Yet again another sunny day and as I was pressure washing the terraces and sundecks my thoughts turned to summer here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  Like my guests, I love my swimming pool.  It is 15 metres long, with an infinity edge giving a huge view to the south over the beautiful Umbrian countryside.  Today I am the only person at the pool, in the summer it is busy, guys soaking up the sun, swimming, reading, chatting, gazing longingly at the huge view (and each other).  This is the place to be, a place where you can breathe and simply let the cares of the world pass you by.

There is no nasty chemical chlorine in the pool, instead we treat the water with natural chlorine made by passing lightly salted water over electrolytic plates, the result clean safe water so much kinder to your skin and the environment.  To answer your question no, the water is not salty like sea water, there is a much smaller percentage of salt than you find in the sea.

Oh my summer thoughts lead me to the series of “Bellaugello Backs” photo section on my blog.  This series started early one spring morning when there was a guest in the pool gazing into the distance and I asked if I could take his photo to use on my blog.  Little did I know then that this first posted photo would grow into the Bellaugello Backs series and over the following seasons feature many guests.  One day a gorgeous guest asked  if I could add his photo to the set and if he could lift himself up on the infinity edge.  He did so and I took some photos, thus expanding the series to Bellaugello Backs and Butts!  I have one rule for the series;  no ‘dangly bits’, I want this blog to be suitable for even my grandmother to read, so no frontal nudity is permitted.  In all honesty it was also meant to be backs view, no faces, thus preserving anonymity, but faces creep in now and then, happy about that!

Anyway I digress, as the title of this post implies the subject should be Mauro, one of the Bellaugello team of 2016.  To my delight and that of I know many guests, Mauro has confirmed he will be returning to the Bellaugello team for the 2o17 season from mid May to end September.

For those of you who have yet to meet Mauro, a little introduction;  He is from deep in the south of Italy, Puglia, smiles alot, has a wicked sense of humour, speaks great English, and is here as my general assistant, will be here to serve breakfasts and dinners, and will be in charge of our new poolside cocktail hour (more details of that to follow).  In fact as you will discover he is a great guy and a valued member of our team.

In the afternoons you will usually find him poolside relaxing or chatting on the phone (at length..) to his partner.  Having asked Mauro for a photo of his to add to this post as to introduce him to you, I come back to my glorious swimming pool, for he sent me this one:

on the edge…

This past winter Mauro has gained a qualification in massage therapy and I am delighted to announce he will be our in-house masseur, offering relaxing Swedish massages to our guests. We have a glorious quiet shady terrace deep in the garden where his massage table will be set up, and you can enjoy your treatment listening to birdsong, the breeze rustling in the trees, and the burbling river deep down in the valley below, so very much nicer than being stuck in some featureless room in a spa.

It could be you.  To be featured in my ‘Bellaugello Backs’ series join us and stay at Bellaugello, I’m always on the look out for new guys to add to the collection.

Yesterday evening a friend dropped in for a chat;  “What have you been up to these past weeks Alec?”

“Well,  I have been ever so slightly busy.  I have cut the grass (more than once), trimmed hedges, looked bewilderingly at the vegetable garden, pressure washed the pool area, cleaned out the pool room, trimmed back some wisteria, scratched my head over the state of the bamboo roof on the pergola, sucked up the leaves from the oak tree by the house that unlike all the others decides to keep its leaves through the winter and annoyingly cast them in March and send them poolwards and under the rosemary and lavender bushes, pulled innumerable weeds out of endless gravel paths, treated the windows and doors with wood preservative – lots of them, tidied up a bit of electrical cabling, touched up paintwork, treated the big terrace table with linseed oil – it looks awesome, worked on my social media advertising campaigns – bewildering, attended a series of meetings with organisations attempting to revitalise tourism in Umbria – frustrating, and oh I nearly forgot, I made kilos of orange marmalade,  utterly delicious it is too!”

