Monday 11 April 2011 - After a wonderful nights sleep, I wake to the sound of stillness, no cars trundle by, nothing but the calm of the mountain permeates the air. It’s 07.00, I rise and make my way downstairs, the kettle is put over the gas and I open the front door and take in a lungful of fresh air. I turn on my iPod and Tanita Tikaram begins to sing ‘Cathedral Song’ as the kettle whistles on the stove.
I begin making a tomato sauce in readiness for dinner, (no bottled sauces for me). A good pasta sauce requires time, and is better when twice cooked. As the red liquid bubbles on the stove I prepare breakfast. Being a ‘Potteries’ lad, I have grown up with oatcakes for breakfast; these are a type of pancake served with savoury fillings, mainly breakfast items like bacon, sausage, egg etc. As I have ‘smuggled’ some over the border, my Italian breakfast today is positively pottery. (Thee kin tack thee yoth ar’t t’Stoke, but ye conna tack thee potter are’t t’o yoth). It’s hard to escape your roots. (Translation: You can take the boy out of stoke, but you cannot take the potter out of the boy.)
We clean out the third bedroom, which is essentially an attic room we weren’t aware of when we purchased the house. We check the roof, a few tiles need replacing, but overall it’s in good condition. Considering the house has been locked up since the end of November 2010, we were surprised to find no mould, and no damp, everything we left here has stayed dry and clean.
In the afternoon we pop into Pescara to purchase a window and stop off at the supermarket to get a few things. We load up the trolley with some essentials (Salad), and some non essentials (Wine). We get to the checkout and the cashier has a problem scanning our chicken, she tries three times, then makes three attempts at punching the barcode numbers in manually, before tossing the package aside and scanning the next item. I make an attempt to persuade her to let me fetch another one to scan, but she has none of it. So chicken-less we pay and saunter out of the store.
We have brought 2 litres of 95% proof alcohol, so back at Archi, we zest and juice lemons to make Limoncello, on May 20 this batch will be ready, making 4 litres. As the lemon begins its absorption into the alcohol, I finish off the pasta sauce, adding some spicy Italian sausage and some good quality linguine (De Cecco No7).
We eat dinner then spend the evening talking as music plays. Tracey Ullman sings ‘Breakaway’, as I think about how things have changed over the last year. Being between homes is an odd feeling, yes I have a base in the UK, but this is just a box to subsist in. 50% of my possessions are in England with the other 50% being in Italy, I have lived with this odd feeling of displacement for 9 months now and guess I shall have to live with it for a while longer, until life sorts itself out and our house is restored and made habitable. I cannot begin to understand however, how people who really suffer displacement feel, we are 2 years on since the earthquake in L’Aquila, and there are families still living in tents, waiting to go back to their homes.
Tuesday 12 April 2011 – I cook breakfast as Atomic Kitten sing ‘I Want Your Love’, the boisterous backing track sets me up for the day, I’m in a boisterous bouncy mood, and itching to be active. As the scouse ‘kittens’ sing I pass the feral kitten we’ve adopted and called Samson a slice of the smuggled bacon. Samson seems to like the taste of bacon; which is one thing most Brits over here say they miss.
We arrive at the house, and Spike takes a look at our chainsaw that refuses to work, he picks it up, and within seconds it’s purring, like a contented kitten. Within seconds the first tree falls, followed by another, we cleared a few of the trees that have been left to grow wild last time we were over, but the chainsaw makes short work of it. Our land has olive trees that are precious over here, you can’t cut them down without permission, however the other trees must be removed to allow the olives to flourish. People talk of these other trees as useless, but us they’re our next few years supply of wood for the wood burner.
I get to grips with the strimmer and within minutes I’m waging war on the weeds that grow along the driveway. It’s hot and the sun takes no prisoners on a day like this, and foolishly I have no hat. I spend the afternoon with music playing, ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries belts out over the valley, as I use the chainsaw to cut up the felled trees into manageable logs. I move the logs and kindling into one of the downstairs rooms to keep it dry, and also away from light-fingered passers by. I hear Spike attacking the last of the trees that block our view and as it crashes down the slope I take a photo of our view, now unmasked by any trees.
Rozz invites us to dinner, we take the opportunity to shower and afterwards share a few glasses of prosecco. Rozz makes a wonderful lasagne, I have two servings but could have quite happily scoffed the lot it was so delicious, as we chat I craftily pick at the leftovers in the dish. To use an expression from the kids I teach – OMG it’s sick! (Translation: Goodness me, that’s jolly good.)
We get back to Archi, and have a gin and tonic. Dutch says, “You’re hairs going white and you’re head’s like a beetroot.” Note to self: Get a hat and possibly a divorce. At 9.30, The Cocteau Twins are playing ‘Theft and Wandering Around Lost’, I’m finding it hard to stay awake, it’s nice to be tired after hard work rather than from doing nothing. I call it a day, as the wind has an argument with some plastic chairs outside.
Wednesday 13 April 2011 – The wind has been quite fierce throughout the night, and we wake to a wet day, the mist is so dense it’s impossible to see very far. One of the advantages of being high up in the mountains, is on hot days there’s always a cooling breeze, one of the downsides is on wet days, it’s a miserable as a grieving mother. As usual music plays and Yoko Ono sings ‘O’Oh’ as I make breakfast and shuffle a few ideas around my head, for activities for the day.
It’s still raining, although the mist is lifting, so I play around with some video footage taken on the journey over.
