Archive for January, 2012

Olive oil, liquid gold

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

After the apparently poor olive harvest, our neighbour mentioned bringing some oil as per our agreement but never did. Last night I phoned and asked about it.

He replied that the yield barely covered the expense of picking, that there’d been so many ‘quintali’ of olives yielding so many kilos of oil (he lost me here), that he’d spent a fortune on diesel coming and going, that he wouldn’t have enough oil to last the year, etc, etc, and therefore he wouldn’t be giving us any.

He came today and did in fact bring us 2 litres of oil in an old wine bottle, but he was still grumbling about diesel, and time spent pruning, and did I say diesel? (He takes a short cut across someone else’s land to come to our olive grove; it’s no distance at all!)

I reminded him our arrangement wasn’t that he had all of the oil, and suggested that in future he shouldn’t start picking if he thought the crop was so poor it wasn’t worth it.

We’re a bit dubious about the provenance of the oil he gave us. How clean was the bottle, for example? We normally get a sealed metal can straight from the press.

We’ll certainly have uses for it, though.

The end of a chapter

January 30, 2012 5 comments

Actually the end of a book.

Today I finally finished the novel I started writing 24 years ago.

Back then it was going to be my ‘magnum opus’, my semi-demi-autobiographical debut on the literary scene, which would launch me to fame.

Instead it underwent surgery several times over as its second half was altered, either more or less drastically, interspersed with long periods of convalescence in my bottom drawer.

Its various titles bear witness to its different guises:

  • Kingfisher Fire until I discovered that Rumer Godden had beaten me to it with her ‘Kingfishers Catch Fire’ – a big blow that
  • Black Gentian
  • The Green Tree
  • The Colours of the Sea
  • The Warden
  • The Jay’s Feather
  • Wild Goose

Clive read through the final version. He found a phrase which he said sounded like ‘To the Batmobile!’

The photo is a possibility for the ‘cover’ of an electronic book version.

Wild Goose

Oleander seeds

January 29, 2012 1 comment
Twin oleander seedheads – front one entire, back one split

It looks like a war canoe with fur-clad warriors bent to the oars, but it’s in fact the split-open seed-pod of an oleander.

We planted 50 little oleander bushes along one side of our drive when we widened it and put in lighting. Now only about 40 of them are left because of the toll taken by the heavy frosts over the 5 winters we’ve been here.

They’ve never grown massively like they do in the valleys, but they do bloom, all colours – dark red, deep pink, pale pink, white, and my favourite cream which has a delicious heavy, sweet perfume of honey and vanilla.

It’s one of my winter jobs to cut off the dead heads. In theory I could plant the seeds and grow replacement bushes, but apparently it’s quite a business to get them to grow and they don’t come true to the parent plant. Instead, I’ve been filling the gaps in the row with hibiscus seedlings which grow by themselves.

When I do cut off the dead heads, I have to dispose of them carefully and not put them on the compost heap in case we ever have a bonfire, because burning oleander branches produces toxic smoke.

All parts of the plant are poisonous but their (alleged) foul taste makes them unattractive, fortunately.


January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Nothing to do with drugs, although you might think the dogs were on them.

Kepler being chased

In the photo, Kepler is hugely enjoying himself  being chased by the others.

Joules only makes a token chase, but Taylor runs like a big cat and bowls Kepler over when he catches him.

They none of them pay any heed to me. I stand still so as to be as stable as possible because they’re quite likely to run headlong into my legs.

It never seems to bother them, but it certainly does bother me.

Categories: Our pets Tags: , , ,

Insect-trapping light

January 27, 2012 1 comment

I don’t think the manufacturers intended this particular feature, but our ceiling lights are extremely effective insect traps.

Ceiling light with trapped insects

They consist of a light bulb (or 2 light bulbs) mounted on a ceiling plate with a frosted glass dish suspended just below them by means of clips in the form of leaves.

Insects are attracted to the light, crawl along the ceiling and drop into the dish where they are fried and/or can’t find their way out.

As time goes by, the dish collects a dark centre of dead insects and the light passing through dims proportionately.

Therefore we have to clean the debris out every so often. One clip on each light pulls out on a spring stalk and allows the dish to be removed. It’s a horrid job, fraught with the danger of breaking the glass.

We did it today, though, for the light above Clive’s new desk position, and I was astonished by the number and variety of insects whose attentions we’ve been spared.

The ‘harvests’ of these lights are generally more abundant than those of our purpose-made insect zapper!

Vescia again

January 26, 2012 1 comment

This morning we managed to change doctors in Valtopina ASL, quite painlessly, and went to the surgery in Vescia for a second time.

On the right: entrance to the Vescia surgery

The timing was perfect in one sense because late last night Clive discovered a lump under his left arm. He was able to get the doctor to examine it and she confirmed his fears that the lymph node was swollen.

She prescribed a strong antibiotic and a special cream, and told us to come back in a week’s time to see if it has reduced in size.

She also took names and phone numbers of the various characters involved in the lymphedema treatment and E112 saga, saying that she will phone them when she has a moment.

We’re very worried about the swollen lymph node because it can spell all kinds of trouble, but at least we don’t feel quite so alone any more.

A desk by the fire

January 26, 2012 1 comment

Clive has been feeling the cold very badly and his trusty oil convection radiator has packed up.

Today we had the brainwave of moving him next to the pellet stove which, although not designed to give out radiant heat, nonetheless feels nice and warm.

His existing desk probably wouldn’t fit in the space and anyway would be a major upheaval to move, so we improvised one with spare timbers from the pool and blocks we didn’t use for the steps.

Clive's new desk (notice Joules underneath)

The set-up looks very cosy and the mat underneath is much in demand with the dogs even when Clive isn’t in occupation.