Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zip Mouse crashed through the front door.
It was dinner time at La Villatoppo and if there are certain things you just don’t do at dinner time, well, Zip did them all at once. i.e. he crashed through the door without politely knocking first, he was late, he was badly dressed (torn shirt, trousers and shoeless) and worst of all, he was not only bleeding from his left ear, nose and tail, but he was screaming too.
‘I’ve just….I’ve just seen, been…I’ve
And then he collapsed.
And then? Well, talk about a mixed reception..
The mousechildren dropped whatever they were eating (probably corncob sandwiches) and rushed over to Zip’s huddled form shouting what happened? who did it? where have you been? All at once of course.
The young mouseladies (being more refined and delicate), got to him just as quickly (if not faster) with their ooh aahs and their what’s happened to our poor brave handsome hero? sort of stuff.
And the menmice? They just carried on eating and giving each other that what’s he gonna tell us this time look.
Well, you might guess from all this that Zip is not just an ordinary mouse, but that he also a mouse for all persons, in all weathers, a mouse for all seasons (except winter). In other words he….
Ok lets’ hear the story from him (he is coming around slowly and his eyes are flickering open)
'Don't bite me, don't bite me!'
Oh we won't bite you dear famous adventurous Zip, they all cry (in one way or another)...they being the little ones. eyes wide open, mouths agape, and the young ladies assuming pert expressions; all huddled around Zip who now has been cleaned up somewhat and is about to be fed a delicious bowl of cereal soup by one of the young ladies (who by the way fought for this honour in a dastardly fashion, biting, scratching and elbowing the others in the kitchen)
Zip makes short work of the soup and gazes at his audience.
Oh, he says, I imagine you are eagerly awaiting my story (yes,yes) Well, I feel much better after that soup, I must say, so where shall I begin? (start by telling us how brave you are).
OK, yes, well as you all know, I'm probably the bravest country mouse who ever lived and have spend my life having adventures in order that I can come back and tell stories and eat delicious cereal soup (blushes from pretty young lady mouse). And this time I ventured into the land of the two legged giants (oh my!), made friends with a C.A.T. (shrieks) and flew through the air! (Ooooh!)
It happened like this.
I was trying to set up a deal with some housemice (Yuk!), to supply us bits of bread and tasty cereal snacks in return for poppy seeds and tobacco and I waited in the garden of the giants house for ages and ages for my contact to turn up but no show. So then I made a very brave decision (oooh!) to go by myself into the house of the giants and into the dark criminal world of the housemice (we hate them, we hate them!)

Thus did our hero begin to tell his tale about descending deep into the criminal world of the housemice mafia but how he instead walked straight into the paws and jaws of Eva the giant's C.A.T. who promises not to eat him, at least for a week, if in turn he taught her how to charm goldfish up to the top of ponds (oh, you know everything Zip!)
At the end of his story, Zip gazed absentmindedly at his empty cereal soup bowl and began to whisper, as if to himself. And the children and pert young ladies had to draw closer and strain to hear his softly spoken words.
It was time to say goodbye to my new friend Eva, principally because there was only five minutes left of our seven day pact and Eva was beginning to lick her lips. But she didn't bite me. She kissed me on the nose...and this is the weirdest part. All of a sudden the world went red and I was in the grip of one of the giants who was just about to bite my head off. So I bit him I did ( Oh ZIP!) and then I was whizzing around and suddenly flying through the air up up into the sky and then landing here just in front of Villatoppo.
( What a marvellous story Zip, our astronaut Zip!)
And they cheered and hugged him and the pretty young mouse went off to fetch him another bowl of cereal soup.

In the meantime, back on Earth
We have earthquakes
We get a shudder every other week or it feels as if it's some 50 metres down, a wide rumble that moves at 50K per hour.
I know within seconds that we are experiencing one.
The birds stop singing? Nope!
The dogs start howling? Nope!
This is how I know.
Lili gets up smartly from the table, or chair, or bed, and heads straight for the door. Not a word said, or an animal grabbed (let alone a husband)...just straight out into the road.
When it's over, she comes back in looking sheepish and pale.
It happened last week when we had dinner guests. I told them not to panic and we just rumbled through it and when Lili came back of course they all questioned her as to why she hadn't at least grabbed Marina ( kitten, as you know) She said 'sorry but it's bigger than me'.
Yes I said and an earthquake is bigger than us too.
She said she'd try harder next time.
Not quite sure what she means.
Running for the door perhaps.

This is the season of mice. Heaven knows what they are up to. Maybe getting as much food in before winter truly arrives. Eva is getting into the habit of bringing them in for Marina. She just plonks them at her paws, meeows and goes back for more. Marina plays basketball with them for half and hour or so and them eats them.
Last week though I walked into the kitchen and found Eva face to face with a pretty little field mouse. Lili came in and said Oh he looks sweet, catch him and throw him out, Eva's about to munch him up. So I grabbed a towel from the washing on the table and threw it over the little chap as he tried to dash away. Got him I did, then extricated him from the towel and took him down to the garden. I had him cupped in my hand with his little face peeping at me. Keep away
dear little chap I said... next time you'll get eaten. Then he bit me! He did, he bit me!
I let out a yell and threw him up in the air! the little beast, and went back inside to inspect and clean my wound.
There, you see, you try to do a mouse a kindness and what do you get?
Bitten that's what.

