The Delightful Down-unders…

An Australian Mom & Dad, two nearly teenage sons, Mom’s brother, who sported an Italian first-name and then, Dad’s sister rolled into Codiponte last Tuesday with n’er an idea of what had been happening here since the Friday before. Lovely to be on vacation… was the reply to the news of our earthquake. They were not going to let a few little jiggles get in the way of it either. And, they didn’t. The Aussie-crowd briskly knocked-off visits to Le Cinque Terre… getting there by every known means of transportation which, apparently, they adored the adventure, Lucca ending in a crushing down-pour, a bit of Versilia for a dip in the freezing waters of the Mediterranean Sea and a day of relax in Il Poggiolo’s Garden. I treated them to a pasta lunch, they delicious fixings for an aperitivo with Our English Friends in the village.  You arrived, and to his amazement, could speak Italian with the Mom. She had come with her parents & brother to visit relatives in both the Veneto & Puglia. A round of applause for the Australian People!!! My batch were polite, appreciative, fun, interesting, laid-back without fault. They even managed NOT to have a car-accident on the wretched detour though unaccustomed to driving on the right as they are. Gads.

I spoke too soon…

IMG_3516A HUGE series of tremors have just hit… on this fine & sunny Sunday afternoon… one after another. Have you ever seen a stone house, a 5,000 sq. ft. stone house jump up & down? Nerves shattered. Doesn’t take much after a week of this. New cracks. You wonder what the point is. Now more to clean up. That must be the point. Gads.

Quake-ville, one week later…

IMG_3516Knock on wood, I believe Mother Earth’s 5.2 anger of Friday week ago has abated. Oh, there continue to be scosse… or, tremors… and two or three have been formidably scary. I’ve stopped going about town on foot. The current Game of the Week is… no sooner has the World trembled than la gente… or, folk… pop out of wherever to pursue me & others to ask if we had felt the earthly thunder of 2 minutes before. This evokes My Earthquake Lecture 2013…

Dear Fellow Codipontesi, if it were not for these tremors, we would have another bone & house shattering earthquake. Yes, lo’ in me do they excite Fear & Trepidation & Flight on My Two Feet, however, they are necessary, they serve a useful function, they are Our Friends. NOW GET OVER THEM… GET ON WITH YOUR LIVES… & LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

I actually do not include that last bit. It was included here to add color to My Speech.

Also, I can gladly admit, as a sixty year old adult, with absolutely NOTHING TO HIDE, and now too a veteran of a 5.2 earthquake, that I sleep with the front door open and a light on, just in case. The Dogs would rather I not. Tough.

The rest of the recent tremors are just rumblings from afar… deep down & afar, where they belong.

People are still eating & sleeping at the Croce Bianca. You & I have guessed about 40% of the refugees are there out of Fear. Frankly, I think it is High Time for them to GO HOME, CONFRONT The Fear and MOVE FORWARD!!! The other 60% have good reason to stay = their houses are kaput. I am very sorry for them too. In other sectors, many other citizens continue to slumber in their cars… . if that is at all possible in a FIAT Panda 4×4… or, in their own pup-tents erected in grassy strips along side their orti… or, vegetable gardens. And, during daylight hours, still others refuse to go to work!!! This just pisses me off no end. The Cute Builder, who has diligently worked all through the post-earthquake week…  semi-nude too. Wonderful physique. He’s working on his tan for the beach on Sundays, he told me… on the two houses under his supervised reconstruction below Il Poggiolo. Yet, his twenty-something worker-boy DID NOT!!! Too afraid he said. This did not stop him, HOWEVER, from scooting around with his new girl-friend in her look-what-daddy-bought-me black SMART-car. Cornuto!!! Cornuti!!! I have half a mind to go to his mother and violently RETRACT all the nice compliments about her son taking on this PAYING summer job. Lo sapete… i giovani d’oggi non si godano tanto di lavorare? You do now.

