The past three days my internet connection has been more than intermittent,  it has been hopeless and I have been without the internet for many many hours.

It has amazed me just how I have come to rely on the internet.  Not only for receiving and answering enquiries for bookings for Bellaugello Gay Guest House – Sorry guys for taking so long to reply – outwith my control, but also for keeping in touch with friends, listening to the radio, checking YouTube vids etc. and keeping up to date with the news.  Today the internet collapsed at 08.00 and did not return until after 20.00hrs.  It has been real fast of late 2.4Mbs, maybe it is was too much and became tired and so it just stopped.

Today Sunday I have survived more than twelve hours without my internet connection, but felt most alone and helpless.  It has amazed and horrified me just how much I have come to rely on the freedom of connection, to be able to talk to anyone anytime and look up anything anytime.  I am of an age where I remember the first early mobile phones and the supposed freedom they brought.

Firstly the purchase price was astronomic, bank loan size – very unliberating.  Recently I discovered the receipt in 1986 for my first mobile phone, a BT Azure £1,500.00 and the call charges were counted in £s per minute, that is if you could find cell coverage (I lived in rural Scotland and coverage was virtually zilch)  the phone weighed many pounds and took twelve hours to charge the battery, yet I was trendy hip and ‘in touch’ even if few of my friends has mobile phones or like me the money to actually use them! Boy it felt good.

Twenty five years later, like Stephen Fry I am a long term Apple Macintosh addict, cupboards full of old model laptops and now useless connection cables and unable to get an iPhone 4 but I do treat the internet like water from the tap, it is something that is ‘just there’ but the past few days it wasn’t and I felt most uncomfortable and out of touch.

The past two days here in Umbria at Bellaugello gay guesthouse I have been real busy out with the chainsaw opening up more views and cutting firewood.

The weather has been crisp and sunny,quite ideal for a bit of clearing and tidying.  I don’t feel motivated to get to the gym, so chainsaw-ing is a great workout substitute and productive too boot.

Odd though.  I thought cutting down a tree or two would make a big difference, but it seems to have made less of an impact than the removal of a now redundant large concrete electricity pole on the bank by the house.  The pole was lifted out of the ground by a huge overhead crane, and to my immense relief it came out cleanly like withdrawing the plunger on a syringe or bicycle pump without damaging any of the roses and cotoneasters planted around it.

Out at dinner last night the conversation turned to dentists. One of the dinner guests is off today to have a tooth extracted, I hope for him it comes out as easily and painlessly as the electric pole!

This morning a telephone call announced that finally after seemingly endless months (indeed it has been eight months) the electricity company are starting work on renewing the overhead power cables that supply Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

I went outside to be greeted by a heavy frost and clear, clear blue skies.  Two guys were waiting in the drive, and together we walked up the road to where the new supply will terminate, and a new big (doubtlessly, enormous) electric meter will be housed.  We have already prepared the cement base and run tubes ready for the cables to connect into the house.  The electricity company kindly agreed to remove the final pole that is near to the house, thus all the electric cables at Bellaugello will in future be undeground.  I am so glad to be rid of the last pole and also the electric meter that currently adorns my sitting room, as was the fashion fifty years ago – maybe installation art??  This does mean them replacing the penultimate pole with a new stronger one and….

They need access from the road to cement in the new pole, and install the new meter, and there is a fence, green protective netting, both erected last year, and laurel hedging which I planted three years ago and which is growing nicely in the way.   So I spent the morning in beautiful sunshine carefully folding the protective netting, and then unpicked the link fence thus creating an opening.

But the laurel hedge has become large and I so hate digging up plants.  Three or maybe four need to be temporarily removed.  It breaks my heart, sentimental old sod that I am, I told the plants what I was about to do and started digging.  One hour in I broke my best spade handle, maybe the plants did not want to be removed, they have certainly grown large and splendid roots.  I persevered and now have one plant out with its roots safely wrapped against the morning frost.  Tomorrow I need to get the next ones out as I refuse to take any blame for further delays to the new electricity supply.  By friday the plants will be replanted, and newly fertilised, hopefully will soon be back to normal. Whether or not the electricity will be working is another matter….

It is a wintry day here in Valdichiascio, Gubbio, Umbria.  The snow which has been settling at the top of the hills is now flurrying around the house here at Bellaugello Gay B&B, and so it seems like an ideal opportunity to enjoy a sauna.

I went down through the garden to the sauna and lit the stove.  It burns wood and takes about an hour and a half to get to temperature, by which time there will be a further light covering of snow around, and on the deck in front of the sauna, not enough to roll in but enough to make it very picturesque.

I thought to use the waiting time to cut my hair and trim my beard, for this afternoon I am out seeing friends and thought to look squeaky clean.  I started with the clippers.  For years I have kept my hair short a buzz cut, I like it that way, but  the necessity is greater now, because, looking at my profile in the mirror it is clearly evident that oh no! my hairline has decided to retreat even further back on my crown.  Yes a very short buzz cut is called for, I am so vain!!

I will be shopping for hats tomorrow….

As you will have read the past week has been utterly glorious here in Umbria.  Temperatures reached 18ºc and azure skies and big sun filled the days.

I took advantage of the beautiful weather to get into the garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse.  A big tidy up took place, and I also started on the trees to the east of the house, and worked on the new main entrance steps leading down from the car park.

We have constructed a flight of steps in a very organic way using wood poles, they look utterly delightful and once planted with rambling roses and rosemaries will merge into the hillside.  These steps lead directly from the car park area to the upper terrace accessing the Diva, Duca, and Specchio Suites, with further large steps leading to the dining terrace and Giardino suite.  The steps have meant a bit of re-orienting of lawned areas, which will be seeded in march when the risk of big frosts is over.  Add to that new lighting (discrete and not too bright) leading from the car park down to the sauna and the next phase of my original garden scheme falls into place.  I have calculated the next lavender plant order and will soon be off to the Vivaio to collect the plants, more fragrance, hurrah!

Last night the weather changed and I woke to see the Appeninnes covered in a dusting of snow.  It is trying to snow here at Bellaugello but very half-heartedly, so unable to get into the garden I headed to the post office and pharmacy in nearby Scritto.

The guy in the post office is always really helpful.  Not only for that reason do I use that post office, but the fact it is in my nearest village, there is rarely a big queue and I hope by my little business it will help contribute to keeping the office open, and thus retain life in the local community. Today I was greeted by the news that postal charges overseas have risen.  Now 75cts for a letter, so I had to add postage to my pre-stamped mail.  I was also given a bill for parcels of oil and jam that I sent two weeks ago.  It seems the day I posted them the prices went up, but the post office computer was not then updated.  I sent small tins of Bellaugello organic olive oil to friends back in Scotland and paid €19.00 per parcel for postage. Today I had to pay a surcharge of €2.00.  Inflation hits rural Italy!!

My good friend Penny called and suggested I come over next week to raid her garden.  Penny has a large house near Umbertide and over the past fifteen years has created a halcyon english-italianate garden.  She has abundant roses of all descriptions and fragrances, and next week the moon is in the right phase to take cuttings, so secateurs in hand I will be adding to the gardens here at Bellaugello gay b&b.  I love roses rambling through other plants and climbing trees, mix them with clematis and the effect is stunning.