August 2011 Astonishing to Amazing
The robot saga. It started out simply with the notion we'd like an automated pool cleaning robot as a friend who bought one here praises it highly as it does a better job than manually with a net, uses less electric than running the pool pump all day and halves the chemical use (£300 since opening in June). It cost a bomb. So looking at the Internet we discovered we could import one from the USA at a 1/3rd of the cost, this is where it all went pear shaped. A second friend asked if we shared the transport costs would we order her one too, but for an out of ground pool. As we were going to all this trouble we thought we'd also buy a stick on border to a) enhance the look of the pool, b) hide the stain the clients sun tan lotion had left, c) strengthen the liner so we don't need to replace it for another few years.
We located a company who'd supply all 3 items then the hammer fell, he wouldn't supply outside of the USA. Three more said the same and then one said OK but he'd have to insist on using FEDEX as stuff went missing enroute before, the quote was $890 just for the carriage. NO way - it cost more then the 3 products.
Several suppliers later we discovered Bundlebox who give people from outside the USA a local address for suppliers to send the stuff to, they bundle it together (even re-packing to save on the carriage if they can) and ship by Fedex at a fraction of the cost and they do the customs, vat dockets so its all paid before hand, for a one off fee of $15 to register. They can hold the goods for 30 days for no charge then its a small daily fee after that until all items are ready to be shipped out. Eureka, we thought.
As we've no credit cards or Paypal facilities Ma's flexible friend came to the fore and then the fun really started. One of the supplier had 2 items but it would be 3-4 weeks before the third would appear. We found another supplier, who wouldn't take an out of USA credit card. To cut a long story short many suppliers, emails, calls, etc. later we found 2 companies that would supply the items and would send them to Bundlebox, one f.o.c the other charged $14. The border arrived at the shipping agents the following day, 2 days later the robots arrived but now it's Friday and the special offer of 20% off the shipping (£33) ended on the 31st (Sunday) so we had to get the stuff moved onwards quickly.
This is where the storm comes in....Wednesday there was a deluge. In 8 hours we had 5" of rain, we were flooded, the roads were flooded and a friends water supply tripped out. In desperation she called as her plumber was on holiday in Sicily and wouldn't be back for a week. Mike went over and eventually they discovered the pool, which had overflowed, had shorted the system in the electric pump. He took the pool out of circuit and water returned. Thursday more rain and Friday again we were at our friends helping with the electric’s as the pool had to work to be cleaned for guests. A five minute job took till 6pm.
Then the second blow, Bundlebox stopped the shipment as the owner of the account and credit card was not where the goods were to be delivered. Ma got home at almost 11pm to an email asking for proof that she really wanted the items to come to us. Talk about fraught! Still the order was in the system, we've had the discount and once the proof was accepted, they got Fedex to deliver in 4-5 working days.
A wonderful system if you receive the goods in the same country as the person ordering them and worth a look if contemplating ordering from the USA.
A funny thing happened on the way to lunch in Fabro. We were over taken by the Google map vehicle. We parked up as it turned passed us down a very narrow land and when we were looking from the terrace of our friends property, it drive down the old town main street and tried to turn down an even narrower lane. It failed, reversed and went along the road for a while. We suspect it will have caught us peering over the balcony and our car.
When we moved here I’d thought I would have time to practice my quilt making hobby in the winter months. What with harvesting the olives. Pruning the olives, cutting the unwanted trees, bonfiring, repairing fences, building new ones, digging drains and keeping the home fires burning, there is scarcely a moment spare. So this hobby has been moved to the summer months when it is too hot to do anything practical outside after 11 am and before 6.30pm. The last projects have been appliqué and this time I wanted to return to a cut-work design (patchwork). A friend from the quilting club in Narberth had made a wonderful Victorian type using floral materials in a log cabin design and I had been so taken by it I had asked, and was given, photos of the end result. Naturally the fabric I had wasn’t the same but I hoped to emulate an approximation and capture the essence of a Victoran quilt for myself. Another friend, from the same club, visited earlier in the year and gave me a quick refresher course in how to tackle the project, as its been over 7 years since I did something like this, and some helpful pointers too. Here’s the end result. I’m pleased with the over all effect and I’m planning my next quilt as I type.
