? And what about Yorkshire people? I’m sure they must have come on pretty well since the age when drama was set. Well I hope so.
I actually have to admit I have never read any of the Bront√ęs (or Jane Austen either) but seeing it made me want to read the book. A bit of kultur, know what I mean?


We have now harvested all our spuds. They look very good. They should keep us going well into the Spring.
But we did come across a bit of a strange one. Reminds us of a duck! See what you think.

Cat Walkers

Before the walk

After the walk!

Anyone for cat?

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Snakes and Ladders

Actually there are no ladders in this bit, it just goes rather well with the word “snakes”.
We were just locking up the other night and La D wanted to say goodnight to the gattini, when she noticed something lying on their towel that they use for a bed. The kittens were not taking any notice of it and were in fact fast asleep.
“L’uomo chi fa, what is that?” she said.
“What your grace?” I responded not knowing what she was talking about because I was in a different room.
“Come here, now. Look. What is that?” She asked as I presented myself to her, pointing to this coiled-up grey looking object.
“It’s a snake La D.” I said as I inspected it a little bit closer.
“Oh my God L’uomo chi fa. Get rid of it immediately. It might attack the kittens.”
“I don’t think so. It looks pretty dead to me. I expect that Starlight or Mum has gone out, stalked it and killed it and brought it back to the kittens for them to eat.”
“My cats eating snake! Whatever next? Get rid if it immediately please.”
“They are going to have to learn to forage for food you know. It’s in their nature La D, and the older cats are only doing what is in their nature.”
“That may be the case L’uomo chi fa, however at the moment they will only eat the food we give them. Is that understood? If you see any other horrible things brought for them to eat, will you kindly dispose of them as soon as possible. They can go foraging when their older. They are growing up so quickly.” La D said with a small tear starting to well up in her eyes.
On that note I went and got a pair of bar-b-que tongs and lifted the offending animal from its resting place and sent it winging over the fence to the campo opposite.

The kittens are missing!

It was Sunday evening. I was enjoying reading some of the papers that we had just received from DiL. La D was doing something downstairs. Best not to enquire too closely.
I got up and went outside to see if La D wanted some refreshments. I noticed that there were no kittens about. I thought to myself that they were probably in the kitchen playing Sardines, and thought nothing more of it. La D said she didn’t want anything so I went back to my paper. A little while later La D came up from downstairs for something. “Where are the kittens?” she asked me.
“I’m not sure. I expect they are in the kitchen hiding.” I replied.
La D had a good look round and under the units and cooker.
“I can’t see them” she exclaimed.
“Oh you know what they’re are like La D. All you have to do is to turn your back for a few seconds and suddenly they appear as if from nowhere, and just as quickly disappear again.” I said
“Oh do stop blethering L’uomo chi fa. They’re not here. Someone or something has taken them. Where have they gone?”
“Well perhaps the adults have taken them out on a sort of recce of the area.” I said, not very convincingly.
“A recce? A recce? These are cats, kittens in fact. Not soldiers. They don’t go on recces. I’m telling you, something horrible has come and tak……………………”
Just then La D noticed a small movement by our walking boots. We both looked closer and there were the kittens all sort of piled into our boots. They looked extremely comfortable and were all fast asleep.
“Sorry la D. What were saying about the kittens being taken by some bogey-monster?” I asked, innocently, with a small smile breaking on my lips.
“Shut it, buster.” Shut it I did. Best thing really.

