A very long gap between blogs… Peter did write a newsletter but still. The reason is that a very dear friend died back at home. My friend Liz succumbed after a two year battle with cancer and, although she had been very ill, everyone had every hope she would now get better but it was not to be. This is one of those times when it is really hard to be living far from home. But I needed to go and Peter found it quite hard to manage all the work in The Lemon House by himself. Although the actual physical work is doable, the psychological effect of being responsible for lots of other people’s hard-earned holidays is not easy.
On the train on the way back here, I drank the worst coffee I ever tasted. One shot of Lavazza and half a litre of water, in Italy this would not be allowed to be called coffee. And then shockingly, we heard that another friend, Luigi Salis, had died of a heart attack. He had been so helpful in arranging cycle races in this area and allowing many of our guests enjoy a piece of the colourful local calendar. A hard act to follow. Our thoughts are with both families.
A few days in the UK makes me miss home for a while these days. A momentous occasion indeed, nephew Kieran got married, something we could not miss. Wonderful weather in Scotland for the wedding, a gorgeous place, all my family together… And I don’t think I have ever seen a happier couple. Just lovely. Left: Jenny and Kieran and their parents and grandparents, right: me with best man Liam. Then a couple of days in London to top it off, great fun to see Diane and Rosemary, Shekhar, Elizabeth and her brand new baby boy Lucas (5 days old in the photo on the left), another special moment.
We have been back a week already and all was calm till I discovered my driving license had expired. Just as well I have my own personal bureaucratic superhero. Peter Paperhead had it all sorted out in no time, I just had to queue up several times to get various receipts and an eyesight check and I now have the piece of paper that allows me to drive till the new license arrives. Whew!
Our ads to sell The Lemon House have appeared in Germany and the UK so we have had a couple of enquiries. This is very unsettling of course, since although we know we want to go ahead and move onto other things, there is a certain reticence to give up this fascinating period of our lives. We took some photos of the house which we did not think to do before someone asked…
But the victory of the Tories in the UK elections and the speed with which they want to run the referendum on leaving the EU had brought home to us our affinity with the European project and distance from the Little England view. Peter is now applying for Italian citizenship and every day gives me a blow by blow account of some bureaucratic nonsense involved. Lucky me😢.
All of Lotzorai turned out last weekend for a Cortiggias event, two days of open house with local food and craftwork for sale or display all round the village. Our guests thought it was the best food they had eaten in two months in Italy. For me, the nicest thing was the atmosphere, everyone working together and celebrating their own culture with pride and humility at the same time. Well done, the Lotzoresi! Left: the interior of an old house and the donkey on the ground floor, above, a plate of pasta with cheese and wine.
Peter and friends have now repeated all but one (Butterfly 6b+) of the 11 routes up to 6a / 14 routes up to 6b /18 routes up to 6b+ bolted recently on the NW side of Monto Oro (sectors Uttolo, Il Piccolo Principe, il Pozzo, Rolling Stones, San Pietro, 27 routes altogether) near Baunei on the E coast of Sardinia. We are now recommending them to guests, whose feedback is very positive. Until now at Baunei for grades 5-6a in the shade until about 1400, there were only the 3 routes (2 x 5a, 4b) bolted by Peter & Anne at Monte Scoine. The access to the new Monte Oro sectors is much easier than Monte Scoine (short walk on dirt road, no need to risk hire car!) and the easier routes are better. In the photos: Philip and Philippa from Switzerland enjoying Ebona, 6a, “For us one of the highlights of our vacation on Sardinia was climbing routes not in the guide!”. Right, Peter on Meatfly, worth 6c+ for non-obvious crux section at top after strenuous climbing on holes. On shade almost all day. Great climbing 😊.
Last week we had two celiac sufferers and we were happy to confirm that the local restaurants are catering for this, no surprise as there is a very high incidence of the condition amongst the local population. There is a large selection of foods ‘senza glutine” in the supermarkets too (see photo above). I repotted some plants on the balcony but no contest with the beautiful arum lilies given to me by my neighbour Tonina (see photo right). I used them as an excuse to buy a little vase.
Peter spent two days laughing at the cartoon titled Wife of Pi shown on the left. A woman is shown sitting at the doctors with her husband saying ‘He is irrational and he goes on and on’. Ha, I know how she feels. One of Peter’s Sard friends even calls him “Pi”, pronounced “Pee” like his initial. When not giggling, he was stressing about a Google update which penalises websites which are not well-adapted for mobiles. Luckily he found a fix which required hardly any effort but we both wasted a day trying other things out first.
Now the weather has turned a bit cold and there were a few cloudy days. Now it is just very windy but I slipped in a day of kayaking and now I am about to start a new knitting project if I can find something I like…..
