Some of us from Bellaugello Gay Guest House journeyed over to the other side of the valley to my good friends Etain and Martin at Pratale farm for Easter Sunday lunch, Easter-egg rolling and general fun.  Etain and Martin had invited lots of friends and also everybody staying at Bellaugello Gay B&B

The sun came out, as we all gathered under the shade of the mulberry tree in the courtyard, food was home cooked, plentiful and delicous, and the company and hospitality as ever, exceptional

Thanks Mart and Etain…

A very Happy Easter to all from us here at Bellaugello.  Last night I noticed the video selection was raided as guys settled in for lazy evenings with silly film.

Today Umbria is misty and magical, I so adore it this way, the greens become more alive and verdant, clouds hang low and mist shrouds the Chiascio valley, clinging to the woodlands and swirling across the fields to rest as puffs of cotton wool on the hilltops, the quiet punctuated by birdsong.  Here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House we seem to be on top of the world.  Umbria once called the ‘land of saints and hermits’, certainly seems that way this morning,   a day of rest and relaxation

I have just readied breakfast, laid out on our old family table in our dining room; For Easter our usual selection of home-made  jams and preserves, honey form the farm, local pecorino cheese and cold meats, together with home-made bread and cakes, we celebrate Easter with a ‘Colomba’ the delightful rich sweet sugary almondy cake traditional to Italy at Eastertime, this one from the finest bakery in Gubbio.  Also on the table is a ‘Crescia di Pasqua’ a local speciality bread baked in the shape of a Panettone but instead filled with cheese, it is so scrummy when toasted….

And of course there are chocolate Easter eggs and hard-boiled eggs with a selection of coloured pencils ready to be coloured by the guys ready to take to Pratale for the traditional egg-rolling games prior to lunch of new season organic lamb and potatoes roasted in their wood fired oven.

Tonight Beau and I are cooking dinner here at Bellaugello.  We have wonderful large leaved sage plants in the garden, so will coat them with a light batter and fry them until crispy, a good appetiser prior to our truffled lasagne, which will be followed by roast quails, and home-made apple pie, undoubtedly with some good grappa…

Indeed a day of celebration and feasting…

Brought up in the UK and still remembering as a child  the days of the old valve wirelesses, ever tuned the ‘Light Programme’ which took time to warm up, hummed a great deal and slowly increased volume, so much nicer than the brash vulgar but effective iPhone alarm call I now wake to.

I look back with fondness to jumping onto my parent’s bed on my mother’s birthdays to be stirred courtesy of a huge mechanical time-switch by the sound of  the radio clicking on and as it slowly warmed up the music playing was the Royal Anthem.  I knew my mother was important, and as a young child took it as only being normal the BBC played the Royal Anthem for my mother’s birthday, to me she was every bit as famous and important as the Queen, indeed they had met, so another reinforcement of why we were greeted by the Royal Anthem on mother’s birthday, so nice of the Queen to remember my mum.

Today here in Umbria at Bellaugello Gay B&B I am still an avid listener to the BBC radio which I receive over the Internet.  I regularly listen to the ‘Today Programme’ a morning round up of current affairs and news.  Quite frequently I find myself getting all too wrapped up in things going on in the UK, and just manage to check myself before I start shouting at the radio – as if it could hear.

I shouted for joy when I heard of the forthcoming marriage of HRH Prince William to Kate Middleton, what a great couple, I am so delighted for them, fabulous news, a continuing dynasty, a real cause for celebration.

I also shouted, but this time in a mixture of horror, anger and joy as I learnt of parcel bombs being sent to the manager and prominent supporters of Scottish football team Glasgow Celtic.  Now, do not get me wrong there is no joy whatsoever in sending bombs, I have an utter hatred of violence and war and in no way condone either, however  as it says on the tin of Lyles Golden Syrup – yet another childhood memory “out of strength poured forth Sweetness”.  Maybe finally this outrage will convince everyone in power to actually admit that sectarianism actually exists, and begin to tackle the abomination that blights Glasgow and many parts of Scotland.  A recent police report identified a dramatic rise in domestic violence directly correlated with the occurrence of “the Old Firm Game” a football match played in Glasgow between Glasgow teams Celtic and Rangers, the former being catholic the latter protestant, that was the first real admission by the authorities that the problem exists.  And yes, exist it does.

Glasgow is a city where they ask your surname first, to know which religion you belong to – and whether they will become friend or foe, a city in some areas where you cannot wear a green and white striped shirt as you will be physically abused, a city where you do not go to certain parts of the city centre on match days as the bars are overflowing with people trying to get as drunk as possible, and then looking for any excuse for violence.  A city where fathers – depending on their religion will not let sons paint their bedrooms blue or green or even drive blue or green cars.  A city where people have the emblem of their football team tattooed on their forearm not as a message of support but as a message of defiance, A city where at the end of services the clergy ask the congregation to pray for ‘their team’.  Where despite proclaiming to the contrary, the football teams are happy for the sectarianism to continue as it boosts their support and thus their bank balances. Kids are brought up in an ongoing environment of intolerance, hatred and bigotry, and it is tragic to behold.

Just as with my mum’s birthday and the playing of the national anthem – it just happened to be also the birthday of the late Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth for whom the anthem was justly played, things are not always what they seem.

