After the excitement of the weekend it was back to the usual routine this week with nothing out of the ordinary planned except for the next of our English evenings down at the circolo in the village.
So after a day's work, instead of settling in front of the wood burner we dug out some respectable civilian clothing and headed out into the cold, village bound.
It looked like being a quiet night here too, and after 20 minutes we thought we would be going home early - that was until Roberto arrived out of the cold. Roberto is the older chap who spent some time as a waiter at The Savoy back in the 60's. He has plenty to talk about from his past but his opening gambit this time was that of the Bell's palsy (partial paralysis of the face) that had befallen him only four days ago. Once he pointed it out from beneath his scarf and woolly hat it was clear to see. What a brave man heading out into the cold to meet up with a group of relative strangers with symptoms that were currently making it harder than usual for him to talk, eat and drink. We were humbled that he had made the effort (and felt somewhat guilty about the fact that we ourselves had dragged our heels and not really wanted to go out into the cold and dark!).
Time ticked by, and after about half an hour with Roberto alone keeping us company, everything changed when, within the next ten minutes, first Fabio arrived (who we had met for the first time four weeks ago), followed by Daniele (a guy from Montecarlo who we had not met before), a young Albanian lad by the name of Castrio, and then a little later Luca (who has been to each one of our English evenings).
It turned into a fun evening and, as ever, with the impending Italian general election (which takes place on 4 March) there were several points at which things descended into heated political debate (largely in Italian), which tested our own language skills just as much, if not more than anyone's English skills were tested all night! It has been suggested that on the next English evening we set up a forfeit box which must be paid into by anyone who switches to using Italian - given that the next English evening will be the day after the general election, I image that it could be quite the earner for whatever cause is decided upon.
By the time we’d managed to make our excuses, had an extra round of drinks bought for us, and finally managed to convince everyone that we really had to go, it was heading rapidly towards midnight. Once again it had been a very enjoyable evening overall, and it was nice to have met a couple of new faces as well as to see the return of some familiar ones.
The rest of the week slipped by with little to report other than the constant talk between us and our group of friends of the cold front that was approaching and the hope of being able to have a community day on Saturday up at Paul and Kathy's if the weather remained as forecast - a solitary dry day sandwiched between a wet spell and a cold snowy spell. It seemed unlikely, but we held out hope.
On Thursday afternoon we started the process of (re)-securing the chicken enclosure - the finger-numbing job of going round making sure the netting over the top is all firmly knitted together at each of the seams as well as fixed properly to the top of the fence (and with no gaps!). Reggie wanted to see what we were doing, so we let him in and he spent an hour or so discovering the life of a chicken. He thought it was great fun at first, but then got a bit fed up when he realised he was on the inside and we had moved to the outside:
|A chicken's life.
Friday was a horrible day weather wise: a biting cold wind and rain was all that awaited anyone who dared to venture outside, so I was glad to down tools for the week over at Mara and Franco's house and head home to collect Helen before going to get the food shopping sorted, keen to have it done before the cold of the weekend bit down.
Despite Friday's deeply unpleasant weather, on Saturday morning we awoke to a clear blue sky! The weather really couldn't have been much more different from that of the preceding week or that which was forecast to start the next morning, so Helen and I headed up to Castelvecchio where we were joined by David & Sarah at Paul & Kathy's house for a community day working outside in the glorious sunshine.
While Helen and Sarah toiled away with hedge cutters, rakes and a bonfire, clearing an overgrown area of the woods beneath Paul & Kathy's house, the boys worked at logging some fallen trees and winching them up to the pathway that runs through the woods so that they can be moved in Paul's powered wheelbarrow contraption at some point.
It wasn't long before we were all (girls excluded) in t-shirts and the woods were full of the sounds of two-stroke engines angrily revving away: two chainsaws and a winch, which after a couple of false starts, worked admirably dragging up huge trunks of tree that even between two of us we were unable to move.
We worked until around 13:30 when we finally downed tools and headed indoors for an abundant and delicious lunch that Kathy had spent the morning conjuring up: 3 different curries, rice and poppadums, finished off with rice pudding. It was a great way to finish the day with lots of laughs and the frivolity that can only come from having toiled together at work for a few hours in the fresh air.
On Sunday we awoke to altogether different temperatures. Having been promised snow all day long, we had not planned anything for the day, other than maybe some Italian homework in the form of another of the Harry Potter movies in Italian.
First things first though, and we headed into to Pescia for breakfast. Looking back up the valley we could see the snow in the air further up on the hills. After coffee we decided to try and get lost in the foothills again but this time in the direction east of Pescia rather than west towards Lucca.
Recently, we had spotted a brown road sign hidden away on a turning off the main road out of town, indicating that the road was part of an "olive oil route" in the area. We don't fully understand the significance of these signs, which appear all around the area at seemingly random points, but we took it as the sign of a good place to try and explore.
The road did indeed wind its way up into the foothills through acres of dense olive groves but we soon found ourselves at the castle village of Uzzano just above Pescia. It wasn't quite the scale of adventure we had hoped for, but a pretty little drive nonetheless.
As we headed back down towards Pescia, Helen suggested we take a right turn towards Malocchio, a tiny village we had not yet visited, despite it being vaguely in the direction of home.
We wound our way at snail's pace up a hairpin road stuck behind a large group of cyclists who eventually all stopped, as the snow became heavier, to put on waterproof jackets and about-turn, leaving us a clear run to the village.
I say "village", but we seemed to find a cemetery and a restaurant side by side and nothing else. It was a nice drive though, with some different views of the valley, and we ended up climbing over the top of the hill and finding ourselves in Macchino, above Vellano, from where we took the provincial road back to home in time for lunch.
As we approached the house the snow that had been falling heavily in Malocchio and Macchino became very light, so there was little chance of Reggie getting any on the ground to play in, but enough to mean we felt OK about heading indoors for the rest of the day.
After lunch, though, the weather changed yet again: the snow disappeared and we were left with a cold but sunny afternoon. After trying, but failing to find a good reason to stay indoors, we headed outside with the winch and chainsaws in order to fell a couple of trees and strip the bark from them to make the remaining leg posts of the yet-to-be-built tractor park.
It was sunny, but when the wind blew it was icy cold and cut right through, which meant you couldn't stand still for a moment and the only way to cope was to keep going, non-stop!
But stop we did around 5pm, having cut all four new posts and stripped two of them ready for sinking into the ground - not a job we had the energy or inclination for today so we cleared away the tools and took Reggie into the woods for a walk before contentedly retiring indoors for the evening.
Sunday night was forecast to drop to -3C and Monday barely above freezing all day, with more or less the same forecast until Thursday when a couple of inches of snow were due.
After having been caught out in previous winters, we were fully prepared for frozen water pipes this time by having 75 litres of water in Jerry cans ready for toilet flushing and 18 litres of potable water in bottles - we knew that Sunday evening could be our last chance to shower for a couple of days, so we duly showered, changed and lit the fire... we could be no more prepared.
(This blog post covers the week 19-25 February 2018.)