Note Number 39…Home and Away…

Jpeg in the shade of an olive tree

Jpeg back in her home country…I actually think she prefers England…but who knows? 

We returned to the place in Italy where we lived for eight years and it was a strange experience. Full of mixed emotions and a short journey of discovery about the impossibility of turning back the clock. We had a wonderful time when we lived there. We loved the weather and made good friends, but folks move on and things change. For four weeks, we stayed in a lovely house in Montevidon Combatte, about 4 kilometres away from Petritoli, our Italian ‘home town’. We were meant to be on holiday but it never felt like that to me. It was as if I still lived there. The consequence of which meant that I couln’t be bothered to go sightseeing – in fact I couldn’t be bothered to do anything which is not only silly it was a waste of time. I must admit I did enjoy lazing in the sun by the pool

We had a fabulous pool and the surrounding Marche countryside was as lovely as ever. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to write. I managed to produce four poems whilst staying near Lucca in the apartment on my own with the dog. The Man cycled from Rimini to Pisa with his mates from More Adventure … but after that short period of time, the muse disappeared – stage left.

Now, we are home in Dorset, the weather on Thursday was beautiful and welcoming after our long drive back. We stayed in two different places this time on our return journey. The first stop was Asti where we had a brilliant apartment, close to the centre, with secure parking and it was seriously dog friendly. Fabio (the owner) was most welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us and Jpeg, which went over her head of course. She travels quite well but after six hours in the back of the car she’s had enough. We do stop every now and then for short breaks, not just for the dog to stretch her legs but for us too – and to change drivers.

Our excellent accommodation in Asti

Asti did not grab me, there was no ‘wow’ factor to it, except for the enormous car-park in the centre, the biggest town centre car park I have ever seen. It is used for the annual Palio (horse race). I didn’t realise they had one so something I must read up on. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the car-park justice…but it was a whopper!

Asti Central Car Park

An average meal was taken at the Tartufo D’Oro and the man overcharged us… we paid for someone else’s pizza and bottle of water as well as our own food. Should have checked the bill more carefully GB! We paid cash so no chance of a refund. Anyway, I think I’m at the end of the line with Italian food. I love it, but the menu does not vary from place to place…I don’t care if I never see another slice of prociutto crudo (Parma ham perhaps to you), accompanied by formaggio (cheese) and melon…for at least ten years.

Next stop was Bourges, (which I kept calling Bruges, much to The Man’s amusement)…
I am in love…

i love bourges

We arrived somewhat harassed as the trip from Asti took much longer that we expected with traffic hold-ups etc., fortunately we had started early in the morning (09.45) so got to our accommodation before dark. I had chosen the hotel Chatueau De Lazenay because the room had a little kitchenette which would allow me to cook. Sadly, it was lacking in utensils of any kind and although Eric, at reception said we could ring down for anything we wanted and they would bring it up. I couldn’t be bothered. My enthusiasm for cooking up a delicious meal flew out of the window to join the aforementioned muse.

The best thing about the hotel was the situation. It was beside a beautiful lake with a path surrounding it for walking, running and cycling of 6k. (Actually, I’m not sure about the cycling). I took the dog out as the light began to fade and she had a wonderful walk, as did I. Following her supper, she gave a big sigh as she finally got into her bed and realised she was out of the car…at least for the time being.  She is so good and always relaxes fully in any B&B, hotel room or apartment that we rent, allowing us to go out and eat without any fuss.

The lake and the pathway and Jpeg (she’s not too keen on the water but was fascinated by the birdlife) 

We took a taxi into town for an extortionate €20 to the restaurant Gargouille….  A great meal was had, French cuisine is always excellent and it was a welcome change from Italian. I had decided to embark on #soberoctober so no wine or champagne for me on this trip but I did have a delicious glass of lemonade. The Man had vegetable soup, steak, and lemon meringue pie. I had fish and chips followed by pannacotta with bourbon biscuits and forest fruits, served in a kilner jar. No photos I’m afraid. I became irrationally embarrassed at the thought of photographing my food with my Iphone…but I did photograph the drinks!

