Monday, July 28, 2014

On the road, again

Yeah, I've probably used that title before for a post.  I'm too lazy to go back and check.  And given that we live on the road that we do, this probably won't be the last time you see that title.

The Maberga Consortium's new administration is getting right down to business.  Yep, an italian elected body that is delivering on its campaign promises.

Um, ok.  There were no campaign promises, there was no campaign.  The few of us who reluctantly volunteered to "hold office" in the rag-tag group of land owners knows as the Maberga Consortium have one charge and one charge only.

Fix the fucking road.

So the last couple of weekends a few of us did just that....we happen to be the same "volunteers" who hold office.

Here we are, rather proud of ourselves after a job well done:

But let's not jump ahead.

Here was the project:

Just a small pot hole about 1 meter in diameter and approximately a foot deep, located on the edge of the road, above a crumbling support wall.

Actually this was the second bit of road done by this group.  I didn't join in the neighborly fun for the first project because a) it was a much bigger job and b) I'm basically useless in these kind of projects.  For example, I can't really do this:

Well, I can but no one wants me to because I just slow them down.  I'm also not allowed to do this:

or this:

The only other woman there helping is probably very capable of doing all those things that the able-bodied men did, but instead she joined me in doing this:

That woman happens to be our president.  So she also had the fun job of being in charge.  Look at her in action:

Oh, I forgot to say that we did a little of this BEFORE we started working....

which may have been a mistake...

Anyway, it's all done now:

And our cars are grateful to everyone who helped:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


One of my favorite rituals of the summer season is the annual hanging of the beads. That was a sarcastic comment.  There's very little at all nice about the Italian version of a screen door.

a.  they come in one size fits all.  This means that David and I spent an hour today snipping off the end of each individual string of beads, sliding the extra beads off, and re-knotting it so that we didn't just spend 30euro for a set of plain strings.
b. they don't really keep the bugs out which is in fact their intended purpose.
c. they give the house a definite 70's feel....not in a good way....if there is a good 70s feel.

On the upside, because I am despite my overflowing font of sarcasm, a very optimistic person:
a.  all those extra beads will make some lovely jewelry.  I really love accessorizing to match my house.

b. they keep more bugs out than NOT having them and they are slightly healthier than the chemical spray bomb we've been setting off every morning for the past week.  Ohhh, the carnage.
c. yeah....hard to turn the 70s thing into something more than what it is.

Summer in my corner of the world also means swimming in the sea. lovely, cool dips in the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea.  Or, it would be lovely if it were brilliant blue and I were dipping in it, which it isn't and I'm not. It been really stormy and rainy - happy orto, angry sea.

  However, in another corner of the world that I'm fairly familiar with summer means cool (really cool) dips in the Lake....which I have done already this summer.  See

yeah, so that's obviously not me but rather my sister and's hard to take a photo of yourself when you are in the water.  The camera gets wet.  Trust me, I was there and in the water.  

 Yes, I was just back in Wisconsin a couple months ago (or weeks, if you count like my dad).  Why the extra trip?  Weeeeelllll, let me tell you.  

Summer also means that this chic has a birthday.  

This year was a big one.  You can see that because she's holding up the number on her fingers.  It's hard to buy gifts for a girl who has everything so, in addition to that nice Coors light that her husband gave her for her birthday, my parents decided to give her her sister. They flew me home just to surprise her.   How cool was that?  My sister and I thought it was pretty cool.  My mom and I also gave Laurie some limericks we wrote ourselves.  Most of them can't be published on my G-rated blog.  That's a fuckin' shame because several were very funny.  Anyway......

that's about enough for right now because summer also means renting bikes with 4 wheels and riding them along the sea before stopping for dinner on the beach....which is what I'm off to do right now. 

PS.  my parents asked me to post this really flattering photo of them so you all can see what special people they are


Friday, July 11, 2014

Sorry I haven't been blogging....

I've been watching my cucumbers grow.

Ummmm. there's been other stuff too, like my sister's 50th birthday......ok , photos of both to come.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

A typical Sunday in Maberga

7am:  I am lounging in my pj's on the couch in the front garden with my journal, the dogs and pot of coffee, and all the neighbors drive pass and beep.  They all have their weed whackers.  It's Maberga road cleaning day. Fuck.

7:05:  I am still sitting in garden, still in pjs, contemplating how rude I am relaxing whilst others are working.

7:10: Dressed, I leave my garden/coffee/pj paradise with broom in hand.

NOTE:  Maberga Road cleaning means that any able bodied person (man) with a weed whacker meets at the gate at the bottom of the road (obviously much earlier than 7am) to cut back the nature that makes a very small road even smaller.  Being someone without the ability to use a weed whacker I am useless.  Having seen Italians sweep after they weed whack, I thought, well, I have a role.

9.15: sweeping like my life depends on it and trying to catch up with the noise of the weed whacking neighbors ahead of me, I contemplate why they are working UP the road instead of DOWN.  It seems obvious in my mind that shit goes down hill, so why aren't we.  Another example of Italian inefficiency.  I run up the road a ways to work down hill.

