Ferragosto

According to my pocket Italian / English dictionary, the definition for Ferragosto is:-

Ferragosto takes place in Italy anywhere between the 1st and the 31th of August,  plumbers, electricians, butchers and anybody else that you need on a day to day basis or may need in a crisis, leave town and either head to the mountains or the seaside for 1 to 31 days. It is not uncommon for towns and villages to become temporary ghost towns.

 

Ferieagosto

Ferragosto

Last year on the 17th of August our boiler decided to go into meltdown. Mrs Sensible contacted our landlord and asked if she could organise a plumber. Ten minutes later, the landlady phoned back and told us the plumber was on holiday until the 28th of August, she added is Pecora Nera any good with boilers.

Mrs S asked me if I knew anything about boilers, I said, I understood they blow up if you don’t know what you are doing and poke around inside them. Mrs S then broke the news to me that we would be taking cold showers for the rest of the month; unless I knew how to fix the boiler. So armed with a screwdriver a large hammer and wearing some overalls I went to have a look at our boiler.

Boiler suit for messing with boilers

Safety overalls for use when messing with boilers

I stuck one finger in one ear and holding my screwdriver at arms length I poked and played with things I really didn’t have a clue about. After 30 minutes of cursing the boiler and the plumber who was sat on some beach drinking pina colada I gave up. Mrs S phoned the landlady and said I had failed miserably and was there any other plumbers in Italy? The landlady said she would send her husband. It was at this point that I decided I needed to be somewhere else, maybe at my favorite bar which I had calculated would be outside the blast range or maybe better still on a flight to England.

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

My favorite bar is outside the blast range

The landlady’s husband turned up with his own screwdriver and an even bigger hammer than the one I was holding. He poked about inside the boiler, he hit delicate bits of pipe with his hammer and explained to me what he thought was wrong with the boiler. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, not only because I don’t understand Italian but by this time I was stood with fingers in both of my ears just in case the boiler decided to go boom.

 

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

When at risk of blowing up, always place your fingers in your ears

And then miraculously, the boiler hissed, farted and started working. We decided to celebrate by drinking a glass or two of grappa.

 

So if your boiler breaks down, or your cooker starts smoking during August drop me a line and I will send you the landlady’s husband.

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

The boiler expert saying hello to Donna our workaway from last year or was it the year before

I have been informed that our crazy group of expats bloggers (COSI Group), are having a Google Hangout Q&A session at 13:00 EST, 19:00 in Italy on Sunday the 3rd of August.  I haven’t a clue how to do this but I will try to be there with a glass of wine in my hand.

Please go to my COSI  page and follow the links to other bloggers from COSI who are uploading their thoughts on Ferragosto

 

 

Press the button

Press the button

It is amazing just what you can order, with the press of a button over the internet; when I need some bacon I go on line and press the button, if I require some English books I just press the button.

Close your eyes and press that button

Close your eyes and press that button

In May I pressed the button and ordered 2 workaways from the USA to help paint my new house. They arrived on time and in good condition. Normally the first thing I do when I receive something over the internet, is I remove its protective packaging and check it for faults and damage. I particularly like stuff that arrives in bubble wrap, I can get around 10 minutes fun popping the bubbles.

Mrs Sensible said it was not necessary this time to remove the protective packaging and added that if I attempted to remove any part of their protective packaging, something might break. I think she was hinting that I might damage my fingers or even my neck. Although I couldn’t understand how this might happen,  I decided to take her advice.

Workaway 1 checking the protective packaging is still in place

Workaway 1 checking that the protective packaging of workaway 2 is still in place

Throughout June our workaways wandered around our house and packed our stuff into boxes, they helped keep the house nice and clean and seemed to function incredibly well. The only thing we had to do was feed them and give them a corner to sleep in. When we transferred to the new house, we reprogrammed the workaways to unbox our belongings and set about painting the house. The reprogramming was very easy, with my Tomtom satnav I need to hook it up to my laptop, but with the workaways they had a very simple verbal interface.

Workaways 1 & 2 safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty during the night. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

Workaways One and  Two safely locked up for the night complete with a bottle of wine in case they became thirsty. (I am not sure why Mrs Sensible insisted on her looking after the key)

The new house has a wine cellar, so one evening I took a drive to one of our local wine cantinas to buy some wine. I took the workaways with me to help carry the heavy boxes of wine. While we were there I let them taste a glass or two and the transformation was amazing. They really liked the wine, in fact when it was time to go they really didn’t want to leave.

