Archive for November, 2011

Internet again

November 30, 2011 1 comment

Valtopina Comune (see arrow) upon whose roof is the transmitter which sends our internet signal

We received an email from ICT Valle Umbra yesterday, with a letter attached saying please see the letter attached,  informing us that our internet service was about to be improved, as of January 2011, and that there would be no immediate change in the cost.

Resolving not to make any sarcastic references to the error in the date, I phoned them this morning using the number which they especially gave ‘for further information’.

They eventually answered only to say, before I could ask anything, that they couldn’t answer any questions on that number and I must wait for someone to ring me.

Shortly after someone rang me – from the usual enquiry number – and explained the new conditions.

Basically, to my suspicious mind, it seems they’ve removed the guaranteed minimum connection speed and tried to disguise it with the sweetener of including insurance which will cover the sort of repair which we experienced earlier this year and paid for ourselves.

I also asked about how to terminate the service, which might be on the cards if we decide to get dongles for both of us.

No, a fax won’t do, nor will an email. We have to send a ‘lettera raccommandata’ (equivalent of recorded delivery or registered post depending on the level of service chosen) to arrive at least 30 days ahead of when we wish to cancel.

“That’s a bit antique, isn’t it?” I commented.

No answer. Just a little snort.

How come they can communicate with us on important matters by means of a pdf letter within an attachment inside an email, and we can’t use their own service to communicate back?


November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

When you more-or-less live under a giant oak tree, you don’t half know it this time of year.

Just a few of the acorns yet to fall

There are plunks, bangs, pings, thumps and rattles at all times of the day and night, onto the roof, the wall, the gravel, the wheely-bin lids …

Acorns are friendly things except if they hit you on the head, which can be quite painful.

They also sprout. Luckily Clive had the foresight to lay a geotextile under the gravel of the courtyard, otherwise we’d have had an oak-seedling lawn rather than gravel. As it is, the stones are overlain with shiny brown acorns which of course rot down and create soil in which their future siblings can root.

Where the seedlings do grow, they can be the very devil to uproot. But when conditions are right, you can pull them up stalk, root and acorn, all in one, which is very satisfying.

I’ve discovered that if you squeeze one end of a small, shiny acorn between thumb and forefinger, you can shoot it quite a distance. Funnily enough, it works better if you squeeze the blunt rather than the sharp end.

This game can be played alone but is more enjoyable when there is someone to compete against.

Postepay pays up!

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

We arrived home to all the usual sorts of problems. One of them was that the chest freezer was switched off.

I’d always thought there was a danger of this happening. This is because the power circuit in the main body of the house tends to trip now and again for no apparent reason.

Therefore I’d been terribly cunning and arranged a series of extensions to plug it into the single-storey part of the house where the power circuit is quite separate and seems much more stable.

After this system had been tried with perfect success for several weeks before we left, it decided to fail during our absence. The element in the chain which takes an Italian socket to a British plug went caput, quite unforeseeably.

With the result that a lot of our food went soggy.

However, the good news is that there was a card from the postman saying he tried to deliver 2 registered letters which were ……. 2 cheques for €600 each from Postepay!!!

These funds could not have been more welcome.

The sunlit olive grove after harvest

I reported in to the various neighbours, to tell them we were back and give them news about Clive, and was told how much oil our miserable olive harvest had yielded – but in quintals so I’m none the wiser.

Day 9 – Home again

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

We had intended to get up at 4.00 am and leave Mulhouse en route for home at 5.00, but either the phone alarm didn’t ring, or Damaris didn’t hear it, perhaps because she had the phone under the covers with her as there was nowhere else to put it up on the bunk bed.

Fortunately she woke at 5.00 anyway and we were able to leave at 6.00 which was quite barbaric enough.

We had our first stop in Switzerland where 2 coffees and a croissant cost €9.75. Each croissant crumb had a measurable value. But the hot coffee was very welcome as it was only just light and there was a heavy frost.

Alpine view near the Gotthard tunnel

Our second stop was just through the Gotthard tunnel where there were picture-postcard Alpine views. Damaris was feeling very proud at this moment of her Swiss ancestry (her great grandfather was from Bern).

After that it was just slog, slog, slog. The worst part was Italy where the carriageways are narrower than anywhere else and bordered by high vertical barriers. Plus there were loads of roadworks and contraflows, plus it got dark.

We’d phoned ahead and arranged to pick the dogs up after their carer was back from a dinner party, around midnight. Luckily we got back before he left for his dinner party (around 6.30 pm) and were able to collect them straight away.

Damaris was in a panic to get there on time and started putting the dog-guard in upside down. Clive swallowed hard to be able to bear another hour of pain.

It was wonderful to see the dogs and be greeted with wholehearted, effusive affection. That’s always the best part of getting home.

Day 8 – To Mulhouse

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

After a late start necessitated by the surgeon not having arrived at the promised 9th hour, we hurried away from Bonn without Damaris having had a chance to visit the nearby Mosel valley which would have been a pleasant but ‘time-vampirish’ distraction.

The long drive up through France had taught us a stern message – the quiet autoroutes of years gone by no longer exist, not even on a ‘dimanche’. As a result, we drove fast and furiously southbound along the German autobahns, passing Koblenz, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Strasbourg and Freiburg on our way to the bridge over the Rhine leading to Mulhouse which sits on the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland.

Mulhouse Campanile bathroom

We arrived just after 4 pm, paid a visit to Colonel Sanders who lives next door and hunkered down for the night ready for an early start around 4 am tomorrow.

We were both intrigued by the time-capsule style of the bathroom. Clive said he expected to be ‘beamed up’ at any moment.

The intention is to drive through Switzerland, and down through Italy in time to collect our dogs tomorrow evening – something which means turning out after having unpacked the car and fixed the dog-guard back in place.

Day 7 – Goodbyes

November 25, 2011 1 comment

A view with a room

Clive had a fever in the night – one of his lymphatic attacks which made him very cold and then boiling hot. Fortunately it was a short-lived one and it was over by the morning although it left him feeling weak.

He then had an x-ray first thing, and later Damaris was shown (but not allowed to use) a Medx machine for strengthening the lower back muscles. It looked a bit like a new-age, open-sided tractor with a high-up seat but no wheels.

The surgeon was supposed to come this afternoon but skipped off early (it being Poet’s Day) and so will come tomorrow morning. We just hope it doesn’t force us into a late start. What was once a clear-cut getaway after Frűhstuck has now turned into a waiting game while ‘His Nibs’ deigns to grace us with his presence (plus test results, X-ray DVD, prognosis etc).

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Day 6 – Recovery

November 24, 2011 2 comments
Who’s the biggest drip said one to the other

The main progress made today was that Clive’s drain was removed and he was allowed to have a shower. Most of his back is a lurid shade of orange but we haven’t tried to get any of it off yet. He has 20 stitches in his wound.

He is, as usual, trying to run before he can walk or, more accurately, trying to walk before he has healed.

The physiotherapist made various pronouncements about walking time increasing by 5 minutes per day and Clive started to believe that, because he still has pain in the same place in his back, this means that the operation has achieved nothing.

Out on a walk in the corridor with the physiotherapist, he met the surgeon who was able to reassure him, probably by saying more-or-less exactly what I’d been saying till I was blue in the face.

What is it about blue-faced wives that makes them so easy to ignore?

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