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