Thursday, December 23, 2010

     Merry Christmas and have a peaceful New Year to all

Do ensure you have an ample supply of wine to toast all your absent friends and family. Let's just hope there aren't too many absent or you might end up on the floor!!

Whoever you are, wherever you are are, have a cracking Christmas and New Year.

L'uomo chi fa and La D

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chickens do not make good spies ... continuing the spy theme stated last week

Following the olive picking, the next job was to prune. Now in the past we have always waited till February or March to do the pruning, but this year we have seen many people pruning as they pick, so we thought we would do the same. The other thing that has had an impact on our decision was that we have had loads of what we call “sproutings”. These are new growths on the trunk and limbs of the tress. Often a few together. They grow rapidly and get in the way of picking as well of course as taken away goodness that would otherwise go to the berries. We have had this the last two years and have been wondering whether it has anything to do with our pruning effectively in Spring when the sap is rising. Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see.

So, there we were chatting away, snipping and sawing and getting our lovely olive trees into better and better “goblet” shapes. We let the chickens out as they are all laying now and love to poddle about the middle garden where most of the olive trees are. They followed us about from tree to tree, which made me think that they would be bloody useless as spies. They are so obvious. Why did that thought come into my mind? I have no idea.

I said to La D, “Darling. Do you think that chickens would make good spies?”
I can’t really describe the look she gave me. She stopped pruning, slowly lowered her pruning arm and had this look of utter disbelief in her face.
“What are you talking about Luomochifa? Of course they wouldn’t make good spies they’re chickens. How could they possibly use all those gadgets that Q comes up with? Let alone drive those super cars and boats and go scuba diving. Can you imagine a chicken with a diving mask on and a little oxygen bottle on their back? No of course you can’t you moron. Get on with the job Luomochifa. Now.”
Her witty response really threw me. She’s playing me at my own game,…. and winning!! She shouldn’t be having these wild, surrealistic thoughts. Damn.

Just then I looked around for our potential chicken spies only to see that they had disappeared. What did it mean? Could they understand what we were saying and decided to show us that there might be a future section in MI6 just for chickens?
Where were they? Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of brown amongst the bamboo. I looked harder and sure enough there were the three of them clucking and scratching about round the bottoms of the bamboo, looking very nonchalant, I thought. Just a quick glimpse over in our direction every now and then. I think they might be leading us on a bit, making themselves out to be more stupid than they really are. But then again ……..

See what I mean? What do you think?


We have had some snow and very cold weather like a lot of Northern Europe. It was quite funny the other morning I went down to let the chickens out and there was about 10cms of snow. I opened the coop hatch and tried to put the steps up so the chicks to get down and as usual they were onto the steps before I had attached them to the coop. The first one rushed down and stopped abruptly at the end as she just noticed that there was all this white stuff where the ground should be. The second one bowled down the steps and bashed into the first one. The third one did the same and crashed into the second. The upshot was they all fell off the steps and onto the snow. They were very taken aback. It was very amusing. It looked like a chicken pile up.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, December 10, 2010

The third chicken is laying. I repeat, the third chicken is laying

No it’s not some sort of code that spies might use when they meet their contact. It is a fact. Our last chicken has started to lay at long last. She is laying consistently since last Saturday. Brilliant. Of course we are now coming to the stage where we have too many eggs for ourselves and we can give some away to neighbours and friends. But that’s good.
Since they are all laying we have now let the chicks come out into the middle garden. They really love it. There is loads to explore and lots of green things, as well as insect, for them to feed on.
It has taken some while. About six months. But there we are.


We went out to do some shopping yesterday and every time we got out of the car the wind would start to gust. Funny because it wasn’t the least bit windy when we left the house. As we drove back and turned into our lane the trees were swaying and the leaves were swirling all around the place. We got back to house to find the little greenhouse had disappeared! We found it eventually. There were broken pots and plants and soil spoils all over the place. The bottom of the stairs was covered in about 4 inches of leaves – at one point Bertie thought they would make a good bed, see picture.

Bertie on a bed of leaves. Doesn’t sound too appetising thank goodness!

Large pieces of corrugated iron had been blown across the garden. There were also a couple of corrugated iron sheets that we had used in the walls of the chicken pen that had become detached and were flapping about in the wind. It was terrible. It was aright mess.
Of course there was no point in trying to tidy up in those winds as you’d just be, literally, pissing into the wind. And you know what happens then!
Fortunately the gazebo frame was standing nice and rigid and erect. Good, I thought. Because we haven’t got the top on, the frame is so thin, the wind should just blow round it.
A little while later, La D popped her head round the door and said, “Luomochifa. What was that you telling me about the gazebo frame? About how resilient it is in the wind. Well that’s a load of b******s my old mucker (she does love to put on a bit of a mockney accent now and again) because it’s now lying all twisted and torn.”
I rushed to the window and gazed down on the unedifying spectacle.
“What a mess,” I said
“Are these things really meant to last more than a season?” La D asked in a bored fashion. “We do seem to get through them Luomochifa.”
“We do, my darling. We do.” I replied. However, there is a little bit of an upside in this and that is that the cover was very thin and didn’t provide much protection from the sunlight, whereas the previous one did. So next year we will have to get one with a little more protection. Besides I was bored with this one anyway. So there.