Other animal news?
Bessie dog got bashed up by Lucy, neighbour's dog and has spent nearly a week unable to walk.
She's almost over it though and I left her two bones at lunchtime by way of an incentive to recover.

The autumn has been more like summer with endless days of sunshine. As a kid I used to love snow. Now I'm happy if it stays on the mountains. Oh well, OK, maybe a romantic snowfall between Christmas and the New Year. Yes that would be nice

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

November 2006

Sambuco newsblog November 2006

If she finds out I’m dead in the water. Or maybe I should say when she find out, and not if.
It was a hijacking, a highway robbery.
And I was the victim.

What would she say?
She would say, Michael, how could you?
You, who have traveled the world and been swindled and cheated from New Dehli to Mexico City…how could you be so dumb?
And I would reply (you can bet I’m getting my replies practiced and ready)…. I would say something like…
Hey, come on! The road between Amandola and Sarnano? It didn’t enter my head!
You’re gullible that’s what she’ll say, gullible gullible gullible. Un ingenu, una pecora persa

You want to hear the story, don’t you?
I’ve got to start it by explaining that I’m the most non-racial person on this planet.
Why, when I first went to South Africa in the time of apartheid, and when I went through customs at Durban, I handed out sweets to to the African workers cleaning the floor with toothbrushes. Consequence?
Two hours in luggage inspection but spared from execution.

So here we are, the story.
I was driving back from Sarnano and to the side of the main road was a car with its bonnet up and what I took for an Indian family outside around it and the father trying to flag down passing cars...and nobody was stopping. Oh, poor souls I think and turn my car around and go back.
First mistake!
As I get out of car, the man grabs my hand and thrusts it to his heart and says Oh kind kind sir, today you have truly saved out souls and found a place for yourself in paradise (Help!). I am an Arab sir (Oh no!) and I live in France and am a respectable business man (Hmm!).
I say OK calm down. Are you out of petrol and can I drive you to the garage? Oh no gentle sir, he says, its that nobody will take my credit card and I need petrol money for the big drive to France.
He takes me to his car and says look look kindest man ever, there's the baby of my daughter in the back and you are saving her too by giving me E150.
Me, giving you a hundred and fifity Euros? Yes yes he says and yes yes says his wife who comes running over and starts wailing.
Look I say there's no way I can give you E150.
Yes you can he says and starts taking off bracelets, a ring a necklace. All gold he says. (Oh yeah?) A thousand Euros worth as a securuty.
Look, I don't want your gold I say and he starts throwing it on my dashbord.

OK.. to cut a long story short, I drive off a hundred Euros lighter and just know I've been done.
I hide the gold in my camera bag.
Then a few days back I check with our jeweller friend in town.
He takes one quick look through his eyeglass and chuckles.
Michael, all that glisters is not gold, he says.
Bottle it, I say.

It's wearing off now but I've felt bad about it for a week.
Robbed I was.

The weather.
On the third of November , in the evening, we had our first snow of the winter.
A shock, because there has been no build up. We’ve had an extended summer with temps last week hitting 28C. Sore throats, coughs ands sneezes, and that’s the cats. But now, a few days later the sunshine is back and we have temps up to 20C again.
Dry it is and the grass sown by Pino shows no sign of taking.
And when the cars drive past it's as dusty as summer.

Feeling pretty aggresive after the highway robbery, I find myself in the post Office with 250 invitaions to post for an exhibtion Lorenzo and I have in Ancona. I have a hundred things to do and am late for an appointement.
Do they have a franking machine for a bulk stamping?
But Michael the Post lady says, just leave them with me and i'll put the stamps on for you!
I stare intently at her. You will? You'd do that?
Yes, sure she says, pop back later, no prob.
And I walk out feeling better about the world.
I've been given something.. simple kindness.

Everyone's getting it. It's great. I can talk with my grandchildren in South Africa via video in real time. Who's that mummy?, my grandaughter says, as my face pops up on her screen.
Time to visit them.. I can't have them not recognining their own grandad. Shameful

Tai chi
Lili and I went on a Tai Chi weekend in Reggia Emilia. Taiost it was, full immersion for twelve hours. Got the shoes but need to buy the outfit for the next session in November.
Another trip to Decathlon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The sky at night in August
The Milky Way
La Via Lattea
La Rue St Jacques (trust the French to be different)
Here it shrieks across the sky and on dark moonless nights such as we are having right now it takes you breath away it does. Bessie and I walk out at midnight along the top road towards Vittorio’s house and there it is, this chunk of white up there.
And they’re all stars for heavens sake I tell Bessie.
Who is as black as the night herself,but I hear her pattering along beside me and imagine her nodding yes.
Bessie, I ask, do you know why The French call it La Rue St Jacques ?
She mumbles something like 'Has it got something to do with the extortionate price of dogfood?'
I let this one go. What do dogs know about stars anyway?
It almost makes up for the disappointment of the La Notte da San Lorenzo, le stelle cadente, the night(s) of the falling stars, which were mainly cloudy.
Saw one tear from East to West above the roof of the house though. Huge it was.
Well, biggish.

