Monday, December 12, 2005

Just before Christmas

Newsletter pre-Natale 2005

Our new heating system

‘It’s a beast, a monster.
It consumes 95% of carbon and leaves no ash’
This was my friend Keith’s definition of a Vulcano.
You simply must get one he says.
It’ll save you thousands on your gas bill.

Now you don’t know what a Vulcano is do you?
No no, it’s not a volcano a la Vesuvius but a wood stove, a wood eater, a fire eater, a time eater.
OK, imagine a monstrous grey and red dragon living in my studio that eats wood and breathes fire.
It’s got a huge mouth and an even bigger appetite …for wood, endless amounts of it.
That’s a Vulcano

What friend Keith should have said was… it will consume 95% of your day and energy.
The dragon.
40 kilos of wood a day, that’s what it eats. 40 kilos!
And if you feed it, it wants more.

And why? (I ask Gino our plumber who fitted dragon monster system) why does hot water spew out of the copper overflow pipe on the outside of the house all over our dry wood which we keep dry for monster dragon feeding times?
‘Dunno’, he says. ‘Can’t figure it out, must be a valve. And what dragon?’

A valve? I say

Yes a valve but I can’t come round for a week because I’m a plumber and you know we never, ever come around when needed, only when we are in need; like for money at Christmas time.
(Actually he didn’t really say that but I know that’s what he meant).
I say what I want to hear from you Gino is that you’ll come round instantly and do something about our hot waterfall which is soaking our dragon food.
Dragon he asks, you’ve really got a dragon?
Leave it, Gino I say, just come around as soon as possible.
I can’t he says, I’m a plumber.
A dragon, though, really?

In the meantime, second option plumber, Nicola, is around this morning trying to fix a mess left by our carpenter who has made a smart looking table for our wee bathroom but forgot to measure the distance for the waste water outlet. So it looks as if we’re going to have to carve up said smart table to accommodate extra pipes and tubing.
Form versus function I say to carpenter when he confesses mess.
‘What?’ he says.
Never mind, I say.
Second option plumber in the meantime looks at Gino’s plumbing for Dragon, scratches his head and says
‘Beats me. Who did this? Gino we say. He walks away mumbling Gino, Gino, Gino…

Renzo gives Lili a telephone number for a guy who sells wood scraps, he says, from a wood yard.
She calls from town and says I’ve seen them; they’re on their way. There could be some mistake she says but you’ll sort it out.
Sort what out I ask as I lose the line and as a multihuge container truck pulls up outside the house.
Driver hangs head out of window.

'Your wood'
You’re kidding.
This truck full of wood, for us?
But it’s huge, there’s a massive amount here.
You ordered it he says.
I did?

So they back up and open the rear doors of the truck and then I see the problem…the castagno wood yard scraps are in fact wooden crates, dozens of them. (See image above).

Thanksgiving and the sexy disco.

