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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Absence

Apologies to everyone that has messaged me asking why my blog hasn’t been updated. I’ve been very busy but shall update very soon. For those interested in what’s playing on shuffle at the moment, it’s the amazing new single by Tiziano Ferro, La Differenza Tra Me E Te.

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He’s so hot!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Being a Holidaymaker and a Matchstick Man

Sunday 11 September 2011 –  Today I have breakfast with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap playing that 1968 classic, ‘Young Girl’. I wash the dishes used, and pack a bag for the beach. Today I’m in holidaymaker mode. Gloria and Pete join me and we drive to Le Morge. We slip straight into a parking space, and after checking that no one has parking tickets in their windscreens, I assume the parking is free now August has passed.

There’s still quite a few people on the beach, but it’s not as crowded as it will have been for the last four weeks. We find a spot and set up camp. I can’t resist the lure of the sea and within minutes I’m in the warm waters off the shoreline. I walk out and really enjoy the contrast of warm water that is replaced with swirls of colder water the further out I go.

The three of us spend the morning dividing our time between, sunbathing and swimming. At lunchtime we pop into the cafe and order pizza and a bowl of chips, and of course a beer. We pay and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and..you get the idea. I go up to ask where our food is and the boy that served us gets a clip around the ear, he’s forgotten to tell the kitchen Eventually we get our pizza, and a pathetic portion of tepid – almost cold chips. But our spirits are no dampened.

Back on the beach, a man in white speedos walks along the sands, I laugh as Pete says the man could be like George Michael in the Wham video, ‘Club Tropicana.’ I point out a rather rotund gentleman, also in speedos, but he’s got quite a large rear, so the logo on his rear reads: SPEEEEEEEDOOOOOOS.

I pop back into the sea for a final swim; I love swimming in the sea. When I return, Pete says I’m like a swan vesta, not because of my slender frame, but because my body is white and my head is red, like a match.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Don’t Touch the Fruit and the Bullying Insect

Friday 09.09.2011 – The alarm rings and rouses me. The only day I use the darned thing is Friday, so I get up in time to meet Christine at the market in Casoli. I drink my morning cuppa as Usher sings ‘Can U Handle It?’ – Yes is my response, it’s only a mug of Yorkshire tea.

It’s hot again, and I find myself acting like a local, without realising. I walk up the stairs on the shady side, and when at the market stay on the right hand side under the stall awnings. We stop and chat to our friend Whispering Mick. We decide to get some veg from a store, and are promptly choosing some mushrooms. The stall holder is frantic and comes over with plastic bags for us to put them in to. It’s only after he’s managed to serve us that we notice the sign, which reads; DO NOT TOUCH ANY OF THE MERCHANDISE------Oops.

Mid morning sees me send a pitch to the Observer magazine, as I’m doing this Cherry Ghost play ‘Kissing Strangers’, and I’m being pestered by a fly. It keeps dive bombing me, it’s like being harassed by a tiny bully. I grab the fly spray and take up position; it’s like a scene from ‘Predator’. I’m armed with killer spray, standing stationary waiting for the flying menace. I spot it, but it stays out of aerosol distance. I move towards the fly, it moves away, until for five minutes I’m chasing this insect around the room like a complete loon. Needless to say I gave up in the end, and leave the door open, it flies out eventually. But only after one last fly past in defiance – I hate bullies.

Later, I take the coast road and pick up my friends Gloria and Pete at the airport. (I like the newly opened arrivals hall.) We get back have a few drinks and before you know it the time reads 02.00. Time for bed methinks. I take the glasses into the kitchen, press stop on the iPod, and the Boomtown Rats are silenced mid ‘Mary of the 4th Form’.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Condoms and Clattering

Thursday 8 September 2011 – Surprise, surprise, it’s hot and sunny once more; where this promised rain is I don’t know, even the locals are beginning to complain. Now it might seem a bit remiss to be moaning about hot sunny weather, when it’s occurring in a country I’ve chosen to come and live in, but it’s not like a two week holiday. When you’re on holiday, you sip cocktails by the pool, lie in the sun for a little, swim in the sea etc. Okay I can do all these things here, but if I did I’d never get any work done. And today’s job is my laundry, so with sheets, pillowcases and my white ‘Primark’ trousers, sloshing in the washer, I make my breakfast. (Yes I own a pair of white trousers)

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Breakfast dishes washed up and Tears For Fears playing ‘Broken’, I set about looking at which features I shall be pitching today. I opt for one about choosing the right size condom, for Attitude magazine. The more I look into it, more I realise I know very little about what makes and sizes of condoms are out there.

Suddenly I hear a terrible clattering sound coming from the utility room, I rush to find that it’s coming from the washer – first thought is, ‘Oh hell, I’ve broken the washer’. The spin cycle stops, and the sound stops with it. I breathe again, then as the spinning starts again, what sounds like crunching cogs and a mad monkey with a tin can full of peanuts fills the room. I close the door and return to my e-mail account and press send, hoping the editor likes the pitch. But, no. I get it returned saying undeliverable, I check the address, that’s correct, so I try again. No joy, so after a failed third attempt, I send it to the sub editor. The clattering from the washing machine isn’t helping my now fraught nerves.

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I send a quick e-mail to Max, he says there’s no problem at the magazine, so can I send it to him, I try and once again nothing happens, I get a failed delivery message. I give up and go, with trepidation to empty the washing machine. I pull the laundry from within, only to discover lots of coins inside the drum. Turns out this numpty, left a pocket full of euro’s in his trouser pocket. Relief.

Sheets hanging in the stillness of a hot midday sun, I return to my laptop, set up the e-mail once more, press send and, hey presto, (Now there’s a saying – wonder where it came from?) the electronic letter is delivered – technology, huh!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

How a Simple Vowel Could Get You into Trouble

Wednesday 7 September 2011 – Today has had an ‘Eighties’ edge to it, I think my iPod is having retro-day, it started with Spandau Ballet and ‘Lifeline’ as I drank my morning cuppa, then came King, with ‘Love and Pride’ and as I gave Benito his breakfast we had ‘Oblivious’ by Aztec Camera.

It takes four loads to get all the used laundry downstairs washed, the thankful thing is that it literally takes minutes out on the line to dry in this heat. I spend the afternoon sweeping floors and cleaning the bathroom with music shuffling in the background.

