1st day of a new year and it was glorious. Clear blue skies, sunshine and mild warm breezes it was so nice we trotted around doing garden chores, fixing fences, sweeping leaves and sawing fallen wood. It was a great way to start the year off.

It couldn't last as fog and overcast skies wandered in but it was also mile, not dropping below 5c at night and usually hitting 12 during the day, not cold as such which was fortunate as we'd used a lot more wood than we wanted to having started the heating in mid November. We had concerns we'd not have enough to see us through to the end of March.

Talking of the central heating we 'd been trying to cook in the hot ashes pulled from Bertha into metal buckets, much like BBQ Hawaiian style. JKT pots very successful also baked stuffed apples well wrapped in foil and buried. Mike said to try cooking a chicken under the firebox where the ash accumulates in the machine. There's a clay roof and he suggested we tuck a tray under there. So using a roasting bag we put a jointed chicken, potatoes and spices in, put the bag on a tray and although I suggested some foil over as well he thought as the water was rated at 80c it ought to be OK. Well 20 mins later what hadn't vaporised had vulcanised & welded to the tin! I did manage to salvage about half from under charcoal or melted bag so not a total disaster but we're a long way from writing a cook book!

To discourage the deer we filled old loo cistern cleaner holders with moth balls and hung them in the trees, it ought to put off the moth that causes peach curl too on one of the very nice days we had in between the fog bound ones. The mid moth was an example when we re-pruned the apple trees and stuck tape on the cover over the day bed. That was one bad purchase from lidl the so called weather proof cover has already begun to deteriorate and will need replacing this year. Still the day was cloudless and we all, 3 cats and us, sun bathed on the south side, doing small wall fix and weeding chores as the mood struck. Hard to believe the weather was to change to seasonal norms.

The first of 3 : We attempted to sort out an INPS letter saying we'd not made contributions for the business last year, this after we'd taken all and everything to them in 2012 saying we'd closed the business, was a total dud the first time, as the office in Citta della Pieve had closed.

So as we needed to see our accountant to confirm the mini-Imu payment due on the 24th, (2nd) 40% difference between that due in 2012 and the 5% house value increase x the 5.4% rate of the cadastal value, we think as it took 2 days to find any site willing to explain it and another day to translate and work out what they were telling us, still we were close, within 50 euros and the difference was due to the anessi being allocated which we'd been unable to calculate. Still at 10 euros each to do all the forms we thought it a bargain as it was done correctly and in the past the Coldiretti have charged 25 each. The INPS (like NIS payments) was more difficult and resulted in us paying the small amount they were asking for. Then we received a much delayed letter from the bank telling us they'd close an account if we didn't contact them before the 1st January, it had been written on the 9th December we got it on the 19th January! Unable to contact anyone by email at our branch we eventually sent an email to someone in Swansea asking them to forward it, 10 days later...we get a reply saying although they can't take instructions there was someone allocated to us. In the end we had to post a letter asking to consolidate 3 accounts, and introduce them to the idea we'd ask them to confirm arrivals of money in accounts as we move it from Stirling account, change it in London, to return to a Euro account, all fun and games.

Panic, we lost our cat guest. Freddie still being very kittenish is either in play, eat or sleep mode, our boys sleep and go out, snacking in-between only asking for a cuddle in the mornings usually but madam loves a cuddle between eating and sleeping and has shredded scrap paper in the bottom draw, “killed” a carpet, dusted under the bed and caused a small log avalanche in the wood pile, loves water, putting her paw in the shower drains, watching the flush in the loos working and scooping us out of the bath and that's all we know about. She also, like our boys, follows us when we do work around the grounds. So when she asked to go out after the boys one night we let her, the boys came home, she didn't. We spent a restless night worrying about the foxes who'd made off with our brown food bin 2 nights earlier and the large owl that roosts on the southern end of the house. To our relief she returned for breakfast and brought us a very small dead shrew as a present.

In the mean time we decided that this year we'd have a massive spring clean, sorting out every room, including the garage, steam cleaning, re-arranging and staging in order to put the property on the market in around June with the idea it could take over 5 years to sell although Max had said Diana in Sarteano was selling the larger houses to foreign investors rather than ones sub-divided into apartments. The beginning of lists was begun, stuff to discard, give away, sell, things needed to be repaired, replaced, titivated, moved and relocated, thoughts even down to flowers for the pots and window boxes has been talked about. However all this cannot begin until Max has tackled the dirty outside jobs of ditch digging and tree felling as we're all ready dragging dirt, dead leaves and dust all over, with just the wood fires, and although he'd said he'd be here this month, no sign or communication since November then a quick email from Abby, his wife, to say he'd be contacting us to start work at the end of the 3rd week, just as the weather was due to get wet and colder. We were worried that the machines would turn the terraces into a mud bath as the drive was all ready eroded into “just passable with care” status.

2nd of 3 things to go awry: Mike doing his morning opening of shutters found the upstairs lights were out, I found the TV channels had also vanished, the amplifier in the attic he deduced. So up he went to test it, no it was fine but the trip went again. A faulty bulb we thought, 13 light fittings = 44 bulbs, he'd tested about half when we thought about the portico external light fitting and there was the problem the fitting was rotted and shorting out. So most of a day was taken up with this chore and just an hour taking the unit down and making safe until the spring when we'll replace it with another lantern from the attic. The kitchen light was found, a few days later, fully descended on the kitchen table, the spring had expired rendering the up/down capability useless. Back into the attic and a spare light fitting was located (never throw anything out it may be useful one day) and had to be completely dismantled, cleaned, re-configured and fitted. What should have been simple 10 mins job took 2 days, cross threaded nuts, rusty fittings and the wiring had to be tested as it looked dodgy. However it was well worth all the effort as it looks amazing and purpose bought. NO 3 occurred when the light switch in the bathroom froze, fortunately Mike was able to undo the fitting, release the switch and put it all back together again.

Talking of attic's, we got a call from a couple who had an apartment to furnish so in the midst of all the light chaos they arrived to buy the fridge, they have a B&B and they bought 4 chairs and took the cutlery. They then told us all the new laws and changes coming in this year, anyone in business now has to be vat registered, like we were which effects your taxes, they pay 15% we paid 55% (although making a loss meant we never paid), all pools over 90cm deep must have a certified life guard, water tested daily, and if you serve food, it doesn't bear thinking about, the government aren’t helping the economy by putting off people going into business and hurting those already in there. We got out just in time, thank heavens.

Annie returned, a bit poorly from a tummy bug, 3 days later than expected she came over to recover our temporary lap cuddler, still we'll have her again in the summer no doubt, but how we're going to keep her out of the pool?

The month continued to be damp, mild and clear of snow. The last week was very wet having 6” in 48 hours, flooding on the Fabro road and the fields around as the canals overflowed in places. Max deferred his arrival as the machinery would tear up our grounds, sensible chap, and the road from the house to main road deteriorated to a huge rut on the left side with running water so it looks like a stream, but 12 c with sporadic sun its not wintery really. Still with parts of Rome and the UK underwater we're getting off lightly.

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here