Author: sallymckenzieblog

Staying Calm in the Middle of the Corona

1CFE3E38-EA14-48B8-BF8E-469BF3CA0425The last week has been more of the same, except for the weather.  Like most other people in Europe, and now – finally – those at home, we’re only allowed out for groceries or walking the dogs.

AF34CEBA-2322-41FD-B075-E7F19260A72AThank god Colin has two doggies so we can both get out for an hour or so each day.

FBA1A14D-9910-4205-AD82-08B22AE6F7C3We did go to the next town again to visit the nice butchers and get a few things, but otherwise have been in the house doing a lot of reading.  The tv only gets Italian stations and there’s no sports happening – they’re down to showing football (soccer) matches from 1977 for entertainment.  The first John Wick movie was on last night, and while it was funny to hear Keanue Reeves speak fluent Italian (ok – it was dubbed) it was getting late so I gave up partway through.

9DBC6D9E-84DD-450B-B071-AB26A688A8C9The weather took a bad turn – the last few days we’ve had fierce winds, and – snow!  Colin was looking out the window and told me it was snowing and I actually didn’t believe him – I thought he was joking, and I am very gullible.

081F7B9D-9CC1-4D2B-91E8-98B56EBD9B48But no – it really was snowing – just a few days ago I’d taken the patio chairs out, and was quite comfortable in shorts and t-shirt, but now I have to bundle up in my winter coat and icelandic wool hat and mitts.  I’d thought I’d left winter behind, but apparently not.

DE30F0F5-E623-413D-946F-0458A4D74DB1I try not to obsess about the news and how badly some countries and their useless governments are coping – why didn’t they learn from the mistakes made here? 

0310217F-5C10-42A2-AE82-C3F00D4BCE35I’m glad we’re in such a small village and not a large city, and that we can still go outside – we’re alone in the hills within two minutes, and sometimes don’t see a single other person.  We always carry our passports now, as well as the form that the police will sign if we’re ever stopped, but so far so good.

B2EEAEFF-56A1-45EF-BFC3-7C669997BF89Little Henry is a bit of a rascal – he’s developed a fondness for my socks so I now have to hide them when I take them off.  We had a tug-of-war the other day with one of them, and he’s also gone after my wool hat, which must now stay safely tucked away in my backpack.

151DECF3-4778-4937-9C60-C3B649608C84He’s also had a little ‘accident’ or two in the house, although I wonder if it’s a protest because we’re not letting him lick our plates anymore when we’re finished eating.

I really hope everyone at home and elsewhere start to behave as we and our fellow villagers are here – be considerate and respectful.  Be kind and caring. Don’t be selfish or put others in danger by going out as if nothing has changed. Maybe we can make a better world when we get over this challenge – and we will.289607AC-B89F-416B-8FC3-D2D4C493BCA6

Andra Tutto Bene – Our True Nature

B294E56D-ABCA-4C21-9702-BC43EED2232CWe had planned to ride our bikes to a larger town just north of us to get groceries, but discovered that my front tire was completely flat.  Upon removing it we found a vicious thorn about half an inch long, just like a spike – ok, Colin found it while I supervised. Ok again! – Colin found it while I watched helplessly and tried to keep the dogs out of the way.

The patch-job didn’t quite work so we gave up for the moment and drove to the store.  Upon arriving we got in line outside the store – everyone at least six feet or more from each other.  It took 15 or 20 minutes before we were allowed in, as only four or five customers were allowed at the same time, and it was a fairly large store.  

8B045539-9E64-4C26-92BD-BC310A8F2982We picked up some fresh local veggies and more excellent meat from the butcher – he remembered us from our last visit and we got some lovely lamb chops as well as a nice roasting chicken, a steak and some ground beef (I’ll never be a vegetarian!).

We kind of expected to see some empty shelves, but no – here in the heart of coronavirus country we haven’t seen or experienced panic buying or ignorant hoarding of anything.

B1F84B47-9E8F-4E6C-A52D-1F3956642DB7We’ve taken the dogs out every day for nice longwalks – one of the few things we’re still allowed to do.  Even recreational bike riding is now forbidden since if you have an accident you would be taking precious emergency resources away from a completely overburdened medical system trying desperately to save coronavirus victims’ lives.

2F531EDE-988E-4F63-BB14-B0B6DA0363DBWe consider ourselves very fortunate to be where we are right now, despite the fact that we are right in the middle of Italy – or maybe because that’s where we are.  We’re in a lovely, comfortable little house, we have a great outdoor space, and are nowhere near a big city. The village is coping very well and the small Conad store here hasn’t run out of anything (although thanks to me they’re getting low on a certain kind of vino rosso) – could be much worse!

