Lovely organic oranges arrive from Sicily.  They are blushed with the sun, and when I cut them open are abundantly generous with their juice.  The flesh a spectrum of colour from orange through red, to almost violet-black.  I am busy in the kitchen at Bellaugello Gay Guest House making orange marmalade ready for the coming season.

Of all the jams orange marmalade ranks firmly in my top five of preferences.  I like the bitter sweetness, the sharpness and fruityness, it is just scrumptiously more-ish.  However it must rank as one of my least favourite preserves to make.  It is just so labour intensive and the fruit acid ruins my hands.  I slice, squeeze, clean, chop, trim, for what becomes hours.   Finally by adding zest and juice of lemons and some beautiful light cane sugar, the pot is ready to bring to the boil.

It is blood red, matching my humour.   Oranges from Sicily lack one thing, pips.  Unlike the Seville oranges I used to use way back when, they are very sweet.  I have to do a double boiling and add pectin.  No pectin – no set.  Last month a friend visited from Switzerland and knowing my love of marmalade he brought me 1kg of organic bitter oranges.  I grabbed the Swiss supermarket package and read “produce of Italy”!!  How come you can get them abroad but not here, crazy.  I know in Rome the public parks are full of bitter orange trees, the fruit lying unappreciated on the floor, “non sono dolce” – they’re not sweet…. nobody wants them.  How do they mysteriously find their way to Switzerland I wonder?

Don’t feel sorry for me the result is now in jars and I am pleased to report my hands are recovering.  The marmalade is delicious and will be on the table at breakfast time for my guests.  Furthermore just occasionally I do manage to get out and see things.  The other day I received an invite for this morning to the opening of the exhibition of “Lego” in Gubbio.  This project is the brainchild of two local groups, one, “Iridium’ a ‘consorzio’ of agriturismi and guest houses, of which I am a member,  named after the precious metal from the meteorite that only supposedly made the dinosaurs extinct, found uniquely in Europe only in the Gola di Bottacione just outside Gubbio,  the other ‘Host’ which is delightfully pronounced ‘oast’ by the hoteliers who comprise that group.  Together with the comune they have worked hard and pulled off an amazing feat.

Now I guess Lego is not everybody’s turn on, but I am sure back in our youth we all played with it, and I know some guys continue to be Lego aficionados well into their dotage.   I fall into the former category, but was blown away by the displays.  I learnt that it all began in the 1940s in a small family run carpenter’s workshop in Billund.  Yes, the first pieces were pre-plastic and made of wood and amazingly some are on display. The exhibits have drawn from private collections from all over Italy, some owned from new, so real prized possessions, and the exhibition is certified by the Lego company and shown in their website for 2018.

The exhibition traces the development of Lego through the decades, right up to the present day.  Oh, how I remember the joy of being given a ‘light brick’ with two wires with huge cumbersome connectors and a separate battery box, so innovative.  Then my first Lego motor which was at least four inches in length….  How times have changed.  The contemporary displays are filled with led lights and fully furnished models of houses, space craft and film sets.  I also discovered that you can submit your fantasy to Lego and if it is liked by 1,000 people then it will be put into production.  Food for Bellaugello thought…..

Anyway enough of my blethering here are some photos taken today of the opening by the Sindaco of Gubbio (seen in the fawn jacket) of the exhibition which runs until late June 2018.  Do come and stay Bellaugello and visit the Lego.

and just because it made me laugh I have to include this next photo…

For those of you who think my life is prancing round in the kitchen making jams and attending openings of exhibitions, to round off this post, read on and learn that I am also supremely talented at many other things!  Waking last Friday the house was cold, brrr…..  Jumped out of bed, I found some clothes and stomped sleepily over to the boiler house.  The boiler was showing an alarm. bugger…  I do try to be ecological, if one can ever honestly be ecological ( and “i hae ma doots”) so the boiler runs on biomass fuel.  Here I use olive nuts, which, unlike the glued together pellets which crazily come from Chernobyl or far flung lands, they come from the neighbouring region of Abruzzo, fewish carbon miles.  I also like the concept of using something that would otherwise have little practical use and be tossed.  I fire off (ha!) an email to the boiler manufacturer, they are high in the Alps in a tiny village in northern Italy.  Within half an hour a telephone call, it is the technician.  From my description he has a good idea of the problem, but asks me to take some photos and send them to him.  I dismantle part of the boiler, and snap away.  Eureka! it is as he thought, a thermocouple in the blower that lights the boiler that has failed.  It seems the fuel is lit by a potent hairdryer!

Exchange of messages and the part is duly ordered and dispatched.  I light the boiler using firelighter and sticks, and the technician sends me instructions on how to programme it to stay alight, which it does, I once again have heat.

This afternoon replete from a buffet lunch with the Glitterati of Gubbio I discover the boiler part has arrived.  Off with the smart togs, and into my ‘workie’ gear.  Within twenty minutes the new part was installed and the boiler back to normal working.  Job done! Great satisfaction.