Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cucinare in Italia
My D and MIL had a mouse called Gerald. Unfortunately, Gerald passed away recently. Fortunately he left us a few Euros in his will.
In memory of Gerald (OK it was Christmas dosh from D&MIL) we have bought a pasta maker. What a machine. It is so heavy. It really does make fantastic pasta in sheets, tagliatelle or fettuccine. You can get other “rollers” for it to make other types of pasta too.

One of the things you have to do is to dry the pasta for a short time before you cook it off. Well I thought long and hard about this and finally came up with a perfect solution. Eccola qua:

Are we modern or what!
We had a proper IT person come over yesterday to do the business and get our wireless network up and running. We were only able to have her come over because the DIL very kindly sent us the wireless router needed – they are twice the price over here.
Now we all know the great things you can do with computers. They are totally invaluable, certainly to us they are. But when it comes to nuts and bolts (that phrase shows you how little we know) and how they all work together, we just stand around drinking cups of coffee and tea and scratch our unmentionables getting nowhere. You can see the dilemma can’t you? No progress is made at all. We might as well be given a street map in Cyrillic whilst standing on one side of Moscow and be told to go to the other side.

It said on the box, “Just three easy steps and you are ready to go!” Oh yes? Penny did encounter some technical problems and so we were even more pleased that she was there. I have to admit that she did suffer a little bit of discomfort, when some rubble started to fall on her head. This of course was down to yours truly.
We have a slightly botched telephone wiring system, which had to be tweaked – do you like that word? Sounds very much as though I know exactly what I am talking about. This tweaking involved telephone wire, the liberal use of a hammer drill and many torches. I refrained from using my head torch which my son bought me and I find invaluable especially when working in confined spaces and require the use of both hands, but La Duchessa will not be seen dead with me, even in the pitch black outside, wearing it. So what chance did I have using it with other people here?

The hammer drilling went well, at least from my point of view, but then I was above drilling down, whilst the others were underneath. After I cleared up the rubble and Penny cleaned the bits of brick and cement from her hair and clothes, she got back to getting us into the 21st century.
At last everything was working. It is very good.
We can both be on the Internet at the same time, so doubling our research time, share files on each computer, print remotely from the laptop and we can take the laptop upstairs and be on the Internet with no wires. Brilliant.
You may well ask, if it so good why didn’t we do it earlier? Shut up.

Man’s best friend
They say that a dog is man’s best friend. The idiot who first coined that saying should be shot. No, not really, just severely beaten.

We have had to erect a fence across the top of the estate to keep the hound in. It has worked well so far – three days – and he does love staying outside, digging rather large holes in vegetable patches and around olive trees, and generally annoying the cats. He just cannot understand why the cats won’t play with him. He is so clumsy with them. He stands on them and pushes them with his muzzle and his huge tail wagging with unalloyed joy. They in return put their ears back and snarl and hiss at him. It makes no impression on him whatsoever. He does keep us very amused.
We can’t wait till we can keep the door open all the time and Bert can wander in and out as he pleases. Hopefully it won’t be long now.

Bertie’s sister and friend were returned in good nick to their owners last Sunday. When we got back we did think of going back to bed.
After another week of Bertie and Jess together and we were knackered. They are relentless together. If you look at information about how much exercise puppies should have, the so-called experts say they should have little to begin with and gradually increase it. This advice is extremely hard to follow in their case. When Jess is off the lead, she goes like an Exocet missile straight into Bertie and starts to bite him and barking at him. We manage to get Bertie’s lead off and then begins a continuous running and barking period that will not end until they are back on the leads. They go off like cross country runners bumping, biting, snarling at each other but running at 100 meter pace, all the time. It’s almost as bad when they are in the house. To try and get them to calm down and pace themselves is a complete non-starter. It was no wonder that Bertie virtually slept from Sunday morning to Monday afternoon. He was cream-crackered as well. Jess reminds us a lot of Jazz, a little black and white Springer we had. Unfortunately, she had a terrible liver disease and died just before her 3rd birthday. But she was definitely a bit like Jess.