9346A352-6298-45DB-ABDE-F8E1B964368BIt’s gotten warm enough to put the patio furniture out so I spent a couple of hours this afternoon sipping some local red and reading online about the idiots in the UK and US – not just the citizens but especially the incompetent leaders – oh my god!!

Adversity brings out our true natures – we need to bring out the best in ourselves and each other. Pray for us in Italy and everywhere – whatever prayer is to you or whatever you believe in give it now!  Only good, kind, loving and positive thoughts and actions will help – thank you – from ‘the red zone’!

BACBE8D2-E993-4449-985A-247C041C9F44On a lighter note – I hardly ever take selfies, but this is me on our terrace – not bad view behind me, right?

Life in Lockdown

8E3E4233-A960-4B51-AA78-1AE29A9F98F2We’re still under lockdown, of course, but managing nicely.  We have good food and beautiful weather, but are staying close to home.  I always carry my passport now when I leave the house, and we’ve gone on some nice long walks in the surrounding hills with the dogs without straying more than a couple of km from the village.

998E278B-BD59-472A-8829-5EBF4A7A1C6DFC71F9A0-A044-42FA-AEAC-6D624E249FDEOn our walk today we actually saw a carabinieri (police) but they didn’t stop to ask us for our ‘form’.  There are only two cases of the virus anywhere near us – one in Deruta and one in Marsciano, so we feel pretty safe.

6E76B260-61C2-44A3-BFBB-A2F7FE5B2DF8We saw our neighbour Angelo today and asked about his neighbour Rita, who is older and feeds Chairman Meow when Angelo is out of town – he says she’s ok and he takes her a few groceries, etc as she needs them so she doesn’t have to venture out to the store.  Neighbours looking out for each other – simple concept!

796F5651-A6A3-4ECD-8620-48D96434BAA9Everyone seems pretty calm in and around the village and the surrounding area – folks are pruning their olive trees, tending their gardens, mending stone walls, etc – no panic to be seen, and still no bare shelves in the little Conad store – not even a shortage of toilet paper.

028FD05B-92FF-4D7C-8085-64E374F9C161Ok – someone has to explain that to me because I’m having a hard time believing that TP is the most important thing to hoard – personally if I was to panic – and I won’t, I think I’d rather have food!

1CE4AF27-988B-4FCF-86EE-901A8C618079I’ve been using the new Nikon much of the time recently but went back to the Canon on our walk today just for fun.  I’m very pleased with the photos I’m taking from both, although I do need to learn more about what the Nikon can do.F651D996-1145-4376-8365-98C15FF932E2

Life in the Red Zone, Death of a Pigeon

So it’s been pretty quiet in Papiano for the last few days, except for a couple of things.  The first event happened when we had walked the dogs down to the piazza and Colin was sitting with them while I stood outside the grocery store awaiting my turn to enter.  I heard a commotion and Colin yelling ‘no Henry no! Let go!’.

I left my place in line and ran over to find that Henry had a full grown pigeon firmly clamped in his mouth and wasn’t about to let go.  Colin was trying to pry Henry’s jaws open but Henry was hanging on – rather proudly, I thought. Finally between the two of us we managed to convince him to let go – alas it was too late for the pigeon as it was dead.  I picked it up by a tail feather and put it in the nearby garbage bin, then washed my hands in the fountain – Henry was a bit puzzled that we’d taken away his prize.

A5163811-9657-46C1-A9C0-A0CC30151DB2We did go for a ride that same day – lovely blue sky but not too hot.  I realized right away on the first hill that the motor in my bike wasn’t working, which was a big drag as we had several climbs on the roads we were on.

4F4B09FE-13E2-4E86-9878-FF3565F5436BAfter pushing the heavy tank up more than one hill we got to a high point that made easier riding for me back down to the house.  It turned out that all that was needed was a quick cleanup of the contact points on the control pad – problem solved, thank goodness!

BA09735D-9116-4A2E-AD64-C3D4771B70BDThe last two nights there’s been a vehicle driving very slowly through the village with a loudspeaker blaring.  I couldn’t catch much of it up in our ‘medieval’ portion of the village, but we assumed it was about staying home and avoiding crowds – this was verified to us by the brits that we met again on one of our dog walks.

