1st day on the month heralds the 1st day of winter and we awoke to a hard frost the like of which we’d not seen for several years. It blew a section of cement off the cistern where some couch grass had grown up between the tiles and the cement former, so after the white receded it was refilled to prevent any worse damage. We picked up a hose to clean the mud off the car and it snapped! The ice inside and out had made the plastic brittle and we now have 2 sections of hose. Despite the national statistic board saying this was the hottest driest start to the winter for 200 years with temperatures hitting the mid 20’s in the sun, friends eating out under their portico, a blast of northern ice was forecast to arrive in the 2nd week with high winds so we hastily lowered the canopy of the pergola and lashed it to the iron table, rather than see it head for Rome.

As part of Mike’s Xmas gift this year I made him an Advent Calendar, simply it’s a large piece of fabric with various sized pockets randomly numbered and hung on the back of a door. With help from some close friends who brought over packets of sweeties, not seen here, the pockets were filled and those items too large held a star on a ribbon to get a packet from a hidden bag. Mike entered the spirit of the thing and eagerly opened each pocket every day, sometimes devouring the contents before the day was over!

The second week was destructive, a hot water bottle burst in the bed, not fun, the seam around the neck parted. A plastic measuring jug split down one side, fortunately without and contents it was being washed, another joint that parted. The thermometer in the fridge stuck at 70f, how or why it ever thought the fridge was that hot?! A button came off a coat, propelling itself across the room missing the cat by a fraction, this was at least fixable. To continue with the theme we dismantled Ann’s sink, she wanted to recover the flip up tap to use instead or the normal knob type which hurts her hands to manipulate, took down lights, recovered wall switches and removed a shower head, when on a roll go with the flow.

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We had a hail storm, snow shower and rain with thunder all within 2 hours, talk about all or nothing! Mach1 seriously annoyed when I opened the door for the 3rd time and it was still not nice, so he bit me and used his litter tray. But the week before Christmas was mild and sunny, we sat out and topped up the vitamin D watching the robin hunt for bugs in the grass, which had begun to recover from the drought in the high 20’s. The nights dropped to 4c and the wild things came and dug up the bulbs and fences, so kept fit with running repairs. Being mild we even complained it was too hot at night and haven’t bothered putting the electric blanket on!

Contrary to our normal Xmas day, lounging in bed with toast and marmalade and a cat watching a good film, this year we joined friends for lunch. They had expected their family over but the costs of flights rocketed and their daughter and son-in-law, living in Rome, bought and trained a racehorse (they train others for a living) and have been doing well and needed to be at the stables for the Xmas racing. So a huge freezer full of food needed eating and we didn’t need a second invitation to enjoy good company and a delicious meal. Traditional fare with bread sauce, crackers, xmas pud and mince pies, a complete blow out.

We re-invited them all back to us for New Years to consume our planned Xmas dinner.

Mach1 left in the early hours to do his securicat rounds when at about 3am there was a blood curdling scream and battle cry. Leaping, falling and generally tripping over ourselves from sleep we rushed to call him home, it was chucking it down so worried why he hadn't appeared before, Mike at boiler door, I at front door calling and entreating. The yell came from the direction of the olive grove and we heard it through the double glazing so it was impressive. 40 mins later there was another battle scream from the quadrangle, again we leapt from the bed and yelled for him to come in, silence. The silence continued....we worried, fretted thinking dire things. I recalled with awful clarity the book " the day Jean Pierre was pignapped" by Paul Galico and the ghastly pictures I thought were so funny when I was 6, we were thinking wolves, Eagle owls and the like. He rolled in damp but unhurt just before 5am. We have some inkling of what parents go through fearing, rape, pillage and disaster while waiting up half the night now.

He slept on the bed as if nothing happened for the rest of the day, typical cat!

Sad news a friend lost their German Shepherd dog after almost 13 years as a constant companion, no time is good but this coincides with the 2nd anniversary of losing her sister . Good news received was Dad1 has the all clear no spread of the tumor so the stoma can be reversed after consultation later in the month and Pa2 has an appointment to have his cataract done in January.

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