******STOP PRESS NEWS*******

Just had lunch; let Bertie out; found away out of Stalag Casa Grotta. Agghhhhhh. Need to check perimeter fencing. Put out an ABP (that’s an all points bulletin for those who have never watched an American cops show). Apprehended fugitive bounding across neighbour’s estate. Came quietly with promise of some doggy treats – that’s Bertie, not me . Back in custody. Check of perimeter fence revealed two possible ingresses and egresses. Both have now been sealed off and mined. Report ends.

La Duchessa and the use of English
Readers of this blog will have seen that there have been a few examples of the improper use of the English language by she who must be obeyed.
Last week she accused me of stealing the hot water bottle. Somehow the bottle found itself on my side of the bed in the morning. That is unusual. It normally never strays from La Duchessa’s side as it fears for its very existence. But this one time, it appeared on my side.
She said “L’uomo chi fa, why did you take the hottie?” “I didn’t.” I protested. “You must have pushed it over to my side.”
“Nonsense. The hottie is on your side of the bed, Aero, you have stolen it” she stated. Whilst trying, badly, to contain my mirth, I said “La Duchessa, I think you mean Ergo, not Aero.” She looked flustered. “Oh bother. I’m going to stop using such big words” she said. I couldn’t face saying that both Aero and Ergo consist of only four letters and she was now reducing her verbal output to words of three letters or less.
Anyway, I still maintain that the hot water bottle came over to my side of its own accord and under no coercion from me.

Ciao, Mantenere la fede

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama’s “Boxing” Inauguration Day

I wonder how the new POTUS is feeling this morning, the day after his inauguration? We caught a bit of his speech on the news and now we have broadband we can get live British radio through the laptop. So we turned off the TV sound, as Italian television were simultaneously translating his speech, and listened to it on radio 4. There was a bit of a problem with the timing being slightly out, but it was worth it.

We couldn’t believe the number of people there. It was extraordinary. I thought the speech was very good and delivered in a manner befitting the times. The weight of expectation on him is probably more than anyone has ever had, outside of war times. Not just from the Americans but people from pretty much every country. Buon fortuna, Mr Obama, you’ll need it.

One other thing about his speech. When he had finished, Jim Naughtie of radio 4, who was covering it for the radio station, made some spurious comments on the speech, seeming almost to have to have something negative to say. He really is a self-regarding, pompous little twit. I never did think he was very good on the Today programme. A John Humphrys he is not, although he obviously would like to be. Sorry about that little rant.

Operation Pick Up

There are downsides to having a dog. One of them is the fact that you can’t seem to be able to train them to use the lavatory. They seem to have some trouble with the loo paper. They seem to think it is just for chewing, eating and rolling it all over the house. I did wonder at one time that if Bertie did eat some, his poos might out ready wrapped, or at least work in some sort of self-cleaning way. Sadly no.

Now, La Duchessa and I we are trying to get him to do his business in the fields or woods that abound all around us. We take him out in the fields at 07:00, again around lunchtime and then for a really good walk around 4;00 in the afternoon. But still there are times that the poor lad can’t wait and when we let him out for a pee he does a number two too.

You might not believe it, but I have been given the honour of being chief turd picker-upper or CTPU for short. I can’t remember there being much discussion about this highly revered post between the la Duchessa and myself, but she has assured me, in her own inimitable manner, that there was. However she has given me a very smart hat with “Capo Stronzo” emblazoned on the front. It’s very stylish looking and I wear it with pride. I am not sure what Capo Stronzo means as since giving me the hat my access to the Italian/English dictionary has been severely limited. Oh well. Never mind.

Back to the turds.

Because of the infrequent times when Bertie uses the estate, it is relatively easy to remember where his excretions are when I have to do the honours of collection and disposal. As I was doing this the other day, I was reminded of the famous line that Brian Hanrahan, the TV news reporter uttered on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the South Atlantic during the Falkland War. He was referring to the planes taking off and then returning, meaning that there were no aircraft losses that day. Not to belittle that famous line and what was going on at that time, I thought to myself well “I’ve counted them all out and counted them etc., etc..”

