The size of her clothes are now getting quite past.
For twenty long years
in this big blue car
I’ve had a companion
driving both near and far
But it wasn’t till
Thursday I came to my senses
This old, old friend had potential new tenses.
He sits over the
mirror guiding the way
Both during the night
and during the day
I see his head and I
see his blue feet
As he gazes down at the driver’s seat.
I look at him now and he’s definitely male
I can tell by the length of his very long tail.
You see, despite
children, she’s single, my Mouse
And this life-long friend could be her new spouse.
He’s definitely handsome and he’s definitely smart
For 20 long years, my life he’s a part.
I’m thinking a
wedding in these Covid days
Would brighten the light of an otherwise haze.
But first they must meet, and see if they fit
And then we can plan it, a bit by a bit.
So Alfie I want you
to meet Mrs Mouse
She’s such a fine
creature that lives in my house.
If like it you do,
one another and all
I’ll start preparing a high summer ball.
With more gratitude to the amazing Rozi Clarke for her beautiful whimsical drawings. Follow her on Instagram @rozi_clarkeartist
Until next time….stay safe
IT’S DAY SEVENTY-EIGHT
May 20, 2020
It’s day 78
I don’t want to be late
When into a shop
I can now pop.
At last it’s the day
Hip hip hooray!!
We can go where we like
In a car or a bike.
Go down to the lake
Watch out! There’s a snake!
And even the sea
Just you two and me.
But what about Cat?
Said Mrs Mouse’s daughter.
Oh no! don’t you know
Cats don’t much like water.
To the town we will go
It’s closer you know.
We don’t have to go far
Once we get in the car.
We can fossick in nooks
And look at the books.
Not too much to ask
To wear that mask.
To the nursery I’ll go
To get veggies to grow
Tomatoes and peas
And whatever I please.
To eat in the summer
When they’re so yummier.
So come on my mate
Let’s go on this date.
It’s now half past eight
We don’t want to be late.
With immense thanks to @rozi_clarkeartists for another beautiful drawing.
Tomorrow……Off to Lucca….woo hoo.
T’was on day seventy-four
May 14, 2020
T’was on day Seventy-Four
I said no! Please, please no more.
It’s my birthday today
I want to go out and play.
But No said the Decree
You must wait just more three
Or actually four
Till you go and explore.
You can drive down more ways
To the bars and cafes
You can get a hair do
Maybe even a shoe.
But it’s today I celebrate
I want to share with a mate
It’s time for a cake
And I’m not going to bake.
On Monday it’s true
We can go for a shoe
In fact, we just oughta
For Mrs Mouse’s daughter.
She’s grown up in the days
That have been such a haze
74 days alone
Staying in my home.
Next week! It’s the jive…
We can go for a drive
If we’re all still alive.
Collect the mail
Drink a cocktail
And even a pizza
Me and the Mizza.
With thanks again to @rozi_clarkeartist for my beautiful Meece on the Birthday card.
Stay safe everyone…. this too will pass.
Mrs Mouse meets Mr Plod
May 10, 2020
Its only fitting that Mrs Mouse is out with her daughter on Mother’s Day but….look closely, I think the daughter has a new ally….and it’s not one who her mother likes…..
T’was on the way home
Get out you two meece!
Get out of
Don’t you know it’s too far?
Too soon to
Not on the
You must go
Right Back to
Both you Mr Cat
And you Mrs Mouse.
But I wanted
To go in the
Picnic by the
Just her and me.
I don’t care about that.
And you too the cat.
Don’t be underhand.
You must understand
It’s for everyone’s good
To stay in your ‘hood.
So go home
The time will
To go through
To the shops
and the beach
To whatever’s in reach.
I’ll not fine
you this time
Cos I’ve had too much wine.
With thanks to @rozi_clarkeartist for her continued wonderful drawings.
Happy Mother’s Day all…….
#day70 #iostoa casa
A LITTLE FREEDOM ON DAY 66
May 7, 2020
The 64 million-dollar question of when ‘this thing’ is going
to be over is anyone’s guess. I don’t
have a crystal ball. But I did have a ball on Day 64.