Workaway 2 didn't want to leave

Workaway 2 didn’t want to leave

I don’t like reading the instructions that come with items I order over the internet and the manual wasn’t very clear. Instruction number 2 stated: Do not mix with alcohol.  Did it mean I shouldn’t drink alcohol when operating the workaways, or they shouldn’t drink the alcohol. I decided to ignore the warning; I couldn’t ask Mrs Sensible what she thought, because she had flown to Sicily to see her mother and left me in charge of our workaways.  Her instructions regarding what I could and could not do with the workaways was very simple, clear and specific, it also included what might happen if I disregarded any of her advice or attempted to remove the workaways protective packaging.

Two days later I decided to see if the workaways enjoyed burnt food, so I fired up the barbeque and burnt some chicken and some sausage. Workaway number 1 was despatched to the wine cellar to fetch some wine and workaway number 2 was ordered to begin the task of opening the wine.

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine

Workaway one fetching a bottle of wine


Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

Workaway 2 successfully opens the bottle of wine

What happened next was unbelievable, all the expensive programming just stopped working. They couldn’t follow simply instructions, when I suggested workaway 1 should go and mow the lawn she collapsed in giggles.

Workaway one just laughed when I asked her to mow the lawn

Workaway one just giggled when I asked her to mow the lawn

When I told workaway 2 to clear up the mess and start cleaning the kitchen she just laughed at me. It was a very disappointing evening.

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Workaway 2 laughed when I told her to clean the kitchen

Yesterday I returned the workaways to America with a strongly written complaint and I have suggested they should improve their user manual. I have ordered another workaway for September, hopefully its programming will not be affected by a little alcohol.

Thanks to Mrs Sensible for tolerating me and a very Special thanks to Jessica and Liz for being so much fun and working so hard and thanks to the guy who invented workaway red wine.

Starvation Diet

Mrs Sensible is being a really, really good girl, she went to the dietician at the hospital this week and was awarded 10 Brownie points and 2 gold stars for being a really good girl and losing another 4 kilos. I on the other hand have not been particularly good and didn’t receive anything.

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

2 Gold stars for Mrs Sensible

For dinner today Mrs Sensible fed me and our two guestaways a very healthy salad with a little bit of cheese and a little bit of fresh salmon and two peppers stuffed with rice. For some reason I only received one pepper. At about 4.00 pm Mrs Sensible left the house and I went in search of food.

I found a very large packet of crisps and decided to wash it down with one or two glasses of wine. Just as I was relaxing and feeling mellow and contented one of our workaways appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a run. I very nearly asked if I could join her, but sanity kicked in and I took another sip of my wine and another handful of crisps.

englishman in Italy

This red stuff helps to make me quite philosophical

Twenty minutes later, during my second glass of wine, guestaway number 2 appeared in her running kit and said she was going for a quick run; maybe it was the wine talking but I found myself asking if I could join her…….

How far do you go?

Oh about 45 minutes

Ah ha; do you run the full 45 minutes or do you also walk a little?

I might walk up hills it depends.

So I put on my Booby Charlton running shorts, turned on the Run keeper app on my phone and followed her out the door.

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

Ready in my Bobby Charlton Football Shorts

As soon as we got outside she started to do stretching exercises, it was at this point that I started to feel a little worried. As she bent over to touch her toes, I bent over and managed to touch my knee caps. As she stretched and put her chin on her knee, I stretched and managed to see my knee caps which seemed a long way away. And then we started running.

Pull that stomach in

Pull that stomach in

I know she is only 19 and in the prime of her life but ‘spiders’ how is it possible that she can run up our road and hold a normally conversation.

So how far do you normally run?

Gasp, pant, gasp, not much! pant gasp wheeze.

There is a really nice breeze, this is nice weather to run in.

Wheeze, cough, wheeze, Yes, cough wheeze pant.

I managed to stay with her all the way up to the cowsheds and then my internal organs started to close down and I suffered severe cramp in my left big toe and had to stop.

“Go Go” I managed to utter as she disappeared up the hill.

Feeling a little ashamed and very old I slowly turned around and half ran and half hobbled home.

My runkeeper app didn’t help me either, I am sure I heard it say “Oye old man get running” and “do you want to change the setting from run to walk slowly”

Tomorrow I have committed myself to another run, I just need to find out if workaway number 1 runs slower than workaway number 2, maybe I will quiz them over a glass of wine.

Vicious snake attacks defenseless women in Italy

I know I have just done a post about dogs but Gilda the extremely fat but short legged sausage dog yesterday saved the life of our neighbour Luigina. I know I hinted that Gilda was a good for nothing fat little eating machine but yesterday at about twelve minutes past two in the afternoon she saved her owner’s life.

