Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lingerie Lifter, Knicker Nicker, Underwear Usurper

Shock horror, La Duchessa has no underclothes.
Bertie has suddenly become extremely interested in ladies underthings. To such an extent that when we put out the washing for drying – we usually put the “smalls” on a waist-high drier - within a few minutes there are bras and panties littering the area around the back of the house. He takes them all, but nothing else. No shirts or jeans. We pick them up, brush them down if they are not too dirty and put them back to dry and blow me, in five minutes they’ve gone. So they have to be washed again and the same thing happens.
Alarmingly, this is an aspect of his personality that has only just come to light.
Now, I’m a broad minded liberal sort of a person, but what gets me is that Bert completely ignores my underwear. Why? I call it blatant sexism.
Also, it’s not that he wears any of the things he takes, or even tries them on. Nnow that would be a story. Although I consider myself to have a good imagination, Bertie in a black bra and panties is a stretch of the imagination too far.
So, he just “nicks” them and then leaves them on the ground. Some days the ground at the back of the house looks like a Turner Prize exhibit. Mmmm. Food for thought. Any income generation scheme should be looked at. No matter how bizarre.
Anyway, spare a thought for la Duchessa. Poor La D. She’s having to go commando for much of the day until she can dry her undies in a secret place that we have found and Bertie is unaware that it exists, for the moment. I have offered her the loan of my boxer shorts, some of them are quite dashing actually, but although she hasn’t answered in the negative, the face she pulls when I mentioned her wearing my boxers makes me think that she would only wear them should hell freeze over.
What a dog (not La D, but Bert!)
Any solutions would be gratefully be received.

Four Candles or Fork Handles?

I’m pretty sure most of you will remember the scene from the Two Ronnies that this title refers to.
What brought it to mind was a recent Italian lesson we had with our neighbour.
We were talking in Italian about places we have been to in Italy. One year we stopped off for a couple of nights in Lucca which is where Puccini was born. It is about an hours drive from Florence.
Anyway we said we had been to Lucca. Our neighbour shook her head saying “dove?” meaning, where? So we repeated the name, Lucca. Phonetically it’s a bit like saying “lookah” Still no recognition on our neighbour’s face. We spelt it out for her. Then her expression changed to one who has just understood what was said. “Ahhh, Lucca” she said, pronouncing it exactly like we said it, Lookah.
So, we moved on to words less open to misinterpretation such as sbocconcellare (to nibble) and schiacciante (nut cracker). Much easier, because they are at the moment totally unpronounceable to us.

The Orioles are back (and other Uccelli (birds))

No not Margot and Jerry, I mean the real things.
Those of you who follow this blog – thanks fan – may remember that about a year ago I got very excited about a bright yellow bird that had started to frequent the estate. Well they are back.
Both La D and myself thought we heard them at the week-end, but yesterday I actually caught sight of one and was able o have a really good look at him through the binoculars. Fantastic colouring. From the sounds we can hear we reckon there are probably three pairs.

I know I mentioned the Hoopoe a couple of weeks ago. We have loads of them in the garden. Again there must be three or four pairs around. It’s quite lovely to have so many brightly coloured birds. Not to take anything away from the old Sparrows, but they are a bit drab, colour-wise aren’t they? I mean there is no getting away from it, is there? But I expect they don’t think so. I can’t imagine a Sparrow looking into a mirror and saying, ”God, my plumage is so drab. Why can’t I look like a Bird of Paradise?” I mean where would they find a mirror? Also, how would they know what a Bird of Paradise looked like anyway. No, I reckon the Sparrows are OK with their feathers.


Well I can report that Mum is doing sterling work with her week-old brood – see picture. I (this is L’uomo chi fa speaking) don’t know whether that’s good or bad really. I am in two minds over our assumed responsibilities for these kittens. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so English in my views of smallish, pettish type animals. But there you go.
These community cats have the lowest morals of anything I have come across. The males are already on the prowl again. Ganging up on other females who, like Mum, have probably just given birth. Fortunately they have not been round Mum because of The Bert.
Let’s hear it for Bertie. Protector of fallen cats.
But our worry is that as soon as she “leaves” the kittens, she’ll be got at again and the process starts all over.
We will just have to make sure that we don’t leave any birthing places or receptacles available for feline use in the future, and hope for the best.