I promised to tell you about the Sexy Disco.
You can read all about Thanksgiving in The Berniblog (
where Bernie the Bolt explains in graphic detail the deathly grip of the ice vortex which enveloped us for three days.
It happened to arrive the day after we saw ‘The day after tomorrow’ on Sky. Quite a coincidence eh?
Fertile terrain for the imagination.
At thanksgiving dinner, Bernie asks me about the Sexy Disco in town and I say Bernie how would I know?, things like that just don’t interest me: all those tasty young Russian, Ukrainian, Croatian girls doing lesbo dancing, lap dancing, pole dancing and striptease.
Do you ever see them in town he asks?
Are they, uhm …nice?
Sure, I say, gorgeous they are, although of course they are wicked wicked girls. It’s like the Old West here. Soon they’ll be married half of them, pushing prams and going to early mass and campaigning to close down the Sexy Disco, shameful place that it is.
But Bernie, I say, all this is hearsay.
Don’t you think for the sake of journalistic integrity you really have to get on down there?(ouch!) and tell the story to the waiting world.
Christina flashes him a ‘Yeah try it and die' look.
And I see desire, anguish, guilt and panic sweep rapidly across his broad face in a microsecond and, quick to control as ever, he replies (but with a conspiratorial wink) ‘I’ll go and check the turkey’
That wink, I whisper to Lili, says it all.
Pet’s Corner
We take our cats Eva and Forch to the vet’s in Sarnano for their yearly jab.
Usually Eva enjoys the ride and is like putty in the hands of the vet and Forch quite the opposite. He lets out a low whine throughout the trip and is manic when inside the clinic, biting wiggling scratching. This time,however, they swop roles, Eva’s behaviour is monstrous and Forch, by comparison, as relaxed and as happy as a Spring (uhm, not Christmas) lamb.
Eva it turns out has over indulged mouse- wise and her stomach is moused up so we have to give her castor oil for a week and jabs for her liver (don’t ask). In Italy you get given hypodermic needles to do the injections yourself and it ain’t easy for English people (i.e. me) to do (unless they are doctors, vets, nurses or junkies)
Just to say ‘Sorry Eva, I meant you no harm.’ But she’s speaking to me now after four days of sulking and limping and I’m going to ask Maria who’s a nurse to teach me how to inject at the right angle…for next time.
Problem now is that Forch has decided not to participate in the ‘season of love’. This means that he stays at home all day especially because it’s now warmer on account of dragon heating system. And he is as big and heavy as a mountain lion.

This really bugs Eva because she can only bear his presence for short periods and she creeps around the houses scowling in between lengthy sleeping spells in the wash basket.
Bessie is fine(ish)
She has this afternoon done two marathon sprints to Graciella and back when I went to borrow chainsaw. She tears along by the side of the car and hits a pretty fast pace for an eight year old. She prefers winter to summer, grows her wolfy coat long and just adores the snow when it comes, which it will again soon. Although, just at this moment she comes wobbling in, head down. She’s been fighting with hunting dogs by the look. She has a wound on her back and we try to treat it with disinfectant but she won’t let us touch her, she yelps when I try.

Language lesson

Is Sake a God?
Lili asks me as I am spreading marmalade on my toast.
Knife in mid air, the marmalade drops onto my pyjamas.
She says she has looked up Sake in her dictionary and it says it’s the name of God.
I suspend marmalading onto toast and go and find the dictionary.
No Lili I say, it says ‘In the name of God’
Who is called Sake she says.
Uhm, no, I say.
And why, she asks, do you have to forget him every time there is a noise from the dragon downstairs. You run downstairs and shout ‘Forgot Sake’
Oh, got it, I say, Ok Ok.
I patiently put his one right as I munch through my cold toast.

Later in the evening whilst we prepare to go out to dinner, she says your bird’s annoying me.
Lili, I say, I haven’t got a bird.
Yes you have, she says, shave it off before we go out, it looks messy.

Pino and Vittorio… those boys!

Pino spends three days cutting up wooden crates and thus wipes out entire savings in wood budget. He comes up for dinner and says I’ve got to tell you this but keep it to yourselves.
(Which I will of course)
The story.
Vittorio has come around to Pino’s to take him for a boy’s night out.
Pino has no idea what this might mean or entail but Vittorio is so insistent that Pino at last says OK, give me 20 minutes to clean up and I’ll come along.
On the kitchen table he’d left Georgia’s dinner (Georgia being Debsie’s dog); pieces of chicken breast which had been left out overnight and most of the day and which Georgia hadn’t touched. And Pino had washed off the day’s dirt and was debating whether to throw it away but just hadn’t got around to it.
So there it was on the table and when Pino finally came downstairs ready to go out, it wasn’t.
Just the empty plate.
Vittorio had eaten the whole plateful.
Pino says I couldn’t tell him, just couldn’t.
But we see Vittorio a few days later at the opening of the new commercial centre in Amandola; alive and well and putting down as much free wine and cake as his little elf-like body could handle.