It is that time of year when everything is in go mode, go go go, everywhere I look there is a job to be done, an urgent job.  No matter if it is a meeting in town, the consulta su turismo, or the agriturismo association, or the coldiretti, I head there in the hope of learning something new that will help promote my gay guest house and wistfully think that the region or government might have put more international flights into our regional airport – Amsterdam and Berlin would be nice.  Back home the deliciously warm weather (yes recently I have been gardening in just a pair of shorts) has made everything grow madly, and grass needs to be cut, banks strimmed and hedges trimmed.  The fruit trees ahve been heavy with blossom, my sense of smell must be fuddled, as the blooms seem to have little perfume.  The vegetable garden is ready for planting, but no, blast, the weeds have grown again and it needs another pass with the motor-zappa, and that fence could just do with some attention so that the porcupine do not get to feast on our wonderful organic vegetables, it is always a challenge.

I still have some lopping of tree branches to do, I want to give the apricot trees more light, this year they are full of buds so hopefully if there are no hailshowers there will be a bumper crop of plump juicy fruit.  The cherry tree that stands to the south of them is almost down, I a going to leave the trunk and already the red climbing rose has been bought, ready for planting, some branches of the huge oak trees are to come down, thus giving the apricot trees much needed light.  The Oak branches are high, it will not be easy, I am not looking forward to that task.  I also want to remove two limbs off the oak tree above the swimming pool, it has begin to shade the pool terrace too much and is growing on the downhill side of the tree, so if removed hopefully the tree will decide to stay upright!

The short video clip was taken yesterday, it encapsulates well the glorious weather we are enjoying here, and the huge views from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.  We are about to move into the final cleaning of the suites, ready for our throwing open the doors for the 2017 season on 8th April.

It is encouraging to see so many new guests as well as many many returning guests.  Despite or maybe because of the world turbulence guys are searching for a place where they can escape and relax, ‘far from the madding crowd’ and Bellaugello offers that.

We kick off the season quietly, as if to practice for the amazing Easter weekend 14th – 17th April.  Friday evening sees the ‘Processione di Cristo Morto’ the haunting procession of Christ in the historic centre of Gubbio our local town.  Traditionally we head into town to watch the procession and then remain for dinner.  Saturday we cook here and Easter day we head over the hill to our good friends where we join in their huge Easter Lunch party, rolling painted eggs, lunching on wonderful food, every guest asked to  bring some delicacies from their local region, the party is informal and international.

I must add just how touched I have been by the many many kind messages I have received over Jenny’s death.  I have been overwhelmed with kindnesses, Jenny was really loved, not only by me but I now know by many many guests.  I thank you all for your kind thoughts.  Early evenings Bobby and I head off for a slow walk.  The roadside banks a mass of yellow primroses, interspersed with wild violets and tiny wild cyclamen.  He is obviously missing his friend, yes dogs grieve,  and his health is not good.  He walks with a stagger, his back legs sometimes un-cooperative, and he has taken several tumbles, one head first into the dirt,  and his breathing is laboured.  After several tens of metres I see him flopping down exhausted to re-catch his breath, but he still determinedly wants a walk.

And finally a question to you: Why not come join us for Easter?  We still have some suites available, the sauna will be lit and there is always the possibility of a massage, real peace, relax and good Italian food and wines in convivial company, book online via google or our website, it is going to be a splendid weekend, but for now I really must get back into the garden and maintenance mode….

Telephone call, with-held number, but I decide to answer it, after all it is Sunday and the telesales bores tend to not work today.  The conversation went thus (slightly abbreviated):

Caller (C):  Hi is that Bellaugello.

Me (B):  Yes, Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

C: Pronto pronto mi senti?  I can’t hear you very well I will call you on Skype.

B: Perfect, I wait to hear from you on Skype.

Now type chat;

C:  My partner and I will be celebrating 15 years together this summer and I am thinking of treating him to a stay with you.  Before booking I have a few questions to ask…

B: Sure ask away.

C: Have you chosen your staff for this summer?

B: (thinking odd first question, actually odd question to ask at all) Yes.

C: Are they well hung?

B: (slightly bored, knowing what is coming, tongue in cheek so time worn reply) They are hung like elephants. (thinking ‘it’s a prerequisite of the job, make all the guests feel very inadequate zzzzz.)

C: and will they be up to having a bit of fun with us?

B: (getting disinterested and feeling I should be more professional) hahaha…  Bellaugello is not a bordello it is a luxury agriturismo, we require a high degree of professionalism from our team, and job interviews are always held with the candidate fully clothed.

C: What a bore.  I want to gift a ‘special’ massage to my husband.