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I cannot wait to go back to Bourges next year when we plan a longer trip around France. I want to explore this beautiful town and all it has to offer. We are in fact, going to take lessons to improve our French beyond O’ level standard…at the moment, whenever I open my mouth to speak French, Italian comes out!

A little taste of Bourges…

Note 16…Dog Names…

Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts) 

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.

If I have time I tell them…

In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.

At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.

We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)

‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)

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We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.

Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…

Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…

Note Number 6…Movin’ and a Shakin’…

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Photo taken from http://earthsky.org

I’m not writing enough at the moment so I’m behind schedule with my 90 notes but I do have a couple of good excuses.  If you’ve seen the Italian news then you will know that last week we had a couple of earthquakes here in Le Marche, 5.5 and 6.1 on the Richter Scale according to some reports.  The first was around 7 in the evening and I was about to jump in the shower when the three-tier Ikea wooden shelf unit began to wobble, the windows shook and rattled and my legs felt the earth move.  It took a few seconds to register what was happening but then I grabbed a towel – to cover my nakedness – and ran down three flights of stairs to find The Man and others in the house on their feet and looking out of the front door and windows.  The Petritolese were out in the streets as quick as a flash. Apparently that’s the right thing to do – or get under a sturdy table.  The shaking passed and we exchanged expletives and other words of comfort before going back to what we were doing before the quake.  It was immediately reported on social media with wild guesses of where, what and when etc., The epicentre was around 40k distant from our town.  It was soon established that this time, unlike the recent earthquake in August, there was some property damage but no casualties. I sent a messages to our children to let them know we were okay and then we all decided to continue with our plans for the evening which was to dine out at the wonderful I Piceni restaurant in Ortezzano.

On the short drive to our dinner destination the rain was torrential, thunder and lightning shook the already nervous dispositions of our Southern Hemisphere visitors, ‘Jeez! What kind of  country are you living in here?’ (say that in an Aussie accent please). Once settled at our table and having acknowledged the recent seismic waves with other diners we tucked into our delicious food and wine and were beginning to completely relax when another quake took hold, this time bigger than the first – and whatsmore we were closer to the epicentre this time.  All the Italians rushed from their dinner tables, the chef came out of the kitchen, ‘Calma, calma, tutta posto…relax, everything will be okay…’ One British chap strolled quietly towards the exit, glass of red wine in his hand, totally unperturbed a true example of British reserve.  This time my legs felt very odd and at the end of the 110 second shake the room seemed to move in a circular motion, the ceiling lamps swaying like spinning plates.  After a while we all went back to our meals and carried on eating and apart from a slightly tense atmosphere we continued on as though this was an everyday occurence.  When home we hit the computers, iPads and mobile phone devices on wifi to find out what we could.  There was a report of only two deaths but some big buildings had collapsed.  The main centres hit were Visso and then Ussita up in the Sibilini mountains. Nobody slept well that night, the after shocks continued and the house shook gently every now and then reacting to the tremours.  It’s now a few days on and calm seems to have set in once more.  The Man looked at the website for earthquakes where he learnt that Italy has something like 27 a day but most are not felt as they are below 2.5. Not sure how I feel about that.

My second reason for not writing is that we are leaving Italy this week to go back to England,  so I have been busy sorting and packing.  Every time, throughout my life, when I make a move I do a big cull of things collected but still, I have a mountain of useless paraphernalia, some of which is impossible to dump – tiny baby shoes, first school blazers, christening outfits etc., I had the help of a friend and we were putting things into piles, keep, rubbish or ‘give it to the poor people!’ which sounded awful but in the town there are big yellow containers where you can place unwanted clothing, blankets, shoes, bags etc., that are too good to throw away.  There are no charity shops here, not that I’ve found anyway and was told I wouldn’t be allowed to transport stuff back to the UK simply to take it to the charity shop.

