22 March 2019


I’ve been swamped by a wave of lethargy. Is this my usual change-of-season spring slump – the one that hits me with the same exhaustion every year but always takes me by surprise? Or am I still readjusting to my normal rhythms post-Lesvos?

It’s not helped by the fact that this spring I find myself (for the time being) with a reasonable amount of garden design work rather than going crazy with clients pulling me this way and that: this means I have time to indulge my indolence and let it seep out into places it shouldn’t be. I had managed to persuade myself that there would be a return of the Big Freeze that stopped spring in its tracks last year, with sub-zero temperatures for ten days and vegetation going into shock. For those days of grande gelo and the impossibly soggy weeks that followed on from then, working outside was a near-impossibility. But there has been no such thing (the icy tramontana gale blowing for the last couple of days has frozen us to the marrow, but the clarity of light and feeling of zingy clean is exhilarating) and I no longer have any excuse for not plunging ahead and getting things done. I need to stop dragging my feet.

One thing that I have done, in a kind of half-hearted way, is started to think a little harder about marketing for Pieve Suites. It doesn’t come naturally to me, I now realise. But I have decided an effort is necessary.

Besides advertising in a couple of British publications, and arranging for a full review in another (so far, so traditional), I’ve also sought advice from one of those people who knows about social media and how to use it. This person is a lovely English woman – not at all the kind of abrasive millennial you’d expect (or at least I’d have expected) in that role. She has little mantras (engage, educate, entertain!) and solid advice on where and how to use social media with a view to marketing. She sees all the advantages that for me get lost in a miasma of vague hostility. On my part I mean. I object to the power and pull that Instagram and Facebook and the rest exert on us, while at the same time finding them oddly mesmerising.

She has little time for Twitter which is, in a way, my favourite of all the electronic time-wasters in that it’s a portal into a world of information that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. But perhaps that’s the rather uncharacteristic way I use it – a bit like my own private library magazine catalogue. I have to say that I’m discovering that Instagram (I’m @pievesuites) is the place – again, when used selectively – for visual-minded people, uninvolved in the malice that Twitter often brings in its wake. Of course I like pretty pictures too – though perhaps, secretly, I like words better.

As well as my ill-defined borderline hostility towards these things in general, I’m in danger of developing a crystal-clear aversion, towards being always on the lookout for the postable angle, seeing everything through the lens of ‘how will this look to potential guests?’ (engage! educate! entertain!) instead of through my own personal rapport/appreciation etc. I’m forcing myself to do it, but through gritted teeth.

I mentioned the icy wind, which today, thankfully, seems to be dropping. What we’re left with is warm and very blue, which has been the pattern for most days in the past few weeks. Rain? What’s that? I’m watering already, and seriously considering re-attaching my automatic timers. Last year, I did that in the second week of May. We are, to all intents and purposes, in a drought, with not much rain on the forecast in the foreseeable future. My ‘lawn’ which generally achieves its one and only moment of verdant mown-weed glory in spring, looks as seer as August now. But due to its being unfeasibly early, lots of things which I could really be getting fast-tracking in my vegetable garden have yet to be sown. It’s all very confusing.

To compensate, long clear evenings are beginning to make summer feel just round the corner. And what’s more we had the most beautiful spring equinox full moon.

No full moon these days can just be a simple full moon: they all have to have epithets, and be hyped by the press – possibly looking for something not calamitous to report – as quite extraordinary, with names that get more and more ridiculous. This month’s one was, I read, a super worm moon. Or, if you prefer, a super worm sap moon. Because it’s a perigee moon and so appears super-large. And because it’s the moon that signal worms wiggling and sap rising. Which, I would say, are things that happen full moon or no full moon. They  are also things which, I’ll wager, mean very little to many of the people who lap up over-hyped moon lore in the press.

Elections to renew our town council take place on May 26 so it’s no bad thing that finally, at this late stage, our centre-left parties have come up with a mayoral candidate – a woman, to boot, which is a novelty for these parts. As I found out at last night’s meeting of the Partito democratico, that’s about as far as preparations have gone. (I’ve seen no signs, I should say that the centre-right is much further ahead.) Now they need to get down to little details such as a programme. And finding 12 town-council candidates to stand alongside her. Here, things began to get woolly, and very mathematically complex.

To garner maximum votes from across the spectrum, these 12 have to include representatives of outlying towns in the CdP municipality, of CdP’s three terzieri (our version of quartieri– quarters), of local business, of civil society organisations, of sporting associations… and the list goes on. What’s more, the law says that no one gender can exceed one third of names on the list, ie at least four on the list of 12 have to be either male or female. The Venn diagram would be bewildering. And, ventured one of the mostly 65-year-plus men (I was the only female in the room after the candidate left), what about… someone younger? General consternation. Names plucked at random – “but is she right or left?” “Boh.”

On a local level, as on a national level, the old-school aging-male left has succeeding in circling its wagons to such an extent that all other demographics feel almost completely alienated. They’re going to need more than random name-floating to reverse that state of affairs.

L’s local cycling club members devote a lot of time to their Whatsapp feed. Raunchy postings of naked women (they’re all men, needless to say) have been curtailed by righteous outrage from a less unreconstructed minority. Occasionally comments pop up that offer an endearing peek into local mores.

This morning for example, a cry for sympathy went up from one outraged pedaller who had driven across to Castiglione del Lago to check out the route of an event to be held some time soon. When he returned to his car, not only had someone smashed a side window to break in, they’d also stolen his wallet!

I’m sure he’d only taken the trouble to lock the car because he was somewhere ‘foreign’… 20 minutes’ drive away. But this sense of stranger-danger hadn’t extended to thinking that anyone would want to make off with his valuables if he left them inside the vehicle. Sorry as I feel for him, I can’t help loving the fact that that’s the kind of kinder world I live in.


About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden and landscape designer, working throughout central Italy and beyond. I have lived in Italy for over 35 years – first in Rome but now in Città della Pieve, Umbria, where I have restored my country home and transformed a medieval townhouse into three rental suites. To relax, I tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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2 Responses to 22 March 2019

  1. lesley says:

    see you soon!

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