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