During Ferragosto week, Bernie and Cristina visit us to calm their pre-nuptial nerves and we drive up to Lake Fiastra where it's cooler and the water is sweet and fresh. We take the mountain route back and being up there so high is a wonder indeed, another world, of strange blue flowers and diving hawks.

The language lesson
Andrea, the woodman calls me and says Michael I’m delivering your winter logs right now. Yes I say but you said you’d give me a call a couple of days beforehand. Hmm he says anyway I’m on my way now and can you be here to supervise the offloading so that I don’t crush Lili’s favourite rose like last year. No way. I’m busy, I can't get home, but look I say, I trust you, just put them over the wall (as in over the other side of), sopra il muro, avoiding sacred rose bush.
OK he says I’ll put them over the wall avoiding sacred rose bush.
Good idea, I say.
I get back late to find he’s dumped a trailer load over the wall, (as in completely covering).

Andrea, I say when I meet him in town the next day, I meant over the wall, not over the wall.
You should have said, he said.
Great eh? Isn’t that just great?
Your fault, Lili says later when she’s back from her hairdressing trip to Treviso, you should have used your hands, what do you think hands are for in Italy?
How can you talk if your hands are always stuck in your pockets, you English?

Tennis and the death watch beetle
You’ve heard of tennis elbow, but do you know what I’ve got? Tennis shoulder. Yes, that’s what I’ve got, tennis shoulder.
I had a game with my geometra friend Massimo…first game for eight years and I was bit uhm…creaky. The brain stays young, they say, but the body doesn’t always quite agree.
Hell, I remember, I do, I could slam a backhander and get to the net in a wink.
OK, this physical impediment I can handle, but psychological warfare?
Now where did that French soccer captain get his bad football pitch manners from?
I’ll tell you, Italy. He played here for some eight years for Lazio.
And this is the first time I’d played tennis with an Italian, and I’m getting rattled because every time I get a good shot in (which wasn’t that often on account of rapidly deteriorating shoulder condition brought on by whiz bang serves), Massimo lets out the most indelicate and vulgar curses. Monster, idiot, elephant, you are a stupid, fat, slow and ugly elephant he shouts, (these are the cleaner selection of epithets he was hurling my way).
After a while I have to say look Massimo, I find your curses a bit upsetting and I don’t think I really deserve them.
Oh, cripes, Michael, he says, it’s not you I’m cursing, it’s myself.
So we settle back into the game and I’m thinking maybe our Italian player was cursing his own mother and sister and La Captaine Francais didn’t quite understand the context.
Soothing thought.
Doubtful though.
I should mention here that everywhere the Italian flags are still flying even after almost two months since the world cup. It’s as if that’s all there is to hang on to. Two months of Prodi’s government where daily everybody is receiving fresh tax bills, oh not just for tax but everything we are just not used to paying, this is Italy for heaven’s sake, rates, water bills, refuse bills, etc.
Are they crazy? This is Italy for God's sake! (Here BTW you get the added delight of a sweet attachment which says if you don’t pay within ten days they will repossess your car) And what exactly would they do with the ten million cars they repossess? Where would they park them?
Napoli I imagine, or maybe Albania.
Talking about Albania, when we were in Croatia the other week on a short holiday, we were told that Albania is the new Croatia, implying that it’s half the price to go and stay there, rip off the locals and cash in before the Sunday papers start writing about it and the globalisation gets a grip.
Somehow I can’t imagine any journalist coining the term ‘The new Albania’, but journalist would and could, you bet! Last week I read in the Guardian an article entitled
‘Tuscany, the new Tuscany’
Oh, good grief!
Ah yes, the deathwatch beetle.
Tick tick tick. All night it ticks Lili says and you can’t hear it because you’re stone deaf.
Only in Italian restaurants I say and it’s selective.
What’s selective?
My hearing problem, I say. I can only not hear certain things. She says it might have something to do with my excessive use of a mouse.
I haven’t got a mouse I say.
No no, she says, my Rolfing therapist (rolfing?) tells me that using a PC mouse does damage to your back, eyesight, and gives you headaches, so maybe that’s why your losing your hearing too and why your tennis shoulder won’t heal.
And the tick is driving her mad because the beetle is obviously getting bigger and bigger and soon it will have babies which will eat all the roof beams and the house will fall down. Whoa! I say, hold on hold on, we’ll trap and destroy this beast, but do you know why it is called a deathwatch beetle?
Because it watches death, she says.
Oh dear, no wonder you can’t sleep at night, I say.
I call our friend John who used to be a pest control expert in London and he comes over with a bunch of books on wood blights.
And this is what we discover,
a) That the death watch beetle is only tiny, maybe a centimeter long
b) That the ticking sound is not her eating but tapping on the wood with her nose (please don’t ask)
c) That there is a paste which applied to said beams is a sure knock out killer.