A new Decreto came out last week that sent me searching for cousins. It said we could meet up with family to the level of second cousins. For an Italian that would be so easy. My village only has three main families and when we first bought here they all thought we were crazy buying a crumbling ruin 20,000 kilometres from home when we had no family ties. Even though there is a large M over my front door my search for a cousin in the village failed dismally.
My step-daughter Bec’s husband suggested his rellies on the
island of Elba but, whilst it’s in Tuscany, is still out-of-bounds for a
visit. So I had to look closer.
On Monday in anticipation of a visitor, I did a bit of
cleaning I’d not bothered about for a while, changed the tablecloth and
napkins, stacked the downstairs fridge with vino and put on lipstick.
Because we have to wear masks once we step off our properties, lipstick has seemed such a waste, as has nail polish, make up and jewellery. My Fitbit lies forlornly on my dresser, wondering when it will be fit for purpose again and the few bits of jewellery from my last visit to London, from whence I returned 66 days ago, lie beside it. I’m a bit concerned that if I don’t start engaging with the earrings the holes in my ears will close up. But they’ll probably get in the way of the mask. My glasses certainly do…. they fog up in the first moment of donning the rather unattractive blue number that the Comune delivers in a hand addressed envelope every couple of weeks. They clearly don’t expect you to go out much as they only give you two and they are supposed to be single use.
Anyway Mary was very happy to leave her restored mill down
by the river and come up, arriving with a bag of freshly-laid eggs from her clutch
of chooks. Opening the door, I beamed ‘Mary
it’s so great to see you’ and she responded ‘Shall we hug?’ We did: a big, long, tight hug; two friends,
both been alone for longer than two months, not touching anyone and trying not
to touch anything alien. Except she has a cat. And chooks.
So Mary was my #fakecousin for the night as we sat down for dinner at opposite ends of my table, having to get up to pass something. It was probably a bit pointless having had the hug, but I hadn’t thought that when I’d set the table. I knew Mary would be ‘safe’ so I wasn’t being reckless, remembering that day in 2013 when we’d handed in the last applications for permission to build my pool and, around 5.30, had a couple of wines to celebrate. I went home; she went on to do a few things before going home and at around 10pm when I was sitting up in bed reading I got a shock phone call from the Lucca hospital saying she’d had a heart attack! So she’s been probably even more rigorous than me and was in fact a #safecousin for our shared celebration.
The Decreto has allowed us out to walk from May 4, but in Tuscany it was from 1 May and my first walk was just wonderful. There is only one road through my village and I took the downward stretch, past the village hall, the priest’s house which no longer has a priest living in it, a couple of houses, a small carpenter’s fattoria, the old school house, the cemetery on the right (where I’d be happy to end up in a notch in the wall, but not yet!) and to the crossroad – one side to the village where I shop and the other side to the towns I miss so much. So I took it, past a newly sown field of potatoes on the edge of the medieval village that was lucky enough to escape the 1920 earthquake that took the original village where I live. I walked past the soccer field looking green and pristine, past the track where grown men throw cheeses on a Sunday afternoon (the local sport of tirra della forma) and on, past meadows full of wildflowers with the backdrop of beautiful mountains, the last snows melting on the Alpi Apuane, the marble mountains that separate me from the coast, and with the splendid spectacle of the fortress spread-eagling itself out on the far hill as a constant reminder that I live in ancient lands.
Yesterday, taking advantage of the relaxation I drove down that road through villages I’d not been in for more than 2 months…loving the rediscovery of the place, enjoying the myriad Italian flags flying from windows, and remembering that I’d seen my village’s on my walk, sadly flying at half-mast for the more than 29,000 deaths from CV19 in my adopted home.
I found my way to a plant nursery I’d not visited before, wanting to buy seedlings, as my man Toty has been busy preparing my veggie garden, and the type of geraniums that are supposed to hang lusciously from baskets for my top terrace. Every year I look at other people’s and wonder why I can’t get the same lush growth, and this year maybe I’ll be here to tend to them a bit more and rival my neighbour’s.
I also wanted 15 lavender plants. 30 years ago we planted a hedge of box near the clothes line, now a meter and a half tall, and three years ago they got a disease which mysteriously came in the summer and went away in the winter. My friend Linda called it the Chelsea Blight as it was all around London too. Anyway they picked up again after summer and I didn’t pull them out. Last year was the same and I thought of reefing them out but I was so busy with the revolving door of guests, I left them and on Sunday I looked at them and thought, ah lots of new shoots, looks as if they will be alright this year. On Monday they were dead; all of them.
