Our Olives…

IMG_3971Every single one of those succulent & dangly olives have lost their green, having opted for a more luscious dark violet color. On Our Last Day at Il Poggiolo before the Christmas Holiday Marathon, way back on the 8th of December, You spent the morning hours diligently harvesting Our First Crop of darkened & ripened olives, so he could prepare them as an item to nibble upon along with sipping a tempting glass of white or red wine at Aperitivo-time. He was very excited, however, there were two opposing recipes from Our Local Codiponte Authorities for buongustiai… or, gourmands, at least, where olives are concerned. They should all know. These folk have done practically nothing else since the 1st of December EXCEPT to harvest olives as they ripen & fall to the nets gracing Mother Earth.
One substantial group dictated with great air of knowledge for the Long Version… put the olives in a pot and cover them with water for 40 days, naturally, changing the water daily. On the 41st day, pour off the water and mix the olives with a heavy dose of rock salt for another week to 10 days, again, draining the water daily. Then… ecco… edible olives! The reaction of You after hearing of this, caused him to blow-off steam and his frustration with a resounding & very Italian UFFA!!! I don’t know why he was upset. It wasn’t going to be him to remember & pour-off the water for those 40 days! Guess who it would be?
As for an hypothesis about why 40 days, I can only hazard a guess by saying it might have to do with making the meat of the olives softer, more pliant or, less acidic to the taste.
You consulted another authority… a Dear Friend from the Famous Olympic-League Dinners we’ve enjoyed this past Fall and prepared by her mother, who was… once-upon-a-time… a cook to an aristo-family in Genoa for 20+ years and close friends of You’s. Small World. The how-to info for the Short Version passed in a jiffy from mother to daughter to You, proscribing… cover the olives with rock salt and when there’s no more water to pour-off… ecco… edible olives… in less than 2 weeks!
Guess which recipe You followed? But, do you want to know something? They ain’t bad. He gently mixed them with olive oil… naturally… and timo e rosemarino for an extra kick. And, the olives now have a wonderfully rich yet, near-black color to their puckered skins.
I’d love to show you but, sadly, and with so much grateful thanks to the Computer Wizards over at Picasa… My Photo-storage App, for cryin’ out loud… who have made My Life difficult by force-feeding My Laptop with an updated program for which the old thing choked on. Apparently, it lacks the proper internal ingredients to have dealt with it. And so, and I do hope this will only be a temporary situation, I cannot now place a photo on this blog. In the meantime, I will assuage My Wounded Computer Feelings by munching on some of Our Olives. Gads.

Are you here?

Needs a question mark. Since December 2013, the start of My Winter Hiatus from Codiponte & Il Poggiolo, I have been attempting to bring myself back into the Genoese fold. It hasn’t been easy. I am a victim of My Own Perfected Condition-training. Our Genoese friends, running into You savoring a cappuccino at Mangini’s Tea Room on the Piazza Corvetto or, shopping on via XX Settembre with a niece along to enjoy his Euro spending largesse on a Saturday afternoon, ask if I am still nella compagna? since I’m not present for the odd encounter. Is it so hard to pronounce… Cod-eee-pont-ey? A further blow, and one You assuages the offense with a quick text message to me to complain, is the question is usually posed in a tone of voice indicating surprise to see even You in GE. But, it’s unavoidable… we are both here now!

And, Thank God, in the deadly lull of January 2014…

by the way, Roz Chas had a fantastic cartoon in The New Yorker of couple of issues ago dividing into 12 monthly pieces a yearly pie. The month of January showed the greatest chunk of the annual torta, each month after exhibiting an ever diminishing quotient to an infinitesimal 0.2% for the month of December. Yes, January does swallow up a major part of our attention… the cold & rain, raised taxes & utility bills and nothing on Italian TV worth grabbing the remote for. An interminably long & boring month.