So John has ordered magic paste from friend in London and soon we will be saved, forever. And the magic paste will fix everything, my shoulder, my hearing… and soften the deathwatch beetle’s nose.

Our war with our neighbours?
They are suing us to try and take away a piece of our garden so it can be theirs, citing a medieval law which is called ‘Usocapione’ They have witnesses to swear on their behalf that they cultivated this piece of land whilst simultaneously living and running a bar in Rome for twenty years. A difficult task. Must have exhausted them.
And you know what surprises me the most?
That I have murderous thought running through my mind.
Blood and earth.
Must be the Saxon- German blood in me.

The animals
You ask about Diabolika?
She has now accepted her new name of Marina.

She has won the hearts of us all and even snoozes cuddle up to Bessie.
Eva has returned home after her few weeks of jealousy and is beginning to play with her, and Forch is basically knackered because being her adopted father is one thing…. but playing with her all day? Come on. Some respect for my age, please, says he.

You can read my other stories in the Physik Garden,
And see some of my paintings on...

Saturday, August 26, 2006


This is a photo of our little niece Margherita.
If you live in Italy, you might have seen her face on TV and in the newspapers over the last two days.
She was born with a very rare physical deformity which has meant for her that virtually her first two years of life have been in hospitals, with feeding tubes in her nose and down her throat (because she didn’t have full control of her swallowing mechanisms) and only a small body frame to get around on. But try to achieve she did; and showed such amazing courage in the face of obvious pain and continuous discomfort.
She had her second birthday some two weeks back and she was so proud that she was beginning to walk and talk, if just a little, and even feed herself with a spoon.
On Wednesday she went in for a routine check up before she was to be taken to the US
where her parents had found a specialist who might have been able to help her to grow up in a more normal fashion.
She was to have a simple scan and the doctor there decided that she should be sedated to stop her moving during the process. He couldn’t find a vein in her arm to inject into and told her parents that he would give her gas instead. He applied the mask to her face and despite her struggling to pull it off, he held it firmly and then after too long a time he was seen to ask an attendant nurse to switch the gas on. There was then a whoosh of gas and Margi took a deep breath and her eyes rolled back. The parents at this time realized that something was wrong but the doctor told them he knew what he was doing and then tried to revive her. At no time did he call for assistance in what was obviously a deteriorating situation. Nor did he even after an hour of pumping her body for response when she had obviously died. But this he did not have the balls to tell the parents saying all the time that he had the situation under control.
Yesterday morning we went to see her at the morgue in Castel del Franco.
She looked so sweet and peaceful and was still dressed in her pretty little outfit all dolled up for her final hospital visit before her trip to the States.
The family of course is in pieces.
How can you handle this? You can’t, you can’t.
All that we can ask is that you say a little prayer for her.
And for those of you who have never met her to hear, if only from me, that such courage, albeit during a short short life, was something one comes across rarely.
Courage, that’s what she had.

And I shall never forget this that she has taught me.
That above all you need courage and to be brave in life.
Thank you Margi.

And the doctor?
I hope he gets struck off and put in jail.There will be an autopsy and investigation next week.
He is being prosecuted for culpable homicide.
But that doesn't bring back our little Margi.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This little mite of a creature!
What good is it to anyone?
Adoptable? No way!
But little mites can be family too you know, especially if they are insistent and say (in a meeeoowish voice),
‘Take me home with you, go on! I know you don’t know me and I know I look small and useless… but I’m brave, that’s what I am’
I’d gone down to dump the rubbish in the bins at the bottom of the road and opened the door of the car to find a little face looking up at me; one infected eye and a wasted body.
‘Please take me home’ she meeoowed.
Nope, I don’t do this…this I do not do. What if I were to pick up any stray kitten when I drive around, why, the house would be full of.......
‘I’m not any stray kitten, my name is Diabolika, and I intend to play a part in your future’
Oh no, absolutely not.
I go to close the back door of the car and she jumps in before I can slam it tight.
I pick her up and throw her on the ground and she positions herself under the wheel.
Look, I say, I’m busy and I just can’t deal with this.
‘Just give me a trial then. Feed me and fix my bad eye and if you really can’t love me, then I’ll go away’

Two weeks later.

She has won the heart of Forch, our aggressive, rude and indifferent male cat. He has fallen deeply in love with her. Eva was and is still a wee bit jealous but Diabolika is working on her now too.
Bessie our dog just noses her and laughs.