V strange. Yesterday in the massive breeze, our little outside temperature guage registered, wait for it. Are you ready? 25.5°C. 9th December.  25° plus? Can hardly believe it. It felt so warm. Tomorrow’s forecast is about 3°.


Still nicely understated here compared to the UK. Just about to see the Christmas “thing” get really underway now. Very lovely.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The olive oil is in!

We managed to get all our olives picked by Thursday lunchtime. Dodging the showers and morning dews was a bit precarious. Mustn't pick them when wet. Nipped up to the olificio and was greeted with no activity whatsoever. Oops, we thought. Are we too late for pressing?
Wasn't really a problem. At the end of the picking and pressing season, it is normal for them to group customers pickings as it costs quite a bit of money to run the presses, so they don't want to have to gear things up just for one customer a few hundred kilos of olives. So we arranged to go back yesterday afternoon about 3:30 to tie in with some other customers he had already arranged.
When we arrived there again yesterday, we met one of our neighbours along with one of his grandsons who has some learning difficulties. He had been picking since the beginning of November and he told us that this last lot brought his total up to 3500 kilos!!! That's about 650-700 litres. That's a lot of oil. We expect they must either give some away or sell it.
He was the customer ahead of us. When it was his turn, they poured all his olives into the hopper and the process was started. After a while the miller asked us to bring ours in and put in onto the scales. 212 kilos, minus the weight of the boxes, 14 kilos, gave us a grand total of 198 kilos, about 30 kilos more than the last time. Excellent.
I was busy looking at all the fantastic machinery at the mill when La D tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Should he be doing that?" and pointed at our neighbour's grandson who had just tipped one of our boxes of olives - about 20 kilos worth - into the hopper on top of his grandfather's berries.
Fortunately one of the mill workers also saw this and stopped the lad from putting any more of our berries into the hopper. The man looked at us and shrugged his shoulders. He then spoke with the capo and together they took our empty box and disappeared outside for a few minutes and returned with a full box! No idea where he kept his secret stash of olives but thank goodness he had one. So we were back to full weight.
The grandfather apologised for the boy who looked very embarrassed. We said not to worry. What else could we have said? The poor lad didn't know he wasn't helping.
Soon it was our turn to empty all our olives into the beast. They get taken up a conveyor from the hopper. They are then vibrated as they pass through a blower which gets rid of any stray leaves. From there they go into a great macerator and get mulched up. The mill has two of these so each customer gets only the oil from their own berries.  Whilst this is going on the previous customer is getting his oil at the end of the production.
The colour of freshly pressed olives is a fantastic sight. It's almost fluorescent green. It's is quite beautiful, at least to our eyes.
We brought our containers over. We had brought a 20 litre jerry can and two 5 litre glass wine flagons. I had bought the second flagon just in case, as I did not expect to get any more than 23-25 litres. The jerry can got filled way past the 20 litre mark, then we went onto the fist glass flagon. That got brimmed. Then onto the second flagon. It was filling up quickly. La D and I couldn't believe it. The capo asked us for another flagon, but we hadn't got one. He rushed off and brought another glass flagon from somewhere in the mill.
 "You'll have to replace this, OK?" he said to me. "Si, si. Grazie mille." I replied. The oil just finished pouring when this third flagon was pretty much up to the brim. We had 37 litres of beautiful greeny-yellow freshly milled olive oil from our own berries.Fan-bloody-tastic! It cost us €40.00. that's €1.10 per litre of "real" Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wow, were we chuffed to bits.
Now I've just got to get on with the pruning.

Ciao. mantenere la fede. A posto

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I can’t believe a month has gone by

Last month has pretty much been all about La D’s mum. La D had to go over again and sort out her mum’s situation. We bought her a one way ticket as she wasn’t going to leave until she had sorted it out.

The long and short of it is that her mum is unable to live at home any more. La D, together with her dad and, with the support of her siblings, have managed to get her out of hospital and into a very lovely nursing home close by.

The processes and protocols that La D had to go through have, to be honest, quite daunting, especially as for more than half the time, all the parties involved seemed to be working on the same objective but with different scripts! Not helpful when you are trying to deal with something like this.

The hospital’s nursing care was not good. La D’s mum was passed around from pillar to post, with no-one really knowing what to do with her. Of course all this time her  physical and mental health was deteriorating as there was little interaction by the various staff. It was a very poor nine weeks for her and for the family.

The nursing home staff are a very different bunch. OK you may say, they only have to deal with people like La D’s mother, but there was nothing stopping the hospital staff to give a little more thought and time to her when she was in their care.

Anyway there is no more to be done.

