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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