Last night as I tucked her in at bedtime with her toy tiger she looked up at me and said.
‘You see, I was right; I knew you would all come to love me. We’re all one big family now aren’t we? I’m a loveable addition to your family, aren’t I? And the more love there is, the happier we will be, won’t we?’
Yeah yeah, I guess you’re right, I mumbled softly to myself as I staggered off to bed.
Softly so she wouldn’t know she’d touched my heart too.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Spring's here!

With a message Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sambuco Newsblog March 006

Pets and the weather

It’s March 20 and it’s still snowing. Will it ever stop? I don’t think so.
Most of the neighbours and folks here about blame Bernie the Bolt, my New York - Irish -Romano frequent flyer neighbour across the road, often.
‘ Hey’ they say.’ Do you know if Bernie’s here this weekend, we’ve got a garden barbeque planned’ and… ‘I want to put my potatoes in this weekend. Have you heard whether Bernie’s coming over from Rome?’
Orlando, who has a house in the village of Botundoli below us, stops by and says (he always speaks to me in pidgin Italian, I never ask why…. a habit he has picked up from the trials of communicating with the English invaders I guess)… He says ’Leak … aqueduct .. Area lose millions water crisis summer….Orlando call water people, Orlando say fix leak, enter bad water daughter get sick last year. Water people no come, Orlando call them Monday, Orlando angry’ .
‘Me say it to Bernie’, I say (in equally perfect pidgin Italian). ‘He fix plenty good. He have water magic curse’.
Orlando drives off with bemused look on face, convinced more than ever of the need to speak this strange fragmented language of his to get his message across to the invaders.
Maybe he thinks we are Native American Indians? Who knows?
Anyway, general consensus is that we have a whip-round and send Bernie to Pepa, our local witch, to have the curse taken off.
It’s the very least we can do, both for him and the micro global cooling climate he is so obviously responsible for.
Yesterday was a mini break from the white splattered grey gloom. It was sunny the whole morning and we zoomed up to the ski slopes at Sassotetto. No wind, just warm sunshine and blue blue sky misting over at times. You know that deep winter blue that makes you sigh and maybe even hiccup.
I’m not a very good skier…just the basics, like I can zigzag and I can stop, but no fast fancy stuff. It’s the second time in the last fortnight I’ve been up there and I like the buzz you get, just a few people (it’s a sleepy family ski center) and I guess I like the slow mechanical repetition and the concentration.
Kids learn faster than adults. This we know. When it comes to skiing they haven’t got as far to fall and they love the dare and the approbation. I went up with my grandson, Bertie, and he wanted a snowboarding lesson. Why? Well that’s the trend now with youngsters they say up there. In fact they only have one snowboard teacher at present and next year there are going to have to get more boards in and train up more teachers.
After one lesson though, Bertie decided he preferred skiing.
More control, he said.
Do nine year olds say things like that nowadays?
Lili’s in Treviso and I’m in charge of the animals…a thankless task as they always seem to be hungry when I’m manning the ship.
Fortu walks in with his face swollen up again. He’s limping too and has an infection in his left rear paw which is also swollen. Oh great ! He’d had an operation two weeks back for a cyst. We’d had him castrated at the same time and, I must confess; I was more concerned about this than the cyst. It’s a male thing.
Driven to near obsessive madness in his ‘season of love’: mere skin and bone and torn to shreds by fighting nightly, we figured that he’d be happier without his bits and that he’d stay at home at nights, put on weight and get a healthy sheen on his fur. And purr happily, incessantly.
Fraid not! He hasn’t changed an iota.
So off I go with him last night last night to the Vet and I have to hold him whilst she attempts to sedate him and he in turn is growling and deciding which part of my face to disfigure. I know him well and pin him down, paws flat on the operating table.
She finds a piece of something or other, maybe a bit of tooth when she opens his cheek up again and some equally messy stuff in his paw.
We arrive at our dinner date far too late and I feel grumpy.
Even grumpier still this morning when I have to crush his antibiotic tablet and hide it inside a piece of chicken at breakfast time. He eats all of his chicken breakfast except the piece with the antibiotic inside.
That’s me.
With a cold.
Perhaps flu.
And a double toothache. (see below)

If I could get out into the garden and do a bit, it might help; but it’s grey and chilly still with patches of today’s snow still lying.

Our shrubs have arrived. (Virburnia I think ) They’re to make a division between the garden and the parking area, and we’ll put them in as soon as Massimo has worked on the field opposite and cleared a parking space. He’ll come when the ground is drier he says but best to tell the Forestale first he says because there are ten small oak trees in the field and you’ll get into trouble if you cut them because the are protected. I go over to look and they are twiglets, no more, less than a metre in length.