Yesterday I said to Toty, please pull them out. I’ll get some lavender to replace them. Normally the nurseries are overflowing with lavanda, but guess what, not a single plant available anywhere in the valley. These are strange times but at least I can now start planting my veggie garden and look forward to its abundance in the summer.
Driving home, slowly, annoyingly for the cars behind me I imagine, I had a lovely time reacquainting myself with these charming villages and lovely homes, grey stone, flags flying, neat laurel hedges, the beginning of geraniums in their window boxes. One of the things I’ve always loved about this area is that the Italians don’t trick up their houses to an inch of their lives: bits of crumbling stucco and paint not renewed every year or so are quite acceptable. I remember having a tongue in cheek letter published in Melbourne’s ‘Age’ years ago as a response to all the ‘Tuscan dream homes’ being advertised saying they were nothing like, and not nearly as nice, as the real thing.
Noon came and I was delighted to hear the church bells ringing, not from one village, but five different ones as I drove home…each on a slightly different time scale. A minute to midday, a minute past, three minutes past. And I smiled to myself in loving the imperfection. Back at home my church bells chimed at one…they’ve not got themselves reset yet for summer time, but who cares, one can crib a bit here and there in these strange times and it gives me a second opportunity for that dry vermouth on the rocks, always a midday custom.
The Mrs Mouse collaboration with my friend Rozi Clarke in Melbourne has been great fun – my poems and her fabulous drawings, and on Sunday I found Mrs Mouse had a rival. Sitting on my little balcony I spied a large green lizard running along the top of my dry stone wall and disappearing under a lavender bush. Bright green and quite wonderful, it’s a Ramarro, and it’s now been given the moniker Romeo. Sadly he’ll probably be the only Romeo in my life this summer.
I’ve been working on an anthology of things Italian, or more specifically, things from my special part of Italy, called the Garfagnana in the upper reaches of Tuscany. It’s a great lockdown activity and strengthens the reasons why I love this place. So, fingers crossed, one day there may be a book of my meanderings and photos….
And yesterday I celebrated the anniversary of the day I left Melbourne on my Gap Year. It truly was only to be a year but I was never ace at maths and I’ve been having too good a time to leave.
Meanwhile…to the orto…my veggie garden to plant my seedlings.
I love my evening activity of watering them….gin and tonic in one hand and hose
in the other….
Stay well…..from #iostoacasa on #day66.
Its Day 63 and Mrs Mouse goes to the sea
May 4, 2020
It’s Day 63
I’m allowed to be free
I can go and buy flowers
For hours and hours.
But what about me?
Says my Mrs Mouse.
You can’t just flee
With me in the house.
I’ve been here for you
Now you want to shoot through.
I want to come too
To just be with you.
OK Mrs Mouse
Let’s get out of the house.
Shall we go to the sea
Just you and me?
Well no, we can not
She says, it’s too hot
And I’ve got my daughter
She too likes the water.
Just go get your gown
I said with a frown
Just make sure you don’t drown.
I’ll go to the car
We’ll be going quite far.
We can drive through the hills
If you think there’ll be spills
Please bring your pills
And we’ll go by the mills.
Up into the mountains
Past those water fountains.
Then we’ll into the tunnel
And out through the funnel.
How different the air,
We’re nearly quite there.
Down to the flat
If you see that cat
Please put on your hat.
It’s time to disguise
To avoid your demise.
It’s Day 63
We both can be free
We’ve arrived at the sea
Just you, me and she.
OH DEAR……POSTSCRIPT …………………….
Poor Mrs Mouse
So sick of the house
With beach in her dreams.
But not all as it seems.
Not allowed that far yet
Not even a pet.
And we have a few
For the cat has come too.
Just look in the corner
Like Little Jack Horner.
That cat that you fear
Has followed us here.
So home we must go
Until that Decree
Which says, Mrs Mouse
We CAN go to the sea.
Enjoy my friends and stay safe.
We are tutti nella stessa barca…all in the same boat.