You & I dragged the Australian Mom & Dad… more about them in another post, Guest Group #6. The Best yet!!!… to a Panigacci Party at a friend’s restaurant in Equi Terme, the thermal bath locale situated directly above last Friday’s earthquake. Yeah… gosh. About the bill-of-faire… panigacci are similar to rough-meal crepes. Terrcotta saucers are heated in an open fire. When piping hot, a batter of flour, water & salt is poured into them and then stacked to squish them flat. Olive oil & Parmigian cheese, pesto or a meat sauce are smeared over them. Big Yum-yum, as You says. We went to demonstrate Our Solidarity to Our Friend and Those so severly hit by the earthquake in the little village of Equi. The restaurant was not packed but it WAS lively with gente. And, from the constant tremors too… a conveyor belt of earthly movement & roar. Wine glasses, bread basket, plates would hop, hop, hop to the other side of the table. We ignored it to dive into our panigacci.

I think we have all had enough of earthquakes for a good long while. Too bad they just can’t be exported into space. What damaged could happen in a VOID? Gads.

Earthquake deus ex macchina…

IMG_3516If I were to write a three act opera about an earthquake, the next to last scene in Act III… the finale would be, of course, a resounding chorus involving Joy & Dancing & Fireworks… La Protezione Civile Squadra would majestically descend upon the stage in a dusty white SUV… its motor growling to a stop… and painted in large, graphically visible, letters in orange & blue… one fellow in a pit-helmut, and a baritone too, would step out & sing an invigorating aria about wishing to check on the house for any structural damage… tra-la-la-la-la! Admittedly, this is not the most musical of themes but, it could be the highlight of the story’s line… it certainly was for me today, when two such fellows toured Il Poggiolo… an unavoidable appointment beyond My Control or Will. I thought I could dispense with it since, Our Esteemed Geometra, had already given us the Green Light on Saturday. Che sara’ sara’… after which they wrote-out a multi-copy scheda… un meraviglioso documento burocratico!!!… attesting to The Undeniable & Witnessed Fact that the entire House & Garden of Il Poggiolo is now… officially AND bureaucratically… 100% safe for habitation. EVIVA!!! In My Operatic Rendition, immediately as the third copy is torn from its other brothers & sisters would be handed over to me… The Star of the Show… all in sunder would gather about in festive costume with colorful streamers to sing & dance & make fools of themselves… A happy ending is for all…. tra-la-la-la… We have survived a 5.2 earthquake… tra-la-la-la… to live to sing the tale… tra-la-la-la!!! Gosh… I wonder if James Levine might be available to direct? Gad-zooks-to-Jesus.
Gads-zooks-to-Jesus!!! 

What didn’t shake…

A lot, as a matter of fact, did not get shook from Mother Earth’s outrage of last Friday…