In the evening I meet Chris at the Borgo, and we have a couple of beers, we don’t plan on making a night of it, just have a little break in Othe coolness of the evening. Now just as we are about to leave, Maria shows up, grabs a seat and sits with us. We chat for a while, and I tell her my bed is calling me. Now I have been known to crack the odd joke in my time, but I’m confused by what has Maria in stitches, maybe it’s the crossover into Italian that makes it funny? Perplexed, I rise and say good bye, Maria hugs me and gives me a rather enthusiastic kiss on the cheek, well actuallyU3167 several kisses in rapid succession.

I drive home, check my e-mails, pour myself a glass of wine and turn on the iPod, ‘Ice Machine’ by Depeche Mode plays, when it hits me. – Wallop! A great big ball of realisation hurtles towards me, Of course because I said chiamata when I spoke to Maria, what I actually told her was, “ My bed is calling you.”-------Oops.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Aftermath

Tuesday 6 September 2011 – I venture into the apartment and am welcomed by the aftermath of the guests recent stay. The living room is okay, they’ve reassembled the sofa, and taken up the bed sheets off the floor. The kitchen however is a complete mess, the sink is overflowing with what can only be described as every single piece of crockery in the apartment. Food is mixed in with this mêlée of pots and pans, drink cartons have been drained then tossed onto the work surface.

The bin is overflowing, and there’s a mountain of empty plastic bottles; I suspect they never once took a walk up to the bin outside. I pick up all the towels that have been left on the bathroom floor, strip the beds and pile all the laundry in the main bedroom.

If I’m going to tackle this I need music, I collect all the rubbish and take it up the lane to the communal bin, grab my iPod and as ‘21 Days’ by Dave Gahan plays, I empty the fridge, which is filthy – spilled orange has not been mopped up, and the uncovered food smells bad. After another trip to the bin in the lane I start washing the dishes.

The act of washing up finishes after one and a half hours, and five fresh bowls of water. That’s enough for today, I think I’ve deserved a glass of something fizzy, and I don’t mean water.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Yes, Yes, Yes and the Public Convenience

Monday 5 September 2011 – I wake at 05.00 and hear suitcases being wheeled along the lane, the guests downstairs gun their cars engine and I hear them drive away, en route to Rome.

Today I have breakfast  listening to a new barking dog. This morning the ‘hello’ dog is replaced by one that sounds like it’s doing a Meg Ryan impression, its bark sounds like, ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’.

Bauhaus play ‘The Man with X-Ray Eyes’ as I sort out what magazines I shall be pitching features to, I downloaded an all singing all dancing PC planner, so I can keep track of who I’ve e-mailed, and when I need to chase them for answers. Can’t believe I’m getting organised.

I pop into Casoli and have dinner with Chris, before leaving with yet another bag of goodies from her house clearance. I walk down to the car park near the Borgo and I get a sharp pain, that tells me all is not well in my gut. – Now before I continue, I think I have learned a valuable lesson when it comes to defrosting meat in Italy. That lesson is don’t leave it out to defrost. The chicken I defrosted yesterday was warm when I went to cook it a few hours later. – To get back to my rather unpleasant story, I dropped off the goodies in my car, and grabbed the loo roll that was in the car door, and headed up the steps to the public conveniences I’ve often walked past.

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I went inside and discovered it was one of those continental, stand, stoop, squat ones. By now the rumblings in my gut are loud enough for the whole town to hear, and all I’m thinking is ‘how the bloody hell do you do this’. Urgency was of the essence so it’s shorts off, and go for it – keeping shoes well clear. Suffice to say I must have looked very undignified, but it served a purpose, and made me feel so much better.

Apologies to all for this poo posting.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

We is in the Borgo Hood, Innit

Sunday 4 September 2011 -  Today I get confirmation of the dates I need, to go back to the UK to finish a job I’m under contract to complete. I really don’t want to go back, even though a touch of rain and wind would be very welcome at the moment. I do very little today, of course I listen to music; as usual; as I type this Kate Nash is singing ‘Skeleton song’.

In the afternoon my friend Adam calls me on Skype and we have a chat, then David calls me with his news, and after a shower I head off the 5.5 miles to Casoli for beers with Christine.

The bar is full of young men; all dressed in shorts and t-shirts, they are sat at the tables playing cards. Behind us is a 20 something who is always here; he looks like he could be Freddie Mercury’s love-child, and he’s the widest mouth I’ve ever seen on another human being. The fact that it’s edged by immaculately trimmed facial hair just emphasis it’s size. (The trimmed beard makes him look like a singing minstrel in reverse). Some one cracks a joke, he laughs and I’m freddie-mercury-46069certain the waitress, Simona could set up another table and four chairs in there.

It’s almost 7.30pm, the young lads all leave en-masse, leaving me and Christine alone; we know we wont be alone for long, this is Italy and quite a lot of what happens follows a certain pattern. Simona walks over to our table, pops two bowls of nibbles before us and takes away the two empty Nastro bottles.

At 8.30 the lads come back, this time they’ve all changed their clothes, t-shirts are replaced by smart shirts and shorts by jeans: Freddie’s love-child has even changed his watch. What are they all dressed up for you ask – I’ll tell you – To play cards, yes play cards. Exactly as before but this time without a baseball cap in sight.val095-valentino-rossi-nastro-azzuro-truck-drivers-cap-hat

We see Maria, she joins us and before long we’re laughing and joking with her, albeit in pigeon Italian. The bar is lively, the boys playing cards are laughing too, as is the couple in the corner, how lovely it is to be a part of a small but happy community. Only one thing sullies our evening, for the very first time we’ve not seen the silver stalker; Christine is quite worried, I think he’s broken into her place and as we drink beer he’s rifling her knicker drawer for a trophy.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Halfway Through

Saturday 3 September 2011 – I eat breakfast with the fan on. The rain that the weather people keep predicting fails to appear. There are a few lazy clouds in the sky, where the past weeks they’ve been non existent, but there’s no breeze; nothing moves, even this early in the day next door’s cats are sleeping in the shade.

I wash the dishes up, and turn off the iPod as Basia finishes singing ‘Time and Tide’, and start to finish off the work I started yesterday. I’m feeling motivated today and three hours later it’s completed. I put it to one side and switch on the iPod once again, and as Professor Green launches into ‘City of Gold’, I begin a few hours of mindless internet activity.