The orto?
Un disastro

It’s Sunday morning.
My mouse is playing up. It’s sort of sending messages to itself
I drive to Sarnano because all the shops are open on a Sunday morning.
Except, it turns out, Andrea’s computer shop.
‘The bastard’, I say to the locked shop door.
‘Michael’ a voice says behind me.
It’s Andrea.
Can’t open up now he says. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning.
He looks cross. Maybe he heard me.
I drive back in miserable drizzle.
By the time I reach the house the light rain has turned to snow.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Vendemia time

Sambuco Newsletter Oct 31 2005

It’s the 2nd of October and we are on our way to Rome; to meet friends, see art; try some new restaurants… all that cultural stuff that us country types need more than once in a while, or more often
Before we get to the Salaria, (the old Roman salt road to Rome), I look up and see that the Grand Sasso in the distance has received its first sprinkling of snow and to the right I see Vettore has too. It’s too early for snow even at that altitude but I remember that even in mid June we had a dusting across the Sibillini peaks. For a weather freak like me (one who visits the Met Office site everyday) this is interesting info. Did you know for instance that they (the UK Met Office) predict an old fashioned winter in Europe, the first for over a decade? Well of course you don’t, normal people don’t visit weather websites.
(You read it here first, right?)
But Rome was nice. Not too many tourists (it seemed at first)….and you know the centre is quite small really to walk around.
But it’s sunny and we all feel lazy and decide to catch an open top bus and do the tour. Why not? We can chat and learn a bit of history from the plug in lecture.
So there they are, the tourist buses. And we go to the first in line and the driver says they are having trouble with the door and we should maybe go to the one behind which we do. On the bus it says pay as you get on so we attempt to pile on in and the tour guide appears from upstairs and shrieks no no you must get your ticket from the, office. Which office where? You have to ask she says… ‘But it says here tickets can be bought as you get on’, that’s only if you get on at other stops she says.
I begin to get ruffled but Lili says forget it, It’s Rome,…..they’re Roman.
We eventually find the ticket booth and here are the tourists, hundreds of them. And written on the window of the booth it says ‘closed for two hours’ (like from when?)
We walk away in despair and see a ‘Pilgrimage bus’ ‘Learn about Ancient Rome the way the original pilgrims did’ it says ‘ Take a voyage through time with a lecture on your headset which describes in graphic detail the wonders of Christian Rome’
We do, and it turns out to be more like an hour in Dante’s inferno. For a start the headsets don’t work, ‘Well they did this morning’ the guide says (to everybody on board who is fiddling with their bits of plastic) and we set off, lectureless into the Rome traffic where we get stuck in a mass of cars.
So we get off at the nearest opportunity and walk. Walk walk walk.
We have learned a lesson.
Visit Rome by train and walk when you are there.
And.. Say to yourself’ I am not a tourist, I am not a tourist, I will not do touristy things, over and over…and then walk (or catch a real tram or metro).
In the evening we find a nice restaurant by the hotel and as usual Lili reminds me not to behave like an Englishman (which means don’t drink before you eat and drink more water than wine and don’t eat too much and eat slowly and decline a pudding)
Our friend Silvia says ‘but Lili, Michael is not overweight’ Yes he is she says, he’s got an enormous pancia. But Lili, Silvia says, he’s got a perfect figure (ego massaged)
Yes, Lili says….. for a pear. (ego crushed)

A week later and we are back again to warm weather up from Africa and the frogs and toads are celebrating in their usual fashion by playing chicken in my headlights as we drive back from a pizza in town. I’ve given up trying to swerve away; they only jump in the same direction. But I felt bad about squelching a really big one. Must have been ancient, at least a hand span in width and, uhm, slightly wider afterwards (I saw as I drove past the next morning)
Frogs and toads playing chicken on the frog and toad?
I banish the conundrum from my mind.
Not easy.

