Monday, 7 August 2017

Wild fire

Yesterday we had our first close and dangerous fire experience. I noticed in the afternoon there was small fire below and to the side of us. Gradually the smoke got darker, a sure sign of trouble, and ash started drifting around us. We took down our terrace umbrella and sunshades in case sparks ignited them and dampened down our hedges and tree for the same reason. It got worse, Mr FF suggested we pack bags in case we needed to leave, I threw in pants, a change of clothes and my toothbrush. Strangely I didn't immediately think of my jewellery or my knitting, I took the former but not the latter. Mr FF was a bit concerned our only road out might be impassable and also worried for Mario so he took a walk out. By now the helicopter was dropping water, albeit it only one and obviously having to travel some way for water. Marios house had been completely surrounded by fire but saved, he and Lina were in shock. Mr FF said he'd spotted as he walked back fire coming at our level which he thought he could stop, he took a large plastic barrel of water in the car and did a good job of stopped the flames. But above us the fire was raging, huge old trees sending flames high into the air and the noise of cracking and burning dreadful. Around 9 when the helicopter had stopped flying the vigili, the civil protection, came and told us we had to leave as it was too dangerous. I alerted the neighbours lower down who were practically hysterical by now. Stella asked me where they should go. The road out of the village was blocked as the cemetery was still burning. I had no idea where we would go so I gave her a hug and said we were all together, we'd be ok. I checked several times the cats weren't in the house, I knew they'd be safe outside, we closed all the doors windows and shutters in the hope that would curb any flames. Such an awful sensation to leave knowing we could lose everything but strangely nothing seemed that important. The situation didn't improve when our single track road, the one with the drop to the side, was blocked by fire vehicles and four cars had to reserve in the dark with the flames raging around us. We parked in the village and eventually the boys got pizza and water as we hadn't eaten all day, we sat in the square. The vigil said they were on stand by to defend our houses, later that the situation was critical and we must wait, finally around 12.30 that in about 40 minutes we could return home. Some neighbours were too afraid to come back and went to the village hotel, we set off to drive to where our road turns up so we'd see the fire fighters come down and get the all clear. Passing Marios he and some of our neighbours and friends were sitting out, we joined them and Mario served Mr FF a beer and me a prosecco, drinks never tasted so good. Eventually the brave workers came down and said we were able to go back, we thanked them all. Around 1.30 we were home everywhere deep in ash, a terrible smell of smoke and rather worryingly a small fire smouldering not far above us. I got up regularly to check this. About 3.30 the fire brigade were here again applying water. This morning the helicopter returned, there is still smoke and we wait to see if the fire will start again as often happens. I have nothing but admiration for those people who protect us, no property was lost apart from the cemetery which to my mind doesn't count, no one was injured. I always compliment the fire fighters who work with limited resources in impossible terrain, they are brilliant, we are all safe if still a little stressed and exhausted. The olives around is are singed but not totally destroyed, life will go on thank heavens, these resilient country people will just get on with it.

Friday, 4 August 2017

From a darkened room

We are enjoying, if that's the right word, the effects of anticyclone Lucifer with exceptionally high temperatures day and night accompanied by a hot wind straight from the Sahara. I have gone native and like the ladies of the village am keeping the doors windows and shutters closed to keep out the heat but still the temperature indoors remains above 30 degrees. We cannot cool our bedroom, typically its around 32 degrees when we go to bed after midnight, we have a fan that makes no difference apart from wafting a bit of air over us. We keep that going all night then around 5.30 as it comes light we open the windows briefly before things get seriously hot again. We have a billino rosso, a red alert, for dozens of cities and temperatures forecast to reach 50 degrees before this record breaking heatwave is over. Additionally there is a wild fire on the hillside about four miles from us, it's been burning for two days now filling the valley with smoke and haze that intensify the inferno effect. Now have a little above ground pool that gives us some respite. It's deep enough to immerse and I can swim across in three strokes, perfect. Mr FF has also made us an outdoor solar shower for rinsing before and after using an old table, some coiled water pipe, and a hose, all bits and pieces he had in stock. It's not a thing of beauty but it works perfectly. Unfortunately with the hot weather the pool water is getting a little bit too warm, no breath taking shiver when you enter, that would be nice. For health and safety reasons I have closed the kitchen, by the time I'd cooked our evening meal I was so hot I had no appetite so now we are eating lots of salads or pasta with our own vegetables. Of course we are drinking litres of tap water cooled in the fridge and in the evening a glass or two of wine with ice. The end of Lucifer is I believe in sight and life might become more normal, not that it's stopped Mr FF working. He has been breaking out concrete for a new damp proof course at the front of the house, working until around midday when he takes a dip in the pool and retires to bed. He's gone native too.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