I flew out a few days ago and we did a bit of family visiting, which was fun. We got back on Sunday leaving a very chilly UK (no snow encountered thank goodness) to return to a cold and very rainy Le Marche. Brrrrrrrrr.
We collected the chickens on the way home from some good friends who looked after them and who gave us a welcoming bowl of soup bread and cheese. Wonderful.
We got unpacked, put the heating on, put the chicks in their pen and then went to collect the Bert.
He was ecstatic to see us, especially La D as he hadn’t seen her for three weeks.
More refreshments were offered to us and gratefully accepted.
Got back home, had a lovely hot meal and glass of wine and then collapsed into bed, pretty pooped. It was going to be a busy day tomorrow too.


Because of all the goings on in the UK we still have to pick our olives. November is the picking season around here so we are at the end of the picking time.
Well we were out at first light and apart from a quick coffee and some soup and bread for lunch we worked until we couldn’t see the olives dropping onto the net. We had bagged about 140 kilos and reckon there is probably about another 50-60 kilos on the remaining trees. The weather was great. Windy and sunny.
Since Monday evening it has been p***ing down and no more have been picked.
We are hoping that by this afternoon the rain will have cleared off and we can pick the remainder. We really want to get the olives pressed by the end of the week. Here’s hoping…….

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, November 5, 2010


The hunters are out again. Lots of bangs and barking dogs. Although the bangs and the barks seem to be less that last year. We commented on this with some friends and they confirmed that this was their thoughts too. They have had some near misses with Italian cacciatore (hunters) in the past and are therefore quite conscious of the apparent lessening of hunting activity.
What was it Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying about those who hunted foxes:
“The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable”
Bit different here though with local wild boar being a sought after meat. It is very nice I must say.

Plans, plans, plans

We arranged for a geometra (sort of a house-engineer come designer, come pretty much-everything-else-to-do-with-houses-apart-from-building-them chappie or chappess)  to come round and have a look and a chat about what we would ideally like to end up doing to Casa Grotta.
Very nice bloke. Suffered from a stroke last year, but he can’t be more than mid-forties. Speaks fluent English which of course is fantastic for us.
So we are having some plans drawn up. The next step would be seek planning permission from the comune with the following step being actually to do something. Gulp. The permissions cover things like extending the size of the property (which we aren’t) and change of use of rooms (which we are as we have a very long earth floored room that was used to keep livestock on the ground floor. As we do not intend to continue that tradition we want to have the room as living space. We have to get permission to do that. Odd I know, but that is what you have to do)

You might well ask, “How are you going to pay for all this?” A very good question. Our thinking runs along the lines that if we have a proper, drawn-up plan (which won’t be very expensive at all and is essential to doing anything), and we have the correct permissions from the comune (again which we believe won’t be very expensive), then we will be in a position to start just as soon as we are able to fund some work.
I hasten to add that there is no time limit being put to this.

I am working on a couple of income-generating schemes, such as forging grand masters  (unfortunately I am a lousy painter, especially in oils)  nobbling race horses (I know nothing about horses) and last but not least, major frored and embesselement (difficult to have success with spelling this bad).

Should any of you know of anything that I might turn my hand too with a modicum of success, please do let me know. The more legal the better.

Good Blooper.

Using the word embezzlement just now reminds me a great La D blooper.
We were talking about someone who had really told a very exaggerated tale about his goings on and La D remarked that he had really embezzled his story! I did say to her that I thought the word she meant was embroidered, but she convinced me that embroidered was only a form of needle therapy. I have the puncture marks to prove it!!

La D’s mum

Some change. Still in hospital. Will report later

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Family problems cont’d ….

Poor La D’s mum has not improved much, if at all, since she went into hospital a month ago. The family is, as you would expect, rallying round as best they can to support her and their dad.
La D has been trying to get the hospital to “speak with one voice" as there have been numerous times when one nurse says one thing and the next nurse completely contradicts the first one. It is so frustrating for La D and the rest of the family.
However, La D is doing her famous Freya, Queen of The Valkyries, impression and leading the family into battle. Heads will roll, and not all the way to Valhalla either. She’s guiding the charge from 1200 miles away against obfuscation and lack of progress on her mum’s behalf. She can’t do any more. We’re rooting for you ma.

A disgusting sight

We popped over for coffee yesterday to our friends who took two of the kittens back in September. They also have a pup like Bertie-dog called Lola, and of course this was the real reason we went (no, not really).
You have to drive up a pretty old dirt road before you reach their drive. Just as were about 50 metres from the drive entrance, at the side of the road there was a fully grown Bertie-dog eating a full size sheep. Honestly. The sheep had most of its ribs showing and the dog was pulling bits out of the sheep’s stomach. The dog’s front was covered in blood. It really was disgusting.
We told our friends what we had seen, and they told us that apparently the farmers give the dogs a sheep that has died as food for them. It really is totally weird. Here is a breed of dog whose sole purpose in life is to guard sheep with their life, which is what they do. Then if one of their charges dies, they eat it. It’s almost seems like a form of cannibalism.
Anyway. Lola. What a cutie she is. Not shy at all. Very playful. Very good at sitting and lying down (Bertie doesn’t do lying down!) but not brilliant at coming back yet. She had had all her jabs and stuff so we are going to introduce her to Bertie soon.
Both La D and myself were taken with her coat. It’s still fluffy and she has, what you could say of a human first thing in the morning, “bed hair”.
This morning I unearthed a picture of Bertie taken when he was four months and it’s quite extraordinary. He looked so much like Lola looks now. I probably put this on the blog at the beginning of last year, but here it is again.

