Added on Sunday 6 Feb 2011
On an otherwise nothing ever happens Sunday, an 'ape' (pronounced api) (a 3 wheeler contraption, I wouldn't like to describe it as a 'vehicle', that would imply it's somehow a car, it mostly has motorbike handle bars, which are only ever found on the country roads of the continent) arrived at our house. Although these apes are fantastic for carrying heavy loads of different materials, they are frustrating slow on the roads, much to the despair of the faster Italian car. This ape was full of 'acquired' wood and the loan of a petrol chainsaw. We were so excited, running about like headless chickens. There will be no trees left in the forest! Grazie mille Nello (Leonello to give him his full title) e Giorgio.
The following Sunday, equipped with borrowed chainsaw, we drove down and stopped at a clearing in the forest, and before anyone cries 'save our forests!' we couldn't believe how much wood there was for the taking just lying about, there was actually no need for the chainsaw at all! Nearly four years we have been here now and this was the first time we had the confidence to visit the forest, a bit embarrassing considering it is literally on our doorstep. We just collect what's there causing no harm to the environment only to our backs! We often feel that we are contestants in an endurance test on 'it's a knockout' (those of you of a certain age may recall this BBC programme), leaping from one new skill or challenge to the next never quite knowing whether we have successfully acquired this new skill or not.
Our next challenge was a 'pre-arranged on the spot visit' (I know it's a contradiction in terms) from 'The Vigili del Fuoco' (fire fighters for those who don't know). They occasionally carry out spot inspections and guess who they decided to perform this on next? but as with everything that is Italy, they let you know beforehand. These inspections are for properties that are not connected to the mains gas supply which is pretty much everybody outside of the town. Like most, we have a gas tank which is buried underground, this must have warning signs noting where it is located and two fire extinguishers need to be located nearby. We were also informed to put back a fence and gate that we had previously painstakingly taken down which we duly did that weekend. They phoned to say they would visit at 8.30am the following morning which they did. They were very nice and their inspection took all of 5 minutes-checking our house plans and so on. They were satisfied and appeared more interested in us being from Scotland and living here than any safety concerns they may have had, we were very relieved, they could have issued a notice or a fine, so it begs the question, does that mean we have to take down the bxxxxx fence again?
We had a lovely couple come all the way down from Torino at the end of January for a weekend when of course it decided to snow. I was worried that while they were making their way down, our main road would be closed and we would effectively be snowed in, (just like last March when this happened and we had no electricity for 3 days)! It was bad enough when it was just us last year but the thought we would be trapped with guests with no heating and no food to give them, didn't bear thinking about, but luckily this didn't happen and although the snow was heavy it didn't prevent the roads from remaining open. Unlike of course if I was back in the UK when that would probably result in 'chaos Britain' a major weather event where schools and transport come to a complete standstill. (Ok rant over!).
They said they couldn't believe the weather and how cold it was (not in their room, I hasten to add!) eh, hello, it's January and as far as I am aware, unless Berlusconi has deemed it to his advantage and therefore changed the law, it is January throughout Italy! They come from Torino who are no strangers to very cold weather. Anyway they managed to enjoy themselves and went to Assisi and Trasimeno Lake, so not bad all things considered. They also built us a snowman on our terrace, when I went to open the breakfast room, to my surprise I saw a very nicely built snowman (finocchio di neve) literally meaning puppets of snow! complete with banana arms and biscotti nose!
In this special edition I have attached a short article titled 'Strained Loyalties' This is about my grandfather's experience of internment on the Isle of Man during the Second World War and how this event still has relevance today. Please feel free to make any comments you think of interest. Thank you.