The problem I have now is that we have got Bertie’s sister Jess and her friend Rusty (or Rustic as I call him) staying with us again. Their people have gone to CentreParcs in Penrith to celebrate a birthday. They told us that it was likely to be colder there than where they live at the bottom of the Sibillini. So I am now trying to keep track of three times as many excretions, it is not as straightforward when I have only Bertie to keep tabs on.

This was clearly illustrated this morning when supplying the firewood for our small open fire in the kitchen.

La Duchessa came down to check on my progress with some pruning. She almost trod on a “one that got away”. “Here’s one you missed” she said to me pointing imperiously at a piece of ground immediately in front of her. “Oh, OK. I’ll pick it up on my next collection”. “Make sure you do Capo Stronzo” she said to me with a smile playing on her lips.


The weather has been clearing up a bit recently. The cold, cold mists have hopefully disappeared now and although it is a bit overcast is it not inclement.

We have been pruning a few trees with the prunings going to use on the open fire in the kitchen. We don’t really need the fire but we have it going because we love it. When the fire is on and the central heating and we are cooking, the kitchen is like a little furnace. Lovely at this time of year.

Had my first bonfire of 2009 today. Very satisfactory.

We will be doing the olive trees soon and we are going to get serious with the big trees. We just could not get to highest berries last year. We must have known we wouldn’t be able to when we pruned them last year, so why didn’t we prune harder? We were too cautious, that’s why. So we have learnt from last year. That’s what this place is like. We learn so much almost every day. It’s brilliant, it really is.

Late News ……. Capo Stronzo

I have just had a peek at the dictionary as La Duchessa was out doing something. I have found out what Capo Stronzo means in English. I am afraid I can’t possibly write down its meaning here. It’s too hurtful. Suffice to say I am returning my cap forthwith and there will be a review of Operation Pick Up straight away. Now I know why she had that Mona Lisa like smile on her lips.

Ciao. Mantenere la fede

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy New Year to you all

We have had some snow here. Not very much, but the mountains have got lots of snow. It’s a lovely sight driving around when you can see the snowline with snow on the tops and sides of the mountains and then suddenly further down it’s all green and brown. Very picturesque.

Bertie loved the snow. He loved running in it, slipping and sliding and generally falling over. He ate loads of it so he never got thirsty when we were out. He also seemed to really enjoy lying in it. Strange dog.

The highlight of the start to the New Year is having had one of Bertie’s sisters, Jess, and her friend Rusty to stay while their people went away to enjoy themselves.

Jess is nothing like Bertie. I have subsequently found out that an entire litter of pups can actually each have a different father depending on how their mum put herself about at the right time, if you get my drift. I reckon that three of them are pretty much pure Maremma and the other three are a cross.

Those of you who know our casa will appreciate that its living area is on the small side at the moment. With 2 giant breed dogs roaring around, coupled with an elderly grumpy runt, who only has three workable legs and who clearly cannot understand a single syllable of a command in English, you can probably imagine the funfair that was Casa Grotta for 10 days. Most of the time it was wet walks but we did manage to get to the beach once with the two big dogs. They loved running on the sand. They didn’t venture into the sea much, but then again they are not water dogs. They were very good with the people apart from the time that Bertie decided he wanted to say hello to a little girl who turned out to be petrified of dogs and to see this huge white shaggy apparition bowling towards her was just too much. Anyway we dragged Bertie away whilst a distraught mother was wafting smelling salts under the little girl’s nose.

We’ve got them again at the week-end for another seven days.

Pigs again

La Duchessa spotted a deer roaming about at the bottom of the estate which was rather lovely.

What hasn’t been so lovely have been the pigs. They have really had a go on our land, particularly under the olives. They have made such a mess. As soon as it is dark, when we go outside to let Bertie to have a wee or something larger, you can hear this grunting and rutting of the earth. There must be loads of them. We have seen damage all over the place around here. Anyway, Bertie hears the noises first and fires off a series of barks and then shoots back inside. Great help. We think the pigs have wised up over the dog, but let’s wait till next year when he is fully grown. He won’t be just barking at them, hopefully.