Thing to do he says is cut them down before you call them.
I wave him off and stand awhile puzzling the logic of what I have just heard.
It’ll come to me; it’ll come to me.
Trip to dentist in Treviso to stop toothache
I never have toothache…only after a visit to the dentist. This is true. It’s like when you take a car to the mechanic and then after all sorts of things go wrong. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m sure dentists and mechanics are really necessary but there is a lot to be said for the philosophy of leaving well enough alone. I mean, have you seen Tony Blair’s teeth lately?. I don’t mean personally up front, but TV cameramen seem to getting at him lately and zooming in a bit too close. He needs urgent dental treatment.
But enough of UK politics, we have enough problems here with Berlosconi’s face-lifts and strange new hair growth.
Back to my dentist.
To enter his studio is to enter the future.
It’s in fact a space ship.
When I arrive there he is the middle of an argument with Telecom. Shouting he is.
I settle down meekly in the chair to await my fate and after a while he comes bounding in.
‘Telecom’, he starts off…..
Don’t wanna know I say.
In his futuristic space capsule he has constructed a huge flat screen so his patients can see the mouths being operated on in Cinerama. Problem is though that the screen is 20 degrees too far to the right and you can only see your giant mouth in glimpses between drilling if you quickly jerk your head to the right.
Tell you what though…it’s not very interesting.
Oh and get this.
He gives you valium before he starts, as well as an anesthetic.
Then I think he hypnotises you too.
I can remember him telling me that he doesn’t bother matching tooth colour, it’s all the same. Could be a dog’s tooth I put in your gum, he says, or a bat’s.
A bat?
Did he say that?
You get pretty relaxed with valium in you and stoked up with anesthetic and hypnotized too. Maybe he said piastrella and not pipistrello.
Plan is, he says, is to link his studio with his home so he can get a trained assistant to follow his instructions remotely.
And then he can work internationally, globally too: can stay home, make toast and read all day or even snowboard.
Seems a good idea to me.

Is near Orvieto.
Now this is a great little town on the northern borders of Lazio where it joins Tuscany.
The Duomo is black and white candy stripes: just like Siena’ Duomo but inside somehow more majestic.

But what fascinated me most were the catacombs and underground tunnels and caves, which run beneath the town. Mostly Etruscan in origin and expanded in medieval times, initially to preserve wine but also for hiding in, I imagine, in times of war and insecurity or to dodge paying taxes.
Saturnia? A great day out. Hot rivers and waterfalls of mineral water. The smell lingers on you for days
Monster monster
People are odd. Of all the things I write about, it’s the monster, AKA Il Volcano, AKA our wood burning heating system, which seems to grab folks the most (men mostly).
For heavens sake fellas! I’m getting tired of the guided tour. And it’s the expansion tank that seems to be at the peak of their interest. The expansion tank?
When I talk sheer economics….like our gas bills don’t seem to be that much less (who wants to get up at six am on a winter’s morning and load up wet wood in the dark?)… they just glaze over and focus on the plumbing. When I say this thing eats up almost half a quintale of wood a day, they look uneasy and ask about the flame adjusting mechanism.
It’s odd…they’re odd… getting on scary.
We just recently, up in Treviso, got close up to a new pellet-burning stove. Fascinating it was. Completely automatic, clean and light to use. Hot air directable and pretty to contemplate.
I shall contemplate this one.
The pellets are made from olive pips. Smart eh?
And what’s more, ace steel tubing and a brilliant expansion tank.
In the meantime..a typical monster scenario
Get a call from Lili saying the alarm has gone off but not to worry ‘cos Monia (lady who does for us) has fixed it. When I get back home to a heat-throbbing house, I have to rush to the boiler, switch over the taps and turn the hot taps on everywhere. Monia? You fixed it? Yes she says, I did what I do at home, I switched the alarm off. Great! Now this is the equivalent of going to your corner mechanic with an oil light which won’t stop flashing and the guy says Fix it in a jiff mate and he reaches under the dashboard and unscrews the red light bulb.
What had happened fellas (can’t wait to know huh?)..Was that I forgot to tell Lili I’d lit monster before going out…so…now follow this…. She had switched gas heating on and turned thermostats down to 17 degrees before going out herself. Now this means that monster boiling water has nowhere to go, it just stays inside monster tank walltanks so it bubbles up to 100% and sets off alarm.
Dangerous stuff.
Good job she’d spotted monster alight as she passed to go out.
Just as the alarm went off.
Our line goes down twice in one week. All since they took away our IDSN line which has proven next to useless. We have heard that ADSL is getting closer so we’ve put our order in and then we will be happy forever (when it arrives).
I report the first failure and a nice guy comes around and tells me the break is one the line between our house and Vittorio’s but that he can’t do it by himself, he’ll send a couple of guys next week. Along they come and pull out all the boxes in the house, attach metres and probe boxes and I say look, your guy last week told me the line was broken between us and Vittorio. They ignore me and say that they have detected a break fourteen metres from the telephone, which means it must be inside the house. So they pull out cable after cable and find nothing. Then they say it must be between the house and the pole in the garden and one chap paces our 14 metres and it reaches the pole.
Again they can’t find break.
Where did the other technician say it was one asks. Just over there I say, I told you…..between us and Vittorio. They just shrug and go grumbling off and then ten minutes later I see them at the top of the poles twixt us and Vittorio.
An hour later they come back to the house and say it’s fine now, we found two breaks between you and Vittorio. He’s been cutting down branches they say, that’s what did it.