Gardening matters

It certainly does. No, what I mean is things to do with the garden. We are getting it ready for the Winter now and putting to bed most of the orti. We have planted some peas, broad beans and last week-end, onions. But we are doing lots of tidying up. Hopefully there will be a bonfire or two with the old vegetation.
The olives are looking good. Most of them are nice and plump and we should be picking around mid-November all being well.


Up and down. We have been having our coffee breaks and lunch outside apart form the last two days. When the clouds aren’t there, it’s gloriously warm in an Autumnal way if you get my drift. But at nights the heating is needed, as well as the fire in the kitchen. Very pleasant indeed.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, October 22, 2010

“Cats! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again”
(With a nod to Edwin Starr for his song, “War! What is it good for ……….”)

La D was preparing a salad for us the other day and she went to get the salad spinner that we have. You know the sort of thing. It has a plastic basket into which you put lettuce, wash it and put into a slightly larger container. You then put on a special lid, spin the basket and it throws off the water and dirt from the lettuce.
She brought it from the pantry and into the kitchen and lifted the lid. There was then a piercing shriek from La D as a small furry rodent jumped out of the spinner and scurried across the top towards the sink.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. It’s a mouse!” she exclaimed. Now, I hadn’t actually seen the event but when La D uses her vocal chords at this pitch and intensity, it is a foolish person who doesn’t respond within a nano second to her cries.
“Where did it go?” I asked.
“I don’t bloody know and I don’t care. Just get rid of it. NOW!” I was ordered as La D went into the living room and shut the door hastily.
At this time we had the two kittens we were looking after for their new owners. As they had been kept inside, we thought we should do the same for the two weeks we were having them. They were in the kitchen with me so I had strength on side to capture the little sod who had had the effrontery to extract me from my reverie of whatever I was doing at the time I received La D’s summons.
I finally saw it under the cooker. On my hands and knees I used a long pasta rolling pin to try and push it out. It worked. The mouse shot out and tried to get under the back door. At this point one of the cats saw and jumped at it. He managed to grab it but too loosely and the mouse scrabbled away. However, it seemed to me, it dawned on the kitten that this was the sort of thing it was put on this earth to do. Get rid of mice. He dashed after it and this time got a good hold. The mouse had been captured.
“It’s OK La D. Marlon has caught it.” I shouted through the door. Perhaps I should explain about Marlon’s owners naming convention. They have a dog called Brando. They wanted a cat, a male cat, so they could call it Marlon. With me so far?
When they saw the kittens they fell in love with another one so took two of them. The little female they took was to be called Sophia. After a little while, they knew we had had some more kittens and asked if they could have a third one. Mad, I know.
Guess what they were going to call it? Yep, Loren. You just don’t mess with other peoples’ naming conventions, especially if they relieve you of unwanted kittens, no matter how bizarre you may think them.
Anyway, back to the story. Marlon had this mouse firmly in his mouth with the mouse’s tail hanging down. The mouse was no longer. It had passed, as they say. I managed to put my foot on the tail and gradually moved my foot neared Marlon’s mouth so in the end he had to relinquish his catch. I was able to put a container over the mouse, and no, it wasn’t the salad spinner, put some card underneath and take the wretched little rodent and chuck it over the hedge. A little undignified I appreciate but I didn’t see anybody clamouring for a proper funeral.
La D came out of the sitting room, fairly cautiously I should add. We both gave Marlon a lot of attention as he definitely deserved it.

Now the point about the title of this tale is that we regularly feed 5 to 6 cats and not one of them had prevented our house from being invaded by vermin! So what is the use of having the blighters?

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Family problems

Unfortunately La D’s mum had a fall a little while ago and broke her hip. She has had a new ball and socket fitted, so that is good. The problem is really with her pre-existing medical condition, it is making it hard for her to have a quick recovery, physio and stuff.
La D went over a couple of days ago to give her dad some support and to try and help move her mum’s rehab on a bit.
I just hope she doesn’t make the national news for threatening and then machine-gunning some very sweet but totally hopeless clinicians. Some of the stuff that they been saying is quite unbelievable. They are supposed to be trained to “nurse” people and get them up and running, not just commiserating, albeit very nicely, with relatives. Life can be pretty s*** sometimes.

Then there were none

The last kitten went to his new home yesterday. We called the little fellah Gizmo, after one of the gremlins in the film of the same name. All the other kittens had very erect ears on the side of the top of their heads. Little Giz’s ears were lower down and tended to stick out more than up. But what a character he is. Although he does have very poor table manners. He “talks” as he eats. Really strange but amusing. Here are a couple of photos taken at the week-end. I am sure he will enjoy his new home, with two more of our ex kittens and also a Maremma like Bert. More of the same for him really.