You & I have been on a dinner-party whirl. Well, until yesterday, when, happily, the boxed DVD set of Downton Abbey Season 1-4 I had ordered from amazon.it arrived for Our Nightly Viewing Pleasure. We are not accepting any impegni for this, the last week of January 2014. But, between La Befana… or, Epiphany, on the 6th and last Sunday night, we have had dinners after dinners after dinners. Last week we had four invitations to dine! For one, I had to don a suit & tie. You was not amused with My Constant Complaints while I choked tying a tie that a suit & cravat are attire suitable only for funerals… in America… and those tradish-style weddings people insist on in Italy. You & I managed to make them all and not come home poisoned by too rich food & drink. However, for each entrance into a salotto for pre-dinner drinks, I was accosted by the resounding query… Ela? Tu sei qua ora?… as if I were a ghost… a figment of imagination waltzing in to shake or kiss hands. You says it’s impossible for me to be a figment carrying as is My Want 115+ kilos of white wine nourished Anglo-American flesh. But the battle of declaring My Physical Presence on the Ligurian shores of the Mediterranean Sea has just begun. Following the initial salvo, I am plied with additional positional questions… am I back in Codiponte for the weekend?… when do I come back to Genoa?… how long do I plan to remain?… any chance I’ll be back in time for so-and-so’s birthday party on the 12th of February?… and so on and so forth. Perhaps furnishing My Current Google co-ordinates might be better believed? You suggested I be appreciative of the attention. I am but, I become worn-out and seek to change the subject before the call to dinner.

It’s My Own Damn Fault. I stayed away too long in the past year. I do come supplied with a List of Credible Excuses… earthquake… thievery… the all famous bum hip… couldn’t drive after June… hip-op at the end of September… a multi-month convalescence until the first of December, due mainly to the trials of Excuse #3. I try to avoid verbalizing any of them though. No sense in boring the populace over the mushroom lasagna.

I had never thought dividing My Time between two abodes would render me a confirmed schizophrenic. Have you seen this in your dictionary?

schizophrenia |ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə; -ˈfrenēə|nouna long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.• (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.

So, this is the consequence of seeking to maintain two residences? Perhaps so. And, on the other end of the stick, I have those many telephone calls & emails from Our Codiponte Friends asking when am I… or we… back at Il Poggiolo? I might have to clone myself, but then, which half would have the most fun? Gads.

 

Roma…

The title “Roma” does NOT meant the capital of Italy. Hardly… 

Our Dutch Friend called me two nights ago to ask how I was since, I am now no longer gracing the village of Codiponte with My Presence… American or otherwise. You always says the place must be so quiet without me. Not so of late…

her question & my reply took about 30 seconds before Our Dutch Friend quickly steared the telephone conversation onto another topic… well, her topics of… thieves, thievery & theft. She came home to find 4 Roma… AKA: gypsies, zingari, gitan… 1 man + 3 women at her home, La Concia. This is that gorgeous & antique stone-complex on the opposite side of the river from us in the more modest village. At the very moment of Our Dutch Friend’s arrival back at home, her daft & confused mother-in-law was inviting the Roma-man in for a cup of tea. Meanwhile, the 3 women were ransacking Our Dutch Friend’s house, separated from her mother-in-law’s 1 up & 1 down stone cottage by several out-buildings, and stuffing grocery bags full of stolen stuff, all lifted totally unbeknownst to Our Dutch Friend… at that instant. However, the Math and the Roma-man’s attire did not take long to sink in before Our Dutch Friend began to holler… yell… scream for him and his equally ill-attired feminine pals to leave her premises forthwith. Don’t you just love the word forthwith? Adds a bit of drama to an already tense situation, doesn’t it? Still this demonstration of ire was much against the desires of the more-than-daft mother-in-law. She animatedly reconfirmed the invitation of tea. Our Dutch Friend then altered the direction & content of her invective towards her mother-in-law. The Roma-man interrupted to say he + his companions were just passing by. I INTERRUPTED the tale with… NO ONE JUST PASSES BY LA CONCIA!!!… for cryin’ out loud. It nearly breaks My Good-hip just to get up the hill to the house The Easy Way. I will not go on about what is entailed The Hard Way. The Rome-persons relented & waddled down to their beat-up car… grotesquely parked to block the driveway up to La Concia… without their recent acquisitions in COOP plastic-bags. Our Dutch Friend diligently noted the license tag. The Roma-man saw what she was doing and dared to add that the car was not his. Fine. It will still be a lead for when Our Dutch Friend goes to the Carabinieri.