I began writing this post yesterday afternoon  and this morning we had another earthquake at 7.40am, 30th October.  It was reported at 6.6 or 7.1 depending on which website you looked on. It was pretty scary, we were  in bed at the time, drinking a cup of tea and as soon as the house began to shake we leapt up and legged it downstairs to the ground floor.
‘I’ve got no clothes on!’ shouted The Man.
‘No worries, I’ve got our dressing gowns, I grabbed them as we flew out of the bedroom.’ I called.
On reaching the sitting room the dog looked suitably shocked, probably more by our nakedness that the shaking of the house.  As before, neighbours were soon out in the square, half-dressed or with blankets over their night attire. Being British, we just looked through the window.  They are saying it was the strongest recorded shock in over 30 years and it lasted around 3 minutes.  Three minutes is a very long time to be standing in a house that’s rocking. the pictures skewed on the walls and the lamps hanging outside on our terrace were swinging as though a gale were blowing. My hands shook and I felt queasy and to be honest, for the rest of the day I have not felt 100%.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that there is such a thing as an earthquake hangover so I guess that’s maybe what I’ve got.

 

 

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I’ll be leaving Italy with mixed feelings, it’s been a great few years and the weather has been very kind to us.  We love the people, the sea and the mountains, but the bureaucracy can get you down a bit…

Back to Le Marche…

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ready to return to Italy and our townhouse in Petritoli, not quite – I was still in honeymoon mode with Dorset and Bridport. But, once in the car and heading towards Poole to get the ferry to Cherbourg I became preoccupied with the ‘road trip’ and excited about travelling. I love a good road trip with the dog and The Man – we are all good travelling companions… something that The Man’s daughters could never quite understand… ‘you mean you’re going to spend five days in the car with…HIM? How could you do that?’ But, we rub along fine and always have plenty to talk about and when not talking we listen to audio books.

The ferry left Poole at 8.30 a.m. and we had to be there by 7.30 because of the dog, we decided to leave our little Dorset hamlet on Wednesday evening and stay the night at the Thistle Hotel, only a few minutes from the port. The weather was atrocious…rain falling in biblical proportions – very unpleasant. It was difficult to appreciate the close proximity of the hotel to the water until, also biblically, the sky cleared and sailing boats came into view… however, it only lasted long enough to walk the dog before bedtime.

Jpeg is a star traveller. She never complains and as long as she has her own bed, food and a chance to smell the local area, pee accordingly, then she will settle down anywhere, as long as we are there too. We have only been on Le Shuttle with her previously and the ferry was going to take 5 hours (should have been 4 but the French dock workers at Cherbourg were on strike so…). She was so good in the car. I gave her a herbal tablet to calm her down, (should have taken one myself) and thank goodness, they didn’t enforce the use of the muzzle…all that effort getting her used to it and then we didn’t need it. You’re allowed to visit your dog half way across the channel, which I did and taking advice from other experienced ferrying dog owners, I only crept up to look into the car without her seeing me. She was fine, sitting up looking out of the back window of the car across the blue, flat calm sea to the horizon. We were the last car parked, facing aft (get the nautical term?) and there was a wide opening through which she could see. I think she had a better view than we did.

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Leaving the ferry behind us for it’s return trip to England we headed for St Vaast La Hoogue – twinned with Bridport, which is of course our hometown in the UK at the moment. It was a pretty little place with plenty of still busy fishing boats, the main catch being oysters. We wandered around the town in the French sunshine and from one lookout point it was possible to see the age old fortifications of Vauban along the coast, erected in the 1690s.

TheManon the Beach

Utah Beach

The Man wanted to visit the Normandy Beaches, I was interested but knew little about D-day except for scant history lessons many *coughs loudly* years ago.

There are many D-day attractions (that doesn’t seem quite the right word) to visit but for The Man it was a must to go the Pegasus Bridge the sight of the first landings by glider and parachute. The museum was full of original artifacts, photographs and so much information I couldn’t take it all in. A film was shown in English which made things clearer for me. I came away at the end of two days knowing so much more about the occupation and the liberation of France. It was of course both moving and upsetting. All those young lives lost and what for?