Hopefully Mrs Mouse will have her wish soon..
Thanks to the talented #rozi_clarkeartist …for the wonderful drawing.Do follow her on Instagram.
#TuscanVillageLife – Instagram
THE ADVENTURES OF MRS MOUSE IN CORONA CENTRALE
April 27, 2020
T’was on Day Fifty-Five
I saw sweet Mrs Mouse
Let’s go for a drive
Let’s get out of this house.
We can have a good chat
And even a pat.
Mrs Mouse don your hat
Look out!!!! There’s that cat!!
Where are you, you brat?
Hiding under the mat?
That silly old cat
Only fancies a rat.
Come out Mrs Mouse
We MUST leave the house
Its day Fifty-Five
It’ll help me survive.
Now its Day Fifty-Eight
I still wait for that date.
She said, can’t it wait
I’m afraid of that cat
It might think I’m a rat.
No Mrs Mouse!
We must leave the house.
Go get your hat…
I’ll shoo off the cat.
Mrs Mouse got her hat
And I caught that cat
And out we did walk
To have a good talk.
I said Mrs Mouse
You can stay in my house.
I’ve got used to you here
And you’re really quite dear.
Without you alone
And so on my own
For day after day
No walking, no way.
I must stay in my house
With you Mrs Mouse
Till Day Sixty-Three
When I think I am free.
With thanks to my dear Rozi Clarke for her beautiful illustration.
Until next time…..
It’s DAY FORTY FIVE and I’m still alive…
April 15, 2020
The one constant is my wonderful view. Every morning the first thing I do is look
out my bedroom window and fall in love all over again. As I have done for the
last 33 something years. And every night as I switch off my light the last
thing I see is the ancient fortress opposite, still lit from end to end with
the tricolours of the Italian flag. And,
despite the challenges in this country, I am glad I’m here. We have a brilliant
medical system and a Prime Minister who decided at the beginning of this
pandemic that people were more important than the (already awful) economy.
This morning I recalled our excitement a few months’ shy of 34 years ago when we wended our way up through these hills for the first time. Our plan was to buy a moderate place maybe with a bit of land and with a view to become our holiday home – albeit a full day’s travel from Melbourne, but so what? We could do it and it would be fun. Three years later, on our first visit after the restoration, we brought an eight month old Hugo to a giant stone house in a tiny village where we were the only foreigners and everyone thought we must have come from Perth, which they pronounced Pert, because it was where so many folks from this area went after the war.
It never occurred to me then that we would live here, or
even weirder, that I would live here, or even weirder still, that I would live
here alone for more than the forty days and forty nights of so many biblical
events that we all learned about at school and I, for one, promptly forgot
I read a week or so ago that the origin of the word
quarantine was Italian…or Venetian to be absolutely correct, and reminded again
yesterday by my Aussie friend Alison, quarantined in her two roomed apartment
in Milano, that the Italian ‘quaranta giorni’ meaning ‘forty days’ was the period
that ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go
ashore during the Black Death. Perhaps the NSW State Government should have
acted upon that before they allowed all those infected people to go ashore and spread
CV19 in Sydney.
Anyway, I’m on DAY FORTY FIVE ….. and, if I’m lucky I MAY be
released in another 18 days. That will
be a total of 63 days for me, but I read rumours that it may not end for
everyone at midnight on May 3. For some,
deemed more vulnerable by a DOB issue, it may be longer. Speriamo
that it doesn’t!!!
I was cleaning up a bit yesterday – I focus on one room at a time to ease the boredom – and came across my Fitbit lying forlornly on the bedroom dresser, wondering when it would again be fit for purpose. I put away a bunch of warmer sweaters that I had been alternating for the sake of variety and my winter boots that were definitely not made for walking, this year anyway.
I went down into my cellar and found some shorts and
t-shirts the other day and in glancing at my new boiler I gave thanks that the
weather had warmed up. In the first four
weeks of this quarantine my oil bill for heating was over $1000. Oh well, at
least I’m not spending money on anything else.
