Whatever the President of the USA states,  whilst writing at my kitchen window of spring in a gay guest house, I see daily evidence of global warming.  The snow used to come deep and long.  The river Chiascio which runs below us in the valley below would burst its banks in my first few autumns here in Umbria.   Winters were always grey, damp and somewhat Scottish.  More recently winters are milder.  Noticeably so.  A few years ago we ate Christmas lunch outside on the sunny terrace.  Snow is rarer and rainfall more scarce and the plants just do not know what to do.  I fear for the future of agriculture.  There is no longer any logic to the weather.

When replying to enquiries for bookings the one question I dread is that of the weather;  “We are thinking of coming in June, what will the weather be like?”  “Will it be sunny and dry in September?”  I honestly have no idea, and feel feeble not to be able to predict the weather with accuracy.  All I know is every day brings another joy, and more often than not they are stunning.  I wake to splendid sunrises.  As the sun rises over the Apennines golden rays burst forth over the still sleeping countryside.

The light mist in the valley so well known to our guests slowly follows the winding river and soon vanishes.  I have been busy with maintenance.  Guys think that I spend the winter and spring hibernating.  Ok, I do do some hibernation, but I also spend a great deal of time with maintenance and working in the garden.  My days are full.  Autumn brings cascades of leaves, I rake fervently.  Dragging never-endingly tall piles to the compost heap.

I plan in advance my tasks for the days, but make the final decision when I wake.  The past week has been warm, even hot.  I was varnishing doors wearing only a ‘t’ shirt, or less.  This morning it is decidedly cool, hence I am sitting at my computer and speaking to you.  The weather is totally unpredictable, one day hot, the next cold.  It is maddening.

Nonetheless joy is brought to me in spring in a gay guest house.  The garden comes alive.  Each day yet another plant breaks tenderly through the soil.  Long flowering are the primroses and delicate violets.  Several weeks early this year.  The tulips and the Muscari grape hyacinths are filling the pots on the terrace and fruit trees are in delicious full bloom;

Almond blossom is one of the first fruit blossoms to show.  It is followed this week by the Apricots.  The many gnarled branches of the old Apricot trees are covered in light delicate blossom.  So photogenic against the azure skies.

It looks promising for a good jam making year 🙂

I have been busy in the Orto and two rows of potatoes are planted.  It is hard manual labour.  No need for me to go to the gym! I do want to plant some more, and am saving up the energy to do so.

Leaves are netted out of the pool.  In the bright crisp spring sunlight it looks so Hockneyesque.

Yesterday I was busy varnishing doors.  The silence punctuated by birdsong which was disturbed by the frenetic buzzing of insects.  Honey bees, Bumble bees, Carpenter bees, tiny hover moths (yes, really early) and the odd butterfly were feeding greedily on the nectar of the Rosemary bushes and fruit trees.

I take time for a breather and snap the view from the garden over the Photinia hedge to the Apennines.  Their peaks may be recently lightly dusted with snow, but as you can see the fields and woodland are still very brown and dry.

So my days are full.  Late afternoon ‘Hear’ my rescue dog is looking for a walk.  I don my coat.  She jumps for joy as I try to put on her collar.  We laugh and share the enthusiasm as we head off along the track into the quiet countryside.  Whilst watching Hear sniffing out things to chase, and darting through the bushes, I look to see if the wild asparagus is yet showing.  The walk is, for me also a time of contemplation.  I stare across the valley to the pretty village of Colaplombo bathed in the fading spring sun.

As we head home the sky changes, dusk is falling.  Bellaugello has a commanding south facing view over the Chiascio valley.  We are ringed by distant hills, and whilst we do not get the sunsets beaming down on the house, they are very much in evidence.  The sky just above the hills turns yellow, golden, ochre, ruddy, it is magical.  As we near home the red rises and intensifies.  It is splashed dramatically over the weak grey blue sky.  I can see where the great Burri got his inspiration.

Nature and wildlife is truly wonderful and delicate.  Us humans must quickly respect it more.

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.

Several decades ago deep in the distant lands of Umbria a group of men met.  Without exception they were Eugubine.  Men from the city of Gubbio.  Nestling on the west foothills of the Apeninnes over the lower slopes of Monte Ingino, Gubbio is one of the most traditional, masculine and proud medieval cities in central Italy.

Fought over for centuries the city retains an erect sense of defiance.  Beautifully preserved medieval streets are encircled by tall city walls.  These still largely intact walls are pierced by four entrance gates which give entrance to the four ‘quartieri’.  Each quartieri having their name church and traditional tunic colours. The belicosity of the Eugubine is manifested today by a series of crossbow competitions with neighbouring cities.  These competitions are ‘must see’ events for the traveller.