This time of year we eat only potatoes and nuts.
This is not true but it feels like it.
Most of the nut trees hereabouts are to be found along the roadside; walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts. This makes sense of course because historically it meant that folks could collect nuts in the easiest way possible as they wandered along the ancient pathways. Now in this age where everybody has two or three cars, you see bunches of cars and people as you drive about, all within slippery red brown lakes of leaves and squashed nuts which spread across the roads and where you have to slow down on bends to avoid skidding.
And the road crews are out and about too at this time of year with their extending long armed grass and bush munchers, trimming the roadsides for better visibility now that the growth season has ended. A man at each end of these cavalcades (always there are three machines, munching at different heights) waving stop/go lollipops.
Driving back down from Sarnano yesterday, I see one of these guys darting about from one side of the road to the other and as I get nearer I see he is stuffing his pockets with walnuts as they cascade down in the gusts of wind. His pockets are bursting and he is temporarily de-lollipopped, completely oblivious to the hooting cars
Harvest time
It’s the time of la vendemia; grape picking. Usually we help Graziella with the harvest but this time we were away in Treviso. They kindly left us though some table grapes which Lili polishes off within two evenings. It’s a thing she has with grapes.
But the harvest this year is poor. Too much rain, not enough sun. But on Sunday morning it clears and we wander down to Graziella to ask if we can borrow their moto-sega (chain saw) to cut our logs in half because, (as you will no doubt remember), imbecile woodman didn’t do so. OK she says she’ll send Quinto up and we walk back ladened with a pumpkin, a dozen fresh eggs (plus as many not so fresh eggs from witch Pepa) and celery, potatoes and apples.
Sure enough, Quinto drives up half an hour later with the chainsaw but unfortunately he has been a bit too close to the wine vat this morning and he’s waving the chainsaw around like a tennis racket as he homes in on my logs…which he tells me to hold so that the saw won’t bounce. Bounce?
Forget it I say as I watch him slip for the second time and stagger towards the fig tree.
Oh my!
But then appears Graziella and prises the whirling machine from his grasp just as he slips again and plunges it into the metal log support which I had cobbled together for maximum operational safety. There’s a sharp whistling sound as the chain flies off the saw, sails between us and embeds itself in the fig tree.
Log sawing cancelled for rest of day.
Maybe forever

Our bread machine
It was a wedding present from Franca.
And I’ve really got into bread making.
Perfect life for me I tell Lili after another prize-winning loaf emerges from the machine. The perfect life would be days spent making bread, working in the garden, writing, painting, playing chess and the odd game of darts.
What about eating she says.
And drinking?
I pour myself a glass of water and go in search of the biscuit tin; find it; and swerve away, meaningfully, just touching the tin and no more. Touch touch!

End of the newsletter and I haven’t even mentioned little Eva and the T shirts, nor the gang warfare in Butundoli, nor even the miracle of the two plumbers and the electrician. NOR even the changes at our famous sinful nightclub, it's now a striptease disco!
Next time

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Thursday, August 25, 2005


Sambuco newsletter August 2005

I’m invisible, honest I am-

No, not really!
But nearly though.

This is the story of my near invisibility.
Ferragosto has reared its trafficy, whimsical, noisy and irritating head and I’ve become almost invisible.
And this is the proof. Read on..
Let’s face it. You could never ever honestly say that going into the post office or the bank in town is an experience which makes you feel like a valued human. No no, you always feel slightly guilty and you know you shouldn’t really bother the post office cashiers with anything as trivial as asking for a stamp for instance (frown) or if a special parcel has arrived maybe? (Look of outright disgust)…(I should add here that the signs above the cashiers booths in the post office are all deliberately confused, the indications for pensions, paying accounts, stamps and posting of parcels don’t really mean that at all. Instead you buy stamps at the pensions counter, pay bills at the parcel posting booth etc etc. Well of course, didn’t you know that?)
But at this time of year
It’s even worse.
Whooa..keep away, keep away
But today I can’t, just can’t . I have to pay a grossly unfair speeding fine; deadline this very day. So I’m stuck. And this is where the invisibility comes in.
I’ve already become partly invisible at the Bank a half hour before.
Naturally, none of the cashiers there like being cashiers, particularly at Ferragosto time.
They prefer to edge away from the living and instead peer with deep concentration and slight concern at computer screens.
So with me being part invisible and all, I suppose it was a bit much to expect anyone to notice my presence at the counter, which was open, but cashierless.
After five minutes I dare to say ‘hello’
And nobody looks up.
I say is anyone here to serve me? And I get a wave and a grunt.
I say sorry I didn’t catch that and I get back a tangible wave of hostility and I can feel on the point of exploding when the Bank Director (now he’s a very nice chap BTW) bursts through the labyrinth of desks and says ‘Michael, hi, I hear you got married, I sympathise I really do!’
And then they all look up and I’m obviously gradually becoming visible again and then lo and behold I have two cashiers desperate to serve me-
But the Post Office… the Post Office, the Post Office. Oh dear!
Not only am I becoming invisible here too but so are all the other customers (three lines of). There are pensioners lining up at the parcels counter. People with bills to pay at the stamp counter and I have to pay my speeding fine-
So I opt for the queue of pensioners. Big mistake.
An old lady two people ahead of me slaps her book on the table and I think OK five minutes but she gets paid and then for goodness sake gets out another book from her bag and gets paid this and then another book, oh my God, she’s collecting for the whole of her village! So I dare, I dare to ask if I’m in the right queue through the triple thickness glass to a couple of cashiers who are playing the ‘I’m on the computer you cant ask me’ game and I get cross looks and no response.
The guy in front of me explodes on my behalf. Jesus he shouts , if this were Rome, you’d all be dead in there by now!
Bingo, this hits the spot and suddenly all the computer zombies spin around and man (woman in this case) the cashier counters. He obviously had very good connections. Hmm, for some reason this type of threat carries some weight in the Bella Republica.

