Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Here comes

As you'll see from the top photo the packing is now entering its final stage.By tonight all that will be left is our bed and the bags we'll be taking with us. We are enjoying ourselves although with one cereal bowl,one spoon, one plate and one knife, breakfast has to be taken in shifts. I guess you'd call it hot bowling. After 34 years of collecting things it's as if overnight we've gone back to the simplicity of being students again.

Today will be spent packing the car. Two things are apparent. 1) The huge SUV despite its impressive external dimensions has less usable storage space than the dog car and 2) three quarters of what will be packed is bedding, kibbles ,toys and treats for the boyz.We are restricted to two tote bags on the back seat- just like travelling with toddlers. The lack of space in the car is the perfect excuse for me to be gallant and claim that I've sent on my own carefully stored wardrobe to make extra space for the 'fonts' clothes - in one fell swoop I can turn my sartorial problem into a chivalric gesture!

The computer gets packed later this morning so this may be the last post for a few days. We'll take the laptop with us and try to post en route to the new home. Our first stop on Thursday and Friday night is at a remote hotel deep in a Tuscan valley and a mobile phone signal , let alone a WiFi link, are not to be expected, but we'll try. By Saturday night we should be across the frontier and into France so posting should be possible again. After Saturday,new posts will be on the replacement blog as Life in Italy will be well and truly behind us. Thank you all for your comments over the last few days - it's truly heartening to get support from people you've never met but who you read about on their blogs every day. Strange how regular blogging has that effect.

The two boyz are sitting in the drawing room barking at all the boxes - even they are now aware that something is up. Tickles and treats are being handed out in abundance. Yesterday afternoon they had the time of their lives. Every time a carpet was taken outside to be rolled up and wrapped, Wilf and Digby would arrive and settle down in the middle of it,luxuriating in the late autumn sunshine.Digby still dislikes one of the workmen.

For now 'au revoir' - we'll post pictures of the boyz adventures when we can.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Digby takes an arch dislike to a packer.

Winter has arrived. Yesterday afternoon a sudden squall blew in bringing with it a downpour of rattling hail and a bracing wave of frigid air from Siberia - the temperature fell from 28 to 14 degrees in half an hour. While we are complaining, the two boyz are in seventh heaven. This morning it is barely eight degrees and their Polish cold weather DNA has reasserted itself - they have rediscovered that boundless energy of puppyhood and are flying across the fields enjoying the arctic conditions. The removal men are doing a great job. A quarter of the house is now echoingly bare, a half in a state of chaos, and the final quarter still bearing some resemblance to a home.

We have a bit of a problem with the packers. For some reason Digby has taken a violent dislike to one of them. We simply can't work it out. He ignores all the others, but with this one guy he becomes a fifteen inch tall growling, snarling ,horrible aggressive beast. Naturally,Wilf is happy to play with them all. We wonder if the packer doesn't remind him of one of the robbers.

I was able to save the 'fonts' clothing yesterday but the bulk of mine had disappeared into those strange hanging wardrobes that packers use. This morning I am therefore combating the cold by wearing the top from a pair of British Airways pyjamas under my shirt. In addition I have come across a marvellous pair of 'combat pants' that belong to a younger Angus. In future I shall only ever wear combat pants - I can carry a monkey wrench, a can of WD40, the car keys, twine, a pair of pliers ,and still have pockets left over. The 'font' has so far not commented on my attire - the imminent arrival of the packers being a helpful distraction. Let's just hope that I'm not expected to go to any fancy restaurants on the journey to France - I fear that I shall have to rely on liberated 'younger Angus' clothing which may raise eyebrows when adorning the older Angus figure.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Four days to go.

Chaos and panic are the watchwords for today and I fear it can only get worse.The 'font',who has suddenly gone into hyper mode, has just asked me where I've hung the clothes we are going to wear for our journey to France. Put simply I haven't thought about clothes for the journey and have left everything in the wardrobes and dressers for the movers to pack. Diplomacy being my middle name I have not alluded to this fact . Rather than make an already fraught situation worse I shall instead demonstrate a cool, calm demeanour and try to extricate whatever clothing can be rescued from the super efficient packers. I just hope I've not left it too late !