Pretty grooby actually. Gorillas in the Mist job at the moment. Hopefully picking up the week-end. Dogs don’t like it either as I’m not going out in this. They have a big enough garden to run around in if they really want.

Birthday Boy                      

Had our first video call (Skype) with number 4 son, Ed, on his 20th birthday last Saturday. It was brilliant. He is looking very well. He was able to show us round his room in the halls of residence at Leeds. It was about 2 in the afternoon and I asked what the weather was like. He reached over his laptop and pulled open the curtains!!!!!
“Not too bad,” he announced.
“Just got up.”
Ahhhhh, the youth of today.
He then proceeded to get dressed in his costume for partaking in the Otley Road Run. It was a giant babygro that he had bought from Primark for £7.50! He looked absolutely daft in it. He was obviously determined to have a good laugh. The Otley Road Run is in fact just an old fashioned pub crawl, down a road called Otley Road. Apparently there are 20 pubs along it and the object is, … need I explain more. I do hope his Sunday morning headache and biliousness wasn’t too bad!! I will have to look at Facebook to get some photographic evidence of the night’s proceedings.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Casa Grotta New Year!

Yes, it’s that time again. La D and I embark on our fourth year at Casa Grotta. A little wiser, a little poorer, a little older but …… we’re still here and I am still in my shorts. La D refuses to got out with me at the moment because people keep staring at this strange Inglese in his shorts whilst they are dressed in coats, hat, scarves and boots.
The weather is actually glorious. We are still eating out in the morning and lunch times. Wonderful.

I will try and be a bit better at regular reporting from this idyllic corner of central Italy.

Relly Season officially closed

Last month we had my big sis and her husband over. Had a most enjoyable time. A great walk in the Sibillinis, some market days and general chill out time. Much needed by my sister as her son and his family are emigrating to New Zealand and she is going to find it difficult whilst she gets used to their absence. Of course they are planning to visit as soon as possible, but it’s not particularly cheap and she hates flying. She has problems with her balance. In fact she confided to me that she has difficulty walking across Norwich market, which is on a slope, with out feeling a little woozey. I tried to suppress a smirk when thinking of a few seconds crossing an English market compared to a 12000 mile journey to the other side of the world.

Cats are gone ….. hopefully

We think we have found homes for the latest batch of gattini. It’s been a bit like a menagerie here over the last couple of weeks. We have had our friend’s dogs to stay whilst they went back to the UK. Also we have had to look after a couple of the kittens we re-homed because their owners had to go to the UK too. Then we have the three new ones. Agghhhhhh.
I only signed up for a dog, Bertie. He has been brilliant. He seems to love all the animals. Let’s just hope he doesn’t want to develop a meaningful relationship with the cinghiale.


Whilst all this animal looking after was going on, we had a major problem with the house electrics ……. we suddenly didn’t have any.
I managed to rig up wires and adaptors all over the house, as a temporary measure until we were able to get an electrician out. What a great bloke. He and his assistant managed to locate the problem and partial rewire the house in three hours. I suppose it is one of the benefits of having wiring not channelled into the walls. The old wiring was desperate. We were without “proper” electricity for 5 days. It was a testing time, but La D and myself came through it stronger than before. I have a few bruises to prove it!!!!!!!


We still have three chickens, which is a positive, but eggs are slow to appear. We are having one a day and an occasionally another one, but we are nowhere near to having three a day. All a bit worrying.


Ahhhh. I can almost smell the smoke, but La D has hidden the lighters. Bugger.
Still, lots to do in the garden without expiring before 10:00!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cooking fats!

That’s not quite what I said, but move a couple of letters around and you get the exact exclamation.
It was La D’s turn to see to the zoo yesterday morning. I was just snuggling down in a lovely somnolence with pictures floating through my mind as I raced round Rascasse for the last time, just in front of the chasing pack on my final lap of Monaco, ready to take the chequered flag, when …….
“Out of bed, out of bed. Just you come and see this, L’uomo chi fa!.” La D bellowed in my ear.  
I went to pull the covers over my head, I was only meters from the finish line and I so much wanted to win, when they were suddenly whisked away from my reach.
“Oh no you don’t. I want you out of bed now.” She got hold of one my arms and yanked me off the bed – she’s a powerful woman, La D .. ooooh, luvverly. Anyway. I was then frog marched to the back door and pushed outside.
“La D! La D!,” I exclaimed. “I’m buck naked!”
“I’ve never heard you called that before. I thought you were called L’uomo chi fa.”
“Oh yes. Very funny, not. It’s quarter to seven in the morning, I haven’t got a stitch of clothing on and you’ve forced me outside. Why?”
 “Look. Look. You silly man,” La D said and pointed to a basket that she had left out for the adult cats to cuddle up in now all the kittens had gone. I knew it was a bad idea leaving some receptacle out that a cat can get into.
There, nestling in a corner were three more bloody kittens.