Teeth and Maps

Now these two words don’t particularly go together or indeed have a lot in common.
Poor La D broke a crown on one of her teeth just before the week-end. I suppose the need for a dentist was going to happen at some time.
The good old Italy Magazine Forum came to the rescue.
La D asked for a recommendation of any dentists nearby, or nearish anyway, and that preferably could speak English.
We got a few responses and went for one in Porto san Giorgio, where we go to the beach.
We looked him up on the web and found him straight away. We took down his number and address and then clicked on the map that was indicated on his entry on the web page.
The map indicated a point that was different from the address shown.
Oh well, we thought, we will just have to go where the map said. After all it was the map that was on his site.
La D rang and booked an appointment.
We set off on the day and we found the point that was indicated on the map. No dental practice in sight. We knew there was a street that had nearly the same name. We tried that. No joy. La D then saw a sign for the Health Authority. We nipped up there and spoke to the receptionist. Fortunately she used the same dentist! We were not far and she gave us directions. It actually was on the road of almost the same name, but tucked away at the back of a row of other houses. Anyway we arrived at precisely the appointment time. Phew.
La D had the deed done and then we had to pay. Italy is just like England in that dentistry is not in the NHS for the majority of people. The receptionist did lots of things on her computer and eventually printed out an invoice and said we could have a 20% discount if we could pay by cash! Unfortunately neither La D nor myself had anything like the amount needed in cash, so we had to pay by card. So she screwed up that invoice and printed another one with the “full” price! Extraordinary.
I read some months ago that it was proving hard to understand the size of the impact of the global financial crisis on Italy and Italians because no one can really get a handle on the real financial position as opposed to the reported position due to the level of undeclared finance, i.e. the “Black” economy.

I digress. Back to the maps. This actually was the third time this has happened to us. I finally understand what has happened. The address system is clearly not as advanced as that in England. What happens here is that Google Maps or ViaMichelin or whatever you are using, if it cannot display the actual address, it just indicates the central point of the town in which you are looking for an address,. Presumably it will get more accurate as time goes on.

The Three Degrees

are doing brilliantly. Two eggs a day at the moment. They are getting a little bigger by the day and they taste quite lovely. Yummy, yummy.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We are eggstatic!

Yes folks, The Three Degrees, those little brown beauties (I am not being racist here) have finally delivered.
This morning La D went to open the coop and noticed one of the chickens running over to a place by the fence rather than dash to the food as normal. On closer inspection La D found not one, but four eggs.
She was so eggcited as she rushed back to the house yelling, “L’uomo chi fa, l’uomo chi fa” at the top of her voice. I thought something terrible had happened such as Signor Volpe had visited in the night. But no.
She said, “Look at these beauties” and she opened her hands and there they were. Our first eggs.
Our breakfast consisted of coffee and scrambled eggs on toast. Fantastic.
After breakfast, La D took some old greens down for the hens and just had a another look at where she found the eggs and blow me, there were three more. They must have been laid in the previous hour. You do not get any fresher than that. If they continue to lay at this rate we might be in a position to give a few away to our neighbours which would be really good.
I don’t think it matters that they don’t use the beautiful hand-crafted nesting box that I made for them, as long as we know where to look for the eggs that they do lay.
We are very proud of them.
Well done girls.

Rellies Holiday and Kitten Sexing

La D’s son and his girlfriend and their two children came over to visit for their summer holidays.
We have had a lovely time. The weather has been very kind to us with only a couple of showers and then brilliant, hot sunshine for the rest of the time. We’ve been to the beach (twice), the lake, the Abbadia di Fiastra and the swimming pool (loads of times) near us at the bottom of the hill. We also visited Tolentino for a Friday night market, which was advertised for children, but we couldn’t really see that it was particularly children focused.
It has been so good for Bertie to have some young children around. The grandchildren have a big Springer at home and are well used to being barged about and barging back again. Bertie took to them straight away as they did to him. There was only one little incident just after they first arrived and inevitably it centred around food, but that was soon sorted out.

The kittens are growing well and getting very adventurous. If we try to give them away, – La D is considering, sorry, we are considering, keeping them all, more about this later – we need to know what sex they are. La D’s son’s girlfriend is something of an expert in kitten sexing. She has had cats and kittens with her for years. After a cursory inspection and then a more detailed look at their anatomies, there are two girls and two boys, a perfect split.