It’s now March 25th.
Tomorrow the clock’s go forward and already we are past the equinox.

And today the beach, in fact Portonovo

This morning I saw a Hopo bird in the garden. They fly up from Africa, usually in June.

Destroy Telecom : useful alternatives
You can read some of my other stories on
and some paintings on

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Christmas and the New Year

Christmas and the New Year 2006

Lili, I say, I’m having trouble with the Christmas fairy.
Which Christmas fairy she asks?
THE Christmas Fairy, the one on the tree.
What sort of trouble she asks.
It’s a way of saying uhm…well...I..
Yes? Try and say what you mean!
(And here, with tremendous courage, I bridge the great cultural/linguistic divide)
She looks as if she’s been razzle-dazzled by the entire team of Father Christmas’ little helpers. …(Gulp!). There I said it! I said it.
I don’t know what razzle dazzle means, she says, but if it’s what I think it means, you should be ashamed.
Yes ashamed. Elves wouldn’t do that.
Yes elves she said.
Father Christmas’ little helpers are elves?
Yes, of course. Everybody knows that.
Lili, I say, I’m only speaking metaphorically but anyway, just for the record, why wouldn’t Father’s Christmas’ little elves razzle dazzle the Christmas fairy?
Because they are spiritual beings she says. And anyway she’s been my Christmas Fairy for 15 years and is dear to me.

The Christmas Fairy stays and, do you know? She just needed a little dusting and clean knickers, and, my, she’s as good as new and God help any elf that even peeps at her… even thinks about peeping at her.

But Christmas has come and gone, as have friends and festivities.
Not that we did much, just loafed around, kept the fires burning, the dragon fed.
Somehow managed to miss both King Kong (a boy’s film) and Narnia (a little girls’ film)
Which was a pity (we usually either see action thrillers (me) or love stories (Lili) and hell, it’s nice to be a kid at Christmas after all. Who wants to be an adult all the time?)
We’ll have to wait for the DVD’s
We did however go and see Mozart’s requiem in Servignano.
Solemn but touching.
AND the presipio (Nativity Scenes… oh dear yes) show, in Sant Angelo Pontana where baby Jesus comes in all shapes and sizes, as do the sheep, the donkey and the Magi.
Invariably BJ is bigger than both his mum and the Magi.
I daren’t ask why.

Dancing with dogs
New Year’s Eve was cold and icy and we were persuaded by friends to join them at the town’s ( Monte San Martino) NY celebrations. We left home really later to avoid all the boring stuff and got there just in time for all the hugging and kissing and a cake competition.
But there, but there… in the middle of all the revels were two men, seventy year olds, dancing with dogs. Seriously!
Did I have my camera? Nope!
One dog was a tiny Chiwawa, the other a minitoy midget something or other which the owner said was the only one in Italy so he was having difficulty finding a mate for it.
Yes, I imagine it would be difficult I emphasised.
They sailed around the dance floor gazing devotedly at the little beasts who were trembling and shivering.
Are they cold I ask? No it’s the fireworks they both said.
But the fireworks don’t start until after midnight.
Yes they say, it’s uncanny how they know.
We have the same problem with Bessie I say.
Is she a miniature too?
No a Belgian Shepherd I say (well, almost, I think)
Oh they ask, do you dance with her.
No, she’s too big I say but sometimes we twist together.
I head for the exit before they can gather any more words to pin me down with.
(Bessie, I should add, we left inside the house with Eva to keep her company, all the lights on and MTV blasting away…we return later delighted to find that this is the first New Year she hasn’t bitten down a door in her firework phobia frenzy)
Thank you MTV.
Thank you Eva.

Telecom Italia
Everybody here is at war with Telecom Italia.
Everybody has been wounded, financially or psychologically, usually both.
Countless are the stories I could tell, but here’s a recent one
We get a whammy of a bill for the first month of having broadband installed in the office.
(You know, cheap, even free, calls and 24 hour Internet?)
A call to TI takes usually 20 mins to be answered and up goes the heart rate and on the cold sweats because here comes Frank Sinatra (yes Frank Sinatra) with the fill- in while we keep you endlessly waiting music, singing
‘Someday when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you…and the way you look tonight’
I mean. Who chose this song? It’s deliberately intimidating.
Eventually the conversation (spread over two hours) goes like this….
On business line 192
‘We have a business line at home which we have been trying to change to private for 18 months
Oh then you must call 187 because they deal with this side of things.
Err, no, they tell us it’s not them, that we must deal with it’s you.
And this repeats itself call after call until they tell you the thing to do is send a FAX and you say you have twenty times already and then you hang up exhausted.
(TWO Italies, I think… the eternal blight.. the private and the institutionalized).
Oh then the absolute insanity and impossibility of getting broadband, they fitting the wrong modem which caused us depression and near insanity for weeks on end.
And it was only a chance call to a sympathetic operator that unraveled this dilemma.
They’d supplies us with the wrong modem. The wrong modem?
Even writing this is depressing, so I’ll stop.
Enough to say go Skype, go Telesconto. (See below for websites)
We owe it to Italy to destroy Telecom Italia, utterly..Forever!

