Cat-napping

Ciao, it’s me, Carlotta.

It’s been so hot recently that I’ve taken to sleeping outside on the terrazza where the tiles are nice and cool by night. It’s funny that not so long ago I’d sleep on the tiles during the day in the colder weather because they kept the heat of the sun.

I’m getting really high on this jasmine that surrounds me – it’s so intoxicating! Hiding in the jasmine is Corneglia. She’s a pretty wild cat and was already here for some time even before Napoleon. She hovers around us and likes to hide, as you can see.

Anyway, it might rain today so perhaps I might even decide to sleep on Francis’ bed again tonight.

Francis would like to know what those orange flowers are called. They always come out at this time of year.

Have a nice day from a very busy cat. Or I should be if I wasn’t such a great procatstinator!

PS One thing my butler has done is to continue his blog at

 

https://longoio3.wordpress.com/

 

Do remember that you want to carry on following me and my friends!

Summer Madness?

The beginning of the brexit talks farce is now in full swing. If it wasn’t so real and hurtful I’d class it as an amusing sequel to the television ‘Yes Minister’ series.

Thank you so much Mrs Theresa Mary May for allowing my 96-year old mother-in-law to remain in the UK. Thank you so much for allowing me to enjoy a decent pizza ‘al forno’ and a proper cup of cappuccino in London. A thousand thanks for allowing us to enjoy strawberries and cream at an English summer fete (appreciations to my ex-students from Eastern Europe working in the Fenland fruit farms). Thank you again Mrs May for allowing us to enjoy’ stupendi’ Italian singers at the ROH,

(La Cecilia)

and for still being allowed to have our medical mishaps attended to in what you’ve been unable to get rid of in the NHS. Thanks awfully for allowing me to go mad without being taxed upon this calamity (some people might say I’ve gone that way already – no thanks to you, however.).

(Straight-jacket from ex-mental asylum of Maggiano near Lucca. PS not available on Amazon)

And yet? Sorry is not enough Mrs May. And it’s not me that’s saying it. It’s the union which saved your country and the country I was born in from plunging into the utter miseries of unproductivity and depression it was faced in the 1970’s before hero Heath saved us and signed the marriage vows.

One positive point – I’m only receiving sympathy from my Italian friends around here and not any dreaded anti-brit backlash. ‘You’ve now got a government ‘all’Italiana’ worse than ours!’ one local said to me this morning. What next? Reduced museum prices for children, pensioners, members of the coop and those brits who voted to remain?

Let those who voted to leave the EU leave Italy and return to support their ever-inflating, price-hiking, increasingly tragi-comic-opera country….and leave la bell ‘Italia to those who love Italy and Europe and speak enough of the local lingo to be able to say more than just how to order un caffé’ ‘Americano’.

O dear! Is it the heat, which now, in Florence, is three degrees higher than in Madras (sorry, Chennai!), getting to me? Let those poor English boys wear their sister’s skirts in the torrid English weather. I’m sure their Scottish counterparts may all be in kilts by now…

(Dozens of pupils at Isca academy in Exeter stage uniform protest after school insists they wear trousers despite heatwave – Courtesy ‘Grauniad’.)

I think I need to take a cooling walk in the nearby woods with the few living beings that have any sense left in this totally mixed-up continent.

 

 

Longoio in Watercolour and Photography

Recently this watercolour appeared on our local village Italian facebook page ‘Longoio nel cuore’. It had been in Lio’s house and was now in Melbourne. Sadly Lio passed away last year (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/goodbye-lio/ ).

I decided the other week to see how Longoio looks now from as near the same spot as the picture was done.

I don’t know which year the water colour dates from or who painted it or even how it finished up in Melbourne. Perhaps someone could tell me.

It’s nice to know, however, that Longoio hasn’t changed much and that it’s still here!

Are you ophidiophobic? Then don’t read this post!

Summer, which is barely two weeks away, is also snake-breeding-time in our part of the world. There are eight different species of snakes in Tuscany but luckily (for us) only one is poisonous. The viper or vipera is easily recognized by its almost triangular head and particular skin pattern. Its greatest concentration is in the Maremma in southern Tuscany.