At 5 o’clock I double check my assignment, correct a few errors, and hit the send button and it’s on its way to my tutor. That’s my cue to open a bottle of fizz, a solitary celebration, but I feel good.IMG_1443

I am now halfway through my writing course.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Simple Pleasures

Friday 2 September 2011 – I wake up in agony today, my back really aches, and It hurts getting out of bed. Now this isn’t an affliction I normally suffer from, so I assume I’ve slept in a funny position. I hobble into the living room, switch on the iPod, press shuffle and first song of the day is the 1978 top ten Johnny Mathis, Deniece Williams duet, ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late’.

I check my e-mails, and my tutor has returned my latest assignment with an ‘A’ and superb comments, I just wish I could get more magazine editors to take notice, but hey, perseverance they say will pay off.

I turn off the iPod, stopping Meatloaf telling anyone who’ll listen that Cher’s a ‘Dead Ringer For love’. I start work on another module of my course, completion of this one will mean I’m halfway through. I have to come up with a non-fiction book idea, and put together all the components for a sales pitch; synopsis, chapters, proposed length etc. I think a bottle of fizz is in the offing when I cross that halfway point.

In the evening, it’s beers at the Borgo with Chris, I ask her if she’s seen her silver surfer today, and as the words are let loose he appears around the corner. No one else in the bar can understand why the two English folks have burst into spontaneous laughter. We’ve started to be accepted by the locals, more and more say hello, especially those in their early twenties. Maria drops by and we chat, she’s becoming IMGA0268more tactile each time we see her, and Chris laughs, saying she’s got a new dress on just for me.

It’s very atmospheric later in the evening, as darkness covers the town, the streets are lit by ancient looking streetlights, I take a couple of photographs, sadly they cannot truly catch the mood.

IMGA0267At the end of the evening I walk back to my car slowly, just absorbing everything around me, A family passing on their way home bid me good night, I return the greeting, before driving home. After parking the car, I take a slow stroll down the lane in the darkness, listening to the sounds of nature all around; a thought pops into my head, and it’s – I love my life.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pepsi, Pasta and Phantom Phone Calls

Thursday 1 September 2011 – So September is upon us, and to welcome me into the new month is my ringtone. My telephone has rung four times today with a number I don’t know, I answer and there’s some indiscernible noises on the line before it goes dead.The only indication of who my caller is, is that the screen reads, – Northern Los Angeles Area, – The only person I know out there is my Italian friend Paolo, but I can’t see why he’d call, he usually sends e-mails. It rings for the fifth time as Scouting For Girls play their hidden track off the first album, ‘Michaela Strachan’, Once again the connection is bad and the line goes dead.

I take Chris to Eurospin so she can do her shopping, and on the way back we stop off at the Borgo for a well deserved cold drink. Now in the Pepsi – Coke debate, people who know me personally know I IMGA0264prefer Pepsi to its rival; and diet Pepsi is my preference. There’s only one shop I’ve found that sells cans of my choice, but at the bar they sell Pepsi with lemon, which on a hot day like today is very welcoming, so much so that I tend to have two cans.

As Chris is getting ready to move back to the UK, I leave with a trolley on wheels laden with odds and ends she doesn’t want, everything from a torch to a shower head, and cans of beer and a tub of Bolognese. Back home and as Marc Almond sings the infectious ‘Jacky’, pasta boils and the Bolognese, that tastes darn fine, is heated up and presto I have lunch – albeit at 3pm. As usual I’ve a little pasta over, so it’s put outside for the cats, who wolf the stuff down.

I decide on a evening in with a DVD, and watch Shaun of the Dead, which to be honest is better second time around – or am I starved for entertainment? My phone rings again, it’s my phantom caller from LA. Three more attempts to connect with me are made, before fed up of hearing my Dynasty ringtone, I switch it off, and torture myself with a truly dreadful film called ‘Brotherhood of Justice’, starring a very young Keanu Reeves and Keifer Sutherland.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Olive Wi-Fi and the Satellite Expert

Wednesday 31 August 2011 – Today begins really well, ‘Bones’ by Editors plays, Tom Smith’s distinctive voice fills the living room with dark broodiness; that’s an amalgamation of moody and brooding. There’s a slight breeze bringing with it a welcoming coolness,and I enjoy a nice cup of good old strong English tea. I even fashion myself; IMG_1418as best I can with Italian ingredients, an English breakfast. I am about to sit down to eat when I hear my name being called, it’s the guests from downstairs.

I resist the temptation to say, “Have you ever thought of knocking on the door?” and smile nicely. He’s come to tell me he’s not happy as there was dirt under the sofa – why he’s looking under the sofa I don’t know? He also says he’s seen two scorpions and there’s been some little ants that have come into the house. I try to explain that we’re in rural Italy and if you choose to live here you must accept the local wild things. I give him some ant powder, he looks at it, wrinkles his nose, then says, “This is toxic,” Oh how I so wanted to make a flippant Britney Spears remark, I was restrained and just replied, “Yes it is, kills them stone dead.”

His next remark is, “I’m finding it difficult to find Wi-Fi hotspots out and about, once more I restrain myself from reiterating the fact that this is rural Italy: I don’t think the old guy who comes over on his tractor has much use for a wireless iPad while he’s tending his olive trees, but you never know. Oh and he can’t get the satellite decoder to work, and he’s apparently highly qualified in all matters technical regarding these type of systems.

They guests leave and I settle down to doing some work, I break for lunch and then notice my workstation has an Italian feel to it – howIMG_1419 quickly we adapt to new practices. I drink the whole pot of coffee, then go down to water the plants in the bases of the gazebo, (for ‘water the plants’ please read – have a nosey through the windows). The place is a mess, there’s dishes everywhere, I can see towels on the floor outside the bathroom, and the bedroom doesn’t fare any better.

After a few hours working; with music to keep me company, the guests arrive home. I pop down to see if I can help with the satellite. He opens the door dressed only in his underpants and beckons me inside – I’m dying to say, “Thanks, but you’re not my type shorty”. – The spare sheets that I spent my time and sweat over ironing are strewn on the floor, and all the sofa cushions are on the floor too; if this is what they’re like in a holiday rental, I’d hate to see how they live at home. II look at the plug at the back of the TV, it’s not in fully, I push it back into its socket and hey presto it works. – Does this mean I’m now highly qualified in all matters technical regarding these type of systems?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Aniseed Eggs and Propaganda

Tuesday 30 August 2011 – I wake slowly, enjoying the morning breeze that’s whispering through the room. 07.00 and the dreadful screeching bird is exercising its lungs: I don’t know what it looks like, as I’ve never seen it just heard it; if its plumage is anything like its voice, it must be ugly.