A Near Death Experience

As you know, La D and myself take it in turns to take out the beast first thing in the morning.
Last Tuesday The Bert and I wended our sleepy way to the campo at the bottom of our lane. I slipped him off the leash and off he went as usual. Running down the field and into the woods and back again. I just amble down the field to a particular point and then turn round and trudge back up the incline, usually yawning.
I got to the point where I was going to turn round and Bert was sitting there looking further down the field, his ears pricked. I looked where he was looking but couldn’t see anything; the grass down there is well over a metre tall.
Suddenly Bertie set off down the slope grumbling, tail very high. I looked again and I saw something brown moving about just above the grass heads.
Bertie got closer and then the brown thing became two things, ears, and they started to move towards Bertie.
At this point Bertie did an abrupt U turn and started belting back to me and this rather large cinghiale burst out of the longer grass and was chasing him at some speed. Bertie rushed passed me and shot back to the top of the field. Meanwhile this wild pig was heading straight for me at some speed on the same track that Bertie had taken.
Pictures and words flashed through my mind. All those books I had read by authors such as Wilbur Smith and Ryder Haggard, saying to me,
“Remember, they are more afraid of you.. Animals like this will not attack unless provoked. Just stay still.” That is a big ask in a situation like this without something like an elephant gun at my disposal. Anyway I just stood completely still, listening to big, brave Bertie barking at the scene, from a pretty safe position at the top of the field. Not very protective for a so-called defender to the death of his usual charge, sheep. This pig was big, and fast and it was getting closer to me rather rapidly, making a lot of noise. I’d really no other option but to stay still. When he was about twenty feet away from he veered off the right snorting and grumbling and ran off down the hill.
“Phew,” I thought to myself. I was fortunate to be wearing brown trousers.
I retraced my steps to where Bertie was still barking in a manner which seemed a little like;
“Yeah, come on then, if you’re up to it. Come on. Come on then. You big fat pig.”
When I got up to him, he stopped barking and gave me a lick then sat down waiting for me to put him on his lead . We set off back to the house with Bertie holding his head and tail high as though he was a returning conquering hero. Bah!
I think I might look at some gun websites.

Well done number 4 son, continued!

My little boy, well he’s 6’ 1”, had just got his “A” level results. The boy done good. Fantastic EMW. We’re very proud.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I do so want to say Eggcellent!

But, I can’t. Not yet anyway. My pep talk was obviously like sowing seeds on stony ground. Not productive.
I have worked it out that if an egg were to be laid today it would have cost us €211,87.
That’s some eggspensive egg. But, if two were laid that the cost would be €105.93 each. Getting better. Although at the rate they are going the chickens will have died before they start to lay virtually “cost-free” eggs.

One of them has been making dashes for freedom over the wire. A bit like the film Chicken Run. La D came up with a great idea of erecting a bit of fencing that would be higher than the original and would utilise some of the damaged gazebo.
After a couple of hours, a bit of blood, some blue air, some chicken cursing, we had it put and secured. It works a treat. OK one of them did fly to the top but only to roost, not to go over the wire, and that was only once. So hopefully they are now well and truly settled in their abode. Just start laying some f£$%ing eggs, will you!

One of our friends, I think she was being helpful or kind or something, actually told us that they had over 20 chickens and none of them were laying. My immediate thought was what the hell is going on? Why keep all these chickens if none of them are producing eggs? I mean think about it. They cluck around all day and eat up all the food you provide having a life of Riley and then give nothing back. Taking the Michael a bit I think. Shoot the buggers. A few Sunday dinners there.
NB La D says that she doesn’t agree with this bit M. M will know who she is!