Providentially all snakes are shy animals and will only react if you tread on them. Unfortunately this is an easy thing to do especially in the ever-lengthening grass and undergrowth of this season. The non-poisonous snakes are called ‘bisce’ here.

So don’t go around in sandals or even barefoot on the Tuscan hills. Wear a decent pair of ankle-length boots.

A couple of weeks ago we were dining at Santina’s, a highly recommended trattoria at Sab Cassiano and famous for its tortelli, when someone drew our attention to these snakes.

Yes, it’s the season of love for snakes too! Bet you’re not so contortionist in your love-nest……..

I didn’t get much closer to work out if they were of the poisonous variety but the two were certainly having a truly kinky time as this film will also show,

 

If you want to know more about snakes then there’s a useful page at

http://abcterra.altervista.org/wordpress/serpenti-italiani/

And if you’re bitten by one then check out the remedies on my post at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/aspicious-rescue/

 

PS If you are an acute sufferer of ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) then I suggest you move either to Ireland or, if you wish warmer climes, emigrate to Sardinia – both snake-free islands thanks to saintly intervention.

 

 

 

 

Pawsitive political attitude at Longoio

In Bagni di Lucca it’s the political season too. Four candidates are standing for mayor of the comune. A mayor in Italy gets elected for a mandate of 5 years. The post is not ceremonial and is rather like being a UK council leader.

One of the candidates is Claudio Gemignani, an old friend of mine. I was glad when he turned up with his crew outside the chiesina at Longoio the other day.

 

I am not going to bore you with what each candidate’s policies are, especially if you are not a resident here. All I’ll say is that Claudio is honest, approachable, experienced and devoted. He’s served under two previous administrations as events assessor and when he was out of office Claudio dedicated himself to his local community of Gombereto in organizing the last big mediaeval festa in Val di Lima and also in arranging other events such as those associated with the patron saint. Moreover, he’s been industrious in restoring the upper chapel in Gombereto and the church on the hill at Guzzano after extensive earthquake damage there years ago. He’s always been careful with how the comune spends its money and, in respect of this, brought a councillor friend of his who has ensured that Pescia’s mayor is now behind bars for embezzlement of tax-payers funds.

I always keep my cards close to my chest when it comes to local election time but I have time for Claudio and wish his campaign well. After all, Italy’s biggest enemy is corruption and anyone who stands strongly against it is worth our fullest consideration.

Our cats agreed too and took an active part in the canvassing proceedings. Carlotta particularly appreciated the councillor who discovered Pescia’s mayor’s embezzlement.

And two of my cats improvised a dramatic version of that mayor’s imprisonment.

Whatever the outcome (and the elections are on June 11th) we must avoid a cat-astrophe to the comune at all costs….

 

 

 

 

 

Fill your page with the breathings of your heart

There are no better palliatives to the disease so many humans inflict upon mother earth than to return to nature and all those beings who are one with it. There are delights upon this planet that will never change our lives.

Like this shepherd and his flock passing up a gorge I saw on my way home to Longoio the other day:

What greater influence upon keeping calm can the scene of this person, alone but not lonely, with his dogs and his sheep, have?

What greater delights can our ripening cherries have on the palate of our thoughts?

And even in the worst of the ‘acquazzoni’ (‘showers’ in Italian but they are more like mini-tempests in this country) what happiness can Flip (one of my ducks) impart when she enjoys feeling the rain drops on her candid plumage?

Let us enjoy even the smallest everyday things of life. Let us always be one with nature. Let us savour each minute of our lives with the enjoyment given to our first glance of anything beautiful and with the custody given to the thought that it could well be our last on this planet.

 

Cherry Ripe (Soon)

It’s that time of year when the hills are alive with the sound of strimmers and lawnmowers. Yesterday taking advantage of the fine weather we’ve been having, with fresh mornings building up to a not over-hot mid-day, I tackled my own grass-growing problem.

I found that the problem lay not in cutting the grass but rather in not cutting it for my ‘orto’ was so full of beautiful wild flowers that it was truly transformed into an earthly rainbow.

I solved the problem by leaving patches of wild meadow about the place which will also please the butterflies.