B: Are you by any chance referring to a ‘happy ending’?

C: An intimate massage

B: (bored again now being a bit wicked) Are you expecting the masseur to be naked?

C: Ok I supposed we will accept a ‘normal’ massage but hope the masseur will be naked.

B: And if it is a pre-requisite for Bellaugello to ask anyone wishing to stay to submit a full frontal photo of themselves naked, (At times like these I seriously think of adding this requirement to the booking process 😉 ) would you feel this was a  reasonable question for a hotel director to ask?

Huge smile on my face now waiting to receivethe next message continuing the subject… Buona domenica a tutti!

 

I have applied for Italian citizenship, the forms are submitted and now the long wait begins.  Hopefully Italy my home for ten years will accept me.  It is an application I should have submitted years ago, Italy is my home, I feel comfortable here, the majority of my friends are Italian, I have an Italian business and pay my taxes here.  I have integrated.  Being ever so slightly eccentric I will of course retain dual nationality, I kind of like the thought that in the unlikely event I am in trouble that Liz and Phil or Charlie and Camilla or preferably Harry will come to my aid, I see them as stability in this time of flux.

Sitting at my kitchen window at Bellaugello Gay Guest House overlooking the sun flooded Chiascio valley, the light soft, a slightly steely grey blue, the column of smoke from a distant bonfire rising languidly to the cloudless sky, I am listening to the BBC.  Why I still listen to the British radio is a good question, perhaps it is habit, perhaps I normally can remain unattached, knowing that this political turmoil is all happening 1,600 km away in another far flung land, and I can do nothing about it, so remain passive, or maybe it is because Rai the state broadcaster is not to my taste.  This is all about to change.

Recently I met two guys from Paris and I was asked what encouraged me to move to Italy and what I miss about Britain.  I looked back to the years when the move to Italy was being mooted.  Some of the motivation has been consigned to the back of the (now decidedly slowing) memory bank, some remains bright and up front.  One motivation that was recently dredged up, was the to my mind, hideous culture of ‘celebrity’, so aspirational in Britain and a real motivator for our decision to become immigrants in Italy.  Having lived a gilded life, I found myself at one point living on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ something I strongly advocate everyone to experience at some point in their life, rich and valuable were the experiences.  One of the huge sadnesses was when asking youngsters what they wanted to do in the future many girls answered “to have a baby so somebody will love me” of course that tragic sentiment is not unique to this social class, it  cuts across all social and economic stratas.

However the oft given answer that also had me depressed was; “to be famous.”  My reply was as ever cheeky; “famous for what?” to which the repeated reply was “eh? I want to be famous…. u wot?” etc.  The consistent refusal of politicians to invest in schools has spawned a generation mesmerised by the cult of celebrity, the need to be famous, instantly recognisable, relentlessly promoted by the media, red top rags, and glam mags, dog eat dog is now the accepted and aspirational norm.  This cult is rife in the seedy world of politics, and once again I am disturbed.  Ok Italy is not perfect, and kids here also want to be famous (the lack of investment in education is a global shame) but there is still an overwhelming reality of community and of family, people eat together at one table, chat and discuss, and have pride in the food they serve.  We may not be financially rich but we are rich in so many more important valuable ways.  Anyway back to the BBC this morning, I found myself getting heated, almost shouting at the radio, but instead of chucking it out of the window – shame to spoil the view I decided to rant.

The BBC reports (presumably not fake news possibly as tweeted wiretaps from GCHQ set to blindside the public whilst controversial policies are quietly enacted) the Scottish First Minister, I will not write her name (she does not deserve any more celebrity coverage in the ether) a mere three years since the ‘once in a lifetime’ vote is battling on for yet another Scottish independence referendum.  Oh, it is so tiresome, distracting and such a waste of energy.   Now Italy is far from being innocent in the referendum game.  Last year we had a referendum on changes to the Italian constitution, the make up of the senate, centralisation of power and patronage, the losing of which saw prime minister Renzi resign.  There was also a referendum on granting renewal of offshore oil drilling licences, where if you wanted to deny the renewals, insanely you had to vote ‘yes’.. only in Italy,  and this May 28 there is to be a further referendum planned, on changes to work practices.  The last referendums were hugely expensive, and somewhat pointless.  The oil licences renewals ‘yes’ vote won decisively yet, because there was a low voter turnout for the referendum it was deemed irrelevant and the licences were granted…  Just read about the tragic rise in xenophobia in Britian post Brexit.  Referendums, as summed up in a letter to my great aunt on the occasion of the proposed entry to Europe by a former MP of Galloway do not work:

So to Scotland.  What trait it in the DNA of Scottish politicians that needs them to be ‘famous’?  The Scottish parliament supposedly democratic, and egalitarian, reflecting honest Scottish values resides in a building opened in 2004 was the brainchild of the dour late Donald Dewar whose hunched statue cowers the entire length of Buchanan Street in Glasgow, was designed by a Spanish architect who had unlike Scotland clearly never seen rain, and squeezed into a plot next door to Liz and Phil’s Edinburgh house.  With seventy four nuclear bomb proof underground car parking spaces it is hardly ecological, and to me whilst the site of the former steelworks of Ravenscraig closed by the milk snatcher remains undeveloped, and the town of Motherwell so centrally placed geographically economically depressed I am left wondering why if the politicians were so altruistic the parliament was not built on this sad site as opposed to the celebrity royal mile.  Add to that the cost initially mooted at 50 million pounds but escalating to near 500 million, it is a dizzy expense.

I lived through a Scottish independence referendum in the 1970s, Scotland voted decidedly to remain and did so until the rise of celebrity.  The previous leader to the current incumbent of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which party incidentally in my childhood was decidedly right wing, was obsessed with making Scotland independent, and as a result we suffered years and years of this rant, to my mind such a senseless ambition, we really want more politicians? His sole objective presumably so that him as leader could have fame and celebrity for posterity, his statue erected in the capital for all future generations to see.  Oh blast Mel Gibson, if it had not been for that film, so much expenditure and societal schism would have been avoided.  The argument for the recent referendum was based economically on oil revenues, now they are severely depleted so the argument by that woman turns to the Brexit vote, Scotland voted to remain, amusingly London also voted overwhelmingly to remain but I don’t hear her call for a ‘ScotLond’ independence;-)  I very much doubt if any Scottish leader cares for the justification or viability of independence, their motive is to be the ‘braveheart’ forever remembered as the celebrity who took back Scottish independence, and it makes me mad.  Blair planned it when he went to war and then expected to be president of Europe and became ‘middle east peace envoy’.. recorded for posterity in the history books his statue on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square or replacing the Victoria memorial.  A current look at the upper chamber of the British parliament makes me cry, I so miss the barmy eccentric hereditary peers rolling up to vote, their out-dated frocks and their corduroy trousers held up with bailer twine, there not only for a miserable pittance, a damn good hot meal never found in their ancient decaying baronial piles, but a sense of public duty, what has replaced them is a gaggle of ex ministers and controversial businesspeople their by paid patronage,  feeding on a deep gravy train.  Long gone are career politicians who did what they did because they genuinely believed the decisions they were making (whether subsequently discovered to be right or wrong) were for the benefit of the population, not for creation of book deals, tv presenter opportunities, stonkingly huge appearance fees, biography advances for 20 year olds, statues and memorials..  What have we done so very seriously wrong that people have this desperate need for poisonous celebrity and to accelerate the destruction of community?  I so wish to speed my Italian citizenship application, celebrity can fly over me, I wish to be able to continue living my life as a peasant farmer half way up an idyllic Umbrian hillside.

Such a delight to be in the garden here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in peaceful Umbria, Italy, few sounds punctuate the serene silence… the chattering of the river Chiascio down in the valley below the house, birdsong, lots of it, they are busy collecting material for nesting and bees, an amazing number of busy bees.   The almond trees are in bloom, there are both the blue and pink rosemary spike flowers topping the deep green of the hedges swaying gently in the warm breeze, the red plum tree is about to burst forth and the old majestic apricot trees are heavy with delicate pinky white blossom each filled with numerous honeybees.

Heated by an intense sun and set against a deep azure sky I am increasingly aware that the 2017 season is about to begin, and so gardening and maintenance are still high priority, it must all be done by the time we open in early April.  Why not join us for the Easter holiday weekend?  there are still suites available including the new look Specchio Suite now with soft sage green bedroom walls, now even more romantic…