We did see our first wild pigs a few days ago. We were walking on one of the sort of green roads by the casa when Bertie cocked his ears and looked inquisitively at a load of brambles. Suddenly there was a lot of rustling and this group of pigs game out quite briskly and went off over the road and up into a field. They weren’t very big, but they could move fairly fast.

We did ask our Italian teacher about the apparent increased numbers of pigs compared to last year and she said that apparently there is some rare bird that has come to these parts and the authorities have suspended hunting in case it damages the habitat or something.

I did mention to La Duchessa about getting a gun a few months ago. She was dead against it then but now she is gradually coming round I think. I was only thinking of a an airgun to fire off onto the pig noise to give then a bit of a fright so they stay clear of our bit and go and munch on somebody else’s. Yes I know it just shifts the problem, but, but, so what it gets them out of our hair, well La Duchessa’s, I don’t have any. Just imagine, I could pretend to be John Rambo and seeking vengeance, albeit with an air gun, stalking the baddies in the deepest forest at the end of the estate. Stop laughing.

Talking about laughing, La Duchessa has this great habit of getting her sayings a bit skewed. The other day as I was waiting on her at breakfast, I forget a couple of things and had to get up a few times from the table to fetch them. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, do sit down. You’re up and down like a fiddler’s yo-yo!” she exploded. Brilliant, we were both in fits.

We are going to go wireless now we have finally got broadband, only 0.8mbps, but so much faster and better than before. We have bought a router from Amazon and had it sent to the DIL who has posted it on to us. Apparently Amazon, being an American company are not allowed to send anything slightly electronic or associated with electronics outside of the UK in case they might be used to manufacture a nuclear bomb or something equally ridiculous. Paranoid or what? Do you know what I hope Barack Obama does in his first seconds as POTUS? End the ludicrous trade and other embargoes that the US has with Cuba. What a load of old nonsense.

Hang on, how did I get here? Frightening.

So, it is on its way. We will be able to share files between the laptop and the PC and also the internet connection which, in theory, should make us more efficient. We have made contact with an English IT person not far away and she is coming over to help set everything up.

I have made a new desk using some shelving planks and a couple of trestles, so we have a much better work space, all ready for the change.

However, La Duchessa thought that the laptop looked a little thirsty the other day and decided to give it drink of wine. Now, I’m not too sure how she could tell that it was thirsty. I personally believe laptops need liquid like fish need bicycles (to lean heavily on a feminist simile). This actually turned out to be the case. We think we have, hopefully, a still workable machine – I’m typing this on it so that’s a good sign. So we are still on track, IT wise.

I have explained to La Duchessa that liquid and electrical things don’t mix. I think she is on board with this, although there was a bit of a hiccup over whether running on batteries counts. I assured her it did. There was a hint of a raised eyebrow, but nothing more. Phew.

The future of Bob’s Corner or Angolo de Roberto is at serious risk

Some of you readers will know about Bob’s Corner from previous entries. It is an area of outstanding beauty around one of the bigger olive trees on the estate. The DIL spent many hours lovingly clearing the unwanted flora all around the trunk and uncovering a delightful stone wall that partly surrounds the tree.

Bertie has discovered the delights of this quiet, soulful place too. Unfortunately he does not go to search for inner peace or reflect on life at the ripe old age of 14 weeks or even to just sit and take in the ambiance of the place. No, he goes to have a, yes, you’ve guessed it. Now, allied to this, for some unknown reason, when he was staying with friends when we were in the UK just before New Year, he apparently pooped on command. The command, bizarrely, was “Go on Bertie, do bobs!” And he did, and he still does.

So you can see the dilemma. He has actually starting to do his bobs, round Bob’s corner.

Oh dear. What shall we do? And how are we going to explain it to the DIL?

Ciao, mantenere de fede