3BA59A4C-6A51-4185-BECE-B4AB1B2CC768We went for another nice bike ride this afternoon, and was it ever nice to have the motor working – some of the back ‘roads’ are very steep.  The wind was so fierce it almost blew us off the road at times, but we persevered. We did notice that there was very little traffic on any of the roads – folks seem to be keeping close to home, as recommended by the authorities.

093EFCBE-7E40-448E-A995-91BA5534087AThere’s more than one home-made banner hung on the balconies of houses down in the piazza coloured with rainbows and the words ‘andra tutto bene’ – everything will be good.

172A4068-540E-4757-8B75-A57FC6A30AEAEven in ‘the red zone’ that we’re in there’s no panic, and the local little store is still fully stocked, including toilet paper – what is it with other places and the obsession with TP?!?

We’re still eagerly waiting for the bell tower to be functional again – apparently they have the funds to retrofit it but the committee can’t agree on exactly what to do – typical in Italy, unfortunately.7598E259-8356-43D9-A62D-16C0D09528EE

Total Lockdown in Papiano!

Things have been changing rapidly here due to the coronavirus – we’re now in full ‘lockdown’.  On Monday only the north of the country was affected by the rules so we went out and tried to get some firewood from a fellow that Colin had gotten some from before.  I managed to say ‘we need…’ in Italian, but didn’t know the word for firewood – luckily there was a pile nearby so I picked up a piece of wood and he got the message.  Unfortunately they aren’t chopping any at this time of year so we went away empty-handed.B9A1FF78-B9C8-49AE-9F4B-6301C797761DAfter that we drove a little further towards Lago Trasimeno and stopped at a little cafe for a very nice cappuccino – sitting outside in the sun in rural Italy and sipping great coffee allowed us to forget for a few minutes what was happening up north.

The next day we got the news that the entire country was now in partial lockdown and the first change we saw in the village was when I went to the store.  There were a couple of ladies outside and I thought they were just chatting but when I went to go in they made me understand that I had to wait until others that were already inside came out.

6F31538F-0B7B-46A5-8588-76C7A0798623The bar was still serving, but apparently they now have to shut at 6 pm and patrons have to keep 3 feet apart from each other.  We were still able to sit outside and it wasn’t a problem, and the dogs still got their usual treats from Antonio.

The next day we drove towards Todi to get some plants from the garden centre – the road had maybe half of the usual traffic, and the local police were visible, although didn’t seem to be stopping anyone from entering or exiting the highway.  We picked up a very nice bamboo plant, as well as a forsythia bush and a small olive tree.

263F264B-AB86-4C90-8CD9-9EF42053E09EWe’ve been using my hand sanitizer, and are careful about getting near anyone, or touching anyone’s hands, etc.  We’re not panicking, but also trying to be careful. So far none of the shops we’ve been in have empty shelves or seem to be running out of anything.  We did buy more food than usual in Marsciano, hoping to go out once a week rather than every few days for supplies.

Next-door neighbour Angelo is home right now so I didn’t catch sight of Chairman Meow for several days after arriving.  He’s put on quite a bit of weight – Meow, not Angelo – likely caused by Colin taking him in for snipping last year, so now he isn’t chasing the female cats as much.

0C349B3B-10FF-4512-927C-101DB434374AWe’ve charged up both of the electric bikes and plan to start going for rides – if we can’t go south to Sicily as planned at least we can still get fresh air and exercise without endangering ourselves or others.

Our dilemma now is where to go next – that is when the lockdown is lifted.  It depends entirely on the progress of the virus in Italy and other nearby countries – can we go south to Sicily in early April, or will it be safer to go up to France?  Wait and see…..

5D7D829A-1B43-427B-8A55-1A057DB36FF8Well, things have changed again – all cafes, restaurants and bars are closed completely, as well as the post office – drats!  We’ll have to make our own coffee now and sit on the terrace instead of down at the bar. And if we want to go anywhere there’s a form we need to fill out stating our destination and explaining why we should be allowed to leave the village.

We got the bamboo split – not easy! – and planted them in the cement boxes that line the patio – they look great.  The boxes on the upper level are now full of colourful primroses that should fill in nicely, as long as Meow doesn’t dig them all out. 


Sally on the Road Again

5FB65032-C174-4BE6-9C76-32393E6556D9After a wonderful few days at the coast with my very dear friend Lorna I made it safely to Italy.  I love you Lorna!!

5A5C7861-F805-420E-80E8-55D2138D0D5CThe flight from Van to TO was almost full, but the flight on to Rome was at most half full.  As soon as they announced that boarding was complete there was a mass scurrying of passengers to the empty seats – some got a full row to themselves.