My various trees are all beginning to flourish.  The olives promise a good harvest this year:

It’ll also soon be cherry-time,

Which reminds me of that gorgeous song with words by Robert Herrick and music by Charles Edward Horn. Horn was also a singer and performed in Stephen Storace’s ‘The siege of Belgrade.’ Storace’s sister Nancy, incidentally, was the singer specially chosen by Mozart for the part of Susanna in his ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’. But I digress…

(Cherry seller from ‘cries of London)

Here are the words of the song followed by my favourite recording of it:

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy

If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer there
Where my love whose lips do smile
There’s the land, or Cherry Isle
There’s the land or Cherry Isle.

Spring into Life

Do not expect to drink mountain spring water from your tap even if you live half way up an Italian mountain. When we first moved to this area in 2005 our tap water was horribly chlorinated. Later the chlorine was reduced but disaster struck when our menagerie was added to by two gold fish ‘Tira’ and ‘Molla’ (‘Push’ and Pull’ named after this adorable Italian cartoon character called ‘Tiramolla)’

The poor finny fellows died shortly after their tank was filled with tap water.

We wondered what this water was doing to our insides too. Fortunately, we have two nearby sources of spring water which will surely guarantee a longer life for us. One is just up the hill from us on the path leading past our house. The other is off the main road accessing the Controneria which we use when going to and from Bagni di Lucca.

We take on average six bottles and fill them up at this hose pipe connected to the spring water supply every time we go past…

There used to be an old TV advert test where viewers were asked to see if they could taste the difference between butter and a certain brand of margarine.

We can certainly taste the difference between official GAIA tap water and our lovely Refubbri stream water. Some people may object that there may be a dead goat sometimes above the water supply but we prefer anything to that chlorinated concoction served from our tap.

Incidentally, spring water makes all our boiled dishes taste better too and as for a cup of PG tips – it goes down the gullet superbly!

Th ultimate test is, of course, feline. We’ve tried testing GAIA water with spring water and our official trio of cats prefer the real McCoy to GAIA. They even resort to drinking rainwater rather than touch a drop of the GAIA stuff.

Water is truly the most valuable resource on our planet and truly defines our world. It’s more precious than anything else and I can foresee the time (sadly) when in future ages people will pay the earth for it. As for bottled mineral water transported in plastic bottles from sources so many kilometres away – I suggest we keep away from it as far as possible for that too truly is spoiling the planet with diesel transportation fumes and plastic bottles.

 

About Trolling

In my schooldays a little magazine was brought out by Nick Totton (who is now well-known as a therapist and poet – see http://www.nicktotton.net/) and friends called ‘Troll’. I had some things published in it – now all vanished into the dust of time. ‘Troll’ was meant to be a provocative and mischievous publication reacting against the orthodox school magazine and it lasted for at least three copies. I wish I knew where I could find one now. I wonder whether anyone reading this post may know?

In those technologically innocent days we little knew that the word ‘troll’ would come to mean something other than the ugly cave-dwelling creature which was depicted as either a giant or a dwarf and generally wearing a pixie-like hat. Now when ‘troll’ is mentioned it brings out for younger people the experience so many of them have had of having their on-line virtual self attacked by maligners. So many have now been bullied (some have even committed suicide) by trolls who spread discord on the internet by posting malicious comments or starting arguments or just by upsetting people in bizarre psychological variations such as posting messages which are completely off-topic or incendiary. Often these messages are sent using email addresses which may only last as long as the message is sent. Try and reply to them and your reply is returned with the message ‘’unknown address’. These trolls will then continue their action, which can only be described as criminal harassment, by inventing another email address to which, naturally one is unable to answer because it’s already been wiped off.

All of us who write a blog have received spam which by-and-large is filtered off. You know the sort of thing. Here’s a typical example: “Internet site an individual’s content %BT% is very well-accepted currently. How could i find out about information technology to start out my own vlog and as well web resource?”

I don’t quite understand the point of spam. It’s a sort of spamdexing; that is it is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes for purposes which may range from simple confusion in searching from terns to downright sabotage, infiltration of mal-ware and even phishing.

