These words are the property of clever people. I'm just trying to put them in order.

Month: November, 2015

Remember, remember, to write in November.

In the evening, Andrea and I went to buy wine from a nearby hotel, transport the bins to the bottom of the hill and try and get Jasmine to fall asleep in the back of the car. As we got into the car, I looked up and saw all of the stars shining down. I wished I had a pair of binoculars or a telescope to stare at them with; it would be a great place to watch the stars go past.

We got to the hotel where they take your old 1.5 litre bottles and fill new ones for you. Inside there were illustrations of beautiful Venetian flower sellers with their curly hair tied back with helter skelters brushing their faces and smiles to go weak for. There were also illustrations of Venice as a port town, boats coming in with cargo and people dragging things into the city. On the opposite wall, behind the counter there were several illustrations of a lonely travelling man in an overcoat coming in from the mountains and the rain to settle for the night.

We left and drove the long way for Jasmine’s benefit and it worked. By the time we were back up the hill she was asleep. We all ate dinner and tested the new wine; it was very drinkable. After dinner we talked about money, war, bonfire night and inevitably V for Vendetta.

The next morning after sleeping heavily. I woke up, snapped down some toast and got clearing the brambles in the forest. It’s an incredibly satisfying job once you get going and any stress I might have had beforehand (which was none) would have been well and truly gone by the time I was done. I managed to clear a huge hole in what was previously a wall of weeds and it was even starting to look like the forest it used to. Annabella made a bamboo fence to complete the chicken enclosure.

After breakfast, it was time to let the chickens roam their fenced-in forest. We let the. Out through the side hatch on their house and instantly one of them jumped through the gaps in the fence. Not the perfect result. Anyway, we figured we’d get some smaller fencing and put it around the bottom.

Ruth and I took to tackling the brambles while Annabella and Denny started to burn them. We were working at the top of the hill so everything has to be cut into smaller pieces and then put on a tarpaulin that two or three people drag down the hill.

As we worked, Ruth and I talked about many things: the house, ghosts and the previous owners included. The house used to belong to an animal charity and the woman who lived there used to put her speakers on the windowsill and play music when the hunters were out. Not for their entertainment, but to make the animals move away from the area. Knowing this, I sang for the rest of the morning. Sometimes in the house you’ll catch a shadow on the windows or see a figure in the corner of your eye, Ruth says the lady is still about.

After lunch Ruth had an English class with Giulio, a wee nine year old with blonde hair and an honest smile. Annabella asked me to help her unload the tarpaulin and so we put it next to the back of the house where the fire had gone out from the morning. There were some sticks near the house so I chose to build the fire. As I did, the embers from the morning started to burn slowly and smoke appeared. I ran inside and told Denny who gave me a cardboard box and I soon had it going again.

I spent the rest of the afternoon burning all of the brambles that we’d cut. In the evening it went dark and I stayed outside as I wanted to finish the job of burning. All alone in the dark, i watch the fire; the orange sparks from the fire danced in circles like fairies who disappeared up into the sky meeting the bright burning stars. It was incredibly peaceful. Just as I was nearly finished burning, a small voice appeared followed by a floating patch of blonde hair. Giulio.

‘Glass of wine?’
‘Vino’ (makes hand gesture).
‘Yes, please’

Blonde tuft reappears attached to boy with wine bottle and glass. I thanked him and he stood minding the fire with me. He saw I was using a stick to push things onto the fire so he walked into the dark and returned with his own. We made quick work of the brambles and they were burning high and fast. Over the hum of the fire, Giulio’s Mum could be heard. He soon vanished into the darkness with a goodbye and a smile.

Back in the house it was wine o’clock and after talking about it for a few days I asked who wanted to cut my hair, Ruth did and she did it well. I was looking much better than the previous year with my beard trimmer.

The next day I woke up later, about 9 and swiftly made my way to the breakfast table. Everyone was feeling the wine from the night before. We crunched toast and gulped tea then it was back out to the brambles.

The breakfast, brambles, lunch, brambles, stop, wine o’clock, eat, guitar, singing into the night routine continued forma few days. In the middle, one night Regina returned from Florence and it was lovely to have her back, the next night Denny declared I would be an investigative journalist, a job which would allow my curiosity to get into all sorts of interesting places.

Saturday afternoon I was walking down the hill for buckets of water and I noticed that I no longer looked at the time but at the sun. When it reaches the side of the mountain, there’s about a five minute window before it gets very cold, and starts to grow dark. I thought of all the shifts I’d worked in call centres, shops, and classes where the clock had dictated my freedom, and now the beauty of the sun setting behind some mountains declared the end of my working day. It would set, staining the sky red around the sun and if you drew a line with your eyes diagonally right above your head, at the opposite horizon, the sky was a grey purple making the whole rainbow from one side to the other. That’s not a bad replacement for a digital clock in the corner of a computer screen. Also during my work, I don’t feel trapped or bored, and if I do, I sing to scare off the hunters, growl at the brambles which have wound their way to the tops of the trees, or stop a moment to watch a bird of prey scanning the ground from the sky. As I filled the buckets and hauled them up the hill for a second time, my calves burned, my back was weary and my feet heavy, but inside I was as light as a feather.