“Where the hell did they come from?” I asked no-one in particular.
“I think they must be Mum’s,” la D said. Mum has been living around here for as long as we have. She always gets pregnant twice a year, but we have never seen any kittens of hers. This year was no different and we have seen her bulging, twice.  About four weeks ago she suddenly became thinner, so she must have had her litter somewhere. We did hear some small mewing coming from our neighbour’s gardens, but that was a few weeks ago and haven’t heard anything else since. Since she is feeding them, we can only conclude that they are indeed hers. But why bring them round to us? Maybe she sensed that the kittens we have just re-housed were OK here, and as they have now gone, perhaps we would like some more. I think Mum may only half a brain cell.

You can tell we are not best pleased, but what can we do?
La D has already broadcast the event via the Internet, with pictures, and we are hoping we can get shot of them soon.
Here is a picture of them, and, pulease, no “Ahhs, aren’t they sweet,” otherwise I think I’ll throw up.

Any other news

No! Too cross and grumpy. I mustn't take it out on the rellies though. Oh, bollocks, why not!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, September 10, 2010

I can’t believe it was the 4th August that I last broadcast some brief news items from the dizzy world of Casa Grotta.

After my second to last son visited with his girlfriend Meg, we had a bit of a break before the out-laws arrived. It was great to see Pip again and to meet Meg properly. We had a lovely relaxed time and a couple of good evenings out. Their time with us was over far too quickly, but never mind. We look forward to seeing them over here again when they can manage it.

So, what about the chickens you ask. Well. The last lot we got, the Three Weird Sisters really did turn out to quite odd. One of them started to loose her feathers at the bottom of her back. As a consequence the other two started to peck her. It was quite unsettling to watch. Anyway, she pegged out quite soon after we got them. So that was a good start. That left two. After about a week, one them suddenly went off her feet. It was though she had had a stroke or something. She’d no balance and had real difficulty moving around. The other one, sensing a weakness, started to peck at her. It’s obviously something hard-wired into them. After about a week, ten days, she was on her back with her legs in the air, and not in the rumpy-pumpy sense either.  We were reduced to one. If the bloody fox doesn’t get them disease and pestilence seems to have a go. Are we cut out to have chickens?
La D and I had a good chinwag about it and decided to leave her on her own for a few days before we re-stocked, for the last time (?)
We bought another little brown hen and a little black one. This lot has now been called Tir-Na-Nog – the Celtic version of the Greek Elysium – so we are hoping they will stay young for quite a bit and be very happy and lay lots of eggs. We have two layers at the moment, the oldest one Tir and Na the young brown one. Nog seems a little unsure of the egg laying business but I’m confident that three a day will happen soon.

More Kittens

Yes, two of last year’s kittens gave birth. One had three and the other had one. As before they seemed quite happy to share mothers when it came to feeding time, so they have got off to a good start. What is even better is that through friends and Facebook, we have managed to home all four of them. What is really strange about it is that the people that have gone to both have dogs like Bertie! That is quite serendipitous. As the kits are so used to sharing their space and growing up with a big white dog, it’s not a shock to them. However, one the dogs is the same age as they are. We went to see her – Lola – and her proud owners yesterday to drop off their kittens. Lola is just adorable. Eight weeks of fluff. Her coat looks exactly like a lambs. All curly. We all think she must be pure breed, as she came from the sheep farmer next door who has about four adult Maremmas.
There were other litters of \kittens in the neighbourhood, but we don’t know what happened to them. We still haven’t heard from the comune about sterilising the cats. I am not that surprised though.


I really wanted to enthuse about our wedding anniversary treat but I can’t really. In the afternoon it p***ed it down but we were assured of a dry night. Ahem. We did our, by now, usual “passeggiata” round Macerata and bought a CD of the opera – I Lombardi della Prima Crociata (The Lombardys of the First Crusade) by Verdi. Found the fab pizza restaurant we had gone to two years ago and had a superb pizza and bottle of wine. Then we made our way to the arena, umbrella in hand, extra clothes in rucksack. What we noticed first was that how many of the audience were wearing Winter clothes. I was in shorts – well it was August and I’m English as someone remarked to me today in the shops as it happens. He said I couldn’t be mistaken for an Italian as I was wearing what only foreigners would wear in weather we are having today. That’s bye-the-bye.
So we huddled down, raided the rucksack and clambered into the few extra layers we had brought with us. The show started. To say it was a minimalist set would be like saying the Pope is a Catholic, a real no-brainer. It was just like a choral piece, but of course with more passion in the songs and a bit of moving about. The only set was a cross that they out up and put down. Wow! The set designer was definitely overpaid on this one.  
The music was fabulous, it really was. But as a spectacle, well, it left us feeling even colder than we were. At half time, I hate to admit to you, we called it a night and went back home, with the heater in the car at full blast  and Verdi blasting out of the CD player. Excellent.

Hordes of family descend

LA D’s sister, the Contessa and her family came over at the same time as the out-laws. La C and her entourage were staying a very lovely Agriturismo not far from us whilst ma and da were staying with us. We had a great time. La C and her brood were only staying a week but the out-laws stayed for what seemed like years but was really only 16 days. The weather was v hot. Sometimes too much and we had to retreat indoors to find somewhere that was less that 35° in the shade. Phew.
We have my sister and her husband arriving very soon. They have been given a list as long as your arm, as they are driving over so they have plenty of room. Ha, ha.