9:16: I give a mental apology to my wise Italian neighbors while by back seizes from leaning down hill to sweep. I turn around and begin working my way back UP the hill with my broom.

10:15: I arrive at neighbor Franco's house.  Yes, to those of you who've been here, his house is about 100 yards from my own, where I started....3 hours earlier.  I meet Franco and Augusto, who apparently are the only able bodied men with weed whackers.

10:16:  I try to defend the usefulness of my last 3 sweaty, dirty, exhausting, back-seizing hours, whilst Franco and Augusto explain to me that the wind will do what I've been doing....with a lot less effort.

10:17: I am sitting on Franco's patio with a plastic cup filled with bubbly white wine, chatting about the nature of nature and how it just keeps growing, while Franco's wife Lisa is taking fresh bread out of their wood oven.

10:45:  Franco and Lisa's lunch guests arrive so Augusto and I take our leave.  I still have a bit of sweeping to do.  Augusto laughs at me and tells me to get in his truck for a ride back to my house because a. I must be tired and b.  I don't need to do any more sweeping 'cause the wind can do my work with less effort.

10.46: Augusto and I are drinking another fizzy white drink (from a can) and discussing David and my "house project 2014" which is cutting a window in the kitchen.  He talks me out of doing it and then leaves to have lunch with his wife.

11:30:  I'm back on the couch, this time in the living room for a nap that is obligatory when one is drinking fizzy alcoholic drinks before noon and doing back breaking physical labor (yes, sweeping) in the 85 degree weather.

2:30 - 5:00: And I am sitting at my sewing machine working on my newest project which is a fabric patchwork mosaic that looks something like this

and contemplating that being an artist is a lot better job than being a street sweeper.

5:00 -7:00  Is for weeding the orto, specifically David's hatch chili peppers because David will be home on Friday and their maintenance is, well, rather important.

7:15 Bubble bath... where I contemplate whether I like drinking bubbles or floating in them better.  Floating wins. I put on my pjs.

7.20:  I start dinner. 

7:22:  Water boiling on the stove, NPR on the computer, the power goes out.

7:22:05: I switch the breakers (is that the right terminology?  probably not...anyway, I check that I haven't just jump something) then I call Lina. I don't know why but I like her to know when something goes wrong at my house.

7:23 While talking to Lina my phone dies, dead battery.

7:40: I sit down to dinner, contemplating why the power has gone out, whether it is likely to come back on, why I don't regularly charge my cell phone and if I'll need to pass a night here with no means of communication and light only from candles.

7:41: I freak out, a little.

7:42: I'm in the car driving to Badalucco to go to my friends' bar to charge my phone.  Still in my pjs but with a sweatshirt overtop.

8:00:  My friends bar is closed. 

8:20: I arrive at the only open bar in Taggia, order a prosecco and some electricity to charge my phone. 

8:20 - 9:00: With my phone pugged into the wall, I watch the nightlife of Taggia which consists of all men, mostly from Eastern European countries, drinking coffee and fizzy white drinks.  The bar tender orders a pizza and offers me some.  I decline having eaten a bowl of chips that came with my prosecco.  I leave and offer him a tip.  He declines, with a smile.

9:15: I arrive home and find every light in the house on and all the zucchini I picked from the orto and foolishly left on the counter gone.  Ruffino smiles.

All and all, not a bad day.

Friday, June 06, 2014

I have to avert my eyes

Going up to the land where our orto is, we have to walk through the neighbor's yard.  It's just the way it works around here.  I'd like to say he doesn't mind, but he probably does.  It doesn't matter either way since going through his land is the only way for us to get to ours.  We've got legal rights. go from here (our house)

to here (our orto)

We have to go through here (the neighbor's land)

I don't really suffer from obsessive compulsive personality disorder.  Ok, well, before I leave the house for an extended period of time (like trips to the US, or .... say....running to the store for milk)I run from the car back into the house 10 times  to make sure the gas is off, and there is no fire left burning in the wood stove (no matter when the last fire had been lit), and the gate is close with the dogs inside.  Yeah, ok so I do that but it seems like an insult to people who actually do suffer from OCPD to say that that qualifies me.

Having said that, I would kind of like to have OCPD.  I would really like to be bothered by the dog hair on my floor. I would love to be bothered by the mould growing across most walls in my house. I would really really like to be bothered that all our things official are collected in folders with very specific labels like "important stuff 2006-2013".

Actually,  I AM bothered by these things....just not enough to do anything about then.  I'm totally bothered by them, but not, say, as much as someone who will be kept awake all night tonight thinking about that horrible list of disorder that he can do nothing about (yes, I am referring to someone in know who you are).  I suspect that there are shades of OCPD and that I probably fall in the smokey grey area.

I am an OCPD wanna be.  Actually, I blame Martha Stewart..but I digress.....

So, passing through the neighbor's yard, going to our orto I see this......

Oh my god.  Are those the tidiest, most non-weed filled, straight rows of tomatoes with little crested walls to keep the water in that you've ever seen?

