Crisp, sharp, crackling, hard, and utterly beautiful, outside crisp, cold, icy, fresh, spectacular, that is how we woke up this morning at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in Umbria,
I have had so many wonderful greetings from you guys, many guests choose to send photos of your holidays here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House and write me personally for the festive season, I am so very lucky. I plan to find time to sit down and put the photos in order and publish some of them on the blog. In the meantime here is something more pastoral, no Bellaugello backs, or fronts… instead a photo I took the other day of the vaulted ceiling of one of the smaller and more obscure churches in our local town of Gubbio, the city of Christmas…
Gubbio our local town has been taken over by hundreds of new immigrants. Annually at Christmas time there is always an influx of visitors to this most beautiful of Umbrian towns. Of course there are far flung family members returning to their roots to celebrate with family at home, there are tourists who come to soak up the magical atmosphere of this world class city of Christmas. But there are also the figures who participate in the presepe, the crib scenes.
Over the past few years these crib scenes have grown and grown, from being present only in a few quiet back lanes, the life-size figurines and their scenes are taking over the town. They crowd the river bank, flow over the bridges and are trading in the small piazzas.
Last night we were in town for a pizza, something simple before the Christmas mega-feasting begins later today. Walking into the centro storico we came across part of the influx, and it is utterly stunning.
Take 2kg flour collect 20 eggs mix well and knead ’till your arms ache, leave to rest… Finely grind 2.5kg mixed meats, veal, turkey, beef, add seasoning, some mortadella, parmesan and the all important secret ingredient. In company with 5 women and 2 guys and one of the next generation sit round a table. Pinch pleat, fill, fold all the while a lot of gossip, laughs smiles and stories and Ecco! We have hundreds of handmade cappelletti for Christmas.
I only went on the premise of.. ‘daiii, ti prego, vieni a casa del babbo per un pranzo veloce’ a ‘ come for a quick lunch’ little was I to know that I had been set up and all was organised. Lunch cooked by Vittorio was just the start of a memorable afternoon that put paid to all my other plans.
It was such a splendid afternoon at the family home of Monica’s father. Straight after lunch I found myself surrounded by aunts, cousins, and great aunts, Monica, her sister and of course Monica’s daughter. I was taught the art of making cappelletti, and of course each of the girls were quick to put their point of view and grade my work. The pressure was certainly on. It was great fun, I learnt so much about not only cappelletti, their tradition, but also the old contadini ways, the life of hardship and thrift, that it occurs to me a book should be written. Oh! sadly the video did not work, I was hoping to post here and on You Tube but alas thanks to a small capacity iPhone sadly no video… Let’s hope Santa is bringing me an iPhone 6 64mb for Christmas haha!
I don’t know why they happen, but they sure do happen. I hate horrible days, I really detest them and today was a stonker of a horrible day.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not the weather, here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in Umbria, the sun has been shining brightly, warm, delicious, a light breeze so I got into the garden early.
Neither to blame is the Consorzio the local farmers’ merchants. They called and we arranged my delivery of pellets for the biomass boiler that heats the house here, lovely underfloor heating I adore it, being able to walk barefoot throughout the house, sheer luxury. No it was not them, the wagon with the bancale of pellets arrived as scheduled and I got the seventy eight sacks all moved and stored in the pellet store. I am having to buy pellets this winter as the olive harvest was so poor that olive nuts are just not available. Oh and that reminds me there is another subject I want to write about.
No it was not the dreaded Cosma with whom I am working on a new and exciting project. No, he sent me over a piece of work, I now have to work on and send back for the next stage. That will be an enjoyable task.
It certainly was not Alessandro, to whom I put a proposal for collaboration work-wise. No he responded positively, he would like to explore a joint project for next season. Guests at Bellaugello if this comes off you are in for a real treat.
It certainly was not the couple of guys who sent an email enquiring as to a booking for next summer, enclosing their photos too, so yummily handsome.. and then after the briefest of exchanges they confirmed their booking.
So, what, you may well ask is the source of my wrath? Ok, I am a predictable person, for my loyal readers they I guess already know the answer. Yes, you are right, communications or lack of it, but first two matters of international relations. I have to get these off my chest, I so detest horrid days.
If I see another business slanted at the gay community I do believe in positive promotion, and a bit of fun. Especially if the product or service is something that will make a stay at Bellaugello Gay b&b just a ‘little bit extra or more special’ for my guests. So through the annals of social networking when I noticed that a company in Finland were launching a range of linens using the designs of Tom of Finland, I just had to buy some to put in some of the Suites here at Bellaugello Gay Country House, provocative, maybe not to every guys’ taste but fun. Order online – simple, and there was the added incentive of that Black Friday discounts, so you have all done it you know what I am talking about.. enter credit card details, click the order button, and hey presto goods will be dispatched. But and a huge but, there was no way on the website to request a tax invoice. Now here in Italy the tax authorities require certain information on foreign (or domestic) bills. It is only a few letters and numbers but to be able to put the purchase through the business, these are vital. So I shoot off a mail to the company requesting a tax invoice. Nothing! Silence! Eventually after a week their reply comes through that they cannot fulfil my request”there is no room on the form” WHAT!! I send off another email, repeating the request, explaining in greater detail why I require the information on the invoice, and if they are really unable to add a bit of ink to a page then to cancel the order, stop the delivery and refund my card. again silence, nothing, I am not a happy bunny. Then of course on Friday a honk, a smiley face, the decent friendly helpful courier (SDA) delivering a package, the package. Still unopened, I check EU law and I send a further request to the company, they are in Finland after all is that not supposed to be an efficient country? Well as I write no reply from them to either of my mails, it seems that tomorrow on the social media I will have to give them a one star review… Don’t like to do so, I thought their stuff brilliant but I will not be treated so shabbily. I guess if nothing else their products will make good if expensive cleaning cloths.