Then last week when I was all kitted up for my fortnightly shopping, which I dread, I was foiled by a dead battery in my car. Hardly surprising, I have only been out three times in 5 weeks and the shops are but a few kilometres away. Fortunately, my trusty mechanic Claudio was in his garage and he pottered up the hill to install a new battery within the hour and I gave thanks to all the wonderful small businesses in this valley whom I have depended on so much, particularly in the last 8 years when I have been here so frequently.
Our conditions are much more onerous than anywhere else I know of. I have been to the supermarket 4 times and to be honest, it’s not a pleasant experience. Only 4 people allowed in at the same time, we must be masked and gloved and the line-up is 3-4 metres apart. I wear clothes that can immediately go into the washing machine. I only take my list (if I remember it)- written out neatly (for the first time in my life) according to how one navigates the shop so I don’t have to retrace my steps. I take a credit card which gets disinfected when I get home. I wear my own gloves, then a pair of theirs to select the fruit and veg and then toss them in the bin as I leave and put on another pair. When I get home all the shopping stays outside whilst I disinfect the kitchen surfaces and fill the sink with bicarb soda for all the fruit and vegetables. Everything that comes inside gets wiped down with medical hand wash before it goes away and everything with hard surfaces, and the shopping bags, stay outside for 4-5 days until any possible bleezens (my friend Rozi’s word for all nasties) can die. Then I throw my clothes into the washing machine or isolate them for a week before I wear them again. Sounds extreme? Yes, it probably is but this is how we do it here. Over 162,000 people have been infected in Italy and more than 21,000 have died including around 100 doctors. At least our Comunes are distributing masks to every person in the country.
I’ve been trying
to revive last year’s geraniums and thankfully, as we didn’t have a harsh
winter, many of them will blossom again this year. On my kitchen window sill
there are small pots with tiny shoots of sunflower and geranium, and coriander,
I hope, and outside I’m waiting for my tomato seeds to shoot. I can’t wait
until we can buy plants and seedlings again so I can actually create some magic
in my garden, and for Toty to prepare my veggie patch for its annual summer
haul. Or for him to open my pool so I can
shed some of those Corona Calories. Speriamo. It seems to be my favourite word
these days. We hope. Yes, we do.
Like many of my friends, I’ve been busy cancelling travel arrangements. London in a week or so for the annual Anzac Commemoration; the 60th birthday party I had planned for 13 of us in Sicily to celebrate Carmel’s milestone; and 2 weeks in New York with my American friend Cynthia for fashion week and my own pre-birthday party. I’m hoping the world is safe enough to travel in later in the year because I am so looking forward to Azerbaijan and Georgia and Armenia which is booked for September, but who knows? Perhaps it will all happen in 2021. And, to be honest, if I can travel this year, I want to stay in Italy as much as possible and give back to the country I love so much and call home.
Anyway stay safe my friends. Thank god for Zoom and crazy pub quizzes and WhatsApp and people who care. And my neighbour who made me a beautiful Easter cake.
Until next time……If
I can get to Day 45 and still going, you can too…..
Oh….and Mrs Mouse
may surprise you with another appearance shortly…
Baci e un abbraccio…..
REMINISCING IN WEEK SIX
April 6, 2020
Finally it seems as if spring is in the air with the sudden growth of the – not grass really – weeds…and I long for my Toty to sneak up the hill with his mower before I disappear into it whilst hanging out the washing.
I can hear the noises I so associate with this place: tractors and chain saws and I realise that I have not heard them since last summer, and that warms me up. Whilst I can’t yet buy seedlings or seeds even, I did plant some sunflowers I bought in Australia and their tiny green leaves are popping up from the red pots on my kitchen window sill. From last week’s freeze, the sun now shines and although the air is still cool, it is warming up and with that my spirits are lifting. The other spirits, those found in bottles, are diminishing as I long to finish each bottle just so I can do the 30 paces there and 30 paces back to the garbage bin.
I did have a walk the other day, just 200 metres, but no one
smiled as I passed by and to be honest I wasn’t sure if it was allowed or
not. Now we, in Tuscany, are not allowed
out without a mask…that probably means going to the rubbish bin with one too. Or
I’ve been looking at getting a cat. I know. It’s a bit after the horse has bolted, isn’t it? I thought about getting one, or preferably two at the beginning of the year when I got back from Australia. Then I thought that they would get in the way of my travel plans. Well how’s that for a joke, Joyce??? Anyway I have been spurred on (purred on no less) by Monty, my friend Anita’s gorgeous bundle in Sicily whom she won’t let me catnap and have found that the breeder has these little numbers on offer. Not quite now but in a few weeks and I wonder whether I dare at a thousand euros a pop. Or how I’d get them from Sicily when I’m not even allowed to go for a walk. Or how many I’d get. Or whether the foxes would get them. Or the wild boar. Hmmmm…time will tell and maybe sense will prevail. Chissá? Who knows?