Ciao. Mantenere la fede

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It’s raining cats, not dogs
It was La D’s turn to exercise Bert this morning. I turned over waiting for the bounding hound to leap onto the bed – very wrong, I know – whilst La D went to feed him. All of a sudden she came rushing back to the bedroom. “L’uomo chi fa, L’uomo chi fa” (she doesn’t really say that of course “ there are five very small kittens in a basket outside the back door. Mum has given birth!”
Now we had known Mum was with kittens, as is her daughter Starlight, but we didn’t think she was going to have them right outside our door.
So, just as I was about to have a nice glass of OJ and a hot mug of Red Bush tea in bed reading my book, all change.
What are we going to do with them? We asked each other. The interim solution is to put mum and kittens in the old laundry room under the stairs. Fortunately I had only cleaned it out a few weeks ago and it was relatively dust, cobweb and dead leaf free.
So that’s were they are at the moment and I suppose they can stay there for a few weeks – there is hole in the wall to the outside and we think that Mum can get in and out through it.
Of course the big problem is the Bert. Now Bertie is a big softie and if he saw some kittens all he would want to do is to play with them. But 25+kilos of a frantic 7 month old puppy leaping about might be a little intimidating, not to say fatal to the poor things. But we will have to see. Mum may decide to move them anyway when they are a little bit older.
No doubt we will return to this subject. Pictures may be published.

Speaking Italian
Now I know you probably don’t realise but I speak perfect Italian. The only problem is that the person I speak perfectly Italian to is myself. It’s brilliant. I never misunderstand what I am trying to say. However it does have its drawbacks. It’s quite solitary, and I need to get out more.
When I am waiting to order something, I go over and over in my mind what it is I want to ask for, to such an extent that I ooze confidence.
It is as though I am soldier and in my mind I see myself in all the camouflage stuff, bristling with weapons, swaggeringly self-assured. If you were to stand behind me you would see this authoritative figure, legs apart, arms akimbo, 6’ 6” feet tall. You get the picture.
So there I was waiting to ask for some minced beef – macinato. It was my turn. “Buongiorno” I said to the butcher in a deep manly tone. “Eh, cinque cento grammi macchiato, per favore” I said with a knowing smile on my face.
“Che?” he said. My weapons were beginning to bristle less, my camouflage was beginning to fade. “Eh, cinque cento grammi macchiato, per favore” I said again. The butcher looked blankly at me.
Oh no. It suddenly dawned on me what I had asked for. For all those coffee devotees out there you will probably noticed I had asked for 500gms of espresso coffee with a touch of frothy milk. Doh!
“Scusi, scusi” I squeaked for by now I was only 3’ 2” tall, devoid of any camouflage, weapons in fact any clothing, my legs were turned in and touching at the knees. Well at least that is how I felt I must look like.
“Macinato per favore”
The butcher fulfilled my order without another word and handed me the package. I went and paid for it at the casse and left. I felt a right wassock.
It’s great this “speaking another language thing”. But it’s not that easy for me, nor for La D, but we continue to learn and are positive enough to know that it can only get better despite having a few hiccups on the way.
Oh the joys of learning a foreign language.

Green Shoots of Recovery – The Gooseberry Pie maybe back on
Last week I wrote about how a newly acquired Gooseberry bush had failed at the first hurdle due to you-know-who having savaged the thing before we were able to get into the ground. Well, we have had a lot of rain recently and as I was walking by the bush, I looked over and noticed some new green shoots. So naturally we are hoping to have some of those lovely hairy green balls later in the year.

Have Passport, Will Travel
La D and myself are proud to announce that Bertie has joined the fairly exclusive club of international canine travellers. The world is his dinner pail. We are not sure if he plans to go back-packing, but it is a possibility, just as soon as he masters international dialling codes.

La D Surprises Again!
We were sitting reading some Sunday newspaper supplements that the DIL and MIL sent us – keep them coming DIL, we need them – when La D uttered a cry of surprise. She was reading an article about some top man in a financial institution and the difficulties being faced by him compared with the difficulties being faced by the company’s lesser mortals, i.e. job losses.
She announced to me in her very haughty and beautifully sensuous way that only she can, (it is a difficult thing to combine haughtiness with sensuousness, but La D does it fabulously) “These Big Ponchos think they can get away with anything and leave the poor ones to fend for themselves. It’s just not fair.”
“I agree La D” I said, “But I think you mean “Head Honchos”, not Big Ponchos”
I smiled, she laughed, and then she threw a glass of water over me.