My theory is that these public service workers are angry that they can’t get away for Ferragosto too like the rest of the insane masses, and don’t really have invisible-making powers at all.
Or maybe there’s a connection between anger and invisibility. And Ferragosto. But I’m a bit muddled on this subject.

Erik and Harry

The baby owl.
This one’ll slay you!
Got back late the other night after seeing Aida at Ripastransone. Now I’m not an opera person but I like a good show. Our good friends Al and Al invited us to come along and see it with them and we thought ooh a trip to Verona, what fun.
Well Ripastransone ain’t exactly Verona and when to comes to putting on Aida it’s more like the Sound of Music except I wish it was and it wasn’t. More like the sound of an abattoir at dawn… on a Monday morning. A small to crippling stage with a cast of thousands. Everybody who ever wanted to be an opera singer and their brother was there, elbowing for a space.
So. We slid out early to have a look at the town. As good an excuse as any we thought. A pretty place, but deserted except for a few local sleuths. Maybe the locals were hiding from Aida; this being the sixth year the town had run it. Why six years of such torture? I’ve no idea.

Took us ages to get back home though those tortuous roads around Offida.I parked the car and a figure (it was Erik and it was well past midnight) sidled up to me as I attempted to disembark.
Now Erik, I should explain, does actually have red hair, which means he probably had parents who were either smart Alecs or School teachers. Erik is married to Lees who is Australian, Erik being American with obvious Viking ancestry.

And this how it goes.
It’s dark, it’s nearly one am and Erik asks is there a society for the protection of birds here.
At 1 a.m.?
What here in Amandola?.
No here as in anywhere in Italy.
It’s Harry isn’t it I ask?
Harry? Who the hell is Harry?
Our pet owl.
Oh Jesus he says I‘ve killed your pet owl? Oh God Oh God But I couldn’t tell if he was dead or not. I just picked him up and he stared at me.
Look I say don’t worry he’s always doing it.
Doing what?
Playing chicken
An owl playing chicken?
Look I say, trying to calm him down, he was just standing there in the middle of the road right? And he didn’t try to fly away, right? And you reckoned you ran over him, right? And the stopped the car, ran back and found him lying on his side and you picked him up and he didn’t struggle and just gazed wistfully at you, right?

Yes to all that he says.
That’s Harry I say,
He’s always doing it.
Erik wanders back to the house with a look on his face somewhere between shock and wonder.
And I hear him mumbling….’Harry? A pet owl? Playing chicken? An owl?
But then he spins round and shouts I’m going back to check and he jumps in his car and zooms off.
Come and get me if you need me, I call, I lie.
But I know he won’t.
I know Harry.
So I go to bed.