Trolling is not spamming. It is not generated against a general community of bloggers but is aimed at upsetting, menacing, harassing and threatening individual bloggers for purposes which are only known to those who indulge in an activity which is essentially internet bullying.

Recently I’ve been a victim of trolling and I think it’s important at this stage to let you know what my experience of it is. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

I set out here some examples of trolling which I’ve received. Fortunately, since trollers can change their email addresses so frequently, it’s still possible to block them and never allow their comments to be authorised on the web.

Here are three examples.

The first was received on 2017/03/29 at 6:59 pm from email address Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com
79.43.203.46 and says

Gentile Signora,
Abbiamo letto con interesse il vostro affisso… Ci siamo però chiesto perché mancava la firma.
Se mi vuole per favore confermare che viene da voi possiamo pensare a presentarci il giorno di Pasqua in piazza Le ringrazio’

Translated it means ‘Dear Madam, we have read with interest your notice. We asked ourselves, however, why your signature was missing. Please confirm it comes from you so that we may meet on Easter day in the square. Thanks.

This refers to a notice the troll put up in various places in our village of Longoio and the square is the village’s car park. What is disturbing about this one is that it refers to Easter day which is traditionally supposed to be a day of peace and highly valued as such in a still largely Catholic country like Italy.

The second troll was received on  2017/04/13 at 4:12 pm  again from Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com79.51.91.228.

It reads ‘I Heard IT Was THE last one’

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/my-wifes-illustrious-ancestor/

In that post I gave a talk about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, a famous eighteenth century artist, painter of the Royal Coach and ancestor of my wife. I have been giving talks to the University of the Third Age of Bagni di Lucca since 2008. As for being the last talk one there were two more speakers to follow in subsequent weeks. (Am I supposed to get done in before I give my next talk I wonder?)

The third one was received on 2017/04/16 at 4:11 pm from nonceranessunoinpiazzaoggi? (meaning t’here was no one in the square’, presumably referring to the message in the first troll.)
turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com 95.247.200.46

It says

?’Ma la donna vestita a stracci faceva parte del gruppo???? (But did the woman dressed in rags form part of the group?)

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/easter-pilgrims/

The woman is my wife and she was part of a picture taken with Easter week pilgrims as described in that post. Here is that picture which normal people gave such a favourable response to:

The troller always wants to be found out in the end. It is the crowning moment of self-gratification in his miserable life which is filled with envy and ignorance in equal measure. The fictitious title ‘semprealforno’ has a double significance. It means ‘always at the oven.’ This can refer to the fact that the troller spends much of his time cooking at the barbecue. It can also mean that the troller has a fixation with the death camp ovens of such places as Auschwitz. (I can reveal the troller is German. Being a German is not a condemnation – even if Basil of Fawlty Towers warns us about ‘mentioning the war’ to them. But alluding in jest to the dark past of that nation certainly is).

The troller has in the past poured dirty water over Sandra (true!!) and used bullying tactics with me, especially with his dangerous breed dog. What utterly confirms who he is, however, are his emoticons in at least two posts at the Bagni di Lucca University of the Third Age facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/UniTre-Bagni-di-Lucca-126411907831457/

Every time there is a mention to me or my wife the ‘angry emoticon’ with his name appears.

As someone who graduated in computer systems and as a former lecturer in the subject for close onto twenty five years I have confirmed, if the evidence wasn’t enough, through the I. P. addresses etc. who this person is.

I will not give his name here. It would give this specimen too much importance. You can find it for yourselves on the Unitre page mentioned above since the troll fails to understand that a ‘like’ etc emoticon can only be removed or changed by the person placing it there. (Perhaps this is a shortcoming of ‘facebook’ which admits ‘there is no option available right now to remove negative emoticon or feeling’).

Why should I have to be writing this post?  I could just shrug the whole thing off and think that the trolling guy is a sad sort of fellow who desperately needs to get a life of his own. However, I feel obliged to write this since, for number one, no-one insults or in any way hurts or disturbs my wife of forty years standing, Sandra, with impunity, and number two, for someone who is both a troller and a teacher of young children at a local school, this behaviour is all the more unacceptable, indeed disturbing, and the children’s head and parents should know about it.

(My last lecture?)