I decide on scrambled eggs for breakfast, the iPod shuffles and Wrongkong begin the day with ‘Real Boy’, I’m whisking eggs adding seasoning and without looking reach into the cupboard which houses IMG_1413a plethora of herbs and spices. I grab a bottle and shake a sprinkling of what I think is dried mint into the egg mixture. As it cooks the aroma it gives off is not minty, so I check and discover I’ve added aniseed – oh well too late now. The result was aniseed flavoured scramble egg, and very nice it was too; methinks I’ll be having that again.

I have to write a 250-500 piece news story today and despite doing the prep for it, I just can’t muster the enthusiasm; I know I have to do it but surfing the internet becomes my mode of procrastination. As the Gibson Brother’s bounce around the room with their Latin inspired disco tune, ‘Que Sera, Mi Vida (If Ever You Should Go)’, I make myself a cup of chamomile tea; (a taste recently acquired) and unplug the laptop from the internet.

I finish my work, switch on the iPod and shower as it shuffles away in the background; I emerge from the cool water as ‘Immigrant Dreams’ by Sandii and the Sunsetz fades out. I drive to pick up Chris, however the quick road up to Casoli is closed, so I take the long route, IMG_1415only to discover the road up to the piazza is also closed; a quick look around confirms there’s no police around, so I move the bollards and scoot through.

We visit Richard and Annie in nearby Palombaro, their house is a real treasure, art deco staircases, oodles of hidden rooms with vaulted ceilings, a fabulous view, not mention the cantina, attached shop and prison cell. They are hoping to eventually open up a spa B&B, but for now are just enjoying cleaning the place up. My favourite thing is the piece of fading Mussolini propaganda painted on the wall. which reads: The class (?) is the power the (?) hope the certainty of the future of Italy - (?) indicates words indiscernible/missing

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We meet new people at the local bar and enjoy a few beers, and are joined by Glenn Murphy, the actor who was in the ITV drama, London’s Burning. I take Chris home and she tells me she hates me for making her walk up the hill; as she does every time – we laugh and I set off home, only to discover both roads out of Casoli are now closed, the reason being so people try the new one that’s just opened, which is steep and winds like a coil. (No change there then).

Friday, 2 September 2011

Pedestrian Sandwiches and the Hello Dog

Monday 29 August 2011 – The temperature is lower this morning, so I strip the bed and wash the sheets, In the distance the ‘hello’ dog is barking; I hear him every day. In this rural area the sound of farm dogs barking is part and parcel of life here. This dog is very distinctive because his bark sounds like he’s shouting hello, sort of sounds like wet-wo.

Today marks the next two weeks of ‘gigantic savings’ at the local supermarket; a shop that already has low prices. I decide to pop down to check them out and am very soon leaving with a couple of bags of shopping. Some of the bargains I come away with are 6 x 1.5 litre bottles of sparkling spring water for 99 cents, 5 litres of Montipulciano red wine for €4, 6 x cartons of peach juice for 75 cents and an amazing cheese I’ve never tasted before because it’s always quite expensive, but today I got a 500g block of Quartirolo Lombardo DOP for just €1,75 and a bottle of spumante brut for 75 cents – BARGAIN!

After lunch; tasty arosticini, the American’s arrive who areIMG_1411 staying in the apartment downstairs, they don’t knock on the door, they go straight downstairs and then shout my name until they get my attention. They tell me they came over last night at 01.30, saw my car and banged on the door, but I must have been out; I smile and say, “Yes”, reminding them about the festa last night. Truth was I was asleep, and didn’t hear them, for goodness sake who tells you they’re coming at 2.00pm then turns up, twelve and a half hours early, on the off chance in the early hours of the morning.

I’m doing a little writing, nothing that needs my considered attention when I am sure I miss hear a lyric in the Siouxsie and the Banshee’s song, ‘Halloween’ -  for some reason I hear ‘I wandered through your sandwich’ – obviously this is incorrect.

I escape the American’s and pop into town for a drink with Christine, Richard and Annie. Richard and Annie have purchased an old jailhouse in the nearby town of Palombaro – More about that though tomorrow.

Part way through the evening and Christine’s silver stalker walks past us closely followed by Maria. Now it’s very hard to miss Maria, not only is she a lady of large proportions, and quite tall for an Italian signora, she JohnnyCurtiswears what can only be described as quite vocal. Despite being a widow, there’s no black dresses for Maria and tonight she’s in her tangerine one. She comes to say hello, I chat to her and establish she’s lived in the town for twenty years, and her husband passed away in September, two years ago. She asks if I live there, I tell her no, but not far away. I also joke that I’m here looking for a new wife, her eyes light up, we have more flirtatious banter before she leaves with a jolly, “Buona Notte.” The others laugh saying that I’m now betrothed to Maria, and I have a vision in my head of WWE wrestler Johnny Curtis in a tangerine wedding dress.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Yorkshire Pudding and the Pizza Sucking Granny

Sunday 28 August 2011 – I wake and am happy, there’s a breeze today, a small one but a breeze non the less. Despite getting back in the early hours, I only slept briefly, and I find myself at a loose end at 06.30. I take advantage of the coolness, and slip into the garden to eradicate a few weeds, before breakfast.

Eartha Kitt sings ‘C’est Si Bon’ as my egg poaches and my bacon sizzles in the pan. There’s a few things, that when they appear in the shops that fall into my basket without thinking, and one of those things is bacon. Okay it’s sliced so thin you could take a photograph through it, and it’s nothing like the middle bacon back in the UK, but it’s not pumped full of water and when crispy is divine.

The morning is taken up with mindless internet surfing, Facebook watching and email writing. Benito, a cat with dreadful facial injuries a few weeks ago comes in for his lunch; I’ve been feeding the feralIMG_1409 moggy up, hoping some regular food will help the healing, and it seems to have done the trick.

I shower and head off to Christine’s for dinner. Upon arrival she warns me she’s made a Yorkshire Pudding for the first time, and if it’s a disaster I can’t laugh or tell anyone on Facebook. We watch a little TV as we wait for the potatoes to roast and the YP to do its thing in the oven.

IMGA0257The moment of truth arrives and it’s a whopper, Christine is so pleased, and it merits a photograph – watch out Facebookers.

Stuffed after eating, we are watching TV and in that general state of repose post lunch, when we are shaken by the sound of a cannon going off, then another followed by another, the town shakes with the vibrations. We guess it’s a precursor to tonight’s festa, and Saint’s procession.