Glasgow does have fabulous architecture, a superb concert hall, wonderful museums with international paintings and sculptures, many superb restaurants and the most utterly amazing scenery within easy reach, all factors which make it a city of choice for holidays and should make it a city of choice to live in, but  the ever-present sectarianism which up till now has been un-addressed and un-admitted, makes life in the city for many ordinary citizens quite unbearable.

 

The last few weeks of sunshine and a good bit of watering have brought the gardens here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House on a treat.  The wisteria is beginning to bloom and the tree paeonies and camellias are bursting forth with their crimson and scarlet blooms.

It has been an eventful week, as a precursor to Easter, really most entertaining, there always seems to be something to do or somebody calling round for a chat or a cup of coffee.

The presence of good friends of mine from Santa Cristina over to see the Finnish sauna and panoramic terrace gave two great guys from Holland who were just about to depart for the next stage of their holiday the chance to ask for their visit here at Bellaugello to be captured on camera with me in the centre…  Shame they caught me unprepared in my gardening kit and those dreadful crocs… oh the shame, I must get some new gardening shoes!!

Great meeting you Rob and Ivo and thanks for sending me the photo

A telephone call this lunchtime reminded me that the weather is un-seasonally warm.  I have been basking in temperatures reaching the high twenties to low thirties and it got me thinking back to the time when we first ‘moved into the house’

Well moving in is probably an over exaggeration, there was a part of the house that had been partly restored some thirty years previously, but never finished and never lived in.  With the enthusiasm of a new life we set about disposing of the rubbish, cleaning, and painting.  It snowed that March and was still bitterly cold, un-seasonally cold!  There was a rudimentary bathroom, I went and bought sanitary-ware from the DIY store and plumbed it in, found an old drain pipe and connected it all up, with no idea of where it all went!  There was a functioning electricity meter in the upper uninhabitable part of the house, so we ran cables down to our new ‘luxury pad’ stringing them round the walls like Christmas lights without the lights, a basic electricity supply, one power point in each room.

For heating and cooking there was an old wood burning stove found in an outhouse, cleaned up and hastily re-erected with a flue pipe leading into a chimney, that was our only means heating and cooking, the kitchen was a salvaged porcelain sink placed on an old dressing table which we cut the legs off.  For hot water, in keeping with our ecological ethos we bought a solar panel and kilometres of alkathene pipe.  We mounted the panel on the middle terrace above the collapsing garden wall and then moved some furniture in.  We had a living room, bedroom, shower-room and alcove with a guest bed, it was home, it was bliss!

The first morning we awoke with the dawn at six thirty am to see from our bed mist in the valley below and blue cloudless skies above, truly breath-taking.  We were happy, managed to entertain friends, cooking on the wood stove and remarking on our lives ‘camping with our own furniture!’, but there was one problem.  It soon became overcast and the solar panel did not work.  It got to the stage of boiling kettles both to wash plates and bodies, it was two weeks without sunshine, in the end we went to the terme San Casciano!

Today all is different, we have planted nearly 1000 plants, the garden is really taking shape, fruit trees showing signs of fruit, hedges screen the various terraces and divide the various spaces, lavender plants in profusion are bursting into new leaf,  Rosemary is in full bloom the purple and violets and blues covering the bankings, the Irises planted three years ago are for the first time in bud, and Harald’s figs are just forming.  The house has six glorious individual apartments, all with lavish bathrooms, underfloor heating, and WiFi,  the dining room created out of the former cow stalls is a large and elegant space, all is earthquake proofed, including the new annexe which has a room specifically for our biomass boiler and large hot water tank (1,500 litres) which today reached 80º only fuelled by the six vacuum sealed solar panels on the roof.  We have new pipes for the mains water, large tanks for the spring water used for the garden and flushing lavatories, and finally a three phase electricity supply, yes Bellaugello has come a long way….

A loud persistent and unyielding car horn signaled the presence of the mail.  We here in Valdichiascio have a new postie, she is young, blonde and seemingly loves the sound of her car horn.  Any time there is a package or letter to be signed for she signals her presence by several jabs on the post car horn – and does not stop until I approach the car.

I guess I should not complain at least she signals her presence unlike her predecessor who would cost down the hill silently and leave a card in the letter box here at Bellaugello gay guest house informing me that there was a parcel for me and that I had a twenty kilometre round trip to collect it from the post office (only open mornings and never at weekends) and if I didn’t collect the letter/parcel within five days a fine starts accruing.

Anyway to the point of this post, the postie today delivered me a recorded delivery letter from some government department, more hassle and a package.

The package was from Sweden home of my dear friend Annie who sent me amongst other goodies a sample of her new Lemon flavoured Scottish Tablet.  Annie runs a business in her delightful Swedish farm outside Stockholm making hand-made Scottish confectionary, notable whisky flavoured tablet or fudge.  This melt in the mouth, must have another piece sweet is not only more-ish but absolutely yummy.  Thank you again Annie for spoiling me so!

The Lemon tablet made with sugar, condensed milk, and loads of butter  and fresh lemons – I had to ‘phone Annie to thank and compliment her and so learnt it is made with fresh lemon juice and zest is divine, sweet yet at the same time sharp, a real triumph.

Annie has recently launched her website where you can see the products and buy online, regular readers of my blog maybe recall my post on her being asked by the Nobel Committee to provide her tablet for the recent ‘Nobel Nightcap

For those of you with a sweet tooth here is the link to Annie D’s website… tell her I sent you! Annie D’s Scottish Tablet Website