Archive for August, 2011

Electricity cut

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Regular torch and 2 'headlamps'

At about 11.30 pm last night we were suddenly plunged into darkness.

I was a bit confused to notice that the tower was a blaze of light until Clive reminded me about the emergency lights. They are small fluorescent strips with a rechargeable battery behind them, triggered to come on if the power goes off, and there are 3 of them up there.

We were in the single storey extension which is without them, hence the blackness. But the main part of the house has them so we hurried to take advantage as they only last about half an hour.

First thing, I phoned the emergency number of the Electricity Board (Enel). After much tapping in of codes and confirming of same, I finally got a real person.

“Oh yes,” he drawled pleasantly. “They’re working on your line. It’ll be back on at 7.00 am.”

Without warning. Typical. Unless they put a notice on a tree somewhere on the road leading to the house, which they seem to have stopped doing.

“Ah well,” I said. “We’ll just go to bed.”

He laughed.

And that’s exactly what we did, making sure our battery of independent illumination devices was to hand.

Another wasted journey

August 30, 2011 1 comment


We drove to Terni today to find out, once again, that Joules’ white blood cell count is too low for him to have chemotherapy.

That’s the 4th wasted journey. But he has had treatment in between and we’re now half way through the sessions: 4 down, 4 to go.

I never would have believed the whole thing would be so onerous, but I haven’t doubted for one second that we made the right decision.

Apart from anything else, Joules has been in rude health and high spirits throughout. And who could resist the little face in the photo?

Violin at sunset

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Sunset with Mount Subasio in the right background

With no pressure to be ready by 9.00 pm for a film or serial on the telly, we found ourselves sitting outside last night as it got dark. I was playing the violin (very badly) making use of the movement-activated outside light, which needed to be reactivated every so often, in order to read my music.

I felt sure I could hear the sound echoing from the hillside. It would make sense, because there is quite a loud echo in that spot. 

I did definitely set our nearest neighbour’s dogs off barking. Fortunately ours were too busy with ritualistic mock-fighting on the gravel nearby to respond.

Our youngest dog, Taylor, normally accompanies me at some point with a series of prolonged, exultant paeans of sound, but for some reason he never does this outside.

Perhaps he’s too intent listening for night sounds: distant trot of wild boar, rattle of porcupine, though he must have difficulty hearing anything past the vibrant shimmer of the crickets.

The sun set as a vermilion smear behind Mount Subasio. We didn’t clink glasses, but, uncharacteristically, I opened a bottle of white wine to have with dinner.

Sour grapes

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

We don’t know anything about wine. We’re not proud of this but the world of it is at such a remove from us that we can truthfully say we don’t want to know. Apart from the odd supermarket carton of red wine with a meal, white wine in a chicken dish and the once-in-a-lifetime taste of the darkness of Sagrantino, we are, in this respect, as innocent as new-born babes.

That doesn’t mean to say that we don’t have grapes. We didn’t grow them deliberately; they sprouted from the old, tangled vines that grew along a tumbledown fence and were mangled by the digger as it widened our drive. The majority of the vines have grown from the rootstock and have lightly-indented leaves and grow small bunches of grapes no bigger than elderberries. They are quite useless from a culinary point of view.

However, here and there a sprout has issued above the graft point (as I understand it in my ignorance). The difference is immediately recognisable in the heavily-indented leaves, and these vines produce very edible if pippy grapes which were obviously intended for wine-making.

We, however, squeeze the juice from the heated pulp more thoroughly or less thoroughly through gauze (in the lack of muslin) to produce either jam or jelly.

Grapes, grape jam and grape jelly

It’s delicious, and one hundred per cent non-alcoholic.

Gardeners’ Joy?

August 26, 2011 2 comments
Travellers’ Joy it may be, aka Wild Clematis and Old Man’s Beard, but Gardeners’ Joy it is not. In fact it’s my pet hate at the moment.

Old man's beard - fluffy but deadly


If we let it have its wicked way, I’m sure that in a couple of years the place would be like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and we would be found one day in the future, lying deep in its gloomy embrace, wrapped in cobwebs.

It has crept up the slopes of a sort of moat on one side of our house, and tried to get into the garden proper. Here and there an airborne seed has sprouted in the flowerbeds, and Oh how innocent and appealing the seedlings look. No-one would suspect that they pack the self-contained destructive power of an alien invader.

Down in the moat the green monster has leapt from tree to tree with its pioneering tendrils, creating structures the size of garden sheds. I slash at it and roll it down the slope to rot at the bottom, but a few days later, the roots I’ve left behind have sprouted jolly little shoots all over again. 

Why does it have to look like all the plants I’m trying to keep? It manages, all at the same time, to mimic a walnut tree seedling, a wild service tree seedling, a grape vine, honeysuckle, violets – all of which are there, struggling to find their feet in the exuberant green mesh. It’s nigh on impossible not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

This is a tough enemy, which can only be defeated by concerted battles and constant vigilance. But one thing: at least it doesn’t prick or sting!

Without a television

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday the repair men came to collect our television, which has a distorted image when you first turn it on. They’ll keep it until they’ve gone through the complex procedure required by Sony – an indeterminate length of time.

So we are without that cheerful outside input which shapes every evening. We are left to our own devices.

Well, I thought, that’s good. We can eat in the dining room rather than lounging in front of the telly and we can go to bed early!!

We can take advantage of the fruit harvest and make jam.

We can read! How many books did I have queued up at the last count?

Usually neglected

We can play music; maybe even play games.

We can finish the scrapbook and the mosaic we are each supposed to be doing – and the cushion cover.

Ha! I bet it doesn’t turn out like that. But we shall see!