Positano festival night

One of the reasons we came to Positano in mid August is because of the festival of Ferragosto on August 15. It is a public holiday and is celebrated in Positano by, among other things, fireworks at midnight.

We attended the festival dinner on the terrace at Eden Roc and had a perfect position to view the fireworks. The bay was full of boats of all sizes, all there to view the spectacular display.

After the display there were the usual traffic problems as people tried to leave and go home – but unlike the traffic jams we experience at home after events, this was more of a “Vespa jam”.

 

Earthquake in Ischia

Tonight there was an earthquake centred on the island of Ischia. This is about 60 kms from Positano on the other side of the Bay of Naples. There has clearly been damage and tragically some loss of life.

In Positano we felt no shaking at all.

But as residents of our own “shaky isles”, our thoughts are with all those affected.

 

Our car is the dark grey one

Rental cars are commodities. You get handed a set of keys, jump in and drive. It was only when we returned to our rental in Radda later in the day that we realised we had no idea what make or model it was.

It’s one of these – thank heaven for remote unlocking.

Home cooked Carbonara

One of the things we love to do on holiday is cook. Dishes that makes use of local ingredients can’t be beaten and when we spent a few days in a villa, the apron comes out.

When it was time to cook at Il Diaccino we assembled the ingredients for a Carbonara and Jean went to work. Local fresh Pici pasta and pancetta, fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, black pepper, egg and a little cooking.

It tasted as good as it looked.

Siena for a day

Thursday last week we visited Siena. It was a week before the Palio and the clay track had been laid over the cobbles in the Campo and the tiered seating was in place around the edge of the Campo.

At 3pm, when we arrived, the businesses around the Campo were shut as the Palio track was being watered – a daily ritual in the week leading up to the Palio. This threw our plans of a quiet drink in the Campo into disarray.

So instead we visited Jean’s favourite clothes shop and helped boost the Siena economy – just as we had done in Rome a week before.

Shopping done, we returned to the Campo.  The track watering was complete and the bars and restaurants in the Campo had the “all clear” to lay out tables and chairs on the clay track. Normal transmission had resumed.

We wiled away the evening with drinks and a very good pasta dinner at Al Mangia bar before heading back to Diaccino.

 

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world …

While we are away in Italy our girls are being looked after by our dear friend Vicki who has moved in for 4 weeks. We receive regular updates and photos showing how much they are missing us. Or possibly not missing us …

Wait for it – a sunset shot

Painters love the light in Tuscany. It’s almost like looking at a watercolour painting in real life – with soft hues, pastel colours and gradients resembling a fine watercolour wash.

Last night as we ate dinner on the terrazzo at Il Diaccino, I grabbed a few shots after the sun went down and before the light faded. These shots have not been retouched – what you see is what we saw.

Enjoy.

Wine tasting in Gaiole in Chianti


Wine buffs will know we are staying in the Chianti Classico wine region. Within a few kilometres of our local town, Gaiole in Chianti, there are over a dozen producers ranging from the very large to the very small.


On Sunday night these local wine makers, together with the restaurants of Gaiole in Chianti got together and held a wine and food festival in Gaiole – Calici di Stelle. Loosely translated that means “Glasses of Stars”. For sampling were some fine Chianti Classico wines along with a range of other wines they produce.

Our dear friend Olga was assisting with the Ciona winery stand (our villa Diaccino is on the Ciona estate) and invited us along.

It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. Starting at 8pm and running to midnight the event was a chance for locals (and visitors like us) to sample the local wines and try the local food. More than that, it was clearly a chance for families and friends to spend time together and catch up.

We got to sample some very fine wines as well as chat with the wine makers. Dinner was in the form of beautiful Gnocchi, roast pork and various accompaniments.

We had a great time but sadly the jet lag kicked in around 9:30pm so we had to leave early.

In the air

Somewhere over the South China Sea

We are half a world away from home and enjoying the hospitality and heat of Rome.

Our flight was largely uneventful until an unscheduled two hour delay on the tarmac at Hong Kong due to “congestion over South China” – whatever that meant.

We found out it meant that our 11 hour flight from Hong Kong to Rome stretched out to 15 hours – 2 hours on the ground and an extra 2 hours in the air as we flew a course well north of the usual route.

Rome greeted us with a 40 degree day which even the locals said was “molto caldo” – too hot.

Rehydrating in Piazza Barberini, Rome

We spent the day walking – in the shade, keeping fluid intakes up and shopping. Jean is the proud owner of a new handbag called Louis IV which I’m sure will feature in a future blog post.

All this before the jet lag kicked in and we were asleep around 7pm. We were wide awake again at 4am so for the first time in living memory the Mowday’s will be the first in the breakfast room at Hotel Barocco this morning.