Did you know the only time La D and I have been out on our own since going to the Opera last year, was for lunch on our wedding anniversary.
For the second year running we have decided to celebrate our anniversary by going to the Stragione Lirica (Opera Season) at the Sferisterio in Macerata, which is on at the end of July and early August.
This year we went to see Madame Butterfly by Puccini.
The whole experience was easily as good as last year. Had a good wander round, bought a CD of Madame Butterfly and one by Diane Reeves – note DIL if you read this - and a couple of books for our Italian language learning and had a great pizza in the piazza next to the Sferisterio.
The orchestra was fabulous, the set was brilliant and the singing was top notch, but there weren’t as many people there as last year.
The night was cool, La D should have brought something to put around her shoulders. My arm didn’t really do the trick. But we will try and remember next year.
Last year there was a full moon right above us but this year it was just the stars. Quite magical.

Gattini update.

The little blighters are growing up fast - we still don’t know if we have got rid of any yet. They are now much more active and clamber all over the adult cats play-fighting with each other. La D has fixed an old cotton reel suspended just above where they are. At first they ignored it but now they seem to really enjoy knocking seven bells out of it. As usual, huge amusement for human onlookers.
They still continue to ignore Bert, although it defies belief. He gets into their space and leans right down and gives them a sniff or a bit of a lick and they just completely ignore him. To them he must seem a hundred feet tall and all white. You would think they would scatter to all corners and hide. Not a bit of it. They come over and muck around as though he’s invisible. It is going to be quite fun when they are a couple of weeks older to see how\if they will really start to play with Bert. He may have his nose put out of joint.

Bertie and the Holiday neighbours

Our little road is now full due to it being national summer holiday time and those houses that have remained closed for most of the year now have their doors and windows opened and Italian conversations can be heard all day long drifting across the warm, balmy air. Lovely.
Well it would be idyllic apart from one thing. Bertrum.
We love him to pieces but sometimes we think he takes his protection of us, as his flock, a bit far.
Any person or thing that comes past our house gets a good barking at. Even those he knows who live by us all year. Admittedly he does stop barking when they come over and give him a cuddle through the bars – of the gate, not prison.
The family who own the house right next to us, gets abused whenever they are in their garden trying to enjoy a nice relaxing two week holiday. It’s very embarrassing.
“He’s only a pup” I hear you cry. This statement is becoming very care worn and hackneyed and will not stand up to scrutiny for much longer. It is almost as bad as someone saying,
“I’ve been that busy …..” when you have been expecting to hear from them or for them to have done something but haven’t actually got round to it because either they are unable to prioritise properly or they just can’t be arsed.

Congratulations to number 4 son!

Well done EMW for passing your driving test and first time round, unlike your father who had to have two goes. However in my defence, I was asked by the driving instructor/tester to pull out of a side street near a bend and found myself stuck in a funeral cortege moving at about 10 miles an hour which resulted in a lot of stop start stuff using that bloody handbrake thing.
Anyway, well done you.
Just got to look forward to next week when the A level results are out. Gulp!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Team Talk Time

Unfortunately I have to report that as I write, there have been no eggs laid by the Three Degrees. La D, and myself, are not amused.
They have all the creature comforts they need. They are being fed with top quality – at least that’s what the chap said who sold it to us – feed designed for egg laying. Yet, no result to date.
I thought it was time to give them a bit of a pep talk. Well, to be truthful, La D said to me “L’uomo chi fa, if the Three Degrees don’t start showing a return a ROI very soon, I am going to hold you personally responsible and will exact punitive measures on you for their egg laying failure.” Gulp. I preferred not to seek clarification on the punitive measures. I had just finished my breakfast at the time.

So, armed with a piece of bamboo, a smallish blackboard and easel, some chalk and a serious demeanour I entered the chicken run.