We have a beer later down at the festa, (costs twice as much here), a band plays as the locals follow four men carrying a Saint’s effigy. The religious ceremony is quite upbeat, with the jolly sound of the band playing what I can only describe as Catholic Ragtime.

Now it’s not the sight of locals in their devotion that catches our eye, nor is our interest taken by the male compere who bears a striking resemblance Eamonn Holmes, for us it’s the old lady that is purchasing a slab of pizza. She looks to be in her late seventies, and doesn’t have a single tooth in her head: I suspect they’re in her handbag. We are transfixed as she tears off the corner, pops it into her mouth, gums the tomato and cheese topped foccacia for a while, then sucks the living daylights out of it. Each mouthful follows the same ritual – tear, pop, gum, suck – and it’s a long slow process. After ten minutes she’s only an eighth of the way through, by my calculations it’s going to take her at least an hour and half to eat her slice, taking in sips of water and jaw resting.

We leave the event and stroll up to the small corner bar, where we sit and watch as the town winds down, before the evening draws to a close. Because the roads are closed off, the only way home is through the snaking side streets only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. So with Britney Spears singing ‘Big Fat Bass’, featuring Will.i.Am, I hold my breath, put the car into gear and hope no one is coming in the opposite direction. I didn’t meet any other cars, just streams of pedestrians that didn’t care if they were walking in the middle of the road – Who could blame them though, they’d all had a good time out, just like me.

But part of me wonders if there’s still a little old lady, sat on a plastic chair, and gumming a piece of pizza?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Downloads, Chillies and Stalking

Saturday 27 August 2011 – Morrissey is singing ‘Shame Is The Name’ as my breakfast is cooking- a full English – The sun is belting out more of its hotter than hell rays, will this heat-wave ever break?

I spend the morning getting the downstairs apartment ready for a family that are arriving on Monday. To be honest I’m not really into the domestic side of things, having already done it once before, it cemented my belief that I’d hate to run or work in a hotel.

I spend the remainder of the morning searching for and downloading music, I run into quite a few demo tracks and feature recordings of ex Sugababe Mutya Buena, these are added to my collection as is The Sound of Camden and Linea 77. So my iPod now has 19,055 songs.

Early afternoon, it’s so hot that there’s nothing for it but to have IMG_1410another cold shower. The heat is so intense that I have to keep doors and windows closed, there’s no breeze so it creeps inside the house. Everything is warm, my shirts in the wardrobe feel like they’ve just come out of a tumble dryer, and tepid pillows make taking a siesta a no no. Still this baking sunshine is good for my sundried chillies, that are as hot as the Italian countryside at the moment. (I think I’ll make little packages up for Christmas gifts).

I read for a little, shave, then head up to Casoli for beers with my friend Christine. Now there’s something you should know about Christine; it’s not that’s she’s a real life Eastender, or even that she can be seen in a Pathe newsreel as a young schoolgirl. The shocking revelation is that she has a stalker, a silver haired gentleman that shuffles around town with an air of old fashioned eccentricity.

I use the term stalker loosely, as the chap has never made contact, he’s not so much as posted a pair of his unwashed pants through Christine’s door, and to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t have a room plastered from floor to ceiling with photographs of her. In fact his only crime is that wherever she goes, he always appears. She can be sat in the bar, and he’ll saunter past. A trip to the post office and she turns the leave and he’s the next person in line behind her. And heaven forbid she takes a stroll through the market on Friday morning, because you can guarantee, as she rifles through the €3 clothes stall and picks up a lilac halter-neck, there’d be another hand on the hem, – the silver stalker.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I’m Back and it’s all Ya Ya

Friday 26 August 2011 – Okay so I’ve had a brief break from blogging due to work commitments and also sheer laziness. So what have I been up to in the hiatus – well mostly sweating and showering.

It’s been blisteringly hot in Italy, some locals have said hotter than it’s been in many years. One day plant life looks vibrant, the next day it looks withered and wilting, the next its lush and leafy. I just hope one day I’ll adapt to this climate, as most days I’ve been more the withered and wilting variety.

August is festival season here, so I’ve enjoyed bands, street parties and watched locals dancing in the street, not to mention a few beers at my favourite watering hole – Bar il Borgo in Casoli.

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Workwise, I’ve been catching up on writing assignments for my course, and even had some work published, with other articles due for publication next month. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about the writer/actress Rachael Halliwell and her splendid one woman show, Deirdre and Me. Deirdre and Me Press

http://www.differentscene.co.uk/?p=3076

Lunch today was arosticini as Jim Gilstrap sang the classic ‘Swing Your Daddy,dishes washed up and I pop downstairs into the cool of the apartment, it was my intention to do some writing however I spot a DVD with a name that intrigues me.

I end up lost in the film called Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. it’s got a great cast and the story albeit more chic-flick is very good, and for an hour or so it took my mind off the soaring temperature outside.

There’ll be more to come, so keep coming back for details about Christine’s silver stalker, the pizza sucking lady and my impending marriage to Maria the orange peril of Casoli.

Ciao x

Monday, 18 July 2011

Brief Break

My dear blogsters, and regular readers of A Life On Shuffle. Due to a heavy workload of writing I shall be taking a brief break from updating this blog, sadly I’ll not be able to write daily updates for the next two weeks, but I shall be back with a review of what has happened in my online absence. And if I get my work completed early I'll be back sooner than predicted.

Vediamo presto…………..Flatfield

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Liz McClarnon and the Egg and Pocket Incident

Domenica 10 luglio 2011 – For anyone who’s noticed all this past week the dates have been written in Italian, however I do feel I need to point out that Italians don’t capitalise months, hence luglio (July) being lower case.

Being 49 years old and seven months to this very date, there are some lessons I have learned: Things like, never take a pan of roast potatoes out of the oven without an oven glove, or even if it sounds like a good idea, don’t down a whole bottle of absinthe in a pub in Motherwell. (Not unless you want to wake up with many unanswerable questions racing through your head). So I travel through life armed with this veritable encyclopaedia of learned knowledge that will keep me safe, or out of harms way at least.

Add to this the common sense that we are supposed to posses, that needs no intervention of action to become a part of our daily remit: Things like you know it’s going to hurt if you leap off a multi-storey car park in Dagenham. Or that it would be unwise to try roller skating with scissors in your hands. You don’t need to experience these things you just know the concept of doing them is loopy.