For the rest of the day I think that Messrs.Wilf and Digby together with yours truly will need to find some quiet corner where we are well away from the organized chaos that has settled on our little piece of paradise.

Thank you for all your kind comments over the weekend. The traumas of moving have clearly struck a chord. The new blog address when we move to France will be . I tried 'Life and other musings' and all sorts of philosophical twists thereon but the names were all taken.

The two boyz don't seem to have understood that the gang of men wandering around the house and grounds are packers. Wilf has been greeting everyone in sight with a ball in his mouth - he has the firm belief that he has found a group of new ball throwing playmates.Long may it last!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Now comes the hard part.

We have finally run out of packing cases.Today is therefore a day for relaxing and taking stock before the storm breaks tomorrow morning when the removal team arrive from Rome. I thought we had downsized to a simpler lifestyle after leaving Scotland but the slimmed down version will still take four guys, four days to box up. The boyz are still unaware of the change that is rapidly approaching - they will be getting a lot of attention and reassurance in the coming week. In the meantime they are chilling in the courtyard.

Tonight we have a farewell dinner at the slow food restaurant in the village with our lovely American/South African neighbours. It's one of the joys of life that you can unexpectedly meet and make new friends .These people were so caring and kind after the 'late unpleasantness' that we want to work at keeping them in the close family circle. It is all too easy to let friends become acquaintances.Parting will be a little sad but France is only twelve hours down the autostrada.

Our other duty today is harder, the funeral of a young Carabinieri sergeant. He was gunned down and killed and two of his colleagues wounded in a shoot out with a car thief. They had all been to the house three our four times after the burglary and had been most concerned and solicitous about our welfare. We never came across violence until recently and now it seems to have become a background to life in Italy. The 'font' has written a letter of condolence to the wife and family which we will deliver to the cathedral. Funerals generally take place within 24 hours here and I am steeling myself for an event of great emotion. Isn't it strange how Europeans view America as a land of violence yet our American friends don't need state of the art security systems.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Rain, heavy rain.

Dawn arrived bright and clear but it soon clouded over and dense,heavy,Mull type rain has arrived - much needed by the olives after a month of scorching weather. Digby can sense the thunder rolling on the hills in the distance and has become clinically attached to my right ankle, all the while doing his best impression of a Dickensian waif dog. Wherever I go - he goes. Wilf by contrast is quite happy dozing in the kitchen dreaming that the cookie jar has fallen off the shelf and deposited its contents right in front of him. In terms of character these two are just so different - Wilf the strong silent type and Digby the exact opposite.

Even though I say so myself the depleted packing team did a wonderful job yesterday throwing out old paint cans and disposing of a collection of garden chemicals. Whatever looked as though it might be useful in the garden or fields has been redistributed down to the pool house for the benefit of the new owner. The cupboards are now 100% empty! Digby sat in the hallway watching me clear out - in the process reassuring himself that nothing edible was jettisoned . Faced with a decision on whether an item should stay or go I would ask Digby his opinion - one bark yes, silence no. It worked a treat. I'd like to think that talking to a dog is different from talking to yourself

All being well the 'font' returns today to the delight of all concerned - not least to have someone with a vocabulary to talk to. The boyz will be particularly happy that their diet of plain kibbles will now be augmented by all sorts of healthy goodies.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Canine helpers.

With the packing team reduced to just me (aided by the inefficient but extremely enthusiastic input of the two boyz) progress on crating up has fallen a little behind schedule. Nothing daunted we are up bright and early this morning armed with wrapping tape, rubbish sacks and a Stanley knife. It is now the turn of the paint and tool cupboard to face the weeding out process and after that if time allows the broom cupboard.

Yesterday evening I stripped the sheets and duvets off all the guest beds, a tedious process that Digby being Digby thoroughly enjoyed . Every time a crumpled sheet or duvet hit the floor he was there, gleefully leaping onto the pile, his little face beaming with delight,rump wagging away, mind and body fully engaged in some mysterious canine nest building routine. Finally, as the laundry pile turned into a laundry mountain he could be found perched, serenely, on top of it. Pure,unadulterated,mischevious dog and such marvellous company!.