So strong is the pride and animosity of  the Eugubine and neighbouring Gualdese, the citizens of Gualdo Tadino that a skirmish occurred only recently.  When the hospital board proposed the closure in each town of their hospitals they constructed  new one to serve both.   Built between the two towns, but in the comune of Gubbio, the Gualdese refused to use the anti-natal unit.  Citizens of Gualdo Tadino did not want their children to have ‘born in the comune of Gubbio’ on the birth certificates.  As a result a local law passed that room in the hospital be ceded to the comune of Gualdo Tadino.

I digress.  How that meeting so many years ago came about I have yet to discover, its history is lost in the mists of time.  What the true purpose of the meeting was, is similarly forgotten.  However the outcome lives to today and manifests itself in the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree“.  The decision to string coloured lights from the city wall to the summit of Monte Ingino in the shape of a Christmas tree is one that still renders me slightly speechless and with a broad cheesy grin.  To think of a group of macho men conceiving a hillside dressed with coloured lights is surreal.  But that decision was made and each December the lights of the tree illuminate the medieval city.  I am so glad that they did, and continue to do so.

The team of volunteers ranging in ages from 19 to 86 years old have been and are busy.  The slopes are being adorned with 8.5kms of electric cable and over four hundred coloured florescent lights.   They work hard, real hard.  The planning is huge and work arduous.  The Eugubine are proud, quite rightly so.  The result is spectacular.  The summit of Monte Ingino is adorned with a huge led flashing star strapped to a massive scaffold.  A few years ago, with the aim of being ecological solar panels were installed to power the tree.

The tree is switched on with a huge party and firework display on 7th December.  Last year I witnessed the event from a friend’s terrace:

The tree remains lit until early January.  Not only is it splendid to see from afar, but the walk down through the lights is magical.

For the past few years Bellaugello Gay Guest House has sponsored a light on the tree.  I am asking you to help this great project by also sponsoring a light.  For a few Euros you can sponsor and have a light named to your choice.  Click on the link below:  The opportunity starts on 31st October and like concert tickets the lights go fast.  Hurry, the clock is already ticking.

To choose and sponsor a light click this link: Adopt a light on the Gubbio Christmas Tree

To read more about the tree click here: Albero di Gubbio website

Let’s see how many Bellaugello guys can get their names on the tree for 2018-2019.  Do let me know.

Amusingly enough one of the most talked about blog posts from this year is the one I wrote asking if anyone had seen my cock.  It was a post I really enjoyed writing.  I remember smiling as words tumbled out of my brain through my fingers to the keyboard and lit up my computer screen. What was so pleasing is learning that so many guys were upset at not having seen my cock.

I aim to welcome personally all guys arriving at Bellaugello for their holidays.  Often I manage to be in the car park.  No, please, behave… I’m not loitering or cruising, but, when I am waiting on new arrivals I keep an ear open for the sound of a car.  In the summer this is often in my hammock slung in the shade of the huge fig tree.  As the car doors open I slip out of my hammock and head up to the car park.   It is magical to welcome back so many guys and to introduce many new guests to my little corner of paradise.

Of course I am dressed.  Let’s face it, a welcome must be professional.  I know my guest house intimately and that a slow reveal works best 😉  From the winding road (beautifully repaired this year) that leads here, you catch only tiny glimpses of what awaits you.  Descend from the car park and the huge southerly view opens up, as indeed, do I.

So many guys arriving at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, have been before.  The joy in welcoming back guys is immense.  Conversations, like a just put down good book, pick up automatically and are animated and happy.  We rapidly catch up on news.  Very often it took remarkably little time for guys to mention my cock.  Wow! my cock an early topic of conversation.

For those of you who are not avid readers of my blog, let me explain.  Earlier this summer I posted about loosing my cock.  It vanished.  One day it was there, then the next it had gone. I was naturally very very upset.  Well, who wouldn’t be?  A cock is so beautiful an object of desire and one to be treasured and taken care of.  It seems that my cock was desired too much by a couple of guys who took it home with them.  They know who they are and I suspect I do too.

Amongst my guests are two remarkably thoughtful guys who are also blessed with a great sense of humour and tremendous kindness.  They were immensely sad to learn that my cock had disappeared and very kindly offered to search the world for it.  We have been exchanging emails on the update to their search.  Recently I learnt from them that they had found a suitable replacement cock in Sitges.

This morning the postman called.  Two packages to deliver.  One a pair of slippers, the other…. well if he only knew!  I carefully opened the package and to my delight drew out the most divine and generously sized cock.  Measuring a whopping 25cm with a girth of 18cm it is really handsome.  Indeed two hands full!  Rigid, and lightly oiled it demands to be touched, stroked even.  It is perfectly proportioned and utterly beautiful.

R & T thank you so very much.  I realise you must have had huge fun and hopefully not too much embarrassment choosing the right cock for me!

My cock is now back in its rightful place for all to enjoy:

I now need to take care to ensure that I do not lose my cock again.  Should I have it pierced and chained to the bar or should I get my cock tattooed?  A cock tattoo appeals.  I’m thinking along the lines of: “This is Alec’s Bellaugello and is stolen from him”.  Suggestions please on a postcard to the usual address!