Saturday, 9 December 2017

My usual seasonal rant

I'm doing my best with to deal with Christmas.  Last week Mr FF and I helped to put up the large tree and decorations in our communal hallway, bit early if you ask me but really they needed to be done before our in house Christmas lunch.  I attended the latter and stayed the course till around 10 pm.  
I've written the cards, wrapped the overseas packages.  It's not going too badly.  After 6 months in Italy I have lots of socks in the gift department even though I haven't made the various scarves and gloves I imagined I would.  
Mr FF has been busy attending his walking groups lunches, coming home wearing irritating paper hats.  What is it with crackers, we had them at the in house lunch and when I helped to tidy later I found a large selection of stupid plastic items left on the tables plus all the paper debris, I'm pleased to say not many hats were worn.  Such a waste of money, I imagine said crackers had been shipped from China to end up in landfill.   
Much nicer that one of our resident ladies had made table decorations mostly  sourced from our communal garden which we were allowed to bring home, a week later mine looks good.

Its cold outside, 1 degree, but not too snowy here, hope you are coping and cosy.  I may venture out later if there aren't too many Christmas tunes in the shops.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

The best of times the worst of times

So another Italian summer sojourn is over and it's been fantastic with the best ever weather, we rarely ate breakfast indoors even in November. We made huge progress with the garden, all the front terraces and paths repaved, discovered the delights of having our own plunge pool, rediscovered our little kitties and cherished the time we have spent with them. 
It was the worst ever time because of the wildfires, scary that the inferno came so close and sad to see so many beautiful old trees lost. The only up side of the fire was that when we were evacuated I realised that no materials goods were that important, I was even ready to abandon the car when we couldn't get down the road for fire vehicles. 
The worst of times for visitors, we only had one night when anyone stayed with us which may speak of my hospitality. We hardly left the house, no overnights on the coast, we didn't go to the coast, no trip to Rome, not so many meals out but plenty of festas and I've loved the peace and quiet, I've been content. 
I did have a longing for a new yellow handbag for the summer but that didn't happen, as usual I bought far too many pairs of cotton trousers, culottes and shorts on the market, at 3 euro a pair I cannot resist them, but I did finally manage to wear out a few t shirts to create some wardrobe space. 
In July I got the best haircut ever at my regular salon, in September I asked for exactly the same and got such a bonkers cut I could hardly believe it. Giancarlo explained that the two cuts were exactly the same (not) but that the first was elegant while the second was powerful, something must have been lost in translation because I didn't see it that way but in November he gave me an extremely short, and chilly, cut that I love, we remain friends.
I read 24 books, knit 12 pairs of socks, lost some weight, it all felt so very very relaxing and comfortable, just like this

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Can't stop

We are leaving in two days though nothing whatsoever is booked as we are being flexible. Piero is still here building the garden wall, he lost several days due to rain but the sun is back now. Mr FF has made a secure wooden house to accommodate the cat food dispenser, if those girls get much fatter they won't be able to squeeze in but happily they took to using it immediately, maybe they remember from last year. They also have two separate cosy outside sleeping options, we've done our best let's hope they stay around till we return. We are hanging on till the last minute to put away the garden furniture as we still manage breakfast outside but we've done most of the packing. Not looking forward to the long journey home while trying not to stress about it. I am looking forward to seeing family and friends after six months away and of course Ilkley and the penthouse. Mr FF has already got Jim lined up to rip out our ensuite bathroom in the new year, we need to select new tiles, fittings etc when we get so that can look forward to more disruption, I expected nothing less.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

All is safely gathered in

I used to like the church harvest festival when I was young, the church decorated with fruit and veg, corn and straw, I liked the hymns and the way all the local farmers some of whom didn't attend church so often always found time to give thanks for another years crops. So I've been giving thanks myself that we managed a decent harvest here, 122.5 kilos of hand picked olives produced 24 litres of delicious oil. I would say delicious wouldn't I but truly because of our altitude and terrain oil from this part of Italy really is prized. Mr FF and I picked on our own over 3 days finishing yesterday which was my birthday. It wasn't great fun as Mr FF is always anxious to get the work done and I am always anxious that the olives are pristine so I spend ages picking out all the leaves, twigs and bits of bark while he complains I'm wasting my time. He doesn't complain though when we get a great yield, I maintain the debris adds to the weight but produces zero oil and all anyone cares about is your resa, a calculation relating to weight of olives to weight of oil with something to do with specific gravity thrown in. We used the local frantoio as they will do a run on small quantities, we delivered at 3 pm by 5 pm the oil was flowing, we barely had time for a coffee in our favourite bar which conveniently is opposite the mill. As ever we came home and made bruschetta, I think we shall do so again tonight, got to take advantage of the freshness of the oil. The bitter peppery taste is intense when the oil is new and the flavour lingers in your mouth afterwards. I'd decided before we started the harvest that I'd be content with 15 litres, we exceeded our expectations and that doesn't happen so often to a couple of 69 year olds.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Oil is well (sorry)