Up and down and back again and then down and back once more
That’s where we’ve been these past ten days…up and down and back again.
Down to Puglia, and back for a week in Le Marche, then up to the Venito (twice) once for our wedding and then for a family bash, then back to LM then Puglia for another wedding and then on the weekend across to Rome and then down to Calabria for a five day break and back again. Two weddings and a truck full of water melons (two thousand water melons spewed across the autostrada south of Pescara and we’re stuck for two hours in forty degrees of heat. Nice smell though, although I haven’t eaten water melon since. (just the odd banana)….Because with all the crashed cars around that overturned container lorry it looked like blood. It really did. Blood.

So it’s Ferragosto; it’s that time of year, summer, heat, traffic, chaos, everyone dashing about to get the most out of every moment which could, I decide, have something to do with the long harsh winter before.
No, heck, it’s because it’s Italy, it’s because they’re Italians, punt e basta.

On a domestic note
I order winter wood from Bepe, the woodman…€500 worth please.
Yes fine OK, agreed… then comes the day of delivery and as he is pouring a huge load over our Peruvian wall and Lili’s prize rosebush, I ask him are you sure this is 500 euros worth?, looks like a lot more lot to me.
Don’t know about that he says but there are 60 quintale (what are THEY?) and it’s 12 euros a quintale.
But that’s €720 I say, no it’s actually €780 he says.
Oh come on I say, we agreed on €500.
You must look on it as an investment he says.. For next winter.
I think you weren’t listening to me last week I say, and I think the extra €280’s worth is for Bernie.
What’s that in quintale he asks?
Our neighbour, Fiore, comes out of his house, looks and the mountain of wood, buries his face in his hands and walks back indoors.
Lili pops out and shrieks at the pile where once grew her prize rose and I just sit down on the wall with a deep sigh as I see Bernie’s load trundling down the road towards us.
I fear for his fledgling olive tree.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Newsletter, May 2005

The Russians are coming.
And the Poles, the Croatians, The Albanians, the Ukranians.
Do I have any evidence of this?
This is how I know.
It was Alberto who got me thinking about the matter.
I was passing by the notorious Bar Centrale. Now this bar isn’t difficult for me to pass by because it’s the hallowed haunt of the local Anglo Saxons and thus to be avoided at all costs.
But Alberto called me over for a quick drink and a packet of crisps.
I say it’s too early for me to drink alcohol but he says try this …a lemon non alcoholic cordial with mint.
And as I sit down he asks are you going to the opening tonight?
Opening? What opening?
The new nightclub, he says
A new nightclub?? Here in Sarnano? You must be kidding me .
Yes, they’re closing the discotec and opening a night club.
You mean they’re closing the only discotec left in the western world and opening a trendy night club?
Yes he says, who wants to go to a disco with only two people inside? In the new nightclub there’ll be low lights and music and Polish, Croatian, Ukrainian and most of all Russian girls and you have to pay €20 to dance with them for eight minutes…or talk for twenty.
Do they speak Italian I ask.
Probably not he says.
Can you talk for ten and dance for four minutes?
How could I know he says?
No chance I can ever go, what with the wife and all.
You live just nearby…you could pop in at some early hour I suggest.
He buries his head briefly in his hands.
I forgot to ask Alberto if there were going to be fireworks.
There were.
And the next morning I find Bessie (our dog) has destroyed another door.
(her firework phobia you’ll recall)

Dave comes to cut the grass the day after.
Dave did you go to the opening?
Yes he says and I paid €20 for a twenty minute chat with a Russian girl.
Did she speak Italian or English I ask.
And do you speak Russian?
No, he says but I’m sure she really liked me.
I walk away and leave him to cut the grass.

