So as another week started, and with the promise of a few dry days, it was back to the coal face for us both.
While Helen toiled away in front of her computer I crossed the valley to our friends Mara and Franco's house to resume the work on the conversion of an old lean-to into an apartment. The work has been progressing slowly: all the necessary the prep work amounts to little, visually, to show for a hard day's work, and things barely look different now from how they looked at the start - therefore patience is required of all parties at this stage of the process, safe in the knowledge that soon there will be plenty of more dramatic changes in the form of windows, electrics and plumbing.
|Nice tidy window reveal awaiting steel framed glazing.
|Numerous layers of lime plaster to build up to required thickness.
|Socket back boxes fixed into the wall.
|An unintended hole when making a small hole for an electrical socket back box.
|Electrical wiring chases in the existing plaster.
|Flexi-tubing for cables.
|Snoopy modelling an American president styled haircut.
Monday evening marked two weeks since the good ship 'Aperitivi Inglesi' set sail (no, I've no idea why I chose a nautical analogy) at our local circolo (village club) so, having agreed to make it a bi-weekly affair, we set off towards the bar with a handful of materials in the form of flash cards and some additional exercises in the hope that we would have some interest once again.
We had adjusted the start time for the evening on this occasion, and rather than starting at 18:00 as we had done last time, we advertised a start time of 20:00 (somewhat reluctantly, as at this time of year by 20:00 it's already been dark for three hours and we're usually settled in for the evening keeping the wood burner going and the house warm). The reason for the change was that it has become abundantly clear that, virtually without exception, all evening gatherings start at 21:00 here (to allow a decent Italian dinner beforehand), so you can see that with our 20:00 start we were only making a compromise.
Sadly, young Ilaria who came last time, couldn't make it this time, but instead we had first Stefano from Medicina to talk to, who was joined shortly by Fabio, a software engineer from Pescia, and then towards the end of the evening a plant grower called Luca. All three of them had a very good grasp of English, making for a varied evening during which we covered topics ranging from meditation to classic motorbikes, and the origin of the Italian language to politics! Once again our good friends Paul, Kathy and David came along and got stuck in with the conversation as well, so the evening flowed nicely and by 22:30 we were happy to head home feeling as if the evening had been another small step in the right direction - let's see how things progress into spring.
On Wednesday afternoon we both headed into Pescia with Reggie in the back of the car - it was time for his annual jab at the vets with the lovely Alessandra.
This time we went armed with some of his home made dehydrated beef heart treats in the hope that we might be able to reward him for venturing into the surgery. For whatever reason this time Reggie decided he would walk/run/pull us into the surgery rather than having to be carried, as is usually the way. You certainly wouldn't say he was happy to go in, but it was a giant step forward for him after only a few visits - Alessendra clearly has a good way about her and we were soon in the consulting room where, as usual, Reggie refused all treats offered to him, too stressed even to consider eating anything.
We soon administered the jab in the usual manner, all three humans sat on the floor and Reggie trying to hide behind me. By the time we'd had a short chat with Alessandra about his general health and his new raw diet, Reggie had calmed down by the tiniest of notches and was ready to take a dehydrated treat from Alessandra, and then another and another - indeed, he was so keen that I'm surprised she didn't lose a finger in the process. It wasn't long before we were on the way home with a request to return in spring for what will be Reggie's first blood test (to test for filaria, a disease transmitted by biting insects), not wanting to do too much in one visit and ruin the small amount of trust that seemed to have been built between Reggie and vet this week.
Thursday saw another reluctant exit from the house after dark, but only for Helen as it was her second spinning class down at the gym in Pescia. Not having slept well the previous night (and having a much better idea of how hard the class was going to be than the first time she went in relative blissful ignorance), she was less than keen on the idea but went regardless, such is her commitment to cardio exercise.
We finished the week on Friday evening with what felt like a well earned bottle of wine after having forced ourselves to face the supermarket at peak time (early evening) so that we wouldn't have to sully our weekend with such a mundane task. After dinner, we watched the final of Junior Bake Off Italia - something we wish we'd found at the start of the series but will be looking out for next time around as it was hugely entertaining watching these 'mini pasticceri' of 8-10 years of age bake cakes that far exceeded anything I would be capable of, and realising that our level of Italian is about that of an 8 year old!!
|Reggie's new diet, the stuff of vegan nightmares!
After lunch and much deliberation over our to-do list, we decided to do something not on the to-do list (oops), yep... clearing terraces - our second favourite pastime!
Although the task was not on the to-do list itself, we didn't embark on it without reason: I have just ordered 600 wooden dowels of Shiitake mushroom spawn so that we can try our hand at cultivating these tasty morsels this year (and, should we be reasonably successful, with a view to expanding the operation and making ourselves something of a niche in the valley).
Having identified some hornbeam trees in the woods to use as the host logs, we needed somewhere to site them. The answer? On the two uncleared and somewhat shady terraces below the car park.
It was something of a shock to the system to embark on some serious clearing, not having done any of this kind of labour for some months now, but it was enjoyable to get back into the swing of things and to have some fine, sunny weather to do it in.
We toiled away both Saturday and Sunday, allowing ourselves a couple of hours on Sunday morning to plant garlic and bury a water pipe outside the front of the house that was starting to become a serious trip hazard, but otherwise concentrating on the terrace clearing.
It was quite slow work at times, as we kept coming across pieces of fencing and barbed wire from an old fence that had fallen and become buried in the ground and that had now all sorts of plant roots clamping the steel mesh firmly to the earth, meaning that bolt cutters and a lot of brute force were required to free it from the undergrowth.
By the time we called an end to the fun on Sunday evening and as the bonfire burned down we had finished phase one of the clearance and were feeling very pleased with ourselves and at the difference it makes to the nearby area. Weather permitting, next weekend will see phase two underway, which should see the hedge cutters swapped for strimmers with metal blades, but with changeable weather forecast for the week ahead, the ball is in Mother Nature's court.
|More "gifts" from the land.
|Keeping a careful eye on yet another bonfire.