With the sun breaking through, we decide to go to Megalo, a shopping centre in Chieti, here I find a DVD and book I want, so all in all the trip was successful. We have lunch at Megalo, just pizza slices and a small portion of torta rustica, oh yes and a refreshing cold beer. We then drive back via Lanciano and drop into the shops at the Poly Centre, before coming home via the scenic route over Castle Frentanno.
We stop for petrol, Tiziano Ferro is singing ‘Il Regalo Piú Grande’ from the Live in Rome CD. (The CD being a cure for last weeks music withdrawal). The young man working the pump asks me if I’m English, I say yes, he asks where I’m from. Now I am tempted to say England, in an attempt at Anglo-Italian sarcasm, but decide against it, so just say near Birmingham. He then asks me where do you live, I say Casoli and he becomes confused. I pay and drive off leaving him scratching his head.
When we finally sit down to dinner it’s 08.30, it’s surprising where the days go to, when you’re not governed by a clock. After a couple of glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cyndi Lauper, begins to sing ‘I Drove All Night’, I stop her mid note and climb the stairs and collapse into bed, another day completed.
Thursday 14 April 2011 – The sun wakes me today, it’s golden fingers creeping into the bedroom to stroke my cheek. Samson comes for a feed, so I give him some of last nights left-over chicken. I then discover as he turns around that he is a she, so in haste she acquires a new name, ‘Thimble’. As The Human League play ‘Empire State Human’ I poach eggs, before packing some lunch items into the cool box, and leaving for some more honest toil on the land.
Today is made up with wood stripping, I cut the tiny twigs from the branches, these go into boxes, then the kindling is stacked in one place, the thicker branches in another and finally logs in another spot. I have had my first initiation into the Italian peasant lifestyle. I’m on wood duty for 4 hours, with the iPod shuffling in the shade, Ms Dynamite sings ‘Not Today’ from her brilliant second album, Judgement Days, which sadly didn’t do as well as her debut album, as I’m told it’s lunchtime.
I eat my first lunch at my house, it’s typically Italian, salad, olives, bread and cheese, with a cup of Yorkshire tea, non é Italiano tipicamente. (Translation: It’s not typically Italian.)
Our friend Tina drops by, it’s nice to see her as the last time we saw her was back in November, for lunch on her terrace. In the afternoon as Al Jolson sings ‘Swanee’ (Yes I have ‘the worlds greatest entertainer’ on my iPod) I get back to my task. After stripping and collating branches for a further 2 hours I’ve had enough, the boredom threshold has been met, and despite a task like this suiting my OCD, I’m itching to do some demolition. We have a stone outbuilding, that we set about taking down, and with brute force and some blood spillage, (mine) we demolish it.
Exhausted, we drop into the local shop for some pork mince to make meatballs for dinner, standing behind us is another English couple, I’d have introduced myself normally, but am so tired, I just pay and go. Yet another day of hard graft is coming to an end.
Dinner over, Thimble is given some pork, and a gin and tonic is poured,(for me not the kitten) I sit back as Heaven 17 play ‘I’m Your Money’, Saluté questa sera.
Friday 15 April 2011 – The morning is dull, there’s been an attempt at rain, but nothing yet. We spend the morning in Lanciano, then do some shopping for the evenings dinner at Oasi, before dropping in to see Terry and Brenda, we have a cup of tea and a pleasant afternoon chatting. We really will miss them when they move to the USA, but people must make decisions that are right for them, just as it’s right for us to move to Italy, it’s equally right for our friends to move to the US, besides there’s always Facebook and Skype. Talking about the social networking site, I saw a T-shirt in Lanciano that made me smile, the shop window was packed full of ‘Family Guy’ merchandise, which must be becoming popular in Italy at the moment.
Just before dinner I looked through the videos stored on my laptop and came across The Tempest, performed by the kids from The Action Project. I watched it and marvelled at their talent, however I did wonder if the parents understood my direction and setting, as to a newcomer to the text it could have proved confusing. After dinner I watched another video, this was an old episode of the army series, ‘Soldier Soldier’.
Saturday 16 April 2011 – Nancy Sinatra sings ‘It Aint Me Babe’ as I tuck into my breakfast, a bowl of Kellogg's crunchy nut cornflakes; found on the shelves of Oasi yesterday. Now I’m not normally a breakfast cereal sort of bloke due to a slight aversion to milk. However I’ve been having far too much bacon, cheese and eggs at breakfast time lately, so think it’s time for a change.
We have now acquired another kitten, each morning Thimble arrives with what we think is her brother, who we’ve called ‘Scratch’, he’s one of those cats that opens his mouth to mew, but no sound comes out.
We spend the day at a farmers market, a vast array of tractors and farm related machinery is on show. We stumble into the livestock section, and I fall for a tiny little puppy that’s in a box, near the chickens and ducks for sale. Inside a barn we find the section where farm produce is being sold, We all try the free samples of cheese and salami, I even get to try some awful truffle flavoured honey, that is just wrong, believe me.
For lunch we pop into Lanciano and have a self service ‘Pranzo’, pasta and wine for just €6 per person…..Bargain.
Back at our place I check on more kittens we’ve found, these are in a box in a tin shelter, there’s four of them. 2 white ones and 2 mackerel tabbies, I peer into the gloom and see the mother sat in the box nursing them.
Sunday 17 April 2011 – We just chill out.