Three or four times a week now, empty freight planes, huge ones, fly in from St Petersburg and Moscow.
They leave full of shoes and jewelry and the Russians pay in American dollars, cash.
This information comes from an indisputeable source…a guy I know who stacks deck chairs on the beach near Ancona, under the flight path of these beasts.
(I wonder why they arrive empty though? Maybe the Russians don’t produce anything we want…oh except gas and oil, but it would be silly to bring that n’est-ce pas?)
But, mind you, lorries full of nicnacs arrive every weekend from Russia and the Ukraine throughout Italy full of cheap stuff. Stuff, yes that’s the word, stuff. Military regalia(rubbish) and cameras (rubbish), telescopes, binoculars ( brilliant) and then mainly household goods.
And we bought a few weeks ago in Ascoli a Russian hunting knife for €7 which is an absolute beauty and according to my friend Keith who knows about such things extremely dangerous and illegal ( super!) and this I must confess I adore. To the extent that I pull it out of its equally beautiful casing at every opportunity just to play with it and to finger its very illegal snap close mechanism.
Lili bought a cigarette lighter which is about a foot long and in the shape of a rifle by way of celebration of her decision to quit smoking. It was empty of course so I had to buy the necessary fuel for it and to adjust its flame. OK, I admit, I should have tested it more extensively before leaving it around for her to (not) use but it could have been worse…the accident that is… the burned eyebrow.
Hey who needs two eyebrows I pleaded? Eyebrows are like kidneys, we just don’t need two of everything.
How would you like one knee she said.
I swiftly adjusted the flame thrower to a more manageable and less incendary state.
Oh, and my impeccable source of info tells me the Russians are buying property all along the coast too.
It’s a mystery to me where they get the money from. If it’s true that is.

The garden
It’s the end of May and we have decided to dedicate as much spare time as daily life allows us to our garden. For a start we are simply just grateful that it’s still there after the massive mud slides of the Spring. And then, too, we feel we should give it a bit of a thank you for surviving the harsh winter. Two months of deep lying snow killed off almost half of our shrubs and compressed the earth in the orto to the point where it turned instantly to concrete on the event of the sudden warm weather in mid April. The only thing I could do was to go at it with my cherished English spade.
It took me a week but I managed to dig over the soil (120 sq of it) into one foot square chunks. These too, after a couple more days of heat, were cubes of solid concrete and I had to admit defeat and asked Keith if I could borrow his rotivator. Never in my long years of gardening have I stooped so low, I mean.. a rotivator?
My old dad would turn in his grave.But it’s a beastie, Keith says, a real beastie.
But will it chew through the cement blocks? I ask.
It’ll make mincemeat of them he says, merrily mixing our metaphors
It’s an American machine, at least it says made in America…a Husqvarna and a Briggs and Stratton hybrid. It’s got a starter pullcord of about a metre in length and it says on the side of the machine ‘hold handle when starting’.
I’ve absolutely no idea what this means. Nor does Keith.
After thirty or so pulls it explodes into action in a plume of black smoke; I click it into forward gear and it takes me at some fantastic speed towards the orto; which it plunges into and ploughs straight through the sage patch before I can manage to punch it into neutral.
A beastie indeed!
But does it do the trick?
In the first run it merely leaps from concrete chunk to concrete chunk and spins over on it side, spluttering.
I think I’ve broken it Keith if you read this! Sorry!
Graciella appears from nowhere, as do Renzo and Claudio and Lili runs out of the house too.
She says you are not to touch that machine again and the audience nods in agreement. And she says, if you only have one leg I won’t marry you. The image of being single with one leg quickly has the desired effect and Renzo says we’re coming back with the tractor. And sure enough, they do and the orto is ploughed by their earth masher attachment to a fine tilth.
So the veggies are in and new shrubs too. New animals are appearing, a black squirrel has taken to the little wood on the side of the garden and our nightingale is back for the season. The garden is full of tail-less lizards once again (grazie a Eva the cat) and the butterflies are back from wherever they go to (Egypt I imagine) and Harry our owl is back too… oh and we’ve seen our first snakes.
To Lilia, every snake is a deadly viper and must be killed before it kills us. Roman law, I imagine.
I say, how can it be a viper if it’s thin and black with a yellow head. I say go ahead and get the book on indigenous creatures. She says OK but kill it first.
Spiders suffer the same fate. They are killed remorselessly. Well, what do you expect she says, They’re spiders for God’s sake.

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