I watched four or five movies as well as an interesting documentary on Leonardo da Vinci – kind of appropriate since we were landing at the airport named after him.

3CBEE9DF-FCF0-452C-B8B4-F9BA6B2CD347Colin was there to pick me up and I got to meet his new rescue dog Henry – a little sweetie.

E6357875-4E90-4331-A378-E8DD712DF965The next few days were spent wondering if the races I came over early for were going to go ahead – right up until Wednesday evening we thought it might be ok, but then the bad news came.  Not only Strade Bianche was postponed, but also Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro di Sicilia – so disappointed!

F93A622C-52FD-49FE-9CD7-DFA9A321C850We did have a nice day trip to Trevi for lunch one day, and have been regular patrons of the bar – Antonio makes a decent cappuccino and fusses over the dogs.  We met a very nice british couple at the bar – they own a house in the village and are staying for an entire year. They know the area well and told us where an excellent butcher is in the next village – we picked up some excellent lamb chops for dinner the next day.  We couldn’t see any chops in the display case but when the butcher understood what we wanted he went to a side room and brought out a leg of lamb then cut two nice thick pieces for us.

A341F607-3F8B-4A1F-B104-F6FD6F527CFCThe weather has been mixed – pouring rain a couple of times, then other days beautiful sunshine, although not yet really hot.  We went on a nice long walk yesterday and I tried out the new Nikon D7200 camera that Colin very kindly got for me. I still love my Canon, but can see that having more than one camera has its advantages, especially at a race (if there were any down here!).

11294CBA-B4B0-48E0-A09A-FF1EAB684C09We’re not in a ‘high risk’ area for the coronavirus as it’s mostly up north right now and our plan is to go south to Sicily in a couple of weeks.  So far there doesn’t seem to be any panic around here – stores are still fully stocked and folks seem to be going about their normal business. Hopefully it stays this way.

8933906A-99FA-4557-BA58-96E54734A280We did get some more disappointing news, however – there’s an annual festival here, the ‘Festa di San Guiseppe’ and they fly large balloons from the village square, including ones at night with candles in them.  It looked very interesting and we were excited that we would be here for it, but it also has now been cancelled out of an abundance of caution over the dreaded coronavirus – darn!

EF44C1EA-7657-4C4D-AA8D-670981764C75We’re still able to get some race watching in, albeit on tv – Paris-Nice is going ahead so all is not lost.

Home – or Just a Dream

I go up just after five, not able to wait until the alarm at six. I was already very organized so didn’t have that much to do, but also didn’t want to be in a rush at the last minute.

We managed to get all my things loaded fairly quickly and were on our way by 7:30. It was a good thing we left with lots of time to spare, as there were slowdowns and roadworks all over the place.
The only parking for an ‘oversize’ vehicle was the pickup/drop off area, so Colin couldn’t come in with me. Luckily the bike box had been paid for already and Colin also paid a porter to manhandle the bike in for me. Not quite ready to leave so suddenly there seemed more to say, but we had no time. A hurried hug with Mo, then one with Colin and I had to go inside.

The lineup to check in wasn’t too bad and the porter waited patiently with my large box and suitcase. As expected the bike box was too big for them to check directly so after being tagged we took it to the oversize luggage area. One again it was too big for the xray machine so had to be searched by hand. This is where the porter said goodbye and a security fellow took over.

He was ever so helpful, and as he led me to the manual security area asked if I had anything other than the bike in the box. I told him I also had the four panniers, two empty and two with my riding gear. As a supervisor looked on he took almost everything out and swiped it all with a wand – luckily nothing made it beep so we packed and taped it back up. The bike went on through while I now headed for my security check.

We boarded the plane on time, but were almost an hour late leaving due to queues for the runways. The flight was long and I got two movies and several tv shows in by the time we got to Calgary, where there was a snow storm brewing.
Since we’d left London so late I hardly had any time to catch my connecting flight – I ran like crazy, following a couple of others, and made the flight with time to spare. Once again we boarded ok but were late leaving, this time because of de-icing.

We finally arrived about an hour late, and once again Air Canada managed to leave my bike behind. They gave me a ticket and told me they would deliver the box when it arrives later, or in the morning. True to their word they delivered it around 9:00 the next morning, and are even reversing the fee paid for shipping.

It’s weird to be back home – the kitties warmed up to me pretty quickly this time and of course it’s wonderful to see Dominic. I had so many wonderful experiences and saw so many beautiful places it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just a dream.