Language class
We are at table with Scottish friends and gossiping as you do, this time about a certain businessman, colleague, tyrant.
I think she has spiders everywhere, Lili says.
He has spies, says Scottish dinner guest in a corrective tone.
Yes, replies Lili, like a big web.

The Volcano support group
Nails in bucket. Look at this photo and ref last newsletter’s woodpile. Now each piece of wood equals two nails, so you see how much the dragon is eating? And it’s spitting out these nails for goodness sake.
Where do you recycle nails?

The smell and now a leak…… Second rate and third choice plumber had layed plastic clad anti frost piping right along side dragon chimney pipe. Result, toxic fumes in guest bedroom for month. What’s worse I have to knock down a new wall to remedy crime.
Dear oh dear!

ENEL out. Electricity goes off in snowstorm and Lili feeds dragon extra to make up for energy loss. No electricity, thus no pump, thus no water circulation. Got the picture? Dragon throbbing then… Melt down! When electricity eventually comes back on the whole house shakes as the expansion tank fills with boiling water which it shoots out over the bamboo in the garden (which has since never recovered) and we rush around opening all the hot water taps and the house becomes one giant sauna.
Such problems… and they’re not only mine. I’ve been inundated with the saddest Volcano/dragon stories since my last blog.
So we’re thinking off starting a Dragon Help Group, an emotional emergency service to rush to the aid of dragon victims. (It would be men only and would include weekend workshops is a suggestion from one dragon victim)
Hmm. Can I get back at you on this I ask?

Fortunato has at last begun his season of love, which has made Lili very happy because she says it’s obvious now that he’s not gay after all and can safely join the Dragon Help Group.
Eva has stared to make these sudden rapid spurts around the house for no apparent reason…Worms! Lili says, She has to be de-wormed she says.. it says so in her cat book.
Bessie has enjoyed the two snowfalls we have had so far.
She barks until I make her a snowball which I have to through up in the air for her to catch… see pic. She has decided to make friends with all her dog enemies for whatever reason and now happily plays with Charlie, George and Rocco and no longer tries to kill
Vittorio’s sausage dogs.

Bessie and snow trick

People and plumbers
Got back the other evening after an afternoon advising on quality standards with a friend who is buying an enormous Villa nearby…only to find that odd job man and second choice plumber had made a complete pigs ear of building a bathroom sink unit. And the mess! We had to spend two hours pulling half of it apart and clearing up the plaster and cement on the terra cotta.
Lili, I say, when he arrives tomorrow morning he’s a dead man walking.
Instead, when he walks through the door, I say Hi, thanks for the brilliant work, but we’ve thought of another great design which is almost as good as idea which we thought might intrigue you. May I share it with you?
A coward that’s what I am.
But in my mind, plumbers fit into the same category as Bank managers and priests.
I just can’t, daren’t upset them.

On a religious note
A few weeks back we were driving out from the house to go to the cinema and there on the side of the road were Fiore, Graciella, Quinto, Renzo and Angela, standing in the darkness around a huge bonfire. An odd time to burn rubbish I said to Lili.
No it’s to turn the wind to blow in the direction of Loreto she said.
Uh, why would they want to do that?
It’s to help the angels she says.
Which angels?
Michael, she says, for goodness sake, don’t you know what today is?
Yes it’s Saturday I say.
Saturday yes but you should know being a Christian that today is the festival of the Immaculate Conception.
Look, I say, I’m not a Christian; I’m more of a Taoist.
Hmm, she says, you were a Buddhist last week.
Ok I say, leaving my dubious religious affinities apart, why should Fiore etc want to help the angels?
To carry the Virgin to Loreto she says.
Oh, I say.

The country diary
Avid Sambuco newsletterblog readers (all ten of you) might remember that last year at this time had started the great snowfall which lasted right through until March. The memory of this prompted us to buy a four-wheel drive buggy. But this year?
Driving around these past few days I see that everybody is out in their gardens, tilling the soil, planting onions, peas, relaxing in the sunshine. Doors and windows are left open and people are less grumpy and even occasionally they smile. They smile.
Birds are singing too, those that still exist after the hunting shooting season (which incidentally still has a few weeks to go). Sshhsh sshsh shhs I whisper to them, keep a low profile… keep your beaks close to your chests.
I hope our Nightingale comes back this year, Lili says, and hasn’t caught bird flu.
We’ll put cough mixture in the birds drinking tray I reply….. That seems to satisfy her.
Our nightingale is safe, in her mind at least, until the real Spring arrives

But I fear an easterly blast from Siberia and I hold back on the onion planting front.
As you know, I’m a weather freak.

Destroy Telecom : useful alternatives

You can read some of my other stories on
and some paintings on