All this put me in great agitation. Il Poggiolo, since the untimely & very sad departure of Our Dear Departed Neighbor, is now more isolated. Nothing left for me to do but, distribute the discombobulations. I called everyone I had a number for in Codiponte. I recounted Our Dutch Friend’s story and wantonly solicited the co-operation of one & all to keep an careful eye on Il Poggiolo. The latest news of thieves, thievery & theft shook the populace, so fresh was the report, and thus, it produced an overwhelming response to be ever vigilant.

The Roma are a problem in Europe. And, unfortunately, all it takes is for one bad apple to change the local congregation’s consideration of their entry into the country. It’s that there are so many bad apples!!! Oh, well… in with the good and we’ll just have to put up with the bad or, at least until the Carabinieri get their Roma!!! Gads.

 

Marketing…

While during the autumn & winter seasons plants grow roots, I too have been with marketing Il Poggiolo for the coming vacation rental season 2014. Last year I found 6 sites on a pay-per-booking basis. T’was not an easy task. Most want the money up front. I do too but, have little recourse. Late in Season 2013, one P-P-B was knocked off the roster…

do you all know about this already?… I knew deep, deep, deep down inside I shouldn’t have signed on the dotted line with that Dutch site from Amsterdam. There were too many nagging points of disaccord cut with big incentives to join. A Big Controversy was an iron-clad exclusivity for bookings made three months in advance. How generous. The agent, after his personal inspection of Il Poggiolo & Codiponte, led me to believe climbing aboard with such terms to join a global network of vacation sites would glitter with $$$. I asked for a pen. Scribbling My John Hancock meant I could take any & all of the three-night minimum stays of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-next-weekend-on-Ryanair-into-Pisa-and-we-fell-in-love-with-your-place bookings between the proverbial Now and 3 months hence, but not the ones of Hey!-We’re-coming-to-Italy-in-the-fall-and-your-house-would-be-perfect-Are-the-first-two-weeks-in-September-OK? made the January before. Bucking thanks either way, I received no reservations. Well, until one appeared on the boards the very moment I was given a date for my hip-op. I cancelled it. See… it’s important for me to be present for Our Guests. I like to meet them, show them around, explain how to get to the Cinque Terre by train and not get lost or mis-directed… for instance… and make sure they haven’t trashed what was wonderful up in L’Appartamento Azzurro. The annulled booking provoked a fire-storm of telephone calls & emails, mostly from the agent loosing his cut, but a few came galloping at me from Amsterdam HQ for a flagrant violation of the contractual terms. Gosh. I persisted. The agent & HQ gave up, but not before kicking me off their global team of vacation rental owners. Tsk-tsk I thought.

Since last November though, I have gladly found another five to add. But what work! To find such a beast requires frying one’s eyes & brains Googling the Internet for hours & days at a time. I don’t think anyone was born to preform such tricks. I certainly wasn’t. I persisted. Then, for two of the sites, I had to drop My Pants to demonstrate certain items of Privacy which, not even My Dear Aging Mother in North Carolina knows and she’s seen me in My Birthday Suit! Well, not recently and certainly not since I have discovered white wine. Does anyone really need to have even the last 4 digits of My Social Security Number? Fat lot it will ever do me. But really. Then, there were the hours & days of plugging in the myriad info of descriptions, amenities, photos & tags, things-to-see-&-do-&-eat. One of these sites rammed a Trip Advisor Guest Guide up on my laptop’s screen to fill out before receiving the Green Light to go LIVE. Well, trying to hunt & peck places in the out-back of the Lunigiana I normally recommend in person… drawing cute litte, easy to read maps… nearly sent me to a psychiactric ward at L’Ospedale di San Martino in Genoa, Italy. If curious, you may go to: http://forrestspears.com/ilpoggioloacodiponte at the very bottom of the page and have a go at it. Cannot tell you though how proud I am of the folk at Bar Cecchi, the keenest place to park & eat anywhere in the world. Their ravioli are yum-yum.