There are 14 food ingredients which are quite likely to cause a severe reaction if someone has an allergy to them. Peanuts was no surprise but celery ?? Anyway, now I know what they are and have the certificate (see left) to prove it. This is because as of this year, we have a new law which states we have to display any possible food allergens in the food we provide. Who would have thought a carrot cake could be so risky….. Thanks once again to Advanced Food Safety in Wigan for their helpful course.
I have had a thorn in my thumb for 3 weeks. Today I tried to dig it out but it is still there. I should never touch the pot plants without gloves….. I am still on the bread making course and finally made some at home (see photo right). It looks nice but is a bit hard really…. I had a weekend in Rome due to Peter’s teeth, he had to go to the dentist and since there were no guests for the weekend, I went too. It was as glorious as always.
Now the Lemon House is full again with a delightful group of walkers from Scotland and Yorkshire, our accents are growing stronger by the day. The weather is nice now and some of the hardier guests have already been swimming. Any day now I will brave it.
As predicted, we got really quite busy last week. But just before, there was a quiet day and Ada invited me along on an all-girls cycling trip. I thought she meant just us but when I got to Francesco and Elisa’s house, there were seven others there, age range 60 to just 8. This last was Aurora, a girl from Cardedu who is the kind of person who makes you happy to be alive, just to watch her jumping on and off the bike – she cannot reach the saddle and the ground at the same time! We all made it to the beach at Museddu (see photo left) through the back roads and fields of wild flowers and some of us continued as far as Su Sirbone, a beautiful ride down the coast beside the red rocks of the Marina di Gairo. Not very strenuous for serious bikers but quite enough for the first outing of the year, some parts of my body told me later.
Then the house got full and a couple of days had to be spent cleaning rooms and getting shopping in. But one day in the laundry, I glanced out towards Arbatax just to check the oil platform had not moved. I have been waiting for it to be floated out, it was obviously near completion, and I have always missed them going out before. I shouted for Peter to bring the camera, sure enough it was in the middle of the bay and heading for the headland… (see photo). Another few minutes and I would have missed it, that would have been sad. An amazing thing, bigger than the village it looks, it will be towed to Norway now.
Our second kayak trip had to be shorter than usual as the sea was quite choppy and afterwards we were asked where would be the nearest place to see a nuraghe, the Bronze Age structures that are all over Sardinia. We suggested Scerì which is near Ilbono and I decided, given it was early evening, that I would like to go and see this one again so I went along to show the way (see photo). The nuraghe at Scerì dates from the Middle to Late Bronze Age, so is about 3500 years old, a conical shaped tower but in two parts, a lower chamber leading to a staircase where you can get on top and have a fabulous view of the countryside all around, with the sun just setting, it was a perfect time to be there. The Domus de Janas below the nuraghe is a very special place. These so-called ‘fairy houses’ are actually grave sites and this one is said to be much older than the nuraghe, dating from 3500-2800 B.C. And walking under the weirdly shaped stones, you can feel that this has been a sacred spot for a very long time.
Finally we got in the kayak. Normally this is the first thing I want to do when I get back but the weather was not great and there was a lot to do. But on Monday we went as a group from the house, four guests, Peter, Francesco and I. It was quite sporty getting in… But none of us got very wet at the start. We kept quite far out from the rocks as there was quite a swell but it felt wonderful to be out in the fresh air at last. (See photo left in front of Su Sirboni, Marina di Cardedu)
We stayed down there at the Marina di Cardedu and Peter went off to check out one of his mountain bike rides. Our guests did the lovely Is Seddas walk, an interesting three-hour hike over the nearest hill. I stayed with Francesco chatting till Ada could get down from her job in the hospital and the three of us went out again in the kayak, the sea gradually calming as the day went on, Francesco keeping us in stitches with his silly stories.
Ada had subscribed to a course in making the traditional Sard decorative bread “Pani Pintau”. This is a bread which you can keep for some time made from semola, a type of grainy golden flour ground from hard durum wheat. The first lesson was this week so I decided to go along. The course was oversubscribed but some people did not turn up so the organiser let me join, I think she liked the idea of a Scot on the course. This week the teacher, a well known expert from Tertenia, brought the dough and we got to copy her shaping the traditional Easter breads, little circles with points and doves, with a special spot for your hard-boiled Easter Egg. I forgot to turn mine over at the correct moment so my doves were facing away from each other (see photo right). But apparently this is another type of design with a name referring to your mother-in-law I think she said…. Doesn’t sound very PC to me….
Peter has has a bad tech week, our web site became inaccessible for a while and I had to get out the tranquilliser gun. But as usual with these things, it all came right with a few hours of waiting and patient restarting all the components.
