Twenty seven and counting

“Who the f**k is that calling us at at 8am on a Sunday morning?” It was uncle Alan calling from New Zealand to wish us a happy anniversary. Thanks Alan. It was great to chat with him. Next time we hope to be a little more cogent.

This year Jan’s birthday was during lock down in London. Colin’s birthday was also in lockdown in London. Having been relatively free over the summer our anniversary was during Orange Zone lockdown in Italy.

The bars and restaurants can only do take aways, we are under a 22:00 – 05:00 curfew and we can’t leave the Comune, so we have to make the most of it.

The day started with coffee at Arté Caffé. It’s a bit sad having our coffee and pastry in the car but it’s the best we can do. We heat up cups at home then take them to the caffé so to avoid adding to the global pile of plastic. Gigliola marked the occasion with a message:

Our anniversary lunch was delivered by Gaetano from Post Vecchia. The restaurant is only a few hundred metres inside the next Comune, but still out of bounds for us to collect.

All we need now for a perfect day is a Liverpool win in the Premiership…

The future’s bright, the future’s orange

Photo: The biggest ride possible staying within the limits of Cartoceto

From tomorrow (Sunday 15th November) we enter the Covid Orange Zone. Our region is moving up from Yellow. This means all the restaurants and bars will shut and we cannot leave the confines of our Comune. Cartoceto is quite a small Comune but we have the essentials.

At least the building work can continue.

In anticipation of this we did stock up on essentials we can’t buy within the Comune. We toured various cantinas to get us enough red wine to see us through to the new year.

As we’re not resident, then technically we don’t have a Comune to stay within, but that wouldn’t be fair, nor do we fancy trying to explain that to the Caribinieri. Especially as we have an appointment on Monday morning to submit our application for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement.

We suspect we’ll be moved into the Red Zone before we start to come back down again to the Green Zone, but we’ll see. Just like every body else, we’ll just have to make the most of it.

Breakfast on Sunday, Orange Zone style. A take away in a local park isn’t exactly the experience we’re used to but at least we’re trying to support local traders, including Arté Caffé in Lucrezia.


A small start but at least we are on our way

How long does it take from first thought to a spade in the ground? In our case 6 years. That’s how long it’s taken us to get planning permission and start the building of a garage, cantina and portico at Casa Angeletti. Admittedly Covid-19 got in the way which delayed things a bit but running through quicksand is easier than navigating Italian bureaucracy.

One of the features of Italian building sites is that you have to display this sign showing the number and date of your planning permission to show the world you are playing by the rules.

The real fun starts tomorrow when the digger turns up to excavate the hole for the underground cantina. Today was just the prologue, digging up the tiles and concrete next to the house where the garage will be going.

After all this time, a big day for us.

London calling

Photo: Not sure why we swapped the autumn sunshine in Italy for this

At this time of the year we’d normally be preparing for our return to London for the winter. Not this year. Brexit and Covid means we’ll probably be in Italy for the winter, with no idea when we’ll be in London next. If there is another lock down, we’d rather be in Casa Angeletti than in the apartment.

With this in mind we decided on a quick dash to London to sort out a bunch of stuff.

We were busy.

During our stay we bought a load of stuff to take back to Italy; cleaned the apartment; collected veggies for a food bank; saw friends for dinner; gave blood; saw our estate agent about selling the apartment some time; completed Lamb’s Passage Management Company business; rode the Italian Job with the maximum of 5 other riders; met with a company who might rent out the apartment; and finally had dinner with friends on the last night of Tier 1 for London.

Whilst out on a walk through the City, we noticed a new dry cleaners. Not sure they thought through their shop front:

We got back last night. We’re now in isolation pending our Covid test tomorrow morning.

It’s been a while

Photo: A fantastic lunch at Falco in the sunshine on the last day of September with Bernadette and Gerard.

We realised today that we’ve not updated this blog for some time. Looking back at the photographs since our last entry in July, we realised that our life has been dominated by training for and then comleting the Giro di Muscoli (see Colin’s blog) with a few guests sprinkled throughout the summer.

The last of our guests for 2020 left this morning. Bernadette and Gerard headed back to the Netherlands. Eating, drinking and chatting featured highly.

Our other guests this year were Emilia, Jyde and Arun then Andy who joined me for five stages of the Giro di Muscoli.