I didn't notice it last night but this morning the whole place has quite a different feeling.Not only do the guest rooms look strangely barren without bed linens but somehow the sight of uncovered matresses brings home the fact that bit by bit the family home is turning into just another house. Looking back at the blog I see that it was on April 9th, six months ago exactly that our love affair with Italy came to a grinding,random halt - a natural time in the greater scheme of things to move onto new adventures. But goodness me with hindsight what a hectic six months, deciding to move, advertising the house, selling to the first person who came to see it, chosing a new home, and now the fun of packing.Still to come the fun of unpacking!

We shall have to decide on a new blog name as 'Life in Italy' will be redundant within a week. Wilf has spent much of the morning so far contentedly finding and depositing balls at the front door so maybe it should be entitled ' The ball games continue?'.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

"Toutes larmes de leurs yeux".

Tired after the stress of the early start and irritated by the endless stream of trucks heading out of Rome along the autostrada I drove across the back roads into Umbria - the landscape by now sun drenched and pleasant - the blue sky cloudless. Past Bolsena with its lake and cathedral the road climbs steeply upwards merging into the high ridge that carries on to Orvieto. At the brow of the hill a pair of limestone gate piers, well kept and unweathered, somehow familiar but out of place here. A parking spot offering an excuse to briefly breathe fresh, unfreoned air. From the gate a gravel path pointing through thick stands of dark green holm oaks,tall leafy acacias,faded wild irises and bee swarmed gentians towards another set of piers and a small bronze gate, three feet high, the upper edge burnished with use.

Beyond, the view widens - the lake in front, fields of golden autumn wheat on either side, ahead and above a glimpse of the purple mountains of Tuscany - a tranquil scene of sweet,gentle,timeless grace. And then the shock. On the slopes below, invisible at first,five hundred,maybe more, identical purbeck tombstones in parade formation. The hidden,almost forgotten,resting place of Dominion boys fallen along the isobars of their advance.

Whoever chose this untroubled spot must have grieved like a father for each of these young South Africans,New Zealanders,Australians,Canadians and Scots. No human hand alone could have set these stones here with an intimacy as real as wandering into a gathering of close friends. A place so secret that the sheltering forest seems to wrap its arms around its ever sleeping charges denying access to winter storms and summer squalls. Ranks of eighteen and nineteen year olds, the brief carved outlines of their lives: - birthdate,nationality,regiment,date of death, age - sometimes a couplet from a non-conformist hymn or a line that honors the name with thin substance 'loving father,dutiful son'. Flesh condensed to stone, unquantifiable mothers grief expressed in no more than sixteen words.

Few now find their way to this scented place, their generation gone and the road beckoning to brighter,happier destinations. A Quebecois, clearly moved,had written in the visitors book the simple comforting line " et Dieu essuiera toutes larmes de leurs yeux". I'd like to think so, and the rest too - "neither sorrow,nor crying,neither shall there be any more pain". Italy should be a destination of happiness and joy so I won't go back to this place; but I'll remember it as hallowed ground, an achingly majestic spot where the veil between the worlds is worn yieldingly thin. As I left to climb the hill the acacias rustled lightly in an absent breeze as if berating me for my lack of manners. I closed the gate,turned and said out loud, where no one but these resting sons could possibly have heard my voice, 'thank you'.

Wilf and Digby played half heartedly when I got home and then sat by the gate looking up the hill waiting patiently for the 'font'.

Hectic. Will post later.

The ringing phone at two am. Sleepy irritation evaporating at the 'yes,yes,I understand'. Thirty minutes with the boyz in the floodlit garden, Wilf running through the lavender, Digby skirting around it. A quick rush to the airport in Rome ( thank you British Airways for finding a seat for the 'font' on a full plane and doing it with calm, warm efficiency- the recurring kindness of strangers ), then a hurried farewell at the departure gate. " Have you got your passport? I'll arrange a rental car. Don't worry about a thing ". A quick peck on the cheek, a squeeze on the shoulder lasting perhaps a moment too long, a silently mouthed goodbye at the security line, no looking back. All the buttoned up Presbyterian routines and formulas to keep emotions in check.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Pale gums.