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One buon segno was none of Our Left-in-the-house Religious Relics fell to pieces from the earthquake, i.e. this Jesus gem out on the Loggia. This bodes well for Il Poggiolo, I believe…. the wool portrait of Moses in the Salotto of La Casetta hung-on for Dear Life to its wall-anchors above the staircase… Julius Caesar continued unperturbed holding court in his window-seat in the Blue-blue-blue La Casa Grande… Deer-head Boris I, a gift from an American friend from Atlanta and Deer-head Boris II, a find last August at Sarzana’s street flea-market are on their respective walls in L’Appartamento Azzurro still actively controlling everything & everyone… and so on and so forth for material possessions in a quake… or, more apt… You’s Stuff. Another item, on a more altruistic note, is this amazing Culture of Volunteerism here in Codiponte, locally, and in Italy, generally. The earthquake occurred at 12:30… more or less… and by an hour later, La Croce Bianca, the local volunteer ambulance & medical service, was in high gear. All available volunteers immediately arrived to do whatever… set-up tables & chairs for meals, erect tents for temporary sleeping quarters for those who could not/would not dare to sleep in their own beds… what with all these dreadful after-shocks…  unpacking cots & blankets for the terremotati… or, earthquake victims… to sleep on or, to speed off to & fro bringing to HQ the old, the sick, the scared. Many of these individuals did not sleep that first night, nor the second too, and yet, they continued to worry, care, serve others. The same could be said for the Protezione Civile…. or, the Civil Defense. Though often manned by a mix of professionals & volunteers, from firemen to police, from doctors to nurses, rescue-men & women, etc., they came from far & wide to Casola-in-Lunigiana to begin the work needed to save, protect & serve. A silly example… I had to go & request an inspection of Il Poggiolo Friday night. I arrived at the town-hall, Earthquake Supreme HQ, and asked information from two volunteer-kids standing guard at the parking lot. They must have been about 16 yet, they were well informed, polite, helpful. Ditto for those managing the earthquake check requests. Thanks to all of them, my business was finished in no-time flat. I am sure these services & people exist in other countries… and God-bless them all wherever… but, there is so much to bad-mouth about Italy right now… I won’t list them but they start with B… I would like to speak My Praise of these professionals AND volunteers in this terrible momento dopo il terremoto. Grazie. Siete bravi. Molti bravi e noi ne siamo molto grati. Gads-zooks.

 

Mother Earth shook & shook & shook…

 

IMG_3516At a dinner with friends about a week ago, one friend said in parting, we must all look at the Moon on the 21st. It will tell us of Our Fortune. No other given explanation. Then…