A day off in Treviso.

Tuesday was our day off and Ruth and Andrea had errands to run in Treviso so we all went to take a look around on our day off. On the way there I learned that in vineyards, people plant a rose at the end of each row of grapes so that if their field gets attacked by some insect or other nuisance, the rose will show the first signs.

We arrived about 11.30 and to my great delight, Treviso was a walled city; a familiar concept after living in Lugo for two years. It didn’t boast a Roman wall but it was really big and very beautiful. Frescoes still adorned the walls of buildings but sadly a lot of the city was bombed in error during WW2 when American troops had misread the name of the place and instead of bombing a military base, they bombed a beautiful city.

Upon our arrival, Denny was struggling with his back so we looked for a walking-stick in the market while he got distracted by the mannequins advertising tights and stockings. Ruth had lived there while she was working as a fashion designer and she showed us some of the flats she had lived in. We soon came to the fish market which is on a small island connected by a bridge. We sat and had a drink the ‘mainland’ side of the bridge and tried a bruschetta.

The sun was beaming and I watched the pleasant ladies with half plastic faces and their jacketed husbands all greet their friends and being pleasant. They were the older generation trying to continue being the younger generation and frowning at anyone who reminds them that they aren’t. So naturally, they enjoyed seeing me. Shortly after we continued to meander through the river-weaved streets and Ruth made us try something called a mozzarella carrozza (mozzarella carriage). It consisted of battered bread with mozzarella and anchovy or ham inside. I tried it with anchovy and it tasted like cheesey battered fish; like anything cheesey, I thought it was delicious.

With lunch we tried a wine with only sauvignon grapes which had a smokey flavour. Andrea’s brother joined us with one of his employees and I listened to them talk together whilst trying to understand as much as possible. I’m still not speaking much Italian but I am slowly building the bank of words I need to do so. I’ve started to think in Italian which sometimes washes into Spanish without me thinking. I need to practise speaking, speaking, speaking.

After lunch it was time to wander the streets. I mainly retraced the streets I’d walked earlier and admired the buildings. This week I will have been in Italy for one month. In some ways it feels like much longer as I’ve learned so much but in other ways it has flown by. My adventure has started well, I’ve had incredible luck with the people I’ve met and the places I’ve stayed so far. One step at a time is the best way to travel, for the time being, my feet are quite comfortable by the oven’s fire here in the mountains, but my mind does wander to other places unknown, yet to be explored.

31st October – 2nd November.

It was Halloween and the fence still needed a bunch of work. We got down to it early on and by the end of the day, the fence was up but it still needed attaching to the guide-lines we’d put up before. Taylor helped us a while and we got a lot of it done before lunch. Leftovers were tasty and the curry from the night before tasted even better (as it always does). After lunch, we got back to the fence while Taylor, Gina, Jasmine and Denny went to the supermarket. They took ages and we’d finished for the day long before they got back so when they did, we all helped put everything away.

When everything was in the fridge and the cupboard, it was gone six (wine o’clock) so we got drinking and carving pumpkins. Mine was a happy little fellow with big eyes and a cheeky grin. We had planned to have a fire and make bread on a stick and other treats. By the time we were done with dinner people had lost interest so we stayed inside and played music. Upon Andrea’s return, we played a lot together, talking music until two.

I woke up on Sunday a little sleepy but ready to finish the fence. Taylor and Gina went off to Florence where Taylor is starting to study Italian, Annabella looked after Jasmine, so Ruth and I finished the fence. At one point we noticed the moon had forgotten to go to bed and stood bold as a face looking into a window from outside. We were done by 12.15 and had cleared a bunch of trees and other unassorted plants which the chickens could use to scale the fence. I raked them down the hill, then we got changed and everyone went for lunch. I ate some delicious bruschetta with cheese, courgette, tomato and other lovely stuff then porcini mushroom pasta served with fried potatoes and spinach on the side. It was the best mushroom pasta I’ve ever eaten and the potatoes were sublime as well. Denny filled my glass regularly so I was a little sleepy after lunch.

We walked back through the drunk giant mountains which loom over the ground, the beautiful sunny day was turning cold in the lower parts of the valley and as we walked, the sun was going down. On the way back up to the house, we bumped into the neighbours who were cooking chestnuts on a fire outside. They gave us some and smiled a lot. It was a fantastic afternoon off, complimented by the good weather and company.

I got an early night followed by an early morning with a sniffly nose. The next project was to de-bramble the bramble forest. We worked long and hard, first with Denny before his back gave in, then with Ruth who postponed pegging the fence for a bit later on. I took Denny’s stick with a hook on the end which I later found out was a local gardening tool.

Amongst other things, Ruth and I talked ghosts, life, and gardening. Then late in the afternoon, two familiar men turned up. They worked in Andrea’s restaurant and had been looking for mushrooms in the area. They had swung by to let off some steam. One of them took the strimmer I had tried and failed with to cut the brambles that morning; he didn’t do too well either; but he did manage to chop down a beautiful tree I had carefully sliced around for the previous two hours. Then we swept up the afternoon’s destruction and dragged it down the hill on a sheet of tarpaulin. In the evening Andrea showed us how to make pasta; I think it’s easier to see being made than it is to make it.