The 'font' was worried about Wilfs behaviour. He was uncharacteristically lethargic,looked at, rather than chased the ball and to top it all skipped lunch. As Wilf ranks food as his greatest single pleasure in life this was a particularly worrying sign. A quick examination showed that he had unusually pale gums. Rather than face a sick dog during our exodus to France,he was in the back of the car and off to our marvellous vet within record time. These were the exact same early symptoms of the poisoning that nearly finished him off in early 2008. The local hunters put down poisoned chicken pellets to kill the foxes ( on our land ) and naturally Wilf being Wilf managed to sniff out some of these tasty but lethal morsels. Hence the 'fonts' alarm .

Of course, the very second we got him in the car he perked up and by the time we got to the vets the colour was back in his gums and he was raring to meet the vets attractive young female Briard . After twenty minutes of tests the diagnosis? Tiredness. Usually the boyz sleep for a couple of hours in the morning and again for three hours in the afternoon. Recently, with so many visitors coming to the house Wilf has been sleeping less and playing ball more ... much more. Last night he retired with as much dignity as he could muster at seven and slumbered for eleven hours solid. This morning he is back to his usual form and ferreting around in the courtyard while his little brother dozes under a pine tree in the sun.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The hard drive and the hammer.

Yesterday spent with the local bureaucrats who dream up ever more obtuse requirements and demands for the permits needed to sell the house. We still seem to be inhabiting a Faustian parallel universe when it comes to providing the planning approvals for a house that has been part of the landscape for the last two thousand years.

Returned home after a challenging day with the lovely men and women of the planning department to find the 'font' whacking away at various computer components with a large hammer . Seemingly a google search had shown that this was the only way to dispose of old computer hard drives and prevent some bright spark accessing all our stored bank account and pension details. The boyz watched the whole process from a careful distance as the 'font' worked away pieces of plastic and brass flying in every direction. At the end of the process the hard drive looked remarkably intact - maybe that's the real reason they are called hard drives.

Wilf and Digby remain in fine fettle. I don't think they have woken up to the fact that all the activity is related to another move. A constant stream of visitors to the front door has kept them happily engaged while surreptitious packing goes on all around. What they will make of it when a team of packers complete with large pantechnicon arrives on Monday remains to be seen. Let's hope the team are keen on ball games!

10 days to go.

Awake early - the backlog of things to be done ahead of the move seems to be growing rather than shrinking so my mind was in gear and racing by four thirty. We've been carting 'stuff' out of the front door for over two weeks now and the house seems to be as full of things as ever . On top of it all Italian bureaucracy is having a field day - the list of bills to be paid and tax documents to sign keeps getting longer and longer. Anyway, there are still ten full days to go before we hand over the keys.

An interesting/worrying column by Thomas Friedman in the NY Times in which he raises a subject that is exercising many of our American friends. " I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from right or left - but something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here as existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination". One of the satellite channels we can get here in the Italian mountains is Fox News and there does seem to be a tendency towards rage in their analyses. Was it there before or is it a new phenomenon ?

Digby is outside on the grass keeping a watchful eye on the central heating boiler repair man (he doesn't throw the ball and is therefore held to be suspicious) while Wilf is as usual, unconcernedly asleep at the front door. Digby may be the smaller of the two boyz but he has the heart of a lion.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Reunited with old friends.

We are being blessed with the most perfect weather. 30 degrees during the day, low teens at night, not a cloud in the sky and clear, unpolluted air that enables us to see forever. Italy wants us to leave remembering her at her very best.

Now that we're in the final two weeks before the move the local tradesmen have started to come to the house to bid a formal goodbye. Yesterday morning the builder brought his son and 6 month old grandson along to thank us for always being so grateful for the work he'd done. In the afternoon it was the joiner and his son who arrived on the doorstep to thank us in exactly the same terms. How heart warming. There is something charming about Italy and ( most of ) the Italians that sets them apart - old style courtesy and pride in their craftsmanship remains the norm. I fear an emotional departure is on the cards by the time the neighbouring farmers come to say farewell.