We only have four guests so there has been very little to do in the house this week but at the weekend we start to get busy and from Sunday the house will be full.
Well of course it started to rain as soon as I posted that there was always sun. It rained seriously for a couple of days, putting a temporary stop to my painting of the table on the roof terrace. My heart was not in it anyway. Last year I painted it grey to match the railings and because the varnish was all patchy. It looked fab for about two weeks, then it all started to peel off and it looked worse than ever. By then we had a full house and I never had time to do it again till now even though I love painting on the roof. So now it looks good again but who knows for how long (see photo on left).
I had hoped to go kayaking and we met up for a pizza with Francesco, his wife and daughter, Elisa and Emma, and my kayaking partner Ada but the forecast was for choppy seas for a week, and when I walked along the beach at Porto Frailis the other day, there were quite big rollers coming in, reminding me of the UK seaside, as shown in the photo on the right. There are other things to do here in the wet: there are some fantastic caves, like the Grotta Su Marmuri in Ulassai and, in the same village, if you like modern art, the Maria Lai museum. Maria Lai was born in Ulassai and left many wonderful pieces to the village on the condition they be exhibited there. The old railway station of the village has been refurbished as a gallery and her imaginative work can be enjoyed all year round. I love it, a mix of paint and fabric and thread with fables and ancient village myths, with many women and children represented, again Sardinia shows its unexpected treasures.
And what else can you do when it rains here? Well, walking around in it is not much of an option even for a Scot, it really does pour down. I took up knitting and sewing again when I stayed here over a few winters which was satisfying but now we do not have enough cupboards for all the sweaters we own. I cook of course and have spent three days this week making lemon marmalade from a recipe I found on the Internet when we first got a full crop of lemons from the tree outside. That one tree makes more lemons than you could imagine. I have just made another 7 kg of marmalade bringing my total this week to 21 kg. The cupboard is full, as you can see from the photo on the left. That will keep us going till autumn and I would make more as it is very satisfying somehow but I ran out of jars. There are still quite a few beautiful big lemons on the tree so in a month or two I will make another lot. Have to do it before mid-May though, after that it is too hot for making preserves.
Oh and there’s shopping for breakfast things and cleaning the house. This is quite a big house but it is easy to clean as it is all hard surfaces. Peter is a whizz with the Hoover (yes, really) and I do the rest of the cleaning. As well as the English couple who arrived 2 days ago, a German couple emailed last night and are arriving this afternoon. So no more long lie-in in the morning, not for months now as there will be breakfast to do every day. But new people to get to know too, that is what makes it all such fun.
So here we are back in Sardinia after 4 months away, a necessary and welcome break after the long season of being up for guests every day. The journey from Rome was uneventful, the overnight ferry the usual surreal experience with the driving test. This year it was reversing the car 100m in a narrow gap between previously loaded cars and the ferry workers pretending this is the only way. Well it is boring for them, I am sure, with only a few cars to load, in summer they do not have time for these games.
Arriving at The Lemon House with some trepidation, we discover that the winter had been kind, with not too much rain and only one room needs some redecorating. The rest are just dusty and with a few days cleaning and a few repairs we should be ready for the first guest who is due in a week. But it is quite depressing and I am hungry, that is never good. Thankfully Peter has learned this lesson and makes a sandwich and his usual cup of tea. The lemon tree is looking very shorn. (see photo below right) Our friends Francesco and Giulio have given it the pruning it so badly needed but it is just a few sticks with lemons hanging off them. I have to make some marmalade soon, there are only two jars left and we get through 30 kg or so in a season.
We make a list of jobs but this makes me sad as I cannot do the things I prefer since my knees went. I can only paint a strip around the walls at waist height since ladders are hard work now and kneeling not possible at all. So Peter has to do the painting and I just get cleaning. Still I manage to stick on a loose granite block on our outside wall (see photo) with some kind of superglue called Mille Chiodi (1000 nails).
It takes a whole day to clean the kitchen, since the walls have to be washed and inside all the cupboards wiped down. But it has a marvellous effect, the sparkling windows cheer me up and then Tonina, our next door neighbor who has been keeping an eye on the house and putting our mail inside, pops in to say hello. As lots of people stop when I am painting the front window, I realize we are part of the fabric here, the locals smiling as they see us back working, a strong sign that the spring has arrived and soon the village will be more lively. I see Rosina across the road and go over to greet her, she will be mad with me otherwise! She gives me coffee, a huge bag of oranges and shows off some of her embroidery, traditional style linen with delicate edging which is so beautiful. I ask her son Attilio to take a photo (see left). Sardinia welcomes me back, it’s surprising as ever, fine art work in the houses of ordinary hardworking people. And the sun, always the sun. It is good to be back.