So today, I’m in the kitchen, the trusty iPod is doing it’s job nicely, Liz McClarnon sings Woman In Love (Dancing DJ’s Remix). The bass is thumping and the hi hats splashing and I’m singing along. I’m about to make myself a poached egg as the kettle boils, so as I’m still dressed in night attire: PJ bottoms, I slip said egg into my pocket as I pour the boiling water over a tea-bag. I carry on singing along, and ponder how the lovely Ms McClarnon is getting on touring the UK with the musical Legally Blonde. I do like her, she was always my favourite ‘Kitten’. She has a clarity to her voice that’s very rare, and her diction when she sings is superb; listen to her sing Someone Like Me, the final track on the third Atomic Kitten album Ladies Night, and you’ll hear what I mean, the vocals are crystal clear; I think there’s only ever really been one other singer with such clarity and that was the late Karen Carpenter.

The water in the pan is boiling, I pick an egg out of the dish; here’s a tip for you all, – never store eggs in the fridge, it taints the flavour, chilled egg holders were invented by fridge manufacturers, – but I digress. The egg slips from its opened shell and plops into the water. Toast pops up and is buttered, the egg nicely poached is lifted from the water, and popped onto the toast, just a pinch of salt, and a stab at the yolk has its golden insides running. I walk to the table, sit down and you can guess the rest.

Suffice to say, my encyclopaedia of life has a new entry, filed under E for egg, and cross referenced with, M for McClarnon: It reads: don’t put eggs in your PJ’s, whilst distracted by Liz McClarnon.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Crocodiles in the Kitchen

Sabato 9 luglio 2011 – Breakfast dishes are washed up, Janet Jackson sings Love Will Never Do (Without You) and I ponder what the day will bring. As forecast, the heat really has turned up, it’s far too hot to be toiling outside, and truth be told I don’t have the inclination today.

I’ve been invited to lunch up at Chris and Bills. I decide to park lower down and walk up to their place; this was a good idea at the bottom of Casoli, not so clever at the top. Shattered and dealing with altitude sickness, (an exaggeration) I arrive. It does take me a good fifteen minutes to get over the climb. (Note to self, try harder to drop some timber, fatty).

We sit outside chatting in the shade, the sun, even this high up is unrelenting; Italy has just gone to code 3 red alert, due to the unusually hot weather. The neighbours come and go with cheery waves and shouts of ‘Ciao’. An old guy in his 80’s whips past in his three-wheeled Ape, (pronounced App-ay), its engine buzzing as he passes: Ape is Italian for bee, and the machines are made by Piaggio, who make the famous Vespa, (wasp) scooters.

After lunch I spot a tiny lizard on the window sill, I say spot it, it’s hard to see as it’s about a half of a centimetre long. Chris screams as it scoots under a cupboard to safety. She’s convinced it’s going to grow into a full sized crocodile overnight, and have her when she comes down in the morning.

Bill nips out, and Chris and myself are on ‘crocodile watch’, eventually it emerges and we set about capturing it. For something so small it sure can shift. I corner it and Chris drops a plastic container over it. Now we just have to find a way of getting outside.

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Eventually after following the tried and tested paper and glass technique used by spider removers the world over, the 6 foot crocodile is evicted, and we give ourselves a pat on the back. A job well done.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Bouncing and the Freezer Graveyard

Venerdi 8 luglio 2011 – I don’t feel like work, the iPod is having a summer mood today, Steps are playing their cover of the Diana Ross top ten hit, Chain Reaction. I’m feeling bouncy and singing along as I eat my toast and jam. Now there’s a thing; back in the UK I never ate jam, but there was a jar (cherry) in the fridge and I’ve been eating it ever since.

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I decide to spend the day at the coast, so I fill up with petrol and head off northwards. First stop is San Vito Chietino, the little beach here is crammed with people under umbrellas, the sound of enjoyment bounces on the air, and laughter washes in with the waves. A voice is raised at a small boy who bounces his beach ball into another family’s space.

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I drive further up the coast, bouncing along with every dip and rise in the coast road. My bottle of water once chilled is now warm and devoid of any fizz, however I’m parched. I pull over at another beach, I want to check out.  Now apparently this is supposed be a popular place with gay men. For popular read, spot where they can get a quick shag. I stroll along the beach, it’s empty, apart from one man sunbathing and a couple in their latter years canoodling in the sea. I arrive at the area supposedly frequented by gay men and spot the signs of outdoor activity. tracks into the wooded area are apparent, and occasionally there’s a discarded condom wrapper on the ground.

I’m being followed by a man, he looks nervous and obviously married, he keeps stopping and looking over to see if I’m looking at him, I’m not. It’s too hot for any of that outdoors nonsense. I pass through a dense IMG_1226piece of undergrowth and discover a ramshackle set of buildings, now covered in graffiti and in serious disrepair. They are the remains of what was once a holiday park, in an area beside what was the reception building lie fridges and freezers, rusting and lifeless, they put me in mind of the imaginary elephant’s graveyard.

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I walk back, now the man is chatting to a young lad about 20, he lowers his gaze as I walk passed, guilty maybe or embarrassed I don’t know nor care. I drive into Pescara to buy some more cans of anchovy stuffed olives, then continue my bouncing along until I get home.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Bugs’ Life

Giovedi 7 luglio 2011 – Chris and Bill are coming over today to help me up at my place, so as the final notes of Lazy Afternoon by Barbra Streisand fade out, I crush rosemary and garlic and make a paste for the pork we’ll have for lunch. Donna Summer swaps places with Barbra and Spring Affair plays as Chris and Bill arrive.

Bill manages to sort out the strimmer and replaces the line for the metal blade, before strimming the untamed grass outside the front of the house. Chris, who doesn’t like bugs comes face to face with a scorpion, then a grasshopper, followed by a mantis. She lives higher up than me, so the temperature can be at least 5 degrees lower, and they have more of a breeze up there, and no mosquitos. The mozzies are a bind to be honest, people think you can spend the evenings sat outside drinking wine as the sun sets. You could, but you’d get eaten alive.

We leave the work and set off to have lunch, when we spot something on a neighbours steps. Soaking up the heat is a little adder, about 12 inches long, the poisonous little reptile eyes us suspiciously. It’s a beautiful little thing, but knowing it’s venomous we keep our distance, and Chris takes a photo.