The second international item relates to three companies based in the UK that are refusing to work with Bellaugello. Interestingly they are all international names, two of them overly famous, yet they seem to think that the UK anti-discrimination laws do not apply to them. Two of the companies having at first been very helpful on learning that my business is gay just ignore me, they do not reply to mails or telephone calls, they blank me. Stonewall and the EASS inform me that I can assure them that the law does apply also to them and I intend to ensure that their behaviour is changed. I have written to a couple of gay-friendly law practices and am waiting their reply. In the meantime if any of you readers are or know of a good professional campaigning well connected journalist that might like my scoop and the chance to right some wrongs please do get in touch. Just to add to the international theme I also have a case of an American company with offices on Milano to add to the pile.
Then the internet connection is crap. For the past five saturdays I have not been able to listen to the News Quiz that BBC radio 4 favourite of mine, not good enough. Regular readers know it is my usual bugbear and probably the subject of more rants than I care to think about. Recent survey on tourism states that holiday makers put a fast wifi connection above free room upgrades and free cocktails. I know that I have known that for a very long time and do my utmost to provide the same. However I am thwarted by the internet ‘provider’ who is the best of a really bad bunch. I write emails, I telephone the help desk, I telephone the technical department, I complain. For over one month the internet just keeps coming and going. Today the internet is still hoplessly slow and unreliable, the technician called me to say it is all sorted. Really?
The record five hours to send one page of an email – and by coincidence the email was to the internet people complaining about the lack of a viable service. They reply that i am “too needy” I am “the only client with these problems” – clearly they have not spoken to my neighbours who too are discontented with the lack of a decent reliable service, I know of nobody locally with good words for this company. I am too needy!! indeed, huh! how dare they! All I ask is the service I am paying for,namely a constant 7mbs of download speed, hardly a lot. In my stupidity and as part of my cost rationalisation I had thought to move the fixed line phone to VOIP. My theory being if I paid the company more they would give me a better service. I am so so stoopid, it does not. Instead every phone call is like talking through Bronco. So on 31st October I send the completed forms to the company requesting the switch of telephone number (portability has come to Italy) They had told me Telecom Italia would take ten days. In amounts my above mentioned correspondence I did actually ask on 30th. November why the telecom line was still functioning and why Telecom had sent me another bill, I am now paying two telephone accounts for the same line. Their reply was that the line would be switched on 16th. December eh? how is that ten days? oh ten working days they say – i.e. fifteen days. By my maths that should be the 16th. November at the latest, but no. I ask them what in the meantime they have been doing with my forms, of course they refuse to give me a reply or a refund. Tomorrow is switch day, it may be goodbye world.
Continuing the telecoms theme, I changed the contract on my mobile. I am with Tim, the mobile branch of TelecomItalia. This is the communications company that fault provide a decent coverage in the countryside, and ever so slow 3G (yes we are till on 3G) coverage and then have the gall to send me on a regular basis a text informing me that I have been chosen for a customer survey into the efficiency of their internet service. HaHa! So anyway I go into the store in Gubbio and speak to the spotty young man with halitosis, ask his advice re current offers and decide to part with 42 euro. Pert is the first month’s payment, part a fee for changing the contract and part a requirement for credit on my phone. Credit on my phone? I am already paying by monthly direct debit and have just given them 39 euro and they want more. Anyway I am in a good and generous mood and agree. Changing to the new tariff the internet slows noticeably and the telephone connection is worse than ever. Delight upon delight when yesterday I receive two more sms informing me that Tim have just taken money out of my bank account. Back today to the youth with halitosis who sows me the computer screen that I have two contracts running concurrently, I am paying twice. To cut a long story short he is totally unhelpful, completely unapologetic and my trip was a waste of time. In a fit of peak I cancel my telephone contract from when the current period ends in January. I will doubtless become wholly uncontactable.
Another major source of irritation rediscovered today. I know they say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but why oh why do people have to take so many of my ideas and wrap them up into their own businesses? I realise at the moment business is cut-throat, but please guys do have some ideas of your own it would be so refreshing.
Oh, and why oh why do the energy companies here in Italy insist on making cold calls to my telephone? They want me to switch supplier, they offer all sorts of ‘amazing deals’, they call me daily, but yet I know that the deals are not amazing and if they spent less time and resources on the calls, (I do so pity the people who actually have to make the calls) then the monies they save could really go to savings on their bills. On the mobile the messages keep flooding in “promotion Russian Brides Activated” “Your ideal girl finder now active” please, I ask you, do they never do customer research? Ha! with my voip phone about to go live and the unstable internet connection and my cancelling my mobile contract none of them will be able to get through to me.
Now I am off to walk the dogs, it is dark, they have their flashing collars and it is still warm, a walk will be good, so we are off to see who is lurking in the bushes…