It’s All About Perspective

What a time of it we’ve been having here in Abruzzo lately. Snow came and within an afternoon many towns and villages were cut off, our collection of houses overlooking the valley was stranded for 5 whole days as the lane was impassable; even taking the dog for a walk in the deep snow was a challenge.

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Along with the inconvenience of snow we had power cuts, with as many as 100,000 homes without electricity for days. Water pipes froze, people lost their broadband connections and then came the rain. A deluge of epic proportions that threatened to be second only to the rains Noah had experienced turned the fields into swamps, the lane ran like a river and mud slid onto the now flooded roads.

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During these frustrating times did we moan and complain? You bet we did, when people were able to get onto social media there were angry posts about the electricity suppliers, gripes about how we were sick of snow now and woe is me postings about having to cook dinner on top of the log burner: That one was mine – ironically after posting my moan to Facebook and served up said dinner by torchlight, the electricity came back on just as I was about to eat.

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After the snow had cleared I had clients over to view properties, (which is no fun in the rain). As the viewings with one lady started there were reports of earthquakes near Amatrice where there’d been a devastating one back on 25 August last year. My client told me a woman at her hotel had asked her why she was here in Abruzzo, she told her she was here to hopefully find a house as she plans to move to the area. Her enquirer then asked why she wasn’t worried about the earthquakes*. She told me her response was – “It’s all about perspective. I live and work in central London where there’s more risk of me being a fatality of crime or a victim in a terrorist attack than perishing in an earthquake.” – Brilliant response I thought.

* News companies in the UK have been reporting earthquakes in Abruzzo, sadly their reporting is flawed as the earthquakes occurred in the Lazio region.

So, yes it’s fair to say we’ve endured a lot this year thus far; it has been one of the worst winters in many years. My friend Mario said he remembers a winter where there was bad snow, torrential rain and earth tremors, but seeing as he’s in his mid eighties and his recollection takes him back to being a small boy, they’re frankly few and far between.

So yes let’s put it into perspective, we all moaned and griped about the snow for six or seven days and in the grand scheme of things seven days out of 364 isn’t bad going, that leaves us hopefully with 357 snow-free days. Rain may be unpleasant but there’s many more unpleasant things out there to feel aggrieved about. IMG_1172

There were issues with some electricity pylons being badly damaged by the weight of the snow, and some land slippage, but on the whole Italy is quite good when snow hits; roads are cleared quickly and close-knit communities care for each other.

But sadly this winter has brought tragedy in the form of the Hotel Rigopiano avalanche in the mountain town of Farindola, so putting it into perspective, a day without electricity or a few hours without broadband aren’t as Shakespeare said, the be all and the end all

But will we moan if it happens again – you bet we will, we’re only human after all.

Abruzzo: a road less travelled

I make no apologies for stealing the title for this post from Morgan Scott Peck’s best seller, The Road Less Travelled, as it was perfect for a post about how I discovered the region of Abruzzo. Most blogs and websites about the region say that Abruzzo is Italy’s best kept secret; I’ve even used that phrase myself in the past, but as more people discover the region it’s becoming an obsolete expression.

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I first discovered the region nine years ago. We were in Italy again, looking for a location in which to buy a holiday home and we were having a mid-week break in Rome. One day we hired a car and just drove across the country and ended up in Abruzzo. We liked what we found and the following year we made the effort to come here. We stayed in L’Aquila and explored the surrounding towns and villages. Our property search then took us south to Calabria and Basilicata and when we returned to the UK we re-evaluated our situation and decided to concentrate on Abruzzo. Another trip over was booked and this time we fell in love with the small village of Fossa about 14 km from L’Aquila.

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The 2009 earthquake brought the region to the attention of the world and people started to question where this secret part of Italy was. We then booked a stay at the fabulous Villa Collina just to be sure that our heart was in Abruzzo and that the earthquake hadn’t put us off. Our hosts Bryan and Cilla invited a hoard of ex-pats over for a party and in between drinks and nibbles people told us their stories about how they discovered the region.

Television shows like A Place in the Sun and travel shows have been drawing attention to the region for the past few years and this has increased the tourist footfall. And now more people now know of the region that measures just 10,794 sqm and yet boasts the largest green space in Europe and three national parks and, in my opinion some of the nicest medieval villages in Italy.

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One of the benefits of being a road less travelled is that property prices here are quite low compared to the national average, wildlife flourishes in the many undisturbed corners of the region and the towns and villages retain much of their historical culture and identity. As more people visit the region there are subtle changes occurring, the younger generation are following global trends, local people are now travelling further afield to discover more about their country and local trattoria’s are filled with English speaking diners.

My search to find my personal piece of Italy has led me here to Abruzzo and would I change any of it?

Yes – I’d have discovered it sooner rather than later.

Spending Time with an Elephant

I’ve been spending time with an elephant today; actually a rather intelligent elephant that’s pretty clued up about the periodic table. If you think that I’m making a rather outlandish claim, then you are forgiven, despite being in the wrong. What I’m saying is quite true.

Okay, I’ll explain myself…

Last night around 21.00, we heard an odd rumbling noise, we thought nothing of it until this morning when a friend from the nearby town informed me we’d had a tremor: Possibly a throwback from the 4.1 mini-quake 135 km south in Campobasso yesterday. Along with the rumble we had the onset of snowfall. So this morning began with our Italian hill covered in a blanket of white; the forecast of snow had arrived.

After turning on the iPod for the first shuffle of the day, Over the Sea, by Jesse Rae; the blatantly patriotic song about Scotland, that in 1985 only reached number 65 in the charts despite lots of TV coverage on pop music shows plays as I make breakfast.  I decide that a walk up the hill to look over the valley would be a good idea. We wrap up and trudge upwards, the snow is deep making it hard going but we reach the top just as it starts snowing once again. So our descent was amid flurries of white and a biting wind.

Back home with the log burner giving off a generous amount of heat I decide it’s time to become acquainted with Dot the elephant. Dot is the logo for a company based in Cheltenham (UK) called, Stitch Dotcom. The company which took out some advertising space in our previous property brochure is run by two beautiful young ladies; Annie and Alison. They specialise in mail order cross stitch kits; but not your run of the mill kittens and country cottages. Their designs are more contemporary with one of their products being the keys on a standard UK typewriter, which can be framed to spell out your name – or any word you fancy to be honest.

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A few weeks ago the company advertised for people to test stitch some of their patterns to evaluate time taken and the level of experience required to complete the finished product. So with no experience of cross stitch I volunteered.

 

This weekend the post lady delivered me a box which contained everything I need to make my own coaster. I’ve been sent two elements to create, just 2 colours, which I think is ample for a novice. So today I read the instructions several times, checked out what is required of me as a cross stitch tester and chose between molybdenum and niobium for my initial foray into the world of tiny x’s.

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So after choosing niobium, I set to with thread and needle and the stopwatch recorded the time it took to stitch the pattern. After a couple of false starts, I was soon into my stride and after 21:10 minutes I had used all of the first thread I had selected and completed 11.5 rows of the top half of the right-hand side of the letter N.

 

Laura Pausini started to sing Benvenuto and with a self-satisfied smile I packed away my test kit until another day when I look forward to my second date with Dot.

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There’ll be further progress reports in the future to keep me focussed on the task in hand.

For more info about Stitch Dotcom click the link in the text above to reach their website.