Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Molly returns from Bristol

"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?" *

Molly Wing Repair
Molly Wing Repair

Molly Boot Repair
Molly Boot (US:Trunk) Repair

Molly and Friends at Charles Ware
Molly and Friends at Charles Ware

Well not exactly but she does have servo-assisted brakes, she can now run on unleaded petrol and she does have normal indicator lights. Loads of other internal improvements *plus* metal instead of rust under the paint!

* Elwood: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Mother-in-Law Visits

It has been a quiet couple of weeks with not much of blogworthy note as we have had Mary's mum, May, down from Scotland while Mary's sister Sandra and family were on holiday. So mostly we have been leaving work promptly to go home for an early supper and a evening in watching the box. Weekends were a bit busier in order to keep May entertained.

The first weekend we went over to Ian and Sarah's for a family gathering to celebrate nephew Tom's 18th birthday. Sunday Mary and I took May down to Farnham for lunch with my mum and dad.

The next weekend we took May to a matinee of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Savoy. Musicals are not normally our first choice but May likes them and, as musicals go, this was good. Most of the tunes are instantly recognisable and it introduced me to a piece of history and culture I was ignorant of. See Wikipedia on Shtetl.

This weekend just gone we whizzed down to Bristol to collect Molly and drive her back to London. In the evening we had old friends from Glasgow for dinner. Geraldine and Alisdair were down for a funeral on Friday and came over to stay with us Saturday. We had a very enjoyable dinner party, I faded at one o'clock but Mary and Geraldine were chatting till gone 2. I must pop round to the neighbours and apologise in case our late night music disturbed them.

Sunday it was all off to Heathrow for their return to Scotland. For us it was a relaxing meal and an early night.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pizza Oven Door

Italy still has a strong tradition of small local craftsmen; not everything is made in big factories. While we were round at Carole and Mino's we spotted a new wrought iron table base. We needed one as well so asked where they bought it. The answer was a local blacksmith. Perhaps he could make a door for our pizza oven as well?

The following Wednesday Mino guided us to a basement workshop down a back street where we met the man and, with Mino's help, discussed our requirements. The *following* afternoon we went back and collected a made-to-order table base and oven door. How is that for service!

pizza oven door
Pizza Oven Door

It is a beautifully made door: solid, fits perfectly, opens smoothly, has a little spy hole to check on the inside, chunky rivets and little brass knobs. I am so pleased with it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Water Delivery for Trullo Azzurro

Shortly after our arrival I walked over the stone cover of the cistern and got a very hollow sounding echo. With guests arriving imminently that was cause for concern.

We got Daniele, the architect, to introduce us to the water man. Well actually he introduced us to the water man's Mum who lives in the nearest hamlet just 1km away and who gave us her son's phone number. He was able to come round that evening and dump a tankful of water down our "pozzo" (well).

Water Delivery for Trullo Azzurro

When the house is fully occupied we will need about one of these a week. Fortunately the tankerful only costs 20 Euro a pop so that is not too bad.

In this photo you can also see the recent plantings and the new irrigation system. That should keep the plants alive until our next visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Meeting the Italian Neighbours (2)

Walking over to visit Carole and Mino we took a shortcut off-road down some dirt tracks. We passed a couple sitting out in their yard drinking a glass of wine and called out a cheery "Buon giorno" to which the reply was "Must be English!" I suspect my panama hat was the giveaway, plus Mary's tall blondeness.

To cut a long story short it turned out that Chris(tine) and John are in the process of retiring to Italy. On the way back we stopped, introduced ourselves and drank their wine. Subsequently we had each other over for dinner and we went out for a meal together on our last night in Italy.

chris and john
Chris and John dine with us at Trullo Azzurro

Chris is a fluent Italian speaker courtesy of her Italian mother. We got on famously as they are really friendly and (dare I say it) pleased to have English speaking neighbours. Between them and Carole and Mino I feel we are starting to find our way in to the local community.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Meeting the Italian Neighbours (1)

carole and mino maggi
Carole and Mino Maggi live just 2.5 km away in the local village of Trito. They run a lovely holiday complex of trulli called "Truddhi" (apparently the local dialect word for trulli).

Carole is Welsh and met and married local boy Mino 30 years ago. They returned to Italy and have been there ever since. They are charming and friendly and said we could use their pool. We very gratefully accepted given the recent heatwave.

They also run a cookery school and do demonstration dinners. Mary and I are going on the course in September to learn how to cook real Italian, local style.

While we were out there with Bill, Andrea and Elaine they put on a demonstration dinner for their guests and us. Many of their guests were actually family so it was a very sociable evening. We arrived at 6 o'clock and watched while Mino and his sister Zia prepared and cooked the entire meal from scratch. We finally ate at 9 by which time we were ready for the food!

I was watching with great interest how Zia used the pizza oven hoping to pick up tips on how to use ours. More on the oven later...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

How to find GPS coordinates from Google Maps

How to extract the decimal coordinates of a location using Google maps for use in your GPS.

  1. Find your location.
    Go to http://maps.google.co.uk/ search on your destination and zoom in.

  2. Centre on the location.
    Right mouse on the exact spot and choose "Center map here"

  3. Click on "Link to this Page".
    This will display a URL something like: "http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=buckingham+palace&ie=UTF8&ll=51.500795,-0.142264&spn=0.003166,0.007231&z=17&iwloc=addr&om=1"

  4. Extract the coordinates.
    Embedded in the URL you will see "ll=" (that is double L for Lima). Immediately following that are the coordinates, in this example 51.500795,-0.142264. The first is N (S if negative) the second is E (W if negative).

If you want to convert these coordinates to degrees, minutes and seconds you can use The Federal Communications Commission converter at:

Monday, July 09, 2007

If life gives you cherries...

...make cherry jam.

Market Stall

One of the fun features of any foreign land is the visit to the market. We are midway between Cisternino, market day Monday, and Locorotondo, market day Friday. So we have done a lot of wandering around the markets admiring the local fresh produce and the ludicrously cheap clothing and housewares.

Mary at a Market Stall

One old boy was selling cherries and it was the end of the day. We asked for mezzo kilo (just over a pound weight) but he kept piling them in the bag despite our cries of "basta!" (enough!). We ended up with 2 kilo (4½ pound) for 5 Euro.

Cherries before triage and stoning

What to do? We couldn't eat that many. So Mary consulted her Italian cook books and found "ciliegie sotto spirito" (cherries in alcohol) and I googled a cherry jam recipe in the internet cafe.

First step was to separate into eating, cooking and chucking. The alcoholic recipe was easy. Buy neat alcohol in the supermarket (not something you can do in the UK, maybe use gin or vodka instead), bung in some cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and a spoonful of sugar then cover with alcohol.

Cherries under alcohol

The jam was not so successful because I chucked the sugar in then read the recipe which said boil the fruit first *then* add the sugar. I removed as much as I could and proceeded as instructed but I ended up with something more like cherries in syrup than jam. Still it was very tasty spread on toast so I'm happy.