General outlook on growing matters

Very good. The toms seem never ending. We are making tomato sauce, which I have to say, is something quite special, tomato jam, which is extremely moreish, frozen tomatoes, tomato soup. We are even looking into trying to make tomato aeroplanes, musical instruments, children’s shoes from the skins and even little people as this photograph of an early prototype clearly shows.

Oh, yes, we are very inventive here at Casa Grotta.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Sorry it's been a while, but it is the Summer you know.

Lots has been happening:

  • Weeds and veggies growing like billy-o
  • Inundated with rellies - more expected soon
  • Chickens dying
  • Kittens being born - yes, again
  • Off to the Opera tomorrow night
  • Hospital on Friday 
It never ends.Of course, it does, I'm just being melodramatic.

But would I ever the utter the words, "But I've been that busy"? You know me. Of course I wouldn't. I'd rather die!!!!

I will return to some normality and regularity, soon, I promise.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, July 16, 2010

It’s almost too hot to blog

Happy Birthday to my brother!

Yes it’s my brother’s birthday today. Tricky Dicky’s only 63, but he looks 73 and tells me he feels 83!! I don’t know what to put it down to apart from whisky and loose women, although I’m not sure his wife would agree!!!! Moving on…….

Youngest son

Had a great time with the young lad and his girlfriend, Amy. Went to the beach, a market, all the usual stuff.
The first day after they arrived La D and I had to go off and help some people we know pack up as they were returning to the UK.
Oooh it were hot work. I was sweating my socks off after about 6 seconds. But we got them packed up by about 11:00. We heard from them a couple of days later and they had arrived back in England after a good journey. I digress.
Ed and Amy took us out for a lovely meal at the Osteria del Lago in San Ruffino. Great meal. We took Bertie with us and gave him a good walk round the lake. He loves that walk and a lot of it is in the shade so it wasn’t too hot. He had a few dips in the lake too.
His girlfriend was very naughty and bought La D and myself a rather lovely bottle of wine. She asked me to choose a bottle for her to take home to her dad. Of course I naturally asked her how much she wanted to spend. Fortunately the wine I chose for her was at the lower end of her budget spectrum. You’ll see why later. Actually it is a lovely wine from the wine makers Antinori. A Chianti Classico called Peppoli. La D have eaten at their cantina in Florence, twice as it happens. It is essentially an enoteca, a wine bar/shop in English, but they serve food there using as much fresh produce from their estates all over Italy as they are able. It’s a fab experience.
At the back of the place they have models of all their vineyards (vigneti).
Anyway just as we were leaving to take them back to the airport, she presented us with the bottle and apologised for the little white lie about it being for her dad. As far as La D and myself were concerned she could tell as many of those type of white lies as she liked.


Yes we went to see U2 last Saturday night. Not the real U2 you understand, but a tribute band from Porto san Giorgio, called Babeface (I cannot see the link either)
They were really good. A girl from the audience, although I expect it was a bit of a put up job, went on stage with them to sing the duet that Bono does with Mary J Blige, One Love. It wasn’t half bad.
Where did we see them? We saw them in a municipal car park in a local town. The stage was the flat bed of a truck. Good night out. It was free too.

Weather Update

It’s frighteningly hot and looks as though it will continue for some time to come. My second boy who is coming over tomorrow wth his girlfriend, e-mailed last night and asked whether they should bring any jeans or coats. A couple of weeks back I sent him a link to the online weather forecast that we use here which have proved to be pretty good. If he had only looked at it he would have seen that the point of anyone  bringing long trousers and coats here at the moment is that they thought they were coming to visit Dignitas.
The Bert just lies in the office all day sleeping. We take him out first thing in the morning every other day, but he just doesn’t run, he walks at a speed not much greater than ours.


Going well. Keeping the watering up.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Not half. 38°C under the gazebo at 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday. Phew!
It’s looking good for the next couple of weeks too. Too hot to do much after midday. Blog could become short for a while.


We’ve got the round the world traveller arriving tomorrow, con sua regazza. Really looking forward to a good catch up and natter with the lad. Since he got back from his trip he’s been working as a labourer and will be able to go back to that when he returns from here. It’ll be good for his bank balance and his rugby prep too.
A week after he returns, his brother is coming out with his girlfriend, who we finally saw when we were over earlier this month. All good stuff.

The Weird Sisters

They are becoming more attuned to their new surroundings and are venturing out of the coop very readily. We are getting the occasional egg fro one of them. We think they are not that young and we should be getting eggs off all of them soon.

