For me, Monday to Friday were spent with my head down in the office. It has come to that time of year when my workload has pretty much doubled from what is usual for the rest of the year, and I am currently averaging around 7 hours a day in front of the computer. Not where I would like to be for that many hours a day, especially when the grass is growing and the vegetables need tending, but it does indeed help to pay the bills. Add into the equation a 2-hour Italian lesson on Thursday, and by the end of the week my head felt fit to explode, or implode, with the amount of information my brain was attempting to process.
It was with relief that I finally shut the computer down on Friday evening and went for a lovely walk in the woods with Stuart and Reggie - the first time I'd even left the house and seen the outside world in five days!
Meanwhile, the week has been peppered with car problems, internet problems and strimmer problems, and while I felt stir crazy and desperate to get out and see the outside world, Stuart was feeling the opposite and desperate just to stay at home to get some jobs done and not have to go out! Monday saw him making another trip to the strimmer mechanic - after having changed the oil in the strimmer the previous week, it had showed worrying signs of not being entirely healthy - plumes of black smoke and a spluttering engine, for example. He'd already taken it to the workshop and had been told that it was fine and most likely just that a bit of oil had made its way into somewhere where it shouldn't have been, which was fairly normal and not a problem. At the weekend, however, the strimmer had done the same trick, with a puff of black smoke, a cough, and then stopped, simply refusing to start again. So on Monday Stuart returned it to the workshop - and came back empty handed, having left the strimmer with the mechanic.
On Tuesday, Stuart left the house shortly before lunchtime in order to "pop" into town to renew our car insurance. He didn’t make it home until nearly 6pm. Without the car. Yes, the car has been up to its old tricks once again. After Stuart had finished in the car insurance office, he went back to the car and it wouldn’t start. He waited, went back, still wouldn’t start, and kept doing the same all afternoon – since it was parked in a space, there was no means of pushing it or towing it to bump start it, so no point in even asking anyone to help. Eventually, on hearing about Stuart's plight via Sue, via me, the lovely Chris went and found him in Pescia, picked him up and drove him home. Needless to say, the mood was not a cheery one that evening after such a disastrous day.
The next morning, having had to pull out of our usual group Italian lesson in Vellano thanks to the car situation, Stuart got straight on his bicycle and cycled into to town to find the car. Of course, it started the first time. After putting the bicycle in the back, the first thing he did was to drive to a garage Chris had pointed out to him where they have a diagnostic machine - we'd worked out that hooking it up to such a machine must be the only way of attempting to determine this frustrating intermittent fault. On arrival at the garage, they told Stuart that the machine was out elsewhere that day, but that if he went back the next morning they would hook it up and take a look.
So thankfully the day improved, the Stuart came home with the car, Reggie got to go and have a walk, and Stuart was able to get stuck into a few jobs around the house, including blocking up the wall between the spare bedroom and the bathroom, which previously had been covered with just a piece of board following the removal of the old electric water heater.
Stuart and the car duly returned to the garage the next morning, only to find that the diagnostic machine was not sufficiently specific to work on our car, and was advised to take it to a Fiat specialist. He duly did that, where the car was hooked up to the machine and... wait for it... the diagnostic code determined that there was a non-specific starting error. Hmm, no kidding!!!! The garage told him that there were a number of possible causes, and told him for a couple of things to look out for the next time it plays up so that they can narrow the problem down a bit - so we are no further forward, although we do feel marginally better informed, and the next time it happens we should have a little more information to pass on and help get to the bottom of things.
The tail end of the week was busy for Stuart with going out and about to run errands, walking Reggie, doing a morning's work in Vellano and, much to my relief, going to collect the strimmer ready for a weekend of whipping our terraces back into shape. The strimmer is so much a part of both of our lives these days that it almost felt like having an arm missing not having it to hand!
We started the weekend on Saturday morning with a leisurely cappuccino and pastry at the Da Sandrino cafe near Sorana. The cafe here only opens in the summertime, but it's a great spot for us as it's quiet enough for us to be able to sit outdoors with Reggie while we sip our coffees without having to worry about him being frightened by crowds of people.
After we'd had our breakfast we continued along the road to re-walk a path we'd found once before that heads up towards Castelvecchio - or at least that's what we thought. The last time we walked the path, we ended up coming to a dead end, bit it didn't really matter as it was a nice little walk. This time, however, we spotted a turn-off we hadn't spotted last time, complete with the familiar red and white footpath markers. The path was a little overgrown, but Stuart has taken to going for walks armed with a pair of secateurs for just this reason, and we were able to slowly make our way through the encroaching brambles and onto a lovely footpath - it was nice to know that we were unlikely to come across cyclists or walkers given how overgrown the path had been. It still wasn't the footpath we were expecting it to be, but we were pleased with our find and had a lovely walk.
|All hooked up and ready for the rain.
|A beautiful new set of shelves and a new home for the old gate-leg table.
|Putting the tractor to good use tidying the drive.
|A new climbing frame for the chickens.
Once again we had a lovely evening with Mara and Franco. It was so warm that we sat outside on their terrace to eat dinner and long into the evening. Once again, we spent the evening conversing mainly in Italian, with a little help from Mara when we struggled, but it was pleasing to find that we were comfortable with using Italian the majority of the time, and we covered all manner of subject, having long discussions about different types of trees and their various merits, the production of honey, the history of the valley and a range of other diverse topics.
We eventually left Mara and Franco to what would hopefully be their first undisturbed night's sleep in a week at around 11pm after a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We feel very lucky and privileged to have found such welcoming and patient friends.
Sunday was something of a re-run of Saturday: a coffee at Sandrino's cafe, followed by a walk with Reggie, and some work in the afternoon (more strimming for me and more tidying up of the wood pile and the driveway for Stuart). The heat was pretty exhausting - there has been rain and thunder threatened for a few days now, but so far, apart from a short shower on Saturday night, not much has materialised, the air feels saturated and the humidity is energy sapping - espccially when you are trying to do physical work.
Looking to the week ahead, we have plenty more Italian practice to come: on Monday evening we have Claudia and Massimo (who we met through Mara & Franco) coming round for the evening as we've been promising to show them our house and projects for a long time; on Tuesday evening we are booked into a fund-raising dinner for Pietrabuona church along with all the locals of the village; and on Wednesday it's pizza in Vellano. A busy week ahead then. A presto!