The sun is back after the rains

Last weekend the weather was really terrible.  however the rain was much needed and nobody with a large umbrella seemed to mind the soaking.  Today we are back to sunshine, the air is clean and refreshed and the autumn colours are just turning those honey golds so characteristic of Umbria.  Although not blogging I have been up to a few things, so to give you an insight of my days here goes;

I want to cover the pool and garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest House with a wireless internet signal, let’s face it everybody now has an iPad or Kindle.  I have been out researching WiFi antennas.  The proposed antennas are quite small and discrete.  I am told they have a range of up to 5kms – should be more than adequate!  I just need to clamber onto the roof to find the best point for the antenna and how we can discretely run the cable.

The other day a frenetic beeping of a van horn signalled the arrival of a box of samples for a new range of soaps and gels from Erbolario Toscano for me to test.  I would like to keep the Arran Arromatics lavender products we currently use, but I have big problems with the carriers not delivering so am looking at alternatives.  Erbolario Toscano is a high quality range of products using olive oil which is produced near Lucca in Tuscany.  Lightly fragrant and with an attractive artisan packaging, traditional Italian, the soap is really good I am really inclined to go with them for the suites for next year. (make the place more Italian hehe!!)

I am looking at an iPad mini.  I am a keen reader, I read in bed to send me to sleep however before the iPad mini  had thought to buy a Kindle Paperwhite.  I checked the reviews and was convinced, Paperwhite is the right model, the price is not bad and the book selection more than adequate, with the advantage that I will be able to buy English language books here on an Italian Amazon account.

Ok so proceed to buying process – NONE available in Italy until FEBRUARY 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!  British Amazon has delivery for w/c 14 December aargh.  I heard on the BBC Brian Sewell being interviewed about his latest autobiography and I want to read it now, by February I will have lost interest.  Three months wait I think not.   So I thought why not an iPad mini?  I have other Apple products they could all sync together.  Ok they are more expensive than a Kindle but they also do more, I could use it for music in the dining room, checking emails and blogging, stream movies and yes, read books – oh I can justify it on many levels!  Delivery 2 weeks – that is reasonable, BUT NO ENGLISH FILMS on iTunes Italy so NO point in paying more. I REFUSE to watch Skyfall with Daniel Craig dubbed into Italian

Continuing on the same theme, I am looking at replacing my computer.  As an Apple man of long standing, indeed I have never owned a pc and still have trouble working on one I thought to a desktop iMac.  Wow how the prices have shot up starting €1,400…..  Anyway it must be done so onto my Apple account to discover delivery….   NOVEMBER are we not already in November?

A friend of mine in the UK has a company car.  Last spring his company car was due for renewal.  His car of choice is a Mercedes and being of precise nature he specified color, trim, wheels, engine etc and returned to work in hot anticipation of the new baby arriving.  Scheduled for late July in time to drive over to Italy for a holiday at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, the car when it finally arrived in late August was wrongly specified, and Mercedes wanted another two whole months.

What is it with the world?  One used to be able to go into a phone store and choose a new phone pay a few pounds and take it home straight away. I can remember walking onto a car dealer’s forecourt and choosing the car from a selection and having it ready to be driven away the next day.  A ten month wait for a Mercedes!  I know times are hard but have Mercedes suffered so much?  I have visions of the workforce reduced to one man assembling the cars under the light of an incandescent bulb hehe!  Yes, I did wait 7 years for the delivery of my Morgan sports car but that was in the 1980’s and very much hand made.  I remember DVDs played any language – buy them in Paris, Caracas, Lisbon or Berlin, they all had a choice of languages, so why in this modern day and age can the Apple Store not have original language films in all countries?  And have you seen their ‘original language’ bookstore on iTunes talk about un-navigable

And to why I have not been blogging lately.  It is all Apple’s fault. I have updated my software to a Mountain Lion, all singing but not all dancing it is now inordinately complicated to upload photos onto my blog.  What was previously a simple process of finding the photo, choosing and uploading is now impossible as the small dimension extensions have magically disappeared.  Now to upload a small format photo I have to export it from iPhoto and put it on the desktop, so duplicating it and taking up more disk space and then find it again and upload to WordPress, and as to videos, no way have I mastered that.

To give you and example, recently we went up into the foothills of the Apennines behind our local town of Gubbio, within 20kms you find yourself in the Monte Cucco Regional park a wonderful place for hiking, well marked tracks meander hills and valleys  that are like entering a land that time forgot.  Stupendous scenery, isloated villages, smoke curling limply from soot blackened chimney pots, old men (and some cute younger ones) standing outside the only bar, I expected the only cigarettes available to be Gauloise untipped.  Here and there a lonely church or ancient monastery clinging to a craggy outcrop high up on the valley wall, and Chianina cattle wandering freely in the upper pastures, their bells jangling.  It was all happily reminiscent of the film “the Sound of Music”.   I half expected a Christopher Plummer lookalike to come tripping gaily down the mountain.  But no it is actually 2012 and amongst all this nostalgia there was a 3G phone signal, and with my iPhone camera I could take video and record sound which I di to upload  through my WordPress app.  But no, the video would not upload to my phone, and back at home synced with computer it still does not upload, indeed iPhoto mucked up the format, and I wasted hours trying various ways to share the delightful sounds with you all to no avail.  To my mind technology should be simple and efficient.

