Body Clock, Barbecue and Balcony

When people hear that you live in Italy, they assume you have year round sunshine, but it’s not really like the Spanish Costas, where pensioners pop over for tinsel and turkey and ex-pats are still topping up their tans in November. In middle Italy we get snow; albeit not very much unless you’re up in the mountains, and we get miserable, wet, drizzly days in the winter, but what a revelation December 2013 was. We had more warm sunny days than cold wet ones and this meant we could extend our outdoor activities without donning an overcoat.

Throughout the month we took the dogs for a run on the beach; deserted now the holiday makers have left, and we also spent more time generally outside. With the back garden almost finished I spent a very warm December day getting my orto ready for the New Year, I was actually in a T shirt, sweating as I worked the earth, planted some garlic and built a seed bed.

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On the 29th we spent a morning walking with friends on the beach at Lido la Morge, (that’s where I scratched the Buon Anno, message in the sand) and following the beach trip we popped into friends at Torino di Sangro for a planned barbecue. I’d told a friend in the UK about the barbecue and he said we must be mad, a barbecue in December. We expected it to be chilly, but instead what we got was glorious sunshine and a warm afternoon. So as my friend in the UK shivered and locked himself away from the rain, I was outside in my shirt sleeves looking at an amazing view as I munched on a burger and the best homemade coleslaw I’ve ever tasted.

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On the 2nd of January, with the New Year still in its infancy, we had our first get-together of 2014, we spent a delightful afternoon on a roof terrace belonging to friends in Bomba. The views over the countryside and the lake are breath-taking, made all the more enjoyable when they’re viewed whilst holding a glass of wine. We had a lovely buffet lunch followed by great conversation that drifted into the early evening.

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Now I’m not telling you this in an attempt to make you jealous… okay maybe just a little bit, but to point out how unusual it is when you’re not used to the difference in the climate. There’s this odd feeling that it can’t be real when you sit outside having lunch in the sunshine in a month when you’re used to wearing scarves and coats. It’s not like when you escape the winter for an intended holiday in the sun, when you’re living here and doing the mundane day to day things, there’s this odd feeling that your body clock has misfired. I’m not complaining mind, I’d much rather be sat in the sunshine with my sandwich than in a café in Stoke with condensation running down the inside of the windows. Maybe next year we’ll have a colder, wetter December to remind me of one in the UK, who knows. Mind you that said, if that’s so, you know I’ll be here complaining about it.

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Renovation Road

It’s been seven months since we started the renovation of our house, the final two windows have now been fitted by Nino and Graham has made a fantastic job of the rendering. I think we’ve achieved so much in a short space of time. We started with a shell of a building and now apart from completing the outside space, which is coming along nicely under Seppe’s instruction, all we need to do is fit interior doors and start painting walls.

The seven months of work has had its ups and downs. We’ve had good moments, like when we discovered that the crack in the wall you could put your hand into was not a potential, structural nightmare, but a redundant fireplace. We also had a few bad times, like when the old fossa turned out to be blocked and so we had to install a septic tank, and we also had a real dark moment, when we discovered our builder was a liar and a thief. We’ve gone from spending a night in the car, to squeezing everything into one room and then onto the luxury of two-roomed living. We went from washing in the outside sink to finally having a fully functioning bathroom and also went from using the outside steps to go to bed to eventually having interior stairs.

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I never realised that house renovation was organic and changes to our fixed plans happened. The bathroom was re-sited and bigger than originally planned, the en-suite idea was dropped and the third floor was removed to give us a airier brighter kitchen. Some plans didn’t occur, the original mezzanine idea for the kitchen had to be abandoned when the architect told us the walls wouldn’t take the weight without ugly metal RSJ’s being fitted, and the upstairs door onto a balcony idea also bit the dust, and we downsized from three bedrooms to two. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable seven-months but I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again, especially living on site as the work takes place.

But we can now sit back and as the end of this year approached we are secure in the knowledge that the roof no longer leaks, rain doesn’t come under the front door anymore and insects can’t squeeze under the gaps in the kitchen windows. This said, we’re no where near finished though. We still have boxes that remain unpacked, we have clutter everywhere that needs sorting and putting in its final resting places and my office needs to be set up properly.

So as the iPod shuffles and Lily Allen sings, He Wasn’t There, I decide to make a start on sorting out the box on my office floor labelled, stationery and office stuff. It’s nice to be finally getting to the end of the renovation road.