“Right, girls. Gather round. I have something eggciting to talk to you about” I said, in a commanding tone. I set the blackboard up and wrote on the top, “Daily Egg Production” and drew x and y axis lines.
“Pay attention” The chickens didn’t really seem to have got the hang of this sort of thing, but I thought I would persist. I said to myself, “Speak more slowly and louder to be understood.” You know the sort of thing you do on holiday in a foreign land.
“I want to talk to you about your egg production, or rather lack of it.” I said. The clucking and scratching suddenly stopped when I mentioned lack of egg laying. I thought, “Aye, aye. That’s got your attention.” But no, I think they must have just yawned in unison because they soon started up again and continued to ignore me continuing to scratch about and cluck quietly to themselves. Mind you, they could have been saying “What‘s he on about?”
“Now, I am going to try and be eggsplicit as I can. Let me eggsplain.” I said. I went over to the blackboard and put a cross where the x and y axes met. “In terms of egg production we” – notice the inclusivity – “ are here. The same place we were when we started.” I pointed my bamboo at the cross to help them understand. I then put a mark between 2 and 3 above and to the right.
“Where we need to be is here. Everybody with me so far?” More clucking, foot scratching and neck twitching. “I do hope they are paying attention” I said to myself..
“Good, good. You see we, that is La D and myself, bought you for the eggspress purpose of having fresh eggs whenever we wanted them. We are not trying to eggsploit you. This is what you, as chickens, do. To date, this has not happened. Do you have any eggsplanation for this? I know it’s only been two weeks, but we were told you would laying within two weeks. So what are we going to do? We are not eggsperts in keeping chickens. We need your help. Do you need more eggsercise perhaps? Do you eggspect something more from us? Do you need to eggcert yourselves more? I mean you really don’t seem to have totally eggsplored your surroundings at all. Apart from you, 2nd Degree, because you keep eggscaping over the fences. You probably know more about outside your run than in it!” I said eggsasperatedly.
“Let me be very clear. Unless you girls start eggspediting eggs, and PDQ, we may have to take eggstreme measures.. You might even become eggstinct” I said.
Just then there was a lot of eggscitement and clucking and scratching. I thought eggscitedly that may be an egg was about to be laid, the first egg of the Three Degrees. Then they started to flap about and I looked behind to see Bert lying down, tail wagging and his head cocked just looking at the girls. He does spook them sometimes.
So, I packed up my blackboard and easel, put the chalk in my pocket and my bamboo cane under my arm and left the pen to sounds of more clucking and scratching. I am very unsure whether my little pep talk will have the desired effect. I do hope so. Kitting this lot out and buying feed for no return is not a good deal in terms of financial investment in these straitened times.
I took a look back at them and said, “Remember girls, Casa Grotta eggspects!” and trudged wearily up the hill to debrief La D, in the military sense of course, on the mission.

Kitten Update

The worst thing about having young animals, like cats and dogs, is that they are so damned lovely and entertaining, that you find your decisions made about their future becoming wobbly.
They are four weeks old now and clambering over Starlight and Mum. Bertie often lies with them and they are taking quite an interest in him I don’t know whether they see him as a big brother or uncle or some kind of relative. I am sure when they are a bit older they will soon realise that actually, Bertie is not one of them!
We hope we have found a home for one of them and we are going to try and find a home for the other three. However, I have been given a stern ultimatum (I don’t know whether you can have a stern ultimatum, but it sounds better than just ultimatum) by La D that we shall be keeping one of them.
“It’ll keep Bert company” she said. I didn’t bother to point out that he has enough cat-friends around him already. It wouldn’t have made any difference.
Anyway, we need to sex them first so we can decide whether to keep a female or male.

Vegetable Glut

We have zucchini, pomodori (toms) and citrioli (cucumbers) coming out of our ears, and probably other orifices soon. Fortunately the holiday house next door has someone in it now and we have been able to give them some and also the neighbour opposite who doesn’t have an orto. We have tried to give our other neighbours but they have orti too and of course they are in the same boat as us. They have too much. It doesn’t really matter because what we don’t eat goes into the compost or given to the Three Degrees and will be used as fertiliser for next year. So nothing is wasted. It just seems a shame when these beautiful fresh vegetables are not eaten.

Ciao, mantenere la fede