Luigina who is a spritely 87 years old was brutally stalked and then attacked by a very long snake as she walked across the garden on the way to feed the chickens.The beast of a snake was slithering through the grass with the intentions of impaling its fangs into Luigina’s heel. Fortunately Luigina saw the snake and realising she was in mortal danger she let out a piercing scream and clutched her hands to her breast, OK my imagination is running away a bit but she did shout bestia and wave her hands about a little.  (A picture of Luigina can be seen here L’orto and the Fairies)

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

The snake was badly mauled by Gilda so this is the best I can do

Gilda who heard her mistress’s distress came running to her rescue. Her tail was in the full mast attack position and her belly was clear of the ground by at least 2.5 centimetres. Gilda pounced on the snake and pinning it down with her front paws, she sunk her teeth into the middle of the snake and gave it a really good shake.

Donna our guestaway who is not scared of snakes dead or alive estimated the snake to be about this big.

Upon further inspection by our resident expert (again Donna) the snake was deemed to be a Natrix  Natrix or to the uneducated who don’t speak Latin the common grass snake, but as Luigina pointed out it could have been a   Vipera Aspis  (viper).

I couldn't find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

I couldn’t find a picture of a Vipera aspis. But this is a Dodge Viper and it will have to do

Luigina is full of praise for Gilda and the snake is still on show for anyone who wants to come and have a look. This coming Saturday Luigina will bury the snake with full military honours near the black fig tree behind the chicken run. Attendees are expected to wear black or full military dress uniform.

The mother of Mrs Sensibles discussing the graveside military honours include firing a volley over the grave

Workaway

A couple of months ago I found a site called www.workaway.info

The workaway concept is very simple. There are hosts who need some help and there are workaways who need somewhere to stay while they backpack around the world. No money changes hand, just a maximum of 5 hours work per day Monday to Friday in exchange for meals and a place to sleep.

I had a trawl around the site and found most of the hosts had organic farms and needed someone to help sow, dig, build or do something to earn their keep. There were also families who wanted help with looking after children and one or two old people who wanted help looking after themselves… I could probably fall into the later category but I have Mrs Sensible to look after me. Accommodation for the workaway ranged from a Teepee,(no kidding) to a self contained flat.

I thought is was a really good idea and decided to upload a couple of pictures of our house and announce that we needed domestic help in the house.  After vetting one or two people and I have to say Facebook is really useful for this task because it is amazing what people write on their pages I accepted a young woman called Chloe from Tasmania. Normally I would change her name but I have nothing but praise for Chloe.

That night I thought I had better tell Mrs Sensible about my experiment….

Part of the discussion with Mrs Sensible was, “but she is on the way and you hate ironing just as much as I do”.

Mrs Sensible really couldn’t get her head around the workaway concept, maybe it is an Italian culture thing or maybe it was her friends who made remarks like, so how long have you known her, and what if she goes rummaging around in your knicker drawer.  A week before Chloe was due to arrive Mrs Sensible said “if this girl is arriving on Monday we had better spend the weekend tiding the house and getting it ready!!!!!  It is defiantly an Italian culture thing, “we have a guest coming, you start cleaning and I will start baking”. No amount of protesting from me about the lack of work there would be left for our workaway experiment cut any ice.

Even after Chloe arrived there were problems. My wife was mixing up the concept of workaway and guestaway. Due to Italy’s Ferraogosto the two-week period when Italy grinds to a halt and everyone heads to the sea, both Mrs Sensible and I were at home while Chloe was with us. So Chloe managed to do a maximum of around 1 to 2 hours work a day the rest of the time we spent showing Chloe places like the King Palace in Turin, wine tasting at the local cantina or we went out to eat at our favourite pizzeria. We also spent a fine Sunday morning sat in a cafe drinking aperitif. In the house the two of them sat and watched videos or disappeared and went shopping. My wife would say Peter please go and fetch the washing in and I would splutter but but we have a guestaway…

Both Mrs Sensible and I are back at work and today I received another application from a workaway, Miss X from New Zealand is due to arrive on the 12th of this month. I will warn Mrs Sensible after the weekend because no way am I spending this weekend cleaning the house. I have sent a very detailed e-mail to Miss X from New Zealand with the work that is involved including, ironing, cleaning the bathroom & kitchen and mopping the floors and under no circumstance must I have to fetch the washing in or should she spend the day shopping or watching videos with my good wife Mrs Sensible.