I have one last site to prepare… the bug-a-boo of the lot since, I must go through a call-center to speak with a signorina for any desired changes/clarifications/modifications. Then, hopefully, I can sit back & watch the bookings roll in. No big roll yet. I have one reservation from a family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I can hazard that an Italian vacation will be greatly appreciated by the time of their visit in late-March. Beyond that, only a few nibbles. Let them come though for I am almost ready. Gads.

Garden as it ought to be…

Downton Abbey is back on TV. The 3rd Season in Italian is on Rete 4. Each week’s bout is 2+ hours of exhaustion since, n’er a scene lasts longer than 2.5 minutes. The divisional Math here says the scene count runs to about 45 – 48 blips of story. Oh! Maybe fewer. There are those interminable advertising intervals of no less than 10 minutes each. If I have to endure the current fashion of watching a 30-something smilingly serve Barilla pasta to her 1.5 children sporting body-hugging leggings, I may take a gun and assassinate the TV. Instead, and with much thanks to an IT-savvy Genoese friend, we have Season 4 in English on DVD. YIPPEE!!! No ads. You is required to resurrect his English-language listening skills to follow the proceedings. Embarrassingly, ’tis I who has problems understanding the Yorkshire accents. My incessant questions keep You from falling asleep. This pays for the service of his grumpy explanations. Yet, and without fail, he does automatically perk-up with every view of the mock-castle’s broad grounds. Unfortunately, once animated, does he bother to resist in mentioning how Il Poggiolo’s Garden ought reflect Downton Abbey’s.

Highclere Grounds and Estate

In reality, Highclere Castle. Yes, fine, terrific, great, but… A) Our Garden is not FLAT. It is 7 grassy terraces from the top of the tumble down Madonnina to the former manure-pit-now Fish Pond below… B) nor is it the size of umpteen football pitches of top-choice West Berkshire landscape… as opposed to the show’s stated locale of the Yorkshire hinterland… and C) we lack Staff. These details are of no concern to Il Dott. You. No. He prefers to jab me with every sighting of wall-to-wall clipped grass lawns bordered with a simple array of bushes to trees. I have just spent two hours cruising Google to find You’s Garden Ideal to show you what he means but, without success. However, I did find this pic and am mightily happy to report this is NOT what You wants. Praise be. Or, gads.

 

Temp & talk…

Probably something only for Americans… do you remember this model of a thermostat? The Glory of late-50s technology… a superb simplicity and one itzy-bitzy step above having just an ON-OFF button. Perfection incarnate. I would have gladly chosen it for La Casetta, the only spot of Il Poggiolo needing one, what with its expensive gas-sucking boiler serving its complex of radiators needing steam heat. Instead… and here, I must point The Accusing Finger of Bad-Choice-Bud at the Electrician for the cheesy item… we got a thermostat of a particularly flimsy et plastique French manufacture called Tecne’. Naturellement, the instruction booklet was uniquement en francais. Who in the World has the patience to read an instruction booklet, much less one en francais? Odds are near zero while standing in briefs & T- in a FREEZING COLD 41F degree house at 3:03 AM since, the thermostat did-not/could-not/would-not communicate the request for 60F degrees made at 9:30 PM. Let’s go for radiant heat in the fireplace. This adventure was experienced by Our Renter, the Gragnola Pharmacist. Hard for me to imagine him in briefs & T-… he seems more a PJ-person… but anyway, he called to inform us that there was un problemino with the heat in La Casetta.