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It broke my heart to read the headstones at the cemetery in Ranville just a few miles from the Pegasus Bridge. English, French, German, Irish, Canadians and more, the majority of them under twenty-five.

Because we had taken the early ferry we had plenty of time to wander down the coast before arriving at our first night’s accommodation in Courseulle Sur Mer where we stayed for two nights. A fabulous spacious apartment, all brand new it seemed. We had to get there before 8pm because everything was locked up at eight…unusual for a hotel/accommodation until you realise it was actually an old people’s home. Well, an establishment for the retired, Domitys La Plage de Nacre – check it out. Great food taken in the town square at La Pecherie – so good we ate there two nights running. We love French food.

Next stop was Cahors a 770 kilometre drive – we listened to one of our audio books, The Elephant to Hollywood, written and read by Michael Caine. We can recommend it – loved his voice and his manner of speaking, he even laughed at some of the stuff he’d written. We felt, after several hundred kilometres, that he had been travelling in the car with us in the back seat. He’s now my best friend.

http://amzn.to/1ry95lR

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We arrived just after six and as it had been a long drive in dreadful weather, we thought we would eat in the restaurant attached to the hotel Terminus. It is a wonderful art deco building with furnishings and décor to suit. We should have guessed that it was not going to be an average meal when the barman turned out to be a sommelier, who’d written a book, with his son, (a chef) about local wines.

It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, but the bill for food was twice that of the hotel room! I had a half bottle of Sancere with the meal and The Man had the best quality sparkling water, (he doesn’t drink alcohol you see).

We slept well that night which was just as well because the next hotel room in Carcassonne was not quite what we expected…

Approaching the medieval city of Carcassonne is the most amazing sight… from a distance that is. It appears in the midst of the green valley rising up above the trees, a Disneylike castle with turrets, arrow slits, high walls and well…really quite magical.

The satnav took us down some very narrow streets to the door of our ‘hotel’. It was outside the old city walls, but only a short distance for us to walk and discover the enchanted city, the situation was the best and only good thing about this accommodation.
First we had to unpack, take the dog for a quick look around and settle her down while we had lunch. We parked and carried our bags up the four flights of winding dark stairs into a garret apartment which smelled of drains – dirty ones at that. Not a good start.

Lunch was wonderful though, in a busy French Taverna serving Cassoulet – excellent. Fully satisfied we began our walk into the fairy-tale town and anticipate the best – always a mistake. The wind was blowing like a giant’s parp in a drainpipe, we could barely stand up, but we made it up the hill and in through the main gate, to discover that the outside of the castle is most definitely the best thing about it. Once inside the streets are full of swag shops, restaurants and little else. There was a torture museum which I cannot comment on because we didn’t go in. Street after street looking exactly the same. We searched for a tea shop selling fancy French pastries but couldn’t find anything so ended up in a restaurant having a cup of tea and apple tart with ice-cream (a dessert). There are only fifty permanent residents inside this town, according to the man in the only shop we entered where we bought a teapot…we like teapots.

 

The accommodation, Residence Saint Simon, in Carcassonne was truly dreadful and The Man has entered a review on Booking.com accordingly, but it’s still in moderation a week after writing it so I suspect it has been blocked by the owner.

The apartment was advertised with ‘toiletries supplied’ above is the sum total of those toiletries. Not even a bar of soap. Oh and the fridge had a welcome pack of stuff that were leftovers from the last visitors! 🙂

 

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Next stop, San Remo and we drove there via the Camargue. I tried to photograph the famous white horses but whenever there were plenty of them grazing I didn’t have my camera at the ready so you’ll have to make do with a couple in the distance. We only saw a few black bulls, also famous in the area, but we did see what looked like several rice fields and on investigation, discovered that they do indeed grow rice in the Camargue. We took a detour through Arles hoping to get a glimpse of the famous bridge painted by, among others, Van Gough, but we hated the town, the traffic and gave up looking for the bridge pretty quickly and drove on to Aigues Mortes where we picked up a coffee in the pretty square. A medieval walled town that we would definitely visit again when we have more time.