Ciao. Mantenere la fede

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The cat with only two lives

You may remember that not long ago I reported that we were going to take custody of a cat from some friends we know who are having to return to the UK. Well in fact one cat but with three kittens growing nicely inside her!

We got a call over the week-end from them and we thought it was about when we could go and collect Jess, as she’s called, as they are returning in about 10 days time. But the poor wee thing had been run over, again, this time with fatal consequences and they were ringing to let us know.

Our friends and their children were distraught. It was going to be hard enough to leave her behind when they move but at least they’d know that Jess was with some people they and the cat knew, and would be looked after.

We were getting quite excited at the thought of a another house pet. Our thoughts were concentrating on how Bert was going to take with living with another animal. Also of course with the impending birth, where we were going to give Jess a bit of peace and quiet to get her “nest” together. Anyway, that won’t be happening now.

Very sad.

Of course Bert still will have the three community cats that seem to live fairly permanently outside our door. They are really getting on well together. Bert does seem to annoy Clarence sometimes, but he is only wanting to play as you can see by his demeanour towards Clarence. Clarence however, bears his fangs, hisses loudly and flattens his ears against the back of his head and shoulders. I can’t believe Bert doesn’t understand that this means “go away”. But then most times they are lying out in the sun by the door together, quite happily.

Birds, birds, birds.

I was looking out of the window yesterday when I spotted a couple of very colourful little birds flitting about one of the nearest olive trees. I went and got the binoculars to get a proper look. They were Redstarts, a species I haven’t seen here before.

I was looking in wonder at the fabulous colouring the males have and I shouted out to La D, “Come and have a look at the wonderful breasts on these!”

La D came shooting into the room, and without actually looking at what I was doing said, “What are you looking at L’uomo chi fa? You do know that the police can trace all sorts of things on computers these days”

“No dear” I said, “It’s a small bird, the feathery kind, that has a very colourful breast”

“Let me see” she said and took the binoculars out of my hand and stared out of the window. “I can’t see anything” I gently took the binoculars back and turned them round. “Ahh” she said. “Oh yes, it does have lovely colouring. It’s very pretty isn’t it”

“It is. But not as pretty as you my darling” I said.

A little blush arose in her cheeks, but she said “Flattery will get you nowhere. Haven’t you got to do a TPU today?” And with that she left the room with a wistful look in her eye and a little smile on her lips. She loves playing hard to get.

Enough of this frippery, on with the blog.

The Hoopoes are back, and with a vengeance. Their call is heard all day long and we have several daily sightings. Excellent.

We also have Nuthatches flying about the olive trees, as well as Tits, Blackcaps, Woodpeckers, Gold Finches and Blackbirds.

We are hoping the Golden Orioles come back this year too. If they do I don’t expect it will be too long before we hear and see them.

Although there are lots of cats around they do not seem to put off the birds which is good from our point of view. Certainly Bertie won’t give them any trouble. He hasn’t started to chase birds, yet, but of course he might do. His sister does

The Gooseberry Pie is off!

Naturally we expect to encounter natural difficulties in growing some plants. Soil too Ph, not enough Ph, too sandy/too heavy, too sunny/too shady etc., etc..

We have encountered another threat to the growth and longevity of things we are trying to grow to provide food for ourselves.

You’ve probably guessed it …… yes, the Big White monster himself, Bertie, aka The Canine Destroyer.

Last year we identified a couple of our fruit trees that had died and decided to replace them, an apple and a pear. We also fancied planting some soft fruit plants, so at the same time we bought ourselves a gooseberry bush.

After we got them home from the nursery, we watered and left them outside to plant the next morning.

When we came out the next day, the gooseberry bush was missing.

However a quick search revealed this battered, chewed sad looking fruit bush on its side half out of its plastic container which, surprise, surprise had lots of bite marks on it. Now, neither La D nor myself are prone to savaging plastic plant pots with our teeth – unless it’s a full moon – so the culprit was easily exposed. When we tried to talk to Bertie in a very civilised “British” way to admonish him – God knows what the neighbours think of how we treat this mutt – he just looked, well, sort of bored and just wandered off as we were half way through his ticking off.

