Winter is turning to spring, but all is quiet and still at Bellaugello.  This time of year reminds me just why I chose this special place to create a guest house for gay guys.  I often feel that the guest house should be open throughout the winter. I should be sharing this special time by having guys enjoy the sheer magic and beauty of the countryside and setting in these months here in Umbria.  To stay in such tranquillity is soothing and recharges the spirit.  The magic of winter light here is so restorative.

Slow progress is being made on the dam of Valfabbrica.  The winter rains fill the river below the house, and one can imagine just how spectacular it will be to look out over a lake that will encompass the valley floor.  The latest update is that they are closing the dam this spring and beginning to fill the lake.  It is Italy, so time is a moveable feast, and water takes time to flow, but a lake there will be.  Red sunset reflects in the river, just imagine the intensity when water covers the fields.

Daytime skies are blue, songbirds are returning, their calls fill the otherwise still air.  High above plane jetstreams silently slice the azure sky as the sun warms the mellow stone of the house.

Some days I wake to shades of grey.  Hills and ridges bathed in light mist and a dusting of frost.  Natural, haunting, inviting, I just want to walk those hills and scrunch the dry leaves underfoot.  I followed with interest the recent craze on social media for a ‘ten year challenge’.  Two ‘selfies’ – I still hate that word, taken ten years apart.  Yes, it was probably to help facial recognition algorithms but so many clearly posted happily comparison images.  What to me was startling was the difference in ten years.  No, people had not always aged.  Fashions were equally dubious.  It was the preponderance of ‘photoshopped’ images in the contemporary photo that stood out.   Wrinkle free, smooth blemish-less, cosmetically and photographically altered skin much in evidence. When I wake to misty grey hills and am able to publish the photo un-retouched and it is natural, beautiful I do wonder just what this obsession is with digital re-touching.  Why are we so scared of revealing ourselves?

Winter is a time for both outdoors and indoors work.  I am busy redecorating the Giardino Suite.  Time for a change of theme me thinks.  For the first time I am following design fashion and going for trendy cream and petrol blues.  It’s a bold departure.  Oh, it is not easy.  I started with the antique Sicilian wrought iron four poster bed.  Gone is the apple green.  After much fiddly work it is now a deep petrol blue.  First work on the room was to obliterate the golden yellow walls with a coat of white.  That went on easily, as did the white on the ceiling, clean, crisp, fresh.  After more work three walls are a delightful light cream, whilst one wall is to be dark petrol blue.  Here the problem began and continues.  Discussing the method for this stair wall which will be rubbed against, the guy in the paint shop suggested using a matt gloss wall paint.  He informed me the advantage of this paint is that it does not mark when touched.  Dark blue ‘chalks’ easily he says.  I cannot have my devoted cleaner stressing the summer over chalk marks on a wall 🙂  What he did not tell me is that the blue paint he sold me is a bugger to apply and does not cover in a uniform manner.

Over the base of white I started painting this thick gloopy blue.  The effect I want is deep, deep almost midnight petrol blue. Cream and deep petrol blue, so hipster.  No?  First coat, a mess.  Coat two goes on.  Carefully painting around steps and door frames is time consuming and fiddly.  Result a mess of light and dark patches.  Coat three, still no better.  I want a flat uniform effect and after four coats of blue it still is just not happening.  The guy from the paint shop comes to inspect. He dilutes the paint, picks up the brush and works over one of the areas that already have two or maybe three coats of blue.  The next morning I rush down to the suite (remembering to take a photo of the still sensual morning) and open the door.  Expecting to find the paint shop guy’s expertise has proved my painting technique to be faulty, I am corrected.  The area he worked on is still patchy.  Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhh……..

My next thought to achieve my target is to start again by covering the entire wall in a base of deep grey.  To reach the very top of the wall means balancing precariously on a ladder and stretching.  That was three days ago.  Back to the blue, carefully paint a patch on the dry grey, leave twenty four hours – not impressed.  Back yesterday, a second coat.  This morning the dry blue is again patchy and mushy.  I am so frustrated.  Me thinks the fault is in the product.  Yes, I know a bad workman blames his tools, but even the specialist could not get it right so I am at ease.  I will now purchase a tin of blue wall paint.  Cover the grey with two coats of said emulsion and then if that works finish with a clear matt glaze to protect the surface.  This will mean some parts of said wall will have been painted in total no less than nine times. che palle! If the blue does not work, then I have not only to obliterate it, and choose another colour, but also repaint said bed.  I am clearly determined, but not necessarily destined to be a hipster.

Back outside under uniform clear blue skies wood is being cut.  I hate cutting trees, but the traditional method of heating houses in Umbria is by burning wood so trees are cut.  Woodlands are cut ‘alto fusto’ a form of coppicing, a leaving a mature tree every six metres.  Here a line of trees on a margin between two fields is being felled.  The picture sums up winter in this part of Italy, snow on the tops of the Apeninnes, blue skies, space, what a marvellous place to live and work.

I sign off this post with a photo snapped whilst walking the dog.  Taken late afternoon from just above Bellaugello Gay Guest House, the view, (un-retouched obviously) with the red sunset reflected on the snow covered Apeninnes is one that I adore.