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Square in Aigues Mortes

San Remo was fantastic! We loved the place and it was 27degrees, sunny and friendly. Our apartment was superb, central, clean, modern and equipped with everything we could need for a one- night stay. The owner, Alessandro, could not have been more helpful and welcoming. He certainly knew how to treat a paying guest. We can recommend Colombo Apartments in Piazza Colombo, San Remo.

As usual the dog behaved impeccably, as mentioned before, she is the perfect traveller. Her only problem is little white poodles which, when she sees them, turn her from the placid fun loving dog into a teeth bared, growling monster (I exaggerate of course). I leave you to imagine what our evening stroll by the port in San Remo was like as every other dog was a white ball of fluff either tucked under the arm, in a handbag or prancing along the pavement in a taunting fashion…

We said goodbye to San Remo and Alessandro and set about getting back to Petritoli on the last leg of our journey. We only stopped to empty ourselves and the dog and take on more water, coffee and fuel – it was another 700k drive.

Happy to be back on her own turf, Jpeg rushed immediately out of the back door to chase the local cats as though she had never been away.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog – I certainly enjoy writing it.  You may like to know that I have published a collection of short stories, The Cherry Tree and Other Stories, available here from Amazon.co.uk

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The Walking Singers…

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The Walking Singers – John, Paolo, Anna-maria, Cristina, Me, Monia, Tiziana and Bernadetta.  (I may have spelt some of the names wrong, please fogive me.) Eugenio and Barbara are missing from this photo but we musn’t leave them out!

‘Would you like to join our Christmas singing group?’ asked my Canadian/Italian friend Tiziana back in November. ‘This will be our third year and it’s just good fun, mostly the group are Italians and we sing Christmas songs.’

I love singing, I take after my mother, she always had a song suitable for every occasion. My friend Linda is also the same…at any time she’ll burst into song after you have said something like… ‘good morning’…she’ll start,

Good morning, good morning
We’ve talked the whole night through
Good morning good morning to you… etc., Gene Kelly version I think.

I don’t want to turn into my mother, or Linda in fact but it is great to sing. It makes you feel good, something to do with endorphins I expect…I do sing, intermittently throughout everyday and if I don’t, then The Man thinks there’s something wrong with me.

Back to the Christmas choir then. I accepted the invitation and joined the choir with seasonal glee…(*groan*)

There were about four rehearsals usually a 9pm start but as most of the group were Italian they actually began somewhere between 9.30pm and 10pm. They were/are a lovely bunch of people but for the first three sessions, there was only a core of about four people who remained the same! Numbers kept changing and I had to try and remember so many different names.

Our song list contained most of the popular songs, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, (for which we donned red noses of course), Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jingle Bell Rock and several more. Imagine was the favourite with the Italian audiences…we had to sing it twice when we performed at the old people’s home in Petritoli. Fairytale of New York proved to be a hard one to come to grips with but we managed it in the end – I love that song – we couldn’t have managed it without John Healy on guitar…or could we? hmm. Happy Christmas (War is Over) was equally popular and quite emotional to sing. It seems every year it is topical, sadly.

The name of the group is, The Walking Singers, it came about not because they walk at the same time as singing but because the first year they performed they sang in a piazza in Fermo then walked a bit and sang in a different piazza, then another little stroll and a little sing, and so it went on. This year, we did actually sing and walk at the same time and as we strolled through the streets, shop doors opened, people wished us well, smiled and looked happy. We were spreading goodwill in abundance and it felt good.

So, 2015 saw three performances one at the Casa di Riposo (old people’s home) in Petritoli; one outside Bar Primavera in Fermo (we were given vino brule, which is mulled wine, it certainly helped oil the vocal tubes. The final singing event was on Christmas Eve and took place under the Christmas tree in the big Piazza del Popolo in Fermo town. The atmosphere was…well…Christmassy…with a skating rink set up in the middle of the square, lots of twinkly lights, stalls selling Christmas tack bric-a-brac, children playing, bells ringing…all very nostalgic and magical until we started singing…J Only joking. The crowds gathered to listen, we sang our hearts out and even The Man joined in. His contribution was to play the tambourine with skill and passion especially in We Wish you A Merry Christmas…we never did get any figgy pudding though!