We persevered with the gooseberry and planted the poor thing, but too much damage had been done. Today it just looks as though three little sticks have been stuck in the ground.

The fruit trees appear to have taken very well and show no signs of having been Bertied. So we live in hope.

Ciao. Mantenere la fede

Friday, April 10, 2009


Not really a lot to say as it has been so disastrous that everybody will have heard about it. Fortunately it was a long way from us, although we have felt a couple of the heavy aftershocks.
We can only imagine what the people involved are going through.
There has been quite a few efforts to help by the English community across Central Italy with people wanting to do something and some wanting to get personally involved. Some who have holiday homes in the region are offering them to those now without homes. Brilliant. They have made them available for at least 6 months.
We have donated some funds to the expert emergency services, which seemed to us to be the best thing we can do in the circumstances.

Gorge of Hell

I know we have talked about this before, but we have a friend staying with us for a few days and yesterday we took her up to the gorge along, of course, with Bert. Unfortunately we forgot the camera.
The river was quite full from all the water from the snow-melt and there is still quite a lot of snow on the tops of the mountains.
As we came down the path to where the gorge trail really starts there appeared to have been a huge landslide that covered the river and the path. When we got closer to it though, it turned out to be snow with all sorts of vegetative detritus. The river was gurgling away underneath it. From both ends it looked like the ingress and egress of water in an underground cavern where the water disappeared and reappeared.
There was no problem walking over it so we could be reunited with the path. We came across another couple of massive movements of snow further down the valleys. They looked like mini-glaciers (I have never actually seen a glacier in real life, only pictures so I am sort of guessing here, but the logistics must be the same).
We had a lovely walk through the gorge and Bertie loved experiencing the new terrain.
We stopped for a picnic – we had bought some porchetta from the market on our way there. Porchetta is a huge roll of herb-stuffed pork, roasted and covered in crackling. It is sold in slices. Yummy. Anyway after lunch we set off again and came across another of these snow slides blocking our way but much tinier. We walked across, the surface being very hard, but we had now left the route of the path and had to get back to it. The snow slide was petering out, but yours truly decided to take a short cut and stepped onto the snow that lead down to the path. There was a slight problem. This particular lot of snow had no substance to it whatsoever. My foot went straight though the surface and I went “a over t” with impressive speed and landed in a crumpled heap on the cold, wet, stony path. I did feel a bit of a tit I must say. Bertie thought it was a fantastic new game and came bounding over to join in the fun and started to lick me and bite my hands – strange dog. But after much rubbing off of imaginary flecks of something and muttering “I’m fine, I’m fine” to La D and our guest, I hobbled on with nothing more than a bruised ego.
Fortunately there no more incidences of the negative sort and we continued to have a very enjoyable walk.


The other morning I took Bert out for his early morning perambulation. We were walking across the fields to a small olive grove when I saw a fox starting to cross the grove. He or she was looking in perfect condition and had a beautiful coat.
I haven’t seen many foxes, but what always stands out in my memory of them is the way they carry their tails; dead straight and horizontal to the ground.
The fox turned and saw me after I had been watching it for a few seconds – Bertie had run off the other way and hadn’t seen it – and it just quickened its pace and made for the woods on the other side of the grove, it’s tail remaining ramrod straight.
A moment or two later Bert came bounding over and I was hoping he wouldn’t pick up the scent of the fox or he would have been off. He’s still very much a pup and although he’s getting better at heeding our commands, there is much progress to be made.


The hills around us are covered at the moment in cherry blossom. There is a lot of commercial growing of cherries here and it does make wonderful sight seeing serried ranks of cherry trees in full bloom. Gorgeous.

En garde!

All right, fencing. We have trebled Bertie’s area of garden that he can have the run of without going into the neighbours or onto the road. We are also attempting to keep the cinghiale out as we intend to move our orto (vegetable garden) into one place.
Anyway we will have to wait and see if it all works the way we want it to.

Temperature rising

It has been a lovely warm and sunny week so far. You can almost see the grass growing. The decespugliatore (strimmer) is back in full swing. Although I have encountered a problem whilst using it. Bertie.
Yes, that’s right, Bertie thinks this noisy, smelly machine that has an open metal blade that spins around at 7000 rpm is a cracking big toy just right to play with. The dog’s demented. So we are trying to train him otherwise. It is a slow process, but we will succeed.

Spot the difference

Ciao. Mantenere la fede