We went to a new guide to the “Trasimeno grand tour” (ISBN978-88-87270-36-5) launch at the Vanucci hotel. The introduction, and book, were extremely interesting. The “Grand Tour” made by the wealthy heirs of Europe took over the traditional pilgrimage that the devout endured. The roads were no existent, mear goat and donkey tracks, that became wide enough for pairs of horses with a stretcher between them, developing into cart wide passages. This from the country famous for Roman road builders! Inns grew along side, although full of fleas, poor food, shared rooms and no sanitation to speak of, the pilgrims faired better at the religious houses. The landscape so beloved and treasured today played little part in the tour or pilgrimage, the focus was to experience the strange and foreign, gather momentoes to ship home (the bigger the better – think of Elgin’s Marbles), see some religious sites and meet others doing the same to exchange stories. Lake Trasimeno was usually found by accident, but the word soon passed around, with the famous and curious who came to visit. Hans Christian Anderson, John Symonds, Marcel Brion,, George Sand, Alexander Dumas, Francis Elliot, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley and many more, who’s words litter the pages, including the artists who made the scenery famous, of the guide so you can travel with them as you follow in their footsteps, experiencing what they felt and saw at the time. We discovered we were sat alongside the Marchesa who’d written “I viaggiatori stranieri in Umbria” (1987) a volume dedicated to scholars on the same subject but without the poetry.
Re-pointing the house became a priority after a large brick dropped onto the pavement. The original mortar was very sandy to ensure it gave out no the bricks or stonework in the event of any movement. The rain bouncing off the surround back up onto the walls eroding the mortar. Unfortunately the cement dries so fast in the heat of the day but with the olive season lasting from late October until Christmas, we had no choice but to start before our guests arrived. It took, what we could reach and doing only what was necessary, 2 weeks of early mornings for 3-4 hours a day before the sun moved round and cooked the walls and the new cement. In the cool of the evening we caught up with the grass that recovered after the rain.
We had another small visitor, a dark chocolate brown squirrel with a cream stripe from under the chin to his tummy and tail. He sat in our huge pine tree stripping the cones and dropping the bits all over the place. Bold as brass he walked our wooden fence and challenged Mach1 to chase him. The squirrel won. Despite searching the net the only squirrel type that comes close is the Douglas and that is from California USA not Europe.
We went for dinner with a new friend at her house. We’d known she was talented but goodness this woman has packed 3 lifetimes into one. She stared as a reporter for Reuters and went on to work for Vogue. At 23 she was a single mother and retained in the arts, specialising working in clay. Since then she’s rebuilt a ruin, with help of family, neighbours and friends, landscaped a valley with an olive grove, terraced flowers and vegetable garden., self-taught arc-welder, paints, creates sculptures in all sorts of materials from iron to cement, teaches how to see what you are looking at so you can learn to draw/paint correctly in a University Rome and she’s back and forth to the UK at least 4 times a year to deal with commitments there. 20 years our senior and her energy for life puts us to shame.
Then disaster............we lost 3 computers in 12 hours. Naturally we assumed we had a virus and switched off the Wi-Fi system sending our guests into a panic as they were either communicating to family and friends or working. We explained and seeing us up to our ears in computer bits, offered to help, as he's a computer expert. He diagnosed 1) mother board cooked and had corrupted hard drive 2) hard drive cooked 3) very odd but something not right as it flashed up, went so far and stopped. It's taken a new mother board, sent from our guest as a gift and 6 weeks, which we're still trying to get all the drivers for but have at least recovered our email information. All fun and games and they said computers would cut the working week! We were not the only people to have this happen, friends also lost lap tops and desk system and all we can put it down to is the heat 45 degrees for 3 weeks is a bit much.
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Michael & Peggy Hunt moved from Pembrokeshire to Italy two years ago. They now live on the Tuscan / Umbrian border in Locanda Delle Rose among 300 olive trees, enquiring neighbours and over-familiar wildlife. "Oddly, it is not so different from Pembrokeshire at all, " they say. "We have felt at home from the very beginning. "