Despite having a large lunch, I have to cook the mussels purchased yesterday, so I have dinner late, cozze piccante con spaghetti, very nice it is too. The wine is poured, a large beetle is evicted before the next instalment of Heroes rounds off the day.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Mundane to Magnificent

Mercoledi 6 luglio 2001 – The Cure sing Let’s Go to Bed, I wish I could as today has mundane written all over it. I’m ironing, polishing, sweeping and doing all manner of household chores today. It’s a lovely day, a tad warm to be honest, which means the heat and steam from the iron are tiresome.

Touch Me, from the Bollywood movie Dhoom2 plays as the ironing board is eventually stowed away and I make some lunch before having a shower. I have an appointment with our lawyers in Lanciano to pay the council tax. People say it must be expensive to live in Italy? But it’s not when you consider you save £40 a week just on council IMG_1203tax. Once you get residency you pay no council tax and you get a reduction in all utility bills.

I have an hour to kill in Lanciano, so wander around stopping just to buy a guide to all the summer festivals in Abruzzo; well I got to do something on those warm summer evenings haven’t I? I escape the heat by ducking into the cathedral, it’s cool so I sit and reflect on my life. An Italian man walks in and asks me for directions, I’m happy that he asked rather than just thought I’d IMG_1202not understand/know the answer due to being a foreigner. The man walks away happy, and I’m smiling.

I meet with my lawyers, who tell me there’s a resolution almost on the supply of water to our house. Looks like we’ll have to pay for a new pipe to be laid, but at least we can get sorted with the plumbing once it’s done. They tell me that they think my Italian language is coming along nicely, Piero says my pronunciation is very good. So I leave their offices smiling once again.

I’m thinking nothing else good could happen, when I nip into the supermarket and on the fresh fish stall they have fresh mussels, withIMG_1207 half a kilo in the cool box I drive home singing along with Kate Bush to Wuthering Heights, what started off as mundane ended up as magnificent …….Isn't life grand?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Naked Englishman and the Rain

Martedi 05 luglio 2011 – The French windows are open allowing the early morning breeze into the room. My breakfast of omelette and ham is consumed as José Carreras sings Donizetti’s classic, Una Furtiva Lagrima. The breeze is brisk, making it a good day to be in the garden.

I spend a couple of hours on my toil, that seems never ending, again it takes a great effort just to clear a small area of land, but at least I can see a difference. Kate Bush sings Love And Anger, as I feel a drop of rain on my forehead. I can hear a grumble on the wind, and overhead the sky has become leaden. Then suddenly as if someone has slit the sky open with a blade, a torrent of cold rain drenches me. It feels good, and like a demented fool, I walk back slowly.

I get back soaked, Baleno looks like a wrung out mop as she takes shelter under the patio table. I resemble something similar and rather than traipse wet into the house, I strip off, one advantage of living so remote is that you can go all day without seeing anyone. Mind you that said, what’s the betting a car full of nuns will drive past as I’m slipping out of my pants?

IMG_1191I put the iPod in it’s dock and as Joan Armatrading starts to sing No Love, I pad off to grab a shower.

The valley has disappeared, completely engulfed in mist and rain. I hear mewing, and open the porch door so Baleno can shelter inside, as I settle down to an hour of writing.

Around midday the rain has gone, and brilliant sunshine takes its place, the cat goes to soak up the sun on the wooden walkway, and I prepare lunch with Crazy Cool, by Paula Abdul in the background.

Monday, 11 July 2011

It’s All About Food

Lunedi 04 luglio 2011 – I’m working in the garden, still attempting to clear the years of badly behaving plant life. Plan B play Free, from the hugely successful album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, an album that in my opinion, must go down in musical history as a work of genius. I can hear my name being called, I turn the volume down and realise it’s my 93 year old neighbour. I rush to see what’s wrong: IMG_1187which isn’t easily done in steel toe-capped wellington boots.

I arrive, hot and sweaty the run taking the wind out of me, she beckons me into her kitchen, pours me a cup of freshly brewed coffee and tells me she’s made me some Ferratelle. Like a waffle with a hint of aniseed to them. I thank her, saying I’ll save them for pranzo, (lunch).

I work on the land for another couple of hours, before it gets too hot to continue. I shower as Black Eyed Peas play Shut Up. I’m suitably cooled down, and just wrapped in a towel I start to think about lunch. I decide to have a plate of anti pasti, so I chop some ham, grab some salami, picklesIMG_1188, cooked mushrooms, chopped tomato, and to top it I spread two Dairylea triangles on toasted bread. (I brought the Dairylea over from the UK) So pranzo can only be described as Dairylea meets la dolce vita.

I spend the afternoon working on Italian verbs, thrilling I know.

I pop to the shop, car windows open to let the stifling heat out, Hurts are belting out Stay, as I trundle along; with scenery like this there’s no need for speed.  I buy a big bulb of fennel, and decide that dinner IMG_1189tonight will be pork, roasties and braised fennel. I drive back with Whatever’s Left, by Snow Patrol trailing in my wake.

Earlier I found a DVD with the American TV series Heroes on it, so I downloaded the appropriate player and spend the remainder of the day with 4 episodes, and go to bed entertained but none the wiser as to what’s actually going on. Hopefully it will become clearer in later episodes.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Baking Bread

Saturday 02 July 2011 – I’m chatting to Brenda on Skype, when there’s a tap at the window. It’s Bill from Casoli, he’s popped in to see if I’d like to go for lunch. I think this is a jolly good idea, and after the chat we head off to Lanciano as he needs to get some wholemeal flour. This is a good sign, as it means I can get some instruction into the art of bread making.

It’s a funny old day weather wise, it rained in the night, then this morning it was sunny, but midday signals a breezy yet temperate afternoon ahead.

Bill shows me how he makes bread, and Chris cooks us lunch, a very tasty bolognaise. We spend the afternoon chatting; well to be honest mostly laughing raucously. (Christine does have the ability to light up a room, she’s so witty.) Bill’s bread has proved and has tripled in size, he knocks it out, and sets it aside again. I learn that during this process I’m being too tender with it, it needs a good seeing to, as Bill says.

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The days slips away swiftly, and before long it’s early evening. I leave with a loaf under my arm, heading back for another 4 episodes of Heroes.

There will no A Life On Shuffle tomorrow, for Sunday 03 July, as all I did that day was chill out and do nothing.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Roman Ruins at Juvanum

Friday 1 July 2011 – Despite the rain in the night, the first day of July is bathed in sunshine, I sit outside eating my breakfast listening to the birds singing in the valley. It’s going to be another hot day and to be honest I don’t fancy toiling in a still damp wilderness.

