Learning to Live

With the weather having been a mixed bag of sun and rain this Spring, our fields have benefitted immensely and the wildflower meadows have now made way for metre high grasses. Beautiful to look at, especially when the winds blow through them, and Pipkin (yes, we’ve named our resident hare) loves to run through them and we can often just see the tops of his ears twitching as he finds a particularly tasty patch to stop at – but they really do need cutting (the grasses not Pipkin’s ears) if we are to get fresh green growth before the dryness of the Summer really hits us.

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Translated as ‘We’re waiting …’ I’m referring to the numerous fruit trees that are dotted around our garden. Everything has got signs of the growing fruit on them so we’re preparing for a glut – even if my vegetables don’t come through (due to us planting everything two months too late) I’m sure we’re going to be over-run with fruit.

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With Spring well under way, and Summer just around the corner there’s signs everywhere of nature taking over. We’ve got tiny green peaches on our peach trees – plums, cherries and walnuts are all making an appearance, and the figs already look good enough to eat – but they’re not, they’re still hard, I tried one!

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I’d read about the postal service in Italy before we arrived here – it is not painted as the most reliable of services but it somehow works, like most things in Italy. However there’s a twist that they don’t tell you about, no matter how much you search on the Internet – we’ve since found out that it’s not so much of a service, more of a ‘fai da te’ or a ‘do it yourself’ system.

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We’ve cracked it – Marcus has managed to get our outside wood oven temperature up to 475degrees Celsius – perfect for the ideal 90 second pizza cooking session! Up until now we’ve been floundering around the 200degrees mark – with falling heat, probably warm enough to thaw an ice cube, but we definitely weren’t in pizza territory. But with research, and advice from a couple of friends and a neighbour we learned that the bricks on the inside walls and the dome need to be white – only then is it hot enough throughout the whole oven and only then will pizzas be a success.

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So there were we thinking we’d learnt the basics of the language and could expand on that over the next few months to learn perfect Italian through a mix of our ipod course and day to day conversations with the Italians. But it’s not that simple of course. Italian campsites not only have pitches for caravans, campers and tents of the ‘stranieri’, many of them also have bungalows (basically permanent caravans with a little wooden building attached) for the ‘permanente’, and the Italians who own these arrive every weekend and usually for a full month in Summer. Being based in Liguria we would be joined regularly by ‘permanente’ from Turin, Milan, Genoa … not a great distance away, but enough … and this is when we learned that our ‘perfect’ (I’m using the word loosely) Italian learned from a book and a listening course was not sufficient . It did not teach us about ‘i dialetti’ (the different dialects).

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The other day had us starting the important project of installing a water supply – we’ve not given up on the water in our well, but after two separate analyses we’re still battling with ‘batteri’ so have decided to tackle a full empty and clean once we’re up at the house and ‘settled in’.

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The Italian language is beautiful … especially when Italians speak it. My vocabulary, whilst pretty large now, still sees me grabbing the dictionary every few minutes to look up a word I’ve heard on the radio or seen on an advertisement on the back of an autobus. And I’ve put the hours in, I really have … when we were still in England and had made the decision to move here to live, we bought the language course on cd, loaded it onto our ipods and listened to it … often … dutifully completing the written vocabulary exercises as well. We also immersed ourselves in all things Italian to enhance our learning potential – I made biscotti, pannacotta and spaghetti carbonara (only eggs, no cream – see I really was learning!) But there’s no real substitute for being ‘on the ground’ here in Italy … and that’s when the real learning started.

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