Already in the neighborhood for the sad affair of Our Dear Departed Neighbor’s funeral and before suiting up for it…

and, may I say? Typical of an Italian funeral, You & I were the only men in a suit & tie, far and away from the Standard Attire of jeans & parkas & boots. Even the priest counted in with the rugged-wear. However, he had a violet & shimmering mantel to cover his lack of formal attire…

You & I met Our Renter to survey the situation. He was right…. the thing had gone crazy. I was brave enough to pull-out le livret d’instructions. And, was wise enough to put it back in its binder. We all preferred to punch thermostat keys… temps clicked up & down the scale without nessuna provocazione. MANUEL would turn into AUTOMATIQUE in a blink. Radiators rattled when they should have hummed or, at least, stayed quiet. We collectively surrendered to… the thing was DEFECTUEUX. I gulped. Through the Natural Order of Things, i.e. I’m The Responsible Home-owner, the task of calling the very fellow who I had above pointed that finger at fell on My To-do List post-haste. But guys, it’s New Year’s Eve. The Electrician is not going to come now! Left me to struggle with tel.-temptation until Thursday, January 2nd. A first for me. I am in favor of interrupting other’s fun when mine has been too.

Call made. The intervention set for the morning of the 3rd day of January. I drove down with The Dogs from Genoa. The Electrician’s assistant, a strapping & quiet fellow, met me at La Casetta. Let me amend quiet. He’s mute. Yes, he is prompt, professional, efficient, A Problem-solver!!! and yet, extremely non-talkative. He has worked on Il Poggiolo for the last five years of Our… My Ownership and I think I have heard him speak maybe ten words… Si, No, Si puo fare, Non si puo fare, and Forse. Feeling already mightily inadequate regarding things I know nothing about… and there’s a lot but mostly electricity, plumbing, fixing a lawn mower… the Assistant’s informational skills drive me to rank idiocy. Perhaps I am just not accustomed to having someone who actually listens to me? My Orders given and completed. I just would like a little conversation in between.

And, this very absence caused me to reflect upon what I have noted over the years of Il Poggiolo’s reconstruction and now maintenance with the verbal skills & characteristics of the many, many personalities of the Italian Construction Industry we encountered. There are three principal groups and not surprisingly, just as there are in the construction/re-construction of a house…

the Chatty Cathys are undoubtedly those Work-guys employed by Builders. And, it doesn’t matter which Builder. The crews act the same. They banter and joke and kid and gossip and rib each other while lugging, tugging & towing too. There are never lulls, voids, or skips to the airwaves. You always know where they are, what they are doing and how it is going by the conversational noise. It’s kind of hard to insert a word in even sideways to all their happy talk. Thank God, there were usually only six of them tackling Il Poggiolo. Can’t imagine the decibel level with any more than that.

the Plumbers are not chiaccheroni like the first group, a notch or two below those guy’s frequency. The trade-off, however, is whatever repartee is about between the Plumber & Helper/s, such as asking for a wrench, is marked by a highly creative exposition of foul cussing. Porca miseria!!!… Cazzo! Cazzo! Cazzo!… and every now & then, merda! are transmitted unabashedly. The last expression might explain the need.

whereas, the electricians are the Silence Is Golden folk. They rarely escape the bounds of Si or No. Often, while putzing about without detecting a word exchanged between the two Electrician’s assistants, I often think they must communicate telepathically. Why the rest of us must submit to wires & switches is one of those Construction Mysteries, never to be revealed. A shame they cannot share their secrets. I think everything should be Wi-Fi!

So, the Assistant said the thermostat E’ DEFETTOSO. I have heard him now use twelve words. He removed it and put a new one in its place. Silence. He then set the clock, punched-in MANUALE and the My Desired Temp, closed the flap and bid me Buon Giorno. Fourteen. And, we have heat! Gads.