I feel obliged to write - if anyone is reading - to mention that it didn’t freeze last night!
As I sit here writing this I can see that the temperature outside is 2.8°c and dropping. All farmers are on tender-hooks tonight. The unseasonably warm weather up until today has caused the plants to bud early. If a frost comes the dmage will be severe. This evening a cold wind is blowing from the north. We can only hope for the best.
On the other hand (I suppose that there is always an ’other hand’) the heavy rain that preceeded this cold was just what was needed to assist the earth to subside around the pool so that the pool-suround can be concreted. As things currently stand, the building work related to the pool should be finished Friday. At that point all that will remain will be the landscaping & fencing, both of which we will do ourselves (we tend a vineyard as if it were a garden after all!).
This morning I went to a food technology fair held at the exhibition hall in Udine. By now, at least in Italy, the cooking & chilling technology stipulated by law is so standardised & computerised that I guess that perhaps more than ever, each location (be it town, province or restaurant) will be distinguished by the quality & type of ingredients used & the personal skill & flair of the Chef. All the new ovens are computerised & cook at exactly any temperature, with or without steam, humidifying or de-humidifying. No longer will ovens, such as ours, have their quirks, be too ’cold’ or too hot. A Chef won’t need to know the personality of his or her oven. The new ovens have a microprocessor for a brain which gives them an even digital temperament. We, however, will have to labour on with our analogue oven for a while longer - maybe I might even prefer an oven with personality!
This week passed saw some big strides on the swimming pool front with the structure being reinterred (leaving space on the top for the water, of course!). The pool will be our last major investment here at La Faula & I am just dreaming of future years without any vineyards to remake of things to construct. Every year for 10 years we have had one or more projects underway & I think that this is more than enough for a lifetime!
Tomorrow afternoon I will attend the third of four lessons on Friulano cooking. The course is organised by a local higher education college (belonging to the main communist trade union), through the auspices of the Friuli Regional Administration (they need to do something) using European Community money (keeps everyone keen one Europe!). The Chef teaching is quite famous & rather jolly & the end of the lesson involves trying out the recipes with some good wine. Unfortunately, I feel unable wholeheartedly to enjoy the wine as a new law has just introduced a fine of Eur.24,000 & 6 months in prison for driving over the limit (one glass of wine). I have a feeling that Italy was rather more fun before they learnt to marry Protestant dissaproval of sin with Fascist enforcement!
This week saw some very good news. Our poor cleaner who went on a home visit to the Dominican Republic with an about-to-expire work permit, had her passport & work permit stolen, had the work permit expire finally, after a lot of pleading, got a visa to return to Italy. Without her we wouldn’t know what to do. We guess from what we read about other countries, that cleaning jobs are often done by undocumented workers or people working in the black economy. In Friuli - & we understand much of North Italy - constant raids by the Work Inspectorate & Guardia di Finanza, criminal prosecution & mega fines have all but eliminated the ’informal’ workforce. The result is that no-body is available to do jobs such as cleaning, washing dishes in restaurants etc. When you find a cleaner, such as ours, who is fast, efficient, productive & professional it is like having a rare pearl - to think that we had lost Mariza was making our stomachs churn! When she gets back it’ll be time for a big fiesta with her & her sisters!!
This morning, reading one of the newspapers of the NorthEast of Italy in a bar in Tarcento (as well as enjoying a very nice cappucino & croisant!), I was astonished to find a full-page advertisment attributed to the Regional Government (there are many levels of government in Italy) of Calabria that sported 9 young women of around 18 years with the text ’Terroni? Si, siamo calabresi’ followed by ’Gli ultimi saranno i primi’
Translated the text is more of less: ’Brown like the earth? Yes, we are of Calabria’ My dictionary does not define ’terroni’ but simply says ’Derogatory term used by Northern Italians to describe Southern Italians’. So there you have it, the Northern Italians denigrate those Italians with darker skins than they! And, it seems that the Calabresi, or at least the Regional Government of Calabria, have decided to follow the example of (some) American blacks who reclaimed the ’N’ word & (some) gays who reclaimed the ’Q’ word (or the ’F’ word but this was only for the truly daring) by appropriating the terms of abuse applied to them & instilling them instead with pride.
This is all very well as discrimination is always wrong. But it is worth remembering, amongst others, that refuse collection is managed by the National Civil Defence body because the pervasive influence of the Calabrese ’mafia’ resulted in years without rubbish collection, that there are 22.000 state forest guards covering an area the size of Lombardy that manages with only 390 (& it is also worth remembering that every summer the region, notwithstanding the forest guards, is wreathed in smoke from burning forest fires) & that only two years ago 2 killers calmly shot dead the President of the Regional Government on the steps of his office.
In Italy there is a common saying ’l’apparenza inganna’ - appearances deceive. So it’s hard not to wonder whether the Regional Government of Calabria wouldn’t be better spending its money to create a Region that the Calabresi can truly be proud of instead of worrying about what a bunch of snobbish northern italians think of them!
A second good rain has just passed so work should recommence on the pool. After the pool structure was mounted, & the soil re-filled in around it, it has been necessary to await rain to cause the clay to consolidate & settle. Luckily, the rains have come & we can only hope that on Monday the bricklayers will, themselves, come!
Building, with the forthcoming season of the Agriturismo in prospect, is not a great pleasure. We have been very lucky this winter that there hasn't really been a winter so the builders were able to start after Christmas & no inclement weather came to impede their progress. But in a couple of weeks the first guests will arrive &, experience has taught us, that in the hospitality industry it is better to leave nothing to fate nor risk being a hostage to fortune so we will breath peacefully only once the project is finished !