Now that Autumn is well and truly with us we will be very busy until at least the end of the year. Updates will be more often over the next few months as we start our garage, cantina and portico build; buy another property; apply for our Italian residency; change the registration plates on the car; harvest the olives and nip back to London for a week whilst we still can. Watch this space.

Fields of dreams

Photo: If I stay really still you won’t see me. One of our many lizard friends that made it’s home in the barbecue whilst we were in lockdown.

Fields have dominated our time back in Italy over the last few weeks. Jan has been running next to them and Colin has been doing the same on his bike, despite the heat. Returning one afternoon from a long ride the bike computer reported a temperature, officially known as “Scorchio”:

A green field with twenty two players and no crowd dominated one evening. With Man City losing to Chelsea. Liverpool became Premiership Champions for the first time. We were so glad we went to Anfield to watch them play Southampton in February – their winning season.

A few days later the fields of Glastonbury visited us for an evening. On what would have been the Saturday night top spot on the Pyramid stage we held our own Glasto. We joined a Zoom call with several friends back in the UK. We’d each submitted three songs. Carl, our host, played them with a YouTube video. We decided to make our own Pyramid stage with the jacuzzi cover.

Our songs were:

Amarillo” by Tony Christie

Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams

For some reason, for our final contribution, Jan chose “We are the Champions” by Queen. Can’t think why.

For the rest of the time here we’ve been very busy in our field. Or garden, as we prefer to call it. Our spring planting plan was conducted in the heat of July. Not the best time to plant as we’re having to water them every day. At least we have our own water well (pozzo). We did, once we’d had the pump replaced after we discovered it didn’t like being left for seven months and decided to pack in completely.

7 hydrangeas under the shade of the cyprus trees:

Another 19 oleander to provide colour and cover the bank:

Another 100 lavender plants to keep the bees happy:

and finally a couple of summer flowering plants to stand guard outside the front door:

If you know what they are, please let us know:

As soon as the temperature is little higher, we’ll claim our reward in this:

La Dolce Vita.

Dash for the border

Photo: A border of a different kind. The ‘confine’ between us and the road

President Macron obliged. He confirmed that the French border would open on Monday 15th June. We planned to leave on Tuesday night. A couple of friends crossed the channel on Tuesday morning, no problems. Encouraged, we packed the car, had lunch, then a sleep ready for the long drive.

“How long are you leaving the country for?” was the only question from UK Border Force. “Where are you going?” was the only question from the French border control. As soon as they heard “Italy” we were waved through to board the train.

We arrived on French soil at 03:00. Colin’s ‘through the night’ cycling came in handy as he drove in the darkness, though at this time year it was getting lighter again after a couple of hours. We had enough food, water, masks, sanitiser, along with a thermometer and oximeter for the whole journey but the motorway services were open. Croissant and coffee for breakfast. We sat at a public table, the first time for three months.

With no hotels open we agreed to share the driving for the 1,600km journey. We also agreed that we’d take plenty of rests. We crossed the Italian border at Mont Blanc. We just drove through.

On Monday we received news that the aunt of a friend of ours, Gino, had past away, aged 99. Gino couldn’t get to the funeral. As we drove past her village near Parma we slowed down a little, opened the window and blew her a kiss from Gino. Ciao zia Valentina.

Several espresso stops later we arrived at our Italian home, 22 hours after we’d left London.

We’d been away for seven months, the longest time we’ve not been to the house since we bought it in 2003. One of the reasons for coming this week was so that Colin could ride the final two Stages of the Giro di Muscoli (now postponed to September) on their originally planned dates, finishing on the 21st June, Global MND Awareness Day.

As you can imagine nature has been re-establishing itself both inside and out.The house has been cleaned from top to bottom and now we’re working on the land.

The shed roof blew off during the winter so we now have a very Italian style temporary solution; the hedge at the front had run wild so took hours to give to give it a hair cut; evidence of a snake making itself at home whilst we were away; a mountain of grass cuttings; the vines needed thinning to give the grapes more sunlight.

It’s all worth it though…

Time to move on

Photo: St. Katharine Docks, one of our destinations whilst taking our exercise walks

Our London Lockdown is coming to an end. At least we hope so. It’s all subject to President Macron’s speech to the nation on Sunday evening. Unless there is a surprise in store we’re booked to drive to Cartoceto on Wednesday. The Italian border is open, we just need the French border to open on Monday as announced.