at 12:33PM Friday afternoon, on the 21st of June, an earthquake hit the Lunigiana, registering 5.2 on the Richter Scale. The day was gorgeous, one to sing, dance, skip even, or head to the local in-door swimming pool. My Orthopedic Surgeon had suggested swimming to prepare for hip-surgery in September. It was a fine day to obey instructions. At The Fateful Hour, I was tootling back home in My FIAT Sports-car. I felt nothing. At 12:50PM, I stopped at a grocery-store to pick up provisions. An unexpected Post-earthquake Scene = people loitering in groups talking, many smoking cigarettes, a few with electronic ones, outside the building… check-out girls in tears & hysterics far away from their cash-registers… stock-boys doing nothing but racing about like masses of Chicken Littles… the radio blasting an announcement of a powerful earthquake in Toscana… Tuscany? No!!! The Lunigiana… yet, nothing was out-of-place, as always, like nothing had happened. So, I filed away the news of a quake and went on with grocery-shopping. Back in the car, I stopped for lunch. My cellphone squealed with a call at i dolci. It was The Tenant of La Casetta asking where was I. Before I could answer, he told me the house had notable damage from il terremoto. Gosh… I’m coming now!!! 15 minutes later, I walked into a nightmare of stucco ripped from the walls… cracks running crazily everywhere else… pictures, vases, lamps, much shattered on the floor… and then… AN AFTER-SHOCK!!! We both pell-melled out… of… La… Casetta!!! When Mother Earth had calmed herself, we toured the rest of Il Poggiolo. Similar scenes at La Casa Grande & L’Appartamento Azzurro, but less than La Casetta… per fortuna, spliced by more stomach-churning tremors. None of this had I imagined while at the grocery-store. Surveying the damage, I thought… Il Poggiolo is destroyed!!! What will I do? I wonder if You knows about the earthquake? I must call him but, he won’t answer. Damn seminar!!!… and, simultaneously, I decided to stay away from Il Poggiolo until Any Available Authorities could, would, might give me an All-clear or tape the place up. Exiled from Il Poggiolo, I toured the village… everyone was outside, in quiet groups under shade trees, many with ashen-white faces… the fear was palpable & refreshed with every recurrent after-shock. They hit about every ten to fifteen minutes… until I arrived at the Croce Bianca, a volunteer ambulance & rescue service in Codiponte. The Forces of Good were marshaling = eating tables & benches were being set up under the open-ended garage… a tent city was being erected in a next-door field… cots & blankets were being un-packed… marked cars & ambulances were racing in & out of the driveway… … the smell of dinner was wafting in the air… and always, always, always these scary, heart-in-your-throat, blood curdling after-shocks. Their unexpectedness was surpassed only by their force & noise. And it is that noise which is the most unsettling. Reminds me of bombs in a war going off right under your feet. The News were broadcasting the epicenter near Fivizzano. I suspect the press spouted that town’s name since, it is the only one in the Lunigiana anyone has ever heard about. Historic city, you see. The actual epicenter was only a 1/4th of a mile away from Codiponte!!! A website belonging to the Italian earthquake institute… INGV.it… publishes all tremors above 2.0 on the Richter Scale and places pin-dots on a map. Practical graphics. The area of hills behind Codiponte were covered in yellow dots, orange triangles & red squares… depending on intensity. You finally called. I HATED his tone of voice. Disinterested or was he afraid? I was furious. I had wanted Concern… Sympathy… Kindness… COMFORT, for cryin’ out loud!!! He rang off. I contemplated a nasty text message to him. Never sent it. That night I slept with The Dogs on a cot You had bought for Euro 5… and My 110 kilos ripped to shreds at my first turn…  under that menacing and now famously odd-looking Moon. It was Oval & corniced by black clouds. White & black. Mean looking. I did not sleep. Too cold & damp, too much going on at the Croce Bianca, too many tremors still. Saturday morning brought fewer of them, but nerve-racking nonetheless. I walked to Il Poggiolo to start The Clean-up yet, fled after a series of rough tremors, feeling alone, vulnerable and a candidate to be pulled out from underneath rubble. I spent the day making the rounds or hanging out at the Croce Bianca. More tremors. Ghastly the screams of… Madonna!!! Mio Dio!!! Come ci salviamo? To get away from these local hysterics, I ventured back again to Il Poggiolo. Needing to pee, I opened the door to You’s Bedroom Kingdom and there he was, in his black & white Birkkemberg briefs ready for a nap. EVIVA!!! I am so very, very thankful I DID NOT SEND that text message. I felt so relieved to see him, have him near. What a boy-friend. What a prince. Drove to Casola-in-Lunigiana to put my name down on a list for the Vigilli del Fuoco to come & inspect Il Poggiolo. Our construction-superintendent called to say he wanted to Tour & Inspect the house. A half hour later he appeared. An hour late, he was ecstatic. Il Poggiolo had resisted 5.2 right under its 800 year old foundations!!! The earthquake rods, re-inforced concrete wall-caps & sub-floorings had kept all together. No structural damage. EVIVA!!! He gave us the Green Light to safely enter as we wished. No need for the Vigilli. You & I ate dinner at Our English Friend’s house. Lots of white wine. Even You drank a little. We both slept in our own beds…. sort-of for me. Sunday, we toured in the FIAT to check on the other villages. Many houses were taped up. We felt so lucky. The rest of the day was devoted to The Clean-up. Tremors came & went with less frequency until… at about 5:11PM A HUGE ONE HIT!!! I was inside La Casetta. And, I must say, I have never seen walls do what the house’s did for the 7 seconds of HELL… and if you think 7 seconds is nothing, please, think again… they flapped, they swayed, they twisted & they remained intact!!! My nerves were shot though. I fled to find Roberto. He was unperturbed up in L’Appartamento Azzurro. Another dinner out with friends. Just the elixir to combat stress, fatigue, fear. We had enough space & distance to be grateful… thankful… happy to be alive and safe and Il Poggiolo still stands firm. All natural disasters are shitty… sorry for My French… from fires or floods to hurricanes & tornadoes. Those all can be foretold, avoided, dealt with. With an earthquake, you can run but you cannot hide. Wherever you flee, the ground underneath you can give way, the World around you can crumble down upon you. What’s worse… there is NO WARNING!!! Then, there is the HELL of the Aftermath. You do not want to EVER, EVER be in an earthquake. Gads-zooks.