Today we travel north to Tuscany and start our week staying in Chianti – still in temperatures that will top out at 40 degrees. Not that we are, in any way, complaining.

Italy calling

We are less than 12 hours away from starting our trip to Italy and there seems to be numerous things still to do and very little time to do them in. We have an early start tomorrow to make sure we catch the flight to Auckland and then on to Hong Kong and Rome.

It is amazing how the amount, size and weight of the technology we take has decreased over the years. The bulky and heavy laptop of 4 years ago is now a MacBook Air weighing next to nothing. The TomTom GPS is left at home as our phones do the same job, and apart from our phones, a bluetooth speaker, noise cancelling headphones for the plane trip and some cables, that’s it.

We have signed up for Vodafone New Zealand’s excellent $5 a day roaming product to avoid any shock roaming charges. Spark have still not matched this product and instead offer a confusion of call rates, text costs, data rates, caps and excess charges for various parts of the world – including Italy.

Our lightweight suitcases (full sized cases that weight barely 3Kgs each) are packed and well underweight. Passports are in order and tickets issued.

It’s a cold, rainy, miserable night in Wellington. Rome is sunny and hot – we are ready to go.

Winter is here – someone tell Bella

Tonight the temperature dropped to around 5 degrees celsius. It was calm but cold – bone chilling cold.

This did nothing, however, to change Bella’s habit of sitting outside in the back yard, on one of the plinths beside the steps, surveying her domain, keeping an eye on the neighbours and keeping an eye on us in the kitchen.

It doesn’t matter what the weather is, how cold it gets or the time of day, when the mood takes her Bella sits, thinks and watches.

We had never heard of IMHA … until seven weeks ago

Poppie was off her food – which was unusual. So we went to the vet for a check up only to discover she had a low red blood cell count. The norm for a dog is a PCV (packed cell volume) of between 35 and 50. Poppie was 27 and over the following week that continued to drop to around 20.

She was anaemic.

This was serious – anything below 15 is seen as critical and anything under 12 requires a blood transfusion to keep her alive.

Importantly we needed to find out why her red cell count was dropping. There were a multitude of possibilities so Poppie was admitted to the Massey Vet Hospital in Palmerston North and a barrage of tests was undertaken – all against the background of a continually dropping blood count.

She had a bone marrow biopsy, among another things, which is a particularly invasive procedure. No one wanted to do it, but it turned out to be the only way to confirm what was going on in her little body.

On a Thursday morning we got a call – her blood count was 11 and her body was starting to shut down. An immediate blood transfusion was needed. Her specialist (Dr Matt) didn’t think she had enough blood left to take a sample for blood matching so there was a risk any new blood could be rejected and she would slip into shock. No one had a good diagnosis if this happened.

At 11am the transfusion began – 4 hours later she was finished – thankfully in one piece and with a blood count close to 40. Of course a transfusion is only a temporary measure as the transfused cells will die quickly. We would be in the same situation in a matter of days if we couldn’t find the reason her red blood cells were dying but, critically, we had bought Poppie some time.

Ever since the first visit to our vet the suspicion was that Poppie had IMHA (Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anaemia) – where her own white blood cells become over zealous and not only attack cells that shouldn’t be in her body (the function of white cells in all of us) but also attack her own red cells, killing them. She had been put on a treatment regime of steroids and immune suppressant drugs  when she was admitted to Massey that hopefully would suppress her white cells and allow her red cells to regenerate. But clearly this cocktail of drugs hadn’t worked – or hadn’t had enough time to work – hence the need for the transfusion.

Dr Matt explained that this treatment would take time and in 25% of dogs it simply would not work. We were hopeful Poppie was in the other 75%. A few days after the transfusion she was home (because, as Matt explained, a place full of sick animals is a bad place for a dog with little or no immune system) and we became prime carers for the girl.

Since that time we have seen Poppie’s blood count hover around the 38 – 40 mark. Her body has started to regenerate red blood cells and we have been able to reduce her steroid medication slightly.

We have regular blood count checks – probably more than are needed – as every time Poppie looks like she’s feeling under the weather she’s off for another check.

Time will show how much we can reduce her medication as the side effects of high doses of steroids aren’t great. Hopefully we can wean her off most of the pills as her body improves it’s ability to produce red blood cells and her immune system starts to settle down.

Update: two steps forward and one step back – the reduction in steroid dose mentioned above has been reversed as her body wasn’t ready and the white cells were making their presence felt again. Dr Matt says we’ll try to reduce the dose again in a months time.

 

 

 

It looks like a good vintage

vintage-2017Despite a rubbish summer our shared grapevine is doing well and is covered in grapes in various stages of ripening. The vine now runs the length of our boundary fence and still seems to keen stretch further.

Based on the last few years we should have many, many grapes available for friends and family in late March or early April.