One of those days

Spoke to soon about the annual water leak. I noticed yesterday that despite the drought there was water on the road outside our house and after investigation Mr FF confirmed that it is indeed our pipe. While he was up at the meter, which is in a deep pit that the water board refuse to enter so we never get a correct bill, he found we had another leak up the mountain. I dread the thought of him having to dig up the road because the leak may not be where the water surfaces, it makes me so cross that the water board are rationing the supply to the village but will do nothing to help locate leaks despite having the equipment to do so. Then this afternoon Theo our shy black cat returned after almost a week with the most horrendous neck wound. He took some food and had a little wash afterwards, which I take as a good sign, but he's in quite a state. It looks like he might have had an abscess the puncture looks deep but clean so I do hope he's going to be ok because we can't get near him to help. Some evil creature has been eating our peas, we were so looking forward to them, as a change from courgettes and tomatoes, not only have the pods been eaten but many of the plants have been devoured. There was quite a large footprint in the soil and sizeable holes dug, I really would like a wildlife camera to see what happens down in our orchard when we're not about. To complete this forgettable day we had a tremendous electric storm with welcome heavy rain followed by unwelcome hailstones the size of marbles that turned the landscape white. More garden devastation, I worry for the grapes and olives in the valley not to mention all my seedlings and terrace pots. As they say it never rains but it pours, Italy has gone beyond that big style but I have every confidence normal sunshine will be restored and everything else will be resolved. Not like me to be so positive, its been a funny old day. Don't ask me why blogger won't allow me to space my text, no matter now many returns I insert everything stays in one paragraph,

Saturday, 8 July 2017

About the cats

Still only three, Crema Grigio and Theo. there were six that we left them last November with a lot of dried food,an automatic dispenser that Mario filled regularly and a little house to sleep in. We didn't intend to leave them so long but works in the penthouse dragged on into May. In March this year Giovanni and his wife returned from winter in Rome to their lovely house above us and of course the cats sensing company moved up to join them. Mario passed the remains of our food and some more he bought to Giovanni who took over the feeding and provided the family with a nice place to sleep. All was going well and we had regular positive reports. Then Giovanni and his wife, I have been told her name but I can never remember it, returned to Rome for a month and did not make provision for the cats. I wish we'd known we could have got Mario back on duty. When they returned to the mountainside only two of kittens and Theo were still here. We have guessed at all sorts of possibilities and looked around the area for the missing ones but there is no sign. It seems strange that three siblings who were devoted to each other, the two here still are, would split up. Rosso the third kitten was the most friendly, he was a delight and would be adopted easily. The mother we can understand going off if she had new babies and Marzio the kitten from two years ago had turned into an unneutered holligan he could be in Sicily by now. If three could survive without regular feeding then surely they all could. So we have to accept the family has reduced. The kittens are brilliant, they have relaxation to an art and have remembered all the naughty things they did last year, play fighting under the sofa, sleeping on shelves, constantly unpacking my knitting bag. Crema even managed to remove a ball band and unwind a full 50 g of sock yarn, turning it into an almighty tangle that kept me occupied for some time. I am so glad we had them neutered last year and delighted they are still here. We plan to stay in Italy into the Autumn but already I am fretting about leaving them again, they get cross enough when we go out for the day.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The other side

We spend so much time sitting out on our terrace, eating, reading, chatting, snoozing and just gazing. Most evenings we sit looking across the valley to the mountains opposite ours and see lights twinkling on the horizon. I made enquiries and found that the highest village we see is a small place, population about 1000, called Rocca Massima. On Friday we went to visit having called at the opticians en route as I accidentally sat on and bent Mr FF's everyday glasses. They were fixed quickly and at no cost. Rocca Massima about an hours drive away was a delight, perched high on a ridge with views back across the valley to our mountain on one side and down to the sea on the other. Little traffic free streets and steps wound round past beautiful houses with so many pots of flowers, cats sleeping on door steps, old ladies sitting at windows. We wandered around and came upon a group of six men who had dragged a table onto the street and were tucking into a massive pan of pasta, complete with plastic dishes of pasta on the ground for the cats. We greeted them and they asked if we'd like a glass of wine, we declined explaining we had a drive home, they wished us a good walk. I was totally charmed by this pretty mountain village and it's kind people. Now when we sit out looking across the valley to the horizon and see the lights come on I know exactly what we are looking at and what a wonderful place it is.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Reunited

Not only did Crema return safe and sound if exhausted this morning but late last night Theo, the shy and gentle black cat who has been visiting for a few years appeared. We and Grigio were delighted to see the old boy who has always been so good with the little ones and his return gives us hope for the rest of the family, just so long as Lisa hasn't been adding to the numbers.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Settling

The annual water leak is fixed, the garden is coming on, today I finally cleaned the downstairs lounge, the one we never use, and I was going to say the cats have become permanent. However this morning a large grey striped stranger appeared howling on next doors balcony. Crema decided to join him and hasn't been seen since, not like her to miss food but let's not start to worry yet. We seem to have a new strain of mosquitos, generally they bite me but don't bother me, now I am coming up in itchy blisters and I have a large ugly lump on my forehead. Pizza delivery man Mr FF is here I must stop.