I grab my Abruzzo guide book, and look for somewhere to visit, I decide on the Roman ruins of Juvanum. So as Aha play Stay On These Roads I shave and get dressed for my trip out. How insightful the Swedish rockers were, the roads up twist and turn with IMG_1154spectacular views over the mountains, but some of the hairpin bends are scary, so I follow their advice and stay on the roads.

I drive through the pretty hilltop village of Gessopalena, I park up and have a wander around. My friend Alessio’s family are from here, and I see his family name on IMG_1143many post-boxes, making me wonder if the people who live behind them are his relatives.

The next village I pass through is Civitella Messer Raimondo. I’ve heard many people talk about this village, so expect it to be beautiful, in honesty it’s rather dull and non descript. So I don’t bother stopping to take any photographs.

I spot another brown sign which indicates I’m still heading in the right direction. At a sharp left turn the road rises steeply, and I climb upwards seeing a sign telling me the museum is just 2km away. I pull into the car park, and apart from the two shirtless gardeners I’m alone.

The ruins at Juvanum are really just low walls peeking out of the earth, there’s the remains of a road, no longer flat due to the seismic activity over the years. The location is thought to indicate the ruins were a place famed for health, the name Juvanum derives from iuvare, which is Latin for ‘to improve one’s health’. The settlement was left ruined following an earthquake in 4 AD. What was left over the years was plundered by locals needing the stones to build homes.

I drive back, stopping once to take a photograph of Lago di Sant’Angelo and a second time to grab a bottle of wine from the supermarket. The dinner dishes are drying over the sink, the pop of a cork sounds and Jimmy Somerville sings his excellent version of Where Have All The Flowers Gone? Perfect end to the day.

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Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Bonfire

Thursday 30 June 2011 – ENEL, the electric company are doing some work today and we’ve all had notice that the electricity will go off for a few hours at 09.45. Breakfast is eaten as the iPod plays the remains of last night’s Killers track, it shuffles and Revolver (David Guetta Remix) by Madonna takes its place.

I shower, take a quick look at my email accounts and check out Facebook. At 09.44 the electricity goes off, so I pull on my wellingtons and make my way up the road to continue clearing the land.

It’s very hot, so I decide to work in the shade around the side of the house. We’ve got some concrete steps at the side, as like all old Italian houses there are no internal staircases. I decide to clear the ivy and weeds that are clinging to them.

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I’ve accumulated quite a pile of weeds and rubbish, and have built myself a nice little bonfire, however as the midday heat is now too much to bear I go back for another shower and to grab some lunch. Luckily I have a rechargeable docking station, so at least I can still IMG_1126have my music, and I eat my lunch as The Scars play Je T’aime C’est La Mort

At 18.45, the electricity comes on again and I can think about cooking dinner. I’m about to do this when there’s a rumble in the distance. So with matches rattling and a watering can of water I go back up to our place and set fire to the mini bonfire. (Not before checking there was no snake taking a nap inside). The fire burns nicely and the last of the embers lose their heat as the first, fat drops of rain turn to steam upon contact.

Job done, it’s time to get some dinner, so I walk back down the lane Lost In Music, with Sister Sledge.

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sugababes, Snakes and South Africans

Wednesday 29 June 2011 – To remind me that the cats are missing, during breakfast Tom Jones sings, What’s New Pussycat? I put my cup down and open the front door. Baleno is there, I look under the steps and there’s still no sign of her kitten.

I continue in the morning clearing the land, it’s a case of popping out of the downstairs room to do a bit every time a cloud covers the sun, and popping back inside when its cover has drifted off. It’s hotter today, and there’s not even a whisper of any breeze. I have to keep stopping to wipe the sweat away, I’m sure I must be losing at least 2 litres of water each morning doing this task, thankfully the coolness of downstairs room keeps my chilled water cold.

Sitting on the ground, trowel in hand lifting some clumps of grass, I stop and listen as the Sugababes sing Ace Reject, from the last album that featured Mutya. It’s shame that, what was once a pool of incredible talent is now just a commodity. I fear we wont see much from the new line up, before they fade into obscurity. I feel something on my foot, I look down and a shiny black snake is resting on my wellington boot. It’s only about a foot long, and its skin looks like highly polished patent leather. It spots me and in an instant has vanished and I start to breath again.

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In the evening I go dinner at my south African friends Bronda and Koort’s house. It’s a lovely little house and they’ve made great use of the space. Bronda shows us why she fell in love with the house, a spectacular view of Casoli and it’s castle, which is made even more spectacular by night. Sadly no photograph could ever do it justice.

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Just before I retire for the evening I have another glass of wine, and catch up on some emails and Facebook messages. I turn off the Killers, two thirds of the way through When You Were Young, It’s time to put another day away.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Disappearing Cat

Tuesday 28 June 2001- There’s a little cloud cover today, so after washing up the breakfast dishes I start to tackle the back garden. With the iPod in it’s dock, it’s man against nature: It’s not long before nature starts winning the war. The problem is, that beneath about an inch of soil and weeds is a cobbled hard-standing, so I have to excavate slowly, it’s not so much like gardening, more like an archaeological dig.

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Zombie by the Cranberries plays, I stop and listen as it throws itself across the Italian wilderness. The earlier recordings by the Irish rock band were superb, songs filled with angst and clever lyrics melt alongside innocence and melody. They did however start to go off the boil towards the end with some of their songs just becoming lyrically baffling.

28.06 (3) After

After four hours I’ve cleared a sizeable amount of land, and as the temperature rises, I retire for the day and make myself lunch. After a shower I take a walk; Baleno follows me, mewing all the way down the lane, she’s a really vocal cat. When we get back, I see the big tom cat outside the gate, he really is a hulking brute, black and white with shaggy fur and face made up of pure malevolence. Baleno spots him too, and runs back to check on her kitten.

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I leave for my Italian lesson, looking in on mother and kitten, both are sleeping quite contently. Upon my return, I begin to make my dinner, the iPod is playing and Meat Of Youth by Meat Of Youth plays, the drums and fretless bass pounding away. A shuffle takes place and more heightened drum beats as Bow Wow Wow plunge into Cowboy. I pop outside to give Ada’s cats the skin off my chicken. I look for Baleno but she’s no where to be seen, nor the kitten, both of them have gone. I hope she’s moved the kitten to somewhere safer.