We have improved the pen again and we are so impressed with our work that we are going to write to the director of the last Mad Max movie to see if he would like to shoot a sequel in our hen-pen!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Three Weird Sisters – Chicken Update

We welcomed The Three Weird Sisters aka new chickens, to Casa Grotta yesterday. La D is doing a Hecate impression and encouraging them to work on anti-fox potions.
For those of you who are completely foxed (excuse the pun) by what I’ve just said, I refer you to Shakespeare’s MacBeth.
They are incarcerated in their coop for the moment. La D and myself are putting up reinforcements around the pen today or tomorrow, before they start to come out.
Have just checked them and unfortunately one looks as though she is being pecked by the others. They have drawn blood. Poor sister. Hopefully it will stop soon.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sorry about that ......

I know it has been a long time, but, well, there are no excuses really. But there have been a few things happening.

The Good and The Not So Good

Just before we were about to go the UK to see Sukie and the rest of the children and grandchildren, we were invited out to a birthday lunch for one of ur friends. We went to the Osteria del Lago at San Ruffino. Had a great time but half way through the meal, the heavens opened and the lightning and thunder started up. Upon our return home we found that there had been a power cut. We got the computer on but there was no Internet connection. Doh!
Eventually we got one of our friends to ring Telecom who informed him that the storm that had knocked out the ADSL facility on our line. Several days later, our nails bitten down to the quick through the sheer boredom of having to wait whilst we tried to do something online via a dial-up connection, Telecom appeared and checked our line here, at the house.
After a couple of minutes, he said, “Nah mate (in Italian of course), the line’s fine, your router’s f***ed though!”
Oh joy, we thought. Quickly decided to nip off to our nearest router shop, spent €60,00  and were back on line within the hour. That certainly helped us get tidied up before our trip.

Also, we found upon our arrival home from the birthday lunch, that Freddy Effing Fox had visited us, again. He couldn’t get the chickens out of the pen, so he just left the three bodies lying there while he made his escape. The wire fence was very bent were he had got in and out. Bastard. La D was devastated
I know I had said that that was going to be it if the fox came again, but we are going to give it one more go. Designs on a new sort of inverted Stalag begin tomorrow. Will keep you posted.

So we were then ready to fly off to England, all our jobs were up to date. A couple of hours before we were going to take Bertie over to stay with his sister, I found blood all over the kitchen floor. It was a lovely hot day and the outside door had been open. I thought that one of the cats must have got hold of some animal and was spreading its blood everywhere.
I went down the steps and there was more blood. I went into the office and there was blood everywhere!
Then Betie came round the corner leaving blood behind whenever he moved. He had a huge gash along the side of one of his back paws.
We groaned in unison. Checked it over and knew we were going to have to go the vets.
We were expected at Jess’ place at about 6:30 and the vet opened at 4:30, so we should be alright.
We arrived at the vets and fortunately there were no other animals waiting to be seen, but the vet we normally see, who speaks fluent English was not there, just her assistant. Anyway, he could obviously see what the problem was and started on Bertie straight away.
La D and myself were part of the surgical team. Holding the patient so he didn’t fall off the table (he’s so big!) in his anaesthetised state. We were there for almost two hours. Bertie had cut the connective tissue surrounding the bone and the vet had to do internal stitches and then external stitches. He also was going to have to wear one of those lampshade things to stop him licking the wound. Paid the vet’s bill of €94,00 and arrived at Jess’ place at 7:30.
Jess’ owners were fantastic. It was no problem leaving this dog that needed to have pills jammed down his throat and not allowed to mix with his sister and very bestest friend, Jess, whilst Jess’ owners had loads of things to do with guests and a wedding party. They really are brilliant people.

So off we went to the UK. Travel was very good. Stopped off down South for a few days and then travelled North for a few more. Weather for most of the time was fab. Children and grandchildren were on top form, all apart from Sukie of course who, being only a couple of weeks old, found it difficult to discourse with her Italian-based grandparents. She seemed very calm and relaxed, probably because both of her parents are calm and relaxed. We were also fortunate to see Ed who had come back a few days early from his round the world trip, which was fantastic.
It was great to see them all.
Travel back was as uneventful as going out and we arrived back last Friday. There was an odd smell that greeted us as we opened the door. There must have been a power cut, judging by the smell, that had occurred the minute we left the house. Both the freezers were full of warm, very gone-off food. The fridge wasn’t much better. Bloody hell we thought. We cleared out all the mess and dropped it off at the amenity tip, or Isola d’Ecologia (sounds better than the “dump” doesn’t it?) on the way to pick up Bertie. He was in fine form and his stitches were intact and his wound clean and of a normal colour.

Phew. We’re exhausted. Just had time to stop off at a supermarket on the way home with Bertie to do some shopping for the weekend and of course for the freezer. Bah!

Weather or Not ….

The temperature yesterday, which was the start of Summer, was 12°C and it tonked down for over 24 hours!!! When we left to go to England, we passed a sign outside a chemists that displays the date, time and temperature. It read 36°C, and that was at 10:15 in the morning, with a cloudless sky above. Weird.

Just a little word play.

La D came up with a real corker the other day. Again it was when we were doing a crossword.
“An instrument used by engineers building a road” was the clue.
“I know, I know.” La D piped up. “A troglodyte.” They just keep getting better and better!

Ciao, mantenere la fede