 

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Olivespastavino, complete with red nose. Not that I needed one really as the actual nose was pretty scarlet at the time! (I’m looking very keen)

Happy New Year! Good wishes for 2016 to all.

Father Christmas has moved in next door…

I know where Father Christmas is living and its NOT Lappland…

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I saw through the window, on the street outside, a workmen setting up some electricity in the house next door. (He was taking it from the street light…hmmm) It’s a tiny house which has been empty for several years. I’ve been inside only once. The ground floor is one small room with a traditional Marche fireplace. It’s a perfect grotto for Father Christmas and that’s exactly what has happened.

Babbo Natale has ‘moved in’ for the duration of the Christmas period so that the children of Petritoli can come and visit him – (only during opening hours which seem to be a bit limited!)

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I am living next door to FC – how wonderful! What a pity my granddaughter isn’t here to see him, she’s thousands of miles away in New York. Still, I expect Santa will be delivering there too, but he won’t be living next door!

I was so excited I just had to tweet about it and imagine my surprise when Father Christmas himself replied to my tweet! See below…

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Happy Holidays Father Christmas…See you around in Petritoli…

Olive Harvest…

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This year has seen a bumper olive harvest. The trees were laden with so many olives that sometimes they looked like bunches of grapes. To those of you who have never picked olives and imagine it’s living the dream – it’s not. But having said that, the first two weeks, with help from friends, the sun shining and the trees of a reasonable height then yes, it is magical. But it’s not so great by the time you get into week four.  The friends have gone home and you’re left with a hardened core of pickers. The weather has cooled as much as the enthusiasm, only the big trees are left to pick and each one taking up to two and a half hours with four people picking. One tree yielded 140 kilos…Amazing. Not as much as this one though – largest olive tree in Italy . The Man thought there was a bigger one in Sicily, but I can’t find that. If you know about it please tell us.

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14 ten kilo boxes from one tree!

Don’t ever ask The Man to cut your hair – if the way he prunes an olive tree is anything to go by then you would be lucky to be left with a strand or two.

From the lips of the local farmers, there’s a great deal of advice about planting, pruning, picking and pressing olives. It’s always contradictory advice too, one man telling you one thing and his friend/wife disagreeing. We’ve listened to it all, The Man and I. We’ve read books and researched the Internet, basically you end up doing your own thing and for us that can’t have been bad because – friends and family, we’ve picked tons of olives (3 tons in fact) and consequently many litres of oil this year. It is certainly worth the hard work.  I have never tasted any oil so delicious as the freshly pressed virgin oil from the newly picked organic olives. We’re not registered organic but the trees are not treated in anyway. They grow and flourish, only by drawing nourishment from the rain and sun… and a bit of love of course.

Before I came to Italy I had no idea that olive oil could be so good. It’s labour intensive to harvest and as The Man always points out, when you buy olive oil from the supermarkets for under €10 a litre then it cannot be good stuff.  There has been much controversy in the press about big oil companies cheating and mixing the oil but I don’t know enough to go into all that here.  All I know for certain is that our olive oil is wonderful.

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Fresh green beautiful oil….

Olivespastavino will be going to England in the New Year so if you’re good to me and I bump into you, then maybe you’ll get a drop or two.

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Coffee time in le Marche sunshine in November !

By the way, there’s a great deal of talking goes on around each tree during picking and I’m tempted to make notes or record the conversations because they are so diverse. Subjects range from basic recipes, shopping, best and worst restaurants, expats you love or hate, religion, politics, healthcare in Italy v other countries, tax systems… I could go on forever and so did some of the discussions. I’ve taken to sitting on a box while I lovingly strip the olives from the branches either with a rake or my gloved hands listening with interest to those declaiming and joining in as and when I can – I’m not so good in the sport category but streets ahead in the useless bits of information section.

 

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Stripping the cut branches of their olives. I’m standing up, but only for the photo.