Gotta do what I gotta do…

I’m in Genoa now. Before I could flee with two Weimaraners in a sports-car barely made for one adult, I had You… Has… Commanded… Gardening Tasks to knock-off. Here’s the list…
1. pull up & replace the dead lavender on the wall towards the ugly bright yellow house… 2. plant roses and other flora in the lavender quadrants on the ugly slope above the fruit-trees… 3. uproot a climbing rose, erroneously planted next to an outdoor faucet, and find a better home for it. I stuck it in the ground next to the Fish Swimming Pool, so it might run along that wall. Naturally, I’ll bet ya’ A Bottom Dollar it will grow in the opposite direction desired… 4. plant stealth plants… stealth, as in mimetic… where You stated… There’s absolutely no need to plant anything there, etc… 5. bush-whack the entire garden, taking special care not to decapitate any plants/bushes/flowers dear to You’s heart, i.e. the clematis, for example… 6. cut the grass nice & pretty like… 7. trim all the hedges around The Garden, including the dangerously prickly pyracanthas & the larus inundating a poor olive-tree, and rake the fall-out up & carry it off to the river for dumping… 8. spray verdigris on all roses, hydrangeas, peonies, fruit-trees ’till My Left Arm fell off…
All was done in under 24 hours of hard labor. I checked the tasks off The List, even if one or two weren’t on it, so My Satisfaction would be greater. After this hiatus to Liguria, I will have to start all over again as soon as I hit Codiponte. Gads.

And not a farmer either…

Item Two on The List might be… one I abhor to do…
is several Reliable Sources in Codiponte have reiterated to me of The Necessity… No. Sorry. THE OBLIGATION!!!… of spraying verdigris every two weeks in the Global Warming Quest to Fight Fungus. Fruit-trees & roses, mostly. Others merely say… L’aria non e’ sana… and leave it at that. Less work, I can guarantee you. I would have happily taken The Battle Against Fungus to heart had not You insisted… and I mean he was milli-milli-millimeters from invoking Over My Dead Body… upon the purchase of a copper spraying tank which, besides being an antique gizmo, the bloody thing weighs a ton!!! Fine. Yes. Naturally. Of course. It looks positively late-18th Century. But let’s, please, do move on to plastic, may we? But no. Copper it was and Copper it would be. It goes without saying that Mr. You-know-who never dons this contraption. In the tacit Dvision of Labor at Il Poggiolo… There is one who commands and the other labors away. I want a new contract!!!
Yet, a few brief words about the apparatus beyond its dire fighting weight. Some left-hand mechanical genius devised that the lever to pump air into the copper spraying-tank’s chamber… All the better to spray, My Pretty… must be… without a doubt… on the same side as the hose from which the liquid spray spits. This arrangement puts undo strain on My Left Non-baseball-batting Arm. Pump, pump, pump & pump so more, only to fumble with the darn tube when approaching upon some unsuspecting fruit tree to be so besotted with verdigris in Our Garden. Of course now, need not ever fear of the shame of fungus.
The ants crawling up & down the fruit-tree’s bark must rejoice in my failure… dammit!!!
I have another spraying tank. It was once used for difoliating the crab-grass down on the Courtyard. Though it can be cleaned of its toxic ingredients, I am rather superstitions to use it, fearing that I may… God & You Forbidding!!!… whip-out an apple tree or two. Gads-zooks again.