The harvest has started, our little road is covered in the nets used to collect the olives as they are combed off the trees and conversation is all about the oil. We took our regular early evening walk to the village recently and were chatting to a friend. He revealed to us the three Ss essential to produce the best oil. SOLE - sunshine, we have that in abundance and this year has been exceptional with daytime temperatures still in the mid 20s. SASSI - rocks, we live in the side of a mountain and since the wildfires the limestone outcrops are even more evident, our land is poor and stoney, apparently that's perfect. SILENCIO - silence, apart from birdsong, sometimes the mew of the buzzards soaring on the thermals above us and the chatter of people working in the fields, we are very quiet. So we have the ingredients for the best oil and though we mentioned that apparently the harvest in Puglia is good this year, our friend says their oil doesn't match the quality of ours. We haven't started picking yet but I'm as excited as ever about the harvest and interested to see what difference all this extra sunshine has made. We are waiting patiently and quietly, don't want to disturb our developing crop.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Enjoying the season

How unusual for me, Mrs FlipFlops, to be relishing the changing season which hasn't yet involved a change of footwear. It continues to be warm in the day, we still haven't lit the wood burner as the house is warm enough and we are still sleeping under a summer weight duvet. Most nights I look down the valley to see if there is smoke from any of the houses but there never is, strange as the Italians are now layering up their clothes and into socks and jackets while we still walk round in t shirts. We are hopeful of a small olive harvest and our neighbour says we can put ours with his if we are short of a mill run. Our kitties are becoming more independent, they sometimes go off for the day and don't return starving hungry, or even pleased to see us. Some nights they sleep outside, sometimes inside, sometimes they come upstairs and wake us in the middle of the night to be let out. Gentle days spent outside starting with breakfast in the terrace, of course always a project for Mr FF, quiet evenings with maybe a film and lots and lots of sleep, it's all so relaxing. We still open the shutters each morning to bright blue sky and sunshine, it certainly doesn't feel like summer is over and even though we've dismantled our plastic pool Mr FF is still using the outside solar shower. We ve been here five months, often it feels like five minutes and oddly I haven't felt at all homesick or had a longing for UK winter food. I still have a stock of Yorkshire tea, knitting wool and books, what more could I ask. We will return to the penthouse within a month but already I'm thinking about comkng back to Lazio next year and desperately hoping that Crema, Grigio and Theo will stay around, we are doing our best to make provision for them.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Give me credit

I'm going to stop posting that all is calm it just tempts fate. This week Mr FF tried to renew our car insurance but his credit card was declined, I offered him mine and that was declined too. Our cards were due to expire in August while we we'd be in Italy so we contacted Barclaycard before we left, explained the situation and in April we each received new Visa and American Express cards that ran until 2020, great. However when we spoke to Barclaycard after the cards failed they happily explained that they'd ceased their association with American Express, issued new Visa cards in August and stopped all the cards we have with us. Mr FF asked if the existing Visa cards could be reactivated till we came home, no chance, computer says no. Cue several lengthy and expensive phone calls with lots of holding, repeating the same information, passport number etc, spelling out our Italian address to three different people, receiving texts and emails demanding we phone America to progress our request. Eventually after a few days they approved the issue of an emergency card. Meantime I remembered that I had a Marks and Spencer credit card that I hardly use, fished it out and tried a small on line purchase to see if it worked, card declined. I phoned M&S bank, explained our dilemma but they said I should have told them I was abroad, it's in the terms and conditions, who knew. I asked them if I could have the card working but they said they wrote to me in August asking if I wanted to keep the card, that expires in 2018, and since I didn't reply within 14 days they'd stopped it. I explained that we were in Italy for the summer so not receiving post and questioned why they couldn't just let my card run to expiry, they said its in the terms and conditions that I have to keep using my card. I asked if they could reactive it, no but they could send a new one to my home address, I said that wasn't helpful and finished the call before I lost my temper. By now I was furious with frustration and though I hadn't spoken to Barclaycard thinking that just one emergency card would be enough, I decided to call them to ask just why they'd decided to issue new cards within four months and stop the existing ones. We knew that the American Express cards were defunct but didn't understand why the Visa had to be replaced. The lady was lovely, she said she'd try to get the card I have reactivated, I explained my husband had tried that and she'd be wasting our time, hers and mine, but she insisted. I only held a couple of minutes and she came back saying that's your card back functioning until the end of the year. Unbelievable, it's infuriating that one operator tells you no while another solves your problem, just the luck of the draw. Mr FFs emergency card was being couriered out at this stage but he was cross and phoned to ask for his existing card to be reactivated, they said no and when he told them that was wrong they offered to do so until the end of October, you can imagine his response and eventually he got his card live until the end of the year too. What a shambles, we are exhausted with fighting and worrying about booking our journey home without credit cards, goodness knows what would have happened if we'd been in a hotel having to pay for accommodation and meals or travelling from place to place with no means of paying. All Visa had to do was reactivate our cards but they took us down a lengthy expensive and stressful route they means we'll be leaving them and applying for cards with different providers when we get home. It's a pity for that lovely lady who actually helped, she probably gets no recognition for her dedication and is treated the same as the jobs worths who bang on about terms and conditions or just tell you no and don't give a toss about customer service.