Check out his peppers
And his...whatever this is

Our neighbor also happens to be the 8 fingered carpenter who has made all our doors and windows He'd probably like to be more OCPD than he is...given his lack of a couple of fingers but I personally like his dark charcoal grey level of perfectionism.   We don't have leaks in the house (at least not with the work he's done). But as a colleague in the care of ortos.....

I'm fucked.

Cornwell orto 2014

Having said that, the scrappy Cornwell's do actually have fruit growing in ours

I ate these guys for dinner last night

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Just like Jesus with the fish

So I got a call the other day from the bank in Taggia.  We don't personally have an account there but the Maberga Consortium does. The Maberga Consortium is the group for whom I now serve, with pleasure, as the secretary. This wasn't going to be good.

" nsdvioais fdlkaf navdoiiasd f Cornwell David Anthony cnoi ah dsoifn af coia dfona;eifhd Maberga andoi a;if aiodf problem". 

Even after 12 years it's still sometime difficult to understand people on the phone.  My comprehension of italian can be measured at an inverse relationship to the years of formal schooling and years til retirement of the people with whom I speak. Old farmers - no problem. Young bank directors, well....

"ok.  I'll come by tomorrow to talk to you."

It seems that through the bank's process of checking whether I can be a signer on the Maberga account, they discovered that I owe them some money.  Great.

The story goes like this....11 years ago when David and I owned a house in Piedmont we found Maberga and decided to invest.  After asking every bank in Turin we found one who would take the risk of giving a mortgage to two fully employed people who happened to already own one house outright.  Italians are rather reluctant to give out mortgages.  So we found this one bank, who also happened to have a branch in Taggia where we were buying.

This that and the other thing happened resulting in the sale of the Piedmont house, the purchase of the Maberga house and the closing of the mortgage.  All neat and tidy, all completed within a year.  I'm sure that was an Italian record.

Oh wait. No, it wasn't completed.  We just THOUGHT it was completed. No, it's still going on.  As it turned out, to have the mortgage we had to have an account with the bank.  "Fine, give us an account.  We already have account with another bank so we won't use this one, but if we need it for the mortgage, fine, bring it on," is what we said.  Well, more or less we said that...our Italian wasn't that good then.  Actually, I couldn't even say that sentence now.  Anyway....closing the mortgage didn't close the account.  There was 50euro of debit from bank fees in the first year, that multiplied, compounded, expanded, gathered interest, and then fines were added.  50 euro turned into 1100 euro.  It's a miracle! Just like Jesus and the fish.

"um...." I calmly say to the bank director helping me, "why didn't you contact us and ask for the money?"

"oh, I'm sure we did.  I can see here additional charges for the postage for letters sent to you."

"hmmm.  We never got any of those."

"They were probably sent to the address you left."

"hmmm...that's not so affective then as a system, is it?"

"no.  Sometimes we send letters to people who have been dead for years."

"hmmm.  So, now what?"

"let me make a call to the Turin branch."

Trying not to listen, but, well, a little curious about the fate of my non-account accruing fines daily, I accidentally over heard that by total chance the bank director knows the woman on the other end of the line.  They did their bank director training together back in 1999.  So I waited patiently while the mini reunion went on.

Hanging up, the director looked at me.

"and?  now what?"

"well, let me see what can happen.  I know the bank woman in Turin.  We'll see what happens.  I'll call you."

Yeah, three trips to the bank later it became clear that I was not going to be able to be a signer on the Maberga Consortium account.

Trying my American best to make a deal I said, "Well, that is a bit of a problem for the consortium, but the bigger problem here is that I don't want to have an outstanding debt with you.  What if I pay you a small amount to cover the initial bit and that for your time sending all those letters that never reached me? That would clear me and make it not a total loss for you guys.  Good idea, no?"

"Wellllll, signora, if I do that for you, let you pay less than you owe, I will have to do that for everyone."

" to all those dead people you guys are trying to get a hold of?"

"well....yeah.  But anyway, Signora, you don't have a debt with us.  You just can't be a signer on any account until you pay us 1100euro."

"So, that's a little like having a 1100euro debt, no?"

"No, not really."

I'm not exactly sure if this event has heightened my frustration with Italian bureaucracy or made me love it more.

Just in case anyone is wondering how this affects my standing with the Consortium, I'm still secretary.  I just can't sign any checks. 

Stayed tuned for tomorrow's post when I tell you about the meeting of the Maberga Water Association at which we will be discussing the 1400 euro bill we received. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

She's coming...

Emily arrives tomorrow.  I can't wait.  I've spent the day getting rid of as much dog hair as possible  tidying. 

With the new and improved Casa Cornwell, there's not so much privacy. This, of course doesn't bother David and me but it's sometimes a bit difficult for house guests (those of you who've been here  know what I'm talking about).  So after I inflated her mattress, I thought it a good idea to do this.
 Actually, I'm a little jealous.  I also changed the sheets on our bed....just in case I can't resist the fort.