Not A True Gardner…

 

I just cannot get into the swings of things, garden-wise, down in Codiponte. One Item on The List…
a neighbor was horrified… and I mean HORRIFIED!!!… when she heard from another neighbor that I had pruned a fig-tree, one well onto its way to bearing quite a lot of fruity figs. I am innocent. I did not prune the fig-tree. I HAD DECIMATED IT!!! Why? Well… A) I was tired of BONKING My Head on its low branches… B) I could not cut the grass on what is nearly the defunct grassy median between one level of lavender and the other just below Our Scenic Overlook, colloquially called La Spianata because, several of its gangly branches WERE IMPEDING MY WAY WITH THE MOWER!!! … and C) while sawing/hacking/cutting away, I noticed that many branches went from Stage Right to Stage Left… and visa-versa… with n’er a care as to Right-of-Way, crowding or, excusing themselves by emitting a mi scusate. The Italians might be quite conditioned in going right to make a left but, I AM NOT!!! I saw no reason… no Aesthetic Reason… to have branches criss-crossing their brethren branches… those which manage to stay on their side of the road, so to speak. But, the Real Gist of My Violence was… I AM NOT A FAN OF FRUIT TREES NEAR A HOUSE. The is A Rule passed down to me from My Paternal Grandmother. The Rule is very simple… all nut & fruit trees are to be consigned to the back of the lot. That way, it keeps the bugs away and also, you avoid stepping in fig marmalade on the path as you head to the garage. Once-upon-a-time, I had wanted to cut the entire fig-tree in question down. However, as soon as You learned of this Desire of Mine, I had to suffer a recurring lecture for the next two weeks. I am too old for that. The tree remains but, it is subject to My Whims of the Moment!!! Gads-zooks.

The unexpected side of homeownership…

IMG_3507Oh, Lord!!! What’s going on? Every time My American Guests up in L’Appartamento Azzurro took a shower, and this was done at least two times a day, if not three, water would drip & drip & drip from that hole in the ceiling/sub-flooring.

My English Neighbor here in Codiponte suggested that it was a simple case of not sealing the connection between the drain and all those twisty-curvy PLASTIC!!! tubes. All I had to do was put siliconce on the connection inside the guts of the drain. Well, the One AND Only Time I risked squirting a silicone pistol… sounds kinky, doesnn’t it?… I made a HUGE mess. You knows nothing about this, blessedly. I now do not go beyond changing light bulbs under the heading of Dagwood Tasks Around The House.

I had to wait for the Americans to leave before investigating. The problem got worse!!! Water poured off the ceiling/sub-flooring and onto the IKEA 2 for 10 bucks sisal rugs on the floor of the Stanza dei Tini, thanks to those four-to-six total showers a day of the Americans.

I sought Professional Help. The Plumber #1, who had installed what-all had had a work related accident which has laid him low from last January. I did not seek further details. I called another. Plumber #2, who required a lengthy explanation of who I was, how did I get his telephone number, where was I and did I know what The Actual Problem was, etc.!!! Satisfied, he then told me he was too busy to take on more work. Gosh? Plumber #3, barely answered his mobile… flicking the switch of his skepticism when he saw Caller Unknown… made a series of harrumphs to My Abbreviated Curriculum Vitae, but said he could show up after 5PM. Fine. I’ll go cut the grass in the meantime.

At 5:27PM, Plumber #3 arrived down at the Medieval Bridge. I hobbled out to introduce myself, adding that My Hop-a-long-Cassidy Routine was due to a nearly intolerable Hip Issue. He was more interested to see what was going on with the shower. A good Sign, no? We went to inspect the ceiling/sub-flooring… a few harrumphs… then, we went up to L’Appartamento Azzurro for some more harrumphs. Plumber #3 asked for a screw-driver, made two twists to the thingy-ma-jigger of a chrome drain-cover, turned on the water, skipped down to check the ceiling/sub-flooring and proudly said… Fatto. What? Two twist and that’s that? Si, si. How embarrassing for me. Plumber #3 offered A Lecture… twisting the screw of the drain-cover tightens the connection of the guts of the drain to all those twisty-turny pipes. Ahhh,, the Wonders of Modern Plumbing & PLASTIC!!!. We made a tour of the other three showers to twist to make sure all was A-OK with them too.

Total time? 13 minutes. And the cost? A bistro glass of a very chilled Ligurian white wine & 20 minutes of chatting out on the Loggia. VIVA L’ITALIA!!! Gads.