Our lockdown hasn’t been too bad. We have at least been able to get out for exercise and help people out at the same time. We are both NHS Volunteer Responders. It’s fair to say that our experienced has been mixed. Colin has had a few tasks, but then they tailed off. Jan’s experience was very different. So far she has had calls to assist people from Yeovil to Nottingham. On the rare occasion she got got calls from people in London they all said they didn’t request any help or that they’ve been helped by someone else. Frustrating.

Colin has been out every week on a cargo bike collecting for a food bank in Islington. Riding with ICC team mates, we managed to recruit 27 riders in total. The team is now collecting twice a day. Lunchtime is the veggie run, the evening is the bakery run.

Jan has started running again after more than a year off following her mad 2,018km challenge in 2018 for Alzheimer’s research. She re-graduated from Couch to 5K and is now running 3 or 4 times a week.

On non running or riding days we’ve been out for walks, mostly in and around the very quiet City. Its been a joy to see the City so quiet but we’d be happy to see the people back again. Sometimes it’s been like walking through a zombie film set with not a soul about.

It’s not all been exercise. We’ve been enjoying our vast expanse of outdoor space. A 1m x 3m balcony for lunch, dinner and cocktails.

Just like so many others we’ve been using our time to sort out our nest. We’ve completed our annual clear out. One room at a time we’ve emptied everything. If we’ve not used something for a year then we get rid of it, clean the room with an inch of it’s life then decide where everything goes.

Jan has also been re-painting the apartment. She’s had a particularly frustrating time with one wall in particular. You can read how she has cleverly weaved the story of the wall into her running blog at jancanrun.

One thing we’ve had plenty of time to discuss is what do we do after Brexit? Our choice is visit Casa Angeletti as tourists under the Schengen arrangements which would limit us to 90 days in any rolling 180 days. This puts paid to us spending the summers in Italy and the winters in London as we could only stay for 3 months at a time.

If we want to stay for longer we have to become resident. Peculiar to Italy residents are not allowed to own foreign registered cars, so we’d have to either register the car as Italian (expensive as we have to modify the lighting clusters etc. for driving on the right) or sell it and buy an Italian car. And we have to change our driving, licenses to Italian ones. And pay a lot more tax. Fewer rights and increased costs. Thank you Brexit.

We have a few months to decide. Shall we visit our own home as tourists or do we become resident?

VE Day 75th anniversary

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, two minutes silence at 11:00 and a ‘1940s Gin Cocktail’ on the balcony before dinner. The recipe for the cocktail is from the Bletchley Park website.

City of London Gin, fresh lime juice, bitter lemon over ice.


Just a perfect day

Photo: Bubbles on the balcony

What would you do if your birthday fell in the midst of a global lockdown? Have a lie in of course. Another one.

Not if your uncle, aunt and cousin live in New Zealand you don’t. The phone went off at 8 o’clock. No way were we going to answer a video call whilst still in bed. Reject call. They try again. Reject call. Send message. “We’ll call you back”.

It was worth the ridiculously early start. My family had made a birthday cake with 6 candles. One for each decade.

On the count of three, I blew and amazingly the candles went out 11,000 miles away

When the Kiwis came to Italy they learnt the delights of a Moretta. It’s a liqueur coffee drink only available in Fano, Marche. Jill in particular loves it. As we were celebrating Colin’s 60th then they felt obliged to make two each to match the candles.

During the lock down I’ve kept my cycling to shorter local routes. Very local when using a trainer on the balcony. Many of my real life rides were collecting for a food bank and shopping/collecting medicine as an NHS Volunteer Responder. Today was just for me. An appropriate 60km including some country roads. It was sunny and wonderful be out on a near normal ride. I say near normal. Last year I cycled 13,000 km with an average of 139km per ride. This year, my average is 57km. Everything is different in 2020.

The day ended with bubbles on the balcony and a photo shoot. Hardly a professional shoot but as we dressed up for dinner we decided to take photos for our over 60s free London buss/tube/train pass. Jan is not keen on her photo being taken.

Dinner was a take away from Orasay. They included a couple of candles for the dessert, which was a nice touch.

An after dinner call with my brother in Hingham, Massachusetts bookended the day with family calls.

A huge thank you for all the birthday wishes I received from all over the world. In keeping with a global pandemic, they arrived by post, email, telephone calls, text, conference calls, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, and Strava.

A perfect (pandemic) day.