February Challenge – 26: On a dark and stormy night

On a dark and stormy night . . .

. . . it wasn’t actually that stormy, but it was dark and it was absolutely freezing. The reason was the Tramontana – a wind that comes from the North . Its name comes from the latin: trānsmontānus – literally ‘from beyond the mountains’ or ‘across the mountains’ – in this case, the alps in the North of Italy.

It’s the sort of wind that feels like it could cut you in half . . . very neatly . . . like a razor-blade of gigantic proportions. So there was only one answer. The stufa – a wood burning stove. I had spent an hour in the morning, with Emilio who with his Ape (see note below), had brought nearly five quintale of logs up to the house, with which we built a log wall.  He built them into a wall, really: I simply unloaded the Ape  as whatever way I placed a log, he inevitably judged it to be wrong and either placed it in a different position, or carefully rotated it through 90 degrees or even more annoyingly through 180 degrees thus underlining the fact that I was so inept, I don’t even know which end of a piece of wood should be closest to the wall! How useless am I, eh! (Incidentally, a quintale is for some reason 100 kgs. don’t ask me why… it just is . .)

Above you can see the results of our efforts under the glorious blue sky . . but don’t be fooled . it was freezing cold: witness Archie’s careful positioning once the ‘stufa’ had been lit.

During the course of the winter, my wife often enquires: ‘What’s that funny smell? ‘

I calmly reply: ‘Don’t worry, darling, the cats on fire  . . . again . . . ‘

So on that dark and freezing night, I sat in the wonderful warmth of burning wood and watched old films, a glass of wine to hand, with the cat smouldering gently at my feet. Domestic bliss!

PS no cats were harmed in the making of this post.


No hominoids or non-human primates were  involved in the  transportation of wood or in the building of the log wall. APE refers to a three wheeled vehicle in common use in rural Italy: Ape means bee- it is made by Piaggio who also make the Vespa- meaning wasp.


February Challenge -11: Five senses

Five senses? these are mine . .

A sense of rhythm

I love music; playing it and listening to it. I have been playing the guitar for about 43 years, not continuously, as I needed some respite in order to make a living, eat and occasionally sleep. One of the things I pride myself on, rightly or wrongly, is my sense of rhythm: honed to a (reasonably) fine art via a weekly big-band gig for several years, laying down the ‘Freddie Green thang’! Many young guitarists, especially here in Italy, are technically fantastic especially when it comes to soloing, but they have much less idea how to accompany, and how to lay down a groove. One of my favourite moments was playing a gig in Verona. I played an intro of three notes, and Lorenz Zadro, who was on stage with me, – a lovely guy and a great guitar player,- just shouted: ‘Yeah!’ He heard the groove and was there with me! A knock out!

A sense of fairness

One of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is the ability to ‘put ourselves in someone else’s shoes’ Archie (my cat) doesn’t feel any sense of pity or guilt when he tortures a mouse to death and then eats it. It’s what they do. Humans have been given(?) or have evolved to a point where they can put themselves in the other person’s position. Obviously we don’t put this ability into practice in terms of the animal kingdom… otherwise how could we go glassy eyed when seeing young lambs and then confront the idea that we’d eaten their second cousin with mint sauce at lunch?!?? Anyway, let’s put it into practice with fellow human beings at least: is that too much to ask?

A sense of responsibility

Responsibility is a bizarre one: people will proudly say they have brought up a child and he/she has been a ‘success’, but if they are NOT a success, their response is: ‘I don’t know what went wrong’ rather than examining what went wrong.

In reality, people are more prepared to take credit than responsibility . . . . .

A sense of humour

I think we all need a sense of humour, and I think, in general, it is a sign of intelligence, in that the more sophisticated sense of humour reflects a higher intellectual ability.

A sense of the absurd

I still see things in a ….well, let’s be fair, a childlike way: and I’m proud of that: (back to the February  grown up prompt) I still ask Why? and How? and often the questions are a little absurd:

Why do dentists have perfect teeth? whilst opticians nearly always wear glasses?

Why are invisible and visible opposites but invaluable means extremely valuable?

So those are my five senses: rhythm, fairness, responsibiity, humour, and a sense of the absurd.