Wilf and Digby have of course thrived on the stream of people coming through the door. For them it is an excuse to find innocents who are willing to throw the ball, and throw the ball, and .... . In the process of clearing out the house, old toys that had been carefully hidden have come to light. For Wilf there is nothing like being reunited with an old heavily chewed friend.

It was shoe clearing out time this morning. Left unsupervised the 'font' would have retained a world class collection of footware but the two year rule was applied and four large garbage sacks of boots, sandals,babouches and espadrilles have gone to the skip.

Friday, 2 October 2009

A squirrel up an olive tree

This morning while I was checking on the irrigation system a squirrel wandered through the open gate into the courtyard, climbed an olive tree, clambered back down and then sauntered out - disdainfully ignoring the presence of the two boyz . Wilf and Digby pride themselves on their squirrel chasing skills but exhausted after their morning walk they managed to sleep soundly through the squirrels arrival and departure. It is only now, half an hour after the critter left that the re-energized brothers have woken up to the fact that we have had a visitor. The two of them are sitting under the tree, noses in the air, sniffing the wind and staring at the spot where the long tailed interloper sat. Occasionally,Wilf lets out one of his ridiculous high pitched chihuahua whines denoting extreme frustration. So far they have shuffled through a 90 degree arc around the base of the tree and within an hour they should have completed a full 360 degree turn. Why watch Letterman when you have home grown comedians? They'll eventually come in for lunch.

Play mode engaged.

The two boyz were at their most boisterous this morning , not so much walking beside me as dancing along the farm track. Their obvious happiness may well be something to do with the cooler weather - a huge relief if you go around in a double layer fur coat every day. You'll see from this mornings pictures that play mode has been firmly engaged. After a week of glorious sunshine this morning brings with it the first hard hint of winter with dew on the ground and the metal farm gate cold to the touch . Yes, it is also the first day since mid-April that I've had to put on a sweater.

Why is throwing out clothes so difficult? The 'font' has issued an edict that anything I haven't worn in the last two years is not going to the new house The original edict was to throw out anything I'd not worn in the last twelve months but it was graciously agreed that this was too draconian. Yesterday evening was therefore spent with me defending the retention of a variety of clothes that I'm quite sure I'll fit into again one day. The font rather cruelly pointed out that I'd either have to contract a rare wasting disease or give up chocolate and wine (together!) if waist band and waist were ever to exist in harmony. Faced with that choice out went a rather dashing Prince of Wales check from Edinburgh ( fine when bought but really more suitable for a younger figure I was told ), a dinner jacket, and a variety of comfortable ( in 'font' terms shabby ) office suits together with a surprisingly large pile of jumpers and sweaters ( what's the difference?) that have skulked at the back of the wardrobe since we arrived here four years ago.

My task for today is to clear out the pool house and cellar. To that end I've been issued with a roll of twenty large heavy duty rubbish sacks.The boyz and I have a fun filled morning ahead of us. Who knows what might lurk in the cellar after lying undisturbed for four years? The more malodorous it is the more Wilf and Digby will enjoy it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Two grumpy old colonels.

Goodness only knows what had been wandering through the fields last night but whatever it was fired up the boyz pretty quickly. They were off at high speed, noses down, rumps high, zigzaging across the olive groves at high speed. I reckon for every yard I covered they covered at least eight. Even Digby with his sore hip was springing and leaping like a puppy. After half an hour of intense activity they are now stretched out at the front door in a deep,deep sleep. A concentrated grooming session to get the assorted seeds and mud out of their hair will be needed later today.

It was decidedly chilly this morning - the thermometer was registering 14 degrees - the coldest it's been in six months. Sometime next week the sweaters are going to have to come out.

The 'font' returned from London last night. We were so busy talking and laughing that the boyz decided to take themselves off to bed. As they went up the steps Digby ,who was decidedly miffed at the lack of attention, turned and gave us his best 'see if I care' look. Sometimes it's like living with two grumpy old colonels.

Two weeks today and we'll be on our way. The 'font' has drawn up a schedule of what needs to be done. I feel the cold hand of panic wrenching at my stomach. Surely there must be at least another six weeks in which to get everything packed, labelled and moved?