Back to business, I am making a few alterations to the dining room and kitchen at Bellaugello and was out shopping for internal doors yesterday.  I need two plain doors, smooth un-remarkable.  The quote came in this morning €187,00 + iva each and that is just the doors, no handles…..  My friends in the south of France posted recently on Facebook photos of delightful antique double doors for their drawing room that they picked up in an architectural salvage yard, cost €300,00 including brass handles and finger plates.  To add insult to injury there is a lead in time of ten weeks for these unremarkably dull but expensive flat doors.

Ok this has turned into a rant which was not the intention, I leave you with a photo of one of the cattle, you will have to make the sound effects yourself, just hit a saucepan lid or two together to imagine the delightful sounds from the bell, I am off to string two empty baked bean cans together, I need to speak with my neighbour over the hill!



Oh dear time for another rant….

Not far from the beautiful medieval city of Gubbio, the University city of Perugia and the world famous city of Assisi sits a tranquil peaceful beautiful valley called Valdichiascio.  It is in this stunning location that I have the great fortune to live and work.  Each morning I wake with a view over my swimming pool to the magnificent Apeninne mountains, and south straight down the river valley.

I have superb neighbours, they have welcomed me with open arms, helped me in moments of crisis and become great friends.  The valley is home to many people, some of whom have been here all their lives, some more recent arrivals.  It is a living thriving community, in the past few years many couples have become parents, there is talk of the need for a school and even opening a voluntary library, there are few empty holiday homes, people fortunate enough to have a house here live in it, and many work from their homes.  We are an international community firmly rooted to the land.

However we do need things that are not produced here in the valley and so with our internet connections or cell phones we order and pay for them to be delivered to us, and it is here that the problem lies….

I have a failing for lavender, I adore it, have planted many many lavender plants which grow well, perfume the garden and have become a talking point at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  This spring I decided to take the lavender theme one stage further and discovered a delightful lavender soap and shower gel produced in Scotland by Arran Aromatics, a small company based on the delightful island of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. Both the soap and gel are mildly perfumed, with hints of citrus, and are surprisingly masculine, so had to be bought.  The goods were dispatched from Scotland by UK Parcelforce, who operate a ‘parcel tracking system’.

I was eager to receive the consignment and put the soaps and gels in the bathrooms of the suites here at Bellaugello gay b&b so tracked the parcels through Europe.  They reached Italy within two days where they were handed to GLS couriers, and this is where all began to go wrong.  The parcels did not arrive, the tracking stated that GLS had attempted delivery on four separate occasions, to be met with either ‘address non existant’ or ‘no reply’.  I live here I was in, indeed on one of the occasions at the stated time I had been outside my front door chatting with my plumber who was resolving a small problem.

I contacted Parcelforce who replied stating that they would contact GLS  to effect delivery.  To cut a long horrid story short, eventually several days later I received a telephone call from the GLS driver stating that he would leave the parcels in Gubbio and I could drive in and collect them.  I replied that I had paid for door to door delivery and that is the least I expected.  He telephoned me seven times on the 4km road in Valdichiascio and when he finally arrived in a schreech of tyres and bad attitude he admitted that it was the first time he had ever attempted the delivery – and it would be the last, it was a hideous experience.  Yes it will be the last he managed to damage a tree in the drive, break the hedge and leave trenches in the gravel.

Ok so now a few weeks on Parcel force still have not given me an explanation of the inaccurate tracking, the lies of attempted deliveries, and I am now waiting on three electrical transformers for the LED lights that run around the swimming pool.  I bought lights from a fabulous company in the north of Italy, (but omitted to order the transformers, thinking that they would be available locally) they are precise in their documentation and meticulously track their orders, they Use Bartolini couriers.  Guess what, the lights arrived after three ‘failed’ attempts, the order for transformers was processed overnight and Bartolini couriers tracking show that my address ‘does not exist’ this is despite a note on the consignment that delivery is to be made to the address of order number  xxx and delivered  on date yyy.

How can a company claim to be a courier service exist when they are not prepared to deliver to the address on the package? The couriers ask me to drive and meet them on the main road or in Gubbio, what would they do if like one of my neighbours I didn’t have a car??  Many of my neighbours are so frustrated that they agree to have their parcels left seven km away at the petrol station.  I am not prepared to do that.  What will the ‘couriers’ do? dump the package on the roadside or put on the tracking – consignee not in…

Late one afternoon just this week I had a call from Roma Fumincino airport, they told me that they had baggage for two guys who had just flown in from Canada to stay here (the baggage had been mis-routed at one of the change airports).  They would send it.  I warned the guys it might take some time, but no..  Their driver reached here at 10pm on the same day, he was cheerful and carried the bags to the suite, not a courier but a service, perhaps I shall buy everything from Canada in future…..