Meanwhile my highlight of the week is our Brits in Italy pub quiz every Sunday night. Yesterday my son called from Melbourne and we compared questions as he was creating one for his mates, and I thought, even in these dire times, how special some things can be. In teams of four, we battle it out around mostly Italy but also the UK and Spain, and last night my friend Judy Tenzing joined in from Sydney, at Zero Dark Thirty her time. Last week we came equal second and last night with a new name, La Triviattas, we were victorious with 50 out of the 60 questions right. Usually we drink lots as we go but yesterday I had an excruciating tooth ache and dived into the antibiotics and thought better of it.
As I can now sit on my little terrace in the sunshine and look at the wonderful view, I’ve been thinking back to the time we first found this house. It’s like half a lifetime ago – more even, and yet there are parts of it I remember as if yesterday.
It was a sunny warm day as we headed up the valley with Nino, the leather hatted Italian who was guiding up to the offerings in his little book in a part of Italy we’d never heard of. As we criss-crossed the valley a number of times we wondered how on earth he’d found these properties, or, if we ever bought one, how we’d ever find it again. It’s a question every guest I’ve ever had has asked on their first time up in these glorious hills.
We saw five houses that day. The first was an old mill where we had to cross the stream on a plank of wood to get to. Still full of milling equipment, we thought we’d never be able to get those huge stones removed. Anyway the scary barking hunting dogs that we had to pass on the way down were enough for me to say a resounding no.
The next offering was a charming stone house with a lovely
floorplan that could have been made into something of our style, except that it
was stuck between two huge mounds of rock and felt very hemmed in. My final answer hinged on the walk up around
one of the rocks where I was hissed at by a very large black snake, and left
standing there whilst Nino and my partner fled downhill at the rate of
knots. That was a resounding no as well.
The third house was called Il Due Pini..the two pines, because it stood between them. Nice house, not a huge view but, oh dear, situated right under high tension wires. Nothing would have let me say yes, even if the owner had welcomed us which indeed he didn’t, instead chasing us out with a big stick. Later we met the English couple who purchased it: sadly both died too young and we supposed it was the location under those wires.
Number four was a crumbling ruin on the side of a hill and we were let in by a statuesque lady who came down the hill with a bunch of keys. Room to room we went, each seemed to have a different lock, and none flowed into the other. Full of old wire beds and cobwebs, and not much of a floor or roof, it seemed way too big for what we wanted. We saw a little white-haired old lady in a purple cardigan shuffling along the walls outside and were told it was another neighbour who kept chickens and angora bunnies and quail and pheasant in the old stables – all for the table of course. Climbing the crumbling steps to the broken down terrace, we were stopped short with the view. It was our one non-negotiable, a view, and here we had it, in spades.
The last offering was a lovely villa in a small square in a tiny village just a stone’s throw away. Lovely house and yes, it had a view, but we didn’t want to be in a village, we wanted land and freedom to grow veggies and fruit trees. And by that time we’d seen The View we wanted.
This morning I found some photos of how we saw the house on that day. Looking at them I wonder what on earth possessed us to undertake a project of this kind from the other side of the world. And I ask myself would I ever have thought, all those years ago, that one day I would be holed up here, on my own, now into six weeks, sheltering from the worst catastrophe in my lifetime? Funny how life turns out, isn’t it?
Soon I might continue with the story of Mrs. Mouse….but not today, I want to lie in the sun with my book whilst I can. For tomorrow I must don gloves and mask and sterilise surfaces and carry hand gel and a heavy heart as I make my way into the town for my fortnightly shop. Today I feel safe, and content and hopeful that we will once more enjoy socialising and travel and art and opera and family.
Stay safe everyone. The figures in Italy are going down and we will overcome.